I was recently reading an article about gnostics, mystery cults, and the secret teachings of Jesus. When read with a Mormon eye, much of it rang true to me. The article spoke about the secret knowledge that allows believers to pass through the “veil of the Temple” and become the sons of God. The author contended that this “mystery religion” lay at the heart of Jesus’ message, a message that the Gospel writers and Church Fathers downplayed and eventually rejected (allegedly).
I must confess to having read this article during a particularly dour section of the Sunday block. In my mind I was thinking about Christian exotica (and the wonderfully Strange Fruit at the heart of Nauvoo Mormonism) whilst my ears caught snippets of comments like “prayer is like a GPS receiver.” The juxtaposition was jarring — doctrines that swell the breast vs. the often pedagogical laziness of Mormon Sundays — and I silently wondered whether our religion is the most schizophrenic on Earth.
The contrast between the blandness of everyday Mormon worship and the deep water that flows from temple Mormonism is stark. This juxtaposition of exotic and mundane is rendered anecdotally in the accounts of Mormons who find their temple experiences shocking and uncomfortable. Going from brown 1970s chapels that echo with the correlated curriculum to the Great and Terrible House of the Lord requires a major shift of gear.
I cannot think of another religion like it. If you are a Quaker you are not ushered from silent meditation to a secret back room where they mosh for Jesus. Mega-churches do not have a High Church hour complete with candles, robes, and Gregorian chants. But Mormons go from cheap business suits to ritual robes in a few short moments. We sing saccharine songs about families in the service of a time when we will be like God, worlds without end.
In a way, I welcome the juxtaposition of sacred and mundane. Often the sacred is the mundane. After all, Joseph’s City of Zion was to be a city of temples and shops. But I can’t help wondering whether the corporate church is edging out the Mormon mystery religion.
Is the beehive swarming the angel?
Or should we not find it amazing that the same church that calls us to dig the widow’s garden, teach bum-numbing lessons, and act in lame roadshow skits, also calls us to kneel at sacred altars with our families, breach the veil of the temple and arrive at the throne of God?