Masons and Mormon Temple Builders

kirtland-temple-13

Saw a blog article about the history of ownership of the LDS Kirtland Temple pictured above.

The picture reminded me of the Masonic Temple in Bannak, Mt which Lietta and I visited a couple of years ago.

bannak masonic
The Williamsburg Virginia Lodge

masonic williamsburgva

and the Warsaw, Ny Lodge  show essentially the same design.

Masonic Warsaw NY

Interestingly the “Cultural Hall” in Nauvoo which many think was a disguise for the actual Nauvoo Lodge and the Seventies Hall which looks like it could have been another disguised Lodge.

LDS culutral hall Nauvoo IllSeventies Hall Nauvoo
The current Nauvoo Temple which the Church obviously wanted to resemble the original.

Current Nauvoo_Templeoriginal nauvoo-temple

On the original the Moroni masonic image weather vane was atop the cupola. You can google that weathervane to see more images of it.

atop the nauvoo temple weathervane moroni and masonic image

Which brings me to the image below.

Who would be interested in buying the original Nauvoo Temple

Now who do you suppose the brethren back then thought might be interested in buying a building that looked like that?

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Might be the nastiest word in the Church

unworthy

“Brother Brown, at this time you are unworthy to baptize your son.”

“Sister Scarlett, you are unworthy to remain in your calling.”

“Brother and Sister you are unworthy right now to have a temple recommend.”

And the worst … “Bishop, I consider myself unworthy to …”

“A Worthy Member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Church member who obeys the commandments of God to the best of his or her ability, and meets a minimum acceptable standard outlined by Church leaders.
A “worthy” member of the Church is worthy to hold a Temple Recommend. In order to obtain a Temple Recommend, one must be interviewed and found worthy by one’s bishop and stake president. The interview for a temple recommend is guided by questions composed by the First Presidency of the Church. The questions are standard and universal. The first and overriding question is, “Do you believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost?”
Worthy Church members are expected to be honest in their dealings with their fellowmen, to pay an honest tithe (10% of one’s “increase”), to deal kindly and lovingly with family members, to be morally clean, to live the Word of Wisdom (the health code of the Church), to have repented of past sins, to be willing to attend church services and serve in callings, and to uphold the doctrines of the Church.” – mormonwiki.com

“Worthy” might very well be the signature self-esteem word in the Church.

“Unworthy” might very well be the nastiest word in the Church.
Ours is – regardless of objections – a performance-based religion. Ours is also an authoritarian religion that insists on worthiness as the principle criteria for Divine recognition and performance of ordinances and blessings.

obedience + worthiness = spirituality + blessings

Ours is a merit-based religion that fully preaches to itself that there is a “worthy” key that must constantly be inserted and in place before the blessings of Heaven pour.

And now this word from Moroni, both to the missionaries and to the converts: “See that ye are not baptized unworthily; see that ye partake not of the sacrament of Christ unworthily; but see that ye do all things in worthiness, and do it in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God; and if ye do this, and endure to the end, ye will in nowise be cast out” (Morm. 9:29).

But we do it to ourselves when we buy into that idea, rate others or rate our own standing in the eyes of others.

… because “worthiness” as the LDS preach and portray it is a false and invalid idea.
Today I’ve invited a few outsiders to offer thoughts along with my own about how worthy we have to be in order to be human; in order to be recognized, respected and reverenced by Higher Power[s].

The Twelve-Steppers have it down pat:

God don’t make trash.”

Our own human experience has taught us the value of positive reinforcement and its impact on encouraging self-motivated change. Meaningful change is more likely to come to pass as we understand that whatever is Divine in our lives does not consider humanity as something unworthy or evil.

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”― Siddhārtha Gautama

Therefore, let’s discuss the use and meaning of the words “worthy” and worthiness” in the Church.

Could we not say with certainty that the imagery portrayed in the Church and by Church leaders is that of a God whose angels record our every flaw and mistake?

Do we not believe – or act as if it is so – that these behavioral and mortal flaws are tucked away  in a book of life from which we will then be  held accountable – if we fail to cleanse ourserlves via repentance – by the God of the Doctrine & Covenants  “who cannot tolerate sin with any degree of allowance?”

It is not God who insists that we label ourselves and convince ourselves that we are sinners, sinful and essentially evil-natured. It is no one special, only other mere human beings, equally flawed and imperfect as we are who insist that it must be God’s will that we all walk around labeling ourselves in worthiness terms.

“As long as you look for someone else to validate who you are by seeking their approval, you are setting yourself up for disaster. You have to be whole and complete in yourself. No one can give you that. You have to know who you are – what others say is irrelevant.”― Nic Sheff

Does the Church in such a manner openly declare that God is in fact a “respecter of persons” who requires worthiness before his outpourings of love occur?

“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.”― Mark Twain

Does not the Church teach that God’s outpourings are conditional rather than unconditional?

In addition, we are reminded on a weekly basis of the promise that we may always have His Spirit to be with us. As we then strive to keep ourselves clean and unspotted from the world, we become worthy vessels in whom the Spirit of the Lord can always dwell. -Apostle David Bednar

Does not the  Church deliberately instruct us that the God of Compassion is obsessed with morality as the foundation of defining Goodness – and also suggests that therefore we too should obsess on sin?

The standard is clear. If something we think, see, hear, or do distances us from the Holy Ghost, then we should stop thinking, seeing, hearing, or doing that thing. If that which is intended to entertain, for example, alienates us from the Holy Spirit, then certainly that type of entertainment is not for us.
Because the Spirit cannot abide that which is vulgar, crude, or immodest, then clearly such things are not for us. Because we estrange the Spirit of the Lord when we engage in activities we know we should shun, then such things definitely are not for us. …” Apostle David Bednar

Why would such men and women insist that it must be God’s will that we all walk around labeling ourselves as sinners, as sinful and therefore bordering on evil as our natural mortal state?

This notion of unworthiness moves rapidly across the line of credibility more  powerfully when within the official context of Church policy we begin to believe that unless we are “temple-worthy” we find ourselves in a one-down or less-than circumstance.

Do we not assume that members are not routinely called to leadership positions unless temple-worthy? Are we not fearful then of not being able to give the  scripted answers to recommend questions because so much self-validation as worthy rides on those answers?

“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.”― Marilyn Monroe

Temple-worthy is also a status you cannot obtain unless you buy it through your voluntary payment of tithing. In this regard purchasing LDS temple-worthiness through tithing looks like a first cousin to the old fashioned indulgences the Roman priesthood used to sell.

When it comes to exacting payment, unworthiness is the principle leverage for completing the deal through the priesthood brokers.

In other words, Mormons inflict upon themselves unfair comparisons with each other based on the notion of worthiness.

Congregations are full of mark-missers, not unworthy sinners.  Many have missed the mark big time. Those who – in interviews with others – insist that mark-missing is sin may then feel authorized and justified in labeling others “unworthy” and calling them to repentance.

Literally, in the Church, take it to the bank that “unworthy” indicates that you might have offended a thin-skinned God who cannot tolerate you-know-what with any degree of you-also-know-what.

