My hopes to try a new way with Mormon missionaries met a serious obstacle. I found myself living in gated apartment complexes for the next several years. Not once, for the cause of Christ, did a single missionary try jumping the fence to teach me about the Restoration. I didn’t mind not having teenagers show up at my door in an effort to earn points by selling magazines and their personalities though.
Things changed when the LDS church completed construction on the Newport Beach Temple. My former roommate had worked with a LDS Stake President and had received the word on the open house dates. LDS Temples are so mysterious and shrouded in secrecy that it’s hard not to jump on the opportunity to enter one.
So my wife and some of her coworkers made the trip down to the new temple during our lunch hour. We had a nice visit through the temple. It was a beautiful building and the only thing that really freaked us out were the oxen underneath the baptismal and the altars in a number of the rooms. I think the only thing that really freaked us out about the altars was our guides mishandling of questions about them. He got so flustered by questions about them and so awkwardly tried to change the subject we were all left with the impression that cats must be sacrificed on them or something.
After the tour we enjoyed some cookies and asked mostly benign questions of the missionaries in the stake center. My wife and I noticed that our tour guide took an unusual interest in us. He approached us several times and tried to introduce us to various aspects of the faith, genealogy in particular. I decided that he might be a great person to create a relationship with and ask some tougher questions of. So we exchanged phone numbers and email addresses and agreed that we should talk later.
Later he would tell us that in his temple tour trainings they told him that he would be able to see the Holy Ghost in the people who were interested in converting. He felt that most strongly about us, my wife in particular. That was no surprise to me when he said it because it’s the feeling everyone gets when they meet my wife, but he couldn’t have been more wrong about our interest in converting. Immediately when we got home, my wife hopped on the internet and looked up all our unanswered questions about the temple and scoffed at their similarity to Masonry.
A couple of days later our new Mormon friend, “Scott” sent us an email suggesting that he bring some missionaries by. We responded that we’d love to see he and his wife again and would love to meet any missionaries they would like to bring by. But we had a caveat. We said we’d prefer if they just came over for some pizza first so that we could all get to know each other a little bit better. I stated that I had had some bad experiences with some LDS missionaries in the past who just wanted to bludgeon me with their script and felt more comfortable if they at least knew my name and a little bit about me before talking about their faith. “Scott” said he knew exactly what I was talking about and agreed, pizza would be a good idea.
We had a nice dinner and scheduled a time when everyone could come back and talk more with us about Mormonism. With Mormon missionaries coming over I figured I had better at least be familiar with the Book of Mormon. So I picked up a copy I was given by someone else and read the whole thing in about 2 weeks. When “Scott” and the missionaries came over they were quite impressed. That was the same year President Hinckley had challenged the entire church to read the Book of Mormon in one year. None of them had made the same kind of progress on the goal as I had.
In between our dinner and our “first discussion”. The temple dedication celebration was being held at the Anaheim Pond. “Scott” asked us if we would like to attend and went to great lengths to secure two extra tickets for my wife and I. We gladly accepted the invitation and looked forward to hearing the Prophet speak in person. . . .
He got so flustered by questions about them and so awkwardly tried to change the subject we were all left with the impression that cats must be sacrificed on them or something.
That part made me laugh (at the situation not you). I can imagine what it must seem like to someone that is not an LDS member, especially when the tour guide was obviously not prepared with an answer.
You would think that the person in charge would have instructed the guides how to answer questions about the altars. Something along the lines of “we get married there. The two people kneel on each side facing each other, hold hands across the altar and are married by someone having the priesthood authority (as Mormons see it).” The words they use are no big secret, but they are in keeping with Mormon theology about the marriage being forever and I don’t remember them. The same words are also used to seal the families of our ancestors together by proxy. The words are pretty much the same as the ones for living weddings.
Wait, I’m confused, were you freaked out about the oxen or the altars?
whether rightly or wrongly . . .both freaked us out.
I was surprised to know that the oxen (representing the 12 tribes of Israel) bothered you. Did you know what they represented or was there something else that freaked you out about them? Just curious.
I think a common gut-reaction to them is for people to think we’re worshiping a golden calf or something. Especially people who have been pre-conditioned to think of Mormons as “freaky wierdos.” Anything they aren’t used to is immediately going to take on sinister overtones.
On another level, American Protestantism has a plain aversion to outward symbology. Reminds them too much of those “idolatrous Catholics” I suppose…
Honestly, the lack of a rich symbolic tradition is one of the personal reasons Evangelicalism holds little substantive appeal to me. Different strokes for different folks I guess.
I hadn’t even thought of the golden calf parallel. Interesting…yes I can see how some might take it that way. Thanks Seth.
Seth nailed it on all fronts. Upside down pentagrams don’t help either (not that they’re on that many temples now).
The upside-down pentagram (seen on the Salt Lake temple) is actually originally a Christian symbol representing the five wounds of Christ, the five names of God, as well as a lot of nice Greek philosophical significance. The move to turn it into a sign of devil-worship is purely a development of the 20th century.
Not the 20th century. The reversed pentagram has been associated with evil in European Occultism since at least the mid-1800’s.
And occult magic in geenral since long before that.
Whether you want to call that devil-worship or not pretty much depends on your point of view.