Episode #6: Mormon Identity Part I
Karen: Happy Tuesday and welcome to the Wish You Knew podcast. I'm your host Karen Bortvedt. Thank you so much for tuning in for another week. I have to say I was blown away by two things last week. One, I finally checked out the analytics as to how many of you are listening each week. And was amazed how many of you are tuning in each week. I was also blown away by how many of you sent in questions for this week's guest, Keith, who is Mormon. There were in fact so many questions that I have divided this episode into two parts because I wasn't sure if you all would be able to handle an almost two hours long. So, we'll have part one of the interview this week. If you don't hear your question answered this week, be sure to tune in next week because it should be there. I think I had most of the questions answered. First, thanks so much, Keith, for agreeing to be on the podcast.
Karen: I am very excited to have you, and I think our listeners are as well, because we have had many, many questions coming in on all kinds of different things.
Keith: I'm excited about it. I love talking about ... Well, I love to talk. I'm kind of sad that way.
Karen: My very first question for you is about vocabulary, because I want to try to make sure I'm using the correct vocabulary.
I have heard Mormon, LDS, Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What should I be saying? What is the difference? Are they the same?
Keith: They're all pretty much the same. You get some that are more particular than others, but for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, with its world office in Salt Lake City, the one with the missionaries on the bicycles, non-polygamist practicing sect, it is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is the official name.
But they understand LDS and Mormon. So we go by three common names, but Mormon or LDS is just as easily accepted as I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It's a long way of saying it.
Karen: I much prefer shorter ways of saying things. So we'll stick with that.
I think you had said that you were raised in the Mormon faith. Was that seen as an option, or was that an imperative that that's just what you would do?
Keith: That's a great question. My parents are converts. My mom grew up Catholic, my father grew up Seventh-Day Adventist, and my grandfather was a 33rd degree Mason. So we had a very eclectic religious background. When I was born, my parents had already converted to the Mormon faith. They really gave me the opportunity to make my own decision.
Yes, I grew up Mormon. Yes, my parents were Mormon. Yes, my brother served Mormon missions. Yes, I went to church every Sunday. I attended the seminary classes that high school students go to. But I didn't commit to the faith to the degree that I am today until I was probably halfway through my mission.
I went because it was customary until I was about 17. When I turned 17, I kinda had to make my own decision. I investigated other churches. I had friends with other churches. Actually, my best friend in high school wasn't even a religious person.
It was my choice. My parents did not force it down my throat. So I consider it as my choice, but at the same time, it was a culture that I grew up in. So it was a comfortable acceptance for me to get into.
Karen: Is that common among Mormons, that it's flexible, and families are open to whichever way their children decide to go, if they want to keep the faith or choose a new faith?
Keith: I think with any religion, LDS, Mormon faith included, parents would prefer that their kids follow their steps. I have a daughter right now who's going to a college, and she does not have the same level of commitment as I'd like her to. But we've given her the freedom to make her own choices, because in my house, with my wife, we feel that when you force a child into following a specific belief system that it'll push 'em away faster than it'll help them accept it.
So my wife's family, on the other hand, you were Mormon. There was no other religion. They really did not approve of non-Mormon activities, non-Mormon traditions. But both her parents were born and raised in the LDS faith.
So I think you'll find it's an even split, where the parents, I think, again, in any religion, want their children to follow. You'll find some parents are more persistent, pushing their child into a specific group of beliefs. The LDS faith does teach, as a Catholic would, or a Buddhist, or a Seventh-Day Adventist, or a Jehovah's Witness, that our church is the best church, and our church has the most truth, and our church is the right way.
So anybody in the church is taught that. But at the same time, the LDS faith teaches you that you have to make your own choice. You have to pray. You have to ask God to understand if the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be, if you believe that there's prophets, if you believe these things. There's a standard statement in the LDS church that says, "No missionary has ever converted a person. The Spirit converts. The people are just the delivery, or the mouthpiece. But the Spirit converts."
So everybody has to make their own choice at the end of the day.
Karen: I want to ask you a lot more about a couple of the points you mentioned there.
But I want to jump back to the idea of exploring your faith. You said that it's up to the person to commit. One of the listeners asked specifically if the Mormon faith has something like the Mennonites or the Amish, I believe, that they have a time where they go out from the church and decide on their own if they want to remain in the church or not.
Keith: That's a great question. It's funny you ask that. I've never been asked that one. No. I've never been introduced to the option of saying, "Hey, take a couple of weeks off. Go enjoy life, and then come back." The LDS faith is very strong in consistency. We try to emulate our lives as Christ would. We don't feel that you get to take time off for that.
So, no. I don't know of anything in the LDS faith that I've ever been taught or introduced or shared where we can say, "Yeah, go take some time off from your faith, and then come back if you want, when you're done."
Karen: Another friend had also asked, sort of along those same lines, this friend had a different friend who had left the faith because they found it to be too strict. What do you think are some of the rules that may seem very strict to us non-LDS folks?
Keith: You can't drink coffee. The LDS faith teaches us not to do things but always stresses it's your choice. So when I hear people say, "You can't drink coffee. You can't drink tea. You can't drink Coke, or Pepsi, or Dr. Pepper," it makes me cringe. You can do whatever you want. You make your own choices, and you live with your consequences.
But with the LDS faith, adult members that are in good standing and fully committed wear garments, which will often dictate how long your shorts have to be or sleeved shirts versus tank tops. Or we don't play shirts and skins in outdoor games, for the men.
