Having established why I am Christian, it is only appropriate to establish why I am mormon, and what that means to me, and what I wished it meant to you.
The unfortunate reality of Christianity is that we are divided. We have arranged ourselves into sects and orders, divided by creeds and oaths. The sad state of Christianity is that rather than focus on our love of God and love of neighbor, we instead seem to focus on what we are or are not. That’s not what Christ taught us, and yet it is where we are at.
The mormons are no different. We have a long way to go towards perfection. We freely admit this! I haven’t met a mormon yet who is willing to stand in front of a group of people and say they are perfect disciples of Christ. I haven’t met a ward or stake or any group of mormons who claim they have successfully lived Christ’s commandments and established Zion in their corner of the woods. I don’t suspect I ever will, at least not until we are purified by Christ at his coming.
Nevertheless, let me draw out what makes a mormon and a non-mormon. While the requirement to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is baptism by one who has authority, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost by one who has authority, that is not really what makes us mormon. That is not the secret ingredient, because I know lots of people I consider mormon who are not baptized. I also know lots of people who are baptized but I wouldn’t call mormon.
The secret ingredient, in my mind, is a single willingness to serve God in every way. This requires absolute humility and allegiance not to any leader or council of leaders, but to God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. It is also a sincere and unconditional love for everyone around them. These are, after all, the entirerty of the Law and the Prophets.
A mormon feels their religion. When the prophet speaks, they feel the Holy Ghost carry those words into their hearts. When someone, no matter how old or young, speaks truth, they feel the Holy Ghost carry it with just as much force.
A mormon is hungry for the words of Christ. They read the scriptures daily not because it is a duty, but because they have an insatiable desire to relive those feelings they felt when they last read them. The stories in the Bible and Book of Mormon are not about a far-away people in a far-away land and a far-away time, but about them and their own interactions with Christ.
A mormon is hungry to serve. They feel good when they help others. One of my friends said that he went to his dad’s place for his birthday. His dad tried to have him sit down and enjoy a quiet afternoon, but he felt restless and went to work on his dad’s shrubs and lawn. His dad tried to stop him and said he needed to rest and enjoy his birthday. And he said to his dad, “Don’t you understand yet? I am happiest when I am helping you. There is no greater gift that you can give me than letting me help you and feel the joy of service with you.”
A mormon goes to all their meetings. They should grumble for exactly half of them, but for the rest of them, they come away filled with the Spirit. Our meetings are silly to the world. We open with a prayer, sing a hymn, testify of basic doctrines, and then re-read scriptures and books we’ve already read a thousand times. Then we make some plans about what we will do, and then pray again. Yet they are powerful to us.
A mormon is shy about sharing their religion. That’s because it’s very precious to them, and they hate that feeling that they may destroy their friendships or family relationships when they try to share them. Nevertheless, they do share it, oftentimes in an awkward way.
A mormon spends a lot of time in the temple. We are drawn there by the Spirit. We don’t really understand why we go there or what significance the thing we do there have to God, but we know it’s important because it feels important.
A mormon searches out their ancestors. Why? Because we care about them and we feel a connection to them. It doesn’t matter where they came from or who they were. They cared enough to give birth to our ancestors, and probably did a decent job keeping them fed and clothed. There’s no more sacred title to mormons than mother or father, and we expect those who didn’t live a good life will be given the opportunity to change.
A mormon spends entirely too much time talking to their friends. They are also unusually kind to people who probably don’t deserve it, and oftentimes trust people more than they should. This may just be the psychological phenomena of projection, or it may be their sincere hopes that others see people the way they do.
These are the things that make someone mormon. They are the things I look for in other mormons. When I see them, I smile a lot inside because I know someone else “gets it”.
Everything else is really ancillary. We have lots of doctrines. Well, really, not that many. When we talk about them, we feel good inside. But honestly, we really don’t care if you accept them all or not. I know lots of mormons who don’t accept all our doctrines, and that’s ok. Maybe I don’t understand the doctrines the right way, and maybe they have a better understanding than I do. Or maybe God just hasn’t testified to them of that doctrine yet. Either way, it’s really none of my business.
Also notice that I don’t count mormons by their obedience to one commandment or another. People sometimes get confused because we spend a lot of time talking about all the commandments we know God expects us to keep. And then they know that we can’t keep all of them, and wonder why we even try. It’s complicated, but our obedience to commandments should be driven purely out of our love for God and fellow man. When we mess up, we repent and try again. But we don’t, or rather, we shouldn’t, expect our obedience to any commandment to punch a golden ticket to heaven. After all, there will be a lot of people who have kept a lot of commandments but have forgotten the two most important ones: love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Really, if you’re not keeping those two, no amount of piety will save you.
Now that I’ve said my piece, it’s important I tell you who I consider as non-mormon. As I’ve grown older and more experienced in matters of the spirit, I have come to understand that there really aren’t any non-mormons. We each have some of mormon-ness in us. It’s a futile exercise to try and predict which ones of us are wheat and which are tares anyway. I’m much happier thinking that maybe we’re all tares together. Or maybe we’re all wheat, and there are no tares, but we all have to experience what being a tare feels like. I don’t like thinking that any one of us will choose to refuse the wonderful gifts that God has prepared for us. I don’t think God sent us here to fail. He wants us to succeed. He is on our side, and since he is all-powerful, that means something big.
See, we intend to baptize the whole earth. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you did or didn’t do, we will not rest until the entire world has all the saving gospel ordinances that all of us have received. We will not be happy until we can all stand before God and say, “We are all accounted for, every one of us. All of us are baptized, all of us are ready to enter into celestial glory with Christ.” That’s my sincere prayer.