Mormonism: Once more with feeling!

Written by and copyrighted by Penny Rebel, 2012.

So when I pasted my old “inside report” on my Mormon experiences 7 years ago into this blog I felt like giving it another go from a different angle, cause it had ended rather abruptly and the religion I’d previously studied had caused me deep repulsion (if not revulsion) against religion in general and especially the claims of various faiths to be “the only true one.” Sadly, this had had such a negative impact on me that instead of studying I had literally become an adversary, lol.

So here went nothing. I googled the churches’ website to scroll around a bit, update myself on the current apostles, revelations, and so forth and ordered the free DVD “Finding Happiness.” I already had a feeling that this DVD would not find its way to me via mail.


I had gotten off work earlier last Friday and had maybe been home half an hour when the doorbell rang. I hurried down the stairs to meet the two Elders, one from Switzerland, one from the US, halfway.

We talked briefly and I asked whether we could meet up at church after I’d watched the DVD, so I would be “better prepared.” They agreed.

Two hours ago I met them at our local church. I’d never been in there as you know by now. The first impression that hit me was: very American. The décor reminded me of the many churches I’d been lucky to visit in Chicago, Indianapolis, Anderson, Wisconsin and Arizona. The cherry wood, warm colors of the carpet and walls and the neo-classical style paintings made this church or environment seem very welcoming and soothing. I have to say I liked it!

As they were showing me around the church I was starting to ask simple questions. They showed me the relief society (where the women gather and are being taught), the kindergarten, gym/theatrical stage, kitchen and the downstairs room the men are being taught at. Before church service women and men are “separated” and taught among themselves. Later they all come together for the service and are – “of course”, as Elder W. confirmed – sit next to each other.

The chapel itself was “simple”, meaning unadorned. There was no cross like I know from most churches (except Christian Science for example) and a little sort of “booth”. That, I was  told, was where the sacrament was being prepared and shared. The sacrament consists of bread and water. NOT wine, as Mormons aren’t allowed to drink. (I made a mental not to ask if Jesus turned water to wine and there are mentions he drank wine as well, why weren’t Mormons allowed? But I forgot to ask it later on. 😦 I’ll have to remember for next time.) Everyone, even non-Mormons are allowed to receive the sacrament. But, as Elder W. explained it will have less of a meaning as the sacrament is sort of like a renewal of the baptism, a remembrance of the covenant between God and the individual church member. He also said that while children under eight may receive the sacrament if they want to, they aren’t allowed to be baptized until they are eight years old, because then they can choose for themselves. I have doubts whether you are able to independently choose what you WANT when you are eight years old so to speak, but that is just my personal opinion. I did ask  whether it does ever happen that a child refused. Elder W. said that could and does happen indeed and wasn’t a problem either; sometimes the children needed more time and some of them never got baptized and left the church, although the latter didn’t happen much according to him.


The service is different inasmuch as there is no priest or minister reading from the gospel and then speaking on a certain subject in the Bible. Instead, members of the congregation are being asked to speak on various topics they have two or three weeks time to prepare for. Both women and men alike are allowed to speak, whereas women can not obtain the Aaronic or Melchizedic priesthood.

Downstairs they showed me the family gathering room. Here, people who don’t have a family yet come together to basically “hang out” together. They play games, sing, talk, and so forth. The photographs on the walls taken from such family gatherings all displayed happy, smiling faces and laughing faces. Everyone seems to have a good time during these gatherings. I noticed that there are only VERY young people on the photographs and asked if Mormons got married early on or why there weren’t any ppl beyond 25 on there. Elder W. laughed awkwardly, and confirmed this. I didn’t understand the awkwardness until we talked about this some more and I began understanding that the reason for this wasn’t just “because family is very important in Mormonism”, it’s basically also because like many other Christians Mormons aren’t supposed to have premarital sex and are amongst those churches who take this commandment very seriously.

Elder W. and Elder L. (the quiet Swiss fella) walked me to the men’s gathering room where the baptisms take place also. I have to admit I got a brief shock when they pulled a large curtain aside and revealed what at first sight looked like a serial killer’s basement. (No offence, I’m just stating what the first thing was that came to my mind!) A sort of square swimming pool (basin) tiled in white gaped at me and I couldn’t but take a step back and say, “Oh!” “I know, right?!” Elder W. said excitedly. “Go ahead, you can take a closer look, it’s no problem.” I stared down into the “tank” and the worry must have been very visible on my face. “Any questions?” Elder W. asked gently. I didn’t know how to put it, so I just burst out, “Can you keep your clothes on?” They both started laughing and said that of course you don’t go in naked, you wear a white dress. The white symbolizing the purity of the “new born” Mormon. The submerging symbolized the death of Jesus on the cross and emerging was like Jesus rising from the dead into a new and pure life. “When you are baptized all of your sins are forgiven.” I don’t know why, but whenever I hear religions say that I always think, ‘What about murderers and cheaters and child molesters and rapists and people who have tortured animals?’ I never feel content about this claim…

