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TAL BACHMAN - SECTION 1
Tal Bachman is an internationally recognized singer-songwriter from Vancouver, Canada. Raised strictly in the Mormon church, Tal spent two years in South America performing missionary work and learning Spanish. Later, Tal resigned his membership in the LDS Corporation.
| So, it may be that the church sets up more and more of its stake conferences as satellite broadcasts from Salt Lake (I think the next step will be replacing the actual speakers from Salt Lake with computer generated images of guys speaking - humanity is danger!).
This stake conference move has been linked by some on here to a desire to avoid further L. Tom Perry episodes, referring to the stake conference in which he spoke off the cuff about the other apostles.
Bear with me - I'm closing in on my point. Is there really anything damaging about L. Tom Perry's talk? It's the biggest whole lot of nothing that I can imagine, a total non-issue. Like no one's ever been able to guess that Elder Packer's got a temper? The guy hasn't cracked a smile since 1962. Who cares? How can the church care about the L. Tom Perry talk? We're talking about 175 years of church history where apostles are secretly committing adultery, lying to Congress under oath, taking treasonous death oaths in the temple, ordering assassinations, and they're worried about L. Tom Perry? The guy's supposed to be one of the nicest apostles there is right now. I don't get it at all. Even the Official History of the Church is full of wacko stuff. I don't see what's problematic, from the church's standpoint, about Perry's talk at all.
I remember once at USU, J. B. Wirthlin came to speak at a CES sponsored fireside. I think it was a Friday or Saturday night. I went, and it was pretty good, there was nothing out of the ordinary or anything, though he mentioned one or two things about how they ran the missionary program that we hadn't heard before. But it was nothing extraordinary at all.
So on Monday, we go to Institute class, and Ken Godfrey, who was the Institute Director at the time, tells us that he had gotten a call sometime AFTER the fireside, (before Wirthlin had left Logan), from the First Presidency's secretary, because he hadn't been able to get hold of Wirthlin directly. KG said that the 1st Pres. secretary asked him to "pass on" a message to Elder Wirthlin, to please not mention the bit about the missionary program again in any other talks that weekend. We asked him how the First Presidency would have known so quickly, but he didn't know. And neither really do I.
This is where I'm going with this. The church is supposed to be the ONE, TRUE Church on earth, the stone cut out of the mountain, the Lord's only authorized organization, bigger and better than anything else out there, set up to prepare the entire earth for the second coming - and yet it acts in the most obsessive, small, petty ways imaginable, nothing like it should if it had the real confidence in itself its claims would merit. Do they have guys secretly reporting in about GA talks, like Ernest Wilkinson and ET Benson had reporting in about liberal profs at BYU? Probably not, but there is precedent for it. I mean, you've got guys like F. Ross Peterson being monitored by pencil pushing COB dweebs (I would have been one of them probably if I'd had the chance) monitoring "Letters to the editor" sections and keeping files on "free thinkers" and stuff, guys sending phony emails to anonymous "dissidents" to try to identify them...
You see the weird spectacle (is anything really weird with this thing anymore?) of salaried church defenders hanging out on bulletin boards all day arguing with 18 year olds and monitoring "enemy" sites, trying to bait guys to go over and debate on the FAIR board!
Why should any of this stupid stuff matter, if the church is that big, brawny, bold ONE TRUE WAY? I don't get it. In my experience, confident individuals and organizations don't act this way at all. It's like the dudes from Howard Hughes' Mormon Mafia are running the church with the same kind of dingbat, uptight conspiratorial cracker mindset they had then, or that you see in white supremacist groups, or with guys who are secretly having an affair with their secretaries at work. The church acts paranoid, like it has something to hide, like almost neurotic, like it cares way, way too much about what people think of it.
If church leaders really believe it is all it claims, why don't they act like it, instead of acting like the kid at the back of the class who's always afraid that everyone's making fun of him, always keeping lists of his "enemies", always walking around, eyes darting nervously side to side, keeping an eye on everyone?
It's really weird. If you're the big man, you got to WALK like the big man (hallelujah). You got to TALK like the big man (hallelujah). You ain't got to be petty! You ain't got to be small! You ain't got to be ITTY BITTY. You got to be BIGGER than all the rest! You got to laugh off the L. Tom Perry talk, you got to stop caring if some Mormon Democrat in St. George writes a letter to the local paper complaining about BLM issues.
Like, be big, eh? What is this? It's no wonder growth is stalling - after all that money blown on PR (I wonder if Hinckley's plans - PR, McTemples, etc. - are a financial bust) they come across as just as small and petty as before. That's just not very attractive.
Just my two cents.
| I spoke to a guy the other day who was a bishop not long ago, recognized the BOM was not historical, and then resigned.
Anyway, for what it's worth, this guy said that after speaking with certain sources and doing his own calculations, part of which were based on his own experience while bishop with resignations per annum, that he figures there has to be somewhere around 100,000 resignations a year.
Even a few months ago I heard all kinds of big numbers like this bandied about and kind of doubted them all (in true exmo skeptical fashion), but now I've really started to wonder. I know personally a lot who have left, but I thought maybe that was just me (I just heard two nights ago about ANOTHER family leaving over in Vancouver). Could it be true there are THAT many?
Even if it is half that number, when you realize that they almost certainly don't represent guys who have just drifted away as inactive, but rather people who have given their all to the church (stalwart members) who are leaving in many cases with their entire family, this seems like a really big deal. At the very least, that is a big blow to future growth in terms of would-have-been-Mormon progeny and branching generations...big, fertile oak trees plucking themselves out root and branch.
And since it seems that the evidence will only continue accumulating that the BOM is not 1600 years old and doesn't actually have anything to do with American aboriginals, and more and more people around the world are gaining access to information about that evidence, and that we have innate sense-making/truth detection faculties that often seem retrievable even after major pummeling, and since people more willingly fall "out of line" when they see others doing so in increasing numbers, you wonder if maybe this isn't just biased thinking, but maybe that it is really happening, and happening with increasing momentum.
When you also acknowledge that the "12 million members" figure seems problematic in many ways, and that activity rates may even be quite a bit lower than the 3.5 million number people tend to cite (is it really more like 2 or 2.4 or 2.8 or something?), and figure in the very low retention rates for new converts (which I think will only continue to sink for the reasons I cited above), so that whatever the number of resignations is represents an even huger percentage of active church membership lost, it makes you wonder even more.
This ex-bishop also said he has spoken with two different church sources, one of which is at the MTC, who said that the church is losing FORTY per cent of returned missionaries. And a mission is about the most intensive church-immersion process you can imagine. When you figure that the rates are very likely twice that for dudes who don't go on missions, that's another bad indication.
When I first realized 14 months ago the church couldn't be what it claimed, I had no idea that anything like this could be happening. Bias aside, does anyone know what is REALLY going on with church growth/decline?
Since stakes are formed by counting active members, how many average active members do stakes have, and how many stakes are there?
| This is the "terrible" news: many of the things we used to think we knew for certain are not actually true (and that IS terrible when it first dawns on us). This includes one fantasy that I myself regarded for years as absolutely totally true: that people who leave the church, (or who know us as devout members but don't join), "deep down, really know the church is true".
This provided a kind of game for me and others I knew - try to guess what the REAL reason was that Bro. So and So "won't come back to church", or "why they left" or whatever. Often, we "knew" that
"someone had offended them", or
they found out that JS did something rotten, but didn't realize that "prophets make mistakes too", or
just "wanted the easy way out", or
were simply deceived by Satan himself and were all confused, or
any one of a standard set of explanations.
It literally never occurred to me, ever, that anyone could ever REALLY leave except for one of these standard reasons. I "KNEW" that...deep down....they really knew it was true! They were stubborn, or proud, or simple-minded, or too intellectual...but "deep down, they knew". What other explanation could there be, other than ignorance or wickedness?!
It is a source of fascination to me now to explain how I came to understand that a young, desperate man did not always tell the truth - and then be instantly disbelieved by members, even in some cases my own relatives. Awaited is some criticism of the church president ("ah - he favoured older prophets over the current, living prophet"), or some evidence that you are no longer adhering to every single church-recommended practice ("he no longer pays tithing - therefore, that's why he left: he just didn't want to pay tithing anymore") or any indication of the REAL REASON...all the while, ignoring what you're saying: (he didn't tell the truth, and here's how that can be known).
The terrible news is that the real reason is only that a number of church foundational claims - including the claims about the Holy Ghost - are pretty easily seen to be entirely baseless, for all kinds of reasons; and professional church defenders just denying that, or coming up with all sorts of weird explanations, just doesn't make that go away. It only, rather, seems to confirm the worst.
The truth is, most devout members are totally horrified and sick to their stomachs upon encountering those reasons. That things will get better, and that we might feel more peace than we ever have after that initial nauseating shock wears off, isn't known at first. All I knew was that, in a way, I had ceased to exist all of a sudden. The church c'est moi, Je suis the church, was really how I thought of myself - and if it wasn't what it claimed, I had just kind of committed suicide (though accidentally - all I was trying to do was bolster my faith). That's very tough. It hurts.
The real truth is, all our non-member friends that came to those activities - they didn't actually "know deep down" at all that "the church was true". They were normal people having fun, showing respect of other people's beliefs by not telling us that some of what we believed struck them as just plain wrong, or even kind of nuts.
Bottom line is that people like me and many others who have left are about as convinced "deep down" that the church might be true, as we are that Sasquatch made the crop circles, or that eight Jews in Switzerland are controlling everything that happens on planet earth; that is to say, this is just another one of the strange things we come to believe when we are in that particular believing state, that seem absolutely certain to us, but is just not true. You know? lol I'm not sure how else to say it. There IS no "real reason" that I left, and in those I know personally, other than discovering - often through research done in the church's OWN ARCHIVES by church historians - that Joseph didn't tell the truth about his experiences. (If any TBM lurkers want to ask me about this, email me).
A young, desperate man didn't always tell the truth. That's really all there is to it. Should that really be so difficult to contemplate?
And since young Joseph didn't tell the truth about his church's foundational claims (Peter, James and John back from the dead to ordain him, etc.), the church simply cannot be what it claims to be.
And if it isn't what it claims to be, it becomes difficult for most people to pretend that it is, and keep going. So, they, we, leave. That's really it. There is no "real reason", at least for those I know, other than that.
| I hestitate to post anything on this since the topic has kind of passed, and also, because Van Hale seems like a very sincere guy. And yet, for those still struggling to understand not only Mormonism, but how some of us end up coping psychologically with the competing demands made on us by persons or organizations claiming authority over us and to which we may feel emotionally attached, and by our own ability to discern reality, Bro. Hale's case seems poignantly instructive. Van himself seems to have had a reaction to those trying to understand how on the one hand, he can defend a church which continues to insist (through the temple recommend interview and elsewhere) that Joseph Smith was a prophet in the way he has traditionally been claimed to be, and on the other, insist that the BOM - while it may be divinely inspired - is not actual literal history. His upset over questions about this also might tell us something.
It should be clear from the fact that the church continues to espouse officially two totally contradictory explanations of the BOM's story - "Limited Geography Theory" (advanced on www.lds.org under the press section, as well as the contradictory "Hemispheric Model" in the official BOM introduction, including the recent Doubleday edition), that coherence (internal consistency) is often not a concern for any of us when we are trying to believe in something.
But for those just joining us here, let me try to explain why incoherence is a concern. Incoherence (internal inconsistency) is a concern because it is a very strong indicator that something about the claims being put forward can simply not be true. For example, if I tell you that "I hate cats", and then tell you that I love my cat Geoffrey, and also my neighbour's cat Sasha, and how excited I am that they just had kittens, you will know that there is something untrue about something I have said - about what I believe. That I have not noticed it yet won't matter; the case is simply that there is a problem there. The same must be said of the church's two contradictory positions on the "keystone of its faith", and to some degree, of Van. The same might be said of all us; and this is all the more reason to have some sort of engagement (though the moderators of this board have decided that this particular place should be a "recovery" board, rather than a "debate" board).
Internal inconsistency (or even opinions we think are wrong), isn't evidence, by the way, of malice or evil or moral inferiority, and I'm not sure why merely pointing out incoherence or disagreement should expose one to all sorts of insinuations. When we put forward our ideas in a public forum, as we all have done, I suggest that having them scrutinized by others is not only advantageous to us (since we may become aware of flaws in them), but also a sign that others regard us or our opinions as worthy of attention and scrutiny. That is, one reason some have tried to consider Van's arguments carefully is because some on here admire him and think he may have something important to say; at the very least he may be admired for being willing to be upfront about his views (unlike other stealth unbelievers who as church employees Van is actually supporting with his hard-earned tithes). Some of us also wonder if perhaps our own ideas, when compared to Van's, might prove to be defective. I think after feeling now thatwe have been so wrong about such crucial matters to our own lives, that most of us on here would appreciate being disabused of any further incorrect notions before we become even more attached to them. That would include the belief that the church is not what it claims.
A couple of weeks ago, Van Hale posted a response to the questions asked about him on this board. This post was deleted. I presume Deconstructor or someone has posted it somewhere else, and I think everyone concerned about his or their own beliefs ought to seek it out and read it. Van was kind enough to send me personally a copy of that deleted post.
Reading his response, sensing as I do his total sincerity, filled me with mixed feelings. I believe him when he says he has looked over things in the church archives; and yet his defense of the church he loves in so many ways relied on assertions about church history which are simply not true; and this has been demonstrated NOT by "anti-Mormons", but by LDS historians themselves, and in some cases again, by LDS historians employed by the church. I emailed him back about this but have received no reply. Rather than the church archives, all Bro. Hale would have to do is drive five minutes to the official church bookstore, Deseret Book, and there he would find dozens of books on sale written by historians working out of those same archives, but often with greater access to material than he would have enjoyed, showing that at least some of what he happily and strongly believes is true about the origins of certain church doctrines is, sadly, not true. I bet there is a Deseret Book within five miles of where he lives.
While he makes clear that he believes the writing of the BOM was presided over by an angel and is divinely inspired, Van expresses his bottom line position in this way: "No. I do not believe the BOM is a translation of an ancient history". This means that his belief in the BOM depends on a disbelief in what the BOM actually says about itself - that is, his belief in the BOM relies on disbelief in the BOM. This might strike most people as internally inconsistent, or incoherent. It also might suggest to some that he believes that Joseph Smith was either mistaken or deceptive in his own descriptions of what the BOM is, for Joseph says that the Book of Mormon is "JUST WHAT IT PURPORTS TO BE" - LITERAL HISTORY. (See the Encyclopedia of JS's Teachings, Deseret Book, p. 86). And whether Van believes Joseph was mistaken on the most fundamental product of his foundational claims, or believes that he was lying, doesn't matter - both express a position which denies that he was a prophet in the way that HE claimed to be,and in the way that the church claims he was.
But all this is one thing - how we view someone whose opinions we find incoherent or incorrect is another. I ask myself, for example, what kind of man could ascribe EVIL to a man like Van Hale, just because his views contain internal contradictions, or just because they disagree with the church's core, foundational claims? What kind of man would presume to judge the soul of a man as sincere as Van Hale, and call into question his moral worth? NO ONE on this board, that I know of. But there is someone that I know of who would, and his name is not Deconstructor, or Rationalis, or Randy J.; and he's not on any "anti-Mormon" website that I know of.
He is actually a member of the church; he sits in the Quorum of the Twelve apostles; he may one day become president of the church which Van, despite all this, still wishes to defend; and his name is Dallin Oaks.
This is Dallin Oaks commenting on the position defended by Van Hale. They address both the internal consistency and reconcilability concerns others have from a church perspective, but also serve to indicate the church's *reaction* to such divergence of views.
>>>"Some who term themselves believing LDS.are promoting the feasibility of reading and using the BOM as nothing more than a pious fiction with some valuable contents. These practitioners.raise the question of whether the BOM, which our prophets have put forward as the preeminent scripture of this dispensation, is.history or just a story.
>>>"The historicity - historical authenticity - of the BOM is an issue SO FUNDAMENTAL that it rests first upon faith in the Lord Jesus Christ."
(How can Dallin Oaks, so upset with evangelicals when they deny that Mormons really have faith in Jesus, HIMSELF impugn Van Hale's faith in Jesus? This is totally unfair, and I don't care what position Dallin Oaks has. It is perfectly possible, as Dallin Oaks himself ought to know since apparently he was on the forefront of putting "Limited Geography" articles on the official church website, to be totally sincere about faith in Jesus, but simply lack coherence in one's views.)
