Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how the familiar Mormon claim that we are the “one true Church” is as much a statement about other churches as it is about our own. And I’ve been thinking about how ignorant and uninformed I feel about other churches because I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve visited one.
So recently I decided to start visiting other churches a lot more often in hopes that I can develop some personal, first-hand knowledge about them. And it seemed fitting to start by paying my first visit to the church that claims to be the oldest “one true” Christian church: the Orthodox Christian church.
Like Mormons, Orthodox Christians explain: “We’re neither Protestant nor Roman Catholic.” An Orthodox website explains where they see themselves in relation to the various Christian denominations:
Roman Catholicism is a medieval modification of the original Orthodoxy of the Church in Western Europe, and Protestantism is a later attempt to return to the original Faith. To our way of thinking, the Reformation did not go far enough.
We respectfully differ with Roman Catholicism on the questions of papal authority, the nature of the church, and a number of other consequent issues. Historically, the Orthodox Church is both “pre-Protestant” and “pre-Roman Catholic” in the sense that many modern Roman Catholic teachings were developed much later in Christian history.
Thus, Orthodox Christians and Mormons agree that the Catholic church became corrupted, and that the Reformation did not successfully remedy the defects in the Catholic church. But while Mormons would assert that no Christian church retained the priesthood keys throughout the ages, the Orthodox Church asserts that the original Christian church’s orthodoxy and authority remained intact in the East while the Roman Catholic church apostatized in the West. Accordingly, they are commonly referred to as “Eastern Orthodox” churches.
Because the Orthodox church was brought to America via various immigrant groups from Eastern Europe, such as Russia or Greece, each Orthodox church in America usually bears the name of the particular immigrant group that established it, e.g., Russian Orthodox Church or Greek Orthodox Church. As far as Orthodox Christians are concerned, there is just one Orthodox church, and these descriptive national designations will eventually be removed. In fact, there are currently efforts to unify all the Orthodox churches in America under the same name by removing their various national designations, which can be confusing for outsiders (“Can I go to a Greek Orthodox Church if I’m not Greek?”).
There is a beautiful Greek Orthodox Church named St. Paul’s in my hometown that, despite my having lived here for 20 years, I had never set foot in until just last weekend. I wasn’t able to attend their regular “family” service because it is held at the same time as my Sacrament meeting. However, I was able to attend their “Matins” service at 9 a.m., which seemed like their equivalent of a “music and the spoken word” program held each Sunday before their regular family service.
When I arrived, I introduced myself to a woman in the parking lot and explained I was there visiting the Orthodox church for the first time. When I told her my name was Andrew, she smiled and said: “That’s quite a coincidence! Today is St. Andrew’s day and we are commemorating him in our Matins service this morning!” Of course, before that moment I had no idea it was St. Andrew’s day, but I was delighted to hear that I would be accidentally celebrating it.
After having me sign a guest book, my guide showed me into their equivalent of a chapel, which they call the “Sanctuary.” In the lobby just outside the main Sanctuary, there was a beautiful Byzantine-style painting of a saint that I did not recognize. Upon entering the lobby, my guide crossed herself and leaned over and kissed the portrait. She then walked me over to the candles and asked whether I wished to light one. I couldn’t think of any reason why not, so I lit a candle and dropped a dollar into the basket.
My guide then showed me into the main Sanctuary, which is pictured below.
As you can see in the photo above, the Sanctuary is an immense, white-walled open space whose main focal point is a beautiful mosaic of Mary, Jesus, and two angels at their sides. What is less visible in the photo above is that the background tiles are painted a metallic gold, which creates a beautiful and awe-inspiring impression. The Sanctuary’s enormous space makes one feel small, which is humbling and invokes a sense of reverence.
In the center of the Sanctuary above one’s head is another beautiful mosaic depicting Christ sitting upon a throne, which is pictured below.
When I arrived at the Sanctuary, the Matins was already in session. I was immediately surprised to see I was one of only about eight or nine people in attendance. My guide gave me a booklet in which was printed the Matins program for that day. As I leafed through it, I saw that it was essentially a script for the entire Matins program, consisting of prayers, scriptures, and short hymns.
My guide told me I was free to choose any pew. I thanked her and started walking down the center aisle. When I realized my guide was not accompanying me, I looked back and she had a somewhat concerned look on her face. I walked back to her and she kindly explained that normally people enter the pews from the outside aisles, rather than down the center aisle. I was disappointed that I had only been there two minutes and had already made my first rookie mistake!
I then walked down the outside aisle to a pew about six rows from the front, and took my place at the end of the row. But I did not sit. I stood. I had done a little reading on the St. Paul’s website beforehand and learned that at Orthodox services, those in attendance typically stand throughout the entire service as a sign of reverence (of course, those who are elderly or physically unable to stand need not do so).
As the eight or nine of us in attendance stood, a priest and three readers each took turns reading from the Matins script. What first caught my attention is that they were reading in a melodic half-singing, half-chanting sort of way. At first it was unfamiliar and a bit surprising. But as I read along in the Matins script as they sang/chanted, I soon became entranced by the melody and rhythm and was able to focus intently on the beautiful prayers, scriptures, and hymns that had been selected. And although I missed every cue to cross myself or repeat words back to the priest, and failed to turn to face the priest with the rest of the worshipers as he carried incense up the center aisle, I felt quite comfortable and enjoyed the Matins ceremony immensely.
I was also struck by the fact that the two priests and a couple of the readers all wore beards, which was a stark contrast to the clean-shaven Bishoprics we’re accustomed to seeing sitting on the stand at LDS services. While beards are eschewed by LDS leaders, apparently beards are regarded quite well by the Orthodox. And although both priests were men (only men can be priests in the Orthodox church), one of the black-robed readers on the stand was a woman.
As I stood listening and reading along during the Matins service, in the back of my mind I tried to think of the one or two words I would use to describe the experience. The first word that came to mind was “Beautiful”. The richly colored mosaics set against the pure white open space of the Sanctuary, and the melodic sing-chanting of the prayers, scriptures, and hymns, was in all an absolutely beautiful experience. And as I stood there, I felt a sadness that only a handful of people were even there to appreciate it. I almost wanted to go out into the streets and tell everyone what they were missing.
The other word that repeatedly came to mind was “Reverence”. There was a deep sense of reverence pervading the Matins service. The worshipers standing attentively in the pews, the absence of any musical instruments other than the voice that God gave to man, and the complete absence of any infants or toddlers made for a very reverent, serene worship experience.
And as I stood in my pew, I paused periodically to search my heart for the answer to the main question I had brought with me, which was whether or not I would be able to sense God’s presence there.
And I did.
As the priest and readers beautifully quoted passages of scripture, sang hymns, and prayed in Christ’s name, it confirmed to me the truthfulness of Christ’s promise: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matt. 18:20.) As Elder Boyd K. Packer once said: “The idea that with the Crucifixion of Christ the heavens were closed and that they opened in the First Vision is not true. The Light of Christ would be everywhere present to attend the children of God; the Holy Ghost would visit seeking souls. The prayers of the righteous would not go unanswered.” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Light of Christ,” Ensign, Apr. 2005, 11.) My visit to the Orthodox church showed me that those words are as true now as they were then.
President Hinckley said: “Be respectful of the opinions and feelings of other people. Recognize their virtues; don’t look for their faults. Look for their strengths and their virtues, and you will find strength and virtues that will be helpful in your own life.” (Sheri L. Dew, Go Forward with Faith: The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley (1996), 536, 576.) With that in mind, here are just a few of the strengths and virtues I saw in Orthodox Christian worship that I feel could be helpful in my own spiritual life:
- A deep sense of reverence. I feel I could greatly benefit from trying to adopt a much more reverent attitude about what is occurring in the chapel on Sundays: the prayers, the Sacrament, the sermons, etc. You really get the sense that Orthodox worshipers feel that what is taking place in their Sanctuary is a sacred, holy experience.
- An intense focus on Christ. There is no question that the Matins service at the Orthodox church was Christ-centered. It was filled with references to Christ, scriptures about Christ, prayers invoking Christ’s name, and hymns about Christ.
- Worship. Although this is somewhat duplicative of point #1 above, one thing that struck me about the Orthodox Matins was that it truly felt like a “worship” experience. The word “worship” is defined as “reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage.” Because the service was so reverent, it also felt worshipful.
Please share any thoughts, observations, questions, knowledge, or experience you may have with Orthodox Christianity or Orthodox Christians by commenting below.
* * * * *
Some interesting facts about Orthodox Christianity:
There are some 250 million Orthodox Christians in the world.
Most Christians in Greece, Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia, Russia and Ukraine are Orthodox.
Three million Americans are Orthodox Christians
The heaviest concentrations of Orthodox in America are in Alaska, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio.
