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Hi I'm G. Smith

I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ.

About Me

I'm married to a wonderful friend, and we have three children of whom we are absurdly proud. I studied research physiology and English, but escaped into medical school before earning my bachelor’s degree. After receiving my MD, I completed a residency in family medicine in Montréal, Québec. There I learned the medical vocabulary and French Canadian slang that I didn’t pick up during the two years I lived in Paris, France as a volunteer missionary for the Church.

Why I am a Mormon

I am a Mormon for one simple reason: because the gospel as taught by the Church brought me to Christ, and I have learned more about Him from the Church of Jesus Christ than any other source. And, much of that hinges on the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon ----------------- In May 1983, I first read the Book of Mormon with any seriousness. As I did so, it struck me for the first time just how radical this book and its claims were. It came to me with great force how incredible this whole tale of Joseph Smith's was, and how we Mormons were the only people who believed all this stuff: angels, gold plates, Christ in America. This lightning bolt rather quickly led me to the realization that I had gone along with the idea because my parents had taught it to me, but why would anyone else? I knew people talked about prayer for this sort of thing, but wondered if you might just "want it" to be true to the point that you could "create" your own answer. I didn't talk about this with anyone; I didn't explain it to my parents or anything—partly, I think, because I had the sense that I didn't want to be biased by their reply. It was a lonely moment. After spinning the matter in my mind, I concluded that such a momentous question (for so it suddenly seemed) would probably take many weeks of struggling and prayers to settle, at best. I knew it entirely possible that I wouldn't get an answer, and wondered what I would do if I didn't. And, even if I was answered, would I recognize it? And, would my worries about the implications of not getting an answer lead me to manufacture a reply? I had, I think, decided that if this went on for a while with no reply, I'd tell my parents that I didn't know. I pictured them as a bit sad, but not angry. And, I decided I could live with that. So, I got down on my knees—I asked God to forgive me my sins. I explained to Him that I'd just read part of the Book of Mormon, and that I didn't know if it was true or not. I asked Him to tell me. I was completely unprepared for the experience that followed. I was filled with a joy, a warmth, a love, and a sensation of such overwhelming mental clarity that it left me tired and weak afterwards. I could barely stand. I wrote a brief account in my journal, and noted that I had to keep stopping for a break because I didn't have the strength to write. In the moment of revelation, any doubts I had were gone—I literally couldn't entertain them, and I tried. I might as well have been trying to convince myself I wasn't thinking. I was filled with insight, as if mental connections and understanding were being made almost too rapidly to process them. I then asked if Joseph had been a true prophet, and the experience returned. I felt as if I was back home, after a long absence, and that I had found something that I hadn't known was missing until that moment. I had never experienced anything remotely like this, and so knew I hadn't created it. If I couldn't even conceive of it, how could I fabricate it? Besides, I was too surprised. Well, I didn't tell anyone about that experience for some time. But, everything was transformed for me, and I could never look at the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith the same way again. God knew what I needed to persuade me, and I got it. Another testament of Jesus Christ --------------------------- When Joseph Smith produced the Book of Mormon at the tender age of 23, with his all of three years of formal education, the last thing that the religious world would have thought they needed was "Another Testament of Jesus Christ". What a strange thing to produce in the midst of what was probably the most pluralistically Christian nation of all time, at perhaps one of the most religiously vibrant times in its history. Even the early Church members tended to use the Book of Mormon as an aid to conversion and witness of Joseph Smith's prophetic ministry, and then teach a great deal of their doctrine from the Holy Bible. In Joseph Smith's day, few doubted the biblical accounts, and many or most took the Bible to be largely or wholly inerrant—without error. Who would have questioned Jesus' reality and His divinity? And yet, with time the Book of Mormon's value as a "Christ centred" volume is now apparent. The following are from scholars of various persuasions: • "Jesus was a social gadfly, upsetting now this, now that, convention…he was clearly no conserver of traditional values; he was no good-two-shoes" • Jesus "is something of a party animal, somewhat shiftless, and disrespectful of [his parents]" • Jesus is born as an illegitimate child to Mary, an abused and unwed mother; • Jesus an "ancient charismatic wonder-worker" • Jesus is "like a mirror for us all, showing us who we essentially are" • "a charismatic, who was a healer, sage, prophet, and revitalization movement founder", but surely not "the divine savior whose purpose was to die for the sins of the world" • a "Peasant Jewish Cynic" , referring to a type of Greek philosopher • Jesus set in motion a "social experiment" with nothing of the divine or unique about it. [Collected in Luke Timothy Johnson, _The Real Jesus_ (HarperCollins, 1996).] In short, to the modern thinker—and even to the modern Christian—Jesus can be many things. Indeed, people tend to recreate Him in whatever image suits them, in whatever way makes them comfortable, in whatever mold matches their own idea of how things should be: a "politically correct" Jesus, if