Seems like there’s a lot of confusion lately over what Mormons actually believe. If you are a befuddled believer or heathen, here’s a handy chart to help you out. This guide can help you track the progress of your soul from its disembodied birth in heaven to its final resting place in one of the four houses of the afterlife. Come to think of it, perhaps this would make a good board game . . .
I had thought things might be on the mend with my family for a while, but there was a big row on Monday over some books I had given my sister to read. I gave them to her a long time ago, back when I believed that because she was an adult, we could discuss any topic she brought to me. The books were part of a larger conversation we were having about anger and how to move past it and see the good in even hopelessly flawed situations. Two were by the Dalai Lama; Healing Anger and The Art of Happiness.
The third was a book by two evangelical ministers that discussed how to overcome a bad experience had with abusive clergy. I had been given that book by a friend when I was dealing with the aftermath of escaping a very damaging marriage. Leaving my ex took immense willpower as I had to finally throw off the controlling arms of priesthood leaders who were scaring me with damnation so that I wouldn’t leave a temple marriage. I had a lot of anger to process, and I made many notes in the margins of the book. My sister was dealing with a lot of similar anger against LDS authorities. She stopped believing in Mormonism long before I did, and she is still living under my parents’ roof whilst attending university. We had several conversations about how to let go of anger, see the good in situations, and I offered her that book so that she could see what I was like at my most angry and hopefully learn to bypass many of the negative emotions I had felt by focusing on forgiveness and patience.
I had made a promise back in October to my parents to never discuss politics or religion with any of my siblings — even the adult ones — and I have held to that. But I forgot about the books.
My father routinely searches my sister’s room, as he used to do to me. He found the books, and had no way of knowing that they had arrived long before I understood the degree of authority they still expected to have over children who were legally adults but still under their roof. The Dalai Lama was scoffed at, but the book on clerical abuse was a cause for outrage. Before even flipping through to see that it ends on a very positive note, my parents took this text as a personal attack on the infallibility of the LDS priesthood. In their view, a book that states that men who claim to speak for God are not always doing so, and that it’s ok to protect yourself from abuse, is heresy.
I found out just how personally my father takes all of this. “The church is not an organisation or a building,” he told me over the phone. “I am the church. Any criticism of the church is criticism of me.”
I was astounded. Never in my most orthodox days did I ever believe that there was no distinction between an organisation and the people that make it up. Perhaps that’s why I was never destined to be a good Mormon? I can’t say. It’s just too befuddling for me to get my head around just now.
He told me that the path I had chosen put an enormous rift between us and that from now on we would have very little in common in this life or the next. He told me that if I was ever to visit his house again he didn’t want me to ever speak about what I think or believe, and that if I could follow that rule “we are prepared to receive you.”
Blimey. What a warm invitation. What I heard him say was:
- Your rejection of the church is a personal rejection of your parents
- We are going to heaven; You are going to hell
- We have nothing in common
- I don’t want to know anything about who you are
- If you can play a good little black sheep, we will tolerate your presence
Perhaps that’s just me being cynical because I’m still feeling the sting, but I can’t help but resent the fact that they reserve the right to recriminate me for every past wrong, no matter how long done. And because of those forgotten books and the way they were discovered, that’s one more thing I’ll never be forgiven for.
This is not a cynical question, nor is it a trap. I sincerely want to know: if everything that I am is disgusting and threatening to my parents, why do they want to have a relationship with me at all?
If there are any still-faithful LDS readers out there, or people who remember what it’s like to be faithful, would you take the apostasy of a child this personally? Would you place similar restrictions on the apostate child? Would you realise that the consequence of such a strict response has the effect of alienating your other children from you, making them more likely to reject such authoritarian religious beliefs? How would you resolve the struggle between the bits of LDS orthodoxy that are mandatory and the realities of how difficult some aspects of Mormon belief can be to deal with?
- A taco will never tell you “thou shalt have no other tacos before me.”
- Everyone each sees their own personal taco in a unique way; some add pico de gallo, others avocado. But nobody ever argues over their personal interpretation of a taco.
- Tacos do not threaten hellfire; they just come with a pleasant zesty tingle.
- Tacos don’t expect you to pretend that they are transmogrified into human flesh when you eat them.
- Tacos make you feel better about being shitfaced at 2 am, not worse.
- Tacos let you have pork. Mmm, carnitas . . .
- Tacos don’t make you show up at a taqueria at 10 am every Sunday. You can just go whenever you like.
- Tacos do not charge ten percent of your income in order to gain access to them.
- Tacos don’t get annoyed if you don’t feel like having a taco.
- A taco doesn’t make you talk to it in the false hope that it will say something back.
- If you’re having sex and you realise that the taco is watching you, it isn’t creepy.
- Tacos are not invisible and intangible. They can be seen, smelled, and tasted.
