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I'm a Christian, married to a wonderful man, Steven, and mother to a wonderful little son. I have many interests and a few noteworthy journeys in life and I enjoy sharing them.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Lightened Burden

The Mormon church claims that all of their ordinances are necessary and all of their rules and "guidelines" are supposed to give a person freedom. Freedom from Satan, they say.

To an extent, their many rules are good. Obedient Mormons tend to be clean, modest, giving, kind, industrious, and virtuous. They tend to have longer life spans because of the Word of Wisdom. I'm sure the STD rate is also lower because of their Law of Chastity, which states that fornication and other sexual sins are next to murder and denying the Holy Ghost (or denying Christ when one knows of Him for a surety, such as from personal witness).

In general, its common for LDS people to be musically inclined and generally talented, boys often achieve their Eagle Scout award, women are good homemakers, and men good providers. It all seems very ideal.

But there are problems with this idealistic encouragement of being a model of high standards and accomplishments.

There is absolute micromanagement of members, to the point that people will follow a rule blindly just because it is given by the church. Here's a quick list off the top of my head of many of the things the church has rules and guidelines on for individuals:

Diet; apparel; tithing; piercing; dating; marriage (where and who sees it, etc); gender roles; recommended education; family life; birth control and reproductive responsibilities; appropriate music; appropriate movies; appropriate literature; sex (in and out of marriage); language; church involvement and responsibilities; emergency preparedness; church education; appropriate research on church matters; how to pray; missions for young men; tattoos; and general behavior. That's 23, with many things further regulated within an item.

Sure, all this creates the idyllic picture-perfect families and virtuous teenagers, modest and clean and well-behaved, helpful and prepared and a bit traditional. But why is it bad to have a second modest ear piercing for a woman? Why would God disapprove of that when its the heart he judges? Someone can be a virtuous, loving, good person and have three piercings, a tattoo, no kids despite being married, wear a bikini on the beach, and so on. I've known too many good, God-loving people who don't follow many of these to think that God requires all of that for a person to please him--to be worthy.

I know a mother and daughter, the daughter being a friend of mine, that have been absolutely inspiring to me as an example of abandoning religious legalism and focusing instead on personal responsibility, acceptance, understanding of consequences.

For instance, the mother made the daughter promise from a young age to tell her when she started having sex. My friend of course learned about STDs. She watched other peers go through sexual relationships as she grew up. The responsibility of when she engaged in the same thing was completely hers. My friend ended up waiting and making the decision with long thought and commitment, and she and her boyfriend--although the depth of their relationship makes that too light a term--have been together for a long time in a mature and dedicated relationship. They aren't married, so it is not the Christian standard, but its better than many do in this day and age.

While the daughter doesn't adhere to Mormon modesty standards, she also never flaunts herself in a promiscuous manner, instead purporting herself with dignity that shows an inner modesty and beauty at once. I once saw her and another friend wear the same outfit to an event once, it being only a little less revealing than a bikini. But while the other friend seemed flaunting and immodest, my friend was simply beautiful. Modesty and self-assurance are more important from the inside.

Personal responsibility makes one more understanding of why something is good or bad to do or be. For young people, having that level of personal responsibility accompanied by the understanding of why creates less need to rebel. There's a reason that teenagers with particularly strict parents tend to rebel or else who try to please their parents even if they don't understand why they're following some of the rules, and people with parents who don't give them personal responsibility often go off the good path. The church fits into the first category, in terms of how it treats its members and the reactions of the members.

In terms of sin, the burden of follow these rules well enough is immense. Not following one rule well enough can be the cause of not receiving a temple marriage, not being able to take the sacrament, or even one's membership being put on the line, which puts their ability to reach the Celestial Kingdom on the line. In fact, all these rules and the human inability to perfectly follow all of them perfectly leaves most members unsure of making it to the Celestial Kingdom.

This being unsure--especially in times of being in the midst of or repenting from more grievous sins--is something I experienced often (no, I didn't engage in grievous sin often, but I felt the lack of surety often), and watched other people experience. "I hope I make it," I'd hear people say. They would profess their sincere faith in Christ, would fulfill their callings, would be great mothers or good children, would work hard and try hard, but because there's no way of knowing if perhaps something is going to go wrong later in life, if perhaps some mess-up or list of sins will be too much to overcome, they almost never say, "I know I'll see you in the Celestial Kingdom." "I hope," they say. "But I won't know until I get there." And I thought that was beautiful, that as long as they hoped that and kept trying--that as long as I kept hoping and trying--we all probably would. Because if we stopped hoping, stopped trying, that's when we wouldn't.

This is so different from what I found after leaving in Christianity, and different from many world faiths and religions. The only other one notable for requiring things to achieve salvation--and I'm not even completely sure the works are as much of a requirement as the most important of commandments--is Islam, which requires prayer and other such things of its members.

Its not hard to understand the Biblical standpoint, which is the one we'll look at as the LDS believe the Bible and I have become Christian.

The Bible makes it clear that salvation comes from faith, and faith leads to a desire to follow the commandments. Good works don't save someone, lest they boast. (Ephesians 2:9) Good works doesn't necessitate faith, but true faith does necessitate good works, and also the following of the more Christian-exclusive commandments.

One can also say that God instilled in us a natural understand of ethics, such as in killing, stealing, adultery, etc., and a natural desire to find love. So, to embrace God's goodness in oneself is to embrace the goodness that is God. It is that embracing, that choice to take God into one's life, that is salvation.

This burden of embracing goodness because of salvation, knowing that no amount of goodness will save but all amount of sincere faith will, is much lighter and far less judgmental than the Mormon way. Its more...Christlike.

One of the most un-Christlike rules of the church is the requirement to give 10% of income to the church in order to be worthy to attend the temple. Giving service, following all ten commandments completely (such as keeping the Sabbath day holy or honoring father and mother) are not absolute requirements, though the bishop isn't about to let you get away with murder, adultery, lawlessness, or open discord. But paying the church a part of your income is an absolute requirement to get into the temple to receive "saving ordinances."

If you type in "Saving Ordinances" in the search engine on LDS.org, it will come up with 1,886 results. The very first link includes this statement: "Speaking to his people on April 8, 1844, the Prophet Joseph said that the temple ordinances as he was giving them were so important that “without (them) we cannot obtain celestial thrones. But there must be a holy place prepared for that purpose.” (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6:318–20.)" (Why We Build Temples, By Elder Mark E. Petersen, October 1980 Liahona)

So yes, the temple ordinances are required for salvation on a Celestial level in the Mormon Church, and you do have to pay the church to receive them if you want them while still alive. Otherwise, you have to wait until after death, and hope someone living does them for you, assuming your children or other immediate family or your will or some human oversight doesn't prevent this being done for you and therefore ending all possibility for achieving Celestial Glory.

No, the LDS requirements are a great burden, and very exclusive and controlling. The true Christ of the Bible doesn't say to us that all these things are required for salvation and surety. Instead, the message of the requirements for salvation are joyful, simple, and sure. "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest...For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28, 30


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. They are a great burden. One of the most common things I hear from those who have left Mormonism and became Christians is that they felt a weight lifted off their shoulders. Mormons don't realize how much weight the Mormon Church puts on them until they are free.