I’m going to be doing something a little different today. I am going to be writing a special piece.
Religion has always been something that has intrigued me. I personally grew up in the Baptist church and as with all religions there were certain rules I had to abide by. My experience was rocky to say the least. I have nothing against anyone who practices any religion as long as they aren’t using it to justify hatred towards certain people or trying to shove it down my throat.
One church that I have always wondered about was the Mormon church. I had heard a lot of things about them, not so nice things, so I thought I’d have a conversation with my friend Michael about his experience growing up in the Mormon community.
A little about the Mormon church according to Mormon.org:
Mormonism is a branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They believe that Jesus Christ is our lord and savior. They believe we all live as spirits with him in heaven before we are born and that we come to our physical bodies to learn and grow. We all must repent for our sins and practice in their temples. It is called The Church of Latter-Day Saints because it was founded rather recently by a man named Joseph Smith, less than 200 years ago in fact. On April 6, 1830. He was said to have seen a vision from God and Jesus, who told him to restore the church God had started when he had been on the earth and to reorganize the correct priesthood and authority.
Michael confirmed all of this in our interview. He had some even more interesting things to add, things that he learned as he grew up. Here’s how our interview went:
Q: So tell me a little bit about growing up in the Mormon community.
A: “I was born in the church. As a young Mormon you are taught that Mormonism is the true religion, that there is no denying it. As a Mormon you are to be in the world but not of the world. The world is scary and will tell you lies about The Church. You should not listen to those lies. I was also baptized when I was eight years old by my father. He was a Melcheizidek priesthood holder.”
Q: Did you feel any different as a child, compared to other kids in school?
A: “No, I felt like a normal kid. I just knew I was Mormon. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I started to feel ‘special’. Once I was older and understood it better I felt compelled to bring others to my church.”
Q: So what exactly do Mormons believe?
A: “Mormons believe that we lived with God and the Holy Mother in heaven in the beginning. Jesus and Lucifer are brothers. We were created by conception between our Heavenly Father and Mother. They also believe that God was once a man and he became a god because his faith was so strong and righteous. Any man can obtain this status.
There was a war in heaven between Jesus and Lucifer to determine what to do about us. They wanted to test our faith. Jesus wanted to put us on earth and give us the choice to follow God and live righteously and go to Heaven. Lucifer wanted all people to go to Heaven regardless of their actions. He wanted to let people do whatever they wanted and still go to Heaven. There are three different degrees of Heaven, though: Terrestrial, Telestrial and Celestial.
God did not agree with Lucifer’s plan so he cast him and his followers out to the earth. The spirits who live on earth are divided into different categories. All humans are God’s, Mormons are the ones who agree with Jesus’s plans and those who are on the fence about it are cursed with dark skin.
Mormons do not believe in Hell, they believe in an outer darkness. If you are a Christian when you die you go to a sort of purgatory called Spiritual Paradise where you are educated about Mormonism and if you agree with it you go to Heaven, if not you go to the outer darkness. In order to reach the Celestial kingdom you have to have been married before you died.
It is also believed that God is a man named Elhoim and he lives on the planet Kolob. All men can become gods. Each Universe has it’s own God and it’s own Jesus Christ. This is something that is called the Deep Doctrine and isn’t taught to all Mormons. I would get excommunicated for revealing this if I were still considered a Mormon.”
Q: So they believe that each man can become a god? There isn’t just one God?
A: “Yes, all men have the ability to become gods if they are righteous enough and their faith is strong enough. Lorenzo Snow said, ‘As man now is, God once was. As God is now, man may become.’ Each God will have his own planet to live on.”
Q: So what are some “normal” things that Mormons don’t partake in?
A: “They don’t drink caffeinated drinks, no coffee, tea, soda. They should not drink alcohol or use tobacco products. They can’t go to any other churches and the sabbath (Sunday) they aren’t allowed to do much of anything except go to church. They must abstain from going to places like the movies, the mall or restaurants on the sabbath as well.”
Q: What is their stance on the LGBTQ community?
A: “They are completely against it. If a Mormon were to come out as gay they would be immediately excommunicated, if they are a priest they would be stripped of their priesthood. They would pretty much be exiled. Homosexuality goes against God’s plan.”
Q: What is their stance on interracial relationships?
A: “They won’t stop it but they do believe that the children produced form the marriage will be cursed by their dark skin if it is a case of a white person marrying a black person. They do not particularly like a mixed race couple. Boyd Kapacker said, ‘interracial marriage is just as bad as homosexuality.'”
Q: So I’m guessing pre-marital sex is out of the question.
A: “Pre-marital sex to Mormons is right up there with killing someone.”
Q: What about adultery?
