The Burden of Belief and Pursuing Truth: Part 2

“Since truth is the only meaningful foundation upon which we can make wise decisions, how then can one establish what is really true?” –Elder Richard G. Scott

In part one of this blog post I explained my background (it got real – I even admitted to wearing a bolo tie), and I described a paradigm-shifting crisis of faith. I seriously questioned the existence of God and in so doing learned that with or without God there is an inability to comprehend the undeniable eternity that surrounds us, and therefore there is a need for belief, for faith in something that is not seen but is believed to be true. I learned that rejecting God does not relieve that burden of belief, and I determined to make my best judgment after examining three things: my own experience, the experience of others, and the “facts”.

My Own Experience

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is designed to actively involve its members in spiritual pursuits. Being raised in that environment, I have always said regular prayers, read scripture, attended church meetings, and served others in various capacities. None of my varied experiences are undeniable proof of God, but all of them add up to strong personal evidence of his existence. When pursuing answers to big questions or guidance during turbulent times, I have found feelings combined with thoughts that seem to come from outside of me and confirm the existence of a Heavenly Father that is concerned with my well-being.

The Experience of Others

In addition to my own experiences, I find my belief in God strengthen by the experiences of others. For example, the Book of Mormon and the Bible are essentially the spiritual journals of men from long ago, and the stories they tell testify without hesitation of the existence of God and of his love for his children.  In more recent times Joseph Smith said he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ and they spoke with him face to face, and modern-day apostles and prophets testify that God and Jesus Christ live. My own close friends and family members have had significant experiences that convince them of God’s existence.

The “Facts”

The “facts” as revealed by science are inconclusive. The materials that make up the Earth date back millions of years, and we can observe evolution in nature. But we don’t really know how dramatic leaps in evolution happen or how a habitable planet was formed from a big explosion of energy. In fact some non-religious scientists believe the evidence suggests an intelligent design as opposed to an accident. I believe at some point instructions were issued so that order could come from chaos. I believe God was the author of that intelligence. In short, while there is definitely no proof of God’s existence from science, there is plenty of room for belief in Him.

Pursuing Truth

Every one of my three pillars of belief can be discounted, argued, or contradicted. There is no easy answer. In fact I believe this Earth life was designed to allow us to make decisions without a sure knowledge so we could gain experience that only that type of environment could afford.

Truth be told (pun intended) I am not trying to convince you to believe in God, I am trying to convince you to pursue truth. Truth is the only meaningful foundation on which to make decisions, and identifying it is the first step to leading a peace-filled life. So pursue it. Relentlessly. And when you find it, or when you think you find it, take action! DO whatever it is that truth would suggest is right.

Your pursuit of truth may lead you to believe exactly what I believe. Or perhaps your pursuit of truth will lead you to something totally different. The God I believe in would not fault someone for honestly pursuing truth and not finding it. I believe our pursuit of truth and our best effort to act according to the truth we find makes this life meaningful and valuable and enjoyable.

I count my doubting the existence of God as one of the great blessings of my life because it forced me to think and to personally pursue truth. I am thankful for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for it is in this church I have found answers to life’s most important questions and had experiences that convince me of God’s love and our eternal worth. May we continue to relentlessly pursue truth, even (especially) when it contradicts what is popular, what is tradition, or what is culture.

Why I Became a Mormon: Raynelle’s Story

I was baptized on August 17th and that day was a very good one.  I felt I had been on a long journey and that day was the start of a new life and a new me.  My conversion did not take very long since what I came to know about the prophet Joseph Smith and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ rang true to me.  My way of engaging with the world had already begun to change during the time I spent investigating and August 17th marked the completion of that transformation.  Upon being baptized, a new sensibility overcame me, and of my 5 senses, the one I had perhaps neglected the most, my sense of hearing, became more active.  I found myself more tuned in to the “still small voice”.

My grandmother, a dedicated Christian and wise woman, started to teach me about the Bible when I was about 4 years old up until age 6.  Thankfully, I had a very good memory.  My family consists entirely of Christians but we all attended different churches.  I was baptized in an Episcopal Church shortly after my birth and remained (de facto) Episcopalian until my recent conversion.  At 6 years old, I left my extended family and moved to the U.S. to live with my mother and sister.  My mother, a single parent, had sent me to live with relatives for a few years while she got situated.  Upon returning to my mother, I picked up with school where I left off but did not continue to regularly attend church on Sundays.  Since my mother regularly held 2 jobs, church was not a regular part of our lives but I continued to belief in God and Jesus Christ (what I had learned from my Grandmother) and surveyed the Bible privately throughout the years.

I moved to Minnesota from New York City in late October after realizing that my life did not include the elements I valued most; personal peace, time with my family and a tangible sense of purpose.  I also realized that the picture of what I believed my life should be had turned into bits and pieces of an un-compelling picture that I no longer recognized.   Prior to this realization, a year earlier, I was enrolled in an MBA program at NYU where I  believed that through my pentathlon of work, classes, group assignments, networking, stress and sleep deprivation for 2 years, I would come out the other side graduated and ready to dive into a new purpose-driven professional life.  Though God’s presence had gradually been fading from my life since the days of learning spent with my Grandmother, this time was the absolute lowest point of all.  By the end, I had forgotten everything except how to pray.  So I started to pray again but did not receive any immediate answers.

My mother, sister, and nieces had moved to Minnesota a few years earlier and I knew they really liked it. After praying for over a year and receiving no clear answers, I decided to leave New York and join my mother, sister, and nieces thus fulfilling the need for us to be closer while also sorting out my next steps.  I eventually found a job in Minnesota which called for a lot of travel between the East Coast and Minnesota and settled in a bit.

