Rich LaRocco

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Is religion good or bad?
As a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was taught to respect other religions. Indeed, one of our 13 Articles of Faith deals with religious tolerance.

Here is No. 11 in its entirety: "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."

The Articles of Faith were written by Joseph Smith, whom we Mormons consider a prophet who was called of God to restore the fullness of the Gospel as taught by Jesus Christ during his mortal sojourn. Smith was responding to a newspaper reporter who had written him to learn what members of the church actually believed.

If you want to know what Mormons really believe, it is good to go to the source. Too bad reporters today more commonly seek enemies of the church to get their take on Mormon beliefs.

In my experience almost all Mormons respect the religious beliefs of others. Most of us believe that most people who strive to live their religion are doing that which is right and good. I have seldom heard other members of the church make fun of other people's beliefs. Curiously, the most negative comments I have heard about other religions have been directed at Satanism and polygamous sects that broke from the Mormon Church when it disavowed polygamy in 1890.

Members of the LDS Church see themselves as Christians because they accept Jesus Christ as their savior. They believe that he is the god of the world and the universe but that he also is literally the Only Begotten Son of God, our Heavenly Father.

Mormons do not accept the concept of the Trinity as espoused by some religious leaders because we see God the Eternal Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, as two separate and distinct beings or personalities. We believe they are so alike in their goals, perfection and goodness that they are virtually identical, but we do not believe that Jesus prayed to himself or that he asked himself that to lessen his suffering or that he deflected praise of himself to his other self.

Yet Mormons have many beliefs that are in line with what most other Christians believe. I choose to emphasize the similarities rather than the differences. As is the case with many conflicts, many of the differences that others emphasize are more semantic than actual. The LDS Church does not teach that a person has no need of God and can earn his or her way to heaven. On the contrary, the church believes that God's grace is required. But we do believe that faith without works is dead, to paraphrase the apostle Paul. If a person does not have faith that living the commandments is worth the effort, does that person really have faith?

I have faith that all good people will be rewarded for their good deeds and that we all will be loved and accepted in the next life.

Nowadays many observers claim that religion is evil, saying that most wars were caused by religions and religious differences. In my view it is the rare religion indeed that sees violence as a solution, an exception being the Islamic extremists who believe that killing non-Muslims is a way to receive a heavenly reward. I believe that religions that teach true principles are good. When humans stray from the truth and perform evil deeds in the name of their religion, that is bad.

Ruminations on my religion