Where’s The Line Between A Religion And A Cult? Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Jun 21 2012 @ 6:02pm

A reader writes:

I was raised Mormon and completed a two-year mission for the church in the eighties. I no longer consider myself Mormon in any sense of the word besides culturally. Despite my grievances, which I will get to shortly, I can unequivocally say that many of the kindest, altruistic and (at the risk of sounding corny) saint-like people I have ever met have been Mormons.

My first realization that Mormonism was not going to be my path came from the territory that you are now exploring.

As an LDS child, one is taught endlessly that the temple ceremony is the pinnacle of spiritual enlightenment, a sacred place where one receives the sacred, not secret, teachings of God. When it was my turn to enter the temple and receive the endowment I became anxious due to its secret nature, but I was calmed by the fact that I would be with the kindest man I knew, my father. In the weeks leading up to my endowment I peppered my Dad with all sorts of questions about the temple, but he remained tight-lipped, giving only the canned answers that are given to non-members. Must be pretty peaceful I thought.

The temple ceremony that I completed can be found numerous places online. When I went through it in the '80s there were a series of gestures where one covenanted, and then demonstrated the penalties for breaking the covenant, one of these gestures mimicked the slitting of the throat, another slashing of the abdomen – disembowelment. While experiencing these for the first time I remember looking quizzically at my father, and he would not return my gaze.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, prepared me for the arcane weirdness of the temple ceremony. My father never would speak about the ceremony afterwards, as members are instructed not too. I went home that night and was in shock, I found myself sobbing uncontrollably, I felt I had just entered a world from which I could not escape. Later, when I left the Church, my mother refused to speak to me for months.

I can forgive people for having all sorts of seemingly nonsensical or magical beliefs – God knows I have some of my own – but I cannot forgive a theology that will destroy the relationship of trust, and love between a parent and child.