I Went To A Mormon Service: Part I

MissionariesThis will be a 2 part post. I want to cover the sacrament part in ‘part one’ and ‘part two’ will be the sunday school/bible study and the 3rd part of the service where the men all gathered in a room to talk about guy stuff. If you find this blog and you’re a member of the LDS, don’t be offended by what I write. I respect your beliefs. While I do find some things odd, I am not going to stone you for your beliefs. I am writing what I witnessed during the service and also adding my humor and take on it. Will I attend the service again? Maybe. Will I convert? Doubtful. I started talking to the missionaries not because I wanted to become a member of your church but because your religion intrigues me. All religions do. As of now, I am still on this Mormon (LDS) kick. You can read their addition to the Dead Zombie Wife legend here. These two Elders (Elder D. and Elder S) invited me to attend service with them. It’s hard when I work on the Holy Day. I did promise them I would join them. It wasn’t an empty promise. I want to attend a mass. I really do. I just need to have that day off and when you work in the business of retail, getting a weekend off is darn near impossible.

I took a vacation from work. Not for the purpose of attending their mass. I took a vacation cause I wanted to and it gives me  time to be extra lazy. I contacted the missionaries last week and we discussed my joining them and sitting in on their service. I was looking forward to it. I really was. I grew up Catholic and only know how our mass is performed. I did attend a Baptist mass for school. It wasn’t much different from the Catholic service except for the people nodding their heads and praising Jesus with an overly, exuberant “amen!” Yeah, it was just like you would imagine a Baptist service to be like.

I googled the address to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints. It wasn’t far. I still had time to ready myself and look debonair for, Our Almighty Father. I thought to myself, I better research how to act at the mass. I did that. I didn’t want to mess anything up and ruin the sanctity of their church. I googled how I should dress for a Mormon service. I thought of maybe wearing a white shirt but most of my white shirts are for work and don’t look very appealing. Funny that I’ll wear them at work and ignore how unappealing they are but when I attend a place I’ll probably never attend again, I worry about wanting to make sure I look presentable among strangers…in a church I’ll never attend again. Go figure. I put on a nice blue shirt, black pants, and a tie I dubbed “the tiger tie”. I look good. Do I wear a suit? Will I be overdressed? I think about it. I want to but I rather not be sweltering in this heat and I still worry that either choice I make, wearing the suit or not wearing the suit, will make me a mockery of their congregation.

When I attended Catholic mass, most of the people there (mainly kids) would be dressed in tattered jeans, tennis shoes, and Beavis and Butthead t-shirts. That’s me basically telling you how long it has been since I’ve been in Church. At that time and you’d think God would be calling me and seeing where I was. It’s been 18 years, God. Have you missed me? But not talking to God wasn’t on my list of important things. I had to make sure I wasn’t going to dress inappropriately at their place of worship. I am a guest and I should respect them. But I wasn’t over dressed. If anything, I was under-dressed. Aside from the kids, I was the only adult (age, not maturity level) not wearing a suit. (highly exaggerated. The women weren’t wearing suits.) I felt horrible. Even the Elders I speak with commented on the missing suit,

Elder S: Didn’t wear your suit this time?

Me: No. Thought about it…

I kind of felt like they were going to shun me and forbid me from entering their holy place. Why have this soulless Catholic coming in their clean and holy church to poison it with our crazy and anti-religious beliefs? Better send a mass email out to all the people in the church to put on their magic underwear. Sorry for being a sinner. I promise never to do that again.

Me: I can rush home and grab it?

Elder S: No, you’re fine.

Holy WaterHe says that but I know. I know his is upset. I bet he’s probably glad he’s dressed up in magic underwear to protect himself from my lack of being stylish. I don’t blame him. If I had a pair of magic underwear, I’d wear it. I’d protect myself from the sinners of the world (aka, non-mormons). I scoff at people who dress for failure. I am not asking you to put on Armani suits or any other fancy and overpriced clothes. I just think you need to look presentable when making some sort of presentation. You’re not going to walk into a job interview wearing Diesel clothes, no matter how hip you think they look. I sit in a chair and sulk inside the room. It isn’t like a church I am familiar with. I expected to see the holy water bird bath by the door. It wasn’t there. I can’t bless myself. Come to think of it. I don’t think I have blessed myself once during the missionaries visits. I wasn’t bothered by that. I normally skipped the blessing when I went to my church. I wasn’t being a sinner or anything like that. I just didn’t care to stick my fingers in a small bowl that other fingers have been in. I don’t know where those fingers have been. I mean, we’re Catholics. Who knows what kind of sinning we do when we’re alone in the house (bathroom). What struck me and got me thinking was not seeing a single cross in the church. I didn’t see the normal symbol of Christianity hanging from the ceiling. I wasn’t welcomed into the church by Jesus dying on the cross. I was welcomed inside by two kind men who shook my hand. Unbeknownced to them, I don’t like shaking hands. But I am in a house of God and being rude isn’t cool. God is watching. He watches everywhere but I was taught manners. When you’re in another person’s house, you respect their rules. God’s rule is be nice to your neighbor.

Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.

I went off track there. I was talking about the differences from Mormon Church and Catholic Church. They don’t have Holy Water dipping pools. They don’t have the Stations of the Cross adorning their walls. No crosses. No crucifix hanging from the ceiling. The missionaries explained the reasoning behind that. I know why they don’t have a cross and/or crucifix in the church. Elder D. and Elder S enlightened with, “we don’t celebrate Jesus dying”. Understandable. No need to celebrate a person dying…unless you’re name was Osama Bin Laden. Then it’s okay to dance in the street with Jagger and Bowie. Not very Catholic of me to wish someone dead like that. But you killed 3,000+ people. You kind of deserve it. Anyway…To better explain their reasoning behind the lack of crosses and crucifixes, I will turn to a different site.

In the April 2005 issue of the official LDS magazine Ensign, Mormon President Gordon Hinckley told the story of a question he received from a Protestant minister who was invited to attend the open house of the newly renovated Mesa (AZ) temple. “I’ve been all though this building, this temple which carries on its face the name of Jesus Christ,” the minister said, “but nowhere have I seen any representation of the cross, the symbol of Christianity. I have noted your building elsewhere and likewise find an absence of the cross. Why is this when you say you believe in Jesus Christ?”

Hinckley’s answer was not at all unlike answers I have heard from Mormons for years. “For us,” Hinckley responded, “the cross is a symbol of the dying Christ, while our message is a declaration of the living Christ.”

Thank you for solving that question. What about the holy water? Why don’t they have that? Why don’t they bless themselves before they walk in to the house of the Lord?

Why don’t Mormons have holy water bird baths and why don’t they perform the sign of the cross?

I never asked the missionaries that question. I forgot to. Inside they pointed to the pews and to the single chairs behind them. They explained that it’s normally not like this but there is a young man leaving on his mission tomorrow. It wasn’t going to be like a normal service. They ran up to sit and join the choir for some singing. I sat alone and skimmed the hymn book. I found one hymn I liked. I don’t know. I hate to make this sound hokey but it ‘spoke’ to me. The words just seemed to be about me and no one else. The Hymn was, Have I Done Any Good?

1. Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.
Has anyone’s burden been lighter today
Because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help was I there?

[Chorus]
Then wake up and do something more
Than dream of your mansion above.
Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure,
A blessing of duty and love.

2. There are chances for work all around just now,
Opportunities right in our way.
Do not let them pass by, saying, “Sometime I’ll try,”
But go and do something today.
’Tis noble of man to work and to give;
Love’s labor has merit alone.
Only he who does something helps others to live.
To God each good work will be known.

The church was filling up. I shook a lot of hands. It’s was pleasant. Never once at the Catholic church I attended did I see members of the church greet people like that. I wasn’t making a scene. These people knew I wasn’t a member. Maybe it was the blue shirt and tiger tie. Maybe it was my dashing good looks. Maybe the Mormons have a sixth sense and through the power of Joseph Smith, they knew I was a non-lds’er. I don’t like shaking hands. I have yet to tell the missionaries that. I don’t wanna break their hearts. I had to shake hand inside the church. I already explained about being a guest in someone’s house. That is what I am. I had to be good and not run off to the bathroom to wash off the their filthy, Mormon germs.

The mass sacrament starts. We pray. At times during the service I wasn’t sure if we were praying. I wanted the pamphlet with the hymns we sang but Elder S was the keeper of that. I tried my best to recall all the hymns we sang but only recall two. One was There is a Green Hill Far Away. The other we sang in the guy party. Explain to me about that. What is that called? The guys in one room and the girls in the other. It’s like summer camp. What is the name for that? It’ll help when I write the second part to this blog.

The hymn we sang, …Green Hill… was a nice hymn. I guess I am sucker for church hymns. I don’t remember when weEucharist sang it. But that was one hymn that stuck out from the 4(?) we sang as a group. I mentioned earlier about how this mass was different from A Catholic service. We didn’t kneel once. We didn’t stand once. That was nice. If you have never been to a Catholic mass you don’t know what I am talking about. It’s annoying and when you’re done, your legs are killing you. Way too much kneeling and standing. We didn’t even get up for the Eucharist. We sat there and some ‘altar boy like kids’ came around with baskets of bread and water. Different. Why don’t we line up and have the “priest” offer us the body and blood of Christ? Why do we drink water and not wine? Is it cause Mormons find drinking alcohol sinful? I passed on the Eucharist and the water. I am not a part of the church and according to the site I read earlier, it said to.

At some point, they talked and discussed events and politics of the church. They ‘sustained’ people. You would raise your hand if you agreed and if you disagreed, you would raise your hand with a ‘nay’. Don’t do that. The missionaries informed me that after the service, you’re asked why you don’t think they’ll be qualified for a certain position. Most of the people who vote ‘no’, have beef against the person.

