Would you stay in the church even if you didn’t think it was completely true?
Here are some reasons to do that:
1. Mormons have values that promote health and good relationships. Even though the church didn’t start off this way- it has evolved into this. To quote Richard Bushman, “We don’t drink alcohol or smoke or drink tea and coffee. We stay away from extramarital sex…. The world would be a better place if no one got drunk, if no one cheated on wives or husbands, if no one smoked. Think of all the good that would be brought about if everyone gave ten percent of his or her income to charitable causes. We would live in a happier, saner, healthier, more orderly and elevating world if everyone lived like Mormons. I want all my children to follow this basic discipline for their own good here and now, apart from any eternal benefits, and so far as I can tell, the Mormons do better than anyone in making this discipline stick. Children are much more likely to adopt these good habits when everyone in the congregation lives by the rules. The whole village teaches the kids how to live clean and upright lives. For me, that is a big plus.
2. Mormon theology casts life as a time of learning. We are here to gain experience. The great object of life is indeed to cross the cavernous gulf that separates us from God. But we are put in this situation for a good reason: to learn about good and evil in a fallen world. In the long run we will be much better off for having struggled with evil. Mormons (today) think of God as their ally, teaching and cheering them on as they struggle to make the best of their lives in this fallen state. The atonement of Christ enables us with his grace to battle with sin and eventually return to the divine presence. Even in moments of despair we can understand our agonies as part of a plan of learning. Mormons rarely blame God for the evil in the world.
3. Mormons believe that “God’s voice is Spirit,” Mormon theology instills a belief in heavenly guidance. Mormons take very seriously scriptures about “the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father” (John 16:26). We believe that anyone who will open his or her mind and heart can hear the voice of the spirit and learn from it. Mormons teach their little children to “listen to the Spirit.” In all our church callings, in making life decisions, in seeking to comprehend, in choosing good over evil, we listen to that inner voice. Experienced Mormons are almost always listening with a “third ear” for promptings about how best to proceed. Mormon theology generously extends this good spirit to people everywhere—to the whole world, for that matter. The spirit of Christ, we believe, bathes all of his creation and all who will pause to listen can receive its inspiration for any good cause—for art, for invention, for good works, for peace-making, for scholarly inquiry, for just management of a family or a corporation. The spirit of Christ—his voice—can be heard by all who will listen. Again from personal experience, I find this doctrine works and I recommend it to everyone. Creative and good people act under this principle anyway, as their accounts amply testify, but this doctrine recommends that quite ordinary people seek the same intuitive guidance for their lives. In the church it leads to the idea that our brothers and sisters can speak under inspiration; our bishops can give us righteous counsel.
4. In my experience, Mormons know better than anyone how to work together for good causes. A bishop can make a few phone calls to members of the ward and turn out scores of people to clean the chapel, help with a flood emergency, paint a house, help at a shelter. The absence of a paid clergy strengthens the cooperative impulse. Every Mormon knows the bishop is working day and night without pay for ward members. The least they can do is reciprocate. From the time they are teenagers, Mormon children are called to hold positions as class leaders or home teachers. They grow up knowing cooperative ventures are a basic part of life. Their effectiveness is more than habit. It results from a kind of simple selflessness. You don’t engage in church service to promote yourself. The idea is to get a job done, not to buck for an advancement or an increase in salary. You try to overcome obstacles and solve problems. I believe that because Mormons know what it means to work for the good of the order, they can be useful in many settings, not just at church. Because of their willingness and selflessness, they can be useful in advancing good causes in schools and universities, businesses and sports teams, and virtually every other site where people try to work together.