I have said elsewhere that I have made a conscious decision to pursue that which brings me joy. That is the LDS Church and the Restored Gospel.
I also realize that I can construct a reasonable intellectual argument for or against anything. I mean that fully. If I decide to construct an argument that casts the Church negatively, I can do so; if I want to cast the Church positively, no matter the issue, I can do so. Therefore, I have made a conscious decision to look actively and passionately for a way to reconcile difficulties and remain faithful.
In college, as part of my research on Manifest Destiny, I read just about every anti-Mormon writing of the 19th Century. I took some classes at the
- not exactly a bastion of extreme conservatism or champion of Mormonism. After graduation, I lived in the Harvard Divinity School Deep South for a few years. I am probably as well-versed in anti-Mormon rhetoric as most, so my statement in the last paragraph is not stated carelessly. I also, however, understand that I can learn MUCH about the Gospel of Jesus Christ even from classic anti-Mormon preachers and denominations. Some of the most profound spiritual insights I have received have come by hearing something I already believed phrased differently by someone who believes I am headed straight to Hell and would dance in the streets if Mormonism was eliminated completely - simply hearing it from a different perspective I had never considered previously.
That, in my mind, is the key - truly internalizing and trying to live the Articles of Faith and the core principles of the Gospel, especially developing the characteristics of godliness outlined as the pathway to perfection in the Sermon on the Mount. I have had more truly spiritual experiences since I began to intentionally and purposefully pursue that objective at the beginning of 2008 than I had in the previous twenty years of my life - including in the various leadership callings I have had in the Church. I have grown in important ways as I have striven to decide and define my own faith as an individual, even as I have done so firmly within the structure of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.