We know we are not expected to be perfectionists in this life. We know that perfectionists not only die at younger ages and often with high blood pressure, but also that they have unreasonable expectations and make unreasonabole demands on themselves.

They also tend to be highly intolerant of flawed-ness and imperfection in others.

Perfectionists who are called to lead feel themselves empowered to use the sin-based definitions of worthiness and are much more numerous on a local and stake level than in the general quorums leading out of headquarters.

Such persons substitute their value judgments for the more meaningful pastoral skills that take more work to acquire.

As leaders they make absolutely terrible ministers.

Why then would we need to believe in a Supreme Perfectionist who has labeled His own children as inherently sinful and therefore too tragically flawed to turn out perfect?

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”~ Judy Garland

We do it to ourselves. It is done almost in knee-jerk fashion often in families where family members are perceived according to two standards.

Who are the “unworthy” among us and why do we label them that way?

“It is better to be hated for what you are, than to be loved for something you are not.”~ Andre Gide

It becomes easy to accept the idea that the monarchical God is offended because when we are not worthy we have something evil or inadequate about ourselves.

“If you don’t run your own life, somebody else will.”  ~ John Atkinson

One might conclude that when the phrase “unworthy” is internalized, the horrific “evil” is just around the bend.  If we see ourselves as evil we more easily perceive God as offended or withholding blessings.  Because of unacceptable behavior on our part, we force God into a role of a deity who loves us only conditionally.

“Someone’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality.”~ Les Brown

If we relate to our Heavenly Parents as Divines who must be pleased by us in order to bless us,  aren’t we placing our lives at risk for the next logical step: believing ourselves subject to approved exclusion or discriminatory thinking.

Do we not become part of a group of haves and have-nots in which the “unworthy” somehow have failed while the “worthy” remain  acceptable to God.

“I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence but it comes from within. It is there all the time.”~ Anna Freud

Exclusionary thinking awakens discrimination at this point when we decide that “unworthy” is now “less-than.”

Since we feel uncomfortable in the presence of sin and/or sinners and we exclude by condemnation, social avoidance, shunning, excommunication or something worse. Terribly, we suddenly feel very uncomfortable in our own presence. We risk then discriminating against ourselves before someone “in authority” does it to us.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

We don’t have to be bigots to suffer from the illness of self-righteousness. All we have to be is of a mind that one of our spiritual “shoulds” is to discern not only “sin” but whoever has sinned and is by gospel extensions “unworthy.”

If we believe in Heavenly Parents who deal with us conditionally based on worthiness, we also  become dupes of a second falsehood that always makes sense so long as Jesus Christ is viewed and believed in as the Master and Commander.

We come to believe that under the direction of the Father, Jesus is assisted by the Holy Ghost who carries out another form of divine retribution by ignoring us. And we are left to figure out how The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are a trinity whose relationship with humanity becomes  conditional rather than its eternal opposite.

At the same time, the individual is given the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Mormons believe that this gift and its companion blessing entitles the recipient to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost as a guide and guardian, so long as the recipient lives worthy of the gift.

Joseph Smith taught that the influence of the Holy Ghost, which is the convincing power of God of the truth of the gospel, can be received before baptism, but the gift, or constant companionship, of the Holy Ghost, is obtained only after baptism. “You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man,” he said, “if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 314). mormonwiki.com

A person is expected to receive the witness of the Holy Ghost to the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, of scripture, and of the words of the living prophets before baptism. The full outpouring of the Spirit does not come, however, until the person has complied with the command to be baptized. 

Only after baptism can the gift be conferred by one in authority, and even then the Holy Ghost cannot be received by someone who is not worthy of it, since the Holy Ghost will not dwell in the heart of an unrighteous person. Thus, the actual companionship of the Holy Ghost may be received immediately after baptism or at a subsequent time, when the one receiving the promise becomes a fit companion for that holy being. Should the individual cease thereafter to be clean and obedient, the Holy Ghost will withdraw (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). – mormonwiki.com 

The idea of worthiness as a condition for the Spirit of God to assert its influence seriously distorts – but reinforces – every authoritarian religion that portrays itself as the agent of an autocratic God.

The autocratic God is a co-dependent God relied upon by His self-appointed authoritarians. These authoritarians invest most of their energy attempting to micro-manage the very thoughts of believers. Such is a false god who would judge you for what you think and believe more than what you do.

The autocratic micro-managing false god of commandments lies at the heart of most guilt complexes all over the world. Believers then tend not to be authentic, not they’re real selves.

“That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is.

Most people love you for who you pretend to be. To keep their love, you keep pretending – performing.

You get to love your pretense.

It’s true, we’re locked in an image, an act – and the sad thing is, people get so used to their image, they grow attached to their masks.

They love their chains. They forget all about who they really are. And if you try to remind them, they hate you for it, they feel like you’re trying to steal their most precious possession.”― Jim Morrison

If you choose to believe that as a parent you are justified – at the most critical moment in your child’s life –  in refusing to speak to that child because that child did not “obey” you, the truth then is that you literally do not deserve to be a parent.

If you choose to believe that your Heavenly Parents will refuse to “be there for you” if you have become “unworthy” of their conditional requirements for blessings and comfort, I tell you that such Heavenly Parents are not worthy of your reverence.

“How would your life be different if…You stopped allowing other people to dilute or poison your day with their words or opinions? Let today be the day…You stand strong in the truth of your beauty and journey through your day without attachment to the validation of others”― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

Portrait of Dysfunctional Religion: The Mormon Model

I was born and raised in a fully LDS community some 160 miles north of Salt Lake City. I am culturally a heritage-based Mormon to this day. It is from that perspective then – the religious perspective with which I’ve spent most of my life – that I am able then to write this portrait.

What does it mean to live spiritually?
Mormonism can be defined as a performance-based religion with the following operational formula:
Obedience + Worthiness constitutes Spirituality … which leads to blessings
Churches that encourage the belief that heaven is the destiny and reward toward which one directs a life of accumulated accomplishments are known as performance-based religions. The LDS Church with its systematic theologies, doctrines and programs may very well be the ultimate example and pattern of this way of imagining god and god’s reality.
Although entirely lacking proof in any physical or spiritual form of such a realm organized after the pattern of that 19th-century reality,  Joseph Smith and a host of early American prophets, evangelists and circuit-riding preachers asserted in creatively imagined and described forms, the notion that the ultimate truthfulness of the spirit world is based on performance and worthiness.
The Divine Abusive Elephant in the Living Room
This imagined reality, consistently asserted over more than the past two centuries, is why most believing Mormons today – easily and perhaps without much critical thought – buy into Church legalism. It becomes almost second nature to accept the idea of an over-controlling detail-obsessed God whose portrayed behavior looks so much like a domineering patriarchal alcoholic who is in reality a controlling parent, spouse or lover.
Uncritically, as an act of faith, devotion and obedience many sincere believers buy without question into the notions such as

