Somewhere in the world right now, a Catholic priest is making vows to serve God with all of his might, mind and strength for the rest of his life. He is making a vow of celibacy and sacrificing his own worldly desires in order to enter into this service. In another location a Buddhist monk is also making vows of service that will aim his life’s activities toward his faith. Both of these dedicated men are wearing special vestments, and they are participating in rituals that the world in general doesn’t pay much attention to. They are what they are, and we are accustomed to these things. We admire their dedication and depend upon their service.
In yet another location a young man and a young woman, having lived lives of chastity and temperance according to their faith, are making higher vows of eternal marriage in a Mormon temple. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they wear special white temple vestments denoting their purity and the vows they have already made as they participated in a ritual called the “endowment.” As they participated in the endowment ceremony, they made vows of consecration, sanctifying themselves to God’s service, forsaking the world as God would require it of them, to participate in His great plan of salvation. Unlike the priest, and unlike the Buddhist monk, this couple would leave the holy House of God to live in the world, to be “in the world, but not of the world.” And this is the difference between them and others consecrated to their faith. And this, it seems, is what opens them up to ridicule.
The world will take exception to the fact that their vows were said in a consecrated building, the sanctuary of Christ. For some reason, the people of the world think these sacred buildings should be turned inside out, their holiest rooms exposed to worldly traffic. The world doesn’t care to attend the sanctification of the Catholic Priest or hang out in the monastery while the monk takes his vows, but the public wants into the Mormon temple.
The world will take exception to the fact that Mormons dress in white in the temple, and wear clothing similar to what Aaron wore in the tabernacle of God in the wilderness of Sinai. The world will take exception to the fact that Mormons wear a token of their vows under their clothing. Other Christians may wear the cross; Jews may wear the tzitzit under their clothing and the talit over their clothing; Buddhists can wear robes and pole their hair; and football fanatics can paint their faces orange and blue; but Mormons cannot wear the symbol of their faith under their clothing without facing public scorn.
The world accepts that not everyone can attend a conference for medical doctors, and not everyone can sit in the Vatican to decide who will become the next Pope. The world accepts that not everyone can drive a race car, and not everyone is qualified to be hired as a college professor. All of these things require prerequisites. Prerequisites are also required of priests and Buddhist monks. Not all of us qualify. Yet, the world rails at the fact that people must qualify to enter the Lord’s House. Not even all Mormons are worthy.
Does this make sense? I suppose Mormons are asking for it, because they walk out of their temples into everyday life. Like a Catholic Priest or Jewish Rabbi, a Mormon husband and father may also manage a congregation of hundreds of people, and use his priesthood power to heal the sick and comfort the weary. But he also works as a plumber or businessman, and plays flag football on Saturdays with his kids, plays a mean piano, and excels at golf. Somehow, the world will not tolerate the fact that Mormons can be in the world, but not of it. Their sanctification to the Lord means that they are too nice, too honest, too squeaky-clean to be understood or trusted. It must be that they oppress their women, are racist, or something…something. But they are not.
The Book of Mormon says that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be a “marvelous work and a wonder.” As the U.S. presidential election of 2012 has unfolded with a Mormon candidate, Mitt Romney, who is also a High Priest in the Church of Jesus Christ, Mormons watch the people of the world suffer shock and awe as they try to define the LDS Church and its members. Much of what has been written and said has been mockery, rife with disrespect. But dedicated Mormons continue to do what they do best—strive and shine—being in the world, but not of it, hoping someday it will understand.