1) My dad’s story – A young Presbyterian minister, James Arthur Glass, was married and had five children. One of which is my dad, James Aaron Glass. Later in my life my dad told me of his fond memories traveling with his father to visit congregations. My dad, and his brothers, grew up in a Presbyterian household but in were never active in the religion as adults. The reason for this has been explained not as animosity or childish rebellion (although both would have been likely candidates) but rather a healthy skepticism for the teachings of religion as contrasted to modern science and philosophy. Man is enlightened and the logical mind does not need to rely on the erroneous stories of old to dictate a moral life.
2) Raising the kids in religion – My parents did not push any religion on my sister or myself. They were not active in any of the world religion themselves nor did they seem to place any particular need in them. I say “push” because I know my parents were very aware and concerned about allowing us to make our own decisions. What my parents did was live moral lives, being honest, hardworking and unselfish, the examples of which would be able to fill endless volumes of books. So if a dogmatic religion is not necessary to continue meaningful coexistence with each other then what value does it have anyways?
3) One religion is as good as another – What my parents did teach me about the major world religions is that one is about as good as the other. There is no need to put down another’s strongly held belief just because it defied logic and science and if the belief in something that is not harmful makes a person happy then there is no reason to smash their hopes. In fact demeaning another’s religion would be contrary to living a moral life. So let’s take a moment and separate the concept of God from Religion. So what is God? Anyone but the atheists believes that God is whatever means or force that has created and driven the universe to become what it is. With this broad definition I think most all can agree that we all want to understand who or what God is.
4) Life? – Why do we exist? If there is no purpose then the discussion is over. If we live or die it doesn’t matter and whoever does care will die soon enough too. Perhaps it could be stated that purpose can be found in gaining fame that will last through the ages such as did Caesar, Bach or Jesus Christ. Or perhaps purpose is found in continuing the human race, in “leaving the world a better place than you found it”. So either we just die… or there really is a purpose.
5) Religion and death – This for me is where religion fails. Most world religions state that if you’re not part of our club then existence is futile. You’re going to burn in hell or be thrown away and your life is without value, unless you join the club. If the purpose of life is so that only certain people get to live on while others suffer then I’m not going to be a part of it. I’d rather burn then live in an unjust system. The human “family” doesn’t simply exist for the few “chosen ones”. A “why” for existence needs to include all of us. Otherwise it doesn’t matter anyways. This is what my parents unknowingly taught me, justice, fairness, kindness and caring. They also taught me that they are not hypocrites since they did not practice a religion that they do not believe in.
6) Back to God – So with the insistence that there must be a purpose and it must be fair, there must be some kind of power to make the purpose and to make it fair. Even if the title God is attributed to an omnipresent entity that bends reality to its whim, a governing body of scientist or a giant salamander floating in space, there must be some kind of God.
7) The history of western religion – In my years growing up in the United States I learned that religion served two main purposes. To control people and to comfort people. In hindsight I find that society had taught me this because it was absolutely true. People do use religion to gain control and justify their actions. Others also use religion to comfort themselves when they are sad, lonely or grieving the loss of another. I came to the conclusion that there must be some kind of God but God is not found in the churches or synagogues of the world. Fact of the matter is that so many people I have met in my life have brought themselves to this exact same logical conclusion.
8) Enter the Mormons – As a 19 year old I started dating a Mormon whose religion played no role either way in my interest to date her. She invited me to go to church with her family in which I agreed since I had no ill feelings towards any organized religion and felt it was appropriate to experience the wondrous variety found in the human experience. After all, my parents had taught me to appreciate different cultures and the beauty and value found in each of them. I went to church with an open heart and was touched with the sincerity of the congregation. I was also happy to find that the Mormon family I was spending some time with actually cared about their religion and sustained such a lifestyle concurrent with their religious teachings even when inconvenient. In fact, this was a trait that I witnessed in most of the active congregation (although I freely admit such traits can be found in many religious families in a variety of religious settings).
