A Letter to My Young Mormon


I just finished reading a book by Adam Miller. It is called Letters to a Young Mormon. Others have written books in this format, but this one struck me and I wanted to tell you about it…in a letter.

Adam talks about two stories. The story that we want our lives to tell and the story of God’s work in your life. The more we try to tell our own story, the more we resist Him. When we do this we are sinning.

Todd, I admit…I sometimes try to influence the story of your life. I should not do this. But our stories are not what is important. It is what God has in store for us.

This is hard, because I really like my story. Okay, maybe not so much. But that might be the problem. Maybe the story I wanted my life to tell was not the story that should have been told at all. This might explain a lot.

I am glad you are part of this strange story.

One of the things I loved about Adam’s book it was that his reflections made me stretch. Not in my understanding of the words, but in my faith and desire to become closer to God.

His letter on scripture impressed me as we head into the Old Testament year in Sunday School. I am not always comfortable with how others use the scriptures, but I have always found great value in engaging scripture. It is why I want our family scripture study to be more than just something we do as part of the process of wrapping up the day before bedtime.

Here is something that struck me from his letter on the scriptures:

You and I must translate these books again. Word by word, line by line, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, God wants the whole thing translated once more, and this time he wants it translated into your native tongue, inflicted by your native concerns, and written in your native flesh. To be a Mormon is to do once more, on your own scale, the same kind of work that Joseph did.

His letter on science will be interesting to you, particularly as your contemplate a career in technology.

His letter about faith stands out to me in particular, because faith is a concept I love. I love faith. But it is something that is often portrayed as either silly (by those that do not value religion) or as something that is important…but not all that interesting (as given by the standard treatment of faith at church).

Faith is something that you hope for and believe in, but which you cannot see. This is what you are told in Church and later when you get to seminary. It is correct in part, but it does not tell us a whole lot about why that faith matters or why faith in Jesus Christ is needed for salvation.


“Faith is more like being faithful to your husband or wife than it is like believing in magic,” writes Adam. “Fidelity is the key. You may fall in love with someone because of how well they complement your story, but you’ll prove yourself faithful to them only when you care more for the flawed, difficult, and unplotted life you end up sharing with them.”

Being faithful to the gospel or having faith in The Savior, is about a long difficult relationship. This is not because Jesus is a difficult person to have a relationship with, but because any serious relationship is difficult. He wants to have an eternal relationship with me. He wants to have an eternal relationship with you.

Part of why faith is hard for me, is that having a relationship with me is not easy.

Todd, you will have doubts.

“Repurpose them for the sake of faith,” Adam writes.

“When your faith falters and you’re tempted to run, stand up and bear testimony.” Adam writes. “A testimony is a promise to stay.”

This is why I bear my testimony. I am in the Church to stay, even if I am a little weird.

…bearing testimony is like saying “I love you.” A testimony doesn’t just reflect what someone else has already decided, it is a declaration that, in the face of uncertainty, you have made a decision. Saying “I love you” or “I know the church is true” commits you to living in such a way as to make that love true.

As I read this passage late last night, I cried. I am crying now as I share it here. It is a good thing that you are at school. You get uncomfortable when I cry in front of you. 🙂

But the idea of a testimony as shared by Adam spoke to my heart and mind in a way that few things have in a long time.

Reading this book has helped build up my testimony. I am pretty sure that I do not count as a young Mormon anymore. But I am young in learning. Especially compared to God.

Todd, the church is true. I love the church. I love you.




UPDATE: Letters to a Young Mormon is now available on Kindle:

9 replies »

  1. “Being faithful to the gospel or having faith in The Savior, is about a long difficult relationship. This is not because Jesus is a difficult person to have a relationship with, but because any serious relationship is difficult. He wants to have an eternal relationship with me. He wants to have an eternal relationship with you.”
    A person can know that they have eternal life. That’s why the Apostle John wrote in 1 John 5:13, ” I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
    In order to know this means to make sure you are following the true gospel and that you are trusting in Christ alone and his work on the cross. Eternal life does not come from our works.

