Originally shared by FREE SOPHIA
Church hopping #12
It’s not evident as to how or when to go to a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) service. Besides their name being on the front of the building, there are NO other signs ANYWHERE. Their three phone numbers called at “open” times just ring and ring. The website leads you to the international website and is quite confusing. It seems the Mormons want it that way, for secrecy or for their protection they want to do it THEIR way. YOU MUST BE INVITED.
We’ve been to a myriad of diverse churches now, racially and culturally, many within a mile or so from my home. All of us live next door to one another, see each other at the gas station and grocery stores every week but on Sundays we are worlds apart.
A few months ago, several strange crimes happened in my community all within days of each other and all unrelated. One of the crimes was a murder of an 18 year old Mormon woman. I don’t watch the news or read the newspaper so I get to avoid most bad news but these crimes, being local, were hard to avoid. The young woman was actually “slain” very near my good friend’s home. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that “something” told us to visit her church, and that’s where we went yesterday.
A Mormon friend had told us a little about the LDS church, including: NOT to give them our information (they’d adamantly try to convert us), women HAVE to wear skirts and that services universally began at 9 a.m. and Sunday school etcetera followed.
So Jann, Melody and I were there at 8:55 a.m. uninvited. It was a cold day especially in a skirt and I was terrified to be there, making it even colder. (I’ve been asking myself why I was afraid to go to this church. Was it because it was unfamiliar and so different than what I was used to? Was it because of what I had heard and seen on TV about Mormons and their strange history? I’ve finally discovered that I was so fearful of being in that place because I am a very sensitive and intuitive person and something just felt wrong there.) We entered one of the unmarked doors and snuck in.
To our surprise, there were no greeters, nothing to sign in on and no one even looked at us! People were milling around in this solemn sanctuary and we found our seats (right in the middle of it all!) on the “back pew”. We would eventually learn that we had come to the area stake conference that Sunday, where they would acknowledge their new missionaries. Behind the back pews the separating wall of the gymnasium was open and there were hundreds of metal folding chairs lined up that would eventually be filled with visitors from other wards (wards are what they call their churches) in the area. The unornate sanctuary had plain white side walls with a hanging office clock as the only decoration. The entire front wall was a lovely dark wood though with a huge pipe organ that wasn’t being used, that area reminded me of a courtroom. [See picture.]
So we sat there petrified (at least I was!), still amazed that no one had spoken to us. We expected Jann, always the rebel, to be asked to leave at any time for wearing PANTS. We watched as people slowly came in and found their seats and as the choir (of all ages) practiced. No one smiled, I’ll never forget that.
At one point, Melody looked at me- her face white as a ghost and yelled in her whisper that she felt something on her left side and it was suddenly ice cold. I quickly put my hand on that side of her body recognizing that this probably meant that an unembodied (and often earthbound) spirit was next to her. I felt the unexplainable frigid air that hovered next to Melody. It continued for a few minutes, then just went away. I think we both felt like it was the soul of the murdered young woman. Clearly she led us there, but why?
Not long before or after that I noticed a tiny white feather on my lap! Knowing that this was often a spiritual sign, I immediately thought: “Angels!”, smiled and gave it to Jann. A few seconds later, I looked down and saw ANOTHER tiny white feather. I pointed it out to Jann (who still had the first feather I gave her) and we both just looked at each other with shocked wide eyes. I couldn’t make this stuff up! This was the only church hop location where we had experienced anything supernatural, so far. (Unless you count all of the angel orbs in the herchurch photos.) I found that to be especially poignant.
More and more parishioners entered and began squeezing into the pews. A couple of the women wore name tags with “Sister” before their names. According to mormon.org we are ALL family, especially if you go through the special steps at their separate holy temple.
Skirted women accompanied their husbands who were all wearing white button-up shirts. It was like a time-warp into the late 1960’s; I thought even the men’s haircuts were peculiarly retro. It had that Twilight Zone feel and I remember thinking that they might be aliens.
Assuming one young married woman’s white Spanks were showing, I later realized that I had actually seen her special Mormon underwear when she chatted with her friends in front of us. (I later read that both Mormon women AND men were expected to wear these long, white “garmies” embossed with secret Masonic symbols at ALL times. According to mormonwomenbare.com the LDS “culture teaches [women] that we belong to men, to God” and that their bodies are just a tool.)
