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TAL BACHMAN - SECTION 6
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.
| Like other former Mormons who have to endure the sight of their loved ones devoting their lives to a completely fraudulent church, I feel rather impelled to try to give those still in, the opportunity of knowing what there is to know about Joseph Smith's false tales. Of course, this is regarded as "leaving the church, but not being able to leave it alone", as though this were some sign that people who dislike seeing their loved ones duped, could only be motivated by Satan (great church).
It seems as though members of the church are incapable of fathoming that
A.) Joseph Smith may not have told the truth about his stories, and there might be a way of finding that out;
B.) those who find that out don't enjoy watching their loved ones donate so much of their time and money to Joseph's church out of ignorance, and simply wish to give them the chance to find out what they now know.
I think the fairest thing to do would be to turn this around: members of the church, especially its apologists, can leave the truth, but cannot leave it alone. Members and apologists are forever justifying to themselves their continued allegiance to the church...
The apologists in fact are ridiculous - they make a big show of assembling "evidence" to support their desire to continue believing in Mormonism, and then in the very moment someone points out how the evidence doesn't really support Mormon claims at all, they immediately say, "well, we deny that evidence can show one way or the other whether the church is true anyway. It's all by the spirit". Obvious question: If you really believe that, why does FARMS exist? When I call it the propaganda arm of the church, I am deriving that judgment from the iterations of FARMS writers themselves, who whenever cornered say that physical evidence cannot prove or disprove Mormon truth claims. Well, if that is true, then church defense efforts ARE totally divorced from reality, and can be nothing but propaganda masquerading as "scholarly research", which in fact, it is, even though it is not true that evidence has no bearing on Mormon truth claims.
I regard the ongoing efforts of church propagandists to defend Joseph Smith's church as the world's only true religion, despite the mountain of evidences that young Joseph was a frequent liar, as indicative of the fact that Mormon apologists may leave the truth, but they cannot leave it alone.
| I just got sent a copy of this essay I wrote this past year by an RFM reader. I'm posting it again here, since he says it helped clarify to him and his wife that the church was a fraud. It is long, but hopefully it is worth reading or printing out (asterisks are meant to highlight, since this board no longer accepts italics or bold).
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: 1. http://home.teleport.com/~packham/byo.... See also Ezra Taft Benson's modern justification of this idea here: http://www.lds-mormon.com/fourteen.sh...).
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 merely 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 supposedly 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*." (Anyone else feel like vomiting?)
(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/s...
To summarize so far: 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/s...), 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 he claimed 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/s... (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 alone 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*. Young's contemporaries, unlike him, 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 do not 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/j...).
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 radical 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 every one of his other opinions on important matter were FAR outside the cultural mainstream. This calls into question this point of Mauss's defense. 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 (the Mountain Meadows Massacre) if he did not actually originally approve it, and who thought of himself as the only man on earth with legitimate authority to preside over anyone and everyone. Guess what, Armand? THAT AIN'T 'MAINSTREAM'.
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 AT ALL, but rather, 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 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 *Brigham Young himself* 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 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*, and that he then pronounced it *mistakenly* as "doctrine" (Young's word) - a doctrine which then directly affected Mormon action and inaction on slavery and race issues, which in turn influenced Mormon doctrine and policy for another 125 years, which obviously in turn affected the lives of African-Americans (as well as the attitudes of many millions of white Mormons).
As with so many "apologetic arguments", this is no apologetic argument at all, since to believe that a prophet mistook, out of cultural bias, an evil practice for a righteous one, and then preached his mistake as DOCTRINE for years, is to believe (obviously) that a sitting church president very much COULD - and DID - "lead the church astray" - and that means that THE MORMON CHURCH IS A FRAUD. In short, subscribing to Mauss's defense in fact gives us grand reason to NEVER again believe ANY Mormon prophet's "prophetic" claims about ANYTHING. There is no way around that (thanks for the clarification, Armand). Once again, Mauss's line of argument torpedoes the claims of 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." 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 of such stupid, vile racism with a glib 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.
From Joseph Smith:
"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 dictatedby His counsel." (History of the Church, by Joseph Smith, Vol. 2, pages 436-438)
| I have heard several times over the past three years that in church, members have taken to explaining declining conversion rates, increasing resignations, and increasing inactivity, as the separation of the wheat (the truly worthy members) from the tares (the weak), in preparation for the Second Coming.
Whenever I hear this, I think of guys like Grey Matter, and Substrate, and Bob McCue, and I suppose myself, and so many others on here, who have read literally hundreds of church books - bios, doctrinal treatises, historical pieces, etc., not to mention spent hours studying the scriptures...All of us devoted our entire lives to the church, and we were all true believers; I think it was because Mormonism was so important to us, that we spent so much time trying to understand every last facet of the "one true gospel", and in the process, and to our shock, found out it was a fraud.
Moreover, I daresay that any three RFM posters chosen at random, would absolutely kill any three active members chosen at random, on any kind of church history or church doctrine test; neither would it surprise me that any three RFM posters would be probably best any three active members on quantifiable measures of obedience while they were members of the church.
What I'm trying to say is that it kind of seems to me that if there is any separation of wheat and tares going on, the church seems to be getting the short end of the stick. The church, that is, seems to be losing a LOT of people who would probably unanimously have been viewed as "wheat" as members; and of the members I know who are still in, very few take Mormonism anywhere near as seriously as, say, my mother-in-law always did (now an exmo), or my cousin and his family did (now also an exmo), or any of the RFM posters I mentioned above.
Certainly, those who post at FAIR, those who write to Eric K, and those who email me (plus those I know), leave me with the impression that the church is being left with members who are almost unbelievably ignorant, or else totally indifferent to whether the church is really true, since they "love being Mormons". Maybe I'm crazy, but I can hardly regard ignoramuses or purely social Mormons as anything other than far more tare-like than wheat-like...
Just a thought.
| My old hero Ezra Benson was fond of saying, "people get the governments they deserve". I wonder if one might also say that *governments* get the *citizens* they deserve. And if so, it is probably justifiable to say that "religions get the members they deserve".
If so, what kind of members is the Mormon church getting, and retaining, and why?
It seems to me that there was a shift in the late 70's, early 80's, in the...I don't know what the word is...in the "collective consciousness" of Mormon leaders. When you read church manuals and magazines and GA sermons from before this time, there is a conspicuous lack of doubt; it is taken for granted that Mormonism is the universe's "only one true way", and church material manifests no fear in stating Mormon doctrine in blatant terms, and even going into a surprising amount of detail on church doctrine on race, sexuality, Book of Mormon peoples, the saintly character of "the prophet Joseph", etc.
Arrington writes in his autobio that when he and his assistants first moved in as church historians, that they found boxes and boxes of totally unread, uncatalogued material - Joseph Fielding Smith had been the church historian for half a century, but hadn't seen any need to do anything other than publish the same tales Mormons had been telling themselves, and in the process improving, for decades. He reports that Spencer Kimball was all for opening things up and getting truly accurate histories written. Yet, just a few disturbing revelations and publications later (such as the inclusion in "The Letters of Brigham Young to His Sons" of a letter from Young intructing a son, who was out on a mission, to stop chewing tobacco), a rearguard movement was ignited within the quorum of the Twelve, evidently driven by Petersen, Benson, and Packer. (Interestingly, Arrington also has few kind words to say about Hinckley, who - reading between the lines - comes off in his autobio as often cynical and two-faced).
Whatever the internal politics of the matter, it seems to me that it wasn't long before the "opening up" had turned into the "closing down again" - and it is hard to see this as anything other than an expression of a real fear among the rearguardists, that accurate history would undermine the basis of belief in Mormonism.
Some, like Michael Quinn, did not share that fear. In his talk "On Being a Mormon Historian", he characterizes the "defensive", "siege-like" history demanded by Packer as in fact "faith-destroying", in that it left the faith of sincere Mormons "vulnerable" to facts (he cites the rise of Mormon defections to polygamist groups as one example of this). Citing the earthy histories of the scriptures themselves, he suggests that candid historical discussions of prophets, in all their humanity and placed in their historical contexts, wouldn't so much weaken belief, as help insulate and fortify it.
The result of this clash has been a kind of schizophrenia. On the one hand, church manuals, prophetic pronouncements, and GA sermons for the past twenty years, have increasingly hewn to the Packer standard. Indeed, many of them sound essentially moronic in their unsophistication. (Gospel Doctrine teacher manuals, as one example, almost inevitably gloss over the many complex questions raised by the scriptures themselves about the nature of right and wrong). And of course, it is nearly inevitable that a deliberate strategy of "simplification" in order to "promote faith" devolves into outright deception, as exemplified best by current prophet Hinckley in his public interviews over the past decade.
On the other hand, such works of "New Mormon History" as "Mormon Enigma", "American Moses", and I believe some of Quinn's books themselves, continue to be offered for sale at the church's official bookstore. Indeed, Grant Palmer's "An Insider's View of Mormon Origins", which does nothing if not present a focused case against Joseph Smith as a reliable source of information about his experiences, was on sale at Deseret Books for two years before being pulled. It literally could have been sitting on a shelf there right next to Joseph Fielding Smith's "Essentials of Church History"!
Yet, it must be said that the moronic approach has prevailed overall, constituting as it seems to the "official" way of presenting Mormonism to its members. It will strain the belief of those, like me, who grew up in the seventies, that it is totally possible right now to be a twenty-something member, who has attended Mormon Sunday School since the age of three, graduated from four years of seminary, and served a mission, never to have heard that Mormon leaders refused to ordain anyone of African descent to the priesthood for 130 years, or that Joseph Smith "married" three dozen women. And those are just a couple of spectacular points of history and doctrine. What about all the less spectacular ones? All of us have acquaintances who seem incapable of comprehending that certain "doctrines" of the church really ARE "doctrines", or at least once were. It is shocking to step back and look at how many tens of thousands of cumulative man hours hours are spent by young Mormons and their teachers to "learn" about "the gospel" (including early morning seminary), when they emerge so shockingly ignorant of it all. They've never heard of endowment changes, perhaps never heard but vaguely of polygamy, never heard of the Israelite provenance of the Native Americans (!), never heard that "to reject a calling is to reject the Lord", and even more than that, seem to be totally incapable of even THINKING about Mormonism. You actually commonly hear stuff as stupid as heard from an RFM troll the other day: that it must not *really* be church doctrine that the prophet cannot lead the church astray (despite it being in the Doctrine and Covenants), since prophets obviously have before!
