When I write about my church, it’s usually to analyze some aspect of belief or to defend it from critics. But today I just want to celebrate the beauty and joy of the kind of life practiced in the Mormon church.
For months now I’ve often looked back from the end of a day and thought of just how amazing it was. It’s crazy how many days make me laugh and smile and think, how many days have a little bit of me helping someone else and someone else helping me, how many days see me witnessing and participating in the best and hardest moments in an ever growing number of lives. This isn’t meant to say that any other way of life is worse than this or bad at all; this post is for me to simply say that the practice of Mormon discipleship is a truly wonderful way to live.
For numerous specific anecdotes of exactly what I’m talking about in the daily lives of ordinary Latter-day Saints, please check out the series of posts tagged “on the sweetness of Mormon life” over at the excellent Junior Ganymede blog. Dip into any of those slices of homemade gourmet living and you’ll find your heart filled with a rich light.
The most recent entry:
An old cowboy bears his testimony. he is being released from the bishopric. It is his 3rd bishopric. He cries when he speaks. He say’s he’ll miss the friendship. His successor is a dirt contractor who “grew up rough.”
The first speaker says he’d been working at the temple a few days back. The Temple President came and pulled him from his duties. Unusual. “We need help in the baptistry.” There was only a father and son. Also unusual. They ran a session of baptisms for the dead and then confirmations for the dead, with just the Temple President and the speaker and the father and the son. Very unusual. The father was fighting back tears.
After, the Temple President explained. The son had turned 12 that weekend. A day or two later, the man received his 7-day notice that he was ordered to Afghanistan for one year. The temple had made special arrangements so he could do his son’s 1st baptisms for the dead.
Or you could refer to this summary from the end of Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option for a remarkable parallel to the kind of life I have in mind:
This handy little flowchart should explain how the various programs and practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are meant to operate.
UPDATE 9.14.15: This post periodically blows up online. Today it got three times more hits than the whole blog gets on an average day. People keep bringing it up on social media, apparently.
I’ve looked over some of those comments, and the biggest thing they tend to say is that I’m being judgmental. I’d like to address this with three points:
- I didn’t judge her value as a person. In fact, I diplomatically phrased much of this essay to specifically avoid the false appearance of condemnation. Sadly, it seems that some will see moral judgment, even in its obvious absence, no matter what someone actually says. To castigate me for an imagined insult shows not just a lack of charity, it shows a lack of reading comprehension.
- I wasn’t criticizing her as a person; I was analyzing her essay. Written documents, publicly published, are all fair game for discussion. That’s how discourse works. There are no privileged texts, immune to analysis. To suggest such is to create a caste of secular scripture, and to demonize someone who dares to analyze such a text is to practice an intellectual inquisition.
- Where I speculate about the author’s possible (possible!) motives and background, it is always in light of what’s explicitly or implicitly in her text. Criticize my analysis, and do so with better evidence and reasoning, but there’s nothing here to warrant an attack. Certainly, I have yet to see a substantial criticism of this post that uses actual citations and clear reasoning–nothing more, in fact, than simple invective. Anyone who wants to engage in civil dialogue is always welcome to, though.
This article made me sad. Not because it mischaracterizes my church, which it does, and not because I think Maren Stephenson, the author, is an awful person, which I don’t, but because I think she totally misunderstands what she rejects and needlessly misses out on something wonderful because of it, even though she must have been so close to it.
The author writes about how her husband, and then she herself, became intellectually disillusioned with the LDS Church, and became happier after leaving it.
For someone who calls herself a “scholar” in her own article, she doesn’t seem to know the difference between doctrine and urban legends, and she seems ignorant of some obvious facts that contradict her new worldview. It isn’t the factual errors that are heartbreaking, though–it’s the personal drama that accompanies (and perhaps fuels) the skepticism, which seems to lead her to a badly warped view of the LDS Church:
In a blog post last week about Mormons and the Civil War–focusing on the relationship between Abraham Lincoln and Brigham Young–the New York Times mentioned this:
Fascinatingly, Joseph Smith had prophesied in 1832 that an immense civil war would someday transform America, and that it would start in South Carolina.
It is fascinating, isn’t it? A couple of commenters noted that there were good reasons in 1832 for predicting such a thing, but that hardly does the prophecy justice. I submitted the following as a comment, but it hasn’t been published yet:
Joseph Smith’s Civil War prophecy is impressive. As Jeff Lindsay notes, in 1832, Smith predicted that:
- The war would begin with the rebellion of South Carolina.
- It would cause the death and misery of many souls.
- The Southern States would be divided against the Northern States.
- The Southern States would call upon other nations for assistance, even upon the nation of Great Britain.
And that, later, Great Britain would enlist help from other nations in wars which would “be poured out upon all nations.”
For those who think this was a lucky guess based on 1832 politics, one would be hard pressed to explain why the opinion wasn’t common, and why Smith repeated the claim eleven years later, in 1843. The original prophecy is in a Mormon scripture called Doctrine and Covenants 87; the reiteration is found in D&C 130:12-13.
Not only did Smith predict the war, but he even foresaw details like the South calling on Great Britain, which it did (this fact is even mentioned in the second National Treasure movie).
There are plenty of other instances of recorded prophecies by Joseph Smith which came true: http://www.jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/FQ_prophecies.shtml