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Mormonism and God

Posted by nebula0 on July 15, 2011

To be perfectly honest I haven’t given Mormonism much thought lately. I did present at the Salt Lake City Sunstone Symposium last August for the second time and enjoyed that, and the thought that I put into that paper was the last time I gave the religion serious thought.

I have been giving the concept of God a lot of attention however. As I have been learning more about philosophy I have been taken aback by the sheer force of many of the arguments for God’s existence. I was of the mindset that modernity, culminating with Kant, had done away with Aquinas’ arguments. I was wrong, they are alive and well, thriving even.

My current favorite is the various forms of the Leibnizian cosmological argument (argument from contingency). There are several ways to approach this one, but it goes something like this:

There is a possible explanation for every contingent thing. [a contingent thing is one which could have conceivably not existed]

The aggregate of all contingent things is a contingent thing, call it C.

There is a possible explanation for C. [via the premise]

Any contingent thing posed as an explanation for C will be a member of C [by definition].

Therefore, there possibly exists some necessary thing to explain C. [a necessary thing is one which must exist in every possible world]

If it is to stand in an explanatory relationship with C it will be a concrete thing. [a concrete thing as opposed to an abstract, can effect things in the world]

Therefore, a necessary concrete object exists [via S5, a rule in modal logic which states that a possible necessary is necessary]

There is a stage 2 of this argument which explicates what sorts of properties this necessary concrete object must have analytically. Stage 2 ends up arguing for an agent with unbounded power and knowledge. There are of course rejoinders to consider, but in general if one accepts some form of the Principle of Sufficient Reason and possibly mereological universalism the argument seems to run.

I will pose this question, does Mormonism fulfill the requirements of these sorts of arguments? Historically obviously not, philosophy has been looked upon with suspicion and the corporal, finite nature of God the Father embraced as a positive distinctive element in the religion. But is there some room in Mormonism to integrate into it the insights that these kinds of arguments? After all, intelligence is the glory of God.

I have no immediate answers to this. It is clear that like any religious group Mormonism is changing, and as a young one is still defining itself. My hope is that as a group Mormons embrace all that reason reveals. Even if Mormonism as a theological system rejects what natural theology has to offer by engaging it it can only grow richer and deeper for its adherents.


Posted in Theological Thoughts | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Borderline Mormons and Doubt

Posted by nebula0 on November 26, 2009

Is it just me or is Doubt a major theme of Sunstone?  Why is it that doubt is such an obsession amongst self-declared Mormon intelligentsia?  Doubt as the root of real faith, Doubt as sacrament, Doubt as grace, Doubt Doubt Doubt.  Why is this?  I suppose my real question is , if you don’t really believe all that much is it worth it or even honest to stick around?  Perhaps this is easy for me, a relative outsider from the start.  I wasn’t born in the covenant, I was a convert.  When I knew my doubts caused me to really question whether or not Joseph Smith was a prophet in any obvious sense of the word I became inactive.  When I became a monotheist I simply stopped being a Mormon.  It seemed so well… obvious to me that is what you do.  For many however I suppose it’s not as simple.  What it really appears to boil down to is family and social ties.

As much as certain people want to make romantic serious doubts about the basic truth claims of Mormonism as some kind of ‘dark night of the soul’ I will step out on a ledge here and assert the real problem is fear.  Certain people just do not believe Mormonism is true but fear disturbing their family and social lives.  As a result, their minds construct multiple layers of justifications for sticking around and finding meaning in their inner strife.  I assert that if the social aspect were removed, many of these people would simply quit being Mormons without much further ado.

I don’t think this is a problem of Mormonism alone, by the way, but of religion in general.  Certain sociological studies pretty thoroughly demonstrate that conversion is likely to happen if your social network is primarily of a certain religion and your past social network impaired for some reason (i.e. going off to college, getting a divorce).  Likewise, retention is likely only when the new convert makes lots of new friends in their new faith.  What these studies also demonstrate is that the subjects are typically unaware that their social contacts appear to be the major predictor of whether or not they convert and whether or not they stay.  The subjects typically talk about the merit of the truth claims.