you will. To be sure, the Bible is still with us—and, as Latter-day Saints we remain profoundly grateful for it. Yet, as the world has realized what Joseph Smith always insisted upon—that no scripture can come through mortal men without being changed, edited, and partially corrupted if only due to mortal imperfection—things have descended into a bit of a free-for-all. (The alternative is an inerrantist fundamentalism which is both implausible, and causes as many problems as it is intended to solve.) The situation is the same as it was for the young Joseph Smith: "great multitudes united themselves to the different religious [or, in our day, academic or cultural] parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, "Lo, here!" and others, "Lo, there!" [Or, in our days, a cynical or disinterested, "Who cares?"] [History of Joseph Smith, 1:5-6] The debate has changed—but the ground rules have not. Now the debate, rather than being about what an inerrant Bible means, is about what a fallible Bible can tell us at all, and what that means—if anything. A Book Addict! ------------ I've often described myself as a book addict. I would rather read than do just about anything—I'd rather read than sleep or even eat, and I have on occasion. Some people climb mountains—my brain is always saying, "Yes, that's very pretty. But, you know, you could be home reading." I had grown up on C.S. Lewis' Narnia books, and so one day my book addiction led me to pick up Lewis' _Mere Christianity_. Lewis altered how I looked at discipleship. Even now, he still appeals to me more than most Christian apologists because of his intense self-awareness of his own fallibility and weakness, and the necessity to actively engage in the process of on-going sanctification. Reading _Mere Christianity_ was a deeply spiritual experience in which I was taught a number of things that continue to influence how I look at—and try to live—the gospel. And, doing so took me back to the Book of Mormon, where I learned about mercy and grace and the transforming power of Christian discipleship in a way I hadn't before. I've read Lewis' book twice since. The second time was after my mission, and the third was a few years ago. In both cases, I enjoyed rereading it—but, it didn't seem to have more to teach me. It had taught me what it could (which was, and continues to be, very valuable), but the spiritual power and transformation of the first reading was not repeated. (Granted, this may say more about me than Lewis!) I first read the Book of Mormon with any seriousness more than two decades ago. I've continued to read it ever since—I've lost count, but I'm sure I've read it cover-to-cover at least once a year for more than a quarter century, and many sections much more often. Remember, I'm an addict—I can't help myself. I need help. :-) As for the Book of Mormon, the truly amazing thing to me is that more than twenty-five years later, it's still doing the same thing. Lewis was educated in the great universities of the world. He read and spoke multiple languages. He was a subtle thinker, and gifted communicator. And, yet, his book seems to have done all it can for me after only a reading or two. By contrast, this Book of Mormon, produced by a backwoods farm boy with three years of formal education, dictated over a period of about two months continues to enlighten and transform my life. If it wasn’t helping me, I'd have quit reading it. There's too much to read—and I love reading too much—to read things that I don't get anything out of. Life's too short, and no one knows that better than a book-addict in a library. Any book that could get me to read it that many times, that often, and still benefit would have to be something special—an astonishing production, a work of staggering genius even if there were no divine claims with it at all. No other book has ever done that, save the gospels and parables of Jesus. I may not know much—but, I do know books. I occasionally hear critics dismiss the Book of Mormon as trivial, or not terribly complex or impressive—well, there are people who don't see what the fuss about Bach or Shakespeare is either. Such dismissiveness says far more about the critic than it does the work being dismissed. Almost every significant spiritual experience in my life has been tied closely to the Book of Mormon—it has an uncanny ability to serve as a catalyst or driving force to insight and transformation. You run into Jesus on every page, and there's no remaking this Jesus—you can't water Him down, or run away, or assume He was just a clever Jewish peasant. No, in the Book of Mormon you must confront Him as Jehovah, as the Bright and Morning Star, the Hope of Israel. And, I've seen revelation change me and change others. But, it gets better: not only must you confront this Jesus—and your own inadequacy before Him—but you must also deal with an immediate sense of His love and tender concern for you. Then, in dizzying succession you get detailed, step-by-step, oft-repeated instructions about how to follow Him. • How to have faith in Him, when you aren't sure that you do; • How He can change you from things that seem unchangeable; • How the ordinances and His authority are a key part of His tender designs for you; • How He can heal you when you're most wounded; • How the Bible—with its multitude of possible interpretations—can teach you so much more about Him with the Book of Mormon as a "frame of reference"; • How following Him does not guarantee a life of ease or freedom from adversity—indeed, the Book promises you'll get exactly the opposite. But, you can learn how that adversity can be consecrated and sanctified in your life through Him. And, finally, not only do you learn of a promised reunion with Him—but, you can see actual reunions as they happened, and feel of the majesty of those moments. Not bad for a nineteenth century New York farm boy. The book he translated by "the gift and power of God" has done what no other writer has managed: for me, anyway. And, he keeps on doing it. God be thanked for the Book of Mormon—that book of books.

