When I first discovered I found the whole Joseph Smith story a little sketchy, I figured it would be easy enough to straighten out my concerns. A little research, some deep thinking, and all would be right with the world.
Instead, I discovered that:
A) I was not supposed to be researching it
B) Only those with strong testimonies could visit other churches
C) I needed to spend a lot more time on my knees talking to God, and less time reading books
I heard this from:
A) My parents
B) My seminary teacher
C) My parents, my bishop, my seminary teacher, my young women’s leaders, my Sunday school teacher, etc.
My concerns however were deep enough that I chose to research, and what I found convinced me, beyond any shadow of any doubt, that Mormonism was one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated on Mankind. Right next to that whole Scrubbing Bubbles hoax, because I am telling you, those bubbles do NOT do the work for you. I have tried it. I know.
When I revealed my skepticism to the abovementioned people, the word was overwhelmingly, STOP. Stop reading, unless it’s Church approved. Stop researching, unless it’s faith-promoting. Don’t listen, unless they are telling you it’s TRUE. But that sort of makes research a little futile, don’t you think.
Because, in short, they were telling me to JUST BELIEVE IT, BECAUSE WE SAY IT’S TRUE nameofjesuschristamen.
In any other aspect of my life, my father would not encourage me to jump in feet first and not first weigh the options and look at the pros and cons and KNOW what I am getting into. IN all other aspects of my father’s life, and my mother’s too, they are quite sensible.
Except for here. For they want to believe. It gives them peace. It gives them answers. It gives them purpose.
I guess I understand that. I’m kind of a “pantser,” I guess, because I don’t really need all the answers. You won’t find me driving off cliffs, of course, but I don’t have to know what is going to happen when I die. My big concern, rather, is what will happen to my CHILDREN when I die.
I’m not so worried about my salvation. I have tried my best to live a good life. I’ve tried to instill good Christian values in my children, while not really embracing “Christianity” myself. I don’t see the sense in praying to a God to save us, when he pretty much does what he wants no matter WHAT you want. Yesterday was the funeral of an 18-month-old girl who was strangled in a blind cord while at the babysitter’s house. God’s will? Apparently, according to Mormons and Christians alike. So what is the point of prayer, if it is not to ease our own minds and help us get through dark moments?
Don’t get me wrong. I still find myself praying. I do. But I’ve come to accept that what is going to happen will happen. And Christians, that is what YOU believe, too. You just don’t want to admit it.
I’ve discovered that along the way, there are a lot of people that feel the same way I do. Some of those people are Mormon. Some of them are even ACTIVE Mormons. They go to Church. They hold Temple recommends. They participate in priesthood and temple rituals. But they are not believers.
They sit among you Mormons at Church. It could be your neighbor. It could be the doctor that everyone holds up as the “well he believes it and he’s smart so it must be true” example. It could be your home teacher. It could be your Elder’s Quorum president.
Why would they do this? Because Mormonism is a culture. In Utah, especially, it is very difficult to NOT be Mormon. It is hard on kids. It is hard in business. It is just hard.
Raising my children as non-Mormons in Mormon Utah has been a challenge. So much so, that for a while they attended a private Christian school.
Now, my youngest is in a public school, and thriving. She is strong, willful, determined, and she wanted the opportunity to go to the school in our neighborhood, rather than the small, Christian school she had been attending. She knows many of her friends are Mormon. She knows they know she is not. And as of yet, it has not been an issue. I feel she is strong enough now, with the base I have given her, that she can declare her own feelings with honesty and yet give those of different beliefs space to believe in what they believe.
I think the days when Mormons and Utah were isolated are at an end. The world is looking in, and this closed culture is opening up.
Even in the past twenty years things have changed tremendously. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?