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.

 

Update July 2014:  Hi guys.  This page gets a lot of views, thanks to being mentioned several times in LDS Living Magazine.  Most of the folks who see this particular page don’t look at the other pages.  I invite you to do this.  I have also visited other Christian, Buddhist, Baha’i, Muslim, Jewish, Scientologist, Saint Jermaine, and OTO places of worship, and you might find those interesting as well.  Check out the tag cloud on the upper right, and click on something that looks interesting to you.  Thanks!

 

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

  1. It’s been a year since you visited an LDS worship service, do you have plans to return? Now that you know a little more of what to expect, I’m curious about your opinion for a second visit.

    Thank you for your insights! As a Latter-day Saint woman, wife and mother, I’ve shared your words with my family. They whole-heartedly agree and will work to improve their reverence in the church as well as vie for chips and salsa!!

    Just so you know, members ages 12+ are asked ahead of time to address the congregation (in the culture of the church, we call this “asked to give a talk”). Most of us receive 1-2 week notice. As we study about the topic or gather our thoughts, we think of our audience and what message would Christ want them to hear. We then try to guide our quotes, scriptures, experiences, words to that end.

    Lest you think this is only for one meeting of the church, there are also volunteers who are asked to serve as Sunday school teachers or youth leaders and they, too, prepare lessons based upon an outline of church curriculum. All this occurs each week all around the world. Regular people with jobs, families, little league teams….set aside time each week to prepare a spiritual message for those in their congregations. Pretty amazing! As one who has done this for 32 years, I can tell you there is truth in the adage – the teacher learns more than the student. When in the role of teacher (and we all take turns), the time spent studying and pondering the message and students increases our desire to not only serve our church but also our community. This is the best mentoring program for getting outside of oneself that exists!

    I wish you well on your journey, and I hope your travels bring you back to a noisy but sincere LDS chapel soon.

  2. Sit in the first or second row … fewer squirmy kids between you and the speaker. Also, try attending the other two meetings too. The kids are sorted off into meetings of their own then. Take a peak into the Primary room and see a six year old give a talk during their opening exercises. My calling right now is teaching Sunday School to 10 year-olds. Most of them know way more about the Gospel than I do. Tami was right on when she said the teacher learns more than the student. We are taught to serve our communities. Our ward has had school board members, volunteer fire fighters and EMTs, ditch company officers, mayors, councilmen, and volunteers for community fundraisers. We are patriotic and consider the Founding Fathers of our great country were sent by God to establish a place of Freedom.

    We would love to hear more about your visits to churches and hope you will visit a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ward near you again. Hopefully wherever you visit you will be able to feel their love and see the Light of Christ in their countenance.

  3. I remember my first few times visiting the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints way back in 1982. I would listen to all the children making noise and felt the same way as you, Markwalt. Then I joined the church, was married in the Temple two years later. I had the most wonderful six children you could imagine…but, during Sacrament I would sometimes feel so embarrassed when my children made noise! Oh the memories…one time my youngest (who had been taught many things by his older brothers) was sitting next to me and suddenly got the biggest smile on his face and loudly proclaims “Mom, I farted a fatty!” I wanted to crawl unto the pew! Often during those years it seemed like I hardly ever got to listen to the speakers. My children grew, they have children of their own now. Now, when I’m sitting in Sacrament Meeting and the children start making noise….I smile, it warms my heart, we are so blessed to have these special little ones with us….yes, even during Sacrament. I agree with Judy, do try to visit the other two classes, there are no children, you can learn the Gospel of Jesus Christ and you can ask questions. I have been a member now for 32 years. I was 26 when I joined the church and I know that it is true. My life has been so blessed! Pray about it…he will answer. I Prayed to find his church in 1982 and he sent two of those “Young Elders” you spoke of right to my door! I knew nothing of the “Mormons” I’m so glad I invited them in!

    • I prayed about it for 24 years. I always had an uncomfortable feeling when I would pray to ask God if Mormonism is the truth, if the Book of Mormon is true, and whether Joseph Smith was a prophet. I always wondered why I never received an answer and always felt empty when I would pray. I desperately wanted to believe and would be in tears at times because I felt like I was missing something that everybody else at church seemed to get.

      However, the most powerful spiritual experience of my entire life was when I prayed after struggling to find a testimony over decades of following the “commandments” as perfectly as I could and serving a mission. I had always prayed to know if these things were true, but in my heart, would not have been ready to accept the answer of “No” from God. Doing so would cost me my family, my friends, my marriage, my home… everything. But at this point, I HAD TO KNOW if the Mormon thing was real.

      I really took Moroni’s Challenge and prayed to ask “if these things are NOT true.” (Moroni 10:4) and told Heavenly Father that I was willing to accept either answer. True or False.

      In doing so, I FINALLY received my answer. I submitted for resignation from the LDS Church 43 months ago. I can truly say that it was the absolute best decision of my life. My family of 8 also followed me out as well and my our relationships have never been stronger. We have never been happier. My life feels like it now has color. My relationships with other people are night-and-day different. I can understand human beings in a way that I could not while under the blinding influence of Mormonism.

      It is only now that I have started to realize just exactly how toxic the LDS church is to it’s followers. They claim to be happy and honestly, I believe they are. However, there are varying degrees of happiness and as a Mormon, you will not ever know full, real, true happiness/joy.

      Please email me if any of you need to talk…
      Johnpaxson31@gmail.com

      • I LOVE you comment here! But oddly, I LOVE it as an active member who received the opposite answer. What I am finally learning in my not so old age is that the question I should ask the Lord in all things is “Is it true and is it where I am supposed to be?” For truly the goodness of Christ is available to all and we can find it in many things. Best wishes!

      • I love Monique Duke’s response! As for John, I think that if that is how you have felt, then maybe the Church is not the right place for you to be now. However, if there ever is a day that you miss it or feel you should go back, there will always be a place for you here.

      • Hey Monique – thank you for the response. You seem like a genuine and well-meaning person. The thing is… people in the Mormon church are generally NOT genuine. They can be absolutely miserable while smiling wide and bearing it. They can be at church hugging Sister Jones, but later that day, be trashing Sister Jones on the telephone with Sister Phelps. Utah is flooded with depression for reasons too numerous to even list – all tying back to the Mormon church. The LDS church kills personality development and genuine living. My heart goes out to you and I wish you the best.

        But I mean, can you honestly tell me that you don’t doubt what you have been told by the LDS church about it’s history/foundation, corrupt leadership, etc.?

        Feel free to email if you’d like to keep the conversation private – most LDS people prefer to keep things under wraps when they first start figuring out the reality of this stuff… Johnpaxson31@gmail.com

      • I don’t need to talk, but am sorry you have those feelings. I know the church isn’t for everyone, but it has been the foundation of and for my life and I don’t know where I’d be without it. The knowledge of who I am in relation t0 God and the eternities is priceless to and for me. It also gives me hope for living in a world full of confusion and hate. I know someday, all will be well. When you have faith in the love and power of God, you can make it through anything. My prayers are with you and you family that whatever road(s) you travel you will find happiness and peace.

      • “it has been the foundation of and for my life and I don’t know where I’d be without it.”

        “…in a world full of confusion and hate.”

        These two sentences, my brothers and sisters, are the number 1 reason people choose to stay in a crumbling, lying organization (LDS Inc.).

        Fear.

        You don’t know where you would be without it? What? Like on Skid Row with a needle jammed in your arm, prostituting yourself for your next fix? No! Absolutely not.
        That is what they want you to think. You are still the same good person and still would have had the ability to create a good life.

        They want you to think the world is full of confusion and hate, but I have to tell you… that is just another Mormon fallacy.

      • Look at what it does for the people though. My experience with the church is that it helps people learn to think about people other than themselves and to be, in general, good people. Now, to clarify, I am not from Utah, I am from the south, so my experience was probably not the same as yours. Just as there are fake, two-faced people as well as honest-to-goodness, genuinely loving people in the world, there are members who aren’t nice and members who are. Your experience in the church is not necessarily the most comprehensive experience possible.

        But if it makes the majority of members good people, gives them strength through great trials, and makes them happy, is the church, or any church, really that bad?

