Why I chose to be a Latter-day Saint: And not a Mormon

I still remember the smell of the chapel as I sat down five years ago.

It was a scent l I hadn’t smelled before–a scent that I’ve since gotten used to. The walls were bare except for some paintings of Christ and people I didn’t recognize and I wondered briefly where the crosses were. I remember touching the broken spine of a hymnal and only recognizing one or two hymns inside.

It was different. Somewhat strange. It was my first time in an LDS chapel and I had just turned 19.

chapel

But I like looking back at that day. It was that day–before I even read the Book of Mormon–that I chose to be a Latter-day Saint. Already coming from a Christian background, I had done my time and served my sentence of confusion and wondering where the pieces fit. It was that day that I had my first realization that the missionaries seem to glow…for lack of a better term. It was that day that I realized how exciting the stories are in the Book of Mormon. And better yet–how they speak truth. It was that day–in mid summer–that I heard the first hymns I’d ever hear and my eyes filled with tears at “Lord I would follow thee”.

And I often go back to that day to remind myself that THAT is who I chose to be. A Latter-day Saint.

Not a Mormon.

baptism

I know the terms are interchangeable, and I often use the term Mormon, just like you probably do. There’s no harm in that and I’m not splitting hairs. But for the purpose of my story I would venture to say that those two terms mean totally separate things. From being in the church only 5 years, I already would bet my life on it.

It’s so easy to get caught up in being Mormon. Even for me. And that’s because we all start as Latter-day Saints and then get plunged into a culture that demands so much. Pinterest-inspired Relief Society invites, canning activities, the details behind missionary preparation *and God forbid, any hesitancy to go*, The Princess Bride, John Bytheway, short engagements, Stake dances, *and my personal favorite* “So when are you going to have a baby?” after a month of marriage.

I’m not saying all of the culture is bad, because it isn’t. But when you are more immersed in the culture than in the foundation of the church itself–the very reason I stepped into the baptismal font and cried at “Lord I would follow thee”–that’s when you become Mormons instead. That’s when you become a member of a club rather than a disciple of a master.

disciple of master

And that bothers me.

It bothers me because I still retrace my steps five summers ago into the chapel for the first time and I still remember opening the Book of Mormon and seeing Alma at the top of the page for the first time. I still remember how it felt to learn about forever families— and to not just vainly repeat, “Families are forever” or nail a pretty sign that says the same thing above a door frame. I remember how it felt to really let the message sink in and to cry into my hands when I realized, without a doubt, I’d see my uncle again who died just a month before I learned about the church.

I remember how it felt to say for the first time, “This church is true” and to not be able to go on with what I had to say because it overwhelmed me how true the statement was–and how it changed my life. It wasn’t repetition. I didn’t say it to fill time or to keep up with the standard. My heart just knew it.

missionaries

It bothers me that so many of us have forgotten who we really are because we’ve exchanged it all for a lifestyle made out of old habits. There are those who stray from the culture–the women who work two jobs outside of the home and the single dad; the young man who decides to wait a couple years to serve a mission; the young woman who celebrates 30 years old without a ring on her finger; the couple who can’t have kids; the wonderful stay-at-home mom who is so over-exerted she sees a psychologist every week; the kid with autism who doesn’t fit in. There are thousands–maybe millions–of Latter-day Saints who are forced out of a gospel they fit into because a culture whispers to them that they do not.

And that has to stop. We need to regain footing of who we are and the beautiful gift we’ve been given.

bom reading

When I chose to be a Latter-day Saint I chose that “I would follow, thee”. I chose that I’d spend my whole life telling people about the book that changed my life in a week.  I decided that I’d dress modestly not because everyone is forced to out of tradition, but because I represent Him. Five years ago I learned that the prophets from long ago told the truth and their sacrifices made way for me to find out about the good news–and I can’t forget that. It was my decision to leave it all behind–old beliefs, friends who no longer wanted to associate with me, comfortable familiar church buildings, and songs I learned as a toddler–for an unfamiliar gospel that I somehow KNEW was true. And nothing convinced me of it other than Him. Not culture, not tradition, not anything else.

temple switzerland

Our culture has lots of good, don’t get me wrong. And if we remember why we do some of the things we do the spirit will come back to it. But don’t let it make you forget. Don’t let it deter a soul who has just heard “Lord I would follow thee” and doesn’t know yet that families are forever.

Choose to be a disciple. Choose to be a saint.

Everything else is meaningless.

