Thursday, September 24, 2009

What I Believe -- My Foundation for Living, Part One

There are a lot of people reading my blog (I know because I spy on them via my Sitemeter). Most don't comment, but some do (thank you! It always makes me day when you do!). Some of my readers I know in real life and others are strangers to me. Still others are friends I just haven't met yet.

Some, like me, are members of my Church and the terminology and foundation for my life are understood. Many others are not LDS, but belong to other denominations. By and large, most are women of faith, and I have been so impressed with the wonderful women I have met through blogging.

I've been thinking about writing a post like this for a long time, explaining my beliefs. For one thing, Mormons aren't always well understood and sometimes assumptions are made that aren't accurate. For another, I'm always curious about what others believe, but sometimes I'm afraid to ask for fear of offending that person or showing my ignorance.

Finally, my faith forms the deepest part of me and influences all the decisions I make as a person, as a mother, and as a wife. My beliefs form the foundation for my life. Since this blog is about my life, I've tried to never shy away from appropriately sharing things of a spiritual nature.

So I've decided to share my basic beliefs, inviting you to ask me anything else that might be of interest to you. I promise I will try to answer any sincere questions. (If you want to insult me or debate me, however, I will probably just delete your comment. I have to say that because of the small number of weirdos out there.)

I'll present my beliefs in two parts, the first, my beliefs in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the second, my beliefs about the family. I realize, of course, that faith is not so easily compartmentalized and there will be overlap in what I write.

So, without further introduction, here are some of my fundamental beliefs:
1. I believe in Jesus Christ. He is my Savior and the light and life of the world. He atoned for my sins and suffered that all mankind might be able to repent and return one day to our Heavenly Home. "Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink— Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men." (D&C 19:18-19)

He is the Son of God, with power to lay down his life and take it up again. He was resurrected on the third day, and through him, all will one day be resurrected.
He went about doing good and entreats us to do the same. He called, "Come, follow me," and He is my guide and example. He declared, "If ye love me, keep my commandments," (John 14:15) and "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matt. 25:40). I try to live my life the way he showed, by loving others and giving myself to selfless, patient, humble service.

He performed miracles when he was on the earth. He had power to heal the sick, raise the dead, and make the blind to see. He has that same power to heal, touch, and teach today. My heart has been healed, my eyes have been opened, and my life has been richly blessed by following his teachings.
Jesus Christ lives. He will once more come to earth, this time to reign and rule in wisdom and love. After his resurrection, Christ ministered among the church in his time for forty days. He ascended in glory, and two angels appeared, declaring, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."


2. I believe in prayer. I believe that God listens and hears my prayers of gratitude, of supplication, and even of desperation. He answers them, as a loving Father does the pleadings of his child. He does not take away all pain or anguish because He knows that we need hard times in order to grow. But He who notes the sparrow's fall also knows of our every tear and hears each word of every prayer. He has given me strength in times of weakness and comfort in times of my deepest sorrows.
God has a purpose for each of us on earth, and through prayer, we can receive wisdom and help through all of our problems and concerns. Through prayer, I have been directed in my life. I have been warned of danger, received counsel, felt need of change, learned more of God, and received guidance for decisions both small and large. Not every prayer has been answered in the way I hoped, but they have all been answered.

Through prayer, we come to know our loving Father and His Son Jesus Christ. As we seek His will and pray to know and do it, we find ourselves growing in every way. "Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace." (Ezra Taft Benson, Jesus Christ -- Gifts and Expectations)


3. I believe in scriptures. They are not simple stories without basis in reality intended for us to draw life lessons from, like Aesop's fables. Instead, they are the records of God's dealings with His children. In reading and studying them, we come to know the nature of God, His goodness, His justice, and His mercy. They were never intended to sit on the shelf next to the dictionary, available simply as a reference book from time to time. They are to be studied, sought after, and drawn from. I have studied the scriptures nearly every day since I was 14, and my life has been enriched as a result.

I love the Old Testament, with its stories of brave and bold men and women, choosing to follow God against the sophistries of the world. I love reading of Esther, whose faith and courage saved her people because she listened to the words, "who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" I love reading of Hannah, who prayed for a child, and of Samuel, who heard the voice of the Lord while still very young. I've had this picture displayed in my home for years, to help remind me that God speaks to children.
I love the New Testament with its powerful testimony of the life and mission of Christ. I love reading of Paul's conversion and his boldness in declaring what he knew to be true. I love reading of the miracles of Jesus Christ and his tender care. "Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 19:14, Mark 10:14, Luke 18:16).
I also love the Book of Mormon, which is another testament of Jesus Christ and his dealings and ministry among the people who lived on the American continent. It was translated by Joseph Smith, and contains stories of many of my heroes, people like Nephi, Moroni, Jared, and Abinidi, who gave his life for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The crowning testimony in the Book of Mormon is its narration of the events of Christ's ministry to the people of the Americas after His resurrection. He told them, "And verily I say unto you, that ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." He taught them the teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. He called for their lame, their blind and crippled and He healed them. "He took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them." (3 Nephi 17:21)
Reading the Book of Mormon has brought me closer to God. But you don't have to take my word for it. There are many, many missionaries in my Church (serving at their own expense, I might add) anxious to share this gift with the world. If you find our clean-cut missionaries scary, however, you could also read it online. I think you'll find it is much different than you expect, and very familiar to those who have read the Bible.

At the most, it could change your life for the better. And at the very least, you'll understand the LDS faith a little better. (Incidentally, I'm always surprised by those who want to dissuade me or debate my faith who have not taken the time to read the Book of Mormon. I mean, really, if someone wanted to save me from the error of my ways, it might help if they understood a little bit about what those ways are!)

