Traditions And Rituals Of The Mormon Religion

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Religion traditions are of extreme importance for humanity since our early origins. Since the Neolithic revolution, when humans created agriculture and transitioned from small scattered groups to organized groups, it is already possible to notice the first forms of religion. “As hunters-gatherers made the transition to a complex social structure, depictions of humans-or gods- began to appear”(Musi). One of the earliest examples is the temple of Gobleki Tepe in Turkey, which is way older than the great pyramids and suggests that religion was what sparkled the initial surges of civilization(Musi). With that said it is possible to understand why religion events are so important for socialization and interaction among people. With that in mind, I decided to attend to one of the saturday morning events of the Mormon church in order to bring some cultural relativism insight. I came along the mormons, when two missionaires knocked on my door on a Wednesday morning. They were two girls around my age name Sister Johnson and Sister Divich. After that day, they started visiting me regularly in order to discuss topics such as religion, Gods, prejudice, church and others, since I never have had any contact with this religion before. After some time of conversation, they invited me to attend one of their saturday Mass, that seemed like the perfect opportunity for anthropological observation. An observation on mores, traditions and rituals of the mormon religion.

Despite being invited, I was worried about the ethical nature of observing and interviewing them in their place of adoration. Sister Johnson, who was my guide, reassured me it was perfectly fine to ask questions and to observe. One of my biggest worries was to violate one of the main ethical concerns on interviewing which is “Failing to respect cultural traditions and values”(Unite For Sight), since I am not religious and tend to not agree with some impositions some religions may bring. I mentioned that I was going to observe and write for a project and they told me there was no problem. Later on she explained to me it was part of their mission to bring people to visit them and it was also part of it to answer questions and concerns, following the teachings of their sacred book “The book of mormon”. This statement made it possible for me to be more comfortable in my role of interviewer and observer. It was also, my obligation to be respectful and understanding, also go along with their requests when it came to visit the place.

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The scheduled date was Saturday, september 28th, in one of their churches in Olney, Maryland. The mass was set to being at 9 a.m. I arrived on time and waited for my guide to come at where I was. It is important to note that I had to dress accordingly: long skirt, sleeved shirt—although they also explained that if I did not have anything adequate to just try my best to meet the standards. I did not have long sleeve shirts available at the time so I decided for a long dress. The place was a clean-styled, minimalist, elegant and classic church. Although it possessed a touch of modernity. The place was filled with mostly families. The number of men and women was relatively equal, and it was possible to note that it was a very kid-friendly church, since the amount of children and infants was large. It was possible to notice their notions of kinship were very important for their lives and faith. Their attires were mostly the same as me for women: long skirt or dress, shoulders covered. Modest colors, little to no makeup. Men were mostly dressed in social attire, with dress pants, dress white shirt and ties. I noticed some of the oldest and that occupy a high position in the church were wearing a suit. The kids followed the same pattern.

The ceremony started with Hymns and a quick prayer. Afterwards a man which I assumed was their bishop proceeded to initiate one of their first rites, called “The Sacrament”. My guide, sister Jhonson, explained to me “the Sacrament celebrates the body and blood of Jesus Christ”. The ceremony consisted of 3 young boys consecrating and preparing pieces of bread and water, which are later distributed among the people one by one, the bread is eaten and the water is drunk. Throughout the duration of The Sacrament, people remain in complete silence in order to respect “The atonement”, which was explained to me as the suffering of Christ. After the Sacrament, the bishop comes back to speak and proceeds with the rest of the mass. Later, a very emotional woman comes to talk about her new position in another state and how she will be leaving this church and friends. She explains that their leader, called President Nelson, referred her to a new mission on a new place. I ask sister Johnson what this is about and she tells me President Nelson is considered the current Prophet of God in the modern days. He dictates the rules of the church and decides the fates of many missionaries like herself. Another man comes to the stand to talk about how he left his home state for a mission that now comes to an end and how he decided to remain in Mayland and not come back, as well as how grateful and grand the whole experience was. Afterwards, more hymns and prayers. When all of that was over and the mass was given as finished we were told to head towards the back of the church. Arriving there I found out they were going to exhibit a video, which everybody there was actually seeing for the first time. The video depicted the president of the church announcing the new changes for the Youth program (12 to 18 years) and how that is going to affect them from now on. The kids received a pamphlet and were happy to complete the activities proposed by it. I realized many of the adults were also excited with the news, as the new program focused more on family participation and activities such as camps, games and others.

