Christian Weirdness: Mormon vs. Catholic

Tonight, I took the opportunity to expand my Christian horizons by going to a Catholic mass.

Now, there are those among the Mormon church who believe Catholicism is the whore of Babylon mentioned in Revelations. That’s incorrect. The whore of Babylon is not necessarily a denomination, just a state of mind. Opposition to righteousness.

That in mind, I decided that I needed to stop just thinking Catholics were weird (besides wrong, of course), and that I was so much better than them, and actually try to understand. Besides, I’ve always found Catholicism somewhat interesting. Maybe because the majority of demonic possession movies have a Catholic background. Plus, the stained glass windows and cathedrals are beautiful.

So, tonight, I attended mass, dressed as I would for an LDS service—in a skirt. I was advised by the Internet that it was the only way to dress for Catholics as well. Imagine my surprise when people started showing up in jeans!

In the LDS chapel, we have hymn books out for the congregation. In this chapel, they had three song books and a missal and a book for you to follow along. I was having a hard time switching back and forth between them all.

LDS church is composed of three different meetings: Sacrament meeting, Sunday school, and the age- and gender-specific classes (Primary for children up to twelve, Priesthood for males over twelve, Young Women for girls twelve to eighteen, and Relief Society for women eighteen plus). A total of three hours, sitting down except when traveling from one to the other. Our Sacrament meeting is most like a standard church meeting, gathering in the chapel, taking the sacrament. It’s really a very simple organization. Opening hymn, opening prayer, ward business, sacrament hymn, sacrament, first speaker, second speaker, hymn or musical number, third speaker, closing hymn, closing prayer. Mass isn’t anywhere near that simple. I couldn’t keep track of all the prayers and hymns and things sung! Most of it was routine. And plus, there was so much sitting, standing, kneeling. Good way to stay awake, I guess. Bravo to Catholics for figuring that out! Maybe us Mormons could use a little more of that, and a little less of the classic elbow in the ribs.

To say I didn’t feel comfortable? An understatement. All in all, I found it too formulated, leaving too little room for revelation. See, Mormon’s don’t really use formulated prayers very often. Just for things like baptism, confirmation, the sacrament, and so on. I guess you could say our prayers are free verse. Reciting something like a prayer will never feel right to me. Also, I found a bit of it was really showy—more of the body than the mind and heart. Beyond that, I was depressed by the limited amount of scripture: just the Bible. I’m so used to the classic Mormon quad: The Bible, the Book of Mormon (testament of Christ in the Americas), the Pearl of Great Price (miscellaneous things, including the books of Moses and Abraham, and the Joseph Smith translations of the Bible), and the Doctrine and Covenants (establishment of the LDS church, and related revelations). To be cut down to one. . . is weird.

Now, I can’t tell you I felt the Spirit there. And I can’t say I didn’t. I’m not very spiritually sensitive. But the pastor did say some good things, and I had good notes to take.

After mass, I talked to the pastor long enough to give him my name and tell him I was Mormon. He made sure I felt welcome, and introduced me to another girl, who introduced me to basically everyone else. To be perfectly honest, I was overwhelmed by how included they made me—how nice everyone was. I’m a Utah Mormon. Here, Mormons can be nice, but they can also be very judgmental and cliquish, for lack of a better term. But I saw so little of that in the Catholics I met tonight. They invited me to an activity later in the week, and I think I might have to go. Because, honestly, in my own ward I haven’t ever felt so included.

My conclusions: Catholics are still weird. Their religion seems to be as steeped in tradition as Judaism. And, of course, I won’t ever believe the Catholics have it right. But they’re wonderful people—far better than I’ve been led to believe by Utah Mormons.

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On Agnosticism, Atheism and Mormon Weirdness

This past week, a girl I work with was talking to me. She was born and raised Mormon, but has since become agnostic. Now, I’ve got no problem with that. If that’s the way she wants to live her life, all power to her. But she kept asking me questions. Like how come if Jesus ever lived the only records of him were in the Bible? There’s no birth certificate or journal entries or anything.  And Joseph Smith was never actually told to form a church—just that the ones that existed already weren’t true. With all that, she wasn’t sure she could believe in God.

I’ve never been good at answering those kinds of things. That’s part of the reason I’m not going to go on a mission. I just answered as well as I could.

