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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Some Clarifications About Mormons

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a church of priests, where all males have the priesthood. It is a responsibly not a privilege. It is said that most women will achieve the highest level of spiritual evolution with it while most men will fail even with it. In many ways women get all the benefits without the burdens. All members get an equal vote when sustaining our leaders and women teach as well as men. Basically the Mormon Church is a collective of priests and that's why the rules are so strict. As such we follow a long established tradition in many churches and contribute part of our wealth to the churches needs and charity. We draw directly from the Bible the percentage that the sacrifice of thank is to be, as well as the promise that it is repaid tenfold by god, though not necessarily in financial ways. We also give the price of the meals that we skip when doing our monthly fast, or when we fast for guidance and other help.

We believe that children before the age of eight are innocent and automatically accepted by god. Eight is when god begins to hold us accountable and is when we baptize. Baptism is a choice because you make the initial vows of our church (to take upon on the name of Jesus, to help others, do what we covenant to do - like follow the commandments -, and to repent of our sins).  Baptism confirms the vows and the cleansing of sins and is followed by the granting of the gifts of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands. The Holy Spirit testifies to the truth, gives guiding urges, and brings peace and comfort as well as strength. We believe in personal revelation and in questioning. If we want to know if something is true of good for us, or other similar questions, we pray and ask for an answer. It is provided in the form of a warming in the chest for yes and a confusion of thoughts for now. Blind faith is not our way. We also receive personal scripture and revelation in the form of the Patriarchal blessing mention in the Bible. This is a personal prophecy of a sorts that reveals what may be ahead for you if you fulfill you vows the the best of your ability (some happening regardless). The Book of Mormon also contains a promise in the back that if you pray with honest intention about the book, you will receive an answer as to whether it is true scripture or not. 

I did and it most a most clear and direct reply.

We do not believe in the standard vision of the Trinity of Heaven and Hell. Before every is resurrected as immortals, we believe that the spirit of the dead dwell on Earth in a state of happiness or misery according to their own guilt. The former try and help the latter out of their spiritual prisons so that they can experience spiritual paradise. In other words we make our own Heaven or Hell. After everyone is resurrected into immortals, we enter one of four levels of glory (I picture them as evolutionary starting points). The highest level is the Celestial, the level of Heavenly Father and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, who are three separate individuals sharing the office of the Godhead. Here, eternal families produce new spiritual generations of billions. This is where the spirit of god is strongest as is described as equivalent to the glory of the sun. The next level is Terrestrial glory. This is where the majority of people will go. There will be responsibilities and challenges but not ones of mortality. Angels are us acting for god before we are born and after death. We may end up with angelic responsibilities or this may just be a starting point for learning to eventually reach the Celestial level. There is no procreation here. The lowest level of true glory is the Telestial, where even murders will go. The Terrestrial is compared to the glory of the moon and the Telestial the stars. It is said that were we to see it, we would kill ourselves just to get into the Telestial level. I believe you end up where you are happiest, but some say anything below top is a sort of hell because you know you could have done better. The closest thing to the orthodox Hell is the last level, Outer Darkness, where you are completely gut off from the spirit of god. The Devil will end up here, incorporeal and forever ruled over by Cain and Judas and Hitler and the like, who will have immortal bodies like the rest of us. No one gets left behind for lack of baptism or lack of opportunity to recognize the truth. Everyone gets to hear the Gospel and make their choice.

One of the first tenants of our religion is that everyone should be able to worship as they please as long as it is done in good conscience. I believe there is truth in many religions and many paths. The Mormon path is that of priesthood and is not for everyone. Buddhism will lead you to your appropriate level of glory a much as Christianity, Islam, or Judaism, or even Wiccanism. No one faith has the monopoly on god or truth. At least that's how I interpret it.

Lastly, there is the paranoia about our temples.  I am constantly confused and amused by the things people say go on their. First, it should be said that the temple is not the same a sacrament building, which is basically a church. Sacrament meetings are where we vote to sustain leaders chosen through prayer. It is where we fellowship, learn of the Gospel and priesthood, and take the sacrament to renew our vows and the benefits of baptism, including forgiveness of sins. We do not confess to anyone but god unless the matter is serious enough to bring before the bishop (like spousal abuse). We are human and there are a many hypocrites and bad people in our church as any other group. Not all can live up to the standard (I'm in this group), have personal testimonies, or even believe in god. To some Mormon is more of a culture than a religion, like Judaism. In fact we strongly identify with Jews and our patriarchal blessing tells us to which of the tribes we each belong. The temple is a sacred space where spiritual and symbolic things are revealed and discussed, and sacred ceremonies such as weddings, anointing, and baptism for the dead is performed. Like most things taken out of context they can seem really silly. This is the major reason why sacred things are only shared with those who understand them. Everyone is welcome, even non-members, to sacrament meetings. The temple however is sacred and can be spoiled. Only members who are successful obeying the basic commandments and vows and are keeping themselves to a certain, not unreasonable, level of bodily and spiritual cleanliness can enter. It is the Holy of Holies for us and god's spirit is said to dwell most comfortably within. However, every member is encouraged to become temple worthy. It is not meant as a restrictive place, just a respectful one.  Baptism for the dead is done for those spirits that we believe want it done, those who have come to desire the priesthood in the afterlife, or just seeking baptism and the remission of sins.

I've been seeing a lot of garbage written about the church lately and I just wanted to clarify things a bit. We have all the good and bad points of other faiths as well as ones that are unique. If the church is accepting stocks as donations or tithing, then that makes me uncomfortable. Tithing is supposed to be monetary so that it can be used for the costs of operating buildings and for helping the poor and needy. It is not supposed to grant control over businesses. It should discontinue the practice and liquidate its holdings. Christ does not run corporations. But this doesn't make me turn against my faith. Its creator is a god, but its operators are all too human. The mistakes of the latter don't reduce the former. 

And overall, the fruit of this tree seems good. It certainly changed my life for the better.