In the southern part of the United States known as The Bible Belt, people are more open about their religious beliefs. It is not uncommon to meet a new friend or neighbor and be asked, “where do you go to church?” right off the bat. This question is not asked for any reason other than to send an invite to their church. It has been my observation over the years, that such invites are a way to introduce newcomers to others in the area, a way to make new friends, as well as to get one saved.
I sometimes get asked this question myself, as well as this variation, “do you go to church anywhere?” Sometimes people ask questions directly related to things they have heard, or curiosity questions. That is fine. I do not mind answering questions, to the best of my knowledge. If I don’t know, I refer either to a church publication, refer them to the church’s official websites, or ask them if they’d like a visit from our missionaries.
I get asked a LOT, “WHY did you choose THAT church?” I am never offended at this question, although I don’t find myself asking others why they became Catholics, Episcopalians, or Pagans. I figure they were either born into it, or converted due to a personal preferences just like all the Mormons I know. I am a convert, meaning I joined the church through investigating, then deciding to become Baptized into it in my adult life but it started much earlier than that.
I went to school with a few LDS kids and they were always nice. They were always pretty good friends to me too. In fact, I was bullied a lot in school and it was the LDS kids who never did. (I had a Jehovah’s Witness friend also, and she was also always nice to me.)
When I was a sophomore in high school, I had an assignment in my honors English class to not only write a detailed story about my family, but I also had to make a family tree. I had some of it already written down to a point, but the further back we could trace, the better the grade and extra credit would be. I went to the local genealogical society, which at the time was at the library and all of the information and meetings were done by the local LDS branch.
I called the church’s number after I found it in the phone book and left a message on the answering machine. I stated that I would like to talk to someone about genealogy. The missionaries (then sister missionaries) came through the apartment complex and I invited them in. They helped me get the information I needed, and I made an A on the paper too. In addition to that, I was invited to go to church. I was not sure how my mom would react to this, she was a believer in God, but rarely ever went to church. She had recently joined The First Christian Church in Grove and was fond of the minister there. I liked him too, he was a very generous and pleasant man.
I knew my dad would never approve. He believed in God, and was raised Methodist, but he had been severely shell shocked by the horrors he experienced during World War 2. The man survived the bombing of Pearl Harbor and just felt like loving God would lead to a big letdown. So he didn’t want me or anyone else around him getting involved in religion. He was divorced from my mom though not too long before this and I had never really had much experience with religion. After my parents divorced I did try a few churches but never felt like I fit in even though I liked them.
When I investigated the LDS church, I liked it more than any of the others so far. I was not sure I wanted to be baptized though and decided to stop going because I just did not feel like my family would want much to do with me if I continued. While there though I participated in numerous stake dances for the youth, helped to tie quilts, and enjoyed fifth Sunday potluck dinners, and an awesome Halloween party where I won third place for my costume.
I moved and didn’t know any other members in my town and investigated other churches in the meantime. My mom and I almost became Jehovah’s Witnesses but for some reason, we didn’t, even though we enjoyed the Bible Studies together with the lady who came by. In 2004 my life had hit an all-time low, and had been spiraling down hill for a few years. I ran into the missionaries at the library, and started to talk to them, as well as started taking the investigator’s lessons again. It felt right. It just did. I became a baptized member this time around. I lived with my mom at the time and still did not tell her, but since I was an adult with two children and able to make decisions on my own, she would have only told me to do what made me happy. She never rejected the missionaries or opportunities to study with them, and I think she knew I was baptized anyway. She never brought it up, nor did she ever ask. I do know that right before she passed away, she took a radiation treatmenet and she told me to have someone give her a blessing! I tried but my aunt would have none of it, and I didn’t push the issue but it was at that time that I started going back after a brief period of inactivity.
So you may still be asking WHY of all the religious choices that are out there, I made the decision to be LDS. . Well these are my own personal reasons and they may or may not be right for someone else.
Reason number one: encouragement of developing talents and personal enrichment. The church is big on “perfection of the saints” and recognizing one’s own talents, and developing new ones helps to achieve this goal. I have always had many hobbies and interests, which ranged from writing, to photography, to knitting and crocheting. Being involved with the church has helped me to turn writing into not only blogs but little tidbits for the sake of family history. On top of that, I have learned to write things for the sake of my own entertainment. I use my photography to enjoy all that Heavenly Father has provided for us, and I often take photos of church events and service projects I attend. I have been asked to teach the young women how to crochet. I crochet and knit items to donate for service.
Reason two: genealogy. There are deep doctrinal reasons for genealogical research. However, on a superficial and secular level it is equally important. Sometimes to appreciate who you are, you have to study the people who contributed to your existence. I have found myself wishing I knew certain ancestors personally, because I know I would have tremendously enjoyed being around them. And then I realize, thanks to the doctrinal reasons for the genealogy, I will one day have a chance to know them. This is a comforting feeling.
