Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What I Believe- Part 1


So my friend found a video on Youtube and posted it to another friend's facebook page to ask if it was true or not. I watched it, and was saddened to see that, like their conversation had alluded, it was an Anti-Mormon video. I don't get angry at people for things like this, just frustrated. Frustrated because the mixture of truths, half truths, and fiction makes me look like a crazy person. You can't blame them, most people fear things they don't understand and then that fear manifests as hate. The sad thing is they choose to continue not understanding and just believe in the fear instead of being brave enough to ask questions. I guess, I just feel compelled to let you, my dear readers, understand what I believe. I also want to encourage you to ask me questions when you have them or if you hear a rumor about my beliefs I would be happy to tell you what is truth, what is half truth, and what is fiction created out of fear.

We Mormons are labled as a peculiar people. Just the fact that we allow ourselves to be called "Mormon" shows how peculiar we are. This label was actually a derrogatory term back in the early days of the church, omitting the fact that we believe in Christ and focusing solely on the Book of Mormon, and the idea that a crazy person somehow managed to write it (more on that later). The name of our Church, for the record, is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Some people still feel the derrogatory nature of the term "Mormon" and prefer to be called LDS or Latter Day Saints...I am someone who doesn't care if you call me Mormon. The Book of Mormon is a part of my religion, and the Book of Mormon testifies of Christ, therefore the intended derrogatory nature is in fact not fulfilling its purpose...call me a Mormon, I don't care...

I will, through the course of a few different blogs, touch on a few things that this video stated that are true, and tell you the whole truth so the half truths and fiction will be obvious.I will also tell you some things that I think are important for you to know and understand so that you won't have to wonder anymore. In essence, I'm going to try to break down some key Mormon doctrines in a nutshell for you...I know that after reading this you will probably still call me peculiar- that's okay...ask any Christian to write down a list of doctrines and beliefs that they have and they will probably look at them and realize that they are peculiar too.

The most base and essential truth I want to talk about first is that we believe that we are all spirit children of God. All Christian religions believe that we have a spirit, or soul, so this belief is not new. We Mormons just happen to have an explanation in our doctrines about where these spirits came from. If you read the Book of Moses in The Pearl of Great Price (this book of scripture is included with the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, it is at the end) you read the Creation story from the very very beginning through til Adam and Eve are banished from the garden of Eden. In this book we read the very beginning, which is our creation in heaven before we came to earth. Spirit was first conceived as intelligence and light- from intelligence and light our Heavenly Father (God) and our Heavenly Mother (we do not know her name, it is sacred and protected) created their spirit children. We were born in spirit, and we had the exact same gender and personality that we have here on earth, we were lacking one crucial thing- a body. The lack of body was the one thing that prevented us from being like God. Never fear, God had a plan so that we could get a body and become like him. We had a meeting, a big family counsel if you will, where God described what he had gone through so that he could get his body. He was placed on a planet in a mortal body, he had to live, make choices between good and evil, learn from his mistakes, and return to his father to be judged and ultimately be given immortality. We all thought this was a pretty cool plan, because like most young children, we wanted to be just like our dad, we wanted to, in essence, be given a chance to grow up.

One of our older brothers, the second born spirit child of God, Lucifer spoke up. He thought he had a better plan than God did. He wanted to take away the element of being able to make decisions. He thought that we should always be forced to do whatever God told us, that our lives should be decided for us before we went to earth. If this happened, there would be no need for judgement and we all would automatically get to be like God.

There was a big problem with Lucifer's plan. The problem was, we wouldn't be exactly like God. God had had the opportunity to make choices and learn from his decisions. If we were forced to do everything we were told we would never be given the opportunity to learn and gain knowledge from our mistakes. We would not know good from evil like God did, and if we didn't know good from evil we would never be able to know what it was like to be truly eternally happy because we would never know what it was like to be sad. Our oldest brother, the oldest spirit child, Jehovah, stood up for God's plan. He pointed out the flaws in Lucifer's idea.