A: “If you cheat on your spouse you will be shunned. A priest would lose their priesthood, of course and then be shunned.”
Q: Are men and women treated differently? Are they considered equals?
A: “Not really. Only men are allowed to become priests because that’s how it’s been since the beginning. Women are meant to serve their husbands, to be the one standing off to the side fanning the king while he sits and eats grapes.”
Q: Speaking of husbands and wives, do Mormons still practice polygamy?
A: “Polygamy ended in 1820. It became banned because the Utah government was seizing Mormon properties and temples and throwing them in prison so they compromised by ending polygamy. There are still certain branches that practice polygamy and they are in the news all the time for it. The Fundamental Latter-Day Saints are a branch that still practices polygamy today.”
Q: So in the case of polygamy, is it arranged or does the man get to choose who he wants to marry?
A: “It is arranged by the leader, who up until recently was Warren Jeffs. He decides who gets to marry who. There is no age limit, girls as young as 12 can be taken as wives, and there is no limit on the number of wives a man can have. It was originally started to help widows. Men who were already married could marry a widow to help take care of her since she no longer had a man to protect her and provide for her. It quickly became a way for a man to get around the whole adultery law.”
Q: So if a person wanted to become Mormon what would they have to do?
A: “They would have to read the entire Book of Mormon, (which is provided for free at Mormon.org) and they would have to believe it to be true. A person must feel a burning in their bosom if they truly believe it.”
Q: As someone who grew up in the church, what were the requirements of a true believer? How is a Mormon supposed to live their life?
A: “Once you become 12 years old you are considered a man and you become a deacon. You can hold this title until you turn 15. Once you turn 15 you become a teacher. Once you become 16 you become an elder. Once you turn 18 you must go on your first mission. It is very important in the Mormon community for an individual to finish high school with a high school diploma. You cannot go on your mission without obtaining this first. Men are required to go on a mission, women can choose to or not. Women can just go straight to becoming a mother. A mission lasts for two years and you do not get to choose where you are sent. On this mission you are supposed to bring souls to Christ. You have to pay for the trip but once you have done that and made the journey the church will take over expenses. You are only allowed to call home twice a year and your parents are not allowed to visit you because they would be a distraction from your work. Before you are sent on your mission there is a secret ritual performed at the church. There is a special undergarment you have to wear and you can only take it off to shower. You must wear it at all times. It is considered “bulletproof” and will protect you. You will receive a new name. You must teach the message of the restoration.”
Q: What is the restoration?
A: “The restoration is what Joseph Smith did for the Latter-Day Saints. He restored the true church.
The progress of a Mormon is to go on your mission, get married, have children, then go to college. There is a University in Provo, Utah that is free for Mormons. It is called Brigham Young University.”
Q: So what is a typical Sunday service like?
A: “They start with the Innovation, the opening prayer. They sing hymns and they take communion. The sacrament is an hour long with three different speakers, then the people split up into groups for further discussions and teachings. Each group is specific to gender, age and levels of status in the church.”
Q: Would you say it is a pretty strict religion?
A: “It’s not much different from Christianity but there are certain things that you can’t do.
- You aren’t allowed to question anything about the religion.
- You can only read books that the church deems appropriate.
- You can’t watch R rated movies, no matter how old you are.
- You must be modestly dressed, particularly women.
They don’t wear crosses because their reasoning is if your brother was killed by a gun you wouldn’t wear the bullet around your neck so why wear a cross?”
Q: So why did you leave the church?
A: “Because you can’t be who you truly are in the Mormon community. You aren’t allowed to question things you have to just accept them for the way they are and I couldn’t do that. It honestly just felt like I was part of a cult instead of a religion.”
Q: What are some facts about the Mormon church that not many people know?
A: “Well Joseph Smith was actually arrested three times for treason before he died. He actually died while incarcerated. You can actually go view the prison he was held in, it’s in Carthage, Missouri. I’ve been there, it’s pretty nice for a jail cell.
The Mormon church is also worth $46 billion. They have a huge influence on the government of Utah because of this. They bring in about $18 billion a year from tithing.
One other thing, they believe that Cain, from the story of Cain and Abel, is Bigfoot.”
In my opinion as an outsider, it sounds to me like Joseph Smith just took the bits and pieces of all the different religions he liked and put it together to make his own religion. It seems to be just a hodgepodge religion that for some reason or another has become very successful. It is based right here in America, founded less than two centuries ago by a man who was considered to be a criminal before he died. A man who believed that one day he himself would become a god.
This post is in no way a means to bash the Mormon church. I believe that we all should be free to believe how we want and to live how we choose. Mormonism is just not the religion for me. I would love to hear your thoughts on this post and on Mormonism.
I would like to thank my friend Michael for allowing me to interview him and for sharing his experience with me.