One response I received was, "I want to know how being a Mormon affects the way you live your life." I realized pretty quick that I didn't have an immediate response, although the seed for my eventual response was quick. After a long delay, I wrote the following. Let me know what you think.
So I believe that being a Mormon has greatly influenced my life. Primarily in the form of benefits I receive from membership, but also in the way that is helps focus my attention on more worthwhile activities.
In my opinion, for religion to be useful and worth my time, it needs to provide some tangible benefits here and now. I think it's a hard sell to say, "buy this now and when you die, you'l be happy." Although I do believe in a heaven and, to an extent, hell, those are secondary benefits that come as a result of the benefits I receive here and now.
To say I've gained financial stability from practicing my religion is hard to prove. Although I'm not wealthy by US standards, I'm happy and in decent shape financially. To prove that it has stemmed from religious practice, someone could argue about all of the money I've saved by not drinking, not smoking, as well as those $4 Lattes at Starbucks because I don't drink coffee. I'm saved from spending my money on a coffee machine, a home brew kit (I would so totally do that if I were a drinker), and countless bottles of wine on business trips. Thats not even thinking about the binge drinking all my air force buddies participated in.
The reason why that's a bogus argument, is because out Church asks us to donate 10% of our income to the Church, to pay for the building, for new worship houses around the world, and to assist with tuition at BYU for faithful members. It's not a requirement to go to BYU and I never really wanted to attend, but tithing does help support the school among many other things.
On top of that, we are asked to donate generously to those in need. Sort of a local charity run by the congregation to help those members of the congregation going through a rough time. We are also asked to serve in the church in things such as boy scouts, church administration, sunday school, etc. Some of those positions may ask for willing donations to help the program run more smoothly.
So if you add up all that I have saved and compare it with all that I've donated, it's probably an overall negative. But when I think of all the opportunities I've received from God for donating my time, money, and effort to his Church, I would whole heartedly say that it's because of him, I am as successful as I am now. This has to be taken on faith.
One real tangible benefit that is less regarded as something that has to be taken on faith is the camaraderie and fellowship provided by being a member. Sometimes people consider us a cult, but we prefer the term family. We strongly believe that every soul on earth is a spiritual child of God and therefore we are all literal brothers and sisters spiritually. So we call each other such. I'm often referred to as Brother Brooks at church. Although I would prefer to be just called Brandon, there is a sense of belonging and affection that is given to it, that I enjoy having the privilege of being called that way.
Also with being part of a global religion, I can travel to nearly any country and receive the same warm welcome as if I was home in my own congregation. I've felt that warmth in London, Amsterdam, Seville, Melbourne, Tokyo, and Adana, Turkey. Not to mention hundreds of places across the US.
Although it could be argued that there can be a sense of belonging given to other world wide organizations (Rotary, the military, Lions Club, etc.) The believed eternal nature of our literal brotherhood transcends the quality of other organizations in a way that I would find hard to live without.
This eternal perspective on life provides many more perceived life blessings that even if I were to die and find no after-life, I will have been so happy during my existence that it would be of little use to complain that I wasted my life in a nonsense belief of something beyond the grave.
My Dad told me once that he believes that what we are taught at church is true. However, if we're wrong, big deal. We're happy. I agree. So I don't focus on what I should receive as a reward in heaven for the things I do now. I try to find happiness here and now. Not the fleeting sense of happiness from binge drinking with people who may or may not be true friends, or the perceived "fun" that can come from sleeping with as many girls as possible before getting married. Nor even trying to find peace by spending my Sundays in bed or lounging around my house.
I find peace, joy, happiness and contentment in being a Mormon. In showing up to Church every Sunday with my three hopefully cooperative children. Donating my time and money to some causes that at times may seem futile and useless. In extending a hand of fellowship and brotherhood to someone who would prefer to have my belief banished from existence because of some perceived wrong that happened long before. That is what being a Mormon is. It's challenging, it's hard work, but it is the most worthwhile goal I have ever set my aim to, and the only one I have ever been able to consistently work towards.
Working on the goal of being a good Mormon helps me focus on what's most important to me. My family. Both my family here in my house, and my literal spiritual family that includes you.
Please feel welcome to ask any questions you may have. Because in addition to all the responsibilities and opportunities mentioned above, we are also asked to share our beliefs openly, so that others may enjoy the blessings and joy we have.