Organized Orthodox Church life first came to America in 1794 with missionaries from old Russia who came to Alaska.
Centuries of vigorous Orthodox missionary activity across 12 times zones in northern Europe and Asia was halted by the Communists after the Soviet Revolution in 1917.
Orthodox missions are active in Central Africa, Japan Korea and many other parts of the world.
(For those interested in learning more about Orthodox Christianity, see here for helpful and informative answers to some Frequently Asked Questions.)
Let me know before you go on your next interfaith field trip. There are a few biggies in O.C. I’d like to hit.
I have often told people that if I wasn’t a Mormon I would be an Orthodox Christian. I have visited the Greek Orthodox church in Salt Lake City several times and always have a deep appreciation for the experience. The liturgy is one of the most intriguing aspects of the experience. For those who haven’t studied ancient temples you may not be able to truly appreciate the demarcation of sacred space and symbolism in their churches. In all, I find the Orthodox to have retained a great deal of the practices held by primitive Christianity (if not the most, but I don’t have any experience with Coptic Christians, Ethiopics, etc.).
I, too, enjoy going on interfaith trips. I try to attend other churches quite often, and I’ve visited every form of every denomination considered as a religion. I love religion and everything it encompasses, and I’ve found that taking the time to explore other religions has only strengthened my testimony of the LDS church. I know the Church is true, regardless of what anyone throws at me, just because I have experienced numerous religious services and studied the origin and “calling” of all of them. I, at one time, was brought down to thinking negatively about the LDS church just because one denomination fed me a bunch of propaganda during one of their services (I’m pretty sure it was a Baptist church). However, within a week, and, after quite a bit of research, I proved those allegations false and strengthened my testimony tenfold.
And, so, in turn, kudos on your religious interests. May God bless you and give you the Spirit to comfort you.
Andrew T. Long
Beautiful post, Andrew. I felt like I was there with you.
I attended a Syrian Orthodox wedding in Los Angeles when I was young. One of my grade school teachers was married there, and I remember how overwhelmed I was by the ornate surroundings. I can’t trust my memory correctly, because I seem to remember an Excalibur-like sword lying in a jewel-encrusted scabbard atop a canopied bed in one corner…which goes to show you how a kid raised as a Mormon has a hard time assimilating the splendor of traditional Christian churches.
You may find it of interest that the premier living natural theologian, the Englishman Richard Swinburne, who has written on a variety of topics from the probability of the Resurrection accounts to how one could rationally begin deducing which church today is the most likely heir of the group Jesus founded, converted from Anglicanism to Orthodoxy several years ago. I assume he believes he has rationally deduced Orthodoxy is Jesus’ truest descendant.
Lastly, and not unrelated to the reasons Swinburne found Orthodoxy compelling, was the survival there of the idea that humans can become gods with a small g, partaking in the divine nature after death. Theosis is found in Chrysostom and other Eastern Christian writers, but not so much in the Catholic West.
It is too bad we don’t have more art in the chapels. I understand the reasoning. We have two large Minerva Teichert murals in our chapel. They certainly add to the atmosphere.
My former bishop was an protestant preacher before joining the church. He does a tremendous job of articulating the role of non-mormon leaders in bringing people unto Christ.
icons aren’t art. they are part of the worship, not a pretty extra flair. you can beautify chapels all you want, but the reason orthodox churches have a resounding atmosphere of reverence and worship is because the services and the churches themselves were made to be like a portal to heavenly worship, engaging all the senses as we enter the sacred space, amongst all Christians, past and present, saints and angels, in the presence of God.
Thanks for the thoughts Andrew. My mother “covered” for the organist of a another church in my small home town and often shared with us the heightened reverence that the members showed during their meetings. They had a deep reverence for communion. I understand that their internal imagery of communion may be different, but I think we could certainly learn from our friends in being reverent during the administration of the sacrament in our own meetings.
One thing I really enjoy about orthodox is that while western Christianity has abandoned the belief of theosis, theosis is alive and well in eastern orthodoxy.
Thanks, Andrew. This was beautiful and inspiring.
In reading a book by an American war correspondent who traveled to Mount Athos for several short visits, I was introduced to the Jesus Prayer of the Eastern Orthodox faith: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It is a frequently repeated prayer that is often the focus of one’s personal devotions. I love how it brings everything back to the simplest and most important concept of Christian faith.
I enjoyed your description of this service.
No offence meant; but why would you go to another church if you have a testimony of the true church?
Since I have found my true mate and married her it doesn’t seem right dating other women. Even if they are really, really nice. God said he is a jealous God. Even though we are worshiping the same God it just doesn’t seem right doing things our way.
there is a more than a fine line between a woman/wife and one’s religion. to understand where others come from is a very special way to be a better neighbor. I believe as Latter Day Saints, there is a large majority of us who are very ignorant to the devotion, dedication, and if I may venture into saying veracity of other faiths. There are many truths all over the world. The ” Church “, through the restoration has restored many plain ones that have been lost over time… but from even just a historian’s perspective, it’s amazing to see the impact Jesus had as a missionary for the 3 years and change he officially preached. To see what traditions that He did in fact establish on the earth, over two thousand years ago, and to see the remnants of such powerful establishments, is a testimony builder to me, a mormon, in seeing how He loves all His children and how we all have our individual plan of salvation that will eventually guide us to great things. If you believe in the power of temple work, one knows that those who believed in Christ in this life will have a much easier time accepting the Christ’s reign in the Millennial Reign, than someone who knows nothing about Him. This is in thanks in large part by other faith-promoting sects, branches and religions of Christianity. And furthermore, though I am somewhat half joking, Joseph Smith and many early leaders had multiple wives… I think their attitudes were very different than the closed off perspective you have stated. Go Andrew for posting this.
We don’t worship the same god. The Christian God does not have any God above Him. Mormonism is no more Christian than scientology is.
As a Southern California LDS videographer for 22 years, I’ve videotaped over 1000 weddings, funerals, Christmas programs, etc. at other churches. So, I am quite familiar with other church services, priests, pastors, rabbis, etc. Generally, they are very nice people, sincere in their religious beliefs and worship. Although, in my personal opinion, some, may overly exagerate the appearance of worshiping pictures, statues, crosses, and they may heavily stress ritual or “hypnotic” music. “Something” is missing. (This may be why attendance is often as low as you experienced.)
While I think it is a nice experience for LDS to occasionally visit other churches for our general knowledge and appreciation of other faiths, other churches generally do the opposite towards our church. Generally, they show little or no respect for OUR church, notably Orthodox Christians. This is especially the case in Eastern Europe where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is despised and persecuted by the Orthodox Church. They have caused great, un-Christian like damage to our missionary and church building efforts, especially in Russia.
So, I would be careful that your one-time favorable experience at that Orthodox Church doesn’t lead you to emphasize perceived relative shortcomings in our church. The other churches have their faults and shortcomings too. When human beings are involved, “shortcomings” will arise. But, I for one will take all the shortcomings of LDS worship services with its unpaid, inspired leadership, than any of the paid professional, clergy-led services of other churches, however impressive.
Dear David V,
As an Orthodox Christian myself, I find it extraordinarily disrespectful that your LDS missionaries would dare set foot in Orthodox countries and try and convert Orthodox Christians who have been intensly persecuted for many decades by communist regimes and Muslims. Nearly 100 million Orthodox Christians have been slaughtered in the 20th century alone. We are still the most persecuted Christian community by far today. Orthodox Christians would live in instense persecution and here come you American LDS missionaries who have sat in the comfort that has been granted by the religious freedom and religious toleration that Americans enjoy and then come to preach your “gospel” to these people who have suffered for Christ for the past 80 years or so. How anyone could see that is okay is beyond me. It is extraordinarily un-Christian for you to come an try to convert these Orthodox Christians who have been persecuted their whole lives to whatever.
My fellow Orthodox Christian brother Vladimir, I’m Antiochian Orthodox.
Your 100 million statistic is a gross exaggeration (note sarcasm). The conservative estimate is only a tiny number of 20 million Orthodox murdered by the communists and 1.5 million Armenian Orthodox by the Jewish Young Turks.
If you believe that your church is truly the one, true Church, isn’t it a kindness to try to bring that to people, including (especially!) those who are suffering?
As an Orthodox Christian priest, I can’t say it thrills me to see non-Orthodox groups missionizing among the Orthodox. But if those missionaries see their faith as truly the one, true saving faith, then I can’t really blame them, either.
Their success among the Orthodox will depend largely on how well the Orthodox are doing catechism. It’s up to us to educate our people and to teach them how to defend their faith when challenged.
How would you like it if 20 million Mormons were killed, all your churches and temples blown up, and all your bishops murdered…and then have somebody approach you and insinuate that your grandparents, uncles, aunts etc died for a false Christ? Would you not be offended?
