Mormon in the Real World
Wednesday night I went to a reading by Penn Faulkner award winning author, David Bradley. He is the son of a preacher and grew up with very specific religious views. He mentioned that,”Religion is fact.” In other words, his religious beliefs are indisputable truths that define his world. He believes this is the case with all religious people.
Like David Bradley, to me, religion is fact. Everything in my world is defined by my religious understanding. Life makes sense because of it and I want to share that with others.
So when I began a course in Death and Dying this term I thought, “Here is a perfect opportunity to share my views on death and dying. Maybe it could me of help to someone”. Do I always enter social situations with this mindset? No, but for some reason this thought crossed my mind.
The first two classes found me eager to share this but with no opportunity to do so. In the third we watched a documentary, “Flight From Death – the Quest for Immortality” and all my hopes of sharing were dashed. In only a few minutes of film, I became a villain.
At 2:49 a sociology expert says:
The big problem with seeking immortality is that we invest in these larger structures [religion] as our basis of security and immortality. And then whenever something suggests that our structure is not right, we’re going to feel threatened and we’re going to have to react against that. More people have been killed in the name of God and country than by all the serial murders [. . .] put together is just a drop in the bucket compared to how much killing has gone on out of loyalty, patriotism and love for God and Country.
The film then discusses how we cope with having our “belief structures threatened” (political, cultural or religious) by converting people to our beliefs or eliminating them (the threat) altogether. This hit me hard. It was like someone saying that I must convert or kill people who don’t believe as I do and that all religionists respond this way to other faiths and cultures. It was a blow.
In an instant I became the villainous religionist who would sooner kill someone than accept them for who they are and what they believe. Am I really that dangerous?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints sends out missionaries to share their gospel message but is that in response to feeling threatened by other cultures or religions? If conversion doesn’t work, do we kill them? The concept is absurd to me.
The majority of my family do not share my beliefs. I love them for who they are and what they mean to me. Yes, I would be incredibly happy if they shared my beliefs because my religious views answer so many things and bring me an incredible happiness, courage, confidence, and comfort. I want the same for them. It is only natural for me to extend my religious beliefs for this purpose. Would I declare war against them for not believing so? No. Would I defend my life or faith if others attacked me for it? Yes. Would I die in efforts to live righteously, to love, defend, and do good by others? I hope so.
Unfortunately, such ideals are often twisted into villainous faces and means. Just as people confuse love and hate, we also confuse good and evil. What may seem a good, righteous, and glorious mission could spur suicide bombers or war mongering dictators. They may believe they’re honoring God and higher ideals, but are far removed from the truth of their selfish choices. Such actions are far cry from anything Godlike.
President Spencer W. Kimball gave these insights about the ministry of the Savior: “Never did the Savior give in expectation. I know of no case in his life in which there was an exchange. He was always the giver, seldom the recipient. Never did he give shoes, hose, or a vehicle; never did he give perfume, a shirt, or a fur wrap. His gifts were of such a nature that the recipient could hardly exchange or return the value. His gifts were rare ones: eyes to the blind, ears to the deaf, and legs to the lame; cleanliness to the unclean, wholeness to the infirm, and breath to the lifeless. His gifts were opportunity to the downtrodden, freedom to the oppressed, light in the darkness, forgiveness to the repentant, hope to the despairing. His friends gave him shelter, food, and love. He gave them of himself, his love, his service, his life. The wise men brought him gold and frankincense. He gave them and all their fellow mortals resurrection, salvation, and eternal life. We should strive to give as he gave. To give of oneself is a holy gift.” (The Wondrous Gift,Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978, p. 2.)
The Savior did not go about starting wars or killing people of other faiths. He served and taught them.
Belief can be dangerous when used to harm or overrule others. My faith often identifies such abuse as “unrighteous dominion”. True righteousness gives life and love. It does not take it away.
P.S. I actually really liked the documentary and highly recommend it. Very interesting.
Posted on April 17, 2010, in Mormon in the Real World and tagged conversion, death, dictator, immortality, missionaries, Mormon, Relationships, religionists, religious war, suicide bombers. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.