I’m a Latter-day Saint.
Being a Latter-day Saint isn’t always easy.
There are a lot of expectations for me to live up to, a lot of “rules” to follow, a lot is required of me. Sacrifice of my time is required. Sacrifice of my money is required. There are a lot of “fun” things that I am strongly encouraged not to do, and a lot of “not fun” things that I am strongly encouraged to do.
And yet, I continue to choose to be a Latter-day Saint.
Changing belief into knowledge
As a child, and at the beginning stages of my gospel education, I believed in the truthfulness of the gospel, but I didn’t have many life experiences to back up that belief and turn it into knowledge.
Throughout my life experiences, I have experimented on the word and tasted the fruit of the gospel. Those experiments have verified my beliefs time and time again and have become data points of knowledge.
It doesn’t end there, though. I continue to have experiences and collect data that strengthens, expands, and fortifies my knowledge. I will continue this process for the rest of my life.
Even with these experiences that have verified my beliefs and turned them to knowledge, there are still moments where I have to rely on faith. My testimony isn’t physically tangible, it just resides in my heart. I can’t hold it with my own two hands and see it with my physical eyes. I can’t prove it to anyone.
Do I still have doubts?
I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the point where I never have any more questions or doubts. I don’t know if I’ll ever know with 100% complete certainty that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the church and the answer and the pathway back to Heavenly Father.
I don’t know if I’ll ever even know with 100% complete certainty that there is a Heavenly Father that I am trying to return to! I don’t think I’ll know these things with 100% complete certainty until it actually happens (me dying and returning to Heavenly Father) or not (me just ceasing to exist all together.)
I won’t know these with 100% complete certainty here in this life because then faith wouldn’t be required. And faith is a very important part of my progression.
If I just knew and had absolutely no doubts or questions, life would be too easy. I wouldn’t grow or learn anything.
So yes, there will always be some doubts to varying degrees somewhere in the cobwebs (or sometimes forefront) of my mind, but I choose to have faith and trust that there is a God in heaven and that He is my Father, and that He has a plan for me.
I choose to believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is His church and He wants me to be an active member of it and that following the gospel’s principles will lead me back to Him.
Why do I choose to be a Latter-day Saint?
So why do I choose to believe this? Why do I choose to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
At a basic level, I’m a Latter-day Saint because of how I feel.
When my thoughts and actions are aligned with the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ – as taught in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – I like how I feel. It feels right. It feels like freedom. It feels familiar. It feels inherent. It feels native.
I can sense these feelings in my spirit and in my body and it feels like peace and contentment and love and joy to me. I sense a state of calm in my body and a state of exuberance, like a desire to sing, in my spirit.
My brain feels like it is in its resting place, a homeostasis where my essential needs for safety, satisfaction, and connection are being met and fulfilled. My spirit feels at home.
These moments of feeling become data points in my book of life. These become moments of knowing truth – when my beliefs are verified by my feelings in both my body and in my spirit.
Past, Present, and Future
I can know the present because I am living it right in this very moment and I have lived millions of present moments throughout my past.
When it comes to the future, I don’t know anything with 100% complete certainty – I haven’t lived it yet. I lean on faith and hope. I can make well educated guesses though, based on my past data points.
I trust that when I take a step into the darkness, the light will eventually come on and my belief will be verified and become knowledge – another data point, yet again – just like every other time in the past.
I trust that God is leading and guiding my life and He knows what I need, when I need it.
Even though the future holds some element of uncertainty, I choose to wholeheartedly believe that my future does hold eternal life, and that belief influences all of my everyday choices.
But the way I see it is that even if the future of eternal life – living with Heavenly Father and my family in a state of never ending love and joy – never happens, I am still reaping a million benefits from my religious beliefs and lifestyle in my present moment(s).
Even if the expected and anticipated future never happens, even if this all there is, at least my current, present, life is pretty amazing and very fulfilling.