So after the grande tour we sat down and I started firing my questions at them. I asked the same questions as 7 years ago basically, but in a different way, and this time, I wasn’t being thrown out but we had a quite pleasant and interesting conversation actually. Elder W. told me he liked that I had researched so much before meeting them (of course he didn’t know I’d done this before…) and wasn’t afraid to ask difficult questions. I got very different answers than I did a few years back, ones that didn’t seem as…mmmh… fundamentalist? Mysogynist? Racist? And although I don’t agree with everything I was told I could live with it quite well without having to challenge these beliefs.


Of course both Elder L. and Elder W. emphasized their answers with reading to me or making me read passages from the Book of Mormon. (In fact, I didn’t see one single Bible in that church.) But I felt they both were more open-minded and willing to at least listen to questions that bordered on doubt.

I wanted to know whether Mormons were allowed to marry non-Mormons. “Because, let’s face it, if the Church of Latter Day Saints is the restored and hence one true church of God – everyone else is going to hell, right?” I asked. They both laughed and said that Mormons don’t believe in that kind of heaven and hell. I raised my eyebrows in surprise, that was one thing I had never heard before. Elder L. (yes, he did talk at some point!) went on to explain that while they believe that after death you can remain in a sort of godless state, which could be interpreted as some kind of “hell” the hell of brimstone and damnation wasn’t part of the “plan of salvation.” I asked whether they were trying to say that even after death it was possible to free yourself from that state/”hell” and that is where they went quiet a little bit. I don’t know if that might have something to do with the secret temple rites of theirs, in which case they wouldn’t be able to talk about it, or if it was something else. I’ll try to get back ot it another time. So to get back to marriage: Elder W. said that personally he would probably not want to marry a non-Mormon because the wants his family sealed to him forever and this can only happen to Mormons. (Short explanation: Mormons believe that families can be sealed together in this life by Mormon priests so they will remain together after death and live on as a family forever) I was told that it wasn’t allowed to frown upon a Mormon marrying a non-Mormon, because they could eventually still have a good influence on the non-believing spouse and possibly even convince her of the true church. But they weren’t allowed to get married in the temple. I asked whether they knew any Mormon/non-Mormon couples but they both just looked at each other wide-eyed and then denied that. So I’m not sure how common that really is. Plus, I’m not sure that the pressure of your spouse trying to “save your soul” wouldn’t be too much for any marriage. Who knows.

Next time I want to ask them if they personally would be friends with non-Mormons, or possible even are already. And whether they also try to convince their friends to take on their faith or if they accept them for who they are.

Then I got to the tricky stuff.

I told Elder W. that when researching the LDS (Latter Day Saints as the Mormons call themselves mostly) I found the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints) and asked whether the two were the same or were related. I saw a pained look cross their faces, and after a second’s silence Elder W. said “Wellll…basically the FLDS split from the true church a while ago. I am not sure, but I think they believe in different apostles. They didn’t want to accept Brigham Young as Joseph Smith’s successor, they think the apostle has to be related to Smith.” I waited patiently, but he said no more. (…) I had never heard about that before, I think Warren Jeffs would have promoted his blood relation to Smith more if that were true, but I might be wrong. I have to research that some more. Instead I smilingly asked, “That’s the only difference? That’s not too much of a difference then if the teachings are the same, right?” They said there were probably some other things different, but they weren’t sure. “So to you, are they Mormons or aren’t they?” I inquired. I saw how uncomfortable I was making them and they were beating around the bush a bit, so for now I stopped getting into it any deeper. Instead I asked, “Oh, is that the church that still has polygamy? I think you guys don’t do that anymore, right?” They seemed relieved and agreed. “So how does this work,” I said. “One of your apostles got a revelation that polygamy be abandoned, right? Do apostles just get “the orders” or does God explain the reasons for changing his laws?” They both showed me the passage (which I didn’t bookmark, arrgh!) in the book of Mormon where God forbade it. The Elders said that polygamy made sense during the ancient times because there was a shortage of men due to wars, etc. God wanted to see the women taken care of, hence men were allowed to marry up to four wives. (Funnily that is the SAME explanation the Muslims gave me, not just at the mosque, but everywhere, except they never abandoned polygamy:…) These days polygamy didn’t make sense anymore as there were enough men. “So if some day there is a shortage of women…God might maybe determine for them to marry several husbands?” I asked seriously curious. “Ummmm,” they laughed. “Who knows. God’s ways are unfathomable, but right now we stick to the law we got.”

