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TAL BACHMAN - SECTION 4
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.
| For all the nausea, one thing I've found enduringly funny about apologetic writing over the past couple of years, is the constant criticism of the "shameless grandstanding" of RFM posters. |
Why is it funny?
Think of the man that these guys have devoted their lives to defending. He's the guy who said things like this:
"God made Aaron to be the mouthpiece for the children of Israel, and He will make me be god to you in His stead, and the Elders to be mouth for me; and if you don't like it, you must lump it."
"I am a big lawyer and comprehend heaven, earth and hell, to bring forth knowledge that shall cover up all lawyers, doctors and other big bodies."
"Don't employ lawyers, or pay them money for their knowledge, for I have learned that they don't know anything. I know more than they all."
"I combat the errors of ages; I meet the violence of mobs...I cut the gordian knot of powers, and I solve mathematical problems of universities, with truth-diamond truth; and God is my 'right hand man'."
"If they want a beardless boy to whip all the world, I will get on the top of a mountain and crow like a rooster: I shall always beat them..." (See http://www.luciferlink.org/mjoseph.htm for references).
"I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet". (http://www.carm.org/lds/docs/HC_v6_408-9.htm)
Or this, as recounted by Thomas Marsh and Orson Hyde:
"I have heard the prophet say that he should yet tread down his enemies, and walk over their dead bodies; that if he was not let alone he would be a second Mohamet to this generation, and that he would make it one gore of blood from the Rocky mountains to the Atlantic ocean that like Mohamet, whose motto, in treating for peace, was 'The Alcoran or the Sword', so should it be eventually with us, "Joseph Smith or the Sword." (http://www.saintswithouthalos.com/w/1838_tbmoh.phtml)
Or this, as quoted in the OHC from JS himself:
"Were I a Chaldean I would exclaim: Keed' nauh to-maroon lehoam elauhayaugh deyshemayaugh veh aur kau lau gnaubadoo, yabadoo ma-ar'guauoomen tehoat shemayaugh alah. (Thus shall we say unto them: The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.) An Egyptian: Sa e eh-ni: (What other persons are these?) A Grecian: Diabolas basseleuei: (The Devil reigns.) A Frenchman: Messieurs sans Dieu, (Gentlemen without God.) A Turk: Ain shems: (The fountain of light.) A german: sie sind unferstandig. (What consummate ignorance!) (My note: No irony on this last one, right?) A Syrian: Zaubok. (Sacrifice!) A Spaniard: Il sabio muda conscio, il nescio ne. (A wise man reflects, a fool does not.) A Samaritian: Saunau! (O Stranger!) An Italian: O tempa! oh diffidanza! (O the times! O the diffidence!) A Hebrew: Ajtaij aol raicu (Thou God seest me.) A Dane: Hvnd tidende! (What tidings!) A Saxon: Hwaet riht! (What right!) A Swede: Hvad skilla: (What skill!) A Polander: Nav-yen-wheo bah poa na Jesus Christus: (Blessed be the name of Jesus Christ.) A Western Indian: She-mo-kah She-mo keh ough-nepgab. (The white man, O the white man, he very uncertain.) A Roman: Procul, o procul este profani! (Be off, be off ye profane!) But as I am I will only add: when the wicked rule the people mourn."
(Couldn't find the OHC online, so I just copied this example of shameless grandstanding as it was posted on the FAIR board. See http://www.fairboards.org/index.php?showtopic=9714).
"In the evening, when pulling sticks, I pulled up Justus A. Morse, the strongest man in Ramus, with one hand." (OHC, vol. 5, p.302).
"Monday, 13.–I wrestled with William Wall, the most expert wrestler in Ramus, and threw him" (Vol. 5, p.302).
Or this, from Vol.5, p. 466, spoken on June 30, 1843, Joseph Smith evidently said:
"I feel as strong as a giant. I pulled sticks with the men coming along, and I pulled up with one hand the strongest man that could be found. Then two men tried, but they could not pull me up ...".
Joseph's habit of shameless grandstanding, so clearly demonstrated in his words as recorded in the church's own official history, is corroborated by non-Mormon observers as well.
Charlotte Haven, a young visitor to Nauvoo, described one of Joseph's public speeches in this way:
"...(H)e commenced his discourse by relating all the incidents of his journey. This he did in a loud voice, and his language and manner were the coarsest possible. His object seemed to be to amuse and excite laughter in his audience. He is evidently a great egotist and boaster, for he frequently remarked that at every place he stopped, going to and from Springfield, people crowded around him, and expressed surprise that he was 'so handsome and good-looking'."
A few weeks later, Miss Haven was invited by Emma Smith to visit their house. These are her comments:
"She said very little to us, her whole attention being absorbed in what Joseph was saying. He talked incessantly about himself, what he had done and could do more than other mortals, and remarked that he was 'a giant, physically and mentally'". (Haven then remarked about the good traits Joseph was reputed to have, including generosity).
She received another visit from Joseph and Emma a while later:
"Mrs. Smith was pleasant and social, more so than we had eer seen her before, and we were quite pleased with her; while her husband is the greatest egotist I ever met...Joseph became much excited; there was 'no dubiety' (evidently, Joseph's words) about his religion, for he had more light directly from God, he said, and seemed to consider it an insult for anyone to have the audacity to compare his doctrine with others. Finding him so dogmatical and so unable to reason, Brother let the Seer monopolize - as he always does - the conversation; or rather, glorify himself and his wonderful supernatural powers". (As quoted in "Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith" by R. D. Anderson, pages 241-242).
An early acquaintance of Joseph's from New York remembered this about him as a young boy:
"...his habits of exaggeration and untruthfulness...and by reason of the extravagances of his statement, his word was received with the least confidence by those who knew him best. He would utter the most palpable exaggeration or marvelous absurdity with the utmost apparent gravity."
I suppose it is also worth remembering that Joseph, a man with no military experience whatsoever, had himself named "Lieutenant General" of the Nauvoo Legion, got himself a top class ceremonial military uniform with accompanying sword (which in a bit of Freudian symbolism, he enjoyed drawing and holding upright in front of great crowds), adored riding atop his grand steed at the front of the Legion during military parades, began signing all his letters as "General Joseph Smith", had himself anointed as a "king" over Israel and the earth, spoke openly about conquering North, Central, and South America, ran for president of the United States, "conquered" many of the daughters and wives of his friends, and intimated that were he to reveal his "true" identity to the saints, that they would accuse him of blasphemy. In short, if Joseph Smith was not a genuine megalomaniac whose modus operandi was perpetual shameless grandstanding, he spent his life very convincingly imitating one. He must put Burbage and Olivier and DeNiro - not to mention Rich Little - to shame. (By the way, given all this, can anyone doubt the ear-curling sexual boasting he did in the company of John Bennett?)
If we reject the "shy, meek wallflower merely imitating a genuine megalomaniac" theory as implausible, we must say that Joseph Smith out-shamelessly grandstands Rael, Jimmy Swaggart, Bob Schuller, Oral Roberts, Billy Graham, Joel Osteen, Peter Popoff, Robert Tilton, Hank Hannegraff, Benny Hinn, and pretty much any other religionist out there. And certainly, no RFM poster that I know of has ever even come close to saying or doing the things JS did.
Therefore, my sincere suggestion to Mormon apologists who think criticizing RFM posters for "shameless grandstanding" is a great idea, is this:
Open your eyes, and stop making idiots of yourselves. Without "shameless grandstanding", you wouldn't even have a religion to defend.
Just a thought,
| Intro |
I logged on a while ago and saw the kerfuffle over the Tribune racism article. So, this essay was written for all those concerned about the legacy of Mormon racism, or who might actually be doubting it existed.
What follows is a series of quotes mainly from President Brigham Young, many of which I think may be unfamiliar to board readers. I also add a few comments. This post is long, but hopefully add some perspective to the legacy of Mormon racism, and the inadequacy of Mormon mop-up efforts now, and be worth reading closely.
By the way, I focused mainly on Brigham Young's quotes because, despite their truly vile nature, they have never been apologized for by the church, never been formally repudiated by a subsequent church president, and Young's teachings actually informed Mormon policy and doctrine for the following 125 years. There is also the question as to whether, if his quotes are rejected by the church now, that does not directly refute the canonical claim by W. Woodruff (see the manifesto page in the DandC) that the Lord will not let a Mormon prophet lead the church astray. And if even one canonical claim can be definitively refuted, why should anyone believe the others couldn't be as well? And doesn't that pinprick alone pop the Mormon balloon?
Anyway, here goes.
Did He Lead The Church Astray? (If not, the church is still thoroughly racist; if so, the church cannot possibly be true)
In 1852, Brigham Young, a man the LDS church asks the world to believe was a genuine prophet, in contact with Jesus of Nazareth, and incapable of leading the church astray, sat in Salt Lake City as the head of a virtual theocracy. He repeatedly insisted, as would his successors, that there was no dividing line between things temporal and things spiritual. Thus, Brigham Young repeatedly claimed the right to dictate on all matters pertaining to the human family (e.g., " the man whom God calls to dictate affairs in the building up of his Zion has the right to dictate about everything connected with the building up of Zion, yes even to the ribbons the women wear; and any person who denies it is ignorant." (See Journal of Discourses 11:298, or click here: http://home.teleport.com/~packham/byoung.htm. See also Ezra Taft Benson's modern justification of this idea here: http://www.lds-mormon.com/fourteen.shtml).
As millions of Brigham Young's fellow human beings were being kidnapped, raped, chained, worked to death, half-starved, and even murdered merely for the crime of being of African descent, and millions of his fellow Americans careened ever closer to a gruesome civil war over the issue, which would kill two thirds of a million of them, Brigham himself - the only man with the keys of authoritatively revealing the light of heaven to the church and all mankind - addressed the slavery question before the Utah legislature. What better time for a true prophet to reveal God's will and issue direction than on the brink of a civil war, and in the midst of such confusion and human suffering? What greater moral question could there be, than the enslavement of human beings? So what did Brigham Young, a man supposedly incapable of leading the church astray, reveal to those representing church members about it?:
"I will remark with regard to slavery, inasmuch as we believe in the Bible, inasmuch as we believe in the ordinances of God, in the priesthood and order and decrees of God, we must believe in slavery. This colored race have been subjected to severe curses, which they have in their families and their classes and in their various capacities brought upon themselves...
"I am a firm believer in slavery...Those servants want to come here with their masters...and they commence to whisper round their views upon the subject, saying 'Do you think it's right? I am afraid it is not right'. I know it is right, and there should be a law made to have the slaves serve their master, because they are not capable of ruling themselves...I am firm in the belief that they ought to dwell in servitude...
"When a master has a negro, and uses him well, he is much better off than when he is free. As for masters knocking them down and whipping them and breaking the limbs of their servants, I have as little opinion of that as any person can have, but good wholesome servitude, I know there is nothing better than that."
(Speech by Brigham Young delivered in joint session of the legislature, Friday, Jan. 23rd, 1852, recorded by Geo. D. Watt, Brigham Young Papers, Historical Dept. of the Church).
Some days later, distressed by the anti-slavery sentiments exhibited by many legistlature members, Young repeated his remarks as a "prophet" and "apostle". In particular, he was distressed that any member of the church should contemplate granting the right to vote or serve in office to anyone of African ancestry:
"If there never was a prophet or apostle of Jesus Christ spoke it before, I tell you, this people that are commonly called negroes are the children of old Cain. I know they are."
"Again to the subject before us: as to the negro men bearing rule, not one of the children of old Cain have one particle of right to bear rule in government affairs from first to last. They have no business there. This privilege was taken from them by their own transgressions, and I cannot help it.
"I am as much opposed to the principle of slavery as any man in the present acceptation or usage of the term - it is abused. I am opposed to abusing that which God has decreed, to take a blessing, and make a curse of it. It is a great blessing to the seed of Adam to have the seed of Cain for servants..."
"Therefore, I will not consent for one moment to have an African dictate (to) me or my brethren with regard to church or state government...No, it is not right. But say some, is there anything of this kind in the constitution the United States has given us? If you will allow me the privilege of telling it right out, it is none of their damned business what we do or say here. What we do, it is for them to sanction, and then for us to say what we like about it. It is written right in the constitution 'that every free white male inhabitant above the age of 21 years', and etc...I have given you the true principle and doctrine.
Young lamented the anti-slavery sentiments among a number of the church members in front of him:
"What the Gentiles are doing, we are consenting to do. What we are trying to do today is to make the Negro equal with us in all our privileges. My voice shall be against it all the day long. I shall not consent for one moment".
(Speech in joint session, Feb. 5, 1852, Brigham Young Papers, Historical Dept. of the Church).See http://www.utlm.org/onlineresources/sermons_talks_interviews/brigham1852feb5_priesthoodandblacks.htm
Brigham Young did concede that blacks were human; he disliked the torture and murder common to slavery at the time; and he did consent to granting citizenship to blacks (while severely restricting their rights). However, he also publicly taught that "the seed of Cain" were fit only for serving caucasians, characterized African slavery as a "divine institution" (see http://www.utlm.org/onlineresources/sermons_talks_interviews/brighamgreeleyinterview_july131859.htm), taught that it was in the best interest of African slaves to remain slaves to caucasians because they were constitutionally incapable of freedom, publicly taught that enslavement was God's will and should be legal, and repeatedly, publicly taught that sexual intercourse with a black person was so great a sin, that only execution of the "race traitor" could help atone for his sin:
"Were the children of God to mingle their seed with the seed of Cain, it would not only bring the curse of being deprived of the power of the priesthood upon themselves, but they entail it upon their children after them, and they cannot get rid of it. If a man in an unguarded moment should commit such a transgression, if he would walk up and say 'cut off my head, and kill man, woman and child', it would do a great deal towards atoning for the sin. Would this be to curse them? No, it would be a blessing to them - it would do them good, that they might be saved with their brethren. A many would shudder should they hear us talk about killing folk, but it is one of the greatest blessings to some to kill them, although the true principles of it are not understood". (Feb. 5 speech noted above).
"Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so" (Journal of Discourses, Volume 10, page 110.)
As a result of Brigham Young's demands, holding blacks and Native Americans as slaves remained legal in Utah for another ten years. Notably, Young ended up favouring the prohibition of slavery in Utah not because his conscience tugged at him or because God revealed to him it was wrong, but because he came to view it as "useless" and "unprofitable", and no longer in the interests of the slavemasters! (See http://www.utlm.org/onlineresources/sermons_talks_interviews/brighamgreeleyinterview_july131859.htm (Slavery was finally outlawed in Utah in 1862).
I don't think I would be alone in suggesting there is something profoundly disturbing about a man, let along a putative prophet, who so unflinchingly explains his views of human enslavement in newspaper articles as deriving from a consideration not so much of the welfare of the poor human beings in bondage, but of the interests of the slaveowners and other free men.
A Failed Rescue Attempt
The comments of LDS sociologist Armand Mauss are typical of Mormon defenses of Brigham Young's racism. He explains:
"...(Brigham Young) was a nineteenth-century American, and hardly any white people of that time, North or South, believed in equality for blacks. Slavery was still an unsettled issue throughout the nation, with some even in the South opposed to it, and many even in the North who were willing to tolerate it. Brigham Young's ideas were really right in the mainstream of American thinking at that time. They were very close to the ideas of other prominent Americans from Thomas Jefferson to Abraham Lincoln, who himself did not even free all slaves with his Emancipation Proclamation...
"Prophets are not perfect and don't claim to be; nor do they always act as prophets in what they say and do. People in all ages, including those who become prophets, grow up without questioning much that is assumed by everyone else in their respective cultures, unless some experience motivates them to seek revelation on a given matter...(The evil of slavery) seems obvious to all of us now, but not to people who believed in Manifest Destiny, the White Man's Burden, and 'the only good Indian is a dead Indian.'"
These typical defenses of Brigham Young don't work for a number of reasons. I'll just mention a couple:
1.) In blithely comparing the racism of Brigham Young to that of other nineteenth century Americans, Mauss ignores the most obvious, and most relevant point: other "nineteenth-century Americans" did not claim to be the sole authorized mouthpiece of Jesus of Nazareth on the planet, and incapable of leading the church (and by inference, the world) astray. Brigham's contemporaries, unlike Brigham, did not claim to receive revelation on every point of human existence, including what ribbons women should wear in their hair, and so Brigham - if we are to consider seriously his prophetic claims - has to be held to some higher standard than those who don't claim what he does. (Are we all really supposed to believe that the creator of the universe took time to speak to Brigham all about hair ribbons, but never got around to mentioning the moral evil that was slavery? Only from within Mormonism could such a daft, disgusting request be made to the world).
"Other ninteteenth centuray Americans" did not say things like "I have never given counsel that is wrong" (see JoD 16:161, or click here: http://home.teleport.com/~packham/byoung.htm). It is totally absurd for Mauss to say on the one hand that Brigham was a genuine prophet in contact with the omniscient mind of Jesus, and then on the other, to refuse to hold him to any higher standard on the most important moral issue in American history, than he does Jefferson and Lincoln, neither of whom believed in supernatural intervention, and neither of whom appear fitted to any description other than "radically skeptical" or "covertly atheist" (see http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/steiner0.htm and http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/jeffstein.htm).
If being the president of the one, true church of Jesus Christ for 25 years, and being a genuine prophet in contact with the Almighty, really facilitates no greater insight into a life or death moral issue like human enslavement than is had by atheists and skeptics, then I suggest that Armand Mauss has just depicted the religion he's trying to defend not as the world's only true religion, but instead, as truly impotent, truly ridiculous, and truly fraudulent.
2.) Mauss defends Brigham Young on grounds his views on the most important moral issue in America were "mainstream". Let's say they were. One problem here is that Mauss seems to have forgotten another important fact about Brigham Young: almost virtually every one of his other opinions on important matter were far outside the cultural mainstream. This calls into question Mauss's defense here. Here's why.
