Chat With a Mormon Online
I am a convert to the Church, but more, I am a continuous convert. What I mean is that every day, I choose to be Mormon. I choose to follow Jesus Christ, doing my best to live His commandments, with Him holding me up. Every day, I choose to read the scriptures, ancient and modern that testify of Him. I choose to follow the counsel of living prophets and Apostles. I hold very dear political views, all of which I find to be inspired by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe it takes a village to create a great society, but I that it must be done responsibly and concientiously. I am a HIV+, gay man who strives daily to be an example to those I interact with. Some days I succeed better than others, must mainly I fall flat on my face. I come up short of the example set by Jesus Christ. I work the overnight shift at a hotel in a very small town, which leaves my days for sleep. I don't go out much, not like I used to, but I spend my waking moments enjoying the company of my animals and a good book. Sometimes I feel a bit alone, but then Sunday rolls around and then I am immersed in the commaradery and friendship of Church. I teach a Sunday School class for eight and nine year old children; teaching them about the Savior and His Gospel. I lead a simple yet fulfilling life, one far different from my youth. It's a lot quieter than it used to be. It's a lot more sedate, but in it's own way is more engaging.
I first became a Mormon for one very simple reason: I believed Joseph Smith. I don't know why that is. By all rational accounts, Joseph's Smith's claims seem outrageous. To have been visited by God Himself, and His Son, Jesus Christ. To have received by the hands of an angel golden plates, from which the Book of Mormon was translated. It seems like so much to take on faith, but when I first heard Joseph Smith's testimony of these miraculous visions, I didn't just believe them, I knew they were true. So much so, that I agreed to be baptized a member of the Church after my first encounter with the missionaries. Since my baptism, the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith still rings true and is a major factor in my faith. But now, I have a personal testimony of the divine work that is the Book of Mormon. I know that there is a God in heaven who is personally and sincerely interested in me and who loves me dearly. I know that His Son, Jesus Christ, came to the earth and took upon Him all the sins, pains, and infirmities of all creation, so I I wouldn't have to--so that I could one day return to Him and to my Heavenly Father. I know Christ was raised from the dead, and because of that, I too will live. I am convinced to the calling of those we sustain as leaders of the Church, as prophets and Apostles, directed and guided by Christ Himself. Some people may say that my life would be easier outside the "constraints" of the Church, living a life "true" to myself as a gay man. But I am living true to myself--my eternal self--by trusting in Christ as the beginner and finisher of my life and my faith. I trust Him. I know that what he asks of me in being celibate and dedicated to Him is for my eternal glory. Christ has saved my life: saved me from addiction; saved me from the hallucinations and delusions that cloud my mind due to mental illness. Daily, He sustains me. I know that He would never lead me astray. That's why I'm a Mormon.
For me, the most impactful teaching of Christ can be found in John 9:1-7. It is the story of a blind man healed by Jesus. Immediately prior to the healing as Jesus and his disciples are walking by, the disciples ask, " Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" In simple reply, Jesus answers, "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be manifest in him." I'm gay. I also suffer from a mental illness called schizo-affective disorder (a mixture of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder that causes personality shifts and hallucinations). When I read the above scripture, I often substitute the word "blind" for "gay" or "with metal illness". And then, when I read, I hear Christ calling to me, saying unabashedly that maybe some of my trials in this life are there, not because I am a bad person, or innately sinful, but majestically, "that the works of God should be manifest in [me]". What greater blessing from the Savior could I ask for?
I live my faith quietly but diligently. I believe we are stewards of this world, and of each other. My liberal, progressive views on the body politic all come from what I consider to be divine scripture, the Standard Works of the Church. These texts are replete with calls for Social Justice, economic responsibility, and environmental awareness. Being a recovering drug addict, I rely upon the saving grace of Jesus Christ to pull me through. I've been sober for about five years, but still, it is a constant fight with temptation to fall back. So I live my life in prayer, immersed in God's word. I don't have the strength to stay sober on my own, but through the Atonement of Christ, I make it, day by day. Being gay and HIV+ poses other challenges. The Church teaches that like heterosexuals, homosexuals are the children of a loving Divine Father, who wants nothing more than for all His children to return to Him. The Church does not consider the attractions that homosexuals have as sinful, just as something to be mastered, like any desire or temptation, even heterosexual ones. But the Church affirms that sex is reserved exclusively for marriage, defined as between a man and a woman. All single members of the Church are held to high moral standards, and part of that is abstinence. I would be lying if I said that it's not hard to live by this commandment, but it is fulfilling. I define myself solely by my relationship with God, not by my attractions to others. And as He has helped me through many trials, I can only trust that He has the best in store for me. Just as hard for me is the fact that I have a mental illness. I experience moments where what is real and what is delusion is impossible to differentiate. But by the grace of Christ, who took every infirmity upon Himself, I am succored and sustained. He guides me and keeps me grounded; His loving embrace keeps my mind from colliding with the world. So I live, not perfectly, but with Christ's help, better.