“When I checked out your website and generally googled for info on the LDS of course I found pages that were rather skeptical towards Mormonism as well. One accused the Mormons of being or having been racist. It said that Native or Afro Americans or just generally “colored” people weren’t allowed to become priests. Is that true? And since you showed me in the book of Mormon God always gives reasons for changing his laws, what were they in this case?”

Elder W. sat back and said. “To tell you the truth. I’m not completely sure. I will definitely ask around and give you a more detailed answer next time, I promise. Personally, I could imagine it had something to do with the mark of Cain. The dark skin was the mark of Cain, it was a curse. Maybe God saw that after all those years the decendents of Cain had risen beyond their forefather’s sin and that is why God now allows every good man to obtain priesthood.” (At this point I didn’t ask further why or how Native Americans and Africans and Oriental people, who obviously are all or mostly very tan to dark-skinned would be related or connected. But I appreciated his attempt to honestly answer my question. I’m still totally pissed about the whole racism thing having gone on till 1972 and still today in a way by accepting that “dark skin” was a “sign of God’s curse”, but hey, I know trying to change their mind is a lost cause. So why cause myself more drama.)

“What do you tell people who say that there is no archeological proof for there having been horses in the US during the time it is stated in Alma for example? There are people who say that the conquistadors brought them over, that was way later as far as I know…?”

Elder L. stepped in at this point. He said that although there might not be archeological or historical proof right now it didn’t mean there would be some at some point. The most important thing to remember he told me was that GOD doesn’t lie. And if we asked God if the Book of Mormon was the truth he would send to us the answer through the holy ghost.

“How will I receive this answer, how will I know?” I inquired. “You will feel it. I know some people expect or even have visions. Some just feel it in their heart, some hear the answer. It’s individual.” Elder W. jumped in. “If you have a piece of cake. And it is delicious and fluffy…”

“I’d want more” I burst out at which point the two Elders start laughing again and I had to join in, blushing. “Yes, yes, of course. But if you saw the rest of the cake, would you think it was just as good or would you assume that the rest might not taste as well?”

“I’m a very careful person, I’d consider that the first piece might have been meant to lure me into having the rest of the cake which might be poisoned.”

Okay. They didn’t expect that answer. But the shock on their faces disappeared quickly and gave way to more laughter. “That is very wise of you – to be careful,” Elder W. chuckled, “but I guess I didn’t explain well enough. If you KNEW that the cake was made of the same batter with the same ingredients, would you want more?”

“Of course,” I said, not really sure where he was coming from with this yet. “Great. So look at it this way. You don’t have to read the whole book of Mormon, you don’t have to know the whole history of the church, even I don’t and I was raised Mormon. If you read one chapter and it made you feel good and you prayed to God to tell you if it was the truth…wouldn’t you want more…?”

Ahhhhh. Now I see what he wants me to say.

“Become Mormon?” I swallow and the audible gulp sounds like “Mhm” rather than “Ummmm”.

“Great!” Elder W. cries out happily as my eyes widen in shock. I didn’t mean that! But of course I couldn’t well tell them that.

The conversation continued to the process of being baptized. Only a Melchizedic priest is allowed to baptize you and this only after you’ve had a “baptism interview” (?!) during which you are asked if you acknowledge the salvation plan of God, that Jesus Christ is the savior of the earth and that Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ on the clearing and received the Book of Mormon by the angel Moroni. You don’t have to know the whole book of Mormon or church history yet I was told.

“But when you’re baptized into this new life then you will have to have cut all addictions like caffeine, alcohol, pop, tea or cigarettes, right?” I ask. “We can drink pop, it’s not explicitly forbidden. It’s not good for you, sure, but every once in a while it’s alright to have, we’re not about frugality, just a balanced life. But we do believe that smoking and drinking are bad for your health and as far as I have read black tea and coffee are as well. The sugar in the pop can be mildly stimulating I guess, but not as much as the coffee and tea, so we try to stay away from that.” (At this point I’m asking myself what kind of Mormons I had met up with seven years prior to that! They were so very different (clueless, or… not instructed well enough??) from these two and even told me very different things about Mormonism than Elder W. and L. Anyways.) “So…if you’re Mormon and you had an addiction to nicotine before converting and then you relapse…you get kicked out?” I ask shyly. I suddenly feel very bad about still sometimes smoking. And sometimes smoking way too much. 😦

“Nono,” Elder W. laughs, “you wouldn’t be judged here. But we would try to help you to quit. We have a program here. It works very well. After one week you are free from your addictions.” While my first inner response is skepticism there is a tiny part inside of me that is curious as well and…yes. Hopeful. I decide to be me for a while.

“I sometimes smoke.” I say. “And I don’t like it to be honest. But I find it hard to stop. At some point I always start again. I really would like to quit.”

“We would love to help you with that if you are really interested.” Elder W. says. “We can instruct you and if you follow through on everything we say it will be no problem.” I still doubt/ed that but I actually would love to try this, so I agreed.

