The recent Winter Olympics turned the world’s attention for a brief moment to the unlikeliest of places–Salt Lake City, Utah. Besides a really saline lake, Salt Lake is also home to the world headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (11 million members total, 6 million outside the U.S.).
As a Mormon, I was curious to see how the media would treat the Church: Would they portray us as religious zealots? Would they say we’re no fun? Or, heaven forbid, would they trot out Donny and Marie Osmond for interviews?
In light of this coverage, the HBS Latter-day Saint Student Association (LDSSA) held a presentation and panel discussion to provide information for and field questions from interested HBS community members. The presentation covered a brief history of the Church and its core beliefs, which can be found online at mormon.org Audience members asked a wide array of questions, varying from the effects of diversity on the Church as it grows, to the relationship the Church has with other Christian churches.
On a personal level, being Mormon has had a tremendous impact on my lifestyle and perspective. I attribute this to the way in which Mormon theology answers the questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? Without dipping too deep into doctrine, Latter-day Saints believe that all men and women are children of God, lived with Him before coming to earth, are on earth for the purpose of learning and becoming more like God, and, thanks to the teachings and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, can return to live with God following death and a universal resurrection.
Looking at life through this lens has led me to view success, challenge, and tragedy in the context of a mortal life that is like the second act of a three-act play. I felt strongly enough about this perspective to take off two years from college to be a missionary in Brazil. That experience further shaped me, as self-conceit dissolved in my stuttering attempts to learn Portuguese and communicate with the great brasileiros.
Another core belief that has molded me is the notion of the eternal family (i.e. not separated after death) as a critical part of life. This concept explains why I married relatively young and already have kids (3 year-old and 4 month-old daughters) at the ripe old age of 27. It was also this hope that helped my wife and I cope with the death of our son from Trisomy-18 two years ago.
Circumscribing tragedy within the comforting framework of a life that does not end at death, and leaning upon a Savior who I believe “will wipe away tears from all faces” (Isaiah 25:8) has given me considerable peace and joy even amidst otherwise painful times. Playwright William Nicholson had it right when he put these words in C.S. Lewis’ mouth: “The pain, now, is part of the happiness, then. That’s the deal” (Shadowlands, 102).
I have no doubt that I am a bit na‹ve (or presumptuous) in supposing that I could adequately portray a major religion in a few paragraphs-but thanks for humoring me! Hopefully other voices will continue to join in the ongoing dialogue about religion and lifestyle within the HBS community.