May 11, 2009

Church Experiment #19: Mormon Church (LDS)

I continue to be amazed by something I keep finding over and over again in the churches I have visited—that which unites them is more common than that which divides them. I had no idea what to expect when I stepped foot in the Mormon Church. I basically knew three things about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (

1) One of my best friends in graduate school was Mormon, and he was one of the nicest guys I have ever known. Very normal. Very funny. Very kind. And very … Mormon. Mormons get picked on quite a bit, but I have always had a difficult time thinking Mormons were “abnormal” because my graduate school friend was such a good guy.

2) Mormons ride around on bicycles wearing white dress shirts, dark ties, and giant name tags.

3) In preparation for my visit, I did a little research to figure out where to go, what day and time they met, and where I could get one of those giant name tags.


To finish reading about this experience or any of the reflections from my 52 visits, please purchase the full book here.


Anonymous said...

Looking forward to the Mosque.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your posts. I greatly enjoy reading them each week. I had to smile when you mentioned the little kids making noise during the meeting - I'm LDS and attend a ward specifically for unmarried college students. There aren't kids there, so the meetings are very quiet. But every time I go back home to visit I get to remember just how noisy big family wards can be! Good luck with the Mosque next week - I can't wait to read.

Anonymous said...

I have been following your blog for a while and find it most interesting.
I grew up a Mormon, although I do not consider myself one now. Perhaps I can help with some of the things you mention in this post about Mormons.
The main meeting which you attended is called " Sacrament Meeting" It is always a whole family event this means sometmes it can be very noisy. I would always remove my children if the were being disruptive but many paents feel they need 'the message' so they stay. Quite frankly I was happy for the break. There are another 2 hours of lessons after that, Sunday School which everyone attends based on their age (primary for the littlies 18ths to 11 y/o) and then after those separate meetings for Men; Priesthood and Women; Relief Society over the age of 12.
3 HOURS of church every week!
The Sacrament which you refer to as communion is passed by the Deacons, which is an office of the Priesthood. Most boys have this conferred upon them at the age of 12. This was one of the reasons I left the church. The fact that A 12 year old boy had more power and authority then me a 35 year old who had been married in the Temple. There is absolutely no equality for women in this church.
It is always '..taken in remembrance of the body and Blood of Christ...' with bread and water as 'Symbols'. The church is big on Symbols. Also remember that Mormons do not partake alcohol so definitely no wine!
The "quiet" time is for reflection & prayer to renew covenants made at baptism or in the Temple. Some wards do have some quiet music, you must have scored one that didn't.
Both Male and Females have the opportunity to serve a mission, is is strongly encourage for the Men, not so much for the girls. The Men leave as they turn 19 with the Females they wait until they are 21...( and if not married off by then they can go!)I also think the girls serve only for 18 months where as the Men serve for 2 years. Oh and it is fully self funded too.
The talks can range form some great speaker to very ordinary ones... depend of course on age and experience. Remember too that all the Clergy here is LAY, no formal education... just called by God. Makes for interesting meetings.
Anyway enough from me and I will continue to follow your journey!


Micah said...

Water vs Wine vs Grape Juice

In general, I'm with you. In fairness, though, the situation's not quite as cut-and-dry as you make it. The ancient near east (ANE) version of "wine" was often closer to water than to our wine. One of the historians (Josephus maybe?) records that wine was almost always heavily diluted, sometimes as much as 19 parts water to 1 part wine. This made drinking water safer, and let you drink lots in a dry environment without getting drunk. This is basically (in our mind at least) just water with a tiny bit of alcohol to kill the bugs. But in the ANE it was still considered "wine."

As far as fermentation goes, it was pretty uneven. Our wines tend to have a fairly consistent proof, but this was obviously a different situation in the ANE. Definitely, though, wine would be expected to be fermented, although the exact degree would vary widely.

Because the Last Supper happened at a Passover feast, it's understood that the first Communion was with Passover wine, which would likely be relatively pure (ie not water) and relatively decent (ie well-fermented). So you're right about that piece.

Live communion was standard among all Protestants up until the temperance movement in the last 1800s, where it started to transition to grape juice. The killing blow was Prohibition, where almost all Protestants moved to grape juice. After Prohibition ended, most didn't move back.