Especially since this is the first religion I know of that has sort of a “detoxification program” except Scientology, which has Narconon. A program where your current addictions are replaced by an addiction to Scientology, i.e. where you’re being brainwashed.

I know I asked many other questions, but they were either a little too irrelevant for this blog or I forgot them. Honestly, religious meetings are always very straining for me, as much as they are awesome as well.

So if I remember anything else I’ll edit this blog.

So basically that was it. I asked whether I could come to service next Sunday and of course they agreed. I hope I don’t have to wear their magical underwear if I just want to attend service, but heck, life is short and then youdie, so even if, should be fun(ny) enough!



Things I want to ask next time:

*Do you believe that the world is 6,000 years old or do you believe in evolution/dinosaurs, etc.? How do you explain the excavations or dinosaur skeletons (in case they don’t believe in dinosaurs/evolution)?

*How do you learn the languages of the countries you are designated to so quickly/well?

*What do you say to ppl who say “Since you baptize me after death anyways I don’t need to join now, I can just sin and have fun and still go to heaven!”?

*Does God live on a planet called Kolob and are there other Gods?

*Is the devil real or is it just a metaphor like the “hell” or rather non-hell you believe in?


My experience with the Latter Day Saints (Mormons)

Copyrighted by Penny Rebel, 2005.

It was a mild cloudy September afternoon. My friend and fellow trainee from the young adult library and I were walking towards the train station from work, chatting and laughing.
We turned around a corner and there I saw them. Well dressed young men, wearing suits and shiny silver name tags and girls in long dresses, buttoned up to their neck, their long hair in buns. Their name tags said „Sister (name)“ and the guys‘ said „Elder (name)“. They were Latter Day Saints, better known as „Mormons“ in Germany.
They were on my list of religions to explore – of course – and when Maike saw me stop in the middle of my sentence and excitedly clap my hands, she sighed, „Go on. I know you want to meet them.“ It is fascinating how I can suddenly overcome my usual shyness when I have found a new study object. I approached „Elder Christensen“ and before he got to open his mouth to try and save me, said, „Hello, I am Erin. And I am going to need a Book of Mormon along with some study material. Oh, and while you’re at it, the address of your church at Wartenau.“ He goggled at me like I was a creature from a different planet. Then broadly smiled, gathering some info material, while saying. „Well, it looks like you know the true religion of God already.“
„Ohhhh,“ breathed I, „you have no idea,“ fully meaning it. But I could see he didn’t detect the apparent irony in that statement.
He told me he had been a missionary in Germany for 16 months already and was surprised when I tell him I hope he will get home safely in two months. Mormons train to become missionaries overseas directly after high school (and often before college) and remain in the country they’re designated to for 18 months. I’ve always admired how fast they learn the language of the place they’re being „shipped off to.“ I’ve met Mormons in Stockholm, Copenhagen and Hamburg and they all mastered the languages that they hadn’t studied for more than half a year before leaving the US.
He asked me what else I know about „the religion of God“ and as usual I cringe inside, but smile politely, answering what I know of the particular religion that claims to be the one and only. Of course I held back. It would have been unwise to start out a religious science study project saying something like, „Well, I know you guys believe that God lives on a planet called Kolob and you have a book you claim is the second half of the Bible, full of historical errors. (*I’ll get to that later.) Your prophet Joseph Smith’s brother decided to become a Freemason (Freimaurer) and it is quite apparent that your secret temple rites are EXACTLY like the Freemasonic ones. Coincidence?! Who knows. ImageYour church prohibited African Americans or generally „colored“ people as you call them to become ministers till 1972 as the book of Mormon states that they are inferior to the white race.  Your church abandoned poligamy, although never officially, but the fundementalist group that split from the official church still engages in it as well as underage marriage. We are talking 13-year olds being sold to 50-year olds. (google Warren Jeffs and his FLDS for further information.)“
Yes, I remain skeptic about what I know of Mormonism and have trouble concealing it, as my main issue is their obvious racism. I don’t care if people choose to believe gummibears can save their soul, but racism is something that just makes me shut down completely. But of course I know there is no place for prejudice in religious science. In theory at least. I know my job is to dive in and become one of them. For a while. My job is to let go of everything I knew  or only thought I knew before and understand the mindset of people who believe that they hold THE truth in their hands – from within.
What I knew of Mormonism was scarce, admittedly.
Joseph Smith, born on December 23rd 1805 (As a Capricorn ImageI’m always ashamed when Capricorns publicly turn insane…) came from a poor family, who moved to wherever his Dad would find work. It was a time of spiritual upheaval. Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists and Christian Scientists were all starting to expand and young Joseph was confused as to what the „real church“ actually was. According to his biography Joseph Smith went into the woods near his house to pray to God which church to join. He was 15 at the time. He then was visited by two „light figures“ – God and Jesus. They told him that none of the Christian religions were right and that Joseph Smith was supposed to guide mankind to the true religion. Three years later an angel called „Moroni“ (no pun intended) came to Smith and told him to dig up a few golden tablets that had been written by American prophets hundreds of years ago. The angel guided Smith to the hill they were supposed to be buried under, but he wasn’t allowed to keep them or show them to anyone else. The prophecies written on those tablets are found in the book he wrote down after the angelic experience, the „Book of Mormon“.
There are further strange and magical things regarding the founding of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Smith happened to meet a man who was in possession of three Egyptian mummies. Inside the mummies‘ bandages he had found scrolls. Smith was eager to purchase them. He translated them and proclaimed that these were lost prophecies of Abraham. He published the translations together with photographs of the original scrolls. Several Egyptologists agreed on Smith’s „translation“ being complete humbug. There was no word of Abraham, instead of Osiris and an ancient unnamed Goddess as the papyri were indeed excerpts of the Egyptian „Book of the Dead.“
More strife, confusion, tumult and fraud followed. And after having broken into a publishing house who’d „defamated“ the Church of Latter Day Saints Smith was shot during a riot.
Brigham Young, who was also responsible for the discrimination and racism towards African Americans in the church of Latter Day Saints – became his successor.


