Denton Mystery Worship Four: Did the Rapture Take Place? LDS Visitors Non-Welcome

Sign indicating visitors are welcome at the Denton Teasley LDS location
Sign indicating visitors are welcome at the Denton Teasley LDS location. Photo by Christy Thomas

“ 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.

Worship Times at the Denton Teasley LDS church
Worship Times at the Denton Teasley LDS church, photo by Christy Thomas

 

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 chastityBefore 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.]

Additional Comments:

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.

14 thoughts on “Denton Mystery Worship Four: Did the Rapture Take Place? LDS Visitors Non-Welcome

  1. Christy Thank you for this blog I found it very interesting and informative. I found the discussion refreshing and enjoyed the exchange of differing perceptions.

    Like

  2. In an odd way, a close study of the history of the Mormon movements, all the way from Hill Cumorah in NY, to Bucyrus, to Kirtland, to Nauvoo, to Independence, Mo, and even to Horsehead, Ark. (not a favorite reference among Mormons), led me finally to an understanding of Jesus the Christ. I was fascinated by American-birthed religious movements, as a non-believer but as a lover of American history, and the fact that Mormons, Christian Scientists, J.Witnesses, and about a hundred other lesser known groups were ALL saying something different about Jesus, and ALL reflected their founders’ (pl.) various personalities, led me to the Bible and more traditional trans-world expressions of the Christian faith.

    I met many missionaries in SD when I lived there, “missioning” to the Indians at a time in the 70s when the popular belief was still operative: if an Indian was Mormon baptized, they’d become white. All the Mormons I met along the way were very, very nice, until I started with the questions: What about Kolob? Who is this Mrs. God? What about the Mountain Meadow Massacre? What did Emma think of her husband John’s revelation about having more wives? Tell me about Sidney Rigdon’s religious novel, read early on by Joseph Smith? And why would a “revelation” about marriage from God be scrapped in the political interest of Utah statehood? (etc., etc.,) I learned a lot about cold shoulders.

    Arthur Conan Doyle, in ‘A Study in Scarlet’ (1886) where he introduced Holmes and Watson, was one of the first popular writers to lift the blanket of secrecy and peek under at an intriguing history of Mormonism. He called them the “new Islamists.”

    It is a great history- a great American history, and one that could only have happened in entreprenurial, “Second Awakening” America. But the is a “specialism”, an “onlyism”, a sense of superiority (The Real Jews?) that I find- personally- repelling.

    That said, the Mormons have developed exquisite systems for taking care of their own, and some others, which mainline Protestantism could still learn much from.

    Like

  3. The reason you didn’t fine anybody at the LDS church is because they was all home watching or listening to what they call general conference…thats where the Prophets and all the main ones gives talk…I’m not a member but my daughter is..The missionary come by our house often..They are good people and they do try to do what right..they are family friendly…I do not agree with them on alot of things..but they do do good things..I’m not defending them..its just some people just don’t understand them..You have study and have come up with the same things I have…I will be glad to answer any question I can if you have some or senyou to someone that can…They do comuuiom every sunday..there is no sermon.just testimonies..you are right women has no voice..which my daughter reminds them about that all the time..now they do there parts by doing things women sure do…now do I believe all was home listening or watching the prophets..and key people…llike I said if you want more answer let me know and I will see what I can do..they will be at church on sunday and by the way..vistors are welcome…and kids are to..they are not send off to another part of the building…they are there with families..connie

    Like

  4. Can you say more about your thoughts on the church being a cult? I don’t think it is — my understanding is that the church leadership is not paid, and Mormons don’t forfeit their money or bodily agency to their leaders in the way cult members often do. Am I being to semantic, here?

    I served on the board of the Unitarian church with a former Mormon. She said that the ward officials expect you to pay your pledge – however much it is. And if you fall behind, they press you to pay your pledge.

    Like

    1. The reason I call it a cult is because there is very much a mind control situation there. Scholars seeking to question some of the “official” documents about the history of the church are routinely ex-communicated, and people are told what to think. There is also the deep secrecy around the rituals that only the privileged few–who have promised utter loyalty to the Prophet, get to participate in. On the other hand, I do understand there are many nominal Mormons, just as there are many nominal Christians, and there is nothing that the various ward officials (and correct, they are not paid) can do about them.

      Like

  5. When members believe that there is only one person on earth that can have revelation from God plus are not allowed to question any beliefs or ‘revelations’, that’s a cult. I have trouble reconciling the intelligent and kind people I have known who are Mormon with their less-publicized beliefs and creed. I do recognize that most of us have learned things from those we have respected and hesitate to question these ideas or toss them because it’s difficult to go against our traditions or people we have loved. I particularly have trouble with their practice of baptizing people who have already died (using ‘stand-ins’). I remember when LDS began to add the name Jesus Christ to their official name. It seemed to me a publicity issue perhaps to counter the cult accusations. In this case as in many others, saying you are Christian doesn’t make it so. I remembered while reading your post that my dad very carefully removed his copy of the Book of Mormon from his library before donating his library to the nonprofit we established. He threw it in the trash, but I rescued it and added it to my book collection.

    Like

    1. We had a regional conference a few weeks before the general conference; and I posted signs around the church telling folks there would be no services there that day. I worried that I was notifying burglars that no one would be around; and so this past weekend I thought it was better not to post signs. One thing is certain, though, when we do have services, visitors are welcome.

      I followed the link you provide to Slate’s article on Michael Quinn’s expulsion from the Church. The article has lots of bad information; and I’m sure you realize that there are at least two sides to every story.

      You note above that, “The bold assertion that God the Father has human form was very disturbing to read.” You might want to read a book “The God of Old” by Hebrew scholar James Kugel. He points out that Hebrews uniformly believed in a corporeal God even until the Middle Ages. I suggest that the incorporeal concept of God would have been unintelligible to the first Christians; and that the plain meaning of scripture demands a corporeal God.

      Like

  6. Christy: The first weekends of April and October, the LDS Church convenes its general conference and so no local congregations meet. They’re able to watch the proceedings on the web (lds.org) or on many cable, satellite, and antenna television stations. The conference includes morning and afternoon sessions on Saturday and Sunday, a women’s meeting the Saturday before and a men’s meeting on Saturday evening. That’s why nobody was home when you came by. You can watch any or all of the sessions of the conference at the LDS.org web site–in quite a few different languages. A few of my favorite discourses were “Are We Not All Beggars?” by Jeffrey Holland and “Come and See” by David Bednar, and “The Sacrament, a Renewal for the Soul” by Cheryl Esplin. You ought to take in one of them before finalizing your article.

    Like

    1. Alma, in fairness to the LDS church, the newspaper editor and I have decided to pull this column from the paper so it will not run this week. However, I again remind you that your decision (and the decision of the other two LDS locations) to offer NO information to the stranger or sojourner) does not suggest that such ones are welcome there. Nonetheless, at some other undermined date, I will visit and seek to do so with a clear mind.

      Like

What do you think? I'd love to hear from you! Abusive comments may be removed at the discretion of the blog moderator.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s