This is what the Western Christians (including Mormons) are insinuating to Orthodox Christians when they go into these Orthodox Christian lands.
Let the Orthodox Church alone for several generations so that they can get back on their feet. That way there will be a level playing when you try to sheep steal.
There is one thing that hasn’t been mentioned. LDSers and Jehovah Witnesses picked up Russian language skills when they were allowed in Russia. Then the CIA picked them up and hired them. This shows that the CIA ain’t as stupid as we think it is.
Andrew, you strike me like a person who knows that we belong to the “one true Church”, and while there is nothing wrong with understanding other peoples beliefs be careful with what you are wanting to do.The time you spent at other denominations meetings use for your eternal progression instead.Become a more regular temple patron if you have so much free time or do other things that will elevate you, don’t stray, remember that curiosity killed the cat.
Let them worship how, where, or what they may and if you want to gain a better understanding of their beliefs look it up on google. Never forget that other denominations are made up of good people too who sincerely believe in their way as well and they do missionary work.
One cannot fully understand Orthodoxy by looking it up on google. It requires going to the Divine Liturgy to learn about it. One learns about Orthodoxy through experience.
Hello, Andrew. Thank you for this post. As an Orthodox Christian, it brings so much joy to my heart that others like you visit us to participate in the services, and you, sir, do so with so much respect. Your faith reminds me of the kind of child-like faith our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ clearly expects from us. Please don’t let anyone take that candle away from you. When I converted to Orthodoxy in 1987, I never thought I’d become friends with LDS neighbors where I live here in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s even ironic that through my study of Mormonism, my love for Christ and His Church would grow stronger. And although I have no desire to become a Latter-Day Saint, I believe it’s very important I learn the language and culture you live, because that’s how Jesus reached those with whom he communicated. Take, for example, the Samaritan woman. Jesus knew all about her, and she responded by humbling herself and learning more about Him. Later on, she would convert along with her sisters and other members of her family. She would take the new name of Photini which means little light and become a martyrThank you for sharing your experience as well, because, although there are ardent defenders of our Sacred Tradition which remains unbroken since the church began on the day of Pentacost, you clearly showed reverence. We believe that God’s Image is in each human being, and we want to reflect His Image in whatever we do to His glory. Experience is our greatest asset, because this is how we live our lives day by day. I also love how your attention was directed upward to the Icon of Christ, the ruler of all. Think about it. When you enter an Orthodox Christian church, you leave this world behind. If you read the Book of Revelation, pay close attention to the imagery described. St. Luke the Evangelist became the first iconographer and was led by the Holy Spirit to paint three icons. As you gaze ip in to them, notice that they don’t look human or make you feel as if you’re being entertained. When the Russians first visited Hagia Sophia, (Holy Wisdom), they reported back to St. Vladimir that they wondered if they were still on earth or in heaven. We’re not to draw attention to ourselves or any other human beings but to Christ, His Holy Mother, all the Saints and the Holy Angels. Unlike three dimentional statues or flashy images, Holy Icons bring us out of ourselves and focus our ettention on things in Heaven. One last thought. The word orthodox comes from two Greek words: Orthros which means truth or right and doxa whech means glory. Hence, Orthodox Christian or Truly Glorious Christianity. I hope this brings you inspiration Heather
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wow. three people feel compelled to call you to repentance for visiting another faith. how puzzling: what can one possibly lose by experiencing another religion’s worship service first-hand?
I have seen one or more similarities between Mormonism and every other religion I’ve participated with. they usually teach me something about how to be a better Mormon, because their emphasis on one aspect of spirituality may be stronger than mine or my church’s. oddly enough, I even respect the evangelicals that used to really annoy me, because their passion for witnessing shows me how weak my abilities are in that area.
Andrew, please continue the series.
KingofTX: “God said he is a jealous God.” Yeah, but that was the God of the OT, and he was notoriously cranky. He settled down a lot after he had a Son (so says Lewis Black).
I agree with no-man. JS said to treasure up the good of other faiths, and that no man could call himself a Mormon who failed to do so. JS was open-minded (to a fault you could say). Religion is not a set of dogmas on paper–it’s an experience designed to bring you closer to God. My trips into Cathedrals and other churches over the years have given me new appreciation of what it means to be a human being seeking enlightenment through the alternate viewpoints I find in those places.
The problem with all of you is that you have turned a relationship with Jesus Christ into a Religion. Therefore none of you are correct. Orthodox Christians are the original Apostolic church. Unfortunately, Orthodox Christians are terrible at organizing and Evangelizing. Mormons are spot on when it comes to spreading the word, but they are believing things that aren’t biblical at all. Mormons don’t believe that Jesus is their only Savior. Also, believe in becoming Gods themselves…..beyond me with that one!
Hard to organize the Orthodox Chrisitans when the world is trying to Kill you..As opposed to the ‘other faiths–(all others groups, ethnicities, and beliefs, and tribe, not just other ‘Christians/Catholics’-even Mormons profited with trade with Nazi Germany, and to this day extoll the virtues of Henry Ford and others who were Dedicated Supporters of Hitler-For Profit…), that said, Kill First, Profit, Enslave, Rape, then convert later…Missions of the Eastern Orthodox Christians Did Not Follow this Pattern of Hypocrisy and Destruction….Only Eastern Orthodox Christians are truly of G…d, primarily the Slavs, but also some Greeks, and Ethiopians..Any wonder all three are under siege even now…?…
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Practically being an investigator at other denominations, that’s a great way to be tempted and make mistakes. I was once very active and useful for the lord via service through the Church. Don’t be an ex-member by slowly loosing it all and for what? If you once knew the church to be the true and only church of the living God then nothing has changed with it but to it (the church) but to us whom as humans tend to sometimes doubt ourselves. Just Keep It Simple and regain that testimony that you once must have had by going back to the basics, that is pray to your God and ask him not a forum.
No offence meant; but why would you go to another church if you have a testimony of the true church?
Err, the same reason I go to museums and art shows.
regain that testimony
I wish you well. I wish you well.
When a person from a non-orthodox faith converts to Orthodoxy, are they encouraged to put some space between themselves and their old friends of non-orthodox, evangelical protestant or non-denominational Christian faiths; or, even to turn their backs on them?
Usually new converts are not asked to distance themselves from friends or family. Sometimes families and friends can be hurt and confused when someone begins practicing a different faith, which may require some distance as parties adjust to unfamiliar territory. Whether or not distance is required would be up to the individual. A priest can offer advice and guidance in the case of troubled relationships, but should never demand a person do anything, frankly.
If I met someone who newly converted and they said their priest told them they had to distance themselves from their friends and family as a requirement to be Orthodox, I’d probably encourage my friend to seek a second or third opinion from other priests.
Wonderful post. After reading Dan Brown’s novel, The DaVinci Code, I have recently been intrigued with the Orthodox Church. Of course, My Big Fat Greek Wedding also helped intrigue me. The idea of theosis and original priesthood are quite interesting to me as well.
I see nothing wrong with increasing temple attendance as well as attending other denominations. Take the good from all, is what both Joseph Smith and Gordon B Hinckley said. I think there would be a lot less bickering if we truly understood fellow christians, jews, and muslims.
Take the good from all, is what both Joseph Smith and Gordon B Hinckley said. I think there would be a lot less bickering if we truly understood fellow christians, jews, and muslims.
Understanding doesn’t mean be a part of them.
Andrew, I’m a friend of John N. in SJC. I have been following your posts for a while. I am a struggling with my faith as a lds member, convert since 1986. What I do have to say is the “Truth Fears No Question”. Truth is Truth, ommision is a lie and corrupt forms of communications are anything that obscures the truth. I enjoyed your experience, thanks for sharing. My testimony of Christ has never been stronger, I wish I could say the same for the churh. I went to the interfaith mormon/mariners church night looking for answers. Spoke to Robert Millet and another BYU professor. I have been experiencing other faiths for a couple of years. I think the best talk on faith I have ever experienced was not a GA, it was Rick Warren. It was an incredible talk. I went to Robert Millet, chief interfaith apoligetics liason for the chuch. He sent me two of his most recent books for faith strugglers. To be honest I was disapointed with what I have read. Anyway great post, I will be back for more. Take care.
Greetings. I truly enjoyed your article. The beauty and depth of Orthodoxy you so accurately describe is precisely what attracted me as well as its deep theology and unbroken link with Christ and the Apostles (as well as much, much more, but due to brevity I will not go into here). I would encourage you, when you have the opportunity to experience a Divine Liturgy (the service immediately following Matins) and if you are up for it Pascha (Easter). Pascha is unlike anything you will ever experience in your life.
