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This is my first monthly newsletter for October 2014!
Some of the weird Mormon questions I was asked as a kid:
1. Where are your horns?
(I think Baptists once taught that Mormons had horns. No, we don't. At least, not anymore)
2.Do you drink blood/kill babies/get naked and have orgies in the temple?
No. We don't talk openly about the ceremonies in the temple, but they come largely from our scripture, including The Pearl of Great Price. We do baptisms for the
dead in a special font. We act as proxies for ancestors whose names we often seek out ourselves. We are baptized several times in a row because we believe these are
"saving ordinances" which help the dead move from "Spirit Prison" (the Mormon equivalent of "hell") to "Spirit Paradise," where they can wait with the other righteous
for the Second Coming and the resurrection.
There are also sealing ceremonies for married couples and for children and parents. If couples are married before they
have children, the children are considered "born in the covenant" and do not need to be sealed to them. For others, the children come to the temple dressed in white
and are bound to their parents for the eternities. I am not sure exactly what this means, but it does have value to me, because I feel very connected to my children.
Mormons do not believe, however, that children who would wish not to be sealed to their parents will be anyway, and parents who abuse or mistreat their children in any way
are automatically denied these covenants.
The last of the important ceremonies in the temple is the "Endowment." This is where people make promises and receive signs and tokens in order to help them pass through
angels on their way to heaven, and to enter the Celestial Kingdom to dwell with God. There is also a temple film associated with this ceremony, which describes the
creation of the earth and the story of Adam and Eve and explains how it relates to us today.
Mormons have a unique take on the story of Adam and Eve, in that we
believe that Eve spent a long time considering taking the fruit and when she did choose, she was wiser and more noble than Adam, because she knew the consequences of what she
was doing and was willing to face them.
3. Do you believe in Jesus?
Yes, Mormons believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that he was divine and that he did many miracles. We believe that all humans who have ever come to
earth are brothers and sisters of Christ who fought valiantly in the pre-existence for his plan, which included choice. Lucifer and his angels fought not to give
humans choice, and were cast out of heaven and are not allowed to ever have bodies.
4. Do your parents wear funny underwear?
Mormons wear "garments" which are embroidered with small marks to remind us of specific covenants made in the temple. For men and women, they have short sleeves and come
nearly to the knee, and cover the stomach. This style also encourages all Mormons to wear modest clothing.
5.Why can't you drink alcohol/coffee/tea or smoke cigarettes/tobacco? Why can't you shop on Sunday?
Mormons adhere to "The Word of Wisdom" which encourages them to eat healthy food, meat sparingly, and to avoid strong drink and tobacco. Modern prophets have interpreted
this to mean that they should avoid the use of tea and coffee, tobacco, and non-prescription drugs of all kinds. We avoid shopping on Sunday in order to keep the Sabbath
holy for ourselves and to help others to be able to do the same.
6. Do you really believe that people can become gods/that God was once a person with a body like everyone else?
A famous quote from our modern-day prophets is: "As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become." What exactly this means is in some doubt, but we believe that
all humans are children of God and that we have divine potential. We also believe that there are many planets and that it is likey God has children there as well, and th
that Christ's Atonement covered all of them.
7. Hey! You're eating chocolate/drinking Coke! You're not allowed to do that!
Mormons are indeed allowed to eat chocolate and to drink caffeinated drinks. The prohibition is specifically on coffee and tea. However, there are some Mormons who do
believe that drinking anything caffeinated is wrong and may say differently or encourage other Mormons not to drink anything that may be addictive. I personally use caffeine
as a stimulant that helps me in training and races, but I try not to take it every day, maybe once or twice a week, to avoid getting headaches from addiction.
8. Are Mormons even allowed to date?
Mormons are encouraged to wait until age 16 to date, and even then to go on group dates. Before missions, both Mormon men and women are to avoid intimate dating
situations. After missions, they are encouraged to marry when they find the right person and not to put off having families for fear of not having enough money. If they
live frugally and pay tithing, they are told that God will bless them.
9. Can you be friends with non-Mormons?
Some Mormon parents unfortunately encourage their children to avoid friendships with non-Mormons for fear the children will be "led astray" and have premarital
sex or drink alcohol. Most parents want their children to have a full life and to make friends with all those they feel connected to, and to help others however they can.
10. Do you have to have a lot of kids to be Mormon?
Mormons are encouraged to have families because families are a source of happiness, but how many children to have is always between a couple and God.
And just for fun, I thought I would link to a couple of favorites from youtube. The
"I'm a Mormon" series of youtube videos are interesting for all.
I also have a special place in my heart for some of the old church films from the 70s and 80s, including
"Johnny Lingo," which tells the story of Mahana, a
girl everyone on the island considered ugly and unmarriageable. Her father offers her to Johnny Lingo for "one cow." But wise Johnny Lingo says that he wil
pay 8 cows for her, making her an "8 cow wife." This is supposed to teach women about their intrinsic value to God, no matter if they are physically beautiful.
Of course, in my seminary class, it just made all the boys go around and make lists of which girls were "1 cow" and which were "10 cow." You can see the original here:
And then there are the old "Mormon Ads" from my childhood. A favorite of mine is "Julie Through the Glass."
The following is a couple of pages from a project I'm working on based on The Book of Mormon. I have had more and more trouble lately in sympathizing with the
early narrator of the book, Nephi. When I was younger, I think I liked his certainty and his black and white view of the world. Now, not as much. I thought I would write
something funny for those who wondered what Laman's story might be like. I was surprised to discover that I have fallen in love with Laman, the sinner who is still
looking for redemption.