How I live my faith

All local Church units operate based entirely on volunteer work by the individual members. There is no professional, full-time clergy. All Church workers have their own "secular" jobs. For example, I'm a physician. But, under assignment from my Church leaders, I also: * visit the home of three families each month, watch over their needs, and teach them about spiritual matters * meet with the youth of our area to help them in their service and religious duties * act as a "counselor" to the bishop, the lay leader who supervises our congregation of about 100 families (about 300 people). * clean the church building I also have an interest in the doctrine, theology, and history of my faith, so I've published some material in a university journal dedicated to such topics. Most importantly, I try (however imperfectly) to live a life of Christian discipleship in public and at home. I have three children who seem so far to be internalizing the lessons my wife and I hope they learn about kindness, service, charity, and patience.

Can a husband and wife be together forever? Do Mormons believe that families will live together in heaven?

G. Smith
I do. Save a reunion with God Himself, this is probably the core of why the gospel appeals to me. In my medical practice, I get to see people deal with the death of loved ones all the time. Some die young, when they've hardly begun their lives together. Some die after more than fifty years together. And, frankly, I can't tell you who suffers more. More time together just seems to make the separation even worse when it comes. Frankly, my wife and children are the most (and often almost the only) important thing in my life. Heaven wouldn't be worthy of the name without them. And, that God encourages us to call Him Father says something profound about our relationship to Him, as well as what our family relationships on earth are about. Show more Show less

Can you tell me about Mormon customs: how you dress for church, what holidays you celebrate, etc.?

G. Smith
When on my mission in France, people often confused us with the Amish (this is due to the Harrison Ford film _Witness_ having Ford live among the Amish but calling them "Mormons). The French would ask if we dressed like they did in the 19th century--I would reply that we hadn't since the nineteenth century. This at least got a laugh. Members wear their best to Church--usually shirts and ties for the men, dresses or skirts for the women. Members of the Church are probably not distinguishble on sight, save that their clothing may be slightly more modest than some norms in some places--no short shorts or skirts, for example. Members of the Church tend to celebrate whatever civil or secular holidays are common in their culture--in France, the US and Canadian missionaries would often throw a Halloween party for the members, which the French loved since they didn't have anything celebrate. Religious holidays such as Easter and Christmas are recognized and commemorated at Church, though there are no large alterations in the form of worship (i.e., there is no LDS equivalent of a Catholic Christmas Mass, for example.) Show more Show less

Why don’t women hold the priesthood in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? How do Mormon women lead in the Church?

