• View from the Pew: Dispatches of a Church-going Atheist–The (Mormon) Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

I am embarking on a new project to encounter religion directly on its own turf. Today I visited my erstwhile church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) for Sunday service (Sacrament Meeting)–you can read about my journey out of the Mormon Church here.

I’m sharing this experience by tweeting live (and objectively as possible) from the pew: @DIYThinking

Here is a “transcript” of my live tweets today, followed by brief commentary (I spoke directly with the pastor and Mormon missionaries about Church finances, evidence that supports the Church’s claims, etc.):

So fun!

Impressions from conversation with the bishop (Mormon-speak for “pastor”) and Mormon missionaries (two very young men charged with spreading the Church’s message on their own dime):

I asked the bishop a few questions and instead of answering me he directed me to the missionaries–I was particularly consternated that he wouldn’t tell me what kind of evidence supports the Church’s claims or indicates that it is true (“The missionaries can tell you all about it.”). I don’t think he was deliberately evasive and may have had somewhere to go but I was disappointed he didn’t care to answer me for himself.

I asked the missionaries the same question about evidence. They told me that the Book of Mormon is evidence and then handed me a paperback copy but quickly apologized because it had a few folded pages and promised another, pristine copy if I so desired (I did not and handed them back the first copy after our conservation was over).

I asked them, “Is this why you believe?” and hefted the Book of Mormon suggestively.

The first young man (20 years old) replied, “Yes.” and went on to explain that his belief is also the product of being raised in a devout Mormon household.

The second young man (19 years old) corroborated the testimony of the first, and explained that God would tell me that it (the book and presumably the church, too) is true if I pray about it.

“He’ll speak to me? He’s spoken to you?”
“No, but He will communicate with you through feelings.”

Then I asked about finances and if I would need to pay to become a member.

“No! Nothing!”
“But how do you pay for this building?”
“Donations.”
“What else do you do with the money?”
“The Church is committed to responding to disasters like the earthquake in Haiti and tsunami in Japan.”
“Is this information available anywhere?”
“Yes, at the Mormon Newsroom”–at this point they wrote down the website address for me on a little card.

I pressed for more details about finances but they didn’t seem to know anything about transparency or opacity thereof. They weren’t being evasive but were genuinely ignorant.

Finally it occurred to them to share with me that if I decided to be baptized I would necessarily need to commit to paying tithing to the Church, or “ten percent of everything.” This is when I started having second thoughts.

The exchange was ultimately unsatisfactory. But I was unpracticed, so I anticipate that future conversations with religious leaders and representatives will go more smoothly (they were also very young and frankly unsophisticated–adolescents, really).

In the future I aim to press, respectfully, for clear answers on these three questions:

1. What evidence supports the claims made by your church or faith?

2. What evidence would change your mind about your church or faith?

3. Do you now how your church is financed and where all donations, tithing, etc. go, specifically? Is this information freely available?

I’m looking forward to visiting Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Pagan, and other services in the near future–stay tuned.

Till next time, dear readers.

Stay rational!

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11 thoughts on “• View from the Pew: Dispatches of a Church-going Atheist–The (Mormon) Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

  1. Pingback: •View from the Pew: Dispatches of a Church-going Atheist–Jehovah’s Witnesses | DIYThinking

  2. Pingback: • View from the Pew: Dispatches of a Church-going Atheist–Christian Science | DIYThinking

  3. Pingback: • View from the Pew: Dispatches of a Church-going Atheist–Seventh Day Adventist | DIYThinking

  4. Pingback: • View from the Pew: Dispatches of a Church-going Atheist–Roman Catholic | DIYThinking

  5. Pingback: • View from the Pew: Dispatches of a Church-going Atheist–Church-That-Must-Not-Be-Named | DIYThinking

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