Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why Mormons Care About Religious Freedom

"But you aren't born into a religion."

I hear that statement all the time when people criticize my beliefs or can't understand why Mormons believe some of the things we do. "A Mormon Just Believes", as the Musical would imply, but the truth is most Mormons are very firm in reasoning behind the beliefs they have and many have gone through strong conversion processes to get there, born into the faith or not.

However, for people like me, the fact is, despite myself having been through a strong conversion process and not "just believing" (Bushman explains this well), I truly was born into my religion. It's more than just a religion and belief system for me - it's a culture, and it's part of my blood. As a fourth and fifth generation Mormon coming from numerous Mormon pioneers including Orson Pratt (the first Mormon Pioneer into the Salt Lake Valley) and Heber C. Kimball, and with a distant Great Grandmother that was one of Joseph Smith's last true plural wives before he was martyred, my "being Mormon" is quite comparable to many of my Jewish friends "being Jew". For me, even if I "didn't believe", I would still be a Mormon down to my bone. It's a part of me, as much as I am a part of it. It is more than just a religion to me - it is a culture, and my family.

Mormons, especially those with Pioneer roots like myself, can associate a lot with Jews. My ancestors were kicked out of their lands in search of religious freedom. They were tarred and feathered. They had an extermination order against them. Their homes were burned down by haters. This was all in the United States of America!

So when you see people like myself wanting to fight for religious freedom, and people like myself feeling a bit offended when we're made fun of publicly on Broadway, or people like myself getting a little worried when certain legal clauses change that could affect my ability to worship as I please in the future, you can see why we respond the way we do. Now you can see why I get a little excited (even though I have not made my choice yet) when there is actually potential for another Mormon to be President. Now you can see why I get mad when other people tell me that a Mormon can never be President in this country. My ancestors have seen this nation shun its own people out of their lands in the name of religion. It's happened once and it can happen again.

The fact is, despite all this, yes, "I believe", but it's not because of my ancestors or anything related to that. I believe because I have tested my faith and tried it and put it to the test. I know the fruits that come of it and they are sweet. I haven't found anything else that compares to what my faith has brought me. My ancestors taught me to do that. In fact, our entire faith is built around this premise.

However, it is because of where I come from that "I am". And because of that I hope to stand up to religious freedom wherever it is being threatened and fight it from my very core.

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