The Sundays, we don't spend money. Sunday is a day of rest, where we stay home with our families. We don't go to the movies. Again, people do that. So when I say that, it's a general statement. Obviously, people will say, "Well, I know these Mormons ..." Yes, there are. Nobody's perfect. But the standard in the church is Sunday is a day of rest, and you don't go out.
No, we don't drink coffee. No, we don't drink tea. No, we don't smoke cigarettes or marijuana, and no, we don't drink alcohol. The oddity of the two-year commitment for a mission ... You hear rumors of things about the church, like you guys can't eat meat. Things like that are just rumors. There's much more doctrinal bases behind it. I don't want to waste your time on those things. But I eat steak often. I drink Dr. Pepper. I drink Mountain Dew, prefer Dr. Pepper.
But those are some oddities. Can't date 'til you're 16. My favorite is high school students, once you become a freshman in high school, or ninth grade, -- some of that would be middle school -- they go to a one-hour-a-day religious studies class. In Utah, it's usually, there's an LDS building near a high school campus that the high school students that choose to go to. It's called seminary.
My four oldest kids right now are all attending seminary, or my three oldest. My oldest-oldest has graduated from high school, so she's out of seminary. But the three oldest, they go before school. So they get up at 5:30 in the morning. They're at seminary by 6:15. They get out by 7:30, and then they go to school for the day.
Karen: What do they teach in the seminary? I remember, we had that at my high school.
Keith: It is a four-year cycle. One year focuses on the Book of Mormon. One year focuses on the New Testament. One year focuses on the Old Testament, and one year focuses on what we call the Doctrines and Covenants or Pearl of Great Price slash church history. So it's kind of a combination of things, that fourth year.
Karen: Now I want to ask about the coffee thing, 'cause that one often comes up. Why no coffee?
Keith: I've heard so many arguments in my life. The bottom line is we believe in a prophet. We believe that the prophet is the mouthpiece of God on the earth at this time. This prophet said we don't drink coffee. That's why we don't drink coffee, plain and simple.
People argue because the caffeine, because the tannin acid, because of the way it's made, because of addictive issues. If that were the case, then you could argue chocolate, or you could argue Dr. Pepper, or you could argue anything. The church has come out and said, "Coffee, tea, tobacco, alcohol, no." Just plain and simple, no.
Karen: Just caffeinated tea or all tea?
Keith: Tea. Anything that requires a tea leaf. Now, that's my understanding and interpretation. The church doesn't specify caffeine or no caffeine. They just say tea. I have read in some of the manuals that herbal tea is acceptable. But if it requires a tea leaf, like green tea or chamomile tea ... well, chamomile's an herb. I don't know. I don't know what chamomile is. But if it's a tea leaf tea, no. If it's herbal tea, yes.
Karen: How do you learn the rules if you don't grow up in the faith? How would one know all of these things? There's a lot of different restrictions or different approaches to life than what most of us would think of.
Keith: You can ask a Mormon. You can ask the Mormon missionaries. You can go to LDS.org. There's a couple of different Mormon websites out there that the church sponsors. I caution people, when you want to know what the LDS faith believes, you go to the LDS sources. You don't go to books that ex-members wrote because they're already jaded.
If you want to know what we believe, ask a missionary or go to LDS.org. You can type in whatever you want. You can read talks from 45 years ago, and they'll explain to you what they said back then. That's where you get the doctrine of the church.
There's lots of opinions and beliefs and different ideas. But to understand what Mormons believe, ask a Mormon, or go to LDS.org.
Karen: That's what we're doing right now: ask a Mormon. If somebody decided that they don't feel that this is the faith that they're being called to and this is where the Spirit is moving them, and so they choose to leave, what are they giving up? I've heard stories of people being ostracized from their community after that or not being able to go to kids' weddings or different major events. Can you speak to that a little bit?
Keith: Absolutely. Before the age of 18, if you leave the LDS church, you're leaving the group of people. So there is a level of being ostracized. I would agree with that. But I believe that to be the case in any religion. If you're growing up Catholic, and you decide you don't like the Catholics, then it's harder to understand the Catholics and want to be around them. They will both just kind of separate.
Mormon faith is very similar. I have friends that have left the Mormon faith. I don't care that they're out of the church. I care that they're not in the church, but that doesn't make me stop being their friend. So I don't. But I've seen where people leave the church, and you left the culture. Because you left the culture, it's hard to be a part of a culture you don't believe in. The LDS faith is a true culture.
As for the weddings, if you are not 18 and have done what they call taking out the endowments slash gone through the temple in living by the beliefs of the LDS faith, you can't go to the temple wedding. Nobody can. When I got married to my wife, we got sealed, what we call sealing, in the temple down in Los Angeles.
I had several friends outside the temple waiting for us to come out, at which point they were every bit a part of the wedding party than anybody else. They were in all the photos. They went to the luncheon. They were at the reception. They were all part of it. They just did not get to see or be a part of the "I do" ceremony that happens.
So I've never been to a church activity where people did not welcome non-members. Non-members are always welcome to come to any outdoor LDS activity, indoor LDS activity. The only place that non-Mormons are really restricted access to is the temples.
I've had people talk about where they don't like to go to the Sunday meetings because we wear shirts and ties, we wear dresses, purses, shorts and T-shirts, or dockers and polos. So they feel uncomfortable. But I've gone to church in Levi's and polo because I'm out of town on business and it's awkward for me, even, so I can understand their feeling.
But you're always welcome at a Mormon church. Any given Sunday, if there's people in there, go right in and say hi. They're not gonna stop you.
