Part 7: Engaging in the literature… and the praying

I got to tell you, I was pretty excited when it came to reading the BoM. I now held in my hands the book that teaches us a lot of loony stuff. A lot of loony stuff that is not the same loony stuff as in the other loony book called the Bible. I also glanced through the pamphlet, but it really didn’t teach me anything new. At least not anything new and important. It was about the restoration of Jesus’ original church. Yes, you heard me. According to Mormons the world descended into apostasy soon after Jesus ascended to the heavens, and the world lived in a false sense of faith up until Joseph Smith came with the original word of god.

That evening I spent reading the BoM. When I opened it I saw that the inner side of the cover had a separate piece of paper glued to it. It said “The Book of Mormon answers the soul’s questions”, and had a series of questions with references to specific chapters and verses. There were questions like “Why does God allow godlessness and suffering?”, and “How can I avoid the evil, which threatens my family?”. What I came to realize more and more, and what I already had some vague sense of, was that Mormons are very family-oriented. They almost love their families more than they do god. I’ve heard that in the USA they can also have very large families, with many kids per couple. I never encountered families with more than five kids, but on average they did have more kids than other families. Since I didn’t know where to start reading, I went through all the 15 questions and the places in the BoM where those questions were answered. Well, needless to say, it was like reading a fairy tale book. It would be like having a Harry Potter book with just some questions like “Why did the wand choose Harry?” and “What was the true purpose of the Erised-mirror?”, and then on a separate paper having the respective pages where to search for those answers. This didn’t mean you would start thinking “Yeah, there is something to this story. Man was I blind; this author knows what he/she is talking about! Now I’m going to go pray to Dumbledore and ask for forgiveness.”.

I don’t really think that the BoM is meant to be read cover to cover. But after reading through the questions and the pages they referred to, I really had no other choice than to start from the beginning. The first book of the BoM is First Nephi. After reading a bit of it though, I realized it was only historical fiction about Nephi, and not really anything central to the faith I would’ve longed for. I wanted parts I could use to assist me in the bashing of these nutjob Mormons, not historical fiction about people in the desert searching for treasure or whatever. Well, maybe I should just do what the Mormons and other religious people do: sit on my ass and wait for it to come to me. Yes, this was what I was going to do. It’s a good thing, since that gives me time to go bowling, or sleeping.

We regularly met with the missionaries. We tried to keep it at 2-3 times a week. And with this I of course mean that they tried to keep it at 3 times, and I tried to keep it at 2 times. Every single time they asked me how far I’ve gotten with reading the BoM. I always just added a few chapters, saying that my busy university studies came first. They said god would understand. The one thing that really was freaking me out was the anticipation of the first time they would ask me to be the one to hold the prayer. I didn’t really know what to say. It’s one thing to not know what to say when you expect someone to hear you, but it’s completely different when you know there is no one on the receiving line.

One thing that I couldn’t wrap my head around was why the missionaries were never alone. They always had someone with them. Were these people with them since it was mandatory somehow? Did they need to learn about missionary work first-hand? Sometimes it was a young girl, sometimes an elderly couple. But they were never by their twosome.

Not really many times passed before they asked me if I was willing to hold the opening prayer. They insisted though that it was my house and I could decide who holds the opening and closing prayers. I had mentioned to them that I hadn’t prayed in three years and that I felt more comfortable with praying by myself and not in a large group. But I couldn’t avoid it forever, so naturally I gave in and held the opening prayer. I was quite shaky. What in the world should I ask from a nonexistent deity? Or more importantly, if there really was a deity listening to me, and I’d know it, what would I actually ask? That’s what I should focus on. Should I pray that I’d do well in my studies? No, that was in my own hands. As was pretty much everything else. I had to put myself in the state of mind of a believer. What distinguishes a believer? Then it occurred to me: ego. When you pray you are asking an omnipotent being to alter his plan for the universe according to your needs. I mean I could ask for world peace, but god doesn’t work in those ways. So I began.

“Our Heavenly Father. Thank you for giving us this wonderful opportunity to get together. Bless the missionaries for their kindness, openness and willingness to teach me Your ways. I ask for Your guidance in my daily life, and that You show me that You are listening. Bless this day and fill it with all Your visible glory. I hope that You will forgive my former godless life and now be willing to accept me as a long lost child. I ask this of You in the name of our savior Jesus Christ. Amen.”