I loved your comment regarding your desire to go out into the street and tell others what they were missing. Matins is truly one of my favorite services. I am a Reader in the Orthodox Church and chant Matins every Sunday. The chanting you are hearing are the Church tones which in Greek and Antiochian traditions are based off of the Byzantine scale. The music carries the text and helps to engage the congregants. All Orthodox services contain volumes of scripture and are designed not only to invite one to worship, but are also instructive in the Faith of Christ. The services, especially the Divine Liturgy are the vehicles by which we leave this world and enter into the eternal, timeless realm of God in Heaven. There are many times when I have literally lost all track of time and before I know it, the service is over. I thank God you were uplifted.
Thank you for taking the time to visit an Orthodox Church and for writing about your experiences. Please come again soon.
Wonderful that you had a positive and reverential experience at the Orthodox Church. Of course its not like that 100% of the time, but certainly that is the aim, and the whole purpose of Orthodoxy, is to bring us closer to God. True worship, true and honest doctrine. Straight down the line as we say here in Australia. We don’t change doctrines to suit ourselves, don’t change worship to suit ourselves, but emulate the great worship around the throne of heaven as pictured in the hinted at in the Book of Revelation. God is Great, Holy is His name, all worship and honour is due to Him! Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Now, and forever, and to the endless ages, Amen!
Come and See!
heh i agree with your views on orthodoxy im a roman catholic considering converting to orthodoxy but listen dude mormans are not christians sorry to be that way but its true its a cult deal with it dude
I just became Morman 8 months ago I’m happier than I’ve ever been, I’ve found the true church it took me 57 years to feel this. Mormans are christians we believe in God the father who sent his son Jesus Christ.Just follow your heart and pray for Gods guidance.
Andrew, I said I would be back but now that I am here and after reading Debra’s post it brings back memories of 2 years ago. I was on fire for the Gosple and was serving as a ward missionary. I would have sold everything I have and would have given it to the poor if G.B.Hinckley would have asked. I am not afraid of standing out front of Albertsons to share the message. I was in love with God and the Church. Part of me feels torn between wanting everyone to know the things that I have come to discover about the church or just leaving so know one gets hurt. The truth is alot of people are going to get hurt when everything that has been hidden by the church comes into the light of truth. What about my ward family, people I have known for a long time, people have a right to know the truth. Whats it going to take? I talked to Robert Millet and another BYU apologist, they know that somethings got to give. The truth is I would rather have it all out in the open and let anyone leave if they want. The truth is about half the “active membership” would leave. Something I believe is we should never give groud to darkness where ever we encounter it. Not sure how much longer I can keep my mouth closed at chuch. Take care for know. Remember the truth fears no question.
Dave, Take the advice of someone who has watched multiple people walk down the path you are thinking of treading.
Keep your mouth closed at church. Your perspective is not everyone’s perspective, and shooting people in the head with a shotgun of your own making never is a good idea. There are people who know absolutely everything you know and who still have strong and vibrant testimonies. Your conclusion is not the only legitimate conclusion.
Keep this in mind: Actively engaging in an intentional pursuit of the destruction of joy is abominable – plain and simple – no matter where or when or why it is done. Don’t go there in church. You will burn bridges and become bitter when you fail to pull away nearly as many as you imagine you will. You also will regret it when you look back at the casualties and destroyed lives that need not have been – especially when the number of people who leave as a result of your work is FAR lower than your expectations (truly miniscule by comparison).
I say this from decades of watching people try to do what you say you are thinking of doing. They go from one black-and-white view to the opposite black-and-white view. They take that view and try to force it on others, believing (just as they did during full church activity before their “conversion” away from the Church) that they have the answer for all. When they are rejected and ignored by the vast majority of members – when their families and friends ask them to stop and finally ask them to leave – when their new conceit hardens into bitterness and resolve and warps into hyperbolic charges – when they have lost all their former friends – then, without exception, even though they might like their new beliefs, they regret their actions and what they tried to force on people they said they loved. They look at the misery they caused that could have been avoided and realize it could have been avoided, and that is a painful awakening – especially when they realize that their efforts had FAR less effect than they thought they would have.
Take that for what it’s worth, but realize I am speaking from decades of observational experience.
Dave, I commend you for your fearlessness. I know exactly what you are going through. Speak the truth, but do remember the words of St. Paul when he was writing his letter to the Ephesians “but speaking the truth in love may grow up into all things into Him who is the head-Christ-” Eph. 4:15.
Ray makes some valid points and I certainly would not walk into church and start a fight because that will simply polarize people. Do this: simply leave quietly, though do disclose your mind to friends and family in a private setting again speaking the truth in love. Where I disagree with Ray’s post is in his relativism. Truth is truth and knowingly allowing people to live in a lie is wrong. By the way, don’t focus on numbers. Even if no one you tell is conviced, you did what was right. Jesus said “Becasue narrow is the gate and difficult is the way whcih leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:14
You have a long journey ahead. It will be difficult and I will pray for you. I do not know where you are headed but I encourage you to investigate the claims of the Orthodox Church. She and She alone is the true Church of Christ.The Orthodox Church has a legitimate claim. She has guarded the faith for over 2000 years and has an unbroken link with Christ and the Apostles. There is continuity of thought. What was taught in the first century by the Apostles and their disciples such as Polycarp, Iraneus, and Igantius of Antioch has been faithfully transmitted trough the centuries to this very day. She has suffered persecution, wars, schisms, and heresies. With all that, as Jesus promised the gates of Hell have not prevailed against Her. Most importantly we have the lives of the Saints. Jesus said “by your fruits you shall know them.” When I read the lives of the Saints I am truly uplifted. These are people just like you and me who struggled and overcame the temptations and sins of this life and were conformed to the image of Christ. Many faced gruesome martyrdom and went to their deaths bravely and joyously knowing their Savior would welcome them into His kingdom.
In closing remember the story of the farmer who sold all he had to obtain that Pearl of Great Price. Be encouraged. I know the sacrifices. I have made them. It was worth it all. God Bless.
PS Some websites…oca.org, goarch.org, antiochian.org. One Book: The Orthodox Church by: Kalistos Ware Publisher:Penguin Press
Dave, for your personal consideration:
“They go from one black-and-white view to the opposite black-and-white view. They take that view and try to force it on others, believing (just as they did during full church activity before their “conversion” away from the Church) that they have the answer for all.”
“I do not know where you are headed but I encourage you to investigate the claims of the Orthodox Church. She and She alone is the true Church of Christ.”
See what I mean?
I respect your personal decisions. I respect the Orthodox Church. I respect what you have written, even as I disagree with you about much of it. If I left Mormonism and felt I needed an organized Christian religion, I probably would join you in your worship services because I admire the symbolism. It wouldn’t be the temple for me, but it is as close as I believe I could get.
If Christianity really does represent God’s will, I see few alternatives other than Mormonism and Orhodoxy. I just don’t think you can base your claim on unbroken continuance that is “purer” in some way than Mormonism’s claim. I see no more compelling reason to accept Orthodoxy’s past as any more pristine than Mormonism’s – as I see the leaders of each being mere mortals who were inevitably flawed. The history of each is messy, and to gloss over that is to do for Orthodoxy what you decry others doing for Mormonism.
I know that this ^ is a very old feed to be commenting on, but I felt it necessary to clarify that the leader of the Orthodox Christian church is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our church was not started by none other than our Lord and His word was spread by his apostles.
Sorry.. That was a double negative. I meant to say “Our church was started by none other than our Lord”
Ray, thank you for your reply. I have seen many of these online discussions degrade into name calling and outright rude behavior. I appreciate your civility.
I would like to reply to some of what you said.
First, I am not trying to “force my views” on anyone. I am expressing my beliefs and offering some suggestions. Take it or leave it. I felt a need to reply because I have been where Dave is presently. By your definition, how would you describe what LDS Missionaries do as they go from door to door in their proselytizing efforts? Are they forcing their views on others? Of course not. Neither am I. Furthermore, I did not come to my decision overnight. It was a journey that spanned several years, much prayer, investigation, and many questions. The truth does not fear questions and if we are serious about our faith we ask them. Jesus said “seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened.”
In your post to me you wrote “I see no more compelling reason to accept Orthodoxy’s past as any more pristine than Mormonism’s – as I see the leaders of each being mere mortals who were inevitably flawed. The history of each is messy, and to gloss over that is to do for Orthodoxy what you decry others doing for Mormonism.” Please re-read my post. I very clearly stated that in its 2000 plus years the Orthodox Church has suffered persecution, schism, heresy, and wars. Very messy business and these events came from both within and without. The point is not so much that these events happened, but that despite human sinfulness the Church guided by the Holy Spirit overcame these events and survived fulfilling Jesus’ promise that the gates of Hell would not prevail against Her.