One day on a flight into Minneapolis Airport, I met a man who is exactly my age.  We were both seated in the exit row.  Upon arriving at my seat, I was surprised to find him there as I had become accustomed to being seated in the exit row on those flights, where there was usually no one else in the entire row.  We greeted each other with an enthusiastic “hello” and looking back I think it might have been because we were both excited about our exit row duties.  We talk about a wide range of things, work, travel, books, and the two things I had explicitly been advised not to talk about with strangers; religion & politics. I learned that my exit row neighbor is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints and I was curious to learn what it meant given the positive impression he already made and considering that I had never met a Mormon.  I expressed interest in reading the Book of Mormon so he offered to have it delivered to my home by missionaries in my area, advising me to be sure to ask them very tough questions about its contents.  I accepted the offer (and advice) and was contacted by the missionaries a few weeks later. Eventually they visited with the Book of Mormon in tow and I began lessons every week from that point forward.

Learning about the Mormon religion involved meeting the missionaries for lessons, privately reading the scriptures, praying regularly, attending church on Sundays, participating in “family home evening”, attending General Conference, meeting church members, and hearing from recent converts.  Through these experiences and upon attending church and meeting members of my local Medicine Lake Ward, I came to believe more strongly in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  My conversion took place relatively quickly as I felt I already knew some of the teachings and just needed reinforcement.  I received more than I could have imagined on my baptism day and the day following when I was prompted to receive the Holy Ghost in the presence of the Ward.  The uneasiness I once felt disappeared immediately, I began to see my way to the right path, my relationship with my family improved (my mother eventually decided to convert also), my life has improved, and I am more prepared to take on the great challenges and surprises ahead.

I have been grateful for the promptings I have received as I continue to study the scriptures and pray to know the truth in my own heart.  I am especially grateful for ward fellowship.  As I pray daily for guidance, strength, understanding and to know the truth about God’s Plan as it applies to my life, decisions have become easier and my purpose, clearer.

 

Guest Post: The Sabbath Day and the Change Within Me

By Keith Y.

I grew up in the 1950-60’s as a Baptist.  We went to church on Sundays, but only when there were no conflicting family activities planned.  My Mother was a devoted Christian while my Dad was less inclined to enjoy listening to a sermon.  I suspect that is why my Dad frequently planned family visits to relatives on weekends, thus eliminating the opportunity to attend church.  I loved having two-day weekends for fun and play. 

In 1968 a lot of things changed for me.  I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) after a two-year investigation.  When I found I had a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith and the Bible, I was baptized.  There were still parts of the Latter-day Saint faith that I didn’t fully comprehend but given more time I felt that I might be able to fully understand.  One of those parts was the importance Mormons placed on keeping the Sabbath day holy.

I must have inherited my Dad’s propensity to avoid Sunday meetings and restrictions, as one of my most difficult adjustments I needed to make was in how I used the Sabbath.  I saw nothing wrong with playing sports or shopping on Sunday afternoon, yet this was considered a violation of the Sabbath.  I made the necessary adjustments to comply but without a full understanding.

While reading the Old Testament I reread the commandments found in Exodus 20.  I learned new things about my Father in Heaven that day, reading the same commandments that I have read and heard all my life.  The commandments vary in length with two commandments as short as four words.  I was surprised in this reading to find the longest commandment by far was about the Sabbath Day—it was four verses and 94 words.  Why would there be so much devoted to the Sabbath I wondered.  This question caused me to reread carefully what it said.  This is what I learned:

  • Verse 8:  We are to keep the day holy.  Since joining the LDS church I had learned more about what holy means.  Holy means to set apart for sacred purposes.  The opposite of holy is common or even profane.  This hit home—the day itself is a day of holiness.
  • Verse: 9: This was always understood, realizing that sometimes work on Sunday can’t be avoided, such as, nurses, emergency workers, transportation, etc.
  • Verse 10:  This verse held the information I needed.  Prior to this reading I saw no issue with buying gas or groceries on a Sunday, yet the LDS faith encourages us not to shop on Sunday.  In this verse it advises us not to work on the Sabbath but also don’t require “thy manservant, nor thy maidservant” to work either.  It was a light bulb that came on for me.  This changed my personal paradigm regarding the Sabbath.
  • Verse 11:  It is a day of rest for the Lord and now it is for us as well.

So my Sabbath days no longer consist of going to stores or making others work for my benefit.  Sunday consists of attending church, participating in Sunday meetings, partaking of the Sacrament to renew my allegiance to the Savior, serving others, studying the scriptures, enjoying family, and resting from my weekly labors.

We are later told in Mark 2:27 that the “Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.”  Like all other commandments, they are given to us for our benefit and development.  The Sabbath is for our own development, so we can become more like Him.

I provide this simple insight not to convert you to my beliefs, but perhaps to enlighten you on your own beliefs. Had I understood the concept of the Sabbath earlier I would have been blessed by living by its principles sooner.

What is LDS General Conference?

Latter-day Saints in Minnesota will join others around the world in tuning in to our twice-a-year General Conference. Next week we’ll recap the conference and share some personal experiences from the weekend.

If you have a minute, each session of conference will be broadcast online at lds.org, so come check it out.

  • Saturday AM: 11-1pm Central
  • Saturday PM: 3-5pm Central
  • Sunday AM: 11-1pm Central
  • Sunday PM: 3-5pm Central

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