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Hi I'm Ken

I like philosophical discussions, stacking firewood, and watching my family grow. I'm a Mormon.

About Me

As a boy, I loved anything with wheels, and wanted to be either a truck driver, an airline pilot, or a forest ranger. Today, I work as an aviation safety professional, live with my family on six acres, and have a 4x4 in the garage. Looking back, I guess I got a little of each.

Why I am a Mormon

I enjoy wrestling with tough questions about life, society, truth, and how the natural world and the human world interact. I'm also comfortable waiting a long time to figure out how complex things fit together. And so, my conversion took a winding path over many years. In time, each gospel principle was confirmed to me by pondering, prayer, and the examples of the Mormons I had occasion to meet and work with. But, really, it all comes down to asking God if, in fact, this unpopular church could possibly be the pathway back to knowing him, and having the courage to accept the answer that it is.

How I live my faith

In a way, being a Mormon is both easy and hard. The gospel of Jesus Christ does require that we change from someone who rides along on the currents of popular culture into someone who is willing to sacrifice time and talents to worship God and serve our fellow human beings. Currently, I serve for no pay in church administration and training roles, and visit with individuals and families to help them improve their lives by living gospel principles. There are times when opposition arises or when I wonder if my efforts make any difference at all, but those times are inevitably followed by some rich spiritual confirmation that the Lord is mindful of the sacrifices we make to follow him. In return, he smooths our paths, leads us to peace and joy, and allows us to feel a portion of the love he has for each of his sons and daughters.

What do Mormons believe concerning the doctrine of grace?

I love this question because it forces me to approach God with humility and gratitude for what he and his Son have done for me. The heavenly home from which we came, and to which we aspire to return is very different from the world we experience today. It is a place of light and purity, of justice and order. There’s no allowance for sin there, because sin is contrary to the nature of God. But in coming to Earth, we knew we would be subject to influences and appetites that are not pure or just. It’s part of the refining process God requires of us. While we may be prepared for and capable of making good choices, the fact is that we will not always do so. We will not be completely successful in avoiding the stain of the world. So there had to be a way for us to learn the lessons of mortality, but still qualify to return to God’s pure place. Jesus offered to help each of us qualify to have our sins washed away. Because he condescended to come to Earth to pay sin’s debt to justice on our behalf, we are excused from having to suffer completely for our sins if we take him up on his offer to believe in him and his mission of salvation. He did it freely and completely. He did it for people who appreciated it, and for many others who didn’t even care. Grace is what Jesus freely gives us. But this is critical: It is through faith and works that we show our gratitude. So, why do some people accuse Mormons of ignoring grace, instead trying to earn our way into heaven? I believe that part of their objection stems from an incomplete acknowledgment of the abundant scriptural record on the subjects of grace, works, and faith. The New Testament is full of guidance on all three. To ignore the teachings on any one of them is a mistake—a mistake that is as puzzling as it is tragic. Paul wrote about the inadequacy of our works. He was correct. Compared to what we are to receive by grace in return for our faith, our works are embarrassingly insufficient. But we must attempt them anyway. We are given commandments to obey. James gave a powerful sermon on faith and works. He reminds us that people can have faith without works, but that the Lord expects more of us than a mere confession of faith. To paraphrase a prophet’s words, it’s important to be good, but it’s more important to be good for something. To just confess faith in Jesus Christ, relying on His grace, and then go on about our lives changing nothing in our behavior is another form of “tempting the Lord thy God,” something Christ himself told Satan that He would not do. So, a better question is: Why don’t all Christian traditions teach their members about the vital connection between faith and works? The fact that the Mormons do is strong evidence of true discipleship. Show more Show less

Why do Mormon missionaries proselyte?