Latter Day Saints have several appointed apostles who are said to be in direct contact with God. He speaks to and through them and they pass on his holy laws to the Mormon community. God seems to change his mind a lot, because there are frequent changes and new laws passed down. Let me get back to the racist issue within the Church of Latter Day Saints in this regard:
Until the 1970s the apostles were at one with the „holy law of God“ that „negros“ (I’m simply quoting the term here) were not qualified to serve as priests. They were allowed to join the church as members but were looked down upon out of the reasons stated above. Mormon apostle Bruce McConkie wrote in his book „MORMON DOCTRINE“ in 1966 that „…negros are denied priesthood in this life (!) and can under no (!) circumstances represent God and his will on earth. The gospel and its message of salvation aren’t meant for them. This is God’s eternal law of justice…“ (p. 527 ff)
And then! In 1976 the Salt lake City Tribune reported that a member of the church ordained a „black“ priest. He was excommunicated ten days later.
There was a national uproar following the excoummunications, many Mormons left the church, numbers kept dwindling over the next two years. Until. Until one fine morning in 1978 the 12th mormon president issued a letter to his brothers in the faith (no, there was no talk of the sisters…) saying that since he and the other apostles had been „painfully aware“ of the unhappiness of „colored brothers“ prohibited to become priests they had locked themselves in to implore God for several days that he may revoke this law. Apparently God reconsidered and remembered that he had indeed created the „blacks“ as well as the „whites“ (way to go, God!…). Many Mormons stated that these news had been as shocking as the word of president Kennedy’s death. Go figure.

When I asked around amongst my acquaintances, friends and family what they knew about Mormonism, the first thing they mentioned was their incessant genealogical research and their gargantuous archive at their main church in Salt Lake City. Upon my asking none of them knew why genealogy was so important to Mormons. It is in fact only because that they collect or try to collect the date of EVERYONE who EVER lived, because they baptize them after death.  Why? So that they will not go to hell once Armageddon comes.


Mormonism is often accused of not being Christian. Of course, if we define Christianity by what is in the Bible, the old testament Bible itself isn’t Christian, but Osiric (which would then fit fine with Smith’s Egyptian papyri.) and the new testament and Yeshua’s (Jesus) message one of gnosis if anything. But that is something to be illustrated in a different essay maybe.

Anyway. What can be said without question is that Mormonism isn’t a monotheist religion. When Smith published the Book of Mormon in 1830 his understanding of God/religion was still very Biblical/monotheist. God is „spirit“ (> Alma 11:26 ff) and the only one/spirit there is.
In his issued Book of Moses, Smith reports of how God creates the universe, using the term „I“ for God.
However, in his later issued Book of Abraham he suddenly speaks of several Gods creating the universe! Nowadays (google forums and Mormon-based/issued webpages on their religion) Mormons believe that the various Gods differ from THE God only by being inferior to him, less powerful and hence less important. They are on a different „level of evolution.“ (!?)

