Of Horses and Mormons**
by Kathy Penrod
I recently took up horseback riding. Most of the time I barely pretend to know what I am doing. Even though I have my own horse, I have been overwhelmed at times with the amount of care that goes into giving a horse a happy life.
When you get on a horse with a trainer by your side, you are quickly invited to learn a whole new vocabulary. Learning the meaning of Walk, Trot, Canter is pretty easy. There are other phrases, however, like “put your leg on” or “barn sour” or “change your diagonal” that are more difficult to define.
All in all, the vocabulary is the “easy” part of the horse world. If you own a horse, you need to exercise him regularly, you need to pick his hoofs, float his teeth, brush and groom and lunge. You need vet visits and farrier visits. You need to “turn out” the horse and make sure he has the proper ratio of grain versus grass. And, be careful with the Alfalfa because you don’t want your horse to get too hot. I have only touched on a miniscule portion of what it means to be a horse owner. Oft times I feel overwhelmed and under educated in what I need to do to ride and care for my horse properly. When I address this with my horse friends, they smile and assure me that one day, I will understand it all. I will get it.
I cannot help seeing a similar scenario with Mormonism.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to a lifetime horse-y friend about what it means to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). As I began to discuss some of the aspects of what it means to be a Mormon, she began to feel overwhelmed and undereducated. I explained that just as someone with her background can understand the horse world and knows it in her sleep, so it is with me and Mormonism. Over time, you start to understand what it means to be Mormon.
Yes, Mormonism asks a lot of its members. Yes, we go to 3 hours of church every Sunday. Yes, we worship in the temple as often as we are able. Yes, we volunteer our time to serve, guide and teach our neighbors. But being a Mormon is so much more than that.
Being a Mormon means that you instantly have a network of support wherever you are. I remember once, as a child, our car broke down on a family vacation in another state. My parents called the local Bishop of the LDS Ward and we instantly had a support of people to help us.
Being a Mormon means you live by a divinely ordained health code called the Word of Wisdom. It means we treasure an individual’s agency and their right to choose their path. We teach our children from their infancy to serve their neighbors, get a good education and foster personal integrity.
Being a Mormon means we believe in family. We know marriage and family to be a sacred institution designed by God, our Father, with our happiness in mind. We build temples which are dedicated to God and prepare our children for a temple marriage where we can be bound to our families forever.
Being a Mormon means we believe in an ancient sacred text, kept by prophets on the American Continent and translated, through the power of God, into the Book of Mormon (it is because of this book we get our nickname, Mormons). We believe this to be the very word of God and as Mormons use it in tandem with the Holy Bible.
But above all else… More important than anything else listed above… The whole reason Mormons get out of bed each day… Being a Mormon means you accept and love Jesus Christ as your Savior, Redeemer and King. It means you worship Him and do all in your power to emulate His example. It means that even though you are imperfect, you try. And try again. And keep trying to do what Jesus Christ would do.
Being a Mormon means that you understand that through the Redeeming Atonement of Jesus Christ, you - all of us - can overcome sin and sorrow, pain and grief. It is knowing that by His Grace, you can overcome yourself. Simply put, being a Mormon means being a Christian.
So, to my dear, overwhelmed friend, be patient. Just as a person does not become a proficient equestrian overnight, he or she does not learn all there is to know about Mormonism overnight. While the doctrine is simple and beautiful, it - like anything worthwhile in life - takes time. Just know that one day, you will “get it” too.
**Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have two nicknames. One is “LDS” and another is “Mormon”. For the purposes of this essay, I refer to myself as a “Mormon”