      • Some people get their adrenalin from porn, others, like the Downton Abbot above, get off bothering people who aren’t going to follow his prescriptions anyway. considering his obsession with “Mormons”, I wonder when he’s going to convert? 🙂

    • I find it ironic that Dave is so quick to post and preach in the comments of this and many other blogs, and yet he won’t allow comments on his own blog that he links to every time. A bit of double standard, don’t you think, Dave? Why won’t you allow a dialogue on your home turf?

    • David, may I suggest taking a look at James 2:17-22? It’s true that faith is necessary, essential even, to gaining eternal life and being able to return home to our Heavenly Father when our mortal journey is through. However, faith alone is not sufficient. “Faith without works is dead”. From other comments you have made on other blogs I have gathered that at one point you were a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As such, forgive me if I’m mistaken here, I assume that you know we are here to be tried and tested, to experience loss and hope, joy and pain, to know right from wrong and good from evil. In short, to become as our Heavenly Father and our Savior have become. We cannot become as they are if we sit back and do nothing, that is not how we learn and grow. I am reminded of the parable of the talents, found in Matthew 25: 14-30. This parable comes from Christ directly and He tells us that we must put forth effort as well. The servant that buried the talent he was given had it taken from him in the end and had it given to the servant that took his original five talents and made them ten. Christ himself said that we must put forth our own effort, that it is not enough to sit back and be complaicent. However, I grant that in a sense, you are partially correct. Eternal life does not come from our works, the possibility of eternal life comes through the sacrifice Christ made when He died on that cross for all of us. The ability to achieve that promise of eternal life, however, does come from our works. Because of Christ we all have a chance at gaining an eternal life, but we cannot reach that promise if we are unwilling to put forth our own effort, to show our Heavenly Father that we are willing to do as He asks of us. I don’t know about you David, but at least for me, faith is an action word. Faith in Christ and what He did for us all compels me to act, to “work” as it were. I believe that true faith in Christ means trying to be like Him, to feed the hungry, care for the sick, mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. Will you forgive me if I finish this rather long rant with my testimony?
      I believe in my Savior and my Redeemer. He died that I may live again and that, though I am human and imperfect, I can become perfect and be washed clean through His redeeming sacrifice. He gave me the chance at an eternal life when my mortal life is done and all He has asked of me in return is that I come follow Him. In my opinion, such as it is, to come follow my Savior means to be like Him, to go out and work. I have faith in my Savior, and I know that He lives, but that is not enough. “Faith without works is dead” and when my Savior comes again I endevor to be numbered among the good and the faithful. That means going out in the world each day, trying my hardest to do as He has asked of me, sometimes slipping up and making mistakes, but knowing that because of His sacrifice I can repent and keep trying to be a better person than I am. I have faith that one day I will see my Heavenly Father and my Savior again and I want to be able to hold my head high and greet them with a smile on my face, knowing I did the best that I could. That means putting forth my own effort and working to attain that promise of eternal life.

  2. Too many times, we as Mormons get hung up in the discussion of grace as a whole. To better understand grace, I like to think in terms of the dichotomy and complementarity of the concepts of justification and sanctification.

    Justification includes Jesus’ gift of forgiveness of our sins through the atonement with no effort on our part other than professing our faith in Him. This is given to us over and over in partaking of the sacrament worthily as we profess our willingness to be a faithful follower of the Savior.

    Sanctification comes as we accept the assistance of the Spirit in strengthening our weaknesses by causing a “mighty change in [our hearts] that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.”

    President Hinckley said that his favorite scripture is found in D&C 50:24: “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light and continueth in God, receiveth more light ; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”

    To me, then, our only “work” (after receiving the necessary ordinances) is to “allow” the process of sanctification to work in us and thus “allowing” the Spirit of the atonement to sanctify us.

    We are reminded in the sacrament prayer that we can always have His Spirit to be with us by always remembering Him. and keeping His commandments.

  3. Thanks Chris. Excellent letter that I know your son will cherish. And it makes me want to rush out and buy Adam’s book.

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