I thought I would write a little religion post today, realizing that I hadn’t posted on a religious topic since Christmas, so I’m past due.
In October of 1999, I had an incredible experience singing in my church’s semi-annual General Conference. I was part of a combined men’s chorus from BYU, singing in the Mormon Tabernacle for the final priesthood meeting which would ever be held there (the big conference center was just being finished). It was a great honor and opportunity. We sang this song:
(click on the grey Play button to start hearing the music)
The text from this song was taken from a passage in the Book of Mormon, where Nephi (a prophet) is sharing with the reader some of his darker, weaker moments where he felt like he was less than what he could or should be at that point. His feelings of doubt troubled him, as he turned to the Lord for comfort.
As he is pondering these feelings and expressing them to his God, he has a moment: an epiphany. He is energized, enlivened, and redetermined to move forward in the what he felt he was called to do. He says, “awake my soul!… rejoice my heart!”
I am now old enough that I’ve seen many friends and relatives come and go in their respective faiths and religions. It makes me wonder: what makes me choose to keep my faith as I do? How come I haven’t chosen a different route?
Recent conversations with friends and relatives have given me opportunities to reflect on some of the moments in my life which have led to my belief in Christianity. While I admit that the concept still doesn’t make sense to the purely logical part of my brain, it’s not something that I feel I have to either explain or justify, either. It’s something I have felt deep within my soul. Feeling what I have so deeply and recurringly has changed the way I look at the world.
Christianity, specifically the application of Christ’s sacrifice into my life, frees me. Not from being some crazy, terrible person, but it frees me from mediocrity. It expands me into a person I was not capable of becoming before. I’m not following my faith because of some deeply ingrained puritanical guilt, or religious programming, or some other environmental factor. I freely and intellectually choose to follow my faith because I find that I can become more with it than I am limited by it. It enlightens my very existence and illuminates every corner of my life. It makes me want to sing at a triple-fortissimo “Awake my soul!”
This basic faith has kept me in a church that, while not perfect (none are), facilitates my relationship with deity by asking that I become an active participant in my own salvation and in the salvation of others. Through both simple and complex theology and symbolism, my church helps me transcend my daily life and feel at home, at peace, and at rest.
My church asks a lot of me, but my faith is what actually requires it of me. I’ve had many opportunities in my life to choose whether I wanted to embrace and magnify this little kernel faith I’ve been given, or simply ignore it and going about my other business. Most times, I have chosen to stick with it.
My faith certainly isn’t perfect or complete. But for me, having dimmer, weaker areas in my faith actually makes the lighter ones appear even brighter. Faith and doubt can coexist alongside each other, and I have found that questioning and exploring both parts is what gives me the constant reaffirmation and crescendo to that small seed.
…And so I choose to be religious. I am not simply in the “faith of my fathers.” I am in my own faith, walking in my own path. And while I respect the legacy of faith I was left, I also assume the charge of carrying it forward for my own sake, and not solely for theirs.
I do love the Lord, and in him, my soul delights.
PS > Yes, that was me singing all the parts of that song. Now the world has heard my voice! Aggh! Sorry I went a little overboard on the consonants, I didn’t realize the mic was so sensitive.
14 thoughts on “Why I Choose to be Religious”
That’s you on all parts! Crazy.
I love what you said about faith a doubt. I agree that we go through constant cycles of both, that should be leading to greater growth. It’s like seasons of pruning and sprouting. Sometimes we hurt and sometimes we stretch, but each makes the other more ‘exquisite.’
How awesome that you sang all parts so well – that was fantastic!!
Thanks for this post; I read it when I needed to be reminded why I also choose my religion!
Hmm. I was listening and thinking to myself……I hear Sam. Wait. What part is he singing? I hear more than one that sound like him. WAIT are they ALL him? And then I read the rest of the post and was all….duh. Nice job. Maybe I should recreate some of the singing nightmare for everyone’s enjoyment on my blog.
I also agree with you about the mix of shadows and light and how faith and doubt can mix. It is only by not being afraid to poke and prod at our own faith that we can grow. Sometimes overcoming a doubt doesn’t mean that you get a perfect reason to explain it away, but that the Lord fills you with faith and the feeling of doubt goes away and a feeling of assurance and the truth that the Lord loves you and is aware of you takes it’s place.
I love this phrase: “asking that I become an active participant in my own salvation and in the salvation of others.” That really is what it is all about. This religion really is all about community (family specifically).
By the way, I LOVE that song. I have the copy from the BYU Men’s Chorus from a few conferences ago and listen to it all the time. Could you send me a copy of the music? I would love to get that sung in my ward.
Sam, you are way too talented for your own good. Thanks for that post. It made for good Sunday reading and great any day reflection. I’ll be thinking about what you said for many days to come, I’d imagine. It’s nice to be given something real, important and actually relevant to the weightier matters in life to think about. It gives perspective to all the other junk the media shouts in our ears so incessantly.
Great post. Great song, too. Although I hear the Methodists are nice.
I would like the sheet music as well. Do you have to General Conference recording as well? I had it at one point but don’t anymore and have search high and low for it.
You should try out for American Idol…either that or create your own choir. You could sing all
parts AND be the director. 🙂
Singing and recording all the parts yourself- ya you are crazy. 😛 Sounds awesome though. I’ve got to differ with you on one point. The church is perfect- the perfect knowledge and truth is there. It is we, the people of the church, that are not perfect. You may have meant that. For me it did take a while to differentiate between the two, though, and before my testimony was strong, the imperfections of the people swayed my beliefs about the church. You’re right, though, that doubting brings about the questions that make us dig deeper and find the truth for ourselves. I was at a dinner one night for single women and the bishop (who was actually my dad) asked which of us were converts. Although I was raised LDS, I truly see myself as a convert because I did have to find out for myself.
Thanks for this post and I commend you for your choice to be religious.
Thank you for sharing a part of your testimony. It has strengthened mine. 🙂
I was having a similar conversation with the missionaries when I had them over for dinner the other evening. We were talking about faith when it comes to understanding the whys of the gospel and the church. Often we hear answers to questions that seem insufficient explanations, and we would like to know more. It is not doubt that makes those answers seem insufficient, and it is our faith that can help us fill in the holes in our understanding. We have faith that there ARE good answers, even if we don’t know what they are.
It is an important principle of faith to realize that there will ALWAYS (at least in mortality) be things that we do not know or understand. Faith is one way to deal with those things.
As far as the church being perfect… Perhaps we should take a page from Joseph Smith when he wrote about the Book of Mormon. The church is the “most perfect” church. However, to state that it is absolutely perfect is either a re-defining of ‘perfect’ or a misunderstanding of the doctrine.
Well spoken and written.
Wonderful. Was just passing by this morning and found this post , heard the music and maybe my day all the nicer.
Thanks for sharing.
I really enjoyed this. How beautifully done! Love it!