Lucifer didn't like this very much. Like any second born child, he kind of wanted to be the boss and have the birthright that Jehovah did. What happened next was a big sibling squabble. Lucifer convinced 1/3 of our spirit brothers and sisters that he was right and our Heavenly Father and Jehovah were wrong. Well, like any parent, God had to punish disobedience. For their disobedience, they were told that they would not be allowed to have a body while they were on the earth. They were also basically "thrown out of the house." They, like any kid kicked out of the house on earth today, could go where ever they wanted and do whatever they wanted but they couldn't receive help or the gifts that Heavenly Father was prepared to give the spirit children that didn't follow Lucifer.

God gave Jehovah and another spirit brother Michael the plans to create the earth. They did. Then, God came and helped to create man. Michael volunteered to be the first to have a body and take the test of mortality on earth. He was told that he would be given strengths and weaknesses and he was told what his ultimate mission on the earth was. Michael was put into the earthly body that God created to be just like his, God gave him an earthly name to represent his new state- Adam which translates to mean "of the earth" because that is what his body was created out of. God wanted his name to be a remembrance of his body's origin. God knew that in order for this plan to work, just like him, Adam had to have a wife so that they could be partners and help eachother through their mortal existence, and also so that through them, other spirit children could receive bodies and be born into the mortal stage of their life. Always thinking ahead, God had asked one of our spirit sisters if she was willing to do the job. God put Adam to sleep and took one of his ribs to create Eve to have a body like our Heavenly Mother's. (This part of the Creation story is the same as in Genesis, but I figured I would throw it in.) Adam and Eve were meant to be partners like Heavenly Father and Mother. At this point their bodies were not mortal; so, in order to make the test fair for everyone that would follow, they forgot their premortal existence, the counsel in heaven, what their weaknesses and strengths would be, and what their ultimate mission was so that they could be given the opportunity to choose for themselves how they wanted to live their lives, find out for themselves what their ultimate mission was and decide if they wanted to accept it or not, learn how to make their weaknesses strengths, and how they wanted to gain knowledge, whether it be through making good choices right away and reaping the rewards or through the consequences of bad choices. They were given a few commandments to help them pass the test- they were to multiply (have children) and replenish the earth (protect the gift of the planet they had been given to live on), they were also commanded not to eat the fruit on the tree of Knowledge of good and evil, they were warned that if they did they would die (and God does not lie). God also gave them some more help. He gave them the law of sacrifice. If they broke any of the commandments that God gave them he would provide a Savior for them so that they could repent and fix their mistakes.

Well...we all know what happened. Lucifer (now known as Satan, he had lost the light for which he was named and now dwelled in darkness) tempted Eve. He told her that she wouldn't die if she ate the fruit (which wasn't a lie, it just wasn't the whole truth) but she would have the knowledge of what good was and what evil was. At this point, they didn't know good from evil, it was the one thing that kept them from being like God. Eve understood this. She trusted Satan and ate the fruit...and he was right, she didn't die...right away...but because God doesn't lie, her body became mortal- she now had the ability and promise of death later on. When Eve went to Adam, he realized that if he didn't eat the fruit that he wouldn't be able to keep the first of the commandments he was given, he could not multiply on his own. He ate the fruit as well so he could remain with Eve and they could together keep the first two of God's commandments. God was just, and he kept his promise that if they broke one of his commandments he would provide them a Savior. However, because they were now mortal, they could no longer be in his presence and because they now had the knowledge of good and evil, a plan was set into motion that forced them to have to choose and deal with it on a daily basis. They would have to work for their food, they wouldn't be told what was good to eat and what wasn't. They would also now have the ability to know pleasure from pain, which meant that Eve would now feel the pain of childbirth.

