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The Bear Facts

A misunderstood Mormon

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Junior Erika Cook wants people to have a better understanding of being Mormon.

Junior Erika Cook wants people to have a better understanding of being Mormon.

Trinity Norwood

Trinity Norwood

Junior Erika Cook wants people to have a better understanding of being Mormon.

Erika Cook, Writer

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Author’s note: Please know I am not writing this to try and convince anyone or argue in the efforts of turning anyone to Mormonism. This is to help people have a better understanding of what Mormonism is and what they believe.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) is one of the most misunderstood and unfamiliar religions in Southeast Texas, especially when Orange is primarily Baptist (34.8 percent), compared to 2.5 percent LDS. However, it is one of the fastest growing Christian religions due to the church sending currently over 70,946 young men and women on LDS missions.

Mormon, along with LDS, are just nicknames for the members of this church. If asked what people know about them, the common responses include “they believe in having many wives,” “they’re not Christians,” “they don’t believe in the Bible,” or “they can’t have caffeine.” But what people don’t know is that these prevalent misconceptions surrounding this religion are very false.

In my life, I have grown up being the only Mormon at my school (excluding my siblings). It was something I was known for, so I was basically a target for all of the Mormon jokes and questions. The first joke had to do with the practice of polygamy. Although this act was once accepted in the church, the practice was removed in 1890 and has been against the church’s beliefs since. We are referenced toward the television show “The Sister Wives,”  but these people are actually not a part of the Mormon church. Just as any religion has its extremists, we have groups who are considered “fundamentalists” who have no affiliation with the church, which include this television show. If practicing polygamy, church members are excommunicated.

Another misconception has to do with the belief that we are not Christians. However, we are a type of Christianity as we read the Bible and believe in Jesus Christ. His name is said in the full name of the church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The main difference between Mormonism and other common religions is that Mormons do not believe in the Trinity. We believe that God, Jesus Christ, and The Holy Ghost are all separate beings. We are said to not believe in Christ as we don’t associate with the cross, but this reasoning has to do with the fact that we do not want to celebrate his death by wearing or having crosses in our houses. Instead, we celebrate Christ’s resurrection; an event that isn’t represented with a worldly figure.

We are known for our apparent “second Bible,” The Book of Mormon, and people tend to believe this is our only Bible. But as stated from our church leaders, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God, as long as it is translated correctly. We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” The Book of Mormon is not a continuation or add on to the Bible, but another testament of Jesus Christ. It is staged after Jerusalem was being destroyed in the Bible and people fled into the wilderness and eventually went to the America’s. We believe that  after Jesus’ resurrection, he went to visit those in America to teach them. It teaches of Jesus Christ and his teachings, just as the Bible does.

Probably one of most misunderstood beliefs towards Mormons is the restrictions against certain substances, but it is not due to the caffeine in these drinks. LDS members are encouraged to not partake of coffee, tea, tobacco, alcohol, drugs, or harmful things to our body, and to eat fruits, vegetables, and exercise regularly. For some members, they choose to not drink soda, which is not in my case, because I seriously love Dr. Pepper. This encouragement has to do with the saying, “my body is a temple.” We believe these substances to be harmful to our bodies. Most of these things are understandable, but the most questionable are usually the coffee and tea part. In the early 1800’s, we were given a physical and spiritual health law we refer to as the Word of Wisdom. This is given to us and we trust we will receive physical and spiritual blessings if we follow it. There was a study at UCLA that proved that to those who followed the Word of Wisdom had an increased life expectancy of eight to eleven years longer than the general U.S. population. I also feel that we are given this because these are mind altering substances. As we are given the chance for agency, or free will, these things restrict us from thinking and doing things on our own, which is the exact opposite of agency.

There are so many more misconceptions about this religion that people usually think the worst of. Personally, as I have grown up in a school where I have always been one of the only Mormons there, I have been ridiculed so much because many people believe in these misconceptions. I do see these beliefs to be odd to those who don’t understand them, but I really do love them. I look at the Mormon church to keep me young at heart. That sounds weird, but it really does. Every month, kids from ages 14-18 come from all around the area to have a dance or fun activity every month, which you should know, I am SUCH a great dancer. The church encourages you not to date until you are 16, and when you do, they want you to go on fun dates! Not just regular dates, but to find ways to have clean, wholesome fun. I love being able to laugh hysterically, and remember what I actually did the day before. Probably one of my absolute favorite things about the standards of the Mormon church is the things set up to help your testimony grow in Christ, such as my favorite summer church camp, EFY.

