Date: November 09, 2017 01:09AM
My family, who was Catholic, joined the Mormon Church more than 50 years ago. I was a high-school student at the time and not a very religious person. A neighbor invited my sister to church and she attended services and other events, and she got converted through this type of socialization rather than any deep religious experience. My family was Latino and a bit dysfunctional, and I think my sister, who was younger than me, was looking for some type of stability. She met the man she would marry at church.
Soon the missionaries came knocking. And knocking. It seemed like they were at our door every day. Eventually they won over my dad and then my mom. I think my father, who was an uneducated man born in Mexico, enjoyed having the "priesthood" and exercising whatever authority that was supposed to convey. I think it made him feeling important and useful. He remained faithful to the church until he died in 1979. I was the oldest son and held out for a while, and I didn't feel pressured by my family to convert. But I had this crazy notion that I would get baptized and once the missionaries left me alone I would never go to church again. But it didn't work out that way.
I did agree to be baptized although I had reservations about the truth of Mormon doctrine. I did like the missionaries, however, and became friendly with them. One of them gave me his Bible as a gift when he left the mission field. Church officials were particularly pleased with his work since he had brought in a family of five. But I never read the Book of Mormon - still haven't - or devote much time to studying about the church, yet I still went ahead and got baptized, thinking that in the end it would be OK. The strange thing about it is that as the day of my baptism approached I prayed to the Virgin Mary - I was still a Catholic then - that if joining the Mormon Church was wrong that the saint should somehow stop it. But nothing happened and I got baptized.
I had never been much of a churchgoer as a Catholic and neither were my parents although we remained in the church. We never considered leaving it because we thought it was the true faith, and it was the only religion we had known. My maternal grandmother had been very devout. But it was easy being a Catholic. You go to Mass for about an hour, kneel, stand up, repeat, and that was your obligation for the week. I was never much into saint worshipping but did pray to Mary.
I started advancing in the priesthood and generally liked the people in the small branch I was attending. But then certain things began to bother me, things that the missionaries hadn't told us when we were still "investigators." For example, when I learned that black men were not to have the priesthood I was really surprised. Nobody told us about how God cursed them with the mark of Cain.
I guess I was sensitive to racial and ethnic issues because of experiences we had had with Anglos. But I did notice that when I dealt with white members there was a bit of tension involved. I sensed that they talked about us at stake meetings, about how we weren't meeting our obligations or paying our tithes. I sometimes felt that they didn't see us as equals, and they tended to be condescending at times. Also, there was this association of skin shade or color with worthiness and how having a white skin was "delightsome." Another thing we were never told clearly was how Joseph Smith actually translated the book of Mormon. There was nothing about looking into a hat, etc. So that was a surprise to me later.
When I went into the Army during the Vietnam War I lost my innocence to a young Vietnamese prostitute. I later confessed this to my branch president, and I went through a period when I was not supposed to exercise my priesthood. He called it being disfellowshipped. I was later reinstated.
Years after that I became a priest and then a seventy, which meant I worked with the missionaries. They could be a pain. I drove them everywhere and sometimes took a whole family of investigators to church. I was actually quite active in church. At one point I was an explorer leader, setting up activities for a group of young men. At one of the meetings I noticed this man sitting in the room in which the group was meeting. He introduced himself to me, said he was there representing the stake president or something. But he seemed to be at all my meetings, sitting there just observing and not saying much. He was like a spy. He never really explained what the problem was but I assumed it was because of poor attendance at the meetings, and maybe I was doing something wrong. It was strange. I didn't know what I was supposed to do. But the guy just sat there and watched everything I did.
That was another thing. I never felt as if I were doing enough in church. No matter how many meetings or activities I attended there was always something I could've done better. I remember having to answer to the bishop whenever I was late for or absence from a meeting, of which there were many.
The Mormon Church is obsessed, it seems, with figures and numbers. For example, we were always being pressured to get the numbers up on home teaching or attendance at priesthood meeting. And we weren't supposed to let people slip away from the church. And we had to always had to be on the lookout for potential members among our neighbors and friends. I often felt guilty when I met someone for the first time and didn't introduce that person to the gospel.
I used to work with the missionaries who always believed they were right, that they had some kind of inspiration that I didn't. So they would pressure people who I didn't think were ready into getting baptized. These people soon became inactive. The missionaries were gone, they had filled their quota, and it was up to the members to "fellowship" these people and try go get them back into the fold. It was hard work. Some people told us directly that they no longer wanted to be Mormons, but we were supposed to keep at them. That was one of the things that really bothered me, that the feelings and desires of these people were never really taken seriously. It was as if they didn't know what they were saying or doing and so they could be ignored. It was a very condescending point of view. Most of these folks were poor and largely uneducated Latinos.
I became inactive after I married to my wife who is Catholic. She had nothing to do with it, although I was upset with the way she and I were treated by church members when they learned that I had married outside the church - and to a Catholic at that. I began reading books critical of the Mormon Church and its doctrine and Joseph Smith. I am not a religious person now although I have in the past attended nondenominational services. I have problems with Mormonism on all fronts, from the archeological to the scientific (such as DNA). Then there is the book of Abraham. There are issues also in the area of linguistics and a bunch of other areas that work against the validity of the church. But I used to be one of those people that even if you hit me over the head with the truth I still wouldn't believe anything negative about Mormonism.
I considered writing to church headquarters and having my name removed from the rolls, but I haven't done it and don't know if I ever will. A lot of family members are still Mormon, including nephews and nieces that I love dearly. I don't have children of my own. For a long time missionaries and home teachers came knocking at my door, but they have since stopped. Maybe they just realize I'm a lost cause. They know someone is home but I never answer the door. They used to call me home but also stopped doing that. Apparently church headquarters in Salt Lake City has a team of elderly ladies that all they do throughout the day is call relatives of members they have lost track of to get updated addresses and numbers. I suppose I'm ruining the statistics of the ward I am supposed to be attending. Oh, one time one guy actually accused my wife of not letting me attend church. The nerve.