We do not know what would have happened had Adam and Eve not become mortal. In fact, if you ask any members of the LDS church, we don't think of the fall as a bad thing, without it, we would not have been given the right to choose because we wouldn't know good from evil. We often quote a scripture from the Book of Mormon to explain this, "Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy." Without mortality, we would never know about the opposites in this world. Light and dark, pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow. We also know that God made sure that we would not be cursed to remain mortal and after we died stay as spirits.One of our articles of faith clearly states that "We believe that men will be punished for his own sins and not for Adam's transgression." He provided us a way back to his presence, and to be cleansed of our sins, because inevitably we are going to make mistakes since we don't remember what we knew before we came here.

He asked our older brother Jehovah (who would be known on earth as Jesus the Christ) if he would be willing to be the sacrifice necessary to cleanse the whole world of their sins. Like any gift, we have the option of accepting this or not. Adam and Eve accepted this gift and proved it by following the rest of the promptings of God on earth. They taught their children what they had learned, and they made sacrifices to show God that they would not forget his gift of a way back. They made sure their children knew that they were not destined to be mortal for forever.

We accept this gift today by being baptized and following the law of repentance. Repentance is a personal process. Yes, we must confess sins, sometimes to the people we have wronged, sometimes to a member of the clergy (or the bishop as we Mormons believe), and sometimes, if we feel it isn't a sin that requires confession to any earthly person, we confess to God through prayer. We ask for forgiveness, and then we have to forgive ourselves. This is a process that can take minutes, days, months, or even years. We are finally forgiven when we forgive ourselves and accept that Christ's sacrifice in Gethsemane and on the cross was for us. We must accept that he shed a drop of blood or two for our sins and move forward. We must forsake that sin and never commit it again.

Sins are funny things. We make choices every day. All that God asks is that when we are tempted, when Satan tries to play on your weaknesses, that we try to make decisions based off of our personal knowledge, that he would be pleased with. That is why repentance is personal. Everyone has a different life and comes from a different background. You can't sin unless you know its wrong. Therefore, its not my place to judge someone who may come from a different background or value system than me. This is why Jesus told us to "judge not unrighteously lest ye be judged". Its a big part of why Mormons don't believe they are superior to anyone else. I know that sometimes other people of my religion put their blinders on and can forget this fact, but I promise, in our articles of faith it clearly states: "We allow all men the privilege to worship the Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience. Let them worship how, where, when, and what they may."

I can't judge anyone for believing differently than I do. I don't think I'm better than anyone. All churches have elements of truth because everyone is blessed with the Light of Christ. Everyone has the ability to receive personal revelation for themselves and their lives. We just believe that we happen to have the fullness of the truth, we believe that our church is organized the way Christ wanted his church to be organized. It is organized the way that it was when he was on the earth with apostles, seventies, elders, priests, deacons, bishops, etc. We believe that God, because he loves us, still speaks to us today. Just like he didn't leave Adam and Eve without comfort or aid for the road ahead, he doesn't leave us. He has given us a prophet, a direct link to him and the knowledge that he has of the road ahead. He wouldn't just leave us with the bible and say that is all that we need...he knows that times change, people evolve as we grow in knowledge, the knowledge he gives us needs to evolve as well.

Long story short....I know that I am a child of God, a spirit daughter of a Heavenly Father who like any parent wants me to be happy and fulfill the reasons I was created. He wants me to make good choices so that I can return to His presence and live with Him again someday. He also wants me to have the opportunity to "grow up" and be like Him and my Heavenly Mother. I don't remember her, but I'm sure she is lovely, and I love her and thank her for her sacrifice- its hard for any mother to let her children go and watch them out in the world but she does it, and does it silently, she lets us make mistakes. I believe (and this is the gospel according to Brittany) that she is watching us just as closely as God does.( It only makes sense that she would!) I believe that in those moments of despair when you feel like you can't go on, she is there too, to give us that "mommy hug", help us dry our tears, put us back on our feet and move forward if we are willing to let her. She loves us every bit as much as God does, but she trusts Him and his plan, because she lived with Him through a mortal existence much like ours, and knows that it works. That is why she can be silent and let him be our father and do the "heavy lifting."

I know that I have a purpose in this life. I know that this life is an opportunity for me to grow and become more like my heavenly parents. I know that ultimately I want to make sure the actions in my life reflect a person who wants to live in their presence again. I know that I need to continually seek to do good and to make good choices that will help my future children to make good choices too.