Back to Oaks:
>>>Some LDS critics who deny the historicity of the BOM seek to make their proposed approach persuasive to LDS by praising or affirming the value of some of the content of the book. Those who take this approach assume the significant burden of explaining how they can praise the contents of a book they have dismissed as a fable.
>>>"There is something strange about accepting the moral or religious content of a book while rejecting the truthfulness of ITS AUTHORS declarations, predictions, and statements. This approach.rejects the concepts of faith and revelation that the BOM explains and advocates."
Commenting on the position that "it doesn't really matter whether it's literal history or not", Oaks says:
>>>"If an account stands as a preeminent witness of Jesus Christ, how can it possibly make no difference whether the account is fact or fable - whether the persons REALLY lived who prophesied of Christ and gave eye witnesses of His appearances to them?".
This is worst thing of all. Check this out. Oaks is talking about the belief that the BOM is NOT literal history, which is Van's core position. Oaks mentions Peter's use of reason in suggesting that Jesus wouldn't really be executed, and then quotes Jesus' rebuke:
>>>"But he.said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, SATAN: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savorest NOT the things that be of God."
Then, if you can believe it, Oaks says:
>>>I suggest that we do the same thing and DESERVE THE SAME REBUKE AS PETER whenever we subordinate a witness of the Spirit.to the work of scholars or the product of our own reasoning."
(These comments are from Oaks' piece "The Historicity of the BOM", from the book "Historicity and the LDS Scriptures", published by the Religious Studies Center at BYU).
Dallin Oaks says that those holding Van Hale's position - like Van Hale - are satanic. I disagree in the most profound way.
Van seems to believe that merely because all the GA's believe in the BOM's historicity doesn't mean there isn't room for a guy like him in the church. But Oaks, and Hinckley, and all of them, all of them from the beginning, have all said otherwise. For them, guys like Van Hale DO NOT BELONG. Oaks says guys like him are "Satan". It hurts, but this is the reality. The church doesn't want guys like him in it - Hinckley said as much on Larry King: he'd like Van Hale to shut up. In fact, it excommunicates guys like him, as it did with David Wright, former BYU professor, who had the audacity to say exactly the same thing that Van Hale says.
I should wrap this up but just one more comment. This all is also relevant for this reason: that the church excommunicates some members for publicly disavowing belief in BOM historicity, but not others, demonstrates for most people a kind of arbitrariness - that is, profound unfairness and injustice - usually associated with misuse of power, with rule not by immutable moral principle or law or custom or by any consistent standard - only rule by whim and caprice, or perhaps, whatever apperas advantageous from a PR perspective.
The example of Van Hale thus displays once again many of the themes which we all have tried to make sense of on here: trying to maintain belief through selective disbelief, why we feel a sense of belonging to entities with which we fundamentally and irreconcilably disagree, what appears to be the church's capricious, unjust use of power, us trying to believe two things to be true which both can't possibly be true, trying to reconcile feelings of emotional attachment to an entity which makes it clear it doesn't feel emotionally attached to you in the end at all, and which in fact sometimes acts abusively toward you, how religious disagreement can so easily lead to personal demonization, and the delusion that at bottom, the argument from utility is enough to justify devotion to a particular church (Van's broader argument), etc.
Both Oaks and Hinckley, nearly everyone in church, and all of us, see problems with Van's views vis-a-vis the BOM and the church that I guess he does not see; but it's only church apostles and members that would impugn his morality or his heart.
I don't know if Van Hale will ever come to a point where he sees what others believe they see about his positions; but if he doesn't, it doesn't mean he's "satanic"; and it really bothers me that those steering the church, from salaried defenders at BYU to salaried church leaders in Salt Lake City, attribute wicked motives or satanic delusion to those members of the church who, like him, happen to concede what in all honesty can not really be seriously disputed anymore:
Whatever else it might be, the BOM is just not a history of ancient Americans. Is it Van's fault it isn't, or that he found out?
| While I was out of town I saw Gladys Knight on TV talking about her new album, "One Voice", done with a Mormon choir.
Anyway, I think Gladys Knight is great for the church. As I said in another post, it will be wonderful for all the crackers in church to finally learn how to clap on the two and four, rather than on the one and three like most white people do.
Also, Gladys says that GBH's given her the go ahead to liven up church sacrament meetings. Since there are millions of people like Gladys who, for various reasons, will never figure out that Joseph didn't tell the truth about his experiences, it can only be a good thing that sacrament meetings move from being generally boring endurance tests to something that might really be a memorable weekly experience - maybe even resemble something like an actual "worship" service, that includes frequent references to people like, say, Jesus. Maybe - even become enjoyable.
This might hasten the GBH-directed slide toward normalcy, which of course, would be equivalent to the obliteration of the church as we know it, but who cares? Since it isn't what it claims, just like the others as far as I can see, anything that helps it serve better the humans unaware it's a fraud is probably a good thing. As it exists right now, it's probably THE blandest, most torturous general "worship service" in all Christendom. Why not spark it up with some "Midnight Train to Kolob"?
Maybe then, by the time Gladys finishes her world "LDS Negrification" tour (can you see the Sandy 168th ward getting down?), Monson will have introduced sacrament meeting puppet shows to kind of go along with the swell stories he'll probably insist everyone start telling ("We hereby ask that members refrain from using or referring to the scriptures in sacrament meeting, and instead concentrate on humourous anecdotes about little kids with lost dollies, sick frogs, and yummy peppermint sticks").
Any other ideas for livening up LDS sacrament meetings?
| Pres. Hinckley claims that Mormon racism is "all behind us". And maybe it is. But even if it is, there is still a big problem those investigating the church must grapple with, and it is one unacknowledged by Pres. Hinckley and all church defenders.
What I mean is that the current defense of the (sometimes viciously) racist comments made by past church leader seems to consist of a claim that, "well, they were men of their time, and these comments were nothing out of the ordinary back...we can't judge him by today's standards...".
But as is so often the case with these defenses, there is something terribly self-undermining with this. What REALLY does it mean that the views of self-proclaimed oracles of God on a moral point affecting the lives of millions upon millions of fellow human beings, was in fact exactly the same as most others of the time - totally racist and very much at ease with legal discrimination (even slavery)? Think about this, my investigator friends. What does that really mean?
Does it really make sense for the church to claim that certain men have superior access to the truth of heaven, but then deny that they should be evaluated as if that were the case, but rather, as though they were no more or less able to access that light than any other man?
NO. Like so much else in the church, it makes no sense.
The church claims NOT that its leaders have as much ability to know righteousness and truth from God as any other man, but that they have vastly superior access to the perfect mind and direction of the embodiment of all truth, virtue, and eternal righteousness himself, Jesus Christ, so much so that leaders guarantee that Jesus will not allow them to "lead the church astray". So, let me see if I understand this: they must be obeyed as though they had superior access to divine revelation, yet should be evaluated in effect as though they were atheists. Huh?
We're supposed to believe they are prophets, seers, and revelators (!) at the same time we're supposed to not bat an eye when they come up about even with Pope Pius, Father Coughlin, the local plumber, Ty Cobb, and everyone else? It's nuts! How long can we believe that Joey's a math prodigy when he never gets any better grades than anyone else?
Think about it - the belief that blacks represent a lower order of human was the justification for legislation and behaviour that DIRECTLY AFFECTED the lives of millions of our fellow human beings in the most horrific of ways. How can past GA's by and large aligning themselves with this view, which most definitely influenced how Mormons voted and acted, NOT be considered a case of "leading the church astray", when this view is NOW claimed to have NEVER been right by MODERN GA's?
Now, when it is so popular to proclaim a belief in the innate moral equality of all humans, the church does so - but when it was not, the church didn't. GBH can say, "it's all behind us". But what is behind the church, on this issue, is behaviour which very much suggests that Mormon church leaders either have no greater access to revelation from Jesus Christ than anyone else, or ignore it. Either way, that in turn raises serious questions about the claims that the church itself makes about itself.
Another way of looking at this is: If Brigham and JS and D. McKay and all the rest REALLY were prophets of God unable to lead the church astray, why SHOULD their racist teachings be "all behind us"? Why?
If unable to lead the church astray, their teachings - made in general conference, published in church magazines, etc. - should be regarded still as expressions of divine omniscience and judgement. Right?
There is no way around this. If current prophets are right about race, then past prophets in fact DID lead the church astray on this "moral issue", which means modern GA's are presently leading the church astray with claims that GA's can't lead the church astray, which suggests strongly the church is not what it claims;
If past prophets did NOT lead the church astray with their many teachings on race, then the current disavowal of the idea that behaviour in the pre-existence influenced our "station on earth", and that no one should harbour any opinion that one race is morally superior innately to another, means that modern GA's ARE leading the church astray by preaching false doctrine on an issue fundamental to life on this planet, which also suggests the church is not what it claims.
So, maybe racism is in fact "all behind" the church. But that's not the point. What is, is that the church's advocacy and denial of certain doctrines pertaining to race is just another example of how its own history detonates the church's own claims for itself.
What I think Pres. Hinckley and all the rest might really mean by saying the "past is all behind us", is that they yearn for the obliteration of every last vestige of the past which appears to threaten the believability of its increasing unbelievable claims to authority.
Am I wrong, and if so, how?
| Maybe Pres. Hinckley's "big" announcement will be that a decision has finally been reached about who the Book of Mormon - the church's founding scripture and "the most correct book on earth" - is actually about. I guess it's taken a few years for the seer stone to warm up.
After all, the Book of Mormon started out as a history of the "ancestors" of the American Indians, and there was no "principal" about it.
Then, as more and more evidence accumulated showing that Israelite immigrants - at the very least - could not be the sole ancestors of American aboriginals, qualifiers and modifiers began to be introduced into "official" descriptions of the relationship between the two groups.
Oddly enough, nowadays, two mutually exclusive views regarding the BOM are now being promoted by the church. One advocates belief in Joseph Smith's - and "Jesus"'s - declarations about Lehite descendants (the Hemispheric Theory), and the other advocates DISbelief in "Jesus" and Joseph's declarations (the Limited Geography Theory).
The "we don't believe Jesus or Joseph Smith because Sorenson has a graduate degree" side is comprised of FARMS writers and a few current GA's, and is promoted via articles posted on the official church website. (I guess Jesus is only an omniscient being when he is speaking as such...).
The "I declare war on reality and will believe in Joseph no matter what" view is promoted via the introductions not only to the 1980 edition of the LDS scriptures, but in the recent Doubleday edition, which includes the specific designation of the book as a history of the "PRINCIPAL ANCESTORS OF THE AMERICAN INDIANS".
For all the cranky critics of the church on here wondering why Pres. Hinckley didn't foretell the tsunami or Sept. 11, or make public the revealed mind of Jesus Christ on the Schiavo case, or on stem cell research, or on cloning, etc., I'd like to suggest that you dramatically lower your standards. How about - why doesn't Pres. Hinckely know what relationship BOM characters are supposed to have to modern aboriginals? Isn't God supposed to answer prayers, reveal the truth of "all things"? (see James 1:5, Mor. 10:3-5).
So, I'm thinking, maybe he found out, or decided, and is going to announce it! That way, his doctrinal legacy would be enhanced over "be good" and "don't wear two earrings in the same ear". It would be the perfect thing to close out his presidency with..."We finally came to a position on our own founding scripture!!!"
| I believe that if the church really felt a sense of respect - and responsibility - for its members, it would try to bring clarity to the many internal contradictions within the world of Mormon doctrine.
Despite the delusional bleatings of salaried church defenders about how "beautifully simple" and "simply beautiful" the "gospel" is, with all the ever-present insinuations that if it doesn't seem this way to you, it means you've "lost the spirit" and your "mind is clouded with sin", the fact is that not even the president of the church, Gordon B. Hinckley, can provide a coherent explanation of even the most basic of church doctrines. It shouldn't be a surprise, then, that no one else can, despite what we all used to tell ourselves.
Church defenders like to use words like "fluid" and "open" when describing "official church doctrine"; the truth is that euphemisms can't hide the fact that it is simply embarrassingly chaotic and nonsensical, carrying dozens of internal contradictions (read "impossibilities"). I regret that, but it is the truth.
And on the Larry King Live show, after years of FARMS chaos and his own obfuscations, GBH actually said that his role was to "declare doctrine". Wow.
Then, he puts out in the Ensign last year an announcement telling members to STOP writing in letters for clarification on what "church doctrine" is. So...church members are told repeatedly that they will be held responsible for not obeying the gospel, and for teaching it to their children...but when they wonder what it is, having been provoked into wondering what it is by the very obfuscations and revisions of Gordon B. Hinckley himself, he announces NOT a final clarification...but a demand that everyone stop trying to find out what it is! "Stop asking me!"
This strikes me as very disrespectful to the many sincere members of the church, who find themselves, much like we might have, bombarded by many conflicting answers about what should be an easily answerable question - IF the church were even close to what it claimed to be. Is it really too much to ask of a guy who demands to be obeyed as CHRIST'S REGENT, that he at least stick to ONE STORY? Yes, it is. The church can't even stick to one story on their founding scripture, the Book of Mormon. It's totally embarrassing.
This screwed up situation, on a few occasions, touched me personally (this was prior to the announcement that we all stop asking "prophets" what "doctrines" we were actually supposed to believe). Once, I wrote to Dallin Oaks raising a question, in the politest way I could, about a particular church doctrine which he had spoken about; his response was to tell me to write to the First Presidency about it.
I then wrote to the First Presidency as per his request, labelling my letter in large letters, "PERSONAL and CONFIDENTIAL". Thomas Monson sent back via his secretary Michael Watson what appeared to be a form letter recommending I read a number of scriptures - which I had actually already referenced and referred to in my original letter (great). But he didn't send his letter to me. He sent it to my Branch President, along with a copy of my original letter - the one marked "PERSONAL and CONFIDENTIAL" - for my BP to read and keep.
Why, after asking me to keep confidences vis-a-vis the temple and everything else, did Thomas Monson feel no hesitation in violating MY confidence?
I'd only sent the letter to him because an apostle told me to. Why did he make a copy of it and send it someone else? To embarrass me? As though I'd done something wrong in asking for clarification on something I HAD BASED MY ENTIRE LIFE ON, and which the current president was, in some measure, then REVISING OUT OF EXISTENCE? To deter further inquiries?
AND, of course...I'm not allowed a copy of the form letter, am I? Not that I asked for one - but my BP informed me that he had been instructed to keep Monson's letter, and not give me a copy. He was only allowed to read its contents to me, which he did - over the phone, no doubt suddenly fearing that I'd gone insane, and might snatch it or something.
I was a flame-throwing (although increasingly bewildered) member at that time, all my kids named after prophets, the whole deal, holding down two very time-consuming callings - gospel doctrine teacher and counselor - and in retrospect, all I can say is that a long list could be compiled of all the ways in which the church is forever avoiding any responsibility for anything it says or does, shifting every burden, physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual, on to members, at the same time its officers (and that includes me while I was in) can act in subtly, and not so subtly, abusive or disrespectful ways. They're so reluctant to evade any responsibility - they won't even send return letters back to people. (You end up thinking of Hitler keeping all references to the extermination verbal, so there's no paper trail. Sorry for the Hitler reference, I'm kind of sick of them myself.)
This little experience was insignificant compared to those of others. And yet, it, like all the others, is just another indication of what very much appears to be a double standard - one justified, like all double standards, on one group's claim of superior authority - which is the same as saying, one group's claim of superiority over another.
I am not so much bitter as totally amazed that I was so blind for so long.
Since Hinckley has outsourced the church's public relations, something that divine revelation, one would think, would be more than enough to handle, why doesn't he outsource the task of coming up with a coherent doctrine for his church? I think, seriously, that would be one important way that the church could show genuine respect for its members.
FARMS, which appears to provide something of a cover of deniability for "doctrinal revision", has failed miserably in this task, to the point of a handicapped-kid-messing- his-pants-during-the-school-play awkwardness. I literally have no doubt in my mind that nearly anyone on this planet - outside the church - could sit down and hammer something out for the church which gets rid of most of its internal contradictions. And that includes the "Gentile Jews" over at Edelman.
Can you imagine the conversations THOSE guys have had over the past few years, dealing with the church?
I wrote a post saying Benson had been my favourite church president. Maybe I should amend that to Hinckley, since he has made it clearer than any other church president, that he does not believe himself to be a prophet in the way he is reputed to be, nor that he believes the church to be what members commonly believe it to be. And Monson...well, it's going to be interesting when he takes the reins. They say he is the most vain of all the GA's; and apparently, that's really saying something.
Anyway, it is no wonder there is such a hemorrhaging of members with these guys running the ship. Nearly every single thing about the way they run it screams, "it is not what it claims". It's totally nuts.
| I believe now - and all my inquiries confirm this - that I often came across as smug, a bully, while discussing religious/existential questions as a member.