And musing on all this starts to shed a different kind of light on "the church education system", and Sunday School, and gospel doctrine, etc. They all purport to "teach the gospel". But their aim in the end does not seem to be to "teach the gospel" at all. Rather, like the aim of a Mormon testimony meeting, their aim seems to be nothing more than *helping keep members in a particular psychological state*, by those who themselves have no wish to exit that state. (After all, what could *facts*, in the end, have to do with that state?). This isn't a psychological state which impels human beings to "discover the truth, wherever it may lead", notwithstanding quotes from BY and Reuben Clark about just that. No - it is a psychological state which allows its holders to feel certain pleasing, reassuring *feelings* and hold certain, pleasing beliefs: that we are not alone in the universe; that our lives have deep, cosmic meaning; that "history" is going somewhere - it is all part of a great plan; that within us are the seeds not just greatness, but of godhood!; that we are secure; that all our efforts here are inscribed on eternal tablets, to be memorialized forever; that "everything will work out in the end"; that we have a "true prophet" who speaks to the creator of the universe, a creator who is telling that prophet just what to tell us about what decisions we should make in life, etc. And supporting those feelings and beliefs is the fact that our social needs are being met by those within our group.
It is comfortable there. It is a warm, cozy bed. And who ever wants to jump out of a warm, cozy, bed to explore the rest of the seemingly "cold and dreary" world? Why not just keep believing that your cozy bed IS in a real way, "the rest of the world"? That all you need is "right here in bed"? That your bed IS the end state of all human discovery and exploration? And when you sense that your ability to continuing to believe this is in some way dependent on everyone else around you continuing to believe it, too, and is only bolstered by OTHER "non-bedders" starting to believe it, too - well, then you can become almost frantic to keep others in, and get others to join you. You would almost stop at nothing. What persuasive force could a "no contact letter" have, when every cell in your body is now addicted to being in that cozy bed, and departures threaten your ability to stay there? What do you care, in that state, what "somebody requested"? Why WOULDN'T church apologists forever be scanning ex-Mormon bulletinboards, trying to find any reason to rationalize so many thousands of departures, explain them away without having to contemplate the discomfiting possibility that perhaps, former Mormons have been able to put something together, that they have not?
If the point then, deliberate or not, of Mormon church activity and "education" and everything else, isn't to "learn the gospel", but simply to remain in a particular pleasing state of mind, then we should expect to find a few things. Here are just a couple:
Members will not be as respectful or nice toward those who leave, as to those who potentially may join or are already in. Members in fact will usually never even ask exiters why they are leaving (too threatening to the maintenance of their own psychological states). Instead, they will often simply announce to anyone who will hear what they "know" to be the reasons "why people leave" (Bednar and a million others, including us as members);
Many members will be be very ignorant, and indeed, unconcernedly, and even sometimes proudly so, about the doctrine and history of their cozy beds; ("Why does it matter what happened 150 years ago when I already know my bed is cozy/the church is true?");
But even worse, they will be resistant to knowledge about it. For, each human mind being different, members will have to perform all sorts of unique mental contortions in order to stay in that state; each will be under the necessity of convincing themselves they "know" that his or her "understanding of the gospel" is correct. Even when confronted by prophetic pronouncements or scriptures contradicting something they NEED to believe ("already know") is true, they cannot change their minds; for to admit that their own notion of the gospel might be in error has too many potentially risky consequences (collapse of the whole psychological state); so they will most often just retain the opinions they have, regardless of any facts (since this was never about facts in the first place).
In summary, the Mormon church, because of its own policies, seems increasingly to be winding up with members entirely indifferent to facts, and even proudly indifferent to them (since we tell ourselves in that state that we are just trusting more in the spirit than in the flesh); or if they are interested in facts, either entirely incapable of assembling them in their own minds in any way which would threaten their pleasing psychological states, or capable to the point of realizing the church is a fraud, and leaving.
The church seems to breed "smugnoramuses", some of whom however are interested in facts and not so prone to emotional addictions, and then leave, and then hopefully, cease to be smug ignoramuses. But what kind of members does that increasingly leave the church?
I suggest, just the kind of members it deserves.
| Confession: I know I have my sentimental moments and all (sniff), but I'm sorry, I just do not get people who stay in, pretending to believe, "because Mormonism's my heritage". It seems totally pathetic to me.
I know the past inevitably influences how we conceive of ourselves. I get that. But, like, if your dad, grand-dad, and great-grand-dad, were all alcoholics, does that mean you stay an alcoholic because "that's your heritage"? Can't your heritage be all the *good* things your ancestors stood for or believed in or did, but not the stupid or destructive things?
Let's say that it is very admirable to give or risk your life for something you devoutly believe in - and let's say your Mormon pioneer ancestors did just that. Can't *that* be your heritage? Is your heritage *really* the particular mistakes in judgment your ancestors made, rather than their good intentions and their sincere efforts? I mean, to tell the truth, it seems to me that spending your life pretending to be something you are not, is *dishonouring* your "Mormon pioneer heritage", because that is just what they did *not* do. They stood up for what they believed in - they didn't run around knowingly enabling idiot control freaks to sap the life out of as many people as they possibly could, did they? (Jab coming up) I'd even bet that if your pioneer ancestors knew what *you* now know, and then saw what you were doing with that information - namely, living a lie - that they'd disown you!
Can you imagine - with the best of intentions, with sincere belief, your ancestors leave their homes and all their friends and family, to move to some "promised land". They lose their children to disease or deprivation while traveling to Utah. They spend their lives without love as the fourth or fifth wife of some guy who visits them for a total of three weeks a year. They (like Ezra Benson's dad) leave their wives and little kids to travel overseas for two plus years on a mission for a totally fraudulent church. They spend years building up a prosperous business, only to be commanded to relocate to some God-forsaken desert outpost to help build up Brigham Young's ego-driven "Deseret". And they do all that and more, because they think it is right...and now you, their descendant, has a chance to kinda right all those wrongs a bit, by saying no to that, by telling your own kids what you know about the thing.. and you decline?! Come on, people! If your ancestors knew what you now know, what do you think they would want to do? Keep pledging allegiance to the dissembling likes of Gordon B. Hinckley? NOT A CHANCE.
I'm thinking that we ought to honour our *real* heritages, by *refusing to live a lie*; because to live a lie is to help transform a noble heritage, regardless of our ancestor's errors in judgment, into an ignoble one of duplicity and weakness.
(Told you it was insensitive and judgmental, but I couldn't control myself...).
| Bob McCue recently referred to BYU physicist Steven Jones as a "nutjob conspiracy theoriest". In fact, any devout Mormon, aware of Mormon scriptures and doctrine, is by definition, a nujob conspiracy theorist.
Think about it - "wolves in sheep's clothing" conspired to destroy the original "one true Christian church"; church fathers, according to Joseph Smith, later conspired to erase from the Bible "many plain and precious truths"; according to the Mormon endowment ceremony, normal ministers are part of one big Satanic conspiracy to feign holiness while gouging parishioners for money (NO IRONY THERE, RIGHT?), all the local ministers conspired against Joseph to discredit him after he told them his First Vision story in 1820 (uh....NOT)...
Then, the Book of Mormon is like one giant conspiracy theory from beginning to end. (“Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you” - Ether 8:14. “Whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold they shall be destroyed. …” - Ether 8:22.). And of course, any skepticism of lunatic Mormon claims is actually "persecution" from a giant, Satan-driven anti-Mormon conspiracy. The conspiracy includes "secular anti-Mormons" as well as evangelical Christians - basically, anyone in the entire world who isn't nuts enough to believe in Joseph's long since falsified Paul Bunyan-esque stories (or has "Kolobian light borrowing" been corroborated recently?).
Pres. Benson put it this way: "There is no conspiracy theory in the Book of Mormon –it is a conspiracy fact." (See http://library.lds.org/nxt/gateway.dl...).
Your church, your community, your country - there are conspiracies everywhere! I've never been anywhere where I heard more people talk about conspiracies than in Utah. This is a place where Bo Gritz was actually a semi-viable presidential candidate. This is a place where it's not too uncommon to hear people talking about "the immunization conspiracy". And doctors - well, "they're all in cahoots with these big drug companies, and all they do is treat your symptoms rather than the root causes of your illness" (guess these morons have never heard of obscure drugs like PENICILLIN). And that's why you have to go to an IRIDIOLOGIST, or some flaked-out chiropractor, or a naturopath, or a homeopath...basically, anyone who hasn't spent a day in standard medical school, in the Mormon conspiratorial mind, is more qualified to give you medical care, than anyone who has. And the insanity just goes on and on. And all the while, they're devout members of a church run by guys who very deliberately prohibit access to a wholerange of documents in their archives! Packer basically threatens CES guys with being fired if they - if they what? - if they break the code of silence! Nothing conspiratorial about that, is there? Naaaah.
Speaking of Mormon conspirators, one justification for conspiracism of course is that sometimes people do conspire. For example, at least some of the Mormon losers who think chiropractors can cure cancer appear to have no problem conspiring with friends to defraud others of their money in business scams. And even the orthodox explanation of 9/11 itself requires belief in a conspiracy. What I mean is, sometimes people do conspire, and sometimes there IS good evidence of it. And even when there is not presently, sometimes later revelations show there WAS some kind of conspiracy (Watergate cover-up, e.g.).
But often there is NO good evidence for a conspiracy, especially for gigantic conspiracies supposedly involving thousands of people, and very good evidence for a far simpler explanation. And not only that, but often there is not even any conceivable plausible rationale for a particular conspiracy theory. But often, the less sense a CT makes, the more some believe it; often when there is little or no hard evidence, the conspiracy theorist's faith often only deepens, since the lack of evidence becomes evidence of "just how deep this whole plan went, and how clever it really is". And all the evidence pointing in a different direction is just MORE evidence of a "deflection tactic" employed the REAL conspirators, etc.
I once had dinner with NY Post columnist John Podhoretz (son of Norman). He told me he didn't believe in conspiracy theories. So I said, "What about one where all the leaders of a country, and loads of top military officials, and leading doctors, and nurses, and media men, even down to community leaders, to varying degrees are in a conspiracy to *put to death* a certain group of people, without letting the rest of the world know about it...? Would you believe in that one?"