If you feel I glossed over these items it may have been due to my effort to offer a general overview as the subject matter we are discussing could literally and has filled volumes of books. I am sure you will agree that these forums do require some amount of brevity. I did offer some additional resources for further investigation at the end of my post. Most importantly was a book by one of the Orthodox Church’s leading theologians, Bishop Kalistos Ware which is an excellent introduction to Orthodoxy. It offers a more thorough examination of Church history, theology, and the basic tenants of the Orthodox Christian faith. Additionally I stated that the witness of our Saints and a continuity of thought were also a basis for the Orthodox Churches claims.
I appreciate the clarification, John. Good night.
My wife and I recently decided to leave the LDS Church and inquire into Orthodoxy. I have been searching online for anyone who has gone through this experience and stumbled on this thread. Although leaving the church was very difficult to do, our house has been very blessed during what should have been a turbulent time. Before leaving the church I had tried to overcome my doubts about the church (I will not name them here)by focusing on the good teachings and and positive aspects of the church. This led to a rollercoaster of strong activity followed by an absolute dread of sacrament meeting. I was there in church, fulfilling many callings, and known to all my friends as a mormon, but always feeling like a fraud because of my doubts. After searching many religions, I found Orthodoxy and began more research based the logical idea of apostolic succession. Once I began to attend services (my wife soon joined me) the spirit took over and our lives have been changed in wonderful ways. I will always treasure my time as a mormon (all of my extended family is active in the church) and the values of family, service, and pure living that are part of me now. I also have never been happier now that I have found a spiritual home in the orthodox church. I would recommend to any mormon having doubts or problems of faith to seek truthful answers to those doubts (you can find them without reading anti-mormon literature) and not to fear taking the step of looking elsewhere for Christ if that is where your heart tells you to go. You might just find the same kind of happiness after the loneliness of doubt.
I am so glad that you visited The Orthodox Church. I am a catacumen in the orthodox church and feel what you described every service. It was so wonderful to be able to hear of your experience. You are a very talented writer.
It is amazing how even though we were not in the same church, the same experience is there. I think you did a very good job of representing the service. Thank you.
May his Peace and Love be with you.
A wonderful description of an interfaith experiment. If more Christians were as open as this Mormon brother, there would be more harmony in the church.
Thank you so much for sharing your experience. My husband, who is Greek Orthodox, came across your article when he was researching his own faith. I am LDS, and over the years my husband and I have had some spirited discussions about religion. I think it softened his heart toward the Mormon faith to read your open-minded impressions of his church.
I would like to encourage you on your path with Jesus. I was also very interested in other religions and denominations. I visited probably well over fifty different churches of various denominations, studied at four different colleges (two of which were seminaries), and researched on-line and in many libraries. After eight years of this heart aching search, and many all night studies and headaches, I came to be introduced to the Orthodox Church. I must tell you friend, it is the One True Church. All other denominations may indeed have bits and pieces of the truth, friendly people, nice music, good food 🙂 great sunday schools, etc, but only the Orthodox Church (Russian, Greek, Antiochian, whatever) has the fullness of the Truth. It has the exact same service on Sunday as the early Christians of the New Testament and early Church period (give or take a hymn or two 🙂 the exact same church hierarchy or government (Bishop/overseer, Priests/elders, Deacons/servants) and the exact same faith/teachings. It is the oldest Christian Church (about 2,000 years old dating back to pentecost), and the second largest with well over 300 million members world-wide. The Orthodox church has its human flaws, like every other church, for wherever there are humans, there will be idiots 🙂 However, if you want a church that is safe in doctrines/teachings, traditional in morality, with the same services on Sunday as The Apostle Paul would have been to, then the Orthodox faith and way is for you! It is growing fast too! Churches and missions are springing up everywhere in America and the world over. Many are converting from the Catholic, protestant, LDS, Jewish, Muslims, eastern philosophies, all peoples! God is waiting for you to embrace His faith and His Church (the fullness). He loves you with an everlasting love, and has a great plan for your life. Don’t miss out on it! 🙂 -peace- Your fellow pilgrim on this path of life to the heavenly Jerusalem, Herman 🙂
It appears you had a good experience at the Orthodox Church, I’m glad you took the time to explore a new religion with an open mind. I personally converted away from the LDS church many years ago for the Holy Orthodox Church, however that isn’t really relevant. Regardless of whether you are considering converting or not, I just ask you keep your open-mindedness, as said earlier in these comments, exploring other faiths will not take away from your own faith. You will find your own path, but I do encourage you research the Orthodox faith, just for personal profit.
What a beautiful post and some wonderfull comments by Andrew. I was born and raised in a very active LDS family. I faithfully served a two year mission in Toronto, Canada. When I was in college I was attracted to Russian literature for its deeply spiritual, and very real struggles with ideas of faith, truth, and beauty. I was soon led to Orthodox theology in order to more fully understand and interpret the literature (of Dostoevsky in particular). What I found was an amazing similarity between the tenents of Orthodoxy and those of Mormonism. Of course there are major differences as well. The one that bothers me the most and that is holding up my full conversion to Orthodoxy is that of preexistence. (I waised raised with the idea that I existed with God in a premortal life as a spirit child of His, and that I choose His side and my way to earth. The Othodox believe that God as Trinity is the only preexisting being, and that humankind is born in spirit at the moment of thier creation.) I started attending the Orthodox Chruch in America a year and half ago. I love it. I go regualarly. Pasha is amazing. I also love the presanctified literagies during lent. When I am at the Orthodox Church I do feel like I am worshiping God and not going to an extened sunday school lesson, which is what I feel like at the Mormon Church. I feel more reverent, I feel more repentant, I feel more joy in my life, I feel a stronger devotion to God since I began attending the Orthodox Church. I cannot deny these feelings, but my mind is deeply trained in Mormon thinking. When I think my way through things, I conceed the Mormon church is true, and I am a sinner for not being an active member. But my heart answers, “I am an active Christian.” I go to church every Sunday, I pray daily, I behave as a good Mormon or Orthodox Christian should. My heart says, “go Orthodox,” my mind says, “traitor, sinner.” What do I do? I would love to hear some conversion stories of ex-Mormons to Orthodoxy.
“I waised raised with the idea that I existed with God in a premortal
life as a spirit child of His, and that I choose His side and my way to
‘My heart says, “go Orthodox,” my mind says, “traitor, sinner.”‘
To be blunt:
Allow God to create you – and give up the illusion that you are on equal
footing with god.
Why, psychologically, might you want to prevent god from having created you?
Logically, how can you exist as a spirit ‘child’ without having been somehow created?
I admit ignorance of morman apologetics around this issue ..
and apologise for not reflecting this in my questions here given the host of this discussion.
Orthodox theology of the Logos / Kalimat / word of god and Genesis interpretation (and your own comparitive morman study) might assist you in your walk.
“Christ the Eternal Kalimat”
and a heavy dose of reading abnormal psychology (viewing it through the lens of an alternate theology)
Was most helpful for me overcoming (or perhaps more correctly starting to overcome) my own subconcious delusions of divine equality and associated demonic possesion.
(Yes – these terms are scary – but take them with an grain of Mysterion
and literal allegory, dont beat yourself up, hold fast to righteousness
and they will be more palatable livid, and accurate – and you will find the means to express them without sounding like a raving lunatic, as hopefully I have done here by making this aside)
Side note – the priest in that podcast, as an islamic convert to christianity living in indonesia, and essentially the founder of the orthodox church in indonesia must by nature of these facts literally walk in the shadow of murder daily, may his witness ever be strengthened by these facts. May we all as followers of christ pray for his health and eternal protection.
“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD.
‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I
will be their God, and they will be my people'” (Jer. 31:33).
So with this, and the similar teachings of st paul concerning the application of the mosaic law (viz. Corinthians &c) in mind –
If your mind and heart are not as one – you have clearly not yet found your covenant. Orthodox teachings concerning the jesus prayer the noetic struggle of the inner life eg. the philokalia &c. may be of assistance to you here
Again – my sincere apologies to our host for not attempting to explain or balance the above with the mormon perspective. May god forgive me in my innumerable shortcomings, and provide a valid mormon answer to this post so that with proper reflection and prayer – mindful of the evils of scylla and charbidis – the grace of the all holy spirit might provide a True and balanced compass for your direction.
What a humbling and moving share of God’s Grace working in the heart of a visitor to the original and continuing faithful Christian Church. I also visited Mormon temple in my evangelical days and had many great Mormon friends I worked with. If I may humbly share, here is my journey: http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/illuminedheart/P14/ May 22nd and May 29th. May Christ be honored and Glorified.
humbly in Christ,
I really despise all the people saying that there are similarities between LDS and the Orthodox Church, this is complete blasphemy of the Orthodox Church, there is only one way to God, the road is narrow, any other way is not from Christ but from Satan, choose as you will, a 2,000 year old Christian faith that has been the center of persecution, monasticism, martyrdom and asceticism, or an 18th century ideology of a Freemason (for those of you who haven’t figured this out yet, Freemasonry is luciferian in doctrine, especially the highest degrees.)