I was totally convinced that I was 100% correct on all of life's most important questions; I was privy to special knowledge; I possessed authority that others didn't have; and my understanding of the gospel, I believed, was far superior to that of other members. After all, I had read all the books, studied all the conference talks, gone to all the institute classes, and obeyed all the rules more strictly than others I knew, hadn't I? And I felt very grateful for all this, humbled even (rather like the Pharisees). I even came, as Ben Franklin once wryly commented about himself, to feel great pride in my humility; but never really noticed any irony there.
I didn't need to ask people why they might have left the church: I already knew. Their method of reasoning was flawed, or they had longed for the easy life, or Satan had somehow deceived them with his twisting of Mormon history, or they didn't know about the easy-to-understand exonerating research turned out by a crack team of church defenders. The anger some of them betrayed only confirmed the suspicion that they existed in the clutches of Satan himself - they had been delivered over to him for "buffetings". There could be no other explanation for apostate bitterness.
These people just had not understood that "sometimes prophets make mistakes, too", that "the church is perfect, not the people", that "some things we should just put on the shelf", that "things were different back then", that "none of those things are essential to our salvation", or that "the jury is still out", and dozens of other things. They just didn't understand. But I did. I was very thankful to be me.
Worse, perhaps those people HAD understood the gospel, but had just decided that "they didn't want it". Just like Judas Iscariot, who killed himself, with his bowels gushing out - a possible Son of Perdition. They had the most precious thing in the world, and threw it away in defiance, for a pittance, a few pieces of silver. Those who left had lifted up their heel against the prophet, tried to "kick against the pricks". Sorrow would be their eternal reward. In a way, I took a kind of satisfaction in that. It was just. After all, they didn't care. They were laughing. What kind of twisted people were they? It is no wonder, I thought, that Moses had had all the calf worshippers slain. There was really something seriously wrong with these people. It was reassuring that justice would exact its demands on them.
Further, as a member, I knew that essentially the entire world was irredeemably screwed up. Almost everyone was doing tons of things "wrong". The right way, as Dallin Oaks had said, was "the Lord's way". I read his book of the same title a few times just to keep in mind what Dallin Oaks said was "the Lord's way", since obviously, that would be "the Lord's way". It frustrated me that not everyone would submit to the revelations of God himself, through his holy prophets.
On a number of occasions throughout our life together, my wife ventured to mention something about the gospel that confused her. I would begin by trying to calmly answer her; but when my answer didn't satisfy her (even though there was nothing but the most earnest sense of wanting to understand there), I would often start to lose my patience.
She was sensitive to this, having grown up with an abusive father. But in the end, it was hard for me to fault myself - she was the one not getting what was so plain. How many scriptures did she need to hear, how many verbatim quotes from Joseph Smith and Bruce R. McConkie and Kimball and Benson did she need to hear from me before she *got it*? How about "pray about it"? I was rattling stuff off like crazy. I was like a walking "GospelLink 2001", for Pete's sake. Why didn't she believe me that THERE WAS NO PROBLEM? I had already explained that the prophet had spoken - there was no problem - and, as McConkie said occasionally, that should end the matter for all faithful Latter-day Saints. If she was confused, it was pretty clear who had the problem - her. What was up with her? We already knew it was true - why cloud the issue with questions and stuff?
I might have seen myself in a different way, had not Mormon writers and defenders, and even average members, often communicated in similar ways. I didn't really see anything objectionable in that for most of my life as a member - we had every right to say what we said (especially "when moved upon by the Holy Ghost", which was quite often) because WE WERE RIGHT. If people didn't get that, or got offended, that was their problem. After all, the wicked took the truth to be hard, said Nephi. Damn right. Let them be upset then. What was it to me? At least I had told "the truth". Heber and Jedediah and Brigham in the J of D - they didn't suffer fools gladly. Why should I? Even Jesus called people vipers.
I won't say that all these habits have entirely left me now; but I will say that in those first few moments, sitting here in front of my computer reading Wm. Clayton diary entries, when it all snapped together for me, I felt like I saw for the first time that whole part of myself, and how absolutely wrong it was, and how much I had hurt others around me. I felt like the biggest fool in the world; I couldn't understand how it was that my own abilities of perception, and self-perception, had been so twisted, without me realizing. I wondered what else I was missing, even in that moment. How would I avoid that same trap in the future, if I didn't really realize it then?, I wondered.
I wrote emails to my friends and relatives, apologizing for having been rude in the past. I then began to hear about comments I had made to them, sometimes a decade earlier, the recollection of which still hurt them. I didn't even remember most of them. But they had lingered on for years. It is no wonder that a number of them had drawn away from me. They never knew when they might get zapped by another "totally justified" comment by me, on how they were living their life, or what they needed to do differently, etc.
There is no real communication per se in this state; the certainty that we possess superior knowledge and authority makes true "communication" a ridiculous waste of time in most cases, because by definition it means give and take, answer and response and answer again. This is unnecessary, though, when we already KNOW WE ARE RIGHT; what IS necessary is that people "listen to me", accept as truth what I said - and then, the end.
The idea of a one "truth" which is pretty much "manifest", accessible to all who are "sincere", inaccessible therefore only to the insincere (that is, morally defective) (see Moroni 10:3-5 for one expression of this), has justified many terrible acts, once "the knowers" got any kind of power. In a free country, it might be having the phone hung up on you, or a big brother hurting your feelings - in other countries, whose leaders are similarly immersed in such ideologies, it has very often meant much more. But I think all these actions, from simply bad manners to genocide, stem from the same idea, the idea that the one truth is accessible to all who sincerely seek it - and that "we have it".
So, I wonder this: maybe truth, especially metaphysical truth, isn't necessarily "manifest" or easily accessible at all, no matter how sincere we are; maybe it is very difficult to find, if one can find it at all; and maybe, even if we did, we - if we were honest - would admit that we couldn't even prove to ourselves that we had. And maybe another seeing something we don't see doesn't mean we or they are stupid or insincere or evil, as difficult as that might be to believe sometimes (don't know if I'm there yet).
And maybe no party or individual has any authority from any other world at all, only the very earthly authority we might be granted by those who employ us to referee human life. Maybe it is only vanity itself that would ever lead us to doubt any of those things, allowing ourselves to believe what would so flatter us if it were true. I don't think Mormonism did us any favours in this regard.
If I'm not the only one who this happened to, my question is: how are we supposed to tell now that we aren't jerks, since we didn't catch it before?
| I've said enough about Mormonism on here; I want to try bloviating about Exmormonism now (thinking of starting a series lol).
Imagine this: You're a girl in her early twenties who's just left home, renting your own room, intent on doing right and being a great member of the church. But, you meet a young non-Mormon guy one night (call him Jim), he asks you out, you go on a few dates, nothing that serious, but then one night, one thing leads to another, and you end up making love.
As soon as it is over, your mind is flooded with regret and self-loathing; you think back to the Young Women's lesson you had once, when a high councilman brought a perfect rose, and passed it around to all the teenage boys to handle and mess around with. They picked off petals, bent it, mutilated it. After a few minutes, the high councilman held the tattered, bent rose up and told the young girls that whereas they were perfect roses now, if they ever violated the law of chastity, they would NEVER be able to recover their former pristine state, and would be just like the damaged rose they now saw. Unchastity was next in line behind denying the Holy Ghost and murder. Any mistake would retroactively add to the excruciating suffering of Jesus on the cross.
Now at home and in bed by yourself, your sobs grow heavier and heavier; you start to feel dizzy, sick with guilt, sick at irreparably damaging yourself. You had every blessing; God had anwered your prayers; and you have now committed a sin up there with the two biggest of all. You made Jesus suffer even more pain.
You can't pray; you don't want to profane Him by even addressing Him. You are damaged and filthy. And as the hours wear on, and the gravity of the heinous sin you have committed weighs down on you, you move beyond crying to a kind of numbness, as though you weren't really you anymore, as though you didn't really exist. You would cry, but there aren't any more tears, and no more will to. You are beyond that now. And in that anguished state, the darkest thoughts possible begin to take shape in your mind; and before morning comes, you have swallowed an entire bottle of aspirin, and left yourself to die.
Just before you pass out, though, you reconsider, realizing that suicide would consign you to even further eternal torment, and manage to tell the landlords, who live in the house, what you have done. You are rushed to the hospital, hovering between consciousness and endless unconsciousness, where your stomach is pumped.
After you come to, you make a decision. To help atone for your sin, you will marry Jim. In your mind, knowing all you've been taught by those you admired most in the world, it seems like the best way to try to make something right. Maybe doing so will help repair, just a bit, the irreparable - you.
So you marry him. And then you have two little children. And the young man, though not a Mormon, turns out to be a fantastic father who loves you beyond anything else.
But after a couple of years, you begin to worry about the eternal fate of you and your children. You are not sealed in God's temple - your marriage is of no worth anywhere but planet earth; and so what good is it even ON earth? Your husband is totally supportive of your church activity; yet he shows no real interest in the church at all. This is danger. And it begins to wear on you. "What will happen to me when I die? I could die any moment. What then? I will never make it to the celestial - I consciously married outside the covenant. I will never see my parents, my siblings, I won't get to live with Heavenly Father. I will be consigned to some lower kingdom, or turned into some ministering angel. Or something. But I won't get to the top. I can't receive exaltation. I WILL LOSE MY CHILDREN. Oh God, I can't lose my children, not them. I don't want to spend eternity without them."
And so it is that you decide to divorce your non-Mormon husband. Your little children, who worshipped and loved him more than any other man in the world, cry themselves to sleep every night for the next three years, begging to see their father again, not understanding what has happened to them or what you are saying to them. They have lost, forever, a part of them, who they were, the man they loved most.
And Jim, who sincerely loved you, cries, begging you for an explanation, for anything, even agreeing to go to church, take the lessons, anything. But it is done; you have made your decision. His offers are insincere anyway. You will not lose your exaltation. You will not lose your children. The truth is, he never recovers. Afterwards, he can never quite keep a job, seems listless and forlorn, totally unlike his cheery, confident former self. All he knows is they seemed to have a perfect marriage and true love, and then it was ripped from him for reasons he can't understand.
After a while of looking, you find a divorced man, very much your senior. He is not attractive, but he is a member, and is on the high council. He could get you through the veil. You make it known you are interested, he proposes, and you marry him.
As years pass, the fact that you were never really in love with him begins to affect your life. You feel unfulfilled, longing for the excitement of romance. You are still young, after all; but he is starting to close in on retirement. In frustration and despair and loneliness, you even seek solace in the arms of another man, for a brief few weeks. And now you have really done it. You plead for repentance, vow never to see him again, vow never to even think of another divorce again. You decide that all of those passions and instincts and feelings must be killed off, once and for all, forever.
You wind up a young woman, but prematurely old and tired, without the kind of love you deserve and even had, having created a legacy of heartache that you and your children are the inevitable heirs of. Life is cold. But if it is, it is your fault. You are weak. You have not been valiant. The gospel was there all along - you just didn't obey it. You wouldn't have had any problems if you had just obeyed more strictly.
And so, you make a steely vow to yourself, that you will never - never - allow yourself to feel those passions and instincts and longings again. At least you were brave once, in divorcing your non-Mormon husband and breaking up an otherwise totally happy family, for your sake, for your children's eternal sake. You sacrificed the tender feelings of Jim and your children, and the vows you made on that wedding day, for the church. At least, that was one thing you did right.
And then, you find out that Joseph Smith didn't tell the truth about his experiences.
How do you feel?
I am totally sick of hearing members of the church criticize ex-Mormons for feeling anger or bitterness (though usually this is just for the first little while). And it is not as though ex-Mormons have a monopoly on rancour; the tone one usually encounters on apologetic boards is every bit as rancourous, just minus the profanities. That's a small difference to me.
Joseph Smith didn't tell the truth about his sacred experiences; and people's lives have been totally screwed up because they didn't know that. They felt fear; they did all kinds of things because they thought God wanted them to. They obeyed the prophets when they said that birth control was a sin, never imagining that a few decades later, it wouldn't be a sin anymore. They spent their lives living in huts in the desert, visited for a few weeks each year by their polygynous husbands. They murdered. Or they just silently doubted, forever reproaching themselves for their weakness. They did all kinds of things.
And I can't believe now how inane and totally uncharitable it is for fire-breathing Mormons (like my former self) to complain about ex-Mormon anger, as though it were all the evidence one needed that people who have concluded that Joseph didn't translate (apparently invisible) golden plates with magical translation spectacles attached to a breastplate are the ones who have gone nuts. How did you, Mr. Member, feel when you got shafted on the latest Utah County get-rich-scheme? Times that by about 10,000, and that's what it's like to wake up when you're thirty or forty or fifty, and not know who you are anymore, and see a million opportunities that were ignored because you thought Joseph did tell the truth, and devoted yourself to his church. All the time away from your kids, all the career opportunities, all the time away from your spouse - and for what? Someone wasn't honest with their fellow man - and that was the young, desperate Joseph. There are always costs to believing lies. Who wouldn't feel resentmentat finding out he had been duped, and lost because of it, things he can never get back?
Anger, whether you've just gotten burned in a get-rich-scheme, or duped by any other guy - like the founder of a political party, stamp collecting club, or church - is a very natural reaction. It is not unique to Mormons or ex-Mormons. It is unique to human beings - that is, not unique at all. And the many heartbreaking stories one can read on the story board of this website alone should, I think, force even the most sociopathic defender of the essentially indefensible to hold his tongue and refrain from even more hurtful comments. You can still believe Joseph's stories, but for God's sake, show some mercy!
But there is an even deeper reason for the anger we feel, I think; but that is a topic for the next thread.
| Just to recap - I've run out of things to say about Mormonism, so now I'm bloviating about Exmormonism. This is a continuation of the other essay on exmo anger.
In the last one, I argued that anger or resentment, after coming to believe you have been duped, is nothing extraordinary, and is common to everyone. I also mentioned that in addition to simply resenting lost opportunities, there might be a deeper reason for (in particular) exmormon anger. It may not be true at all of some people; it may be very true of others. But here is my theory about that “other reason”.
I think that we feel anger not just because we recognize that we lost opportunities devoting our lives to something uncomfortably similar to Rev. Moon’s Unification Church, but because, unconsciously, our self-image - an image based on what we would most like to believe about ourselves, including that we are intelligent and aware - has been dealt a death blow. After all, it’s not just that we missed a question on a Reader’s Digest quiz; it’s not just that we mistook A for B; we fell for one of the most outlandish and ludicrous religions of the last two centuries, one that espoused the most embarrassingly problematic (or falsifiable) positions on astrophysics, race, seeing things in seer stones or crystal balls, anthropology, language translation, prophecy, God, sex, politics, and pretty much everything else.
It is not too much to say that the charismatic Joseph’s religion nears a parody of religion. It is in essence an iglesio ad absurdum (just made that up, don’t know if it’s proper Latin), a caricature of every other religion out there, exaggerating all the right features to make it as silly - and even potentially as crazy or lethal - as possible, even right down to the almost animalistic (boundless) sexual privileges claimed by the Alpha, and permitted to those just beneath him in pack order, the peculiar early Mormon fascination with bloodshed, and the demand for unyielding obedience to the cultic authority.
And - we had no idea. That's really lame. How do we explain THAT to ourselves, while maintaining all the flattering notions which once formed the foundation of our "self"? I don’t know that we can…
And the truth is, that hurts. It hurts our pride - we turned out to be dummies at least in this one respect, in a big way. But we never thought we were dummies - we thought we were geniuses! And we just came face to face with the fact that we were more easily fooled than people we had once scorned!
So, in those first moments, smarting with wounded pride and stripped of a self-image we had become narcissistically infatuated with, and in fact, totally emotionally dependent on, we want NAMES. We want redress, revenge. “Who is responsible for this?” Joseph, Pres. Hinckley, all the General Authorities, our parents, professional church defenders, anyone and everyone else. We need someone to point the finger at (not saying they don’t deserve it). We might even go on to a bulletin board and totally let loose. In a profound, unconscious way, we were in love - with our "selves" - and enjoyed all the strangely pleasing sensations of love; but now those have been ripped from us. We want them back, unconsciously.
