Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Washington Park Ward

This morning was one of those typical Seattle mornings.  It was kind of dark and very overcast and cool. 0609131011 Not cold, but not really warm either.  The clouds overhead looked like they could rain, but probably wouldn’t be bothered to put in the effort.

For all that people complain about Seattle weather, I kind of like it.  This kind of weather is perfect for long walks because you don’t get overheated.

My walk to the Mormon church was around two and a half miles, a little less than an hour’s walk at my pace.

I got there earlier than I had originally planned, because the Unitarians weren’t doing their normal thing this morning, and so my schedule was off a bit.  I got to the church and went inside.

It really doesn’t look like a typical church inside.  It’s more of a community center kind of place.  There’s a chapel off to one side, and lots of meeting rooms, offices, and the like.  I went into “confused visitor mode,” which I often do when I go to a new church, and wandered around looking lost.   I wandered upstairs, where there were offices for church officials, classrooms, and some kind of prayer meeting going on, and some guy asked me if he could help me.

I told him I was new, had no idea what I was doing or where I was going, and I was waiting for the 11:00 am service to start, so I was just wandering around.  Turns out he was the president of something or other (of the Washington Park Ward maybe? Mormons have a lot of presidents of things), and he introduced me to the Washington Park Ward’s former bishop and two very young missionaries who held the title of “elder.”

Now, in other churches, a bishop is a very high ranking official who might make you kiss his ring or genuflect or some such, but in the LDS church, a bishop is just a volunteer who serves as a sort of guide for the ward.  A ward is a group of people who meet together in prayer.  This church has three wards that meet in it.  A collection of wards is called a stake.  A stake is kind of like a district.

One of the missionaries sat with me during the service, and since I was so early, we were able to have a nice chat beforehand, and I learned quite a bit about the dogma and ritual of the LDS church.  I’m not going to go into it here, because this blog isn’t about dogma and ritual, but he was a really nice guy and I’m glad I had the chat with him.  It was a little weird to refer to someone who was half my age as “elder.”

The interior of the chapel was pretty spartan.  No crosses, or any other religious paraphernalia anywhere to be seen.  Very much like the Jehova’s Witness Kingdom Hall I had been in earlier.  And like the Witnesses, the Mormons got down to business without much fanfare or ritual.

We sang a hymn, had a quick prayer, a few announcements about church business, and then another hymn before the first speaker.  Followed by another song, another speaker, a closing hymn, and then a prayer to go home.  At one point there was communion, which they called sacrament, in which the flesh and blood of Christ were brought to the congregation.

Mormon Jesus’ flesh tastes like Wonder Bread, and His blood tastes like over-chlorinated tap water.  Mars Hill Jesus tasted way better.  Now, if I had a church, my Jesus would taste like nachos and salsa.   Just sayin.

But what I really want to talk about here is the message of the sermons.  To my pleasant surprise, they were actually quite good and had much that a secular humanist like me would appreciate.

The speakers aren’t trained clergy.  As far as I could tell, nobody there was trained clergy.  Nobody had a divinity degree or even a degree in philosophy.  They were members of the church, who decided to get up in front of everyone and preach.  I’m not sure how they’re picked, I didn’t think to ask about that, but I can imagine the Ward President probably has some say in the matter.

The first speaker was a woman who talked a bit about thanks giving.  Not the holiday, but actually giving thanks.  Most of her theme was about giving thanks to the Lord, but she also said something that hit on one of my criteria:  Showing appreciation is a nice reward that reinforces good behavior in society.

Encouraging people to do good things is worth a point.

The second speaker talked about service.  Specifically, he talked about serving your family, serving your church, and serving your community.  The serving your church part didn’t really qualify for my criteria, but the other two points did.  Being present and good to your family is a good message.  Going out and doing good things in your community is exactly what I’m looking for, and so far I haven’t heard this message from any other place, with the exception of Beth Shalom, where the Rabbi encouraged folks to donate blood.

Except the Rabbi spoke exactly one sentence that made my criteria.  Of the entire morning at Beth Shalom, nearly two hours of singing and chanting and whatnot, and that one five second mention gave her a point.  This guy spent over fifteen minutes talking, most of which counted for points.  He talked about charity, and volunteerism, and told anecdotes from his personal experiences.

I had gone to the Mormon church with a lot of preconceived notions about what they would be all about.   Nobody is more surprised than I am that I found something compelling in their message.  I was expecting something more like my experience with the Jehovah’s Witnesses:  all about converting, glory to God, and end of times prophecies. And to be sure, those things are a particular focus of their dogma.  But what they actually preach in their church has some real honest-to-goodness humanist values in it.

I’m glad to be wrong about them, and I wish more churches had similar messages.

This is going to sound rather unkind of me, but if I was a Mormon, I’d try to find a Ward to join that had fewer young children in it, if that’s possible.  They take pride in having their kids right there in the pews with them, but Holy Confucius they made a lot of noise.  It was sometimes hard to concentrate on the message.

So the score:

Being good to your fellow human: 2 (appreciation, charity)
Help your community: 2 (volunteerism, more charity)
Be good to yourself: 0 (no mention)
Good and timely advice: 0 (no mention)

Total: 4

Beats the Catholics by 1.  As of today, the new score to beat.

Honorary Points*:
Noisy Kids (-2)
Parents who won’t take noisy kids out of the room and strangle them (-2)

Honorary point total -4

* not part of the actual point total.

