Many of my friends know that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (some call us Mormons). I've briefly mentioned a few things about my beliefs, but haven't gone in to great detail with them. Lately I've been thinking about what a big part my religion plays in my life, and that to really know me is to understand what I believe.
It's kind of like looking at the outside of a building and imagining what might be inside, but really having no clue. When I was a teenager I took a trip to Washington DC with a youth group. Surprisingly, the youth leaders cut us loose and let us go wherever we wanted. My friend and I (later to be my sister in law) went together to tour the city. We decided to go to the Smithsonian Institute. We spent all day looking at art work and interesting historical artifacts. At the end of the day we realized we had barely even scratched the surface in seeing what the Smithsonian had to offer. In fact, I think that even if we had spent all week there, we still would have missed much. Sometimes I feel like my religion is like that complex of buildings in Washington DC. People think they have an idea about what I believe, but even if they were to spend a day observing, they would barely scratch the surface.
My beliefs are such an integral part of who I am, that I often half-jokingly tell people that I am "dyed in the wool" Mormon. My belief in God has shaped the way I look at life, the way I look at others, and the way I look at myself. It has affected the way I look at my trials, and the way I look at my blessings.
Some might argue that to teach a child a certain religion is to brain wash them. They might think that it would be better for the child to grow up without any religion, then let them decide as an adult what they believed. What those people don't realize is that even though a child is taught a certain religion, they still have to make the decision as an adult whether they believe or not.
I will be ever grateful to my parents for raising me as a Mormon. As a young child I began to develop a personal relationship with God. I prayed to God, and I felt His hand in my life. That relationship has grown as I have matured. I was taught to know God, I was taught to believe. It was important for me that I learn that faith as a child.
It was as an adult that I really began to understand how God communicates with me. Without going in to specific detail, I will say that I have had miraculous answers to prayers. I could never doubt, nor dare I, that God has communicated with me and given direct answers to specific prayers. We have an interesting belief in our religion that teaches that miracles do not convert people. This is very true. Even if a miracle such as a healing were to take place, people would speculate and say that it was the power of the brain and positive thinking that healed the person. They would always find an alternative reason for the miracle. But the answers that I have received in my life have been very specific, and very personal. I could never doubt that they came from God.
My beliefs are deep and firm. People might criticize, people might doubt, but I know what I have experienced. The person who says that relgion is a crutch, is a person who is standing on the outside of the building. They think they know what is inside, but they have no clue of the wealth of knowledge inside. Until they have experienced it for themselves, they might doubt. But if they were to experience what I have experienced, they would also believe.
I can't even begin to explain in this small post about what I believe. Suffice it to say that I know there is a God. He cares about us each individually. How blessed I am to have that knowledge.