5 Things Even Some Mormons Don’t Understand About Mormonism

Article title image featuring a golden temple graphic.

I love Mormons. I’ve had the privilege of working with them around the world, and as a whole I believe we are a truly amazing people. At the same time, one of the wonderful (though sometimes intimidating) implications of the gospel is the opportunity to always be progressing. Here are five areas in which I hope we can improve.

DISCLAIMER: My intention is not to arrogantly criticize the saints. If you feel some of these things don’t apply to you, that’s awesome. Writing these down helps me to personally improve. I hope others find it useful as well.

1. Mormonism is not meant to be a side-thought

If The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is just “that church we go to every once in a while,” we do not understand what Mormonism is.

It is not meant to be a transient pastime in our lives. It is not meant to be something we might participate in every once in a while if we have the time. It is not meant to be a Christmas and Easter religion (nor is any religion).

Mormonism claims to be the restored church of Jesus Christ Himself. If that’s true, it should never be on the back-burner of our minds. It takes work, but we need to make the gospel such an inseparable part of us that it distills “upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.”

2. Mormonism is not about creating a relationship with the person in the pew behind you

When we start to care about what others think of us more than what God thinks of us, we’re missing the point of Mormonism. Building friendships with ward members is awesome, and it is totally encouraged, but it’s a perk.

Mormonism is about building your relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. It’s about learning and living His gospel. That’s why we go to church. That’s why we do home/visiting teaching. That’s what it’s all about.

Just like in any church, some Mormons can be rude, irritating or offensive. But if strained relationships with other members are what pushes us into inactivity, we don’t understand our religion.

3. Mormonism does not have all the answers

Mormonism has all the answers that matter. We know where we come from, we know our purpose in this life and we know how to return to live with our Heavenly Father. That’s what matters.

Too many of us want Mormonism to answer every question that happens to cross our mind. The fact is that while Mormonism answers a lot, there’s still a ton we just don’t know. We’ve got to get used to that.

We don’t know where Zarahemla was, or why coffee is included in the Word of Wisdom or what the heck a curelom is. And that’s totally fine.

Mormonism provides the answers that matter. Let’s learn to be satisfied with that. As Elder Neal L. Anderson said,

“You don’t know everything, but you know enough.”

4. Prophets both ancient and modern are not superheroes

Painting by Arnold Friberg

The scriptures give us incredible stories of powerful (and even supernatural) events. Ammon cutting everybody’s arms off. Daniel and the lion’s den. Nephi building a boat from scratch. They’re great stories, and true, but those of us who have grown up in the church have learned to hold some prophets in such high esteem that they have begun to bear more of a resemblance to Marvel superheroes than prophets of God.

Growing up around paintings like the one featured above (while a truly impactful representation) only feeds the false-paradigm fire.

I’m not trying to downplay the prophets. They are truly incredible people, but they are still human, mortal people. They weren’t perfect.

I’m convinced that if we had as much historical detail about ancient prophets (both from the Bible and The Book of Mormon) as we do about modern prophets like Joseph Smith, our perceptions of them would be very different. It would not alter their prophetic calling one bit, but it would give us a more realistic understanding of them.

5. The Atonement is for ME

Many of us understand that the Atonement is available for everyone, but why is it so hard to apply it to ourselves?

We can be so quick to extend forgiveness to others (which is great), but at the same time we continuously beat ourselves up relentlessly for past mistakes.

You and I would do well to remember that an essential part of repentance is forgiving ourselves and moving on. Luckily, the Atonement isn’t a coupon. It doesn’t expire, it isn’t invalid after three uses and it won’t get lost in your purse.

We can use the Atonement over and over and over again. We can use it continuously. That’s what it’s designed for. Repeating the same mistakes can be painful, but I’d be shocked to find one person on this planet that doesn’t struggle with that.

You are not ineligible for peace. You are not an island outside Christ’s sacrificial coverage zone. There is no coverage zone. Christ’s atonement is a gift, and He wants you to use it. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said,

Remember, heaven is filled with those who have this in common: They are forgiven. And they forgive. Lay your burden at the Savior’s feet. . . . Allow Christ’s Atonement to change and heal your heart.

David Snell is a proud member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He's the Founder of The Sunday Pews, and has experience writing for Mormon Newsroom Pacific, KBYU11, Classical 89 Radio, FamilyShare.com and plenty more. He tries not to take himself too seriously and just wants to brighten your day a bit.