The choice is yours, there is a reason why people are calling LDS a cult, actually there are many reasons, one of which is the belief that Christ and Satan are brothers….are you kidding me Mormons? If you can’t sense the presence of Satanism in your cult than I truly feel sorry for you.
Sorry for such a heated comment, I just can’t stand to see people being brainwashed into eternal damnation, and heretics comparing the Orthodox Church with something completely anti-Christian.
I was raised Mormon and am now Orthodox Christian.
And you are completely correct. The Mormon church has very little to do with Jesus Christ. Invocations are frequently given “in the name of” Jesus Christ, but the actual words of Christ are hardly ever mentioned.
In place of spirituality and a relationship with God, the Mormon church fills your life with chores and activities which they call “opportunities for service.” Your salvation is contingent on how willing you are to perform these duties.
There is a spirit of darkness and intense emptiness in Mormon churches that I know cannot be from our Father. Joining the Orthodox church is the best decision I ever made.
I am Alaskan Native and I am Russian Orthodox. My husband WAS Mormon until he converted to Russian Orthodox this year when my prayers been answered to get married in the Church.
Thank you for that wonderful description. I’ve been debating doing the same thing for some time, as I’ve lost my faith in the LDS church’s claims due to learning about its actual history. The Eastern Orthodox church really really appeals to me. I’ve read Kallistos Ware’s books “The Orthodox Church” and “The Orthodox Way”, and both are excellent. I don’t agree with everything he writes, but some of that may just be a result of residual “deprogramming” from the mind control I’ve experienced my whole life in the LDS church.
I think I will attend an Orthodox service at my earliest opportunity.
Dear Mormon in Vermont, Just happened to read your post and would be happy to chat with you. Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. My story is rather lengthy. Looking forward to hearing from you. God Bless. John
I stumbled upon this site, and I am amazed to read about Mormons thinking about Orthodoxy. I am Russian Orthodox and try to practise my faith as much as I breathe and eat. To all reading this blog who are interested in Orthodoxy, I beg you to attend the Holy week services, especially Bridegroom Matins on Monday and Tuesday evenings. This is the most glorious experience of humaness. Then you will attend the Pascha service from 11:30 on Saturday night before easter Sunday. This year Orthodox Pascha (Easter) and Western Easter fall on the same day. God bless your journey in this life. May you be guided by your hearts !! With love in Christ, Daria
Google brought me directly to this page yesterday when I was searching for some kind of discussion, maybe insights from Eastern Orthodox converts coming from LDS background. It is interesting to observe that I am not alone in this: I have lately been kiiinda considering Orthodoxy because I was attracted to the many similarity between LDS theology and Orthodox theology. One of my internal dialogues going on while I was considering is: “if I am going to step away from the church, I do not want to go that far away.” Truth is, I am still attached to the LDS church; I still have a strong testimony of many of the doctrines taught in the church that is LDS-specific that is not taught in other churches; the church has never contradicted my lifestyle so far. One of the strongest testimony of the LDS-specific doctrine I have is the concept of eternal progression, which is a process of making God’s children divine which can be attained through works on earth by partaking life in Christ with the aid of the Holy Ghost. I was surprised that the Orthodox Church and the LDS church are the only churches that teach this doctrine; in Orthodoxy it is called theosis. And what I find to be ironic is both LDS church and Orthodox church emphasize the claim of the title THIS IS THE ONE TRUE CHURCH, take it or leave it.
At this time, I feel like, maybe I am closer to the truth than I thought. I am 50/50 about the LDS church and the Orthodox church. They are both good and of Christ, I know this. The LDS church believes that the power of the Holy Ghosts influences other people in other churches too, so their doctrines are not completely false; and the Orthodox Church teaches the same about the Holy Spirit providing truth that compasses toward the direction Christ in other people too and says that other churches are not completely false too. Which is awesome. I was considering a visit to an Orthodox liturgy service this morning but I chickened out–I mean, the service time, it conflicts with my church time.
I am probably under surveillance by my ward and stake leaders right now for causing so much ‘drama’ in the church, haha. I am not “falling away” from the church. I think I am just going through “a phase” right now. However, I am beginning to develop a kind of appreciation for the church these days, but at the same time I am beginning to feel a kind of resentment toward the attitude shown by fellow ward members even by the littlest things. It’s a blessing and a curse. I have been praying and reading my scriptures more than I have been in my life these days. Most unfortunately, however, I think I have stopped feeling the Spirit in church meetings, especially in Sacrament. I get extremely ticked off when people at the back pew start whispering things when I am trying appreciate the hymns; I get this raging boil inside due to the lack of reverence in the most sacred time that I can only have in my week (the only reason I came to church for: to feel the spirit in the heart of worship). But I couldn’t shut my mind off from being so sensitive to these things lately and I am finding them to be highly distracting, and they do not have the spirit of respecting this most holy and sacred time of the week. In short: I love the ward members as Christ would love them, I love the church; but hate the attitude of the people, and I absolutely hate the culture.
Anyway, I don’t know where I am going with this anymore. I probably regret what I wrote here later. But I have doubts about the Orthodox Church too. The attitude shown by members of the Orthodox Church rubbed me the wrong way sometimes too (see: #40). I don’t know what Orthodox people are like culturally, so I may have my biases which is inclined to being pro-LDS in the end. The iconostatis thing kind of freak me out though; I have pictures of the Christ as passalong cards and bookmarks in my scriptures but I don’t kiss it and prostate to it or anything for blessing; and I think I disagree about this to a point that I believe that this is breaking the second commandment (idol worship). What makes me doubt the Orthodox church from being 100% true is how it yields to the Nicene Creed which really doesn’t make it the true ancient church of Jesus Christ due to change/addition of doctrine if it so claims to be the old and unchanging church since the early Christian saints. And then there’s a warning which I take very seriously, in the Book of Mormon, with regard to “…of a great church” that is “…most abominable” which houses the wearers of “fine-twined linen and all manner of precious clothing” :\ I mean, I love how doctrinally, the Orthodox Church looks attractive, but I am a bit paranoid how if one involves in it, it is like treading into the dark unknown; just like how I think most (newly) LDS converts are pretty naive and delusional about the church for its outward attractive appearance doctrinally (the kind who out-Mormon everyone else).
tl;dr, but I still don’t know, though.
Adeline… what a
beautiful name you have!
I see your posting is two years old. I wonder how you resolved your questions in
the meanwhile. I hope all is well.
I just wanted to make a remark about your concern about the
veneration of icons in the ancient Orthodox Christian practice. When Western
Christians first see this, it can be confusing or even shocking. But it truly has
nothing to do with the “worship of images”. There is an excellent treatment of
this from the Orthodox point of view which can be found by Googling “the icon FAQ”. Interesting reading on all aspects
of this issue.
But more directly, can I tell you how it feels when I
venerate an icon – what it is I’m doing? I emphasize that this is just little old me
talking here. But – when I venerate an icon of Christ, I am physically
expressing my love for my Lord and Saviour. I know that the wood and paint is
not Christ – not God. I don’t worship
the wood and paint. I would consider a claim by someone else that I was “worshiping”
that image – that painting – as highly upsetting, totally off-base, ignorant and
scandalous. Yet I would understand how – as a Jew or Muslim or Protestant
Christian – they might come to that conclusion.
I don’t know how to say this quickly or easily, but – God
became fully human, fully physical, in the person of Jesus Christ – while remaining
fully God. By condescending to share humanity and physicality with His beloved children,
God acquired a human face and body – the face and body of Jesus. That is the
act that has given us “permission” to make an image of Him. Just as you and I have human faces, and we can have a photo made of us, Jesus’
beautiful physical countenance can be painted.
And just as I might gaze upon a photograph of my wife or my
kids or my mother, and make a very human, physical gesture of love by kissing
that photograph in their absence, I KNOW I am not truly kissing my wife when I
kiss the photo. And I know I’m not truly kissing Jesus when I kiss an image of
Him. Yet I DO kiss the icon as if I were kissing Christ – it would be unthinkable
for me to kiss Him directly on the face, perhaps only on the hem of His clothing,
or on His foot.
The kiss is a gesture of love that God has given us to help
express love in a physical way. I give this gift of a kiss back to Christ (and
to His mother, and to my elder brothers and sisters in Christ the saints)
because I love Him so much, and I so want to be able to see Him and speak with
Him. I speak with Him all the time, but I can’t see Him or kiss Him directly at
this time in my life, or in my present spiritual state. So I kiss or make a
movement of veneration before His icon, as a physical expression of the emotion
of love, and of desire to give honor. I mean for this gesture not to be given
to the icon itself, but to the real person which it portrays. I intend for my
kiss to “pass through” the icon and to reach the object of my love, who I know
is constantly with me and in all places, filling all creation.