3. I believe in prophets and apostles. The Lord's Church has always been led by prophets. "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." (Amos 3:7) . Prophets are called of God and are set apart by the power of God. One of the articles of faith in my Church states, "We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth."

4. I believe in priesthood. The priesthood is the power to act in God's name. It includes the power to baptize, the power to heal, and the power to lead the Lord's Church on the earth. A person cannot call himself to the priesthood. "And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron." (Hebrews 5:4) Aaron was called of God and anointed by Moses and set apart to have the power of God. (see Exodus 40:15).
5. I believe there was a falling away from the truths of the gospel. After Christ's death and the days of the apostles, there was a falling away from the truth. Division and contention and the killing of the prophets and apostles resulted in the loss of the priesthood. The Lord's true Church was taken from the earth because of the apostasy and unbelief of the people. Many truths remained, and many good people lived according to the light they had, but the Lord's true Church was not upon the earth. This was prophesied of in the Bible. "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord" (Amos 8:11) "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come [the Second Coming], except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition" (2 Thes 2:3)

Many good men over the years have recognized the loss of revelation and the need for greater communication between God and men. I believe that the Reformation was divinely inspired by good men who did a great work in spreading the word of God among many.

6. I believe in restoration. Specifically, I believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ. Because many of the plain and precious truths of the Lord's gospel were lost during the dark ages of the world, it was necessary for God to restore again to the earth that which was lost.

As a boy living in upstate New York, Joseph Smith was greatly impressed by the religious excitement in his day. He wanted nothing more than to find the true Church of God. He attended many meetings and listened to many different interpretations of the gospel. He wrote,
“So great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was . . . to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong. . . . In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?” ( Joseph Smith—History 1:8, 10).
As he read in the Bible, he was greatly impressed by James 1:5 "“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” He wrote of this experience,
"Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.
At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture."(Joseph Smith -- History)
Joseph went to a grove of trees nearby and there was visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ, who told him that none of the churches on the earth contained the fulness of the gospel. From thence, through this new prophet, God proceeded to restore His Church to the earth.

Many have taught that the heavens are closed and that prophets and apostles only existed in the past, not for our day. But we believe that prophets still speak to us and that God's Church is restored. Now, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we understand that this is a strange belief to some and that many are skeptical of our claims. One of our prophets, President Gordon B. Hinckley, said this:

"We declare without equivocation that God the Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, appeared in person to the boy Joseph Smith.

When I was interviewed by Mike Wallace on the 60 Minutes program, he asked me if I actually believed that. I replied, “Yes, sir. That’s the miracle of it.”

That is the way I feel about it. Our whole strength rests on the validity of that vision. It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud. If it did, then it is the most important and wonderful work under the heavens." (The Marvelous Foundation of our Faith)

7. I believe in personal revelation. One of the hallmarks of our Church is that we believe that God can and does speak to his children. We believe that He answers our prayers and gives us knowledge. Just as a belief in God may seem preposterous to those who have not felt His love and power in their lives, our beliefs may seem unusual to those who have not learned about them.

If you were ever to meet with our missionaries, you would find that the foundation of our belief in Joseph Smith and the restoration does not rest on external evidences, though we have those in abundance, but on a personal witness from the Holy Ghost. After the apostles spent time walking with the resurrected Jesus and not understanding who he was, the scriptures record "And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? (Luke 24:31-32)

In the same way those apostles received a witness of Jesus Christ, we believe that God can and will speak to any of His children who seek Him. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." (James 1:5)

I truly believe that the heavens are open, that God speaks to us through prophets and apostles, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God who teaches us of Jesus Christ and his marvelous gospel. How can I believe it? Because I have studied it and asked God for a witness and He has given it to me. I have felt of His love and His goodness in my life. All that is good in my life has been brought to me because of my faith in Jesus Christ and his Church.

* * *
Thank you for reading my feelings about my faith. I had much more I wanted to say, but I think this post is long enough. Fairly soon, I will post "What I Believe About Families -- My Foundation for Living, Part Two." If you have questions about my faith, I would be happy to answer them, or you might invite a few missionaries to share more with you.

What do you have to lose?

7 comments:

Gary and Debbie Rex said...

Hi Christina! Guess what - I just got wireless, and yours was the first site I visited. Sorry, I can't read your post yet (I've got a few extra children over right now) but wow, it actually loaded before I went and did the dishes and moved over the laundry (that's what I sometimes do before a blog pulls up!). Thanks for your uplifting and inspiring blog!

Jacki said...

Thanks for sharing.

GRAMEE said...

wonderful post. i love your blog. i have been a follower for sometime. i read from Google reader. so i am lazy and don't click over to comment. i am going to do make an effort to do that more often!

The Walker Family said...

Thank you for sharing your testimony, I think it will be a big help also to the LDS moms who read your site who may have a not as strong testimony like my self. Thank you so much for being willing to share you testimony and what you stand for.
Crystal

Camille said...

Hello! I found you by clicking on the great comment you left on Segullah today.

We welcomed our 5th baby (boy number 4) into our family 10 days ago. Our eldest son is only 7.

I took a few minutes to browse around your blog and it made me smile. Sometimes having a larger family is lonely and it was nice to see how much you enjoy it. It was also good to see some new ideas about what has worked in your family.

I'm sure I'll be back to read more. I just wanted to thank you for sharing...I needed it today.

swedemom said...

What a lovely post. Thank you. I was uplifted and inspired by your testimony.

bjahlstrom said...

Christina, I am new to your blog. That was the best, most concise-yet-detailed, explanation of our faith I've ever read, and laid out in a very good order! Thank you for all you write about. I sincerely enjoy what you share, especially as a hopeful future mom!

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