Warning: This is utterly heretical and may cause lightning to strike!
The Book of Laman
by: Mette Ivie Harrison
My father Lehi says he has visions, that God speaks to him. He says that the Jews are wicked and they are going to end up being carried off to Babylon until they repent and change their ways. He preaches this day and night. Now.
When I was a kid, do you know what my father preached then?
Drunkenness, adultery, and gluttony.
You wonder why there’s a big age gap between me and Lemuel and our younger brothers Nephi and Sam? Well, that’s why.
My father left my mother Sariah for six years. She woke up one morning and he was gone. He hadn’t come home the night before.
I still remember me asking her where Papa was.
“I’m sure he’s out shopping,” she said, but I could see the truth in her eyes.
Lemuel asked her where Papa was that night, when she was forced to cook cakes for us from leftover flour and oil that had gone sour.
“He’s telling stories,” she said. “You know how good he is at telling stories?”
He was good at telling stories, but the problem was, they were never true. I had already figured that out, but Lemuel hadn’t yet.
When Mother asked him to tell one of Lehi’s stories, Lemuel went right into it. It was the story about the talking fish and the journey riding on a tiger’s back until the fish was swallowed by a camel. But the fish could still speak inside the camel, and told the tiger to attack the camel. And the tiger ate the camel, with the fish inside. And still the fish could speak. And so on, the story went.
Lemuel laughed at the story, and he was still giggling even when he went to sleep that night. I could hear him, lying next to him, feeling the wood beneath his feet jiggle.
Mother was weeping that first night. She wept a lot during those years. I’m sure I didn’t hear all of it, but I heard plenty.
She prayed, too. I would catch her sometimes when she was in her room. She would kneel on the floor then, and beg God to send our father back to us.
“I want him because I love him, but I need him for his sons. They need his guidance. They need his laughter. They need his love. I see them longing for him every day. I see their pain, and it pains me doubly. Please, you are a father. You have sons. Please send him home.”
But that wasn’t the only time she prayed. We lived in a much simpler house then. Only five rooms, and we had two servants who did not live in with us, but came during the day. Or at least, we did until Father was gone. Then Mother dismissed the servants and did all the work herself. Somehow, she managed to find food to give us to eat even when I could see nothing in the house.
She would go into the garden, find some weeds and make a tea. Or she would dig up a root and figure out how to cook it. Sometimes she would trade, this for that, or she would clean for others. Always when it was night and she should have been sleeping. She would sneak off when Lemuel and I were sleeping and she would think we didn’t notice she was gone.
She prayed sometimes when she was working in the kitchen or out in the garden. It wasn’t always on her knees. She would look to heaven and she would mouth a few words soundlessly. She would weep when she slipped and she would pray while she was unable to stand. She would pray
And that was when I learned what prayer was and what it won you.
God didn’t listen to my mother and He certainly didn’t listen to me.
She wouldn’t teach me how to pray. I asked her once, but she patted my head and told me that I must wait until my father came home, because a man always teaches his sons how to pray. So I tried to pray as she did, and I got the same result she did.
If God hears prayers, it is only the prayers of his favorites, as far as I can tell. The rest of us, He ignores because we’re not important enough to bother.
Once, we were out on the streets, following Mother as she searched for a cheaper source of thread for the shawl she was working on commission for. And we saw him there. Father.
He was surrounded by people. He was standing on a boulder, his arms waving around. His eyes were bright and his nose seemed huge. I remember thinking that he looked different from this perspective. I’d never realized my father’s nose was so large.
“And then Moses said to Pharoah—dance!” said Father’s hoarse voice. He lifted his arms in the air and started to move his body.
“Come along,” said Mother, pulling me away. “Lemuel, this way.” She put a hand on Lemuel’s face. He hadn’t seen Father there, but he would have, if Mother hadn’t covered his eyes like that.
I craned my head backward as she dragged me forward. I was surprised she had so much strength. She had her bag to carry her things in, and Lemuel and I were both smaller than we are now, but we didn’t weigh nothing and she hadn’t eaten anything for a long time. I knew because I watched how she served herself a tiny amount and then stared at it for the whole of the time that Lemuel and I gobbled our food.
Then she would divide it evenly, tell us some excuse about not feeling well or having eaten enough already for a small woman, and she would push it onto our plates.
Father was dancing frantically, and there was not even any music playing. His body looked like he was having a fit of some kind. Did he need a doctor? Was he crazy? Was that why he had left us?
“Why didn’t you talk to him?” I asked Mother that night, when Lemuel was distracted.
“Who?” said Mother, but I could see by the tenseness of her shoulder muscles that she had not forgotten.
“Father. You saw him there in the street. He was drunk. “ He was more than drunk, but that seemed the best way to describe him.
“I didn’t see him. I told you, he is away on a journey. For business. When he returns, we will be wealthy. We will have a new house.” She had begun this series of stories with Lemuel at night, fanciful imaginings of what we would all do together when Father returned.
“He was dancing. He looked like he’d been bitten by a snake.” I wiggled my whole body in the way that I’d seen my father do it. I laughed.
“Don’t laugh at your father,” said my mother sternly.
She had forgotten that she was pretending that it hadn’t been him.
“Everyone else was laughing at him,” I pointed out.
“They were laughing with him,” said Mother. “He’s always been a man who can get a crowd to listen to him. That’s his special gift. He could sell anything he wanted to, just by walking on the street and talking loudly about it.” She had a faint smile on her face.
“Too bad he wasn’t selling anything this time,” I said. Which might have been what gave my mother her next idea.
Copyright Mette Ivie Harrison 2014 all rights reserved.
Last revised October 1, 2014.