I apologize for the delay in my post this week; I am currently taking 19 credits in school, and I had a weekend of crazy pile-up. But, I am back to it now!
A few weeks ago, a woman in my writing class commented on my blog and asked me the following:
Would you ever consider switching religions? Have you looked at other religions? Is there a different religion that believes in Christ that might ring more true to you, or do you think Mormonism is the truth, even if the Church itself is a little behind on the times?
What a great question! I want to take the time to answer this in a post, rather than just reply to her comment because there are many reasons why I have chosen to stay affiliated with the LDS church. I will answer briefly here; I actually am in the process of writing a book about my experiences. So, in the meantime, the short answer will suffice.
The short answer is yes, I would consider switching religions and yes, I have looked at other religions. I believe that there is truth everywhere; no matter where you look, you can find truth. Truth is universal.
I was born and raised into the LDS church. From the time I was a little girl, my parents have taught me about God and Their nature and about Jesus Christ. My parents taught me that it is more important to be spiritual than to be religious, even though we attended Church regularly while I was growing up. Because of that, I have always had a very unique awareness of God’s hand in my life because I was taught to look for divine influence everyday. I could feel God in the world around me and could easily recognize when God was trying to communicate with me. This gift really allowed me to discern between true doctrine and cultural practices while at Church. I have always had questions about practices in the Church and there have always been things that make me sad; however, because I knew that God was a part of my life, I had a sense that it was okay to not have all the answers to my questions. The truth would be made known to me in due time.
When I was a missionary in Japan, I had several experiences that really allowed me to expand my horizons and my belief system. Being a Christian missionary in a place that has no Christian background was a very hard thing. To me, it was common sense to believe in God and Jesus Christ. I just KNEW that They existed, and I had a hard time articulating how I came to know and believe in God (partly because the Japanese language is REALLY hard, but mostly because it was just common sense). But, as I became accustomed to the culture and lifestyle of Japan, I learned about truth in more ways that I can even count.
The religious background of Japan is fairly simple: the indigenous religion of the country is Shintoism, a polytheistic religion that is based on the belief that God is nature, and that there is a God dwelling inside of everything. The main deity of the religion is the Goddess of the Sun. Japan is also heavily influenced by Buddhism, which was introduced into Japan in about the 6th century. If you were to ask a normal Japanese person if they considered themselves to be religious, they would adamantly say they are not, even though they pray at shrines, attend Buddhist temples, and practice religious ceremonies and rites on a very regular basis.
As I learned more about these religions and participated in prayer ceremonies at shrines and temples, I felt something that I had not felt in a long time: I felt that these religions were full of truth. I still knew in my heart that Jesus was my Savior, but it was as if learning about Shintoism and Buddhism was just adding to my knowledge of Jesus, that they all went together and complimented each other perfectly. It was a very deeply spiritual moment for me, and since then, I have taken it upon myself to study these religions in more detail, especially the bit about the Sun Goddess. I feel like I have a special connection to Her. I think that She is the Japanese interpretation of Heavenly Mother.
Shintoism and the concept of God dwelling in nature resonates deep within my soul. This is truth. Jesus Christ is also truth. And if you take the time to study extensively, it is remarkable the similarities you can find in both religions. I believe that we all believe in the same God.
So, while I have lots of doubts about the organization of the Mormon Church, I have been able to let those go, because in the grand scheme of things, the only thing that matters is my personal relationship with deity. God is perfect, but people are not. The Church is organized and run by imperfect people, so naturally there are going to be flaws in the system. But, it is up to me to not allow those faults to get in the way of my personal faith.
I have found truth in Mormonism and Christianity. I have found truth in Shintoism. I have found truth in Judaism and Islam. I have found truth in philosophies like Buddhism and Confucianism. I have found truth in indigenous customs and religious practices. There is truth everywhere, and I think it’s important to recognize it.
There are many reasons why I have stayed with the Mormon Church, and to be quite honest, I’m there right now because it is comfortable. It is familiar. I have gained a sure knowledge of my Savior Jesus Christ through the Mormon Church. This doesn’t stop me from believing in and recognizing the truth and beauty in other practices. My goal is to enhance the knowledge I have by finding the truth in everything. Truth is the way of God, and the way of God can be found all around us.