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My initiation to Mormonism

What could happen if you’d stop when a proselyte tries to catch you in the street.

First Mormons missions consisted of men talking to men. © More Good Foundation/Flickr

Suffolk Street, 1pm. “Hi, can I ask you why you are smiling today?” It was one of the cutest attempt of ensnaring I have ever faced. Two angels faces eager to share a reason to smile. Mine was just a livable weather and a class which had finished fifteen minutes earlier than planned. However they did have the greatest excuse: faith. On their floral dresses, lightly covered by long blond hair, a badge announced that Sister Claire* and Sister Lise* belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Days Saints, widely known as Mormons. “That’s another name the Church gave us but the one written is the original one.”
I was used to confront Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarian preaches and the various schools of Christian religious in Dublin’s streets. But Mormons, never before. I immediately ask them if they were coming from United States. “Yeah, exactly we’re from Utah!” — the cradle of Mormonism.

I had to rush but I agreed to meet them the following week. I then couldn’t stop thinking about them. I had a lot of biases and prejudices about Mormons but I wanted to be the more open-minded as possible for this upcoming appointment. My point wasn’t to dig into controversies surrounding their practice, I wanted to know how they’d try to convince me and what was asked to enter this community.

Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, 2:30pm. “We are used to start with a little prayer if it doesn’t disturb you. I will tell it and at the end, if you want, you can say Amen with us.” Here we are, in the middle of Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, all eyes closed, heads down, following Sister Claire thankful introduction, on a Chopin piece played by Powerscourt’s pianist Catherine. Our eyes now opened, the waiters finally stop watching us and carried on working. They could then introduce themselves more precisely “we are 19 and 20 and The Church of Jesus Christ’s missionaries for years! It is a 24/7 mission and our goal is to increase people’s faith”.  They started to drive the conversation but my journalistic instinct disturbed their program.

When they ordered an orange juice, I ask them if they really follow the Word of Wisdom, defining what is allowed to consume – neither tea nor coffee for instance.
It was a good pretext to open The Book of Mormon and quote Joseph Smith, founder and first president of the Church who received a direct order from God and Jesus Christ to form a new movement “because no Church was following the complete Gospel of the Christ”.

Sister Lise shares the reference with Sister Claire (by calling her with this official name) and reads out loud with the perfect tone and rhythm (Matthew 3:13-4:2, 16 and 17)

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.

Joseph Smith first vision stained glass. © Public Domain

A liturgical approach to introduce their main myth, the impressively good-looking prophet Joseph Smith, and the last apostle recognized by The Church of Jesus Christ : Russell M. Nelson, currently trying to conquer Asia, aged of 93.

All religion help people but there are some things which help to get closer to God’s pattern

Sister Claire says she felt the same feeling as Joseph Smith [and so Jesus Christ] during her baptism at 8. “I then study The Book of Mormon and understood that all churches had a part of the Truth but not the whole, and it is mainly because of a lack of authority and an ambiguity between the gospel and rules made by men.” For instance, compared to Catholicism, Mormons don’t believe in the Trinity but in three separate entities. Also, they don’t pray Mary but believe she is a holy figure. Everything sounds nuanced. Sister Lise led me to read out loud an extract of The Book of Mormon (4 NEPHI, 1:27):

And it came to pass that when two hundred and ten years had passed away there were many churches in the land; yea, there were many churches which professed to know the Christ, and yet they did deny the more parts of his gospel, insomuch that they did receive all manner of wickedness, and did administer that which was sacred unto him to whom it had been forbidden because of unworthiness.

“That’s when Joseph Smyth arrived after hundreds years of darkness and apostasy”. I couldn’t deny her talent for storytelling but she was insisting on apostasy. And confirmed “that’s a really important term because The Church of Jesus Christ  brings you out of apostasy”. It turned to a déjà vu and they saw my doubt. “Every time I pray I got an answer from the Christ – and you, you are Catholic, what do you feel when you pray?” I just answer that sometimes the lack of answer is also an answer and may lead to introspection. “Yeah! I feel this as well!” Strategy: Agree anyway…

What left from my Mormons initiation. © Alexia Klingler

…especially when you have a delicate question to introduce. “So, would you like to make your baptism on Sunday?” I thought that my Christian baptism would be an obstacle to this conversion ; it was not. “Thanks to our baptism through immersion, all your previous sins and religious background will be canceled”. I tried to find a compromise and suggested a visit of the Church preceding an introduction to the service on Sunday’s mass. They looked pleased to welcome me the following day.
I even received a message to thank me for the moment we shared.

The Church of Jesus Christ, Terenure, 11:30 am. On Sunday 22nd, nobody to welcome me, no one to let me enter. The receptionist tells me that Sister Claire and Sister Lise are currently unavailable. And my initiation stops in Bushy Park Road, Terenure, in front of one of the two Mormons’ Churches in Dublin gathering 3,903 members across the country.

*Sisters’ names have been changed.
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