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179 thoughts on “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Washington Park Ward

  1. On the nachos and cheese idea …..
    Sounds great, but just not practical. To pass around enough chips to make it worth while would mean trading in the little trays for great big bowls of nachos, and big bowls of cheese. You saw all the kids!!! Some poor lady is going to get a big bowl of hot cheese knocked into her lap (either by her own kids or the kids in the row behind her!). And the old guy three rows in front of you is going to lean over and get his tie in the cheese as well. Oh, not a good idea!!

    AND, I’m not sure you saw the pile of partially ground in cheerios in the row three rows behind you, but I can promise you it was there. But with nachos and cheese, EVERY row will look like the Jones’s row, with partially ground in chip crumbs and cheese dripping from the pew. YUCH!

    No, I think we’ll stick with the boring wonder bread (Which by the way is the point … it supposed to be boring so you think about the symbolism not the food itself.)

    BUT have a compromise for you … where I live, many congregations have a potluck after church on the third sunday. Since we have a large percentage of hispanics in the area, there is always really good and authentic chips and salsa, enchiladas, green chile, etc. And in great quantities, not just a little nibble. It’s one of the best benefits of my current “job” to go visit all those units … Great potlucks!!

    So, how about we keep the little tiny piece of boring bread for the sacrament, and give you a big potluck some weeks instead!

    • Doctrine and Covenants Section 27: 2 ~ For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.

      I think we can make nachos and salsa work somehow. ;)

    • I love that you are doing this, the only way for anyone to find out what other religions truly believe is to get the answers from attending, not from their “pastor”. When I was searching churches, the one thing I loved about the Mormon faith was that they never bad mouthed other religions. It’s so much better to live in a world where we “agree to disagree” with no debates–freedom of speech and religion right?

      Although I am a Mormon, I enjoy friendships of all faiths in my life..I have a blog that I started about 4 years ago, shortly after I started my blog I was diagnosed with stage 3c breast cancer, I have blogged my entire journey as a tribute to my children so they can look back at it someday when I am gone from this mortal life. Because on the blog I speak very candidly about my sexual, physical and mental abuse along with my cancer I get a lot of comments and emails. Recently, someone posted a comment that ticked me off, because it was absolutely not true. So I decided to start a monday mormon myths and truths–what you are doing on your blog is exactly what I wish more people would do–GO FIND OUT FOR YOURSELF–DON’T RELY ON MEDIA OR PASTORS TO TELL YOU WHAT OTHERS BELIEVE IN, and certainly DON’T TRY TO TELL ME WHAT I BELIEVE IN–when it is simply untrue. Love, Love, Love your blog, I had to open up a wordpress account so that I could leave you a comment, I will probably never post on it, since my other one has been established for so long. You can look at it if you want just google thanks again for your post

  2. Thank you! I love to read honest people’s writings. I am a mormon mom of seven in Springfield, MO. I agree with everything you’ve said. I think it’s important to teach kids to be quiet, I wish more young parents agreed with me. I also have had to learn to love those same people instead of constantly allowing myself to be annoyed by them. I have also been to churches who do not share their meetings with the children but put them in a nursery so the parents can relax. We do have Sunday School for that. Noisy or not, children should not be excluded from worship (then churches wonder why they don’t retain those same kids into adulthood). I am going to share this with my mormon friends, especially the one with screaming kids! And BTW, we don’t actually believe the bread and water become flesh, just a symbol.

  3. As an LDS woman and mother this was very interesting to read. For me, the sacrament portion of the meeting is the most important part as it reminds us of the sacrifice Christ made for each of us. In reference to the children who were noisy- yes, it can be a distraction at times but as a mother of 4 what do my children learn or I miss out on learning when I take them out of the room? I would rather work every week to try and help them understand how to be quiet during the meeting. When Christ’s disciples tried to get the noisy kids away from Christ He told them to let them come to him. Children are very important to Christ.

    Did you stay for the rest of the meetings? I’m pretty sure your score would be higher if you did. If not, go back and try again =o)

    • I stayed just for that one meeting, although I had a nice chat with the elder, and another lady whose husband was an atheist.

      • Mark – great articles on different faiths. Looking forward to an update at another time if you have a chance to attend the Sunday school and Elder’s Quorum meetings at the LDS church. :)

  4. I laughed out loud with your “Parents who did not take noisy kids out of the room and strangle them…” It seems that each ward has a slightly different culture and in some wards, the culture dictates you remove your children from the chapel at the first sign of distress while some wards’ culture dictates that it’s cool to let them wail for unreasonable lengths of time before taking them out of the chapel. Sometimes, seasoned Mormons share your thoughts about that. :)

    I am LDS and I love it. I hope you try it again. :) We are family-oriented, service-oriented, and love-oriented. Speakers, btw, are chosen by the bishop or someone in the bishopric, and the speakers are just regular people from the ward. We do believe in being good to self but not at the expense of others.

    I wish you luck and love in your journey! I’m no missionary, but I’m happy to answer your questions, if you’d like:

  5. You sound a lot like Benjamin Franklin in your religious feelings. You would really like his autobiography. BTW, I’m an LDS mother with crazy kids, but I do take them out if they go TOO crazy. Focus on the family is one of the reasons I’m Mormon though, so even though it’s a pain to have my kids during Sacrament meeting, it’s all good in the end. Besides, then I get to pawn them off on others during the other two meetings. Did you go to the other two meetings?

    • I have read Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, he’s one of my heroes! Being compared with him is a really nice thing.

      I only went to the sacrament meeting.

