I am so blessed to know that the Lord is leading some precious LDS friends here to my blog to read, and also I am blessed to know that my dear brothers & sisters in Christ are concerned about their LDS friends and neighbors and want so much to understand them & their faith and witness to them of our Lord. Bless you my friends! I hope that in the coming weeks and months, I will be able to impart ... share some things that may help equip you as you reach out in love and compassion to your friends in the LDS church and also for those of you who are LDS, I hope that what the Lord leads me to share here with you, would just cause your heart to ache for a personal & saving relationship with our Lord & Savior. Bless you, bless you!
After joining the LDS Church in January of 1989, I quickly became immersed in " LDS culture", and yes my friends there is a distinct culture within the LDS church. It was all very new to me, as a young adult of 20 yrs of age. I recall my first ever LDS potluck or "ward" dinner, as they call them. I was quickly introduced to "jello salads" complete with diced celery and shredded carrots. Oh, how the LDS love their jello! ( At least the LDS in the United States do.:) In general "food" plays a big role in LDS gatherings. Whenever there is a meeting of some sort, there is bound to be "refreshments" of some sort afterwards. Usually consisting of sugary baked items. The LDS are truly a social people, and love to gather together for just about anything. There is a joke in LDS circles that you know you are a Mormon if you have to have a meeting just to plan a meeting. Oh how they love their meetings!
I learned all about "tithing" and "fasting" too. The LDS church asks that their members tithe 10% of their income to the LDS church. They do not pass a basket around, or such. There are envelopes and slips that Mormons fill out and give to their bishop. The bishop then sends the funds off to the Church Headquarters in Salt Lake City, where they distribute it. A "full" tithe is 10% of one's income. It is *required* to be able to enter the Mormon temple. Mormons who do not pay a full tithe ( 10%) will not be allowed to enter the temple. Fasting is encouraged in the LDS church. There is a "general" fast Sunday for the entire Church. This is the first Sunday of the month. All LDS ( with the exception of pregnant or ill LDS) are asked to fast for at least 2 meals -- food and water. They are then told to take the funds they would have spent on those meals and donate it to the LDS church. They in turn, use the funds to keep their storehouses running ( the LDS have an amazing welfare system, that can be used by LDS members) and to help the needy in their own individual wards. These funds are not used to help the poor outside of the LDS membership. They are used primarily for LDS members. Each first Sunday Mormons all over the world fast. They are asked to chose something to "fast about".. that is a specific request they have or concern, etc. Each first Sunday is fast and testimony meeting. This is a meeting where LDS members are allowed to share their "testimonies" or feelings about being a Mormon and about Mormon doctrines. I learned right away that is it is a very emotional meeting, where women and men alike get up and share their deep feelings and often times opely weep and cry. The LDS love their testimony meetings.
I also learned all about what is meant to live a 'worthy' life as a Mormon. That is to obstain from alcohol and coffee , caffeinated drinks like Coke, and tea....... and also to obstain from R rated movies and anything that could be viewed as immoral. I was told to keep my thoughts pure and chaste. I was assigned to visit a few ladies from my congregration once a month. This is called "visiting teaching". The men have the same program, but it's called "home teaching". Basically each LDS is assigned a few fellow LDS to visit, and to share a message with each month. The message is found in the LDS monthly publication: The Ensign. A message is given at the visit and usually it's a time to chat and fellowship. I was asked to "report" on my visits to the head of the LDS woman's orginization: The Relief Society. They in turn keep a detailed chart and statistics on "who" is getting visited each month and who is not. I was also assigned to have 2 older women to come visit me each month. They would come faithfully and share a message and ask if there was anything they could for me. They were sincere and I beleive they truly felt they were doing their duty. The whole concept of "duty" is very very important to the LDS. They are told it is their duty to do their visiting teaching, it is their duty to go to the temple at least once a month, it is their duty to pay tithing, to serve in their church, to tithe, to fast, etc. etc etc....... Duty is big in the LDS faith.
I also learned the " LDS lingo" or language. Special terms or words used only by LDS. Words like: the "bretheren" ( Mormon leaders) or "worthy" ( keeping oneself from sin and immorality) were learned quickly.
I was also asked to "serve" in a "ward calling". A "calling" is a job given to a member of an LDS congregation or "ward". It's supposed to be "volunteer" but honestly speaking, it's more of an "assignment" given by the the " Bishop" ( similar to a pastor) of the ward. Soon after I was baptized I was "called" in by my bishop, and assigned to teach the little 3 yr old children in the "Primary". Primary is the children's Sunday School organization. I learned that it was not "OK" to say no or turn down a calling. The LDS believe very strongly that the Bishop of their ward is inspired and speaks the will of the Lord for His congregation. "Ideally" the Bishop is to "pray over" a job or "Calling" before assigning it to a particular member of his congregation or ward. I learned later, that more often than not these "callings" are not based on inspiration but desperation. ( whomever is available and willing to do the job, more like).