  •      humans are so imperfect that God created religion by which that Divine Male Patriarch could – in a loving but domineering manner – thrust guidelines for living into our lives.
  • Such guidelines almost casually become laws or, better said, doctrines “irrevocably decreed” which the children of said God are expected to follow.
  • This God of guidelines demands strict adherence to such doctrines which in fact do nothing more than establish a notion that obedience is elevated at the expense of agency.
  • The highest spiritual approval in life is nothing more than an experiential pat on the head for being an obedient child.
The implications of such internalized assumptions include an idea that the God and Father of Obedience created a world abundant with the fruits of creative activity, but then commanded adherence to a list of the performances – or in some cases, negative performances – that the children of God are expected to do … or not do …
A performance-based religion puts bans on what are perceived to be inappropriate things. These bans become “laws of the Church” which by implication become “Laws of God” which are viewed than as “Irrevocably Decreed” and upon which a worthiness obsessed God grants rewards.
In a performance-based-religion, members are banned from inappropriate music, television, movies, books and other literature. Freedom of  expression in art, music, and other forms of entertainment are seen as risks that may cause the Father to stop attending the disobedient.
In a performance-based-religion certain food and drink products are banned and seen as the causes of risks that the Father will stop attending the disobedient.
In a performance-based-religion the Father requires strict adherence to dress and personal appearance codes the rejection of which creates a risk that the Father will stop attending the disobedient.
In a performance-based-religion scriptures become the means and tool that can be utilized to effectively stand in for a lack of contemporary legitimate on-going revelation from the same God who started everything eons ago by speaking directly to his children. Scripture then becomes the weapon that confronts those who challenge would-be church-proclaimed prophets who don’t seem to do much contemporary prophesying, seeing or revelating themselves..
In a performance-based-religion, the very Father of Obedience – who has become in fact a Father of Conformity – does not speak to His church except through the voices of those who declare that the same silent Father has established in this performance-based-religion the only acceptable and effective means to salvation.
The Father of Conformity either refuses or is unwilling to justify or explain how such an only-right-means-to-salvation system and circumstance is equally fair and just to every other human being on the planet, not to mention why a privileged minority are granted the divine privilege of being born inside this only-right-means while the rest of the world must figure and work it out for themselves.
In a performance-based religion, like an overly strict and self-absorbed alcoholic parent, the Father of Conformity has authorized the use of emotional guilt, intimidation, thought control and coercion to keep family  members in line. He is also seen as justifying and endorsing guilt-ridden sermons and lessons designed to push believers into submitting to the authority of the leadership without question or criticism. Failure to respect the leadership creates a risk that the Father will stop attending the disobedient.
In a performance-based religion the Father of Conformity has authorized the use of the theory that people should spend long hours at the Church and do work in the Church in order to gain rewards in heaven. A bureaucracy has been created at all levels in order to engender, monitor and “lovingly” coerce this sort of working participation which then becomes the standard by which member spirituality is measured and recognized. This is not unlike the demand of an alcoholic tyrant that his family enable his behavior.
The same bureaucracy becomes then a powerful instrument for limiting criticism and dissention through emotional and spiritual abuse by perceived authority and endorsement by the Father of Conformity.
What is happening today and something about which the grand bureaucracy at all levels refuses to admit to being in denial about is that the process of establishing and enforcing man-made rules and doctrines creates mere man-made leadership. These leaders tend to nothing other than, or nothing better than the jot-and-tittle Pharisees of the New Testament. They are driving many away who would otherwise not be driven away.
Some who are driven away leave with emotional scars that cause depression, substance abuse and – unfortunately – suicide, along with the very activities against which the religion relentlessly preached. One can make a case the some of those driven off are at least temporarily not prepared to deal with life and society in a manner that is free from long-internalized judgmental and narrow notions.
The gentle but rigid Church programming involves and in fact revolves around forms of guilt and coercion. Within the Church as well as among those driven off there is a danger of low self-esteem that causes essentially unreasonable reactions to the Church itself.
Repentance becomes much more than returning to God.  It involves returning to the Church from which one has fled in desperation. This is not unlike a battered-wives syndrome where one consciously returns to a life at home with a mean and unrepentant battering inebriated spouse who wants her back but will –once she returns – continue business as usual.
There is a genuine tragedy when one feels driven off from the clan or out of the tribe because, like an enormous and ominous dark tower, the Church rises in the background or even the actual center of the tribal village. The Church thrusts itself with impunity into the middle of family relationships to which it has no moral or God-given right to interfere.
Members – unconsciously in many cases – are forced to choose between Church and family.
The Father of Conformity has said nothing about why this circumstance is a positive fruit by which that Father is known among the children of men. The either-or attitude may only be a perception of those driven off when the rest of the family remains inside the righteous but unseen walls of Church conformity. However, the Church does little or nothing to address that very family estrangement of which the Church and its historical narrative, that which informs it’s the Church’s justification for existing, is the principle cause.
Limited serenity that comes from separation from the direct and immediate sources of emotional pain still feels like something much better than the rigidly inflexible cauldron of conformity whose principal legacy is misery.
One day perhaps enough souls will be driven out of that imagined reality to change the face of the Church which might then turn away from the performance-based religious corporation it has become.
If not, those who imagine themselves to be living lives of actual free agency in the Great and Spacious Building may come to have greater power and influence than those who imagine themselves as children of the Father of Conformity.

 

Ah … er … How’s that again?

Against govt as soon as govt sends disability check

On irony … what about it oh gun-toting-set-things-righters?

want our land back really.jpg

The Bundy Siege is a Wake-Up Call: American Extremists Are Getting Desperate and Dangerous

” Thus, the central conceit of this battle is utter nonsense. By massive majorities, Nevadans do not want to give up public land to the likes of Cliven Bundy, who would use it to enrich themselves while denying access to others.

I use Nevada as a stand in for the entire western United States, even though this latest skirmish is just over the border in Oregon. Nevada is an effective case study, in part because the Sagebrush Rebellion has deep roots here. I also know about it firsthand, because I grew up an hour away from Elko, Nevada, the epicenter of the rebellion. “

On Welfare Moochers:

Bundy and Other Cattle Ranchers are Living Off Large Federal Handouts Yet Complain About Govt. Intervention

 

Why bless his big old cowboy hat.

bundy3

The revealed religion of Cliven Bundy:

“If the standoff with the Bundys was wrong, would the Lord have been with us?” he asked, noting no one was killed as tensions escalated. “Could those people that stood (with me) without fear and went through that spiritual experience … have done that without the Lord being there? No, they couldn’t.”

Oregon Public Broadcasting: Explainer – The Bundy Militia’s Particular Brand Of Mormonism

“I’m Captain Moroni, from Utah.”  

That’s how one militiaman at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge responded to OPB’s Amanda Peacher when she asked for his name.

That name is not a silly response to deflect responsibility: In many ways, it encapsulates a deeply intertwined anti-federal sentiment mixed with Mormon symbolism. Captain Moroni is a crucial figure in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He’s also a heroic figure for anti-federalist extremists.  

In the modern day west, Captain Moroni has become one of several powerful symbols for the Bundy militia’s anti-governmental extremism.

Who Is Captain Moroni?

Take yourself too seriously and you invite mockery.

