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Hi I'm Mark

I'm a Canadian, a musician and teacher. And I'm a Mormon.

About Me

I had a fairly normal childhood growing in up in Ontario, attending public school, etc. When I was six my parents started me on piano lessons and over the next twelve years I became an accomplished pianist. I also developed a passion for composition and choral music. My church involvement gave me the opportunity to develop my skills in performance as I played in services and various entertainments. I learned to play the organ as a church assignment and I learned about choral accompaniment and conducting. My first public performance of an original work was a Christmas anthem sung by my church choir. I interrupted my music studies to serve a two year full-time mission in the States. After my return I studied piano and composition, eventually earning a doctorate in composition. In the third year of my university studies I met and married a beautiful young woman from western Canada (also a life-long Mormon) and over the next ten years we became the parents of five daughters and a son. Now the older girls are married and we have five beautiful grandchildren (and counting). I have had a career creating music and sound effects for computer games, as well as some university teaching and a few years selling pianos. In my middle age I have recently started a new career as a high school teacher, specializing in music and English.

Why I am a Mormon

My parents were baptized into the Mormon church a few years before I was born and I have had the blessing of church activity since infancy. However, where I lived there were relatively few Latter-day Saints, and I was always one of the only Mormons at school. This meant I had the opportunity to learn about my friends’ religions and ponder my own. As a missionary I met a wide variety of people and discussed religion with them. I have never found anything that could satisfy me as deeply as the teachings of the gospel as I understood it. I felt like Peter when Jesus asked him if he would go away like some other disciples had. “Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) The doctrines of Mormonism are intellectually satisfying, and this is a comfort and a joy. But that’s not the reason I am a Mormon. Even the fact that I was taught from the cradle is not the real reason. The true reason has to do with feelings I have experienced deep in my heart, spiritual feelings that are difficult to describe but no less real for all of that. I can still recall the feelings I had as a child as I participated in church services and attended classes, feelings of peace and spiritual clarity. I came to associate those wonderful feelings with the church and the doctrines of Christianity as revealed through Joseph Smith. These feelings of goodness and joy continued through my adolescence and have only deepened the more I have learned and experienced. There is a passage in the Book of Mormon that compares learning truth to growing good food. If you plant a seed in your garden and it sprouts a healthy, strong plant, you know the seed is good. The seed of truth can be judged in a similar way: you feel its effects in your heart and you say to yourself, “this is a good seed ... it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.” (Alma 32:28) When you taste something delicious and filling, you naturally want to come back for more. This is how I have experienced my religion. It’s teachings, it’s way of life, it’s society all have an aura of goodness, rightness, healthfulness and holiness. It is as if I can see it, smell it, taste it: it feels good; looks, smells and tastes good; I have witnessed it’s beneficial effects in my own life and in the lives of many others. This Book of Mormon passage continues with the promise that if we nurture the seed of faith, we will eventually enjoy the harvest, the fruit of the gospel, “which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.” (Alma 32:42) This expresses perfectly my experience. Whatever is good, fulfilling, uplifting and worthy in my life I trace to the teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My family, friendships, talents, my inmost soul have been blessed by the church: it’s principles and institutions have become sweet to me. I have not the slightest doubt that Jesus Christ lives and that I will live beyond the grave. I know God knows me and loves me. I honour Joseph Smith as the Lord’s prophet. The revelations given to him are true. The Book of Mormon is what it proclaims itself to be: a holy book of scripture, testifying alongside the Bible that Jesus is the Christ. He gave me a perfect example to live by and paid for my sins and imperfections on the cross so that I can repent and become clean. He rose from the dead and created the means by which I and my family and everyone who accepts him and keeps his commandments can return to live with our Heavenly Father in eternity.

