Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Friday, December 23, 2005

"Happier Than I've Ever Been": A Result of Doctrine or Social Programs?

Recently I met with a spunky and intelligent elderly woman who joined the Church a few years ago. When I asked how she was doing, she said, "I'm happier than I've ever been since joining the Church." I asked her what it was about the Church and the Gospel that would make her say that. She said that it was the "sense of completeness" that the Gospel brings, the knowledge of who she was and Who God is, and her purpose in life. When I asked if the happiness might be due to "our great social programs," she laughed and spoke more about the impact of LDS doctrine on her life and how the teachings of the Church have helped bring her closer to God and find profound meaning.

She was expressing the very things that I feel. It is the doctrine and teachings of the Church that bring me this "sense of completeness" and understanding of the God's eternal plan and His dealings with man. It is the spiritual power of the Church, the experience of prayer, the reality of the Priesthood, the marvel of the scriptures, the joy of Temple service, the light of revelation and the manifestations of the gift of the Holy Ghost, that glue me to the Gospel - all of which are experienced at a personal and private level, not through attending social events or having people leave a surprise plate of cookies at the door (though treats are always welcome over here!).

Having heard so many critics charge that conversion to the Church is just due to our social programs and LDS fellowshipping, I asked this sweet widow if our great social programs might be the reason for her happiness in the Church. She chuckled at the thought, and reiterated the significance of the teachings of the Church.

Our needs may differ widely. We all need friends in the Gospel and we all need to feel loved and accepted, and LDS people often do a good job in reaching out and helping newcomers feel accepted. But that alone does not bring the sense of joy that some of us experience in the Gospel. Ultimately, it is matters of doctrine, including the Priesthood, the Temple, and the scriptures, for example, that help us develop our private relationship with the Lord and find the peace and joy that only Christ can bring.

He is real, His Gospel is real, and the joy that He offers us is real.

2 comments:

Eric Nielson said...

Brovo Jeff, excellent Post. I have felt this way for a long time.

In a way I sometimes feel this contradicts President Hinkley famous statement that for retention a person needs a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing by the good word of God. I suppose this may fit the nurturing aspect. Everytime I hear the above statement of GBH I say to myself 'that is not all they need'.

I suppose the what GBH said was directed mostly to us, and what we can do to help new converts stay. I think he might say something much like your post if it were directed to converts.

Again, excellent post.

Anonymous said...

"Nurturing by the good word of God", IS a requirement to teach them the doctrine. I don't think it is contradictory at all. The fact is, many people come into the Church because of the way they "feel" about it - which they frequently intrepret as being also related to how they "feel" socially.

If they don't feel welcome socially, they will never get a chance to let the doctrines distill upon their souls. By nurturing converts with the good word of God, we are able to teach them the doctrines of redemption and exaltation that result in the feelings the woman in Jeff's post expressed.