  6. I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I enjoyed reading your post. We are very family oriented. :) I try to teach my children to behave reverently in church, but it is a place of learning and that skill takes time. We wouldn’t be there if we were perfect. :) I love that our children are included in our services. It’s a joy for me, as a mom, to be able to take my children to learn about Jesus Christ and the love and charity we try to have. Jesus also called the children to gather around him. He loved the little children. :)

  7. When I was young (a long time ago) the LDS churchs had a cry room. Soom even had a window into the chapel. Those have disappeared over the years. I think in part because as a child I knew if I was taken out during the meeting I was in BIG trouble and would regret it. I’ve heard that from other people I know. So maybe the need for them decreased through fear of dad? But you are right, LDS meetings tend to be noisy, younger wards more than older wards (Younger/Older being the average age of families – younger, more babies.) You learn to tune it out at some point. But the violently screaming child, please take him/her out. Great right up. Love the different perspective.

    • When I was a kid, there was a movie theater that had a separate glassed-in room for mothers with their children, where they could make all the noise they wanted and nobody was allowed to smoke.

      I suppose fathers could have gone in there too, but I don’t remember seeing any.

    • I had forgotten about those! My childish impression was that they probably got phased out because of the tendency of teenage boys to sneak in there so they could talk without getting in trouble.

      As an adult, maybe the advent of nursing had something to do with it? Now we have mothers’ rooms with sound piped in, but no glass wall.

  8. I thouroughly enjoyed your whole post- especially “Honorary point total -4
    * not part of the actual point total.”
    I just have an extra humanist-y thought to add to the other comments. I must admit, I am one of those Mormon parents who has a mildly noisy child, and who doesn’t take them out for every peep. You see, my 4 year old has autism. We’re working so hard to teach her to use her language, and when NOT to use her language, but it is a long process. I am usually at church with just myself and my three kids, so if I took her out for all her noises, I would have missed the sacrament for the past 2-3 years. Is this the best choice? I’m never totally sure. We sit at the very back, and slowly, my daughter is learning about how to be reverent. I have felt very sensitive about this in the past, but I’m grateful to those in our congregation who make me feel that our daughter, with her special needs, has a place there. :)

    • You know what? Regularly attending Mormons get used to the “background hum” of little kids in our meetings. (And where not to sit!) And I’m glad you bring your autistic kid in. I’m sure the people in your ward – well, the majority of them – there’s always someone, isn’t there? – are very understanding of your situation.

      Being happy to include everyone IS a part of our attitude of service, isn’t it?

  9. This was great. I love the objective way you describe our services. I really enjoying reading objective observations on our customs from non members, especially when they, as you were, [or were not...], not trying to bash the church but understand it realistically. I would like to comment on one part of your post and in some sense correct or clarify. you said “The speakers aren’t trained clergy. As far as I could tell, nobody there was trained clergy. Nobody had a divinity degree or even a degree in philosophy. They were members of the church, who decided to get up in front of everyone and preach” and here is what I would like to point out. As members of the church we meet 3 hours every Sunday, most members go on a mission that is a dedicated two years service preaching, researching and training in the gospel directly most of the day. The average member of the church also attends meetings, firesides and other theological based study programs during the week. high school aged kids usually attend seminary [just a hour or so of religious study] every morning during the regular school year and the older ones attend what is called “institute” which is more of the same. On top of that all the members of the Church have been commanded to “pray often” and more important to my point; “read the scriptures daily.” If you add all this up one could say reasonably that the average Mormon spends 10- 25 hours weekly engaged in religious training and study more or less depending on the nature of their callings within the Ward. [If they are following the commandments of the Prophets accordingly]. take that and multiply it by 52 [weeks of the year] and you get about 520 to 1300 or more hours a year. Then multiply that times the age of the individual who may be teaching or giving that talk in Sacrament meeting and you end up with quite a bit more devoted hours of study, practice, and religious activity than a degree in philosophy or a degree in theology would take to achieve. a 30 year old active member could very well have 11,000+ hours devoted to this [that's just the floor of my estimates from earlier] not even including the 2 years of 24/7 study and instruction. We study both the Bible and the Book of Mormon including other texts and manuals that come with the callings or new instruction from the modern day prophets. According to Malcolm Gladwell, one could very well consider the average active LDS church goer over 25-30 an “expert” in theology. =]

    Again, wonderful article. Thank you for a great objective read. And also. Family first! not much you can do about the kids eh? lol, they need to be there too.

    • Yeah, a friend of mine on Facebook pointed out the same thing. So, I guess you have a relatively well trained laity in your church. Obviously, I can’t claim to be an expert in Christianity, but my sense is that this is atypical.

      • In my experience, it is. :)

        My own background: LDS for nearly 20 years, converted at age 24. Grew up in a non- to anti-religion family, got to a point of checking things out for myself (which I highly recommend on any topic), tried a few different Protestant denominations, wound up LDS after hearing some of the anti-Mormon stuff out there and doing my own research.

        On the kid question, I love kids from birth to adolescence (I’m not so fond of teens, to be honest). Don’t have any of my own. I’m fine with babies and toddlers who are too young to know better or still learning reverence (although I do appreciate parents who remove outright crying or screaming small ones), but I do get irritated with kids who are school-age who won’t shut up, since they are old enough to know better, and more so with parents who can’t be bothered to take corrective action.

  10. Thank you for sharing your experience with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sacrament meeting. It’s nice to see that a non-believer is willing to share in a truthful and open minded way. May you have more positive experiences in your travels in faith. :-)

    • Thanks very much. The best thing that’s come out of this experience is all the really nice folks I’ve gotten to meet and talk with.

  11. Pingback: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Washington Park Ward | Schnellmo

  12. Great blog! Our meetings actually last for three hours so you only got a third of the experience. I’m sure that if you attended the subsequent classes the LDS Church would have received more points. We always try to apply the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our own lives and our own time, resulting in a lot of timely moral advise. Thanks for the fair shake.

