Religion is not something people do once a week. True religion is what comes from within and governs what a person does every moment of every day.
Brent and I were each born and raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nickname: Mormon). We have spent many years living by the teachings of our Church. It has become our religion. And we thank God (and our parents) for it. As adults, we have each gained a stronger conviction of our beliefs as we've studied other religions. During trying times, it is our religion--our daily belief in Jesus Christ--that brings us peace and joy.
Here are some Eternal Truths that our Church teaches. These Truths govern our family's daily living, giving us purpose for today and long-term hope and goals for tomorrow.
1. God is our Father. He created our spirits. And as spirit children, He prepared us to come to earth while we lived with Him before birth (Jeremiah 1:5). Knowing my origin...(and my husband's ...and my children's...) increases my self-worth and gives me great respect for the people around me...my spirit brothers and sisters.
2. Life on earth exists for two main purposes...to allow God's spirit children (us) to gain a physical body and to provide us with experiences that give us potential for progress as we exercise faith in God. We will return to our Father some day and our bodies will be resurrected for all eternity...I like knowing that my body is important. My body is a gift from God. How I treat my body (and others) is a symbol of my gratitude to God and preparation for life in eternity.
3. Agency and Accountability are eternal principles. God, our Father, is a loving God who will not force me to follow Him. He values freedom of choice and gives direction whenever I am still enough to ask. His commandments are meant to make life better for me. Children are born innocent (undeveloped pre-frontal cortex) and are not accountable for their childishness until they have developed the brain capacity to do so. Parents are responsible for properly nurturing children. According to neuroscience, this puts a HUGE weight on my shoulders...but I like challenges.
4. No "unclean thing" can enter the kingdom of God. It's a natural law. Period. So, while I'm determined to try my best at making progress here on earth, I'm humbly grateful for Jesus Christ, who atoned for my sins and weaknesses. Opposition gives me a chance to notice where I need to make improvements. Knowing how to repent, forgive, and change through the Atonement of Jesus Christ blesses me every day (aka helps my brain develop ;).
5. Families Can Be Forever. My greatest potential in eternity is to become more like my Heavenly Father (Matthew 5:48). So I see my daily efforts and progress in caring for my children and others as eternally important practice here on earth. And my heart fills with joy when I think about spending forever with the precious souls I tuck into bed every night.
6. Work Hard and Be Prepared. Education, preparedness, and humanitarian aid matter. Eternal happiness does not equal eternal retirement; it equals eternal progression. While resting (appropriate sleep, meaningful recreation, and regular meditation) is essential, the purpose of resting should prepare us to roll up our sleeves and get back to working out our salvation by providing for ourselves and serving God and His children. By resting, instead of escaping, God gives me enough energy to nurture those in my care and keeps me in tune to know where my attention is needed the most.
In short, we believe that every moment matters..."Moments are the molecules that make up our eternal destiny" (Neil A. Maxwell).
Also note worthy...Our Church recommends these high standards to help us accomplish the Eternal Truths (and Eternal Happiness) listed above. Known among Mormons as "For the Strength of Youth", these standards are meant to be a beacon of light to teenagers during a turbulent time of development. It's quite a list. But wise parents know that in order to teach these standards, we must live them, too. So we do. It makes us happy.
As I've studied many religions, I'm pleasantly surprised that we have a lot in common with pretty much everyone. But a few things differentiate Mormons from other religions:
The Book of Mormon: The Book of Mormon is a historical and religious record of the ancestors of the Native Americans. Jesus Christ appeared to more than just those living in Jerusalem. After He was resurrected, He appeared to Mary and His apostles in Jerusalem...and He also visited America. We are all God's children. This book is incredibly inspiring.
Priesthood Authority: Priesthood authority is the power to act in God's name, to use God's power for the benefit of His children (Acts 8:14-20). It needs to be passed on from someone who uses it for righteous purposes. Adam had it. Abraham had it. Moses had it (Hebrews 5:1-6). Jesus Christ gave it to Peter and the other apostles...but then it was lost. An apostasy darkened the world. It needed to be restored ...and was when John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in 1829 (two separate visits). Priesthood power blesses our family in so many ways.
Relief Society: Women have innate qualities that qualify them for their divine role: mothering, educating, and caring for God's children (even if they are not our own). The Relief Society is the Lord's way of organizing the service efforts of His daughters on the earth to magnify these divine qualities. It is an honor to be associated with millions of women across the globe in such a great cause for good.
A Living Prophet: Prophets have been called throughout history to lead people. It's part of God's pattern to put a little bit of Heaven on Earth (Amos 3:7). Oh, how I feel filled with wisdom after listening to what our modern-day prophet and apostles have to say. And I feel filled with peace when I actually practice the principles they teach.
Temple Service: Human progress takes times and practice. Baptism (the covenant to remember Jesus and begin using His Atonement through repentance) is a simple first step of faith taken as young as 8 years old. But it is only the beginning. As we mature and progress, the Temple offers us the opportunity to make covenants of selfless sacrifice and righteous living. It is also where families can be sealed together forever (Matthew 18:18). A covenant is a two-way promise between God and His children. If we keep our promises, His incredible blessings are sure. Brent and I were married in the Mesa, Arizona Temple and find great spiritual strength in returning often to one of the 137 Temples spread throughout the world.
Photo by Hart Photography
As I record how religion adds light to our lives, I'll collect a few favorites here:
MaryAnn's Baby Blessing
General Conference at the Smith House
Listening to a Prophet's Voice...LIVE
© 2007-2013 Amy K. Smith - www.smithmoments.org