Living the Gospel of Jesus Christ provides me with an amazing life – some of these are temporal, tangible things, but a lot are intangible. A lot of the success of my life goes back to my feelings. The ability to feel peace, contentment, love, and joy is an indescribable gift.
I choose to be a Latter-day Saint because it feels amazing.
Good personal economics
The way I see it is, why not sacrifice what is required in order to maximize my chances of a life filled with amazing present moments (which turn into a peaceful and joyful past) and hope to receive an indescribably joyful future of eternal life?
Not choosing that sounds like really poor personal economics to me.
And so what if it’s hard? So what if it’s demanding? So what if it requires sacrifice of time and money? So what if I miss out on some “fun” (but not good) things in life? So what if I have to do some things that aren’t any fun at all?
I secretly like doing hard things. I was made to do hard things. Doing hard things is very satisfying and fulfilling. It makes me feel alive.
Beliefs from the restored gospel of Jesus Christ that feel amazing to me
Do you want to know some of the beliefs from the restored gospel of Jesus Christ that create feelings of peace, contentment, love and joy for me?
- I am a literal daughter of Heavenly parents.
- I lived in heaven before this life and I chose to follow Jesus Christ.
- Heavenly Father has a plan for me and wants me to return to Him.
- I am here on Earth to fullfil a specific and unique personal mission
- Commandments are a gift.
- Because of Jesus Christ, I can change and become new.
- I can be healed. All I have to do is look to Jesus Christ.
- Heavenly Father set me up for success.
- I can live with my family forever. Death is not the end.
God loves me completely
I am a literal daughter of Heavenly parents. My Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother know me personally. They know my name. I have a real and personal relationship with them. They love me completely. That love will never change. It doesn’t matter how many bad choices I make – their love for me will never decrease.
It doesn’t matter how many good choices I make – their love for me doesn’t increase and isn’t contingent on me becoming better. All they want is for me to feel pure love and peace and joy, all the time. They know the way to attain those feelings and their goal is to lead me and guide me to that knowledge and those characteristics.
I lived in Heaven before this life
Before I came to earth, I lived in Heaven with my heavenly parents, my elder brother, Jesus Christ, and all of my spirit brothers and sisters (which includes every human being). I grew and progressed to a certain state but then it was time for me to leave Heavenly Father’s presence so I could continue my learning and growth in a way that wasn’t possible if I stayed in heaven.
This is similar to how my own children learn and grow while living in my home but there will come a time when they are old enough to leave the nest and this next phase of life, where they are not living under my roof, will prove to be a great time for additional learning and growth.
The gift of agency
A gift that Heavenly Father has given to me, and to all people, is the gift of agency. This is the ability and privilege to choose and act for myself. Heavenly Father does not, and will not, force me to do anything. He values my ability to choose for myself.
One of the most important choices that I made in my pre-earth life was to follow Jesus Christ. I had the choice to either choose to follow Jesus Christ or to follow Lucifer (Satan) during the council in heaven. Many of my spirit brothers and sisters chose to follow Lucifer. I chose to follow Jesus. And now that I am here on earth, I have opportunity after opportunity to choose Him again.
Every single person that has ever lived or will ever live on this earth chose to follow Jesus in the pre earth life. This is something that we all need to be reminded of. We all chose Him once, and we can continue to help each other to choose Him again. Following Jesus Christ is the only way to return back to Heavenly Father.
Heavenly Father has a plan for me. He sent me to earth so that I could gain a physical body and so I could learn and grow and gain experience and knowledge. He wants to refine me. He wants to make me into more than I could ever imagine. He wants me to return to live with Him after this life. He wants to give me everything that He has.
Commandments are a gift
He has given me commandments and requires (no force involved) me to obey them. Many people see these commandments as rules that restrict freedom. But they are actually the opposite. Commandments from Heavenly Father, if obeyed, make me free. Free from danger, free from unnecessary heartache, free from unnecessary pain. Commandments are a gift.
