Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mormonism: An Intellectual Faith

I often hear people mock religion and those who practice it, saying "you don't think for yourself.  Your beliefs are irrational, foolish, outdated, and absurd.  You operate only on blind faith."  I have known many people who parrot these same insulting remarks at myself and Mormonism.  But whatever fault a person may find with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, unthinking, blind faith is not an accusation that holds water.

Our history begins with a young boy named Joseph Smith who, after two years of searching out as many different religions as he could find, knelt in a grove of trees and prayed to know for himself which was the true church of God and thus which he should join.  From that moment until now, a constant, undying theme in our religion has been the passionate journey and experience of finding the truth for oneself.  We do not baptize infants.  We wait until a child is at least eight years old before he or she even has the opportunity to accept baptism.  Why?  Because it is supposed to be the child's own decision, independent of anyone else.  As parents, we are not supposed to force our children to join if they do not wish to do so.  An adult seeking to join the church cannot do so in the waters of baptism unless they know for themselves and voluntarily submit to living certain standards of moral behavior.  A member of the church is not allowed in the temple unless that person has a personal testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ, independent of any other person.  Does that sound like a religion of blind followers? 

I enjoy reading various literature written by church leaders and something they often repeat is the necessity of learning all we can in this lifetime.  That includes secular knowledge of every kind.  I am presently reading a book by an apostle named Elder Dallin H. Oaks who, before he received his present calling, was a legal professional, university professor, president of a university, and a judge in the state of Utah.  I recently finished a book by another apostle who was yet another university president before his calling to the apostleship.  The other church leaders have been scientists, medical doctors, pilots and the like. 

I appreciate how succinctly one apostle, Elder David A. Bednar, explained this quest for knowledge and its relationship to faith.  In a world of self satisfied naysayers he quietly points out that there are two ways to learn.  We learn with the mind and with the heart.  Both are necessary in finding truth, and each carries its place in heightening intelligence.  We often think that learning is only about the brain, but learning equally with the heart gives us a broadened perspective that we cannot attain in any other way.  What makes this religion so comfortable in promoting learning of every kind and in every way?  Well, I suggest you read The Book of Mormon with both an open mind and an open heart, and find out for yourself. 

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