And he said, "You talking about the Holocaust?"
And I said, "Yup".
And he said, "Well...I guess you have a point".
So, in fairness to all RFM conspiracy theorists, there obviously are such things as conspiracies.
But I guess in general, once your beliefs lose any connection to good, hard reasons to believe them, and in fact, become even justified in your mind precisely because there ARE no such reasons, then I think, there's literally nothing you won't potentially believe. Like any other fanatical ideologue, you wind up with a completely distorted sense of theoretical versus practical possibillity versus probability and plausibility and certainty, and before long, what you believe no longer necessarily has any connection to "good, hard reasons to believe it", even though you are convinced you're right. And then, anyone who disagrees with you is "persecuting you" because you have "the truth"...and it saturates into every part of your brain, and becomes how you interpret the world -
And I think, all too often, that's what being a Mormon's all about.
| AP - Provo
Things have not been easy over the past forty years for believers in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Evidence from disciplines as varied as botany, zoology, anthropology, linguistics, and molecular biology have combined to devastate the truth claims of the church Joseph Smith founded in 1830. But in a press conference held Wednesday evening, church defenders at the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies optimistically unveiled an entirely new defense strategy.
"We no longer feel the need for particular theories to explain particular so-called 'problems'", noted FARMS president Garloy P. Hendricks. "My FARMS colleagues and I have unanimously decided to endorse what we call 'The Limited Intelligence Theory', or 'LIT', as a catch-all means of maintaining belief".
The LIT approach, explained Hendricks, presumes that human posess intelligence, by which he means overall awareness, memory, learning ability, and cognitive processing capacity. The growing problem for contemporary believers, says Hendricks, is precisely "the pernicious presence of intelligence", since much of what Mormon minds become aware of and learn, and the inevitable conclusions which follow, strike hard against Mormon truth claims such as a 5700 year old human race, a global flood only 4000 years ago, three 2,000 year old "Nephites" still roaming the earth, and Kolobian "light borrowing" from our sun.
"The LIT the very common-sense theory that by voluntarily retarding and constricting our intelligence, Mormonism will remain believable for practically anyone. For example, we once learned that Native Americans were the descendants of Book of Mormon peoples, but now we know they're not. So, we merely 'unlearn' or 'de-intelligize' ourselves by *forgetting we ever knew that at all*. That way, we can imagine that the Book of Mormon, DandC, and church presidents say nothing reliable on this issue at all - which is tantamount to having made ourselves entirely unaware that they even exist as content-laden entities. They become mere totems - and justifiably so. We just put anything and everything we need to 'on the shelf', which means, we become unaware of what we were once aware of".
Another LIT-inspired strategy is to simply declare 'inessential to our salvation' any false claim once identified as such, said Hendricks. "This is my approach to the flood story, the Tower of Babel story, and the Garden of Eden in Missouri story, even though each of these claims is made in our scriptural canon. With practice, people who wish to keep believing can make themselves so unintelligent, that they can easily take as a 'fundamentalist' anyone who suggests that there is any substantive meaning to any of the words used to express Mormon truth claims."
With practice, said Hendricks, members can constrict the scope of their everyday awareness, memory, and cognitive ability, to the point that they will just be able to perform basic survival tasks like working and eating, etc., as well as unquestioningly accept direction from the prophet - and nothing more, "almost like amoebae just aware enough to respond to stimulus."
Not that Hendricks is complaining. "Frankly, I think that's just where the Lord would like us to be - hermetically sealed off from facts, reason, awareness, memory, and nearly the whole of human experience, and thus immovably firm in our faith that we're absolutely right, and no one else is", said Hendricks.
When asked how the LIT could be reconciled with the DandC's claim that "the glory of God is intelligence", Hendricks smiled and said, "See? That's a good example of a statement which is no longer - excuse me, NEVER WAS - essential to our salvation".
| Something really strange happened to me the moment the shock of discovering the church was a fraud dissipated - I felt unafraid for the first time. And what was REALLY strange about this, is that *I had never even had any idea before that, that I WAS afraid*. It was as though I could only recognize how much fear had dominated my being once it vanished.
For example, my whole life I had rather fretted about the prospect of dying, and coming face to face with "The Man" (James Earl Jones). How could I approach personified perfection? What the heck happened after we died, anyway? And what would it REALLY be like to have no way of escaping remaining conscious forever? That used to really frighten me as a child. "Forever"? I didn't know if I really wanted to live forever, because then, it was like...as much a captivity as anything else, like you were trapped...
So imagine my surprise when, after my meeting with my SP, I felt every last fear vanish, and nothing but the most profound sense of peace all through me. For the first time, I couldn't WAIT to meet God (Mr. Jones I mean). I couldn't think of anything better. I couldn't worry anymore about whether I'd be conscious forever, or for one second, or whatever. No one knew, no one alive could know, so why fret over it? And suddenly, the quality of my own life, and those of my wife and kids, in the here and now, became more important than ever.
Another example: how sad is it, that so many Mormons feel such fear when taking off their (fake protective) garments?
Another strange thing was, the sudden charge of bravado spilled over into other aspects of life. For example, some years earlier I'd felt rather leery around horses. Now I felt totally confident, and decided to buy a couple (for Tracy and me). And I kept thinking, "I was always leery around these things, and now I can't even make myself feel the slightest fear at all". I actually tried to summon up the fear I'd once felt, and I couldn't.
I felt unable to stop myself from trying to learn how to ride, by leaping on to my wife's half-Arab or my Tennessee Walker bareback, and tearing around our farm. The moms of a few of my friends were horse keepers or trainers, and whenever they came over I'd start to get all the safety warnings again, but it was like I couldn't stop. It's pathetic I know, but I kept thinking, "I'll never be bridled again", and then off on another gallop up the hill. One lady (actually my son's riding instructor) would always say to me, "You should always wear one of the protective English riding helmets", and all I could ever say back was, "You don't understand - I'd rather be KILLED than be caught dead wearing one of those lame things. Forget it!".
No, I couldn't stop. It was like my whole life I'd been afraid of danger, and now I couldn't care less. I was seized by an uncontrollable urge to "laugh in the face of danger, then kick it in the teeth". The thrilling prospect of mastering, without being killed, a half ton lethal weapon without stirrups, a saddle, or a saddle horn was just too damn alluring. And then there was all kinds of weird things...I hadn't gone skiing for ages - all of a sudden, "must go skiing". Tried the jumps. Took the whole ocean kayaking course. Took the whole gun course, qualified for the license. Went to South Africa - couldn't stay out of the tiger and cheetah cages. I even felt far more able to speak up in awkward situations, like where there was a problem at a store or something.
I even called up my buddy Doug a few months after our discovery (who had also just realized the thing was a fraud - coincidentally he's also the father of eight, and a former fanatic), and talked him into going with me to help drive cattle in the Okanagan Valley. This actually turned out to be genuinely dangerous [a topic for another post perhaps].
And to this day, I still feel as unencumbered by fear as I did then, and more excited about the joy of living, than ever. It never ceases to amaze how exactly opposite everything really seems from what we always thought while believing Mormons.
| (Taking off from Sourcerer's recent post...)
Is there any religion who has more boring, joyless meetings than the Mormons? The three hour block is a monstrosity, a monument to what happens when ninety year olds, literally weeks from death or fighting off dementia in some cases, are in charge of designing worship services.
Sacrament meetings are too long. Trying to sit them through, even as a believing member, is all too often like trying to finish your boiled vegetables: you're doing it because you're convinced they're good for you, but the experience is an ordeal.
In those sacrament meetings, it is rare to hear well-prepared, well-delivered sermons, let alone anything unique. High priest talks almost without exception suck, and are way too long. There is no room for spontaneous member expression, except in fast and testimony meeting - but there, the "spontaneous expression" consists of everyone basically reciting the same sorts of phrases, which, far short of edifying, appear to have the effect of simply keeping everyone in a kind of altered state of consciousness. That is, the "spontaneous expression" is the "spontaneous expression" of evidently brainwashed people incapable of thinking of anything to say other than the same thought-inhibiting phrases which have kept them in a state of stupefaction since toddlerhood.
Relief Society is a joke, with the ladies all too often appearing to compete for who can tell the most tearjerking stories. Elder's Quorum is a joke as well, with 90% of the guys staring at the floor the whole time, with a few "keeners" (suckers) like me doing almost all the blabbing. And these new EQ/RS manuals, the ones Hinckley got going starting with the Brigham Young manuals, virtually guarantee that lessons will be unfocused and boring. The previous ones, the Benson ones from the 80's, were WAY better. I once sent an email to the curriculum department going over how rotten the things were, how impossible they made it for most guys to construct lessons from, and the guy who wrote me back basically said the manual issue was out of their hands. I'm not sure how, uh, CHURCH CURRICULUM can be "out of the hands" of the CHURCH CURRICULUM DEPARTMENT, but judging from the Mormon church's Keystone Cops apologetic squad, nothing would surprise me anymore.
The High Priests' meetings often seem to consist of quarrels between 70 year old blowhards who have nothing better to do than sit around all week reading through the books of madmen like Joseph Fielding Smith and McConkie - so that on Sundays, they're all ready to argue about whether blood entered into the veins of Adam and Eve in the moment they decided to sin, or in the moment they ate, or in the moment they got kicked out of the garden, or whether David Patten really saw Cain, or some descendant of Cain who'd turned into Bigfoot, or whether "the negroes" still may be labouring under some "curse residue", or some other completely stupid item of superstition.
And the Gospel Doctrine manuals...well, I must say they are better than the EQ/RS manuals - but you could say that about anything. The problem with the GD manuals is the same one that in-flight magazines have: it's like someone was appointed to go through them prior to publication and eliminate anything that might actually ever be of real interest to anyone. The questions are so simple as to insult the intelligence (literally) of eight and nine year olds (which is why I basically re-wrote the GD manual during my own tenure as GD teacher), and I found that the treatments of the scriptural passages were generally perplexingly shallow. Whatever we want to say about the Bible, for example, it can't be said there aren't any great stories. Why not get inside them, smell the dust and camel dung, hear the Hebrew words as they would have been spoken, see the world as the characters were said to have seen it? No...much too interesting. Better to render, say, the story of Job, which is actually wonderfully complex and challenging, into a moronic black and white piece, and in so doing, actually ignore the text itself.