Jesus Christ is my Savior
All that Heavenly Father requires of me is that I keep His commandments. That’s it. But He knew that I would make mistakes – some big, some small. He knew that this life would have a steep learning curve. He also knew the laws of Heaven and that no unclean thing can enter Heaven. He wants me back home with Him so badly though so He sent His son, Jesus Christ.
Jesus lived a sinless life and taught us how to live, how to serve, how to love. At the end of His life, He did the most selfless thing anyone has or ever will do – He took upon Him all of the pains, sorrows, afflictions, and sins of every person that has ever lived, and will live. This is called His Atonement. He then gave up His life for me, and for you, and for everyone.
After 3 days, He rose from the tomb and was resurrected. His body and spirit were joined back together. Because of Jesus Christ, and the redeeming power of His atonement, I can change. I can repent. I can become clean. I can become better. I can become new. I can be healed. And I can do this over and over again – step by step, gradually improving and becoming better. Repentance is not a punishment, it’s a gift.
Because of Jesus Christ, and the enabling power of His atonement, I can have strength beyond my own. I can do hard things.
Because of Jesus Christ, death is not the end. I (and everyone else) can live again – both spiritually because of Christ’s atonement, and physically, because of Christ’s resurrection.
Being in a family increases my ability to love
Heavenly Father sent me to this earth to live with a family – a dad, a mom, brothers and sisters. He knew that living in this environment would be the best way for me to learn how to become like Him.
This environment would later transition to a new generation of a family unit – this time with me as the mom, my husband as the dad, and sons and daughters of our own. He knew that this little family would continue my progress. He knew that these roles of mine (wife and mother) would test my weaknesses and turn them into strengths. He knew that this would be the optimal environment for me to increase my ability to love.
He continually teaches me how to improve my family.
God set me up for success by giving me specific tools
I can communicate with my Heavenly Father through prayer
Heavenly Father didn’t just send me to this earth to fend for myself, without any tools. He gave me the ability to communicate with Him and to continue to receive guidance on my journey. I can receive personal revelation. I can talk to my Heavenly Father through prayer and He actually listens to me.
He always answers my prayers – even the times when I don’t understand or don’t recognize the answer. He longs to hear from me. He longs for me to reach out to Him and ask for help with anything and everything. He mourns and weeps with me when I am sad. He rejoices and delights with me when I am happy.
Heavenly Father speaks to me through the scriptures
Another tool that He has given me is the scriptures. I talk to Heavenly Father through prayer and He talks to me through the scriptures. One book of scripture that He has provided is The Bible (comprised of the Old Testament and the New Testament).
The Bible is a testament of Jesus Christ. It is a record of God’s dealings with the people in ancient Israel. It contains many truths but unfortunately, many other plain and precious and vital things have been removed from and/or changed in the Bible throughout the history of time.
Heavenly Father wants me to have those plain and precious truths. He knows that they are vital to my salvation. In His great wisdom, He prepared and saved another record to be delivered up in these modern times. This record was written by ancient prophets and engraved on gold plates.
In the spiring of 1820, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to a 14 year old boy named Joseph Smith, who had been prepared to restore Jesus Christ’s true church to the earth. A few years later, they instructed Him on where to find the ancient record, the gold plates, and inspired him to translate the text from reformed Egyptian to English. The name of this book of scriptures is The Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ. It is a record of God’s dealings with the people in the ancient Americas. It fills in the gaps and contains the plain and precious truths that are missing from the Bible. It is the most correct of any book on earth and I will get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than by any other book.
The Book of Mormon brings me peace and happiness by providing inspired direction in my life.
Prophets are God’s mouthpiece, here on Earth
Another tool that Heavenly Father has given me is living prophets. Prophets were on the earth from the creation of the earth until Jesus Christ’s mortal life.
Jesus Christ established His church when he was on the earth but after His death, “the Apostles were killed, and priesthood authority—including the keys to direct and receive revelation for the Church—was taken from the earth. Because the Church was no longer led by priesthood authority, error crept into Church teachings. Good people and much truth remained, but the gospel as established by Jesus Christ was lost. This period is called the Great Apostasy.”
