Thinking Out Loud

December 8, 2018

Bucket List Checkmark: Inside a Mormon Church

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:24 am

Our town’s local congregation of Latter Day Saints meets in a building not quite as elaborate as this one in Salt Lake City. [image: Wikipedia]

Last week we visited a display of Christmas creches from all over the world at a local Anglican Church. While there, someone mentioned a similar display coming up this weekend at the Mormon Church. Immediately, my eyes lit up!

It’s not that I’m a huge fan of Christmas-themed folk art; rather, I’ve always been watching for an opportunity to see inside their building — penetrate the fortress — without having to go to a 3-hour Sunday morning service.

As we pulled in the parking lot, my wife said, “This is giving me the creeps.”

It kept giving her the creeps the whole time — less than an hour — until it was time to leave. I decided to drop in on a Friday night children’s ministry thing going on at my own church to give her a chance to cleanse her spiritual palette.

It’s not that we haven’t done this sort of thing before. We’ve visited a Hare Krishna temple, a Buddhist Mandir, and two Muslim mosques. I wrote about how that came about in this article.

And it’s not that she’s spiritually discerning and I’m not. I remember quite clearly, as a 21-year old, the spiritual oppression the minute a friend and I drove into Las Vegas, Nevada. (I also have the advantage of having done the one-hour tour of Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah when I was 14. In 60-minutes, they managed to shatter a lifetime of Sunday School, but fortunately I was able to put the pieces back together when I got home.)

But something about this one — possibly the fact that much of the doctrine of Latter Day Saints is a blatant hijacking of Christianity — was getting to her. The terminology is the same, but the words end up meaning entirely different things. Can you say ‘deception?’

I texted our sons — who had shared some of our above-mentioned building visits in the past — to say I’d finally been inside an LDS church. My oldest texted back, “Did you buy the underwear?”

In the lobby when we arrived, we met a woman who said she was a lapsed Mormon. “Not very observant,” is how she put it. She said she visits the place where we were, but often goes to the Presbyterian Church or the United Church. (The United Church of Canada is an ultra-liberal mainline denomination.) She didn’t seem to see any difference; her attitude was that they’re all good.

I went into ‘teacher’ mode and tried to educate her on a few things, all the while remembering that we hadn’t come to evangelize Mormons inside their own building. (They’re actually in process of trying to ditch the ‘Mormon’ handle, but I suspect they’re stuck with it forever.)

The building itself? Typical church construction of the early 1990s. If there were any secret rooms, they weren’t about to show them to us. Even though this was a Friday night, informal Christmas gathering, many of the men were wearing suits and ties. There had been a short service beforehand, and as we listened to the last 10 minutes of it from the lobby, the language was extremely formal.

The creche display was beautiful and whimsical. There was a Veggie Tales nativity scene. Nobody was taking pictures, however. One large nativity in the center of the room reminded my wife of the one in the store window in the Mr. Bean Christmas movie.

One man greeted us and we stayed in the display area about ten minutes while I asked him questions. Mostly ecclesiology-related things; nothing too doctrinal. Ruth stayed absolutely silent. She had, I presume, no questions.

By the time we arrived in the room where they serving refreshments, it looked like they were all out of coffee.

 

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