The article begins by explaining...
"Religion in America is in a state of flux. The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey shows that the number of those who claim no religious affiliation nearly doubled from 8.2 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2008.
In addition, Pew’s 2009 Faith in Flux survey found that “about half of American adults have changed religious affiliation at least once during their lives.” A study published in 2010 entitled American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us maintains that in America “it seems perfectly natural to refer to one’s religion as a ‘preference’ instead of as a fixed characteristic.”
In this shifting religious environment it is easy to talk of the fleeting and superficial rather than the deeper foundations of spiritual life. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints understand their message to be the full gospel of Jesus Christ, as set forth in the Bible and other scriptures. What transcendent ideals do they aspire to? How do their beliefs answer the needs of contemporary religious seekers concerned about the great, permanent questions of human life?"
I found these statistics quite interesting and can understand why this information could easily apply to our current opportunities to share the gospel. I admit that I was surprised to hear that about half of adults (believers) have changed religions. That is huge. This definitely suggests that a large number of adults are not happy with religion in their lives. I think that should be encouraging as we discuss our beliefs with others, knowing that we might just have the missing piece to the puzzle for what they've been seeking.
I'll be the first to admit that it's very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day events that surround the media attention Mormons are receiving, as of late, and become distracted from sending out the messages that matters most. Certainly I am guilty on occasion.
On the issue of how individuals define their religion as a "'preference' instead of as a fixed characteristic", is somewhat of a hot button and I think I'll save that for another post.
The LDS Church, I believe, is suggesting that we try to avoid spending our time in discussions that are "fleeting" and/or "superficial" and focus more on teaching and talking about our foundational doctrines (although they did not use the term doctrines) and how these beliefs shape the spiritual lives of members. I'm pretty confident that this includes the tendency of members who feel the need to debate or defend the Church in their online interactions. I addressed that concern just recently HERE.
I appreciate past messages of counsel to not allow the media and those outside of our faith to define Mormonism. I believe this is another way of sending that very same message. In addition, this recent article actually suggests a few core principles that Mormons do embrace and that perhaps we might spend more of our time discussing with others. I'll share each of these and also share the introductory paragraph. Please see the entire article.
Identity: We know ourselves by knowing God
"From the very beginning, human beings have sought to understand the meaning and source of their existence. “Know Thyself” has been a call to personal reflection since ancient times. But in this inward quest for self-knowledge, it is easy to get lost. Individuals cannot know themselves without knowing God, their Creator. Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of the Church, taught, “If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves.” The dignity and worth of mankind is grounded in its divine origin."
Community: No man is an island unto himself
"Throughout history, civilizations have aspired to build an ideal society. This collective effort has taken many forms, from tribe and township to kingdom and commonwealth. From the earliest days of the Church, Latter-day Saints have worked toward creating a community of fellowship and belonging where unique persons come together under a common obligation to God and each other. As human beings are social creatures by nature, so happiness best thrives in a social context. The nature of religious life is communal rather than solitary. Likewise, the Latter-day Saint social ethos is not cloistered, but interwoven in society. Mormons engage with and reach out to people around the world. “Friendship,” said Joseph Smith, “is one of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism.’”"
Eternity: How we fit in the big picture
"Measuring life beyond that small space between birth and death is a commonality among virtually all religions. Mormons view themselves as players in a grand historical drama that spans the stages of eternity. God’s great plan of happiness can be likened to a three-act play. In the premortal life of act one, God nurtures His spirit children, who freely learn the principles of truth and happiness, form individual identity and prepare for this mortal experience that they chose to undertake. Act two is the test of mortality on earth. Here God’s children, as embodied individuals, deepen their understanding, knowledge and experience by making choices, exercising faith and relying on the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Act three is the great expanse of life after death when, as one Church leader put it, “the mysteries are solved and everything is put right.” Hereafter, the never-ending course of experience moves onward."
Please see the entire article posted on the LDS Newsroom:
Permanent Things: Toward and Understanding of Mormons
Suggested articles included in post:
“Lightning Out of Heaven”: Joseph Smith and the Forging of Community
The Play and The Plan
Crucial Test for Romney in Speech on His Religion