Karen: You mentioned shirts and ties and dresses. Are women required to wear dresses, or can they wear pants or slacks?
Keith: It's a cultural thing. You can wear whatever you want to church. I've seen women show up in slacks and blouses. There's one guy that goes to my congregation that wears Levi's and a button-down shirt every Sunday.
But we go with the belief that we're going to glorify God, and we give him the best that we have to offer. We give him our best foot forward, not, "Hey, this is what's comfortable. So I'm gonna do this 'cause it makes me happy." We feel that when you go to church, it's what you do for God. You give him the best you can. So shirts, ties, and dresses.
Karen: In your last answer you said taken up the endowment? Can you explain what that is, or is that something you can share?
Keith: Yeah, no problem. So within the LDS faith, there's four major times in the life of a Mormon. First is your baptism, second is the confirmation, when you become a member of the church, third is, if they're men, to receiving the priesthood, and the fourth would be taking out your endowment.
What that means is when you've gone to the LDS temple, you go to the temple, and you're taught about the creation of the world. There are no sacrifices in the temples, by the way. So if anybody asks that, no, there's no sacrifice.
You go to the temple, and you're taught about the creation of the world. You're taught about how much God loves you. You commit your life to supporting God and the LDS faith, to live chaste and to be the best person that you can, knowing that we're not perfect, but still trying your best.
That's when you're given the garments that people talk about, the magical underwear, secret underwear, that Mormons wear. That's when you're given the garment, and that's taking out your endowments. Endowment is to be endowed, and that's what exactly happens in the temple. You're endowed with the rights and privileges to all the blessings that God has in store for you. That's why we go to the temple.
Then after that, if you get married in the temple, it's called a sealing. You're sealed in the temple. The Mormons believe that when you are sealed to the Mormon faith, your marriage is eternal. Outside the temple, we perform ceremonies, like any other religious clergymen would do, 'til death do you part. In the temple, I commit to my wife for eternity. So even when we're dead, we'll still be married as husband and wife.
Karen: That's very beautiful.
Karen: There will definitely be questions about the undergarments. I'm sure you expected that one would not go without questioning. But I wanted to jump to something else before we get to that. You mentioned that the men have this third part of the priesthood, after baptism, confirmation, and then you said priesthood. Is there an equivalent for women?
Keith: No. In the youth's age, when a boy turns 12, he's given what we call the Aaronic Priesthood. In the Bible, it's called the Levitical Priesthood. The Levites were assistants to the members that ran the temple for King Solomon. They prepped the temples, and they took care of those things.
In the LDS faith, ages 12 and 13 are considered deacons. They hold the Aaronic priesthood. 14 and 15, you're called a teacher. That's still holding the Aaronic Priesthood. 16, 17, you become a priest, still the Aaronic Priesthood. At 18, you become an Elder, and you carry the Melchizedek Priesthood.
For the women, when they turn 12, they enter the Young Woman's Program. The Young Woman's Program -- forgive me, I've never really gone to that much of it 'cause I'm a guy -- the young women have Beehives ages 12 to 13, Mia Maids, 14 to 15, Laurels, 16 to 18, and then after that, the women enter what we call the Relief Society, which I've been told is the largest women's organization in the world.
The Relief Society's main focus and purpose is to serve, and the Priesthood's main goal is to serve. Women do not hold the Priesthood in the Mormon faith. That's a huge point of contention for many outside people. They feel that it's a lack of equality. I've asked my wife, who's a very strong feminist, and in her mind, she explains it to me, men can't give birth, and there's a unique opportunity for women that men don't get.
Because of that, she's okay not holding the Priesthood. She doesn't need it, she said, because she has the ability to bear children, which is a gift that no man will ever have the opportunity to enjoy. Beyond the pain, there's a connection between, I think, a mother and a child that a man will never know. So we're given the Priesthood.
My wife is my equal, and when people say women aren't equal in the LDS faith, that tries my patience because when I sit in meetings, and we have women, they're given every opportunity to speak, and to share their feelings, and to ask for help, and rely upon the men as much as the men are upon the women. So in my mind, there is no inequality.
My mom has been president of the Relief Society in her congregation multiple times. My wife has been in young women's leaderships and Relief Society leaderships many times. So that third step, like I said, is specific for men. But the women, they have a different blessing and opportunity in their life that we feel is as important and as necessary as the Priesthood.
Karen: You mentioned your wife being a feminist, which I think is a movement pushing for change, have there been changes that you have seen within the church? I think within all religions, there's an evolution of the rules and dogma and beliefs, sometimes, because of external society.
Keith: Great question. I have to think about that.
Right now, you have the LGBTQ community pushing hard for equality within religions and public views. The LDS leadership has come out consistently and said, "Hey, you are brothers and sisters. We love you. But ..." There's always that "but". The church does say, "If you engage in homosexual activities, i.e., sex, living together, getting married, then that is not in line with what we believe God has intended for his children."
Now, having said that -- 'cause that's a very contentious statement -- having said that, if you're not married and you're living with the opposite sex and participating in sexual intercourse with the opposite sex, the exact same standard applies to them too. So even straight couples that are not married have to stand on the same pedestal as a gay couple would.
That's come with a lot of resistance. There's a lot of turmoil within the LDS faith about gay marriage among the members. But the leadership of the church has been very consistent.
