A lot of you are aware that last year I started asking questions about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and perhaps noticed that I seem to have started posting as if I was a member. Iíve been rather intentional vague about what steps Iíve taken to join the Church so a lot of you probably think Iíve either joined a long time ago or never joined and fell away. Or maybe not, I donít know, and for those of you who werenít aware that I was either ever not a member or ever considering being a memberÖ both are true. And in fact, on Sunday, February 1st I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
I figured that it would be a good idea to tell Hatrack about it because A) Hatrack was deeply involved with my choice and B) I wanted to write it up and this gives me a really good reason to do so. So me and my lack of literary skills are going to attempt to explain why exactly it is I joined a Church, and specifically the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
I was an agnostic all of my life. I recognized I could not know if God existed, but for the most part I was pretty darn sure He didnít. I tried to keep an open mind and I certainly didnít look down on Christians or any other faith but I would often join with my Dad in ridiculing those who thanked God on television for things like winning a game or just plain used the word ďGodĒ at all. I think I felt (along with my parents) that faith in God was fine, but should be kept to ones self all the time. Kind like an embarrassing secret, you can have it but you shouldnít be telling me about it.
Memories: When I was little, probably around 7 years old, I asked my Mother if she thought that we went anywhere after we died. She replied she didnít know. I refused to take that as an answer and pressed my case. She answered, no, she didnít think there was anything after death.
A little later, I think in middle school, Mormonism came up for whatever reason ( I donít really remember). I asked my mother what that was and she replied that Joseph Smith went into the woods and pretended to have a vision so that he could have as many wives as he wanted.
My father is a professor of physics, one time he went to a conference at which another professor was explaining the creation of the earth (the 7.5 billion explanation, not the few thousand year creationism). According to him, a short ways into the talk to well dressed men stood up and started asking questions about the Bible and creationism. He described them as a threat, and found it preposterous that they could believe that.
This is certainly not all me memories of my familyís dislike of religion, when you live with people for 18 years you have lots of memories on every topic, especially one as important as religion, but these are the first ones that came to me, and pretty representative of the rest.
That was my background in religion, not really very positive, but I like to think I was at the very least tolerant. Obviously though, there was a significant change between ďtolerantĒ and ďbelieverĒ. At the time I obviously didnít realize it but I think I know the point in which I started down the path that led to belief.
It was early 2003 and I was trying to act morally, this was during all that war controversy and I felt like I needed a moral code. I was trying to act morally without any clear definition of morality. Well in a quest to find morality I turned to my trusted friend and ally, logic. I started off with things I knew to be immoral and tried to figure out why they were immoral, and thus understand the basis for morality and be able to come up with an at least semi-complete moral code.
So I started off with the easy one, murder. I knew murder was wrong, itís one of the few things that is condemned basically in every culture (Iím sure that there are a few exceptions but I would be very surprised if it werenít the most consistently enforced rule in the world). So why was murder wrong? Well it meant that one life was lost. So why was that a bad thing? What made human life important or special? I could not come up with a good reason. I figured a few theories but they didnít really work, they were all flawed. Well this cundrum was not easily resolved. In fact, a few months later I had still not come up with a solid reason.
That few months later I read OSCís Saintís, which for those of you who havenít read it is a fictionalized, semi-historical account of an English family that joins the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and travels to America. For some reason it piqued my curiosity, I realized I had no idea what Mormons really believed. Certainly at this time I had almost no interest in joining the Church, I doubt the thought had crossed my mind. I was interested because I didnít know, not because I wished to join.
Well this is, of course, the point where Hatrack comes in. As some of you may remember I started a thread asking questions about religion in general and some specific LDS questions. First off, I want to thank everyone who answered my questions in that thread, Mormon and non, you were all very helpful, informative, and respectful. Thank-you.
Anyways, a short period of time after starting that thread (say a week) I was all of a sudden considering joining. Not all that seriously, but it was big shift anyways, and I have no idea how it came about, but it did. About one and one half weeks after I started that thread, two sister missionaries tracted into me during one of the very few times in which I was alone in the house.
