I think it would be a shame if I let this season of gratitude pass without taking at least one opportunity to highlight my faith. I think I could make a good argument that it’s the major defining characteristic of my life. It’s kind of fun to realize that I may be equally logical and fanatical!
Seriously, though, I am the kind of person that would have walked away from religion if I hadn’t found something that I could trust completely. The trust and faith didn’t always come easily.
So, why am I grateful to be a Latter-day Saint?
- I have answers to my deepest questions. I have always been more interested in pondering ideas than I have been in talking about people. (I do talk about people now, but it’s usually because I’m checking up on them to see how things are going for them, and to check if there are needs I can help meet or at least pray for.) I used to be told that I have an “old soul.” I always wanted to know what happened before Earth, and wanted better answers than the ones I had about what happens when we leave. What was the point? Why did someone as awesome as God was supposed to be allow people to suffer and struggle? Why did I see good people get raw deals? Wasn’t it really arrogant of a loving God to create people with the purpose of having them do nothing but bow down to worship Him for eternity? Did He need Earth to accomplish that? I have the answers to these questions — and a lot more.
- I have a perspective that supersedes mortality. With the restoration of the fullness of the gospel came the knowledge that choices in mortality affect eternity far more than just a thumbs up/down or heaven/hell destiny. I’ve learned that the “brotherhood of man” is much more than a nice phrase. I’m beginning to truly understand the benefit of having to work my way through tough times. Earth is just a tiny part of my existence.
- I am better now than at any other time in my life. I know I would have grown and matured simply by aging, but I also recognize that who I am because of my faith far exceeds what I would have become if left to my own devices. I have been given personality traits that make me a better person. I wasn’t born with them — I’ve developed them as I’ve interacted with the Holy Spirit.
- I am stronger than I ever could have been on my own. This sounds a lot like #3, but it is a little different. I don’t think I’ve ever sat down to tell the whole story of my life to anyone, and I doubt I will ever write it. The ability to almost completely forget is an amazing gift. I can take the lessons forward and leave the pain behind. Even so, I’ve had experiences that I shouldn’t have survived (at least mentally), but I’m still doing pretty well. To me, it is a miracle that I can honor all of the parts of my past as learning experiences and the things that have shaped me into who I am today. Without the knowledge that comes from the restored gospel, I don’t think I would have possessed the strength to walk away from the anger and the bitterness.
- I know that I can continue to grow. The teachings I enjoy most in the scriptures and at church are the ones that promise that I can still become more than I am now. I can keep learning, I can keep using what I learn to help others and to enrich my character. I can become someone that the Savior can call upon and count on. That’s way cool.
- I have reached a point where I know that God is real. I think I saved the best for last. I totally understand the mass delusional theory of religion, but I don’t buy it. I may not be able to scientifically prove that I have been touched and inspired by the Holy Spirit or explain how I receive knowledge through divine channels, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real — any more than being unable to explain the taste of salt to someone who has never had any or convincing someone who has lived in a rain forest for their entire life of the reality of snow changes the fact that they are real. I may not have words to describe the experience and the knowledge, but I do know, and that changes everything. If He loves me enough to personally make sure I know Him, then I can trust that everything He does will work for my eternal good.