It bears remembering that for everything else he was, Jesus was primarily a missionary Savior, sent to earth to gather souls back to our Father. Today, it follows logically that his restored church would place an equal emphasis on missionary work. Mormons, as individual families, and as a church, spend considerable resources on gathering the flock. Those young missionaries that you see going about town in pairs are serving for about two years at their own expense, not because they were “hired,” but because they know that that is what Christians have been asked to do. In a time when many other churches appear reluctant to spread the gospel for fear of rejection or causing offense, Mormons continue to do what they have done for almost 200 years: Preach the gospel without hesitation or self-consciousness, often door-to-door, person-to-person. Church growth is simply a reflection of that effort, and a reflection of the individual spiritual confirmation of the truth that is available from God to all those who have the courage to listen to our message. It’s essential Christianity: Learn, observe, and ask in prayer. Then go and do. Show more Show less

Why don’t Mormons have paid clergy?

Because there’s no scriptural precedent—or need—for a paid clergy. Although there’s a place for money in the functioning of any large organization—our church included, there’s no place for it in strictly spiritual matters. In fact, we find many scriptural references to the corrosive power of tribute paid for religious services that God intended to be freely available to all his children. No one in our church aspires to a career in the clergy. To express an interest in serving for profit would reflect a misunderstanding of the ways of God. Members are invited, or “called,” to serve in leadership positions by ecclesiastical leaders who themselves serve without pay, and who have sought to understand and bring to pass the will of the Lord through prayer and subsequent inspiration. While there is often discussion among leaders involved in the selection process, there is no voting. Leaders called in this manner take on, in effect, a demanding second job, and are expected to serve without compensation and without complaint until another is called in their place. Sometimes, accepting a calling means you must postpone or forgo career progression, or be otherwise hindered in your plans. It’s not unusual to serve in one capacity for more than five years. That’s not to say that those called receive nothing in return for their family’s sacrifice. Nearly all, when their term of service is complete, testify of the blessings and growth that had come by obedience to the call to serve. Show more Show less

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

Mormons in America are very mainstream. We are involved parents, athletes, scholars, and laborers. We hold hands in public, throw birthday parties for our kids, exchange Christmas gifts, hide Easter eggs, serve in the military, and make full use of technology and medical science. There is nothing unique about our dress or mannerisms, although we don’t usually behave in ways that bring us undue attention. You probably know several of us already, although you may not realize it. So, what’s different about us? You may first realize that we’re different by what we don’t do. As followers of Jesus Christ, we strive to keep ourselves unspotted by the messier consequences of human behavior. We don’t gamble. We abstain from addictive substances and practices that debase human dignity. We respect our God-given bodies by avoiding extremes in dress and grooming, such as piercings and revealing attire. We try to reflect Christ’s example in our speech and actions. We treat the Sabbath as a break from the trivial concerns of daily living, reserving it for worship, fellowship, and service. Show more Show less

What is the purpose of the welfare services of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

Welfare—caring for the needy—was important to Jesus Christ. He showed it by example, and we have scriptural record of his comments about it on other occasions. So it’s important for us to consider what he taught, and how best to adapt it as we follow his example in our day. First, we must remember that God is no respecter of persons: He loves each of his children and expects us to refrain from judging one another. From scripture, we learn that love and charity are linked. But God also expects us to be profitable servants, caring for our own needs and those of our family and others to the extent of our ability to do so. This means we have to moderate our own natural tendencies toward pride and laziness. We must cultivate our abilities and develop a genuine interest in the welfare of others. When we serve the needy, we must act in ways that build them up, instead of reinforcing unproductive habits and behavior. I’ll leave a discussion of larger church humanitarian aid projects to other writers. But I can tell you about something simple each member does. Mormons forgo two consecutive meals at the beginning of each month. We are asked to prayerfully calculate the monetary value of those meals and donate it to the local bishop for use in meeting the financial needs of members in need. We are also asked to supplement the donation as our financial circumstances allow, bearing in mind that all of our material blessings come from God. The local bishop considers these “fast offering” donations to be sacred resources, and relies on family interviews, prayer, and sometimes counsel from other leaders, in making discrete disbursement decisions. In cases where there is ongoing need, the bishop will arrange for members to earn what they receive through rendering service to other members, to local charities, or in self-improvement efforts. This, we believe, is the best modern way to follow the Savior’s example of first helping, and then lifting souls unto God with love and dignity. Show more Show less

Why do some call Mormonism a cult?