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130 thoughts on “Why I chose to be a Latter-day Saint: And not a Mormon

  1. I appreciate your comments linnstercrafts. You too have boiled down the true meaning of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone. I was raised as a Lutheran, and still attend a Lutheran church, but I just consider myself to be a Christian. A believer in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. He saved me, and there is nothing I can add to that beautiful gift. If I do good things, it is a result of the salvation I have already received, not as a means of buying a stairway to heaven.

    I often times see the young Mormon men walking through my neighborhood in their white shirts, and black ties, and so want to teach them the error of their ways. I always seem to miss them when they come to my home, and my wife and kids tell me how they did not want to answer the door.

    I love the line that Hank Hanegraaf of the Christian Research Institute uses to admonish Christians for avoiding discussions with Mormons and Jehovahs Witnesses. “Are you willing to do for the truth, what the Mormons are willing to do for a lie?”.

    I don’t think most Evangelical Christians are comfortable knocking on doors selling their religion like a door to door vacuum cleaner salesman, however they should be prepared at all times to give a reason for the hope that lies within, as scripture teaches us.

    dj

    I too am saddenned when I read all of the confusion wrapped up in Mormon doctrine.

    • The author wasn’t referring to doctrine as much as she was to culture. From what she’s stated, I’m guessing she lives in Utah because the culture there is a lot different than anywhere else in the world I’ve lived.

      Next time you see the missionaries, invite them in and learn of the doctrine from an LDS perspective and not from that which you may have heard from preachers.

    • We are a missionary-minded people. We have a divine mandate to proclaim the message of the Restoration. … That energetic missionary from Book of Mormon, even Alma, provides for us a blueprint for missionary conduct: “This is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance, and this is my joy” (Alma 29:9).
      I add my personal witness: Our missionaries are not salesmen with wares to peddle; rather, they are servants of the Most High God, with testimonies to bear, truths to teach and souls to save.
      Each missionary who goes forth in response to a sacred call becomes a servant of the Lord whose work this truly is. -“Missionary Members,” Ensign, November 1987, p.42 (From Thomas S Monson)

      • Bob, I think your perspective is typical of what happens when one becomes converted to a tradition about Christ more than to the actual teachings of Christ. The teachings actually lead you to love people, even your enemies. You realize people are your brothers and sisters, instead of lost souls that can only be reclaimed by embracing your faith tradition.

        Christ said “Sinners, not the Whole need repentance”, but those who embrace traditions over teachings see Sinners in everyone but those who believe just like them. When you the teachings of Christ, and people He tells you to love, it brings you into a much more spiritually healthy place. Sharing your faith becomes a loving experience instead of an angry or a condemning one.

        It really is a wonderful thing when others faiths become a strength to you instead of a fight. And people are often more willing to hear what your faith tradition has to say as well.

        My best –

  2. I passed this on to my daughter who is in the MTC and the first time in her Houston Texas-University of Texas life is experiencing the ultimate instance of Mormon Culture. I am certain that she will appreciate it as much has I have. Thank you. CWO

  3. Thank you for some beautifully rendered points. I was basically forced out of the church about 10 years ago. A “friend” and a roommate decided to tell my ward that I was gay and didn’t know it yet, and they should avoid me. The emotional and psychological abuse at their hands was more than I could understand. I stopped going to church and being around hateful people in order to not kill myself. There is still a brokenness inside of me about this issue, though I have returned to church with reservations about people and what kind of society thinks it’s OK to say they follow Christ’s example and then treat people like shit because you don’t think they fit in. I think you nailed it about Mormon culture versus being a latter-day disciple. Thank you for putting it out there.

  4. I was “pushed” out of the Church based on what others perceived about me. It is too hard to be a part of the “club” and I don’t even try anymore. But I really believe you can be a true believer without belonging to a Church.

  5. Kayla: I see you are receiving much “persecution” form the mormon hanger-ons. Like you, I have received more verbal persecution from mormons than from those who are not of our faith. Now I am accused of thinking I am superior to mormons because I refuse to refer to myself by that name. And to think that the use of the name mormon has anything to do with the great prophet Mormon is totally laughable. He would be the first to object to referring to the church as the Mormon Church. He knows whose church this is. Read 3 Nephi 27:5-10. Therefore, argue with Jesus Christ that the church should be named after Mormon and that you should call yourselves Mormons. As for me and my house, we will follow Christ and strive to do His will.