In those moments it would be extraordinary if we were to seriously consider to what degree we ourselves might have been responsible for having fallen for it all. This is natural; it is the same reaction we see in people who have been swindled by guys selling waterfront property in Arizona or something. The investors were in deep, pulling their friends into the big get-rich-quick secret, their greed and vanity preyed upon, ignoring even the most blatant signs that something isn’t right; and then when they finally realize the whole thing is a sham, they go from talking about the main operator like he was a god, to calling for his prosecution and incarceration, or even worse. In those first moments, the swindled investors don’t look in the mirror and say, “how did I let myself get in so deep, when there were so many signs of fraud along the way?”. They just feel angry, I think to some degree for the reasons I suggested, and want vengeance.
But however natural or justified our anger might be, I think there are big problems with indulging it in general. For example, it is common for our righteous indignation to lead us to feel that because we were the victims of an oppressor, we may grant ourselves license to be judges in our own case, and determine just what punishment we are justified in meting out to our former oppressor. Our past victimhood grants us a real kind of moral authority, in our minds. Our new opinions and behaviours are not partial or biased; to us, they are rooted in all cosmic right. And this feels good. It actually feels way too good.
For in reality, we have begun to make the same mistakes all over again. Whereas a desire for stability or “specialness” or status or intimate knowledge of God once blinded us, now anger does. But that anger, in large measure, is really only the expression of a desire to reconstruct a self-image which could plausibly be based on an idea that we are intelligent; and hurting those who we feel hurt us, verbally or otherwise, is one way of trying to achieve that, if only on an unconscious level. If the dog bites us, we feel a lot better if we can kick it back. The angry attempt to reciprocate harm is a way of trying to recapture an acceptable (that is, flattering) sense of self, and I suppose, I have been as guilty of this as anyone. But ultimately, this method is a dead end. I doubt it has led anyone to feel the peace and joy that every human being may feel, if they follow what appear to be those universal guidelines for feeling them.
Where I am going with this is to suggest that to truly beat Mormonism, we must truly beat anger (as I mean it in this essay), for it can be as enslaving and addictive and blinding to us, as Mormonism was. We will be no farther ahead than we ever were, if we don’t.
If this is correct, it raises questions like these: “Even if you are on to something, how on earth can I not feel angry when I have lost so much because of the church? I spent my life trying to overcome my own humanity as a member, but now you are suggesting I do pretty much the same thing in trying to move beyond anger. How does THAT put me any farther ahead? That’s just as unfair as the church demanding that I feel okay about my husband marrying 2000 women in the Celestial Kingdom!”
I might be mostly talking to myself by then, but I’ll try to answer these next time.
Looking forward to any comments or criticisms,
| Every once in awhile I (and others on here and even some still in church) use the term "sociopathic" in connection with professional church defenders. I once got an email from a defender taking exception to my use of this word in a post on here. It probably doesn't speak well of me that I didn't even remember having used it. But when I went back and checked the post, which I think was a week or two old by that time, of course I had.
"Sociopathic" is probably a problematic word to use; it usually refers to someone who has absolutely no conscience, no sense of, or allegiance to, right and wrong. And I doubt very much that anyone at FARMS has murdered anyone, or supports bearing false witness, or thinks that child molesting is okay as long as you can get away with it. I think they would all say these actions were "wrong", not just in a conventional or legal sense, but wrong in some cosmic, absolute sense.
But church defenders, as we all did, expose themselves to the charge of sociopathy seemingly without any idea they are doing so. They can sometimes seem even hurt by this charge. But this is why they are vulnerable to being perceived this way.
As members, it is not that we reject the concept of right and wrong (we embrace it); it is that right and wrong become conceptually inseparable from "the church", to the point where "the church is wrong" is a statement which can have no meaning. It is beyond an impossibility; it simply is as incontemplatible as is the idea that the earth is a rhombus rather than a sphere.
What this adds up to is that, first, we view the concepts of right and wrong as eternal, as absolute. We tell ourselves we despise "moral relativism" and give speeches denouncing it. "Moral law is not positive law; it is natural law, best described as a fundamental property of the universe, like gravity". (So far, there is no problem internally here).
The problem is that, second, at the exact same time, we "know" that "the church" will never again apostatize from that law, or "lead the people astray" - that is, it is inseparable in the end from that unchanging moral law - but which we also know has changed its teachings on what that fundamental, eternal moral law is. Despite this, we see no problem there (those listening to us do, though). So, for us as members, when the church said the law of heaven was X, it was X; now, when it says it is not X, or we don't know necessarily that it is because X was never "official church doctrine", we believe that, too - and we see no problem there.
In fact, we "know" that anyone who claims to see a problem there is, as BY said once, either "willfully wicked or profoundly ignorant". It is not possible (in our minds) that we believe two mutually exclusive things at once - yet, every psychologist would tell us that in fact it is very common, and can be demonstrated with all kinds of empirical tests amongst even the most non-ideological people, even though incoherence means that something we believe cannot possibly be true.
But the point is, "the church" has become equivalent to "unchanging moral law", even though it keeps changing its description of what that law is. So tomorrow, if the church said definitively that the truth was never X, as it had once said was the case, but was always Y, we would "know" that the church had never actually said that X was the truth, even though we would also know it had. ("The Limited Geography Theory has always been viable, right from the early days of the church...", "It is not official church doctrine that polygamy must or will be practiced in the celestial kingdom", "Birth control is not necessarily a sin. It is simply a decision to be made between husband and wife", etc.).
We simultaneously defend moral absolutism - the doctrine that eternal moral law does not change - while defending the many differences in claims about this law made by the church, and don't notice a problem. Through the unaware disengagement of some aspect of our innate coherence detection abilities, we are able to view changing official church doctrine, and "unchanging metaphysical Truth", as synonyms, even as we are demonstrating they cannot be as long as the words in questions have any meaning. We end up locking ourselves, just like any devout racist, Marxist, Nazi, or Muslim, into a situation which purports to afford something of a God's eye view of the cosmos, but which in fact is just an (unrecognized as such) full-blown case of confirmation bias as the engine and structure of our consciousness and cognition.
And in fact, "comprehensive (religious) confirmation bias", "I have not made a mistake", and "the church is true" actually DO become totally synonymous. Committed to this end result no matter what, we end up believing at the same time things which most others would say are very much mutually contradictory. But we can't see that; and we pay no heed to the people pointing it out, precisely BECAUSE they would DISconfirm what can only now be confirmed. Psychologically, we are - without realizing - in a completely enclosed state, in which our unconscious protects us by erecting a kind of "missile defense shield" which renders non-existent, invisible, or at most, immediately risible and dismissable, ANY fact or observation or insight or conclusion which does not facilitate the perpetuation of that state.
Observers might "know" that church defenders are aware of all of the internal contradictions in how they approach particular matters, and are therefore inclined to label them "liars" or "sociopaths". But is unclear to what degree any of us were conscious of the internal contradictions while so dependent, in so many ways, on the proposition that "the church is true"/"I haven't made a mistake". It is possible to be totally unaware of incoherence (this is one reason for review by peers outside of one's own bubble, something which people who already "know" they are privy to special knowledge and authority could hardly feel the need for).
At moments, some awareness of faulty perception due to the immersion of our consciousness into the ideology might arise in our minds; but just as quickly we are content to tell ourselves that this is just a "bias" like any other "bias", and that everyone has them, and so we are no more closed or open psychologically than anyone else. But of course, this too is another misperception. While others certainly are as closed as we are, we have totally misunderstood where we are, forgotten how this latest self-delusion conflicts with what the ideology itself claims, don't contemplate where we should or could be perception-wise, and so don't even think about how we might get there.
In short, this state leads us to defend "the church" no matter what, even in the most absurd, inconsistent, counter-productive, or vicious ways, for it has become inconceivable to us that it could ever not deserve being defended - we already "know" it is incapable of misalignment with cosmic right. Whatever is good for the church, then, is good. Whatever is bad for it is bad. Whatever it stands for is good. Whatever Joseph did or didn't do has no bearing on whether the church is what it claims, or whether he is what he claimed. Joseph and his church must be defended no matter what, and all who oppose it recognized for the enemies of cosmic right they are, and "dismissed without further argument", like Peter does Lucifer in the temple movie.
For example, above I mentioned that church apologists would all say that murder, bearing false witness, and child molesting were inherently evil. And yet, none have condemned Joseph that I know of for turning a blind eye to (or more probably, encouraging) violent vigilante action against his political enemies, or his own bearing of false witness against those who spoke the truth about his sexual life, or of the 37 year old's regular sex ("marriage") with girls as young as 14 - something pretty easily demonstrated to be nearly as irregular then as now.
There is no reason to believe, after having encountered defense literature and the minds that produce it, that if diary entries in Joseph's own hand surfaced which described him sacrificing children on an altar and drinking their blood in the Kirtland Temple, that defenders would do anything other than begin simply claiming that the diaries had been forged to embarrass the prophet (for a similar approach, see BH Roberts on the Kinderhook affidavit in OHC). Dean Jessee would no doubt be trotted out, or possibly even exhumed, to bolster up the claim that we have "no reason to believe these diaries are authentic, and there we should let the matter rest".
And then, once it could no longer be denied that the diaries were authentic, without explaining their former stance, they might simply move on to defending child sacrifice through some twisted spin on Israelite atonement ritual, some complaint about how the KJV doesn't accurately translate some scripture from Leviticus, tossing in some reference to early Christian sects practicing ritual human slaughter as evidence that Jesus of Nazareth really was a Mormon, and set up the first Mormon church. And John Sorenson would probably weigh in on how this was in fact evidence that the human sacrificing Aztecs really WERE lost Jews who knew of Christ long before the Catholics showed up. And on and on and on. (I concede that church defenders might instead acknowledge that since Joseph had been revealed to have been a cannibal, that this meant they HAD made a mistake, and then resign their jobs and church memberships en masse; but considering that they have now declared war on Joseph's own words on the identity of the Book of Mormon peoples in order to just keep that pleasant psychological state going [the one dedicated to believing the very man they are admitting they now disbelieve on "the most correct book on earth"], it seems very unlikely).
Would church defenders take up the question: "What might Joseph have to do, before he could no longer be considered a prophet in the way he is claimed to be?'"? I don't think so. This might be because, this question has no answer for the believing Mormon. Even if it could be admitted that he did "make a mistake" in roasting children and eating them, no doubt, this wouldn't mean he "wasn't a prophet". We'd just have to leave that in the Lord's hands, wouldn't we? The fact is - NO serious criteria, except those whose nature inherently precludes them from ever being demonstrably met, has ever been proposed by modern church defenders on this question, that I know of; and I doubt that at any moment the task has been anything other than "defend the church", rather than "find the truth, whatever it might be, and whatever it might mean for all of us".
All of this makes it easy for those observing to see church defenders as in a particular psychological state, not peculiar to Mormonism, but necessary to it, and possibly even "sociopathic" in a way: they would do or say ANYTHING to defend the man who started their church, no matter WHAT he did or did not do, whether he ate children, didn't really hang around with Peter, James or John, was a practicing homosexual, or asked all of them to drink Kool-Aid and kill themselves, anything. Truth and "the church" were supposed to be synonyous; but in the end, the truth doesn't matter, though we keep telling ourselves it does.
All that matters is "the church", which really means, "my particular psychological state, the one which allows me to believe I have not made a mistake, have special knowledge, am in some sense spiritually superior to those outside my tribe, have special access to God", etc.
The approach toward Joseph, by the way, more than anything, is what also allows vulnerability on the cult and worship of Joseph charge. Mormons laugh at the accusation that they worship Joseph Smith; the big refutation is that "we don't pray to Joseph Smith". But this fact must be considered: Joseph Smith can NOT be held to have ever possibly fallen, by church members. This is as much as to agree with Joseph's own pronouncement that he had no law; and this is as much as to make him, very literally, a being who is under no *independent* law, but whose will is the law, whatever that will might be at any particular second, the exercise of which is the only requirement for its immediate sanctification. Listen to me, lurkers; I'm telling the truth.
This conception of Joseph is in fact at odds with the DandC and King Follett description of God himself, since he is portrayed there as bound by pre-existing eternal laws. And what this means is that Mormon theology/belief itself makes Joseph much more than a man; in terms of the structure of sin and righteousness, celestial *nomos* itself, he is much more than the Mormon God himself.
Just think about this for a second. Joseph's Alma is made to say that were God to transgress the laws of heaven by, say, allowing mercy to rob justice, "he would cease to be God". What, I ask, would Joseph have to do, "to cease to be a prophet"? Lie? Cheat? Steal? Kill? What?
I'm not sure there is anything wouldn't be dismissed with just another slogan. There is, however, an allowance for an answer when it comes to God - but none, in our minds as members, for Joseph. The truth is that Joseph's theology itself (though we didn't realize it at the time), in at least one important way, nearly turns Joseph into the capricious but automatically justified God of Jonathan Edwards, no act of which could ever be considered grounds for losing his special, exalted status. So in this sense, Joseph is an even more powerful God than the Mormon God himself. There is no way around this.
One thing this means is that even born again Christians, people who think Jars of Clay are right up there with The Beatles, that God created planet earth one Monday through Saturday about 5500 years ago, and that Noah actually shoved two - or seven, depending on whether we like "J" or "E" better - of every single species of insect and animal on earth into his giant boat, might have more awareness in some ways of the implications of Mormon theology, than do Mormons themselves.
But back to sociopathy. It does not help that, as Trixie points out in another great thread, church defense arguments, upon inspection, routinely bear the marks of a fanatically blind, psychologically closed commitment to "the church". Reasoning is flawed; irrelevant points take center stage; citations are dodgy and misrepresented; people's credentials are attacked rather than their opinions. "The church" seems to have become life itself, a fetishized concept more visceral and motivating, for many members, even than the concept of a wandering, preaching Jesus of Nazareth himself.
Defending "the church" becomes as necessary, literally, as fighting to save one's life, one's marriage, one's own self-image, one's relationship to one's children, "right and wrong", everything. This is why, evidently, no church apologist seems to have any clue why they are so often criticized for personal attacks on those skeptical of church claims - they literally don't seem to have any idea where "person" ends, and "point" or "argument" begins. What else would we expect, though?
I think I'd beaten this one to death by the fourth paragraph, so just to finish...
If church defenders wish to avoid appearing to be sociopathic defenders of the church, and instead appear to be very smart, conscientious, CREDIBLE, and truth-loving at all costs defenders; if they wish to avoid appearing like they are in the same boat as David Icke's followers, who believe that Queen Elizabeth is a shape-shifting reptilian from another galaxy, and who will likewise do or say anything to defend their beliefs without assuming any responsibility to acknowledge reality on its own terms, I have a couple of ideas.
First, to all the people on here complaining about how FARMS doesn't submit to proper peer review, let's forget about that for now. Peer review is something that conscientious scholars who, despite their recognized and unrecognized biases, cherish, because in the end, they are more devoted to the truth than clinging on to a belief which might be totally erroneous. We're not anywhere near there as members of the church. All we want is to keep our "testimonies", keep believing.
I think church defenders need to start with more basic things first.
1.) Acknowledge the fact that, just logically, the church may be what it claims - AND, that it may not be. That alone I think would be a big deal. "It either is, or it isn't".
2.) Provide some even semi-rational theory of how it could be known if the church was NOT what it claims. They must answer, first to themselves: "I already am absolutely certain the church is all it claims. BUT, given the point of number one [above], how would I, or anyone, know if the church were NOT what it claims?". Defenders would show devotion NOT to "the church", but to the Truth they are asking us to believe it is synonymous with, by thinking hard about this question, and then proposing answers to it. These answers themselves might warrant critical scrutiny, but at least it would be a beginning.
Talking about Thomas Kuhn, and paradigms, and how Mormons have just as much right to believe Mormon claims as anyone else does theirs, should be stopped immediately. These comments just confirm the worst suspicions most people already have about Mormon defenders - that they can no longer conceive of the possibility of a divergence between the church which means so much to them, and Truth; and so are also totally unable psychologically or emotionally to conscientiously address the question of whether they really are synonymous.
3.) I think church defenders might be helped in defending the church by thinking this: If it is true that the church either is, or is not, what it claims; but I cannot even imagine how I might know that it wasn't, if by some nightmarish chance it wasn't, could that mean that my perception really IS flawed? Or that something HAS happened to me? I can think of how I would know if the Wright Brothers weren't the first to fly an airplane; why can't I think of how I would know if the church weren't what it claimed? What is wrong?
The air of sociopathy would be dispelled, Mormon apologetic minds would become able to view evidence in the ways that others do, and thus a vast increase in the persuasiveness of Mormon defense secured, I think, if defenders took a step back and seriously considered themselves from as detached a perspective as possible.
"If the church were not what it claimed....how would I even know? And if I can't think of how, what is wrong with me?", are questions that, were they to inform apologetic writings, I think would enable everyone to take Mormon arguments far more seriously, and without suspicion that the consciences of Mormon defenders had been totally co-opted by "the church".