For those of you who donít know what that means, missionaries are members of the Church who give up two years (1.5 if theyíre female) to serve the Lord. This means leaving your home and spending all your time knocking on doors, teaching those interested in hearing about the Church, or other worthy things (for instance, there are service missions, where you basically perform needed service in the community). Tracting is going door to door asking people if they would like to hear about the Church.
They asked me if I was interested in listening their message. I told them I was but I was pressed for time at the moment (I was about to go give a presentation), however I invited them in and talked for a short bit. They gave me their phone number and I told them Iíd call them. It was a pretty amazing experience really. Certainly I recognized that it could be a coincidence, but what a time for such a coincidence!
I knew one person who was Mormon. She was, at the time, not fully acting out the principles of the Gospel. For example, though it was not a habit, she would on occasion, smoke pot. She was certainly not a bad person, and in fact, after she went to college she has fully accepted the Church and seems to me to be completely changed now. However, she was really my only tie in to the Church (in real life anyways, luckily enough I had Hatrack too ).
Anyways, because I thought she may have been the cause of the missionaries visit I asked them specifically about it and they were as surprised as I was (of course they could be lying, but you have to realize that regardless of the truth of the Church, most missionaries really believe it and would not lie because of it).
About a week later I met again with the missionaries, this time at someone elseís house. We had dinner and then did the first discussion. For non-members, there are six discussions for ďinvestigatorsĒ (the term for anyone discovering the beliefs of the Church in the possibility of joining). The discussions serve two purposes, to make sure that the investigator understands the basics, and to help them make commitments (like promising not to smoke and drink alcohol and what not).
I kept doing this for a few weeks, I never write anything down so I donít exact times, or even some more general time scales. However, while meeting with the missionaries was a big help in both understanding the Church and beginning to be able to accept it, that was not the key.
Of course one of the first things the missionaries like to tell you early on is how to discover the truth of the Church. You should consider the beliefs of the Church, and ask the Lord if they are true. If it is true, He will confirm it to you. This is a good promise. You can ask and get an answer, faith is not blind faith, it is simply a knowledge of something strong enough that you are willing to act on it. And asking Heavenly Father and receiving an answer leads to that faith. So I thought that was a very good promise from the Lord, however I knew that there was a problem I would encounter.
I could ask all I want, but unless the answer was given in a very a-typical way I would always doubt it unless I took certain steps to insure that it was a true answer. What I mean is, the way the Lord answers that question (and many others) is through the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost does not appear before you in a vision, nor speak audibly in your ear. You need to recognize the Holy Ghost in your thoughts and feelings.
Now I know a lot of people would see this as a very unconvincing answer. What you have to realize is that receiving confirmation from the Holy Ghost I not going through your thoughts and just picking out ones that come from the Lord, nor deciding which emotions are caused by His spirit. I can say from experience that it is often hard to determine when the Holy Ghost is speaking to you or prompting you (or at least it is for me), but when the truth of the gospel is confirmed to you, it is not just a premonition, or a flicker of emotion. It is a very strong and prevalent feeling, one that I at least had not felt before.
But Iím getting ahead of myself. Before I was really willing to ask for any sort of confirmation of truth I had to do something to insure the answer was true. How did I know it wasnít my subconscious putting in feelings? How did I know it wasnít just my body doing what I undoubtedly wanted it to? If I was to be sure of the answer I needed to put these fears to rest. The only solution I saw was to analyze myself in an effort to understand my emotions and be able to track them down.
And that is exactly what I did. Whatever emotion I felt, anger, happiness, peace, anything I would stop and try to logically figure out where it came from, when it began and what it meant. I became familiar with what type actions or situations led to certain emotional responses. In fact, after a time not only was ale to track and understand my emotional responses, I was able to logically control some of them. Anger, for instance, I was able to remove with just a few logical steps. Since I knew where the emotion was coming from I was able to simply remove the cause. Not for everything of course, but for a few emotions.
And once again Iím getting off track. The point is, I tracked down the cause of my emotions to try and make sure that when they came from some other source, I would recognize it. That was half of my Ö scientific process for determining if what I was experiencing was the Holy Ghost, or my subconscious desire to feel the Holy Ghost.