But I have seen the LDS church, in the more recent years, become more engaged in ... like in Salt Lake City, the LDS church pushed along with councilmen and city people to pass a law that made housing ... no discrimination based on sexual preference. The LDS church was a big pusher behind that. The LDS church has put on activities and gatherings. They even have a gayMormon.org, I think is what it is. They even have a website dedicated to homosexual lifestyles.
So the church is really, I think, making a step in the direction of saying, "Hey, we love you. We don't judge you. But in this faith, we have certain tenets and rules that we feel are most important, and if you're not willing to follow them, then that's just what happens."
I have a niece who is gay. She actually was a student at BYU Idaho and was told to leave BYU Idaho because she was gay. I love talking to her. She's a dear niece of mine. She understands, I think, that situation better than anybody I've ever met. So she's a great person to talk to, for me, to bounce ideas and say, "I don't understand this point of view. Can you explain it to me?"
She's great for that 'cause she loves the church, she grew up in the church, she still loves the church, but is no longer active in the church because she's made the decision to have a partner, who also is LDS. They live together, and they both agreed, "Hey, if we're not willing to live by the church's standards and beliefs, then we're not gonna go anymore. We don't hate the church, but that's our choice."
I use these examples because right now, it seems to be the most prominent movement at this day and time, in my mind, when it comes to religions, with the gay marriage issues, and transgender issues, and things of that nature. The LDS church has always been firm in their stand as to allowing buildings to be used.
Clergy, Mormon leadership is told what we call a bishop, who can perform a wedding ceremony, is not allowed to use his license with the state to marry gay couples. The LDS church has said, "Don't do it because we don't support gay marriage."
But like I said, over the years, I've never seen a loosening in the sense of coffee, tea, tobacco. That's never changed. The church has come out and said, "Don't do tattoos." They've come out and said, "Don't have more than one ear piercing." But I've seen the church become more engaged.
The short answer is the church hasn't really changed in respects to loosening up its beliefs or its standards, but they've become more engaged in trying to help people understand their beliefs and standards while allowing people to make their own choices.
Karen: I have a question for you about the gay marriage issue. In some religions, it seems to be based on certain Bible verses. The one in Leviticus comes up a lot. There's something in Romans that comes up a lot. For others, it seems to be more of a focus on the procreation issue, and if it's a gay couple, procreation, via normal or standard routes, is not possible.
Do you know what the rationale is within the Mormon church, or is it just the decision's made, and that's what it is?
Keith: No, that's an easy one to answer. God has ordained man and woman to create families, period. We have a statement you can get online called Proclamation to the World, and that explains it in detail. It says, "We believe that marriage is only for man and woman because God created man and woman to multiply and replenish this earth." So I wouldn't call it a procreation argument. Or a loving relationship argument.
It is our belief is held in that God created man and woman for the purpose of creating. He did not create men to love men and women to love women in a sexual manner. The LDS faith, again, has many documented things about same-sex attraction where the statement is, yes, we understand that you have a same-sex attraction.
As long as you're not engaging in sexual activities with the same sex, you can be a full-fledged member of the church, hold all the blessings and the opportunities the church has to offer. But if you engage in same-sex activities, that's when the church comes out and says, "Okay, now you've gone too far."
That all boils down to we believe that the natural man is an enemy to God. So it's our duty in this life to ... which is your temporal and worldly desires, your desire to have sex, is an enemy to God. Learn to bridal your passions and desires in order to live the life ...
An alcoholic do not have the freedom to do what they want because they're bound to drink. A recovering alcoholic ... I have a cousin who's LDS, who's a recovering drug addict, has said that, yes, he felt free until he realized he wasn't, and now that he's no longer a drug addict, he has to take extra precautions to stop being friends with certain people, to stop hanging out at certain places, so that he's no longer given the temptation to partake in the world of drugs.
So in our faith basically as long as you're living God's standards, you can be a full member of the church, no questions about it, whether you're gay or straight 'cause a straight people, if they're married, are within the bounds of what God wants. If you're not married, then you are outside his bounds, and therefore you can longer partake in all the blessings and opportunities that the LDS faith has to offer.
Karen: If you are outside of the bounds, can you come back into the church if you change your behaviors? Or once you're out, you're out?
Keith: No, no. You can always come back. I have a good friend that at one point was addicted to pornography. He had a level of leadership within our congregation, and they released him. They said, "Look. Take six months. Here's a plan of repentance." Come back when you need to and what we call being dis-fellowshipped from the church. You can still go to church every Sunday and you do all the things that Mormons do for the most part, but you don't get to go to the temple for that time being.
After six months, you can come back and we see how have you done for six months? Have you gotten over your addictions and problems, and if you haven't, then let's give it another six months. If you get your life back in order, by all means, you come back to the church, full fellowship, you're ready to rock and roll, as though nothing had ever happened.
With the exceptions -- there's always the exceptions -- if you're a convicted child molester, if you're a convicted felon, then in order for you to come back into the church, that has to go through the First Presidency or the Prophet of the church. It has to be submitted to him for approval because of the severity of the sin. Everybody is concerned about the safety and welfare of those that they're around, especially children. So if you've been convicted of a ...
I knew a guy that was convicted of child molestation, and the church said, "Yeah, you can be a full-fledged member of the church, but there's certain restrictions. You can never be in the Young Men's and Women's program. We're gonna watch you closer than we typically would because we want to make sure that you're not going after those carnal, worldly desires again. So we want to help you, but here's some restrictions to help you not fall back into what you're doing," because the church always has children running around.
