Mormonism (As Told by an Ex-Mormon)*
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By Nancy Martin
*This is based on 17 years of church going including years of “perfect attendance” and listening to the gospel preached and reading the church literature. Any errors may be because life in the church has changed in the past 50 years.
Mormons (or members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) are most certainly Christians. They are a prayerful people, praying individually and communally and constantly. To whom do they pray? To “My Heavenly Father” or to “My Father in Heaven.” How do they end their prayers? ”In the name of Thy son, Jesus Christ, amen.” They do not pray to Mary, Joseph, or any of the Catholic saints or to any of the prophets of the Old Testament or the prophets of their special book, the Book of Mormon. Mormonism is as Christian as a religion can get. In fact, they believe they are the one and only true Christian church of God.
Not baptized a Mormon? Poor soul, you won’t get to the kingdoms of glory in the life hereafter—well, not without earthly intervention. Your descendants or others can be baptized in your name after you have been dead a sufficient period of time. Thus, there is hope for those who disbelieve during their life. Why did you think they were so interested in genealogy?
Mormonism is not a cult. They do go to church a lot. However, these days they squeeze most of their meetings into Sunday so it doesn’t affect one’s family, social or business life so much. I used to go two or three times a week plus special classes before each school day. They have no more and many fewer rules than certain Protestant, Jewish or Muslim religions about behavior, food or clothing. They do follow you around! When you move, your membership in the church moves with you. Soon after a move you will find the Elders (two males who have received “the priesthood”) at your doorstep to encourage you in the faith and to let you know where your nearby church house is. It is very hard to get this to stop, but they don’t force you to talk to them! They politely go away if you tell them to.
They are a patriarchic bunch following the Old Testament in church and family organization. The father/husband is the head of the household. The prophet is the leader of the church. Only males can hold the priesthood—and thus be bishops or prophets. Surprisingly, they do still believe in polygamy--but only after death. That is, a man can be “sealed” (married to) more than one woman in the life hereafter, but marriages on earth must be serial. And since women are the helpmates of men, women certainly can’t be sealed to more than one man, or to each other, or men to men even in the hereafter.
The church is very rich and gets involved in political issues it believes affects the lives of its members and the authority of its doctrines. They admittedly put millions of dollars into the ballot measure that repealed the same sex marriage provision in California. They have excommunicated those who speak too publically against church doctrine. They will excommunicate for adultery (I know of one case where the woman was excommunicated but NOT the man!). Yet, they will look the other way countless times when members are discrete in disobeying the doctrine. They have no problem with birth control. And notice they had no problem with Mitt Romney’s somewhat progressive views when he first ran for Governor of Massachusetts. But you’d better give 10% tithing to the church off the top.
Since the prophet does have a direct line to god, church principles can change. Such was the cause of the relatively recent change allowing men of color to hold the priesthood. Who knows? Maybe one day God will tell the prophet that women can hold the priesthood, or that same-sex marriage is okay, or that there is really only one degree of glory in the hereafter and that all beings are automatically admitted.
Nancy Martin currently leads an active retired life as a grandmother, volunteer and board member for LEDA and Red Butte Gardens, and is an active humanist. She received a B.A. in mathematics from Stanford University and an M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in computer and communication science.
Are you an ex-Christian Scientist, ex-Scientologist, ex-Pagan, ex-Pentecostalist, ex-Muslim, or otherwise ex-religious? Interested in writing about it for Humanist Network News? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.