  13. Millie, you came back.

    So here you are name calling again.

    I’m anti because you don’t like what I said about your church. You can’t give a reasonable response to my question as why you are offended about polygamy if it’s still in D&C 132

    Have some courage and answer the question instead of calling names.

  14. Millie, you came back.

    So here you are name calling again.

    I’m anti because you don’t like what I said about your church. You can’t give a reasonable response to my question as why you are offended about polygamy if it’s still in D&C 132

    Have some courage and answer the question instead of calling names.

  15. Growing up in Seattle, I caught the PNW flavor of your post — especially when the topic is religion. The Mormons I know are great people. I have a great respect for them. What I’m uncomfortable with is Mormonism. It’s a religion that uses Christian terminology, but with a far different understanding of what the Bible teaches. For that reason, when I talk to my Mormon friends, I don’t refer to myself as a Christian, but one who is already perfect in Christ. I appreciate your perspective and also agree that there is nothing worse than a worship service with a din of noisy children.

  16. It is nice to read a review of the LDS church that is unbiased and honest. I appreciate being able to read the views of others and see people can still be relatively civil in regards to each other’s views.

  17. I’m LDS in Arizona (not lucky enough to live in the Pacific NW…it would be ideal for me). And I agree about the kids thing. Some wards are noisier than others. We’re moving in a year to a part of town without so many young families (that’s not the reason…it’s just going to be more that way) and it’ll be quieter at church. You should come visit when you feel like coming down to hell…I mean, the desert.

  18. First- great post. Thoughtful, fair, and funny. Especially the “holy Confucius they make a lot of noise!” line. You’re totally right about that- and as a mother I would know as well as anyone. :)

    Second- I’m not familiar with your scoring program, but I’m goin’ for more points. While it’s great that the Mormons are “the new score to beat”, it seems a little tough to give all of those very deep topics much air time in 40 minutes worth of preaching. SO. As Mormon theology repeatedly emphasizes being “good to yourself”, and also offers “good, timely advice” here are a few (of many) recent sermons as points of reference for you to consider in your point total.

    On being good to yourself: AND:

    On good, timely advice: AND:

    And Third- (and please don’t be offended by my wonderings)- I wonder if you’re not so much an atheist, as you are someone who has wisely rejected false ideas about the nature of God. Perhaps your journey will lead you to consider new truths about His reality.

    Anyway– thanks for the great post, and happy searching.

    • Thanks for the comment!

      You hit on two interesting topics that I’ve heard quite a bit: (1) You’d give more points if you read/saw/experienced [X], and (2) are you *really* an atheist?

      So to answer:
      (1) I know I can read various religious texts, and commentaries on texts, and websites, and watch videos, and do all kinds of things to get a good sense of any particular sect. But I’m not grading that. I’m grading what they actually say. Not what they say they’re going to say. See the difference? As an example, the Methodists had a great spiel going in their program, but the pastor there didn’t talk about that stuff. He only really talked about being obedient. That’s nice, but that won’t inspire the flock to go out and do good things.

      (2) Yep, I’m an atheist. I think that’s what allows me to be relatively unbiased. The published dogma and doctrine and the rituals don’t hold any special value for me. Nor do the hymns or the prayer. (Although in some places singing the hymns was quite enjoyable). I can ignore all that pretty easily and focus on the spoken message.

  19. I have great respect for Mormons and their devotion and philanthropy.

    I go to a great Lutheran church with contemporary services which will also offer the type of experience you described. I don’t believe in or like to judge, but this is my greatest frustration with Mormons: their self-promotion. Every Mormon friend I have feels the need to link blogs such as this that sing their praises. I’m a Lutheran who’s very involved in my church and very proud of it. It wouldn’t occur to me to brag about that at every opportunity. I hope you find a Christian home, whether it’s in my religion or another.

    • pleasepardonthemess, I appreciate your point of view. It had never occurred to me that sharing information about our beliefs might be perceived in a negative light. I am sure that most LDS members, especially on here, are simply trying to be understood (and over the moon that someone attempted it, such as Doubting Mark) verses self-promotion or bragging. I personally find that I am very, very hesitant to talk about, share or indulge in conversation regarding my beliefs because it is usually met with such hostility and arguments. I tend to take a few steps back in these situations. I just don’t do well with contention. I find there to be a tremendous amount of misunderstanding regarding our beliefs and flat out lies. These misunderstandings or opinions formulated on lies, I find, are what tend to cause the hostility and arguments. So I am one of those that link to our church websites, when appropriate, because I want individuals that are curious about our church and interested in our beliefs to go straight to the source.

      I imagine you can understand the desire to help those that ask questions or show interest to avoid the sites/information that are hateful and send a false message. I would never wish the same for someone seeking out your church.

      I’m probably rambling. So, in short….er?, I feel bad our information is perceived as self-promotion, or bragging. But, in all honesty, I think you would find that most (I’m sure not all) are simply trying to ensure those that ask questions or seek information regarding Mormons/LDS access the most accurate information as possible, allowing them to decide, based on facts, if they wish to continue investigating our church.

      And, truthfully, when something brings you sincere joy and happiness, don’t you want to tell people about it? That is the happy-froo-froo point of view, but truthful all the same. When I find something that brings me as much peace as being a member of the LDS Church does, it’s hard to keep such happy things quiet (well, until someone yells in my face that I’m a devil-worshiper and a member of a cult…then it kinda hurts a bit….and then I take my few steps back).

