I’m always happy to give my reasons. Realize, however, that I’m not a big fan of religious argument. I don’t think you can prove religion. Arguing Bible scriptures doesn’t really do anything productive, in my experience.
I believe in Mormonism for three general reasons.
1) Experience. 2) Logic. 3) Feelings.
One of the basic things that Jesus taught–and I hold that this is true, no matter what you think of Christ’s divinity–is that by the fruits of a teaching, you can know if it is good or bad. This is sometimes a hard one to adjudicate. Is Islam a bad religion because so many people are taking it and perverting it? I don’t think that’s what this doctrine means. I believe it was intended on a much more personal basis. Anything–no matter how good–can be twisted and used for ill.
In my life, many of my most profound experiences–many of my greatest joys–come because of things I’ve done involving my religion, and because of its teachings. The teachings on family have caused my family to be closer.
The teachings on marriage have caused me to seek out a wife, and that has brought me a great deal of joy. The teachings on what it takes to live a good life are things I have tested, and found comforting and true.
In short, I find that I’m happier when I do things the religion teaches. This isn’t exactly a scientific proof, but I accept it.
I don’t like to talk ill about other religions. To be honest, there are wonderful things in each and every religion I’ve studied–and, as a writer, I like to read about religions and learn about their teachings. Also, as I said above, I don’t think you can prove religion with arguments. Only God can prove whether a religion is true or not.
However, there are some things, logically, about Mormonism that just make SENSE to me. I served a mission for the Church, and during that mission, I taught about what I believed. There were several questions that people would ask that I haven’t found sufficient answers to in any other Christian religion. Two of the biggest of these were:
1) How can you believe in God when there is so much suffering in the world.
2) What about all the people who aren’t of your religion? They go to hell because they happened to live at the wrong time, when there were no missionaries to teach them?
LDS teachings focus on this world being a planned event. It teaches that before we were born, we lived as spirits, and were involved in the production of this world. We chose to come to this planet because we desired the experience of living on our own, having mortal bodies, and being apart from God for a time. We believe that when we lived before, we couldn’t really experience pain, or fear, or any of those things–not as long as God was there with us. We believe that only by having this Earth experience could we become complete, gaining experiences that we couldn’t have gained in any other way.
So, the core teaching here is that we came to the Earth by choice. We decided that we would come down here and experience pain. I personally believe that we were shown what our life would be like, and given options deciding just what kind of life we wanted to live. That’s not strict doctrine, but it IS strict doctrine that we were allowed to decide for ourselves if we wanted to experience pain and suffering–in order to learn and grow–or if we didn’t want to.
Another big part of LDS doctrine is the concept of free will. We believe that God HAD to let us make our own decisions here, otherwise the whole thing would be for naught.
This doesn’t excuse people who do terrible things to others. It simply means that we agreed to take the chance, and that we accepted the risk of the things that would happen here. It means that God watches in pain as we are put in pain, but has bound himself. He can’t stop people like Hitler from existing, otherwise the whole thing would be meaningless. A starving child in Africa is a terrible, terrible thing–and I believe that we are responsible for doing all we can to alleviate suffering. However, the reason they can exist is not because God is punishing them, but because the world must exist this way–and because we all made the decision that we’d RATHER end up as a starving child in Africa than miss out on the opportunity to experience life.
LDS doctrine is one of the only world religion which includes serious, powerful provisions for the benefit of those who never learn of Christ. We believe that the ‘Earth’ experiment doesn’t conclude at death, but continues on in the next world for a time until the time for the end arrives. People in the next life continue learning, growing, and having opportunities to discover the gospel and learn. Since one of the main points of life is simply to have a life and experience the feelings associated with it, there are a lot of people who are born when the complete teachings of the gospel aren’t available.
Joseph Smith–the founder of the LDS religion–taught that any person who WOULD have accepted the gospel in this life will be saved in the next. These people will accept the teachings in the next life. Plus, they will live the best lives they can on this world. It’s possible to be a very, very good person without the gospel. I believe it enhances life, but it was impossible–because of agency, and because of the way the world had to work–for everyone to live in a place where they could be taught the truth. And so, these people will be saved.
In addition, the LDS concept of Heaven isn’t as strict as a lot of religions. We look at heaven as a continuum–people are rewarded with happiness in direct proportion to how good a person they were in this life. Even the worst of people commit a few good acts of kindness, and they will be rewarded for those. The punishment they feel–the fires of Hell spoken of–are taught in the Book of Mormon as being mostly self inflicted. The pains of hell is the knowledge of missed opportunities, of lost chances to do good and to help others, and the pain we feel from having made terrible decisions and having hurt others. (The result of our having being given our free wills.)
In the end, there’s Jesus Christ. He, as an immortal and perfect person, was given the power to take away sins–essentially to fill in the gaps. He is allowed to take upon him some of our own pains, and if we accept him, make up for our missed opportunities. In this way, we can have joy that is perfect–without regrets–because while we made mistakes, we learned from them, and we learned to do better. Christ then took our sins upon himself as a reward for believing in him, having faith, and repenting (becoming a better person.) God doesn’t care how many times we fall; the central teaching of Christ’s ministry, as I read it, is being sorry for your mistakes and trying to do better.
So, no. I don’t believe that good people who never accepted LDS teachings will go to hell. Will mother Teresa go to Hell? Of course not. I well nigh think that things will be better for her in the eternities than they might be for me, unless I shape up.
There is a lot more to this–the concept that, if Christ makes us perfect, we become as He and the Father are, gaining everything they have. Also, we do baptize people for the dead. (Meaning, in the temples, a member can bring the name of an ancestor who didn’t have a chance to have the gospel, then be baptized on their behalf to give them the opportunity–should they accept it in the next life–to have their sins wiped away.) However, the core of it is what I explained above.
Central to the teachings of our church, and to the Book of Mormon, is the concept that God answers our prayers. We have agency, and he can’t stop all suffering–but he reserves the right to make things better for us if we humble ourselves and ask.
Central to this asking is the teaching of our Church that God will lead someone who seeks it to the truth. He will not leave you hanging, and he doesn’t expect you to have to just wander around blindly and gamble on the religion you choose. If he REALLY exists, then I believe strongly that he will let you know that, and that he will tell you which path in life he wants you to take.
The central missionary teaching of the LDS Church is this: Read the Book of Mormon, pray about it, ask God to tell you if it is true or not. We choose the Book of Mormon because it is unique to us, though we believe in the Bible as well. The Book of Mormon doesn’t really teach much that isn’t in the Bible. It was reserved to be revealed during this day so that the church would have another witness of Jesus Christ, and so that we would have something that other’s didn’t. Not because they aren’t worthy, but because the Book of Mormon can then be a test.
If people pray over that book, I believe that God will speak to them in their heart of its truth. He speaks to us through a warmth inside, a feeling of joy, that is his method of giving us witness of things that are right and good.
I have prayed over the Book of Mormon. I have prayed over the truthfulness of the truth. I have felt a strong witness–a strong power–within me that I cannot deny. I’ve only felt such a strong power a couple of times. (One other being the time when I prayed over my decision whether or not to get married.)
This is something I cannot prove with science, and I am respectful of those who have troubles believing in something with only a feeling as proof. However, it is my proof. God lives, Christ is our Savior, and the Book of Mormon is true.
That’s why I believe. I hope I didn’t get too boring or preachy.