My faith is as much a part of my life as breathing. I strive to commit my time, talents and energies into building up the Kingdom of God and bringing the truth of the 'good news' to all who need to hear it. I am not always successful and I often stumble along the way -- yet my faith remains the rock on which I strive to build my life and the lives of my children.
In an uncertain world, here I have found a solid place on which to stand. If you want to know what drives me on and motivates me -- take a few minutes here.
What I believe ...
There has been a lot of speculation about what 'Mormons' believe -- much of it misleading. For me, the best description of my faith lies in what we know as the Thirteen Articles of Faith. These articles, penned by Joseph Smith, remain the simplest and most succinct description of our faith that I have found. I believe ...
- We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
- We believe that men must be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.
- We believe that through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.
- We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are: first, faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ; second, repentance; third, baptism by emersion for the remission of sins; fourth, laying on of hands, for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
- We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophesy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority to preach the gospel and administer the ordinances thereof.
- We believe in the same organization that existed in the primitive church, namely Apostles, Prophets, pastors, priests, evangelists, etc.
- We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues and so forth.
- We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
- We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
- We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the lost ten tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon this, the American Continent; that Christ will come personally to reign upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
- We claim the privilage to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience and allow all men the same privilage, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
- We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
- We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul -- We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely or of good report, or praise worthy, we seek after these things.
These simple articles reflect only in the broadest strokes the depth of truth and understanding to be found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I'm including it here so that we might have a common framework from which to understand my experience as outlined below.
My Experience as a 'Mormon' ...
There are many pages on the Web that contain a variety of opinions on 'Mormonism' -- supportive and otherwise. I cannot speak to the correctness of its supporters or the motivations of its detractors. All I know is what I have experienced -- and my experience has been a wonderful journey indeed.
I was 'born into' the church. My great-grandparents crossed the plains with the LDS migration in the mid 1800's and were occasionally prominent (if infamous) figures in the early church.
Interestingly, this deep historical background was no guarantee. While I was raised in a predominantly Mormon community with the vast majority of my associates being LDS as well, I didn't have much affinity for the church or its teachings as I grew up. It was simply part of my life and the teachings that made up my young years came to me with no more emphasis than my reading lessons or mathematics.
All of this came to its apathetic head while I was a teenager -- not surprising in that period of life where everything comes into question. I had not managed to read the Book of Mormon or the Bible despite several years of attending the LDS seminary both in Junior High School and High School. Many of my friends were preparing to go on missions; I was not going to join them in that effort. I had decided that I had a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, and no real need to toss all that away on a mission for a church to which I was mostly indifferent.
All that changed both through the efforts of my father (who kept asking me what I wanted to do with my life) and, ultimately, to the intervention of God.
I cannot say how others are called on their missions but for me it happened in the projection booth of the Academy Theater in downtown Provo, Utah during an weekday evening show in October of 1974. I have been pondering my fathers question. Despite my own luke-warm attitudes, I was still a thoughtful nineteen-year-old and occasionally did turn to the Bible for comfort. That night, as I pondered what I wanted and, more importantly, what God wanted, I was suddenly filled with the spirit of truth so strongly that it felt like a physical blow. I knew -- just KNEW -- that I had been called to serve God and the knowledge wouldn't leave me.
Much would follow in terms of the formality of my calling but God spoke to me that night and could not be denied. My call took place on that night.
Right then I called my father and asked him to set up an appointment with my Bishop for a mission interview. I then called my girlfriend, Laura Curtis, to ask if she would wait for me the two years I would be gone. She immediately and emphatically answered -- no. I said I had to go anyway.
Having said good-bye to that life, I 'put in my papers' and waited to learn where the Prophet would call me to serve. The answer came in the form of a letter from President Spencer W. Kimball on the day after Christmas, 1974. I was called to serve in the Singapore-Indonesia Mission.
I had no idea where either Singapore or Indonesia was.
My Mission Years
I entered the Missionary Home in Salt Lake City, Utah, in March of 1975. My bags were packed and all the arrangements made yet, in many ways, I was unprepared. God didn't seem to care -- He'd make me ready. My second day in the Missionary Home, I again was spoken to by the Lord as I rehearsed teaching the story of how Joseph Smith, in 1823, was visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ in a wooded grove outside Palmyra, New York. I again simply KNEW the truth of the story with every fiber of my being. Though I had been in the church since I was born, it was the first true testimony that I can recall coming to me.