Obediently pregnant women and children were everywhere. Several speakers would later mention the term: “eternal family” many times. I was grateful that I didn’t bring my “eternal family.” Like many churches we’d been to, there was no childcare during this main service and there were A LOT of children as I guess is greatly encouraged. Although it was often hard to hear with restless children and babies cooing, I think it is the easiest way for children to learn their parents’ culture and to feel a part of the community. (They highly emphasize the importance of family and believe that if you pass all of the upper tests at the big Temple, you and your family will be eternally sealed together. Someone also informed me that this also means that you and your first wife and family will eventually get your own star to live on. I’m not sure what happens to your other 47 wives or their children at that point.) And as we know from Catholicism, large families ensure the foundation of a good pyramid scheme.
Finally, an important-looking council of Anglo men entered, two of which walked around and shook everyone’s hands. (The congregation had a sprinkling of other ethnicities, a couple of which were African American which I find interesting especially since the Book of Mormon teaches that African Americans “are descended from an evil race of people cursed with dark skin.” according to mormoncurtain.com. African Americans are also not allowed into the priesthood, but Anglo men are at the age of 18.) This pale male council finally sat in pews behind the podium, they gave the room an extra creepy heaviness. Then the big wooden side doors were loudly closed and I thought for a second Jann, Melody and I were in danger.
But, after sitting there for almost an hour, the LDS all-aged choir began. Still NO smiling from the congregation or from the singers; they all seemed beat DOWN. Speakers mentioned many times that theirs’ was the way to peace and joy, but I didn’t see anything joyful. (Maybe it is joyful once you get your own star, I don’t know.) The sad music, bless their hearts, was unenthusiastic and as monotone as possible. One of the male council leaders, who reminded me of Jim Carrey playing a Mormon, smiled constantly but that was it. No one applauded when the choir finished.
The Jim Carrey smiley guy rose and gave announcements including a list of names of the 45 new recruits that would now be full-time missionaries. (Traditionally missionaries were 18-year-old men, but I hear now they allow women to do some part-time local missionary work.) This was followed by a family of six singing a song about Jesus being their savior; they were actually VERY talented but still no one smiled or applauded. Then two females gave their testimonies about what it’s like to be Mormon: the first was a Hispanic teenager, the second was the MURDERED WOMAN’S MOTHER.
Now, this was exactly 6 weeks to the day after her murder. We knew nothing of what was going to happen during this church service, and I never expected to see or hear about the victim’s family. But THERE she was up at the pulpit in front of us all. Her mother spoke for a while about how family togetherness was important and that her daughter had told her that their family road trips were her favorite. It wasn’t for a few minutes into her speech that I realized who she was. All she really spoke about was the family trips and she was exceptionally unemotional. Another woman, the red-faced wife of the area (or “stake”) president was tearing up. After the girl’s mother finished, she went back to her seat in front, facing the congregation. No one patted her on the back or put their arm around her. I found this very cold and inhumane.
The head priest guy began (only men are allowed into the priesthood or allowed to do any of the rituals because; “The Lord wants it that way.”). He commented on what the murdered woman’s mother had said. He added a story about how the young woman had made a care package for her postal carrier just days before her death. This head priest genuinely seemed good and kind; he continued his sermon about charity as in being loving of one another. He told of how he had once been slightly encouraged by an elder when he was a young missionary. I couldn’t help but think he was born into this belief system and was just ignorantly going along with what always was. The white-haired stake president (who I felt was glaring at me in my form fitting Betsey Johnson dress from across the room the whole time!) and his wife also eventually spoke and I was about as bored as I was frightened. When the choir director asked us to stand and sing another hymn, I grabbed my friends and we ran out.
I was so relieved to be outside, not caring how cold it was outside because it felt warmer to me than the inside of that congregation. We stopped and chatted for a minute, but I nervously kept looking back up at the building like they were going to come after us. A father and his young son also came outside, neither of whom looked at us. It was all surreal.
So, why were we led to this specific church and did that deceased woman want us there to learn something? Definitely. I felt like Eliot in the movie E.T., where he lets all of the frogs out of the jars in the science class, I wanted to do that for those unfortunate and trapped people. That poor woman looked like I did at 18 and was kind and trusting; she was abducted from the Walgreens I drive by every day. Was her completely male-led ward keeping her ignorant and trusting? Was she an innocent victim born into a subculture that keeps their women barefoot and pregnant slaves and tells them that’s the only way to get Heaven? Did she let her murderer into her car because she was taught to do whatever men told her to do? Was she warning me that this could have happened to me? Was the fact that her murderer was African American more ammunition for them to cling to their racist faith? Probably. May I speak for her, if only to enlighten one Mormon woman.