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Posts Tagged ‘Temple’

Matthew 22:1-14 is a parable, and it has nothing to do with ceremonial symbolic underwear.

We are told in the New Testament to put off the old man (Colossians 3:9 and Ephesians 4:22) and put on Jesus Christ (Romans 13:13 and Galatians 3:27).

The man without the wedding garment is cast out because he hasn’t been called by God and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. The problem is not that he is wearing the wrong underwear, it’s that he wasn’t invited to the wedding feast.

Look at Ezekiel 16–the whole chapter is absolutely beautiful–God finds us wretched, filthy, and playing harlot, and He dresses us in glorious new clothing and makes us his bride.

Rituals and ceremonial objects won’t save you. Only the grace of God and the blood of the Lamb will.

(This post is adapted from a comment on Wheat & Tares, and that comment was mostly a paraphrase of John Calvin’s commentaries).

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I served a full-time, two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints from 1998-2000. For two years, I spent every waking moment (when I wasn’t in the bathroom) with a missionary companion. I got up in the morning every day for personal and companion study. I spent all day proselytizing, with short breaks for meals. I didn’t watch TV. I didn’t use the internet. I was only supposed to read Church-approved books and publications. I talked to my family back home on the phone only on Christmas and Mother’s Day. I had (part of) one day a week off from study and proselytizing to spend cleaning my apartment, doing my laundry, going grocery shopping, writing letters to my friends and family, and then, if I had any time left over, for recreation or relaxation. I wore a suit and tie (or at least a shirt and tie) and a name-tag every day. For two years, I was not Kullervo; I was Elder Kullervo.

And even though I am no longer a Mormon, I don’t regret it at all.

I was reasonably faithful, I worked reasonably hard, and I did my best to follow the rules most of the time. I matured a lot, I learned a lot, I made a lot of great friends, I learned a foreign languauge, I had a lot of life-changing experiences, and I’m a better person for having gone.

There were a lot of downsides to it, of course–I struggled with feelings of depression and unworthiness the same as many (most? all?) missionaries, but it wasn’t like a constant, horrible black cloud. I manifested the first signs of some problematic anxiety issues that would plague me for years to come, but honestly they run in the family, and so I figure I was prone to them anyway. There were good days and bad days, same as any other time; maybe a little more intense on both sides of the spectrum but it’s an intense couple of years, so it’s sort of to be expected.

One of the reasons I don’t regret my mission (or anything else I did as a Mormon), is that now, in retrospect, I don’t question my motives for leaving the Church. I don’t second-guess myself and wonder if I “decided” the Church wasn’t true in order to give myself a break for being unfaithful. I did everything right. I wasn’t a superhuman (supermormon?) but I did all of the things a Mormon is supposed to do, up to and including an honorable mission and a temple marriage, with reasonable effort and a basically good attitude. So I am confident that I am not now making excuses to cover my guilt, and nobody can tell me that I am. I can look at myself in the mirror and say that I’m an ex-Mormon now because I don’t believe that the Church is true, and I don’t think it’s a good church if it isn’t true, not because I am too cowardly to live up to the expectations of Mormonism.

Are there other, better things I could have done with those two years? Other ways I could have spent my time? Sure. And maybe some of them would have been fantastic. And maybe I wouldn’t have had to make some of the sacrifices I did. But you know what? I was born into the Church. I was raised Mormon. I was always going to go on a mission and get married in the temple, and it’s pointless to imagine fantasy scenarios where I didn’t.

I did what I did because I thought it was the right thing to do, even though, in retrospect, I was wrong. I’ve grown and changed since then, but I am proud of myself for acting with integrity. I strongly suspect that we’ve all done a lot of things like that, both related and unrelated to religion. It’s part of growing up: you do the best you can with the tools you’ve got, and maybe with more experience or maturity you would have done something different but hey, you didn’t have more experience or maturity back then. So no sense regretting it now.

I regret the times in my life when I have acted out of selfishness or cowardice, not the times when I did what I believed in. When I served my mission, I was doing what I believed in, and so I have no regrets.

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I have noticed that the use of special or religious names is pretty common among Neopagans. I am honestly curious as to why someone needs to call themself “Moonferret Starshine” or something Welsh or whatever instead of just using their real name. I’m not talking about internet handles or nicknames–those are a part of a pretty well-established internet tradition of anonymity. I’m talking about new religious or spiritual names that people use in real life in spiritual contexts.