Karen: I want to ask, you mentioned the document that talks about man, and woman, and family, which that is a very rudimentary summary, but family does seem to be very important within the LDS church, and most people or many people associate large families with the LDS Church. What is the reason for that in your faith? Can you speak about that a little bit?
Keith: Oh yeah! No, that's a great question too. I have six kids. My wife came from a family of eight. I came from a family of five. Again, when I spoke earlier about the temple and your sealed for time and eternity, we believe that the entire family is sealed. So, my kids are my kids now, and in the future, and after death, and then their spouses will be sealed to them, and it's one big family for generations. For millions, we're one big family. We believe that literally every person is a child of God, and because of that, every person is a brother and a sister.
Because God created each and every one of us. We were brought to this earth through a mother of course, but we believe that every person has a spirit, and that the spirit is given to us through God. God created us before we got here, in a spiritual form. The spirits get the bodies on this earth. When we die, our spirits leave our body and go up to heaven. Yeah, a very rudimentary explanation, but in essence that's what it is, and so family matters, and we have large families because we want to bring children to this earth.
We want to give those spirits waiting bodies, and we believe that we have an ability to bless their lives, and so that's why we do it. Some people have two kids. Some people have no kids. Some people adopt. Having a large family in the LDS faith is not right a of passage like some people would think. Adopting children is no different than having children in my mind, and I have never been taught otherwise in the church. So, the church tells us, "Please have kids, but if you can't, then please adopt kids, and if you can't then please be nice everybody."
I think there is a misunderstanding out there from people that think we have to have more children. We don't. We believe in birth control. My wife and I use it. I got brothers who use it. It's part of life. While we say have large families, be responsible. Don't have 13 kids when you can't afford 13 kids. Don't be saying, "I got 13 kids and I make 20 grand a year." That's just dumb. We had what we thought we could handle, and we stopped. So, I think that would be the best way to look at it.
Karen: Yeah. That's a great explanation. This question I don't fully understand. It may be along the same lines. Maybe it will make sense to you. Someone asked, "Why do Mormons baptize anyone in their genealogy pool into the Mormons if they do this?"
Keith: It does. It is called Baptisms for the Dead. So, what happens is, the LDS faith believes that like every other Christian religion, Christ will come back to this earth, and his pure gospel will be taught by him. We will, every knee shall bow, every tongue shall confess that Jesus is the Christ. We believe that, as every other Christian faith does. One of the differences between the LDS faith and the Christian faith, in a normal Christian baptist and whatnot faith, is that we believe that when you die, if you have never had the opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, as the LDS presents it, we believe that you are put into kind of a holding area, for lack of a better term. Not purgatory. Not purgatory.
We call it the spirit world. Where we all wait until Christ makes a final judgment and then we're all given our final glory. So, between that time, which would be today, and the time that Christ comes and these things all happen, people are up in spirit world, spirit paradise or spirit prison, depending on your life, and how you lived your life. Are trying to learn the gospel, and we believe in order to be saved using the Christian term, you have to be baptized, and we use Nicodemus.
You know Nicodemus asked Jesus, "What do I have to do to be saved?" He said, "You must be born of the spirit and of ..." or "born of the water and of the spirit." So, what we do is we baptize in proxy of those that are dead. So, they're given an opportunity in the next life, in the spirit world, where they're at currently, to accept that ordinance and take the next step in whatever that may be up there.
Now, people think that the Mormons baptize the dead in order to build their roles, and that's a bunch of garbage. The LDS faith does not include baptisms for the dead as part of their memberships on this earth. We have been sued for doing it. The Jewish community sued us, and we stopped it. You will get some zealous members of the church that think they need to, you know, "Michael Jackson died. Let's go do his work, and he can baptized," and "Tom Petty just passed away. Let's get his temple." The church frowns upon that, and if they catch the names, they will stop it and shut it down out of respect for those that are here.
We respect all religions. We truly believe that every person in this world has a right to believe and exercise that belief in their own way, and we are not here to force you to believe our way. Just because we have done a baptism for an ancestor does not mean they're Mormon. It does mean that they have been taken out of purgatory in the Catholic faith and moved somewhere else, or they have been pulled from one aspect of death belief to another. We believe that they're all hanging out in the spirit world, and we believe they are waiting for these things to be done, and we do it, and it allows them to have that opportunity.
So, there's a huge ... not a huge, I would say a discussion among non-members that say, "That's not right. That's not fair." Well, depending on what my personal belief is, the person is no longer here. It doesn't affect them in this life, but if a family member asks me not to do it, then I would respect them and not do it. My mother's parents were Catholic, and her siblings asked my mom not to do it, and she didn't. She was holding off. My father's parents were obviously not members of the church, but we have done the work for them, because my father's sister is also a member of the church and said, "Go ahead."
So, my father went and did all the work for his parents. So, but yes baptisms for the dead are done in the Mormon temple. There is a baptismal font within the LDS temples. Every temple's got one. Two people go down into the baptismal font like you seen any other church do. The baptist will put in his arm in a square, says, "In the name of the father, the son, and the holy ghost, I baptize you for on behalf of John Doe, who is dead," and they get baptized, and that's it. Then, they go to the next one, "In the name of John Picard," or "in the name of whatever," and then if it's for women, then the baptist who is a male, because the baptism are done by the priesthood, if it's a female name, then the females would come down into the baptismal font, and then the baptist will baptize them for and behalf of whatever the female's name is, and they will do that.
Karen: So, is that for a whole group at one time, or do you set that up sort of on a one on one basis.
