And you might say, “So what?” Well, that’s something I hope to answer through this introductory post and other related ones to follow. Suffice it to say that it’s perfectly natural for most people to share anything that has had a profound and lasting change/effect on them - whether it be a new method to lose weight, grow back hair (yes!), invest money or to achieve happiness (true happiness, that is!). Such inclination to share certainly underscores the maxim “Sharing is Caring!”
In some regions and parts of the world, Mormonism may still be viewed with suspicion, paranoia, repulsion and/or derision. In other areas, as in Africa and South America, it is rapidly gaining respect and acceptance. Yet, in the western and mountain states of Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, California, etc., the LDS Church is considered widespread if not standard and mainstream. Hawaii and Alaska also have a lot of Mormons. Oh, and Samoa too. Incidentally, Samoa was the first country in the world to be covered by LDS stakes (dioceses) in 1974.
I was born and raised (in Samoa) a congregationalist, meaning that I was a member of a church with Protestant leanings and origins. The beliefs in the Trinity and the Bible - as “sola scriptura” - are paramount, like most mainstream Christian churches. The LDS Church, on the other hand, believes in other books of scripture, in addition to the Bible. (This year 2014, the Old Testament is the text for the Sunday School curriculum.) As Mormons we believe that the Godhead consists of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost and are three separate personages, as opposed to the “three-in-one” (Triune) doctrine. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are anthropomorphic while the Holy Ghost is a personage of Spirit.
For as long as I can recall, even when as a little child, I have always believed in God. And despite the dominance and pervasiveness of the Protestant beliefs in my early upbringing, my convincement and faith in God was intuitive and inborn - not acquired. For example, as a little boy, climbing a mossy and slippery coconut tree on a rainy day, I would always say a silent prayer in my mind asking for divine guidance, help and protection. That was at a time during which I had not yet formed any cognitive awareness of such things as religion and/or churches.
Even now, many years later, I still feel that close and inherent connection to God as part of who I essentially am, only that I am now much more aware, knowledgeable and assured - through the help and confirmation of the Spirit - about the true character and nature of God as revealed through the restoration of the gospel. So my belief in a loving, interested and personal God has never waned, weakened or forsaken - it has only grown stronger, sound and compelling. I attribute this growth and increase in the profound knowledge of God to my conversion to the LDS Church.
An Evangelical student said that while attending BYU (Brigham Young University), she had come to “appreciate the emphasis Latter-day Saints placed on God’s “nearness to humanity.” [She] began recognizing that in [her] effort to retain God’s transcendence, [she] had sacrificed God’s imminence [sic] — and this realization had a profound effect on [her].”
“Nearness to humanity”, generally, can be used to somewhat characterize the LDS Church’s beliefs in the close filial relationship of God to man.
The idea and belief, therefore, that God is mysterious, incomprehensible, estranged, indifferent and exclusionary to man (transcendence), is one that I find disturbing and heathenish. The “flipside” of that (immanence) in which God is believed to be one who is without body, parts or passions, ginormous enough to fill the universe yet small enough to dwell in one’s heart (at the very least not according to the Bible) is equally disjointed, ambiguous and unintelligible. “Knowing the true character of God forms the basis for the faith that leads to salvation.” (Joseph Smith)
As Mormons, we believe that God is literally the Father of our spirits (Hebrews 12:9). We lived with Him as spirit children in the premortal existence. Physically, we have been formed/created in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). He knows me (and you) personally. He has a plan for us, His children, to come to Earth to live, learn, grow and progress and through the Atonement and ordinances of the gospel, be able to live with Him again becoming “joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). Some Christians (mainly Orthodox) refer to this eventuality as Theosis though with some significant differences and variations from LDS eschatology.
For me and millions of others, the answers to the three age-old questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? and Where do we go from here? are not mystical, obscure or speculative anymore. I have found in the LDS teachings and doctrine, clear, sound, reasonable and true information on Heavenly Father’s Plan of Salvation which effectively answers the above questions.
Personally, I have come to believe that if one really and truly loves his/her family (who doesn’t?), then he/she should consider becoming a Mormon. That may sound bold and pollyannaish, but once you have learned and gained the faith to understand the true meaning of life and God's plan of happiness through the restored gospel, you too will be quite comfortable, as I am, in making the above claim.
You will gain a whole new perspective and understanding of the eternal nature of the family. Your perception and feelings of gratitude, compassion, association and abiding love for your family would be elevated reaching far beyond this life. When you learn and believe that families are forever, it puts a whole new, fresh, unique and eternal perspective on your family relationships and associations here in mortality. You will learn that ‘til death do us part” is defamatory and counterintuitive to God’s eternal plan for families and all His children.
If your experience will be anything like mine - and millions others’ - you will not be disappointed. Your view and knowledge of God, of faith, hope, love, charity, and of life will be forever changed. You will be grateful and a lot happier.
Now I’m not saying all Mormons are happier - though they all should be. It’s like most everything else, that only obedience to the laws and principles that govern a particular pursuit can and will bring the promised results, rewards and blessings. And so as far as the gospel of Jesus Christ is concerned, the Book of Mormon gives this important formula: “... if there be no righteousness there be no happiness,” (2 Nephi 2:13). Gaining happiness - true happiness - is a process and, according to Joseph Smith, is the object and design of man's existence.