      I liken it to those annoying parents (possibly me) that post waaaaaay toooooo many pictures of their kids (or cats or dogs) on social networking sites because they are just too wonderful (from our perspective) not to share. How could no one else not find them theeeeeee most adorable thing ever to walk on this earth?! Yeah, kinda like that.:D

      • Honestly meant no offense. As I said, I have great respect for the LDS.

        To clarify, I didn’t say anything about the sharing of your beliefs to be a negative, or that I see it in a negative light.

        Perhaps my frustration is with my friends who self-promote ad nauseum. I’m extremely proud of my church and our accomplishments and our good works. My church brings me great joy. If I posted links to every article that describes these things, I’m quite sure that most would find that off-putting.

      • No worries. I’m sure we can be over zealous at times. Best of luck with your friend. :) (and gads, I really rambled in my response….sorry ’bout that).

  20. Thank you for sharing you thoughts. I’m a member of the LDS church and preparing to talk in sacrament meeting. Thank you for sharing this. I have been having a hard time but now I think I can write it.
    I do hope you visit again. We are very family-oriented but there are classes that you can just focus on the lesson.
    Any way thanks again this was a big help.

    • This comment is awesome, thank you!

      I’ve gotten a few emails from people who give sermons or lessons that have said they might alter their message a little to include some of the things I grade on.

      It was never my intention to tell people how to preach. Nor was it my expectation that anyone would do that, but I’m really gratified that a few have.

      • But your criteria is awesome, Mark. What better ways are there to truly, objectively, judge a sermon?

        I’ve been inspired reading this and the other posts on your blog – it’s given me a much bigger picture of religion and the good it does or tries to do. When it actually does motivate us to do more good, that’s something the world could use more of.

        PS I told my 17-year-old daughter about your project and your blog, and she also thinks you rock. :)

  21. Hello “Doubting Mark.” I’m a 28-year-old Mormon woman with a somewhat “less orthodox” approach to my religion as opposed to many of my LDS friends (for example, I did not support the LDS Church’s involvement in Prop 8 in California). I wanted to comment on what a lot of people have been commenting on -the noisy children in our LDS congregations. Several thoughts. First, are you by chance a parent? Amazing how that can change your perspective. Second, it’s amazing how one can learn to tune things out. Much like I learned to focus on my homework or piano practice over the din of my dad’s ESPN baseball games or nightly news (we only had one family area), years of attending sacrament meetings has apparently perfected my ability to listen to the messages over the noise of the kids. Now, having your own 20-month-old to contend with while still trying to listen to the messages…that’s the real challenge. A lot of people have touched on the idea of our chapel being much like a classroom where we *ahem* attempt to teach our children reverence and respect while we, as parents, *ahem* attempt to learn patience and self-sacrifice. (The truth is, that many of us do feel like taking our children out into the halls and throttling them.) I have a plot in a community garden and was delighted to receive an email from the garden manager stating that children ARE welcome in the garden (after she had received several complaints about children “messing things up” there). Of course gardening should be a family activity. Of course children need to learn to respect plants and property. Of course they will pick some green tomatoes and trample on some seedlings in the process. It is much the same. Again, many have commented on our adult only meetings which include not only the last two hours of church service but also specific conference sessions as well as our time spent in temple service. But I think you might get the biggest kick out of attending Primary yourself (program for 3-12 year-olds that takes up the last two hours of the worship service). A non-LDS child-language-development specialist I knew certainly was impressed; she couldn’t stop going on about how we teach our children to self-evaluate their actions (even in the absence of impending punishment) from such an early age. If you are really all about encouraging humanist values and raising truly conscientious adults, I think you would be pretty impressed too.

    • Really this is just more of Mormons making much ado about the naivete of non-Mormons in evaluating surface aspects of Mormon culture and church life. Laurie, above, presents herself as a humanist friendly unorthodox LDS person, which is great, but her celebration of Mormon indoctrination of children I find to be disturbing. If only we could all, atheist and theist alike, train our kids to monitor their own behavior so closely, even to the point of toxic shame and religious guilt, and even without an authority figure standing over them, that we could leave umbrellas unattended on Temple square. Does this remind anyone else of a further subjective refinement of Bentham’s Panopticon (cf. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish).

      Of course, Laurie’s observation flies in the face the host of problems with the religion (its internal contradictions, its astonishing control of its people, its deeply problematic historicity, its own creaking apologetics, its adjustment of its sacred text to modern DNA evidence and sensibilities, etc.)

      Newsflash: Mormons and especially Mormonism’s corporate church aren’t perfect. There is a definite dark side to the religion. There is a lot of use of fear conditioning in Mormon indoctrination. I’m not sure most or even many humanists and atheists would be “impressed” with the LDS church’s child training and conditioning program, except for being impressed for quite other reasons than those Laurie feels would apply. I also don’t think the program is something that would be good for society or for individuals.

      • Haha, thanks for the newsflash. I can only assume you used to be LDS. I was just telling my kids this morning there is false religion everywhere. Especially where there is true religion. I am sorry for anyone who is taught false religion. What else can they think about all religion except that it is false. I cannot believe this forum is being used as a discussion board for mormon doctrine. Not the place or intent of this blogger. (All parents indoctrinate, spoken or non-spoken, their children, whether they believe in God or not.)

  22. I don’t know how to respond to earlier comments, but in response to Millie & Harley Pig — More name calling???

    Sorry, I’m not Mormon and I think there’s funny stuff with Mormonism.

    So do the writers of South Park and The Book of Mormon Musical

    It’s even funnier that you can’t respond tom the polygamy question because it’s still there in your scriptures but you resort to attacking me for making a joke about mormonism on an Athiest blog?