Loons

The revealed religion of Ammon Bundy:

“I got this urge that I needed write something,” Bundy said. “I asked the good Lord…I need some help. And he gave me that help. The Lord is not pleased what has happened with the Hammonds.”



In Oregon there are men -many of whom profess devotion to a church based on patriarchy – who are brandishing guns and are making what looks like to me an attempt to be heroic males in an overly dramatic way … and are doing so hiding behind of facade of bogus patriotism.

A patriarchal order is the historical domain of most fundamentalist Christian religions. Nowadays in such an order the male dominates more by custom than an enforced demand that women conform and comply. Nevertheless in a patriarchal order there is an inherent attitude of “leadership superiority” in play.

How many males truly have an awareness and willingly consider – even explore, if you will – their own feminine side?

I believe such a dual aspect is a normal part of being human and that there exists no intent by any Higher Power that the male is expected to assume the leadership role in all venues.

To my fellow Mormon dissenters: Joseph’s Peep Stone acknowledged. Don’t gloat, don’t I-told-you-so … don’t get childish about it.

Why the peep or seer stone is vital to understanding anything necessary accurate to the LDS historical faith claims.

Why the peep or seer stone is vital to understanding anything necessary accurate to the LDS historical faith claims.

Joseph’s Seer Stone Acknowledged: The Church Intellectualizes a Superstition

A truth left out … but now acknowledged … to the shock and dismay of many who had previously believed without critical thought.

Things aren’t what they were thought to be.

With a loss of control of source documentation regarding integral parts of the LDS foundation narrative, the Church itself has in many ways been forced to acknowledge that Santa’s sleigh doesn’t fly, that he doesn’t carry presents for every child on earth in that sleigh and that he doesn’t tumble down chimneys.

Nevertheless, the Church maintains, Santa Claus is real. The naughty-or- nice detail is still in place and gifts or coal is still in the offing.

This is in effect an attempt at transparency that leaves serious Latter Day Saints who take their theology, doctrine and most particularity the supernatural aspects of their history swaying at the end of a rope whose strings seem now at greater risk of unraveling.

Such is not, however, a beginning of the end.

Rather, it may very well prove to be that intellectualizing the previously un-provable narrative will open a floodgate that could reduce the literal-minded percentage of practicing Mormons, but not lead to some catastrophic collapse of the entire religion.

That is because Mormonism is in reality a major global religion with its own peculiarities but possessed of enough true believers and doctrinal goodness so as to sustain itself and a place in the religious thought of the planet.

That which you imagine to be absolutely true … Believe … and then pretend to make it so 

Let me begin by asking that you describe to yourself (and for your own understanding)  the spiritual image that comes to mind when you think of God, of Jesus, of the Holy Ghost and – but not least – Mother in Heaven.

Is your image of God the Father defined by the doctrine and theology of your particular religion?

Is your image of Jesus that defined by fundamental Christian theology?

If you pray to Jesus Christ, do you pray to the standard Christian theological definition of the Savior of the World, the Redeemer, the He-Who-Accomplished-the-Atonement?

And how – if you carry such an image – do you perceive Heavenly Mother; the Goddess?

Many ancient pagan religions encouraged prayer to statues. Christianity has a tradition of bowing and praying to statuary images of Jesus, Mary and the Saints. It  would be interesting to discover whether we offer prayers to internally imagined anthropomorphic divine images, merely offer mental oblations to the cosmos or carry out something entirely different?

If one had achieved a genuine and spiritually sensed relationship with the higher  power – God, if you will, as one had come to understand God – how would you respond to the following portrayals if they did not fit what you already possessed in your experience?

Could you easily accept a new idea of God as a Boss of the Universe no matter how respectfully and reverentially that notion is expressed?

Could you easily accept a new idea that God is a kindly, and benevolently divine version of a Caesar?

Could you easily accept a new idea that God is the male head of a divinely created and eternal Patriarchal Order that relegates every female to a secondary role in a forever of existence?

Based on a relationship with the Divine that you had already achieved, could you easily accept a new idea that the Divine with whom you commune is actually a judgmental and critical god who cannot look upon nor tolerate sin with any degree of allowance?

On the other hand, could you easily accept a new idea that the higher power with whom you have intimate and personal communion is also the Divine Author of Compassion as the ultimate way of human interaction?

Could you easily accept the idea that the God you have come to know is focused entirely on our loving one another and entirely not focused on our condemnation of anyone?

The adolescent religion of my birth was presented to me as the defined nature of life based on a continuous pattern of spiritual prompting. Mormonism came into being in the world of 19th-century American religious literal-ism based on experiences that bore in their very existence widely-accepted assumptions as to the perceptive definitions and meanings of spiritual promptings … revelation, as it were.

The Father and Son described by Joseph Smith in his Vision were entirely consistent with the fundamentalist bible-based definitions of who God is. In addition, there is consistency with how that male and patriarchal god communicates to man, not to mention a notion that the Almighty rarely speaks to humans individually as a  matter of course. We owe much of that to the controlling theology, dogma and orthodoxy of the original Roman Catholic Church fathers.

However, when God the Father speaks, such communication includes an investiture of authority to those “called” to speak on His Divine behalf and who then become His middle men to the rest of the mortals.

It is necessary to understand and acknowledge one’s own personal cosmic vision and then acknowledge the assumptions upon which definitions and constructions of both reality and the spiritual world are created.

We create them all by ourselves. Others do not create them for us except to the degree that we let someone else’s constructs become our constructs.

In very powerful but subconscious ways, many believers practice their religion with an internal image that they “know” exists. This internal image they have never actually seen exists essentially because believers have accepted the testimonies of others who likewise have never seen it but also “know” it exists as defined in the traditional LDS way of testimony and authority.

In the same fashion, many believers “know” of the reality where the patriarchal god “is,”  where Jesus Christ  “is,” and where Satan “is” and “works” and “wants to rule.”

For many Christians, that spirit world exists in some other dimension and interacts with our own world in supernatural ways.

This imagined Mormon reality has its conflicts with the imagined reality of other Christians, not to mention other non-Christian religions who define the High Power in their own way.

But let me write specifically to the assumptions most believing Mormons live by.

There is the view of a purely supernatural, all-wise, all-knowing and almighty God who at times intervenes in the affairs of mortals in dramatic or not-so-dramatic ways. The Mormon Heavenly Father is essentially co-dependent who is a king of commandments and who is typically a type-A personality who runs the universe by edict.

Most believing Mormons easily accept and live according to the idea of an invisible Jesus/God personage who is vitally invested in human life and who directs forces of good against the other supernatural power and source of evil, Satan. This God of today’s Mormonism remains as he was in the 19th Century.

The fundamentalist god of 19th century spoke through a foggy notion prophecy and only to especially chosen humans who – a not unnatural idea – were destined to do a great work through the power of that fundamentalist god who didn’t talk to just everybody. The means of communication was equally and mysteriously superstitious, expressed as much through the mind-set of magical thinking as it was through wild assumptions of how the biblical god had always spoken to chosen prophetic heroes or heroines.