I just stopped typing and had a quick look - this thing's so long, I can't even be bothered to go re-read the thing or edit it. I hope it makes sense because I'm going to just fly it up.
| Males seem, to me, innately to respond more to hierarchical formations than do women. Each woman, in a way, seems to be - I don't know how to put it - like her own *universe* or something. Guys seem like they're not as much their own universe, as they are, instinctively, some dude on a football team, no matter what situation we're in. Maybe we're more primitive, I don't know. You just kind of figure out who you are through reference to where everyone else kind of is on your "team", and what your "coach", the alpha, tells you you should be, and then you go from there - and there's always a specific "goal" you're trying to achieve, with everything, even when you don't really realize it.
There is a certain comfort in being on a team, and having men above you in rank (and of course, there always is someone above you), with something to work for. We long to be action heroes, by emulating other action heroes. We were Batman and Superman - on the law enforcement team, reporting to Commissioner Gordon, etc. - as kids for Halloween; as teenagers, we put posters up on the wall of Michael Jordan or Jimmy Page; and as adults, we instinctively look up to sports heroes, bosses, politicians, movie heroes, etc.
But being a Mormon gives you, before everything else, Mormon heroes, and those are what I grew up with, above all. Packing the other day I found one of the scrapbooks I kept as a little kid. I used to cut out all the pictures of the prophets from the Friend, the Ensign, or the New Era, or the old Family Home Evening manuals, and put each picture carefully behind the plastic sheeting. The one I dug out had in it a painting of Moses, a photo of Joseph Fielding Smith, Jesus anointing his twelve disciples during his trip to America, the painting of the bearded Brigham Young, and a bunch of others.
One of the difficult things for me in acknowledging that the church wasn't what I had thought it was, was the relinquishing of all my heroes. Brigham had been a hero; Jedediah M. Grant; Wilford in England on his mission, and above all, Ezra Taft Benson. I used to wish I could meet him, and once, when I was first married, I had a dream in which I talked to Pres. Benson personally. In my dream, I asked him what career I should pursue to be of most service to the church. He said that I should pick whichever career I most liked, and just do the very best I could in it. And in a way, I still think he might have said something just like that.
But all of a sudden, I had no heroes, no one to model myself after. Who was I really supposed to be? I'd had an ideal (ETB), but it turned out the ideal wasn't that ideal at all. So now what?
The quick answer, I guessed, was "be yourself". But who was myself supposed to be? I had only ever conceived of myself with reference to the church, only really ever idolized church leaders. Knowing that Joseph hadn't told the truth meant, in a way, I had no idea who I was or supposed to be at all. How was I supposed to just fix that? I was 35, stuck on things that everyone else seemed to have gotten over when they were 20. And if I just tried to find new (non-Mormon) dudes to look up to, wasn't I just setting myself up for more potential hurt?
The truth is that for the last eighteen months, I haven't really had any heroes, at least not in the way I used to, for the first time in my life. I admire lots of people for different reasons. But the idea that certain people enjoy consistently superior access, prophet- or shaman-like, to the font of all wisdom and light, and the feelings of security one feels in submitting to the "guidance" of those men, of course, is gone. And it will never come back.
And in a way, I kind of miss this, the same way I miss the thrilling feeling of going to bed on the 24th, with the air all crispy, knowing that Santa Claus himself would soon be landing on our roof and delivering presents. It's one of the attractions of the church. By instinct, I'd like there to be those kind of men around - braver and bolder and smarter and more enlightened than I am, or others.
But it has turned out that life just isn't like that. We are all in it together, and all we have is us, and no one seems to have any better idea than anyone else about what is really going on up there. And that fact just has to be reckoned with, once you know the church isn't what it claims. It just seems like part of growing up.
Yet, little by little, I feel that sense of loss being replaced by a growing gratitude - not idol worship like before - for all those men and women throughout history, who have done so much to further the cause of human freedom. I have never really felt as grateful, for example, for the people who institutionalized in government the rejection of religious superstition and dogma, wrenching it forever from the hands of the Christianized equivalents of witch doctors cum despots, and created the truly open society which, year after year, continues to break the back of those life and thought inhibiting forces. ("Heroes" transform themselves into "great and admirable ideas" and "ideals"). The existence of the very internet we're communicating on is impossible to contemplate sans the deliberate attempt to liberate the human mind - a liberation which, however much an anachronism like the church might wish to claim as its own by vicariously baptizing the likes of James Madison and Adam Smith - is in fact the enemy ofthe church, and always will be.
So, there are plenty of people to thank, plenty I am indebted to, people who have spent their lives trying to bless the lives of others. But in a way, there are no more "mortal gods", no more heroes like I used to idolize with such starry eyes. And as I continue to try to figure things out, and come to some sense of who I really can be, and who we all really can be, I've come to the conclusion that that's not such a bad thing, after all.
| That any church decides to shift focus from charitable/humanitarian service to money making, is as legal as any business deciding to shift focus on to more ethical or social issues. But defending the church on grounds that their actions are currently legal, is about as lame as defending OJ now on grounds that he was "legally" acquitted. It's amazing how the church can so often mimic the very lawyers that the NT's Jesus criticizes so harshly, guys who take sides no matter WHAT truth or right might be...
There are two problems with this that I can see. Correct me if I'm wrong.
It seems to me that an argument can be made that the church is operating under cover of tax exempt laws which favour it over other business institutions in the project of money making. In addition, its members are not privileged to see any financial statements, as are those participating in other companies as shareholders or interested parties. I don't see how that is fair. Whether you have the words "Jesus Christ" in your organization's name or not, if you're in business, I don't see why you shouldn't have to play by the rules of business.
Question: From whom did "the church" originally get the capital and wealth it has used to build up its business enterprises? From the members, paying their tithing. Whether those tithes were paid fifty years ago or five days ago, they have still facilitated the construction of the church's portfolio of business holdings.
If I sell drugs, and then buy a casino with the profits, and then use the profits from that casino to buy a hotel, is it really straight up for me to say that "no tithing money was used for this hotel purchase"? It makes the church look very much like it is playing a shell game. Why not just admit it? Who cares? That would be a lot less lame than pretending tithing had nothing to do with the church's ability to BUY MALLS.
I bet the General Authorities could come out and say, "We each get a million a year and take four month vacations in Hawaii because GOD TOLD US TO", and you'd have RS women crying with gratitude at the pulpit next fast Sunday, bearing their testimonies about how grateful they are to have a prophet, in "these the latter days" and stuff, and how wonderful it is that they get to rest from their incredible pressures, etc.
Not that this would render the last point moot, but even if the church argued that it is now so wealthy that all tithing monies only add up to a minute fraction of all its revenues, and are used exclusively for buildings, and it's been using solely business-generated monies to purchase more businesses for the last forty years, this raises the question of why leave in place a ten per cent tithing requirement.
I paid ten per cent of my GROSS, which added up to like thirty or forty per cent of my income after taxes, expenses, etc., as a young husband trying desperately to keep my family afloat. And I did that because of Church President Heber J. Grant's fanatical pro-tithing comments, and Joseph Fielding Smith's comments that if you PAID on gross, the Lord would bless you in gross - comments that have been allowed to stand by the church. And my vivid memories of La Familia Q*****, in Santa Fe, Argentina, with NINE KIDS crammed into a two room little brick structure, with the dad working for a pittance as a bike mechanic, with the mother staying at home because Pres. Benson had said for mothers not to work outside the home, paying ten per cent of THAT...Those kids would chew (not making this up) on cow KNEES scrounged from the local butcher for lunch. Hunks of cartilage and bone. And I bet Monson's never gone to bed hungry a day in his life.
And...the church is spending a billion dollars buying a mall. Fine - be a cult run by George Orwell's pigs in Animal Farm. BUT...can't they just give the little guys a *little* break, if the church is that wealthy? Are they really still deluding themselves that they shouldn't lower the ten per cent requirement, because families like the Q**** 's need the blessings that only ten per cent can give them"? It's one thing to say that when you're esconced in a high falutin' condo in Utah, or you just swoop in for a regional conference every year or two down in Brazil or Bolivia...but to actually live and eat and sleep and breathe with people who live perpetually on the brink of death from starvation, and then make those comments - well, I don't even think the likes of Thomas Monson could do that. I hope not.
I really hope the one billion the church is spending on their new mall meets with the approval of the ManGod the church claims now, according to Hinckley, to "worship" - the one who spoke of clothing the naked, and feeding the hungry and poor.
People are dying all over South America and Africa from drought and contaminated water. A community well costs about $5000 US to dig and get operating. That's 200,000 wells the church could have funded, which would have saved countless infant and adult lives all over the world.
Does refurbishing a shopping mall for Salt Lake City, for $1,000,000,000, really make sense in light of the church's claims for itself?
No wonder they get accused of being nothing more than a business disguised as a church. They act just like they were.
| Does the church really qualify as a church anymore? This sounds like a stupid question. Maybe it is a stupid question. But it seems to me that the church itself has raised it. What is its answer?
The church itself has raised the question of whether it really even should qualify as a church anymore, for the same reasons that so many other Utah-based “businesses” over the years have raised the question of whether they really qualify as businesses anymore - the ostensible purpose of the thing seems less and less to reflect the real purpose of the thing.
The ostensible purpose of the church is to “bring souls unto Christ”, as the only church fully approved by, and directed personally by, the reputedly still-living Jesus of Nazareth.
And yet, on what occasion did Jesus of Nazareth incorporate his reform movement as a business, and start using the donations made by his sincere, often impoverished followers, to purchase the ancient equivalents of shopping malls, city lots and apartment buildings, television stations, ranches, BANKS, shares, etc.? On what occasion did Jesus and his disciples vote themselves annual, executive-level salaries and generous benefits packages (euphemized as “living allowances” by Mormon authorities)? And when did Jesus of Nazareth ever rescind this CATEGORICAL statement to his church “board of directors”?:
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth…
“NO MAN CAN SERVE TWO MASTERS: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. YE CANNOT SERVE GOD AND MAMMON”. (Matt. 6:19-24). (“Mammon” is just a transliteration into English of the Aramaic word “mamona”, which means “money” or “riches”).
Can anyone, no matter how TBM of a lurker you are, really imagine that Jesus - if he returned tomorrow - could have anything to do with the Mormon church as it now exists? It is so totally incongruous with his own life and mission, that I daresay even the most fanatical member would have trouble imagining Jesus showing up briskly in a navy business suit with a file, set to preside over a Bonneville board meeting. Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor sequence, yes; the other, no.
I ask, in all fairness: What is the difference between the church's ostentatious flouting of its wealth, and departure from anything even vaguely resembling the vision outlined by the man they claim to be the sole, authorized representatives of, and the 80’s excesses of Jim and Tammy Faye Baker? From those of Robert Schuller and his “crystal palace”? From the monstrous cathedrals of the Roman church, a church which similarly couldn’t resist the lure of Mammon, and which similarly, constructed their monuments to human vanity (again, under pretence of reverence to…Jesus of Nazareth), on the backs of its poor?
If there is a difference…what is it?
The church, I am sure, now has enough MBA’s and economists working for it, to have heard of something called an “opportunity cost”. The opportunity cost of any decision is simply the opportunities lost because of it. In that sense, the cost of buying and refurbishing the Crossroads Mall, for example, isn’t just ONE BILLION DOLLARS. It is all of the alleviation of human suffering that those ONE BILLION DOLLARS would have achieved, had they not been used up in BUYING MALLS.
What is the church’s explanation for this? The Crossroads Mall cost, by my estimation, 200,000 clean water wells, something which we all take for granted, but which would save - would have saved - tens of thousands of lives in impoverished areas on this planet of ours. Not to be melodramatic, but the truth is - one billion dollars can save a lot of lives.
How many trade schools could that one billion dollars have built? How many tuitions could it have subsidized? How many farmers co-ops could it have organized? How much “good in the world today” could it have done? What would Jesus of Nazareth himself have done with one billion dollars? Would he really - really - have bought a shopping mall, and then had it refurbished?
“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me...
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting dfire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me."
I wrote on my other post about La Familia Q*****, in Santa Fe, Argentina, with nine kids in a two room house, being supported solely by their father who worked as a bicycle mechanic, the mother of whom wouldn’t work outside the home because of ETB’s talks, paying ten per cent of their tithing to the church. Is that fair? Is that fair, when the church is apparently so loaded with money, like a camel staggering under the weight of Ali Baba’s treasure, that it has to keep unloading it on…shopping malls? Can we really keep convincing ourselves that members like the Familia Q**** must keep on paying ten per cent of their meager income, because they need the blessings that "only ten per cent can provide"?
Is it fair for little Elizabeth Q*****, who used to run up and hug and kiss me everytime I saw her, to be gnawing - literally - on cow knees scrounged from the local butcher shop, while the church her family is taking FOOD OUT OF HER MOUTH FOR - read those last six words again - is buying shopping malls and television stations, and whose “General Authorities” (or is it “Board of Directors”?) are being chauffered around in Lincoln Town Cars and living in church-owned condos, not even having enough respect for its members to divulge what kind of salary and bonuses and health benefits they’re taking?
My wife grew up with an alcoholic father in a slum, in northern England. Trying to find enough coins to buy a tin of beans from the corner store for my wife and her brothers to share for supper, was the daily task of her mother - and guess what? Sometimes she failed in that task. Even on “good” days, my wife and her brothers went to bed hungry every night, and left for school hungry every morning. And do you know that, just like with La Familia Q****, my mother-in-law, with the best of intentions, would in effect take food out of the mouths of her children in order to pay tithes and offerings?
My father-in-law might have been an alcoholic, but at least he had the wherewithal to tell his wife she’d been “brainwashed” (his word), and to stop giving money to The Thing. But would she? Of course not. To not pay tithes and offerings was to relinquish her “fire insurance”, and as she was regularly reminded at church, Jesus was just about to return from heaven. And when that happened…well….how could she leave her children, who she loved so much, vulnerable to being fried? So…ten per cent, plus offerings, of what meager money she could ever find, had to be surreptitiously donated to the church, didn’t it? Even if it meant, falling twenty pence short for a loaf of bread.
And by the way - this is in ENGLAND. Not Botswana. England. You really end up wondering sometimes if Mormon General Authorities, for the most part, have any idea what it is like to be in these kinds of situations. They aren’t fictional - these are real people, living real lives, and they are in all parts of the world, suffering in real ways, making real sacrifices - out of love, and fear, and all those emotions we used to feel - for a church run by men who, I’m sorry, seem to be the very last ones to make any kind of serious (like, life threatening) sacrifices themselves. As I mentioned about Monson, I very seriously doubt that any of the Twelve or First Presidency had ever gone to bed hungry a day in their lives. Not so for many hundreds of thousands of members who, literally, sometimes starve themselves and their children for the sake of the church. And that is the honest truth - they starve themselves, and their children, for the church.
An argument could be made that Gordon B. Hinckley has sought to alleviate the suffering of members, by making it less burdensome on them to attend the temple by “bringing the temples to the people”.
Here is one (among many) problem with this argument.
Question: What is the ostensible purpose of the temple?
To bequeath upon members all the ordinances that they will need for their eventual exaltation and deification, in accordance with the laws of eternal progression.
Question: How on earth is that concept not entirely undermined by Gordon B. Hinckley’s DENIAL (there is no other way to put it) that it is a core part of Mormon theology that God was once a man like we are? If eternal progression is the whole point of everything, and is the eternal law of the cosmos for the righteous….like….what? You cannot deny either half of the couplet (“As man is…), without simultaneously denying the other half. So, if God once was a man…then we can become Gods. And if we can through righteousness become Gods, and the laws of heaven are in fact eternal, then God - who is nothing if not righteous - would have once been a man, too, and become God by progressing from grade to grade, just as Joseph, and all those after him until GBH, declared. I mean, take this away, and you really HAVE no Mormon theology - and….you have no purpose, really, to the endowment ceremony, other than the hollowest of rituals, one which looks increasingly to have as its only valuable feature for the church, the scaring of members into remaining active tithe payers.
What I’m saying is - with one stroke, Gordon B. Hinckley has managed the seemingly impossible feat of making the Mormon temple endowment ceremony even MORE absurd than it already was, something, which to me anyway, no longer makes sense even on the CHURCH'S own terms. It has become, like so much else under the withering touch of Gordon B. Hinckley, nothing but form and show, totally hollow and substance-less.
So…how does Hinckley really score points then, for blowing literally hundreds of millions, which could have been used to bless the lives of Mormons and non-Mormons around the world, over the past decade building new temples (not to mention conference centers)? I mean, after all that work by Ed Decker to make the endowments look ridiculous - and Gordon B. Hinckley does the job for him. Who would have ever imagined?