The characterization of Brigham Young's views on race as mainstream has a clear implication: that one cannot really expect any man, even a prophet, to exist to any serious degree outside the context of his culture. Yet, Brigham Young (his life and thought) did exist to a serious degree outside his native culture, in all kinds of significant ways. This is a man, after all, who took the rare step of swearing a death oath of fealty to another mortal (Joseph Smith), abandoned his native country for a desert no-man's-land, built and presided over a theocratic empire, married 50 plus women, routinely breathed out vile curses against the United States and (wrongly) prophesied its imminent destruction, obstructed justice for two decades in the matter of the worst act of religious terrorism until 9/11, and who thought of himself as the only man on earth with legitimate authority to preside over anyone and everyone.
As if this were not enough, his views on the rationale for execution, on women, astronomy as depicted in the Pearl of Great Price, Native Americans, Joseph Smith, vigilantism, on the division of civil and religious power, etc., were all wildly at odds with the views of almost everyone in the broader culture. His views on all the items I mentioned, his actions - his whole adult life - do not constitute a general reflection of "mainstream" American culture, but a defiant rejection of it through the embrace a new and alien culture within a culture, namely, Mormon religious culture.
Given the realities of Brigham Young's character then, and all the examples mentioned above, I submit that like so many other aspects of Brigham Young's life and thought, his racism is best explained as yet another manifestation of his devotion to, and understanding of, Mormonism - not as wholly some discrete vestige of cultural bias (though of course racist feeling was far more prevalent then than now).
And for what it's worth, this in fact is how Brigham Young himself explains his views. In his mind, his views on African-Americans, and in particular slavery, are no more or less than required by the authority of scripture, his own personal revelations, and the teachings of Joseph Smith (see asterisked quote below).
Young said, for example:
"Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin." (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 7, page 290).
"Again after Adam and Eve had partook of the curse, we find they had two sons, Cain and Abel, but which was the oldest I cannot positively say; but this I know, Cain was given more to evil practices than Abel...consequently (Cain) took it into his heart to put Abel (out) of his mortal existence. After the deed was done...(God said) "Cain, I will not kill you, but I will put a mark upon you. What is that mark? You will see it on the countenance of every African you ever did see upon the face of the earth, or ever will see...The Lord told Cain that he should not receive the blessings of the priesthood nor his seed, until the last of the posterity of Abel had recieved the priesthood, until the redemption of the earth". (Feb. 5 sermon referenced above)
"In our first settlement in Missouri, it was said by our enemies that we intended to tamper with the slaves, not that we had any idea of the kind, for such a thing never entered our minds. We knew that the children of Ham were to be the 'servant of servants', and no power under heaven could hinder it, so long as the Lord would permit them to welter under the curse and those were known to be our religious views concerning them." (Journal of Discourses, Volume 2, page 172.)
"Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so." (Journal of Discourses, Volume 10, page 110.)
In short, Mauss's "that was just the culture" approach fails because as even Brigham Young makes clear, his teachings on the inferiority of the African race, the moral acceptability of slavery, and the "seed of Cain"'s destiny as servants to caucasians, are clearly grounded for him in the authority of holy scripture and revelation. He even chastises his fellow members, who are anti-slavery, on exactly this basis.
Mauss attempts to defend Young by, in reality, asking us to believe that a sitting church president literally mistook his own cultural bias (a bias even Mauss believes is utterly, morally repugnant) for accurate, inspired, prophetic revelation and reading of scripture, pronounced it mistakenly as "doctrine" (Young's word) which then directly affected Mormon action and inaction on the slavery and race issue, which in turn influenced Mormon doctrine and policy for another 125 years - but that there's no problem there.
But as with so many "apologetic arguments", this is no apologetic argument at all, since to believe this is to believe (obviously) that a sitting church president very much could - and did - "lead the church astray", even to the point of mistaking grotesquely immoral cultural biases for the pure "law of God". And if we, with Mauss, believe that, we have grand reason to never again believe any Mormon prophet's "prophetic" claims about anything, and there is no way around that (thanks for the clarification, Armand). Once again, Mauss's line of argument damages the very church he's trying to defend. (And like so many other apologists, he doesn't notice).
And so, it speaks volumes about either the stupefying ignorance, or the deliberate deception, of Mormon General Authorities and Mormon magazine editors, that the following quote could actually have appeared in the September 2000 Ensign by GA Alexander Morrison:
"How grateful I am that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has from its beginnings stood strongly against racism in any of its malignant manifestations." (Thanks Randy J. for the tip). Could George Orwell have conceived of a better example of warring against truth?
It also speaks volumes about current Mormon attitudes about race, that Gordon B. Hinckley could think it adequate to dismiss a century and a half or really stupid, really sick racism with a one-liner: "that's all behind us".
No, it is not "all behind you", and I submit it won't be until the church shows it cares more about the welfare of the human family, and doing what's right, than it does about protecting its own current authority claims, by issuing a full and frank apology for a legacy of truly vile racism.
***"The south will cry out against me as being uncharitable, unfeeling, unkind, and wholly unacquainted with the Gospel of Christ....the first mention we have of slavery is found in the Holy Bible,... And so far from that prediction being averse to the mind of God, it remains as a lasting monument of the decree of Jehovah, to the shame and confusion of all who have cried out against the South, in consequence of their holding the sons of Ham in servitude.... I can say, the curse is not yet taken off from the sons of Canaan, neither will be until it is affected by as great a power as caused it to come; and the people who interfere the least with the purposes of God in this matter, will come under the least condemnation before him; and those who are determined to pursue a course, which shows an opposition, and a feverish restlessness against the decrees of the Lord, will learn, when perhaps it is too late for their own good, that God can do his own work, without the aid of those who are not dictated by His counsel.”
(History of the Church, by Joseph Smith, Vol. 2, pages 436-438)
| I have to say, I have been thrilled by the many personal insults leveled at me by BYU professor apologists...of course, I haven't actually bothered to read them, but I got a bunch of emails from RFM people saying Runaway Dan and others were going nuts.
I think this is the best apologetic strategy (I mean, "best" in the sense of making the church look fraudulent to dispassionate observers and wondering Mormons), since deciding to insinuate that a book on quackery was "anti-Mormon" (Sagan's "The Demon Haunted World"). Crazy.
Anyway, I'm hoping the BashFest continues for a few more months. Evidently my and$*%# CD will finally be released in the summer, and I can't think of anything that would make me look better than being called a "liar" by angry cult apologists defending a stonegazer who claimed to have been forced against his will by an angel to have sex with his foster daughters. Keep it coming, you geniuses.
Since I understand that the church's best and brightest are in effect arguing now that whether I tell the truth about my experiences is relevant to whether Joseph Smith told the truth about his (no problem there, right?); and since questions of credibility can only help focus attention on American's first translator of the Book of Breathings, here are a few more personal stories, which BYU professors may find hard to believe, but which are also true. Lurker apologists, please feel free to characterize any or all of these as "tall tales", as much as you want:
1.) My dad and I met Brian May from Queen while standing in line for the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland when I was around twelve. My dad bumped into Brian two years ago in London, and he remembered meeting us.
2.) I was elected as a Cache County GOP delegate when I went to USU. I got in a fairly heated (public) argument with soon-to-be Senator Bennett about China's MFN status.
3.) Sammy Hagar stayed overnight at our house with his son Aaron before he joined Van Halen, when I was a kid.
4.) My stake patriarch in Logan subscribed to "The Spotlight", a virtual neo-Nazi magazine. I know this because I went over to his house once (he was my mother's home teacher when I lived there after my mish, and lived a couple of blocks aways). There were stacks of them there; he said he subscribed and went on to tell me that "it was the Jews' fault most of the bad things that happened in this world". He also informed me that Utahans had no idea what blacks were "really" like. He said he knew because he was from back east (Maryland). He talked a lot about how the whole county would go to pot "once the liberals started shippin' them blacks in here". He said once, "People around here don't understand: If you have something a black man wants, he will shoot you, he will stab you, he will do anything he can to you, to get it from you. Just remember that". (If you're wondering, I didn't really know what to say when he said things like this, so I just stayed silent).
5.) I once took an entire quarter of nothing but institute classes
6.) I walked out of a meeting at which GA Elder Bradford was speaking because his insulting remarks made me sick
7.) I hung out with Robert Plant before his Vancouver show, when I was fifteen, backstage
8.) A cougar got on to my property on Salt Spring Island a couple of years ago, and joy-bit one of my lambs, leaving him unconscious and mortally wounded. I had to finish him off myself (knife).
9.) It is possible (not probable) I may have come up with the monochromatic suit/tie thing look (story there)
10.) I gave one of Johnny Depp's old shirts away to the Salvation Army last year when we were moving.
FAIR lurkers, please keep talking about how the spirit's told you I'm making all these stories up...I'll even tell the whole story so it's easier for you to believe I'm lying. I can also post others - I've got some really crazy ones (when the bomb squad almost blew up my backpack at the Manchester England airport, etc.)
Now I just need to get Rolling Stone interested..."Resigned Mormon Targeted by Church's Paid Goon Squad"....
| I keep getting emails about FAIR stuff, mostly having to do with Dan Peterson getting angry about events which have never occured (by the way, is that kind of like getting a "testimony" about events which have never occurred?). I hope then it's okay if I respond here, presuming what's been passed on to me is correct. Everyone is free to post this anywhere in cyberspace, as they are everything I write (barring commercial use).
My first question is: Why would the only true religion in the world require that its defenders fabricate in order to defend it? Isn't that "bearing false witness"? Isn't that morally wrong? Have I not done and said enough stupid things to make fabrication unnecessary? (supposing my flaws are relevant to whether Joseph Smith told the truth). What kind of "true" church requires lies to survive? Doesn't that make a mockery of the very concept of truth? It sometimes seems as though church defenders have come up with their own twist on "the ends justify the means": "our truth claims are made true by virtue of the lies we tell on their behalf". But our universe, by my lights, just doesn't work that way. Lies don't become true, because more lies were told to protect them.
Observers of Mormonism see this pattern over - and over - and over again...special deletions, changing quotes around, inventing things...what gives? It is often shocking, as though we were watching the machinery of Orwell's Big Brother itself in action (when will FARMS dismiss "1984" as "anti-Mormon literature"?)
For the record, I have never claimed that Louis Midgley or Daniel C. Peterson ever confided to me that they would not want to know if the church was a fraud. I have not claimed this, because neither of them have. I therefore invite those fabricating such nonsense to show the world where I ever said such a thing, or else, if they can't (hint: they can't) to stop making fools (or better, false witness bearers) of themselves. (If it matters, I do not believe either of them would ever admit that they'd rather not know if the church was a fraud to anyone. They may not even ever admit it to themselves).
I have, however, stated that one FARMS writer confided to me that he wouldn't want to know if the church were a fraud, because it "didn't matter" to him. He said, in private correspondence, that he was simply "content to be a cultural, agnostic Mormon". Recently, again in private correspondence, he told me that he has now concluded that Joseph Smith did not tell the truth, and regards the church as a fraud. Bear in mind, this guy still has stuff up on the FARMS website, and I believe, is still regarded by FAIR regulars as a great asset to the apologetic effort. I am currently awaiting a reply from him about how public he feels comfortable going about this (sounds like Exmo '07 might have a really interesting speaker). If he feels comfortable about making this info public, I'll post something on here about it all.
As it happens, my opinion is that probably neither Dan Peterson nor Midgley, nor others over there, would wish to know that the church was a fraud, even if it was. This opinion may be incorrect; it may be that at this very moment, the whole professional apologetic staff are possessed by a burning urge to turn over every last psychological and evidentiary rock, in a good faith effort to in fact find out whether the skeptics might have seen something - or been able to mentally "put together" something - which they haven't. They may, at this very moment, be looking carefully at the church they have devoted their lives to, and asking themselves, "What would I expect to find really, if this church had no greater access to the light of heaven than any other church? And do I find it? How does what I find compare with what I find when I look at other religions? How would I really know if Joseph were an unreliable source of information about himself?", etc. But I doubt this.
I doubt this mainly because of the material they write. I never have found one statement (other than scattered quotes from Reuben Clark and Orson Pratt) that betrayed anything other than that not one single piece of disconfirming evidence, no matter how devastating, no matter how conclusive, could ever even be acknowledged to exist as such; and in fact, in the case of some apologists, the real accretion of disconfirming evidences or piercing skeptical arguments seems rather to actually increase the snarling and stomping and defiance and teethbaring, as though they were at bottom nothing more than cornered, panicking dogs, with no way to escape the unstoppable, surrounding onslaught of a reality bent on devouring all those who war against it.
For all their talk of "scholarship", I don't see any attempt - not even a baby step - to do anything other than reinforce/protect belief, a task which necessarily ignores altogether (even makes intolerable or risible, as evidenced by irony-free FARMS reviews of Palmer's book) the prior question of whether that belief is really - really - true, and/or really, truly warranted. In my experience, people who are genuinely concerned with whether their beliefs are really true, don't expend their efforts exclusively in reinforcing their beliefs damn whatever else, and waging war against the very concept of "possibly disconfirming evidence"...
Moreover, I do find it telling that neither Midge nor DCP came barreling out, after I asked them, saying, "Well, of COURSE I would want to know if the church were a fraud, since all this is about for me is the truth!". Instead, they would not answer. And that I know of, they still won't answer, and like the apologetic attempts to deflect attention away from the uncomfortable fact that the church's most obnoxious defender will not even defend the trustworthiness of a man supposedly so trustworthy that the entire world should agree to be tortured and die for the religion he started, they simply keep coming up with dumb excuses to not take the questions seriously:
Would you want to know if the church were a fraud? If so, how would you know if it was?
(Briefly, I think these questions are valuable because they may help us become conscious of unconscious motives, biases, desires, fears, or emotional attachments, which affect our degree of awareness and our powers of cognition. I think they may also be valuable because if we cannot think of any way it could be known that Mormonism were a fraud if it were, it suggests both that the positive reasons (such as they might be) for believing it is true are far weaker than we had imagined, and that our conviction might have more to do with the human psyche than with an actual communication from the creator of the universe that Mormonism is the only true religion in the world.
Also, I don't believe that "God would have to tell me it was false" is a satisfactory answer, because it takes for granted the claim that God told the speaker that Mormonism was all it claimed to be, in the first place. That is, it begs the question of why in the first place we ever came to believe that feeling moved equalled "God is telling me that Mormonism is his only true religion, and that God himself is a Mormon" [I submit that we accepted the claim that "feeling moved" meant "Joseph did not exaggerate or lie" without any good reason to at all, so that the entire superstructure of our belief rests upon the commission of an original mental error, the entirely unwarranted and uncritical acceptance of a masked authority claim, the only force of which is that which we erroneously, and unconsciously, grant it]. It also leaves the Mormon absolutely no way to answer the person who in fact says, "God DID tell me Mormonism wasn't his only true religion", except to say, "No he didn't" - surely a ridiculously presumptuous thing to say, and one as noted above based on our original mistake of accepting with no warrant a totally unsustainable claim about how we should interpret our feelings).
Anyway, that's all I wanted to say.
| Is the Mormon church a cult?
First, confession: I use this word myself to describe the church.
Second, while I think the church qualifies (perhaps barely), I'm also not sure arguing over this is all that fruitful, because it immediately becomes an argument over authority, i.e., who has the ultimate authority to determine this word's meaning? Then we end up arguing over who has "the most authoritative" authority, etc. I think far more fruitful is simply seeking to understand how the church/cult operates, what it does (good and bad) for people, what light that sheds on other organizations out there and for life in general, etc., which fortunately is what we spend our time talking about on here most of the time.
But at the same time, I don't think using the word "cult" is inappropriate (although I do have some sympathy for those who worry whether our usage might cheapen the word when it is applied to organizations even more closed, demeaning, controlling, and authoritarian, than the Mormon church). Here's why I think the shoe might fit.
Look at the church in 1844, and tell me what you see...
A virtual theocracy in Nauvoo...civil jurors, voters, and aldermen responding not to evidence and their own conscience but to instructions from their ecclesiastical leaders...a private militia nearly half the size of the standing US army, under the control of a man who's had himself anointed KING, and upon whom there is virtually no check...immediate expulsion from the city of those who develop a distaste for Josephine dictatorship by the town goon squad, with resultant expropriation of their property...the dictator claiming in principle sexual rights over every single female in the entire church, and exercising it in secret over the wives and daughters of his friends...private property is destroyed at the whim of the dictator...the breakdown of family structure and reassemblage of humanity along the lines of religious dogma...death oaths of obedience to the leader are sworn in secret, oaths which require the ritual enactment of one's own disembowelment and throat-slashing...
A few years later, word will come down to church elders around Cedar City to assassinate in cold blood 100 plus men, women, and children at Mountain Meadows, and they obey...their consciences, just as ours were, were totally given over to a leader, who claimed an inscrutable source of authority to dictate on behalf of God himself...Brigham Young, following Joseph, and as aped by his successors, claims the right to dictate over every single aspect, public or private, of human life - your funeral, your ear lobes, your clothing, your aesthetic sense, your friendships, your business associations, your political opinions, your choice of marriage partner, your sex acts, your reading material, EVERTYTHING.
So, a couple of points.
There is no difference between the authority claims made now, and those made then;
That this authority is not utilized as destructively (and murderously) as it was then, I submit, is more attributable to the United States Constitution (not the ship, the document :P) and how its understanding, application, and enforcement has changed since then. rather than a change in the human nature of religious leaders claiming absolute authority to dictate. Moreover, there has never been a repudiation by the church of ANY of the atrocities committed under authority of the church presidency either pre- or post-emigration to Utah (so that there is no reason not to hold the church accountable...)
There is no difference in the psychological dynamics those (specious) authority claims created then, and those they create now - they are identical; Mormon conscience, for example, cannot exist outside at all outside the expressed will of "the prophet" (cult fuhrer). And it never will, as long as the church maintains its doctrine that God will not permit the prophet to "lead the church astray". (I ask what the difference is between this and the view that Moonies have of Rev. Moon?)