How do we know there are no other records of Christ? They didn’t exactly keep birth certificates back then. And journal entries could be destroyed. With most of the Jews getting into spitting fits at the time whenever Christ was mentioned, is it so hard to believe they destroyed some of the evidence?

As for Joseph Smith—that one stumped me. She asked it in Sunday School and stumped the teacher, too. I read the Joseph Smith History we have in our scriptures just to be sure I had the whole story. And no, in that piece of it, God never explicitly says, “Give me a church with a side of weirdness, hold the coffee.” I also browsed around the Doctrine and Covenants (our record of modern—back in the 19th century—revelations). After a few minutes there, I found Section 18, which speaks a bit of how the church should be built on the scriptures, basically. After a quick search I found that in Section 115,  God gives name of the church—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. So, when I see this girl, I guess I’ll have to offer that to her, for all it’s worth.

This girl has a way of putting me and my beliefs on the spot. Some days, it seems she wants to be Mormon again. Others, it’s like she’s criticizing. But I find it sad that she’s not sure she can believe in God. It’s been so central to my entire life that it’s hard to think about what it must be like not to believe. I have been told from birth that God is there, the same way others are told that Paris and London are real. And when I see what could be interpreted as divine intervention and a higher purpose in my life every single day, it’s hard not to know He’s real.

I could never bring myself to be agnostic or atheist. I definitely believe in God—because the alternative is too horrible to think about. If there is no God, then what is our purpose in life? What is the point of anything, good or bad? If we’re just some accident of science, what’s the point of even getting out of bed in the morning? If we have no higher purpose, what’s the point of progression? Because we’re just going to die, and that’s it—lights out, close the book. If we don’t feel that we can talk to anyone about our problems, then we are truly alone. And even when people will listen to us, they’re still judging. They still don’t totally understand, because we don’t really understand, ourselves. And that’s it. We’re alone. Some of us, nobody must even love us.

Personally, I decline that. God is there. He is the great writer, scientist, mathematician, artist. Everything testifies of Him. He knows and understands us better than we do, ourselves. He loves us and wants us to be happy. And He will always listen, with that perfect understanding. The best friend to loners everywhere.

Some people will say I’m stupid, blindly following all these rules, believing in a higher power that died and came back from the dead, and let’s not even get started on Kolob. And yes, some of the things I do and believe are weird. But you know what? That weirdness is worth it, for all the comfort and courage my faith has given me over the years.

So, yes, I am a Mormon. I will always be a Mormon. Weird is part of the job!

It’s My Story

“This is my story. It’ll go the way I want, or I’ll end it here.”

—Tidus, Final Fantasy X

My story. My life.

All our lives are stories, and God is the great author of it all. Want to know what’s funny about it? Writers love to torture their characters. You think your life’s going crappy? Well, God is up there, fanboying about how cute you are when you’re in trouble. Look at Job!

As an aspiring writer, and long time fan of many story mediums, I have made plentiful studies of stories and tropes that within them fall. I know how the story’s supposed to go.

But what happens when it doesn’t go that way? When the heroine of the story isn’t the one to rescue anyone from the villain, but just Hostage #38? The hopeless girl who’s head-over-heels for the hero? The background character?

That thought bothers me. It always has. This is my story. I’m the heroine, aren’t I? I should be saving people! I am not to be upstaged by some jerk in a cape!

This logic has led me to shun my wallflower nature, and do some surprising things. I’ve confessed to my somewhat uncomfortably older (and emotionally withdrawn) former colleague my huge hero-worship crush on him. One of the most terrifying moments of my life.

But, among my two best friends (namely, my sister and my best friend), I am not, nor will I ever be, the hero. I am the antihero. The brooding loner who’s so awesome it hurts. My sister’s the hero. Our friend is the sidekick.

Well, this story is a work in progress. And the author isn’t nearly done getting His torture in. So, days go by. Maybe someday I’ll be comfortable in my protagonist role, and be rescuing people from villains right and left. But, my friends, it is not this day. This day, you can find me stuck in my comfortable complacence, dreaming, but too lazy to fulfill those dreams.

I guess I’m just waiting for The Call To Adventure. So, my goal for this year? Live a life that makes a better story!

Happy National Hangover Day, everyone!