- Tacos don’t make you tell other people about tacos.
- There’s no need to shove tacos down children’s throats. Most kids love them!
- If somebody is droning on and on and on in some kind of preachy way, the pleasant crunch of a taco will drown out whatever they are saying.
Please add your own reasons why tacos are better than God!
Horrified but unsurprised by The Gay Dot’s report of an LDS bishop saying suicide is preferable to being gay, I retweeted the link to the post. xJane sparked the following train of thought yesterday:
NotSoPoetic: (link) #mormon bishop says suicide is preferable to being gay http://bit.ly/eMtcvm
xJane: @NotSoPoetic Does suicide send you to hell in Mormonism (as it does in Catholicism)?
NotSoPoetic: @xJane It sends you to the lowest heaven with Hitler and serial killers. Only high-up priesthood holders who defect can go to mormon hell.
xJane: @NotSoPoetic wait, Hitler’s in heaven? I’m SET!
xJane: @NotSoPoetic but still, weighing theological probabilities, wouldn’t it be better just to be gay?
NotSoPoetic: @xJane From mormon perspective, yes, as sexual sin is second to killing. Gay mormons may possibly be able to get into second highest heaven.
xJane: @NotSoPoetic So, he was homophobic and wrong!
And suddenly Twitter is no longer sufficient for the magnitude of this conversation. xJane is correct; this LDS bishop, who abused the trust of a gay Mormon coming out to him by responding that it was “best to follow through the suicide than to give into men,” was wrong. First, because he’s a bigot. Second, because what he’s said is theologically incorrect from an LDS perspective.
Mormons have a much more complicated and forgiving scheme of salvation and damnation than your garden variety Christianity. The traditional view is as follows:
Baptism -> Death -> Go to Heaven
Really that’s supposed to be it. There’s a Heaven and a Hell, and if you become a Christian you get to go to heaven. It’s gotten much more complex over the years, with niggling arguments over who can perform the baptism and how much water to use, and then the Catholics had to go and add bleeding Limbo to the mix. But I think we can agree that the traditional concept of Christian salvation involves acknowledging the sacrifice of Christ through the act of baptism, which then places your name on St. Peter’s VIP list.
Mormons, being the pyramid-scheme loving, wacky new business model enthusiasts that they are, had to go and muck up the works by injecting a fat load of second chances, bootstrapping and free will into the equation:
pre-existence -> earth life -> death -> bonus round -> final judgement -> go to one of three levels of heaven
Mormons teach that prior to this life they voted on participating in God’s plan for humanity, choosing to go through with an earthly life. They were given bodies, sent to earth and view this life as a trial. Jesus dying for all mankind gets nearly everybody out of Hell. In fact, the only way to get into Mormon Hell is through deliberate rejection of entering any kind of heaven. Only “Sons of Perdition” or priesthood-holding men in leadership positions allowing them a “sure knowledge” of God and His PlanTM can be damned to join Lucifer and his rebellious angels in Hell. In a way this really marginalises the function of Jesus in humanity’s salvation. Even serial killers get to go to some kind of Heaven. Your religious affiliation plays no part in your pretty much guaranteed pass out of Hell.
Mormons believe that after we all die we go to a holding tank until the Final Judgement Day that accompanies Christ’s Second Coming. Good Mormons go to Paradise, where they are called upon to minister to those who chose not to become Mormons or didn’t have the chance to hear about Mormonism. Back on earth, the living perform the necessary rituals for dead people so that they can become Mormons posthumously and have a shot at one of the higher kingdoms of heaven.
After the Final Judgement, Human beings, based on their Mormonliness, are sorted into three kingdoms not unlike the various houses at Hogwarts. Everyone is guaranteed to at least find a home in the Telestial Kingdom, the Slytherin of the Mormon afterlife. Suicides, murderers, and the scum of all mankind will be found in this kingdom. And apparently it’s not too bad! Wilford Woodruff (allegedly) once said that if human beings knew how lovely it was in this lowliest of heavens, they’d be killing themselves to get there, and the general understanding among Mormons is that Telestial Slytherin House is pretty nice.
In the middle is the Terrestrial Kingdom for spiritual Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws, where decent non-Mormon people and backslidden Mormons will go. These are folks who never became Mormon or didn’t accept posthumous Mormonisation.
The Gryffindor of the afterlife is the Celestial Kingdom, which is for good Mormons. The top tier of Celestial glory is reserved for Mormons who are heterosexually married in the temple. (You can see how this makes being gay a problem.) For years it was also taught that a man needed at least three wives to achieve this highest level of glory, something that Fundamentalist Mormons and traditionalist LDS still believe in. Good Mormons who have done everything right, received their temple ordinances, but never got married, will serve as “ministering angels,” a bit like personal assistants to the glorified married folks birthing new spirit babies and creating new worlds to set up yet another deified Ponzi scheme.