As time has gone by I realize that this is largely true of my story.  I became a Mormon when I went off to college.  I converted and though was friendly with many never managed to make any good Mormon friends.  When I got married to a Mormon he was on the edge of activity himself (actually I was MORE active), so although I gained a  large social network of Mormons by marrying into a family of Mormons that was hardly enough to keep me in.  When expecting our first child I realized that I didn’t want to be a Mormon in part because I didn’t care at all for the culture and didn’t want to impart it to my children.  So while it was a truth claim issue that caused the final severing, social and culture belonging likely played a larger role.

My hope is that those who doubt the very fundamentals of Mormonism honestly think about their motivations for staying and come to a true clarity within themselves.  Trying to maintain the kinds of ‘making doubt meaningful’ mental structures that some erect just takes too much striving- eventually, something will give.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Mormon Epistemology and Faith

Posted by nebula0 on November 29, 2008

Anyone who has encountered Mormon missionaries for any length of time is familiar with Mormon epistemology, that is, the Mormon way of knowing.  In one sense it is an advanced epistemology comparative to the conservative Christian world.  The core of it is simply this: it is not possible to prove empirically or analytically “spiritual truths” (theological claims), these can only be known by a witness through the Spirit and they can be known, not just believed.  One of the first things that Mormon missionaries are likely to do will be to attempt to teach you how to recognize the Spirit witnessing a truth to you.  This is accomplished by linking together a theological claim that they make to some kind of feeling of peace of comfort on your part.  Likewise, if you happen to feel unease they may teach you that Lucifer is active in the world and trying to keep you from the truth.

Through this means a Mormon convert receives their testimony, that is, their grounding belief that Mormon theological claims are true.  From there, it is through experimentation with these beliefs that leads to knowledge through obedience to the obligations that these beliefs carry.  For example, Mormon converts are taught that they are to tithe (give 10% of their income) as a commandment and they must accept this as a precondition to baptism into the Mormon church.  They are told that if they are unsure about this move, to try it out a few times as God promises to rain blessings down on those who are faithful to it.  From here follows stories about those barely scraping by who nonetheless make the sacrifice to tithe and find unexpected checks in the mail.  These sort of blessing experiences combined with many experiences with the Spirit testifying of truths leads to Mormon testimonies that begin “I know this church is true”.

I started out this post with the claim that Mormon epistemology is more advanced than that of the conservative Christian way.  Conservative Christians often think that the existence of God can be proven, as an example, through well worn philosophical arguments such as the Argument from Design.  Most of these amateur apologists (and here I do speak specifically of the non professional) are not aware of the devastating counter arguments to this argument.  They may also be creationists and argue against evolution only for you to find out through the conversation that the Christian in question doesn’t really understand the theory of evolution at all (for instance, how many times have you run into someone who argues that if evolution were true there should be no monkeys?).  The problem is that these conservative Christians have a naive faith in the provability of a myriad of empirical claims that are on very shakey empirical grounds.

Mormons, on the other hand, for the most part have realized long ago that their empirical claims are highly problematic and so have fully retreated into a subjective epistemology because there are so very many empirical Mormon claims that have little to no empirical evidence as a support.  For instance, what solid undeniable evidence is there to support the Book of Mormon claims?  If all you have is an inscription in Yemen and chiasm you aren’t exactly on the warpath to converting thousands.  Similarly, sometimes the empirical evidence is directly contrary, as in the case of the Book of Abraham.

For most Mormons this stuff isn’t a problem because most aren’t aware of the problems in part because they accept Mormon epistemology so don’t bother with things that might possibly disturb their witness of the Spirit.  For those who are familiar and indeed engage in apologetics a dangerous game is entered into.  Such an individual needs to carefully craft apologetic answers in such a way to neutralize the immediate dangers quickly.  Personally, I never could.  To some extent I bought Mormon epistemology knowing as I did that the existence of God, for one thing, could never be thoroughly proven.  I cast the problem as an either or issue- either the matter could be conclusively proven or there was nothing.  It was only later that I realized that exiling my intellect in the matters of faith lead to a tepid and stinking sort of faith, a rot which prevented my whole will from embracing God.