    In my defense – Howard W Hunter is the latest example of a prophet that will have two temple married and sealed wives in heaven because he was married and sealed to a second wife after his first wife died in the 1990′s I think…..oh no is that anti-Mormon for me to say that???

    I got offended because I was just saying stuff that your religion really does believe. Then I get all these Mormons piling on and calling me names but none of them being able or at least willing to prove me wrong???

    I guess what I did wrong was not realize that I came into Mormon territory….doubtingmark’s blog …. LOLy

    • Hi…it seems you have a question. Sorry to get in your conversation. Yes you are right, lds man can get sealed to another woman if his wife is dead….this is something I don’t like either. I want the man I marry to love me and no one else, I guess is selfish of my part, or maybe not. There are lots of men and women who marry more than once. You see being an LDS there are many things we still don’t know or maybe we don’t fully understand, but that a good thing!! There is not a single perfect person in this earth or with perfect knowledge. We believe that all our questions will be answered and we will gain knowledge of all things that were, are and will be. I might not know the meaning of all things but there is something I know that he loves all of his children .

  23. Awesome read! If I ever have kids I hope to be the parent who takes them into the hallway if they become obnoxious… haha! So yea, I can sympathize with that -4 rating about kids!! :)

  24. I published a link to this blog post on my blog (Classic Mormon Mom). You’re a breath of fresh air.

    This may make me a minority among my own crowd, but I agree with you about the kids. And I had six children in 8 1/2 years – so I’m speaking from the right side of the fence. We are more complacent now about teaching our children respect and consideration of others and of the community as a whole – as opposed to a decade or so ago. I have theories….but bottom line – it is an urban legend to think we can all drown your screaming child out as white noise.

    You may be able to tune your own child out, but many other people can’t. Many more people can’t hear or concentrate while you, one or two people can. Something seems out of balance for the group as a whole when parents don’t remove disruptive children – I thought that was a fair comment and score….says me.

    • Hi Shawn,

      I saw views coming from your blog to mine in the “link referers” stats on WordPress, so I went over to your blog and had a look :-)

      Thanks for linking to me

  25. D Wendell Dunn…
    I have not seen ALL of your comments, so I may be missing something (not exactly sure what your polygamy question was), but I would like to respond to your comment about Pres. Hunter…
    While I am NOT certain of this, because I have no personal knowledge about Pres. Hunter’s circumstances, I do know that in the case of a widower remarrying, he can marry a second wife, in the temple, for time only. My grandfather married his second wife (after my grandmother passed), in the temple, for time only.

    • Hi Melissa,

      I appreciate your response. That is very interesting. I’ve never heard of that before unless the woman is still sealed to her husband that died. In that case the wife can’t be re-sealed to a different man without a temple divorce, right? Is that what happened with your grandfather?

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  27. I really appreciate your writeup. I am a life-long Mormon, but as a creative designer-type guy, I have quite a few acquaintances and clients with differing beliefs. I frequently wonder about how my next “oh you’re a Mormon?” conversation is going to go, because some of my colleagues love to out me in front of clients at awkward moments. Once a client was talking about how she was abused as a child by her Mormon priesthood-holding father, when a colleague interrupted her to identify me as a Mormon. I don’t think she meant me any harm, and eventually I realized I was just relieved to have that over with. :-)

    One thing members of any group seem to want to hear is feedback that falls into X% alignment with their own extremely biased experience, and I guess I’m no exception. Keeping that in mind, I have to say your review was inspiring to me because your report (like others mentioned) is probably a few levels closer to the average experience than a report from someone who is looking for something to dislike. My own experiences in attending different churches have been enlightening in that they taught me that what I believe to be gifts of God are available and present in all groups, and that it is short-sighted and sort of dumb to fall into subconscious belief that one has a monopoly on all truth rather than, say, some edifying combination of truths.

    I currently serve as the first counselor to our bishop in my ward, kind of the bishop’s assistant in carrying out responsibilities and covering for him when he’s gone. My nightmare scenario is that our church becomes sort of the spiritual analog to a karate class I once joined, where every black belt instructor was overweight and just a bit complacent, and instruction suffered as a consequence. It was accordingly extremely embarrassing when the grand master (a marathon runner and all around wise person) arrived from Japan and spent a significant amount of time explaining to these instructors that they were ridiculously out of shape and must get things together soon or he’d want nothing to do with them. They were acting as friends, stewards of the craft, and instructors, but not in the way they knew was right. It’s easy to say, “hey, we’re all imperfect,” in a karate dojo, and especially in a church, but there is definitely a standard to meet for all who wish to call themselves leaders and teachers. It sounds like you met some good people and your experience tells me the karate dojo may not be as bad as my worst fears would have me believe. ;-)

    Thanks again.

  28. thanks for the wonderful perspective from a non-believer. i have 6 children and when they were young i would take my youngest 3 (a 2 year old and twin babies) out in the foyer area where i could still hear, but no one could hear us. i thought of sacrament attendance and frankly the whole 3 hour block as an act of obedience rather than “me” getting anything out of it. i was setting an example to my children that life isn’t all about me and what “i get” from it. it is about making choices. my favorite part of mormon doctrine is agency. how we beileve that we chose to come here, that we have choice in every matter of life and that of course there are consequences to said choices. now granted some people utilize fear in order to attempt to control others (like children) however, true mormon doctrine is that we are free to choose and we are accountable for the choices and the outcomes from the choices we make.