I know that I have a big brother Jesus Christ, Jehovah, who made the ultimate big brother sacrifice, and suffered a punishment that could have been mine, so that I could make mistakes and be forgiven. I know that he loves me, I know that he is there for me and that he makes sure that I am protected every day, as long as my actions show that I am trying to follow the example he set.

I am a Christian. I know that Christ lived. He lived for me, so that I would have an example of what a good life should be, and he died for me so that I wouldn't have to suffer the pains of sin. He rose from the grave, conquering death, so that I would have the ability to live again too, so that I would have the ability to be like him and my Heavenly Parents.

I know, I know, you're reading this and thinking, "This girl is CRAAAAZZZZZZZZZZZYYYYYYY." But am I really? I, like any Christian, have faith. Faith is a belief in things that are hoped for and not seen. You can't see the wind, but you know its there. Faith is like the wind. I can't see immediate proof that the things I believe are true, but I know they are, I feel it. They make sense. I have answers to questions that have dwelled in the hearts of men for centuries, and I have prayed and received confirmation for myself that these answers are THE answers.

I'm not asking any of my friends who are not LDS to change their viewpoints. I wouldn't want to. I feel that everyone should have the privilege to decide for themselves what they want to believe. All I like to do is share my beliefs with them, and allow them to share their beliefs with me. It is in discussing our beliefs that we see just how similar we really are.

All I know is that my faith gives me purpose, my faith tells me where I'm going, its a road map, and I can see that the ending destination can be a beautiful one as long as I'm willing to do the work to make sure I'm taking the right path there.

I love you all. I thank God for all my friends. I thank God that he gave me this opportunity to be alive. We are so blessed. I know life gets hard. I know some people have lives that just downright seem horrible, and when they think things can't get worse, they inevitably do; but I know that when the dust settles, if we are willing to turn to God and ask him for his help, he will provide a way for things to get better. He will set angels in our path, whether they be people who are heeding promptings from the spirit to do good, or actual angels that we are blessed to see, he will help make things better if we try to have faith in him and don't allow ourselves to be swayed by the lies Satan likes to tell us.

I know Satan exists. He doesn't want us to know how to beat him ,that is why he isn't mentioned much in the bible, he made sure that as translations were made, and as religious counsels were held, people would be swayed to with hold the truth. I know that some of my spirit brothers and sisters are with him and that they help him to try to make us as miserable as they are. Don't believe their lies!

You are good enough! You are worth something! God made you, he sent you to earth at the exact time you needed to be here. God does NOT make mistakes, YOU are not a mistake, YOU have a right to the happiness that God has guaranteed all his children if they try to live the way he would like you to. I know that sometimes we aren't sent to the best conditions, parents and families can be disappointing and downright impossible at times; but did you ever stop to think that maybe he sent you there because he knew you were strong enough to rise above it? God never tests us beyond what we can handle with his help....Have you asked him for help? Like any parent, he won't help us until we ask. Ask for his help, count the blessings in your life, even if the only blessing you can think of is that you got to eat dinner tonight, or that you woke up this morning and still somehow have the will to live and get through the day, at least its something. Gradually, as you seek His help and try to live your life in a way that you think reflects the person he wants you to become, you will see things get better. If you are working with His plan and purpose for you in mind, there is no way to go but up!

No answers come easy, and you won't get them all at once. God can only teach us what we will understand at the time. Everything we learn will be line upon line. Knowledge stacks up gradually. You will see that you can rise above anything and everything with Him as your help, and with Jesus Christ's life as your example and guide.

Love everyone, forgive freely and often, and always remember that you are loved more than you can fathom by two Heavenly Parents who want you to be happy and who only want the best for you. Its your job to try to clear the path so they can help you have those things.

Hugs and loves until next time!

In Part 2 we will discuss Joseph Smith and the "Mormon Scriptures"

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

fabulous testimony! thank you for sharing.