Those who dare point out how Mormon truth claims fail are targeted by a salaried staff of ("Christian") metaphorical assassins, who instead of bullets simply use smears, invented misdeeds, whisper campaigns, etc., to assassinate character.
Can anyone doubt, as well, that the church would destroy sites like this with the same glee as it did William Law's printing press, for no greater crime than telling the truth?
In Mormonism, the truth is a lie, and a lie is the truth, and war is declared against party who ever dares point that out. Logic is the enemy; the most rudimentary facts about the world are the enemy; everything and everyone who does not pledge allegiance to the Mormon version of authoritarian absolutism and its at times totally crazy claims about the world, is seen by church members as an "enemy". I mean, the church's official apologetic group is now actually now on record as categorizing Carl Sagan's "The Demon-Haunted World" as in effect "anti-Mormon"!
I might add that the temple, despite dropping the suicide enactments, still includes death oaths of loyalty, and still includes a scene in the movie (Satan screaming into the camera) calculated to scare people into never considering rationally whether...
the church they're swearing total obedience to, might just be a cult, or at least, a cult-like organization. (Let that sink in for a sec...).
If church leaders really cared more about the church not being considered a cult, than just keeping the thing going, I think they would cease making claims that are IDENTICAL to those made by every other cult leader, adopt a policy of transparency in terms of its financial and historical records and truth claims, stop paying failed academics to try to destroy the character of anyone who questions their ridiculous claims just on that basis, and act like responsible adults more concerned about the welfare of the human race, than about their own positions or the survival of their preferred "church".
So, I guess my question is, why should WE care more about whether the church could be properly considered a cult, than the church's own leaders do? They don't seem to care at all, at least not enough to stop acting like cult leaders.
Just my two cents,
| The claims of authority and sovereignty over members are absolute and boundless in themselves...and yet (thank God) are currently bounded from without, by civil law and its enforcement. (As long as that holds, there won't be any more child brides or massacres). Since that is the case, are there people for whom Mormonism and its ilk might be necessary? I mean, when it actually more effectively than anything else contributes to the welfare of an individual, and by extension, to the welfare of the human race; or when it staves off suicidal tendencies, or drug addiction, etc.?
(If so, then notwithstanding the instinctive loathing we might feel for the duplicitous, perhaps we should applaud Hinckley, who, unencumbered by the constraints of what other Mormons call a "testimony", has hastened Mormonism's entropic settling into conformity with secular and religious normalcy. In increasingly ridding Mormonism of content, Hinckley and his allies necessarily leave Mormonism more and more simply a highly structured [and almost by definition benefit-conferring] social group, albeit one under the direction of avuncular dictators. But this direction too could perhaps confer net benefits on certain persons, who perhaps because of nature or previous abuse [even from the church itself] now find themselves incapable of experiencing joy or purpose when not controlled by charlatans.)
So, are there not people on this planet for whom Mormonism, though an easily demonstrable fraud - and other similar organizations - does facilitate their optimal happiness and progression? Are there some people who, for whatever reason, literally cannot, and will never be able to again, function without palliatives against the sting of reality? And if someone is now incapable of seeing or feeling the corresponding overwhelming joys that reality itself presents, is it not as though (for those people) they don't in fact exist? In that case, are cult "joys" the most real joys they can ever hope to have? Maybe all those chest-thumping apologists who so pathetically move to utilitarian arguments whenever confronted by facts are, despite giving the fraud away in the very act, in effect making the most convincing (or perhaps the only possible) argument for Mormonism there ever could be.
PS And what of those incapable of responsible self-discipline, who may require the fear that only great lies can instill to stop hurting others? In those cases, doesn't Mormonism work?
| I don't know about anyone else, but I am totally sick of online church defenders, including professional apologists, whining about how this one particular site, out of probably many dozens online, won't let them "respond" or "debate Mormonism". And if any one regular feature of the incessant stream of nonsense they spit out is most indicative of the near total lack of perspective they have on anything related to Joseph's church, this is it. To elaborate: |
1.) Joseph Smith made claims, the belief in which requires us necessarily to believe that many of the laws of physics, which have never - EVER - been reliably observed to have been violated, were violated (e.g., that certain beings, though possessing mass, levitate; that some human bodies, though thoroughly decayed, have "undecayed" and the dead person come to life again; that certain stones, serving as lenses, can act as language decoders; that angels (though made of spirit) have power to kill human beings with swords, and that one such angel nearly did so once to a man, for the crime of not having sex with his foster daughters, his wife's best friends, etc.).
2.) This FACT imposes upon Mormonism a tremendous burden of proof. For all the embarrassing (and self-satisfied in the way that only the blindness and vanity born of true delusion can make possible) attempts of its "intellectuals", like Dallin Oaks, to argue that, in some way, the burden of proof rests on everyone who thinks it far more likely that a creative though desperate man once didn't tell the truth, than that anything in Point 1 occurred, the truth is it does not - no more than the burden of proof comes to rest on Dallin Oaks to disprove Minister Farrakhan's claim to have once visited a spaceship, just because Louis claims it rests on him. The world just does not work that way - things don't become so, just because we wish them to be, or declare that they are. Five year olds know that. Why don't Dallin Oaks, or Dan Peterson - or my former self? (Topic for another thread).
In summary, because careful inspection and testing over many centuries has failed to produce a single example of physical laws being violated, leaving us with every reason to believe they are inviolable, I submit that anyone who claims that they were once violated (see Point 1 above), inescapably bears the burden of proof for that claim.
3.) Apologetic bulletin boards exist to defend Mormon claims (and rightly so given the burden of proof), and presumably to provide aid for those who wish to keep believing in them.
4.) A "recovery" board, by contrast, exists to help people trying to make sense of how they allowed their identities, their lives, everything, to become subsumed into a religion which is, we now see, as patently absurd as Farrakhan's version of Islam. Recovering Mormons, like recovering J Dubs and Moonies, often have lost friends, spouses, jobs, confidence, all kinds of things, as a result of realizing that they were wrong about everything that was most important to them in life, and then acting on that realization.
Many of those people feel they were betrayed by the people they trusted most in the world, namely, Mormon General Authorities, who (they are now shocked to find out) insist that lies of omission aren't lies at all (see Oaks talk http://www.lds-mormon.com/oakslying.shtml), and use this pathetic (and fortunately unique) moral exemption to justify the ongoing withholding of facts relevant to Mormon truth claims. Because of the church policy of obscuring the truth in the name of truth, many former Mormons feel they have made many of the most important decisions of their lives on very faulty information. They can feel terrible self-reproach, hurt, resentment, sorrow, disdain, regret, etc., or any combination.
The internet, and Eric K, have made possible a kind of ongoing virtual meeting for those who wish now to share their experiences, ask for advice, find new friends, something like an AA meeting, or a support group for abused wives, or a forum for ex-Scientologists, might. There is absolutely no cross-over in the explicit purposes of Mormon apologetic bulletin boards versus recovery boards. Most recovering Mormons have spent YEARS debating Mormonism not just with friends, family members, co-workers, but even within their own minds - for example, trying to understand how two mutually incompatible propositions could both be true (Eve forced to disobey vs. I Nephi 3:7, etc.) Most of them have tried to discuss their concerns with bishops and stake presidents, some even with professional church apologists and even GA's. And all have found that...in the end, there are no answers, other than the one they most wanted to avoid contemplating. And so, they are sick of "debating" Mormonism, sick of hearing the same old lies they used to tell themselves, sick of being reminded how they too were once unable to understand even the most elementary arguments, sick of seeing the smugness they used to exhibit being paraded again before them...And apart from feeling sick, they find "debating" Mormonism with Mormon apologists as pointless as they would debating whether the sum of two and two is 157,000 with members of the "157,000 Club".
Therefore, criticisms from would-be Mormon Luke Skywalkers that they don't get a chance to explain or defend Mormonism on forums like this (particularly when the would-be Skywalkers are so often shockingly ignorant of LDS history and doctrine, and so can't explain much anyway) make themselves sound very dull-witted indeed. They appear mentally incapable of distinguishing between A.) defending religious claims, and B.) trying to create a new life after finding out that Joseph's stories are fraudulent. Again, even five year olds could understand this. Why can't church defenders?
I should add also that given Point 3, the moderating on threads devoted to debating certain Mormon truth claims on FAIR, sometimes seems to betray something very much like a sense of vulnerability - something surprising considering that FAIR members believe that God is a member of the Mormon church, and that his Holy Ghost is the "most potent testator" of that very church affiliation, in the universe. But that too is a topic for another post.
Just my two cents,
| "How the 'Holy Ghost' Cost Me Six Million Dollars", by Uncle Talmage |
It's summer 1997, and I am renting a house with my family in Thousand Oaks, California, about an hour outside of Los Angeles. Not long before, I'd signed a recording contract with Columbia Records and a music publishing contract with EMI. A part of me attributes this good fortune to some cosmic reward process. I'd been the most fanatical member I'd ever known, hadn't compromised at all when confronted with dilemmas, done everything I thought I was supposed to (I was one of those guys who proposed on the first date, etc.) and now here I was, about to travel to Maui to record my first record, and the most powerful people in the music biz calling me all the time. Sure, it seems like post hoc ergo propter hoc now, but hindsight's 20/20. I felt grateful, but in a way, I felt kind of like I had earned it. I thought I was really in tune.
As many readers will know, when you start feeling like you might really be "in tune", there is something of a spillover effect. You're not just "in tune" when it comes to your home teaching families - you're in tune in more and more areas of life. It feels pretty damn good! Your wife starts saying, "How do you feel about which school we should send Jed to?", and you say, "Can I get back to you on that after I take it up with the Lord?". And when you start leaning toward one school, you "know" that it's the HG doing his job for ya! Yahoo! You start to believe it, and your wife believes it, too.
So, I get a call from my friend Evan Lamberg (go ahead and look him up, FARMS dweebs), the big head honcho at EMI Publishing. Evan's calling because he wants to set up a co-write with me and Canadian singer-songwriter Dan Hill, famous for "Sometimes When We Touch", which he co-wrote and sang. Dan's going to be in LA, because he - along with every other songwriter in the world - is trying to come up with something great for the upcoming Celine Dion record. Will I meet him? Shhyah - this could be my entre into the songwriting bigtime! Besides, a cut on the Celine album, especially if it's a single, pretty much guarantees you'll be set for life. And with my exploding family (I then had four kids but of course, like good members, we would be having more), the prospect was irresistible.
So, I drive in to LA with my guitar and meet with Dan Hill. He's a nice guy. We write a couple of songs. Nice, but nothing great. We're about to start a third, and all of a sudden I get an idea. I say, "Dan, I've got this song I really like, a duet, but I just can't think of any words for it, other than a first line: 'Did I ever tell you how my life began?', and then it should go all lovey dovey. But I've been trying for years to finish it and I can't".
So I play him my song, he really likes it, and I play and hum it into a tape recorder for him to listen to that night. I'm excited - I love this tune. It sounds like a great Paul McCartney ballad, but mainstream enough so that it would be perfect for Celine, and it's finally going to get some lyrics. We meet the next day. Dan has entitled it "Someone So Right" - a straight ahead love song. And he's changed one word in that first line. It goes like this:
Did I ever tell you how my love began?
The moment I felt your hand brush against mine, I came alive...
I looked in your eyes and I saw destiny
Unfolding in front of me...the passion just caught me by surprise
Chorus: For once in my life, I've found someone so right
I've waited so long just to hold you tonight
You're my heaven on earth, I love you so much it hurts
I can't believe, for once in my life, I've found someone so right..."
Okay - not Ray Davies, but perfect for Celine Dion. We touch up a few lyrics, Dan's really excited because it sounds like a big smash duet (my inspiration for the tune was "Hopelessly Devoted to You" from the Grease soundtrack), and we book a little studio to record a demo (rough recording) of it. After all, Celine is just finishing up the recording of her album and we only have a couple of days before the deadline arrives. (Now by the way, Dan had already written a song for Celine called "Seduces Me" on the previous record; he tells me that in the year and a half since it's been out, he's made more money from it than he has from "Sometimes When We Touch" over the past twenty. Not to sound greedy, but after struggling so much to try to pay for a growing family for the past few years, I can't help but long for financial security). Moreover, having a smash hit would bring glory, respect, a sense of accomplishment...ahhhh.
Okay, I'm coming up to the Holy Ghost part.
We get into the studio. Dan hires a female studio singer to come in and sing it as Celine. Dan and I both try singing the male part. We listen back, and either way, it sounds fantastic, everything a Celine duet should be - delicate verse, big moving chorus, interesting little bridge, even a small guitar solo...and even a key change at the end!
So, we're really excited (it's really a thrill to take something which has only existed in your head and make it real). And then Dan stops and says, "you know - we've mixed a version of this now as a duet. I think we should also submit a version with just the female voice alone".
Right away, I feel...well, I feel the Holy Spirit slipping from me. Or something like that. I say, "What do you mean? This thing's a duet. I wrote it as a duet. It was meant to be a duet!"
And Dan says, "Well, there's no harm in just submitting another version in case Celine just wants to sing it herself".
It's hard to describe, but in that moment, I felt a true burning in my bosom, just a really strong conviction. The conviction said, "no - you must submit it as a duet". How could I ignore that? It seems more like a pouting kind of pride, or an inability or an unwillingness to imagine the song any other way than how I'd always conceived it. But in that moment, I thought my gut reaction was something more, something "true". I'd been really in tune, and here I just felt really strongly that the duet was "the one, true version". So we discussed it for a few minutes, and I was adamant that we submit it as a duet (how could I deny the spirit?). I had no doubt she would record it if we submitted the one, true version. And the more adamant my language, the stronger "the spirit". (And why wouldn't "the spirit" help me make good business decisions that would bless my family?)
Dan finally relented, and we sent it off that very day FedEx, only including a duet version. We didn't even bother doing up a solo version in the end. Why, when we already had the "one, true version"?
The next day, Evan and my friend Polly Anthony, who then ran Sony's "550" label (which Celine was on) call from NYC. They love it. Everyone loves it. John Doelp, Polly's second-in-command, is flying to London tomorrow morning and is bringing the demo to play to Celine and Rene (her husband) personally! They have time to record one more song (Celine was recording with the famous George Martin that week), and both EMI and 550 think this is it! Thank you, Holy Ghost! I knew it! I really was inspired!
I talk to my lawyer. How much would I make if the song were a single? "Millions, Tal. Everyone makes millions just if they get one song on the CD, nevermind if it's a single".
That night, I say a prayer, with gratitude in my heart for the guidance of my constant companion, the Holy Ghost.
Three days later, we get a phone call from someone at EMI. "Doelp played it for them in London, but they've already got a bunch of duets recorded for the CD, and they just can't have anymore. They just want one for Celine herself to sing. It's too bad you didn't send one just for her".
(Crickets chirping..............."that is impossible", I think....)
You might ask why Celine's people didn't just think to have Celine record the duet as a solo effort...but most people in the music biz just don't operate that way. That would require way too much thought and imagination.
So, what with Celine's baby thing, Rene's cancer, the move to Vegas, the break from recording, etc., over the next few years, follow-up efforts to even get through to them again were all unsuccessful (there are layers upon layers of people that surround her). No - Dan and I had had our moment, and we had blown it. I had blown it, and for a reason that I can't even really explain, other than to say, "I just didn't seem to be able to reason clearly".
Now, nearly a decade later, no one has ever heard the song that might have been "My Heart Will Go On" and earned me at the least, around six million bucks! And the brute fact is, probably no one ever will hear it.
(I know focus groups don't like sad endings, but I can't help it - this one just ends this way).
| In keeping with my "rub their faces in it" policy, I hereby take the opportunity to tell yet another story for FARMS geniuses to claim I invented, and (possibly) for RFM poster pleasure. |
Duty vs. Opportunity, or Blues Paradise Lost
It's summer 1986. I'm 17, and really, really into the guitar. I practice for hours everyday.
One of my favourite blues guitarists is "The Master of the Telecaster", Albert Collins http://www.cascadeblues.org/Legends/AlbertCollins/AlbertCollins.htm The wicked tone, the tasty licks, the thrilling vibrato, he's a one of a kind. Imagine my joy, then, when I find out that Albert Collins...is coming to Vancouver...on a blues triple bill...with Koko Taylor and the legendary John Mayall (who hired in 1966 a still fairly obscure punk named Eric Clapton to play guitar in his blues band, and recorded a now legendary album with him), to an all ages outdoor venue at the Expo '86 site. I'm ecstatic - Albert Collins, in the flesh!
I buy two tickets, and invite my beautiful (Mormon) girlfriend from the ward, who I will do the favour of not naming since I hear she now thinks I am evil. (Call her "Shannon"). The day comes, and I go to pick her up. Her dad, Bro. "Johnson", is in the bishopric. And he's large. And he's grumpy. And because Shannon and I are a "thing", he now kind of indirectly controls my life by virtue of controlling Shannon's life. And like most Mormon parents, he's fairly strict about dating stuff. He makes me promise to have Shannon back by midnight at the latest. I agree. After all - why would we ever want to stay past midnight when the show's over at 11? (arg).
So we show up, me clutching my dad's mint condition, famous "Beano" John Mayall album (the one with Clapton on it http://www.johnmayall.net/files0504/file2.html ) in hopes that I might get John Mayall to sign it himself.
Well, Albert Collins comes out and rips the place up. He has a very long guitar cord, and walks into the audience while the band's still playing. He's doing a kind of pull-off solo with his left hand while he's shaking people's hands with his right. Really fun, everyone loves it.
Koko Taylor comes out, is pretty average, and then John Mayall comes out, and is pretty good. The show ends and I say to Shannon, "Let's try to get backstage". She says, "But we don't have passes". And I say kind of jokingly, "Hey - with my super mojo charm, we'll be able to walk right past the guy. Just hold on to my hand". So, for some reason, it was like some kind of Carlos Castaneda turn-yourself-invisible thing, we walked right up to the backstage entrance, and there was a security guard standing there, and I just shot him a look and nodded, kind of like that George W. Bush smirk/nod thing, and I guess because I had long hair and he thought I was with the entourage, he didn't say a word and we walked right past him.
