Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Mormons Should be Proud of Their History

As you can tell, history is on the top of my mind lately. Orson Pratt and Heber C. Kimball (2 of the original 12 apostles under Joseph Smith), and one of Joseph Smith's wives are great-great-great-great grandparents of mine so for me it's personal. For me Church History is also Family History, and I feel I have an obligation to learn as much as I can. The funny thing is, the more I learn, the more I realize we still don't know a lot!

I posted this in a conversation earlier today. It was in response to a great article by McKay Coppins on Buzz Feed. Some were disagreeing that accurate LDS Church history needs to be taught more in Church, but instead should focus on the Savior and the Priesthood, as my previous article yesterday stated. The thing is, the two aren't mutually exclusive! Here was my response, and I wanted to record it for posterity:

"I've been thinking a lot about this today, and, to respond to some of those saying this (history) shouldn't be taught (in Sunday School), I think really we should stop being afraid of our history. Our history is filled with the message of the savior. It is filled with messages of the atonement, the imperfections of the saints, and how the Savior still played a central role in it all. Our history teaches that keys to the Priesthood are critical in who leads this Church. We have a beautiful history filled with the Savior and keys to the Priesthood that this Church holds, and even topics like polygamy (which we still believe in, after death BTW) teach us that.

I think the mistake we keep falling into is we think our history has taken out the Savior and a focus on the keys that our Church holds, when in reality it's our present that has done so. I think we should embrace our history, teach it from the housetops, and in turn, they'll learn what we, as Saints, truly believe. I'm really worried that because many have lost our history, we've also lost who we really are."

You name one problem in the Church's history, and I can tell you how the role of the Savior, and the keys of the Priesthood play a role in it. God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints preaches this, as the same Church that existed in primitive times. Why can't we be the same church that existed in Joseph Smith's times? The thing is we are - the scriptures haven't changed - many of our members have just forgotten about it.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The History of the Church Doesn't Matter. Conversion Does.

From the early days of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, history has always been a plague. Could a flood really encapsulate the entire earth? Did God really create Eve out of the rib of Adam? Moses saw himself as imperfect. Tom doubted. Peter denied his Savior 3 times. And Judas completely betrayed his Savior he once believed, served with his heart and soul and saw in the flesh. Of course, we all know what happened with Jonah and the whale!

The fact is there are a million different interpretations to all of these. That's the beauty of religion - beautiful scripture that teaches service, compassion, love, and ways to become better people, and despite any history that accompanies it we believe because of the beautiful experiences it brings into our lives by following. The truth is, scripture is a personal experience, one for us to learn on our own, by what I believe to be the Spirit of God, how to become a better person and grow a better life.

That's why I don't get the focus on history, especially in terms of my own faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. By all means, share the history - all of it. In fact, that's what the Church is doing in droves on history.lds.org. The fact is, as people learn history, even if it shakes their testimony, they are put through a process that leads to conversion.

The fundamentals of a true testimony should focus on the experiences I mention. It should focus on how the Spirit of God has led us through our lives, and the undeniable experiences that confirm why we believe in God. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is one more fundamental that testimony needs to come to - not that Joseph Smith or Brigham Young or Thomas S. Monson were perfect people and always said the right things (even in the Bible, I can't name a prophet that always said the right things), or that the Church has always had a perfect culture. Instead, our testimony must be founded on that where we believe that this is the only Church that has the keys to exercise God's Priesthood, or if that can belong to any Church at all.

While that may be hard, it is one of only 2 very simple things we all must come to. Once one comes to that conclusion, nothing else matters. I don't care if Joseph Smith fooled everyone (I don't believe that's the case). I don't care if The Book of Mormon has inaccuracies, or even has influences from other books (I also don't believe that's the case - too much evidence otherwise, but does it matter?). In the end, I know, because of the experiences I've had personally, that despite the flaws of man, this is the Church God bestowed His keys and where His Priesthood resides. It's really that simple!

So if you "discover" history - I don't care who you are or what your position in the Church - good for you! You're now going down the path that even Peter, and Thomas, Moses, Jonah, and I'd argue even Judas went through to learn of what they truly believe. Hopefully you've already had these experiences and can turn to them to know of these 2 factors that matter most. If not, this is the beginning of a journey, if you're willing to open your heart, to discover what really matters most. Focus on that, and nothing else - all else is just a waste of time.

In the end, it's about 2 things - Does the Church have the keys to administer God's Priesthood on earth today (and is that necessary?), and what Spiritual experiences have led you towards that understanding and belief in God in the first place?