How I live my faith

The church has been an essential tool in raising our children and keeping them safe from many of the ills of the world. We attend church services each week without fail and this gives great stability and security to them and to me. It also gives us the opportunity to serve, since there are no paid leaders or workers in local congregations. My children fill roles in their youth organizations. I have served in many roles: organist and music leader; teacher of children, youth and adults; men’s group leader; assistant or counsellor to the minister (who we call “Bishop” in our church, also a volunteer position); and various music and leadership positions in regional levels of church organization. I consider it a great advantage and privilege of Mormon life that almost everyone who attends regularly gets an assignment to serve in some way. This gives us a sense of belonging and commitment as we invest our time and talents in serving one another and the church as a whole. I have developed many talents through such service. Further, the church teaches me to always remember Christ in my daily life and act in a way that will uplift and benefit others. This has made me a better husband and father, a better employee and citizen. I still have a long way to go to integrate these teachings into my life, but it is an ideal that is constantly before me, challenging me to improve and encouraging me to get back up when I fail. Mormonism is truly not so much a Sunday religion as a way of living every day. It’s kind of the core around which I try to build the rest of my life.

What is the Atonement of Jesus Christ? Why was it necessary for Jesus Christ to sacrifice His life?

Mark
The purpose of our life here on earth is to learn by our own experience the difference between right and wrong and to learn to choose the right. Inevitably, we fail. We choose the wrong choice because is seems easier or more pleasurable. We give in to selfishness and greed. We hurt others. We resist acknowledging truths that are inconvenient or may require sacrifice.Our Heavenly Father is perfect and holy. These mistakes and sins make us unholy and unfit to be in his presence. In fact, our guilt would make his presence unbearable and we would desperately want to hide away. But this learning-by-error process is all part of God's plan. Knowing we would sin, he prepared a way for us to be washed clean and pure so we can return to his presence in full confidence and joy. One person would live a life of perfect obedience, without sin, and thus be able to offer himself to pay the penalty for everyone else's sins. Only Jesus could make us once more "one" with the Father, or perform the "At-one-ment". Since his life and sacrifice are unique, he provides the only way to achieve this goal. As he said, " I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6) God is all-powerful and can cleanse us from sin: he does so through his Son, Jesus Christ. Show more Show less

Why do some call Mormonism a cult?

Mark
By the basic dictionary definition, the word "cult" means the same thing as the word "religion", but it has a negative meaning for most of us, referring to a religion that is strange and fanatical, especially when followers give up their freedom to think and choose for themselves. Ironically, one of the foundational principles of our doctrine is free agency, the God-given ability, right and responsibility to choose for ourselves. Everything else--the purpose of life, Jesus' atonement, the final judgement--hinges on mankind's freedom of choice. When we gain a conviction of what is right, we make choices to act in ways that may seem strange to others. Early converts to the church sometimes sold their homes and businesses in order to move to the centers of the church. Often their friends and relatives thought they were crazy, but they did so of their own free will and were free to change their minds at any time. The Bible is full of examples of people who made great sacrifices to follow what they were convinced was God's will: Abraham, Moses' followers, Jesus' apostles. Paul said the ways of the Christians looked like foolishness to the rest of the world. (1 Cor.1:18-25) The central point is: Mormons value freedom and individual conviction. That's not to say "anything goes." We are united in our central doctrines and ways of life and take care to promote those teachings and values consistently throughout the church. We are sadenned when people chose to leave the church, but other than reaching out in friendship, no efforts are made to prevent them. Mormons are taught to live all the commandments found in scripture. We are patient with ourselves and others when we fail to do so. No one is ever forced. This is very plainly taught in one of our hymns: Know this, that ev’ry soul is free To choose his life and what he’ll be; For this eternal truth is giv’n: That God will force no man to heav’n. He’ll call, persuade, direct aright, And bless with wisdom, love, and light, In nameless ways be good and kind, But never force the human mind. (Hymns, 240) People call Mormons a cult to give the idea that they are not Christian, that the members follow blindly and may even have difficulty leaving if they choose. In short, they use this term in an attempt to scare people away from learning about us or to justify excluding us from their society. We only ever want the chance to explain ourselves, teach people how to ponder and pray, and let them come to their own conclusions. Show more Show less