Editor’s note: Hannah Krieg is often critical of people who accept the beliefs of their parents, or the first and only option they have explored. When she stepped away from Catholicism, she stepped away from all religion without a second glance. So, Hannah is visiting different places of worship to rectify this hypocrisy and hopefully have a meaningful spiritual experience along the way.
I may not be a STEM major, but I’m noticing some constant variables in this religious endeavour: my blue dress, waking up from a night of irresponsibility, and sweat — lots of sweat.
After Catholic mass, the next stop was Mormonism. My knowledge basically comes from short discussions with missionaries and what little education was snuck into the Broadway musical, "The Book of Mormon." I’m guessing this musical is to Mormons as Wikipedia is to academics.
What I did know was that the LDS Church is tight-knit. That expectation was met in full. I’m sure that’s a lovely feeling when you’re on the in-crowd, but as someone who definitely isn’t, that energy made me seek refuge in the corner. I took a deep breath and approached the least intimidating lady in the foyer.
Her name was Teresa, and that day, she was my Mother Teresa. She held my hands and marveled at how young I am. Her eyes welled when I told her of my search for God. Straight away, she whisked me off to the basement for Sunday school.
A Mormon church service is three hours long and divided into three chunks: the sacrament meeting, Sunday school, and, lastly, priesthood for men or relief society for women. This particular building served three separate wards, so all of these components were happening simultaneously in different rooms.
Think of Sunday school as the quiz section to the sacrament meetings lecture where the congregation meets to discuss biblical content. If this really were a quiz section, it wasn’t an 8:30 a.m. class filled with monotone discussion and dozing-off students. This class was lively, eager, and loud about their adoration of God. I’m pretty sure Mormons don’t have midterms, but they all seemed like they were about to destroy the curve. As for me, I was the kid in the back who still hadn’t bought a textbook.
Teresa knew everyone and I think she wanted me to know everyone as well. At Catholic church, I exchanged niceties with some women before mass, but at the LDS church, Teresa introduced me to bishops, a few potential husbands, and the two lovely women whom she sat me next to for the sacrament meeting.
That day’s sacrament meeting was a special service they hold twice a year that invites members to share their favorite hymn as a sort of LDS show-and-tell — much more casual than any Catholic mass I had attended.The LDS church is all about community and honoring God in everything they do. For them, though there is a deep reverence for their God, God is a part of their day-to-day life, too. By the closing prayer, I was beginning to see the root of Mormon missionaries’ happiness.
The community’s commitment to each other and God was notable. In fact, all positions at the church are volunteers. Even their bishop, a busy father with full-time employment who dedicates 20 to 30 hours weekly to the church, receives no compensation beyond spiritual for his service.
“You can’t just go [to church] Christmas and Easter and call it good,” Bishop Joshua Heckathorn of the Elliot Bay Ward said in a phone interview. Being part of the LDS church is a big commitment.
Genuinely, I felt good after the service. Maybe that’s not a spiritual experience yet, but hey, Mormon church starts with business and voting, and I am way more into that than Catholic church starting with an apology.
When I spoke with the Bishop later (by the way, he’s mailing me the Book of Mormon), I asked what their secret was. These people were game show host-level happy. I envied them — I wanted to feel about something the way they felt about God and each other.
“Our Father in heaven uses us as tools on the earth to help our brothers and sisters who are in need,” Heckathorn said. “And as we allow our heavenly parents to work through us to serve others, that is how we get the most fulfillment.”
While I probably won’t transfer to BYU anytime soon (though there is a campus in Hawaii that’s tempting), I think building stronger community in my own life and serving others more will bring me closer to that spiritual fulfillment I’m looking for.
Reach writer Hannah Krieg at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @Hannah_krieg
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