      • I tried to comment lower about your observations of Utah mormons. I have to agree with you on that, except the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is not a Utah thing only. There are millions of members outside of Utah and outside the US. I think the whole smiling at someone and then trashing them later is more of a cultural thing. I remember when I first came to the US (Chicago), I thought everyone was sooo disingenuous. Conversations were superficial, expression of feelings were dry and all around it just felt so fake, both in and outside the church. And then I realized this is what american culture is generally like, and not necessarily traits exclusive to mormons. People are polite….well too polite if you ask me. I come from a more passionate culture and so my experience in the church started in this passionate, strong and honest way. I can’t say that I wasn’t disappointed when I came to the US and ESPECIALLY when I visited friends in Utah, but with time I realized, like I said, it is just what whiteville USA is like. Today, I have dear friends in the church that I know to be genuine and live colorful lives. You can’t expect everyone to be your best friend. What they do and how they choose to live their lives is their deal and my beliefs will never be affected by anyone’s superficiality or the opposite. Do you know what I’m trying to say?

        Also, about how we’re encouraged to ask if it’s true as opposed to NOT true…it’s an english language type thing. I think what’s toxic is ‘american ungrateful, entitled, we’re the best country in the world’ type views. I think being in the church for a long time, and then leaving the church and have new and exciting experiences automatically makes one think that the lack of raw and colorful human emotions must have been because of the church, when in reality it was because of the culture and your personal views of the world. You CAN be awake and be a mormon in the same time. I’ve tried it and it is possible.

      • Johnpaxon,
        I read your posts earlier today and they really bothered me, but not for the reasons you would think. As a member of the Church my first reaction was to let it go. We’re taught in the Articles of the Faith to let others worship how, where of what they may. If you want to leave the church, I would leave you to it and wish you well. But this stayed on my mind all day and I’d just like to make a few comments. I was raised outside of Utah in a world without the church, so I know both sides. This happy, magical world that you speak of is unknown to me. Without the church I did not know peace, thus real happiness. Later in life I moved to Utah and got the full Mormon experience. I found that like anywhere there are good people and bad people, there is no difference here. Are the members of the church perfect, absolutely not. No one is. For whatever reason you feel you were given the answer to leave. That is your answer, no one should debate it. BUT (and you knew there would be one), if you are so happy, why do you feel the need to spread such anger? Just because the church isn’t for you does that mean it’s wrong for everyone? I dislike football a lot. Yet when my son fell in love with it I supported him. I didn’t like the aggression it brought out in him, but I was at every game cheering his choice. I did not feel the need to jump on everyone who mentioned football. Live and let live. If you are so happy why do you spend your time in such negative pursuit? If you were truly happy you would walk away, put it behind you and be at peace. Let it go, stop stewing in it. JMO

      • Hey Johnpaxson…I love the fact that you had a desire to know. I’m glad you feel happy right now. However, I am wondering why no one taught you how to discern the promptings of the Spirit and how the Lord speaks to you directly. You first mentioned that you prayed for 2 years and had an uncomfortable feeling. Then you mentioned not receiving an answer. You served a great mission for the church and for that, it is commendable. I am not here to oppose. I am here to at least clarify two things.

        The first is that you should have received a testimony prior to serving a mission or else how could you serve others to the best of your ability? In the above article, the author spent time with a missionary. He may not be converted but he felt something different. He enjoyed his moment with a missionary. If you had served an honorable mission, then there should have been no doubts or questions in the first place because you had already prayed about it as a missionary.

        The second thing to clarify is that the Lord doesn’t keep giving answers after He already gave one. Praying for two years to me says clearly that Satan was beating you with a ton of doubts. So an uncomfortable feeling usually means Satan is present. No specific feelings except quietness indicate you are on the right path. There is no need for a burning in the bosom. Discerning for yourself true light and false light is a requirement to receiving the right revelations and answers. I would also add that even though you feel your relationships are better, it does not mean directly it’s a result of leaving the church and finding happiness. The best lesson I heard: Sometimes there are less trials or more happy moments for those outside of the church because Satan does not want those people to look to God. If you didn’t find happiness, you would be questioning your choice of leaving the church. Hardly anyone looks back with regret unless their hearts are reopened to the Spirit. Study…even just in the Bible…how the Lord answers prayers. Even study how Lucifer counters. You will find that angels of dark have always deceived by portraying light, not dark.

        I have been a temple endowed member for 9 years now. And the truest joy and happiness has been from keeping my covenants in baptism and the temple. Perhaps you forgot what the temple covenants can do for you and your loved ones. The Lord surely would have given the best answer to you in the temple! May the Lord bless your journey and in some way open your heart to true light.

        I thoroughly enjoyed the article. May the Lord continue to bless you, Mark, on your journey of enjoying the faith of others!

      • Johnpaxon31,

        I had a similar experience, but not quite the same outcome. I was born into a Catholic family, meaning I lived my entire adult life agnostic. My third wife was raised LDS, but was inactive until we had our first child. He turned out to be Autistic, and quite a handful in church. I started to attend Sunday services to help her with my son so that she could get more out of going to church. 5 years later, I was still sitting in the pew, but now there were 2 sons.

        In those 5 years, there was not a spiritual thought in my head. I had not the slightest desire to believe in God or join the Church. But….. I noticed that I started to become angry inside when my wife would attend the Temple. I couldn’t explain the source of the anger back then. Other than this one particular subject, we had a wonderful marriage and family. This anger got worse and worse. I even googled all the things that happen in the Temple (there’s plenty of video) and read many, many blogs by former members.

        I’m smart enough to realize when I need a little help, so for the sake of my marriage, I went to see her bishop a couple of times for guidance. Not spiritual guidance, but more for understanding of how the Temple fit into Mormon culture. Well, he didn’t tell me the things I wanted to hear. He told me what I eventually *needed* to hear… and that just made me angrier. I came to the realization that I was starting to think of myself as a bad Mormon, when in fact, I didn’t believe a word of it. I reaffirmed my disbelief in my mind and BANG! I had an overwhelming, wonderful, comfortable and tangible feeling of peace in my life. I was suddenly happier that I’ve ever been. Other people noticed it and it was fantastic.

        So here I was with this wonderful peace, but yet I still had a problem with my wife and the Temple. So back to the bishop. He suggested I read the book of Mormon, so I did. Took me two weeks to plow through it. What do you think you can get from the Book in two weeks? Yeah, not much. But…….
        I had the inspiration to pray for the first time in my adult life. I prayed for just what they ask you to pray for and just what you prayed for. I prayed to know if there was a God and if this Church is real. I tried it once, twice, three times. It was maybe the 4th time when I got my answer, and it certainly was not the still voice. I got a thunderous answer! Very, very, very clear, and only 1 word. And the answer was not to the question “if”. The answer was to the question “how?” The answer was about how I was going to come to God and the Church.

        I was shortly thereafter baptized and became an active member of the church. Repentance changed many things in my life that I had wanted to change for a long time, but never had the personal strength. I’m the textbook new convert, full of energy and ready to go.

        I’ve come to realize that the wonderful peace I felt was when the Adversary though he had a victory over me and backed off a little. My mind was clear of the things that had me in bondage and for the first time in my life, I was able to feel God’s love, although I didn’t know exactly what it was that I was feeling. My decision to get baptized was like picking up the hotline to Satan and telling him he needed to redouble his efforts on me. The wonderful peace was gone, but not for good. As I climb the ladder, I’m getting moments of that peace back, and I know that when I die, that peace will be mine but infinitly stronger.

        So keep trying. Realize that there is no such thing as “mormonism”. The Church and the Book have nothing evil in them. You may run into the perverted uncle here and there, but that will happen inside of every church, and probably even more so outside of every church. I’ll say a prayer for you today.

      • I know everyone else is just being nice, so I’ll just be the one to call johnpaxson out. With the words he is using to talk about our faith, there is no way that he spent 24 years in our faith working as hard as he claims to find the truth and not receiving it, unless he is completely empty inside. I can tell just by his writing that he is nothing more than an “antimormon” who is lying through his teeth about what he says he experienced through diligent and earnest prayer. I apologize for being the “bad cop” here, but it hurts my feelings to see brothers and sisters of my faith spend a lot of time trying to apologize to Mr. Paxson about his “experience” in our faith, and wishing him on his merry way. When in truth he doesn’t even want to hear it, he’s just looking for those “seeds that fell upon stony places” so that he can lead them away.

