On Aug 9 2018, a Saudi led coalition bombed targets in Yemen, leaving dozens of children dead. This is a picture of shrapnel from the blast. This bomb was made by American firm Lockheed Martin. Much outrage has ensued.
The conversation around this picture of shrapnel got me thinking a lot about Mormonism. There are some deep, obscure doctrines espoused by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that are worth contemplating as we look at this thing that killed children:
I’m bringing you right into the heart of the Mormon Temple ceremony known as “The Endowment”.
For my non-Mormon readers: Here is a major simplification of the 3 main ceremonies that are conducted in Mormon Temples:
- Sealing (the Mormon version of marriage which they believe grants the opportunity to be together forever as a couple in the hereafter),
- The Endowment (Mormons believe this ceremony gives them both a clearer understanding of their relationship to God, AND gives them the secret passwords and handshakes that are necessary to proceed past the angels who stand as sentinels as they walk back into the presence of God in the hereafter), and
- Proxy work for the dead (granting these ceremonies to people who have already died, via living proxy workers.
I’ve been through every Temple ceremony countless times, I will speak in first person about a particular aspect that grabbed my attention the very first time I went through and continues to reside in my mind:
There is a point early in the ceremony, after having gone through a symbolic “washing” and “anointing” (it’s extremely similar to Catholic baptism – one drop of water is considered a sufficient symbol for total immersion in water).
A few minutes later, I find myself in the next phase of the ceremony. We are about to watch a movie in small movie theater, depicting the creation of the Earth and the Garden of Eden story. A narration is playing:
“…you have been washed and pronounced clean, or that through your faithfulness you may become clean, from the blood and sins of this generation.”
“Reconsiderations” by Paul Duane
Now, hold on just a fucking second here.
As a Mormon, I was raised to believe in a system of moral accountability that is highly individualistic: that Man will be punished for his own sins, and not for Adam’s transgressions (and ostensibly anyone else’s). It’s every man & woman, for themselves.
But here I am in The Temple, receiving what is ostensibly the most essential ceremony one can receive in their lifetime, and I’m being told that because of that symbolic drop of water “washing” a few min ago, now I’ve been “washed and pronounced clean from the blood and sins of this generation”?
WHAT IN THE FUCK IS GOING ON HERE
I HAD NO IDEA THAT I WAS ON THE HOOK FOR EVERYONE ELSE’S SINS
We live in a world where where most people believe in a sense of moral culpability where you can be guilty in degrees –
For instance, if I’m driving you around in my car, and you jump out, rob a bank at gunpoint, and then jump back in, ordering me to drive away quickly – I will be held partially accountable for your crimes. Most reasonable people can see how being an accessory to a crime brings a degree of culpability, guilt, and accountability.
Let’s take another look at that shrapnel:
That bomb didn’t build itself.
Lots of hard working Americans were paid to design it, test it, build it, and sell it.
That bomb could not have done it’s job without those hard work Americans.
This is not a criticism of those Lockheed Martin employees. I trust that they would be horrified to know about these fruits of their labors.
It doesn’t stop there.
How many bombs have Americans dropped that have caused “collateral damage”? (This is a military term created to sanitize the truth – it refers to the unfortunate fact of innocent people being killed while we go about the messy work of trying to get the bad guys).
Untold numbers of innocent children and adults have been killed in this way.
With bombs built by Americans.
Dropped by Americans.
Paid for by Americans – you, me, and mostly our grandchildren, who will still be paying off the debts incurred by these wars.
If facilitating a crime constitutes responsibility, then by paying for these deaths, you and I, and our children, and our grandchildren, are, to an extent, murderers.
I know it sounds harsh.
It’s true, though.
Mormonism is the only religion I am aware of that makes a SERIOUS contemplation of moral accountability on a global scale like this.
[note: I’ve never met another Mormon who has even thought about this… so, I’m speaking in hypotheticals here. The reality is, 99.9% of Mormons just go through the motions in the Temple and never dig deep into what they’ve experienced, so don’t worry about talking to any Mormons about this. Sad, I know.]
For me, this part of the Temple Ceremony essentially says, ‘Modern life is very complex, very messy, we are all entangled in webs of money and influence that we are often unaware of – and we are all in this together’.
That, brothers and sisters, is a painful, messy, and beautiful truth.
much love –
The Crossdressing Mormon Anarchist