Joseph Smith started early with peep stones which later came to be defined orthodoxically as seer stones. His belief in and habit of using peep stones undoubtedly influenced his willingness and inclination to see himself in a prophetic (think mystical) manner. It further allowed an almost casual declaration that he had come to a place of spiritual experience with which he could channel the mind of god to everyone else (although Joseph would have never called it channeling.)

This magical and folkloric way of thinking is why Joseph summoned Moroni exactly on September 21st because that was the solstice time of magical practice in which one did that sort of thing. That is in fact how the first conversations with Moroni were channeled and later information received via a peep stone.

That is why the peep or seer stone is vital to understanding anything necessary accurate to the LDS historical faith claims.

Human spirituality for the most part – and perhaps with the exception of certain charismatic perceptiveness –  in this century is no longer the simplistic 19th century evangelizing fundamentalism of the American frontier.

Modern spirituality is best blended with common sense and ethics rather than being limited to an organized religious institutional tradition driven by hundreds of years of theological guesswork that had become more and more obviously flawed and inadequate.

What is called for is spirituality that functions as part of and not a background to a reality that is defined daily by human interaction, curiosity, discovery and challenge.

Contemporary Mormonism is one example of the Old Time Religion that does not work – principally because all those old assumptions that were never valid are now seriously impeding social movement toward social justice and genuine compassionate concern for each other.

The LDS leadership has endeavored to come clean regarding one foundational myth: that of the how the golden plates were translated and visually inspected by Joseph Smith.  Believers now see the Church  asking its members to move through a process of intellectualizing the factual part of their history. However, the insistence remains that the superstitious assumptions that drive the day to day living of the religion remain legitimate.

How does one deal with years – a lifetime even – of taking it all literal only to learn otherwise?

Until we get past that feeling of being offended we will possibly forever remain the unresolved and wronged human being trapped in memory and living in ignorance of personal proprietorship of our lives.

I could not heal myself until I took ownership to the degree possible of my own willingness to believe or suspend disbelief all those earlier years.

Literal-minded belief – which is the weakest kind of human religious spirituality – is also a major player in the inability to heal one’s self.

Literal-minded belief in the true-churchiness of it all causes an instinctive fear for eternity.

Such an internal and emotional fear can cause one to relinquish ownership of one’s own spirituality.  One is then tempted to remain captured by the notion that God deals with souls no directly; not intimately; but in a detached and distant manner using middlemen.

You literally then don’t have to believe so much in God as much as you have to believe in the middle men.

So long as you believe in middlemen and that they are appointed by God to do His talking and to do his intimate work in your life, you are stuck in literal-minded submission to an extremely false notion.

Members are encouraged to believe or assume that every answer to every prayer must include in some form or manner a “burning” that testifies that the church is true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, the the current president is a prophet today, that the Book of Mormon is true … any of an array of exclusively LDS beliefs.

The Church seems to be betting on the idea that the seer stone acknowledgement is an acknowledgement of an original historical truth that was formerly presented in a way intended to bait and switch. Hence we are already seeing an assortment of intellectualizations regarding the seer stone from semi-official and unofficial but strictly within the circled wagons of true believing sources.

The substance of this transparency by necessity then is an acknowledgment of how Santa really gets his job done .. but not any kind of admission that Santa isn’t real. On the contrary, Santa is even more so Santa and his Elves are living proof of his existence.

If the spiritual experience doesn’t have that confirming element to it, then the objective of prayer, meditation and communion is incomplete and – perish the thought – might not have been an endeavor worthy of effort.

We do this to ourselves.

The Church only encourages us because … well, because it is now a big church with more global needs. The corporate view of management whether serving hamburgers, selling software or ministering to believers within a mythical absolute is the same:

control of flow.

What flows must be controlled whether  we are talking numbers, testimonies or the support of those called as mid-level managers of congregations. The only really tangible and measurable tool of control is conformity.

But reality reveals that those warm feelings that come from our prayers are ours to own and not something connected to the true-church narrative.

They are not on loan from the Church and they are not feelings on which the Church has a claim, let alone any monopoly.

Drop the literal-minded acceptance of the need for middle men in your relationship of prayer and communion with the divine and you will have taken gigantic steps in the direction of your own personal liberation.

Regarding immediate and extended family and what reactions might occur, do not be so arrogant in that you assume responsibility for the happiness of others.

Do not assume that you owe some great sacrifice of remaining in a box that family wants you in – even when family is not aware and does not accept that they are forcing you into a box from which you are not allowed to escape.

Here with our “families-are-forever” mantra, lies programming.

Whether deliberate or not, it is a programming that facilitates a family-based peer pressure to insure social conformity and assert the Church control that had loosened with your dissent.

Blood is thicker than water.

In no way however is that ever supposed to mean that family can bloody it’s own members spiritually and not offend God.

Finally, regarding the acknowledgement of the peep stone, that face in the hat and all that jazz.

Don’t gloat, don’t I-told-you-so … don’t get childish about it. Your wounded feelings are not paramount here. Those who gloated when you dissented, told you so and insisted that you are living in the Great and Spacious Building as a mocker of the truth of god are now sitting in sand castles (temples) whose foundations are a lot shakier than they thought.

Be the grown up.

If such seems to be occurring, perhaps faith is needed if one remains a believer in however form that takes.

A loving God might eventually open the window where family has closed the door.

Mormon April Conference Priorities: No-Votes and Counterfeit Families

I was raised a Mormon in Idaho and have written on Mormon-related topics of all sorts for quite a few years.

The inviolable truth that is preached at the LDS General Conference is not a truth intended to straighten the world right out.

If such were true there would be a much greater frequency of Salt Lake-based preaching and revealed gems of wisdom regarding the larger scope of issues dominating the minds of humanity across the globe.

Although rhetorically the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints proclaims itself as the one true and living church on the face of the earth, and LDS conference archives abound with sermons proclaiming such, (for example, this sermon from current President of the Quorum of the Twelve, Boyd K. Packer, entitled The Only True Church,) Church leadership has never demonstrated any serious intent of trying to assert its true-churchiness by addressing the multiplicity of global problems to a global audience.

The role for such a spiritual public ministry to the world, positive or negative, has been asserted more powerfully by the Catholic Church (and most effectively these days by the Pope.) Furthermore, in terms of taking exaggerated public stances regarding issues of morality and/or politics, the Religious Right has made more noise than the Mormon Church and has in fact served as a lure to encourage the LDS to take more public stands.

Preaching to the Choir in the LDS church begins at the top. It is then modeled in lesser conferences and Sunday meetings by the junior local leadership which takes its instructions from the top.

Last weekend, two events of what appears the greatest notoriety  seem to have been the membership voting to sustain its leadership after which newsworthy and social media uproar was focused on a small group of members who voted to the contrary of the proposition to sustain the Church leadership pyramid at its topmost level.

The second was the proclamation of a sitting Apostle of Jesus Christ, 92-year-old L. Tom Perry, (think the contemporary equivalent of Peter, James or John – Mormons see the members of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles literally in that light) that some families are “counterfeit” and some are not.