EFY stands for Especially for Youth, an LDS church camp for ages 14-18, that invites members and non-members to come and learn and have fun. I look forward to these five summer days all year long.  The week consists of lessons, games nights, amazing music, a talent show, creative dances, testimony building, a COW (Crush of the Week), and great people that keep the same standards you do. If anyone knows me, they know I could talk for hours about this camp that has helped me so much. I say it’s my battery. Through the year, I’m drained. However all the hype I get from this camp recharges me. When I’m there, I have no worries, no stress. I just worry about where my scriptures are and whether I have the guts to tell a guy I’ve only know for a week that he’s cute before I never see him again. It’s a place that perfectly represents the LDS church. All service, testimony building, love, and wholesome fun.

This church gives me the opportunity to serve and love. It is full of people who are willing to help others while simultaneously striving to better themselves and come closer to Christ. I always wondered why this church was so disliked, when every single person I have met is constantly happy and loving. This church is a place I feel at home with. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a misunderstood religion that is one of the most understanding.

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33 Comments

33 Responses to “A misunderstood Mormon”

  1. Shirley Harrington on March 6th, 2018 2:58 pm

    Well said Erika!

    You bring the love of Christ around, every time I’m in distance of you. You have peace, love, caring and a smile that will never quit! Lights up the whole room! So, many more traits I could speak of that only God can give.

    [Reply]

  2. Jayne Corbett on March 6th, 2018 8:40 pm

    The happiness you describe in your life really validates your faith. You did a great job explaining our church. Well done!

    [Reply]

  3. Samantha Smith on March 7th, 2018 6:57 am

    Erika, This is very well written and I am so very proud of you for writing this. You amaze me and are going to reap the blessings for sharing your testimony and story with the world!

    [Reply]

  4. Rich Hunter on March 7th, 2018 6:46 pm

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on being a Latter-day Saint. I’m going to share your article with my family. All the very best to you and your family. Rich Hunter (New Zealand).

    [Reply]

  5. Larry Billings on March 7th, 2018 8:51 pm

    A very nicely written testimony. Your parents must be very proud, I know your Lord is. Keep the faith.

    [Reply]

  6. Cynthia Parish on March 7th, 2018 8:57 pm

    Erika
    I grew up in the same small town with a group of Mormons. I loved going to their house for parties. I also loved the family relationships that were ever present. I know that my life growing up was enhanced by being with these other young people… thank you for sharing.

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  7. Colin McMullin on March 7th, 2018 9:16 pm

    Nice read Erika–tough being one of the few of any religion, race, etc., in a school but I’m glad you are trying to help others understand. Most open-minded kids just want to learn a little more and I’m sure will find your article as interesting as I did. Best wishes for your senior year next year!

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  8. Dr Keith Wied on March 7th, 2018 10:18 pm

    Fwd: Absolutely amazing. A beautiful young women with a beautiful heart and mind and devotion You should be so proud. The strength that she exhibits is beyond words. I know she has endured criticism and ignorance but that has given her strength. She is an example everyone should strive to be. In this day and time when decadent behavior and immorality is accepted to be the norm she chose not to accept this and follow her faith and belief. Also a strong compliment to a beautiful and loving mother. I’ve never read anything as moving. You must share her words with others. Thank you for sharing it with me. W

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  9. Chris Quirante on March 7th, 2018 10:49 pm

    Erika,
    A well written explanation of who you are and who you represent. You can’t be more honest and open then that! Clearly there’s no one that strives more to be like our Savior Jesus Christ than you! Nice job!

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  10. Brenda De La O on March 8th, 2018 12:28 am

    You did an amazing work expressing your beliefs, I think too often we harm other’s by ridiculing on what we don’t understand. We are a global community and need to understand before we judge and even then instead of judging we should accept differences. Thank you for your courage.

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  11. Andy Perez on March 8th, 2018 7:24 am

    You’re crushing it Erika! Thanks for doing this. Hopefully it helps people to understand us a little more.

    [Reply]

  12. Jeffrey Redmond on March 8th, 2018 8:55 am

    What a great informative article. I’m impressed at how well you explained your beliefs in such a down to earth way. Way to go!

    [Reply]

  13. Dan Maloy on March 8th, 2018 9:33 am

    Excellent article! Very, very well done, Erika! Stick to your guns, girl, no matter how much you might be misunderstood or teased. In the long run you’ll be glad you did. I hope you look around you and also see the many, many good NON-LDS Christians in your school and community. They are out there. I just spent time with one about a week ago. For 4 days as we traveled around the country we often talked about his Christian faith and I spent a lot of time answering questions about Mormonism, too. The older I get the more clearly I see the need for ALL Christians, and ALL people of faith and virtue to work together. Keep up the good work!

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  14. Chris on March 8th, 2018 9:41 am

    Interesting article. Thanks for your explanation. Sounds like you enjoy living your faith.