        Matthew 13:20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;
        21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

        May God bless all of you for your efforts, and may He forgive me for interrupting them.
        I Know we’re not supposed to judge without facts, but every post of his that I read just doesn’t make any sense.

      • good luck on your journey, Johnpaxson31. It takes a lot of courage to leave one’s tradition and all that that entails. I have had one foot on my way out of the church many many times, but I have invariably found that my life is much more “colorful”, deep, satisfying within the faith than without. Thus I have always returned and found that I’m happier within the fold of the Saints and receiving all the blessings that comes with that

        It’s interesting how varying the elements are that speak to different individuals and fill them up. Expecting the same belief system to be the answer for everyone is like expecting everyone’s favorite food to be spinach. The human race is much more complex and varied than that.

        While I am sad that you did not find what you were looking for among us, I wish you well in your journey.

    • Oh ya, one other thing…

      You want to be careful about asking “is this true?” And “is this where I am supposed to be?”

      This is a framing technique employed by the Mormon church to subject its members to confirmation bias through the bandwagon effect.

      Even within Mormon doctrine, Moroni exhorts us to ask God if these things are not true. This is called falsifiability. These are fundamental pieces of Mormon thinking that must be understand prior to stating that you “KNOW” any of this stuff is true.

      Stop being raped of your time, energy, emotions, money, and personality. It is not real (unfortunately).

      • It seems like a lot of what you are concerned about isn’t so much based on the actual doctrine. You blame your lack of belief because you served a mission and followed the commandments without a testimony, and didn’t end up getting one. You took matters in your hands and did something that would give you an answer: to leave the church.
        Maybe you don’t want it to be true? By spending your life praying for something that isn’t your priority, isn’t what you think makes sense, isn’t essentially the center of your life, it can be hard to receive an answer. yet it still hurt…
        Now that you have confirmation that life is better without the church, you have no reason to care for what i say. But to me it takes more faith to once teach principles of the church based on joy and humanity for two years, then fall in disbelief to every single teaching of the church. Maybe you don’t want to become a stereotypical Mormon. I sure don’t. Look past the society of the church, and into the facts. Maybe it’s time for another ponder or two. If you are willing to change, then I promise you will.

      • Well, actually, I believe it was the fact that I understood the doctrine so well that I was never able to gain a testimony. D&C is very clear about studying things out, then going to God in prayer. When I didn’t have a testimony at first, I’d study more. And more. And more. The more I learned, the less sense the DOCTRINE itself made. The more complex it became. Yet, Bruce McConkie teaches that Satan loves complexity…

        Whenever I hear somebody tell me they “know” the gospel is true. I just know that they haven’t ever actually studied it because they don’t actually care if it is true. True or false, they would stay because staying is convenient. It is the easy thing to do. How courageous is it to stay in a religion just because you were born into it and don’t want to upset your family?

        Not very.

      • Did you study other things other than the scriptures, like other peoples opinions in literature?

        Well their are people on the other spectrum; they have a desire to learn more about the gospel. All of the general authorities and scholars study and understand as much as you do, yet still found it made enough sense to still have a testimony.

        Staying is convenient? Hardly. Maybe for those who are so attached to their social status or have such a low self esteem they are depending on acceptance. From where i am from we are pressured so much by others to do things contrary to our beliefs, which is nearly the opposite of the Utah Mormon culture. I feel like this kind of pressure actually strengthens us, as we overcome diversity. Anybody without a real testimony would leave the church from the social pressure.

        So why does the church have millions of members? Because they have testimonies. And testimonies are gained by understanding the gospel, praying, and a willingness to change. Whether or not they have read D&C cover to cover, let alone the BoM, is not dependent on having a testimony. Maybe you don’t give enough credit to other members of the church?

      • John,
        Your experience is your own, but it doesn’t mean it can be generalized to all folk. I dislike TX. There were good things about it, but the state is not a place I see myself ever living in again. Obviously there’s a bunch of Texans who’d disagree with me.

        To assume that your experience is what is generally happening for all Mormons is incorrect. I’ve studied my faith avidly for years. I love my religion because there’s always more to learn….and I don’t find it complex rather penetrating and a pattern….like the pound of a heartbeat to a body. There are things I hold no doubt about on, there are things i don’t fully know but am growing and believe in. Either way I feel steady and calm and perpetually curious. I served a mission and try to follow the commandments not because of some propensity for fear. It has everything to do with faith. And my faith has done nothing but to make me a better person and clean out the things that really held me back from just being me. I owe a lot of who I am today to God and this church. Both in very concrete measures and in an assurance and genuine care from many, but especially God.

        The other day I had someone come to the door to talk to me about similar things that you bring up. I answered their questions honestly with my faith and at the end the man stated that I didn’t sound very mormon. But I was…born and raised and believing. I wish I could have told him to not think of me as an exception. I find myself surrounded by people whose heart are genuine, loving, and good. Who faith is in their Savior. And who love this church. It’s ok for that to exist along with your own journey out of this church. Not all of us have to love “Texas.”

      • the use of ‘not true’ in this case has a meaning of asking if it is the truth. The English here is misleading to a lot of people. The meaning here is ‘it is true is it not?’ or ‘it is true, right?’. It is my testimony that Lucifer is rejoicing that you misread the scripture and that you asked for confirmation of a negative. The many things God requires of those who follow Him can make the negative more acceptable and a lot of people receive a feeling of truth in the negative because Lucifer uses his influence to fool you. I testify that what you have been saying here is not in line with the truth that is God’s Church but in line with what society wants.

      • John, I think the real you is coming out as you continue to post. Have you considered that the LDS church is full of people who came from other faiths and non-faiths? I don’t hear any of them speak of their former religions like you speak of yours. They’ve moved on. With all due respect, you are not at peace and it shows.

  4. You went to church on a good day! These topics you touched on are often preached in LDS Sacrament meetings, but on the flip-side, there is often too much emphases on Joseph Smith and other modern-day prophets, and on LDS Church history – of which many parts are either hidden or whitewashed to give better light to unsuspecting visitors – and with teachings that sway away from the Bible.

    Saying that. back to your assessment of your visit to a Mormon meeting was accurate. Speakers from the congregation are invited (1-2 weeks notice), and the local leaders (Stake President and related counselors, Bishop and his counselors, teachers and etc.) are not paid but are volunteers.

    That is commendable. But be aware of what the core doctrine is.

    –That Middle-Aged Ex-Mormon Guy

    • That is ridiculous and I am sorry you had that experience. That particular topic is not one that is usually discussed, at least for me. I have also had interviews twice a year, 6 years. That is not standard procedure… mostly the bishop asks if you have been keeping the commandments, do you need help with anything, do you feel you have a (strong) testimony. Mostly just see how you’re doing.

      • I confessed to my Bishop, who is actually my uncle, for masturbation when I was 15 years old (traumatizing? Yes.).

        Anyway, to assist with my “repentance process” he had to know details. He asked specific details such as if i had an orgasm. What thoughts I had during the time (specifically). Whether I enjoyed the experience or not.

        Does a “judge in Israel” REALLY need to know those things?

        In further research, today I confirm with absolute certainty, that the old men in Mormon leadership, also ask the young GIRLS as young as 12 years old about their experiences with masturbation.

        THIS is truth. The truth in the case of Mormonism… hurts. It hurts bad.

    • I beg to differ. I find that there is the right amount of “emphasis” on Joseph Smith and other prophets and church history. Most of the Sundays in the various wards that I have been a member of and attended throughout the world find most of the talks about a wide variety of subjects. As you say be aware of what the core doctrine is: Jesus is the Christ. And the teachings are in total harmony with the Bible. It is unfortunate that you have the perspective that you do.

