Well, for those of you who know me, you may or may not even know my political affiliation, but you DO know my religious affiliaton. So, today, I'm stepping out of my "comfort zone" on two such topics that I shouldn't have a problem discussing. My religion and my political affiliations do not define me, but they do make up who I am. So, here goes. . .
I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, better known as "Mormons." I've been a member my entire life- almost 40 years now. Our church is considered a "baby" compared to other religions, but it is also one of the fastest growing religions in the world. In fact, we have over 13,000,000 members across the world, and there are now more members OUTSIDE of the U.S., than inside it. Yes, I say religion, NOT cult. There are still those that believe that we are a "cult" - a group that brainwashes people into our belief system. That we worship other "gods", such as Joseph Smith, etc. This has always floored me, as from the mere title of our church, it is NOT about Joseph Smith, or any other gods. It is Christ's church. We worship our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the head of our religion, and will always be. He is the Messiah, the Chosen One, and the one who Atoned for our sins.
It is hard for me to understand the "hangups" of other religions with our church having Modern Day Prophets, Apostles, and evangelists, as well as more scriptures (in addition to the Holy Bible), as this is how I was raised. My husband is a convert (raised Southern Baptist, but joined after we were married in 1990.) When I ask him what the differences are, he shared with me that it's just that. . . "different." People don't like "different." Change is usually hard on most people. We do what we are comfortable with. If we are raised a certain way, we don't want to "chunk" all of that away and "betray" what our families have taught us, or raised us to be. Even if we don't feel that it is completely right. Even children that are raised Mormon, have to gain their own testimony of it's truthfulness. You can't rely on someone else's faith, to see you through. I remember being 16 years old, and wondering why I was so different that my peers. Why was my religion part of my everyday life- in the clothing I wore, the friends I chose, the things I ate, or drank, the movies I watched, the parties I attended, the books I read, etc. It's HARD to be a Mormon in this world! But to me, it's the right thing for me. I found it on my OWN, not by brainwashing. I had to search the scriptures, pray, and listen to that soft prompting from the Holy Spirit. I did those things, and even though I do stray from time to time, I know that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. I am where I should be.
My church doesn't dictate what I can or can't do, however, we are very fortunate to have a church set up as the primitive church, when Christ was on the Earth. We have a prophet living today that provides us with counsel and revelations from our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I know he is a man of God. He is 97 years old, and continues to bear his testimony of the Saviour and His Father. We also have 12 apostles, as in Jesus' time. They also are men of God, who share his counsel with us. These are as the scriptures that most Christian people have today. No one questions Paul, Timothy, Matthew, Luke, or Abraham's counsel, because they are dead and buried, or that is what they were taught as children. However, many people are "afraid" of Mormons and their "new" religion with apostles and prophets, because these men are actually alive and speaking to us today. Why would a kind and loving God take prophets away from the world in these latter days? Why would he want us floundering around and trying to apply words from thousands of years ago to today? Why would he not have "new" counsel for us when we live in such a wicked world? I am thankful for these great men. I know that my Father in Heaven loves me, and wants me to be happy and receive blessings by living a Christ-like life. I feel blessed to have that in my life, as well as my family's lives. We are truly blessed.
Now, what does this have to do with politics? Well, I read another article today about Mitt Romney running for President, and how other religions were fearful of him, because of the "cult" that he belonged to. (He is a member of our church.) They were afraid that our church leaders would influence him if he were elected to this office. As if that is a BAD thing! (OOOHH, those Mormons are going to brainwash the world and take over! Moooo, hhaaaa hahhaaa!! ) He assured them that they would not be influencing his politics, if that is of concern. However, please know, that as far as anyone would be concerned, it wouldn't be BAD! Let me tell you about the "politics" of our church.
The clergy of our church, as well as local leaders (Bishops), teachers, etc. are VOLUNTEERS. They are not paid for serving the Lord. Serving the Lord is a blessing not only to those who serve, but to those who are being served. We do not pay our Bishopric, they take time out of the their busy work, family, social lives to serve the Lord. We do not even pay those that clean our churches weekly. WE do it! We volunteer our time to make sure that the Lord's house is clean and ready for the Sabbath.
Next, we have a church welfare program. If someone within our church is in need of assistance, there are Bishop's Storehouses in every state in the U.S. and around the world, to assist those who need groceries, money for bills, etc. Even though this is FREE, it is EXPECTED that you help out by working in the storehouse to help others in need, or you donate to the Fast Offering/Tithing when you are "back on your feet." (Wouldn't our country be better off if things weren't just HANDED to you, but you were expected to serve others as well.) You are also expected to continue attending church, serving others, and paying your tithes of 10% to the Lord.
Our buildings/temples are completely PAID for, BEFORE ground is broken. Since we are a world-wide church. My tithes can go to help someone in Africa, as well as right here in Plano. Where there is a need for a church building, the funds will be sent there. We don't put our members in debt to build a huge, fancy building to worship in, just for that status symbol of saying, "Look at how big my church building is?" The church buildings in Sweden, Norway, Africa and China look just like my building here in Plano, TX. They are used by more than one ward, as well. We have three different congregations that meet in our building each week. There is a Chinese speaking ward that meets from 8:00-11:00, then my ward meets from 11:00-2:00, and another one meets from 1:00-4:00. With the staggering of times, many more people can worship without having to build another building somewhere. This saves much money. No waste!
So, when people ask will Mitt Romney be "influenced" by his church. My answer is "I hope so!" We need to watch our spending, take care of our own, and serve one another." If our government would look more at his churches examples, they would definitely not be so wasteful with taxpayer's money- MY money!
I will get off of my soapbox, for now. I am not usually so OPEN about these two topics, but after reading and rereading such negative comments, I would exhort you to go to the source. ASK a Mormon, not someone who claims to know their beliefs. I would be more than happy to share my beliefs with you. Those that know me, know that I could never be a part of a "cult." I love my Father in Heaven and Jesus too much to NOT give the glory to them. It is my hope and prayer to just be a "tenth" of what my Savior is to me. I can't wait for the day that he will return to earth again. I am not fearful, because it has been said that we will live in peace and love- no wars, contention, anger. I hope and pray that I will be alive to witness his glory on this earth. May God Bless you, as you find the answers to your prayers.