I am now backstage (it's outdoors, but we're under a giant tent tarp thing with nylon fencing stuff surrounding the whole backstage area). There are three trailers backstage. One is ten feet from me. Albert is inside that trailer, I think. We don't know anyone and I don't have a pass, so I don't want to talk to any road manager type lest we get thrown out, so we just stand there while roadies and people are schlepping gear back to the trucks. John Mayall comes out of his trailer, I say hi and ask him to autograph my dad's album. He does so. Cool! But...where's Albert? Albert is the man.
(Okay, here's where the FARMS dweebs will think I'm lying but this is the God's honest truth).
In one surreal moment, the door to the nearest trailer opens, and Albert Collins walks out...and he immediately sees me and Shannon, and..........walks directly toward us...and says:
"Sheeee....issss....purty! Is this your girlfriend?!". Shannon blushes. I stammer, "Y-yeah".
"MM MM MM She is fine! You a model?!" Shannon blushes again. "No...", she says. I couldn't blame the man, she was a knockout.
So, fortunately I got control of myself quickly, and I said, "You were great...I love your stuff".
Albert says, "Hey, thanks man, thanks. You play guitar?"
I say, "Actually, yeah".
He smilingly says, "You any good?"
I say, "I think so".
And then he says (God's honest truth), "Well guess what? We goin' down in a minute to the Town Pump" (a now defunct Vancouver club) "to jam. They gon' close the place down so we can be there as long as we want. You play guitar - why'n't you come jam with us?"
(Okay - I think Albert might have had ulterior, I mean, as in Shannon-type motives, in inviting us down, but still...!)
So in that moment...I see the future...I see me onstage with my blues idol Albert, trading solos with him...just like when Santana invited the 15 year old Neal Schon (later of Journey) onstage with him in San Fran all those years ago, was blown away by Neal's talent, and hired him to play in his band, setting him on the road to rock stardom... http://www.nndb.com/people/480/000024408/.
And then...I glance at the watch....and it's 11:10 PM....and then I look at Shannon...and I have just enough time to get her back to White Rock where we live...and then I look back at Albert...and then I think of telling the 16 year old, glamourous, blonde Shannon to walk out, all by herself, of the Expo grounds late at night in downtown Vancouver, to try to find herself a bus to take her back to White Rock, which might put her in some danger, plus bring her home late...and then I look back at Albert, who seems perfectly friendly and sincere and waiting for me to respond to his generous invitation...
...and I look back at Shannon...and I remember that I promised her dad I'd get her back before midnight...and I remember the guys's going to be my eternal father-in-law (so I thought)...and I see there's no way I can ditch my future eternal companion in downtown Vancouver, even though I seriously considered it for a second...
...And then, I saw my future with Albert start to vanish, fly away really...and I declined...and then Albert started pressing: "Come on, y'all gon' have fun - ain't no problem with your age, you with the band!". And in that one crazy, surreal moment, I find myself standing in front of my blues guitar hero, him actually trying to CONVINCE me to go JAM WITH HIM, and ME saying NO! AAAAAAAUUUUUGGGGGGGGHHHHHH!
So, I try to explain to Albert that Shannon has to get home, and we shake hands and say goodbye, and I bring Shannon home. I try to feel joy at the knowledge that I've "kept my word" to who I think will be my future eternal father-in-law, but still, it stings. Shannon and I are an item until I go on my mission a year and a half later. We write - and then ---- she marries some other guy while I'm in Formosa, Argentina!
Maybe I should have ditched her downtown after all and stayed up all night drinking whiskey with Albert Collins.
| Ah, the word of wisdom.
To be fair, it could be a lot worse. Given Joseph's claims about our sun drawing its light from a star called Kolob, there being no death of any kind on earth prior to 6000 years ago, and your local Indian tribe being comprised of lost Jews, the Word of Wisdom could have been way loonier. Had Sylvester Graham recommended sprinkling dirt on your potatoes, Pres. Hinckley might now be saying with regards to Mormon dirt eating, "isn't it wonderful? Isn't it marvelous?". With all the nonsense that came out of Joseph's mouth, the "Joseph Smith diet" (which, as it happens, Joseph himself - in true cult leader fashion - did not himself adhere to) could have included anything: dirt-eating, drinking blood, no vegetables ever, no meat except in times of winter or of famine - oh wait...
A few quick things:
1.) Section 89 says it was given not by commandment; yet now, failure to comply with its current meaning in effect will damn you by prohibiting you from receiving the endowment, eternal marriage, etc. It is claimed by church defenders that its status was elevated by word of the prophet; yet those same defenders claim that the only standard for church doctrine is canonized scripture. Canonized scripture is the only standard for church doctrine; canonized scripture says the WoW is given not by commandment or constraint; yet it now is given all the status of commandment, and failure to comply with it very much imposes the most constricting constraints imaginable on members; so once again, who should a member believe: the church, or the church? The church says two contradictory things, a certain sign of falsity. Yet its defenders and leaders are so confused by their immersion in The Thing, that they cannot even see this for what it is.
2.) The WoW nowhere bans coffee or tea, only "hot drinks", the temperature of which was thought to be harmful - yet coffee and tea, it is now claimed, are banned by the WoW, despite it not banning them. Brigham Young, the bedtime story goes (in an early exercise in talmudic word redefinition) transformed the phrase "hot drinks" into "caffeinated coffee and non-herbal tea", and presto, there it was. Brigham, by the way, is the man who stated there were people living on the moon and that inter-racial lovers should be executed on the spot. Why then should a single one of his other comments be granted the status of canonized scripture without them going through the canonization process? Moreover, why should there even BE a text to the WoW, if its words are to be ignored?
3.) Speaking of ignoring words and concepts, the WoW EXPLICITLY prohibits the eating of meat except in times of "winter" or "famine". There is a kind of church-wide agreement (which I happily participated in) to never actually point this out, so everyone can just keep on eating as many cheeseburgers as anyone else. But again, why have a text of the WoW, when the text has been made so malleable as to be entirely unnecessary? The text of the Wow has actually become entirely irrelevant to the very health code Mormons claim is synonomous with the WoW!
4.) So....Joseph Smith (not that I begrudge him this) orders up a bottle of wine while he's stuck in Carthage jail. And we're supposed to know that, while we're also supposed to believe that the WoW was ALWAYS "really" a commandment; and, we're supposed to also believe that Joseph Smith knew he was about to get shot and meet up with God himself. If he didn't do wrong by drinking, the WoW was NOT a "commandment" then at all (and shouldn't be one now then since an elevation in status has never been canonized). If it was a commandment however, it means Joseph knowingly did something which he knew would or should PROHIBIT him from ever seeing his family again, or ever making it to the celestial, or receiving his "inheritance" and living in the celestial kingdom, etc. And that means he was not a "righteous man" at all, doesn't it? Of course it does. Anyone who really believed that Action X would result in losing your exaltation, and did Action X anyway, could never be considered anything other than a very disobedient and wicked man. There is no way around that. It also appears to demonstrate, if he knew he was about to meet God, abominable insouciance and shamelessness.
Of course, what it really suggests is that Joseph didn't take drinking that seriously at all, just like he didn't take seriously having sex with his foster daughters at all, or lying to his wife repeatedly about their marriage, or violating bank laws to attempt a get-rich-quick scheme, inventing stories about homicidal angels, or fabricating stories about disappearing golden plates, etc. There can be absolutely nothing surprising, for any man with his wits about him, in Joseph Smith, the author of the WoW, downing a bottle of wine. It is perfectly in character. I'm sure he was no stranger at all to drink, at the same time he announced no one should drink. After all, he also announced no one should have but one wife, while he himself took many. That's the way it works in a cult.
I'm low on time here -
Long story short - today, you can sit in front of your bishop, literally, shoving a McDonald's Double Big Mac into your face and washing it down with Red Bull and Jolt Cola, and you'll get a temple recommend. But take a sip of tea while you're there - and you're damned!
| You know Ted Nugent?
I went to a songwriting extravaganza in France a few years ago. The people there said The Nuge had been there the year before, and everyone had ended up really liking him a lot, even Carole King, who wants to destroy every gun on earth. One lady told me that they had been sitting outside one night, and Ted had begun to say that he loved being out camping and hunting with his sons, because there were things he could say to his sons while they were looking at the stars, that he couldn't say at any other time, and then sang a song about just that. She said it was more moving than anything she'd heard in years.
Perhaps males need some other goal or object to focus on in order to grow closer. Once, I thought that goal was "living the gospel", for me and my own sons. What could be more unifying than going to the priesthood broadcasts together? Since finding out Joseph didn't tell the truth about his experiences, however, other things have begun to assume that role. Even, I would say, to the point where those things assume a kind of "sacredness" almost. It's like that scene in "City Slickers" where the guy talks about how his dad taught him how to score baseball games when he was a kid...it meant so much, though it was only an arcane skill, that it almost does become sacred, inasmuch as I think anything can be truly sacred. I suppose, it becomes sacred when it facilitates a union of the soul, which otherwise would not have occurred.
Anyway, I thought about this last September, when a Queen tribute band came to Victoria. I grabbed my son Ashton, who (like me) is a big Queen fan (passing on the heritage), and we went. He liked it a lot, though he did object when the drummer did NOT do the cymbal chokes on "Somebody to Love". And I thought about it even more over the weekend, because I took him to the Queen/Paul Rodgers show at the Coliseum in Vancouver (FARMS dweebs scouring my posts for inaccuracies, please check the ticketmaster website).
I've mentioned on here before, that once, when I was around eleven, I was at Disneyland with my dad, and we spotted Brian May, Queen's guitarist, in line ahead of us for "Pirates of the Caribbean". We moved up and chatted with him, and my dad snapped a photo of us. At the time, Brian was one of my heroes. My dad told him that my favourite song of his was "Good Company" (off the "Night at the Opera" album), and, since it was only a ukulele song and not one of his big hits, I don't think he ever forgot it - he told my dad last year in London that he remembered meeting us that day.
So after Ashton and I (and my little son Matthias, who was tagging along though not that big a Queen fan) we got into the coliseum, eager to build what I thought could become a little tradition, I went downstairs to where the backstage area was. Of course you can't get in - there are guards and gates; right where we were in fact was a First Aid station. I asked one of the guards if he could retrieve one of the entourage, since (I mentioned) I'm friendly with a guy who's been working with Paul Rodgers (from "Bad Company" and "Free", who was singing with Queen), I've met Brian before and my dad's friendly with him, etc. It was a long shot, but I thought, the worst that can happen is they say no, and the best is, I can pass on the family tradition of a Bachman dad introducing his son to Brian May!
Do you know that just then, one of the crew managers popped by, asked what was going on, I told him who I was, and he came back five minutes later with backstage passes for us? Thrilling! (I love it when I get to be the hero, since I've been the goat so many times).
We went back to the audience area, found our seats and watched the whole show, Ashton singing along and playing air drums to "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "We Will Rock You" and "I'm in Love with My Car" and all the rest. And afterwards, we made our way downstairs to the reception area. After about an hour, Roger Taylor, the drummer, came in, and was kind enough to chat with Ashton for about five minutes (a lifetime for this kind of thing). Roger seemed really pleased when I told him that Ashton had objected when the Queen tribute band drummer hadn't performed the "Roger Taylor cymbal chokes" (where it goes: "Somebody" (gsh) "somebody ((gsh)"). He looked at Ashton and said, "Yeah, it's all about those chokes. You have to do them just right!...So, are you a drummer?", etc. He was really cool. And a bystander snapped a photo of me, Roger, Ashton, and Matthias.
About an hour later, Brian came in. I could see that same thrill on Ashton's face meeting his another one of his heroes, as I had on mine meeting Brian a quarter of a century earlier, that day at Disneyland. I had just enough time to say hi and remind him of meeting at Pirates, and he said, "Oh yeah!", we all shook hands, but then he had to run. But that was enough. We'd met a real live demi-god, one who'd written the soundtrack to a large part of our lives. Both Ashton and I now have grown up listening to "Sheer Heart Attack" and "Night at the Opera", etc.
And all the way back on the ferry, we talked...deconstructing every last detail of the concert, and our chat with Roger, and how cool it was to say hi to Brian...and our evening passed into the realm of the eternally memorable, the eternally bonding, a special shared experience that Ashton and I will never forget, and that we will talk about and cherish for decades, just like me with my Dad talking about Brian, and the Queen concert he took me to, at the very same coliseum, when I was just about the same age as Ashton (it was on "The Game" tour).
Church apologists always come out guns blazing, but then so quickly fall back on arguments for the utility of Mormon church affiliation. Maybe those guys really do require Joseph's stories. Maybe nothing else can serve the function they serve for them, despite those stories not being true, I don't know. But the thought of sticking with a religion I know is fraudulent, just to have those kinds of experiences - which is impossible now anyway, since I already know it's a fraud - is torturous. There are so many other cool and "happifying" (to use Brigham Young's word) things out there, that I can't see why anyone should ever rest content with Joseph's strange, self-aggrandizing appendage on to Christianity. It seems to me there are all kinds of stories and experiences and meaningful adventures to explore, which can be just as bonding and fulfilling and exciting as anything any one church has to offer (and truth be told a great deal more), that to even begin making utilitarian arguments for church membership is adead argument before it's even begun.
Anyway, just thought I'd post this.
| Prepare to vomit, my friends. |
I'm not exactly certain anymore what the Mormon argument is for the claim that Jesus - who appeared to have exactly ZERO interest in the business world - founded the Mormon church 2000 years ago over in Galilee...or what the argument is for distinguishing Mormon GA's from the pharisees Jesus hated so much for being "hypocrites", but I guess that's not really my problem anymore, is it?
All I know is that Mormon prophets say one thing about how to serve one "master", but then appear to do quite another in the service of the other (Mammon, i.e., wealth). (For his own part, Jesus thought it was quite impossible to serve both God and Mammon, see Matt: 6:24). I know also it is very hard for many people, even increasingly people in the church, to imagine that the Jesus of Nazareth they meet and listen to in the New Testament, could ever have anything to do with the behaviour of Mormon church leaders, and the blatant hypocrisy they exemplify. They make a mockery of almost everything Jesus of Nazareth stood for, using his very name to do it.
Speaking of hypocrisy, take, for example, Gordon B. Hinckley. Here he is on Sabbath day observance in his General Conference talk "Look to the Future", Oct. '97:
"...There are what some may regard as the lesser commandments but which are also of such tremendous importance.
"I mention the Sabbath day. The Sabbath of the Lord is becoming the play day of the people. It is a day of golf and football on television, of buying and selling in our stores and markets. Are we moving to mainstream America as some observers believe? In this I fear we are. What a telling thing it is to see the parking lots of the markets filled on Sunday in communities that are predominately LDS.
"Our strength for the future, our resolution to grow the Church across the world, will be weakened if we violate the will of the Lord in this important matter. He has so very clearly spoken anciently and again in modern revelation. We cannot disregard with impunity that which He has said". (For full talk, go to www.lds.org and look up "Look to the Future". See also Faust's talk, "The Lord's Day", from the October 1991 Gen. Conference.)
Perhaps in recalling ancient and modern revelation, Hinckley was thinking of these scriptures:
"But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates." (Exodus 20:10)
(It's worth mentioning here that Exodus reports that Yahweh thought this commandment was so important, that he himself ventured down in person from heaven to Mount Sinai, to inscribe those very words into Moses' stone tablets, a story which Hinckley would no doubt claim [publicly, at least] to believe.)
Or maybe Hinckley was thinking of this scripture, from DandC 68:29:
"And the inhabitants of Zion shall also observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy".
Since Gordon B. Hinckley has just chastized members of the church for not keeping the Sabbath day holy, and has admitted he is aware of ancient and modern scriptures which quote JESUS as insisting that the Sabbath be kept "holy"/a day consecrated to God, I think it is fair to ask...
Why Gordon B. Hinckley then feels it is okay for HIM - the president of the Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - to require church-owned businesses, and church business employees, to conduct business every single Sunday? Sitting as he does atop the Mormon church and corporate pyramids, he could stop church business operations on Sunday instantly - yet he does not do so. Why not? Can any member lurker answer that for me? I'm certain admin would allow a post on that, if for no other reason than the entertainment value it would surely provide.
And speaking of entertainment, let's take a specific example. Every single Sunday, KSL, the Salt Lake City television station owned by the Mormon church, is in operation, its employees working. And not only that, but every single Sunday, with Hinckley's approval, this church-owned television station plays the very sports shows that Hinckley publicly insists no one anywhere should be watching on the Sabbath! Can you believe it? Take yesterday, for example, Sunday, April 23, 2006. KSL offered SIX FULL HOURS of sports programming! Look for yourselves: http://www.ksl.com/index.php?nid=42 .
In his General Conference talks, Hinckley complains about people watching "golf and football" on television on Sunday. But yesterday (Sunday), the church-owned television station he controls as the corporation president aired "Goodtime Golf" at 4:00 PM. (I have to wonder if Hinckley himself might have been watching). And the only reason no football was aired yesterday, was because it isn't football season anymore. Instead, they aired bullriding and the NHL playoffs, plus a weekend sports wrap-up called "Sportsbeat". (So much for the "essential services" exemption - when's the last time someone died because they didn't see a hockey game on KSL?).
And let's not forget the reason why the church's television station is airing sports shows on Sunday, despite the church's president saying no one should watch them: because sports shows draw lots of viewers, and the greater the viewership, the higher the advertising rates KSL can charge, and so the more money KSL, or to speak frankly, the church, makes.