      –That Middle-Aged Total Mormon Guy

      • Just had to comment that I loved your signature block. Response was great too as I’ve been a member of many, many wards after moving 15 times in 19 years of marriage (12 times in the military alone) and the talks are varied, interesting and often inspiring. You get some that can be a little over-passionate about “church history” or “Joseph Smith”, but if the message is from the heart with an honest expression of a solid testimony–that’s just fine too. 🙂

  5. I love that you’re doing this!!! I did it myself as I was younger… I actually attend this building in one of the other wards. “Elliott bay ward”. You’ll find less kids at that one. It’s the “mid-single adults” ward. Mostly early 30’s and up working professionals. Some newly weds and older couples but it essentially comprises the people living downtown.

  6. How would you re-score them if I told you the bishop and his counselors repeatedly ask youth as young as 12 yrs old if they are masturbating? This happens behind closed doors with no other adult present. It happened to me for 6 straight years, at least twice a year.

    • That is ridiculous and I am sorry you had that experience. That particular topic is not one that is usually discussed, at least for me. I have also had interviews twice a year, 6 years. That is not standard procedure… mostly the bishop asks if you have been keeping the commandments, do you need help with anything, do you feel you have a (strong) testimony. Mostly just see how you’re doing.

      • I confessed to my Bishop, who is actually my uncle, for masturbation when I was 15 years old (traumatizing? Yes.).

        Anyway, to assist with my “repentance process” he had to know details. He asked specific details such as if i had an orgasm. What thoughts I had during the time (specifically). Whether I enjoyed the experience or not.

        Does a “judge in Israel” REALLY need to know those things?

        In further research, today I confirm with absolute certainty, that the old men in Mormon leadership, also ask the young GIRLS as young as 12 years old about their experiences with masturbation.

        THIS is truth. The truth in the case of Mormonism… hurts. It hurts bad.

      • I have been a member all my life and wouldnt change anything about my religion, I love it. As far as the masturbation questions, I was never asked anything about that. Did those of you who say they were asked about it everytime you had an interview, have you really thought about the fact that you told your bishop you had been doing this because you felt bad and wanted to repent, so knowing that you had this problem, maybe they asked you about it in other interviews to see if you were still having a problem with it or if you had been able to overcome it and its not an issue with you anymore. It is not a standard question they ask. If you went in and said you had a problem with gambling, they would ask you again how you are doing with it to see if you need some kind of support or help in overcoming it. You cant make non members think this kind of stuff is standard, because it isnt. The leaders of the church pray about the members needs and are prompted by heavenly father in the needs of everybody and how to help them.

    • The questions that bishops and counsellors (and other Church leaders) are asking are not explicit and do not encourage, nor require anyone to give details. In fact, no Church directive instruct leaders to do so (read it up! It’s all online : https://www.lds.org/manual/handbook?lang=eng).

      That being said, I did hear stories like this; some were from leaders that thought doing the right thing, some more questionable. But regardless of what and why, these men were still called by inspiration, and unfortunately made bad decisions, however their motive. Usually, these leaders are released from their callings when words of such behaviour are known from the Stake presidency or up to the General Authorities.

      • Took the words out of my mouth. You can’t label the “Church” as either condoning or practicing this kind of conduct when it specifically states it does not. Can’t blame the church as a whole for the mistakes of a few. The doctrine comes from Christ and is a perfect doctrine. Mistakes or perceived “leaks or loopholes” in the doctrine are the mistakes of man.

    • I’ve been an active member, (minus the 6 years in my youth in which I left to figure out what I really believed) for my whole life. I have never once been asked any questions relating to that side of my personal life. Not by even one of the 20-30 Bishops and Branch Presidents and Stake and District Presidents I’ve interviewed with. (we were in the Military and moved around at least once every 3 years for a very long time)

      There are pervs everywhere, and I’m sorry that you were unfortunate enough to fall prey to one. But to say that because you were abused by one, that all Mormon leadership is the same is a bit naive. That’s like saying that all soccer coaches are pedophiles because you heard of a coach who was convicted for it. Or that all people are two faced backstabbers, because your roommate is a two faced backstabber. There are good and bad people everywhere you go. You will find both kinds in all walks of life, but to generalize like that is to say that there is no good because bad exists.

  7. Honestly, I have issues with The Church (as an institution) but I love the church as a body of people. Joseph Smith Jr., the founder and Prophet of the church, once said, “I see no faults in the church, and therefore let me be resurrected with the Saints, whether I ascend to heaven or descend to hell, or go to any other place. And if we go to hell, we will turn the devils out of doors and make a heaven of it.” I agree with him. I love the people. I love my interactions and experiences each sunday, despite my issues with the institution.

    Give it another shot. If, per chance, you decide to convert, make sure that you don’t convert to the church — convert to the Gospel; the doctrines.

  8. Very interesting take on my former religion. You may know by now, but any president you met would have been either stake president or elders’ quorum president, etc. There is no president of a ward; the ward bishop is the top leader of the congregation.

    It’s always instructive to hear a different perspective. I’m an ex-Mo but grew up with it so it was almost nostalgic to read about your visit.

      • Thank you for your post, I’m glad that a year later it is still making the rounds on facebook among my friends. As for the noisy kids, we love them. If you come back at 11am, my two kiddos will be some of the beautiful children you hear 🙂 The three wards that meet in this particular building have a lot of young families, since their are a lot of graduate students attending the University of Washington in the area. Many of us do take our kids into the hallways when they get very loud. But, you can’t remove them from the congregation for every squeak, we have so many young children in our ward that half the congregation would be in the hallway if we did that, haha. You are welcome back any time Mark, we love having visitors. My grandfather is a convert to the church and one of the things that he grew to love was the children in the congregation. The children being right there with their parents emphasized to him how important the family unit is to our Heavenly Father. So, the noisy kids are +100 in my book.

  9. Thank you for posting this and good luck to you on church investigations. I’ve seen this article going around on fb, and finally took the time to read it.

    I agree with you. Yes, the children can be quite bad. Looking back, when I was a child I was likely one of the worst. I think it’s important for them to be there though –it teaches them the important lesson of being still and reverent (in all honesty some learn faster than others, and everyone else gets to learn patience), and having the entire family sitting and learning about the gospel together enforces family unity, a big focus of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (And they do separate in the other meetings :))

    And occasionally I do wish we used more exciting things for sacrament. I can appreciate your humor. I’ve heard of Nilla wafers taken from nursery being used when the bread was forgotten. I’ve heard of orange juice and crackers, on a camping expedition. But one thing, on fast Sunday the Wonderbread and tap water are just about some of the best tasting little morsels on earth 🙂 ( for those who don’t know Mormon lingo, fast Sunday we abstain from two meals of the day, and donate the money we would have spent on those meals).

    • As a former Atheist who got roped in based on a dare to “prove those Mormons wrong”, I’d like to weigh in here. I joined the Church in 2000 and it was *the* best decision of my life. 🙂

      But in response to the noisy children topic, among others…

      I recall a couple years ago there was a letter read over the pulpit straight from the First Presidency (for those that don’t know their titles, the Prophet presides over the Church, and he has a first and second counselor who aide him in his duties) that requested parents to please keep their children in sacrament meeting because they are just as important in the eyes of the Lord as the adults. So they should be able to stay in the meeting and parents shouldn’t feel compelled to take them out of the chapel.

      That being said, we have 3 children and one of them, in particular, likes to carry on normal conversations at normal outside voice level during sacrament. Most days we can quiet him down, but there are some days where my husband will take him out to the foyer and listen from there. What I really love and appreciate is that there is never a shortage of people willing to help. Youth will sit with children to color or draw with them and help them refocus, ward grandmas will invite children to sit with them and then lovingly teach them reverence (something most children never listen to coming from Mommy and Daddy, but gladly accept from a grandma figure!) 🙂

      I serve in my ward’s Primary presidency and I absolutely love it! As it was mentioned before, the teacher learns far more from the children. Kids just have a way of bringing a fresh perspective to the topic at-hand. And they definitely keep us busy and on our toes!

      As for the talks that were given during your particular visit, they are just a few of the types of things you’ll hear about each week. But they’re always Christ-centered, community-centered, and about just being your best self, the person you were created to be in Heavenly Father’s image.