The 3 yr olds I was assigned to teach each Sunday were energetic and very busy. The class was full of boys with one single little girl. She was so cute. I enjoyed teaching these little ones for the most part. I was given a manual , with lessons outlined to teach. It was simple enough. During this period I began to be approached by Ward members ( other LDS in my congregation) that I should go to the single's ward. A single's Ward is a cogregration that is specifically for unmarried LDS. One of the goals of the single's ward is to "match up" LDS for marriage purposes, and of course to for social purposes. My bishop called me into his office and also strongly encouraged me to attend the local "single's ward". I had more than one "hint" dropped that I was at the "age" of marriage and needed to find myself an "eternal companion" ( a male LDS who could marry me in the LDS temple) . I felt pressured, to say the least. I was 20 yrs old , enrolled in college full time and really not interested or ready for that matter to settle down and start a family. Plus, what was the rush? I found out quickly that most LDS young women are married rather young. It struck me as "odd" at the time. What was the hurry?
I also had some friends in my ward encourage me to consider serving as an LDS missionary. Now, that sparked my interest. :) I inquired at the Institute of Religion, where I had been taking religious classes about the possibility of serving a mission for the LDS church. Brother "H" was delighted at this possibility and encouraged me to sign up for a "missionary preparation" class. I did just that. I was the only woman enrolled in the class. The rest were young 18 or 19 yr old Mormon young men preparing to go on a mission. The LDS church strongly encourages, almost "expects" every young man to serve a mission for the LDS Church. It is strongly expected and really almost a "requirement" of sorts. Not anything like serving as an evangelist or missionary as a Christian -- where one feels "called by God" to go, not a Church.
After taking the class, I was very desirous to go on a mission. I had to wait 1 full year to be able to "put in my papers" because I was a new member, and needed to go thru a 1 yr probationary period of time before being allowed to go. During this time, I took on another part time job to save up the necessary funds to pay for my mission. LDS missionaries are required to pay for their own expenses. The LDS church does not provide funds for their missionaries. It is the sole responsibility of the missionary and his/her family. Sometimes a "ward" will sponsor a missionary , or an individual will sponsor them, but the LDS church does not financial support their missionaries.
During my year of "waiting" , I was busy going to school full time, and working 2 jobs. My parents were not excited about my serving a mission. They wanted me to finish up my education, as I was so close to finishing up. It was pointless for them to argue the point, as my mind was made up, I was completely sold out on the idea of becoming a missionary.
The year anniversary approached of my baptism into the LDS, and I was eligible to send in my missionary papers. This entailed meeting with my bishop and filling out a bunch of forms, and then sending them off to the LDS church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. I also was eligible to receive my "patriarchal blessing". A "blessing" in the LDS church consists of an LDS man, who holds the "Mormon Priesthood" laying his hands upon your head and pronouncing blessings or counsel . A patriarchal blessing is a "special" once in a lifetime blessing that all Mormons are encouraged to receive. It is given by a "patriarch".... typically an elderly LDS man, who holds the Mormon priesthood. This blessing is only given once in the life of a Mormon. It has a few functions: It tells the LDS member of what "lineage" they come from. Lineage is a very important thing to the LDS. They believe that Mormons are of the House of Israel and of one of the 12 tribes of Jacob...... adopted into the House by baptism into the Mormon Church. Each Mormon receives their patriarchal blessing to determine "what tribe" they come from. I was told I was of the tribe of "Manasseh" the son of Joseph, who was sold into Egypt. I know this may sound so very strange to non LDS, but your LDS Friends truly believe that they are "part of the lost tribes" of Jacob or Israel. The patriarch told me I was of the tribe of Manasseh, and then he "prophesied" many things. He told me I would be very active as a Mormon and become a great leader, and teach many Latin American people and preach to the Spanish speaking nations and that my entire family would become LDS. ( they never did) and a bunch of other things that never came true. The Patriarch lays hands on my head while he is speaking these things. His wife is in the room and her job is to write down every single word, so she can then transcribe it and type it up and send me a copy and one to be held by the LDS Church. LDS are encouraged to read their patriarchal blessings often and to meditate upon the "blessings and promises" . I read my blessing so many times thru the 19 yrs I was a Mormon that it literally fell apart and had to be taped together again! I was always so disappointed that the promised blessings had not come to pass and I often felt I need to do better to "earn" those blessings.........