  6. How can you be so strong in your faith at one point in your life, and throw it all away because people have mocked you, and persecuted you simply because you didn’t fit in? Yeah that’s hard. I know exactly how that feels trust me. I made a decision at one point to join the marines before serving my mission, and I knew in my mind and in my heart that that was the wrong thing to do. I mean the Holy Ghost whispered it to me every second of everyday, but I ignored it. It wasn’t until one day I woke up with this image in my mind–that will remain only known to me and a few select people–that I realized how badly I needed to serve a mission. Ralph, this is to you. We call ourselves Mormons, because the prophet who abridged the book we carry around preach out of was named Mormon. We call ourselves Mormon because sometimes it takes a while to say hi I’m from the church of Jesus Christ if Latter Day Saints. Not because we believe it’s Mormons church, but just out of respect and common courtesy for the people we talk to who aren’t of out faith. K. Chai, I am soo sorry you’re “friend” did that to you, but like I said. That is there bad. And if people shunned you because of it, that’s even more of a mistake in their part, but don’t let yourself fall. You had a testimony at one point in time. I believe that you did, so don’t let your faith dwindle, you are one if God’s children, and yes we do need to be a part of a church, but not just any church. We need to be a part of Gods church, which is the church of he’s use Christ of latter saints, because there is no other place where we can receive the blessings or the ordinances that we need. Kayla the authorities have asked us to use Latter Day Saints in place of Mormons, and I understand and fully agree with what you’re saying there, but seriously. We are Gods church, we do his work, an that’s all there is to it. Be a light, be a Seville of Christ, and how Heavenly Father how much you love him, by staying strong in your faith, and I promise you you’ll see Christ in your life hw will be there for you. He will heal your wounds and I leave these words with you in the name if Jesus Christ amen.

      • I apologize for not directing my words fully. My comments were made to the other comments on this blog, only the section I specifically stated your name was directed towards you.

      • Thanks for your article.
        After reading it – it suddenly dawned on me that I must actually be an “Anti-Mormon” — I am a Latter-Day Saint, and desire with all my heart and soul to be a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ.

        I am a humbled, sinning Publican, who daily seeks forgiveness — and NOT a Republican.
        I swear on occasion, I drink Coca-Cola, I wear tie-died T-shirts, have solar panels on my house, and as a professional aerospace Engineer, I’m an avid hard-core Science junky.

        I just don’t fit in.
        My puritan Utah “Mormon” ward members see me and my non-compliant cow-towing as the sign of a bad apple to be driven out – so we don’t “spoil” the rest.

        Thanks again, I’m not as “alone” as I feel….

    • Well, this is all so good and a fine conversation. Let me start with Paul’s rebuke:
      “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas (Peter); and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius!!!!!!” (exclamation points added)
      My perspective is one from 30 years of serious mental illness while being a brain injured and odd person. I don’t have the same capacities as others do. (I also don’t like that nick-name “Mormon” either… who invented it? Ugly, Awful King Noah who named the “Waters of Mormon” i around 100 B.C. – which were wonderful waters, etc, etc, and Mormon is wonderful -still- only a word but that kind of distraction Paul and Joseph said was not all right)…
      Some saints quickly decide (I have done it too) they know very much about how each person they meet or hear about should be behaving and how they should relate to the Savior and His plan… what path these others should take, etc. The Spirit of the Law which IS the Holy Spirit leads us on different paths to the same united place as we hold on to our individual rods of iron. Could we possibly conceive of a Tree of Life with innumerable narrow paths bringing individuals all along separate rods of iron which are all the same Word (Christ and God’s word), to the same destination? Perhaps not simple enough for today. It’s too odd for simple people. I know beautiful people who currently can’t bear to enter the Kingdom through baptism or have a continued ordinance regime. (Their last sacrament will have to hold them after all does Christ need them to be there every week for His Atonement to function?) And it’s all partly because they can’t function in our Church. But some are so pure. Our chapels and temples shouldn’t be half full of the functional and successful as they are today. The disenfranchised and sick, fearful and abused who are humbled, need place to then fill the other half of those pews. The “hurt” folks who take the wrong path, like my sweet mother, many who are not so unworthy as some in the Church believe, should be brought to the chapels also. Not with our current traditions and culture they wont. Many active and beautiful saints today are nothing like the pioneers or ancient saints. They are quite satisfied and comfortable with themselves and the club they’ve joined having found success. Why don’t we bring up the Savior’s parables given in person to a similar group of faithful, active elders, priests and rich as to the things of their world: The parable of the two men praying in the Temple, The invitations to the marriage, and then His commands not to seek the first seats at the dinner table, etc… We often do not read past the wonderful “blessed are they…” to see ourselves in the “Woe to you…” The four woes that follow the Beatitudes in Luke 6:24–26[4]

      Woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
      Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.
      Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
      Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

      That which defies God in us is usually about having selfish comfort.
      “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion and trust in the mountain of Samaria” (The idols of the fallen world)… Amos 6:1

      Ideal people and culture are not actually found in our Church here today but found in The Savior and the saints who have passed. (There are no Mormon folk in Celestial Glory)

  7. Sometimes you’re leaders will be hard in you, especially your bishop, but that is because he sees things that you cannot see. Trust him, listen to him, and he will help you come to Christ. If you are currently struggling with your faith in the gospel, I am begging you to find your bishop, track him down and talk to him. Tell him every last concern and thought and worry that you have, and he will help you. That’s what he’s there for. Use him

  8. dj
    If missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are like “door to door vacuum cleaner salesman” then so were Peter, Paul and others apostles of Christ who tirelessly walked and walked and walked town to town preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    I encourage you, when you see the missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that you do stop them and talk to them. But rather than trying to show them the “error of their ways,” have a fair and respectful conversation.

    And before you judge something to be in error, read the Book of Mormon, which is another testament of Jesus Christ.

    And perhaps you could consider what if it is true?

    What if a fourteen year old young man did seek for understanding by praying in faith and was visited by our Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ? What if John The Baptist, Peter, James and John and other heavenly messengers really did visit Joseph Smith and restore the priesthood of God to the earth giving him the authority to establish the true church and kingdom of God on the earth under the direction of Christ in these the last days before and to prepare for the second coming of the Savior?

    What if Jesus Christ, after his atoning sacrifice and resurrection, really did visit the Americas and establish His church and kingdom in the new world as described in the Book of Mormon?

    And what if there really is today an authorized representative of Christ, a prophet of God and a quorum of twelve apostles on the earth with all the priesthood keys required to direct the kingdom of God on the earth?

    What if this is all true? What if it really is true and you are fighting against it and remaining separate from the kingdom of God on the earth?

    Consider that.

    Joel

    • Why would they? The Church is “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.” The gates of hell have not prevailed against it for almost two thousand years. Why would the Apostles see a need to found a completely new “church” counter to the one commissioned by Christ? God bless.

  9. I agree with a lot of what you have said, however I disagree with you being ok in judging the Mormon culture. And now I am a hypocrite because I am judging your judging!

  10. Thanks for that. I really enjoyed reading it. I think what you said is so very true. I couldnt have put it into words myself though. I’m going to think on this as I have felt apart from church a long time but couldnt put my finger on what was wrong. I cant stand the ‘mormon’ side of things as you have put it and I never joined the church for those reasons.
    Thank you very very much.

  11. Kayla, I very much feel the same way, and am a life-long member. And I whole-heartlessly agree that our focus should be on becoming a true disciple of Christ. I didn’t get married until I was 40, and we’ve not been able to have children or adopt, so I’ve often felt that I’m either judged or pitied by others (LDS and non-LDS). But I know that letting them push me away from the gospel or being angry with them is not what Christ would want me to do. It makes me feel better to know there are others like you who don’t “fit in” sometimes, but keep on keeping on!

  12. Reblogged this on Stella's LDS Journal and commented:
    “Our culture has lots of good, don’t get me wrong. And if we remember why we do some of the things we do the spirit will come back to it. But don’t let it make you forget. Don’t let it deter a soul who has just heard “Lord I would follow thee” and doesn’t know yet that families are forever. ”

    Today’s Thursday food for thought.

  13. AMEN!! This is what I have been trying to explain to people forever! My son refuses to come to church because of the way he was treated for deciding to not serve a mission. We are treated differently because of my husband’s mental illness and I have been bullied by my Bishop for wanting to leave an abusive mentally ill husband..but if I don’t I will lose my kids to the system of foster care. The church protects him, but bullies and guilts me. I want to be LDS, not Mormon.

  14. I love the doctrine of Christ as understood and taught in the LDS religion. I also love much about the Mormon culture. I agree, however, that it is important for every member to have a clear understanding of the distinction between the two. Thanks for this sweet reminder embedded in your personal testimony of Christ’s true church.

    • I am LDS and this Chuch is the first one out of the many Churches I have joined that gives me and my husband an opportunity to learn and share the Gospel with our family and friends!

  15. Pingback: Why I chose to be a Latter-day Saint: And not a Mormon // Reblog – A Day On The Plains

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