I can already imagine members claiming that this isn't hypocrisy at all, since Pres. Hinckley isn't involved directly with KSL or its parent company Bonneville, and that the Bonneville Board of Directors has final say on programming and work schedules, etc. No, they don't have "final say" as the board of a company within The Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Only ONE man has final say on what happens within that corporation, and that man is Gordon B. Hinckley. All Hinckley would have to do is show up at a Bonneville board meeting and say, "I feel strongly impressed that we should cease broadcasting television show X", or even, "I feel we should stop conducting business/selling advertising on the Sabbath - and the only way to do that is to stop airing altogether on Sundays", and as the man who has ultimate control over "the corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" and everything therein, he would be deferred to. And that he has never said such a thing, tells us far more about him and the church he runs, than all the Sunday sermonizing wherein he criticizes everyone else for "violating" the Sabbath day (by watching the very shows his own station is running!). Imagine the Pope running a condom factory - that's Gordon B. Hinckley on this issue.
No, Gordon B. Hinckley has never insisted that the church's TV stations stop broadcasting (that is, selling advertising) on Sundays. And not only has he not, but he has for years been at the forefront of trying to make this church-owned business as profitable as possible, manifestly without any regard whatsoever for the Sabbath day-keeping he likes to pretend in General Conference he's a big fan of. And for those who think this is an anti-Mormon slur rather than cold, hard fact, I ask what it would take for you to believe that in fact this was the case? Would you believe, perhaps, the Bonneville people themselves upon giving their "Bonneville's Best" award to none other than Gordon B. Hinckley himself? Read this: http://www.bonnint.com/docs/bonnevilles_best_2005/hinckley.pdf (Here is the Bonneville website link: http://www.bonnint.com/section-e.php?p=1-3)
Hinckley's Bonneville employees, in presenting their highest award to him, put it this way: "No one has been involved longer and more intimately in the history of Bonneville International"...
"Both his experience and his instincts about the importance of the modern media have served not only Bonneville, but the church he leads extraordinarily well"...
"His counsel on people and business issues has always been wise and current; one is almost as likely to hear today's Wall Street Journal editorial page quoted as scripture".
If there was any previous doubt of Hinckley's role and influence in running church businesses, this little presentation should have dispelled it. I feel ill - when Gordon Hinckley plays the Mormon prophet on TV, he preaches against watching sports on TV on Sundays; but offscreen, as a media company CEO, he broadcasts sports on TV on Sunday, and happily collects the advertising revenue this generates. Perhaps only within Mormonism could this duplicitous behaviour ever be considered "standing for something".
And let's keep this in perspective: I have only mentioned ONE business here, KSL TV in Salt Lake City. Gordon Hinckley's church owns DOZENS of businesses: insurance companies, radio stations, cattle ranches, banks, food distribution companies, etc., etc., and I am sure that most, if not all of them, do business on Sunday with as little thought as any other business does. Just through Bonneville alone, the church owns two dozen radio stations (see http://www.bonnint.com/section-e.php?p=2-0). How many of them do you think the church shuts down on Sundays, out of respect for the Sabbath day? If you guessed "NONE", they you're right. The church keeps them running, just as they do KSL, throughout every Sunday, in order to make money.
Perhaps it is no wonder, then, that Hinckley regards as Mormon role models, Mormon athletes like Steve Young, who have made their millions only because of their willingness to ignore the same scriptures Hinckley ignores (except for his strategic, passing references to them while he's playing "prophet" at General Conference), and why he is just fine with them being invited around to Mormon stakes to give firesides. Why, even now Steve Young's breaking Hinckley's "important" commandment by spending every Sunday on TV talking football as an analyst. He was probably doing play-by-play at the very moment Hinckley was telling everyone in GC to stop watching sports on Sunday. But, in the incoherent world of Mormonism, that's no problem.
And let me put that fireside thing in perspective. When Valeen Tippets Avery and Linda King Newell published their biography of Emma Hale Smith, "Mormon Enigma", it was hailed as a fantastic piece of historical scholarship by virtually every scholar who read it. That even included the church's official church historian, Leonard J. Arrington, who endorses it on the flyleaf. It won the Mormon History Association's Book of the Year Award. Even the RLDS guys lauded it, notwithstanding the fact it pretty much proved their entire religion to be a total fraud.
Yet, when Avery and Newell set about to give firesides at Mormon chapels to talk about Emma and Joseph, Mormon leaders banned them from speaking on church property - not because there was anything erroneous in their book, but because there wasn't. There would have been no problem if old Francis Gibbons had churned out yet another semi-fictionalized hagiography, with the unwritten subtitle "All is Well in Zion". But because Sisters Avery and Newell had the unmitigated gall to put in print what they understood happened according to the best evidence available, they were banned from speaking. Banned from speaking the truth, that is.
But Steve Young and the others haven't been banned. Oh no. Hinckley said in his GC talk that the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy was of "tremendous importance", but obviously, it's not so "tremendously" important that any rich or famous people need obey it. Why, that would be ridiculous, wouldn't it? It's like a Hinckley-ized version of Leona Helmsley's famous comment: "Commandments are for little people".
It is revealing of the Mormon apologetic psychological state, that apologists continue to accuse former Mormons of experiencing cognitive dissonance, when in fact it is their religion which is so shot through with the most blatant contradictions and logical impossibilities, that attempting to believe in it is nearly enough to turn anyone partially insane (as evidenced perhaps best by Mormon apologetic writing). The church's own scriptures say one thing, its apologists say another; its own prophets say one thing, but then do another; its own heroes, according to the General Conference version of their prophets, are in fact breakers of "tremendously important" commandments, and yet are lauded not just in spite of that, but in truth, because of it; the church's own scholars do the finest historical work, yet are shunned...It is madness.
But where the rubber really hits the road for me on this, is here. I spent two years of my life in Argentina watching members making the most extreme sacrifices to obey the commandments, including refusing to work on Sundays so they could "guardarlo sagrado" (keep it holy). And I'm talking about single breadwinner guys trying to feed their kids on the most meager incomes. Meanwhile, back in Salt Lake City, church businesses themselves, with Hinckley's full approval, are requiring their employees to work every Sunday. Church businesses sell advertising space on their radio and TV stations every Sunday. And church leaders hold up as true Mormon heroes, men who made millions only because they ignored a commandment my Argentine friends thought was real. They never saw the Hinckley winks to the Steve Youngs of the world. They thought it was real.
In my book, hypocrites aren't heroes. They are, rather, contemptible. And that includes Hinckley and Steve Young and all the rest of them. Real heroes live by principles, and they take responsibility for their actions. They don't stand up on television and say one thing, and then back at the boardroom, quietly do the exact opposite. They don't show up at stake centers, basking in the fanfare, and tell members to live a gospel that they don't live themselves. Yet, that is just what Gordon B. Hinckley and Steve Young do.
No, the real Mormon heroes, though the likes of Hinckley and Monson et al are congenitally incapable of ever recognizing them as such, are the poor members all around this planet who are doing their best, at incredible personal sacrifice, to do what they sincerely believe God wants them to do. They would gladly go to bed hungry, rather than profane the Sabbath by working on it. How shocked and hurt they would be, if they knew how little their sacrifices meant to the men whose photos, torn from church magazines, they have pegged to their stick-and-mud walls? If they knew how casually those "prophets" disregard the Sabbath? If they knew that the men they think Jesus so warmly approves of, have in fact turned themselves into just the hypocrites Jesus loathed so much?
| FARMS To Be Absorbed Into New BYU Department |
AP - Provo
BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson today announced that the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) will be assimilated into the newly formed BYU Department of Bullsh*t.
"We are excited by this development", said Samuelson. "For too long, FARMS has been the only group of scholars here focusing exclusively on producing bullsh*t. With the creation of this new department and the appointment of former FARMS scholar DonLoy Q. Pendleton as department head and Hugh Nibley Chair of Remorseless, Unremitting, and Total Bullsh*t, we feel we are in position now to create more bullsh*t than any other university on earth. It is a thrilling time".
New department chair Pendleton said he was "very pleased". "For years now, I and my illustrious colleagues have spent nearly every waking moment of every day thinking up new bullsh*t defense strategies - cryptograms, mnemonic devices, 'scribes did it', listing typographical errors, word redefintions, the whole bit. And often, sad to say, we have done so with little or no appreciation from administrators. I am very gratified that our endeavours in bullsh*t are now being recognized and rewarded".
Mormon multi-millionaire and hotel magnate Willard Marriot, Jr., provided the financial backing for the department's creation. In a prepared statement read by Samuelson, the BYU president praised Marriott for "his lifelong dedication to bullsh*t high and deep. Serving as a Temple President, for example, while making millions selling hardcore pornography in every one of his hotel rooms, is a spectacular example of just the kind of bullsh*t we are so excited about. I am certain he will be able to provide much assistance in our production of bullsh*t for many years to come".
Marriott declined to have the new department building named after him, instead asking that it be named "after the most incredible bullsh*tter I have ever had the good fortune to meet, even more of one than my good friend Larry Flynt - Gordon B. Hinckley". The Gordon B. Hinckley Center for Remorseless, Unremitting, and Total Bullsh*t will open its doors for the Fall 2007 semester. "I know when I'm beat", said Marriott. "Asking members if they keep the law of chastity as a stake president, while my hotels are selling hardcore pornography so I can make millions, I used to think was some big bullsh*t. But Hinckley's bullsh*tted Mike Wallace, Time Magazine, Larry King, his own late wife, and all the members! Now THAT is some serious bullsh*t!".
"While I am deeply honoured by this, I don't know that I teach bullsh*t", responded Hinckley. "I think that's more of an impression than anything else. I don't know that I even know what bullsh*t is, or even if I know whether I know that other people might know what bullsh*t is, or whether they might know whether I might know that someone else knows that another person produces nothing but bullsh*t".
Pendleton will have the assistance of scientists from the Agricultural Science department in determining the quality of bullsh*t produced by him and other scholars working at the Center for Bullsh*t. "They will be a help, for sure. But you have to remember - my colleagues and I have been producing bullsh*t for so long, that it literally is the only thing we know how to produce anymore. We couldn't stop even if we wanted to. I mean, have you seen the latest FARMS 'Question of the Week' about Lehi's tribal affiliation? (http://farms.byu.edu/) That is nothing but 100%, Grade A, World Class bullsh*t. No, the Ag Science guys don't have anything to worry about."
BYU has already applied for accreditation in offering an undergraduate degree in "Mormon Apologetic Bullsh*t". Mark Foster of the Accreditation Committee commented that "for years, BYU has struggled to maintain its accreditation. We are pleased therefore to note that we know of no 'professors' more able to provide an undergraduate education in bullsh*t than Dr. Pendleton and his colleagues. For decades, their bullsh*t production has been nothing short of prodigious, and they have kept their bullsh*t 100% pure".
| This is Dallin Oaks: |
"Our individual, personal testimonies are based on the witness of the Spirit, not on any combination or accumulation of historical facts. If we are so grounded, no alteration of historical facts can shake our testimonies." (1985 CES Doctrine and Covenants Symposium, Brigham Young University, Aug. 16, 1985, page 26)
Television comedian Stephen Colbert (formerly of "The Jon Stewart Show"), in noting sarcastically that his comedy show (parodying normal news shows) is deliberately "somewhere between 90% crap and total crap":
"If I feel that something is true, or if I feel that it should be true, then that feeling is more important than what the facts may support." (Men's Vogue, Spring 2006, page 54).
Which is parody, and which is serious? The truth is that Mormonism itself is the greatest parody of all, of religion, flawed thinking, and indifference to truth.
| I noticed Noggin said he'd be interested in hearing about when my wife listened to me about the church. Here is a rundown of what happened. I do have to put in the caveat that the time surrounding my realization that the church was a fraud was the most traumatic of my life; I felt as though I might be going mad. Amongst other things, I suppose because I was under such mental stress, I couldn't really keep any sense of time. For weeks, I couldn't tell whether something had happened two days earlier, or two weeks, and I kept bursting into tears. So what I'm trying to say is, that my recollections of this time are more like occasional clear moments in a long, distress-induced blur.
Anyway, here is what happened as best I can remember. My first indication of a problem with a specific truth claim came over December 2001/January 2002, as I began preparing for my first Gospel Doctrine class as a teacher. My attempts to resolve this concern only led to the discovery of new problems, or at least, led to me becoming aware of problems that I had brushed away before. Each attempt only yielded the discovery of more problems, and so on, until by August of 2003, I was feeling more forlorn than I ever had. Everywhere I turned for a solution was a dead end. The witnesses, the Book of Moses, the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, the JS Translation, etc., etc., all seemed to add up to only one conclusion. But that conclusion was "impossible". So, I was stuck. I was in a terrible state.
In all that time, though, I had never let on once to my wife what was going on. I "knew" that I would find an answer to make all the problems go away, so I thought, "Why upset Tracy when this will all get resolved anyway?". By August, I kept looking at her, feeling so hopeless and desperate, with at that point so little faith in the church...and I kept thinking, "it seems like the only person in the world she has is ME...if Gordon Hinckley's a prophet, he isn't any more of one than I am, or the local cabdriver, or anyone else...but I have no idea what I'm doing - I am totally lost and bewildered". Tracy had always derived a lot of comfort from the direction and stability the church provided. Here I was seeing that this was all a sham, still vainly clinging to some hope I would find a solution, but with almost no faith I actually would. And after all that trust I'd had in these guys getting inspiration and being prophets, the thought that in the end, there was only me (for that's how it seemed at the time), was terrifying.
So, one night that August of 2003, Tracy and I sat in the hot tub, and that was the first time I ever mentioned that something was amiss. All I said was, "I want to talk to you about something...I have some questions about the church, and I haven't been able to find answers for them, and I don't really know what they might be...". Immediately she felt panic. She said, "What are you saying? Are you saying you think the church isn't true?!", just like that. She went from zero to red alert in like one second. So I said, "No, I'm just saying I have questions, but I'm going to keep looking for answers for them". She later told me that even hearing me say that, seemed to allow her for a split second to see "through" a kind of mental veil, and see the church for what it was. But within a moment I had clammed up again, and her micro-second thought vanished, and no more was said between us about the church until a few months later.
I should say here that, despite what FAIR contributors and anonymous people claiming to be my "old friends" enjoy imagining about my wife and me, we were as devout as we knew how to be. I met Tracy four months after returning home from Argentina, proposed on our first date, she accepted, we got married, she had our first child a year almost to the day of our wedding, and following the inspired counsel of Pres. Kimball and Pres. Benson, we decided to make sacrifices to bring many children into the world. We never rejected a calling, always attended church happily, wouldn't watch R-rated movies, had FHE religiously, read scriptures every day, had family prayers morning and night with our kids, cut off cable when we felt it was a pernicious influence in the home, I read every church book I could get my hands on, we enjoyed serving in church, everything. What I'm trying to say is, that this wasn't like I'd been skipping church or not doing my home teaching - my wife knew that the gospel was the most important thing in my life. So, it's not like I'd been complaining for years about "Mormon sexism" or whatever - all I'd ever done was defend the thing. Plus, through the whole time, I'd been reading the scriptures more than ever, praying all the time, helping run the branch in addition to teaching gospel doctrine...so, it's like when the most fanatical member of the communist party says, "I think there's something wrong here", you just naturally listen. Beyond this, we had tried to stay close, going out on a date every Friday night throughout our marriage.
Anyway, I quietly continued studying and trying to conjure up new scenarios in my mind to try to make two and two equal negative 177 million (not fun), and we didn't talk about that hot tub conversation again. Finally, in one surreal moment one day I think in late October of 2003, it all snapped finally. And in that moment, I felt faint, and my vision blurred, and it felt like a bolt of electricity had zapped through my head and in a flash, illuminated the whole thing completely - and it was the first time, really ever now that I think about it, that every single thing about Mormonism made sense. And I knew.
Just then, Tracy came into the computer room where I was sitting...and as I've mentioned on here before, I can't for the life of me remember what was said. I remember the image of her coming in and sitting on the little love seat like I was watching it through a slightly distorted lens, but I can't remember what I said really. And neither can she. I think it might have just been something like, "Tracy...it isn't true...he made it up...", but that memory is so dim, that I don't know now if I'm remembering something, or my imagination has just filled in the blank for me. So, I don't know.
But I seem to remember clearly that it was a short conversation. I remember afterwards, when I came out of the room, she said, "I know how serious you've always been about the church, and I know you wouldn't make something like this up or say anything like that unless you felt absolutely certain". She also said at some point, "With something like this, I want to do my own research though". I said, "Yes, please, please read - if you can think of any way I might be mistaken on this, please tell me, all I want to know is the truth". It will be hard for lurkers to believe this, but I had no desire for the church to be a fraud. Discovering it was, as I believed I had, was the worst, scariest, saddest moment of my entire life.
So, Tracy was pretty quiet about it all - we both were pretty shell-shocked - and then she picked up "Mormon Enigma". After three days of reading, she said, "I can see where this is heading...". She said things like, "No man of God would ever act like that...he was a bully", etc.
There was a thing about Tracy. She was a totally devout member, the mother of seven children at the age of 32, when this happened. Yet, she had felt a kind of hollowness inside of her as a devout member, and this had led her, very far in the back of her mind, to wonder sometimes...whether something was amiss. Every once in a while, she would glance at me when we were in the temple, and I would know that in the back of her mind, she was thinking, "Isn't there some chance here, that we're all nuts?". But this was a closed topic with me. I never really took seriously the concerns she would venture to express every once in a great while. For example, she sometimes would wonder aloud about the creation story, which despite apologetic attempts to make it "irrelevant to our salvation" and therefore nothing more than an allegory, is in fact according to Mormon scriptures, the real story of the creation of the earth and of mankind. How could this really be squared with all we know now about the history of humanity andthe earth?, she would ask. I would usually brush these things aside, or just parrot back some dumb answer I'd picked up in an institute manual or something. as a result, Tracy was left to conclude, like so many other members, that really the problem was with her.