Spring came, and in April of 1990 I received the long awaited envelope which held my "mission call". This is a *big*deal for a Mormon. This envelope comes from the office of the "Prophet" ( god's mouthpiece to the Mormon people). I opened my envelope with nervousness and excitement. I was told that I would serve a mission to Buenos Aires, Argentina. I was thrilled! I knew the language already and really had wanted to go Spanish speaking. My parents wept. They were so sad I was being sent so far away. For them it meant 18 mos of not seeing me, or speaking to me. Mormon missionaries are only allowed to write letters home. Phone calls and visits are prohibited. I was so happy and my parents were so very sad. That was hard.
I was told to 'report' to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah on June 6, 1990. I will never forget that date, because it's the date which 2 yrs later I would be married to my husband. :) The next few months were very busy months, getting the needed supplies, clothing I needed together to go to Argentina. My family, my parents, siblings were devastated.......they were concerned and worried..... as they saw my life being completely swept away into the LDS church. I never had a chance to finish the last 6 mos of schooling, as I decided on a mission instead. This broke my parent's heart. In an effort to squash my guilt about that I pulled away from my parents and family members. This only worried them more. My ward became my "family" ... fellow Mormons were so excited for me and happy for me, that I preferred to spend time with them vs. my family who were always crying about my choice to leave. My relationships with my siblings became strained and I pulled away. Years later I realized this is not all together uncommon.
Before I could go on my Mormon Mission, I was required by the LDS church to go to the temple and "take out" my "endowments". Now this was all new to me. I new very little about the LDS temple. It was hardly spoken of at all at church. I mean I knew that the LDS had a temple. It was just 5 minutes from my parent's home. I drove by it often enough. I had no idea what actually happened in that huge white ominous building. All I knew is that it was "sacred" and "holy" and not to be spoken about outside of the temple itself.
I was encouraged by my Bishop to take a "temple preparation" class taught by a really nice couple in my ward. They invited me into their home along with a few other people, and taught me about what the LDS temple was. They showed me a movie, and it showed photos of the rooms in the temple. The altar, the "celestial room" where LDS would go and sit and pray.. and the 'sealing room' where faithful LDS couples would go to be married for "time and eternity". Everything was new to me. Again I was overwhelmed by it all, but I was told by my bishop that the understanding would come in "time". That I would have a "lifetime" to understand the temple. I accepted his explanation at face value. I didn't question. He was my Bishop. He spoke for god. I was told he knew what was best for me. I completed the classes for temple preparation and yet I still was not aware of "what" I was actually going to be doing once I went there.
Meanwhile I was working a a local department store. I remember vividly hearing on the radio in the back storeroom the announcement that the LDS Church had officially "changed" the temple ceremony. I didn't understand what that meant..........but the radio announcer stated that women in the LDS church were no longer required to make a promise/covenant to "obey" their husbands... and they no longer were going to have to make "blood oaths". Blood oaths? What was that? I didn't get it. I asked my bishop what this all meant. He assured me that any changes made in the temple were "inspired" and that I need not worry. I would understand in "time". That was the answer I received many times thru the years when I expressed concerns or doubts to my leaders....... "put in on the shelf , gloria....... you'll understand in time..."
It was a lovely Spring morning in May that I finally did make my way to the LDS Seattle Temple. I had asked the secretary from the LDS Institute , who had become a good friend of mine, to be my "escort" for my first visit to the temple. An "escort" is someone who is assigned to sit with you thru out your time in the temple and help you in any way you need. The escort had to be a faithful LDS who had a temple recommend. A temple recommend is a slip of paper that is signed by the Bishop , that basically allows you to enter the temple. NO one without a recommend can enter past the front desk of the temple. Only faithful LDS who pay tithing, keep themselves from alcohol and coffee and who obey the LDS commandments are able to get a recommend from their Bishop. There are a series of questions that have to be answered to receive a recommend.
My "escort" picked me up early one Saturday in May. She appeared, right off the bat very nervous. She told me that she had to tell me some things before we went to the temple. I told her OK, that was fine. She said she needed to give me the "heads up " about what actually goes on in the temple. All this time I had been told how beautiful the temple was and how I needed to go there to take out my endowments, but I had yet to be told "exactly" what happens there. My escort then proceeded to tell me briefly a few things about what would actually happen once I got in. She was talking as she drove the short drive to the temple. I was overwhelmed again, but what was I to do. Here I was 5 minutes from entering the Mormon Temple and being bombarded with all this new information. I didn't know what to do.
I believe what happened next deeply affected me.......
That is what I will be sharing on my next post.....my temple experience .
Please check back, as I hope to get it posted soon!
Until then, God bless!