Gordon B. Hinckley would deserve credit if he came right out and said explicitly what it now takes, unfortunately, a full three or four seconds of thinking to grasp: he does not believe what Joseph taught in his King Follett sermon (still published by the church), and so, does not believe in core Mormon theology, the very theology that justified Joseph’s endowment ceremonies. Beyond this, he ought then to say that he does not believe, therefore, that one more penny of church money (let alone MILLIONS), whether donated directly or generated by the church's business holdings, should be used to build temples, since he believes that, in reality, they are utterly pointless.
But he doesn’t say that last bit, because, it seems, he has managed to convince himself, like Questing Beast and Thomas Stuart Ferguson and hundreds of other self-styled Mormon intellectuals, that the church is “the best thing out there”, that “everyone needs something to believe in”, that “our traditions and heritage are precious”, and that it’s quite okay for hundreds of thousands of families around the globe, to make the most heart-rending sacrifices for the church, because “it’s good for them”.
Bottom line is: the GA’s preach a cliché-ridden, self-aggrandizing-story-soaked, bland version of Christian ethics twice a year at General Conference, and at regional/stake conferences. But from what I can see, they have no one to blame but themselves for the view that the church has ceased in reality to be anything like a truly Christian church at all (not that it ever really was), and instead increasingly gives itself over to money making enterprises (though all justified - of course - with reference to “the gospel”), the profits of which are enjoyed most disproportionately by the men at the top while my friends in Argentina are still gnawing on beef cartilage for dinner; seeking the adulation of the world; the reinforcement of tradition for tradition’s sake; and shameless attempts at legacy (via temple and conference center) building.
I don’t really know if all that disqualifies the church from being, well, a church. Maybe in the end, that’s really all that being a church boils down to. All I know is, I’m glad I don’t have to be part of it anymore, or try to make all of that okay in my mind.
I believe there is a truth in the universe, and there is joy, and there is duty. I don’t know what is up in heaven, though I think there is probably something. But whatever it is, I cannot imagine now that it would ever endorse the vast majority of things which the Mormon church does, or really, what most churches do.
And I am incapable of imagining that Jesus of Nazareth, he who called the ancient Jews back to the true spirit of righteousness, the spirit of humility and love, the spirit of alleviating human suffering, would ever endorse spending
(that could have done so much, for so many underprivileged people out there, Mormon and non-Mormon)
buying - and refurbishing - shopping malls!
(And I don't want to hear about how "every year, the church donates X million to charity", etc. I already know that - the entire world hears about it every time some ward in Idaho sends a box of T shirts to Romania. The POINT is - if the church has a billion dollars for MALLS, and hundreds and hundreds of millions for buildings and monuments and parks, why doesn't it have ONE BILLION PLUS HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS for alleviating human suffering? The point isn't whether the church donates money - every single business in the company donates money: GE, GM, CBS, everyone. It's how much, and its priorities. Does it do more than any other corporation? Shouldn't it - IF it is Jesus's "one, true church"?).
I would say this all was a sick joke - but it's just not funny. It isn't a joke.
It is just sick.
Glad to be gone.
| As a member, I often tended to think of people who had left the church as being characterized almost entirely by anger. But since I knew very few people who had left, and of those, only one that I can think of ever really seemed angry, I'm not really sure where this impression came from. Maybe it was from the dudes holding signs up in front of Temple Square at conference. But then, the evangelicals can seem angry about lots of things...
Anyway, I was just curious about how the realization we'd been had has affected others emotionally; in my own case, the biggest difference I feel is a huge LOSS of anger. I often felt really frustrated and angry as a member, angry at an entire world which "just didn't get it", or who were too wicked to obey even if they did. I even felt frustrated at all the church members who didn't seem to care what the living prophets had said, and were "doing things wrong".
I had opinions about things like I do; but now I see why people might have a different impression than I do, even if I think their arguments are defective, and I can't manage to summon feelings of personal bitterness toward those I might disagree with, on that basis. This is the first time in my whole life that is true.
Back then, when I "KNEW" that "the truth was OBVIOUS", I also consequently "knew" that the only explanations for others not seeing it were willful ignorance or wickedness. This really upset me. Even in university, I argued constantly with my professors. My professors ended up hating me so much that years after I'd left I'd still hear from friends that they had bumped into Prof. So and So, and he would mention something about me. Once, for example, years after I left, the late Preston Thomas, who taught constitutional law up there in the Poli Sci department and who I argued with incessantly, said out loud at a staff party that I had been "to the right of Louis the 14th". Apparently, the other profs thought that was too kind.
I've got loads of really insane stories about how I combatted all the lefties in the holy name of Ezra Taft Benson! Now, I post on a board which appears to feature mostly left-leaning people, and in a way, I couldn't care less. I couldn't not care before; now, Jerry the Apousetate could tell me he was voting for Eleanor Holmes Norton for president - and while we might have a two minute discussion or debate or whatever, after that I'd probably just say, "Whatever bro. Have you seen the new Star Wars flick?". Ten years ago, it would have been jihad, with me lying in bed that night thinking, "What in the hell is wrong with Jerry's BRAIN? He's an idiot - screw him. Never again." I even once got in a huge row with Utah Senator Bennett in front of like thirty people - he just wasn't conservative enough! (I was a county GOP delegate).
I see sometimes the anger I once felt for those I disagreed with (i.e., posed a threat to what I wanted most in the world to believe about religion or politics) from those still in the church. It is odd now to feel it directed at me personally in some cases. And yet, I just can't summon any anger back. I feel at peace, really, for the first time in my whole life (this isn't to say I feel I have the whole world figured out). I don't really know how else to describe it; I just feel at peace. I don't feel the need to try to force everyone on the planet to see what I see anymore. I wonder if people that never laboured under the burden of trying not to notice the innumerable inconsistencies of some ideology they had already committed to have always felt this way. I wonder if they even have anything to compare it to. I felt so much turmoil always, and even felt I was doing something wrong to acknowledge to myself I was feeling it, that the last 18 months have almost seemed like I was on a high of some kind.
I'm curious to know how realizing we'd been had might have affected others emotionally.
| Since Katie Holmes, soon-to-be-Scientologist and -wife of Tom Cruise, came up on here the other day, I thought I would post this.
I spent an evening with Katie Holmes and the cast of "Dawson's Creek" a few years ago at a show in North Carolina. Shawn Mullins and Paula Cole also played (and a couple of other acts). The only person I really talked to that night, other than a brief chat with Joshua Jackson at his party afterwards, was Katie.
She seemed interested in chatting, and so we spent a bit of time together backstage doing just that. She was really friendly and forthcoming.
In fact, our chat seemed to be going so well that I ended up starting to feel kind of nervous. She, like, was, like, laughing at my jokes and stuff. MAYDAY! I was married and total TBM, and she is very pretty, and she did seem, like, suprisingly friendly - even the thought of any kind of potential attraction was enough to trigger air raid sirens in my head. All of a sudden it sounded like the London Blitz up there.
Instead of being cool and just, whatever, hanging out and stuff, I ended up (this is totally true) abruptly excusing myself from our conversation, snuck out the back door of the auditorium, and ran across the street to hide out at a giant Border's books like a freaking dweeb, where I stayed for the next two hours browsing through books ("The North Carolina Barbecue Bible!") while Paula Cole and Shawn and a couple of other acts played their sets, and the cast, and Katie, continued to hang out.
I had to come back for some grand finale or something; when I did re-enter through the back, I bumped into Katie again and we exchanged a few more words, though, anticipating this possibility, I had done all I could to transform myself into Ice Man by then. Fortunately for my TBM-induced panic and excruciating Buckingham Palace-guard routine, the hustle bustle of the end put a stop to it all, and before I knew it, the evening was over and I'd said goodbye to her, I suppose, for the last time.
I can't help but feel kind of worried about her, though for all I know, she doesn't even remember me. I was on a few Scientology websites the other day, and I think they might give the Mormons a run for their money in the bizarro department. If you can believe it, their apologists seem even more vicious and crackers than Mormon apologists - and that's really saying something. The FARMS guys enjoy character assassination, regarding it as only fair; but the Scientology guys take it to a whole new level. (Maybe they, FARMS, and the Nation of Islam guys ought to get together and form one, all-comprehensive pro-cult gonzo jihadist apologetic squad. It's just not efficient having one group of guys explaining Xenu, another Kolob, and another Dr. Yacub...).
So, it is hard for me to avoid the feeling that the pretty and talented young flower I once spent an evening getting to know, has no real idea what she is getting into. You ease into these organizations step by step by step...and though the cult members are all smiles on the way in, they're all daggers on the way out. And sometimes, you wind up a total loon.
I hope she does alright.
| Let's see...
Jimmy Jensen, raised in a very average Layton, Utah home, never having traveled before, has been called to spend two years of his life in the Lima, Peru mission.
While there, he will have little access to quality health care. If he gets sick, he is in trouble. He may very well be exposed to tapeworms, cholera, food poisoning, and other illnesses.
His living quarters will most likely be atrocious, filled (as mine were) with vermin who will defecate all over his bed each day while he's out.
He will have little access to proper diet or clean water.
He will be an American in a country which for the last twenty years has seen violence regularly wrought by Maoist, anti-American terrorists, cousins of which killed two missionaries 15 years ago in Bolivia. He is a possible target.
He hasn't even had his birthday yet - he is only eighteen. His mother is worried sick. Jimmy is her oldest child and only son. She has had so many hopes and dreams for him - marriage, children, a great career. But now he will be sent to a third world country, where he will be - can't help but be - in danger. And he will be disallowed from even contacting her by phone. She can't even call him. Even if she visited there, she probably would not be allowed to visit him. He can't come home for holidays, either, even if she pays the airfare.
The one consolation might be, that all of Jimmy's relatives - uncles and cousins and best friends and grandparents and everyone - may all gather to celebrate Jimmy's selfless decision in a sacrament meeting dedicated to that purpose.
But guess what? Gordon B. Hinckley HAS BANNED MISSIONARY FAREWELLS (while he was in the First Presidency, and he has kept that ban). And just for that extra, bruising kick to Jimmy's still pubescent testicles, the extra slap in the face to mama, he has also banned informal missionary send-offs - IN JIMMY'S OWN HOME!
But when Gordon Bitner Hinckley turns 95...
The WHOLE CITY is invited to the $300 million dollar Joseph Smith Conference Center! Hurrah! Let all 18,000 seats be filled! Roll out the streamers and the birthday cake! Light the candles! Let the organ play its triumphant fanfares! The Mormon Tabernacle choir will beamingly sing the man's praises! Television stations will cover the glorious event! Donny Osmond will perform! The Deseret News will write its articles describing the whole, grand affair! Mike Wallace will be invited to pay tribute from the podium! The Ensign will run its glossy photos! The Church News presses will roll! Gordo will turn on the "aw, shucks" routine, like Bashful next to Snow White, while Glady Knight serenades him! Members will gaze on, enthralled, entranced, in adulation! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Meanwhile, in Layton, while Jimmy and his ma and dad and three little sisters are sitting there through sacrament meeting, the last Sunday before he RISKS HIS LIFE for "Gordon B. Hinckley's Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints", hardly any mention will be made of his upcoming departure.
Instead, a ten year old boy will read a story about how Joseph Smith never drank alcohol, written by his mother; an RS sister will cry for 20 minutes while she tells a faith-promoting rumour about some unknown (that is, non-existent) kid who drowned in a river and was then found later in a closet at home because an angel transported him there, and try to relate it somehow to tithing; and a high councilman with all the charisma of a comatose Richard G. Scott (or is that redundant?) will deliver a talk on "obedience" which runs 43 minutes in total, way overtime.
Jimmy's aunt, afterwards, asks his mom why they don't have missionary farewells anymore. "It would have meant so much to Jimmy. It's really brave what he's doing".
"I don't know", says Sis. Jensen. "But the First Presidency says they're not allowed anymore, and that we shouldn't even invite people over tonight to visit. Jimmy is kind of sad about it. All I know, though, is that it's our duty to obey the prophet, and we will".
How long until Arnold Friberg does up a painting for meetinghouses of the pigs from "Animal Farm" playing poker with the humans up at the farmhouse?
| GBH says: "No one else in the Church has a farewell when entering a particular service. We never have a special farewell-type meeting for a newly called bishop, for a stake president, for a Relief Society president, for a General Authority, or anyone else of whom I can think. Why should we have missionary farewells?"
One answer might be - because a missionary RISKS HIS LIFE every day for the church in many areas of the world, while GA's get executive-level salaries, generous benefits packages, and are protected by a huge private security team and state of the art technology.
GBH wandered around in London for 2 1/2 years on his mission trying to convince newspaper editors to suppress pieces critical of the church, writing home to his dad complaining, and every once in awhile baptizing the odd guy who would go inactive (okay, this is an "extrapolation" from that one story he tells :P). When I had guys like that in my zones I used to freak!
After five fat decades of living off the church payroll, I'd like to see GBH or Monson or any of those guys last a single week in some of the hell holes we stayed in, for real, or do some of the stuff guys do for the church down there. Anyone who served in Latin America knows what I'm talking about. One could argue that more merits a farewell than turning 95 merits blowing hundreds of thousands of dollars on an orgy of self-congratulation.
Has GBH ever been so near fainting from heat and thirst, after riding round in 120 degree heat for hours as per the instructions of his inspired mission president, that he would in desperation dive into a swamp inhabited by crocodiles to cool off and gulp down water? My comp, Elder D*** did.
Did terrorists ever deface GBH's area meetinghouse with anti-American hate propaganda, and swear to kill GBH, right around the same time Ball and his comp got shot in Bolivia? They did us.
Did he ever spend two years in a country just a few years after it had been taken over and run by murderous military leaders who sponsored death squads? Did he ever fear for his life once hyperinflation nearly triggered a civil war? (people couldn't get food). Did he ever come two feet away from being bitten by the most lethal snake in northern Argentina? We did.
Was he ever forced to drink bug-infested, algae-ridden water in order to stay alive? We were.
Did he ever spend weeks living outside in the outback, miles from civilization, to teach Indians, sleeping in TREES at night to avoid getting killed by venomous spiders, crocodiles, etc.?
When I was the Zone Leader in Formosa, Argentina, Elder Groberg came down to visit. First let me say that when I met Aldin Porter, who was also in the Area Presidency, he was totally great, smart, humble, really seemed to care about the missionaries and how it was all going. He seemed like a really good man.
We baptized hundreds of "Lamanites" - entire villages - up there, guys who had never heard of the church before or anything, forming them all into branches and going really nuts. News of all this seemed to spread throughout our whole huge mission (the mission was like from Vancouver to Tijuana or something, massive); and with all these exciting Book of Mormon-esque stories coming from up where we were, Elder Groberg came to visit.
So we tell all these aboriginal peoples, who are destitute, but who without exaggeration had NEVER asked for money or food or "ayuda" or anything, and who as far as we could tell were all very sincere believers (thrilled that they were being returned to La Casa de Israel), that this really special guy is coming to talk to them. He is friends with the prophet; he is a holy man of God, etc.
So on the day, hundreds of aboriginal peoples - who are now convinced they are "Lamanites" - show up for this conference at the Formosa chapel, dressed in rags, little kids in tow, from all over the province. Keep in mind that these people have committed to pay their tithing, and do so, in the most meager amounts you can imagine, though I never had a problem with this at all since I was positive that the Lord would bless them a hundredfold in return.
Anyway, we go to meet up with Elder Groberg and my MP, and it turns out that, for this special "impoverished Lamanite" conference, they're staying at the finest luxury hotel in the city.
And even despite our fanaticism, this embarrassed us; some of the "Lamanite" members lived under little plastic sheets tied to stakes down by the river, or in little huts and boxes. We were mortified at the thought of any of the aboriginals seeing this. A lot of them were walking into town from the outskirts, like for miles, and we hoped none of them saw us leaving the hotel - especially since they had rented...luxury sedans.
Groberg seemed totally oblivious to why this all might seem really awkward, as did my mission president, who was a wealthy businessman from Buenos Aires (he favoured Italian suits and gold watches, etc.). He and the MP had flown in from thousands of miles away, and just seemed...I don't know...oblivious.
So, it was one of the most uncomfortable meetings of my life, sitting in the chapel in Formosa with probably three hundred plus "Lamanites", totally sincere, having made great sacrifice to get there, and then watching Groberg and my MP get up, wearing their fancy suits and watches and stuff, having driven to the church in their rented luxury sedans...