The mormons believe their church to be a restoration of the original church founded by Jesus christ himself. Founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith, who is considered the first of their modern-day prophets. This different way of viewing christianity caused the mormons or as they call themselves The Church of the Latter-day Saints, to not be considered christians by other christian religions such as catholics or evangelicals. Because of this background, the church founders had a certain liberty to create rules and decide what would apply to their members. This is the case of gender, assuming that “gender assigned at birth is eternal”(Ring). It was easy to notice that, in practice, with their rituals. The Sacrament, for example, can only be performed by men. As well as many other rites. Sister Divich told me, “men are expected to go on missions until the age of 25 as it is their duty, while for women this is only optional”.

She also told me, “they believe that women have to possess only kind and nurturing roles and this is their nature” and that they “are also encouraged to take supportive roles to their husbands”. I realized that this was very different from what I grew up with and I felt that to me they were the others. Whilst I believe, it must be the same way around for them. Another fact I found interesting was that the vast majority of the church goers were of white race, and only three people were of african-american descent. This is probably remains of the priesthood/temple ban for people of color, which was revoked in 1978, due to civil rights pressure. “[...] until 1978 any Mormon of African descent was prohibited entrance into the Church’s temples for ordinances such as sealings and endowments. This effectively barred them from entering the highest level of heaven after death (the Celestial Kingdom), which Mormons believe can only be obtained by people who have received those ordinances in the temple.”(Riess). Even with that matter already being settled and no longer a threat, it is still reflected on the church’s majority. People of other descents were also an insignificant amount, also noting that there was no people of eastern descent. Probably explained by the way Christianity is still not as popular as a religion in the easter hemisphere. Even tough any person can be whatever religion they want, despite cultural background or ethnicity due to plasticity. Also, that race is a faulty concept. “During the post-Civil Rights movement, many scholars and scientists thought of race as nothing more than a social construction.”(Perspectives pg.17).

Another easy thing to notice was that all the people seemed to be of good or high financial situation. They were dressed in good quality clothes, some in designer. Women wore simple, but elegant jewelry and men were polished and well dressed. This way, It is easy to identify individual’s way of living by their patterns of consumption. “People’s consumption patterns are a large part of their lives, and economic anthropologists explore why, how, and when people consume what they do. The answers to these questions lie in people’s ideologies and identities as members of a social group; each culture is different and each consumes in its own way.”(Perspectives pg.131). In their way, I observed their attires were important to them in order to be simple, but elegant in the eyes of God, and also, as they believe their physical bodies are an extension of their soul, they should treat them as such. This also reflects in the way “they do not drink coffee, alcohol, tobacco, or tea, or any other thing that could alter their state”(Sister Divich).

The following part with the exhibition of the video demonstrated that they value deeply their bonds of kinship. Despite their already mentioned, family-friendly environment and approach, they also display this on the contents addressed towards youth. They expect the children and young ones to do not astray from the religion and they rely on the parents for this guidance. With all this family-oriented approach it is no surprise the mormons average of married people are higher than the national average at 71% vs. 54%, and divorce lower at 95 vs. 12%.(Mormon Wikipedia). The video displayed at the end, featured the president and other high-rank members discussing the new changes and demonstrating how these changes, which have had already been implemented overseas could benefit in the U.S. which is the largest, with over 6 million people identifying as mormons (Mormon wikipedia), and growing, partly thanks to the missionary missions which is part of their tradition.

Overall, my observations led me to new findings and new insights about this relatively modern religion. It showed that the notions of race, economics, family, kinship, can all be deeply connected with religion. And also, how religion can create a culture of its own inside an already preexisting culture. It can also demonstrate how this can also be excluding and segregating, when it involves matters of race and ethnicity and even socio-economical backgrounds. As I expected, some of their rules and mores were somewhat difficult for me to comprehend, especially the ones related to gender. Due to the way I was raised, with a lot of religious freedom, but at the same time not tied to any conceptions of gender, sexual preferences, races etc… However, having an inside view as a participant observer, gave me some new perspective which allowed me to develop my coercive harmony leaving aside any form of ethnocentrism.

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Traditions And Rituals Of The Mormon Religion. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 30, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/traditions-and-rituals-of-the-mormon-religion/
“Traditions And Rituals Of The Mormon Religion.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/traditions-and-rituals-of-the-mormon-religion/
Traditions And Rituals Of The Mormon Religion. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/traditions-and-rituals-of-the-mormon-religion/> [Accessed 30 May 2024].
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