Now I would recommend to all the following thoughts: It is true, theological claims cannot be conclusively proven, however, unless you demonstrate the basic reasonableness of such a claim your religion and therefore commitment to God will be a facade.  If God didn’t want us to use our intellects, obviously we wouldn’t have them and God wouldn’t try to reason with us through scriptures and spokespeople.  If you aren’t sure if a theological claim makes sense, suspend it and investigate the matter.  Receiving a feeling of peace is not an answer since it has no content to show the intellect.  Feelings, emotions have a place in the religious life, yes, but when they are all that you rely on you have put to sleep that part of you which is especially made in the image of God.

Posted in Theological Thoughts | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Taking Stock

Posted by nebula0 on October 30, 2008

I can’t remember the exact date that I gave up my Mormon faith for good.  I’m not good at that stuff.  What I do know is that it’s sometime a month or two from now.  So I am reflecting on where to go from here (see the previous post) and what I have learned from my experiences so far.  It’s harder than I thought it would be.  The thing is, I have more baggage from my trip through Mormonism than I wanted to admit to myself.  I harbored some ill feeling about Mormonism and figured I really hadn’t gained much from it.  Have I?  I’m sure I have and don’t even really know.  It forced me to be more social than I otherwise would have.  I met my spouse through being a Mormon, and nothing will take that away.  I got to practice giving speeches.  But what about in a spiritual sort of way?

What I gained most from Mormonism was, and is, a lense through which to focus my spiritual and intellectual curiosity in matters of faith.  I’ve learned the importance of intellect, not just the emotions, when it comes to embracing God- if the intellect isn’t on board, neither is the will, not really. I’ve learned that if I am to really, totally, and with my whole will intellect and otherwise embrace God and a way of approaching him, I am to be thoughtful, I am to be slow, I am not to be pressured.  I didn’t want to admit it, but I allowed myself to be led into Mormonism through eager missionaries and ‘friends’ who abandoned me as soon as my head hit the waters (see my previous posts about why I became a Mormon to see the sort of split mind I developed).  It’s human nature to want to belong to a group, it’s human nature to be excited by new things. I  want to be authentic in my spirituality and know that a group and new things will be a part of that, but they cannot be allowed to direct my path.

So I move forward, slow and steady.  One thing that I have noticed is that my opinion of Mormonism becomes more and more like that of a never-Mormon outsider, someone who can acknowledge the ‘odd’ aspects, the positive aspects, the negative aspects, without personal entanglement.  I suppose that is the strongest sign of my ex-Mormonhood.  I feel no longing, and neither revulsion, for things Mormon.

Posted in My Experiences, Reflections | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Why I Became a Mormon, Baptism story

Posted by nebula0 on October 18, 2008

When I left off the baptism was being planned.  Looking back on it, I wonder if I was really ready to be baptized.  By then I knew a lot about Mormonism, I read through all the scriptures, I was aware of most of the anti literature but I was still highly conflicted. 

But the day of the baptism I showed up early.  By the baptismal font in the stake center was a dressing room, and I was dressed in an all white jumper and was sure to wear white underwear and bring a change of clothes.  I was nervous partly because I hated any event to be about me.  I’m one of those people who tries to keep their birthdate a secret so that no one will get the bright idea of throwing a party.  Others tend to interpret that as a sly maneuver and can’t imagine anyone NOT wanting a party, but I sincerely don’t.  I’m one of those people who cannot fathom why anyone would want to be on TV.  So it was that I went to my baptism with an anxiety and a desire to get the thing over with.

Here’s how it went, hymns were sung, a little speech given, then I went to the font with the missionaries who I had selected to baptize me.  You get in the water, which is nice and warm, plug your nose, and you’re dropped under the water.  It’s important that every part of you goes under, if a toe pops up, for example, the whole thing must be done again.  Afterward, I got myself dried up while everyone sang hymns, then I bore my testimony, for the first time.  “Bearing your testimony” is a technical Mormon phrase, it’s a ritual with a particular format, utilized at particular moments.  Acceptable phrasing includes things like “I know this church is true, I know Joseph Smith is a prophet, I know Jesus is the Christ” followed with or preceded with a personal story.  The whole thing is always concluded with “In the name of Jesus Christ, amen”.

I really have no idea what I said, so I can’t share that here.  But standing up in front of those people assembled, in their Sunday clothes (it was Saturday but Sunday clothes are standard wear for a baptism) I felt taken out of myself.  The words flowed but I didn’t control them.  I said the correct phrases at the correct times so as to engage my Mormon audience.  That is, I was now a speaker of the Mormon language: I had converted without even fully realizing the fact.  Everyone was moved, and for the rest of the small party, (what baptism is complete without cookies?) I felt as if I were floating.