This Great Apostasy ended when Joseph Smith was called to be a prophet and restore Jesus Christ’s true church once again to the earth. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized on April 6, 1830. As I mentioned, Joseph Smith translated The Book of Mormon. He also restored many other vital aspects of Jesus Christ’s church – namely The Priesthood, and saving ordinances.
After Joseph Smith died, a new prophet was called by Heavenly Father. This pattern has continued over the past 188 years since the organization of the church.
The current prophet is Russell M. Nelson. Heavenly Father speaks to President Nelson and gives him instruction on how to lead and guide the church. President Nelson receives revelation for the whole world. He is God’s mouthpiece, here on the earth. If I follow his guidance, I know that I will succeed.
Ordinances and covenants are essential to my salvation
As I mentioned, Heavenly Father has a plan for me. He wants me to return to live with Him – but not in the same state that I left. He wants me to learn and to grow and to progress and become more, so that I can literally become like Him. Similarly to how I want my own children to grow and learn and progress.
As part of this progression, He has given me some specific steps to take along the path. These are called ordinances.
“An ordinance is a sacred religious ceremony performed by someone who has authority from God. When you receive an ordinance, you show your love for God as you make sacred promises to Him and He makes sacred promises to you. The promises you make when you receive an ordinance are called covenants. God has revealed that making and keeping covenants are necessary to receive the gift of eternal life that He wants to give each of us.”
Baptism is a rebirth
The first ordinance that is offered is baptism. This isn’t just a sprinkling of water, but a total immersion – a symbolic representation of dying and being reborn.
The covenants that I made during my baptism were to keep Heavenly Father’s commandments, to always remember Him, and to take His name upon me (to stand as a witness for Him). Heavenly Father also made a promise to me – that I would always have His spirit to be with me.
The companionship of Holy Ghost is a gift that I cherish
Right after my baptism, I received The Gift of the Holy Ghost, when a worthy priesthood holder (who, in my case, happened to be my dad) laid his hands on my head and gave me a special blessing. This is a precious gift.
If I keep my covenants, then Heavenly Father’s spirit (the Holy Ghost) will be my constant companion. The Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead (Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and The Holy Ghost). The Holy Ghost helps me in many ways. He has a big job.
He enlightens my mind and fills my soul with joy. He comforts me when I am sad or upset. He speaks peace to my soul. He fills my heart with love. t
He inspires me to do good and to serve and help other people. He pricks my heart when I need to change and improve. He inspires me to be a better person. He elevates my thoughts. He calms my troubled heart.
He validates my beliefs and confirms truth to me. He testifies of Jesus Christ. He helps me to understand things that may be difficult. He helps me to know what to do to solve a problem. He helps me to remember things that I have learned.
He helps me to know what to pray for. He teaches me. He protects me from danger. He cleanses and sanctifies me when I repent. He helps me to keep the promises that I made to Heavenly Father when I was baptized.
Partaking of the Sacrament is a weekly reset
Baptism only happens one time, but every Sunday at church, in a meeting called Sacrament Meeting, I get to partake of the Sacrament (the bread and water which symbolize Jesus Christ’s body and blood) and silently renew my covenants. This is where I reflect and recommit to continue to keep my baptismal covenants.
In temples, I receive saving ordinances that bind me to my family and make me more like God
After baptism, there are a few more steps to take along the covenant path. These ordinances are performed and these covenants are made in holy temples. Heavenly Father instructed prophets to build temples in ancient times and also now, as part of the restoration of His church.
The temple is His house. A sacred place, which has been dedicated to Him and to His work. It is a place of learning. It is a place of peace and love and joy.
In the temple, I received, for myself, the rest of the saving ordinances that are required in order to return to live with Heavenly Father. I made covenants with Him and He gave me some amazing gifts and blessings.