Anyway, that kind of hollowness, and very distant wondering, plus my previously budding Mormon McConkie megalomaniac cult allegiance, I think made it easier for her to take seriously the thought that something maybe WAS wrong when I said as much. Another factor I should mention, is that her childhood in northern England was very tough, and she grew up seeing the worst in human nature. Men making up stories to take advantage of people was absolutely par for the course. Fanatics, charlatans, avuncular liars and cheats, she saw them every day. It wasn't like Little Suzy Jensen growing up in some estrogen-soaked Mormon La La Land Utah town, where "everything is nice all the time, because no one would ever do anything wrong!". In an environment where people are seriously desperate, a lot of people will start to say and do a lot of crazy things to get out. So the idea that a desperate young man would once lie, seemed eminently plausible to her. So, it was like she believed Joseph HAD told the truth, but in that moment when the possibility was first seriously considered that he might not have, it was very believable that he might not have.
Tracy read a few other things here and there. Our last Sunday together in church was in early December 2003. After that, I never went again. But Tracy did go again a couple of times. Sometimes she would wonder if she could trust herself on this. By January, home and visiting teachers had "heard the news" and were starting to try to get us to come back. Tracy's VT on one occasion dropped off a printed out essay from some guy on the FAIR board, explaining that when you have questions about the church, you should just remember that guys smarter and more educated than you at FARMS still attend, so you know there's not really a problem there. My wife said something like, "this is the worst thing I've ever read. I feel sick to my stomach". She said this paper helped convince her we might really have been in a cult. FAIR to the rescue once again!
My wife did not have the opportunity to receive much education. Her schools in England (slum catchment areas) were bad, and then we met when she was 18. We were married seven months later. Yet, despite this disadvantage, and many years of church mental conditioning, she was able to think about the church. Perhaps it had something to do with her jailbird, alcoholic father, who, for all that, was very perceptive in some ways. He used to say to her, "You and yer mum and the others, yer all brainwashed, I'm tellin' you". She told me he also said to her, "Loads of men throughout history have done what that Joseph Smith's done - it's nought unusual. Men lie and cheat to get people to follow 'em, they do, and that's just what 'e's done", etc., etc. Even Tracy's mother, who divorced her dad 17 years ago, and spent years saying that Jack (the dad) was possessed by Satan and that's why he said those things, is now out of the church too, and while she is still a devout Christian, several times has admitted she should have listened to her ex on this.
There is one possible explanation for why some TBM wives will not listen at all, which I'm not sure we've really considered. That is, that at some level of the wife's unconscious, a calculation has been made, taking into account the wife's personality, history, needs, etc., and the church; and the calculation is, that this person is literally entirely unable to cope with living without the drug/crutch of the church; therefore, she must NEVER find out it isn't what she thought. I know it sounds fanciful, but it's possible. Maybe, quite literally, some people now could not survive; perhaps the pain would be too debilitating. I mean, we're talking about a loss not just of friends, but of your own identity, your dreams, your ideals, your past, your heritage in a way - it's like a form of suicide. Maybe some people have already become so debilitated by the thing, that they never will be able to get out of the wheelchair and learn how to walk on their own. I don't know. I sure feel for all the guys like Noggin though who are stuck in these impossible situations.
Anyway, I hope the info about Tracy helps give someone perspective.
| One of the things my experience with Mormonism has suggested to me, is that no matter how rotten and insensitive and unfair and chauvinistic a bunch of males act, there will apparently always be a seemingly endless supply of females who will worship those very jerks - not in spite of that behaviour, but apparently because of it. And many of these female slaves will even divorce their concerned husbands for the "sin" of trying to communicate their concerns about the sick, smug masters controlling their lives, rather than commit the thought crime of contemplating that their Mormon "masters" might not really have a right be their masters. No wonder Et in Utah Ego gets so frustrated. |
Joseph Smith, it must be clear even to the Richard Bushmans of the world, was a total control freak, so much so, that secretly having sex with his friends' wives wasn't enough - oh no. He then needed "virgins", and then, when that wasn't enough, virgins as young as fourteen or fifteen. He even thought it was a neat idea to execute Jim Jones-style loyalty tests, and asked men to hand over their wives to him for his sexual pleasure, merely to see whether they would do so. If they didn't, they were out of the club. If they did, it demonstrated they'd been broken forever (like Heber Kimball was). After that, that is, there was nothing - there could be nothing - that Heber, and others like him, would not do for the power mad "prophet".
As if being a total control freak who preyed on the most vulnerable females (like the Lawrence and Partridge sisters) around him wasn't bad enough, he even (profaning the name of God) attempted to codify his sick fantasies in a "revelation" he claimed was dictated to him by no less than Jesus Christ himself (section 132).
Brigham Young once remarked that Joseph was a "great lover of women". But I am not sure that a man like Joseph Smith could really know what "love" even was. Certainly he sometimes displayed tenderness to his long-suffering wife Emma. And yet, he also told her she would be "destroyed" if she dared interfere with the gratification of his "marital" urges. He lied to her during courtship. He lied to her after marriage. He left her broken-hearted over and over and over again, and publicly humiliated over and over and over, and never expressed remorse to her at all for this...and when Emma was informed by a confidante of Joseph's, after his death, that in fact his sexual activities had been more expansive than she had known, she remarked that in that case, her former husband deserved to die (you won't be reading that one on the church's JS website) (this is in "Mormon Enigma").
Even Fawn Brodie says Joseph loved his wife. I just can't feel as confident. His behaviour towards her, and every other woman in his life, was nothing short of atrocious, and entirely manipulative. Even his writings betray nothing but a blank, where love should be. The only thing close to a love story that I can remember in any of Joseph's writings, is the depiction of Abraham and Sarah in the PGP - a story, though, which could hardly have been avoided in a retelling of Abraham's life, since it plays such a prominent part in the Biblical account of the patriarch. But significantly, even there Joseph casts the perpetuation of Abraham and Sarah's marriage and survival as dependent on their willingness to tell lies. Given Joseph's prodigious lying about his own "marriages", it is hard not to view the justification of deception in the PGP as an attempt at self-exculpation. (It might also be worth noting here that the BOM is concerned almost exclusively with males and stereotypically male exploits and activities - warring, decapitating, "shameless grandstanding", preaching, grandiose construction projects, hunting, etc. There are only three females mentioned by name in the entire book: Abish the servant, Isabel the whore, and Sariah the nag. This seems rather telling...).
Far from being a true lover of females, Joseph couldn't have done a better job of impersonating a genuinely criminal sexual predator. His own words and deeds convince me that women, for him, existed primarily, if not entirely, to gratify his lust for power, admiration, and sexual satisfaction. He never did acknowledge publicly his plural marriages (probably because they violated church policy, church "commandment", and the laws of Illinois). (In fact, they were marriages in name only). He never acknowledged those children he sired with those wives, either. Rather, he lied about them, loudly, consistently, and remorselessly, denying that he had more than one wife. Members justify him in this on grounds that if he had acknowledged his sexual behaviour, he would have been lynched. Why, yes - all the more reason to not sleep with other men's wives in frontier America.
But of course, the real point isn't whether a man has the right to lie in order to protect himself from death - it is that the ease and smugness with which Joseph always lied about his plural marriages, over and over again, show him to be, well - a spectacular liar; and this forever explodes his credibility. And because Mormonism rests on Joseph's credibility, Joseph being a liar undermines the religion Joseph started. And funnily enough, you can encounter Joseph's remorseless lying in the Official History of the Church itself. It says something about our former mental states, that many of us could have read his famous 1844 sermon, known he was lying, and yet never be able to make the mental connections necessary to see what this really meant about the man whose word we'd bet our whole lives on. Sad.
By the way, speaking of pathology - once Joseph found that sex his own wife wasn't enough to satisfy his ego, nor sex with the wives of his friends, nor sex with his own foster daughters, nor sex (according to Sarah Pratt) with the prostitutes at the brothel just up the river from Nauvoo, he invented a brand new "ordinance", in which his wives would bow down before him, anoint his feet with oil, and then in effect worship him like a God. I would have no objection if Joseph and his lady friends, as fully informed adults, were simply into this kind of thing; but when a man employs such deception to achieve a result, risking the break up of pre-existing marriages in the process, how can he be anything but reproached?
Today, Gordon B. Hinckley and his friends also insist that they "love the women of the church", at the same time they carry on the Joseph Smith control freak tradition, telling women how long their shirt sleeves have to be, how long their skirts have to be, telling them not to get any tattoos, telling them what to read and what to watch and what to do and not to do with (or say to) their own husbands in bed, telling them not to get cosmetic surgery, telling them just what kind of man to marry, telling them about which career choices are appropriate for them, telling them who to worship and how, including a prohibition on worshipping some divine presence, and even telling women precisely how to wear their ear jewelry. But is "love" really equivalent to "control"? It seems to me that what we control, we usually deep down, despise.
And while Mormon leaders are quick to "enigmatize" celestial kingdom marital arrangements so as not to upset all the ladies they continue to manipulate, past prophetic pronouncements, as well as Section 132 (that is, Mormon theology) is clear: celestial marriage is plural marriage. That is, what you get, ladies, after slaving for Joseph's church for eighty years, is an eternity as merely one of presumably hundreds of plural wives. Doesn't that sound like fun? And to think that Mormon leaders can say that spouses are "equal". What a joke. My mother (who divorced my dad and remains unmarried thirty years later) started on about this one day, explaining how the ideal Mormon marital arrangement was that husbands and wives were equal and wasn't that so wonderful, etc. I just looked at her and said, "So, with which one of his 56 wives was Brigham Young 'equal'?". (That ended the conversation...).
I fail to understand all the Mormon smugness over the fact that a mother in heaven is mentioned in "O My Father". Who cares? After nearly 200 years and tens of thousands of pages of GC talks, scriptures, GA books, etc., the ONLY mention of any woman in heaven, is like three words in a hymn? If I have a mother in heaven, I'd sure like to know about her. Who is she? What does she look like? What does she believe in? How could resurrected beings in heaven copulate, but only produce spirits?, etc. But there is not a word from the oracles about this. The Mormon "mother in heaven", for all the talk about "equality" in marriage, has all the status and presence of a Taliban wife - NONE. She, the Mormon mother in heaven, for all intents and purposes, does not exist. She has no face. She has no personality. She has no name. She has no status. Outside presumably of bearing spirit babies, she has no role. She has no direction, no past, no future, at least that some Mormon oracle has ever mentioned. And that I ever could have believed the Mormon claim that nothing is ever "revealed" about mother-in-heave because some people might blaspheme her (rather than that the only "revelation" the oracles are getting are the ideas generated by their own imaginations, in which a heavenly mother occupies zero space) only tells me how nuts I used to be.
Other point: I am tired of Sunstoner-types and even exmos talking about how the Mormon church should give women the priesthood, so as to more equalize the sexes. I'm tired of it, because if that were ever done, it would only help provide the same kind of "equality" that men and women enjoy in any authoritarian organization - the equality of identically deluded slaves. I mean, the priesthood is a fraud! Why desire to see it spread around, rather than desire to see it exposed? The only thing that granting women the priesthood will do, is help Mormon women start entertaining the same false delusions of grandeur that so many Mormon men already entertain. And we already have enough Mormon egomaniacs. What Mormon leaders should do instead of giving women the priesthood is explain that it isn't what they thought, and then abolish it altogether! AND, stop lying to themselves, stop lying to the world, stop lying to the members, open up the archives, acknowledge what only a loon could any longer deny, and let the chips fall where they may.
Anyway, I am opposed to slavery. I am less opposed to slavery when the slaves choose to be enslaved. Yet, in how many cases can Joseph's modern female slaves be said to have made a fully informed choice? Their emotions and instincts and yearnings and awareness have been preyed upon and manipulated literally since the day they were born, and what's even worse is that often, it was their own mothers who did most of the Stepfordian conditioning. Just thinking about this makes me ill...I just want the whole thing to stop. I don't care if people want to be Mormons after they examine all the info - but all the intense mental conditioning even of toddlers, the indoctrination and the recitation and the deliberate bearing of false witness (in the form of "testimony bearing" when you don't actually believe in the church as per Packer's instruction), makes me sick. Is the human mind such an enemy to "the truth", that its powers must be forced to atrophy in order to enable it to recognize "the truth"? Only a genuinely sick, confused religion could take such a position. And I am saying all this as a father who probably did more intensive conditioning of my children than even the poor fools over at FARMS. I suppose I was the biggest fool of all.
Some posters on here can chastize concerned husbands for trying to discuss with their wives (or vice versa) their concerns about Mormonism; yet I can't see how any man who loved his wife, could stand by and watch his wife being manipulated so wholly by Mormon leaders and not try to reach out to her, any more than he could stand by silently and watch her taken advantage by any common con man. It is not a matter of a spouse trying to replace a controller (the church). It is a matter of loving someone enough to want to give them the opportunity to be as free and as happy as they could be - even if that means that that wife then turns around and leaves us, and hurts us. I don't want a wife who only sticks with me because she's in a freakish church and is being controlled and manipulated into staying. I want one who sticks with me, because she wants to stick with me, not because she's being manipulated into it. If any spouse should be chastized, it's the one who keeps his or her mouth shut forever and just lets the whole family believe the lies and spend their lives trying to build up a church which isn't what it claims to be - just so s/he doesn't have to deal with "upset" and "discomfort". And some of these guys are serving as bishops and SPs, basking in the glow of admiration and status, enjoying the comfort of a church-controlled wife...I can't believe life should really be about this, though. It seems so wrong...
I feel nothing but admiration for husband and wives who, with gentleness and patience, try to discuss their concerns about the church, and the information relevant to Joseph's untrue "truth" claims.
It might be more veiled now, but the idea that women are primarily brood mares to the men who'll actually be running their own planetary systems one day, is still part of Mormonism, and will be until some prophet renounces this part of Mormon theology. This thought seems to linger just under the surface of consciousness when we are believing Mormons. No one acknowledges it, but everyone sort of knows it. And I think it can shape how we view each other as Mormon husbands and wives, in a potentially destructive way. Perhaps the most common (though not the most pernicious) way is simply the tendency of Mormon males/leaders to humour Mormon women. And it is often so subtle a habit we don't really realize we are doing it until later.
I think is the most unfocused thing I've ever written on here...sorry, it's late and I'm too tired to go fix it up!
Happy Mother's Day, RFM mothers. You're free!
| Is there not something strange in the fact that Mormon leaders run around telling everyone to ask forgiveness from those they have wronged, and yet they themselves have never asked forgiveness once from those the church itself has wronged? |
Mormon leaders, claiming approval from Brigham Young, organized the massacre of 130 innocent settlers at Mountain Meadows. Prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack by Muslim extremists, it was the worst act of religious terrorism ever perpetrated on American soil. And yet, though the crime was committed 150 years ago, still not one apology has ever been issued by any Mormon leader for it, as far as I am aware. Brigham Young, who members enjoy imagining was a man in contact with the deity who turned away those who wished to stone the adulterous woman, went so far as to order the destruction of the humble commemorative marker erected at Mountain Meadows, and even linked the massacre with God's will in his "vengeance is mine" comment. Not only that, but Young did nothing to help along the ensuing federal investigation, and in fact appeared to stonewall it. He never did apologize. And Mormon settlers who adopted the orphans of those they had murdered, even had the audacity later on to petition the federal government for compensation for the expense incurred in raising those orphans!
David O. McKay seemed like a nice enough guy. Yet, guess who McKay in effect apologized to? NOT the descendants of those people murdered by a Mormon conspiracy, but to...John Lee himself, the only man ever punished for the crime! Under McKay's approval, John D. Lee, who had been convicted of murder and executed for it, was posthumously reinstated to full church membership, and all his temple blessings restored! (Why is anyone surprised that the work for Hitler's been done so often?)
How much more salt could one "Christian" organization pour into the mutilated bodies of those its members had slain in cold blood, under flag of truce? LOTS MORE - for when Gordon Hinckley went to the Mountain Meadows "reconciliation" ceremony in 1999, a ceremony supposedly for "healing", he once again played the dumbass (a role he seems particularly well suited for), and said with a straight face that "no one really understands what happened here", "we can't assign blame", etc., etc. Let me state the matter as bluntly as possible - there was absolutely no willingness to admit sin, from the man who supposedly communes with the propitiation for all sin and speaks on behalf of him. I find that telling about the man's real commitment to what he calls "Christ's atonement". But then, telling everyone else to acknowledge THEIR faults, is so much easier to acknowledge anything that might put Gordon, or the church he so enjoys presiding over, in a bad light, isn't it?
And just in case anyone at the ceremony might have construed anything Hinckley said as - God forbid - an apology!, he made sure to announce (falsely) that the church was not involved in the killings. He also said: "that which we have done here must never be construed as an acknowledgment on the part of the church of any complicity in the occurrences of that fateful and tragic day."
So...Mormon leaders organize the massacre of innocent men, women, and CHILDREN. They and rank and file Mormons execute it. The murderers, some of them former Danites, then re-enact a temple prayer circle and swear never to reveal the details of the massacre. Most of them keep that oath. Brigham Young, whatever his knowledge of the massacre beforehand, then attempts to cover-up the massacre, and even expresses sympathy not for the slain, but for the MURDERERS. Then David McKay restores the executed murderer John Lee to full temple blessings - but THAT'S not enough for Hinckley to say sorry?! What more does he want? This is like a terrible joke: How many innocent human beings do death-oath-taking Mormon murderers have to slaughter in obedience to their cult masters, before any of them acknowledges their guilt or a prophet apologizes for the massacre? Answer: Obviously, a lot more than 130. Why, after the John Lee posthumous rebaptism, I'm surprised the church didn't designate an official "John D. Lee Celebration Day". After all, isn't "obedience the highest law of heaven"? This isn't far from a joke - Mormon citizens almost erected a statue of John D. Lee a few years ago in a southern Utah town (http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,595059603,00.html). How do you think those same Mormons would react if tomorrow, local Muslims announced they wanted to erect a statue of Osama Bin Laden in town? They'd freak! No irony there, right? No - not for the Mormon mind. No irony at all.