In truth the weekend sustaining of leadership was a procedural moment in which the church membership was asked to affirm the leadership as it is constituted. It had very little to do with any change in church structure or leadership. The activity is almost entirely symbolic and encourages unity within the ranks of the membership.

Also in truth, a vote against the leadership in the context of general conference is also symbolic. Neither symbolic moment has eternal consequences, expresses positive or negative moral integrity or eternal salvific impact in the eyes of God. None who voted “No!” Saturday are going to hell for it. If you think otherwise you are identified with the choir to which Elder Perry was preaching.

The leadership,  personified by the calm and un-troubled response of President Uchtdorf, reflected the un-troubled-ness of the moment.

However, in a Church that has relentlessly taught and continually teaches and emphasizes its very true-church circumstance, it is not the leadership that inflicts the most pain on its members. That is predominantly carried out by the membership itself which is the usual circumstance in any group strictly structured and guided by rigid and dogmatic narratives and perceptions.

Case in point is the surprisingly consistent viewpoints expressed by members who were more obviously offended by the dissenting votes than was the leadership hierarchy itself.

The two events are related in a way that requires understanding what the membership perceives as its role in belonging to the “True Church.”

In addition  what belonging to the True Church is supposed to look like is based on almost 200 years of teaching and proclaiming that very elite supposition regarding the LDS vis a vis the rest of the world. (Again, think Boyd K. Packer, The Only True Church,)

One of the most common cliches from the membership is a slogan that was started years ago in another LDS general conference. The cliche goes something to the effect that apostates and others (essentially everyone) who have left the church have done so (left the Church) but not “left it alone.”

This cliche has been and at times continues to be tossed in my direction as one of the varied responses to my expressed perceptions regarding the Church. I don’t have much to say in rebuttal to the idea that ex’s or dissenters can’t leave the Church alone because I can not compete with eloquence of what you will find if you google

leave the church but can’t leave it alone”

and read what comes up. The most common thread running through those many links is that even to those who left,  there was rarely nothing casual about one’s membership in the Church.That was one of the reasons why the leaving was the consequence of emotional shock.

It was taken seriously, pleasured and worried over, stressed and conformed-to sincerely and with trust for many years. The official sermons and writings of the general authorities were not the sole reason for why it was all taken seriously. More significantly it was how such things – the standard dogma of the Church and the true-church narrative – were and are relentlessly emphasized. In addition, the principal reinforcement is done at the local level by the membership interacting one with another.

It is that world, and not the management-dominated procedural churchiness than is dispensed from Salt Lake, that eventually leads to disillusionment and a genuine and worrisome discomfort with fear, shame and guilt  related to a sudden desire to reject conformity.

It’s what friends, family and ward members will think of the doubter that worries more than official disapproval.

That’s why a life of doubt is not unlike that of any minority toward which shame-based preaching is addressed. It is driven by and may for years cause a person with inner mental pain to stay in a closet of one’s own creation.

You won’t much see and hear a general authority stand up in a general conference and solemnly proclaim how he feels sorry for those who do not have the gospel truth possessed by the Mormon church.

You won’t much see and hear a general authority proclaim in a sacrament or priesthood meeting or relief society meeting in the presence of non-members that those who don’t belong to the Church will not be saved or return to God with the highest ranking of worthiness that Joseph Smith prophetically described.

I’ve heard such things in such meetings for the entirety of my life.

I talked that way at one time.

Most members with whom I was acquainted talked that way at one time or another in their lives in my presence.

We believed it was true and conducted ourselves accordingly.

Those who’ve read my blog posts here have read that I don’t seem to be in the closet in how I feel about the religion of my culture – especially regarding areas where I’ve challenged the leadership, doctrine and behavior.

Yet I have yet to hear one word from Salt Lake or my stake.

I have however, received an assortment of loving, shocked, even angry admonishments and exhortations from friends, family and local ward members. The last exchange with our home teacher six months ago resulted in his declaration – (with our agreement) – that he would not be willing to return to our home unless we were ready and willing to be taught.

So what’s with the emotional reactions to honest and public disagreement with Church leadership in general conference?

Those who voted no last Saturday owe no apologies. I’ve heard nothing from Salt Lake demanding an apology or implying corrective action against the no-voters.

Tell me why then is there so much preening in the true-believing-choir-talk encountered in social media?

I would also recommend a perusal of the following page at LDSliving.com where both sides of the discussion are present among the comments:  Dissenting Votes at LDS Conference: Everything You Need To Know.

As for Elder Perry, whose apostolic declaration implies that if there are “true” families then there exists – in hs language – “counterfeit” families.

In the absence of universal acceptance that the LDS in fact is the only true church, Elder Perry was speaking to his choir.

More than likely Perry was interested in retention of his true-believing choir rather than declaring that some families worldwide are legitimate in the eyes of the Almighty and some families ain’t;

that some children don’t really have real mommies or daddies in their families;

that God accepts truly married and created families in some approved way that overrules the opinions of every other human being;

that any religious authority that disagrees or lives out of harmony with the ultimate truth and its source as proclaimed bi-annually from Salt Lake City will not be approved of by God.

If you take all that stuff seriously then the protests and objections from many directions and groups across the country are needful and reasonable.

If you understand that Elder Perry was expressing the LDS version of prophetic god-talk to a particular audience of deeply immersed, committed and and literal-minded members rather than as an apostle of Jesus revealing divine word to the rest of the world,

… then what he had to say ought not ruffle feathers.

For me the original “crisis of faith.”

1965 - brand new Mormon Missionary ... steeped in the faith ... believed the narrative without question

1965 – brand new Mormon Missionary … steeped in the faith … believed the narrative without question

If I were to use the term, “crisis of faith,” that moment happened in the late 1980’s when I began to resent some of the tactics of motivation commonly used in my ward … including my own tactics as one of the leaders..

As the H.P.G.L. I was “Brother Vinegar” whose tools of fear, shame and guilt were all worn, tarnished and dented in places from over use.

The awakening occured after a few incidents strung together within a time frame that brought my spiritual thinking to a point of outright guilt and anger.

The flash point was the day I stumbled across the Sonja Johnson auto-bio (From Housewife to Heretic) in the library, checked it out and hid it under my coat so no local members who might be in the library wouldn’t see it.

Took it home and read it in one evening … couldn’t put it down until I had finished. I was exceedingly angry about how she had been treated and saw in how she described her stake and ward leaders, the very behavior in my own stake and ward.

The crisis was on, escalating into a major mental volcanic explosion within days.

Requested removal of my name in 1991 but had no success until 1999.

Scarified by fear-mongered doctrines, I expected – as per LDS theology and gossip – that famous “stupor of thought” from D&C 9 along with all those scriptural references to the Holy Ghost withdrawing and the “Amen to the Priesthood of that man!” kind of canonized rhetoric.

Never happened …

No stupor, no amen’s to any feelings of spiritual power, and no abandonment by the Holy Spirit.

The promptings by which I had habitually practiced my religion and which had assured me of the presence of Divinity in myself and my life continued without interruption.

There was no end of faith-promoting prompts but an end of the literal-minded and doctrinaire teachings that are still utilized by misguided leadership to remove our proprietorship of our own spirituality and require us to follow all the brethren down a path where they will never be able to deliver the goods.

