When people talk to me about the LDS Church, they almost immediately want to talk about the supposed “crazy” stuff about Mormons. How many wives do you have? Do you wear magic underwear? Do you think you are getting your own planet? (For the record: I only have one wife, but if May from “Agents of Shield” knocks on my door, we might be able to work something out; my underwear are sacred . . . it’s my socks that are magic; and I can barely cover my mortgage, so I don’t see myself upgrading to “planet” any time soon).
What really makes Mormonism stand out from other Christian faiths is some of our core doctrines, not the stuff that critics of the Church like to spend a lot of time on. So, what kind of crazy things do we really believe?
1. We Believe That What You Believe Matters
Doctrine is not doing well these days. The nature of God, our purpose in life, and what happens after we die have gotten so murky within much of Christianity that it makes the Nicene Creed look like an exemplar of clear writing. “Spirituality” is good, while “religion” is bad. You believe what you believe, and if a church happens to dovetail with those notions, even better.
Mormons really do believe that belief matters. We think that God has a plan and purpose for us and a desire that we understand it and be able to follow it. It is fairly clear from the Bible that our Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ cared about what we believe and wanted to help us come to know Them. Mormons believe that truth—things as they really are—can be found and followed. We insist, along with Agent Mulder, that “the Truth is out There.”
2. Mormons Also Believe That What You Do Matters
Those nutty Mormons. When Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” they went and took Him seriously. We believe that God gives us the freedom to make choices, along with directions about how that freedom should be used. Moses came down from the mountain with commandments, not a suggestion box. We believe that if you follow the commandments of God, your life here on earth will be happier, and your condition following this life will be better. Mormons believe that you don’t get to do whatever you want and expect God to give it a seal of approval. We believe in Christ’s grace, but we don’t believe that it is an excuse to let all of the monkeys out of the cages. There are limitations and bounds that God has set for us to ensure our happiness and enrich our lives, and He kind of expects us to pay attention.
3. Speaking of God, Mormons Believe That He Is a Personal, Attentive Father in Heaven
I don’t mean to denigrate anyone’s faith. It is probably because I wasn’t raised an environment that observed the traditional creedal notions of the Trinity that they sound to me kind of like a description of the Force. The description is kind of fuzzy to me. Shiny fuzzy, but still fuzzy. For Mormons, Joseph Smith put a face back onto God. The same face that Moses spoke to, as a friend. The face that Stephen saw beside Christ. The face of a loving Father in Heaven, who is not just a physical personage, but a personal God. He is invested in us as His children. Although the glory of God is incomprehensible to us, His nature as a holy personage at least makes Him approachable. Having a relationship with a perfect Father is, to me, infinitely more attractive than a relationship with an impersonal universe that embraces some vague notion of goodness. The universe is really big. A Father can take my hand.
4. We Also Believe That God Loves Us Enough to Be Involved in Our Lives
Mormons face constant criticism for supposedly not taking the Bible seriously. But when it comes to our relationship with God, Mormons are crazy literal about the Bible. In the Bible, God was actively involved in the lives of His children. He always had an appointed leader who spoke on His behalf on issues of immediate importance to the people. In the Old Testament, those were prophets. In the New Testament, they were apostles. But throughout the Bible, God had stuff to say, and an established way of saying it.
Then the apostles were killed off, a back cover was put on the Bible, and God moved to a condo in Tampa, where He keeps to Himself, never calling, never writing. At least, that’s what part of modern Christianity more or less suggests. The ideas of God answering prayers directly and personally, of having an appointed spokesperson on Earth, of Him caring enough about His children to guide them through a very confusing world? That’s nuts. If you talk to God, people will put you on a pedestal. If He talks back to you, they’ll put you in a rubber room.
Mormons are crazy enough to believe that God hasn’t changed up His method of operation now that His children have flying machines and deodorant. Amos tells us that God will do “nothing” unless He reveals his secrets to “His servants, the prophets.” Since prophets cannot be found anymore, one must assume that God is doing nothing, which just doesn’t fit well with what we learn of Him in the Bible. Mormons don’t accept that. We believe in revelation, in modern prophets, in a church led by God not in the sense of pledging allegiance to Him, but in the sense of hearing and following His voice.
Sure, we Mormons have our quirks. Our music is kind of plodding. Our wedding receptions are short, dull, and way too heavy on red punch. We celebrate Pioneer Day and we struggle to find anything that we can buy at Starbucks. But our core wackiness is found in our beliefs in a personal, loving God, in a faith that matters, and in a discipleship that demands purposeful living.
It’s the lunacy of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Of Isaiah and Jeremiah. Of Jesus, Peter and Paul. If we are crazy, we at least hope we are keeping good company.