      Thank you for taking the step to visit our Church and gaining insight as to what we’re all about. There will always be negativity, bashing, trashing and hatred towards our Church, but it’s always best to form your own opinion based on your own experience. After all, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I had stuck to my stubborn preconceived notions all those years ago.

  10. I just saw this post as well, and as a Mormon am very pleased with it and glad you took away such a positive experience. You really ought to consider going to the following 2 hours though– I know it seems like a lot of time (3 hours at church!), but if you want a real taste for the church those 3 hours are all an important part of our weekly worship!

    And thanks for sharing your experiences on this blog- I’m adding you to my feedly list 😉

    • haha I just browsed through some older comments… all the other Mormons have already you to go to the other 2 meetings. I think that’s hilarious. And probably a good thing that we seem to love it so much lol

  11. I am an active Latter-day Saint and I must say, I cracked up at your “Honorary Points!” That was hilarious. You have a good sense of humor. I like that. Great article, too.

  12. Once we had donuts as college students for the sacrament. Just saying… 🙂

    I bet my 9 busy children in the pews would appreciate it if we did it again.

    What a fun read. Thanks for looking at us with an open mind.

  13. Thanks for the interesting thoughts. I think noisy kids qualify as white noise for most Mormons. You just sort of tune it out after awhile. I agree with others who said you should have stayed for the other two meetings. Yes, that makes for a longer church service but, you sort of get more of a mindset about what other things are taught besides in the main meeting.

  14. Make sure to tell all these LDS members that you still don’t plan to join their organization.

    Watch how their comments will change/disappear. It will be entertaining.

    They are here for now, putting the full-court-press on to try to get another one for their numbers, since, we all know their numbers are looking prettty bad these days.

    The members of the LDS church are “leaving in droves” according to general authority Marlin Jensen.

    …as they should.

      • I just wanted to clarify one of the points from the link you provided; while the Church has invited members to participate against that bill, it did so to encourage members into voting and being politically active. (BTW: this may count as one of the points on this blog) Which is part of the doctrine. However, not at any time did the officials asked the members to go out and protest the way the media portrayed it; the Church merely asked the members to vote according to their beliefs, according to “The Family : A Proclamation to the World” (https://www.lds.org/topics/family-proclamation)

        Also, the LDS church is not alone against it. So, I don’t see why the big deal about it. (http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/catholic-bishop-decries-religious-bigotry-against-mormons , http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-issues-statement-on-proposition-8-protest , etc.)

        As for members leaving, and all, this is a common problem across all denominations, especially in the industrialized world. (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMwKxmTLaCs)

        On a personal note, while I think you are genuinely trying to help people, I believe that you are biased about it. Especially when you are saying things like “me and others giving negative opinions (the truth) about the LDS Church”; note the parenthesis you added? This is only an example, however I see this recurring pattern; where you tend to take some bad sample stories and generalize them throughout, making in a absolute, instead of stating that this is your opinion on the matter. That being said, you have been respectful nevertheless.

      • Hi Yanick,

        I make it a point to only grade on things that actually happen in the church in which I attend. So, rather than give points or take points away based on the LDS Church’s apparent political stance on something, I give or take away based on what I observe the person actually saying.

        That’s kind of the whole point of my blog 🙂

      • Hi Mark, I was mostly referring to the point “Be good to yourself”, specifically the “messages of personal empowerment” part of it. And I was not suggesting to review the score, but that being politically active fits (IMO) in that category. It is, however, hard to see as the Church does not encourage mingling religion with politics 🙂

    • I’m glad he came to check us out. I think he will most likely check another church out next week. It is clear in his post that he doesn’t plan to join. Was someone that is LDS mean to you? Why are your panites in such a twist?

      • It’s true, I’m going to another church this Sunday. I have gotten so many requests to go back to the LDS church, that I feel like I have to do that as well, but I’m not sure when that will be.

    • It’s interesting to note that this is happening more or less, in almost all churches. At least here in the US and in Europe it is.

      And my home town of Seattle is probably a bit ahead of the curve in that respect compared to, say, Mobile Alabama.

      And that’s been pretty evident to me as I’ve gone around to different churches. An awful lot of them are dying.

      • I think this is a great activity!!! I did it myself over 40 years ago. I ended up joining the LDS church, but no need for you to rush out and join anything. I still do it. There is so much wonder and inspiration in many religions. I have friends that belong to earth-based religions. You need to make sure to add those to your list.

    • oh yeah…it’s all about the numbers johnpaxton31. As a practicing mormon, that’s really all I care about. When I read this blog post I immediately thought that any person with a brain will want to join ‘our’ organization because of our awesome encouraging comments. That is what I hope and pray that my comments will do…convert the author and add to the numbers that, as you mentioned, is the main reason why mormons are commenting here.

      I do hope that your have sensed my sarcasm, but then again…maybe not….because you have not expressed one single objective, unbiased thought…so why would I expect anything more than that?

    • John

      You know that’s not true….I have found people in general share that which they love…..I am curios what you love? and for those that wrote: I left the church for a more colorful life. Please share all the colorful things you are doing? whether you are a member or not nobody is perfect…..but why should I follow you?

      Hope you are happy and sound….and I mean that. 🙂

    • Surprises me John how you could claim “never been happier” when your comments are extraordinarily biased and negative. Truly happy people don’t spend their time in negativity.
      “Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy”. Your comments don’t harmonize with the definition of Happy.

  15. I feel sorry for you, John Paxson. I feel sorry that you would put some people down for what they believe in just because you couldn’t live it! I’m sad you had a bad experience, but most everyone does in life. I feel sorry that you feel the necessity to diss these people. Why would you say such rude things about the people who helped you become who you are? I would never speak ill of the Catholic, Lutheran, Mormon, Baptist churches, an Atheist or whatever someone else believes. I have friends in all. You totally missed his point. You seem very unkind, which is what his article was mostly about, about being kinder to our fellow human beings. You don’t seem happy at all, you seem bitter. That’s sad!

    • Bravo! My thoughts exactly. Though I do recognize a bit of my own behaviors in his actions… Because of the regrettable things I have done in my life, I often am very vocal about others avoiding such things to avoid what I had gone through.

      The interesting thing about religion though is that the experience is dependent on the individual, not on the institution. Bad experiences I have had in the church, even ones that ex-members have had, have not driven me away, because I will not allow flawed human beings to influence me.

      • Amen to that, Monique. One thing that is definite is that you should not leave this or any religion based upon an experience you had with the members within it. What counts is the doctrine and the foundation.
        I keep seeing people apologetically state that “the members aren’t perfect,” even though Mark never even said that he had a bad experience with them… I mean, the LDS people I know are very nice people who really try to do what they think is best. I have also found that they are not an offensive group of people, but a polite and respectful one.

    • Loney – I’m sorry you feel this way…

      However, I don’t feel that I have “dissed” anybody (like you have to me – judging me, calling me bitter, and saying that I “couldn’t live it”). All of which, you are wrong about. Go figure… It is your leaders who tell you that people leave because they “couldn’t live it.” I lived it to the T for decades, as I have already mentioned.

      Anyway, I haven’t “dissed” anybody or said anything rude to them. In fact, I have put myself out there with contact information for people to reach out to me if they have questions and are struggling through life as Mormons.

      Every day, LDS members and exmembers speak with me regarding all of this. Do they do this because I am mean to them? Umm, no.

      I apologize if I said something that offends you, but usually those who get so offended by this stuff are the ones who are struggling most. Unfortunately, the truth does not yield to Mormonism. It just is what it is.

      Feel free to email – Johnpaxson31@gmail.com

      • I have never ever heard the church saying that people leave the church because they can’t live it. You have a tendency to generalize, but of course…because your email address is public and people contact you, then you must be amazing and your rich and real life experience is so compelling and worth listening to.

    • I get what you’re saying and even though I may agree. it sounds a bit condescending. Wouldn’t it seem rude to you if someone said they felt sorry for you?! Maybe I’m getting this all wrong, especially since English is not my native language.

  16. Thank you for that review of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints! You are genuine in your search and I think the world needs that too; people who actually research instead of just read and believe whatever people say.