I've visited many of my kids' Sunday School classes. Without exception, they were (literally) painful in their monotony. I literally felt a kind of mental pain trying to sit through them. This is why, when I told my children that I'd come to conclude that the church was a fraud, that NOT ONE of them expressed any desire whatsoever to ever visit again. To a child, they all said, "it's so boring". What kind of losers are actually designing how these meetings are supposed to go? Are they human? Or is it some kind of Richard G. Scott-android-software program? You can go to ANY normal Christian church and find WAY more interesting, stimulating lessons and sermons, for the toddlers all the way up to the adults. And yet, THOSE guys are supposed to be fraudulent ministers, while the Mormons have the spirit?! Really?! I can't imagine. If superstition dictated any conclusion, I think it would be that Satan himself had taken over the Mormon church, and made their meetings so tedious and useless, that *even people who think Mormonism is the only true religion* can either barely stand them, or else just finally stop going altogether. There are tons of inactives out there who still think Mormonism is God's only true religion, yet who just can't stomach the incredibly boring meetings. That's how boring they are: "Yes, I 'know' Mormonism is true, and I know I will be punished by God for not attending - but I still cannot make myself go because the meetings are so useless and tedious".
If you're a COB curriculum department employee lurking here, why don't you do sincere Mormons everywhere a favour, and stop "going along to get along" with your idiotic supervisors, and tell it like it is: the manuals are probably the most boring in all of Christendom, the three hour block is too long, and basically, the whole Sunday worship service should be OVERHAULED, from top to bottom. I'm saying: NEW hymnals, NEW manuals, NEW sacrament meeting protocol, shortened service, the whole bit. You don't think there's some cause-and-effect relationship with how boring your meetings are, and your church's shockingly low retention rates? What have you got to lose? Why don't you guys send out undercover squads to local Christian churches to get some ideas? The Joel Osteens and T.D. Jakes' of the world are ripping it up, while you guys are dying a long, slow, painful death, only kept afloat really by high birth rates, which themselves are starting to decrease. Even the J DUBS have higher conversion and retention rates - and they prohibit holiday celebrations, and tell parents their kids have to die rather than get a blood transfusion. Am I putting this in perspective for you? YOUR CHURCH SERVICES SUCK.
Just my two hundred cents.
| Some RFM posters may know about "The Kingfish", Huey Long.
Long was the corrupt governor of Louisiana during the depression (later a senator). His rise to power in that state was achieved and maintained by the skillful and ruthless use of carrots and sticks. Sticks could include the end of your career/ bankruptcy, since Long thought nothing of using the tentacles of his power to execute such punishments. And those weren't the days when you could just walk across the street and get a new job. Needless to say, few dared to cross the governor in those desperate days.
But one of the carrots, one of the inducements to grant Long more and more power, was that the more he got, the more he would use it ensure that "every man would be a king" (he would do this, he said, by redistributing wealth). How the prospect of kingship, even metaphoric kingship, would have appealed to men who were struggling to provide for their families, having to bear numerous indignities daily just in the quest for survival, and already feeling like failures or close thereto, need hardly be elaborated on. And needless to say, Governor Long, in a very short time, managed to put as much of a stranglehold on the state of Louisiana, as I think any governor has ever had on a state in the history of the United States.
In my opinion, Long was a dangerous man, not only because he appeared devoid of conscience, but because he was such a genius at knowing how to control others for his own ends (I have no explanation for why online bios of him tend to be sympathetic to the point of deceitful). And given his shocking, unethical, and illegal behaviour in Louisiana, one can only shudder at the thought of what he would have done had he gained control of the American presidency - which is exactly what Long planned to do. His plan was to run against FDR in 1935, split the Demo vote allowing the GOP to win, then run again in 1940, and win.
But at least one other man had similar apprehensions about Long as I do, a young doctor named Carl Weiss, who took occasion to assassinate Long, if I remember right, in the Louisiana capitol building.
It is hard not to see a few parallels between Long and Joseph Smith. JS also appeared to be able to instantly justify to himself, with reference to cosmic ideals, the satisfaction of any personal desire he might have. He was able instantly to rationalize his control and manipulation of others. He also attempted to destroy the livelihoods of those who crossed him. He also was unsatisfied with the relatively monumental power he had achieved, and wished to win the presidency of the United States.
But maybe the closest similarity is in being able to tap into the private fantasies and needs of his fellow humans, in order to achieve control over them. In Long's version of the world, every man could be a king; in Joseph Smith's, every man could be a god; and in both cases, the men ate it up. Why wouldn't they, when it appealed to something so deeply embedded in their psyches? Even now, both Mormon and non-Mormon eat this kind of talk up, or we wouldn't see, in the Mormon case, grown men making absolute asses of themselves trying to defend the transparently indefensible online, or in their pretend academic journals.
To leave Mormonism is to acknowledge that dignity, respect, deference, status, enhanced self-image, or "kingship" or "godhood" or any other such thing, if they are attainable, aren't worth the cost of surrendering to a fellow mortal our own consciences or wills. We don't become masters - at least in any worthy sense - by making ourselves slaves; we don't exalt ourselves by entirely abasing ourselves, except in our own desperate, vanity-fuelled imaginations.
In other words, the Huey Long/Joseph Smith version of how men attain what they most crave is appealing precisely because it promises the rewards without the hard work. It promises the impossible; it is magic. It is in a way, a version of Mormonism's version of the "Satan's counterfeit plan".
Funny how we all fell for it so easily, but I guess that's what can happen when you're human.
| This is a true story.
Once we were in a ward in California. It wasn't long before word got out that I'd just signed a recording contract with Columbia Records; and one Sunday, a guy approached me and began talking about a girl he knew who was "an awesome singer", and who he wanted to help. He wondered if I might be able to help her out, too.
Well mis amigos, growing up with a famous musician for a dad, I was approached like this dozens of times (as were Dad and all my siblings). There were always starry-eyed guys in every ward and stake we were in, with a humdrum job who thought they'd discovered "the next Marie Osmond", or "the next Sheena Easton", or "the next Celine Dion", or whoever was popular at the moment. The guys always thought they had a shot at making millions managing this "next big thing" and leaving the humdrum job behind, and they always seemed to feel that the Holy Ghost was motivating the whole thing - but "the next big thing" always turned out to not have anywhere near the stuff of "the next big thing". Not saying the girls weren't talented singers - but they just weren't ever "the next big thing", you know? They were girls who could do good versions of "I Heard Him Come" and "I Walk By Faith" or "Wind Beneath My Wings", and that was about it.
But, perhaps out of some nascent (nice word for "embarrassingly premature") sense of noblesse oblige or something, I said, "Sure, I'll listen to her stuff".
The guy dropped off a CD a few days later, which I listened to. It was a recording of a girl playing an acoustic guitar and singing her songs. How bizarre, I thought - this is really good. It's especially good for an 18 or 19 year old Mormon (can't remember exactly, but she was young). Somehow, Mormonism hadn't beaten the true artist out of her...her songs were clever and heartfelt and even hip. She sounded kind of like Jewel, but with slightly quirkier and more thought-provoking lyrics. One of the songs, I remember, was about doubt, and mentioned trying to pray to a God who she wasn't even sure was there. (I was a flaming TBM at the time, but everyone can understand doubt and weakness).
So, to my surprise, I was really impressed. I couldn't wait to follow up with "Rick" the next Sunday. It would be amazing, I thought, if I could find a really talented unknown, write with her, pitch her to Columbia, get her a recording contract, bring her into the studio, produce her, make a record...and now that I had the lovefest going on with Columbia and EMI Publishing, I could actually have done it.
I saw Rick the next Sunday, and told him what I was thinking. He half-smiled, half-grimaced.
"Yeah, I think she's amazing, too", he said. "But she's really pretty confused right now". The guy then went on to tell me that "Julie"'s (Mormon) family had been pressuring her to drop the "silly dreams", but she'd been resisting, and that finally, her granddad, none other than pretend "prophet, seer, and revelator" James E. Faust ("how's your seer stone working, James?"), had recently gotten involved. Faust, he said, had told Julie that she should indeed drop the pipe dreams, enroll at BYU, and start preparing herself for temple marriage and motherhood.
As it happened, my idol Ezra Taft Benson's "To the Fathers in Israel" and "To the Mothers in Zion" had been my all-time favourite talks since the moment he gave them; but honest to Joseph Smith I mean God, this left me really confused. It was around this time that I read Hinck's lies about eternal progression in "Time" magazine, and this Julie thing - while I know quite little - made me think thoughts that bothered me. On the one hand, "nothing is more important than the gospel". We "had an obligation to bring spirits into the world", etc. We had a duty to become "co-creators with God" - Moses 1:39 and all that.
On the other, this girl was good - I mean like, REALLY good, definitely with a shot at being great...And I thought back over all the great artists in history, and couldn't help but figure that if they had followed the Mormon path as laid out by my idol ETB and Faust and all the rest, that they most likely would never have become the great artists they *had* become. And how was that good? Their music, paintings, plays, performances, dances, had inspired and given meaning to millions of lives, etc. And as a musician trying hard to be the very best member of the only true religion in the universe, I ended up feeling about as confused as did Rick, and presumably, this Julie girl (fortunately, with some mental effort, I was able a little while later to "put this on the shelf". Whew.)
Not long after this conversation, I departed to Maui for five months to record. After finishing and returning back, I attended church a couple of times again there before moving back to British Columbia, but didn't see Rick. With all the busy-ness of recording and moving, I'd misplaced the CD as well as Rick's contact info, and now don't even remember the guy's real name. And of course, I have never heard Julie's voice on any radio either.
I don't mean to denigrate full-time motherhood at all; I think it's definitely something women with an inclination to do, ought to do. But not every woman is suited to be a hausfrau, you know? Why is that so hard to acknowledge?
Somewhere out there, there's a girl who could conceivably have touched millions of lives and made the most of her (God-given?) talent, but who instead has confined herself to serving as primary chorister because her pretend-apostle granddad told her that that's what Jesus wanted her to do. What a joke...