Upon retrospect I believe that I was forcing my mind to be split for too long.  On the one hand I had a secret longing to become a Mormon fully, but on the other, I didn’t really buy the whole package.  So it was, the day of my baptism, my mind forced a reconciliation and moved me into the Mormon community.  I adopted Mormon aspirations and ways of thinking and became fluent in Mormon-ese.  This was reinforced when I was confirmed that Sunday and I experienced the same sense of being out of my body, floating- with my decision to join I released my mind from the tension of investigation.  Finally I had chosen to give into my desires to join and shelve my questions and disbelief.

Obviously that didn’t work forever, but you get the idea.

Posted in My Experiences | Tagged: , , , , | 15 Comments »

Why I became a Mormon, part 2

Posted by nebula0 on October 17, 2008

When I left off I had agreed to meet with the missionaries, but I had no intention of doing so with the possibility of conversion. It was in the interest of learning alone and I made that clear to the pair of sisters I met with. We probably got together ten times, and went throug hte fourth discussion. For those who don’t know, missionaries go through a series of six discussions with potential converts, the six being reserved for those who have agreed to baptism. It used to be that missionaries would memorize these discussions and try to go through them word for word, but recently they have been allowed to paraphrase things in their own words. While I met with these sisters I started doing studying on my own, starting of course, with the internet. It was there that I met up with the barage of anti Mormon sites as well as apologetic sites such as Fair, FARMS, Mormon Fortress and others. I enjoyed meeting with the sisters but as some point felt there was no more I wished to learn. As I became increasingly exposed to Mormon theology and ritual I felt as though I were in a Twilight Zone episode, it was all so strange and they acted as if it were just as ordinary as their peanut butter.

So, when the sisters were transferred and I was to meet with a pair of elders I staged a grand exit from the scene with a debate. By the time the debate was over I was outnumbered 5 to 1 as we were meeting in the local Institute and there were plenty of instructors and other young Mormons around. I had a great time. I don’t remember what my points were so I can’t evaluate if they were real zingers or not.

That was it for a year. In the meantime, my experiences never left me and I think in large part because I found Mormonism so odd I felt compelled to continue to learn about it. I read through the Book of Mormon as well as re-read the Bible as well as kept up my learning from the internet. I kept thinking about my experience with the sister missionaries and how fun it was to have those meetings to look forward to. I thought about how nice the Mormons seemed. And, I felt that urge to pray harder than ever.

When I came back to the Institute I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing. Part of me was just unbearably curious. I thought about doing a sort of anthropological experiment to really get a sense for what it’s like to be a convert’s shoes. Part of me wanted to sincerely join the community. Either way I walked into the Institute and asked to see a pair of missionaries and as we went through the discussions I decided that I wanted to be baptized. That sense of inner conflict remained with me straight through the baptism.

That inner conflict is extremely common with converts. When potential converts are interviewed and asked why they are involved in a new religious community prior to conversion they almost always respond that they are simply spending time with their new friends. After the conversion they reinterpret their motivations, all along they were actually really interested in the religion. My conflict was such that I kept the baptism quiet from my family though I told my work friends about it- who by the way, though it was odd. They were all of the extreme skeptical type. I was worried about what my parents would think and since I wasn’t even sure why I was doing it exactly I thought it prudent to downplay it until at least I knew what it was all about.

You may all be wondering about my experiences during this time (especially if you are a Mormon). The missionaries taught me to interpret feelings of peace as the spirit and feelings of disquiet as the workings of Lucifer. I didn’t really buy it but I went along with it. During this odd period I felt very compelled and allured by the Mormon religion itself. I thought it was endlessly fascinating. I felt compelled by the seemingly happy Mormon people, though I wasn’t able to really befriend any. But I was afraid to make any real concrete commitments mentally. I was afraid of feeling foolish. Despite my reservations I did feel compelled along by an unknown force.

All this leads up to my baptismal experience which was my first notable spiritual experience in Mormonism (besides those ‘peaceful feelings’ I had reservations as interpreting as the Spirit). That is coming up.