    As for the extra points, you should attend the General Conferences of the Church; that will surely score more points! Because, you are right, most speakers are not trained orators and, thus, this is why members are asked to speak publicly; to have more experiences in sharing their beliefs and personal experiences (which may also help others, too). It’s a win-win situation. However, in General Conferences, these are given by selected speakers that are a tidy more experienced. Usually, members that speak on Sundays use these talks as references to their own.

    Check out here : https://www.lds.org/general-conference?lang=eng

    Nice article!

  17. I remember when I first went to an LDS service. I was investigating at the time and when the missionaries asked me how I liked the service, the sound of the children was my main complaint. I think it becomes background noise after a while.
    I remember many services where I would have to take one of my children out and was I embarrassed.
    One I remember most was having a 6 year old, 4 year old, and infant with me. The infant was getting squirmy, so I decided it was time to go. I quietly motioned to the 6 year old we were leaving, “What about her?” he asked of the 4 year old. The 4 year old had fallen asleep. I woke her up and the infant lightly hit his head on the pew. There was those few seconds of silence as I hoped we could get out and the SCREAM that stopped the service.
    One of the other ladies was sweet enough to help me. As we left, I overheard, the speaker (who was President of the Stake) taking a sidetrack in his talk, “I came from a church that didn’t allow children in the chapel, so when I first came I wasn’t used to it. Now, I have grown to love it.”

  18. I think what you are doing is great. The world would likely be a much better place if more people were willing to go out of their way to understand people of different walks of life. Keep it up!

  19. You are a really cool person. I really like that you decided to actually GO to these churches and talk to actual MEMBERS. Instead of lazily reading about it on the internet with the sole intent of confirming your bias like so many other people do. Your article had me laughing. Kudos to you, well done.

  20. I am a member of this church and I am totally with you on the children thing. Mine are all adults now, but if they made ANY noise they were taken out of the congregation. That seems to be a lost art.

    I loved hearing an honest critique of our meetings. Speakers are assigned by a member of the bishopric. My husband has that responsibility. He also assigns the subjects they will be speaking on. On a different Sunday you would have gotten a different message.

    Loved the column. Thanks!

  21. Wow. Thank you so much! It’s really admirable how open-minded and accepting of other religions you are. I like that you judge each church on the same criteria, and don’t let your preconceived notions get in the way. I think this is really neat what you’re doing. Thank you for all the time you spend. Keep it up!

  22. “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.”

    LOL! My favorite line of your review! As an LDS man, thank you for your honest review and insight. I must admit, I like your approach of visiting every religion and seeing what they are about, and I’m curious to see what else is on your list for “points”? And how did you come up with these points?

    Come back and see us some time. 🙂

  23. Thank you for this article! I love hearing different points of views from people who are not Mormon. I admire your project and purpose behind it. I would advise that if you ever desire to visit an LDS church again that you attend a Singles Ward in your area! Singles Wards are for members who are not married and are from ages 18-30ish (Young Single Adult) and for ages 30ish-above (Single Adult) since everyone is single (and more than likely don’t have kids), there are few to no small children, and as a Young Single Adult myself, I do see a difference in attending meetings with kids as opposed to attending meetings without kids. I think you’ll find it much more focused and quiet for your purposes. I hope you decide to visit us again some day! 🙂

  24. Great article MarkWalt. I very much enjoyed it. You should go again and see if the score will improve. Some Sundays are better spiritually, socially and the like. The topics assigned to speakers can change and improve dramatically. Some wards/parents are better than others about taking out loud children. I assure you that many members have had your same thoughts. I remember wrestling my 4 (& often sitting in the lobby during sacrament), but now I feel bad for the parents of small children & babies. My youngest is a pre teen. One thing you should definitely check out is the first Sunday- fast and testimony meeting. It can be very spiritual and entertaining as well. Random members from young children to senior citizens come up according to the spirit felt to bear their testimony- or express their belief and recent experiences in the gospel. I would also encourage you to check out a temple open house when you can. This is where we really get down to business with our faith. They are quite stunning to the eye and touch your soul like no other place. Sidenote- I’m also a fan of the overcast weather of Washington and lived in Olympia for two years. I remember loving the ward we were in there (I was in the 3rd & 4th grade). We lived there when my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. I miss the rain, the green, the seasons and the way the mist used to rise up off the houses after the rain. We live in AZ now. I am quite blessed to belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and even served a mission in England back in the 90s. God Bless you in your quest and in life.

  25. What I appreciate most about your assessment of our church is about how we need to talk more about being good to ourselves. I, myself, have mentioned that a couple times, because the second greatest commandment, according to Jesus Christ, is to love our neighbor AS yourself. Not more than yourself, but AS yourself. If you can’t love yourself, you certainly are not going to be able to love others.

  26. Great article! I laughed out loud quite a few places because of it ringing true. I grew up Mormon and still attend Church fairly regularly. I’m glad that the local Church gave a common account of how most LDS Church meetings go.

  27. I’ve been an LDS member for over 15 years and I knew something was very different, very spiritual and lovely the first time I entered an LDS meetinghouse. I took to it like a fish to water. I’d been searching my whole adult life for something that would give me the answers I so desperately needed, like, why am I here and what is my purpose. I quickly learned the answers to these questions. I’m here to serve my brothers and sisters in the world and that includes my family and friends as well as church members and the entire community when possible and my purpose is to return home to Heavenly Father by enduring this probationary life to the end and by following the commandments Jesus gave us. I have found great personal peace and contentment as a member of the LDS church and that we all take care of each other. Yes, there are some that don’t get it and are only there for what they get as a member, like welfare services or to look holier than thou to other members. That happens everywhere. But I also must agree with you on the screaming kids thing, it is the only thing that makes going to meetings every week excruciating and I struggle with it continuously. I want so much to be kind, compassionate and forgiving, but I find it impossible to do with a crying infant in the seat behind you. I don’t understand why mothers and fathers don’t get up and go out to the foyer or to the Mothers’ Room (especially for this purpose). I’ve found spending Saturday in the Temple so peaceful and fulfilling that going to meeting on Sunday is easier to skip. I appreciate your point of view and thank you for sharing it. I figure if it is incorrect, it can’t hurt, if it makes me an overall better person. I know my faith in God is true for me and it is so much better than living the life of sin and guilt that I lived prior to joining the Church. Best to you, LLG.

  28. Excuse my English as I’m not a native EN speaker.

    I think people in the US takes things for granted, specially people who was born in the Church and have had everything perfect, perfect family, perfect parents, and have had a lot of fun childhood. The US isn’t a good example of what the rest of the world is and specially Utah. And the Church I’d not just for Utah or the USA.

    Sometimes I think that people who do not gain a testimony are the ones who expect something extraordinary. .. and I’m not talking about seeing an angel. A testimony can be something quite simple as the gratitude in your heart, the love for the Savior, the need and desire to help others just because you love the Lord..

    The Church help us progress, make us better, not necessarily better than other , people, but better than you were before.

    I have been to many Churches.. I was born a Catholic and visited many church, even visited candonble.. but I never felt the warm in my heart as I experience in the Mormon church. I agree that is much easier not to go the church, cheaper too (as you are not prompted to donate money) specially of you are looking for something extraordinary that won’t come, and if you have read the scriptures, but not really listed to what they say to you.

    I guess, that’s ok if you don’t understand ever little thing, at leas for me.. I just want my heart to smile and to feel the love of my Savior and to do what I am able to serve other people. .. and in these things I’m happy and have peace. That’s all I need, and only the LDS church had given me that. I’m not trying to change anyone’s opinion, but I have to say that I have many non LDS friends and their life’s and kids life’s are very complicated and sad and they could benefit if the had some of the restrictions we have in the LDS church.

  29. Screaming kids are very distracting. Try a college ward next time (Young Single Adults Ward) and you’ll get a similar experience sans screaming children. Also, the sacrament meeting is only 1/3 of the Sunday experience. Consider Sunday school and priesthood if you visit again.