Keith: Every congregational for those who don't know, a congregation is called a ward within the LDS faith, the basic congregation is a ward. Multiple wards make a stake, multiple stakes make an area, multiple areas make up the church. So, every ward will take one night a month and go to their local temple and take all the youth, and they will do baptisms for the dead with the youth. Every stake will take one day a month and set up for the whole stake to do it, and so you volunteer, you can go. If you're recently the LDS faith has started letting any child over the age of 12 go into temples for the purpose of baptisms with their parents.
So, I have taken my children to the temple with things that we have prepared and said, "Hey, let's take you to the temple, and we'll do baptisms. We'll do 30 of them. Then we all go home." Well, we go out to dinner first, and then we go home. So, it can happen both ways. You do need to call the temple and set it up. You can't just show up. You call the temple and schedule that specific ordinance, because it takes a certain number of people to make it happen. They want to make sure they have everybody available that needs to be there.
Karen: You said that those who have not accepted the Christian faith in the way that the Mormon church sees it, go to sort of, you said sort of a holding area, not purgatory though, similar to that. So, do you think in the faith does that mean that not Mormons cannot go to heaven as a Mormon would?
Keith: Now on that side of it, in the spirit world there is two places; a spirit prison and a spirit paradise. Now, for us, that is the go between, between when Christ himself died and when Christ comes back. Until that event and Him returning happens, spirit world is heaven. Okay? For the standard Christian belief. If you have lived a good life, and God judged you to have been good enough, He'll put you in the spirit paradise, within the spirit world, to be taught, and to learn, and to grow.
If you lived a life that it is not consistent with what God thinks you should have done, then you end up in spirit prison, within the spirit world. The short answer is, the spirit prison is a short term situation and is not an eternal stand. It is a short term issue. We believe that once Christ comes back to the earth and has His 1,000 year reign, He will then pass judgment, and then every person will be assigned a degree of glory. In the bible, it talks about, "My father has many mansions," and we believe that to be a fact.
We broke it into three levels of glory, or three levels of heaven. The celestial, the telestrial, and the terrestrial, and then you have hell, which is outer darkness. So, that would be four levels actually. Four levels, then once you made all of the decisions you're going to make, and Christ passes, or God passes judgment on you, then you will be assigned to one of those four kingdoms, and that's where you will spend eternity, but we do believe that in order to make it to the celestial kingdom, the highest degree, you will have to have been baptized, a member of the LDS faith, sealed in a temple, or at least had taken up your endowments, otherwise you can'T get there, but just because you have done that does not guarantee that you're going to make it.
We recently had a member of our 70, which is a high authority within our church, excommunicated from the LDS faith, which means that he has lost all of his eternal blessings within the LDS faith. He is no longer a member of our church. He can still come to church, but he is no longer able to go to the temple. He is no longer able to be over any meetings, responsible for anything, he just shows up as a standard parishioner to pray and to worship with us as we would.
Karen: Who is it that makes those decisions? You said those were the bishops?
Keith: So, it's an individual basis. If it is, depending on the level of the sin, adultery, pornography, murder, typically what happens is the person that is going to be excommunicated sits before a peer of 12. Six of those 12 advocate for him to stay and six of those 12 advocate for him to leave, and then it's called a high council. Then, those 12 members hear out what this person did. Are they repentant? Do they feel remorseful? Or have they just made a decision and leaving the church is the best thing for them? That's how a person is excommunicated from the church. That council decides at that point, "Hey you're an apostate. You're teaching against the church. You're pushing against the church. You're dragging people away from the church. Just leave the church.
You obviously don't want to be a member. So, go." That sounds harsh, but that's my view. If you've committed adultery and you think it's wrong, then you still might get excommunicated, but in a year, let's talk and see where you're at in a year. Are you still committing adultery or have you stopped? And are you living a life that's more consistent and if you are, then let's bring you back into the church. So, even after you're excommunicated you can come back. There's always a way to return to God.
Karen: And are those 12 from the priesthood, or are the also from the Women's Relief Organization? Who's in that group?
Keith: That's all priesthood.
Karen: And is it the same process for male and female members of the church?
Keith: Majority of the female happens with the local clergy. So, a bishop and his councilors usually handle that. If it's grievance enough sin than it can go up to the head council, but it's more common that the local bishop handles the female side of the disciplinary actions that need to be done. I don't know why.
Karen: So, now I'm going to jump us way back again. Something we talked about before. In thinking about families, and at the very beginning, you said, sort of, I think, I can't remember your exact words, but you said the mainstream Mormon no the polygamist side. That of course was one of the many questions that came from our listeners. For many hearing the word Mormon makes them think of polygamy. Can you explain the history there?
Keith: Sure. The LDS faith was created back in 1836, later after the church was created Joseph Smith, the profit, the founder of our faith was told to practice polygamy. Now, polygamy does not mean necessarily sexual relations, again we have an eternal view of life. We look at the eternal prospect of it. A man cannot make it to the top kingdom, the celestial kingdom without a wife, and a wife can't make it there without a husband. So, the purpose of polygamy was an eternal thing. Not a world, a temporal view.
So, yes, Joseph Smith practiced polygamy. Now, it wasn't a new concept. We believe that the church was started by question. It was started because a young boy asked a question, and believed that God, the Father and his son Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith in a grove of trees and told him, "Hey, we've got some work for you to do," and that's where it all started. So, Joseph Smith had a question. It was answered, and then believe that God allows us, we have a saying in the church, "A man commanded in all things is a slothful servant."
