I was going to wait for several more posts until I started to write this one, but it has weighed heavily on me for over a year, and I just could not put it off any longer. It is a long, complicated topic, so I broke it up into two parts. To fully understand my feelings on the topic, you must first understand some of basic elements of the LDS Church. If you are not a member of the church, it will have information that is probably new to you and clarify what you already have heard. This post will be only telling you about the church as I know it, and I will be as objective as possible. If this doesn’t completely cover all your burning questions about the Mormon church, leave a comment and I can answer any questions you have!
The Mormon church is notorious for having strict rules that members must abide by to remain “in good standing” (able to enter the temples). Members take the following rules just as seriously as the Ten Commandments, and breaking these rules are seen as very serious offences:
- Must listen to and obey the Prophet (aka the president of the church), no questions asked. Members believe he is the messenger of God, and whenever he speaks, it is direct revelation from God.
- Pay 10% of your total income to the church (tithing). Members are told to pay this before paying any of their bills, rent, or other financial obligations.
- No alcohol, coffee, or tea
- No mind-altering drugs, including any tobacco products
- Must eat healthy and take care of one’s body
- Must practice the law of c
- chastity. No sex or masturbation before marriage, and no pornography at all. Ever.
- Dress modestly and, if the member has been endowed (get to that in a bit), must wear their garments at all times
- Cannot engage, support, or encourage the LGBT community
- No working on Sundays, and don’t engage in activities that make others work on Sunday (shopping, eating out, etc..) The only exception to this rule is if you work helping people, like a doctor, nurse, or similar.
- No talking about what happens inside the temple
The following aren’t rules per-say BUT are strongly recommended. Social pressures within the church require you to abide by these rules as well or else you will be looked down upon by all members of the church.
- Get married young. Couples, until they are married, are not to be alone together in private out of the fear that they will break the law of chastity.
- Read “the scriptures” daily. This can include the Bible, The Book Of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenants, or any other materials put out by the church. The Pearl of Great Price was written by Joseph Smith (the founder of the Mormon church), and the Doctrine and Covenants are “revelations” the past prophets of the church have made.
- Always talk to non-members about the church, and do whatever you can to get them to convert.
- Don’t be close friends with non-members unless you are trying to get them to convert.
- Bare testimony that you believe the church is true every chance you get. It is particularly popular on Sundays and major church events. Verbatim, “I just want to bear my testimony that I know the church is true, and that Joseph Smith is a prophet.” This is engrained even in young children. You will also hear members recite this after the death of a loved one, even write it in obituaries.
- Men are expected to go on 2 year missions. Females can go too, but the pressure isn’t as great. The entire purpose of LDS missions is to get people to convert.
- Perform your church “calling”. Basically it is a job within the church. The LDS church does not pay staff, it is all volunteer based. It ranges from the bishop (oversees each sector of the church, like a minister) to people who take care of the children (like Sunday school teachers)
- Attend the temple often
- Take care of your family physically, emotionally and spiritually
Basically everything you do has to be in an effort to build up the church. You are never are allowed to speak poorly of it.
The Church Meetings
Church meetings on Sunday are 3 (yes, 3!) hours long. One hour is a basic church service, one hour is called Sunday School, where members can continue learning about the church doctrine, and one hour is for “relief society” and “priesthood”. Relief society is for the women to learn more about their role in the church how to better support their men, and about charity work that needs to be done. Priesthood is for the men to learn about how to better care for their families, their role in the church, and charity work that needs to be done.
On the first Sunday of every month, it is Fast Sunday. Members are expected to not eat for two consecutive meals, and donate the money they saved from not eating those meals to church-run food charities. During the fasting period, members are encouraged to “Fast with a purpose”, meaning pray for answers to specific questions or problems you may have.
Temples are different than Mormon churches. They are those big buildings with the gold statue on top. Unlike churches, temples are strictly off limits to non-members, and even some members aren’t allowed in. Going to the temple is every member’s goal, and members are told to go as often as possible.
To be able to go, members must meet with the leaders of the church and be the subject of an interview process to obtain what they call a “temple recommend”. They ask questions relating to all the rules I just went over. If you aren’t following the rules, you will not be allowed inside the temple, as the temple is only for the most devout members of the church. It is said that you are only able to be admitted to the “celestial kingdom” (highest level of heaven) if you are able to obtain a temple recommend and attend the temple meetings.
So what do members do INSIDE the temples?
Well, there are 3 sessions members can choose to attend.
First are what they call baptisms for the dead. They obtain names of deceased, and believe that they can convert them to the LDS church by-proxy. The names can be of recently deceased and added to the list by a direct relative, or someone who died 500 years ago, and found via family history (this is also why Mormons place such a heavy emphasis on studying family history).
- Second, members can go to an endowment session which is where they make further covenants to God, receive a secret church-given name, gain permission to wear temple garments*, and learn more about what Mormons believe. They can also attend this session in the names of the deceased.
- *Temple garments are plain white underwear worn by devout members of the church. The underwear extend to the knees and a plain white tee shirt is also worn at all times, under regular clothing. This is true for BOTH genders, and facilitates the modesty code. This is why you will sometimes see Mormon women wearing a tee shirt under a sundress. She wears the shirt to hide her required garments.
- Third, members can be married in the temple through a sealing. It is not like a typical wedding- no extravagant gowns are worn and only a handful of family members and friends attend the actual ceremony. The main difference between getting married in a temple and outside the temple is if you get married outside, you are only bound to your spouse for THIS life, whereas inside the temple, you are bound to them for eternity. Marriages that take place outside the temple are seen as inferior to those that happen inside a temple. Like the baptisms and endowment sessions, couples can also do by-proxy sealings for deceased married couples.
- That about covers most of the questions I receive most, but if you still have anything you are wondering, feel free to shoot me an e-mail!