I realize that Neopagans aren’t the only ones to do this: converts to Islam often take an Arabic name, and I think Hare Krishnas take new names, too. I believe Zen priests have a special Zen name, and I know for a fact that Mormons get a secret new name in the temple endowment ceremony that seems to serve no understandable function outside of the endowment ceremony itself. I have also known converts to Christianity from Islam who took a Western “Christian” name.

So maybe I am being unfair to Neopagans, since they’re just doing what everyone else does. But sometimes it just seems silly. Like LARPing. But I am willing to extend the question to other religious traditions who do this, as well. Why new names? What’s wrong with the old one?

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After some discussion with my beautiful and sexy wife, prompted by a discussion on Tim’s blog, I have decided to formally have my name removed–for real this time.  The Church’s involvement in California’s Proposition 8 was just plain evil, and I no longer wish to have my name associated with that kind of organization.

To the Mormons complaining about the “persecution” they are receiving because of Prop 8, I say tough shit.  Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.  The Church heavy-handedly pushed to take away a group of people’s marriages.  That is just plain evil.  All members of the Church who pay tithing, participate actively, sustain their leaders, and give their loyalty to the Church–especially to the degree they have covenanted in the temple endowment ceremony–are complicit.  They may not have voted in California, and they may even personally have been against Proposition 8, but their moral and material support for and loyalty to an organization that does things like this is hypocritical and reprehensible.

If the reverse happened, and the Government tried to disarm Mormon marriages, members of the Church would be up in arms.  Oh, wait; that’s exactly what happened over polygamy! The hypocrisy makes me retch.  The reactions of gays and people who are sympathetic to gay rights have shown amazing reserve, compared to what would happen if the tables were turned.  The Church is not being persecuted; the Church is doing the persecution, and the persecuted are angry about it.  Surprise, surprise.

I have intended to have my name eventually removed for quite some time.  Barring a visitation from the Angel Moroni or something, I’m simply never going back to activity in the Church.  But likewise, until not I have not had a pressing reason to have my name actually removed, and I’m kind of lazy.  But I can’t in good conscience be counted as Mormon after Proposition 8.  So, I’m out.  I’ve written my letter, and I am posting it ASAP.

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So, I thought I was going to be sent to Iraq with my National Guard unit this month.  Turns out it’s not happening.  If you have any experience with the military, you know how things can change at the last minute.  Anyway, I mentioned in an older post that I was reluctant to make any big decisions because of the upcoming mysterious, major life-changing event, and that’s what it was.  Now it isn’t happening.  So life goes on, and I no longer have an excuse for resting on my laurels.  But what do I do now?

We haven’t been going to church for awhile, and I have long stopped praying (since it started to seem mechanical and pointless).  Do I start again?  Do I give Christianity another go?  If so, what kind?  Back to Cedar Ridge?  Back to Grace Episcopal?  Just be a Christian on my own and don’t worry about church?  What does becoming a Christian even mean?  What does one do?  Becoming Mormon is a fairly regimented process: you take the missionary discussions, you read the Book of Mormon, you pray to know if it’s true (and get Your Testimony), you attend church meetings, you commit to live the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity, you get baptized, you get confirmed, you get the priesthood, you go to the temple, you get callings, and you endure to the end.  It’s all extremely structured.  I know how to become Mormon.  But I don’t know how you become Christian.  At what point do you become Christian?  What’s the right motivation for becoming Christian?  What does “being Christian” look like?

Do I even want to be Christian?  Right now, the answer feels like no.  Especially since Christmas is over.

Do I start a candidate year with the Ancient Order of Druids in America?  Do I want to?  Do I really want Druidry as a belief system?  Is it all just New Age flakery?  Do I want my whole life to be Celtic-y?  Do I always want to be thinking about ancient times and yearning for the forest?  Not really.  After I’m done with law school we’re moving back to New York, where we’ll probably stay.  I like the woods and nature, but I also love the city.  I feel compelled to be environmentally conscious and take care of the earth, but I actually think in many ways urban living is the best way to do that (it’s certainly more sustainable than suburban living).

There are a lot of things about Druidry that I find very appealing, but do I want to color my whole life with that crayon?  The answer feels like no?

Do I abandon the journey and just get on with life without God and without religion?  I’ve been sailing for awhile and it doesn’t seem like Byzantium is anywhere in sight.  I’m kind of getting tired of looking for it.  My main roadblock is clear (I was nervous about making any hasty decisions with such a major punctuation mark on the horizon), so what do I do?  Hinduism?  The Qur’an?  What?

