If you’ve ever been curious to find out what Mormons really believe, you should try attending (at your own peril) the first hour of an LDS service during the first Sunday of most months.
Unlike the other Sundays of the month, the first Sunday of the month is reserved for members of the Church to stand up in front of the congregation and share their testimony. Members are also encouraged to fast for the day in order to gain spiritual knowledge and insight and become more humble (whatever that’s supposed to mean), thus the name Fast and Testimony meeting.
It was during this hour of almost every month I spent going to church that I felt most uncomfortable.
A typical testimony may vary in topic, from an account of someone’s struggle with their kids, a humorous anecdote about the latest LDS Scout camp-out, a word of gratitude towards the deacons/YW’s/Elders’ Quorum/etc for helping with this year’s Youth Conference, and maybe a sob-filled, dragged out history of someone’s fight with a mysterious “trial” in their lives. But no Testimony Meeting is complete without the required mass-hypnotic mantra; one of these might suffice:
I know this Church is true.
I know the Book of Mormon is true.
I know Joseph Smith was a true prophet.
I know Heavenly Father lives.
I know Jesus lives/is my brother/died for my sins.
Or any other variation one might attempt in order to sound fresh and unique, but most importantly, sincere.
The interesting thing to me, however, is the consistent use of the words “I know” in these testimonies. When you ask a member of the church what they believe, they might tell you about eternal marriage, or how we had an existence prior to this life, or maybe even about how you can one day become a god yourself, but when they tell each other these things on that one Sunday, their belief magically turns into knowledge.
There is no doubt in their speech. There is no probability. There is only certainty.
They KNOW the Book of Mormon is the true word of God on the same level as they KNOW it is day or night at that very moment.
This absurd and disingenuous meeting is one of the greatest tools the Church uses to convert and reconvert. It is an emotionally charged experience which brings people to share the most intimate aspects of their lives in a vulnerable setting. You are being watched and judged and you want to come out of this polished and with sympathy.
It all seems very nice and tender and it’s very hard to not sympathize with the hope and comfort one might receive from such a gathering, but the true spirit of the whole thing is not defined until children as young as 3 or 4 take the walk up to the pulpit and, with the help of the leadership to push the stool and lower the microphone, repeat the same senseless babble talk they’ve been rigorously instructed to say by their parents.
It will bring down the house, so to speak, but behind the innocent and shaky voice of that child lies the main issue with dogma: indoctrination.
Nothing bothered me more in my stay with the Church than to watch those kids say those things for which they had not the faintest idea what it all meant.
They receive praise for their courage to walk and stand up there, and comments about their sweet spirit are almost inevitable, but the fact they are being taught to lie is nothing short of despicable.
Mormons might certainly think this is an exaggeration, but instead of the common beliefs children are taught to say, let’s do an experiment and encourage them to state their opinion on gay marriage instead, in front of the congregation.
A 5-year-old undoubtedly has no coherent opinion on such a complicated topic, but we can certainly infer the Church’s view on the matter and equally “teach” the child to agree and repeat “I know homosexual behavior is a sin and I am against gay marriage.” I would challenge anyone to do that, but I don’t support child abuse.
The leaders of the Church will tell you that no member is required to bear their testimony. In fact, if I remember correctly, one of the Ten Commandments explicit prohibits one from bearing “false witness against your neighbour.”
But I submit to you that that is exactly what they do on that Sunday of fasting.
It is understood that bearing your testimony is the duty of every member, but especially those with children, so the time always comes where you have to stand up, wash, rinse, and repeat.
When pressed for answers the faithful doesn’t KNOW anything and has to always fall back on the simple fact that they can only BELIEVE. Yet, Mormons take every opportunity to state their “knowledge”, lest it be forgotten and shaken by reason and inquiry.