The second rather „un-Christian“ belief is that according to Smith God is an exalted human being. He publicly proclaimed this during a speech he held on April 7, 1844 in Illinois.
Thought: If God has a physical body in Mormonism then Mary cheated on Joseph with God in the flesh and there is no virgin birth. Of course the virgin birth is very Catholic in essence as amongst other things it was invented to prove that Jesus was without „original sin.“
Conclusion: God is not eternal in the Judeo-Christian sense – perfect, omnicient, omnipotent, etc. He is also just another being, albeit higher developed than humans are at this point. That was also supposed to explain the constant change of „holy laws“ passed on by the apostles. Problem: These laws are said to be passed on when the believers were „ready“ for change. BUT let us remember the disbelief, shock and reluctance that Latter Day Saints received the revelation of „negro priests“ with. „Ready“????? Hmmm…

buddy-jesus making fun of mormons

Mormons, much like for example Christian Scientists (and no, this is NOT Scientology, you Philistines!) say that they do not believe in the trinity, yet strangely they also make a distinction between „Holy Ghost“ as a person of the „package“ of God, son and holy ghost (=trinity?!) while the „Holy Spirit“ is the force/power emanating from all of them.

Mormons believe in procreation taking place IN heaven. These children are called spirit-children. They can progress to godhead.

If humans obey the laws of God in this life they can become Gods in the next life. “If we prove faithful to the Lord, we will live in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom of heaven. We will become exalted, just like our Heavenly Father…” “These are some of the blessings given to exalted people… 2. They will become gods.”
(Gospel Principles, 1997. Chapter 47 “Exaltation.”

Of course there are several other contradictions, such as that according to the book Alma (in the Book of Mormon) Jesus was born in Jerusalem (!) not Bethlehem.

Of course, the above are only tiny fragments of the religion of Latter Day Saints. To comprehend it fully it would be best not to rely on these amateurish scribblings, but to read the Book of Mormon/Abraham as well as several non-Mormon books on the church and faith as well.

But all I told Elder Christensen was a small and uncriticizing biography about Joseph Smith; he was impressed and asked if I would care for a loose get-together with a few other Latter Day Saints our age that to discuss the Bible and the Book of Mormon with. We agreed to meet up on Saturday, and he asked if it would be fine to meet up in the late afternoon since he was helping out a friend in V~. „In that case,“ I laughed in surprise, „you and your friends are invited to come to my place, I live in V~.“ He was radiant with joy. „See?!“ Elder Christensen exclaimed, „This is God working his miracles! Oh, I’m telling you I feel in my heart that this is a sign that we are supposed to pry you away from Satan!“  Sure. Okay.
At home I kept going back and forth between the kitchen and my room, glancing through the open living-room door. The tenth time I did this, my pappa calls, „What did you do?“
I tip-toed into the living-room, deciding to come clean.
„I met some Mormoms today!“
„Oh my God.“ My Dad says. „The Mormons now. Weren’t you just Jewish a few weeks ago?“
I shook my head impatiently. „That was two years ago. So um, can they come over this Saturday for tea?“
My father stared and sighed deeply. The sigh of a man who has known defeat many, many times.
„Please tell me this is not going to be like the time the Hare Krishnas danced out in our garden for all the neighbors to see…?“
„Um.“ I looked away nervously. „I think we’re just supposed to study the Book of Mormon.“ I huffed avoidantly. Pappa agreed and so I walk back to my room to study the Book of Mormon along with four other books on Mormonism I got from the library. A perfect and very common evening .

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon. I was wearing my huge MayheM shirt (for all of you who are unfamilar with Satanic Black Metal – I guess now you get the idea…) The doorbell rung at exactly 5 PM. I stormed to the door and found myself face to face with three young Elders (is that a contradction in terms? Hmmm…) and two sisters. After a lot of avid hand-shaking and introductions I guided the little herd into the living-room. Pappa was watching „The literary Quartet“, but dutifully got up to greet them. As I beckoned the five towards the patio Elder Christensen turned around to whisper to me, „Maybe your Dad would like to join us?“ It sounded hopeful. The compassion of a man who sees nothing but lost souls, hellfire and eternal damnation amongst non-Mormons. „My Dad is good with the old Germanic Gods,“ I smile confidently, and Elder Christensen looked at me as though I’d just offered him some heroine. I was the only one laughing.
„Tea?“ I asked politely, gesturing to the huge pot on the garden table. Silence.
„We’re not allowed to drink tea. Or coffee. Or pop.“ One girl volunteered. Ah. I hadn’t read that anywhere yet.


