Every relationship thrives on trust. Within Christianity in general and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in particular, this trust, honesty, and integrity is not only paramount for a true relationship with Jesus Christ via repentance of sins, but also to the Church community as well.
Therefore, if I am to have a meaningful relationship with my new Latter-day Saints family and become a brother among them, I must confess something…
Once upon a time, I was an enemy of the Latter-day Saints.
As a judgemental Christian in high school, I regularly sought out and debated with LDS members of my community. I chased them down if I saw them riding their bikes in my community. I invoked scripture I believed supported my stance against them. The Mormons were heretics who follow a false prophet; only the pit of hell was good enough for their souls. In fact, anyone who thought differently than I did received this treatment.
All the while, I was sleeping with my girlfriend at the time and had a child out-of-wedlock.
Granted, I am not the vile, ignorant, hypocritical, and intolerant young man from the past, however the very presence of this past creates a unique situation for this month: emotional baggage.
I’ve asked Heavenly Father for forgiveness, however before we go any further, am asking for yours–for the forgiveness of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am here to understand you more, with a clear heart and mind, to represent and be part of your beliefs and culture for these 31 days the best that I can. Will you forgive me? Will you accept me as your brother? Will you trust me to bear your name?
If you forgive me (and I trust that you have), thank you from the bottom of my heart. If not, I understand and hope you would give me the chance to earn your trust.
Now to get this thing started!
My Mentor this month is Elder Christensen, a young man and missionary from Utah, who currently serves a two-year mission teaching about Jesus and His restored Church in eastern North Carolina. He is accompanied by another newer missionary to the area, Elder Brown. “Elder” is a title bestowed upon these young men once they take up the call to serve through missions work for two years.
After a 2 1/2 hour meeting yesterday, my Mentors provided guidelines to follow throughout my month with their Church.
First of all, I am now Brother Bowen and Project Conversion is a “ward”, a size-based congregational unit within the Church structure.
Elder Christensen emphasized three aspects of LDS life I must follow:
- Direct prayer to Heavenly Father (God)
- Study of the Book of Mormon and other Scripture
- Leading an exemplary life based on the qualities of Jesus Christ
Elder Brown told me that he prays every morning after waking, before studying Scripture, eating, and any other activity that requires guidance. But it’s not just about asking for things, Elder Christensen said, it’s a “two-way conversation between yourself and your literal Father in heaven.”
So, I began this morning with prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father, I ask for guidance and inspiration through the Holy Spirit this month as I spend time with Your restored Church. Help me understand the principles and truths brought down to us through the Book of Mormon and your living prophets. I ask that you bless and guide my Mentors as they take time out of their busy schedule to teach me in the ways of this Church. These things I pray in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, amen.
Next, I study the Scriptures. These include:
In addition to the Scriptures, I also have study aides:
I will also study from a text called “Gospel Principles” which serves as an introductory guide to new members of the Church.
The first week of every month seems like a hectic crash course. This month is particularly difficult because I just spent the last month without a spiritual rudder to guide me. What’s so intriguing for me for July with the LDS Church is that it’s the first time since I left Christianity 10 years ago that I will interact with Jesus and the God He described in heaven. I know a lot of mainstream Christians don’t believe LDS members are Christians but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m somehow taking a trip back to my old spiritual homestead. There is a lot of work to do in order to tend this abandoned garden of faith, but with a little sweat, guidance from my Mentors, and the help of our Ward, I know we can make this month a great success.
If you are a mainstream Christian (or anything else for that matter), I invite you to visit an LDS church service at least once this month. Don’t be who I was in high school. Don’t judge the book, before or after you’ve opened the cover. If you are a member of the LDS church, I invite you to join me in my quest of understanding. Our Facebook group, now an honorary ward, is a great place to teach as well as learn about everything that happens at Project Conversion.