“ Oh my goodness, the Rapture took place and we’ve been left behind!”
That was our first response when driving into the parking lot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) on Teasley Road this past Sunday.
Despite the sign that clearly says, “Family Worship, Sundays, 9 and 11 am” and another sign that says, “Visitors welcome,” we found neither worship nor welcome. We simply found no one. We drove around the building, looking for signs of life or at least some signage on the doors giving more information about the times of worship. Nothing. Nada.
So, we drove to the LDS location on Old North Blvd. This time, there was no sign in front speaking of times of worship, and actually no sign identifying the building as an LDS church except a small plaque on one side of the building. Empty parking lot. No information on the doors. Nothing. Nada.
Undeterred, we headed to the location on N. Malone St. Same situation. Small, hard to find identifying plaque, empty parking lot, no information anywhere.
In fact, this had been our experience from the beginning of trying to visit an LDS church. Most churches today, even the smallest, have some sort of website giving location, service times, and some message of welcome for those who may not have attended before. Apparently, no local LDS facilities have their own websites. All searches are directed to the main website for the LDS church.
Now, my intrepid companion and I on these church visits had spent quite a bit of time on the LDS website trying to figure out where and when to visit. In order to find one’s own ward or branch, we needed an LDS account, which we did not have. So we clicked on “Find a Meetinghouse” and typed in “Denton, TX” where the three local places of worship showed up. We found that two wards met at the Teasley location, 9 and 11 am.; the Malone street location indicated meetings at 9 am and 1 pm and the Old North Ward indicates services at 9 am, 11 am and 1 pm.
Very strange, as all three parking lots were indeed empty between 9 and 9:40 am when we finally gave up. After an unexpected leisurely breakfast, I started scouring the website, looking for some basics about the LDS church.
Here are some things I learned, all taken from that official LDS website.
From the section on basic doctrinal principles, “There are three separate personages in the Godhead: God the Eternal Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost. The Father and the Son have tangible bodies of flesh and bone, and the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit.“ Apparently, God the Father has a physical humanoid body of some sort.
Since they also contend that “family relationships can last through the eternities,” I decided to check out the section on Eternal Marriage
According to these documents, only those who are married in the Temple will “live in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom of God.” The LDS church claims that there are three heavens in the celestial kingdom. LDS teachers are instructed to show sensitivity to adult unmarrieds, but it is clear such ones will be excluded from the very best of heaven’s offerings.
So, being an ever-competitive person and wanting the best, I found out that in order to get to be one of those married in the Temple and thus receive the highest of blessings, the couple preparing for marriage must answer “yes” to this question: “Do you sustain the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the prophet, seer, and revelator? Do you recognize him as the only person on earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys?” (bold-face mine).
Gatekeepers to a Temple wedding also want to know if the potentially soon to-be-married couple are full-tithe payers (1/10 of the income) and if they have lived the law of chastity.
So, I decided I’d better figure out what it means to live the law of chastity. “Before marriage, do not do anything to arouse the powerful emotions that must be expressed only in marriage. Do not participate in passionate kissing, lie on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body, with or without clothing.”
These admonitions are followed by strong language condemning as evil any action on same sex attraction, “like other violations of the law of chastity, homosexual behavior is a serious sin.”
I headed back to the doctrine section to learn more about the bottom line stances of the LDS church. They claim that the fullness of the gospel was restored to famed polygamist Joseph Smith in 1820 and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (bold-face mine).
The written materials that are seen as authoritative for the LDS church are these: the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. For the present time, the President of the LDS church acts as God’s unquestioned prophet on earth today.
This is one exclusive religious club–and that is an awful lot of power to put into the hands of one individual. I still don’t know why the services were not held on Sunday as described on the website. But I feel sure the Prophet can enlighten me on this one.
[Note: the above article was originally slated to be run in the October 10, 2014, print and online editions of the Denton Record Chronicle. However, out of fairness to the LDS church–which I learned later was in a General Conference that day–it has been pulled from publication.]
I do not believe that Mormons, otherwise known as members of the LDS church, are actually Christian. Personally, I call them the Fourth Abrahamic Faith (and I doubt that is original to me). Although they are clearly trying to mainstream themselves and position themselves as Christian, I simply do not agree that their core doctrines have adequate overlap with the historic doctrines of Christianity (say, the Nicene Creed for example).
The bold assertion that God the Father has human form was very disturbing to read.
The penchant for secrecy has also long fascinated me. I’ve read multiple stories about the way people are drawn to the Mormon faith (very warm friendships, strong family structure, plausible arguments for those who are biblically illiterate) and quickly baptized as Mormons, and then only much later discover the strangeness of the core doctrines.
No one actually walks inside the carefully guarded Temples unless they have been thoroughly vetted as faithful to Mormon doctrine, so there is no such thing as even partway objective reporting about what actually takes place inside.
I think that kind of secrecy is extremely dangerous, both inside the LDS world and to their potential converts.
But the thing that gets me the most is the absolute power of the President/Prophet. He is not to be questioned and can and does receive “new” doctrines periodically. For example, after years of rabid racial discrimination, they now admit black men to the full priesthood (women, of course, have no such rights).
But I ask this question: If Mitt Romney, a devoted Mormon, had been elected President, could the following scenario have taken place? Since he has sworn total loyalty and fealty to whomever the current Prophet must be, suppose he is told by such Prophet that God has mandated another world war? Or that all women must swear to be obedient to their husbands? Or that the entire US must convert to the Mormon religion, by force if necessary?
Obviously there would be civic limits on Presidential power to enforce such decrees, but Romney would actually be honor bound to fight for them or risk losing his exalted state in the Mormon world.
Frankly, I think it is a cult, and a highly successful one. I also know that a fair number of Mormon women are getting fed up with their perpetual second class status. This blog by Joanna Brooks, where she, although loving being a Mormon and the family connections it brings, openly questions many of the basics of the faith–became wildly popular for a while. In January, 2012, she published a letter about the polygamist past of Joseph Smith in particular and the Mormons in general. I learned that many faithful Mormons do not know that part of their past. Such knowledge has been carefully kept from them in their tight Mormon cocoons.
Also real scholarship is beginning to penetrate the Mormon world, although it is dangerous to question core doctrines, as this scholar found out. Here’s more on what Mormon scholars and free-thinkers have faced.
I predict that in 50 years, this religion will be facing disintegration under the weight of unaccountable power.
People really do prefer freedom to slavery, including mental slavery, and I am seeing hints of that need growing among disaffected Mormons. This is the power of the electronic world–and it is going to be interesting to see what happens.