When I said this service was different from the normal, I meant it. A young man is leaving for his mission tomorrow. He’ll be in Ogden, Utah for two years. He’ll be teaching the word of the Book of Mormon. He’ll ask people to read it and ask the Heavenly Father if it is real.  Why?

If the book is what you preach and live by, why ask God if it’s real? That right there, at least to me, means that you yourself don’t fully believe the book is really the testament of Jesus Christ? I never asked God about the Bible to see if the Bible is real or not. Why do you ask him that? Why ask God if the Book of Mormon is real?

Before he spoke, a woman spoke before him. Her son is on a mission in Argentina. I could hear her coming close to crying each time. He told her on Mother’s Day in 2011 that he wanted to go on a mission. She supported him. She put her son on a pedestal. He’s the greatest son ever. All other sons can’t and don’t compare to him. But that’s how a mother is. Their child is better than all. She has two other sons. It’s only a matter of time before they follow their older brother’s footsteps and take on a mission.  This mother’s day they spoke on skype. She honestly is happy for him. He’s gone but the family isn’t suffering. They are stronger. His mission made them better people. The mission will make him a better person. It works out both ways. I guess we did have an ‘ending prayer’. It didn’t seem much like one. But it was the ending prayer. I was looking for something more like the Catholic mass. We’re told to go in peace. There was some indication that the mass was over. At this service, we had none. The service just ended and that is when the 2nd hour of a 3 hour day starts. Sacrament ends and we’re shifted off to different rooms for Sunday School. You’ll learn about that in the second part.

I don’t know what to think about the service. It wasn’t what I expected. I feel like I didn’t get any closer to God or Jesus during it. At my Catholic mass they would read from the Bible. We didn’t. We didn’t even read from the Book of Mormon. Maybe a verse here and there but no real reading. We had no sermon. I assume because one of the ‘brothers’ was too busy texting during the service. I am not bashing or putting down the LDS. The service was nothing like I expected. I guessed I wanted something grand. I wanted singing, Bible reading, and sermons. I wanted to be taught a lesson for the day. Something that would go with me when I head home. Maybe another visit will do me good. Maybe a real service and not one geared more towards the parting missionary.

Check back for part 2. I will talk about the final 2 hours. If you’re Mormon, please give me some insight on it all. I’d love to see and get some understanding to questions I didn’t ask the missionaries after the service.

 

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pitweston

I like food. I like the smell of cinnamon.

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  • guest

    I, like the other person who replied, found your post via tumblr. I am also similar to the other responder and have grown up in the church. One thing that I found interesting in your post was how you wanted it to be more grand, or dramatic. I think the more you attend (if you do) you’ll see how we in the LDS church don’t have grandiose meetings. They’re very reverent, and peaceful. The meetings, while they are directed by the bishop and his counselors (also the talks and speakers) are more for the individual to get out of it what he or she needs in his or her life. The separation during the next two hours are even more individualized for the people. The women talk about strengthening themselves spiritually and emotionally and the men, do the same. I found your post extremely intriguing however, and I want to hear more about it!

    • I don’t know if I was really looking for it to be grand. I was just taken aback by how simple the service was. I was happy I didn’t have to stand, kneel, and sit multiple times. It’s a time for God and as I put it before, not aerobics. 

  • Hystericsky

    I found this by looking up “LDS” on Tumblr, and I was curious. I myself am a Mormon. I don’t know if you have posted part 2 yet, I haven’t checked. I just decided to respond to this first. To start off with, I found it.. curious that you called it a “mass”. Understandable, but curious none-the-less.
    So, about the way you dressed. No worries at all! The Mormon church is very welcoming of visitors (as you gathered from the handshakes), and in fact, most visitors show up in jeans, a t-shirt, and sneakers. You did perfectly find with your choices.
    As for the bird bath thing, I’ve never even heard of that before. Except in a book I read where their service they drew a star on their foreheads in oil when they walked in. But that was about vampyres and stuff so…
    The reason for the absence of the cross, is the exact reason Brother Hinkley said: We celebrate Christ living, not dying.
    So the different classes 3rd hour. The one you went to is called Priesthood. The adult women go to Relief Society, teen men go to Young Men, teen girls go to Young Women, the children go to Primary, and the toddlers and babies go to Nursery.
    The bread and the water in the first meeting, Sacrament meeting, is called the sacrament. It’s okay that you didn’t take it. The goal is, you only take it if you feel you are worthy to. It is water because, the prophet Joseph Smith gained insight back in the day, that we shouldn’t drink wine.
    I’ve been in the church since I was born, so I grew up knowing all this stuff. But non-members intrigue me with the ways they react to things that are entirely normal to me. I actually enjoyed reading your reactions, and hope that this comment has given you a bit more insight as to how things are in the church. No worries, I was not offended at all! I hope you continue to learn about the Gospel though.

    • Thanks for replying. I have not posted the second part yet but I plan on today. Always nice when questions are unanswered….even though I could have used google. :)

      • Hystericsky

        Google is always nice. Hahaha, but I had a good time responding. ^-^