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Monday, June 2, 2008

A Fine Line...No More

When an author is involved in promoting his book there is a significant amount of leg work that must be done. I mentioned in a previous post how involved this is but what I failed to mention was that it is an enlightening experience as well. In fact, as a function of this process I had an experience yesterday that effectively changed my public position in a very stark way. For years I have attempted to walk a fine line between secular and spiritual life as I have worked to avoid offending people. In my work I deal with a significant number of people who not only don't approve of my faith but go the extra mile to assure that I know about it. Consequently I have tried to avoid making my faith the focal point of important discussions about spirituality and about any of my professional endeavors. Yesterday I found that a change was in order.

To be clear, I have never felt ashamed of being Mormon - quite the contrary. I have included my faith in a central way in my book and it is the core of my spiritual life and informs my temporal life in limitless ways. But I behaved in a way that held back in order to avoid confusing important issues and in an attempt to keep specific doctrines out of the fore in lieu of more general themes. That was up until the day before yesterday. Yesterday, I came to understand that I had to make a choice. If I am to be completely forthright about who I am I must invariably discuss my faith, its guiding effect on my life and how any success that I have enjoyed in my life has been the result of my adopted faith and the covenants I have made with my Heavenly Father.

The turning point was simple enough. In fact, the person who was the catalyst had no way of knowing any of the points but they were instrumental nevertheless. The change resulted from an email that I received from someone who was not critical of my book but was critical of my faith. Among other things she said was this:
"I can’t help but wonder -- I’ve studied much about Mormonism, and cannot see how one who is inside of it, even to writing a book about it, cannot see clearly the holes and fallacies in it that lead to despair.......?"
I must admit that I was taken aback and could not for the life of me figure out what would have prompted such a note.

One thing that has always been a source of confusion for me is the condescending nature of many people who oppose the teachings of the LDS church. They often seek to lecture me on the tenets of the faith as if I am completely unaware. I find it strange to be "instructed" by people who often have a minimal understanding of the church and its history but feel as though they are scholars on a subject upon which my life is built. I don't know how often this happens to other members but it is fairly common for me. I must give the impression that I don't know anything about the church. Alas, I digress.

The email that I received helped to clarify something that has always troubled me and I realized that my faith is and will always be the defining descriptor of my life and work. LDS author, LDS researcher, LDS father are all important descriptors of me and I can think of no better way to be known. With the realization that I cannot and should not attempt to walk the line between secular reputation and religious reputation I have opted for a public life that embraces being Mormon as publicly as I embrace any of my other roles. I must also say that with this realization has come a bit of embarrassment. Not for what I have done but for what I have left undone. In walking the line that I have for these many years it could have given some the impression that I am reluctant to speak about my faith or that I somehow don't ascribe to it the way that I should. Nothing could be further from the truth.

To make my new stance very clear I gave considerable thought to how I would have responded to an email like the one I received versus how I actually did respond given my improved stance regarding my faith. The recipient of my email did not foresee the way I would respond but it heartened me to stand firmly in the place where I belong. My response included the following text:
I was not raised in the LDS church but came to it after years of searching for the true gospel. Having been outside of the church for my formative years and living as I did amid the chaos that surrounded me with the drugs, violence and the sex trade I sought for guidance and help on an almost continual basis.

I know the distinct difference that being a member of the LDS church has had on my life, the life of my sweet wife and on the lives of our four sons. But seeing the fruits of a tree is only part of the picture. When I was converted, I was converted by the power of the Holy Ghost. The truth of the gospel was made manifest to my heart not merely by understanding the atonement of Christ in a factual manner but by feeling the amazing gift that He so willingly offers.

I first grasped the way that the Holy Ghost teaches spirit to spirit by studying the Bible for many years prior to knowing anything about Mormons. In fact, when I first met with the missionaries I had hoped to dissuade them from continuing to follow the Mormon faith. Somewhere during the meeting I had what might be described as an experience somewhat like Saul on the road to Damascus. After the LDS missionaries explained the basics of the gospel, I turned to God for answers. As I sought out His guidance I felt a powerful sensation and an undeniable truth that Jesus is the Christ, that He lives and that the Book of Mormon was in fact “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” I knew then that what I was learning was not just correct but essential and I could not deny it. To deny the powerful sensation that God had given me after following the admonition in James 1:5 would be to deny the Master himself.

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