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I’ve been reading a lot of ex-Mormon (Exmo) and disaffected Mormon (DAMU) blogs lately, and I had a realization. I’m one of them.

It’s weird. Since deciding I no longer believed in the Mormon church, I’ve mostly thought about myself in terms of the present and the future: what do I believe now, and what am I moving toward? It’s the whole point of the “Sailing to Byzantium” motif. I’ve felt like I left one port behind completely and now I’m sailing to a different one.

Maybe it’s because I’m not particularly angry or bitter towards the Church. I don’t necessarily feel the need to lash out or strike back. At the same time, I do spend a lot of time talking to my (equally not-excited-about-the-Church) wife and brother about how false I think the Church is, and I write about it often enough here on my blog- though it is not really the major focus.

In one sense, it’s ridiculous to try and pretend that I can just walk away from Mormonism with no scars or marks. I grew up Mormon- it was my identity for twenty-seven years. It made me different from my peers. I went on a mission and worked hard. I got married in the temple (to my beautiful and sexy wife- read her blog now). My worldview was fundamentally Mormon. My thought processes were Mormon. Most of my family, immediate and extended, are still faithful true-believing members. In fact, there’s a lot of tension in the family because my brother and I and our wives have decided to leave. There’s the possibility that relationships are permanently damaged because of it.

At the same time, I didn’t grow up in Utah. Most of my friends growing up were non-members, and as an adolescent I wasn’t usually particularly excited about the church. I went on Sundays to keep the peace, but Imore or less openly admitted to having no testimony. I “shaped up” to go on a mission, and then basically coasted for the next six years.

I haven’t had my name removed, and I haven’t been excommunicated, so I’m still technically a member. But I don’t think of myself as a member. We don’t go to LDS services at all. In fact, we actually regularly attend an emerging/nondenominational church. I don’t wear garments anymore. I no longer follow the Word of Wisdom. And I don’t feel guilty about any of it because I don’t feel like a member (among other reasons- I also reject the entire concept of arbitrary commandments, but i’ve been through that a couple of times recently so I won’t spell it out here).

We have friends in the church. Our babysitter is a member. We don’t mind home teaching visits. I don’t think we’l let the bishop come back, though. And the missionaries haven’t called us in a long time, but I’m pretty sure if they wanted to come over I’d tell them exactly why it’s not worth their time, but that we wouldn’t mind cooking dinner for them.

I didn’t watch conference. I’m just not interested. I don’t read Mormon books anymore, because I’m not really still trying to figure out if the Church might be true after all. I’m pretty sure it’s not.

So I don’t feel like a Mormon. I don’t feel like I’m defined by Mormonism, either, so I wouldn’t label myself as an exmo or a DAMU. In fact, when it comesup in conversation with people, I’m never sure what to say. Usually I just say I was raised Mormon. My good friends all know the score: I was Mormon until fairly recently, and now I’m in transition.

I tell myself I don’t feel the need to keep proving the Church untrue, but at the same time, I wind up talking about it and reading about it all the time. If I tried to pretend like the Church still didn’t play some kind of defining role, I’d be doing just that- pretending.

I find myself defending the Church in discussions as often as I do criticizing it. I still think it’s a false church, but I’m not going to try to pretend that it’s evil to the core, and when people criticize stuff stupidly, I call them on it.

So… what am I? Who am I? I don’t have a handy belief syste to substitute and claim as identity in place of Mormonism. Religiously, I’m not really anything. Am I an “exmo?” Not technically. I mean, I’m still on the records. I’m not a NOM because I neither attend church nor have any interest in doing so. I don’t feellike I’m a “disaffected Mormon,” because I don’t feel like a Mormon. Usually.

I’m also not really a part of the “Outer Blogness” community. Most of the blogs on my blogroll are pagan or Druid. Or family. And since I really mostly talk about religious issues in general, and about my own search in specific, rather than about the process of leaving Mormonism, I don’t know that I really feel like I’m doing the same stuff as the Outer Blogness community. And even if I did, is “Outer Blogness” my identity? I don’t know.

I’m very quickly heading into repeat-myself-in-a-circular-fashion territory, so I’m going to wrap this up. But the question lingers.

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The Mormon doctrine of eternal families is incoherent. It makes no sense at all, once you get past how good it sounds on the surface.

The doctrine of eternal families was one of the hardest things for me to let go of when leaving the Church. I grew up secure in the knowledge that I would be with my family forever. It was soothing and reassuring, especially since I had a basically decent family. Then, when I married my lovely, sexy wife in the temple, it was wonderful to be able to be confident that I would be with her for ever.

