A Love Letter to Mormonism
Usually when I write it’s to explore some cultural frustration or doctrinal oddity or some other negative aspect of sorts related to the Church. I try to have some thoughtful (and ideally faithful) result that illustrates how much I love Mormonism. Yet, I realize that it may not be apparent (all I want is to get to Church on time…).
I have been asked recently (and previously, at times by myself) why I stay, given my unorthodoxy and otherwise embrace of things that place my on the fringes of the Mormon faith community. I usually mumble some answer about being raised in the Church and having spiritual experiences and then trailing off into nothing…
While that remains true, I feel like it doesn’t really capture the intensity of the positive relationship that I maintain with Mormonism, in spite (because?) of the quirks and idiosyncrasies and things that seem wrong. So today, I’m going to explore why I truly love Mormonism.
- The Cosmic Gospel: I love the expansiveness of the Gospel, the sci-fi elements of Kolob and worlds beyond number and pondering how it all began and works. Sure, this can be mocked (billboards asserting that the Mormon God is a space alien), but it has and continues to excite me. One of my earliest posts was about being torn between the pragmatic and the supernatural (basically the science and fantasy divide). The Cosmic Gospel seems to seek to bridge that divide, suggesting a mystical awe at the vastness of creation and possibility. And that sense of wonder is something that I still hold onto and love (ideas like those of Brigham Young on the Earth literally falling through space during The Fall, the ten tribes and Enoch’s city living on some asteroid floating in space, and asteroid belts representing less pure parts of progressing worlds hold a level of fascination for me, even when I can’t fully embrace/believe them).
- Priesthood, or Experiencing God’s Love: The most spiritual experiences I’ve had have been feeling God’s love, initially for me personally, but repeatedly for others. Frequently this occurs as I exercise the priesthood. Sure, there may be other explanations and some of the time other things are going on, but I have felt immense compassion and care for people that I hardly know, while performing priesthood ordinances for them. These particular experiences happened within a very Mormon context and are feelings that play a key role in my beliefs to this day.
- Embrace of All Truth: Early Church leaders repeatedly talked about the need for Mormonism to embrace all truth regardless of the source. I LOVE this idea. Yeah, there seems to be some cultural opposition to it today, but it remains at the heart of what Mormonism is to me and how I was taught. The idea of religion co-existing with all other systems of knowledge and learning is incredibly appealing to me. I try to mix my religion with my studies of literature and enjoyment of film and TV, which usually works quite well at BYU (less well in Grasmere, where the Church is relatively unknown). It works the other way, with my learning of other subjects mingling with my scripture study, as I better understand doctrinal teachings because of literature or other religions.
- Open Canon: I’m a huge fan of the open canon of Mormonism. Not only the idea of God continuing to speak to us today, but that there are books of scripture chillin’ out in the world (or even OUTER SPACE. Who doesn’t want some Alien Bible???? Isn’t that just so exciting? Maybe they even have lightsabers. Lightsabers.) that are waiting to be discovered. Or maybe we’ve found them and they’re around, but we don’t recognize them as scripture yet. The possibilities are endless.
- Customizable: This may be a bit controversial, but I think of Mormonism as being highly customizable. At least as far as belief goes. There are a handful of things that you “need” to believe to be a temple recommend holding member, but we don’t really have a systemized theology (and by that I mean that there isn’t one at all). So, there’s loads of room to create your own vision of how things should go. Along with this, there’s huge importance placed on the idea of personal revelation. That God, the most powerful being(s) in the Universe would speak to me about whatever I’m concerned with, is a beautifully touching idea. Another manifestation of Divine Love that I’ve felt in my life.
- Divine Potential, or World Building: The possibility of becoming like God is inspiring for me. The ability to create worlds for eternity is awe-inspiring. And straight-up awesome. I always liked creating creatures with play doh or clay (model magic specifically) or drawing weird alien things (largely because I was terrible at matching my drawings to their real-life counterparts. I once drew a bear that my brother thought was a weasel). The possibility of fabricating my own world or series of worlds makes me giddy. It’s like writing or other acts of artistic creation except that the object is alive. Again, there’s ways to make this sound absolutely wacko (which it sort of is), but that may be part of my attachment to it.
- Zion: Even though I’m quite introverted and like sticking to myself and enjoy my me-time to ponder cosmic mysteries, what sorts of worlds I would create, what I’m going to eat for dinner, or what-ifs of the Harry Potter universe, I love the idea of Zion. The work towards creating a unified community based on the Love of God is wonderful. Maybe this is partially because it took me quite awhile to feel like I was a part of our aspiring Zion communities and still struggle. But whatever it is, I love the idea of striving for creating a Zion society (all for communal ownership and trading skills and things while abolishing money and capitalism as we know it—but that could just be my far-left fantasy coloring my interpretation of Zion…who knows?).
- The Book of Mormon: A more conventional choice for loving Mormonism, but I couldn’t leave it off. The stories of the Book of Mormon serve as some of the building blocks for my view of the world. I watched the Animated Book of Mormon Stories videos every Sunday for as long as I can remember. They were great. Since then I’ve read the Book of Mormon roughly 40 times (yeah, kinda crazy, but it’s true). Praying about the Book of Mormon led me to my first encounter (that I remember) with God’s Love, at least in the pure enveloping sense that I’ve come to associate with it and have felt since then.
- Eternal Progression, or Learning For-ev-er: Similar to #6, but rather than being focused on the idea of creating worlds and things for eternity, the idea of learning forever and the after life being an extension of this one, where we continue to grow and progress and struggle and wrestle with complexity and ambiguity, is incredibly appealing. That’s the sort of Heaven that I want to go to. One filled with feeling and the pursuit of knowledge. I should throw in here the idea of the God who weeps, drawing from Enoch, as the record in the Book of Moses states. The personal side of progression and divinity is one that I really appreciate.
- It Feels Like Home: Lastly, Mormonism feels like home. I enjoy learning about other faiths and occasionally trying to incorporate ideas or practices into my own spiritual life, but nothing else feels quite like home. Maybe if I spent more time and effort in trying to be part of a different faith community, it could feel like home. But, I don’t want to give up Mormonism. I enjoy going to Church (usually), even if I make snarky comments throughout it, I find joy there. Engaging with Mormonism feels right. Whether I’m helping to make it a more inclusive place or not, I don’t know. I do know that I feel at home here and truly love Mormonism. I write to make it better, or to help me better interact with it. It’s like making your house better, you know? You don’t want to move out, you just want your house to become a true home.
So, there’s that. Why I love Mormonism. Maybe you have different reasons, but that’s what does it for me.
In other words, take me to Church.