I was recently asked by a Brazilian reporter from Istoe Independente, a weekly magazine, to share my thoughts on the media focus on Mormons in light of the Mitt Romney presidential campaign and related flashes of high-profile Latter-day Saints in news venues. After thanking Brazilian reporters for their collective history of positive and accurate reporting, I submitted this response (Read the full article, "A forÇa dos mÓrmons").
As a convert and lay member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I've always wanted to write a "Dear World" letter to speak personally, and in one fell swoop, to anyone — and particularly to the "spiritual but not religious," the unknowing public, the press and pastors in other denominations everywhere who might be sincerely interested in the faith of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), know little of us, or who are submerged in or perhaps even promulgating mis-information about our faith in action, our beliefs and our love for the Savior. I've crafted that letter mentally more than once.
What many are calling the "Mormon moment" — whether cast in the wake of the Romney campaign or brought forward by Latter-day Saint popular fiction writers, music stars, athletes or entrepreneurs — is an opportunity to share who we are with the world on a personal level, an opportunity to send out a "Dear World."
While it is a "moment" — a time of heightened exposure and interest — it is even more than that. It actually represents a "moment-um" of faith-building and sharing rather than a "moment frozen and isolated in time, a momentum through which the gospel can reach every clime."
I have to say I've cringed and occasionally sat for seconds in stunned silence as I've read and heard idle tales about Mormons, or about our alleged beliefs in some venues — some salient, some salacious, some stunningly ignorant, some subtle subterfuges — and rejoiced in the "Mormon moments" when it's been said right, portrayed thoughtfully.
Like others, I've prayed; I've responded. I've hoped for truth to be represented. It's hard when you can't immediately backspace over an ignorant media take or flagrant fallacies about your very own genuine faith and intimate walk with Jesus Christ — and the pristine beauty of the gospel message. But we know that the Lord compensates, that civil dialogue yields great dividends and that he opens doors for his message to be shared.
This is one of those doors.
Circumstances are not often as they appear. Curiosity is on the rise; interest in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has skyrocketed, not coincidentally. God works in mysterious ways. We glory in that for the Lord's sake, for the truth's sake, not for our egos' sake. And we appreciate all of the wonderful journalists who've invested in knowing us authentically and portraying our faith and lives accurately. There is much that is professionally, carefully created and published as well.
As for us, we hope you'll come to see us at our heart. We worship the Savior. We love God the Father. We claim the best news possible: The Savior's church — his teachings, power and authority — have been restored in our day. That means an active plan of happiness is in place for each of us. Not everyone will accept it, but at least we hope you'll get the message right.
We hope the world will come to know in this moment and always that we believe and live by scripture — the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon. (My Bible is still open to savored verses in Proverbs from last night's "spiritual Aha moment" ... and my Book of Mormon lies next to it on my bed as its scriptural companion. Both are marked in technicolor. I see, as do faithful fellow Mormons, both as the Savior's words to me, to you and to each generation.)
As the shutters continue to open, we wish the world to know our ultimate aims and our daily aspirations. My complete desire, as is the case with faithful Mormons, is to follow Jesus Christ — whom we worship as the Son of God. We believe he has provided more than one witness of himself.
As members of LDS Church, we work. We are motivated by our love for the Lord and his for us. We accept the grace of the Atonement. We believe in eternal families as revealed.
We dance. We eat cake. We're engaged in all sectors of business. We prepare for emergencies. We commune with God in prayer and seek personal direction. We believe in educating hearts, minds and hands. We have an amazing corpus of Christ-centered youth leading the world in virtue and voice. And we strive to align ourselves to God's will on a daily basis.
We are not a cult. We are Christians in the real sense of the word: followers consecrated and striving to live and bring his message of salvation to all. We believe in chastity before marriage, fidelity within marriage. We offer tithes and we participate with many other religious and civic organizations in providing timely and vast amounts of relief to the poor and the needy globally. We are active in our communities.
Dear World, we love you, and we love the Savior. We're not seeking to appease the media and change an image. We are about correcting the image that some have created before you, reclaiming the conversation about who we really are. We no longer wish to be driven by much of past years' online media posts, and again, we appreciate many who have invested in sharing appropriate coverage of our faith.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not collectively interested in having Romney win the campaign. Members have diverse political views, spanning the spectrum. And while a good percentage of recently polled Latter-day Saints are conservatives (see Pew Forum poll on Mormons in America), there are many members who cast their votes in other directions, as with any election.
In my opinion, the light we want to come through this "Mormon moment" and curtain of curiosity is, ultimately, the light of the Savior. We want you, we want the world, to have that association, that awareness of us — that all we strive to be as Mormons is a result of our gratitude for the Savior's life and sacrifice. It's out of love for him and out of his love for us and is rooted in an understanding of his fully revealed gospel plan.
We respect, as well, those who oppose our beliefs. But we certainly wish they knew what beliefs we really have to oppose or not.