Former Member Of Jewish Faith
This Stuff Is Too Brilliant
By Richard Cohen
I grew up Jewish. My family was not observant
religiously, in fact, my parents didn't even believe in God. But I
did; until the day after my father suddenly died.
I was just turning thirteen, and I stood in my
room and angrily said out loud, "There couldn't be a God if he would
do this to me: Take away my Dad forever !"
For the next seven years, I struggled on and off
with depression, and I was a bitter atheist. During my second year
of college, I started feeling that life was essentially meaningless;
that it consisted of little more than each day's mundane and boring
I had a friend who'd taken a course in which
they'd speculated about the meaning of life, so I started thinking,
"If I could figure out what life is all about, at least I will have
done something worthwhile."
I spent months pondering, but the more I thought,
the more confused I became. One day my Mom told me that my cousin
had joined the Mormon Church. I knew nothing regarding it (other
than a picture in my mind of Brigham Young and covered wagons,
probably from some 1940's Tyrone Power movie I'd seen on TV as a
A few days later my cousin called, and invited me
for dinner for the upcoming Saturday. There, I met some of her
Mormon friends, who I liked, and the missionaries.
That Saturday evening my cousin invited me for
Sunday brunch (I was becoming popular !). After brunch the group
told me they were going to church; "Why don't you come along ?"
asked the guy I liked the best.
When I hesitated, he said, "C'mon, you've got
nothing better to do !" That being true, I decided to go. I wanted
the Truth: I didn't care where I found it, I felt that if it existed
anywhere, I'd be able to recognize it.
I began the missionary lessons. Often I would ask
very deep questions, and the ward member who sat in on the
discussions would urge me to keep it simple. But I knew that if
there was even one question the missionaries didn't have an answer
for, I'd be out the door immediately.
Every question I asked was answered satisfactorily
and usually very satisfyingly, and at the end of the lessons I said
to myself, "This stuff is too brilliant for anyone to have made
up---it must be true." I was baptized, and thirty-some years later,
I've had many experiences of a sacred nature, which have validated
my initial belief.