Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Evening with the Ladies' Relief Society

I do not think that I can keep up with myself. On Tuesday evening my friend Jennipher called and invited me to a Mormon Relief Society meeting where we would have dinner. I’d never been to one and decided to go, with my religious husband telling me to go,”but you are going as her friend as a reporter! You are not getting converted!”

OK, so I am not converted, but it was fascinating. We went and she introduced me to women who make jams and jellies and homemade marshmallows. (She didn’t know that I wanted to learn to make them, even though I am not keen on marshmallows.) The lesson was that they wanted to emphasize the three levels of Mormon Heaven so when a “sister” was speaking to the group, the lights went out and we were told that our time had run out and that our final reward was at hand. (This was funny—when we stood, we all looked at each other with the same expression, “Do I take my purse?” We took our purses. Not only can you take it with you, you are expected to!)

We were to walk through the dim-lit halls until we got to a small (and therefore crowded) room. This was terrestrial where unrepentant murderers, rapists, and people who refused to accept the Heavenly Father went. I am not making fun of this, OK? It wasn’t Hell, but it was dark and dreary and we were told that we’d sleep out the first 1,000 years there and then be judged. There would be no families. It was dark and bland. We were given our reward: Ritz Crackers with spray cheese.

The second room was a bit bigger. We were told that we’d not have families there but that we would be single and just kind of live, with Christ coming to see us, but not interested in hanging around. This is called tellestial. We had a spicy canned vegetable soup that made me wondering if I could go back for the crackers, but I thought better of saying this! (Jenn joked that she was ready to go back for seconds on the crackers and I agreed!)

The third was dinner on the celestial level. It wasn’t Villa Nova, but it was still nice. Chicken Cordon Bleu with vegetables, salad and five kinds of pie. In spite of it being Lent, Orthodox are expected to accept hospitality so I enjoyed this. I personally don’t eat pork but you know. . . I enjoyed it. I seldom sit down for dinner.

Several of the husbands were there serving and I called Jenn’s husband my personal purveyor of temptation as he kept bringing me cherry and chocolate pie and asking if I was sure I didn’t want a slice of each! When they gave the talk, I didn’t say anything but I was a bit agog realizing that they believe that “we” shall become like gods and have families at this level. This being said, I did not loose respect for my friends because no matter what they believe, they have a strong value in service. Few if any in that room were doing good things to become gods. Those ladies seemed to have a genuine desire to serve, but Jennipher assured me that they all had their own issues outside that place, just as any group of individuals do in any church. I think they would be as they were anyway even if all that was promised to them was Terrestial Heaven.

I found out that Mormons don’t have crosses in their churches because the cross symbolizes death and Christ dying, where they like to focus on Christ living. I told them about my priest and said, “I think he has crosses embroidered on his underwear, but I’m too polite to ask!” (They laughed.) Orthodox go a little nutty with the crosses all over the place. Mormons see them as a focal point that they don’t want.

Some missionaries wanted to sow the ground for converting me and I was like, “Please do not try to convert me or get me to come to services. I am happily Russian Orthodox, but teach me how to can and freeze things properly and I won’t be a burden to you in difficult times!” Then i asked them about their travels to my state. They thankfully took the cue, realizing that I was serious, and they were very interesting guys. Handsome and dashing! I enjoyed hearing about their families and what they have been through. They really come out of these 2 year stints armed and ready for living. I was very impressed with them.

One thing—I asked if there was much knowledge as a whole in the LDS to learn Hebrew and Greek, the original languages that the mainstream Bible was written in, and there wasn’t. There were probably some who learned, but why when Joe Smith had the golden plates written in Egyptian hieroglyphs? Did they learn Egyptian? No—the plates had been lost before JS could show them. I don’t get that part.
As much as I have in common with them, I can never get over what we don’t have in common and the bit about Joseph Smith. The Bible lends itself to science—all those laws in the Torah are all proving themselves and JS didn’t pass the test with the Egyptian writing later. Outside their sanctuary and class rooms they have pictures up of various stories which was fascinating—that trip across the country to get to Utah was impressive. I have read stories on that trip and other women on the trail being impressed with how much the Mormon women got done and wouldn’t work on Sundays. I told them about the icons in my church.

The missionaries asked about Orthodoxy and I said that I couldn’t know where to begin, but that ~I~ would probably get irritable when we discussed which church was first, and that since I was on their turf, I’d just be happy with whatever they said. I could tell that they liked me as a person and would have loved to have had me join them in the celestial level-- and that was sweet. Still, I think a lot of stuff with Joe Smith is messed up. I have heard it from Mormons and I just don't get how educated people can agree with it, but then when I say that I believe that icons are a window for saints to look in on us, they might find me also whacked. You don't beleive in your faith-- you have faith in your beliefs.

Jenn was not upset with me for saying that—she said that when you have two churches who feel that they are documented as being right, you may as well put aside your differences and focus on your friendship. Apples and oranges—both are different, but sweet, and I hope that neither one will get us to Hell.

The Relief Society really believes in caring for one’s neighbor and doing good things and supporting each other. I hope that I can keep meeting with them and work with them. There is a lady there who does beeless beekeeping—she makes honey from flowers. I made this when I was 9 with my mom and one of her friends. I was really excited when she asked for my number and invited me over to do this once we get some clovers growing.

On those missionaries—they were breathtakingly handsome! I always used to invite them in when I was a teenager and I’d chat them up and bake cookies, "Lutherans are really good homemakers, too!" and my brother liked entertaining the Jehovah’s Witness girls who came by with their mothers!


steve on the slow train said...

Read Fawn Brodie's biography of Joseph Smith, but don't mention it to your Mormon friends. The Egyptian document Smith translated turned out to be rather uninteresting--but he "translated" it as if it were an earth-shattering document.

I've done some research on Edward Bonney, who was one of three non-Mormons in the Nauvoo Council of Fifty, until after Smith was murdered and Brigham Young took over. Bonney had been a friend of Smith but turned anti-Mormon after Young took over. (Bonney was a bounty hunter who captured most of the gang who murdered George Davenport in 1845).

One of my friends at church (St. Matthew's Episcopal in Bloomington) is an ex-Mormon who found her way to Anglicanism. You'd have fun talking to her.

Olivia said...

I agree with you, I just can't understand why anyone from a mainstream church (which is what they would have been back then) could believe in some guy who had found some lost plates in the Utah desert.

The origins of many cults are unusual enough that anyone might wonder, "How did they fall for that?"

Like Scientology - I mean, there are alien spirits living in the mountains of earth since fleeing their own planet, and waiting to inhabit the humans after they appear, and some overlord called Zendor or something. Weird.

I'll take icons as a window into heaven anyday.

Gledwood said...


rd said...

I appreciated your reading and commenting on my blog. Your article on your visit to the Ladies Relief Society is interesting and insightful. I respect the Mormons in many ways, but have real issues with their origins and beliefs. Wanting to become a god seems to be the problem of the human race rather than its destiny.

Palm Springs Savant said...

interesting post today! I have known a number of Mormons, who do seem like they are perpetually on the verge of converting someone or other. The mission thing they do is a little strange...