I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’ve been a member since I was baptized at eight. I grew up in Utah and currently live in Arizona. I’ve experienced Mormon culture as I’ve participated in church. I want to talk about the challenges and benefits I’ve experienced as a member.
Being a Mormon is challenging. There are plenty of doctrines and commandments to try to follow. I believe God expects me to continually improve. I not only do my best, I also acknowledge that my own efforts will never be enough. Only Jesus Christ has the power to overcome my human nature, so I must develop a relationship with him and learn how to connect with his limitless power. Sometimes I get bogged down in my “to-do’s” and feel distanced from God. Maybe I don’t know if what I’m accomplishing is really enough to qualify as my best effort and I wonder if I’ll still be good enough. I keep finding pride in myself and sometimes despair of my ability to be fixed. Some of the hardest times are challenges that seem to occur for no reason. I struggle to get through periods where I feel less enlightened, less connected to God, and less inspired. It’s hard to keep up the effort when my reasons to continue are based on trust and past experiences.
I may seem like a faithful Mormon, but I still struggle with the basics in the life I’ve chosen. I have a beautiful family of five children and a loving husband, which is my life’s dream. Despite this, I regularly feel overwhelmed, unable to keep up with the demands of caring for my family, including housework. Part of me still puts too much emphasis on outward appearances of success. If I seem to be accomplishing what I am asked I get asked to do more. I want to be able to accomplish more, but maybe I still struggle with doing what I’m working on now. I don’t feel like I regularly receive answers to my prayers, more often I go along and feel okay about my direction and once in awhile (if I pay attention) notice blessings along the way. I do feel the spirit of God in my home regularly, which is my most tangible connection to God. I would love to experience the peace and joy the gospel promises, but often I find myself reminding myself that life is mostly enduring.
One challenge of church membership I want to talk about is interacting with other members. The Mormon church welcomes anyone to follow the steps of faith, repentance, and baptism. Because all are invited, inevitably the members are anywhere on the road of discipleship. In the church, I’ve met some of the nicest people of my life. I see people that I admire and would like to emulate. But most of the members are regular people, sometimes shallow, easily caught up in appearances, with a tendency to gossip. Most members are so busy living our lives that actual deep friendships are rare. I tend to keep my own barriers to prevent a relationship being able to hurt me, which means if someone says or does something that hurts my feelings, I can brush it off. If I serve and expect something in return, I will probably be disappointed. When I am struggling, I wish there were more people out there to help lift me. Yet, the road of discipleship has always been lonely. It is not the yellow brick road with friends by your side. Since everyone is at a different place along their own narrow path, your challenges are usually yours to face alone.
So far, when my faith has ebbed and I feel unable to go on, there is still a conviction underneath that swells up again and carries me forward. I may not understand everything about my life direction, but any alternative I pursue doesn’t bring me the peace I seek.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is unique. It claims things like being the only authorized church representing Jesus Christ on the earth, Divine inspiration and revelations, living prophets, angelic reception of priesthood authority, the imminent return of Jesus Christ, etc. The doctrines of the church are both fantastic and incredible, unbelievable to some and inspiring to others. For example, the church teaches that families are eternal. Our very concept of God is different, because we believe God is our literal Father and that we can someday live with God and be fathers and mothers in His extended family. Essentially, we believe in a God who is part of a relationship that connects Him eternally with us.
The demands and fantastic doctrines of the Mormon church can be hard to accept, yet they are the element that draws me in. Who would be so audacious as to say they were the only ones with authority to administer a church in Jesus’ name? Only a church who had been told so by God. Why would a church demand so much? Jesus said, “be ye therefore perfect.” Only God would. We struggle to realize happy family relationships, yet cling to the promise that happy families and healed relationships are one of the rewards of heaven. The unique ordinances of baptism and temples, as well as the doctrine of eternal families isn’t offered anywhere else. I don’t want to get into apologetics, and obviously there are lots of opinions about Mormon beliefs from inside and outside of the church. Still, I feel the spirit when I talk about these things, so for me they are true. The scriptures command baptism, and only baptism under proper authority will count. Despite the challenging nature of my beliefs, I believe that the rewards of this lifestyle more than surpass the demands. My own personal spiritual experiences have been positive, even sometimes overwhelming. To me, that is real.
Today I had a prayer answered. I have been praying to see how miracles still occur in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At our stake conference, Elder Gay shared his testimony that Jesus Christ lives and really directs this church. He shared an experience where he gave a blessing to a young man who had been in a motocross accident and was paralyzed from the waist down. Three weeks after the blessing, the young man was able to walk. He shared a few other experiences, all of which felt powerful to me and directly answered my recent request. No, I didn’t see a miracle. I may not be worthy of that. I hope to be someday. But I know that the leaders of the church are good enough to ask for miracles and see them happen.
One obvious benefit I see from living the gospel is happy children. the strictness of living a life according to the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ help me provide my children a happy childhood and values that lead to success. while I don’t personally feel happy every day, I have a two year old who daily says, “I love you mommy. You are the best mommy.” My 13 month old still thinks his world revolves around me. I can pick him up and hold him close and just soak in his sweetness. My other children are cute and obnoxious by turns, as children usually are, so sometimes I enjoy being with them and other times I can’t stand them any more and ask my husband to take over. My own parents were able to give me a happy childhood despite their own shortcomings, which I treasure. So while I don’t feel happy all the time, when I look back over the past, my life has been happy. I don’t have regrets and there are lots of positive memories. Following the gospel has allowed me to experience that happiness.
I love that God knows me better than I know myself, that He sees where I am, and plans for my success despite my imperfections. I love the principles that have changed the direction of my life. I love the bridge between the divine and the messy reality of human existence. I love Jesus Christ, whose message is eternally of hope. Hope for all mankind. Hope for those who are lost, or struggling, or trying and failing. Or seem good outside but still need so much help inside. I love the church despite all of the imperfections of the real people I worship with on Sunday. I believe The Church of Jesus Christ is what it claims: the only church directed by Jesus Christ and representing Him on the earth.
I’ve been inspired by Nikki’s thoughts at LDS Woman at the Well. Her words describing God’s love resonate with me (and evidently with thousands of others). I like her honesty. She shared this, which describes why I am a Mormon even though I find it challenging to live my religion:
“Living the Gospel demands a lot, but living “in the world” I found demands a lot more and it gives a lot less. It has an insatiable appetite with standards that are impossible to meet. Unlike finding completeness in Christ, who came in the fullness of Truth and Grace, the world offers us nothing.”
I am Mormon even though my faith has caused me to do the things I find hardest in my life. And I plan to continue on, working to overcome those things that challenge me with the help of Jesus Christ.