I spent the first six months of my mission in Hawaii -- at first learning the language for my mission (normally a two-month process) and later as a missionary in the Hawaii mission awaiting my visa to enter Indonesia. If you are going to get stuck somewhere waiting for a visa, Hawaii isn't a bad place to be stuck in! My companion and I (missionaries always travel at least in twos, so that 'by the mouth of two witnesses, all things are established') were both serving in Hana, Maui when our visas, at last came through.
I served my mission in Java and still can speak some Indonesian and a smattering of Sundanese. While I taught many lessons on the church, my mission was also very much a mission toward my own salvation. I studied and learned. My own faith grew in that fertile, distant land. I served in Surabaya, Jakarta and Bandung. There I found myself and God -- it seems strange now that I had to go so far away to do so.
My Testimony ...
Since the begining of time, mankind has sought to understand the universe around him with inferior equipment. Our minds are not capable of grasping the sum truth of creation. Science has, in each age, advanced theories which, in subsiquent ages were proven wrong. Each successive age of science has called the last age 'backward' and their own age 'enlightened.' Each has subsiquently been proven wrong. The mind of man is insufficient to God's creation and incapable of judging God based on our senses alone.
We are here for a purpose and that purpose is to come to an understanding both of what we can physically examine and that which is hidden from our eyes. We come to experience the physical world that we might learn from it -- yet, more importantly, we come to learn when our physical experience is not enough. We come to learn how to see with better eyes. We come to develop faith.
It is the knowledge of a truth greater than our senses that brings order out of chaos.
I give you my testimony that God lives; that Jesus is the Living Christ. I know this as fact more sure than the rising of the sun each morning. I know this as a fact more surely than my five physical senses can attest. I have known His truth and cannot deny it. I have heard His voice and while I have not always liked what He has said to me, I have known the truth of His will.
I further testify to you that you may know Him, too, as I have come to know Him. Contact your local missionaries -- they're in the phone book -- or call the 800 number in Salt Lake for the Church. Perhaps you may think this message is not for you but you will never know until you hear it. You have nothing to lose -- and ever so much to gain.
FAQs about my beliefs ...
Are 'Mormons' really 'Christians'?
Emphatically YES, if you mean Christian in the sense of a person or church which espouses and follows the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is the very head of my church -- a church which bears His name in it's title.
There are those who claim that due to doctrinal differences in the interpretation of the Lord's word, that Mormons are not Christians. This is, frankly, rather like the following argument: (A) Democrats are patriotic U.S. Citizens; (B) Republicans do not believe in the same platform as the Democratic Party; (C) ergo, Republicans are not patriotic U.S. Citizens. (Or the other way around, if you prefer.)
As the Lord himself said, "By their fruits, ye shall know them." We invite anyone to examine the fruits of our service in behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ -- the factual Master of our Church.
You create fantasy worlds filled with mythical pantheons of gods.
How do you justify the apparent conflict between your faith and such scriptures as Exodus and Matthew?
I do not see a conflict between them -- in fact, I believe that my work is all part of my faith which includes those scriptures quoted.
Christ taught in parables. Those parables allowed those who heard His word who were ready to hear it access to his teachings more easily that a straight lecture would have done. I see my stories as alagroical -- and try to teach correct principles through my works. If I can help bring someone from where they are to a slightly more elevated plain of enlightenment, then I see myself as being instrumental in bringing them closer to God.
You wrote Dungeons & Dragons(r) games for many years.
How could you support that 'wicked and demon-worshipping' game?
The game itself is not an evil thing -- it's what people do with it that is often wrong.
Dungeons & Dragons(r) was started by a man by the name of Gary Gygax back in the mid-seventies as an offshoot of miniatures wargaming. It quickly took on a wide college fandom and became something of an icon during the 'eighties. It was during that same time that a great resurgence in christian churchs took place in a return to spirituality. Zealots supporting the game and the churches came into conflict with a great deal of miscommunication on both sides.
The main problem, from my perspective, was not that D&D(r) was an 'evil' game but that it failed to take much of a moral position AT ALL except to insist on a vague adherance to the comic book code. It was a game where 'anything you wanted' could happen. Role playing games can be powerful tools for behavior modification. To my mind, it was rather like giving power tools to two year olds: huge potential without any guidance.
I cannot speak for others who design these games but I can say with assurance that the games I designed while there always took a very carefully calculated moral slant and tried to teach positive values as central to their design. I would strongly admonish others who design their games to look beyond the illusory dream itself to the message that their games convey. I also strongly admonish anyone who is playing these games to carefully select only those settings and scenarios that espouse positive moral structures. I also recomend my 'Ethics in Fantasy: Morality and D&D' article for a more indepth treatment of this subject.
