It is often said that people tend to follow the religious belief or traditions of their parents. If this is true then I am not typical of a religious believer. My parents were not Christian and so I wasn’t baptised into any church as a child. My first contact with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came through the missionaries proselytising along our street. I can remember well that the only reason I let them into my home was because it was pouring with rain outside and I felt sorry for them. I had no intention of joining the “Mormon” faith or any other religion, but on listening to them their message struck a chord with me. I cannot really explain what it was, other than it seemed familiar to me. I had never really heard anything about the Mormons so this was not the sort of familiarity that occurs as a result of having heard something on the radio or TV, but, rather, something much deeper.
The missionaries taught the first discussion to my wife and me that evening and, as we were moving home that very week, we lost contact with them soon after. After we settled in our new home we decided to see if we could find the address of the local LDS church so that we might resume our lessons. Unable to find anything, I settled with reading a book from the local library written by a non-LDS author. The book was fair to the Church and by chance a few days later I met some missionaries in the street and, after invitation, we received the lessons and were baptised. That was over thirty years ago and my life has changed dramatically as a result of my church membership.
I left high school with very little in the way of qualifications. There was never any real expectation placed upon me and as a result I never had a profession or career to speak of. Joining the church helped me to appreciate my potential in ways that I would never have imagined. This, coupled with the LDS view on education, made me realise that I could do much better with my life. When the opportunity arose, I went to university and now find myself teaching philosophy here in New Zealand. This may not seem very remarkable, but when I consider that my grandfather was a gypsy and that no one in my family ever received any tertiary education, it is, in the least, very humbling.
Occasionally I am asked if my religious belief conflicts in any way with the discipline of philosophy. I can honestly say that philosophy has never raised something that is a serious issue to my religious beliefs. Sometimes I may not have an answer, but in those instances I am content to leave the matter in suspension. In most instances I find that my belief in the church is strengthened. For example, one of the courses that I teach at university is an introductory course on the Philosophy of Religion. Aside from looking at the traditional proofs of God we also discuss arguments against the existence of God. What I find interesting is that the arguments against God’s existence, which are often difficult for mainstream Christianity to answer, are not a problem for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have come to realise that through the ages religious truth has been distorted and, as a result, many denominations of Christianity now find it difficult to defend themselves against their critics. So much so that some of the basic tenets of Christianity are now being questioned, even by the leaders of these denominations. This is not the case with LDS theology. Because of this apostasy there needed to be a restoration of the gospel. The Church’s doctrine remains constant because it is the restoration of truth here upon the earth. I know that there is a God in Heaven, and that He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to atone for our sins. I know that the gospel has been restored through a young man named Joseph Smith. And as remarkable as that story seems, I know it to be true, not through any academic exercise but by the witness of the Holy Ghost.
Stephen Duffin teaches philosophy at Massey University, in Palmerston North, New Zealand. He has published in the fields of environmental ethics and Christian apology, and has a book published on thinking critically. He lives in New Zealand with his wife, Carole. They are parents of four children.
Posted September 2010