Prayers

(also see “Miracles”, “Making decisions”, “Evil, the problem of”, “Scripture study”, and “Testimony and spiritual experiences”)

 

Pros of Mormonism from the perspective of the
Believer
Nonbeliever
To the believer, prayer is one of the greatest gifts that God has given us. We can literally communicate with the divine. All we need to do is ask and it shall be given, knock and it shall be opened to us. In times of trial and tribulation, we can pray and feel peace unto our soul.
 
Because of Mormonism and Joseph Smith, we know that the Heavens are open and God will hear our prayers:  “It is the privilege of the children of God to come to God and get revelation. … God is not a respecter of persons; we all have the same privilege… We believe that we have a right to revelations, visions, and dreams from God, our heavenly Father; and light and intelligence, through the gift of the Holy Ghost, in the name of Jesus Christ, on all subjects pertaining to our spiritual welfare; if it so be that we keep his commandments, so as to render ourselves worthy in his sight”
 
Aside from the inspiration we receive from prayer, praying is a great opportunity to calm the mind and relax. In a world that is non-stop with media and other stimuli, praying is a much-needed act of meditation that can bring peace, calm anger, and let the brain unwind to relax and / or solve problems.
 
Prayers have the ability to unify those who participate and provide a sense of community.
 
Prayer can facilitate expressions of love and deep personal thoughts that people would otherwise be too shy or uncomfortable to vocalize.
 
The nonbeliever who still believes in God might have all the same views about prayer that the believing Mormon has. Those that don’t believe in God might actually miss days when they could pray and feel peace unto our soul (other nonbelievers, however, do not miss praying to what seems like an unjust and unpredictable God).
 
The atheist nonbeliever might also appreciate prayer in that it is a form of meditation. Meditating is a great opportunity to calm the mind and relax. In a world that is non-stop with media and other stimuli, meditation can bring peace, calm anger, and let the brain unwind to relax and / or solve problems. The atheist thus might appreciate how Mormonism encourages prayer and might view this as a positive teaching. 
 
The nonbeliever also might recognize that prayers have the ability to unify those who participate and provide a sense of community.
 
The nonbeliever also might recognize that prayer can facilitate expressions of love and deep personal thoughts that people would otherwise be too shy or uncomfortable to vocalize. They might add, however, that this can actually be a con, since it can make it harder for people to ever get good at directly communicating with those they love. If you have something important to say, why wait until everyone’s eyes are closed and do it through a third party? Why wait until your hands are on your child’s head to tell them your innermost feelings? Why not look those you care about in the eye and tell them the things that matter most?
 
 
Cons of Mormonism from the perspective of the
Believer
Nonbeliever
The believer might have a difficult time reconciling why God allows some prayers to be answered and some miracles to be given, and leaves other prayers unanswered and other miracles withheld. This raises difficult questions about the nature of God. Many believers are able to rationalize this con by maintaining faith that it will all work out in the end.
 
The concept of prayer and following the promptings of the Holy Ghost can be very difficult for many believing members. How do we recognize a stupor of thought? Do we just feel that something is outside of our comfort zone or if it is the Holy Ghost telling us not to do something? How do we separate out our own desires and wants from inspiration that comes as an answer to prayer?
 
Believers are supposed to pray a lot, and prayers can be tedious and boring and even time consuming. It can also be difficult to make prayers meaningful or even to remember to do them. All of these things can make the believer feel a moderate amount of guilt and shame in regards to prayer.
 
Prayers in public places can be awkward and uncomfortable. Public prayers can also be used as an instrument for passive aggression.
The nonbeliever has likely tried praying to God in the past and never received an answer that they could, in retrospect, not attribute to emotion. When believers talk about prayer, the nonbeliever might get annoyed or even angry that Mormonism worships an inconsistent and unreliable God who is a respector of persons, who allows some prayers to be answered and some miracles to be given, and leaves other prayers unanswered and other miracles withheld.
 
A nonbeliever who has tried prayer in the past might have also found it to be a frustrating endeavor when their answer contradicts the church. What is the point in praying to know the truth if the only acceptable answer is agreement with church leaders? Many nonbelievers no longer believe in Mormonism because they have considered thoughtfully aspects of Mormonism and received an answer contradictory to church teachings when they prayed about it. Receiving an answer like this will often make the nonbeliever feel that they do not have a place in the church.
 
However, it is often made worse because sometimes assumptions are made that those who receive answers to prayers that contradict church teachings must be sinning in some way. This is offensive and presumptuous. Dallin H. Oaks explains: “Similarly, we cannot communicate reliably through the direct, personal line if we are disobedient to or out of harmony with the priesthood line. The Lord has declared that “the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness” (D&C 121:36). Unfortunately, it is common for persons who are violating God’s commandments or disobedient to the counsel of their priesthood leaders to declare that God has revealed to them that they are excused from obeying some commandment or from following some counsel. Such persons may be receiving revelation or inspiration, but it is not from the source they suppose. The devil is the father of lies, and he is ever anxious to frustrate the work of God by his clever imitations.”
 
Although a nonbeliever who is agnostic/atheist might see great benefit in the meditative aspects of prayer, they might feel that Mormon prayer has the opportunity cost of getting in the way of productive meditation. If you have to tell God about your day, thank him, and then ask him for stuff, you don’t always have time to sit and listen and think deeply and meditate. It is true that Mormonism encourages thoughtful prayers and periods of silence to collect thoughts and listen to the spirit, but the end result of Mormonism is often prayers that are rote, rushed, and repetitive. When this is the case, prayer offers little meditative value.
 
In addition, the nonbeliever might view prayer as dangerous, because emotions felt during prayer are interpreted as signals from God and have an influential effect on important decisions. The consequences are potentially disastrous (see “Making decisions”).

 

Comments relating to your lived experience with Mormonism are welcome. Although it can be difficult to distinguish at times, please focus on how the church helps and harms rather than it being true vs untrue.

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