The crowning blessing that I received in the temple is the ability to be married to my husband for eternity and to be with our kids and other family members forever. Relationships do not end at death. They continue beyond the veil. The temple ordinances make this continuation possible.
Serving my deceased ancestors connects me to them
Since completing my own ordinances in the temple, I now return often to the temple to serve others that have passed away. Heavenly Father loves all of His children. He wants all of us to return to live with Him.
He knew that not everyone would have a chance to hear and receive His true gospel and the saving ordinances that are required. So He provided a way.
In temples, we are able to act as proxies for our deceased ancestors. We stand in, representing them, and receive their ordinances for them. These ordinances are recorded on both sides of the veil – here on earth, and also in the books of Heaven.
These ordinances do not take away the choices of the deceased. Choice is an eternal principle and an eternal gift.
A deceased person who has had their work completed by the living proxy is not forced to accept the ordinances and covenants. They have the power to choose. They can choose to accept the ordinances and covenants or they can choose to decline. They just now have the opportunity and ability to make that choice.
Someday I will receive the gift of eternal life
Someday, when my time comes, when I am called back to my heavenly home, I (my spirit) will be reunited with my heavenly parents and with my elder brother, Jesus Christ. I will also be with family members and friends that have already passed on before me. That will be a joyous reunion.
I was sent to this Earth for a specific purpose
Heavenly Father loves us all as individuals. He knows and loves me. He knows my unique gifts and talents. He sent me to this Earth to fulfill a specific personal mission. There are important things that He has prepared me – specifically me- to accomplish. The process of discovering this mission and then working to fulfill it is very satisfying and exciting.
Each mission is unique but all come down to loving and serving our brothers and sisters. I love that, through the gospel, I am encouraged and inspired to serve my family, my friends, my church family, my neighbors, strangers, and my ancestors.
Allowing Heavenly Father to use me as an instrument for good in this world leads to amazing feelings of peace, love, and joy.
Jesus Christ’s restored gospel makes sense of life
Being a Latter-day Saint gives me a great sense of purpose and direction in my life. Because of my beliefs, I know who I am, I know where I came from, I have a vision for who I am trying to become, and the destination that I am shooting for. Jesus Christ’s restored gospel helps me to make sense of life.
Being a Latter-day Saint connects me with God, with my ancestors, with my family members, and with all people.
Being a Latter-day Saint inspires me and helps me to live my best life.
I’m a Latter-day Saint because it brings me to life.
And being fully alive feels amazing.
Music testifies of truth to my soul
I just wanted to leave you with a few songs. This letter is about how the Gospel of Jesus Christ makes me feel, when my thoughts and actions are aligned with Heavenly Father’s teachings.
For me personally, I have found that music testifies of the truthfulness of the gospel and brings these feelings of peace, love, and joy the most strongly and with the greatest potency. Here is a playlist that I have put together with some of my current favorites.
God loves you too
You know all of those things that I just told you about my own religious beliefs? Well, guess what? I don’t have a monopoly on those blessings. Those apply to you too.
I am a child of God. You are a child of God.
He loves me. He loves you.
He wants me to return to live with Him. He wants you to return to live with Him.
He has a plan and a specific mission for me. He has a plan and a specific mission for you.
He sent His son, Jesus Christ to show me the way and to make change and growth possible. He sent His son, Jesus Christ to show you the way and to make change and growth possible.
He wants me to be an active member of His church. He wants you to be an active member of His church.
He wants you to feel peace, love, and joy.
Getting clear on my why
I was inspired to write this post after listening to a podcast episode by Jody Moore called I’m a Mormon. After listening to this episode, it made me think more deeply and ponder why I am a Latter-day Saint. This introspection started out as a journal entry and then turned into a letter to a friend.
Writing this letter was really helpful for me to get more clarity on the why behind my choice to be active in the the Church. I hope that it has been helpful for you as well.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to shoot them my way.
p.s. If you’re interested in learning more about Latter-day Saints, check here for more information.
p.p.s. If you’re a Latter-day Saint, I’d love to hear your why.