Wednesday, March 19, 2014

If you're from Africa, why are you white?

Okay, this is not a valid question because I'm not from Africa. But I do get asked this question a lot: "If you're a Mormon, why are you normal?" And the tone people use strikes me as eerily similar to Karen from Mean Girls.

Actually, I should clarify. I don't think anyone has ever asked me that question out loud. At least not with those words. Usually the question comes implicitly when, after months of thinking I'm just as normal as they are, people find out I go to that weird cultish church that endorses polygamy, opposes gay marriage, and gets made fun of on Broadway.

And so the question I get is more like, You're a Mormon? Really?

Yes, world. Yes, I am. I go to church. I go to the temple. I'm all in.

I think all religious people get this question from time to time or some sort of variation on it, whether it's asked out loud or implied in our coworkers' faces. People wonder how we could believe in something beyond reality, and especially how in a culture that celebrates free thinking and individual achievement, we could get suckered into the mind-numbing traditions of our unenlightened forefathers.

That's why I wanted to address this. I want to make it very clear that nobody suckered me into anything. Yes, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Yes, I was brought up in the church and have never strayed very far from it. But I'm not some poor, blind soul who has never had a thought of her own. I totally believe it's possible to be an intelligent rational human who has explored lots of options and chosen a faith and all the traditions that come with it.

In fact, something I love about my church is that we are encouraged to think for ourselves. One of the first lectures I attended at BYU was a physical science general ed class. To begin the course, we talked about the scientific method and the difference between laws and theories. Here's a picture of my favorite building on BYU's campus:

Anyway, we also talked about different ways of knowing if something is true. We can know something through our senses, like knowing that it's cold outside, that chocolate tastes good, and that the sun rises every morning because we see it happen. We can also know something with our minds through logic and reason, like mathematical and scientific principles. When we can't personally experience a phenomenon with our senses, we can experiment and hypothesize to try to prove its validity. I personally find a lot of religious ideas to be quite logical, but I recognize that many people don't. Regardless of our natural propensity to accept religion, God invites us all to experiment upon His word (Alma 32:27). Jesus tells us repeatedly to ask, seek, and knock. He also tells us that we'll know if something is good by seeing the metaphorical fruits that come from it. Sounds a lot like the scientific method to me.

This is actually a sunset, not a sunrise, but you get my point.

This brings us to another way of knowing something is true. I believe we can know things with our spirits or our souls that our minds and bodies cannot yet comprehend. The process of coming to know something spiritually is unique because God requires us to have faith and trust in Him first, before He will confirm our feelings. But He does confirm them. Sometimes it takes longer than we would like or expect, but it happens. 

That's how I can say that I know Jesus Christ was the Son of God, that He lived a perfect life, that He sacrificed Himself to make up the difference for my shortcomings, and that if I do my best to follow His example, I will someday be able to live with Him and with my family forever.

I don't know this because I was there with Him in Jerusalem. I didn't watch Him heal lepers or feed thousands of people. I don't know it because I've reasoned it all out in my head. I'm not sure I could do that, even if I tried. There are parts of His life that can't make sense if we limit ourselves to current science. But I do know He is my Savior. I know it because I have studied it out in my mind and I have tried my best to follow His teachings, and little by little I have felt something in my soul, telling me it's true. 

Spiritual knowledge rarely comes all at once. Sometimes it takes a lifetime of patience and persistence, obedience and faith. But it comes, and with it comes so much more--the peace of knowing your life has a purpose, the assurance that God loves you and cares about the details of your life, and the resolution to live up to your potential, to what He sees in you.

I could go on about this subject for a very long time, but it's kind of something you have to experience for yourself. So please do. If you've had faith in the past and faltered, try it again. If this is all totally new to you, experiment. And if you are already on the path of discipleship, keep pressing forward. It's worth it. Your happiness in this life and after you die, is worth everything to God. It's pretty much all He cares about. In my church, we have a scripture that reads, "For behold this is my work and my glory--to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). He created the universe and came up with an amazing plan for you, just to help you become as happy as He is. It's awesome. And I mean that in the sense that it actually fills me with awe.

So, yes, I believe. And yes, I worship with others who believe as I do.

I also live a normal life. I do my best to respect others and I don't often have the opportunity to talk about my religion in an everyday context, so it may not be obvious to people when we first meet. But just because I know things with my soul and choose to live up to what I know, doesn't mean I'm part of a cult. It just means I have faith.

I hope that clears up a few things. If you still have questions, please ask. Ask me or ask any of the other millions of normal Mormons out there. We like to talk about ourselves. (Who doesn't?) And we'll answer honestly and tell you what we know with our spirits if not with our senses.

Oh, and all those polygamy/gay marriage/Broadway musical questions? We'll answer those too. Honestly, at this point, we're used to them. And we'd much rather you ask us than the people making fun of us. That's only fair, right?

Sorry if this is too defensive, too preachy, or too boring for the blog. I just wanted to put it out there because it's a big part of what makes me who I am. Plus it's almost Easter. Seemed like an appropriate time to share my testimony of Christ.

Speaking of which, here's something else that's been on my mind lately: Easter seriously has the best candy of all the holidays. I mean honestly, jelly beans, peeps, and mini Cadbury eggs? There is no touching that trifecta. I dare you to disagree. :)

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