  29. I found my way to your blog via Facebook this morning and have subsequently spent my afternoon reading all of your past posts. I have enjoyed reading them all and especially enjoyed your opinions of the LDS church of which I have been a member for my entire life. I remember when I was growing up I had an insatiable appetite to know how my beliefs differed from other churches. I was constantly asking my parents (and more specifically my father) to help me learn and try to understand what other religions believed and taught. To his credit, my dad NEVER tried to discourage me from learning about other religions. I definitely was not ‘indoctrinated’. Instead I researched, learned, watched and observed. I came to my own conclusions and because I learned for myself I never have to worry whether or not I believe these principles based on my parents.
    So I can truly value your journey and I applaud you for being able to share your opinions without a preconceived bias. It sounds like you are going to be busy for a while. I wish you the best of luck

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  32. All in all, this was an honest and thoughtful piece, though referring to the sacrament at serving up Jesus in a cannibalistic way was somewhat disrespectful. The bread and water are simply symbols, tokens, of a commitment to live a Christlike life.
    As far as lots of noisy kids are concerned, it is a common comment of people of other persuasions who attend our services. They ARE noisy! However, I like it. I make it a point to always sit behind a family with lots of small children if I possibly can. They are such great entertainment if the speakers are dry.
    And in the Mormon church, because different people speak every week, you never know what you’re gonna get.

  33. I am a former atheist (actually closer to agnostic) that joined the Mormon Church 19 years ago. My parents are still atheists but respect the Church. They have seen first hand the compassion and service of its members. You had the opportunity to visit them for a Sunday service. However, the way Mormon’s live their lives the other 6 days of the week is the true measure of their faith.

    Regarding the noise in Sacrament meeting, a quote attributed to Brigham Young is, “Noisy children, like good intentions, should be carried out immediately”.

  34. Hi Mark,
    I LOVED your post! Hilarious, and insightful. And the commentary has been fun to read, too.
    I stumbled over here from a link on LDS Living Magazine. I imagine you’re getting some nice traffic.
    I think you’d make a great Mormon, btw. Your sacrament talks would be the highlight of the service. The kids might even stop crying to listen for a few. Just sayin’. It’s too bad you didn’t have a “special musical number” in-between the speakers (at least you didn’t mention one). I’ve found that usually quiets things down for a little while. (either because music calms the savage beast, or more likely because parents feel obligated to remove the beast out of respect for the performer…either way, it does provide a reprieve).
    Cheers – MoSop

    P.S. I would SO go for the chips and salsa idea…but, Steven Clarke pointed out too many valid reasons why that wouldn’t be such a great idea. Still…it’s a lovely thought. As a side note, using white bread is only a standard tradition. Our Ward uses home made wheat bread that one of the Sisters bakes fresh the night beforehand (totally awesome). When I was growing up our large extended family used to go on long 2-3 week camping trips. We would get special permission to hold our own Sacrament service during the Sundays we were away. All of the LDS priesthood holders in the family would bless and pass the sacrament to the rest of the family. Sometimes, if we were running low on bread, we had to improvise. Once, my mischievous uncle substituted pieces of donut holes. [He became an instant hero. That day is legend]. :)
    Keep on keepin’ on. Wish more people were as spiritually minded and inquisitive as you. Be sure to come back and visit us sometime! Any city. Any country. We’re always there and you’re always welcome. (Oh, and if you’re ever in SLC, be sure to let me know. You can come hear me sing, and I’d love to meet you).

  35. Hi Mark:). I really enjoyed your post. I have a question. Are you married or single? Because in most states we have what’s called “singles wards.” Some are designated for 18-31, others for 18-35. There’s also midsingles wards for 30-45 and 30+ wards. The reason I mention this is because only unmarried or widowed or divorced singles attend these wards. In that regard the noisy children issue wouldn’t he a factor as much

  36. Another Mormon lady checking out your blog! I am taking some college courses and was dragging myself through the late hours getting some homework done, trying not to look at the clock every five seconds. 130 am came, and my homework was done! Time for bed! And then I happened to stumble upon your blog and here I am an hour later still reading it, so THANKS A LOT : ) Seriously though I really enjoy your commentary! Its so interesting to hear about other churches! A little sad that more don’t preach about helping others, but maybe that will get better : ) as far as my kids go we hardly ever make it to sacrament meeting. Our kids, as much as I love them, are even irreverent by LDS family ward standards! So we usually turn on the speakers in the hall and hunker down in the foyer! My sister and father live in the emerald city, wish I was there, you are so lucky to live somewhere so beautiful!!! I cant wait to read more posts, you’ve got yet another blog follower!

  37. Once as missionary serving in a very remote are of Guatemala we used orange soda and cookies for the sacrament because it was all that we had at the time that was available and that we considered safe.