What of the Mormon church's hideous history of racism? How many other "one, true Christian churches" out there can produce dozens of talk transcripts, letters, published writings, from its apostles and prophets, even into the 1970's, which are nearly indistinguishable from Ku Klux Klan propaganda? Joseph Fielding Smith, prior to becoming church president, wrote that blacks were descendants of Cain, and that Cain was "the father of an inferior race". First Presidency members for decades spoke disparagingly of blacks. Brigham Young taught that slavery was a "divine" principle. Even when I was a kid, Mormon prophets and apostles were saying the most ridiculous and hurtful things about blacks, Native Americans, even about anyone who wasn't born a Mormon, or born in the United States. Where are the apologies? All we've gotten from Hinckley is a "that's all behind us". He wouldn't even say WHAT was "all behind us". What? "Racism"? "False teaching?" What? Even specifying what it was that was "all behind us", would have been SOME paltry acknowledgement. But even that was too much for Gordon Hinckley.
What about the church approving the use of electroshock aversion therapy for homosexuals at BYU? Where's the apology for that?
What about keeping the archives closed, and firing or marginalizing historians for the crime of "revealing facts", when its missionaries continue to die for the church? Where's the apology for that?
What about the terrible torment suffered by many Mormon plural wives, for a practice which Hinckley now won't even admit is doctrinal? Where's the apology for that?
What about all those who were shot, raped, orphaned, widowed, impoverished, and beaten up, for believing in Joseph's lies? Where's the apology for that?
What about all those poor people in Latin America and Africa and elsewhere, who are going to bed hungry at night so they can pay their tithes, while Hinckley is spending one BILLION dollars on shopping malls? Where's the apology for that?
What about Hinckley obstructing a murder investigation during the Salamander Letter fiasco? Where's the apology for that? If Hinckley hadn't gotten himself wound up in an extortion scheme (couldn't he get the seer stone working?), a few people would still be alive right now, who aren't. Where's the apology for that?
Self-preened Mormon leaders seem to so fancy thinking of themselves as genuine apostles of Jesus Christ, the man who preached confession of sin and reconciliation, etc. So why will they not do what they tell everyone else to do (follow Jesus' admonition to seek forgiveness), on behalf of the church they represent? Listen to this, everyone - even Bill Clinton, who all Mormon GAs would regard as an immoral man, apologized to Native Americans for the terrible crimes committed against them by previous American governments - plus he mustered a kind of apology for the Lewinsky affair. So what does it mean that Mormon leaders won't apologize for anything? One thing it might mean, is that even the mendacious Bill Clinton - to whom not even his devoted fans ascribe personal rectitude - might have more of a sense of right and wrong and responsibility, than "the only true prophets and apostles of Jesus". Funny ol' world, innit?
Mormons, and I definitely include at least my former self, survive as believers in one way, and one way only - spontaneously creating a kind of alternative reality in our heads, which relies on distorting certain information, entirely blocking out other information, and letting in anything which appears to confirm what we most wish to believe, to an extreme degree. And I believe that we can get so good at doing that (after all, we've been trained to do so since birth as BIC members), and that our own egos are so involved in our belief commitment, that it becomes far too easy for Mormons to believe in anything they would like to believe in, even things unrelated to religion: nutty homeopathy, nutty chiropractic, nutty political ideas, nutty get-rich-quick/MLM schemes, anything. And underneath it all, we get very good at always justifying ourselves, to the point where a large class of devout Mormons talk a good game about how flawed they are in testimony meeting, GD class, etc., but then rarely if ever do the hard work of actually convicting themselves, in their own hearts, of wrong, or of sincerely apologizing to anyone. They - we - can spontaneously generate a reality in which we have done nothing wrong, and then believe in it just as quickly. I have a TBM relative who has inflicted the most heartbreaking abuse on her own children, and yet who is more smug and detached from reality than any non-Mormon I've ever met. Another close TBM relative recently committed felonious acts of theft, but is absolutely as self-satisfied as anyone you would ever meet, still sailing along at church as though she were the reincarnation of Belle Spafford. I think the "spontaneous reality adjustment" (call it SRA) necessary for maintaining belief in Mormon absurdities, must produce some spillover.
So, where then is the Mormon conscience? What does it look like? At what point can it admit "Mormon wrong"? Has "conscience" been left entirely coopted by cult allegiance, so that it no longer exists in many Mormon minds, as the kind of thing that most normal people think of it as? Can anyone, seemingly incapable of apologizing in anything but the most cynical ways, really be considered to have a conscience? Why won't - or why can't - Mormon leaders do, what even non-Mormon public figures do - apologize for their own misdeeds, or of those of the organizations they represent?
And until they do, what kind of "conscience" can they really be thought to have?
Couple of interesting articles:
| "Whew - I, umm - I think I'm going to get ready for bed", I said.
"You ARE? It's only twenty after eight", said my wife.
"Well, yeah, but you know...I've been thinking, I think I might be going to bed too late". I tried to look nonchalant.
Tracy looked at me with eyebrow raised. "You've never said anything like that before...why do you think you're going to bed too late?".
Suddenly I felt acutely uncomfortable. "Hey, you know, I - uuuuuhhhhhhh - just - like ------ I was, you know....thinkin' 'n stuff". In the back of my mind, Kimberly Ann's comments about my late bedtime on that Monson Hallmark thread echoed round. I tried to stop thinking about them in case my wife actually heard what I was thinking about...
"Well, if you really want to go to bed...have a good sleep", she said.
Wah - made it. I brushed my teeth and put on my Hulk Hogan jammies and got teddy and climbed into bed. The clock said 8:32. I didn't feel tired, but I was pretty clear that Kimberly Ann knew what she was talking about. I began to wonder though what exact time she thought I SHOULD go to bed. Was 8:32 too early? What about 9:15? Was 10 okay? I wondered if I should try to email KA to ask her what time she thought I should go to bed...no, bad idea, too across the line. I've already crossed the line big-time with her. Shoot. Now I'll never know what time I'm really supposed to go to bed.
8:44 PM....mind drifting....
I wonder what Wine Country Girl's doing right now? I mean, besides pounding back another bottle of Merlot? I wonder how her daughter's doing...she was pretty...
8:45 PM....Man, that substrate's in trouble....I wonder what he ended up telling his kids...this is serious....
8:46 PM....Great idea for a parody: "Church Bans Multiple Orgasms for Women"...They've already banned multiple earrings in one ear. What would stop them from banning multiple O's? I wonder if I could slip some thinly-veiled reference to my love-making prowess into the parody to make myself look like a bigshot on RFM...No, too shameless, even for me...
8:47 PM...What are KA and her husband really going to be doing in Branson? Who are these people? What are they like?
8:48 PM...I'm so glad that Q**st*ing B**st isn't on RFM anymore. The guy drove me insane...And what was really up with Steve Benson? Did he and the mods get in another squabble?....
8:49 PM...What was it like for Fubeca to spend his entire life thinking he was straight, and then all of a sudden realize he was gay? How does that work? If you're gay, how do you not know it? Remember to ask Fubeca about this...
8:50 PM...Speaking of gay, what happened to "roadshows"? I remember them being pretty fun...remember to ask on RFM...
8:51 PM...Is SL Cabbie still in a twelve-step program? Seems like he knows a lot about psychology and stuff...he must have some cool stories to tell - all cabbies do...
8:52 PM...Does Bob McCue have a team of elves helping him write out his posts? I still don't get how the guy can blast out that much material - it's incredible!
"What are you doing today?", asks wife.
"I have to take care of a bunch of legal stuff for this stupid album", I said. Suddenly I remember - I wonder how T-Bone made out on his legal exams...They must be pretty hard. Good for him, though. Maybe he'll be able to figure out a way to sue the church for misrepresentation or something...
"What are you thinking about?"
"Huh? Oh - I was...I was just thinking about...............how beautiful you were and stuff".
"No you weren't".
Gah. "Well, you do look beautiful", I said. Yeah... aesthetics. That exit story from Et in Utah Ego was like a machine gun blast or something. Leaving the church for aesthetic reasons...why not? The Manti Temple was nice, Logan's nice, there are a few other gems, but what is up with those ridiculous paintings they keep printing in the Ensign? I wonder if Et's added to it - I should check...
(Three hours later while mowing lawn)
I wonder what kind of place Susan I/S lives in...is she in a cabin out in the woods or something? And what does Randy J. do for a living?...
(Two hours later finishing song)
Siog hasn't posted in a while...I wonder where she is?...And speaking of multiple O's, I wonder if Wendy Watson's even had ONE yet...How can Nelson not be on Viagra?...Do the GA's have their own pharmacist so the Tanners can't smuggle out their records?...The Book of Abraham thing was embarrassing, but even more mortifying I bet would be Nelson's Viagra prescriptions...yikes!
(That night in bed with Tracy)
Start sweet talking her...she's responding...come up with a hilarious idea for a romantic vibe-killer - right when I can see she's really feeling all googly-like and is waiting for me to put the royal moves on her, I look right in her eyes, pause, and then say, "I KNOW THE BOOK OF MORMON IS TRUE". I wouldn't get no candy but it would be so funny, maybe it would be worth it. She'll freak! Just got another idea for an RFM post - top ten ways to irritate your exmo wife...I bet that would really irritate Kimberly Ann too NO STOP NO MORE
(One hour later, while drifting off to sleep)
This has gotten totally out of control...
| Mormon leaders should shut up about homosexuality because by their own account, they have NO information about its nature, NO "revelation" to communicate about how to "cure" homosexuality, and NO idea even what it is. Church apostles can't even agree amongst themselves what it is - Faust has denied that homosexuality could be an innate proclivity; Oaks has allowed that it may be. (Gee...is that kind of like two different church positions on who the Lamanites are?). Yet, the whole world is supposed to listen to these guys, who can't even agree among themselves about homosexuality, when they announce that they ARE quite certain that gay men and women ("whatever being 'gay' even is") are incapable of being responsible parents or partners? Call me crazy, but I don't really get this.
The most Gordon B. Hinckley himself can muster on homosexuality is to proclaim it a "problem". (Wow, that really clears things up - thanks, Gordon). On Larry King, he stated (as if his mere statement should have sufficed to settle the matter forever):
"We know they have a problem".
When Larry asked then, what kind of "problem" Hinckley thought it was, he replied (if you can believe it):
"I DON'T KNOW. I'm not an expert on these things. I don't pretend to be an expert on these things. The fact is, they have a problem."
Hey Gordon - if having a supposedly working seer stone sitting in your vault, which you are the SOLE person on earth authorized by an omniscient God himself to use, and being a genuine "prophet, seer, and REVELATOR", doesn't qualify you as more of an "expert" than any other human on a matter of such moral gravity that the Israelites were stoning people to death for practicing it, and in fact doesn't even qualify you to explain ANYTHING WHATSOEVER about it - not even whether it could be an innate predisposition - I suggest you stop embarrassing yourself by mentioning anything at all about it. That is, I think what's a lot more of a "problem" than being gay, is religious charlatans running around telling their deluded followers that something is a "problem", that by their own account they know virtually nothing about. How could anyone feel such pride in such ignorance? I bet Pres. Hinckley left that Larry King interview and thought to himself, "That went great".
Suggestion for future LDS presidents reading this (you never know):
If you think something is a "problem", say:
"I think X is a problem, and this is why". Then explain why you think it is a problem, and how you have come to believe it is that kind of problem.
"And here is what I think is a solution to this problem". Then explain your proposed solution.
Don't go on international television and announce that something is a "problem", and then when asked for details, immediately lapse into the dumbass routine. It's embarrassing. "How shoud I know what kind of problem it is?" is NOT a good reply when asked to comment on the thing you just pronounced a "problem". Certainly Edelman should have covered this....?
These people seem insane to me now.
| Dan Peterson's use of the word "evidently" in describing Nielsen's position at BYU is intended to leave members thinking this: |
That Jeffrey Nielsen is so insignificant, so "nothing", that anything he says by extension is insignificant and of no importance. It serves to distract member attention away from Nielsen's points, whatever their merit, and on to his STATUS at BYU, which members are then supposed to think of as nearly non-existent. Yet, sadly, Peterson still seems bewildered and hurt when people observe that he focuses so often on everything but what is really at issue, in his poor, mad scribblings.
But as if a typical distraction tactic wasn't lame enough, he enhances its lameness by writing that he's good friends with the chair of the philosophy department. So what he's saying is that A.) he's good friends with the chair of the philosophy department, that B.) Jeffrey Nielsen's exact position at BYU is relevant to his comments in his guest editorial (or at least its sequel), but that C.) despite that position supposedly being relevant, DCP can't or won't pick up the phone for ten seconds to confirm with his good friend running the philosophy department exactly what that position IS (i.e., "why check, when we already know, by virtue of his opinions, that whatever it is, it's basically meaningless?"). Hmmmm...
Further, Jeffrey Nielsen, from what I can find on Google, has a Ph.D. from Boston College, which has a great graduate program in philosophy. It seems misleading (intentionally?) for Dan Peterson to insinuate Nielsen had no greater academic qualifications (in stressing his "instructor" role) than some first year master's student teaching 100 level classes. Nielsen in fact was a Teaching Fellow at BC and is a visiting lecturer at BYU (not for long, however), in addition to working in the private sector.
Lastly, the really stupid thing about this is that Jeffrey Nielsen, in a very short time, has made quite a splash in the world. His book on leadership garnered these reviews:
The CEO Refresher
Very timely and powerful. This is serious brain food for business and one of the best books of the year!
CIO Magazine, June 2004
Offers guidance as to how companies can gradually introduce peer-based concepts.
CIO Insight, June 2004
What is worth paying attention to here is his belief that organizations invest too much power in senior leadership.
Chicago Tribune, Aug. 2, 2004
What you'll learn: Peer-based thinking and decision-making organizations are more effective than rank-based, bureaucratic firms.
HR Magazine, September 2004
The book outlines how rank-based organizations develop, and identifies three management vehicles you need to start a peer-based organization.
Training Magazine, September 2004
Though readers ask how this idea would work in reality, there is no doubt...not a bad place to start.
Training Media Review, December 2004
A book that challenges my thinking keeps me reading. Therefore, I recommend this book. Provides practitioners with a useful model.
But, where are the glowing non-BYU, non-FARMS reviews of Daniel Peterson's latest contribution to the world of knowledge? While Jeffrey Nielsen is writing highly-esteemed books on leadership, running his own firm (Intellectual Capital Development), business consulting around the world, thinking critically about Joseph's freakish, self-serving appendage on to Christianity and noticing its many internal contradictions, teaching at BYU, writing guest editorials knowing full well that bought-off church dimwits will consequently attack not his arguments but his character, status, and credentials, etc., Dan Peterson is hanging around all day with the Mormon post-modernist (gee, no problem there) Juliann on a bulletin board, embarrassing himself - again.
If we had any doubt the church was a fraud, that it actually has guys like DCP "defending" it should confirm it beyond any doubt.
| I don't know the exact date, but it must have been in January of 2004. I opened the drawer and there were my garments, just like they had been for the previous decade and a half.
I had just spent the previous two years researching, and re-researching, with increasing discomfort and desperation, all of the religious claims I had based my life on. I had written to Dallin Oaks early on about one particular concern, then at his suggestion forwarded the letter to the First Presidency, which despite my request to keep the letter "personal and confidential", had thought nothing of photocopying it and sending it directly to my branch president, along with a brushoff.
But to be fair, that hardly mattered anymore. By the time the First Presidency brush off arrived, the jig was already up. I knew the Book of Moses was a fraud. The Joseph Smith Translation was a fraud. The Book of Mormon was a fraud. The Pearl of Great Price was a fraud. The testimony of the witnesses was little more than a farce, despite all the spin attempts of old Brother Anderson in his book. The alterations to what had been proclaimed "eternal" and "indispensable" theological principles and rituals, and the myriad internal inconsistencies, were all of them thoroughly damning. And I had been able (with the unwitting help of the church's apologetic team, which displays them so spectacularly in their writing) to unravel all the mindgames I'd been playing myself to keep on believing things to be true, which I now saw could not possibly be true, any more than two and two could ever make five.
And so, feeling sadder and more disoriented than ever in my life, I had come to recognize what seemed beyond nightmarish: I had been wrong about everything that was most important to me in life. I had built my life on a religion, which I now saw, had no greater reason to be thought God's only true religion, as any other religion, and in fact, a good deal less. I had had riveting spiritual experiences which I thought meant that Joseph had always told the truth; and yet, he had not, and I now saw that my spiritual experiences were at bottom indistinguishable from those of millions of other human beings in all kinds of other faith traditions, who believed with as much fervour as I had.
So that morning in January 2004, when I lifted my garments out of the drawer, it was the first time ever, in my whole life, I had ever seen them for what they were: poly-cotton underclothing with little designs on them, the end. They were no more intrinsically sacred than a pair of Speedos, and afforded no more physical protection than a rabbit's foot, a lucky penny, or Dumbo's magic feather. Up until that time, they had "served as a reminder" of "sacred covenants" sworn in the temple, including a death oath of church allegiance. But now that I knew Joseph's temple rituals had no greater claim to having been inspired than Mafia induction ceremonies...there obviously was no need to keep wearing them.
Besides, "serving as a reminder of temple covenants" was only another way of stating what temple garments had really meant. In a way, they spoke for the church, and what they said was this:
You "belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints"
You have not sovereignty over your own self - - we do
And you are OURS now
In swearing a death oath of allegiance, you have surrendered your conscience to us. And you will not question. You have no right to question. You have only the right to obey. And you must obey. You must obey. And the most important law for you to obey, is that you must always obey. For you do not belong to yourself, or to your husband or wife, but
And you must never - never - think of reclaiming your right of ownership over your own faith, your own conscience, your own soul, your own life, your own time, your own talents, your own emotions, your own mind, your own hopes, your own loves, your own funeral, your own ANYTHING. That is evil. You belong to us, and only in us, and serving us - belonging to us - is there safety. *And you wouldn't want to not be safe, would you?*
But I did not belong to Joseph Smith, or his successors. They were frauds, and they had NO RIGHT to own another human being. They had no right to control another man's conscience. Mormon authority claims (and that included my own), I now knew, were as ridiculous as they were insidious, derived from a man so given over to lying, that his outrageous falsehoods couldn't even help but be memorialized in his OWN church's official literature! (See JS's 1844 talk, in the OHC, wherein he slanders Wm. Law and proclaims himself a strict monogamist).