9) Mormon doctrine – I learned the bulk of Mormon Doctrine through my repeated attendance to the weekly three hour church meetings. Funny thing, it turns out the Mormon’s believe that there is a purpose to life and it is fair. Case in point:
Logically all of Christianity must believe in an unfair religion run by an unfair God. They either teach that all must be baptized to avoid being cast into hell or they teach that baptism is unnecessary. The earlier of the two is unfair to the billions who have lived on the earth who never even heard of Christianity and the latter is logically contradictory because it says the scriptures that profess the religion are false themselves. Mormonism is the only religion of significant relevance that teaches about proxy baptism which logically answers the baptism question, which is also present in the New Testament.
This is one of many examples. The contradictions that were easily visible in the religions of the world were completely addressed by Mormonism, while still matching the teachings of the bible.
10) Could this actually be true? – I found myself learning about a religion that actually solved the logical religious contradictions of the past, whose core teachings were about a life purpose that logically followed from the experience I was having on this earth and proved to be a fair outcome to everyone involved, if… if it all happened to be true. As always with God and science it’s a lot more difficult to prove something to be true than to disprove it so I took to literature, scriptures, volumes of doctrine and made heavy use of the internet, learning anything and everything I could about Mormonism. I was baptized with the thought that in the very least my experience with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints showed that they were an exemplary group of people to be associated with. I even took to examining a significant amount of “anti-Mormon doctrine” that I could find on the internet and in all cases I found logical explanations for all of the issues raised. I filled binders with research for a variety of sources. All this work convinced me further and further that the church was actually true, or in the very least, a well-organized sham.
11) Logical extension – I was a Christian, of which I never thought I would become. In my mind, with all of the important parts covered such as avoiding logical fallacy and being part of an organization that strongly encourages good works, I took the upmost effort in what I considered the less important parts of the religion which included prayer, church service, becoming an ordained priest and eventually temple attendance. Funny thing though, all along the church members would talk about “praying to know that Joseph Smith was a Prophet” and “praying to know that the church is true” which all seemed unnecessary to me because I already figured out that it was true, it already made sense. But the scriptures do teach that God gives knowledge to those who pray about it so if I was going forward with the premise that the church is true then I should act on this point of doctrine as well. It was at this point in my life that I really learned that going through the whole process of convincing myself of a religion could really have some merit was somewhat unnecessary, because anyone who really wants to know can study, ponder and pray about it with sincere intentions and God will give them that information, such as stated in the Bible.
12) So what is the Value of Organized Religion? – If organized religion is not necessary for salvation then what’s the point of going to church every Sunday and giving up weeknights for church service and give 10% of your income to sustain the infrastructure of the church and to visit other church members in the homes and all the other crazy time Mormons put into their day? Well this all comes back to actually having a purpose of life. The purpose of life is to become the best individual each of us can. To learn that really happiness comes in making the lives of others better and collectively working together to help one another. I know as parents you and mom know the joy that comes from seeing your children succeed, and think of all the effort you have put into us. I believe that through this effort in our lives we prove that we are willing and capable to work hard and love one another. This is exactly what God is doing, working to see us succeed so that we can in turn do the same. When a person believes in God then it is not a stretch of the imagination for one to believe that God wants us to have what he has, joy and eternal prosperity.
13) Cemented – It has been 12 years of my life now and I have given the upmost vigor to my faith. I have spent 2 years as a missionary, I got married to my wife in an LDS Temple, we both fill church leadership rolls without pay, we pay tithing, we pray daily, we teach our children about Christ and I still continue a consistent study of the LDS scriptures which includes the Bible and the Book of Mormon. I know who I am, why I exist and where I’m going. Most importantly, I now understand the role Jesus Christ plays in my life.
So my dad asks on Facebook, “might things be different had I chosen to raise my kids differently?” and my answer is “probably!” because today I am everything he taught me to be, logical, fair, hardworking and happy. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I hope this invokes discussion because I can’t possibly cover all the sidetracks that my mind goes through while composing this document such as the roll of science with religion, the Old Testament, sin & the atonement and a myriad of other possible topics.