The Mormons started before it was possible to keep grape juice unfermented, and so built their theology around using water instead (again, for temperance reasons).

This ends your thoroughly useless and un-asked-for summary of wine and church.

A Modern Ancient said...

One more thing. Unfermented grape juice didn't even exist until the 1800s when Welch's first pasteurized it. That, coupled with the temperance movement, is what allowed many to abandon wine.

I think it is good to offer both since there are some who suffer from alcohol allergies.

The Catholic, Orthodox, and High Church Anglicans still mix water in with the wine for two reasons. First, the historical reason you mention, and second, because when Jesus was pierced water and blood flowed out together.

Of course, in churches where everything is purely symbolic, who cares if it is water, wine, grape juice, or kool-aid... however, historical Christianity has always taught it is more than symbolic which is why wine is the traditional element.

A Modern Ancient said...

You are so correct that there is more that unites us than divides us; not only as Christians, but as those who ascribe to particular religions or deities, as well as simply being human. Every Mormon I have ever met has been unbelievably kind. Their practice of 'Family Night' (one night a week where the family is together... makes it difficult if someone has a game/practice/appointment because they have to miss it in favor of their family time) is one that Christians could learn from.

Stop the phone... yes, I distinguished between Mormonism and Christianity. While I know that Mormonism is an offshoot of American Protestantism (an offshoot of European Protestantism... an offshoot of Roman Catholicism... etc.) and holds to certain practices that seem very similar, the underlying cosmology, soteriology, and eschatology (as well as Christology) are so different from any sort of historical Christianity that it is impossible to consider Mormonism as anything but an entirely separate and new religion.

That being said, I think it is foolish to demonize Mormons and Mormonism. Too often Christians accuse Mormonism of being a cult because of the control, shunning, and secret rituals. However, every form of Christianity utilizes these tools in certain ways.

DanThoms said...

@ A Modern Ancient
I'm sure that Mormons are generally nice people. Like you said though, Mormonism is an entirely different religion I would have a hard time even including it as a "Christian cult." The teachings of Joseph Smith very, um, different.

Kristen said...

I have been anxiously awaiting your week for us "Mormons." I was surprised, but in a good way, about your post. I'm really glad you gave us a chance, and found the most important thing of all...the love and importance we have for our families. I appreciated hearing what an 'outsider' felt about us.

folksinmt said...

Since I'm LDS, I can understand the ringing in your ears that came from all those children! It can be painful at times. Some wards are noisier than others, based on the number of children. I felt lucky yesterday as my five kids didn't get into a single battle during sacrament yesterday. It must have been their mother's day gift to me.

As you noted, you didn't see any religious symbols in the church. Our late president was once asked why mormon's don't use the symbol of the cross. Pres. Hinckley answered, "The lives of our people must become the most meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship." So glad you saw that in the family sitting in front of you. Your observations are a good reminder for me...what do people see in my interactions? And even more importantly, what about when no one is watching?

Kind of interesting, Joseph Smith walked into a grove of trees to pray...after months of attending various churches and studying their different doctrine in an attempt to find Christ's true church. :)

Thanks for your insights!

Steve Fuller said...


Are you suggesting I'm on my way to forming a new religion? :-)

All I need is a nice grove of trees...

DanThoms said...

Well Steve, there is a grove of trees behind my house that you can use. Prophet Steve Fuller, hmmmm. Has a nice ring to it.

folksinmt said...

I think you already have a pretty good following, Steve!

And Ron Hubbard supposedly said "The way to make a million dollars is to start a religion." Think of all the writing you could get done if you only had to work on Sunday!

What would you name your church? I think that would be a good topic for a blog post!

We have nothing but trees around here. Want me to mail you some saplings?

kimara said...

I just wanted to thank you for you post on the LDS church. It is interesting to hear things from your point of view. I hope that your journey won't just stop at the 52 weeks. Be a true seeker looking for what God would have you do. Ask him which church is right for you...really wanting to know and I know you will get your answer.

Ruby Red Slippers said...

