Recently, the community of the Holy Trinity Church in Ulaanbaatar was joined by a new member—young Margad was baptized and he does not speak a word of Russian, but doesn’t really care about that. “Here,” he says, “I’m closer to Christ. I’ll stay with you then. Do you mind?” Of course, no one objected. And Fr. Anthony Gusev, the church rector, made the young man glad: “Firstly, most of the community speak Mongolian; secondly, Christ came for everyone, including the Mongols. Thirdly, He also came for you personally.”
He and Margad have talks from time to time. By the way, the young man was baptized with the name Peter; there is some symbolism here: “Peter” means “rock”, and “Margad” means “emerald”. In addition, St. Peter, Prince of the Golden Horde and a descendant of Genghis Khan, is a great example for his fellow-countrymen to follow. Who knows, maybe, God willing, he will have followers in his land.
Grandfather’s Bible, a million Tugriks, and Mormons
This is what Margad told the priest about his journey to Christ, which had already begun:
—Last July I started to get interested in religion. My grandfather died last year, and before his death he gave me a copy of the Bible that had been passed down in the family for three generations, saying, “Read this book and you will find the truth.” I do not know for certain if he was a Christian or what his religion was, because we lived apart. After my grandfather’s death I really regretted that I could not spend more time with him and had not given him much attention. After the funeral I began to read the Bible given me by my grandfather, went online and set about studying Christianity—what it is and where it came from. And in the summer, after the Naadam festival (a public holiday-competition dedicated to Mongolian wrestling, horse racing and archery, which is held in midsummer) I began to attend different Christian communities—or rather, communities that claimed to be Christian.
The first was a community called “the Church of the Lamb of God”, which belonged to Mormons. I listened to what they were preaching. They said There is God the Father, and “God the mother” who bring the human soul into existence. That day, I had come there after judo school, and they kept me back for a very long time. Someone was explaining something, while grabbing my hands, saying, “Wait, wait! Let me explain it to you! Ten more minutes!” They literally didn’t let me go away, telling me about their faith. They also showed me all sorts of training videos. I got tired of them, then attended other churches for some while, and finally I came to you, the Orthodox, looked at the service times and wondered if I could come to you or if Orthodoxy was only for Russians. It turned out to be for everyone, which is good news for me.
As for my communication with Mormons, it was like this. I have a close and good friend with whom I consult on various issues. I told him that I had a mysterious book—the Bible—and asked him what I should do with it, and he told me: “Come to us, maybe the Bible will fit our format.” My friend goes to a Mormon church—his parents brought him there. I was there for three weeks: not for long, but it was enough. I got to the first so-called service conducted by a foreign preacher, who had a badge on his chest. The preacher began to talk about the six days of creation, and in commemoration of these days they put three vessels of water and three loaves (their loaves are “blessed” by their chief priest). They have a division: from the age of twelve—a junior priest, and from eighteen—a senior one. As a deacon he has distributed blessed water from the age of twelve. A senior priest is a “teacher”: he can “bless” things, and when someone new comes, he accompanies newcomers. After the service we were divided into two groups: the elders and the youth, and each was assigned its priest/preacher. On Saturdays—their main holiday—they had gala dinners, went for walks and talked with one another. The Mormons said that they were considerably supported by the State: there are rumors that many Mongolian politicians allocate donations to them. And to become a member of their community you need to make an initial payment: a million tugriks. Well, that’s okay. And then, during one of those outings I was really horrified: There was a usual “fraternal meal”, and the “brothers” started literally snatching food from each other’s hands, “It’s mine!” “No, it’s mine!” It was so wild that I was both disgusted and scared. “What strange brotherly love—it’s time for me to get away from here,” I thought. I spoke to a woman later and she said that corruption was rampant among the leaders of the Mormon community and that not everything was as fine in reality as it looked in their leaflets and educational films. I asked her why she still attended their gatherings. The woman burst into tears and replied, “God sees everything. Only the Mormons have Him. When there is the end of the world, He will reward everyone according to their deserts.”
And when I started going to the Orthodox Church, she almost killed me; and even now, when we happen to meet, she still threatens to be done with me, the “infidel”—such is their “humanity”. I could tell you a lot from my experience with the Mormons, something about their views on Christ, Whom they do not regard as God, and about their attitude to their guru and “teacher” Joseph Smith. But, you know, enough is enough: I don’t want to. I began to have a lot of headaches after I got acquainted with the Mormon “teaching”. And when I compared the Mormon “Bible” with the Bible that my late grandfather had bequeathed to me, I saw that not only texts but also the spirit of these books were different.
How “Emerald” ran off into the steppe
There are many Mongolian boys and girls my age among the Mormons. As I understand it, it is an organization which controls its members very strictly both ideologically and financially. In general, your “moral image” will be controlled, and so will your wallet. For your “membership in the club” they promise participation in various events, English courses, trips abroad and other pleasures—just fill out the form and agree to become one of them. I really doubt that young people join the Mormons in search of God. In my opinion, the main reason is earthly blessings, the opportunity to solve earthly difficulties of all kinds quickly. Freedom is more precious to me—thank God I did not get carried away. Although I only now understand that God saved me from them; after all, many of my peers do not have the strength to escape from this trap. How will you run away if you have been lured by such blessings! Plus the tight control and pressure…
After eight classes dedicated to the introduction to the Mormon doctrine, I was assigned a date for “Baptism”, but I made off just in time. I went to my visit relatives in the steppe where it would have been pointless to look for me. Then they called me, and all of them asked me when I would finally come back. In the steppe I calmed down, thought things over, rested and came to the conclusion: “No, guys, you have the wrong spirit.” But they did not leave me alone. “Do come to us!” I turned to my father: “Dad, help out this fool!” He picked up the phone and told the pesky people that if they tried to recruit me, a minor, into their organization without my parents’ permission, he would give them a hard time with the prosecutor’s office, the police, relatives and everything else. And they left me alone.
Fear and joy
And then I came to the Orthodox Church and stayed there. I felt that it was my home.
Here I did not see that God’s task is to fulfil our worldly “desires”, but the main thing is something else. It’s hard for me to formulate what exactly it is, but in the Church you look upwards and you long for Heaven. I remember when I first came here, I couldn’t open the church door in any way—I tried to enter from the north entrance, but it was closed for the winter. I thought: “It’s not so easy to get into the Church!” Then I saw old women walking up and coming into the church from the west, and I followed them. At the service I got frightened, unable to understand where I was—at home in Mongolia or in Heaven. You know, I felt both fear and joy. I saw the priest come out of the sanctuary with a large golden book and then enter the sanctuary again with it—it turned out that it was the same Book that our family had kept for three generations, which my grandfather had bequeathed to me to read! Well, where else am I supposed to go?
To be continued…