„Oh, didn’t know that.“ I mumbled as I was stuffing in a piece of Swedish snuff into my mouth.
More silence.
The Latter Day Saints each got out their Books of Mormon. No Bible, I noticed.
„So.“ Elder Christensen ceremoniously says, straightening up in his chair. Clearly, he is the „leader“ of this little group. „We would like to start this meeting out by saying a prayer if you don’t mind.“ Like on command, everyone bows their heads. I bow mine as well. Elder Christensen’s voice was full of passion when he asked God for guidance and blessings for this get-together. After a few minutes his voice became even louder, the prayer turning into a kind of sermon. He stroke his fist into the other hand, gesturing, opening his arms, wrapping them around them, his eyes half closed as if in rapture. I involuntarily had to think of the Shakers and Quakers. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed my Dad leaning forward in his armchair, eyebrows raised, face pale. He nodded at me through the open terrace door as if to ask „Is he okay?“ I grinned and he leaned back to watch his show again.
„Okay.“ I announced, ready to take matters back into my hands. My turf. My rules. My meeting.
„So I know you’ve come here to read the Book of Mormon with me, but I do have a couple of questions if you don’t mind.“
I acknowledge my standard set of questions is very…basic, boring if you like. At first meetings I don’t usually dive into church or religious history, passages from scriptures to be analyzed or contradicted. I ask what most people ask themselves every day. Why are we here, why are there so many religions, how do you know that your religion is the only true one. What happens to good people who aren’t members of your religion after death, why does God allow evil, sickness, violence, rape, death. In this case of course – I added one question. Why weren’t they allowed to drink tea? I assume I would get a similar answer I got from the Hare Krishnas about the body being a temple of God that was meant to be kept pure and clean of stimulating substances. „But you are allowed to eat, right?“ I couldn’t help but ask. „Of course, why wouldn’t we?“ one girl asks. „Because food can be very stimulating, especially after a long day at work. It’s hot out today, right? Ever notice that on a day like that you couldn’t stop thinking about a nice fruit salad? It’s your body craving vitamins and fluids. And ever notice that after you had your delicious fruit salad you feel like your endorphines are dancing?“ The Mormon group chuckles insecurely, they’re still not sure what this is all about. „Well, that is a kind of stimulating to your body, right? It’s reviving. For someone with low blood-pressure a cup of coffee or tea in the morning can do the same a fruit salad can do for you on a hot late summer’s day.“
I was disappointed. Somehow I would have expected them to be better prepared. I often noticed how trivial every-day questions seem to unsettle believers of whatever faith. The whole get-together seemed very chaotic, my questions and thoughts were met with more silence and hectic turning of the pages of the Book of Mormon. It must be hard when you can’t answer for yourself, always to be afraid you might say something that might be contradicting to your beliefs accidentally. At 7 PM, I decided to break it off.
Elder Christensen asked me if I would care for joining the Sunday service tomorrow. „Ohhh, I’d LOVE to“ I lied, „but I have to help an elderly neighbor with her gardening.“ The Latter Day Saints seemed delighted. „We can help! It’s no problem. That is what we do! We help people!“ I somehow managed to convince them it was best I tended to my friend’s garden by myself, but I still got an invitation to an informative meeting at the house of another Elder. As surprised as I was after this awkward encounter, I still agreed.
Elder Christensen gave me the address and I didn’t manage to hide my surprise. This was not just the rich side of town, this was the millionaires‘ side of town.

(depiction of the planet Kolob, the planet wich the Mormon God inhabits. Don’t fret, my dears, if you convert you will all get your very own kick-ass planet after death and become a God or Goddess yourself!)

