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The Ring

The Ring and I: The Passion, The Myth, The Mania (via, a radio program about Wagner’s Ring cycle, makes the operas sound like an epic retelling of mankind’s history—of each individual’s history, a transformative community ritual like the Greek mystery cult rituals, Freemasonic initiations, or the Mormon Endowment. The initiate enters the darkened ritual hall, passes through harrowing trials, and dies only to be reborn into the world of light, remade in the image of their gods. Opera as mystery cult.

Der Ring des Nibelungen, all twenty hours, is now in my Netflix queue.

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Second Anointings

Many LDS members who have received their Endowment and have been sealed to their spouse in the temple may think that they’ve received the summum bonum of LDS ritual. Not so.

I just stumbled across an account of receiving the ordinance of the Second Anointing (or Second Endowment) in 2002. It is apparently still practiced quite regularly despite being discontinued in the middle of the last century.

A compilation of my mother’s family history casually mentions that one of my ancestors received this ordinance. I thought it odd at the time to see the casual reference because it is not talked about much in the church now. I imagine most members have only heard whispered rumors about this ritual if they’ve heard about it at all.

Reading this account and the comments that followed reminded me of The Inner Ring by C.S. Lewis. The recipients of this LDS ritual are charged to tell no one that they’ve received it lest others in the church envy the privilege. They are promised exaltation in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom on only one condition: that they never deny the Holy Ghost. The officiator in the ritual grants them the “[power] to be a member of a Godhead”. In other words, unless they blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, they’ve made it. They have endured to the end and made their calling and election sure.

It must feel pretty spiffy to be a member of such a special club, the inner cabal of an already exclusive church. It must feel even better to believe that you have the power to decide who makes it into heaven. This is yet another way LDS ritual separates “us” from “them”.

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Ritual Violence V

I don’t mean to harp on this topic, but I remembered this episode of Engaged & Underage showing the disharmony surrounding the temple wedding of an LDS couple.

“But it’s my wedding, not hers!”

Non-Mormon relatives? Jesus says “Fuck ‘em.”

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Ritual Violence IV

I just read chandelle’s account of getting engaged in the LDS church. It illustrates pretty well what I was trying to say in my last ritual violence post:

it goes without saying that this destroyed my father. i’m an only child. my mother abandoned me when i was 2, so my dad had a lot invested in me. to that point, he’d never been anything but supportive about my desire to be a mormon. when i introduced him to jeremy, and then announced that we were getting married, he took it better than i would have expected. he welcomed jeremy into the family and congratulated us both. then we told him what “getting married” means to a couple of active, faithful, worthy mormons – namely, that he would be forbidden from seeing us be married.

it didn’t go over well.

the next morning, my stepmother called to inform me that my father had been drinking a great deal the night before. my father is a former alcoholic, so that was a pretty good indication of his mental state. they said that they would not be participating in the wedding plans at all, since they were not welcome to view the actual event themselves.

i was crushed, but buoyed by the sense of righteousness granted me because i was overcoming the “persecution” of my family to “live up to my church standards.” i had support all around from jeremy’s family and the ward i lived in, so much sympathy and admiration for destroying my family.

I really feel for the father. Not that I’m blaming anyone, least of all chandelle. I have enough blood on my hands in regard to excluding people from my wedding that I don’t need to add hypocrisy to my list of vices. It’s just a hard, unloving situation that we find ourselves in when we are trying to Do the Right Thing.

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Ritual Violence III

Jana at SunstoneBlog added another facet to my story about what I’m calling ritual violence. For whatever reason, ritual is important to human beings. Excluding us from ceremony symbolically severs our ties to the community.

Please indulge me in a thought experiment. Imagine you belonged to a church that has ceremonies to mark various milestones in a person’s life: birth, coming of age, marriage, etc. Imagine that you are not allowed to witness these rituals. Only the leaders of your church (and the participants themselves) are allowed to be present. You and your spouse give birth to a beautiful baby. You take the child to your church to have their auspicious birth recognized in ritual. You hand over the tender infant to one of your leaders which they take into another room. They close and lock the door behind themselves. You wait in passive silence on the other side until the ceremony is over.

Later, when your child is turning the corner into puberty, you repeat the process. Again you wait on the outside of a locked door while the ceremony is performed.

Again this happens when your child is to be married. You are not allowed to witness the marriage of this child who you’ve nurtured and loved throughout their life.

Now, how would you feel? Would you shrug it off as God’s will? Or would you feel some outrage to be excluded from your child’s life? Would you feel like violence had been done to you?

At some level, this thought experiment is real for me. If my daughters decide to be married in the Mormon temple, I will be excluded from full participation in the ceremony. I raised them more closely than anyone except my wife. I wiped their tears, cleaned up after them, loved them when they were least lovable, worked hard to provide for their needs, transformed myself to be a better father for them, taught them everything I could, and devoted my very being to them; and on the day that they are married, I might be locked outside while others share this joyous moment in my daughters’ lives?!

This is justified in LDS doctrine because I don’t meet their standards for worthiness to enter their temple. According to their doctrine, these are God’s standards. They may regret any pain it causes, but they are powerless to alter God’s decrees.

So blithely is violence rationalized! I ask, who is more worthy to share in my daughters’ lives than their father and mother? Which should weigh heavier on the balance of worthiness: the sacrifices of a loving parent, or obsequious obedience to the dictates of an authority which prick the conscience of every honest person? The LDS church would exclude me from my daughters’ marriage because I haven’t paid them 10% of my income. Extortion much?

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