Ex-mormons consistently relate their sense of having been so warmly welcomed into the cult of Mormon and of their experiences of fellowship and the sense of close-knit supportive community that they have enjoyed while within its structures. It is indeed true that Mormonism has the unquestionable superficial appeal of apparent outward respectability and uprightness. It is usually only some time after a candidate’s initiation into Mormonism that the more esoteric, secretive and bizarre elements of ‘worship’ are discovered. The close likeness of these elements to freemasonry and other occult practices will sometimes turn recruits away from the system and into ‘apostasy’. However, for others this is not the case. By this time, the candidate having been repeatedly exposed to subtle indoctrination techniques including learning mantras such as "The Church is true,” “I bear testimony that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God,” and “The Book of Mormon is true” he or she may accept that these idiosyncratic aspects of Mormon worship are simply the mystical expression of something too sacred to express in less weird and initially alarming ways. Here follows a brief oversight of some aspects of Mormon worship. The reader will notice a number of apparent parallels with Christianity, of which Mormonism is a syncretistic perversion and, for some, a convincing counterfeit: Communal worship Normal regular Mormon communal worship is informal. It takes place in a simple ‘Chapel’, which doesn't have any religious statues or pictures. The service is conducted by unpaid lay members of the congregation, as the cult does not have clergy. Most Mormon families will spend about three hours with their local community each Sunday. Some of this time is taken with adult learning or Sunday School, and with various meetings. The heart of the Sunday is the Sacrament Meeting. The Sacrament Meeting The Sacrament Meeting lasts 70 minutes, and involves the whole Mormon community together. It's very much considered a family affair and there are usually lots of children present. During the service the members receive a sacramental communion of bread and water, during which they claim to remember the Last Supper, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and their own baptismal promises to serve ‘the Lord’ and keep his commandments. The service is led by the bishop, and his two ‘counsellors’. (The bishop is the ecclesiastical leader of the local ‘Church’, and is a lay minister.) The service begins with hymns followed by prayers. There will be a number of short talks or sermons given by members of the congregation chosen by the bishop. These talks range from quite formal doctrinal lectures, to more informal chats about the application of faith to family life. Talks can be given by church members right across the age range. Mormons always make a point of dressing smartly and respectfully for services. Visiting a Mormon service Non-Mormons are welcome to visit Mormon services. Prayer
“Prayer does not consist of words, altogether. True, faithful, earnest prayer consists more in the feeling that rises from the heart and from the inward desire of our spirits to supplicate the Lord in humility and in faith" Joseph Smith
Mormonism advises that a simple prayer should follow four basic steps:
1. Address “God” as "Father in Heaven" or "Heavenly Father." 2. Thank him for the things for which you are grateful. 3. Ask him for what you need. 4. “Jesus” is reckoned to be the mediator between Mormons and “Heavenly Father”, so prayers are ended by saying, "In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen." Mormons use formal and respectful language for prayer, referring to “God” with the archaic singular forms, "Thee" and "Thou". Individual Mormons usually pray privately every morning and night. Mormon families aim to come together in family prayer every morning and evening. Common topics of prayer include everyday activities and prayer for strength to resist temptation. All members of the family take their turn in leading prayer. Mormon families normally ask a blessing on food before eating. Mormons will often take time at the end of prayers to do some intense “listening” to try and "hear" God's response. It is claimed that answers from the “Lord” come quietly. Most answers are believed to be what is felt in their ‘hearts’ as a warm comfortable expression, or they may come as thoughts to Mormons’ minds. It is claimed that these inspired thoughts and feelings come to those who are prepared and who are patient. The Church has very few formal set prayers. They are: - the prayers used in temple ordinances - the baptismal prayer - the two sacrament prayers Ordinances Ordinances are understood to be physical actions that symbolise spiritual experiences. But these actions are considered to be more than merely symbols. When someone takes part in them it is believed that they are given the spiritual power that changes their lives. For example, baptism by total immersion in water represents, among other things, the washing away of sins following true repentance. An ordinance is only believed to be effective if it is performed by someone who has the priesthood authority to do so. There are two types of ordinance - those that are necessary for ‘exaltation’, and those that are performed to comfort and guide people. Ordinances necessary for exaltation Baptism Confirmation The sacrament Conferral of the Melchizedek Priesthood (men only) The temple endowment Temple marriage Ordinances for comfort and guidance Naming and blessing of children Administering to the sick Patriarchal blessings Father’s blessings Blessings of guidance and comfort Dedication of graves The Temple The Mormon Temple is not used for the regular weekly worship of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is reserved for some of the Church's most ‘holy’ ceremonies. The buildings used for regular worship are open to everyone, but only Mormons regarded as worthy by the Church are able to enter a Temple. The London Temple This Temple is a ‘holy’ building that Mormons regard as the house of ‘the Lord’. It's a place where