The Best Parts of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
Sometimes it's good to step back and ask yourself why you believe in something that requires faith. What does it do for you?
Here are what I believe to be the "best parts" of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Emphasis on family
I'm happier when I spend time with my family. When we're together, we grow close and can help and encourage each other. Our home is a place where we can be to get and give support. This is a huge realization for me, and it's a big gift. I don't think I would know much about this source of happiness if I wasn't part of a church with such strong emphasis on the family.
I love having a single day every week where I can meet with other like-minded people and study the teachings of Jesus Christ. I try to "keep the sabbath holy" by studying how I can be a better follower of Christ, and helping others do the same.
The importance of being a Follower
Our society really puts the idea of leadership on a high pedestal. Sometimes I feel it's over-emphasized. In order to be a good leader, you have to be a good follower first.
Even though our society talks about "followers" as if they are weak, in reality it depends on what you are following, and how you are following.
To follow Jesus Christ simply means the following:
- You put Christ's words and actions into effect in your own life.
- You try to put away the things that keep you from becoming a happier person. Bad habits, poor decisionmaking, etc.
- You give faith a try, even when you feel you don't understand every last "why". You take action on what you've learned, and on the good that you've felt.
- You continually ask yourself the hard questions. It's the opposite of being a brainwashed, braindead, zombie-like follower.
- You work hard to put your past mistakes behind you. You constantly strive to change for the better.
- Even though you still make mistakes (maybe you drop back into a bad habit, etc.), you understand that this is all part of being human, and you can pick yourself up and start again.
What's the alternative to being a follower? Or the risk of not being a follower?
Most commonly, I think many people make a sort of half-decision to distance themselves from their spiritual side. Because they have not traveled very far down that path before, they may do some fortune-telling and tell themselves, "well, I think I know how this is going to go, because I saw this crazy religious guy in the news, and the result would be X or Y, so I won't do that." Dwelling on our own fears of what might happen, we may foresee a high probability of disaster or failure rather than the distant possibility of failure, and then put away the thoughts of making a spiritual journey.
Many people also fear that by following some religious figure, they'll transform into a mindless sheep at some point--as if they would suddenly be required to give up their precious identity and critical thinking skills and follow someone off a cliff! They imagine the likes of Jim Jones and see themselves falling for his charisma. Usually it is their own inner fears that they are confronting, rather than some objective reality. This is natural as they struggle with the adjustment to a change in thought. (If you believe you would actually follow someone like Jim Jones, I think you should apply an objective set of standards to measure the effects of your belief system, because these days we are surrounded by opportunities to turn anything into a Jim Jones scenario, from consumerism to patriotism.)
Second, the complete, polar opposite of all this is the idea that "people don't change". It's a pessimistic concept that keeps us from reaching our potential, because we don't believe in ourselves. What that idea is trying to express is, "people don't change for the better." Or just, "there are no truly good people," and "humans are evil."
But in fact we can change for the better, even if we sometimes stumble a bit on the path. Our decisions determine our destiny. And we can make good decisions.
So, being a faithful follower of Christ actually makes you into a greater leader. You act on principle, stand up for what's good, and spread the good news to other people who may benefit from it. You help them change for the better. This makes you a happier person.
Now, where in all of this have you been brainwashed, or become a mindless sheep, as some would suggest? I just don't see it.
I have learned that becoming an educated, thoughtful follower is crucial to our spiritual development.
Being a Missionary
I used to be afraid of people who I didn't know. When I was a missionary in Japan, I learned that everyone is a potential follower of Christ. Everyone has a good side. Everyone is looking for positive change. They might not know where to find it. Even some people who call themselves Mormons haven't yet found this kind of change! It's a long journey. As we study the gospel of Jesus Christ, and teach it to others, we learn for ourselves how we can find even more happiness and peace in our lives.
Those are, to me, the best parts of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Being a Mormon doesn't mean "avoiding this" or "condemning that." Being a Mormon means striving to be more like Jesus Christ. It means forgiving ourselves. It means finding the hope and peace that we need.