Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An Atheist in the Land of Mormons, part 3: Becoming God

Did you know that Mormons believe – this is no joke – that if you're married in the Temple, you follow certain laws, YOU BECOME A GOD when you die. Not just an angel or a magician, a real god, with your OWN PLANET. You get to create all the creatures and people, plants, rocks, mountains, whatever you like. And when all is said and done, your creation, your people, will worship you, just like good Mormons worship Yahweh from this planet.

As we finish our stories of Utah and the Red Rock Film Festival, some of my readers might be very surprised to learn that my wife, who is Jewish, was a Mormon for several years. Of all the things I learned about her when we were dating, this probably surprised me the most. She even attended Brigham Young University for a semester.

The way she joined the church is pretty ordinary: a fiance' who converted her to Mormonism (much to her parents' dismay, I'm sure).

The Mormon missionaries have a very carefully crafted bag of tricks they use to attract and keep new converts, stories that are selected with two criteria: First, the introductory preaching resonates with "mainstream" Christianity and Judaism. The initial messages make Mormonism sound very pleasant and ordinary, much like just another branch of the mainstream religions, one with a special place for family and community.

Second, potential converts are told of the promise of the Mormon heaven, where peace, love, forgiveness, and happiness, reign, a paradise even more appealing than the typical Christain heaven.

But certain parts of Mormonism are carefully concealed from potential converts. They sound so outrageous to Christians, Jews, and Muslims that most people would reject them immediately. They're only revealed in bits and pieces, slowly so as not to scare the convert away, and only when the convert has become committed and integrated into the Mormon community and way of life.

(Check out The Mormon Curtain if you want to learn more about Mormon excesses, absurdities and abuses.)

Unfortunately for the Mormons, and fortunately for my wife, their indoctrination didn't succeed. Brigham Young University requires all students to take one religion class every semester, and for her introduction, my wife selected "Mormonism and Modern Science," which is essentially Creationism, somewhat repackaged. She now says, "I didn't know enough about science at that time to be alarmed by what they were teaching. But when they got to the part about polytheism – that when a good person dies, he becomes a god and gets his own planet &ndash my limited Jewish upbringing set off an alarm. Jews believe there is just one God. This was very important Jews, and Rabbit Ott, who was a powerful speaker and very well known [with the Sephardic Temple in Los Angeles], would read from the Torah, 'I am your God, the one God, and there are no other gods before me.'"

The idea that every good Mormon would become a god is polytheism, plain and simple. It is probably the single most important difference between Mormonism and the other three Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam), and most people raised in an Abrahamic religion would never convert to Mormonism if they knew the truth about the Mormon's polytheism beforehand.

My wife goes on to say that when the class got to the part about becoming a god when you die, she was astounded, not by this teaching, but by her fellow classmates. Looking around the room, she realized not a single other person objected. They were all fully indoctrinated.

She completed the semester, but never returned to BYU. Although she'd become skeptical about Mormonism, she continued to attend the LDS Church for a few years, but finally a friend gave her a copy of "The Godmakers" by David Hunt and Ed Becker. The book totally broke the spell, and she never went back to the LDS church again.

But she has some good stories to tell!

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Dear readers -- I am no longer blogging and after leaving these blogs open for two years have finally stopped accepting comments due to spammers. Thanks for your interest. If you'd like to write to me, click on the "Contact" link at the top. Thanks! -- CJ.

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