This gesture of love, being physical, is natural to that
important, God-given physical aspect of my humanity. Eastern Christianity
recognizes and values our physical nature along with the spiritual and
intellectual, and uses it to make our striving toward God more complete, more
fully human. We rejoice in the smell of incense and basil, rosewater and
flowers. We taste the Holy Eucharist. We
delight in the music and sound of worship, and in the physical movements of our
bodies as we bow down before Christ, or make the sign of His cross. The wisdom
of the Church is manifest in the profound, concrete way that these physical expressions
reinforce, confirm and amplify the spiritual and intellectual expressions of our
worship and love. I have to emphasize this – to me, kissing an icon feels so “right”
and natural, as if my love is more integrated and whole, into “Ortho-Doxy” – correct,
true worship and belief.
And with that I have rambled on for far too long, and far
too clumsily. Blessings to you, dear
Adeline. All the best. And thanks for even caring about such issues.
Re: the Iconostasis
There has been so much change between the first days of Christianity and Mormonism it’s a difficult omelette to unscramble.
To begin I should point out that the modern paradigm of church organization (used by Mormons, all Protestants and these days even the Catholics) is not the traditional one. That is to say, seats facing an upraised platform with a podium on it, and a wooden altar off to the left side.
If an early Christian visited such a place he would be unable to identify it as a Christian church.
An Orthodox church building on the other hand is patterned after the Temple of Solomon, which is itself patterned after the Hebrew Tabernacle. There are three main areas: the inner court, the outer court and the Holy of Holies. In an Orthodox church these areas are called Nave, Narthex and Sanctuary.
The iconostasis is the traditional barrier between the Nave and the Sanctuary. Like in Solomon’s temple there is a curtain that separate the two. Unlike Solomon’s temple the iconostasis is decorated with Christian imagery.
I was an LDS for 20 years served a mission and was a bishop inclusive, and after finding out inconsistencies in the LDS chruch, I started to study the origins of the primitive church. Was during those studies and comparing to the scriptures, that I found out that a total apostasy never occured and that the Orthodox faith is the continuation of the church that Christ established.
I do belong to the British Orthodox Church which belongs to the Coptic Patriarchade which was founded in Alexandria by Mark the Evangelist in 58 AD, so I’m actually a Coptic Orthodox, my wife who is a Russian national ( and an ex-LDS as well) is a Russian Orthodox by birth but she is accepted in my Coptic church for all sacraments as any other Coptic is. The differences between Oriental Orthodoxes and Eastern Orthodoxes are minimal, and they share the same faith in unity and accept eachothers for the sacrament of the Eucharist but none of the Orthodox branches shares in unity of faith with the Catholics.
Yes it’s a very spiritual experience. What made me join the Coptic Orthodox church was just a geographical matter since there was not other Orthodox Churches close by. But I do like the Greek Orthdox service alot and in particular the byzantine chants, but apart from that the faith is the same in any Orthodox church and has been like that for 2000 years.
Thanks for your post.
I am an Eastern Orthodox and attend a Orthodox Church in America parish. Some hardliners on both sides of the fence will see all the differences between Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy. As I see it, we share the same faith. The Council of Chalcedon was a political split 1500 years ago. I firmly believe that the two churches will be in communion in my life time.
I came across this blog after doing an internet search, but I wanted to say a few things…
1) I am an Orthodox Christian and I thought this blog was very well written and very respectful of my faith.
2) The pictures are called icons, not mosaics.
3) Unfortunately Matins (or Orthros as it is sometimes called) is oft times not well attended. Many people will just show up for the Liturgy which follows Orthros immediately. The church where I converted to Orthodoxy was like how you described with very few people in attendance during Orthros and more people coming in the closer it got to Communion. However, some parishes are not like this; at the church I attend now, if you want a good seat (or a seat at all) you had better show up for Orthros!
4) Wow! Actual pews! Both churches I have attended have seats in rows, but pews are a rarity. The church my brother went to in Chicago, and the one he attends now in VA, had no pews and seats only along the sides.
Lastly, Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.
You should go back there….A LOT!!!
I am behind the rest of the pack, but I wanted to give my two cents.
I am a lapsed Mormon investigating the EOC. It is a beautiful and mysterious religion for which I have a great deal of respect. There has been a noticeable trend of people converting to the EOC from all walks of life, including Mormonism.
I have noticed that many Mormons converting to the EOC did/do not have a deep understanding of Mormon doctrine and belief. They are often individuals who left before adulthood or were scared away by the skeletons in the closet of Mormonism. I am not trying to knock those leaving and taking a spiritual path elsewhere. I see this as dangerous, given every religion has its fires that need putting out.
I am not trying to knock those taking a different spiritual path. I am considering it myself. However I think it is important that individuals have a good knowledge of what they are getting into and abandoning.
I also enjoyed my visit to an Orthodox church. I attended an Orthodox wedding of a friend a few years ago. The symbolism is beautiful and very familiar to Mormons. If you ever have the opportunity I suggest reading up on the service and symbolism before going.
The truth is that we all come from common origins. It should not be suprising to find similairities and to recognise and feel Gods presence when people are gathered together for that purpose -regardless of whether or not we belong to that particular faith.
I support all your efforts to find happiness and good in the world, take care
I am an Orthodox Christian and recently returned from a business trip to Salt Lake City. I came away very impressed with the quality of life in the area, and the obvious influence the LDS Church has in this respect – a wonderful feeling of community and family, for taking care of your neighbor and the poor.
I also toured the Temple Square area, including its visitor centers and Church History museum. Here though is where I felt tremendous conflict, and a sense of sorrow. For I believe that while the Morman people have many outstanding qualities, and are serving Christ as they know him, they are in fact not representing the true faith, the true church on earth.
The Orthodox Church traces its roots to Pentecost, when we believe the “one, holy, universal Church” was established. This faith, was revealed by Christ through his Crucifixion and Glorification. For us, the Cross means everything. After the Cross, nothing more needed to be done, nothing more needed to be revealed…everything had been fulfilled, everything had been accomplished (e.g. “It is finished.”). Through the centuries, the Church has faced many apostasies, scandals, and persecution, but it has ultimately prevailed in its defense of the truths about who God is and our relationship to him. The faith, does not change, but how people come to know it may evolve over time. This faith, handed down to the Apostles through the Holy Spirit, could never be “lost”.
For more information on the theology of the Orthodox Church, I would recommend readings and podcasts from Father Thomos Hopko, who can be found on Ancient Faith Radio (ancientfaith.com).
I’d like to post a quote from 1 Corinthians 1:12-15: “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?”
I am a Byzantine Catholic (Similar to the Orthodox Church) who grew up with a Russian Orthodox father, and married a Mormon man and into a large Mormon family. I have been to the Mormon church more than the Catholic church since I moved to AZ. But my husband has attended some liturgies with me. During a liturgy that I had attended at a newly discovered Byzantine Church, the father had opened his gospel with this quote. It was a glorious moment given to my husband and myself (at the time pregnant). Regardless of how you celebrate the glory of Christ, it’s a celebration indeed no matter what church we followed.
After the birth of my son, we was baptized in the Byzantine Rite, and given a blessing in the LDS church. My in-laws (strict LDS Members) attended his baptism, and my parents attended the blessing.
I would love to thank the author of this article to write without judgement and truly embody the Reverence, atmosphere, and presence of God during the Matins.
For LDS Members that are interested in attending a Sunday Liturgy, often they will conduct services on Saturdays as not to interfere with Sacrament Meetings.
Peace Be With you!
Hi. Methodist posting here.
Theosis is not entirely lost on Western Christianity. John Wesley’s doctrine of Christian Perfection is very similar to theosis, probably even more similar than Mormonism’s eternal progression because neither the Orthodox nor the Methodists believe we can actually BECOME a god and inherit our own world one day while producing many spirit children. We just simply believe we can become more like God, that we grow in our salvation until we are “perfected” in Christ.
Mormons on here that are considering converting to Orthodoxy need to be careful that they understand this, and that Orthodoxy has MUCH more in common with Catholicism and even most Protestant denominations than it does with Mormonism. Catholicism used to teach theosis “back in the day” while some Lutherans even adhere to this doctrine. No how, no way do we think we can become a god.
Other similiarities between Methodists and Orthodoxy that the LDS find repugnant:
1) the practice of infant baptism,
2) Holy Communion as a means of God’s grace,
3) crosses on the altar,
4) acceptance of the Treaty of Nicea, which affirms the Holy Trinity,
5) paid clergy.
“Catholicism used to teach theosis “back in the day””
Actually, Roman Catholicism does still teach theosis… even today as evidenced by paragraph 460 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (published 1993):
“The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature”
(2 Pt 1:4): “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God
became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the
Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” (St.
Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 19, 1: PG 7/1, 939) “For the Son of God
became man so that we might become God.” (St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3:
PG 25, 192B) “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers
in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make
men gods.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusc. 57, 1-4)”
Furthermore, the Collect (Opening Prayer) from the Christmas liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church makes this very clear:
“O God, who wonderfully created the dignity of human nature and
still more wonderfully restored it, grant, we pray, that we may share in
the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”
For more information on theosis/divinization/deification from a Roman Catholic perspective, please refer to this article by Carl Olson:
As a Greek Orthodox Christian, I was so touched that you visited one of our temples, then wrote about it with kindness and sympathy. Thank you for having the courage to stay during Orthros after finding yourself one of only a handful of attendees. You must be a US Marine!
Then there was the comment about not entering down the center aisle! Don’t give the least thought to your “rookie mistake”, which many (most?) “cradle” Orthodox wouldn’t even have noticed. Those who might have noticed would totally have understood. The Church is ancient, infinitely spacious and rich and complex. It can be quite forbidding to those who are unfamiliar with its “trappings”. Yet the Church is wholly personal and intimate at the same time. The temple is our home – our “living room” where we come together to worship our Creator and Saviour, the loving source of life. Ultimately, all you need to do is to learn to love God with an intense, true, humble love, and to seek to love His creatures and His creation – including your enemies – as closely as you can to the way He does. (Oh, is that all?)
As for “the Sanctuary’s enormous space …. which is humbling and invokes a sense of reverence” – the smallest of temples can invoke the same. I recall particularly a hermit’s little chapel in his hut on Mt. Athos – filled with light and love and pure joy. And a tiny stone chapel on an otherwise empty rock in the Aegean, which I swam to from our dive boat during a rest break. Middle of nowhere … no other boat had been there all morning. Yet the candles were burning brightly, and the rich icons of our Lord, His Mother, and my elder brothers and sisters in Christ were glowing with a beautiful golden light. I stood in bare feet dripping water on the rock floor and gave thanks to God for my life, and my loved ones, and His exquisite creation.
Again, thank you. May God bless you and yours, and all His children in the LDS faith.
Thanks for sharing the Historic faith in Christ.
Come worship the true Light of the ages.
I am an Orthodox Christian, and stumbled onto this post while looking for an article I remembered reading about Orthodoxy (Actually didn’t involve Mormonism at all. Haven’t found the article yet, but I’m still looking). I thought yours was a very well-written article, and gives a good idea of the “flavor” of an Orthodox service; if at all possible you should try to attend a full Liturgy (not all of them are on Sundays) since that is our most important and beautiful service.
One thing that I didn’t see anyone mention was the matter of the icon (portrait) at the entrance to the church. Usually that will either be an icon of the patron saint of the parish, or occasionally an icon of the saint or event which is being commemorated that day – so it was probably an icon of either St. Paul or St. Andrew. If you’re familiar with traditional iconography you can often recognize them from the symbols present in the icon, but if you’re not, most icons have the name of the saint or the event written on them. Some are in English, but most are in Greek or Coptic or Slavonic or some other Eastern language, and even if you know those languages the writing is often very stylized and difficult to read.
Also, the lighting of the candles is symbolic of prayers offered.
What a wonderful description of your first entrance to an Orthodox Church. The best part about it is the unchanging theology from Pentecost to today. Original Christianity in our midsts.
I don’t know how I ended up on this site. But, I myself have been a religious seeker for some time. Eastern religions,philosophies,etc. Eventually to Judaism,and to the Messiah,Jesus. Then came the confusing “jungle” of denoms.,along with my own “knowledge”. Frustrated and fed up,I met an Orthodox priest.( I was already dead set against Orthodoxy.) One thing led to another,now I’m a catechumen. It has been a most beautiful,fulfilling experience…everything else seems somewhat “less”…
I thank God for the beauty,reverence and wisdom of Orthodoxy…it has enriched my life like nothing else…
One P.S. I told the LDS friend I mentioned, quietly and away, that I appreciated and respected that he and his wife were grateful for as many children as the Lord chose to give them. And while that is a practical profession of faith, I told him that I wished it weren’t such a novel feature, that more people would have that open gratitude for God’s generosity.
Very much enjoyed the sharing of your adventure. Sounds like you are on a spiritual journey. May your journey be blessed.
My experience with such journeys is that they never really end. We are, after all, eternal beings. Maybe that is why while we are here on the temporal (temporary) earth we are never really quite “at home” and are ever yearning for our eternal home — our final home. You’ll know you’re “home” when your heart is at rest.
My observation of the Orthodox Matins service is that it is not just filled with references to Christ. It is also filled with and about the resurrection of Christ, the last Adam. If we die with Christ, will we not also be raised with Christ? This is my hope.
Regarding the comment on how few were there: When Jesus healed the ten lepers, how many returned to say “Thanks”? What was Jesus’ response? “Were not ten healed?” Yeah, Jesus Christ also noticed. All of heaven noticed. I very much want to make sure I return and give “Thanks”
Here is a list of Orthodox nations for future reference.
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Nations that have Orthodox Christianity has it’s 2nd largest religion.
Orthodox Christianity is the fastest growing religion in:
Central America (Mexico, Cuba, etc.)
The Southern States (South Carolina, Georgia)
God bless you all 🙂
I really appreciate your view of Orthodoxy! I am a cradle Orthodox Christian (meaning I was born into the faith) and I always find it interesting to see how others view my faith. I just wanted to say thanks for sharing your experience 🙂 Also, matins is a service that is held between Great Vespers (which is on Saturday night) and Divine Liturgy. Matins can be on either Saturday after Vespers or early on Sunday morning. Because it is so early in the morning, most families don’t attend. It’s hard dragging your 5 and 8 year old to an hour long Matins service and then 2 hour long Divine Liturgy. Anyway, thanks for sharing!
I love this post! I ama devout LDS woman who attends the temple every week. But I have been very blessed by my association with Orthodox friends and have visited several of their monasteries as well as having attended a number of worship services. My faith in Jesus Christ is deeper and more meaningful because of the example my dear Orthodox friends have shared with me. I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet and that the Book of Mormon is true. I know that I am on the right path in following the restored gospel. Learning from my spiritual brothers and sisters in the Orthodox faith has strengthened me in many ways. I couldn’t agree more – we need to celebrate our mutual love of God more and not focus on the things that divide us.
I am Greek Orthodox myself and go to Holy Trinity Cathedral downtown in Salt Lake City Utah, and let me just tell you, it is gorgeous inside! It is actually shaped like a cross. Some churches are shaped like a cross, some are shaped like an ark. It is truly amazing how bright and beautiful it is inside with all of the candles and icons, and stained glass windows and how she described- so spiritual. Love Orthodoxy! ♥p.s. my name is actually Nichole, I don’t know why it says Donna.
If anyone is interested, there is a growing discussion/ support group for former Mormons who have converted to Orthodoxy and Mormons considering conversion to Orthodoxy. If you are interested look up Mormons Discovering Orthodoxy on Facebook and send us a message. Also check out saintsandsaints.wordpress.com.
Greetings. I am a Catholic who was raised in the faith since infancy. I have also been engaged in dialogues with Mormon missionaries, elders and others from the Mormon Church. I am a lay person, who does not hold preference for the Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church, for me, division does not exist- I see the churches as one- despite appearances to the contrary. In dialogues with Mormons, I’m always pointing out Catholic and Orthodox Church beliefs, as my own. During the dialogues, the Mormons always let me lead in a prayer either before or after the meeting; and, they lead the prayer either before or after the meeting. These dialogues are always a positive learning experience. God bless you all.
I am an Antiochian Orthodox Christian, a member of St. Barnabas Antiochian Orthodox Church in Costa Mesa, California, not too far from St. Paul’s Green Orthodox Church in Irvine, the church where the writer went for Matins. Almost all of the adults at St B are converts. Newcomers always use the word ‘beautiful’ to describe our services. Things associated with God ought to be beautiful, true?
Once in a while, I have discussions with the pairs of young Mormon men that come down my street. They are diligent but there are important points of difference between LDS and the Orthodox. For example, our theosis teaching is quite different from the Mormon teaching about becoming ‘gods.’ Our teaching about the Eucharist is different as well. There is also the doctrine of the Trinity which contrasts with what the LDS teaches. These are important differences and cannot be glossed over.
Keep going to St. Paul’s or come to St. Barnabas. This is Holy Week, you know. If you want to experiences Pascha (Easter) come to St. Barnabas about nine p.m. this coming Saturday night. The service is long but beautiful and afterward there is a lot of food – we’ve been fasting for a while, you see. If you go to our website, you can see more about this week’s schedule.