Posted in My Experiences | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Why I Became a Mormon, part 1

Posted by nebula0 on October 16, 2008

At this point it seems appropriate to share a little of my story.  Things are always so much more interesting when given in some kind of personal context, at least they are for me.

Sociologists tell us that people are most likely to convert when they are at some kind of boundary which disassociates them from their own social networks.  So, adolescents first leaving home, those who have just moved to a new city, those who have just been divorced are all prime candidates.  Also, conversion tends to go hand in hand with the building of a new social network, people tend to become the religion of their new friends.  So it was that I converted after the first year I attended university, as predicted, but I broke the mold in that I came into the Mormon fold with no Mormon friends.

Here is what happened.  I grew up with no religion.  My parents didn’t talk about God at all, neither pro nor con religious belief.  My interest in religion seemed to arise spontaneously, I’m still not sure where it came from, as a teenager.  Like many teenagers, I became intensely interested in those Ultimate Questions: what is the meaning to life?  why does anything exist? and so on.  My answer to that question took two forms, an interest in physics as the most basic of sciences and an interest in religious belief.  I figured that the real way to answer this question was through the most fundamental of sciences, in which I could understand and approve of every step and through which I could touch the deepest structures of reality.  I determined that I would become a physicist and answer my questions. 

On the other hand, I was intensely curious as to how others answered the Ultimate Questions and began to study religious beliefs.  I read through the Bhagavad Gita, Rig Veda, Tao te Ching, Qur’anand ultimately the Bible (among others)- in the limited way available to an adolescent just starting out the process of scholarship.  My initial curiosity then fed into my obsession with debate.  My interest in religion took another form too, that of a deep desire to talk to God.  I can’t explain where this came from without invoking the existence of God.  I didn’t want to believe in God, I thought it was foolish and weak, and yet I felt a physical pressure on my chest and in my hands to pray.  I had to fight it.  I remember finally giving into the temptation one night, on my hands and knees begging for forgiveness and having the most extraordinary experience.  I felt weightless and my whole body tingled.  I felt lifted off the ground as if the hand of God were wrapped around me.  The next day I was so embarrassed at myself, I vowed that I would not pray unless I actually, really believed.  So I suppressed my urges for years.

When I went to the university to study physics I brought with it my secret obsession with religion.  Every chance I got I would debate Christians, street preachers, students.   I would challenge them all to prove to me that God existed and I quickly learned the basic four proofs for the existence of God and the holes in them all.  In fact it was through an evangelical sponsored event that I first ran into the Mormons.  All week evangelicals on campus gathered to a certain location to talk to other students about their religion, and so I came, every day, for hours.  I challenged them all to prove to me God exists.  Finally, on the last day, as I was about to leave, Mormon missionaries showed up.  I made my way over to them, curious.  I didn’t know much about Mormonism then and wanted to learn.  I asked them to prove to me that God existed, and I remember being impressed that they told me that they couldn’t.  I agreed to take the lessons, just to see what Mormonism was all about.

part 2 is coming…

Posted in My Experiences, sociological thoughts | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

My New Blog

Posted by nebula0 on October 10, 2008

I’ve decided to branch out and created a new blog: http://religionandreality.wordpress.com/.  This way I don’t have to tie everything back to Mormonism in order to write a blog entry, which seems like a healthy move since I’m not actually a Mormon anymore and I should figure out where I personally belong.

I’m definitely continuing on this blog full force as well.  Since I know a lot about Mormonism through personal and scholarly experience, using Mormonism as a point of departure for my thoughts has proven to be a fruitful adventure.  It gives me a specific, detailed, lived framework from which to build.  Nonetheless, I’ve found myself from time to time feeling constrained by the limits of this blog, and for those instances, my new blog will allow me to float free, which will prove to be a release but also a constraint.  Why not have the best of both worlds?

Plans for this blog include continual expansion of the new FAQ page as well as more posts about my experiences.  I also plan on further investigation of the interaction between Mormonism and normative Christianity as I explore exactly how Mormonism (the LDS brand specifically) fits into the bigger picture.  Stay tuned.

Posted in Reflections | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

More Thoughts on Mormonism’s Success

Posted by nebula0 on September 4, 2008

In my last post about this topic, “Why is Mormonism Successful,” I suggested that one major reason for Mormonism’s success can be attributed to its ability to generate meaning through concertizing identity.  Hence, the sacrifices that Mormonism asks of its adherents serves not as a deterrent to growth, but rather increases its appeal to those hunger for real meaning in their lives.