I also am enjoying reading these church posts-
I was curious about what it was like at an LDS church-there are several ladies on-line that are Mormon, and I wanted to understand them a little more.
The interaction of the mother and son was so sweet-and how you realized the blessing of your own mom was why you were meant to be there-

Judy in Indiana said...

I have friends who are Mormon, though they live far away. We were pen pals as kids, and grew into being adults who have families.

When one of my sons was a baby he had to have urgent heart surgery to correct a valve. My Mormon friend contacted the local ward nearest where I live and sent Elders to the hospital to give a blessing to the baby. This was of ultimate importance to him, so i was fine with it, thinking we could use all the blessings we can get.

The Elders arrived, two college students on their Mission and a guy from the ward. One of the "kids" did the blessing. He put oil on my bay's forehead and spoke some words. Another friend who is Mormon said the blessing is of importance because the words he spoke were not his words, but were words straight from God and that she often writes down the blessings so she can revisit them over and over again.

The men are expected to serve their missions at or after age 18. The women can serve if they want but must be 21. The men, no matter how old, are always the leaders and the women are below them in church stature. So, an 18 year old man has more "power" than an old woman.

My friend even had a lady from the local ward calling to check on me and see if I need anything. It was, as you say, either the nicest thing or very creepy.

Salt Lake (I think it was) had a natural disaster a few years ago, like a tornado blew apart parts of the town. FEMA said they had never seen anything like the response they got. In a ward, members are assigned other members to look out for (One family looks out for five others, I think, and the male head of the household is in charge of this) and members have 6 months of food and suplies in storage in their house. So, storm damage? They just got out their chainsaws and cleared their own roads, helped their own neighbors and went about their lives like there was no problem. I even think the LDS church has its own welfare system.

There are lots I don't like about the LDS church,but lots we could all employ, too.

Dion said...

Multiple times through your experiment you mention that you don't know much about the beliefs of the churches you visit. I think that gives an interesting ability to not pre-judge before you walk through their doors.

Your observance of "more that unites us than divides us" is interesting. I would say that since we all have the same designer we will have many similarities or instincts for lack of a better word. Although I would say that where those similarities are aimed would be what separates us.
Simply put, if I pray and my neighbor prays does that make us similar. In some way yes. But if I pray to Jesus and he prays to Krishna we are not as similar as we look.

Still enjoying your posts!

mitchowl said...

I've been reading your religious journeyings for a while now. Always fair and insightful. I'm so glad you wrote what I've always thought, that different churches are really not so different from each other in that they are full of good decent people trying to do the right thing. And maybe that mom isn't the one who rejected her child who left their church. Maybe he is the one who pulled away from the family. Just a thought.
Keep up this insightful journey, it's a great read.

spiritualbrother said...

I too enjoy reading about your visits to different churches.

Jamie said...

I have had the pleasure of knowing many people who are a part of the LDS church, and it has been my experience that they are the truest example of a person who wants to be Christ-like. I admire the family values that the LDS church upholds, even if I don't fully understand the Joseph Smith connection.

Kristen said...

I fully support other people putting great comments on this blog, but I do feel the need to correct one's VERY important and being LDS and just teaching a lesson on this very subject, I wanted to clarify 1 thing. Yes, women do not hold the priesthood but we are IN NO WAY unequal to men. We are at the same level. No one is more important than any other. I think that it is important for people to understand that. I have never felt unequal to my husband. Women are honored and revered. I feel honored being a women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Laura said...

I picked up Cinweekly this afternoon and thought "huh. that looks a lot like my persuasive speaking professor."

and then I realized it was my persuasive speaking professor! Nice job, I hope your church visits go well.

Anonymous said...

I've really reading your blog. I wonder how far you are willing to go with this. Would you consider going to a Wiccan ritual?

Steve Fuller said...


Sure. Any suggestions?

Nan said...

I've been reading a couple of weeks (found through thisisreverb) and am loving your journey. I'm beginning to be inspired to start one of my own.
The theme I got from this week was that there is more that is the same about us than is different. I love that. I always used to think that there was one main God, and all the different religions were following a different "face" of the same being.
So, thanks for this, and thanks for the inspirations.

Anonymous said...

Can we make suggestions? I'd like to suggest The Church of the Covenant... it's small and old-school, but they preach the truth

Jenny K said...