  30. I am not a well versed woman. In fact, when it comes to remembering stories, my memory slides to empty, and I depend upon others to fill in the blanks I have left ( thats being said about EVERY aspect of my life, not just religious stories). There have been many times I have questioned The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I even left it when I was a youngen, thinking I would be happier doing the things, others said, would make me feel alive.
    Now that I am older (and I’m still quite young), I see others making comments about the histories of the church, how the church leads you to the wrong path, etc.. As I stated before, my recollection of facts, History, even memories of instances as a child are near impossible to bring to the forth-front of my brain. There is one thing that can not be denied by anything though.
    I know this church is true from every inch of my being. My heart feels like it could burst into song every time I am touched by the spirit and a calm comes over me. This world and the trouble that surrounds me consumes me at times, and I wonder why I am living it and what my purpose is. Then as I kneel and ask for strength, the burdens are not taken away, but it seems my strength grows, and my burdens are much lighter.
    I have been to many other churches, and also for a time, been to none. I have done things others said would make me happy, just to be left in the morning with an empty hole, and no way to fill it. I can not deny what my heart feels as I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ. I can not deny the peace it brings to my life. I am a member because I read the Book of mormon, lived its teachings, and through struggles, stayed beside it’s light. You can argue about fact and history all day, but you can not argue true feelings, because they are so personal; And for that, I am grateful.
    Thank you for this post. I love to see you going to other churches, and telling about your experience. The more you explore, the more peace you will feel when you settle for what you believe. I hope you find what you are looking for :).

  31. I found your blog through a facebook post. I’ve read several of your blog posts, they were interesting. I am LDS, so I feel it’d be most appropriate for me to comment here. I have this nagging feeling about your project.

    The sermon topics you judge can be a gamble. To be LDS specific, since that’s what I understand most, you might have come in when people were asked to speak of the law of tithing (commanded voluntary money donations, but made in confidence, we don’t use collection plates) the church might have gotten a worse score than your Mars Hill review. The topic might have been, we are children of God, and gotten a higher score on be good to yourself. The speakers might also have been asked to talk about eternal families (being a family after death), or the word of wisdom (coffee alcohol, tea, and street drugs are against God’s word), and I cannot guess how we would have scored. Or you might have entered a ‘fast and testimony meeting,’ held once a month, when any member can walk up and give a short speech of their own. It’s supposed to be a chance to share why you believe with others for everyone’s edification, but sometimes a member or two may get off topic or even start preaching things from their own opinions that are not representative of the church’s doctrine or intent.

    What I’m trying to say is, people don’t speak on the same things every week, and I think that that can lead to church sermons being graded in ways that aren’t really representative of what the church may speak about, say, throughout the year.

    Again, most of my church going experience has been LDS, so maybe this nagging feeling shouldn’t signify quite so much with some other churches if they stick to a few particular topics or if their video was the same they broadcast every week, but I’d assume that most churches have variety in their sermons as well.

    And, despite the aforementioned qualm about the sermon grades, I still think that your adventure is both worth taking and worth reading about. I’ve visited some other churches myself from time to time. It’s always been a great learning experience, usually a positive one. I’ll probably read some more of your blog entries tonight. Thank you for making and maintaining them.

  32. Hey y’all this blog doesn’t seem like a place to discuss the truth of the LDS church, or to discuss doctrine. It is to show that dogma aside, all churches have teachings that if put into practice will make this world a happier place. I for one am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I know that this church is true. But I am shocked how any time the church is brought up, people begin to argue, members and non-members alike. It doesn’t matter what you believe, trying to bring each other down because of difference in beliefs is pathetic, immature and just plain wrong.

    To members, If someone is attacking the church, or our beliefs getting defensive does not help the situation. It only adds fuel to the fire of hate.

    To non-members, so what if you disagree, with our practices. Covering up your snide and rude comments with an air of ” I am praying for you/I just want to save you” really just shows your insincerity and immaturity. You might say ” So missionaries can try convert us but we can’t do the same.” But I know for a fact LDS missionaries never go around tearing other faiths down. We seek to add to what you already have.

    In other words: Grow up and learn to respect others.

    • I’ve seen no arguing among members here or trying to bring others down. The only negative comments are coming from johnpaxson, who’s left the church, and a few others like him. Members here are discussing the LDS church/doctrine because that’s the church Mark, the author, attended & he seems fine with LDS members’ comments about those things…if he felt otherwise, he’d say so.

      You talk about respecting others but in your last paragraph you take non-members to task yourself labeling them snide and rude…seems a bit hypocritical.

      • Indeed, I’ve don’t mind if folks feel a need to debate or discuss ritual, church policy, and dogma, but I generally stay out of it myself. As a non-believer, I don’t have a horse in that race.

  33. I find it quite saddening that so many of the comments on here are from an unfairly biased perspective. It’s even more sad that people have to go as far as not letting people believe what they believe in peace. No one – NO ONE – has the right to say, in any way shape or form “You are wrong”. The LDS church is for everyone, even if everyone doesn’t want to be a part of it. Any truly Christian (or any truly religious) person would NEVER make politics out of religion by bashing others in an effort to make their own spineless insecurities go away.

  34. “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.”

    This had me laughing out loud so hard!

    I’d correct you on the doctrine, but I suspect with several hundred comments someone already has.
    So instead I will offer this advice: The LDS church also has Single Adult wards, and they have no screaming children at those meetings.

  35. Oh Mark!

    What a fascinating article and blog! I have grown up and spent my life in Los Angeles and the religious diversity is one thing I appreciate the most! Our family always enjoys celebrating Passover, Yom Kippur, Ash Wednesday, etc. with my neighbors and people in our community. I love that you are willing to open your mind for the pure intent to learn about the faith of others, not necessarily convert or to criticize. One of my all time favorite classes at BYU was a World Religion class where we extensively studied various religions and faiths and attended the related services. Our professor grew up Cathollic and attended school at the Vatican. I will never forget the love he had for the people who hold their own varying beliefs and cherish them accordingly. He taught us the best way to love is to study the beliefs of others from a point of understanding and finding similarities as opposed to often hastily judging or making assumptions based on various aspects.

    I appreciate and respect all those who believe in something, even if that something is believing in nothing. While I may not agree with the certain practices or beliefs of people, if it makes them a better person then all the better. If more people could do as you are doing in being open to learn about what others know, surely the world would be a much friendlier, loving, happy place to be. There is room for everyone here and all of their beliefs even if one does not particularly agree with them. Thanks for your contribution to a better society based on understanding the fundamentals and the search for truth in whatever outlets it happens to come by.

  36. I really appreciate that this man went about on his quest with a positive purpose. There is so much tearing down in the world and he is looking for the good in the world around us. We will always benefit so much more with positivity than negativity.

    • I am sorry for what has happened here. Truly, everyone here is on the defense you, johnpaxson31, along with everyone else. I am ashamed of all this behavior from both sides. You were trying to find the “good” in people and comes to find out that everyone, including me and you, need some work on that. I feel sorry for everyone that got involved in this jumble. Let him be, everyone just drop it. So what? You were offended. So what? He is entitled to his opinion. So what? You are entitled to fight for what you believe. All in all, no one will change their minds about something if they don’t want to. My heart hurts from seeing people trying so hard to convince each other what the “truth” is. Everyone feels differently, no one has the right to tell the other what they are supposed to feel is right. Truth is, we need to respect each other’s sentiments even if we disagree, that is real human kindness. Truly, I am sorry for everything that has happened here, I am sorry for involving myself in this too, but I felt strongly that I had to speak…

      • Again, I fail to see where ‘everyone is on the defensive’ in comments here, except johnpaxson and a few others bashing the LDS church. The other comments are calm, insightful & interesting to read. Just because someone has a differing opinion doesn’t mean they’re arguing. I don’t get what it is you’re seeing because other than the few posters I mentioned, I feel no arguing nor animosity in others’ comments.

      • Patti – I’m sorry you have had a hard time with my posts. My intent was never to be “defensive” or even argue.

        It is funny though, that you say “just because someone has a differing opinion doesn’t mean they are arguing.” Then go on to state how the only people arguing are me and others giving negative opinions (the truth) about the LDS Church. Also mentioned how the posts from the active LDS are “interesting and insightful” – without any animosity.