Reason three: families are forever. Again there are certain ceremonies that ensure this, and I have always believed that your families are that way regardless of your religious belief system, based on observing the dying, and the patterns of them always seeing ones who have already passed on coming for them. The church believes strongly in the spirit world, one which other churches I have been to shun or feel afraid of. I am comforted to know that my mom, my kids, my grandparents, and other beloved family members are going to be there.
Reason four: service projects. I have always liked helping other people. I would have done this had I not become Mormon, but the church is very organized and financially stable. They have the means and people with the desire to act quickly in times of disaster. The male members came together and helped after both the Joplin and Moore tornadoes. All us ladies got together to make quilts for both Joplin and Moore. Someone who lost everything will at least have something comfort, made with love. Doing loving selfless service tends to be infectious.
Reason five: home economics and food storage. Images of the TV show “Doomsday Preppers” may come to mind, but I personally am not that extreme. Still, I think it’s a great and practical idea. You don’t have to store food and other necessities for an end of the world that may possibly be a long time coming: it can be peace of mind in case of job loss or unexpected financial cuts. I recently researched Wise food storage items and may place an order soon. Upon looking in their catalog, a one year supply of food for two adults and four kids would probably last my son and I three years! I do plan on using whatever I order. My bills and rent cut into my food budget, which is about $300 a month. Having started a food storage many years ago, and rotating stock has ensured that my kids always have something to eat. I have learned numerous recipes, canning techniques, and how to maintain a garden. I did this anyway of course, but I have developed a confidence about it.
Reason six: It has been a boost for my son. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always been a strong supporter of the Boy Scouts program and they have their own troops. My son belongs to troop 57 and he’s always doing a scouting activity, with the same kids he goes to church with. He has always enjoyed camping, fishing and outdoorsy stuff. He’s always had a tender spot for animals too.
His dad is not actively involved in his life, sorry to say, so the men in the church have been positive male role models for him. They take him to get haircuts, and he gets to go on service projects. He is around men who treat their women and children with respect. His peers are not going to be smoking, drinking, or getting into trouble. Many people compliment me on how polite, morally upright and intelligent he is. I think the church has helped with this a lot. It has helped me to be a more relaxed parent, which in turn helps me to raise him better too. Not too long ago, he and the bishop’s son were actively engaged in a chess game. My son is thirteen years old: it is not often you see a thirteen year old who is interested in playing chess. Most boys his age play video games. My son likes those too but he’d rather play chess.
Being a member of the church has also helped him learn when not to do something. He has a local friend that the police tell him to steer clear of, but he’s polite to the kid. Recently this boy asked if it was OK for him to come over. I said yes, on the condition that he come home in time for supper. For some reason my son hesitated and said he’d just go over some other time, he just didn’t want to play. About half an hour later, I heard on my police scanner that some juveniles were picked up vandalizing things around town and I found out that it was this boy! Had my son been with them, he would have been in trouble too. So I thank the church for helping me help him develop a strong moral character.
Reason seven: wholesome, fun activities. My son was disappointed that he did not get to go to Nauvoo, Illinois recently, but he had to be fourteen years old to go. He will have other opportunities to go in a couple years though, and will likely go then. The youth are always having dances, trips, and more to go to. We are always having a BBQ, picnic, party, field trip, service project, or something along those lines to do. Every year at Christmas, we have a nativity play put on by the kids. One year the Relief Society sisters put on a lengthy performance of the Ten Virgins that rivaled something you’d see at a community theater. One other year, all the members had a talent show. We go to a corn maze every year. It is a great chance to do something fun, and have a great time.
Reason eight: we take care of our own. I had some legal problems not too long ago that I know I could not have dealt with on my own. I turned to the bishop who sent my home teacher with me to court. The odds were stacked against me, but it helped me to get through it. Recently we has a few families move away. Everyone showed up to do wonderful going away parties and helped them to pack. If there is a funeral, wedding, etc. there is always someone to help with meals, child care, or other service. I do not think I could have gotten through my mom’s death and funeral and the days without her if not for the church members and their help.
Reason nine: It is very organized. No matter where I am in the world, I can study the Sunday school lesson and be ready for discussion. They all study out of the same text books and study the same lesson each week. In 2009 I was in London and ran into missionaries on the tube. I tried to find the church but was unable to find it until after services were over. I know I would have had the same lesson I would have studied in my home ward.
And reason ten: the people. I look forward to seeing and chatting with some people in my ward that I have grown attached to. There is one elderly gentleman that I just adore. I have to give him a hug each week. He is the sweetest little man. Our Relief Society president’s son helped me to get my teeth fixed. (This is something I never could have afforded on my own.) I always like being with everyone.
Bonus eleventh reason: the history is interesting too. Those pioneers really went through a lot for deciding to join the church. I appreciate them.