You should not have to be commanded in everything. You should ask questions. You should wonder. You should have concerns, and you should go to God. So, Joseph Smith practiced polygamy. Other members of the church, specific members, were also asked to practice polygamy, until Utah wanted to become a state, and the government said, "Hey, polygamists. That's wrong. It's a horrible thing that you're doing. We think it's bad. Stop it," and the eldest church wouldn't, because they felt God wanted them to do it, and so they continued it until the day that God said, "Okay. You can stop now."
There is a lot of arguments from people that say the Mormon church changes from times. No, trust me, the church would have loved to made, I think, decisions sooner rather than later, but we believe God guides us and says, "You're not ready for this. So, we're going to wait until you are ready, or the world is not ready for that. So, we're going to stop it." Polygamy is one those things. The world is not ready for polygamy. So, the church stopped it, because God told the leadership to stop it, because it's very possible that man were becoming carnal and saying, "Hey. I've got three wives. I'm going to go. I've got Monday night, Tuesday night, and Wednesday night covered."
So, God said, "Hey, you know what. You guys can't handle it. You're too immature. I'm stopping it. It's over." Today, there is sects of the LDS faith breaks offs and know they are in no way shape or form connected to the Salt Lake City world headquarters base church that I'm with, but you do hear Warren Jeffs, and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ, or Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ, and they practice it on their own, but they perverted the practice.
They don't do it for eternal aspects like we did, and people argue old men, perverts back in the days, perverts sleeping with women, and I always thought, and it's been a challenge for me, but I always thought if they did, then why didn't those women all have lots of kids. Joseph Smith wasn't known to have any children other than through his wife Emma, and I want to say he several, plural, or several wives that he was sealed to, again for the eternal belief that families are forever, and that we are all brothers and sisters, and that when we die in order to make it to the celestial kingdom you must have a spouse to get there.
Karen: You mentioned the different sects that was another question someone came up with, thanks to various reality TV shows, I guess that exist about polygamists relationships. How do you respond to that?
Keith: People believe what they want. They practice their beliefs how they want, and they will hang their hat on a belief system that suits them, whatever name that may be. So, when I hear the person say they're polygamists, on my mission I actually served with a kid who came from a polygamist family that broke off from the polygamist group and converted to the LDS faith, and he was one of the children born through polygamy, and I asked him about it and he told me.
He says. Yeah he has four moms, and all these other things going on. I said, "Why'd you leave?" He said, "Because it wasn't what we thought, and we didn't believe it." That's when I hear people talk about like Warren Jeffs and stuff like that, you have break offs of every religion. You know, not to disparage any one religion, but Seventh Day Adventists were a break off of one group. Catholics depends if you're Greek or Roman. Lutherans from Martin Luther who is a break off from a Catholic church. Then, you have Baptists, east coast, west coast, bible belt.
So, each religion will adopt their own tenant of beliefs and practice them as they see appropriate. The Church of Christ used to be the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and changed their names, because they no longer believe the same as they did when they started. So, they changed their name and became part of the Christian coalition, and have moved on.
So, when people tell me that Mormons are polygamists. No, they're not. I mean at least not mine ... not my Mormon group, the church I belong to had 14 million members, and there is no polygamy in that church that the church condones. I mean if people practice it, that's because they're going against what the church teaches.
Karen: You mentioned that they polygamy had stopped because perhaps the world wasn't ready for it. One of the questions that someone asked was: if it were legal across the USA would the LDS church choose to return to the practice of plural marriage? Or does it not have anything to do with legality?
Keith: Great question. I can't answer. I can't speak for the church that way. My opinion would be that just because it's legal, doesn't make it right. So, I think that the church would make their own decision, an example I used is currently the Boy Scouts of America. Church in it's stand on homosexual activities, I was convinced when the Boy Scouts of America changed their standards and said, "Yes, openly gay leaders and scouts." Something that they had fought for decades. I thought for sure the church would walk away and they didn't.
Today, the Boys Scouts of America said, "Hey. Now, we let girls into the scouting program," and in the LDS church the Boy Scouts of America is an all boy activities, and so again the Boy Scouts of America at its core may have values consistent with the LDS faith, but are changing, and so the LDS church is changing away from them. I think over time, that will happen.
So, if polygamy became legal tomorrow, polygamy is not a, I don't believe polygamy was ever here for the purpose of satisfying men's desires or women's desires. I believe polygamy is a spiritual thing. It's an eternal concept like the 10 Commandments. There is a higher rule and a higher law, and like I said just because somebody makes something legal doesn't make it right. I don't know that the church would practice polygamy, because it's legal anymore than they would because it's not legal.
I think the church will do what the church thinks is right, when they think it's right.
Karen: Now we're going to jump back to another question that I am sure you knew was going to be in here. Someone asked: "Can you tell me about the supposed magic powers of the undergarments?"
Keith: Gladly. The garments are two pieces. Tops and bottoms. I will dispel some rumors right now. You do not have to wear your garments when having sex. They do not have special holes cut in them to have sex. That's all garbage. I hear that all the time. It drive me nuts. So, that's all garbage. I have a wife. She wear garments, and I guarantee there is nothing about that. The bottoms look like boxer briefs, and the tops can be bought two ways.
One looks like a regular white T-shirt and the other one has a dipping neckline. I don't know how to explain it. It's just of a dipping neckline. Kind of like you see in old school ... like a tank top. There you go. Like a tank top with sleeves. The reason we were the garments, and the women's garments are the same by the way, and yes they do sell green ones for military personnel, and when women are nursing, the women's tops have special flaps that will open so they can nurse their babies.