And talk about -
How the aboriginals "should not ask the church for money"; the joys of "hard work"; that everyone should work for a living, etc. At one point, my MP, wearing his Italian suit and gold watch, even quoted the verse from Acts where Peter is asked by a cripple for alms, and he says, "Silver and gold have I none, but what I have give I unto thee" (or whatever the wording is).
We had been working with these people for months, and they had never begged us for money, ever; and they worked every day just trying to stay alive. Aboriginals in Argentina were never assimilated into the population as they were in Peru and Bolivia and so many other places down there. Most Argentines have zero aboriginal descent. So these guys were really marginalized - most Argies won't give them the time of day.
And here were Groberg and my MP, both of whom were obviously amply partaking of all the best life has to offer, telling these guys, in effect - "get a job". It was just really embarrassing, completely unwarranted, and, I have to say, made them both look like ignorant buffoons.
And do you know that they drove away just as vaingloriously, and obliviously, as they had arrived?
That was near the end of my mission, and the mortifying sting of that day lingered on after I got home. So one day I decided to type up a letter to send to Salt Lake, though for the life of me now I can't remember who I wrote it to. In my letter I described in more detail some of the things that had happened that day and how disturbing some of the stuff Groberg had said and done was. In reality, it was kind of a complaint letter. This was one of only two times I can remember coming close to ever doing something like this while a member.
I finished it all, read it over...and then couldn't send it. I had sworn an oath to never speak ill of the Lord's anointed, and sealed its solemnity with a death oath in which I ritually enacted my own disembowelment and throat-slashing. That kind of puts the kibosh on the complaint letter...
My step-mother, who had left the church while I was on my mission and who I therefore knew was either really ignorant or really wicked, told me later that day that she had found the letter (I had typed it out on her computer), and that she was really disturbed by some of the things I'd described (I'm abbreviating here on this post). It sounds weird, but this embarrassed me; I had given fodder to the church's enemies. I even spluttered out a few defenses of the very guys whose behaviour had shocked us all and which I was complaining about! This all only confirmed to me the rightness of my decision to not send it. I had made a mistake. I should not have questioned.
Anyway, it's 3:20 AM here and I can't even remember how I was going to tie this in to missionary farewells (premature Alzheimer's!). I think it was something about, if anyone in this g#$@and%*n church deserves a special celebration, you'd think it would be all the young men and women who donate that time of their lives because of their sincere faith that young Joseph never, ever told a fib.
Just a thought.
| There may be other complete idiots on here like I was, who spent quite a bit of time in a former life trying to reconcile the intoxicating United Order/almost semi-commie cheerleading of Hugh Nibley with the intoxicating laissez-faire capitalism cheerleading of Ezra Taft Benson.
Well, the internet, personal computers, and the explosion of published books and journals and their decreasing prices being products of the latter, chalk another one up for Nibley, because they seem to be striking a terrible blow against the Mormon church, as they are against other churches.
Quantifying this is difficult, and it does not look like Greg Dodge will be giving up his church salary any time soon to speak on the record about things; but if it means anything, I was at the Canadian consul's Canada Day party last night here in Los Angeles, and this guy came up and said, "Hey Tal, I'm Joel, it's great to meet you. I knew you were coming down for this so I ran a search and saw you'd left the Mormon church". He went on to say that he felt like he kind of knew what we'd gone through because he'd been raised strictly as a Jehovah's Witness.
He said he had finally gotten his family out. I asked him how, and he said that main thing had been example. He said, "in that situation, you cannot imagine anyone being really happy or at peace outside of it. So when they see you doing well, they can start to wonder". I asked him how the church as a whole was doing, and in a comment which might be of interest here, he said, "the internet is slaughtering the Jehovah's Witnesses".
Free market economies undergirded by laws guaranteeing free inquiry/speech/criticism have a drastic advantage over over-regulated economies (or communal experiments) which reject free inquiry/speech/criticism, because:
There is a reality independent of our wishes or perceptions;
And the former system facilitates a greater apprehension of it, through encouraging greater, more open communication and investigation and the development of means to facilitate them.
Things do not look bright, in the long run, for religions like Mormonism. People can believe a lot of things for a long time, it is true. People can remain unaware of facts quite easily, or disallow themselves from putting those facts together the way most people would regard they should be.
But reality has a way of winning out in the end. Think about it this way - as members you're stuck into the indoctrination program at 18 months, when you first go to primary. You then go through years of your mother whispering into your ear at testimony meeting, Sunday School classes, early morning seminary, group belief reinforcement exercises at youth camps, testimony meetings, etc., institute, two years hermetically sealed off from your family placed in a strange location preaching the thing and concentrating on it every minute - and STILL, Mormons who have gone through this mental configuration process are recognizing the truth about the church in far greater numbers, than are never Mormons in first world countries who listen to the missionary discussions. As hard as it is, it is easier to get Mormons to recognize the truth about Mormonism, than it is to get non-Mormons to believe in the fraud that is Mormonism. That says a lot, to me. People join; but more and more people are leaving or aren't joining inthe first place. And free market economies, undergirded by democratic institutions, private property and freedom of speech laws, etc., don't seem to be going out of style.
I think it is true that the more the human mind can exercise its innate faculties, the less will superstition be a match for the truth. The Mormons, the J Dubs, and others, are finding that out the hard way.
Thank you James Madison, John Locke, Adam Smith, et al.
| Since we've mused recently about similarities between Scientology and Mormonism, I thought I would post this.
I'm here in LA, and the hotel they put me in is downtown. So for the first time ever I took the LA subway to try to get to where the cool bookstores are over in Hollywood.
As it happened, I got out at the wrong stop: Vermont and Sunset. The first thing I saw when I walked out on the street was the very Scientology headquarters that Tom Cruise took Katie through not long ago. It's on Sunset and L. Ron Hubbard Avenue. No lie.
So I thought, "there's no way I can pass this up". So I walked in. The girl asked me to fill out an information paper with my name, address, etc., so they could send me "follow-up information". So I wrote down "Roger Scruton" for my name, and for my address I put "14 Thomas Hobbes Avenue, London, England". I didn't do my Austin Powers accent but I did experience the juvenile thrill of the Scientology people calling me "Roger" for the next 45 minutes.
A tall guy named Ronaldo said he would be my guide, and took me into a room, where he gave me a personality test to fill out. I filled out the first seven or eight questions and then realized there were 200 on the thing, so I said, "I don't have time to fill this all out. Do you want to just give me the tour?"
What was weird was that the whole time Ronaldo was there with me, there was some other tour guide guy whose name I can't remember kind of keeping tabs on Ronaldo. He also kept jumping into the conversation. He had very large bushy black eyebrows, and kept telling me, "hey - this is all about helping people".
Ronaldo finally wandered away, leaving me just with Eyebrow. He took me over to a glass case, inside of which were a bunch of photos of His Royal Highness L. Ron Hubbard.
"This man was a genius", said Eyebrow. "He was a professional - at the top of his game - in 29 fields. 29 fields! He was a screenwriter, a novelist, a composer" (there he pointed to the photo of L. Ron sitting in front of an organ) "a master sailor - did you know that L. Ron was licensed to sail any boat out there? He was incredible."
I said, "Well, he sure had a lot of nice ascots". In almost every photo Hubbard had on an ascot.
"Ha, well, yes, L. Ron lived in England for awhile".
I kind of wanted to say, "Hey - living in England 'for a while' does NOT mean you can wear an ascot. There are very strict rules about this kind of thing. Captain Hewitt can wear an ascot. Roger Moore, Ted Heath, Paul Johnson, people like that, maybe. Not this guy". But I just kept quiet. They seemed like they really, really, really liked "LRH", as they called him, and I still wanted to chat for a while longer.
After a few more minutes, another tour guide named Steve wandered up, and kind of edged out Eyebrow. Steve invited me into a room to talk more seriously.
He wanted to let me know that he had researched all of "LRH"'s claims, and he had never found one he could refute. LRH had not "invented" Dianetics - he had discovered Dianetics. And he had been proven right about everything.
I asked him what he would do if he ever did find a Hubbard claim that was untrue. He said he wouldn't do anything, since no one ever said Hubbard was perfect. He said he would just remember all the many things Hubbard had gotten right. Steve, by the way, had a habit of slapping his hand loudly on his desk at unpredictable moments as he was speaking.
I asked him how he felt he knew that LRH's philosophy was true. He said that everything he had observed over the previous 33 years as a member had confirmed it. It was just obvious. Anyone could know it if they just read what he said and then looked around. Interestingly, he also said he had had very moving experiences, where his perception was greatly increased, which had let him know that Hubbard was right. He didn't attribute these to God or anything - he said he could just feel himself becoming one with everything, and he knew it was true.
I asked if he wasn't worried that despite this he might be mistaken, since we are all fallible and can sometimes fool ourselves, or see things less than accurately. At this point Steve jumped out of his chair and started waving his hands frantically, saying, "Why don't you believe in anything? What's happened to you? Do you have any idea of how many people I meet like you, who don't believe in themselves anymore? Who don't have enough self-confidence to trust themselves about things? Why don't you believe in anything?"
Since Steve had a habit of interrupting me, I asked to be able to respond to this. I said that I did believe in things, and one thing I believed in was that we were fallible, and can sometimes get things wrong, and this is why it was often wise to be cautious about these kinds of judgments, and not just go on what we think we see. After all, I said, we can watch a magician turn the 8 of spades into the jack of diamonds right before our eyes; it is only our knowledge of physics which disallows us from concluding that one card didn't instantly rematerialize as another.
He just repeated that the truth of Scientology would be obvious to those who opened their eyes. He said, "If a group of people came in here and I said, 'What's going to happen to the apple when I push it off the table', they're all going to say it will fall. It's that obvious. I've seen the claims prove true over and over. When you see things happen over and over again, you just 'know'."
"But", I said, "since every sane human on earth would agree that the apple will fall off the table, but very few would agree that the truth of Scientology was obvious, is that really a good analogy?"
Steve replied that actually, there was a lot of people who would NOT agree that the apple would fall. This was kind of different than what he had been getting at before. I said, "well, even if 5% of the population thought the apple would fly into the sky, what about the other 95%? You're telling me that the truth of scientology is obvious, but very few of that 95% would agree that it was obvious at all, whereas all would say it was obvious the apple would fall. So how 'obvious' can Scientology really be?"
Steve didn't seem to like this line of questioning, so I moved on the extra-terrestrials. He didn't want to talk about this, and said that extra-terrestrials formed no part of the Scientology philosophy. This struck me as a bit hard to believe, and in fact Mark Hudson told me once that a couple of his Scientologist friends had told them in the upper levels there is quite a bit of talk about aliens.
He did say rather conspiratorially that the information communicated at the upper levels was secret because if you found about it before you had been really prepared to receive it, "it would scare people too much. It's about how the world really is, what's really going on. You have to be prepared".
Steve went on to talk at length about the "thetan" inside - the non-physical part of ourselves. I asked, "So the 'thetan' is kind of like the soul or spirit?" "Yes". "It is a conscious part of us which will go on living after death?" "Yes, you could say that". "So, you're saying it exists independently of any of the matter of our bodies..." "Yes".
So then I asked what I thought was a simple question: "So, we could remove the brain from a human, but that human - since the thetan is still inside - would still have consciousness of some kind". He said no. "But you said the thetan existed independently of the brain or any physical matter". "It does". "Then it would still be there and functioning even when the brain is gone, or at least everything but the brain stem".
Steve then said (no lie), "Well, some of these things we haven't figured out entirely yet". This struck me as something like the Scientology version of the Mormon "put it on the shelf" tactic.
I asked him how, if Scientology philosophy weren't true, he would ever know it wasn't, and in an echo of one FARMS writer I've corresponded with, he just replied that there was no way to know it wasn't, since it was true. I asked him why, if that was the case, I shouldn't put Scientology in the same category as astrology and iridiology, and he just said, "because Scientology is true".
Then he said, "Hey, what you believe is up to you. I can tell you that this stuff is true, but you have to find that out for yourself". He also said, "we've had millions join, but only a couple of dozen have ever left". That was also hard for me to believe.
As I was leaving, Steve noticed I was holding two church pamphlets. "Did you pay for those yet?" "Um, no, I thought they were complimentary. I just picked them up out front". "No - they're five bucks each". I just put them down on the counter, thanked Steve and said goodbye.
I left thinking that Ronaldo, Eyebrow, and Steve seemed to give many of the same answers (just using different terminology) a devout Mormon would. Their reverence for their founder bordered almost on worship; while announcing that the truth was obvious they had little or no evidence to support Scientology claims; as soon as one tried to clarify doctrines they would acknowledge that it was unresolved or presently mysterious and try to move on to a new topic; they used testimonials frequently; some information was "sacred", not "secret"; etc.
And it seems that as is the case with Mormonism, it is smiles on the way in, and daggers on the way out. I hope Katie really looks at this thing closely.
| To say that Mormonism is a relic from a benighted past is probably too vague a statement to be of any real use to anyone. (It also makes me sound like a snob, as though I thought our own era were superior to past eras.) But I think it is true that Mormonism is just such a relic, and, snob or not, I do think our own era is superior in many ways to former eras (we have movies with cool explosions!); so, I think Mormonism is inferior, and different in nature, to many modern institutions which it claims compatibility with. One thing I think which differentiates our own era from past eras is our increasing acceptance of the notion that all human knowledge is provisional, or fallible. This notion is a product most recently of the Enlightenment, although one can trace fallibilism right back at least to the pre-Socratic Xenophanes.
I say that fallibilism stemmed most recently from the Enlightenment; but to be fair, early Enlightenment philosophers continued to claim that perfect (infallible) metaphysical knowledge was possible, though not always in convincing ways. To cite one example which may be kind of controversial, I am unable to fathom how claiming that it is "self-evident" that "all men are created equal", as Jefferson did in the Declaration of Independence, really works as a line of argument. If its truth is "self-evident", for example, it remains very mysterious why so few pre-Enlightenment thinkers should have thought so as well. Slavery had been a human institution for centuries, and even thinkers as insightful as Aristotle had accepted it as a natural occurrence.
In other words, for centuries, the claim that "some people are fit only to be slaves" had been "self-evident" - NOT that "all men are created equal". I don't know that either universal equality or a natural hierarchy of innate racial worthiness is "self-evident" at all (though of course I prefer the former position). It's only "self-evident" once you believe it, which is to say, not "self-evident" at all. Jefferson, the great rationalist, the man who (despite his posthumous baptism as a Mormon) lived in constant fear of his true religious ideas being made public, who re-wrote the New Testament deleting all references to the supernatural, himself seems to have made a claim of infallible metaphysical knowledge that (however useful) seemed to have about as little evidence supporting it as the claims of the religionists he derided as purveyors of superstition and obstacles to human progress. That Jefferson's unevidenced claims about "unalienable rights" granted by "nature's God" neatly expressed the theoretical motors of the American revolution and the Constitution, from what I can see, speaks to their allure, but not necessarily to their validity at correct intuitions about the nature of the cosmos (more on this below).
I'm not sure, but it may have been the shock occasioned by finding out that Newtonian physics, hitherto regarded as "the end of physics", was incomplete, and that there was an entirely different realm of the physical world that Newton's theories did not account for, that most helped along the erasing from Western consciousness dreams of "unimprovable" knowledge, and most helped infuse provisionality into virtually every claim, physical or metaphysical, that consciousness could afterwards entertain. And I think it is true that fallibilism - really, just a sense of modesty about the human ability to know - has very much led to great improvements in the quality of human life.
I say this because among the offspring of fallibilism are institutions and conventions of testability, and contestability; and it is only through these natural offspring that our understanding of the world really advances. I might add that I think it is true that democracy is the best system of government humans have come up with largely because it does the most toward institutionalizing the mechanisms of testability, and contestability, which so far are the best mechanisms we have for discerning reality, the truth of things. (That understanding in turn blesses our lives, alleviates suffering, prolongs life, increases our health, etc.)
It is no wonder, then, that Mormonism can get so much, so wrong, so smugly. Dallin Oaks gave a talk once where he said that the church rejects the concept of a "loyal opposition" within it. It goes without saying then that the church rejects "DISloyal opposition" as well, which means: Mormonism rejects ANY "opposition" (i.e., contests) whatsoever - which means, Dallin Oaks himself has allowed a peek past the soft focus Edelman lenses and conceded that the Mormon church in reality is a seethingly intolerant institution representing a seethingly intolerant ideology. There is no other way to describe it if Oaks is correct (which I think all would agree he is). Mormonism rejects all tests (other than the fraudulent non-"test" in Moroni); it rejects any contesting of its claims, even paying its goons (many of whom I daresay would have difficulty, despite all their boasts of academic qualification, getting hired at your local community college) to character assassinate all who might dare; it rejects any institutionalization of mechanisms of criticism or contest; and it does it all because it is a product not of modesty/fallibilism, but of infallibilism: it is The One True Way. Its members have seen The Light. The "church" knows what others do not, it has received what others have not, and so has authority that others do not. It has no need of examination from within or without, because while its individual members may be fallible, there is no chance of the "church" "going astray".