And what a waste.
| || Is Paul Toscano Proof That The Phrase "Mormon Intellectual" Is An Oxymoron? (Unbecomingly Sarcastic) |
Tuesday, Feb 6, 2007, at 07:42 AM
Original Author(s): Tal Bachman
Topic: TAL BACHMAN - SECTION 6 -Link To MC Article-
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| It was once said of former Marxist turned right wing activist David Horowitz, that he'd never really changed - he still hates liberals as much as he ever did, just from the other side of the fence.
I'm sensitive about this because I feel as much scorn for self-styled "Mormon intellectuals" now, as I did when I was a devout, believing member. (I totally concur with Pres. Packer that intellectuals, as most people understand that term, don't belong in the Mormon church). Take the bizarre case of self-styled (now excommunicated) Mormon intellectual Paul Toscano.
Toscano converted to the LDS church in 1963. At least, the records show he was *baptized* into the LDS church in 1963 - to hear Paul speak, he actually *converted * to some religion which exists solely in his own mind, but which he enjoys imagining is the religion known as Mormonism. How else to explain the following sorry quotes?
He complains in his bizarre book "The Sanctity of Self-Delusio- I mean Dissent" that in Mormonism, "authority is adored as the dominant divine characteristic".
OH MY GOD! WHAT?! The authority of God - as God - is "dominant" in Mormon theology?!!! (By the way, if there is a God, why *wouldn't* his authority as God be the dominant point of any theology? Anyway, back to the unbecoming sarcasm). STOP THE PRESSES! How impolitely hierarchical! Haven't LDS cult fuhrers gotten hip to "what's happening today"? I wonder if Paul also joined the Pacifist Party and then complainingly announced his discovery thirty years later that "peace is regarded in the Pacifist Party as the dominant priority". Well boo friggin' hoo, bro! What's next - joining the National Organization of Women and then announcing your finding that it's “full of uppity broads"? Joining the KKK and discovering a "deep well of racism”? Joining the Democratic Party and complaining that there aren't any Republicans there?
Other organizations for Paul to consider joining now that's he's been booted out of Mormonism:
1.) Gay Atheist Catholics Against Homosexuality
2.) Fatalistic Pessimists for a Better Tomorrow
3.) Communists for Capitalism
4.) The Solipsist Society
Here's another great quote:
"Patriology blows unimpeded through the church like a cold wind, chilling compassion, hope, and faith...unless there is a spiritual revival of mythic dimensions, Mormonism is doomed to resolve itself into yet another sect full of ethical pretension and xenophobic aspiration."
---Since Mormon leaders (while mostly caucasian) send missionaries out all over the world, I don't know what "xenophobic aspiration" is exactly supposed to refer to here (Toscano's prose teems with phrases seemingly selected more for their ability to convey indignation [not to say * self-regard*], rather than any coherent point), but that "ethical pretensions" comment...how absurd. What does he think religion is, if not *organized ethical pretension*? That's the whole point! And perhaps only a man of Toscano's cheery oblivion could have lasted three decades in MORMONISM, chock full of power-tripping priesthood leaders, constantly-repeated guidelines for every conceivable human thought, word, or action, and Dana-Carvey-esque "church lady" types, and still think that the *possible* (?) "resolve" into "ethical pretension" is something he needs to warn everyone about. The whole religion is completely SATURATED with ethical pretension, and always was. Maybe another organization Paul could consider joining is “Religionists Against Religion”.
Here's another great quote:
"I believe people are called of God to their spiritual convictions. Some are called to one religion, some to another, and some to none at all...*For those called by birth or rebirth to be Latter-day Saints*, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living church on the face of the whole earth. This is not to deny the truths to which God has called others".
---Right...well that's just great, isn't it? Bishop Toscano's testimony meetings were never quite the same after he began announcing things like, "for me *personally*, Mormonism is true - but I know that for others, Moonie-ism and Wotanism and Satanism are just as true, and that's okay. I don't really see a problem here at all. Every religion can be true, all at once, even though they fundamentally contradict each other!".
And this, from the Signature website:
"Considering himself a Latter-day Saint-in-exile, Toscano remains confident that Christian love may yet 'overflow the banks of righteousness, sweep away respectability, turn dignity into mud, lay waste the levees of our vaunted invulnerability, and contaminate us with holiness.' The church will yet become an open, compassionate, and forgiving religious community, according to Toscano's hope-- one dedicated to the spiritual empowerment of each individual, the celebration of diversity, and the sanctity of dissent."
Paul Toscano appears to have converted to a religion of his own invention, where there are no ethical pretensions, no authority claims, no "patriology", no exclusive truth claims, etc. etc. That's fine - but how he ever confused *that* religion, with the authoritarian loyalty cult (started by * the rightful king of the world*) he actually belonged to for THREE SOLID DECADES, is perhaps a question better taken up by a psychiatrist...
Still searching for a genuine "Mormon intellectual"...
(Told you it was unbecoming).
| Local former Mormon Bill Gardiner and I met with Bill Maher today in Salt Lake City and discussed Mormonism on camera, for a documentary he is making on religion. I must say, I thought it went well. Maher and Bill Gardiner both were great. We had a lot of laughs.
I guess they've really done a lot of work on this, and have talked to a lot of famous folks and important religions figures. They spent time at the Vatican, in Israel, have interviewed guys like Dan Dennett, and it seems like it ought to be pretty interesting. Also, evidently they tried to talk to a spokesman from the church, but that didn't work out for some reason. They did go down to Temple Square (unannounced) to shoot and talk to people, and according to Maher, were pretty quickly thrown off the property.
My experience being interviewed for Helen Whitney's PBS Frontline documentary left me wondering if she would be more or less shilling for the church, so the interview with Maher was quite a change.
Just thought I'd pass this on in case anyone's interested.
| There is a certain ease and comfort in being an ideologue: you always know exactly where you'll end up: "And so I find once again, that I am absolutely right!". You already know all the "one true answers", and so any encounter with the world, given the wonderful abilities of our imaginations, will only fuel you on your way back to that pleasing state of (fake) enlightenment.
And because you already know the answers, any "methodology" for arriving back you can consider "valid" - even where, because of the nature of the variables and "input", conflicting modes of reasoning need to be employed to get you back to your "one true answer"...and all "thought" becomes nothing more than confirmation bias. Each "argument" cannot but be entirely ad hoc, for any other conclusion than the already decided upon one is unthinkable.
And yes, for all the leaps of imagination this requires, it is in the end easier and more comfortable than experiencing the sting of finding out you were not only wrong about a cherished belief, but very obviously wrong - even, that you were really stupid. Ouch.
And this disincentive, along with the cost of status loss, money loss, society loss, identity loss, spousal admiration loss, etc., is why we will probably never see a high-profile Mormon apologist overtly acknowledge the simple fact that Joseph Smith was an unreliable source of information about his experiences and achievements.
As reality continues to unfold, I think the only change in apologetic responses will be increasingly elaborate, forced, sad, and downright loony "theories" to explain it all away.
| "Pissed" recently told of a funeral he'd gone to, where the deceased had committed suicide; the funeral had been uplifting until the Mormon bishop stood up to read out denunciations of suicide by past Mormon leaders, in which suicide was described as a form of murder. My question is, since the church is so against suicide, why is it committing suicide itself?
It cannot retain the bulk of its converts.
Particularly outside the Mormon corridor, formerly stalwart families are leaving at an unprecedented pace.
Growth rates are shrinking.
Much anecdotal evidence suggests that Hinckley's legacy-grab temple building spree, premised on the Kinsellian notion that if you build it, they will come, has been a financial bust.
Most member growth comes from birth rates, but those birth rates are slowly declining; and supposedly, the church is having a more difficult time than ever getting young men to serve missions.
This slide cannot be helped by the fact that:
Church meetings (and the sermons and lessons heard throughout) are perfunctory, monotonous, too long, and seem to have as their point the plunging of attendees into a state of stupefaction, rather than enlightenment, or the meeting of their real spiritual, emotional, and psychological needs;
Apologetic attempts are increasingly beyond-stupid, often relying on distorting and denying Mormon doctrines in order to defend them; this, plus the blatant doctrinal waffling of Hinckley, has left Mormon "doctrine" and authority claims more confused, contradictory, risible - and patently false - than ever;
Mormon General Conference instruction vacillates between the completely mindless (Monsonian bed-time stories), the completely platitudinous ("be good...be kind to your fellow man" - [DUH]), and the completely CONTROL FREAKISH and irrelevant ("don't wear more than one earring in an ear"). That is, even if one thought Mormon leaders had all the authority they claim, it seems increasingly hard for anyone to avoid the thought that Mormon leaders have virtually NO unique, or even valuable, insights into how we should live.
B.H. Roberts suggested that church leaders take some action on the petit fait that Mormonism's founding book of scripture IS VERY OBVIOUSLY NOT HISTORICAL; one hundred years later, not only has nothing been done to reckon with this fact (a fact increasingly obvious to even devout members of the church), but church leaders like Hinckley (who gives every impression of being in the know) continue to allow brilliant morons like Royal Skousen to devote their lives to a book which has no greater claim to historicity than does "The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen" (which I saw prominently displayed - with no apparent irony - at the Crossroads Mall Deseret Books just a few days ago).
Meetings suck, doctrines are a mess, what clear, testable doctrines there are, are false, while dozens of other denominations - with no greater claim to truth or authority than Mormonism - continue to grow like gangbusters. It is no secret what these denominations do, and why they appeal to so many: their doctrines are more clearly stated than Mormon doctrines; their clergy is often trained in counseling, speaking, etc. (whereas Mormon local leaders are often entirely ignorant of Mormon history, have no idea how to teach, in many cases have more problems at home than anyone else in their wards, and so have nothing to offer anyone else experiencing trouble); their meetings are designed so as to inspire and uplift parishioners, "fill them with joy and hope"; the youth programs are often fantastic, filled with exciting activities and adults who genuinely want to be there; etc.
And yet, in the ongoing battle between ego protection/self-delusion, and the fact that the Mormon ship is in some trouble, which it could still even get itself out of in some ways, Mormon leaders seem consistently to side with ego protection/self-delusion. "All is well in Zion" seems to be the Mormon leader's favourite slogan - not least because it represents so well the culture of denial which must attend any utopian ideology.
And in the end, though there will always be lingerers, that very requirement to deny - to render one's ignorance invincible - is what hastens the failure of every utopian ideology to meet the glorious goals and achievements prophesied for it by its originators. They all start out claiming to be the one true explanation of the way the world works, and all end in a mass of ad hoc rationalizations, obfuscations, denials, member defections, etc.