So leaving the Church meant leaving that behind- that certainty and confidence that I would be together with the ones I love For Time And All Eternity. It was a hard thing to leave, even once I figured out that it was, well, total bunk.

‘Cause here’s the thing- what does an “Eternal Family” even mean? Supposedly only family relationships sealed in the temple will be eternal, and all others will dissolve upon death, just like aall other earthly contracts and relationships. But what does it look like?

Many Mormons I know imagine their eternal family as an eternal nuclear family- husband, wife, kids, all together. That’s preposterous. Will we all live in one house in the Celestial Kingdom? What about the kids’ spouses? And the kids’s kids? what about the parents’ parents, and siblings? Will we all live otgether in one big house? If everyone lives together in one big house because we’re all one big eternal family, then what makes that different that just everyone living in the Celestial Kingdom? Certainly one big house would be impractical, and if everyone lived in it, it wouldn’t be fundamentally different than everyone living in small houses, scattered a little bit. The one big house would be like a huge city-arcology anyway.

So, what makes two people who go to the Celestial Kingdom as “family” (say my brother and me) any different from two people who go to the Celestial Kingdom as “not-family?” And if everyone is related in the celestial Kingdom, then being related is meaningless, because there’d be no difference between “everyone is related” and “nobody is related.” We’d all live together happy in the Celestial Kingdom either way.

I’ve always assumed that this meant that “eternal family” in the Church realy just had to mean “eternal marriage.” Yes, I will still have a relationship with other assorted members of my earthly family, but given that it’ll be a paradise anyway, what difference will the arbitrary “related” label make? None at all.

So eternal family has to mean eternal marriage. But eternal marriage is just as incoherent, and I’ll tell you why.

Supposedly, marriages sealed in the temple last beyond death, and other marriages are severed. Okay, let’s assume that persons A and B have an eternal temple marriage, and persons C and D got married at the courthouse. Then they all die in a horrible car accident.  Let’s assume that Mormonism is true: what happens to them then?

Argably, A and B go to the Celestial Kingdom (or its highest level at least), and C and D do not, but that’s irrelevant to the issue at hand, unless it isn’t- but wait until the end of this post for that.

The question is, what makes A and B different from C and D after death? A and B are married, and C and D are not. A and B get to continue in a marriage relationship for Time And All Eternity and C and D do not. That’s usually where the Church leaves things- happily ever after for A and B, and sadly ever after for C and D. But let’s folow C and D past “sadly ever after.”

C and D are resurrected with perfect bodies, and gender doesn’t go away because according to the Church, it is a part of one’s eternal identity that actually predates the creation of our spirit bodies.

C and D go to the Terrestrial Kingdom, and they are Not Married. What makes them different from A and B, who are married? C and D will not forget each other, so they will reember their relationship. What’s to stop them from continuing their relationship after death? What’s to stop them from buying or bulding a Terrrestrial Kingdom house and living in it happy as clams for just as much Time And All Eternity as A and B? Will it be against the rules, because cohabitation is wrong? Who cares? They’ve already gotten their meagre eternal reward anyway, and they have already lost the possibility of eternal increase, so why not live together? They have perfect bodies, so they can have sex and everything. No they won’t officially be married, but neither will anyone else in the Terrestrial Kingdom, so what’s the difference? What’s to stop them from saying “oh well, screw this, we’re married because we say we are?” What would the difference even be? It’s heaven, so there’s no death or injury so there’s no worry about inheritance, survivorship, or hospital visitation. There’s no immigration problem or anything, because i seriously doubt that there’s different countries in the Terrestrial Kingdom. In fact, all of the things that make “married” different from “not married” are earthly legal stuff, and the principle of the thing, and neither of those could possibly matter in paradise where nobody else is officially married either. The only difference is the arbitrary “married” label.

It’s possible that non-Celestial bodies get neutered or something, but that won’t stop them from living together or being together, just from having sex. and probably if you have no sex organs, then you won’t care about not getting any anyway. And if you do, then the problem is not that you can;t be Together Forever, just that you’re horny forever with no way to get off. That would arguably be really sucky, but the premise seems a bit far out, and it still wouldn’t stop you from eternal cohabitation.