Leaving the Church helped me retake ownership of that mis-appropriated spirituality.

Then, feeling like a wandering prodigal orphan, I sought spirit solace in every other venue you can imagine. Many venues including New Age concepts, Zen concepts, Gnostiscism, even joining and participating in a local Episcopal Parish … all had merit and all included experiences with no less prompting and guidance than that of my years of attempting Mormon priesthood practice with quiet desperation.

It took the powerful sensitivity and perception of my wife, Lietta, to point out that I had in essence orphaned myself from the trust and confidence factor of my previous Mormon life.

In that prior life of membership, I had forgotten who I was and what I was and only remembered who and what I THOUGHT I was.

The story of her baptism and my rebaptism has been written elsewhere and can be discussed another time. However, in recapturing my cultural and heritage-based identity, I’ve come to recapture also a greater trust and confidence in the spiritual promise of Section 121 absent any need to agree with the true churchiness of it all.

No prompting or spirit has EVER – in prior life or newly reborn life in the Church – witnessed to me of the truthiness of it all for the coorelated chapel church.

However, the life changing sense that was in reality the life-affirming sense has returned in greater force … because Lietta has encouraged me to let that light so shine.

I still have my own privacy as a temple for my innermost communion with Divinity – and that is a very special and personal place.

Equally special and personal is the communion between husband and wife that is so much more open, less orthodox and more personally designed, sustained and nourished by a couple who need no building, no rite, and no priesthood to authorize our eternity together.

How do we know?

… the Spirit tells us so.

Fer all yew fundamentalists: Beelzebubba Ain’t Makin Ya Do It!

Whys Everybody Always Pickin On Me

Why’s Everybody Always Pickin On Me?

In the culture of my upbringing and in later life my dragging around, Mormon beliefs about this fellow Satan are quite specific. Satan is the villain in the LDS drama theology. Without this eternal Oil Can Harry, a lot of what is offered in the name of good versus evil would have much less substance.

However, Mormons are not unique in bearing a literal-minded acceptance of an belief in the reality of Satan, known elsewhere as Lucifer among other handles. I use the Mormon sample because that is the Satan in whom I sustained a literal belief for half my adult life.

There’s the official LDS PR statement about Satan/Lucifer – buttressed as usual by literalistic scripture reading:
Answering Media Questions About Jesus and Satan

This statement has been expanded since it was originally released on 12 December 2007.

Like other Christians, we worship Jesus Christ as the divine Son of God. Satan is a fallen angel, diametrically opposite from Christ in every attribute.

As the prophet Isaiah wrote, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!”

The Apostle Paul wrote that God is the Father of all. This means that all intelligent beings were created by God and are His spirit children.

Jesus Christ represents all that is good, true, virtuous, merciful, just and godly.

Lucifer is the adversary of everything that Christ stands for. He embodies all that is evil, false, immoral, and devoid of any trace ofgoodness or divine light.

He is the enemy of God and of every human being who seeks to follow Christ.

There’s an endless roster of ecclesiastic sermonizing against Oil Can Harry. Some of the more recent, and mind you, these are verbally dispensed with few if any smiles, in an almost funereal gravity and in full assertion that Harry is no laughing matter.

O That Cunning Plan of the Evil One – Apostle Ballard

Withstand Every Temptation of the Devil – W. Rolfe Kerr

Satan’s Bag of Snipes – Richard C. Edgely

Dare to Stand Alone – President Thomas S.
Monson

From my perspective, a case could be made that Satan is the biggest myth – not only of Mormon theology, but across the entirety of atonement-based Christianity.

However … and if I must start my “however” with holy scripture, I could begin with that trouble maker that God authorizes in Job … and I can see mischief in the tradition of other points of view.

To wit …Them pesky Pagans and their more grown-up and believable evaluation of resistance, temptation, allure and mark-missing. (Notice, “mark-missing” is my mistake-descriptor of choice. I do not believe in “sin.”) …
Wow.
Wouldn’t it be hard to be terrified and wary from someone whose actions and motivations are better explained and understood, and accurately compared to Lex Luthor, Oil Can Harry, Captain Hook and the Gremlins?
And this from what I consider to be a superior class of mythology upon which to base a reverence to reality system of belief.
There ya have it.
So here’s my guy … and as my current tactic for internally responding in my own knee-jerk way to the tossing around of the Satan/Devil/Evil-One like ketchup and mustard at a barbecue.
The following is the internal image I cultivate every time some sober-faced or tear-stained testifier preaches about The So-Called Adversary:
 

Sunday: Tell a child that Heaven is church 24-7 and

that child might be able to describe somewhere else for you.

Churching Around

6:00 a.m. this Sunday morning and its raining, the street is still dark and Jake needs to go on his morning walk. Too wet to bring my kindle for entertainment while Jake sniffs his way down the street slowly dragging from spot to spot, from bush to bush, from tree to tree.

I think about what my Sundays looked like when I was but a boy in Caribou County and the mountains of Southeastern Idaho … Mormon Country.

We were a farming community. But we didn’t ride around in buggies, and – although there were occasional beards and women dressed like they’d stepped out of a rural 19th-century movie set, I suppose we could have been transported to any rural American agricultural setting and presented no obvious or stand-out difference.

Here, take a virtual tour of what it looks like now

I remember Sundays when mostly farmers and a few of us city clickers attended church.

By the time I was 12 years old, I would get up around seven, go out on the porch and retrieve the Sunday edition of the Salt Lake Tribune, lay on the floor with my feet resting against the heat vent from the coal furnace in the basement, throw aside the front page and all that world and national stuff and open the second section.

I’d start with the comics and end with the sports section. About 8:30 I’d drag myself to the bedroom and put on my dress clothes for the Church two blocks away.

The whole town was essentially a 4-block by 5-block square with a bunch of houses additionally across the tracks.

Main street, which was 4 blocks long, handled our business section where you could find a drug store on the corner next to the highway (U.S. Highway 30 which ran from Omaha to Portland), the Post Office, Arts Billiards (my grandpa’s pool hall), Sanders Furniture, Keith Mabey’s electrician business, the Barber Shop and then an open field with a raised bank all the way around that would hold the water in the winter long enough to freeze and create our ice pond fer skating.

Across the street you had my Dad’s service station (Utoco Gas), a big fat tractor implement store, an empty second tavern, my Uncle Gene’s grocery store (he and Aunt Elnora lived above it, Howard’s Cafe, the Court House,

Court House/City Hall

the Jenkins apartments, the IGA grocery store, the Call Lumber Yard, the theater and that was it. The school maintenance garage was on the same side of the street but on the next block.

At the end of Main on the west side there was the combination grade school-junior high-high school building entitled the North Gem (North end of the Gem Valley) school district.

Across the street from the school sat the LDS church building. That’s where I’d go after reading the Sunday paper and wishing I could drink coffee with cream and sugar like Mom and Dad.

I’d put on my go-to-meeting duds and walk the two blocks to the church.