    [Reply]

  15. Miles Romney on March 8th, 2018 10:11 am

    Erika,
    Thank you for your article. You are a great representative of our church. I am sure that your article has already helped many in Texas to better understand the church. Keep living the gospel and being an incredible example to those around you.

    [Reply]

  16. Chalon on March 8th, 2018 10:47 am

    What a great representation of what we believe as Mormons. It is important that people educate themselves and find out what we truly believe in. On any subject and more specifically the subject of the gospel, it is easy and can be misleading if we don’t take the time and effort to come to an understanding on our own. If we genuinely put forth the effort, we will always be helped in this process of learning and seeking after truth because it has eternal consequences and it’s important to God, He helps us in this pursuit. I’m perplexed at why more people don’t take time to learn truth and light for themselves?? The resources we have with the Bible as a witness of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost is a great blessing and then to have a second witness or testament in the Book of Mormon is miraculous. We need to do all we can to access our Father Heaven and learn His truth. Searching the scriptures is a great place to start.

    [Reply]

  17. Phil Ollero on March 8th, 2018 10:50 am

    I love your article.I used to send my two daughters to EFY when they were teenagers and they come back completely transformed. Please keep your testimony strong and find yourself a good husband.

    [Reply]

  18. Matt Bare on March 8th, 2018 11:38 am

    Thanks for sharing your beliefs. I hope many are touched by your words and all can be encouraged to be more understanding of others’ beliefs and learn more.

    [Reply]

  19. Tammy Ward on March 8th, 2018 12:12 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your message. It was enlightening and well written. Good for you and your religion!

    [Reply]

  20. Anne Low on March 8th, 2018 12:45 pm

    Well said Erika. I grew up in Northern California and only a handful of us were members of the Church. I found it to be my rock- my greatest strength even though I didn’t experience any personal attacks against me because of my faith.. I understood the importance of standing for what I believed among those who didn’t share the same beliefs. Best wishes in your future.

    [Reply]

  21. Matthew Emmett on March 8th, 2018 12:54 pm

    Hello Erika,

    I used to be one of those jokers. Not meanly because tat was not me, and it was with a friend who like you was one of only 2 Mormons in the school. She, Karina H, like you lit up the room, from her personality but esp because she knew who she was and was confident and kind.

    In my Senior year, I was sitting at lunch with her and some other friends, and I was giving her a hard time, or so I thought. I was Asking or making Mormon jokes. What actually was happening was she was sharing her knowledge and testimony, because even at age 16, she knew what she believed and that is fairly rare esp at her age.

    She met each joke with facts, she did it without being upset, and with sincerity. I had know her for years at this point but this was the first time we had serious discussion of the Church and it’s beliefs and her beliefs. I was so impressed the next day at school I asked if I could “Borrow” a Book for Mormon (I didn’t want the commitment of owning one more did I know how easily members gave them, lol) The day after she of course gave me a copy with her testimony on the inside cover pages.

    This began my journey, read about 1/2 in 2 weeks, and then asked if I could go to church with them, her father insisted I have my parents permission because as he said he has no desire to upset my family relationships.

    When I walked into the lobby, not the actual chapel but just the lobby, I was overcome with the sense of love, warmth, and the feeling that I was home, all this and I had yet to speak to anyone.

    About 3 months later, I was baptized, and 5 years later I went on a mission at age of 24. I came home, and was Sealed “For All Time and Eternity” in the DC Temple to my wife of 25 years.

    Now here is the reason I wrote you all this. Years later I asked her about sharing the gospel with our friends and me in school, and she admitted she had already attempted with all our mutual circle of friends, but not me, because as she put it, “I thought you were the least likely to ever convert”. So she like you set an example, but she didn’t realize that her understanding of who would join was not Heavenly Fathers. Even if your classmates never join the church, know that you have been a blessing to them and helped them to know God and the Savior, because they know you.

    I am actually the only schoolmate that joined, but that is ok, people know our testimonies.

    Your brother,

    Matthew, Young Men’s President, Newton Iowa Branch of, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    PS if the Editor feels not to allow this on the web-page, please print it and give Erika a copy

    [Reply]

  22. Steve Hall on March 8th, 2018 1:33 pm

    Erika,
    A very well written article and testimony. True, it’s amazing how many people don’t know what we believe in and sometimes twist the facts. I joined the church in 1976 while in the army over in Italy and have never regretted the decision. Hang in there and hold your head high. You are an inspiration to those around you.