I felt extremely odd. First of all that was my first prayer in over three years. Second of all I felt kind of sick. I’m not used to big amounts of bullshit spewing out of my mouth at one time. But the missionaries seemed impressed. Not surprising though. They live in a world full of bullshit. In the future I came to realize that the missionaries thought I had a natural talent for praying. Or more like a supernatural. That my praying skills were divinely inspired. I’m pretty sure though that I am just good at articulating. I mean I do speak six languages, so maybe I just have a natural talent for formulating a prayer to sound well without preparing for it much. I suck at math, but the language part of my brain is quite large. Or maybe that’s just a tumor I feel…

The missionaries were as I said quite impressed with my prayer. They asked me if I had any questions about things I’ve read in the BoM or the pamphlet I had been given. I had a hard time asking them questions. Not that I didn’t have any, oh boy, I tell you I had lots of them. It was just that by asking them these questions I’d either offend them, or make them realize that they were dealing with an atheist that never could be converted and is just playing with them. I told them I had come up with some questions when reading, but that I had now forgotten them, and that I would start taking notes when reading in the future to remember these questions. Of course I never did. Mostly because I forgot, to be honest, but also since after a while it was impossible for me to continue reading something like the BoM. The pamphlets though, those I read. They were not really long, and had a good and summarized insight in different philosophies and doctrines of the church.

This time we spoke about the plan of salvation. They asked me how much I knew about it so far. I told them I only knew what I had been taught by my own church. This of course was a lie. I knew about the Mormon cosmology. But I didn’t want to tell them about it, since if they knew I knew, they’d become suspicious when I ultimately would decide not to join the church. If I already knew about all the things I regarded as “crazy”, then why would I have gone so far with the church? This is why I wanted some things to be a “surprise”, so that I could in the end leave them because of their science-fictional views on Christianity. I was actually a bit surprised when they told about the “fact” that I had lived with god prior to my birth. I thought they’d wait with too crazy things until later, when a person was more accustomed to crazy stuff. I asked them why god would create us first in heaven and then send us to earth. Well I already knew that it was for us to get a physical body which we could then keep after death. But I had to keep asking questions.

I received a pamphlet about the plan of salvation, which I was told to read until next time. As usual they told me to also keep reading the BoM and praying, and god would give me a sign of his existence in the end. I actually started reading the pamphlet as soon as they left. The BoM and praying part though… eh. But I would soon realize that my praying for the day would not be over.

In the evening my phone rang. I usually don’t answer if it says “no number”, but what if it was a Nigerian prince who wanted to give me half of his gold? No way I was going to miss that. So I answered. To my surprise it was Sarah. This time she had a friend with her. Or a partner. Or a work buddy. I don’t know how Mormons out on mission refer to each other. Sarah sounded very excited. She wanted to know how things were going with the church. I told her about my meetings with the missionaries. I also bragged about my praying. Which… of course was a mistake. She urged me to hold the opening prayer. Apparently phone meetings are meetings too. I could brag to you about how excellent it went on the phone too, just like during my meeting with the missionaries earlier. But then I’d be telling the truth, and making myself look arrogantly good at praying. So let’s say it went like crap.

She introduced her partner. Let’s call her that. Makes them sound like they were a couple. Her name was Missy, and she was quite like Sarah. A bit on the shy side, giggling a lot. I told Missy about myself and how I had come in contact with the church, and she repeatedly said “oh, that’s so great, I’m so glad for you”. Of course Sarah was also interested in what we had talked about with her cousin. That of course was not really much.

We spoke for half an hour and during that time they told me some passages to look up in the BoM. I promised them I’d read the chapters, and I actually did. It’s easier to read one or two pages from a specific book than just reading from the start to the end. I didn’t think much of them though. When reading the Bible one can actually find some useful stuff. Even if it’s full of genocide, rape, torture, immoral behavior and things like that, it has its rare moments of moral insight. I found nothing of that sort whatsoever in the BOM. And I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t find any, even if I tried to search for it. The passages given to me so far should be of the best kind, the most convincing of the goodness and validity of this faith.

When the closing prayer had been held, Sarah asked me if they could keep calling me. Now that I had my own missionaries who came and taught me directly Sarah and her partner’s job was pretty much done, but if I wanted they would keep calling every now and then to see how everything was progressing. No harm in that, of course. I don’t have a lot going on. Just nice to have someone calling you in the evenings.

It didn’t take long before my life would become Mormonified.

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