I Am a Mormon
I am a Christian: I believe that Christ is my savior and redeemer. I am a Mormon: I believe that Christ has spoken and appeared many times beyond what is documented in the Bible; I do not deny him the willingness or capacity to do that. I love and cherish the extra-biblical records of Christ’s dealings with people in the Americas, and what he said to them, especially during the 1800s in the United States. I delight in the enrichment that Mormonism provides me about Christ’s purpose, character, and love for God’s children all over the world.
In 2006 my wife and I visited the American University of Armenia. The president of that university oriented me to the country and its history with the aid of a large map, explaining the early meaning of the names of key territories. When he was finished he had left out one territory – a part of ancient Armenia that now lies within the borders of Turkey south of Mount Ararat. Instead of a one- or two-word designation, this area had a phrase for its title.
“What about this area?” I asked.
“Oh, that’s a very old name” he said.
“What does it mean?”
“It has a very traditional meaning.”
“What would be the literal translation?”
“It could be translated different ways.”
“Are you reluctant to tell me about this area?” I asked.
He looked at me, and then at the map. “One interpretation is ‘The land where the people of God descended from the mountain.’ The other is ‘The land where the Son of God appeared to his people after his resurrection.’” When he said that he looked at me again as if to monitor my reaction; I smiled and almost together we said “other sheep” [John 10:16; 3 Nephi 15:21; 3 Nephi 16:1-3].
I was then, and still am, grateful for my willingness to study beyond what the world considers the limits of conventional Christian literature, where can be found more of the words of Christ and his prophets. Mormon scriptures challenge my intellect and provide me with an abundance of mind- and soul-satisfying insights that enrich the literature of the entire world.
One simple example is the words of Christ given to Joseph Smith in Missouri in 1832. They clarify that Christ gives commandments to men “that you may understand my will concerning you; Or, in other words, I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to you for your salvation.” [D&C 82:8-9]
I haven’t found any other place in holy or wisdom literature that provides such a simple clarification of what a commandment is—a directive to guide me to salvation. But Mormon scriptures provide more; they explain that God’s directives and associated blessings are based on irrevocable laws that have their origins in the depths of the eternities.
There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated – And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated. (Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21)
For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world. (Doctrine and Covenants 132:5)
My profession is biology and agriculture. I earned my PhD in plant physiology at the University of Minnesota. I worked for thirty years in Minnesota, researching some of nature’s laws, and have documented how an attempt to manage an ecosystem contrary to those laws always proves to be unwise. Although such management might be appealing in the short term, long-term studies confirm that practices contrary to the laws of nature eventually damage the farmer’s pocketbook as well as his surrounding landscape and communities.
I’m not a sociologist, but I have observed nature’s laws operating in societies much as they do in agriculture. I have worked in several countries of the world, mostly in those that are poverty stricken. I confidently conclude that what the poorer peoples of the world need most is not monetary or technical assistance; they need virtue. Data from Cambridge University documents an overwhelming negative correlation between a country’s corruption and its prosperity.
I testify that within the scriptures that are unique to Mormonism are many not-to-be-found-elsewhere directives and insights based on irrevocably-decreed natural laws that, if followed, will not only bless people’s lives and their lands and cultures, but will also improve the welfare of their eternal souls.
I have found that many of us are prone to challenge scriptural-based directions to long-term happiness, or to criticize them because we find them inconvenient to our fashionable desires. We may declare a doctrine to be debatable in order to justify our preference to disobey it for short-term pleasure. In fact we go about gathering evidence, stories, and “proofs” that will help us sustain our defensiveness and contrariness. I appreciate the insight offered in the Book of Mormon from the prophet Alma, who said to his wayward son Corianton, whom he loved:
And now behold, my son, do not risk one more offense against your God upon those points of doctrine, which ye have hitherto risked to commit sin. (Alma 41:9)
The Book of Mormon is an astounding book filled with great stories and profoundly-worded devotions to Christ. It is the most compelling book I have come across. Just one example is Alma chapter 36, which is a masterful presentation of the centrality of Jesus in our lives. It’s an intricately-composed completely-original literary masterpiece that never fails to move me.
The Doctrine and Covenants is amazing. In it we repeatedly find the nineteenth-century words of Christ, spoken in the first person, giving explanations of his character, his purpose, and his methods—with words and insights that cannot be found anywhere else, although comparable to the writings of Isaiah. Consider:
Hearken, O ye people of my church, to whom the kingdom has been given; hearken ye and give ear to him who laid the foundation of the earth, who made the heavens and all the hosts thereof, and by whom all things were made which live, and move, and have a being. . . . Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have eternal life. (Doctrine and Covenants 45:1-5)
In hundreds of Mormon scriptures I find similar insights and enrichments to my understanding of the Bible, including the nature and attributes of the Holy Ghost and how I can qualify for his companionship, the worth and value of souls, how the devil operates, how I may more fully receive personal revelation, and so much more.
In summary, I believe that Christ has shared his irrevocably-decreed laws and directions for happiness and salvation with his disciples in many lands and at many times. I believe that Christianity is vibrant, and living, and open to fresh revelation right now in the twenty-first century. I look forward to learning more about what he has said. (When will we get those Armenian records?) To date I am yet to encounter such a mother lode of wisdom and guidance as I find in the combined scriptures of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
R. Kent Crookston was raised on a wheat and dairy farm in Magrath, Alberta, Canada, and served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New Zealand. He received a B.S. from Brigham Young University in agronomy, and then earned an M.S. and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in plant physiology. After a 1972 postdoctoral fellowship with the Canada Department of Agriculture and a two-year stint as a research associate at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, he taught for twenty-five years at the University of Minnesota. From 1984 to 1986, he served as resident coordinator of a USAID / University of Minnesota project in Rabat, Morocco, where he was also an adjunct professor at the Institut Agronomique et Vétérinaire Hassan II. While at the University of Minnesota, he was the founding director of the Minnesota Institute of Sustainable Agriculture (1988-1992) and the head of the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics (1990-1998).
In 1998, Dr. Crookston accepted appointment as a professor in the Department of Plant and Wildlife Sciences and dean of the College of Biology and Agriculture at Brigham Young University. Having completed his tenure as dean in 2005, he currently serves as associate director of the University’s Faculty Center.
A fellow of the Crop Science Society of America and the American Society of Agronomy, and the holder, since 1999, of an honorary professorship at the Institut Agronomique et Vétérinaire Hassan II, in Rabat, Morocco, Dr. Crookston has consulted on projects and with organizations in Mexico, the Philippines, Senegal, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Ghana, France, Oman, Morocco, England, Ecuador, and Armenia, and at various places in the United States of America. His research has focused on such areas as photosynthetic physiology, photosynthate partitioning and grain growth, applied crop management (e.g., of corn and soybeans), and academic administration. His publications have appeared in numerous volumes of acts and abstracts, and in such journals as Plant Physiology, Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, Canadian Journal of Plant Science, Crop Science, Planta, Agronomy Journal, Berichte der Deutschen Botanischen Gesellschaft, Journal of the American Horticultural Society, New Phytologist, Plant Growth Regulator Bulletin, American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, Journal of Production Agriculture, Actes Editions – Institut Agronomique et Vétérinaire Hassan II, Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education, Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, Academic Leader, and The Department Chair. He is the co-author of Decision Cases for Agriculture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992), and the author of chapters in books published in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Germany, and various places in the United States. He has written numerous popular articles on various subjects; has, on four occasions, won the Excellence in Agricultural Journalism Award from the American Society of Agronomy; and is co-holder of a patent for a method of increasing corn yields.
Posted November 2010