Church started at 9:00 a.m. sharp with Priesthood Meeting – the men’s stuff. We’d gather in the chapel, sing a hymn, listen to a prayer, do something of a business/agenda ritual and separate into classes. Mine was the Deacons’ quorum where us boys sat through the first of our two Sunday classes.

A guy taught us something religious that had to do with one of the 4 Mormon scriptures (Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants or Pearl of Great Price.) There was a lot of the sort of wordage that – in any community of that type- gets tossed around like ketchup and mustard at a barbecue:

the Lord, … the Gospel, … the Truth (or true church) …righteousness … faithfulness … and so forth.

Them lessons were more or less okay if you took into account that I had to be there … and if the lessons included stories.

I didn’t care what kind of stories, if they included stories my mind would sort of unleash itself and I’d walk into and inside the world of whatever story they were telling as they narrated their way through their god-talk points.

Anyway … after the hour of Priesthood meeting was my favorite half hour of the day. We boys (at least those boys packing the necessary quarter) had a half hour before Sunday School and would walk the two blocks north on Main to Ma Howard’s Cafe. Fer 10 cents ya got yer RC cola and fer the remaining 15 cents yer Hostess fried pie. I preferred the apple or cherry most of the time.

But we had to be back by 10:00 case that’s when Sunday School started. By this time the chapel was full of folks – men, women and children. I usually sat in the pews in the south-eastern corner of the chapel where the sacrament (communion for you non Mormons) table was located. Sunday School consisted of opening exercises with the usual hymn, prayer, announcements and other business. Then came a second hymn (a sacrament hymn) while older teens at the sacrament table got up and broke slices of bread into little chunks captured on trays with handles. The row of bread trays were in front of a row of trays holding little paper cups about the size of your thumb and that contained water.

Such constituted the LDS communion of bread and water (Mormons a long time ago dropped communal wine and substituted water.) After the song and the bread was broken, one of them older boys read a set sacrament prayer over the bread and stood patiently while us younger Deacons came forth to be handed one of the trays of broken bread which we would then in organized manner (almost like jets in flying formation) spread out and passed the bread to the congregation.

I was good with that except maybe when I had to hand the tray to a row where some old guy was already asleep or some buxomy woman was nursing a baby and I’d get confused about my priorities.

After the broken bread we returned to formation and returned the bread trays, exchanging them for the trays with the little water cups sitting in small slotted holes so they wouldn’t tip over. After a set prayer on the water, we then went through the same procedure as before.

Afterward was the Sunday School program which included a youth speaker for what was called a 2-and-a- half-minute talk, followed by other speakers and hymn singing. I remember as a youngster giving a 2-and-a- half-minute talk about the entire history of Christmas and completing the job in only 45 seconds. I didn’t know what to say for the remaining 105 seconds so I sheepishly sat back down.

After the opening exercises we all retired to our separate classes and I sat through the second of my obligatory Sunday classes which this time included us 12-14-year-olds but also with girls of the same age. I don’t remember sitting with them girls at that age. Us boys mostly stuck together unless one of our elders (like Grandma) told us we had to sit next to a visiting cousin even if she was a girl.

When I was younger (maybe 8 or 9), I got uppity in a Sunday school class which was being taught by the Bishop’s wife. She lost her patience with me and smacked me on the head with her Book of Mormon. Then she started crying and hugging me and apologizing. I wasn’t even indignant, mostly embarrassed and hoping she wouldn’t tell Grandma about my uppityness.

Well, around 11:45 a.m. the whole dang torture session came to a merciful end and we were released to go home. The rest of Sunday was mine for kid stuff which included outdoor games and exploring in the summer and un-micro-managed indoor stuff where Mom just wanted us to stay out of her way.

Often we’d go for Sunday drives where Dad would take us usually to Lava Hot Springs, stopping at Mike’s Tavern about half way for a beer or two while Mom smoldered in the car and we kids were hoping for a 7-Up or Hershey bar. Then we’d go to Lava where there were possibilities of swimming and stuff.

On the days when we weren’t out of town, the whole dang churchiness stuff started up again around 7:30 p.m. where we all gathered at the church for Sacrament Meeting. After the usuals, we’d go through the Sacrament bread and water routine and then settle in for the endurance ritual.

Usually three speakers for the next hour or so and boy, did those subjects ever get boring! Especially on hot summer nights. This was what separated the old men and the boys from the younger adults. Us young’uns and old guys could more or less fall asleep and get away with it. But the prime-aged adults didn’t dare cause they were supposed to be the examples, or in some cases they might be preparing themselves for future calls (opportunities) to leadership jobs and needed to look sharp, alert and attentive at all times.

So sleeping on a hot Sunday evening was a risk we had to take. Reminds me of a couple of stories with which I’ll end my reminiscences about Sundays.

These are apocryphal or anecdotal or whatever you call them. Mebbe they happened and mebbe they didn’t … but they COULD have.

#1

Brother Brown was visiting the ward (what we called our congregations) as a Stake High Councilman and when they came, Oh Boy! Could be what seemed an hour for his talk alone and the subjects were usually the most boring.

Anyway, it seems that Brother Brown fell asleep during the Sacrament Meeting preludial activities before his talk. When it was time, the Bishop stood up and said solemnly,

“We will now be favored with a talk from our Visiting High Councilman, Brother Brown.”

Only thing … Brother Brown had fallen asleep.

Bishop looked flustered …. “Brother Brown?”

Then more flustered and sort of louder, “Brother BROWN!”

Brother Brown woke with a start and … lost and confused … (of course he was) … groggily stood, walked to the dais, and said the closing prayer.

#2

The Sleepy Deacon

It seems that on an especially hot summer evening during Sacrament Meeting, the Deacon assigned to sit toward the front by the sacrament table and do the Bishop’s bidding … you guessed it … fell asleep.

The chapel was full … you know, Standing Room Only.

Suddenly the doors at the back of the chapel opened and in walked the Stake Presidency, (the three most important men in the Stake, which is like a diocese – you know, a bunch of wards.) Well, the Bishop sprang into action, using hand gestures to get the attention of the errand-Deacon who was asleep.

Eventually, half-groggy, the Deacon closed his mouth, looked around self-consciously, and saw the Bishop making frantic hand gestures at him. The Deacon’s expression became quizzical …

The Bishop surreptitiously pointed to the back of the chapel where the three important dudes were standing, and silently mouthed the words “STAKE PRESIDENCY!” , apparently thinking the Deacon could read his mind.

The Deacon entered into the word-mouthing game.

“SO?””

The Bishop’s eyes flared with agitation.

“THREE CHAIRS!! FOR THE STAKE PRESIDENCY!!”

The Deacon got a look of total confusion and nervous reluctance.

“ME?”

The Bishop moving toward frantic-ness.

“YES YOU!!!”

Terrified, the Deacon responded.

“NOW??”

The bishop in his most authoritative expression of order-giving almost shouted what he growled in silence.

“YES!!!”

So the awakened, confused, somewhat terrified but courageous young Deacon stood up and shouted out loud …

“RAH, RAH RAH!!! STAKE PRESIDENCY!!!”

Ah … Sundays in the good old days.