The garment is the first thing you where. You don't wear anything under it. It is like underwear that way. Garments are sacred to us, because they remind us of the commitments that we've made to our spouses and to God. The reason they're called magical is because we believe that by wearing them it protects us. Not necessarily literally, protects us, but it is a constant reminder as I walk through my day like a wedding ring that I had made certain commitments in my life to live my life a certain way.
That's why I wear my garments. No other reason, just as I wear a wedding ring, it reminds me, not that I need to be reminded, because I love my wife, but it reminds me and tells everybody else, "Hey, I'm married. I made a commitment to my spouse, and I live under those rules, because I have chosen to. Garments are the same thing, and as for them being magical, again we believe that they'll protect you if God will want you to be protected, you will be protected whether you're wearing garments or not.
Garments are the metaphoric protection there, and several years ago J.W. Marriott, the owner of Marriott hotels. He's a member, and talked about he was on a boat that was on fire once, and everything burned up to his garment line and then stopped. Nothing burned beyond that. I have heard of people that have been shot and the bullet stopped at the garment. I heard people were stabbed and the garment protected them. I believe in intervention from God in any aspect of your life.
Falling off a cliff and suddenly a tree pops out and God saves you. I believe God can save you with or without your garments on, and so when you do sports, typically they don't wear garments. Steve Young talked about it when he was a football player. He did not wear garments on the football field. When I go swimming, I don't wear garments. When my wife goes swimming, she doesn't wear garments. She wears a bathing suit. When you take a shower, you don't wear your garments. I hear that one a lot, too. I guess that would be about the sum up of what garments are all about.
Karen: You said that it's part of also showing your commitment, which makes me think about divorce. Does that exist in the church, and how is that handled? I'm from a catholic background. So, we have the whole annulment process where basically if you can prove that one of the parties, or it wasn't entered in under good faith, then it is just removed. Again, very rudimentary summary of annulment. How does that work in your church?
Keith: No, great question. I have lots of divorced people within my family. I deal with that often. I know lots of divorced people, several have remarried. Within the LDS faith, again we have the eternal perspective of marriage. This life is the life where we are on this earth to prove ourselves worthy to live with God in the eternities. If you divorce, that's a legal issue between you and your spouse, and it's a governmental issue. It is not a religious issue.
The only time it becomes religious is when the person wants to remarry. You have been sealed. The seal is not broken within the LDS faith just because you had a divorce. My brother-in-law just got divorced from his wife, all kinds of reasons why, but they're still sealed as spouses within LDS faith. The question is, we ask them is, "Well, if you're divorced here, why would you want to be married in the next life?" I don't know that you will be.
I don't know that that's going to happen. I know that I have a brother-in-law that divorced my sister-in-law and he wanted to get remarried, and he did. She wanted to get remarried, and the church broke the sealing so she could get remarried to another man. So, her and her new spouse wanted to get sealed within LDS temple, and so they petitioned the church, and the church said, "Yes. That is your wish. So shall it be," and the seal was broken between her and her first husband, and now she is sealed to her new husband.
But again, marriage, in my mind, the eternal aspect of it kind of gives reason to try harder at your marriage than typically til death do you part. I think in this world, my opinion as I look at the world today with so many divorces, and so many breakups, and so many people that are living together but aren't married, marriage is played out to, it's a dating game. We're going to be dating for the next 15 years, and then we'll get divorced and find somebody else.
Or this marriage isn't working for me, let's split up our personal belongings and move on. For me, it's eternal, and so as a I look at it, I think, "I made a commitment to God, and my wife that I would give every effort I can to make this marriage work. Not just my wife, but to God," and I have different view of it, and I think the LDS faith really pushes that view as, "You're marrying forever. Not till just death to you part, not just for convenience. It's eternal, and it has an eternal consequence."
So, we take marriage very, very seriously within the LDS faith. It's important. I think in my mind for people to look at it that way, and so when divorce happens, it's painful for everybody. Divorce sucks, but it is reality, and the LDS faith doesn't require anything special from you to file for divorce. If you're divorced, then you're divorced. I mean, you can remarry civilly. 10 more times if you want, the church doesn't care. It's between you and your spouse, but the sealing is where the church gets involved, because that's a religious ritual.
So, that does change, but as for the actual certificate. Get divorced, get remarried, the Mormon church won't stop you, and they won't require anything special from you.
Karen: I hope all of you listening have been getting as much out of this interview with Keith as I have. I was actually lucky enough to grow up around people who are a part of the Mormon church but there is always more to learn and are more nuances to the faith. I feel I have become much more intelligent talking to Keith. I hope that you will tune in next week. He answers more of your questions. Talking about the Mormon Welfare Program. He talks about their beliefs on Heaven and the common heard rumor of their belief that they become gods in Heaven. So more of those rumors are addressed in the interview next week. I probably don't say this enough but I appreciate you listening. If you have been enjoying the podcast, we have now been going for a month, please take the time to share it with your friends, families, neighbors, enemies. Anyone you think may enjoy listening to it. We also would really appreciate any reviews you can give through your podcast app. Also check out the podcast to see what upcoming interviews we have and submit your questions. I can't tell you how great it was, when preparing for the interview with Keith, to have so many of you involved. I hope you continue to mull over what you have learned so far about the Mormon faith and be sure to tune in next week to hear part two of our interview with Keith. Have a great week! And, remember, people are people are people. Keep listening. Keep learning. Keep loving.