Mormons claim to find special opportunities to meditate and to draw closer to their ‘Heavenly Father’ and ‘Jesus Christ’. Temples are used for many things including: - Education about the claimed purpose of life and the individual's relationship with God - Ceremonies that ‘bless’ individuals and ‘bind’ families together for eternity - The making of covenants to ‘serve God and humanity’ - Some of the work that is carried out in the Temple is done on behalf of people who have already died. Mormons believe that if living people deserve the saving ordinances laid down in the gospel, then so do people who have died. Secrecy Non-Mormons are often puzzled that they can't enter a temple, and that Mormons won't reveal much of what goes on inside. It is claimed that there is nothing sinister about this but that some things are regarded as so holy that they should only be spoken of in the temple. Inside a temple Despite the imposing exteriors of many temples, the inside is not a huge room like the interior of a cathedral. Instead, a temple contains a number of small rooms designed for ceremonies and education. Going to the temple Because a temple is such a ‘holy’ place, Mormons make sure they are in the right state before they visit a temple. They believe they need to: - Be worthy - Be humble - Understand that receiving temple ordinances and covenants is essential to gaining eternal life - Understand the importance of wearing the temple garment - Be prepared for personal and sacred worship Clothing in the temple People going to a temple are expected to wear clothing that is suitable for the ‘house of the Lord’. They should avoid wearing casual clothes, sports attire, and ostentatious jewellery. Before they take part in temple ceremonies, ‘Church’ members change into white clothing. Temple Ordinances The temple ordinances, which include washing, anointing, the endowment, and temple marriage (often called sealing) are available to all ‘worthy’ adult members of the ‘Church’. The members of the ‘Church’ regard the commitments made in the temple as not only sacred but as an integral part of their eternal welfare. Endowment The covenants made in the ‘endowment’ build on those made at baptism. They include promises to: - Observe the law of strict virtue and chastity - Be charitable, benevolent, tolerant and pure - Devote both talent and material means to the spread of ‘truth’ and the ‘uplifting’ of the human race - Seek in every way to contribute to the great preparation that the earth may be made ready to receive Jesus Christ - Keep these covenants - Not to trifle with sacred things - A ‘blessing’ goes with each covenant providing it is faithfully observed. Sealing or temple marriage This ordinance is believed to seal together a man and wife for this life and for the eternities to come. A woman can only be sealed to one man however a man can be sealed to several women. The sealing ordinance is to join together a couple and their offspring, both born and unborn, for eternity, based on their personal righteousness, the righteous desires of their hearts and their service to humanity. Note that Mormonism is a religion of works as opposed to Christianity which is a religion of grace. Mormons believe that the sacred ordinance of marriage is God-ordained and is meant to seal together family units, including the parents and all natural and legally adopted children. Temple Garments After receiving their endowment Mormons are able and expected to wear the special temple garment except when it's not possible (for example, when swimming). It is worn as underclothing both day and night. The temple garment is a type of white underwear. The importance of the temple garment is claimed to be its spiritual significance. Mormons see it as spiritual armour and wear it as an outward expression of their claimed inward commitment to follow Christ. Brigham Young explains:
“Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell.“ This is still very much believed by Mormons. Note that Brigham Young (‘prophet’ and ‘president’, Joseph Smith’s direct successor) describes navigating a journey back to God by means of passwords. While there are very obvious differences also, there are nonetheless some very unique parallels between Mormon beliefs and Gnosticism. This material world, the Gnostics held, was not created by the ‘Supreme Being’. He dwells in the realms of light and is purely spiritual. The physical realm is a work of darkness created by a lower spiritual being called the Demi-Urge. Some held that the Demi-Urge was pure evil. This physical world he created is not “good” as it says in Genesis 1 but rather a terrible mistake. The most tragic aspect of this error was that some sparks of divinity, some truly spiritual realities, managed to get trapped in human bodies. Redemption for them is to discover their true spiritual identity, escape from the body and its disgusting passions, and return to their true heavenly home. Such liberation (or exaltation) could only happen through gnosis, or knowledge. Some spiritual being had to descend from the realms of light and bring this knowledge. Most of humanity was “carnal” and naturally belonged to this realm of decay. The saviour did not come for these pitiful beings. But to those few who were fallen angels imprisoned in flesh, the saviour Christ, (spirit-brother of the ‘light-bearer’ Lucifer according to Mormonism) brought the saving knowledge of their true origins and a complicated set of esoteric passwords so that, after death, these divine souls could navigate past the Demiurge and his minions and make their way back at long last to the realm of light. Thus the Gnostic was someone “in the know” who had discovered meaning in an otherwise meaningless world, and sensing a need for redemption, found it through complicated myths and exotic rituals. The Gnostics claimed that Jesus realized that most couldn’t receive his true teaching, so he secretly confided it to a few chosen confidants*. And these passed on this secret tradition to those who were worthy of it, from generation to generation.
*Matthew 13:10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.