These ministering angels in the Celestial Kingdom should, doctrinally speaking, include gay Mormons who remained faithful to their covenants. Gay Mormons who killed themselves, regardless of other issues of worthiness, would end up in the Telestial Kingdom. It’s hard to say where a sexually active gay Mormon would end up. I want to say that if the person had ethical sexual relationships, they’d likely end up in the Terrestrial Kingdom. So if the Mormons are right, repression or living a gay lifestyle seems like it leads to a better situation than suicide.
So not only was that worthless git of a bishop abusing his parishioner by telling him suicide was better than being gay, he was wrong according to his own doctrine.
And, since I believe Mormon teachings are a load of rubbish, I’ll add that he was just plain wrong.
Not a good week for me. I’ve found out what my mum thinks of me, and the level of paranoia about my alleged crimes against my parents and the church are positively Orwellian. I wouldn’t be able to believe that she really thought those things of me if I didn’t have confirmation from one of my siblings who is also likely on the way out of the church.
I’ve been pronounced “anti” my parents and the church, and any LDS person will know the power of that label. It’s comparable to being labelled “suppressive” in Scientology, although Mormons certainly won’t attempt to sue former members or actively attempt to ruin their lives.
I’ve been ordered not to have any contact with my siblings, since I’ve allegedly tried to usurp parental authority, persuade them to leave the church, and tried to influence them to follow me. I don’t believe any of these charges are true, and neither do my siblings. Thanks to the Internet I’m still able to have contact with them, and they think this situation is utter bullshit. Unfortunately, that isn’t going to help with alleviating the impression that I influence my siblings to go against my parents.
I hope over time this situation can be repaired, but for now I’m grateful to have so many good friends in my life. There is so much more to family than blood. I have a family of my own choosing, made up of people who love me unconditionally because of and in spite of everything about me. And I love them back — unreservedly, unapologetically, and unfailingly.
It hurts. A lot. I’ve had to fire up every happy song in my library to banish the ironic version of “Families Can Be Together Forever” that’s been playing in my head.
I recently sent in my resignation letter. Here’s the FAQ:
What was in the letter?
I copied the text of a sample resignation letter available on many sites explaining how to resign and used that. I chose the briefest and most perfunctory version, which contained all the needed language to prevent any stalling or refusal to comply on their end. There was no point in getting personal, since my resignation is going to be handled by some drone at the COB who has no interest or need to hear my list of grievances. The sample letter is a fitting way to resign, because it treats LDS, Inc. with the same one size fits all attitude with which it treated me.
What were your real reasons?
There are oh, so many, but if I had to sum it up:
- The Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price are not historical records. This an essential requirement for the church being true.
- Mormonism privileges whiteness over other races in its scripture, culture, and power structure, holding that dark skin is a punishment from God.
- Women are barred from leadership and kept segregated from one another through multiple layers of priesthood authority.
- The top-down structure of church power leaves no method for correcting abusive or incompetent leaders.
- Loyalty to the institutional church is prized over loyalty to family or the gospel.
- Homosexuality is forbidden, despite scientific evidence that it is natural and normal.
- The church has repeatedly engaged in political activity over the years that is racist, sexist, and homophobic.
- The church has changed so much over the years that even if the organisation was the true church when Joseph Smith founded it, it isn’t the same organisation now.
What was the procedure?
I used a letter that contained the necessary language to require them to mark me as no longer a member. The letter was notarised and I scanned it for my records before sending it with a tracking number so I could verify delivery. Now it’s the waiting game. The church usually sits on these letters for a month before taking action, despite the fact that legally I was no longer a member the moment they received the letter.
Does your family know yet?
No. I’m waiting for confirmation that I’m no longer a member before telling them. This is partly because I don’t want to give them false hope that I can be dissuaded during the Church’s waiting period. It’s also partly because I want them to know that my decision was real and final when they learn I’m no longer a member.
What’s your family’s reaction going to be?
Not sure. Either shock, sadness, and withdrawing, or shock, sadness and anger. I shall only inform my parents initially and let them decide who they wish to tell and when. I hope for my granny’s sake they do not tell her. I will happily pretend for her sake. She’s very old and doesn’t need this burden. My guess is that there will be a period of estrangement, but for the sake of appearances they’ll eventually let me back in to family events.
How do you feel?
Not that different. This is just executing the formalities of a state of mind I’ve been in for some time. My membership in the LDS Church is largely symbolic, as I haven’t attended actively for several years. The only anxiety I feel is over how much this will hurt my parents, and I particularly worry about my elderly grandmother should they choose to tell her.
Dunno. Heroin? More likely I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing all along — earning a living, spending time with friends, and looking after the loved ones in my life. Damage control and drafting the letter that will break the news to mum and dad. After all, I want them to get this bad news from me and not from the LDS gossip chain . . .