What are some other reasons for Mormonism’s success?  One thing that is a great stabilizer for Mormons is their social network.  I mean that in the sense that even if an individual Mormon goes through a period of great doubt, the single most important thing that will keep him in is his Mormon friends and family.  This is the greatest predictor, by the way, of whether or not a new member will remain in the church- do they have Mormon friends?  The LDS church realizes this by the way, which is why it put policies in effect to try to ensure that every new member meets plenty of Mormons on a regular basis through Home and Visiting teachers, ward missionaries and so forth.  Because Mormon identity tends to set them apart socially, excluding them from coffee drinking and after work beer, excluding them from rated R movies (at least some Mormons), and also because Mormonism requires so much time from any individual active Mormons, Mormons tend to befriend other Mormons primarily.  That makes it that much more difficult to sever those ties to leave the LDS church, but also makes it that much more rewarding to be a Mormon in a mobile and disconnected society.

Anything else?

Posted in sociological thoughts | Tagged: , , , , , , | 28 Comments »

My Temple Experience, part 4

Posted by nebula0 on September 3, 2008

Warning: This relation of my experiences in the temple will most likely offend even open minded Mormons.  I go into detail about my personal experience being endowed.  I issue this warning so that Mormons feel safe to visit the site.

For those interested in the nitty gritty details see this site: http://www.mormondoctrine.net/temple/endowment/compare_1984_to_1990.htm.  It goes through the words of the entire ceremony.  I’ll focus not so much on getting every single detail in but more on the things which really stuck out to me and general impressions from a first person point of view.

When I left off Eve has just been tempted into eating the forbidden fruit (which kinda looks like an orange tomato) and has also tempted Adam  into eating it.  They hear the Gods coming down to check on them, and Lucifer lets them know they’d better cover themselves up, since now they recognize their nakedness so they fashion for themselves a fig leaf apron.  The temple goers are told to take out the green apron (inside the little pillow of goodies) and put it on.

* At this point I took a break from my writing to get out my temple clothes from the top of my closet.  I figure this will help jog my memory and it does.  I have a floor length 100% polyester dress with long sleeves.  The back bottom has black marks from the escalators.  I have a floor length slip, sheer white stockings and white bathroom slippers.  The fig leaf apron is a shiny green embroidered with leaves overlaying each other and the bottom is cut out wavy to stimulate the shape of the leaves.  There is an elastic band with a hook on the back to put it on.   Everything smells a little musty from sitting in my closet for so long, but I remember how to put it all on immediately.  Okay, back to the program. *

At this point the Gods come floating down and curse Lucifer, Adam and Eve.  I notice with grave disappointment that Eve makes her covenants through Adam while Adam covenants directly with God “Adam I covenant with thee…”.  Ugh.  My heart did sink a little at this.  As these covenants are made the men and women stand up at their respective times to raise their hands to the square (lift their right hands) bow their heads and say yes to the covenants that Adam and then Eve make.  A witness couple are up by the alter at the front of the room, kneeling in front of the officiator symbolizing Adam and Eve before Elohim representing the rest of us.

Now we get to learn about the Law of Sacrifice and we are told to obey the Law of Sacrifice, which is our willingness to sacrifice all that we have, even our lives to defend the kingdom of God.  This strikes me as a little eerie.  We stand up, raise our right hands, bow our heads and say yes.  Now we get to receive the First Token of the Aaronic Priesthood which is a perfectly masonic hand gesture given to us each individually by the temple workers.  We are told that the the name of this token is our New Name that we just received.  Huh.  We swear not to reveal this information (oops).

We all sit down and the film continues on with Adam and Eve wandering around the lone and dreary world.  They’re dressed up in animal skins now and we’re told the garments that we are wearing represent those.  I still think it’s funny that we continue to wear the fig leaf aprons Lucifer wanted us to put on, but at this point I figured I have a lot to learn still.  We see Adam at a rock altar repeating the words “Oh God, hear the words of my mouth” and naturally Lucifer swings back by.  Adam is a rather straight and narrow sort of guy and holds his ground.