Thank you so much for this blog. I have been struggling with my faith since I started college - ironically because of Christian groups on campus, not from a lack of faith -

and am now 'searching' for a place to go around town. It is refreshing to see that I am not the only one who is looking around, trying to bounce back from church/notchurch, etc.

I look forward to see where else you end up going. God bless.

Jayna said...

I like that through this journey you are trying to redefine your faith. Because to find the perfect church would be impossible. We are all imperfect and therefore, a church run by imperfect people would also, therefore, be imperfect. Only Christ and his teachings are perfect. Now, what are the world's teachings and what are the true teachings of Christ? I think only the spirit can tell you. Listen to the spirit as you attend the meetings and ask God sincerely and you will find the answer. As far as your faith goes, true faith requires knowledge of him and the desire to act. I think that is what being part of a congregation is all about - Putting others first... isn't that what Christ did?

Anonymous said...

There are several groups which hold open events. Quite a bit depends on where, geographically, you are when, since our rituals are seasonal. A good starting point is Circle Sanctuary in Wisconsin,

Another great resource is The Witches Voice, which has listing for several public events, gatherings and rituals.

I'm really looking forward to more of your posts, even if you decide Wiccan rituals are outside the scope of your mission. Feel free to email me if I can be of any assistance.

Anonymous said...

you should try the hebrew israelites, they're over in bond hill, check them out at

Amy said...

This is a nice journey. I have a suggestion for you.

My introduction to this fairly obscure faith was through my high school economics teacher. I interviewed him for a survey of world religion paper and it kinda blew my mind as someone who was raised Southern Baptist. Since then, I've had several other teachers who are also followers, service is a big thing for them.

samarahuel said...

I listen to a few podcasts on iTunes regularly, two of which I thought might be of interest to people here. Renewing Your Mind with R.C. Sproul is doing (or just finished) a series called "Bride of Christ," all about the church, which I thought might be particularly relevant to this blog. White Horse Inn also has a weekly program that is always interesting; this year they are focusing on Christ and the Culture, and they are always bringing up points that make me think of things Steve or any of the commenters write here. Both podcasts are free and can be found easily by searching the iTunes Store. You should be able to download past broadcasts, like the Bride of Christ ones, by browsing the list of recent episodes.

Anonymous said...


I understand your reaction to the noise from children in LDS sacrament meetings. It used to annoy me occassionally...until I had a couple of my own. Now my perspective is a little different.

To me, the commotion of children just being themselves is its own form of sweet, beautiful music. It can also be very amusing. Just last week, a man who was sitting in front of me went up to the stage to sing a musical number. As he was walking back to his seat, his little two-year-old daughter stood up on her seat and blurted out in a loud voice, "I like dat you sing it, Daddy." It was adorable and we all got a chuckle out of it.

"Suffer the little achildren to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." - Mark 10:14

photogr said...

I have never went on such a campaign as you are doing but moving around the country with a company I was with before I retired did give me insight on different types of churches that I attended.

I have been in Catholic, Nazarine, Baptist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, and non denominational
Churches over the last few years.

Most were very good experiences with people in the congregation making me feel quite welcome and followed up with visitations to our home by the pastor or the deacons. A couple churches were stand offish and seemed clickish ( self serving I call them).

The one theme I did find were all were devoute in worshiping God and Jesus. You could also feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in most of the churches in their worship and many of the pastors were passionate in their sermons.

Sadly for me the the couple that did not have what I was looking for led me to abandon worshiping in a fellowship setting. I ended up worshiping singularly for a few years only to realize God wanted me back into a church serving and worshiping in a fellowship setting.

What it actually boils down to is any church that you feel comfortable in is what God wants you to do. He is not picky about what demomination you worship in but love Him as He loves you. Give your time to serve and win others to the Lord. And yes by all means allow he children to participate in the services so that they may know the Lord too.

Kristi said...

Well this is my first time here and I'm pleased to see you visited my faith this past week! Thank you for your open mind and kind words...even in the things that you didn't understand. Just like one person pointed too are doing just what Joseph Smith did, he wanted to know what was the right church to join. So good luck and keep praying. God leads you to truth and I think you have a great heart. OK - That was a little wishy washy but ya know...I have to say it like it is! ;)

And just to clarify about us being Christian's...we truly center our faith around Christ and being Christ-like (as much as we can!) so I guess if some don't really qualify us in the Christian faith...well I guess that's okay...but I do feel we are.

