People decide to learn about Mormonism for a variety of reasons. Some are looking for a church to join. Some have met a Mormon and become curious. Others just enjoy learning new things. Some, of course, study to find reasons to hate. Most people, though, have morally valid reasons for launching a study of Mormonism. There are many approaches to the process and I’d like to share with you the one I used and one that you can use today. I’ve added some additional ideas, since the Internet wasn’t an option when I was first learning. This will be a series that will walk you through the process of learning about Mormons responsibly and sensibly. It is based on Christ’s admonition that we treat others the way we ourselves want to be treated. This means we’ll learn how to research Mormonism the way you would want others to research you.
As someone who loves to research all sorts of things, I understand the importance of balance in a research project. When it comes to religion, this aspect of learning can become challenging, so read all the way through to understand how to fit balance into the process. Whenever I study someone else’s religion, I put the balance part at the end, not the beginning. I like to start with the faith’s own perspective first.
Meet the Mormons
Recently, the Mormons released a movie called, “Meet the Mormons.” It is a full-length movie that introduces people to six real Mormons. Doctrinal beliefs are only lightly covered. The goal is more to demonstrate how real Mormons integrate their faith into their ordinary lives, but also how they live their everyday lives. Many people asked who would want to see a movie about Mormons that was all positive. Some saw it because the net proceeds were being donated to the Red Cross—that’s why I went to see it myself, since I am not a person who really enjoys movies. However, I have pointed out that I personally often watch positive programs about people of other faiths. I enjoy learning how a person’s faith impacts his life. I love to see what goodness has come to him because of what he believes and how it causes him to live his life. I also enjoy learning what beliefs a person holds close to his heart. I can’t be the only person in the world who finds happiness in doing that.
A movie like this is very helpful if I don’t know a real person in that faith, or if I don’t know very many of them. It’s a positive glimpse that helps me understand why someone would want to be a part of that faith. After all, each person who is strong in his faith chose it for a reason. I like to see what those reasons are. But most religions don’t make movies like this, so I look first for real people, and then I look for positive books to read. I love biographies and autobiographies and if faith is a part of the story, I’m especially happy, no matter what faith it is.
Do the Mormons Have an Official Website?
Next, I try to find out if that religion has an official website. If they do, I love to explore it and to try to find out what it can teach me about what matters. Almost no religion has the extraordinary amount of information the Mormons put forth about their faith. There are a number of websites to choose from. If you’re learning about Mormons, the best place to begin is Mormon.org. Think of this as the beginner’s course. It has just the most basic information. It focuses on what matters most to Mormons and to God. Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What happens after I die? How can I strengthen my family? Why am I even here? What is the purpose of life? You’ll learn the basics—just enough to get you started or to satisfy light curiosity.
This website also allows you to order a free copy of the Book of Mormon to be delivered by Mormon missionaries who will be happy to answer any questions you might have. They don’t pressure you, but if you don’t know any real Mormons, this gives you two to start off with. There is also a chat feature on the website. This allows you to ask sincere questions if you are curious about the beliefs. Please don’t waste the time of the missionary with arguments. When doing so, you merely make it harder for responsible and curious people to get in to ask their own questions. If you want to debate, there are plenty of other places to do that. I always try to use resources only for the purpose for which they were created. When I want to debate (I love to debate!) I go to a website designed for that purpose, not to one courteously designed to allow me to ask basic questions about someone’s beliefs.
In the next article, we’ll talk about that Book of Mormon, which you can order, as mentioned earlier, or which you can read online without even signing in. You can probably even buy a copy at a local bookstore. And if Mormon.org, the beginner’s course, was too easy, you’ll soon learn where to go for the advanced course.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.