Grab your dictionary and look up the word “cult.” The definition is pretty broad, right? But it’s true that the word does have a certain negative connotation, and that’s the way we usually hear it applied to us. So, you have to wonder: Where does this particular criticism come from? What does it reflect about those who say it? Usually, it reflects a conclusion drawn from borrowed reasoning. It’s something that gets repeated rather than deduced. It’s also something that we’ve been hearing for almost two centuries. We’re used to it, and given that the same could have been said of the church in Christ’s day, we’re in good company. Bottled water and indoor air purifiers attest that anything can be commercialized, and sadly, religion is no exception. Prophets and philosophers throughout history have warned of this. I would submit that the myth that Mormonism is a secretive cult is kept alive for less than noble reasons. It serves some purpose for some people. I have yet to probe a doctrinal criticism of the church that cannot be traced back to a primary source that didn’t have a book to sell, a meeting hall to fill, or a pastoral selection committee to keep happy. And for a group accused of being a secretive cult, we sure do spend a lot of time and effort trying to let everyone in on the secret! Show more Show less

Does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints endorse political parties?

Glad you asked! Within the membership of the church, you will find people of all different political opinions. As individuals capable of reasoning (and encouraged to use that capacity), we are expected to consider the issues of the day in terms of eternal truths and commandments as recorded in scripture and repeated by modern prophets. Sometimes, our attitudes and opinions are more a reflection of the culture in which we spent our formative years. Thus, you will find generations of American Mormons most comfortable with the more conservative political views typical of the Rocky Mountain West. To further complicate matters, today’s most recognizable Mormon celebrities are very much in the public eye, raising the volume on civic discussion. But it would be a mistake to assume that all of us—or even most of us—agree with everything the vocal few are promoting in the media today. It would also be a mistake to assume that we vote as a bloc, or that the church tells us to weigh the issues, but then expects us to (wink, wink, nod, nod) vote for one particular party. Mormons are represented in all major parties. I would argue that the gospel of Jesus Christ stretches us to do and think righteous things that can be pinned all along the political spectrum, from left to right. One could make a strong case that a conscientious Christian could support something—or many things—in most political platforms. Does any political group have a lock on compassion? On responsible stewardship? On civic virtue? Of course not. Those things spring from personal conviction manifest in action, not from focus groups and strategy sessions. Another thing to consider is that, although it was organized on American soil, the Mormon church unites people around the world. What I might call leftist, a citizen of another country may call centrist. What I consider conservative, they may call liberal. Many of them have no idea of, and don’t care about, the petty differences in the politics of America. And really, why should they? Did Christ not teach that we are all in fellowship together? Show more Show less

To what do you attribute the growth of the Church?

It might be better to think about church growth as a reawakening of innate spiritual consciousness, one person at a time. We are all sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father. We lived with Him as spirits before we came to earth to learn, as did Jesus, of faith, love, and purpose. To some, even those fundamental tenets of Christianity sound implausible, at best. But, at some point in our life here, we must decide whether what Christianity teaches about our relationship to deity is accurate. Assuming that we conclude that Christianity is correct, our next task, then, is to decide what to do about that conclusion. Again, we look to Jesus’ example and see that he organized his followers together into a group, a primitive church. Following logically, we see that in addition to the individual component of our relationship to God, there is a social component, too. Ah…But which of the many social groups—churches—should we affiliate ourselves with? Finding that answer is our next great task. Being an adult convert to Mormonism, I spent several years in observation and informal analysis to narrow the field of possible social groups to join. I considered their teachings, their practices, and the examples of their followers. I admired most of them a great deal, and still do. I took the leap of faith and spent some time fellowshipping with several them. My wife, already attracted to the Mormon church, patiently waited me out, although she was relieved when I discovered for myself what she already knew. A bishop once told me that our missionaries don’t really teach anyone anything. They just remind us of what we once knew to be true, when we were each in the presence of the God to whom we will someday return. In time, that’s how it felt to me, and I think the growth of the Mormon church reflects the sum of many such awakenings. Show more Show less