It might be noted here that one of the many ironies of Mormonism is that it OWES ITS EXISTENCE to the very kind of (open) society which does allows those mechanisms to flourish. "Parasitic" unfortunately has very strong connotations in English, but really, the church really does exist only because of the liberal, open, democratic regime, and capitalism which flourishes in those societies (a capitalism the church essentially declared war on in its earliest incarnation ["it is not meet that one man should have more than another", etc.). The church continues to totally immerse itself in the global capitalist economy, buying real estate, media companies, ranches, even blowing a billion dollars recently on the Crossroads Mall.
So, the church only exists as an institution in regimes whose institutions facilitate exactly the kinds of activities Mormon institutions attempt to squash. It reminds me of Islamic terrorists using the liberality of America to try to build up a regime and worldview which would squash that very liberality. No wonder Joseph Smith compared himself to Mohammed, and FARMS guys have pointed out the similarities between Mormonism and Islam. They are both infallibilist, authoritarian, insular, antagonistic-to-reality cults, not matter how great their membership numbers or PR.
The good news about the United States, is that despite the founding document of the United States containing what now seems an almost quaint (or non-existent) justification for a pretty radical claim, its political institutions as drawn up in the Constitution and explained in The Federalist are just about exactly what you would propose if you were not really quite sure what "the right way to live" was, what religion God wanted us all to join, what inalienable rights we might have, etc. You would check the power of government branches, make it as difficult as possible for government (which of course has a virtual monopoly on force) to use its power capriciously, and try in all cases to ensure that if politicians didn't do what citizens liked, they could be removed without bloodshed.
The bad news about Mormonism is that the rationale for its rejection of the most reliable methods of discerning reality and truth has no validity, because Joseph didn't tell the truth about his experiences. If he had, no doubt the church would display no need for the kinds of mechanisms which have served the rest of the human family so well; but of course, it does display a great need for them. It does so because Mormonism is not what it claims; it is not being directly led, alone among all religions on the planet, by the creator of the universe, or Jesus, "the real founder of the Mormon church", or anyone other than the few men at its top. It is as thoroughly mortal as any other institution, and its denials of that in the end really mean nothing.
My view may be tainted, but I see the world moving in a direction very opposite to that of the infallibilisms (is that a word?) like Mormonism. I am reluctant to become too optimistic - there are, after all, 1 billion Muslims, and 1.5 billion communist Chinese, and it remains to be seen to what degree this last bastion of Marxism, and Islam, will accomodate themselves to what the human mind - free of dogma and superstition and magical notions and delusions of perfect metaphysical knowledge, and conscious of the fallibility of the human being, the difficulties of knowing - discovers and produces. But I'm betting the unfettered mind will triumph.
| I posted a couple of weeks ago about my visit to the Scientology headquarters in LA. Below is a brief account of finding myself in a recording studio with an evangelical Christian engineer acquaintance of mine a few days ago.
The recording session wound down, and as I was getting ready to start packing up, C. said, "So...how's it, you know...going?"
Me: "Umm...fine. What do you mean?"
Then he says, "You know...with...The Man".
Me: "'The Man'?"
C.: "The Man.....you know............Jesus".
Me: "Well, it's going about the same as the last time you asked me" (the last time we worked together).
I said I had a hard time believing that Jesus was really all Christians now claimed him to be.
"And I understand that, I understand that. Hey, I know what you're like. I get that. I know you're not a feelings guy. You want to have all the i's dotted and the t's crossed - AND THAT'S OKAY. THAT'S THE WAY JESUS MADE YOU! The world needs people like that, who think it's all logic and facts and stuff. I get that. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that - BUT, I'm just thinking, if you can just...not complicate this...just...see, this is simple. You don't need all this thinking. I think you're overthinking this. I'm just gonna tell you, okay, I mean, you get home, and...and...in your heart..."
And I'm thinking, "Here it comes...". And sure enough, he said:
"...you get home tonight...and I - I CHALLENGE YOU - I challenge you to just stop all the thinking and get down on your knees and just say, 'Lord - make your presence known in my life'. This is simple, you're complicating it. Just pray, just ten seconds, 'Lord, if you are there, please come into my life', just that. And, and I promise you that if you do that, HE WILL. Jesus will come into your life. I've heard people talk about this kind of thing and they say it's just completely AMAZING what happens."
So I said, "I'm not really certain that makes a lot of sense to me right now. C...Besides, I really do already feel at peace, more than ever (I thought, why cloud that with fairy tales?). And I don't think I've ever said I don't believe there's something out there. I do think there probably is something out there, though I don't know what...".
C.: "But if you just let Jesus into your life...", etc.
At one point, I said, "I'm curious, C. - why do you think Jesus of Nazareth is the son of God?"
C: "Because the Bible says he is".
Me: "So, why do you believe the Bible when it says that?"
C.: "Because the Bible is the only book that tells the story of Jesus".
So I say, "C., I don't know if I can explain this to you, but I have a few concerns. One of my concerns is that when you're talking about this kind of thing, your arguments all kind of seem circular to me. Like, you just said that the reason you believe in the Bible is because it says Jesus is the Son of God, and also, that the reason you believe that Jesus is the Son of God because is it says so in the Bible. Do you know what I mean?"
C.: "Hey, I hear ya, I hear ya. But see, right there, you're complicating things again. You just have to give it up. You have to give that up to the Big Man. If you just pray, I promise you, for ten seconds, 'Jesus, if you're there, come into life', dude - it will be amazing".
Me: "How am I supposed to stop thinking? And furthermore, on what grounds should I believe I even have a moral obligation to? Are you really asking me to believe that the very creator who created my consciousness, is himself incompatible with it?"
C.: "Hey, I hear ya. But it says in the Bible, let all men come unto me. He says, 'Follow me'. You know, when you just get down, just for ten seconds: 'Lord, come into my life'...it all comes together. And I challenge you - I challenge you - to do that. I challenge you."
After a few minutes, he seemed to grow a bit exasperted. He said:
"If Jesus wasn't really the Son of God, how was he resurrected?"
Me: "Um, why do you believe he was resurrected?"
C.: "Because all the witnesses saw him afterward. It's right in the Bible, you can't deny it".
Me: "But why do you believe the Bible in the first place?"
C.: "Because it's the only book that even tells us about the resurrection!"
Me: "Yeah, but...aw, never mind".
C.: "Listen, you can't argue with the guys that wrote this stuff down. They were there dude. All these people were there".
Me: "C., do you believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet?"
Me: "What would you think of a book ("They Knew The Prophet") full of first hand testimonies telling all about his healings and teachings and revelations, etc., what a fantastic person he was? Would you believe then that Joseph Smith was all he claimed? No...why not? Okay, well then do you see what it's like for me?", etc.
One thing that interests me is that C. was as unable to fathom that anything was wrong internally with his arguments, as I was with mine for almost my entire life as a Mormon. That makes me wonder if I might be saying now similarly stupid things, but am as blind to it as I was five years ago.
Anyway, I don't know how to describe it, but there is a kind of psychological closedness - it almost seems like an alteration in consciousness - that spreads over the true believers in anything.
At this point, I just can't really see ever joining another church. I just can't really take Christian claims about Christ all that seriously. I try, but they seem as silly as those made by the Mormons the evangelicals seem to dislike so much. For my money, they all seem about as daft as each other. I don't know.
Anyone else been witnessed to lately?
| A couple of nights ago I saw a documentary on Raelianism. Rael is a dude - I think he's from Switzerland - who started his own religion a few decades ago. He claims to have visited outer space and spoken with the aliens who populated this planet. The guy hasn't worked a day in the past thirty years as a consequence, and hangs out all day having sex with these knock-out babes who he calls "The Order of Angels".
L. Ron Hubbard invented Scientology, and similarly made loads of bucks. His holy name will now live on forever in the minds of his followers, who swear he has changed their lives for the better.
Joseph Smith went from socially ostracized, impoverished, village magician, to the head of a 3000 man private army, presidential candidate, and a legitimate shot at becoming a theocratic dictator. His followers still sing "Praise to the Man".
Deepak Chopra - fraud; Swaggart - fraud; Peter Popoff - fraud; Joseph Smith, David Koresh, Jim Jones, Hubbard, Bagwan Sri Rajneesh, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Rael, etc., all these guys are frauds. YET, what do they have in common?
They are all praised as man gods, in effect worshipped by men and women alike who give them money and time. People hang on their words, feel blessed by their teachings.
By contrast, I languish in near obscurity on a remote island, my royalty checks dwindling, a CD postponed yet again by a faceless record company (it's happened a hundred times over the past five years), with a zillion ideas buzzing around in my head. Is it time to start my own religion? The Kinks had an album called "Give the People What They Want" - and the people want lies - should I, we, give them what they want? How tough is it to spin some yarn, and then demand obedience? Once my little ditty broke at radio five years ago, I started getting fan letters from women who actually ascribed to me all kinds of supernatural powers. If you claim otherwise, some of them get really upset. It's like deification and deicide all over again. People want miracle and mystery and authority. I guess The Grand Inquisitor was right.
People, they, we, want to hear that someone, somewhere, has contact with the realm above ours, that our guilt may be removed, that we are special, etc. Many don't seem really to care whether it's true or not, only whether they can maintain belief that it is (see Davis Bitton's essay on the FAIR board).
One little problem I'm having still is the conscience thing. Joseph, for example, seemed unencumbered by conscience save for a few possible incidents - he was just like Machiavelli's prince, or Stalin or Castro. He got things done, dammit. I have this fear that I'm more like Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov - even if I could steel myself against all the pressures of my own conscience and act, I'd probably never stop feeling guilty about it afterward. I'm like one of Nietzsche's untermenschen - I just can't seem to create my own "horizons". I can't manage anymore to lie to myself, and then forget I have; and I can't stomach deceiving people. I can't shake the feeling that there is something grand and eternal out there, up there, so how can I actually *invent* it?
As a joke, some buddies and I once began creating our own religion in high school. There was a guardian spirit, a female sprite named Quintina, who functioned as a cross between one of Cinderella's fairy godmother's and the Holy Ghost; there was Zloy, the mystery that is the center of all existence; and various grades of enlightenment, an enlightenment which could only be had about aspects around the periphery of Zloy, if that makes any sense. What's funny now is that over the course of a few weeks, as we kept hammering the thing out, the whole theology actually started to make a lot of sense!
Could I, we, really do a lamer job than some of the other crap out there? And after all, that's where the money is...
Anyone want to collaborate?
| || Bad News For Mormonism, Once Again: The Latest From Non-fake Archaelogists: "America Colonized 40,000 Years Ago" |
Thursday, Jul 28, 2005, at 11:56 AM
Original Author(s): Tal Bachman
Topic: TAL BACHMAN - SECTION 1 -Link To MC Article-
| ↑ |
I read another article on this find in the July 9-15 edition of New Scientist, and thought I'd pass it on here.
To summarize, accumulating evidence indicates that the colonization of America (indeed, the planet) took place tens of thousands of years before God placed Adam and Eve - according to Mormon scripture, the SOLE PROGENITORS of the human race - in Jackson County, Missouri a little over 5500 years ago. One can only wonder how this will affect John Sorenson's "Shifting Goalposts Theory" I mean "Limited Geography Theory". My guess is that he's probably close to done with the whole thing, and will pass away still insisting - despite his own lifelong commitment to fashioning theories in direct response to physical evidence (though he and others have convinced themselves it is only in response to a more careful reading of the BOM than Moroni, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, BH Roberts, Heber J. Grant, the Holy Ghost, Jesus, etc., ever undertook) - that "a faith in the Book of Mormon can only come through faith in the Book of Mormon". Yah. Brilliant.
There is something heartbreakingly just in the relentless onslaught of reality. It smashes hopes and visions and commitments and longings. It cares nothing for dogma, for feelings, for professional reputations, for anyone saving face; and while its apprehension must always be characterized by provisionality and as-yet-uneliminated-error, overall our apprehension of that reality continues to grow, and to pass more and more tests as the decades and centuries roll on. And even with the constant effort to revise Mormon claims in order to save them from total incredibility, the process doesn't seem to be able to keep up to reality's tidal wave.
The scriptural claims, the astronomical claims, the anthropological claims, the credibility claims, the archaeological claims, the biological claims, the linguistic claims, the dietary claims, the social claims, the epistemological claims, the historical claims, the growth claims, the prophetic claims, everything, everything, is squeezed and battered; and Mormonism shrinks and twists and mutates in response, its salaried apologists at the forefront of the re-moulding efforts, to try to keep it alive; but it is a goner, as much as the RLDS church was, for it too premised itself on claims that simply did not represent reality. Joseph HAD taken plural wives, and in the end, there was just no way to make that go away.
Likewise I think it will be with the LDS, though it will take longer, and though just as with the RLDS, there will always be a few diehards. But, I think overall, it is a goner. Even the mere existence of the LGT (something inconceivable if physical evidence had actually supported Joseph and Jesus' original claims for the BOM) signifies that there is something really wrong.
Besides, all those remoulding efforts themselves launch body blows against the thing. The LGT, for example, rests on the (unelucidated) claim that Mormon prophets very much DID "lead the church astray" on an issue irremovably central to the whole project of Mormonism, namely, who is the Book of Mormon about?, a question inseparable from the book's own explanation of its raison d'etre.
The LGT is a theory which exists in response to physical evidence, which at the same time denigrates the validity of physical evidence. It casts aspersions on what are by far the most reliable tools for precisely the task Mormons believe themselves to be burdened with - namely, the "re-gathering of Israel" - even while it backs away from that original mission, dropping any allusions to it on its websites, in its missionary discussions, etc.
I mean, think of it - the very genetic research Mormonism is in some ways attempting to undermine, meanwhile is doing exactly what the Mormon priesthood/membership was always supposed to do, but has failed to do: catalogue the entire human race; reunite scattered families; identify lost Israelites; the whole thing. And the heart of Mormonism on this issue sits, unders crushing siege, in a few sweaty offices in Provo, Utah, representing an ever-shrinking, increasingly anachronistic, paradigm ever more antagonistic to the very reality it once claimed boldly to embrace and represent. The Lembas were lost; now they are found. Who did that? Not the Mormons. They were returned to the House of Israel because the human mind discovered a way to identify that they in fact were the descendants of cohanim. Now, THAT was genealogy. THAT was Gentiles helping to regather Israel. Who has Mormonism helped gather back into the House of Israel?
Mormons have not only backed away from the DandC Jesus Christ's identification of Native Americans as "Jews", but now Daniel Peterson is stating in public, apparently without any sense of irony, that no one ever should have expected to find that they were in the first place. It is almost to the point of not being funny anymore; it is almost as though we are witnessing something like a new Flat Earth Society, one that we ourselves were a part of, one that continues to induce the weirdest mental states imaginable, where cause can be removed from effect, 'A' can equal 'not A', evidences can be embraced while they are rejected, yes can mean no, and no can mean yes, characters can be destroyed with glee, all to keep believing, keep believing, keep believing. "I will not forsake thee, Lord; 'Where else shall we go, Lord?'; 'The jury is still out'; 'We are surrounded by enemies'; 'They are all lying'; 'We are the covenant people'; 'Everyone must believe, must believe, must believe...'".
Regardless of our origins, we have minds, I suppose, for a reason; and that a two-bit sleight of mind (Mor. 10:3-5), such as is practiced by any common shyster, which relies on getting us to commit to a certain preliminary proposition without ever realizing we are doing so, so as to lock up our involvement in the much grander propositions which inevitably follow, should ever have siphoned off as much mental energy as Joseph's has for the past 200 years, is really a tragedy. If we have a moral duty to bless the lives of others, Joseph's church has vastly underperformed, for you don't need his lies to know that you shouldn't drink or smoke to excess, or destroy your family for sport, etc., and it has sapped the mental energies of many talented and creative Mormon thinkers and scholars, so far in now, that it is very doubtful that they will ever get out.
So, chalk me up for Team Reality. I wish it to purge me of every last incorrect idea I have, as much as I wish it to hurry up with the flushing out of Mormonism, and every other grandiose misrepresentation of reality started by some conscienceless, would-be alpha male and his confederates. The sooner the better.
Sick of such trash,
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