Have fun on your next journey!

WKRLauraincinti said...

I saw an article about your experiment in Cin Weekly. I love the blogs and being able to learn about the different churches through your experience of them. I have also attended quite a few different churches, and I really agree with your views as I have had many of the same experiences. Being targeted as the newbie, and having someone try to get me to speak in tongues ranks in my top ten of uncomfortable or weird church experiences.

The biggest question I have is still unanswered. Why did you stop going to church? Just curious, and wondering if it is the same reason I wanted to stop going several years ago.

I was raised in protestant churches, first Methodist, then Baptist. I was married and divorced in a Baptist church. Not fun.

After meeting my second husband, who was raised Catholic, we went through the same journey you are now, together. We wanted God in our lives, but weren't sure how we wanted to do that. We attended Crossroads for 2 years, and liked some of the Bible teaching, but for a church to settle into it wasn't a fit.

We tried another super church, and this was where I realized I really needed a new approach to church. Crossroads was too unchurchy for me, a person who had had a very personal faith all my life. I studied the Bible and I already "got it." Christianity that is.

But the experience at most Protestant churches was too much of a "When you are a Christian you talk and act a certain way." A religiosity way of talking, where almost as if to prove your Christian. you say things like "Praise the Lord." I just couldn't take it anymore. And if I was guessing, I would guess that's at least part of what sent you packing.

I found a book called Blue Like Jazz, written by Donald Miller, who had the same experience, and chronicled his faith-searching journey in the book. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.

My husband and I attended churches closer to us, because this time, we wanted "community." We soon realized the only churches in our area with strong attendance from 40'ish age families were Catholic churches. As we attended, we really appreciated the "not being too casual" with God part. We liked the reverence and awe of God.

I also liked the fact that you weren't greeted by some weirdo in that creepy too enthusiastic way that you said happened to you a couple of times. I liked the comfortable hand shake and the peace be with you. Who can argue with a wish for peace?

In fact, one Sunday when my husband and I were deciding where to go I said, "Let's go to a Catholic church, I don't feel like meeting anybody." I liked the anonymity.

You expressed that in several churches you didn't feel like you were able to just pray and connect with God. I felt like I could do that in the Catholic church more than any other church. There was plenty of time to be on my knees and pray. I was somewhat bummed out at first that I didn't know when to stand, sit, the responses, etc, but you catch on to that in time, and the most important thing was that I could just be quiet and pray.

What attracted us to the Catholic church was that the families seemed more like us. Regular people, who wanted to pray and teach our children about God, and who aren't trying to be perfect, but just want to be connected with God in our lives. So after going through RCIA, I joined, and as soon as we can get all the paperwork done, annulments etc (no church is perfect) we will be married in the church.

What I want to share with you or anyone else reading your blog and your posts is that what happens in Catholic churches at mass, is only a small part of what goes on in the church. There are many opportunities to grow more in and deepen your faith.

Many Catholic churches are now doing retreats and other activities to help those who grew up in the church (or anyone for that matter) to better understand what the faith is /was all about, Luckily we found one that does retreats called Christ Renews His Parish. They are for people who want more in their faith and connection with God. They are very good and have nothing to do with acting, talking or behaving any certain way.

I strongly encourage anyone who is searching to take a deeper look at the Catholic church. The RCIA programs can answer some of your questions.
If I have one criticism of many Catholic churches, it is that they are often too somber, but many parishes are trying to change that too. For example, many churches have guitar masses with more contemporary music.

Good luck in your journey.

WKRLauraincinti said...

Sorry previous comment was so long, and I want to clarify one thing. In church, we weren't just looking for "people like us," while there were plenty of families our ages, in most Catholic churches we attended, it has been a beautiful mix of young, old, black, white and everything in between. However, if someone is single, I would highly recommend looking for a parish that has an active singles group.

Anonymous said...