Funnily enough, as I took my garments out of the drawer, I felt perfectly calm - no rancour, no anger, just a peaceful understanding of what I had really been a part of, and what I would never be a part of again. I no longer belonged to a cult. I now belonged to me, and I supposed, to those around me, and perhaps, to a creator which I couldn't rule out the existence of.
I threw my garments into a large plastic bag, along with my temple clothes. I also grabbed a bunch of the church pamphlets, manuals, old BOMs, that were lying around, and threw them in the bag as well. My wife at the time was still racked with fear over everything - you don't just overcome conditioned fear responses in a couple of weeks - and seemed almost paralyzed with indecision. But I'd spent two years in mental turmoil, and by that time, the disorientation had begun to dissipate enough, so that I felt no reluctance to act.
So, I walked outside of our house (this was on Salt Spring Island, BC), built a bonfire, and threw everything in. My wife came out while my temple clothes were melting and burning, and said, "What are you doing? What if some member drops by to visit?". But I just couldn't summon the ability to care what a member would think...
Members talk about receiving their endowments, and the wearing of garments, as a profoundly spiritual experience. I understand how that can be, for I felt that way myself, while I still thought that Joseph had told the truth about his experiences.
But I have now had a far more moving spiritual experience. It involved seeing for what it was the pathetic fear-mongering the Mormon church employs in order to try to maintain control of those they never did have any right to control. It involved seeing the fraud for what it was, and refusing any longer to grant another man, or set of men, control over my conscience, my life, my soul. It involved ceasing to play mindgames with myself, ceasing to try to make two and two equal five, or 7.556, or negative 13 million, ceasing to try to find some consistency in FARMS-style ad hoc apologetics, and refusing to just "go along to get along" with the church despite the lies, as my stake president had essentially encouraged.
I felt, for the first time, like I was who God had wanted me to be - or at least, I felt like I now had a chance to be (after all, who exactly the real "me" was at that early stage, was still fairly vague). But at least I was clear on this: I wasn't the property of a fraudulent cult founded by a control freak/near-pedophile who had as little regard for the truth as he did for the many people who perished for his lies. And my children wouldn't grow up reciting in primary, "I BELONG to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints".
Needless to say, that was the last day I ever wore garments.
| What happened was this. I had that final epiphany at some point around late October/early November of 2003 (can't remember exactly when, that's all a blur now), and almost immediately after realizing it all, I told my wife. Although I had given her a minor heads up a few months earlier that I had questions I was trying to find answers to, nothing else had been said about the church until that moment when I spilled my guts to her. Of course, this was very sobering to her.
Long story short is, I wanted to talk to the children right away about everything, but Tracy asked me to wait. She was still trying to come to grips with everything. So I waited. Shortly thereafter, I asked to be released as Gospel Doctrine teacher and branch counselor, and the Sunday on which I was released (on which there was a sacrament meeting primary presentation) was the last Sunday we attended. When the following Sunday came round, we just went to the park and had a picnic, if I remember right. The next Sunday we did some other activity. We had never done anything like this in our family - notwithstanding all the stupid emails I get from Mormon apologists and members insinuating that we were floaters, we always tried our hardest to do everything we thought the Lord wanted us to do. We never missed church, and would never have even considered missing other than for illness.
Family Home Evening had been suspended, as had family scripture reading, church attendance, everything, and I was starting to hear questions from the kids: "Today's Sunday? Then why aren't we going to church?", etc. It was driving me nuts - I felt like I was keeping some big secret from them, and I didn't like them being confused. So I kept asking Tracy if she felt okay about us telling the kids what was going on, but she kept saying, "I'm not ready yet".
So finally, after like three or maybe four weeks of this, I said to Tracy, "We have to talk to the kids. This is crazy. Jed" (who'd just turned twelve) "was supposed to be ordained to the priesthood a couple of weeks ago and we owe them an explanation". Tracy relented, but said she couldn't bear to be there in person. She wanted me to do it.
So I gathered up my three oldest kids: Jed, just 12, Ashton, 10, and Matthias, 9, and we climbed up on the bunks in their bedroom. (By the way, with the help of our then home teacher, we had turned their bedroom into a "Call of the Wild" theme room. I had painted a giant mural on the wall with gold panners, dogsleds, forests, mountains, etc., and our home teacher and I had taken the exteriors of cedar logs gathered from a local miller and built replicas of cabins, on top of each of which was a bed).
So we climbed up on top of the cabins and laid in the beds together, and I began to speak. I said something like, "I know you're probably wondering why we haven't been attending church the past few weeks...I want to talk about that." I then went on to tell them that I had found some stuff out about Joseph Smith, which had made it clear to me he hadn't told the truth about his experiences...and I had come to the conclusion that I had been wrong about the church, and that it wasn't what it claimed. I went into a bit of detail on things like the Pearl of Great Price, the First Vision story, and one or two other things. They listened quietly.
When I'd spoken for a few minutes, I asked if they had any questions. One thing that surprised me was that it very much seemed like the oldest two immediately knew that what I was saying was true. It was like, in those few minutes, the contorted, ad hoc models of reality, subserved by willed, selective blindness, that you have to construct in order to believe, which they necessarily had had to begin constructing, collapsed. In that moment, I could tell that they had mentally taken a step back, apprized the situation, and...just instantly, kind of knew. (Later, all three would individually come to me and confess doubts they had had before. "I could never figure out how the Adam and Eve story could be true, since there were people on earth way before they were supposed to be alive. And they said nothing died before Adam and Eve, but the dinosaurs did..." was one I heard a couple of times.)
The only one who seemed a bit surprised was Matthias. He said, "how did you find all this stuff out?". When I asked a few minutes later if anyone felt sad, only Matthias spoke up. He said, "Yeah, especially after all the time we put in". Yah.
(Incidentally, a few months ago Matthias and I were driving around Victoria, where there are some beautiful old churches. I said, "would you ever like to go to one of those churches just to see what it's like?". He immediately grew anxious and said, "No, I don't want to go". When I asked him why not, he said that he was afraid the people inside would tell him lies, but he wouldn't know whether they were lies or not since "I'm still too young to know the difference".)
Back to the conversation:
I had gone from thinking I knew everything of importance in the universe, to thinking I knew nothing of importance in the universe. And I had awakened with a feeling of almost horror, to how I myself had tried controlling the thoughts and emotions and personalities of my children. So I didn't feel like "recommending" anything to my boys - what did I know? I just told them what I'd come to conclude and how, and tried to emphasize to them that I had no problem if they came to a different conclusion than I had, and that I would be happy to take them to church if they wanted to keep going for any reason. And I was serious.
But as I said, it seemed like they instantly knew. They are all naturally bright boys, and it's funny...it is like awakening from a sleep or some other altered state of consciousness; once it happens, you can't go back. Realizing your religion is a fraud is more than changing your mind based on some new information; it is more akin (to me) to thinking the dream you're having is real - but then waking up. Facts can jog you out of that state, like a telephone ring can wake you from sleep, but it isn't really the facts per se which changes everything. If facts really did this, all of us wouldn't now have the experience of thinking, "man...I knew a bunch of this stuff before, but I just never put it all together". We tend to underappreciate, I think, the extent to which we were all mentally conditioned as members, and the conditioning we did to ourselves.
So, it was almost like my sons "snapped out of it", and immediately saw the church for what it was. And it hurt, so none of them wanted to go back. What members don't understand is that it's not so much "rebellious anger" that makes you pop off once in a while, or turn your back forever on the church - it's hurt. It hurts to realize you were a fool, and that you followed fools, and you were taken in by fools. It hurts your pride. It rocks your self-image. It hurts to recognize how many feelings you hurt while you were "speaking on behalf of the Lord". It hurts to recognize how much you judged others. It just hurts, at least if you were a sincere believer.
Boys being boys though, there is the odd joke now about the mindgames we, and our friends, all played on ourselves as members. But mostly now, Mormonism very rarely comes up with the children. I get the feeling from the boys that their former belief in Mormonism is rather like an embarrassing, hurtful episode in their lives they would rather forget all about forever.
As far as the little kids went, my seven year old at the time was quite scattered, and the other kids were so little, that all we said to them was that we had decided not to go to that church anymore. After all the hundreds and hundreds of hours we'd put in, I was surprised to hear my little girl say she was glad we weren't going anymore since it was so boring.
| I don't get BYU.
I attended it for one semester as a flaming TBM RM, and I didn't get it then, and I don't get it now. No doubt members will attribute my incomprehension to a "lack of the spirit"...maybe, maybe not. All I know is, it doesn't make sense to me, and it doesn't make sense to a lot of other people. Here are a few reasons why.
BYU (as is their prerogative) is refusing to re-hire a philosophy instructor because he publicly questioned the church's stance on gay marriage. Okay, let's say that's fine.
But on the very same campus, every single day school is in session, Mormon professors in all kinds of disciplines teach ideas which are just as "apostate" as anything Jeff Nielsen has come up with, yet nothing will happen to them.
For example, in classes dealing with astronomy and astrophysics, I am quite sure no BYU professor, at least in the last century, has ever announced that light from the sun comes not from internal nuclear processes, but from the sun "borrowing" its light from Star Kolob. But why not, when the claim of Kolobian light borrowing is CANONICAL? (See PGP facsimile)
In anthropology classes, I am quite sure no professor teaches that the entire human race was wiped out by a global flood a mere 4500 years ago, and then had to build itself back up from the three kids of a Jewish guy named Noah (and I'm not even mentioning the animals). But this event would be a very important thing for anthropology students to know, if it were true. So why isn't it taught explicitly as fact, when this is a canonized statement of supposed fact? It's Mormon doctrine. Why is it that those BYU professors who blatantly contradict Mormon doctrine in their anthropology classes are allowed to keep their jobs?
What of my own BYU professor of earth science, who began his class by announcing that he "didn't agree" with how the teachers over at the religious education building described the formation and age of the earth, or their account of how life came to be on this planet. And that was the first day. I sat in that class for weeks, and there was absolutely no mention of the earth only having been populated by humans from about 3000 BC on, once Adam and his wife showed up. There was no mention of the official First Presidency statement, issued under Joseph F. Smith, stating that Adam, and Adam alone, was the "primal parent" of the human race. Why not? This FP statement was well backed up by numerous LDS scriptures. Yet my own BYU earth sciences professor taught the history of the earth, including its population, just as any other professor at any other university would have. Life evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, etc. No mention of the cataclysmic effects of Adam's fall on creation. But why not, when Adam's fall - and its role in the population of the world - is canonized doctrine? Why is that just ignored, if it's true?
At BYU, it is possible to attend your Religious Education class and learn that Adam and Eve were real, and that their fall was real, and had real consequences for the physical world including the human race and the animal kingdom, and then walk five minutes to your next class and watch a biology professor roll his eyes and tell you "they teach what they need to teach, and I teach what I need to teach" when you mention your religion teacher to him.
And bear in mind - the biology and anthropology and astronomy teachers are all teaching this stuff - this truly apostate stuff - IN CLASS, to Mormon students. Jeff Nielsen, by contrast, wrote an op-ed piece for the Salt Lake Tribune. There has been no report of him "misbehaving" in class, or even sharing his opinion about gay marriage in his classes. Jeff Nielsen, an instructor at a university, was let go because he disagreed with Mormon church authorities in a newspaper piece, while all around him at BYU, there are professors who are blatantly contradicting Mormon scriptures and official First Presidency statements and positions while they teach actual BYU students. But nothing happens there. Why not?
BYU, for all its achievements (law, for example), seems bent on becoming an unwitting parody of a private university run by a fundamentalist religion. On the one hand, all associated with the school must convince themselves that "there is no inherent conflict between the gospel and higher education", while at the same time, they support an institution which embodies just that conflict. To be specific, that's the conflict between a "gospel" which contains not just false, but spectacularly false, claims about the world, and an intellectual impulse represented by the university, the purpose of which is to *uncover* false claims about the world. How can those two things be reconciled? Only by a religion capitulating entirely and acknowledging that at least some of what it stands for, appears to be nonsense; barring that, a "religious fundamentalist university" makes about as much sense as "a triangular square circle" or a "fat slim infant man": none.
As a result, the main differences between BYU and public universities are (pretty much irrelevant to learning) BYU's dress and grooming standards (which of course would probably prohibit Jesus himself from studying there - not that I think Jesus will be too bothered), and its shameful incoherence and capriciousness, and antagonism toward things like...professors declining to abide by death oaths of allegiance to a cult fuhrer.
But really, it's the chaos and contradiction that bother me. BYU professors, all teaching students under the authority of the "one, true religion", teach students totally contradictory things. BYU wishes to be afforded the respect of a conscientious university, but then acts capriciously, unfairly, and in violation of the standards that other universities try to abide by. And BYU fires professors for doing the same thing that other BYU professors do, professors which it would never think of firing. That's not fair.
I think BYU should make a decision: buck accreditation altogether so as to eliminate all incoherence and chaos, and make the whole thing into a Mormon Madrassah, full-stop (of course, that's supposing Mormonism could actually eliminate incoherence and contradiction from itself first); or get out of the university business altogether, and just focus on running their religion. This business of trying to play two contradictory games at the same time, and all the weird manifestations of that - like maintaining you're a real university while firing profs for writing op-ed pieces in local newspapers, etc. - seems nuts.
Like I said, I just don't get it.
| Boy, they sure seem avuncular, don't they? The First Prez and the 12 seem just like lovable old fellas who'd love to help you mow your lawn or bring over a piece of blueberry pie. I actually think Mormon General Authorities, for the most part, probably have that side to them. Can anyone imagine Henry Eyring really pulling a nasty (excuse me, pulling a Packer) on someone? He seems like a very nice guy. Many of them do.
Yet there is something we often forget, and that is, that those avuncular fellas, the guys who tell those homespun fables and impish little jokes at General Conference, make a truly shocking, and if I may say, vile claim, which ought to be either ignored, ridiculed, or scrutinized and then condemned (I kind of alternate between all the options). That claim is, that the First Presidency and the 12, are really the rightful dictators of the entire world. (Of course, this all began with the Prime Megalomaniac himself, Joseph Smith, Jr., who claimed the exclusive right to serve as the dictator over the entire earth, even having himself anointed as the earth's "king". Nice.)
If we went into an insane asylum tomorrow, and met a man who said to us, "By rights, I SHOULD BE THE DICTATOR OF THE ENTIRE WORLD! In fact, I AM the dictator of the world, but just not everyone recognizes it yet!", we would say, "this man is indeed a fevered lunatic...May God grant he never escape this facility". Yet, sitting in an office building in Salt Lake City everyday, are a bunch of guys who basically say the same thing just by virtue of having accepted their callings as Mormon apostles. If the asylum inmate was cheery and well-groomed when he informed us about his identity as the only rightful dictator of the world, I doubt we would think of him as any less crazy or megalomaniacal. And so I think we ought to regard Mormon apostles in the same way: they, and their claims, literally, are nearly insane, and if the leaders are not insane, they must be the grossest of megalomaniacs; and because they have access to many millions of dollars, they are actually potentially quite dangerous. There's not much a penniless would-be dictator of the world can do; but the rich ones - ones who own television stations, radio stations, already control highly placed politicians....well, there we may have a few problems.
And as I type this, a man named Mitt Romney, who has sworn a death oath of loyalty to an organization run by avuncular theocratic fascists claiming to be the world's only rightful dictators, is running for president of the United States. Shouldn't he be questioned about his own belief that the only man who has letitimate governing authority over anything secular or religious, is his cult fuhrer? Shouldn't Mitt, as a supporter of the crazy asylum inmate, also be regarded as rather crazy?
Anyway, I was just thinking: sometimes we forget that it isn't just that Mormon leaders, however friendly, are spiritual Stalinists; it is that they actually claim that God has made them dictators over the mind, heart, and spirit - word and deed and conscience and life and potentially everything - of every single human being on this planet, Mormon or not. They must be nuts, or megalomaniacs. They seem no different than Osama-loving Muslim clerics, or the crazy man in the asylum.
And to think these guys accuse resigned Mormons of pride...what a joke. Tell you what, GA friends - once you stop believing that you're the rightful dictators over ALL SIX BILLION human beings on this planet, we can talk about who's got a pride problem!
| The Mormon church has fired CES instructor Dan Phelps, the mayor of Clearfield, Utah, for viewing pornography on a city laptop computer. It also released him from his calling as stake president. Regardless of your views on pornography, that does make sense for a church which is supposedly anti-pornography.
What makes less sense is this: Despite all of the above, the church continues to allow one of America's biggest pornography profiteers, Bill Marriott Jr. of hotel fame, to keep HIS callings in church, and despite not accepting tithes on money won through gambling on grounds it was gained immorally, happily accepts Marriott's tithing on money earned from the sale of hardcore pornography in his hotel rooms. And by the way, according to the NY Times, the Marriott Corporation takes in around $200 million per annum in pornography sales. (See NY Times, "Wall Street Meets Pornography", Oct. 23, 2000).
So...if you *look* at pornography, the church fires you and releases you from your calling. But if you *sell* $200 million of it each year all over the world to hundreds of thousands of people just like the poor chump who got fired, making millions in the process, you DON'T get released. In fact, you get to serve as a stake president asking your stake underlings if they keep the Law of Chastity, and then serve (as I understand it) as a temple president. Oh yeah - and though one of America's top porn profiteers, you also get to remain Mormon Royalty.
Can someone explain this to me?
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