My baptism into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, April 1993
Overall, my Awakening series has been a wonderful experience. Writing about media choices, motherhood, the Priestesshood, and homosexuality has largely brought peace and happiness into my life. I felt good as I was writing them. I feel good knowing that I can be myself without accusations of hypocrisy, and that I continue to develop relationships with kind people like Kari. I like questioning things. Questioning everything actually. I have several boxes on a shelf in my mind, and I want to sort all the issues out . A box for the things I know, a box for the things I’m puzzling through, a box of ideas that others accept which I’ve rejected, and a box for things I will never understand no matter how I search, ponder, and pray.
This idea of a “box on the shelf” is not a concept of my own invention, it’s a pretty common idea passed around within Mormonism. We are encouraged to build up our faith like a house, laying the bricks that form the foundation, and then moving on to the pillars and windows and shelves, fortifying along the way. If we don’t have a strong testimony*of something, we put that idea in a box on the shelf and come back to it again later.
There are two small differences between my approach now and the approach I used to have. First, I am building my own house from the ground up. No one else gets to lay a single brick, no matter their age or status within the Church hierarchy. I have no way of knowing if certain ideas or beliefs are the result of personal history, cultural background or God, and so I must puzzle it through on my own. Second, I added another level to my sorting, a box titled “Commonly Held Beliefs I’ve Rejected“. Sometimes, ideas preached from the pulpit are not what God would say. They are the product of man’s thinking, and I believe this to be true because of the things our own Church history demonstrates to us. We’re all down here on earth trying to puzzle through as best we can. We all make mistakes, and I want my mistakes to be made because of my own thinking, not because I oversimplified my analysis of another person’s views.
There are the parts of Mormonism that I find really beautiful and fulfilling. These are 10 of the (many) reasons why I stay, and why I will continue to encourage others in an exploration of the faith I love.
My love for my husband is all-consuming. I want to be paired off and united with him for forever. The LDS Church gives me a framework for how I can make this happen.
We are the literal spirit children of Heavenly Parents. They love us and know us the same way I know and love my own child. Better actually, as They are Divine.
They wants to give us all that They have.
He is my brother. We lived together in an existence before our time on earth. He atoned for my sins that He might one day be my advocate when standing before the Judgement Bar.
Plan of Salvation
Every person who has ever been born lived together in a pre-earth spirit life. We came to earth to gain a body and conquer our mortal desires. Life is a test of our ability to conquer the natural man. God is waiting to reward us with the ultimate happiness.
Equal Opportunity for Salvation
No matter when and where a person lives, their circumstances or experiences, we all have an equal chance to demonstrate our fidelity to God.
Modern and Personal Revelation
God speaks to us today. God speaks to me directly (if only I could understand the message better).
The Priesthood authority for the Church is passed down from man to man in an unbroken chain. You become part of this chain by accepting, believing, and obeying.
We are not born as sinful creatures because of the choices of those who came before (Adam and Eve). We are all responsible for our own mistakes.
When we move, I don’t have to feel scared that I won’t make new friends. The Relief Society is often referred to as the “oldest and largest women’s organization in the world” and it is filled with wonderful women to associate with and befriend. Some of my happiest childhood memories revolve around Primary activities, my time in Young Women, and the many cultural/holiday activities that our congregation held throughout the year.
These are the reasons I believe. I recently laughed and cried my way through The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories From An American Faith. Laughed at us, at our silly Mormon culture. Cried because I, like Joanna, fiercely love The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, warts and all. I love it so much that I want to see it only become better, and that’s only going to happen when we acknowledge our faults and work to overcome them.
I want a faith as expansive as the skies above the Eastern Sierras at eleven thousand feet. I want to rest my back against lodgepole pines with you and puzzle out the mysteries. I want a faith as handmade as pioneer-carved wooden pews under an arching tabernacle skydome. I want a faith as welcoming as a Pioneer Day dinner table set with a thousand cream-of-chicken-soup casseroles and wedding-present crockpots, a table with room enough for everyone: male and female, black and white, gay and straight, perfect and imperfect, orthodox or unorthodox. Mormon, Jew, or Gentile. – Joanna Brooks, The Book of Mormon Girl