The second half was trying to simulate those feelings that I had that I felt at least could be the Holy Ghost. I tried various things, and did some combining of those two methods. Iím not going to write it up because for the most part itís boring and detailed and I forgot the order I did everything in so Iíll just end up confusing myself not to mention you poor people who are actually still reading this! By the way, Iím impressed with whoever is still reading this, have a high-five: *High-fives reader*.
The important thing is that I eventually came to the conclusion that those things that I felt (which also closely mimicked those emotions described by both the scriptures and others who have felt the Holy Ghost) were not, and could not be caused by me. How sure am I of this? I admit to the possibility that Iím wrong, that in fact it is my deviously clever subconscious. However, I am sure enough to act on my conclusion, and that is what I consider to be faith. I think the time at which I knew for sure (had good enough faith to truly act on and believe) was early this last summer. Since then Iíve gone up and down and back again (or something ) and ended up a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints.
Part II of this (which I have not written, Iím not just holding out on you ) will hopefully be more a kind of what I did/what happened story more about events thenÖ well whatever this was about. Until then, enjoy .
Final Note: I've been having a lot of homework and it actually took me about a week to write this and if I went back and read it over like I really should it would take at least another week and I got impatient... sorry.
That is really cool, Hobbes. I can relate. I am "learning" about Judaism as we speak. The things I have experienced while doing so are amazing. But if anyone wants to see the full account, here you go.
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Hobbes: I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but your horns won't grow in for another 3-4 years. You can speed up the process though by getting your home teaching done every month.
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In all seriousness, I'm always interested in people's feelings of faith. I'm a thirsty man looking for water, and trying by sight alone to figure out which is the vinegar.
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No, no "Holy Ghost Feeling" but I have asked myself the same questions about that, I just came to different conclusions, namely, it wasn't the Holy Ghost trying to talk to me. My experiences are that of a sense of belonging and family. People who asked me, "How are you?" and stood there waiting for an answer, and not in that I-Really-Don't-Have-Time-For-Your-Answer-But-I-Am-Making-A-Half-Assed-Attempt-To-Be-Polite, manner, but because they really wanted to hear what I had to say. The first time I went to Temple on Shabbat, I felt like I was home.
Am I a total geek because I raised my hand up to my monitor to accept the high five?
Congrats on a number of levels...
1. Congrats on finding something worth doing something about.
2. Congrats of being brave enough to actually do something about it.
3. Congrats for being happy about it. (even if it has only been 10 days)
I am LDS, however, religion more than anything else to me is about being happy. You participate in religion because it brings you joy. Regardless of the denomination, you should be happy where you are attending and with your relationship with divinity.
Ever since first seeing you post I've been under the impression that you were already a memeber, all well, whatever. Congratulations, it sure is great to have a confirmation from the spirit isn't it.
Oh, and thanks for the high five.
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Yay! Thanks for sharing that with us! Honestly, even though I'm among those who know you best around here, it's good to get to hear your thoughts and your personal history. (edited for this: )
quote:Would Annie have fallen for a non-Mormon?
Wow... if that's not a tough question. Hmmmm... I think the answer is: I would have been attracted to someone's personality who was as fabulous as Hobbes regardless of their religion, but taking something to a serious relationship level involves a conceivable shared future. My goals involve raising a family in the church, and I've seen how devastating it can be for children when Mom believes and Dad doesn't. So I've had a temple marriage as a goal for a long time. So perhaps I would have "fallen" for a non-mormon, but it wouldn't have progressed very far if he wasn't open to the religion. Looking back on that, it sounds rather harsh, but I think a lot of people are selective about who they date for much shallower reasons than that.
I've actually had friends chide me about not having a relationship with someone not of my faith. They said I was being way too picky. But really, the lifestyle choices alone, not to mention the life goals of an LDS person, are so radically different from so much of society that it would really make an intimate relationship come to an awkward end. And though there are plenty of LDS people I wouldn't date, that's at least enough of a common denominator to start from.
Itís so thrilling to know that youíre lost in the shuffle.
Sorry Xavier. Itís not you, itís a long term frustration with people assuming they know what ďprotestantsĒ believe, or even categorizing all of them together.
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quote:Well, I may have been misinformed, but it didn't seem that either Luther or Calvin claimed that God had direct contact with them.
