Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Yes, I am a Christian

Yes, I am going to venture into that realm in which we're not supposed to go. Religion. With a sprinkle of politics. Oh snap.

But you can breathe again, I'm not going to try and convert you. I just want to explain things that are often misunderstood, and have been recently.

Last week, a prominent Baptist minister, Dr. Robert Jeffress talked about why "born-again followers of Christ" shouldn't vote for Mitt Romney because he's "not a Christian." He says:
The Southern Baptist Convention, which is the largest Protestant denomination in the world, has officially labeled Mormonism as a cult. I think Mitt Romney's a good, moral man, but I think those of us who are born-again followers of Christ should always prefer a competent Christian to a competent non-Christian like Mitt Romney... A lot of people say they're Christians and they're not, but they do not embrace historical Christianity. And I, again, believe that as Christians, we have the duty to prefer and select Christians as our leaders. (Source)
Now, if you didn't catch that I'm in Utah attending Brigham Young University, and if that didn't tip it off to you, I'm a Mormon. My parents converted as adults, so about half of my family isn't Mormon and I've heard of their diverse beliefs. I grew up in California, and I've been in Utah for school for just over a year now. I attended church every week since I've been born, went to early morning seminary, as well as church camps and devotionals. I've been to a few services of different religions with friends growing up and talked with my friends about their religions, from Catholicism to Jehovah Witnesses to Hinduism, and I'm friends with several Atheists. I'd say between how I grew up and my own devotion, I have a sound understanding of other beliefs and of my own. At least enough to explain my opinions.

First, the official name of the "Mormon" church is The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-Day Saints. We got the nickname "Mormon" from our scripture, The Book of Mormon. But church leaders have made it clear this is not our official name, because we want to highlight the fact that Jesus Christ is at the center of our church.

Whenever we pray in church or private, we always end with the phrase, "In the name of Jesus Christ, amen." Two weeks ago I went to my bishop to get what's called a temple recommend, basically a form that gives me permission to enter into the temple, which is the holiest and most sacred of all LDS buildings. In this interview, he asked me, "Do you have a testimony of Jesus Christ?" I answered, "Yes." If I had answered, "no" then I wouldn't have been allowed to go into the temple. Any member who doesn't have a testimony of Jesus Christ can't be a part of this extremely sacred place. It's essential to us that we believe in Him. Even The Book of Mormon, which is often criticized because it isn't the Bible, has the full title of "The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ." In this "un-Christian" book, a name or title which references Christ is in every 1.7 verses.

Dr. Jeffress and others are perhaps startled with our "image" of Jesus. We don't believe in the trinity. We believe that God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate beings who are "one" in that they have the same goal. We also believe that Jesus came to the Americas after his resurrection as a fulfillment of the scripture found in John 10:16: "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also must I bring, and they shall hear my voice." This visit to the Americas is recorded in The Book of Mormon.

These, among a few other reasons, is what Dr. Jeffress claims make us not Christian, because we don't, as he put it, "embrace historical Christianity." I'll tell you a bit more of what I and the other Mormons believe:

I believe Jesus was born to the virgin Mary, with God as His Father. I believe in the words of the Old and New Testament. I believe that He healed the sick, walked on water, raised the dead. I believe He suffered for our sins and died on the cross for us. I believe that without Him, I wouldn't be able to progress into heaven. I believe that on the third day, He was resurrected from the dead. I believe He'll come again.

Any other Christians disagree with any of that?
Mormons do differ on some points, there's no denying. But so do several other Christian faiths differ among each other. That doesn't make them any less Christian. Because in the end, we all believe that Jesus Christ is our way to salvation. And that is what makes us Christian.

On the "cult" thing, I can see why an outsider would see that. We do what our leaders tell us, generally. Some mistake this for blind faith. I'll tell you, though, that there isn't one principle or belief I haven't studied out and prayed about on my own. We are told to ask for ourselves. I've done that. I'm not going by blind faith. I'm choosing this on my own free will, after a lot of thought on the matter. Also, our temple can seem secretive, which suggests a cult. I've heard crazy things like we sacrifice animals and babies there and we get married naked (none of these are true, in case you were wondering). We, however, prefer the term sacred over secret. What happens in there is so special that only those completely devoted and mature can understand it, and thus participate and see it once the temple has been dedicated to the Lord. I've only been in one part of the temple. I'm approaching the age where I can go in farther, but I'm waiting so that I'm ready. Do you see? Nineteen years of preparation and I'm still getting ready. How could someone claiming we're not Christians and a cult go in and understand? They can't. It would become a mockery, and it already has to those who don't get it.

Now, personally I feel that a majority of other Christians recognize Mormons as fellow Christians. This has been floating around my facebook:
I've been blessed to come across so many who while they don't share my beliefs, accept me and my religion, even if we do seem (and are) a little strange. This is a response to a very minute number of people, as well as some who might have had some question marks over their heads about this.

For the comments--please no negativity. I've heard it all, and I'm still going to church and reading my Book of Mormon, so you'll be wasting your time trying to convince me otherwise. And if you have any questions, feel free to ask, I'd love to answer. :)

10 comments:

  1. I grew up in a very religiously relaxed family, where my parents told us we can believe whatever we want. So I pretty much grew up as an agnostic. But I have respect for people of all religions,and I'm really glad you posted this. I think that there are a lot of misconceptions about Mormons, especially with shows like 'Sister Wives' out there.
    Thanks for posting this and clearing things up for people.

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  2. Woot! You are awesome for posting this. :)

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  3. :) With all the negativity that people are putting out there for the LDS faith, it was refreshing to see Elder Oaks today addressing congress explaining how important it is for charitable contributions. I don't understand how people could think that a church that rivals humanitarian aid with the US could be a cult. Also since you went to religion I am just going to say it. We elected a muslim president why not an LDS one? Never in the history of the United States has a member of The Church Of Jesus Christ attacked the US in the name of God. (or any other country for that matter) Religion has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with freedom. Its what the country was founded on.

    Thanks for the great post Jenna! ♥

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  4. Well said! Thank you so much for taking the time to clear up our beliefs. You're awesome!

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  5. PS YOU woud make a great sister missionary JENNA! :) ♥

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  6. @Krista Aw, thanks!

    @WoollyBird I haven't seen Sister Wives but I can imagine. :/ We don't practice polygamy anymore, but people tend to forget that.

    @Chantele Thanks! It did take a bit of courage, you never know what people might say.

    @Jeigh No problem! I think it's important people understand where we're coming from.

    @Jennifer Right now my plan is to go on a mission! I think it'd be such an awesome experience. And I agree, I don't know how anyone who actually looked into our faith could think of us as a cult. And religion shouldn't matter for a president, as long as he upholds the Constitution which gives us our religious freedoms.

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  7. I may not share your beliefs, but I do agree that religion is not what makes or breaks a president, and Jeffress made a fool of himself in implying as much. :)

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  8. hey Jenna
    Great post, though I wish you didn't have to write it. Why should you, or anyone, have to defend their religious choice? It's nonsensical to me that anyone is pointing fingers saying 'you're not the right kind of Christian.' This country is founded on the separation of church and state. We are a nation of many religions and all of them are valid in the eyes of the government. That is exactly as it should be.
    @ Jennifer My Life With Books - I wish you hadn't 'gone there' Our president is not a muslim, as he has said many times. Why don't you believe it? If he were a muslim, it would not matter to me one bit. Just like if he were a mormon, I would not care. Why should I? But your misinformation just opens the door to negativity in my opinion.

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