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Mormonism

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Submitted By mmckeithen
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The Mormon Religion
As I previously stated, I visited the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Temple located at 9900 Stoneybrook Drive Kensington, Maryland 20895. The website for the church is http://lds.org/church/temples/washington-dc?lang=eng. I was unable get in contact with a specific point of contact before I visited the church for the first time, so I attempted to attend on a Sunday, not realizing they’re not open on Sundays. I later learned that the church was not a church at all. It was a temple. On my next visit I was denied entrance because I was not Mormon. After realizing there were rules to being permitted entrance to a temple, I contacted my friend who is a Mormon and was also my inspiration for the religion I chose for this assignment and she went to the temple with me in order for me to get an up close and personal experience at the church. The people at the temple were very friendly.
When I first drove up to the temple I noticed that the building did not look the way I was used to church’s looking. I grew up in the south and I am used to somewhat small churches, often constructed by the members themselves. The size of this temple was very intimidating from the outside. It was the largest church I had ever visited or even seen in person. There was beautiful landscaping leading up to and surrounding the temple. The structure of the building was exquisite! The temple was all white and several stories tall. The outside looked to be made of stone and marble. The temple has 6 peaks with 5 being empty and the one to the far left containing a statue that I later learned was of the angel Moroni. Moroni was said to be an ancient prophet in the Book of Mormon who was said to have revealed the location of the “golden plates” to Joseph Smith, from which the actual Book of Mormon was translated. While in the museum type area of the temple, I read that while the presence of this statue is not mandatory, it stands atop 134 Mormon temples worldwide. Inside the temple there are several different sections. There are two areas observed for worshiping called Ordinance Rooms, a visitor’s center with a museum like area, a gift shop, a cafeteria and even a special area where members can get baptized for people who did not have a chance to do so before they died! There are several intricate sculptures inside the church of Jesus Christ and other saints and angels I was not able to identify. There are also several beautiful paintings of biblical scenes, such as of Jesus nailed to the cross. There were several hundred people in attendance at the temple and they were not dressed any differently from any other normal church goers. There were people of all ethnicities. This shocked me, because I will admit that in my ignorance of the religion, I did not expect to see many people not of Caucasian descent. If my friend were not African American, I probably wouldn’t have expected to see any.
My friend had to explain the difference between Mormon churches and temples. In churches, everyone is welcome and allowed to attend. It is where members worship regularly and where people interested in membership can come to learn about the religion and to worship on a regular basis. Temples are more stringent with their limitations. At temples, non-members are typically not granted entrance, except under special circumstances. At temples, members of churches gather from all over. They are somewhat tourist attractions for Mormons. Regular worship service is held every Sunday, however, the church does not have a normal attendance crowd or congregation of a normal church. After my tour of the temple, we began worship. This is where things started going very differently from what I was used to. The way the Mormon’s worship is far different than any other religion I have ever experienced. There are two different hours dedicated to a Sunday school type of environment. For children and teenagers, they are broken down into different age groups. For adults, our first hour of Sunday school was with the women only. Here we learned from the Bible and Book of Mormon what is expected of us as women and wives. The next hour was adult men and women together where we were, again, taught from The Bible and The Book of Mormon, but in a more general aspect. The third hour of worship was where everyone came back together. The men, women, and children came together to be taught and worship together as a family. I thought about this way of worshiping for a while after I returned from my visit of the temple. I think it can be a quite effective way to reach a large audience, but also be targeted to a specific audience. When we were all gathered in the Ordinance, they worshipped, sang, and took the Sacrament of bread and water. I did not partake in the bread and water, but I did read from The Bible and Book of Mormon so as to remain as respectful as possible to the religion. When the Sacrament was passed around I thought it was strange. Having grown up in the south as a Baptist Christian, we partook of the Sacrament once a month and at that time it was so special that it wasn’t bread and water, but special Communion wafers and wine. I noticed this difference and wondered if my family would find it offensive that Mormon’s partake in this every week and when they do it is only broken apart sandwich bread and water. The church service where everyone was gathered together was very promptly one hour long. This was yet another difference from what I experienced growing up. Sometimes church could last for up to 4 hours! It all depended on what the minister had to say and how long it took him to say it. Going to church on Sunday morning, we rarely knew exactly what time we would leave but it was more often Sunday afternoon than Sunday morning!
While touring the temple, I was able to briefly speak to a few members of the church, including my friend who brought me to the temple. I did not speak to many of them about the religion itself because I did not want to bring attention to the fact that I was not a member myself. Instead I asked them questions such as how it felt to be at the temple and what it meant to them. I was shocked about the responses I received. There was such meaning to having visited the temple to some of them that they were moved to tears. One member said that the temple is where she goes when she wants to feel even closer to God. Another member said that he goes to temple to make the most sacred covenants with God. I got many responses similar to this one, but the response that I got that stood out the most was from a young woman who had planned to get married at the temple later this year. She had been a member of the church since her childhood and had met a man and fell in love with him. He was not Mormon and Mormon’s typically aren’t encouraged to marry non Mormons. They are forbidden to do so in temples. Her fiancé had been attending church and was learning the religion and was planning to be baptized. He was killed in a car accident 2 weeks before he was scheduled to get baptized. Her sole purpose for visiting the temple that day was to get baptized for him because he did not have the opportunity to do it while he was living. This is a very unique aspect of the Mormon religion to me. I have never before seen a religion that places so much emphasis on saving the souls of those already dead so that they too may enter the “Kingdom of Heaven”. I thought it was a very noble and respectable aspect of the religion. When I talked to my friend after the church service, I asked her the questions I initially meant to ask when I thought I was visiting a traditional church. When I asked her where the religion came from, she told me that the Mormon religion was founded by Joseph Smith in the 1800’s. I asked her if her family had always been Mormon’s and she explained to me that they had not. Her family, like mine, was Baptist Christian. She said that one of her sisters saw a commercial for a VHS about Mormons on television when they were younger and ordered one out of pure curiosity. After they received the VHS, they started to get missionaries to visit. They sat and learned with them for many months before they ever visited a church. Once they visited the church she and her 3 siblings, all teenagers and pre-teens by this time, decided that it was the religion for them. Neither of their parents was ever converted and the only time they attended the church was to see them get baptized. They were always supportive of them choosing their own religion and choosing their individual paths in life. Out of all of her siblings, she is the only one who still practices the religion. My final and most important question to my friend was if there was anything she did not like about the religion or would change if she could. Her response to this question was a surprise to me. She said that she wished she could change the negative connotations of polygamy that were associated with the church. She said that she has never seen or experienced anything similar to that since she has attended the church. While she understands that it used to be widely accepted and maybe even encouraged, that was a long time ago. When asked about the recent allegations of there still being polygamy in the religion, her response was that there are wrongdoers in every religion. We cannot control everyone. We can only preach the religion as it should be practiced and hope that everyone chooses to walk in that path. In conclusion, I learned a lot about Mormonism. I came into this project with several pre-conceived notions about the people I would meet and what I would experience. None of those were proven to be true. This project helped me to learn not to judge a book by its cover, but by its contents. I also learned a lot about my close friend from this assignment. It was something that we had never discussed before, and I feel that her sharing this with me brought me closer to her. I still consider myself an Agnostic believer, and have no desire to start to practice Mormonism. I do, however, have a newfound respect for it!…...

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