Joseph Smith once imagined the world - a Mormonized world - as a giant Urim and Thummim, in which all that could be known, would be known; in which enlightenment and intelligence (at least, their Joseph Smith versions) would chase out every last dark superstition; but as it happens, a decidedly non-Mormon world is becoming that very place, a place where almost any fact is available within two/tenths of a second with the mere touch of a button, while Mormonism itself increasingly becomes a reinforced nest of arrogant delusion, self-induced mind games, the most absurd superstitions and dogmas - a besieged fortress increasingly surrounded, and bombarded, on all sides, with more and more rank and file escaping, its leaders, still in denial and hoping against hope for "ultimate victory", climbing higher and higher up the tower, still demanding that "everyone stay! Everyone stay! Fight to the end! it's not really that bad - we're on the verge of winning!"...
And I guess I am left disagreeing with the bumper sticker: reality doesn't suck - war against reality sucks, because it always fails in the end.
It often takes a long time...it often suffers setbacks...but in the end,
Reality always wins.
(Bring on the new bumper sticker!).
| Pop quiz:
What is "education"?
A.) The teaching of what is known or believed about the world;
B.) The teaching of how to most reliably learn about the world (that is, e.g., critical thinking skills);
C.) A combination of A and B;
D.) Learning that in the early 1800s, God "cursed" the earth's "waters", and so is now permitting an incorporeal cosmic arch-foe named "The Destroyer" to "ride" on the waters so as to control them - so much so, that soon (if not already), "NO flesh shall be safe upon the waters" (see DandC 61).
If you picked "D", you must work for the LDS Church "Educational" System. And - you've just explained why quotation marks around the word "education" in this phrase are eminently justified.
If there is one thing we all have to give to the LDS church, it is a remarkable talent for coming up with the irony-free Orwellian misnomer. What other organization - I mean, not counting lingering Eastern European communist parties - is so adept at it? "Strengthening the Members Committee" (how much "strengthening" was really ever done?), "Church History Department" (given the infamous "Mantle" speech and the ongoing requirements for only "faith-promoting" history, shouldn't it really be called the "Propaganda Department"?), "Correlation" (anyone recently compared an Ensign article on the "knowledge" discussed in Moroni 10, to the imbecilities on "the impossibility of knowing" advanced by flaked out post-modernist Mormon apologists lately?), etc. And the phrase "Church Educational System" has to be included in this list.
I say this because, for all their good intentions and sincerity, CES teachers are not in the "education" business, but the indoctrination business (at least traditionally - more on this below). (By the way, "CIS" doesn't have a bad ring to it, does it?).
I think that education is comprised of both the imparting of knowledge and understanding about the world to others, and the imparting of the intellectual tools which made the accumulation of that knowledge and understanding possible in the first place (so that the now-educated can join in the project of that accumulation - even, hopefully, correcting hitherto undetected errors in that understanding). In short, education might be justly considered a process of enlightenment.
Indoctrination, however, is much simpler than education (as it must be, as education's primitive ancestor). Indoctrination consists simply of an authority figure, claiming to be the bearer of absolute truth (at least in the most important respects), announcing what those who have already acquiesced to the authority claim, should believe - and them believing it.
The justification of indoctrination always rests on the twin premises of ultimately unchallengeable Authority and Absolute Truth; and these are what most fundamentally differentiate indoctrination from genuine education. And considering that no "doctrine" that I know of has ever even come close to proving its own complete and absolute truthfulness (i.e., its own ultimate incorrigibility) despite all the inflated pretensions, I suggest that these premises force us to conclude that indoctrination is not a process of enlightenment at all.
Rather, I think we must conclude that it is a process of *benighting*. It is exactly what must occur for NO increase in knowledge to take place (and in fact, it often causes a diminution in knowledge to occur, since initiates are required to forget or ignore anything they may already know which conflicts with The Master's teaching). In short, indoctrination, resting on specious claims of ultimate absolute authority and truth, is a path to ignorance and darkness.
This sounds pretty bad, I know. But in the case of Mormon indoctrination efforts, it may even be worse. Or if not worse, at least a lot funnier.
The reason why is that LDS CES curriculum over the past fifty years has been increasingly gutted of Mormon doctrine itself. Fifty years ago, Mormon seminary and institute students learned, among other things, about Joseph Smith's polygamy, the Jewish ancestry of their local Navajo tribe, eternal progression, literal details about the earth's creation and Adam's fall, the war in heaven and the hierarchy of races, the necessity of plural marriage in the celestial kingdom, all sorts of things.
But now, after four years of seminary and four years of institute - EIGHT YEARS of supposed "indoctrination" (and that's not even counting the two decades of Sunday School) - program graduates in my experience emerge, without any exaggeration, as just about as ignorant of their own religion as you could ever possibly imagine anyone to be after that much "indoctrination" (how really do you have "indoctrination" without "doctrine"?).
CES teachers, from what I can tell (my mother was a seminary teacher and curriculum adviser in SLC up until a year ago), seem increasingly to focus on telling feel-good personal anecdotes and stories, encouraging group emoting, reading verses or passages often quite divorced from their narrative context, but selected so as to rationalize yet another round or "feelings sharing" on some particular theme,("faith", "obedience", "prayer", etc.), fostering testimony-bearing, poem reading, simplifying scripture stories to comic-book levels, watching emotion-tugging videos...Like, what *doctrine* are students actually even learning anymore? (It won't be long before grads are saying, "I've never heard ANYONE ever say that the Lamanites were supposed to be the ancestors of the Native Americans!"). Jesus said to judge a tree by its fruits - but after three years of almost constant online discussion about Mormon things, often with Mormons, the main fruits I can see are really bad manners, Joseph Smithian levels of egomania, and invincible ignorance.
I don't know if it's true, but CES curriculum seems to losing *content*/doctrine. I can understand Hinckley's desire to make Mormonism less freakish, but what about actually *replacing* the freakishness with some other less freakish content, Gordon? As it is, seminary and institute grads seem *more certain than ever* that they are *absolutely right about what they believe* - but when you ask them what it *is* they actually believe, the answer only ever seems to be, in a nutshell, that they are *absolutely right about what they believe*. Talk about circularities...
Judging by the two BILLION dollars Jesus's only prophet, Gordon Hinckley, is spending on his pet mall's renos, CES salaries (never big to begin with) are a mere drop in the Mormon financial bucket; leaders can't be too worried about wasting money paying "teachers" to produce a race of idiots, who can't muster much more than to regurgitate thought-terminating cliches like "the church is true but the people aren't", "I put that on the shelf", "I know the church is true", "the prophet's only a prophet when he's speaking as such", "that was never doctrine", etc.
No - a better guess is that producing a race of idiots is exactly the point for the Church "Education" System. It turns out, "the glory of God" wasn't intelligence after all - it was a self-congratulatory imbecility masqerading as "knowledge beyond a shadow of a doubt"...the creation, in the name of education, of young people who are not only ignorant of their own religion's present and past doctrines, but are completely incapable of sustained critical thought about it. As a result, they wind up fit religiously for only one thing: "following the prophet". Nice.
So, in Mormonism, something like a combination of fostering egomania, servility, vapidity, propensity for group crying, a-rationalism regarding Mormonism, and telling completely stupid stories about demons controlling rivers, "white Lamanites" named Zelph, and kids getting crushed by trains, comprises the definition of "church education".
Call me crazy, but I think a new word belongs in between the words "Church" and "system".
| The new policy implemented a few years ago, stipulating that young men wishing to go on missions must actually live the commandments they're going to be teaching others prior to leaving, for some period of time, is often derided by former Mormons as part of a plan to mitigate embarrassment over a declining number or percentage of young missionary volunteers. Probably - but there's a part of me that kind of admires this move - even though, of course, I am aware that the Mormon church has no greater claim to "one true religion-ness" as any other.
I say this because my personality is such, that I always felt revulsion at guys who would deliberately goof around with booze and girls right up until, say, the day before their first big mission worthiness interview, planning all along to just "repent and go on a mission". According to more guys than I care to recall, this was just part of the plan: go wild, then go do the crying thing and serve a mission - because that's what gives you standing in the community, because that's what gets you the possibility of a hot wife, because your dad promised you a car, whatever.
So...supposing one is under the impression that one's religion is what it claims to be, does it not make sense to ensure that those about to represent it, but who have hitherto not taken it seriously, actually *demonstrate* (rather than just claim) that they now DO take it seriously? After all, a mission's supposed to be a proselyting opportunity - not reform school or a two year penance. Anyway, I never thought it was too much to ask, and really, I don't think so now.
The only problem I can see from the church's perspective is a theological one, and I'm not sure how to get around it: taking for granted that some of these sudden confessions are going to be entirely sincere, I don't know of any scriptures which explain the efficacy of Christ's atonement in terms of a waiting period. On the contrary, there are numerous scriptures which portray the "washed clean" effects as instantaneous.
Church reps might respond that the effects of Christ's atonement might be immediate, but that it does not follow that one's acceptance for missionary duty need therefore be immediate. This is another way of saying that while Christ may have fully forgiven a young man instantly, that "the church" still deserves a period during which to evaluate a candidate's fitness for missionary duty.
That does make sense - but only if all those claims about the Holy Ghost-given "spirit of discernment" enjoyed by bishops and stake presidents, and all those claims that Mormon callings come by "revelation", are SPECIOUS. If they were authentic, and church leaders deep down really believed them, then I cannot see how an evaluation period would ever be necessary, or implemented, for the evaluation of a prospect's ability to remain worthy throughout a mission. If "feeling the spirit" is reliable enough to tell us that Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon really is an historical record, should it not be reliable enough to tell us whether a confession is sincere, and that a prospect will serve an honourable mission? Evidently not. Hmmm...
An evaluation period, in other words, makes sense when we acknowledge that the most reliable, if not the only, means we have of judging the future, is by the past - that is, via inductive reasoning. It makes far less sense (if any at all) in a situation where it is claimed, in prophetic and scriptural decree, that the most reliable means of "knowing", and of judging the future, is one supernatural.
And so, I am left thinking that the church's new policy really betrays at least two things: that church leaders wish to take their religion seriously, BUT, that when push comes to shove, they very obviously cannot take seriously the religious claims they themselves make, with regards at least to "callings by revelation" and the knowledge-conferring/discerning power of the Holy Ghost.