I think that's right, but none of the protestant founders would claim to be the original inspiration for their religion. They would all probably say that the church's inspiration is Christ, and that they are just interpretting His word more accurately. Generally, the idea behind the main protestant churches are that the church itself should not be the focus of one's religion - God and His word itself should be the focus. Whereas the Catholic Church (and I think some others, like the LDS Church) claim a special authority, many of the protestant churches (including my own - Methodism) claim the church is just a sort of guide towards developing your own individual relationship with God, and has no unique authority.
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IMO you need to have faith BEFORE testing God, otherwise, it wont really have a lasting effect on you, you most likely will just chalk it up to coincedence.
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quote: The only solution I saw was to analyze myself in an effort to understand my emotions and be able to track them down.
Spoken like a true computer engineer/programmer.
I would like to point to this thread as a reason I come to Hatrack. Like TomDavidson, I'm interested in "people's feelings of faith." To elaborate for myself, even though I'm reasonably sure of my own beliefs, I enjoy learning about other people's beliefs.
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Hobbes, I am so very happy for the peace that you seem to feel now in your life. (I also had assumed that you had already been baptized, and I just didn't know. ) Your story is very strengthening to my own testimony, and your faith is a wonderful example to me.
Yeah, that was mostly a lark. I didn't actually expect to get the card. When I didn't, it wasn't going to prove anything either way.
I would actually suggest not testing him at all. I haven't since then cause I just think its a really cheap and undeserving way to get your faith upheld.
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High five, writer I remember posting to your thread that you had decided to join the church, and that was relatively early in my hatrack career (all 10 months of it.) So I had the impression you had joined shortly after, but I'm glad you didn't rush it and I'm happy for you that you did it.
Pardon if presumptions on my part have advanced the theory that you already joined. I think I recall at least one post on that topic, and someone saying "I didn't know Hobbes had joined " I'm sure you'll hear this a lot, but even those of us born and raised in the church generally go through trials that cause us to have to decide if we really believe in A) God and B) the restoration of the Gospel through Joseph Smith.
This brings up the interesting question of whether the LDS church is protestant. In terms of being a church founded on the idea that the Catholic Church is on the wrong track, then yes. But in the sense of believing we are what Catholicism once was, no.
We have an interesting parable in the Book of Mormon, The Olive Tree that explains why God would let the church of his Son fall away and then bring back a competing church later. I think in the sense of that, LDS is also a protestant church. It is symbolic of many things, including why we are sympathetic to Jews even though we believe in Jesus Christ. We do believe that all our fruits (good works) will be gathered together to honor our Creator in the end.
Congratulations Hobbes! I'm more of a lurker than a poster in general, but I had assumed that you were a member of the LDS church already. I won't hijack your thread, but I also have recently joined the LDS church because of things I've read here at Hatrack, people I've met here, and reading OSC's works in general. Most of all though, I'm glad you've found a faith that you can be happy with, and I think that's the most important thing to do.
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Baptism by water is fine and everything, but now it's time for .....
BAPTISM BY FIRE BABY!!!!!!
**shifts into Pat mode**
I love conversion stories, they help me in my goal to augment my faith every single day in one way or another. Hobbes, the Church is better with you in it, congratulations on finding your faith the hard way... by working hard to find it. In my life, this is the only way you can really know if the church is true or not. It's not a sudden thing, it's not something that pops up out of a jack-in-the-box and says 'Surprise! the church is true."
You da man, even if you use all those girly smilies.....
dkw -- I think Mormon's generally agree that there have been men before Joseph Smith, and after Christ that were entitled to and enjoyed direct revelation from God. Martin Luther, Calvin, Handel and I'm sure there are others.
I think what Hobbes might have been trying to say is that the LDS church claims that the interaction with God that Joseph Smith first received and continued to receive through his life has remained continously with the church leadership until this day. If the Church makes a move, it is a result of direct revelation.
My understanding of Protestantism is that they don't claim to have new revelation with God on a continuing basis.
If I'm wrong, I'd like to be corrected.
[ February 11, 2004, 07:41 PM: Message edited by: Trogdor the Burninator ]
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Umm, Pat, she was referring to my post over on another thread. I suppose I shouldn't have moved it. Ah well. If more confusion is created, I will put it back here too.
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