Once there came a man
"Range me all men of the world in rows."
There was terrific clamour among the people
Against being ranged in rows.
There was a loud quarrel, world-wide.
It endured for ages;
And blood was shed
By those who would not stand in rows,
And by those who pined to stand in rows.
Eventually, the man went to death, weeping.
And those who staid in bloody scuffle
Knew not the great simplicity.
There are many people that are willing to brand the followers of
Brigham Young a "cult". That is a dangerous accusation that
I am not willing to make here. Such branding does not lead to
thinking, analysis, or the open exchange of ideas. Of course, neither
does systematic organized aggressive missionary work, but I digress.
It is my belief that all cults are lead by either a "living
prophet" or a person in whom lay people are expect to set aside
their own conscience and intellect in deference. That covers many
organizations, not just the Salt Lake City LDS church.
A cult must have elements of brain washing and group pressure to
conform. It must also systematically assimilate the other
institutions that "normal" people rely upon, until major
portions of its flock rely solely upon the institution for
self-worth, life direction, social interaction, and economic
livelihood. To be a cult in my book, it must wield both a formidable
"carrot" and "stick" against its followers, not
simply encouraging them to enjoy social connectedness and the
personal satisfaction of leading a good life, but rather the two
prong assault of reward and punishment.
Most religions, including those that I participate in, are satisfied
to provide and perform simple things: to sing in the choir, tell or
hear theological lore, pass on historical contexts; to bless
children, bless marriages, bring comfort to the sick and peace to
death's survivors; to feed and care for the poor, the abandoned, the
infirm. For these religious institutions, there are no dues to pay
and no threats held overhead. Love is given free of coersion, in the
style proclaimed by those ancient, unamended, testaments of Jesus.
As I came of age, the Roman Catholics were fascinating to me for
their Medieval rituals and beliefs. The clergy, male and female,
cannot marry as they are married to the church. A bell is rung three
times, and many religious tracts are chanted three times during the
service. The host (communion wafers) is considered sacred once
blessed by the priest, the "literal" body and blood of
Christ (leading to a hilarious anecdote of a priest tripping with the
chalice and nobody being allowed to sweep up the mess with a dustpan).
Have you ever kicked back and made fun of Islam's rituals? You know
the Ayatollah was considered a "living prophet" by himself
and millions of his followers, too. What about facing Mecca to bow
and chant six or seven times a day (what would an Islamic astronaut
do, and when?). Islam dictates, although certain of its "living
prophets" have repealed that particular section of revelation,
that woman must be veiled and may not drive cars or heal the sick?
Isn't that a pathetic way to treat over half the population? Isn't
that a scream? Obviously, any mortal man that declared that such
ridiculous roadblocks to salvation were "revealed" to him
directly by God was either consciously or unconsciously making it all
up, right? It is easy for two people to belittle or disregard the
beliefs of a third. I mean, God doesn't put silly and ridiculous
locks on the gates of heaven, right? Well certainly not the ones
specified by those other religions anyway!
When shall we talk about Mormon temple rites?
I have read voraciously any information I can find on them. Now I
cannot state for certain, since I have never been in a Mormon temple
(except to visit the one in Farmington, Utah before it was
"sealed" from the unclean likes of me). I would be
delighted to learn the truth about what goes in there, and encourage
you to procure a "temple recommend" for me that I might
share its delights and correct any misinformation I have received.
Oh, but you can't.
These secret and sacred rites are not available to me, according to
the "living prophet", unless I jump through a series of
more and more complex hoops. With each hoop, I should suspend a
greater degree of my own judgment and intellect and rely instead upon
that provided "providentially" to me by the "living
prophet" and his followers. Check your brains at the door, these
rites are sacred and defy human comprehension. They were, after all, "revealed".
I guess we are back to defining a "cult" and my old friend
Huckleberry Finn. In my book, a cult must invent or possess a place,
thing, or ritual that creates a segregated population between those
that have it and those that do not. You know, just like the way Jesus
did in the New Testament. They must possess that thing, place or
ritual and systematically reward those that possess, reside or
perform it and deny or exclude those that do not. I'm not talking
about dinner rides on the boss's boat, although what a great example
about the addictive and easily influencable nature of human beings.
To be a cult, it must invoke something of fear. Very few churches aim
to do that. The Catholics preach about eternal damnation, as do sects
from Judaism, Islam and the followers of Joseph Smith. That certainly
is their right, but lets call it like it is. This environment of fear
is the fine print that is left off the book jackets in the Marriott
desk drawer and the fine print missing from "call this number
for a free bible" TV ads. It is a church based on segregation,
derision and fear.
Such a group must first grant the perceived or invented
"gift" to a select set of followers, much like the first
"living prophet" did in New York and Kirtland. Then he must
carefully balance giving it out and holding it back so that enough
receive it (to confirm its greatness) while enough are denied it (to
whip their souls to a frenzy). That is how cults get their members to
do things that from afar seem incredible and impossible to comprehend
by an unindoctrinated lay person. I am sure that you have read of
such ritualistic segregation leading to suicide bombers and poison
laced Kool-Aid. And the Mormons are among the groups that
systematically use this very dangerous technique.
There are some certain rituals, that I am only vaguely aware of and
possibly misinformed about, that I must perform in a temple, either
in person or by proxy, to achieve LDS eternal bliss. The rules of
life "behind the veil" are defined by the "living
prophet" and his followers and do not bind to the rules of this
world. I am told and I am expected to believe, follow, and alter my
life to optimize my status within those dictated rules. Is this about
"loving thy neighbor", and "thy will be done"? If
not, why are they performed? And if the rituals are Christlike, why
are they done in a locked temple under strict segregation? Why can't
I simply walk into an LDS temple tomorrow morning and get my personal
piece of grace?
Oh, that would make me uncontrollable. I must want, or better yet
NEED the grace, the divinity, the eternal comfort and bodily
pleasures provided by recipients of that restricted ritual and I must
fear the abandonment, the Satanistic prison, the eternal suffering
"revealed" to the "living prophet" as what is due
to those that do not administer that rite. Does anybody believe that
the source of that line of reasoning is from anywhere except the mind
of man? And surely a man that fancies himself to be a "living
prophet" no less.
So back to Huck Finn and the Pearly Gates of heaven.