Boy, this one was sure boring...
| LDS apologists suing RFM posters for "slander"? Too dumb to be possible, right?
Guess again - these are the geniuses who not-so-long-ago, negatively reviewed Carl Sagan's primer on critical thinking, "Demon Haunted World": *obviously*, then, no action is quite so self-defeating that LDS apologists won't consider it.
So, just in case, the geniuses over there may be considering it, and since they seem to find my views on them so noteworthy, and since yet another stupid move by them would be welcome I'm sure by all those who are clear on just what Mormonism actually is, here are a few more comments on Mormon apologetics, and apologists.
1.) First things first - fat Mormon apologists. Is their fatness fair game?
Let's say Fat Man argues for the truth of evolutionary psychology, and Fit Man argues against. I would say that comments on Fat Man's girth, in a response by Fit Man, would be entirely irrelevant.
But let's say that Fat Man argues for the truth of Mormonism, and Fit Man argues against it. Is the Fat Man's weight still irrelevant? I'm not so sure, for this reason: the brute fact is that Mormonism in effect claims to have something like the "one true way of eating and drinking", so powerful that if one obeys it, they "shall run but not grow weary, and walk but not faint", and further, church prophets claim that *everyone in the world* should obey it (see DandC 89).
So when some fat guy, who gives every impression of not even being able to walk up a staircase without *growing weary* or *fainting*, let alone *run* for awhile, explicitly or implicitly endorses the claim that every single person in the world should obey Mormonism's fitness/dietary code, his fatness becomes relevant because it means either that he himself does not obey that fitness/dietary code (which means he's actually communicating that he doesn't even believe what he's telling you to believe - hardly great support for the claim in question), *or that the Mormon fitness/dietary code does not work*; or at least, that it does not work for all people, which is as much as to say then, that the Word of Wisdom is not what Mormon prophets claim it to be. Either way, a pretty good case can be made that the lack of fitness of Mormon apologists is relevant, and is fair to comment on.
And if fat Mormon apologists don't like that fact, common sense suggests two possible strategies: do what every other fat person does who wants to get fit - stop telling yourself self-serving lies about your "bad genes", eat better, and exercise more; OR, stop defending directly or indirectly an organization which claims to possess the one true, or at least, *best* dietary regimen.
2.) One would imagine, from all the cheering in Mormon apologetic circles these days, that a Mormon apologist had just won a Nobel Peace Prize or a Pulitzer in literature. In fact, the cause of such celebration is that...one of them just published a book, *not on Mormonism* ("let the trumphets blare out their triumphant fanfares!!! Let the ticker-tape be unfurled!!! One of our apologists actually wrote a normal book!!!").
Given that the "scholar" in question appears to spend a great deal of his time arguing with fifteen year olds on bulletin boards, I agree that the authoring of a book represents something of a miraculous leap in achievement, rather like the rendering of an oil painting would for someone who spends most of his time finger-painting with chocolate pudding. Although, now that I think about it, our high-profile apologist took a break from defending the patently fraudulent religion of Mormonism, only to author a book discussing...just a *different* patently fraudulent religion. (The taste for *fraudulent religion* must be as addictive as it is acquired, speaking of appetites...).
What the cheering fans don't realize is this: former Mormons would only be ecstatic if a Mormon apologist finally did something productive with his time, like say, write a great book about an important subject. I can't imagine any person ever begrudging anyone that. But the chatter on some of the boards reveals that the cheerers have made yet another error in thinking. They seem to think that if a Mormon apologists writes a book, or hopefully, a great book, on some (non-Mormon) important topic, it necessarily bolsters the credibility of his Mormon apologetic work (and therefore, that this is a big blow against "the anti-Mormons").
That this is ridiculous must be obvious to anyone who has ever enjoyed a Sherlock Holmes story and then found out that A.C. Doyle wrote in earnest about the existence of fairies, or better, acknowledges Einstein's brilliance in physics but sees his political writings as problematic. There are hundreds and hundreds of examples of people who do great work in one area, but in another, get caught-up in bizarre fringe causes, and do absolutely horrific *work*, if it can even be called that, in those areas. What of the infamous Emory political scientist Courtney Brown, who publishes good stuff on things like elections in peer-reviewed journals, but who then writes books on his ability to remote view space aliens? (See http://www.courtneybrown.com/). It is perfectly possible to do good work in one area, and ridiculously bad work in another, and as far as I know, everyone understands that, except ideologues who, deep down, sense as well as anyone just how vulnerable the ground they stand on is.
The bottom line is that Mormon apologetic work is very much an in-house affair, not because non-Mormons hate Mormons or Mormonism, but because in most cases Mormon apologetic work does not meet accepted standards of scholarship. This is why you'll never see a Gee or Rhodes piece defending any uniquely Mormon claim about the Book of Abraham in any academic journal, or any Sorenson piece on how the Aztecs and Mayans were actually Book of Mormon peoples, etc. That's also why some of the most prominent apologists are all but anonymous in their supposed fields of expertise. On the RFM site is my post describing my email correspondence with the department heads of America's top five graduate programs in Near Eastern Studies - of the three who emailed back, not one had even so much as heard of Daniel C. Peterson. (See http://www.mormoncurtain.com/topic_ta...)
And for those members reading this, anxious to work yourself into a lather over it, I recommend you take three minutes and try sending a few emails out yourself. There are hundreds of scholars in America alone whose area of expertise is Arab or Middle/Near Eastern culture, history, religion, etc. And you can find their email addresses very easily (on their university websites). Try emailing them yourself to find out how many have heard of your favourite "Arabist" Mormon apologist. Just for good measure, you can throw in a question about their opinion of the work of Hugh Nibley.
And while you're at it, you might as well send emails around to Egyptologists asking their professional opinion about the research of Rhodes and Gee, or ditto for any of the most prominent "scholars" over there.
A few more points for the lawsuit.
3.) I find it hard to believe that any church, anywhere, could ever consent to have someone serve as an EDITOR of an apologetic publication like the FARMS Review of Books, who is such an appallingly bad writer. It is truly shocking. The Ensign has pretty good editors for the kind of magazine it is; the Deseret News has pretty good editors; the Church News likewise. But the editorials in the FARMS Review of Books are SO bad they're almost good again, like a Michael Bolton album or "Springtime for Hitler" (from the movie "The Producers"). One can find all the same errors there as in D-grade junior high position papers - and evidently, no one notices, or no one cares. How can that be? How can an organization full of control freaks, and so uptight about its public image, not mind that FROB editorials read like a cross between the Unabomber Manifesto and a Lyndon LaRouche pamphlet (with a healthy dash of street-corner evangelist handbill)? It's crazy. The pedantry, the lashing out and settling of personal scores,the rambling, overweening digressions, the total self-absorption...and that's THE EDITOR. It's incredible!
4.) I could go on forever (in fact, reading this back, it seems like I have already), but last point: post-modernism. I ask in all honesty: could there ever, in a million years, be anything dumber, than for Mormon church apologists both pro and amateur to reference post-modernist (anti-)epistemologies when trying to defend a religion sold on "Moroni's promise"?
Let me answer that:
And still, it continues. Why, of course. When your mind, in important ways, has gone to mush because of your total psychological, social, financial, emotional immersion in an ideology, counter-productiveness is no impediment to your defense efforts - because you don't notice it. You can't. The truth is, in that state, you can see very little clearly, though you think you see more clearly than ever.
Make no mistake - when the apologist po-mo talk starts up, we are witnessing the lowest of the low in mindgames and self-deception. And far from being merely counter-productive, it is truly depression-inducing for observers. It's like you're watching the point where a mind finally snaps, and there's no more chance of return...and in that pleasingly hazy mind, from now on, anything can be anything, or nothing, or something and nothing at the same time, for the cause.
And the cause...?
The cause is, remain in that same basic psychological state - the one where you are certain you have safety, identity, purpose, knowledge, belonging...Never get out. Never let anything jog you out of it. It's comfortable in bed, asleep, warm and cozy..."I will not wake up. I will not wake up. I WILL NOT WAKE UP".
And my guess is, Mormon apologists never will.
But then, anyone who doesn't want to wake up, doesn't deserve to, anyway.
Can someone tell me if that was enough fodder for the lawsuit?
| AP - Salt Lake City
Spokesmen for NBC and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today announced their plan to produce jointly a new reality show called "The Apologist", to be aired fall season.
The show will begin with sixteen contestants, divided initially into two teams, who will compete for a single job offered at the church's BYU-affiliated Neal Maxwell Institute of Religious Studies, formerly known as the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS). Three professional Mormon apologists will serve as judges throughout the series: Fred Amplegirth, Eischel Forluker, and D. Lou Dedsoll.
Each team will be given real and hypothetical problems to solve to test their abilities as Mormon apologists, similar to those used for the initial applicant screening. For example, in one test, applicants were asked to answer the question, "Is this entirely black cat, black?" in the negative, on behalf of those who felt the spirit tell them, before the cat was presented to them, that the cat they were about to see was white and orange. The goal was to keep the orange-and-white believers convinced that they had not made a mistake even after they could examine the cat and see that it was entirely black.
The winning applicants tended to use a similar range of strategies: obscurantist vocabulary, pedantic and irrelevant digressions, settling of unexplained personal scores, changing the question, half-hearted appeals to post-modernists, sniveling praises of Mormon General Authorities and fellow apologists sure to "rouse the spirit", the labeling of "black-ists" as not just wrong but actually evil, wearisome length, half-truths, straw men, appeals to (specious) authority, as well as a number of other fallacies.
"I'm excited", said Dirk McDougal, one of the approved contestants. "At least as excited as one can ever be said to feel in a world in which Kant's noumenal realm must remain forever inacessible to us by virtue of our untranscendable subjectivity as subjective beings subject to the constrictions of the phenomenal, presuming that 'excitement' exists as a sort of Platonic ideal quite above and beyond all of us, which of course would qualify it as part of an objective or noumenal realm and which would imply that one can only 'feel' 'excitement' to the extent one is able to free oneself from the constrictions of what Shakespeare called 'this mortal coil', though I say this not with the vicious - 'vicious' in its original sense, as in, having to do with 'vice' - pride warned of in everything from the Tanakh to the Baghavad-Gita and the Vedas and the Koran and The Course In Miracles and the Book of Urantia and the collected works of Shirley Maclaine, but rather with the 'holy' pride of one who feels gratitude for membership in the Lord's only true religion, a religion not of man but of Elohim, he who exists on or near Kolob, which - to which - I one day anticipate with great 'excitement', as I like to imagine what I feel actually is, 'hieing'".
| Those raised by brain-addled cultists like us are all far too familiar with the experience of asking how it made sense for God to contradict himself, or say one thing and do another, or whatever, and then hear this post's title - supposedly the words of God - quoted back as an answer. Thanks a lot, Jesus!