The bottom line? The games I designed were always carefully crafted morality tales that reflected my own Christian beliefs -- as for anyone elses, you should participate in them with open eyes.
An LDS RM at BYU: a Mormon Lexicon
Like many organizations, my church has its own alphabet soup of lexicon jargon. Hopefully these definitions will help you as well.
|BISHOP||Leader of a WARD, usually called by a STAKE PRESIDENT. All bishops serve uncompensated for their administrative and spiritual leadership of the congregation.|
|BOOK OF MORMON||Companion book to the Bible and a Second Witness for Jesus Christ. While the Bible tells the story of Christ and His people in the MIddle East, so, too, the Book of Mormon tells the story of Christ and His people in the Western Hemisphere. Both books (Bible and Book of Mormon), when taken together, form a complete picture of the worldwide mission of Christ. Each compliments the other.|
|BYU||(Brigham Young University) Major university owned and operated by the church. Located in Provo, Utah approximately fourty miles south of Salt Lake City. Known as a great quarterback farm.|
|CALL||A word which, in LDS society, most often refers directly to both the act of securing a CALLING to serve as a missionary for the LDS church and the location to which the person called is going to serve. As in 'got my mission call' or 'When did you get your call?' and 'Where was he called to serve?' While it refers to the same process as CALLING (see below) it differs from a 'calling' in that it contextually refers to missionary service exclusively. Complicated, isn't it? Well, that's society for you ...|
|CALLING||The process of an appointment or position within the church being extended to a member through revelation. All positions within the church are offered to individual members only after ernest prayer and thoughtful deliberation. Members are, of course, free to accept or decline such callings when they are offered. All callings within the church are uncompensated -- we have an unpaid and entirely volunteer ministry.|
|DISCUSSIONS||A set of standard lessons which are taught by LDS missionaries around the world. These lessons are designed to acquaint interested people with the teachings of the church and extend an invitation for them to discover for themselves the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. These lessons are generally given in the INVESTIGATOR'S home and are free of any obligation or charge.|
|INVESTIGATOR||A generic term refering to anyone who is examining the teachings of Christ and the gospel as preached by the LDS church. Usually refers specifically to a person who is being taught the discussions (see above).|
|LDS||(Latter-day Saint) Shorthand for the full name of the church -- the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints -- and often used to signify membership in the church.|
|MISSION FIELD||A term which can at its best refer to (a) the region or area of a mission in which a missionary operates and (b) at its silliest, a coloquial expression meaning everywhere except Utah, Idaho and parts of Arizona. The implication is all areas where the church has yet to be well established (i.e. outside of Utah). As in 'I rather like wards that are in the mission field.'|
|MORMON||A prophet from the Book of Mormon (after whom the book was named). Also another short form refering to members of the LDS Church. Once considered a derogatory phrase, it is now an acceptable and even endearing term to use when refering to a Church Member or members as a collective. As in "My friend is a Mormon" or "those Mormon's sure are a happy people."|
|MORMONISM||Slang term refering to the beliefs and gospel of Christ as it is understood and practiced by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.|
|PRIESTHOOD||The authority to act in God's name. Also, the organization within the church which directs the efforts of those who hold the priesthood. Like the RELIEF SOCIETY, each WARD has a division which directs the efforts of the holders of this priesthood. The priesthood itself is divided into OFFICES which constitute levels of authority within the priesthood. In order of increasing responsibility, these are: Deacons, Teachers, Priests, Elders and High Priests.|
|PROPHET||Generally, anyone who has the gift of prophesy, however, it more specifically refers to the President of the church, who is considered by the church members to be an actual prophet of God (as in 'We heard the prophet speak last week.')|
|RELIEF SOCIETY||Women's organization in the church -- usually refers to a division of that organization within a WARD but can also refer to the greater organization that extends from the top of the church through all it's units. Historically, the oldest continous organization of women in the United States.|
|RM||(Return Missionary) A missionary who, surprisingly, has returned home.|
|SEMINARY||As with seminaries of other religious denominations, the LDS seminaries are places of instruction designed to teach the gospel in a more formal, scholarly setting. LDS seminaries, however, are designed primarily for instruction of youth of High School age and extending through college.|
|STAKE||An administrative grouping of WARDS. Roughly equivalent to a diocese.|
|STAKE PRESIDENT||Leader of an LDS STAKE. All Stake Presidents serve uncompensated for their administrative and spiritual leadership of the WARDS under them.|
|WARD||A unit of the church equivalent to a congregation.|