  38. I was born and raised in Los Angeles and moved to Salt Lake City, Utah when I was 30 years old. To say it was the cultural shock of the century would be an understatement. Before I moved to Utah, I had never heard of the words “LDS or Mormons”……never. When I got to Utah, that’s all I heard. The first words out of our new neighbor’s mouths were “Are you LDS?”……well, NO and don’t intend to become one! We had nice LDS neighbors, but in the 30+ years that we lived in the same house, we never did anything social with them. We were judged each and every day because we were NOT Mormon. Our kids could not spend Saturday night with their Mormon friends because they HAD to go to church on Sunday. My daughter was tormented by a Mormon kid and when I called his Mother about it, her reply was “My son does whatever he wants”………well, OK, just checking! When the 2002 Winter Olympics came to SLC, the Mormon Church tried to stick their nose into every aspect of it, going so far as to try and stop Budweiser from having a venue in the downtown area because, God forbid, they would be selling BEER!!!! The church lost that one, but tried for others……….The church should have kept their nose totally out of the Olympics, but they felt it was their right to stick it in. I worked with many Mormons, and they ended up being the first ones to be late every day and to take longer than allowed lunches, and think nothing of it…… I guess they could go to church on Sunday and that made it OK? When we would go out to Wendover (a gambling town on the Utah/Nevada state line), people would see a Mormon Bishop gambling and drinking………hmmmm….I guess it’s OK to do, just don’t get caught? The State Legislature is 90 percent Mormon, so you know why the Utah laws are what they are. They push their religious beliefs on everyone, even though the ratio is about 60% non-Mormon, if not more……… When I come down to Arizona and crossed that Utah state line, I felt like I was getting let out of jail. You ask why I was there 35 years? Well, I tried to escape many times, but my husband would not leave until his Dad passed away. I finally “got out of Dodge” in 2012 and never looked back. I do have to say, ONLY in Utah, and specifically Salt Lake City, are you going to find such staunch Mormons. I even had a California Mormon, who had just moved to SLC, say to me “These Utah Mormons think they’re holier than thou”…..and that about sums it up.

  39. Mark, I just wanted to add to the many comments and say thank you for the kind write up of the LDS church. Personally, I think post matched pretty well how a normal sacrament meeting goes. We don’t always hit on every topic as we should, which is probably why we have to go back every week (and for three hours at that!). Thankfully we believe in eternal life, because by golly I know it’s going to take that long for me to get everything right at the same time. :)

    I also like that your criteria focuses on what we actually do instead of what we say we do. As you mentioned in a reply to another comment, talking about it is great, but how many of us really do what the doctrine says? I teach 14 and 15 year olds, and this helped remind me that I need to do a better job of conveying the need for action.

    I’m super excited to read your other posts. I’ve been a Mormon all of my life and while curious on how everyone else spends their Sundays, I haven’t taken the time to really experience other religions. Thank you for sharing your project with the internet.

  40. This was great to read! And, although there were no mentions of all of your criteria in one meeting, they are all covered frequently, just not all every single Sunday. They spread the topics out :). Also the people chosen to speak, there is someone in charge of “picking” people (everyone at some point speaks in Sacrament. You all just take turns, and if you haven’t had your turn in a while, they’ll probably ask you and give a general topic to focus on). That person who chooses is usually in the Bishopric, so it’s just a small part of their responsibilities. Again, great read. Always fun to see what people think haha! I laughed out loud at your “elder” comment. I’d never thought of that before! Too funny.

  41. It’s always interesting to hear the experiences of people attending or investigating a church. I am one of those. I grew up a Roman Catholic until I was baptized a Mormon when I was 40. I saw my father going to church every morning. My oldest sister was a nun (bless her soul, she passed away when she was almost 80 after her golden jubilee as a nun). I have seen Muslims pray as a group in Afghanistan. I have also attended church with Protestants and with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I attended a Jewish bat mitzvah. I guess in my forties I was like you, looking for the right church to belong to. My search was answered when my wife got tired of telling the missionaries that I was not home, until she gave up and told them to come when I was home from work.

    Having gone to a Catholic high school and college administered by the Jesuits, I thought I was educated enough about religion and philosophy. And so I had an opportunity to test the missionaries who were teaching my family with some philosophical questions in order to learn more about the Mormon religion. Desirous to learn more than what the elders were telling us, I went to the public library to borrow and read all the books I could find about the Mormon church, which accidentally included some anti-Mormon books. I had to read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover before I consented to be baptized in order to confirm what the missionaries were talking about. At the same time I was also reading the Holy Bible every day. I still read both books every day. I normally finish reading the Book of Mormon in August, and then continue to read the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price until the end of the year. And I have been reading the scriptures daily for the last forty years.

    I guess what I’m relating here is the process of conversion. I can say that I converted myself through self-education about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and with a sincere willingness to learn more about the Mormon church. While attending church every Sunday, never mind that children were crying during the Sacrament meeting. When my family started attending church, we also had our youngest son with us. But we allowed him to sleep during the entire sacrament meeting with his head on his mother’s lap and his feet on mine. We sort of got used to the noise.

    But I think, what entrenched me in the church was my attendance in all the three meetings, not only the Sacrament meeting, but the Sunday School during the second hour, and the Priesthood meeting during the third hour. One really has to attend all these meetings in order to understanding what’s going on. Now that I have been a member for the last forty years, I know much better what is involved in being fully converted to a church, particularly in the Mormon church, including the bread and wine during Sacrament meeting, in contrast to the host during mass in the Catholic Church; the talks of ordinary members, in contrast to the priest’s sermon; and the additional instructions during the two more hours of meetings, in contrast to the short or long mass.

    With a thorough orientation about the Mormon doctrines and a belief in what the church teaches through its literature and its leaders, one can really grasp the true meaning of what the Mormon church and its members believe in, and do, and why they do them. And so, all my three sons and two sons-in-law, a daughter-in-law, and so far my five grandsons, four grandsons-in-law, and my second wife (whom I married after my first wife passed away), are all returned missionaries. My two grandsons and a grand-daughter are still serving their missions in Brazil, Mexico and Idaho.

    I can count all these members of my family as some of my greatest blessings, in addition to all the other blessings I have received in my life as a Mormon, or Latter-day Saint. I have always believed in what is repeatedly said in the Book of Mormon, that if you obey the commandments of God, you will prosper in this land.

  42. As to the noisy children, you have a kindred spirit in no less than Brigham Young “Crying children are like good intentions – they should be carried out.”

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