G. Smith
Anyone who's spent much time in an LDS congregation knows that if you want something done efficiently, well, and in a spirit of true Christian service, you have only to assign it to the women's organizations, and then stand back out of their way. Priesthood is sometimes viewed by outsiders (or even some members) as a signal of worth, or rank, or importance. This is, in my view, a fundamental misunderstanding. It is, unfortunately, an all-too-human tendency, as Jesus' experience with the apostles demonstrates: And there was also a strife among them [the apostles], which of them should be accounted the greatest. But [Jesus] said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. (Luke 22:24-26) All leadership in the Church is based on a lay clergy--no one becomes a "professional" bishop, priest, or apostle in the Church. There's no course of study that qualifies you for such a role, and one does not put oneself forward for such a calling from our ecclesiastical leaders. ("Ye have not chosen me," Jesus told the apostles, "But I have chosen you.") So, for most members most of the time (male and female), we will not be in a leadership or prominent role. But, this does not mean we cannot lead or serve--for, the gospel of Christ, true leadership is to be the servant of all. There are far too many needs in and out of the Church for me to personally worry about whether my current efforts are noticed or done in secret. And, in my experience, the women of the Church largely do better than I do at this model of Christian discipleship. Women do not receive the priesthood for the simple reason that God has not, at this point, called them to that particular duty. For a similar reason, I am not at present a bishop, a priest, or an apostle--I stand ready to serve there or anywhere if asked, but I will not arrogate those positions to myself. Likewise, most women in the Church are eager to do what God calls them to do. To me, this seems logical. If the priesthood is something besides a mere human conceit or construction, then one cannot have it save from God. And, if the priesthood is only a social idea or way of handing out power, women are better off not being sucked into such pretentions. This does not mean, however, that women do not contribute to leadership. I meet weekly with wise and capable women whose voices are heard in the councils of Church leaders. The male leaders whom I have had the opportunity to observe closely over many years have, almost without exception, given careful attention to what our sisters in the gospel have observed. Quite simply, the Church cannot function well without the full efforts of everyone, and a willingness to hear wisdom from every and any source. Show more Show less

What is done with the tithing that Mormons pay?

G. Smith
Tithing allows the Church to function. The buildings we use for worship, the materials which we distribute at no cost to members or interested investigators, and the outreach efforts which we direct in almost every country in the world is all funded through the free-will offerings of members. I consider it a privilege to pay tithing--in the first place, everything I have comes from God's goodness, and the principles I have learned from the Church have made me far more successful in even financial pursuits than I would have otherwise been. He has richly repaid me even before I offer him my small gesture of gratitude. But, the tithing I pay also gets "returned" to me, in a sense--since I use the buildings, materials, and programs of the Church and am blessed thereby. And, finally, I appreciate the Christian ethic that tithing lets me get a little closer to--I come from a more affluent area of the world, and I'm grateful to be able to help subsidize the worship of members in less wealthy areas of the world in a small way. Show more Show less

Do Mormons practice polygamy?

G. Smith
Present-day members of the Church do not practice polygamy. A significant minority of members of the Church did practice polygamy between 1833-1904. They did this with reluctance, but with the firm conviction that doing so was a command from God. The Church-sanctioned practice of plural marriage ceased by 1904. Since that time, anyone preaching or practicing polygamy has been excommunicated from the Church. Modern-day polygamous groups claiming to be "Mormon fundamentalists," have no organizational link with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and most have probably never been members of our Church. In my experience, most modern members of the Church (like their 19th century counterparts) are not enamoured of plural marriage, and are deeply grateful that it is not a part of modern-day Church practice. I have a personal interest in the history of this period, and have published and written fairly extensively on it. I'm happy to discuss specifics with those (in or out of the Church) who have questions. Show more Show less