Does it Work?

Mormonism has been a central influence in my life. My Mormon heritage goes way back almost to the church’s beginning on both sides of my genealogical line. On my father’s side, Turley’s settled Arizona as the Mormon church headed south from Utah. On my mom’s side, they were the earliest Mormon immigrants from Sweden.

But more importantly to me, Mormonism meant everything to my parents. Their whole world was wrapped up in it and as such their worldview became mine.

So, as I was forced to make my way in the world trying to reach my own personal goals while overcoming my own inhibitions and weaknesses, I’ve leaned on my faith and my faith community to provide the necessary guidance and support. This came at an early age and here there were plenty of influential people – youth advisors, seminary teachers. None of them were necessarily skilled in human development or psychology, but they cared, deeply and I felt their concern and that was significant for me.

Serving a two year mission was also transformative. It was structured and focused and allowed me to pour myself into a church and faith centered two year ministry. I learned how to not be afraid to talk to strangers on the street. I gained confidence there.

As I’ve aged, I’ve also taken on more complexity and greater responsibility, in my career and in my family. I found someone who said yes to my marriage proposal, we have four kids with their own individual needs. The challenging have gotten bigger. In my interactions with my kids, colleagues, work and other settings, I’ve felt the pain as my limitations have kept me from achieving and experiencing greater peace.

But looking back I would say Mormonism has largely worked for me. It has not been perfect. Most significantly, I’ve felt too much inappropriate shame within a religious setting. Admittedly, much of this was self-applied but at times it came from the gospel inartfuly rendered by unskilled and untrained religious leaders. We have a lay leadership and at times this can be a flaw every much as it has been a feature.

As a result and gratefully, my horizons have expanded. I’ve read other books, I’ve had other mentors. I’ve leaned on friends and resources outside of the church in various and important ways that have provided balance, allowing me to fill the gaps. With more maturity I’ve been able to absorb Mormonism with more gracefulness and compassion.

In Galatians 5:22, it says:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

This scripture is often quoted within Mormonism. We lean on this concept heavily. This is our pursuit as we seek for goodness, kindness and good works. I have felt powerful feelings of peace as I’ve read the Book of Mormon and as I’ve attended church. The Spirit of love is there nearly every week, especially as I’ve been open to it.

But I think at times Mormonism can lean too heavily on empirical evidence. We want to prove our historical truth claims and have probably spent too much of our time and resources trying to do so. But for me, the more important question, the essential question actually is, does it work? Does it make my life better? Can I achieve my goals in the world with the help and support of my religion? Am I able to find transcendence and peace with and through my religion.

These questions are not straight forward and much of this requires my own effort. I need to spend more time in meditation and prayer. I need to seek for better balance. I love this essay.

Sometimes I meet Mormons who believe that a quality life is defined exclusively by Mormon milestones. “My kids all went on missions, married in the temple, and produced lots of grandchildren,” they might say. But those characteristics don’t necessarily indicate a quality life. Going on a mission, marrying in the temple, and having kids—all these milestones have the veneer of success but not necessarily the substance.

A better measure of a quality life is whether we’re pursuing a balanced approach to truth, beauty, and goodness. That measure works inside or outside of any belief system.

I agree with this. For me, the measure of whether something is good is whether it works and whether I can make it work. Is it making my life better, my relationships richer, my life more balanced. Let me fix that, nothing can really do that for me. But within the framework of Mormonism, am I able to do that for myself? If not, then it’s a sign, perhaps that something needs to change, adjustments need to be made. If so, I’m on a good path.

And for me in my life, Mormonism has been good and in that sense true. But my life is not yet over. I want to keep digging, keep reading. I want to deepen my faith, I want to live my life with more peace, more balance. And my challenges are going to change. I’m going to keep getting older and as I age, more of my life is going to get taken away from me. Can I accept this with grace and gratitude? Life is going to get excruciating at times. Challenges are still ahead of me. I hope I’m up for it.  I hope my faith is too.

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