ZOMG, where is the Mosque?!?!? Don't tell me you're going to write it on Sunday! THIS IS HORRIBLE. WHAT AM I GOING TO READ NOW FOR 8-10 Minutes!??!?

estavares said...


You may have moved on already, but I thought I'd add some clarity to how to define the Church of Jesus Christ in regards to its place among other Christian churches.

Is it Christian, as in, it teaches that Jesus Christ is the Svaior of the world and only by Him, and through Him, can all humankind be saved? YES.

Is it Christian, as in, a branch off of any other church on Earth? NO.

If you were to give this faith a label, call it "Restorationist." That means that the church is the restored gopsel of Jesus Christ. Priesthood authority has been restored. Lost doctrine has been returned. Ordinances that once lost meaning and power have been restored, and new revelation again flows through authorized servants, much as they did with Peter, James, Paul, and the original Apostles.

Ha. Sounds like a rock band. :)

Elom said...

I am glad I read this particular church experiment today. I was supposed to read the following comments:

"(...), if you are neglecting your family to spend more time at church, stop it. If you have lost relationships with loved ones because of your religion, now is a great time to reconnect."

OUCH. I had a dream last night in which my siblings tracked me down at my pastor's house at the end of a Bible study, because that's where they knew I would be. I found it very disturbing, and it made me really sad... but I know what to do now.

Thanks again,

Crgallen said...

I have been thoroughly enjoying your blog. I grew up in Cincinnati (went to VCC) and moved to Arizona in 2006. The number of LDS here in the East Valley is astounding as their churches seem to be on every corner. I, too, have found them to be some of the kindest folk I have ever met. I am hoping to see you visit a small conservative KJV Baptist church sometime. This is how I was raised and would love to hear your thoughts on it. I can give you some recommendations if you like!

Thaddeus said...

Steve, just so you know: the invitation to dinner? Nicest gesture ever. And it's not unique to that lady in that ward.

But I can see how it would make a perfect stranger uncomfortable. If it does, just politely decline. I wouldn't decline myself, though. Unless I already had dinner plans.

What Do Mormons Believe

J.J. Bennett said...

After the Sacrament meeting there is Sunday school. Then the men go to Priesthood and women go to Relief Society. Both are taught the same lesson and go over activites the "Ward" is doing to help others in service or social activies.

The Mormon church is Christian and believes in the Book of Mormon. This is a history of the people who lived in the Americas just like the Bible which takes place in the East. They believe that families can be togther far beyond this world into the eternities.

Holly said...

I just adore your blog. Naturally, when I found it, I had to check to see if you had visited my particular faith, hence why I'm posting on the specific entry.
I appreciate the honest review, and it gives a great insight to how visitors feel when they come to our church. (specifically, announcing about Sunday School and our gender split meetings for the 3rd hour) I'll take that suggestion to our local leadership, although I am not in your specific area.
Good luck in your endeavor. May God be with you.

David, Sara and Natalie said...

Thanks for sharing your experience visiting our church. I agree that there is more that unites us than divides us. Although I am LDS, I have had some tender moments with friends and mentors in my life who were not of my faith that who were inspiring to me in their examples of faith and testimony.

I am in the Eastgate ward which has far fewer children, and it is not as loud. People are usually pretty good about taking their noisy children out if they are inconsolable. One of the benefits of the later meetings after sacrament meeting is that your kids over 18 months go to their own classes, leaving the adults free to focus on the lessons. If you ever get a chance, I hope you can attend the rest of the meetings. :-)

Anonymous said...

I have to say that I cannot see how Mormons can be Christians. They believe so many things different than Christians do. Christ says that there are no marriages or families in Heaven. And Yet they go to temples to have their marriages "sealed" and have their families "sealed" as well. God "seals" them they believe, and yet there are a lot of divorces in the Mormon church and I have to wonder how they "unseal" their temple weddings and families when divorce occurs.

I have known LDS families and the husband is the BOSS and makes the decisions for the family. The ones I knew had as many children as they could, even though they could not afford to feed them or take them to the Dr. at times. I also have to add that the men were very arrogant and talked down to me. The men seemed very immature and made Christianity a joke. I could never be friends with Mormons. Their "good nature" is a part they do for the church. It was not how they really felt.