I know that some people on the board have experience of being Mormons, so I would be interested in your feedback.
At church this afternoon it was an uncanny experience. In the past I've read a lot about Mormons, so I thought I was prepared in general for what it would be like. But there are so many differences from being in the Kingdom Hall that took me by surprise. Some of the differences listed in no order of importance.
1. First striking thing was that a woman got up and said the opening prayer!
2. And when it came to the first hymn a woman got up in front of the church and led the congregation in song, gesticulating and smiling widely.
3. There were two men with longer than shoulder length hair, which not only seemed to be tolerated but they seemed to have minor positions in the church.
4. But then everyone seems to have a position in this church. Everyone has got a title of some sort. There was a president of the stake and a president of the ward and priests and woman leaders of this and that group.
5. Everyone had local accents and seemed to be fairly local, the exception being the top man on the occasion, the stake president who had an English accent and had the look and demeanour of of Circuit Overseer.
6. They talked about Jesus a lot and never mentioned the prophet once as far as I can remember.
7. On the other hand they quoted the Book of Mormon four times and didn't quote the Bible once, although they alluded to Bible stories a couple of times.
8. They didn't call it a Bible story, they called it a Bible "account", and used some other similar JW language.
9. When the speaker read from the Book of Mormon no one looked up the verses and read along. Apart from me. I asked the president why no one followed along and he said in 1980 the prophet said it was not necessary to follow along the text in church.
10. When they sang they remained seated and the same for the prayer. There were four songs. Three were dirges and one was a very catchy tune. They were all like hymns not Kingdom songs.
11. The first sermon was about how people could help refugees locally and collect items and money to send to refugees. He said there are 60 million refugees in the world and we should help them. Not the sort of talk you'd get in a Kingdom Hall.
12. The second talk about about a lapsed member who returned to the church after 20 years. What was keeping him back? The obligation to tithe. But when he returned to church he realised people worse off than himself tithed so he felt moved to meet his obligation. Again not a talk you would hear in a Kingdom Hall.
13. There were some talks and banter during the service just like you'd get at a Kingdom Hall sometimes. What was different is that they announced a sports competition with a nearby congregation and encouraged people to do their best to beat their local rivals.
14. The bread and wine was in fact scruffy bread and water. I did not partake this time.
15. One of those passing round the bread and water was a teenage boy in casual clothes, a hooded jumper and trainer shoes, no suit and tie.
16. Perhaps the weirdest part of the ceremony was when two men crouched down behind a tablecloth and said a prayer. I was quite unprepared for this.
17. A pretty girl around 20 years old played the piano for the congregation. She was the sister of one of the men with the long hair, who it turned out was a model and a musician. I avoided them after the service as I avoid good looking people where I don't fit in.
18. I sat with the missionaries and they had no part on the service which surprised me a bit. It seems their are the bottom of the ladder really despite their "elder" status.
19. One of the speakers had a spiky haircut you would not get in a Kingdom Hall.
20. Some of the people at church today were visitors on holiday, making me wonder how small the congregation would have been without them.
Today I was trying to compare the size of the Mormon congregation to the local JW congregations. I worked out that this one Mormon church covers the same territory as three or four JW congregations. And there were 42 people at the Mormon church today, against what I would estimate an attendance of around 150 JWs in the same area. This confirms my general impression that there are fewer active Mormons in this country than JWs.
I was talking to the president afterwards who it turns out was/is a member of a moderately famous musical band in this part of the world. He told me he's been a Mormon all his life and it's a good life. He showed me a picture of a famous actress he knows on his phone and said "of course she is a multi millionaire". He also name dropped local politicians he knows. It seems Mormons are much more open to flaunting wealth, position, status and worldly connections than JWs.
We talked a long time about shunning and whether Mormons do shunning like JWs. He says they don't which surprised me. Excommunicated members can come to church and people talk to them. They just don't take the bread and water for a period of time.
I said I liked the experience of being at church and singing the songs and would like to give talks and priest president and so on. But I don't think I can believe all the doctrine, is that a problem? Is there room for a liberal interpretation of Mormon history and so on. After all there are different perspectives on things. They don't necessarily rule out evolution entirely for example. For Mormons it's more of a personal revelation and a way of life rather than necessarily "believing" a lot of unbelievable stuff necessarily.
Feedback especially from Mormons welcome.
I will need to continue this further because I am being called at the moment.