In college I lived down the hall from a very serious Christian. He worked hard to encourage others to be more active and outspoken about their Christianity. He was antagonistic to my Mormonism, considering it as non-Christian and me as having been led astray. We still got along well enough, but we weren’t close. One day I happened upon a scripture study he was holding with a few other students in one of the common rooms. As I recall, they invited me to share the space and eventually we began a conversation about religion.
Somehow (these conversations never seem predictable), we turned to the topic of belief. While I held up Moroni’s promise as the central truth-process claim of Mormonism, he dismissed this, declaring that the Bible had replaced all such revelation. Honestly astounded by this position, I asked, “Then how do you know the Bible is true?” His response was that he just did. His position, as best I could understand it, was that one should read the Bible and simply accept it as truth. And if you didn’t? Well, then you were going to hell. There was no gray area. But there was also no revelation to buttress belief. It was just a matter of either unconscious decision (best, easiest) or conscious decision (a necessary but difficult step if you weren’t able to believe automatically).
I couldn’t accept that then and I still can’t. Insisting that someone believe what they don’t, without divine help, strikes me as an unreasonable demand. I can’t imagine that being the basis for salvation.
I believe because I’ve felt the spiritual confirmation that Moroni promised. I believe because, as a primary child, I felt a powerful spiritual witness while singing the song “The Spirit of God” and knew that personal revelation was real. I believe because the Book of Mormon continues to enlighten my mind as I devote myself to diligent study. I believe because I have seen the truths of the gospel reach people’s hearts and change their lives. I believe because being a worthy priesthood holder has made me a better person. I believe because I have witnessed good men and women overcome their own prejudices when they take up their mantle as Christ’s servants. I believe because I have seen the power my testimony recognized by others with no previous exposure to the gospel. I believe because I’ve felt the power of the temple, the joy of missionary work, and the presence that can accompany men and women of God called to lead us.
In short, I believe because of what I have experienced and because of what I have felt, not because I am capable of dictating to my own mind. One of the wonders of the Atonement, the power of grace won by Christ through a perfect life and infinitely compassionate death, is that Jesus can change our hearts. Part of that heart-changing includes the power to change our beliefs, something we are incapable of doing for ourselves.
And so, I will never ask someone to “choose to believe.” I might suggest that they choose to stay – because we need them even if they don’t believe and I hope they can benefit from remaining in the fellowship of the saints – but that’s a topic for another post.