        I have not attacked anybody or said a single negative thing about anybody here. I genuinely like LDS people and honestly feel like I help many people who are struggling with “one foo

        I, on the other hand, have been called a “sinner”, “rude”, “weak”, “unkind”, “sad”, “ignorant”, and “bitter”… all from people who don’t even know me. The Mormons.

  37. Mark–excellent unbiased review. Regardless if you remain Atheist all your life or not, I appreciate your honest experience. 🙂 Keep it up! I love my LDS faith and Church and I’m definitely not the ideal Member, but I know my testimony and I share many of your thoughts on the experience of attending. Keep being the good man you are.

  38. Hey Mark –

    Can I ask if you have any plans to attend service again for purposes other than research for your blog?

    Also, do you plan to visit any other organizations in the near future?

    • Hi John,

      The only reasons I have for visiting is for the blog, and I suppose, my own edification, and indirectly, the entertainment of others. It’s nice to have something to do that others appreciate. I wouldn’t have gone to many churches at all if nobody expressed an interest. If you’re interested in why I’m doing this silly thing, check out the “About” link at the top of the blog.

      And, I’m always interested in going to other places. Not all of them can be properly reviewed in the way I’d like to, because not all places are structured like a stereotypical church.

      I’m going to keep doing this, off and on, for as long as I still enjoy doing it, and as long as there is public encouragement to keep doing it.

      Who knows how long that will be? A week? A year?

      The blog’s at nearly 300K page views, and hundreds of comments, and tons of emails. I don’t know if that means it’s “popular” but it does mean that I have an audience, and I kind of like that.

  39. My name is Lisa Hinkle. I was raised in the church. My dad was a bishop, my mother mutual president over the young women. We had family prayer, scripture reading, and were taught when we were young. My dad and I would study the church history together, since history is a passion for both of us. Then I met and married my first husband. He didn’t like the church and wished to shop around. I agreed for the sake of harmony in my marriage. After he left me with a four day old baby boy, I returned to my ward. Then met and married my second husband. He attended with me. and for six years abused me and my then four children. I divorced him. And continued my attendence. Then I spent three years alone with my children soul searching. I finally married my third husband. He took me to the temple. It is not a perfect marriage, nor is the ward we are living in perfect. I have agoraphobia and ptsd from my second marriage. I have a hard time with panic attacks even going to church. The ward we live in right now have not been supportive. HOWEVER, this does not change anything about my faith.
    Christ lives, he love me. He knows my struggles and he knows that one day I will be able to serve him the way I wish to. He knows how others are treating me and they will have to answer for it. Christ is the head of this church. He apeared to Joseph Smith in a grove of trees. He set up the church here on this earth. This is HIS living church. The leaders themselves have said they are only human and any error in the church is human not divine. The book of mormon is true and was translated by the gift of God by a young man with only a third grade education. The leaders of this church are inspired. Just looking at them, listening to them, and in one instance meeting one of them you can feel that they are divinly inspired. I am not perfect. I sin. I struggle. Yes at church we all put on the face of everything is happy and wonderful. This is so we can not show our weaknesses. I think it is wrong to do so. But there are just some things that I wouldn’t want to share with others. You nver know how it will affect their lives. You don’t know what someone is dealing with. Then when you find out that they have a child lying in the hospital dying and they are still there serving with a smile you are inspired by their strength. I may not attend right now, but I still read, I still pray, and I still learn. My children, learn to pay, learn to think for themselves, and learn to rely on the Lord. When I got a cold last week. My six year old in all of her faith said Mommy I will pray that you get better. When a week passed and I am still sick she asked why did God not answer her prayer for me to get better. I got to teach her that sometimes the answer is you need to suffer for a bit for a blessing to come. This will help her in life. when I do get better I will be better able to appreciate the health that I have. I am sorry for those that feel they are shuned or left the church on bad feelings. If you feel that this isn’t for you that is your choice. But yes all are welcome to come. All are loved by our Heavenly Father. We are all his children. Sorry for rambling. And I apologise for my spelling. it was the one thing that I have no talent for.

  40. (Please don’t be daunted by how long this post is…oops I just made it longer)
    First off I just want to say that I appreciate you sharing these things. It has been interesting to read a little about what goes on in different churches, faiths, philosophies etc. and I have often been curious about what they teach. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (thank you for including the actual name of The Church). One of the things that is taught in The Church is that there is truth, goodness, righteousness in many faiths, philosophies, secular humanism, etc. Not to mention but I am often impressed how awesome people are in general. It is good to hear positive messages from a variety of sources. So again thank you.
    I also appreciate this blog that it helps me realize that one of the major focuses, if not THE major focus of our lives should be helping others and have a positive impact on the world. What is slightly surprising often in trying to help others and being kind to others you find that your own life improves, or at least your attitude towards it does. The Church does encourage loving others and helping others often, but sometimes it is easy to be lazy. That is why I thank you for the inspiration to use what I have been taught in Church and by other influences in my life to help others.
    Not necessarily for your blog, but if you are interested in ‘sermons’ or spiritual addresses that have a humanist message you can try General Conference. It is a conference that The Church has in which many of the leaders of The Church give talks/sermons (we often use the word ‘talks’ in The Church). They are pretty good and you can access them online.
    I provided a URL for a good one https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/04/love-the-essence-of-the-gospel?lang=eng. (April 2014-“Love-the Essence of the Gospel”). (Another good one is October 1973-“Inspiring Music-Worthy Thoughts” https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1973/10/inspiring-music-worthy-thoughts?lang=eng&query=inspiring+music%E2%80%94worthy+thoughts).
    If you just want to look around:To access them you can go to lds.org there will be a tab near the top (across from the search thing) that says “Teachings” click on that and there will be a drop down of options. Select General Conference. After that go to the sidebar and click All Conferences.
    Again thank you and I hope you continue to find good things.

  41. To John, in your comments under ‘About’, you said one of your scoring criteria, is about if a church teaches about doing good deeds. Well the LDS church is all about good deeds. We believe that “Faith without works, is dead. A lot of churches say that all you have to do is believe in Christ, and you are saved, and that just doesn’t make much sense. Because with that mentality, it wouldn’t matter WHAT you did(good or bad), you would get all the same blessings, if you were someone who didn’t do a single thing for anyone but yourself, as someone who was constantly being selfless , by helping out his fellow man, by serving in every opportunity possible.We even have the ‘Helping hands” program, where we join and help the community, to help beautify the communities in which we live, and to also help out in natural disasters etc.
    Also, the way you’re going from church/religion to church/religion, to find out what they are all about, ie; what they teach and believe, is much like what Joseph Smith did when he was just 14 years old. I hope something good comes of it for you, like it did for him! The only way to know, is to find out for yourself, and do some research, and that’s just what you are doing, so I know it wont be in vain! Good-luck to you!

  42. This one IS for John. If you don’t believe in the church, then why do you keep quoting the Prophets; past and present? And what is the purpose of your posts here? Is it to try to convince yourself that the church isn’t true, or to convince or dissuade anyone else who might be interested in joining? If I was to leave the church, I would never say anything bad about it, even if I had some bad experiences. And I wouldn’t say that people stay in the church out of convenience, because there is nothing convenient about it. On the contrary, its very hard to be LDS. There are a lot of things that are expected of you, so its one of the hardest religion to be able to keep in good standings with! If I was leaving for the reasons you’ve stated, I would just leave and not think or talk about it anymore. But because you are still talking about it, tells me that you are Not totally convinced that it false, so I hope you keep talking about it and you come to the realization that it isn’t false after-all.

    • Sherine, here might not be the proper place for that. I am not discouraging you from debating, however this is a type of arguing that does not uplift anyone. “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” (Articles of Faith 1:11) And “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27).

      John has not directly attacked the Church, nor it’s Leaders (that I’ve seen here anyway), so I would encourage everyone to let this go as nothing good and inspiring can come out of this.

      Aren’t here, on earth, to have Joy? And haven’t we all received the gift of Free Agency? And haven’t you, by brothers and sisters in the Lord have received the gift of faith, having acquired a testimony of the Gospel? Then why go and pressure others around? Why argue about beliefs? “[…] For the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation […]” (Alma 5:46)

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