It was hot out on the day I left for the meeting. My pappa kissed me goodbye after I gave him the names of the people present, the telephone number and street address of both the house the meeting is held at and the actual church. This is our agreement regarding my religious science studies that have been going on for 9 years now. Looking over the contact info he called after me, „Don’t let them baptize you, I’d hate to lose a daughter to Moroni!“
As I was making my way to the house I noticed two men in suits both wearing name tags. I speeded up and called to them in English and after a quick glance at their name tags greeted them with „Elder Stewart“ and „Elder Pozniak“. They asked me how long I’d been in Germany. I was confused. „Quite a while now?“ I laughed, totally not getting it. „I know what you mean,“ one of the boys said. „It feels longer being here than I actually am. It’s a tough country.“ I was still confused. „Did you convince anyone of the true religion yet?“ he asked me. Ohhhhhh. It was only then I realized what they were thinking. I couldn’t help but burst into laughter. „I’m not a missionary,“ I giggled, „I’m a guest, see, I’m not even wearing a name tag!“ I pointed at my chest. They blushed and apologized for having „insulted“ my country. „You look so…Mormon!“ one of the Elders, a scrawny Afro-American teenage boy, exclaims. Of course I do. I got a cheap polyester dress with tiny flowers online, one of the ones I’d seen the „sisters“ wear. If I was doing this I was doing this right.
The house the meeting was held at was not a house. It was not even a mansion. It was a castle. And I didn’t like it. I don’t know where I got this strong (strange?) sense of frugality from, but lavishness has always brought out rebellion in me. When I look at the abundant churches of the Catholics, filled with gold and glitter I can’t but feel ashamed for them. I always wish I could tear down the golden crucifixes, sell them and feed the poor, abused and hungry. Looking at this palace brought out the same kind of feelings in me.
The Walkers were a „typical“ American family. (I don’t mean to promote stereotypes, but I think that most of us agree that the word „mentality“ is not just a word shell.) Mrs. or „Sister“ Walker was an extremely motherly, warm and kind woman with big poofy hair and bright intelligent eyes. Mr. or „Elder“ Walker worked  for the church. He had soft, slim, clean hands like a doctor. I caught him glimpsing at his wife while he was shaking my hand. He was taller than her, but he was „looking up“ to her, his head slightly bowed. Clearly, Mrs. Walker was the „man of the house“. The children, all in their late teens, were extremely well-behaved, polite and eager to make us guests feel at home. So not your typical teenagers all in all. The dining room table was almost collapsing under the tons of food and we were encouraged to sit down and „dig in.“ As the others were talking I once more took the time to look around me. Family pictures. Pictures of the current apostles. A picture of Joseph Smith. No crucifixes, no Jesus, no Bible anywhere. Just a shelf packed with books on Mormonism.
I sat down next to elder Walker. I didn’t come for food after all. I thanked him for having me over and explained my interest in the religion. He seemed delighted and began telling me about the advantages of being „saved“ immediately.
After dinner and polite small talk we were guided to the living room to watch a movie on Joseph Smith, the founding of the church and its progression today. I was bored as I was not learning anything new and I noticed my reluctance growing. I looked around and saw the pricy furniture, the 30×30 inch silver frames, the Villeroy and Bosch vases…I cocked my head to read the label better – Mrs. Walker’s shoes were Prada.
I hadn’t wanted this to end too early… ‚You don’t know how much they might donate to charity. All the good they might be doing. Prejudice is the only sin you believe in, remember?‘ I tried to remind myself, but it was too late. I knew how this was going to end that night.
After the movie was over Elder Walker turned back on the lights, smiling welcomingly, opening his arms as if to hug us all and asked if we had any questions.
„Yeah I got a couple, if you don’t mind“ I heard myself say, cringing at the sound of my own voice.
Oh Erin. Really? Do you always have to fight for what you deem justice like the Erinnyas? Why did your pappa call you Erin again? Right…
„So why are the female members of the Church of Latter Day Saints called „sisters“ while the men are called „elders“?
I saw the corner of elder Walker’s mouth twitch slightly, but he replied calmly and in all earnesty.
„Because God has bestowed men with other talents and abilities than women. God created man first, and woman as his companion.“
Now I’ve had enough.
„So the Church of Latter Day Saints says that archeology and history prove the Book of Mormon right, did I understand that correctly?“
„Absolutely!“ Elder Walker’s eyes glowed excitedly.
I leaned back in my armchair. I thought I could enjoy the comfiness of the huge, puffy American furniture just a while longer before the inevitable.
„So… What is your explanation for the mention of metals – coins, weapons and buildings that did evidentially NOT exist until at least 900 AD? Because until the conquistadors arrived all that was used were stone weapons.
Also I noticed the mention of chariots, but there were no wheeled vehicles at that time either.
I also wonder how the growing of crops like wheat and barley could have happened without plows or specialized farming techniques absolutely unknown during the times described in the Book of Mormon?
And while I’m at it, one final question – how did donkeys, horses, pigs and elephants get to the American continent before the conquistadors?“
Elder Walker’s smile disappeared as though someone had switched it off. His wife made an offended little sound, the guests didn’t know what had hit them, they were looking back and forth between me and the Walkers.
„Dear girl,“ Elder Walker says, „there are many things archeology hasn’t been able to prove yet. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.“
„Like that elephants lived in America a few thousand years ago.“ I stated, grinning from ear to ear.
(Edit 2012: I hated myself for being the devil’s advocate, but a few years back the extremism of certain religions concerning the „womens‘ role“ and the various „races“ was something I thought I could fight by using reason and logica as my weapons. Little did I know how wrong I was…)
„Ohhhhhhh! Ohhhhh!“ Mrs. – or sister – Walker then grunted, raising her finger in the air. „You are an infiltrator! You are possessed by the spirit of doubt which is the devil’s spirit!“


I raise more and more questions, „desecrating“ their holy temple rites by explaining the ritual to the other guests, and of course the one question  causing everyone to jump up from the furniture, point at me and start raising their voices is the one concerning the Mormon racism. „African Americans weren’t allowed to become priests?!“ the dark-skinned kid asked wide-eyed. „It wasn’t LIKE that!“ Elder Walker says determinedly, but then helplessness overwhelms him. „The sin!….was too big!“ The Afro-American kid still stared in disbelief.

It was dark outside. There were hardly any street lamps. I stumbled towards the train station, calling my pappa from my cell phone.
„Everything in order?“ he asked.
„Always. I got kicked out.“ I laughed.
„Thank God!“ he exclaims. „What are you going to be next? Hindu?!“
„I think….“ I paused. „I’m just gonna be me for a while…“

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