Meanwhile, in the floating Greek temple… Elohim tells Jehovah to send messengers to see if Adam and Even have been good, and Jehovah repeats the exact same information to Peter, James and John who are standing around off to the side.  They go check out the situation, see Lucifer there running around but find out that Adam has held his ground… so Elohim tells Jehovah to tell Peter, James and John to deliver the next series of signs and tokens with the Law of the Gospel.

Anyway, they go get rid of Lucifer (finally) and Adam wants to know how he can be sure that the three are true messengers since Lucifer keeps trying to trick him. This is done when Peter gives him the first token of the Aaronic priesthood.  So we all agree to the Law of the Gospel in the same manner as before which includes avoiding taking the Lord’s name in vain, loud laughter (for some reason?), speaking evil of the Lord’s anointed (the leadership of the church) and a couple other items. 

Things get interesting now because we put on the reminder of our temple clothing.  This is where the temple workers and my companion help me because it takes a few times to really get this down.  First you have to take off your shoes and your fig leaf apron for a moment, and put on a sheer, pleated robe over the left shoulder.  It has ties around the waist to keep it in place.  Next you put back on the apron, and then a sheer white tie over the waist with the bow over the right hip.  Next the women put on a veil.  Mine is a sheer white thing with an elastic cap over the head as well as a tie under the neck.  It’s kept off of the face for now. Next the shoes are put back on.  Instead of a veil, men put on this sort of hat that resembles a baker’s hat. We receive the next handshake, it’s name and it’s sign and swear again to secrecy.  We are told that we’ve moved on to the Terrestial World.

This series of events repeats itself so that we receive the token of the First Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood and the difference now is that we switch the robes to the right side and the bow of our little cloth belt is over the left hip now.  We get a new handshake, a new sign, a new name for the thing and make another solemn vow of secrecy.  The Law we agree to this time is the Law of Chastity, which is exactly what it sounds like.  I wonder for years why this is singled out as it is for the temple ceremony.

Now we are preparing to enter the Celestial Kingdom and receive the Law of Consecration in which we solemnly swear to give everything we are or may be blessed with to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  We receive the next handshake, the next sign (Second Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood, the Patriarchal Grip or Sure Sign of the Nail (in similitude of Christ on the cross)) but are told that we won’t learn the name of the token yet.  First, we have prayer circle.

A group of us, me included as a new person gather around the altar up front in a circle, girl-boy-girl-boy and so on (but not everyone goes up for this, some stay in their seats). At this point I realize that my kindly bishop had come to support me and was waiting for me to be my partner.  I’m happy to see him but I’m also a little startled by looking at him in his temple garb, it’s truly otherworldly.  He takes a moment to check in with me and I assure him I’m alright.  I am, I’m very curious, but also fairly disoriented.  I’m in a daze and at this point look forward to getting through with everything.  We go through all the signs we just learned including the rather awkward last one which includes lifting our hands over our heads and while lowering them repeating “Oh God hear the words of my mouth” three times. The women in the room are told to veil their faces and we join hands with the grip we just learned, the men join hands with the women on their left.  The prayer starts and is led by the officiator, a normal sort of prayer for the prophet, the missionaries of the church and so forth.  Afterward the women unveil themselves and everyone sits down.

Finally we are told that we are going to the veil of the temple.  Past the veil is the Celestial Room and then the ceremony is over.  The veil is a white curtain that we pass through.  On one side are the temple goers, on the other side are male temple workers symbolizing Elohim.  There are slits in the veil like the symbols in our garments, and there is a slit to put our hands through to be tested.  Female temple workers help the women, and males help the men get through the test.  As a newbie I watch everyone else go first, then I have my turn.  I’m lead to the veil, and a temple worker uses a rubber mallet to hit a steel divider between stations (there are oh, maybe six stations, 3 for women, 3 for men, to go to).  The man on the other side responds and I have to give him all of the secret handshakes I’ve learned along with their names.  When I get to the final one I learn the name of the Second Token of the Melchizedek Priesthood, well, the guy gives it to me and the woman worker coaches me through it and the guys gently pulls me through the curtain to the other side.  I walk into the Celestial room, which is pretty much an ornate, gaudy living room.  Inside are a few people I recognize.  At this point I’m ready to sit down for a while and I do.

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