Read the Book of Mormon daily. Ponder its meaning. And pray. Don’t forget to pray. Why?
Sure… I’ve heard it all before: The book is fiction, written by a man. And not a very good man, at that. The book has problems and issues throughout. It’s a waste of time. Why can’t you just get on with life and leave all that behind you? Turn your back on it – it’s all nonsense and they’ll NEVER accept you.
I’ve seen all the memes telling me everything that is wrong with the Church, its founding Prophet and the Scripture. I’m regularly (if not, so to speak, religiously) outraged at the latest utterances and/or political activity out of Salt Lake.
As an aspiring member (an incorrect assumption, but not an unfair one, I suppose) I won’t be allowed to smoke, drink, visit Starbucks, watch Game of Thrones or same-sex marry. Cool with everything on the list… except maybe Game of Thrones. I love that debauched show.
Oh yeah… and the gay marriage thing.
I’m gay, you see. Not same sex attracted. Not struggling with unwanted feelings. Not confused about my gender. Not fallen into immorality. Just plain gay. In a loving, committed, supportive, complementary and awesome relationship. So the marriage thing is kind of relevant to me. It’s personal, see? That’s why I take it personally.
I live in challenging times in a challenging place. I work for a living and I have enough dysfunction in my dirty-bomb nuclear family to keep me busy into the next three decades. I have to be many things to many people… an employee, a supplier, a customer, a hack, a counselor, a friend, a brother, a son and a partner.
Also – I’m relatively well educated and semi streetwise. I didn’t grow up home schooled on some compound. I’ve been exposed: to Christopher Hitchens and Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins and all the others. I really am far too smart to be religious, surely. I really have to evolve beyond some petty, unfounded, misguided belief.
Thing is… life is never that clear cut. Or simple. Or black and white.
Because, as bad an example as I may be for anything “Mormon” – the fact is that the Book of Mormon changed my life. In a way no one but a convert can ever truly understand.
I read it – cynically at first, then skeptically, then critically and finally… with reverence.
My facebook feed can throw every meme in the manual at me… it wouldn’t change this fundamental truth:
I did not believe in God. Then the Book came. And then I believed… and once I believed, I could never again un-believe.
I don’t expect people to universally respect my faith. I can’t even expect most people to understand it.
And I can’t claim to be worthy of whatever it is that would cause anyone to recommend me for a temple.
My life is my temple. I wasn’t nurtured to get here… there wasn’t the option.
I just somehow got this far by myself… and I know now that God helped me. Carried me, even.
That much I can unequivocally state I KNOW to be true.
You see… I’m no one’s idea of a spiritual person. I was an outsider, an outcast, a homeless youth, a banished child, a not-nearly-good-enough pervert, most of my life.
I heard THAT message from my family, I heard that message from my schools and I heard that message from certainly every church I came into contact with. At some stage I even decided that was okay. I’ll just reject them long before they even get the chance. And more – I’ll actively combat them.
But then came the curveball.
I won’t argue with the learned scholars about what they say is true. Or historically accurate. Or the nature of 18th century literature. Or the evidences for the Book. One way – or the other – I don’t particularly care.
You see… when God found me… it didn’t matter that I wasn’t the Poster Boy from a TBM background that stretched back a zillion generations to handcart pioneers who ate nothing but cabbage and drank nothing but pure spring water.
It didn’t matter to Him that I was a hard living, over thinking, angry young gentile with more character flaws than letters in my full names.
It didn’t matter that I already studied, and knew, and rejected, all the religions of the world. And disliked their followers profoundly.
It didn’t matter that I left home early… or did what I had to do to get by and live.
When faith came – it arrived gradually. But soon it grew. It became real to me. And it became big.
Sure – that is subjective. Sure – that isn’t empirical evidence. Sure – it won’t stand up in a religious court.
But in the middle of a dark, lonely and hopelessly Non Mormon world… through the pages of whatever kind of book written by whatever kind of sources…
A hand came down and lifted me up.
I didn’t deserve it.
I wasn’t qualified.
It made about as much sense as all the ridiculous doctrines I’ve already rejected, with extreme prejudice, for years.
But there it was.
There was a force in my life… one that I couldn’t measure, or quantify, or explain. OR explain away.
There was something around that wasn’t contrary to science or reason – but above it.
There was a glimmer of hope. The seed of the idea that I was not an accident of circumstance who came from nowhere and was on its way to nowhere. A plan. A home. A people. A Heavenly Father.
There was right and wrong – outside and independent of men with their little views and their little ideologies. Something bigger and greater than all of us. Even me. Even you.
And once that was revealed to me, there would be no turning back.
On the one hand: No outrageous proclamations. No amount of political doublespeak. No rejections. But also: No amount of mockery or disdain. No amount of oversimplification.
That may not sit well with you… whether you are an angry Ex-Mo, a Recommend Wielding Priesthood Holder, or anyone of a million different kinds of Mormon.
But you see… I don’t particularly care. Unless you were the one who lifted me up… who saved my life… who took me in… who welcomed me into the loving, awesome presence… I really don’t care what you think of my faith. I believe now… and I answer to God alone.
It may not be something you understand, or want to. It may not be something you feel is worthy. It may not be True, according to your definition of the word. It may not be as gentle and compassionate and respectful and accommodating and orthodox and traditional as you are accustomed to.
And this faith has grown… as I’ve met people who inspired me. Waters… even oceans… have parted. The impossible has become commonplace. Blessings have come about. Miracles worked. Ask me about it one day… and if the time is right I will tell you.
It’s what I have.
It’s all I have.
And it is what it is. It’s mine. It’s meaningful. And it matters to me.
That’s it. It’s not an agenda. It’s not zealotry. It’s not craziness. It’s just the cold, hard, faith.