    [Reply]

  23. Bot Bowles on March 8th, 2018 4:56 pm

    Mormons believe in the Christianity of the New Testament era. Catholics and Protestants believe in Fourth Century Creedal Christianity. Here are the differences:

    1. Baptism by immersion by the father (who has the authority) of the family
    2. Lay clergy
    3. Baptism by proxy for deceased ancestors
    4. God and Jesus organized the world, rather than creatio ex nihilo.
    5. Belief in a tripartite anthropomorphic Godhead
    6. Belief in theosis or divinization (that faithful Christians can acquire god-like attributes).
    7. Belief in sacred esoteric ordinances which allow faithful Christians to ascend to the highest heaven. Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, administered these ordinances until 350 AD.
    8. Belief in Eternal Marriage, as recorded in the Book of the Apostle Philip.
     
    Which is the true Christianity? New Testament Era or Creedal?

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  24. Kathryn Olson on March 8th, 2018 7:15 pm

    Erika,
    This article is well-written and articulate. More importantly, I am in awe of you explaining sometimes-hard-to-explain beliefs with such grace and maturity. You go, girl!
    Kathryn Olson, Doylestown, PA
    PS I am sharing with my seminary class tomorrow morning! 🙂

    [Reply]

  25. Jonathan Toronto on March 8th, 2018 11:31 pm

    Congratulations on a wonderful article, Erika. As a Latter-day Saint who had the opportunity to attend grade school in a community where our family was in the religious minority, I am grateful for the opportunities this gave me to grow by speaking up. What is particularly exceptional to see in this case is the support of The Bear Facts newspaper and the obvious support you seem to be receiving from those around you, at school, for writing the piece.

    I love the earlier commenter’s note that there is so much good that we can do as we reach out to those of other faiths and build on common virtues and values to strengthen our communities. As others seek to understand you, and you them, it is clear with your gifts of expression that much good will come of those associations and the worthy causes you pursue.

    Bless you for speaking up. And again, major kudos to your school newspaper for their kindness in allowing your free expression of faith, as we should all do for one another!!

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  26. Berta on March 9th, 2018 11:46 am

    Desde España también agradecemos tu testimonio. ¡Ánimo Erika! y que el Señor te colme de tantas bendiciones como repartiste tú al escribir el artículo… Sigue agarrada a la barra de hierro y tu camino será más sencillo y sólido.

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  27. Danielle Corbett on March 9th, 2018 1:07 pm

    SO PROUD OF MY BABY SISTER! Erika you are such an example to me. You have kept your standards even when you are the only one. That is not easy. I’m so grateful to have a sister like you. I too know of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. It brings such peace to my life. I can’t wait to see how your life turns out. You’ll be the best missionary! I love you sis.

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  28. Rich Shuck on March 9th, 2018 1:21 pm

    Erika,

    I love your article! Well done. I too grew up in a Texas town (WACO) being the only Mormon in my school and I think you are right on target! I still dearly love the friends I made at youth conferences and church activities and I am 52 years old now. Keep up the great work and thank you for your testimony of Christ and his church.

    Sincerely,

    Rich Shuck

    [Reply]

  29. Gaius Baltar on March 9th, 2018 2:16 pm

    As a christian, I think Erika does a good job explaining her religion. For example polygamy, that the doctrine was cancelled in 1890, and that men can no longer be sealed to more than one wife. She explains why people who read the book of mormon yet still believe in living polygamy are not mormons because they are fundamentalists. One good point she makes is how separating the members of the godhead makes the church different – which I think is clearly shown in the book of mormon and in joseph’s 1832 first vision account. She explains why mormons distance themselves from the cross because it means celebrating the death of Jesus 1Cor 1:18. She states that for mormons, the bible’s truth is limited by the bible’s translation, whereas I think most mormons celebrate how the brown seer stone was a superior translating tool. On the word of wisdom, she explains why caffeine is not a mind-altering drug and dr. pepper is great but tea and coffee are bad (see Mark7:15). Then she explains many of the cool social benefits to a church community.

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  30. Jo Tucker on March 9th, 2018 8:58 pm

    Erika, thank you for sharing your testimony. You will one day make a great missionary!

    [Reply]

  31. Richard Comely on March 10th, 2018 8:27 am

    Lovely article. The writer sounds like a sweet young woman full of love and life. My wife and i are members of the church because of young missionaries she mentioned giving two years of their life to teach the restored gospel in Manitoba Canada.

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  32. Phillip C Smith on March 10th, 2018 4:41 pm

    A wonderful statement by a special girl and person. Thank you.

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  33. Teresa on April 20th, 2018 12:42 pm

    Nice Job, Erika!

    Your article is being read all over the country!

    I live in Idaho now but “grew up” in the Eastern United States sometimes refered to as the “mission field”. I, too, was often the only member in my school as well so I could really identify.

    So grateful for your example and courage to share your beliefs and dispel misunderstandings. You inspire me and others to not only speak up, but just as importantly, to listen to others and treat others as you want to be treated. Happy, helathy, helpful, people are the Lord’s best advertisement.

    Thank you!

    [Reply]

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