Experience tells me that religion is a touchy subject. The title of my blog alone may have already ignited fiery opposition in the hearts of some readers and sent them straight to the comment box, opinions blazing and fingers flying in a mad frenzy across keyboards and touch screens.
For the record, it is unlikely I will respond to any derogatory or malicious comments. I simply would like to have my say and then let it be. I also encourage all commenters, in agreement with my views or not, to please be kind and respectful to each other.
But back to the title of this post. I wish I was writing this piece to brag about my own picture being on a billboard. (Bucket list, anyone?) I am writing as a supplement -- perhaps preemptive, depending on your location -- to something you may notice cropping up in your communities in the near future. It's true: Billboards, radio ads and TV commercials are about to get a little religious. If you're in New York, you may have already seen it. If you're in Phoenix, it's headed your way. (And if you're in Salt Lake, you probably can't miss it!)
What's a Mormon?
Well, we don't have multiple wives, for starters. The term Mormon is a nickname for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, derived from the title of our primary religious text, the Book of Mormon. We believe in Jesus Christ. We believe every human being is a son or daughter of a loving Heavenly Father. We believe in living prophets. We believe in the Bible. We believe in eternal marriages and families. We believe in faith, hope, love and charity.
Why the media blitz?
The truth is, there are many misconceptions about my religion. Additionally, there are many people who have simply never heard of us. The purpose of our mass media initiative is to inform people. In my experience, simple facts and knowledge can do much to quell rumors, assumptions and inaccuracies. You may notice the theme of our ad campaign: "I'm a Mormon." Our website, www.mormon.org, features thousands of profiles of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Check me out here!)
We want you to know that we are normal people. We are not zealots or fanatics. We are everyday human beings. We have jobs, education, hobbies and interests. Chances are, whoever you are, there is a Mormon you have something in common with and can relate to.
But even as I emphasize that we are normal, relatable people, I want to openly acknowledge that we are different in many ways. Among other things, we do not drink, smoke or engage in premarital sex. We avoid crass and vulgar entertainment, whether it be in cinema, literature or everyday conversation. We aim to seek after things that will let virtue and purity garnish our thoughts at all times. Our religion is a lifestyle, one that we aim to live 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Why am I writing this?
In the Bible, Peter instructs to "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you." I want every person who reads this to know that the lifestyle I lead and the beliefs I prescribe to do indeed fill me with hope and inexpressible joy. I am an ordinary person in many ways. I go to work every day, I paint my fingernails outlandish colors, I frequently eat cereal at midnight and I read more blogs than I care to admit to.
But I am also not ordinary, simply because of a religion that has changed my heart and defines me more than my career, hobbies or possessions could ever do. I have a knowledge of and close relationship with my Savior, Jesus Christ. I have a Heavenly Father who I know hears me every time I get on my knees and pray. I have an eternal family. I have a living prophet I can turn to for guidance in a world that grows ever more unstable. So much in life is unpredictable, but I have hope and peace because I have a knowledge of a God who makes promises of eternal happiness -- promises He does not break.
And, I'm a Mormon.
Want to know more? Want the happiness I feel? Find out for yourself.
Follow Katie Hawkes on Twitter: www.twitter.com/k8ehawkes