Unless their separation is somehow forced, by mean angels or something. That would suck, too. You wouldn’t be able to ever even see your earthly sweetie, because the mean angels block you from going to her GTerrestrial Kingdom district or whatever. It would be really sad for a long time, but we’re talking about eternity here. Eventually, you’d move on and develop relationships with the people you were allowed to be with. Eventually you’d find a new sweetheart, and so would your earthly spouse, and then you’d just move in with your new sweetheart and be with her forever.

Unless the mena angels move in and separate the two of you. Every time you get close to someone, the mean angels come and put you in different corners. Oh well, you’d just get close to the next person, and the separating would continue for a really long time until everyone was separated by mean angels and everyone was alone. To keep people from developing intimate personal relationships that were basically the same as marriage, God would have to somehow enforce utter alone-ness. And He’d have to do it at every degree of glory except for the highest.

Then, either being al laone will bother us, or it won’t. If being eternally alone won’t bother us, then who cares? We certainly won’t; that’s the whole point. It’s hard to imagine now, but we’d have to be pretty different anyway. Alternately, if we do care, then every degree of glory becomes absolute hell, and really, every degree of glory but the highest one becomes the same thing as Outer Darkness (what’s more outer and dark than total loneliness? Total loneliness with the lights off?), and given that we’re not all Sons of Perdition, that makes no sense.

None of that makes sense. Unless we’re totally alone, we’re going to develop intimate personal relationships with whomever we’re allowed to be with, and ultimately it will be every bit as fulfilling as marriage. What is marriage but intimacy, and what’s to stop you from being intimate with the people you’re with? Nothing!

And if you’re going to have marriage-like intimacy with whomever you’re with anyway, why impose the arbitrary punishment of not being with the person you were married to in your earthly life? Especially since in all honesty you’d eventually get over it and move on, given all eternity.

What if God separates everyone by gender? Equally meaningless. You’d just develop intimate relationships with the people you were around. If you have a sex drive, you’d eventually (given all eternity) turn to fulfilling yourselves with each other, and if you have no sex drive then you wouldn’t care anyway. Again, rules against homosexuality and/orunmarried sex wouldbe totally meaningless–you’ve already gotten your eternal reward! So why not do what makes you happy, damn the rules?

I’m not saying we’ll all go crazy and everything in the Terrestrial Kingdom will tur to chaos because nobody needs to follow the rules. That’s not it at all, but we will want to have relationships with each other in order to be happy, so what’s to stop us? Arbitrary rules? Ha! And if we won’t want relationships in order to make us happy, then who cares if we can’t have them? Not us! That’s the whole point.

To sum up: unless we are totally alone, which is unlikely since that would pretty much be the same as Outer Darkness with the lights on, we will form intimate relationships with the people around us. If we are allowed to be with the people who were our friends and family on earth, we will probably continue those relationships. Even if we are not officially “family” anymore, what would the difference even be? All family is is genetics, relationships developed over time, and legal considerations. Even if the genetics are somehow erased, the relationships we’ve built won’t just go away, and the legal considerations are arbitrary and meanigless anyway (they only make a difference by contrast, and if nobody has legal family connections to each other, then it’s the same as if everybody did). If we are not allowed to be with the people who were our friends and family on earth, then we will develop intimate relationships with whomever we are allowed to be around, and given all eternity, these new reltionships will ultimately be much more intimate and fulfilling anyway.

Given that, there’s no reason to not let us be with our friends and family in the afterlife other than as a totally arbitrary punishment that will ultimately lose its bite anyway.

And if we can be with each other, and perpetuate a relatonship, what the heck differenc does it even make if we get to officially call ourself family or not? And who’s to stop us from continuing to call each other family anyway, and to keep acting like family? And if we keep acting like family, what makes that any different from actually being family?

What will we have lost?

The only thing I can think of is the possibility that “Eternal Marriage” is something qualitatively more than just earthly marriage perpetuated for all time. Maybe “Eternal Marriage” just means “marriage with the ability to make spirit children and populate new worlds with them.” And that would be cool and all, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I couldn’t do it, as long as I got to spend eternity with my sweetheart (either the one I’ve got now or the new one I’ll meet in the afterlife) doing whatever it is we do get to do.

And that certainly isn’t what we talk about in the Church. I mean, we do talk about being like God and making new spirit children and everything, but nobody ever says “don’t you want an eternal marriage so you can make spirit children?” because that might not even be interesting to everybody. They always say “don’t you want to be Together Forever with your family?”

And to that I say “yes, of course,” but I don’t see why Mormonism, the temple, and the Celestial Kingdom are requirements for being together forever. Sorry; it’s poppycock.

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