Friday, March 6, 2009

Things everybody should do at least once in their life

  • Read the entire Bible
  • Read the entire Book of Mormon
  • Find some missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and listen to what they have to say.
  • Go to a church service of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to see what it is like. (This is easier if you go with a friend who is also a member.)
  • Take a guided tour of Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Keep this in mind for when you happen to be in the area.)
Why do I say that everybody should do these things at least once in their lives? To build awareness and for the positive effect they have.

I think everyone should read the Bible at least once so to have an idea of the foundations of Christianity. The four gospels are particularly sublime. If reading takes too much time, you can download MP3s from here and listen during free moments. You can listen in your car, and use commuting time. Did you know that by listening for 30 minutes a day you can get through the New Testament in 40 days?

The other things I have listed are things that I feel are helpful to understand the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also commonly called Mormons).

Why read the Book of Mormon? We Latter-day Saints testify that this book is a second witness of Jesus Christ. It was translated from ancient writings on gold plates unearthed from a hill in upstate New York back in the 1800s. Just from an archeological standpoint, this is absolutely breathtaking. Everyone should read the Book of Mormon at least once to see what the big deal is. Reading it will also give some profound insights as to how Latter-day Saints view the world, since we read it as much and quote it as much as we do the Bible. (You can request a free copy here; just scroll to the bottom of the webpage. You can choose to have it sent by post or brought to you personally by missionaries.)

Why would it be helpful to listen to the LDS missionaries if you believe in Christ? The missionaries work with people to prepare them for baptism into the church by teaching them principles of the gospel. There are many people who don’t even know that they belong in our church until they hear those teachings, and then they realize it is what they were always searching for deep down inside. How do you know that you don’t belong in it too unless you find out more about it? It may be what you’ve always wanted.

Another reason for talking to the missionaries is that at some point you will probably run into them anyway and they will want to talk to you. I suspect that many people are caught off guard by these sudden encounters, and so they don’t know what to say, or they don’t want to talk about religion, and this makes them very uncomfortable. You can minimize your discomfort by having a few questions prepared in advance for them about something you have always wondered about concerning religion.

Why should you go to at least one LDS church service? To see what it is like. LDS church services are very similar in format across the entire church. This site can help you find the closest church building to where you live and the time of meeting, and this site can let you know what to expect when you attend. One thing you may find helpful to know ahead of time is that when they pass the sacrament, they offer it to everybody, and they will offer it to you too. They are not doing this to make you feel uncomfortable, they just don’t know that you don’t belong to the church. (There are sometimes new members that have moved in or members that are visiting in a different congregation than the one they usually go to.) It’s okay to refuse; it won’t cause offense.

Why should everyone take a guided tour of Temple Square in Salt Lake City? Why Temple Square? Because it is so central to the church. Church headquarters is there, and there are so many LDS-church-associated sites within a two block radius of Temple Square that any one can gain an incredibly wide view of the church and what it does. This map shows what sites are in the area.

If you can work it in, I can also recommend the Beehive House, the Museum of Church History and Art, a tour of Welfare Square, and a performance of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Don’t worry, admission to all of these is free.

So why have I pointed these things out as important for everyone? Because they form the basis of a well-rounded exposure to a religion—sacred texts, doctrines, teachers, worship meetings, general organization, and important places. All of these experiences add perspective and understanding in a way that nothing else can.

But more than the exposure and the awareness that these things can give, the most important thing that I hope for is that these things can have an effect upon you, that they will influence you for good. And they will, if you let it happen.

I have noticed that there are a lot of people who are afraid of being influenced by anything or anyone. Perhaps it is all the advertising, and we don’t want to give anyone the satisfaction of knowing that they affected us.

What do we fear? It must be that we fear that an entity that can influence us will have power over us and force us to do things we don’t want to do or hurt us somehow. But does a good influence force? Does a good influence hurt? Maybe it stretches a little and asks for more good than you are used to. Maybe you become aware that you have some room to improve and that makes the ego shrink a bit, but it only hurts inside when you’re unwilling to follow.

Life is full of influences and we can’t distance ourselves from all of them. If we were to become uninfluence-able we become incapable of receiving guidance from anyone, whether good or evil, which is a thing impossible. If good influences can’t reach someone, then evil has the ascendency in them, and if bad influences can’t get to them, then good has the upper hand in them. It must be one or the other. The best thing we can do for ourselves is put ourselves under as many positive influences as we can and crowd out the bad.

The things I have listed are good influences. I share my ideas here because I also want to be a good influence and point people towards what will bring happiness and joy.