My response now is, "thank GOD, God's ways are not our ways". After all, if the scriptures and "one true gospel" are to be credited, "God's ways" include incest (Adam and Eve's offspring), murder (Lot's wife), direct genocide (the flood), indirect (Mansonian) genocide and slavery (Jewish wars of conquest en route to Canaan), execution for offences like "dishonouring parents" (Leviticus whatever), human torture and sacrifice (Jesus), theocratic monarchical fascism (Moses and David), symbolic cannibalism (sacrament), beheading when voices inside your head tell you to (Nephi's number on Laban), and...well, refusing to give any answer to questions about these things, other than "my ways are not your ways" - which is nothing but a circularity, a begging of the very question.
After all, when humans say, "How could God do these things?", it's simply (not to say obviously) just another way of saying, "how is it that 'God's ways' could be so different to our own?". It then makes no sense to say in response, "because his ways are not your ways". DUH - we already know that. We're trying to figure out WHY. It's like saying, "Why does Daddy beat us with a frying pan?", and your Daddy's friend saying, "because your daddy beats you with a frying pan". In another words, this "answer" is nothing but a "f*** you".
Far be it from me to say that the human race has now approximated worthiness; BUT, let's take a look at a couple of things.
Incest - Unlike God, who could have averted its necessity simply by creating a few new breeding pairs, humans around the globe have tried to eliminate incest, usually punishing it with the harshest severity. Sorry, but I'll take THAT "way" over God's corresponding "way", anyday.
Accountability for one's actions - Whereas God appears to be a capricious, amoral dictator who supposedly can muster only an "F-You!" when he is not in silent default mode, humans around the globe continue to build institutions which tie the authority of leaders to govern to the will of the governed, and through numerous means require those leaders to ANSWER - not brush off - questions about their governance. Humans, in other words, require ACCOUNTABILITY from their rulers. (Even those supposedly big, bad multi-national corporations have executive officers who must answer to a board and to shareholders regularly, nevermind to elected politicians). But supposedly, God requires something very different - he must be given, in the imaginations of believers, total carte blanche to commit whatever atrocity he wishes, at any time; and by the mere fact of the atrocity's commission by God, all humans are supposed to regard the act as then supposedly "sanctified", and its author therefore made immune to moral examination. "God's ways are not your ways"? Thank God, once again.
Just a few comments on this particular point - to submit oneself to this kind of master, waiving in your own mind any right to question his acts, seems far more an act of the most disgusting servility, if not complete insanity, than anything required by any "moral law". Indeed, if "moral law" requires making oneself a slave to a capricious, amoral madman, then I suggest the words "moral law" have no meaning at all anyway. And this is one unintended consequence of the arguments of people who so often decry "the decline of morality" - in their attempts to halt morality's "decline", they murder it themselves, by giving it a meaning which, in truth, cannot be in any way reconciled with the concept of moral "law", and because of which it now becomes wholly synonymous with some agent's free will.
And as though it were not bad enough that in the religionist's inadvertently murderous hands, morality becomes synonymous with will, it becomes synonymous only with the will of the most powerful. Yet for some reason, religionists at the same time argue against those who claim that might makes right - but that, in truth, is their exact position! And no doubt, if in their fevered imaginations, the "Satan" character were to ever demonstrate enduring superiority of power over the "God" character, they would then simply transfer their servility to their new and fitter master. Even as it is, the God many religionists worship, if known only by his works, would be indistinguishable from some supposed embodiment of evil anyway. How else could you imagine someone who, though being "all-powerful", chooses to torture and execute his own son? If the religionist's next-door-neighbour did any such thing, he would no doubt call for a prison sentence or the electric chair; but let him read about the very same act in a very old book, and he instantly forgets all notions of decency, right, and justice, and instead cannot abase himself fast enough in trying to worship the offender. Sick.
Reason - St. John makes a big deal about Jesus being the "logos" (the word, or reason); but at every single point that the operation of reason reveals a problem with religious dogma - say, a logical impossibility, or a clash between evidence and some 3000 year old claim - religionists claim as a sign of piety, the suspension of their own reason. And in some cases, as in the case of Mormonism, this suspension must reach shocking lengths in order to protect faith. In 2007, hundreds of thousands "well-educated" Mormons continue to believe that the Native Americans are the blood descendants of Jewish sailors, that a lot of animals got to America in ancient submarines lit by stones touched by God, that the Egyptian Book of Breathings is actually a "cryptogram", that Satan controls the earth's water, that God both ordered and prohibited the very same act and then punished Adam and Eve for doing what he had forced them to do, and that a certain mortal ("prophet") should always be obeyed since "the Lord will not permit him to lead the church astray".
Now, if these beliefs are compatible with the operation of reason, then clearly, there IS no such thing as "reason", and so this religion could have nothing to do with reason in the end (since it doesn't really exist). But if these beliefs are NOT compatible with reason, then likewise is this religion an enemy to reason. So either way, I am left to say that "God's way" is ultimately antagonistic to the operations of the very organ of thought and perception which he supposedly created and blessed us with; and because of this, I have to say that I am very glad indeed that "God's ways are not man's ways". I can't think of a more horrific fate than to be consigned to an eternity of unreason and abject servility to an amoral madman. Call me crazy, but I'll take a democratic capitalist society any day.
"God", as a character (at least, the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim version) in the end appears to be no more than an exaggerated tribal chieftain from an era in which more refined notions like "reason", "accountability", and "fairness" and "morality" were only dimly ever contemplated, if they even were at all. Not that I blame the ancients - you don't have time for a philosophy of ethics when the demands of survival are so constantly pressing. But what excuse do moderns have now for remaining in - even championing - that psychological state? Why remain in a state of basest servility, and relative psychological retardation, when there is no longer any survival need to do so? Why mindlessly fellate a Shaka Zulu-style psycho forever, instead of acknowledging that now, real progress in blessing the human race requires devotion instead to concepts like fair play, human rights, reason, and accountability?
Sticking with democratic capitalist man's ways, T.
| I guess I shouldn't really be surprised that so many Mormons and former Mormons appear still unable to admit to themselves what kind of religion Mormonism is. Our vanity is such that we can create all sorts of diversions and blind spots so as to avoid having to confront that we, perhaps, are not, or were not, the kind of people we enjoy imagining ourselves to be.
But the nature of Mormonism does not depend at all upon what we would like to believe about ourselves. It just what it is - and what it is has been described over, and over, and over, and over again, by Mormonism's most authoritative voices, namely, LDS scriptures and LDS prophets and apostles. It is an organization which claims exclusive divine authority, and on that basis, sovereignty over every aspect of an individual's existence and personhood. The doctrine of this organization makes absolutely NO allowance for "righteous disobedience" to its "prophet" when speaking ex officio.
To put this last point in perspective, think of this: nearly every country in the world shows respect, in a sense, for "conscientious objectors", by allowing them to do something else besides military service. (I met one man once who spent two years cleaning bed pans at hospitals during the Vietnam War). Yet, Mormonism does not allow for the possibility of a "conscientious objector" to a Mormon prophet's decrees - and a clue why is in the very word "conscientious", which of course derives from the word conscience: Mormonism claims a monopoly on conscience, that is, morality and all "correct" senses of it. A "conscientious objector" to the ex cathedra decree of a Mormon prophet, then, is (from Mormonism's perspective) a logical impossibility, for if that person had any "conscience" at all, he would "know" that the only correct word on questions of good and evil comes from the prophet himself. In Mormonism, disobedience to prophetic decree, is - and can only ever be - wickedness, immorality, sin, unrighteousness.
This shouldn't be difficult to understand. Once we accept the Mormon prophet's claim that "he cannot lead the church astray", and that he is the only man authorized to speak for God, and he then issues a command in his office as prophet, then "we know what righteousness requires": obedience. In Mormonism, "righteousness" does not exist as a concept without "following the prophet". The two things are, in fact, one and the same.
This is why horrific, seemingly irrational, acts can strike some of us as very rational. We accept certain claims - say, the Mormon claims listed above - and they then serve as axioms, or premises, from which we (very logically) deduce certain conclusions. In the case of the Mormon claims above, for example, one conclusion is this:
Whatever the prophet speaking ex officio commands, is right.
This conclusion can serve as the premise for another syllogism, like this:
Whatever the prophet speaking ex officio commands, is right;
I should do what is right;
Therefore, I should do whatever the prophet speaking ex officio commands.
And "whatever", unfortunately, really means whatever. It can include being willing to murder your own relatives (Abraham, Nephi, etc.), ethnic cleansing (Israelite wars of conquest), incest (Adam and Eve's children), mass executions (Mountain Meadows Massacre), stealing (Nephi again), lying (Joseph Smith re: his sexcapades), enacting your own ritual suicide (LDS temple oaths pre-1990), legally perjuring yourself (Joseph F. Smith in front of Congress), or any other act. A suicide bombing is no worse than most of the acts I just listed. Indeed, any God who could be supposed to have authorized the many disgusting atrocities chronicled in the Old Testament, could never be supposed to object to just another disgusting atrocity like suicide bombing. ("All in a day's work" for the Big Man...).
Evil can be rational, given certain premises - and that is why so much care needs to be taken to ensure that we never accept as true, that which is false. Perhaps that includes, most of all, false authority claims, like those still being made by fraudulent "prophets" like Gordon Hinckley, Dallin Oaks, Jeff Holland, and Henry Eyring. They can smile all they want, make all the jokes they want, and even have all the best intentions in the world: but none of that can ever mitigate the fact that Mormon General Authorities are not "prophets" in the sense they claim, at all - they are fakes. Nor can any of those things mitigate the fact that the psycho-social dynamics within Mormonism, which allowed child rapes under polygamy, incest, and the MMM, have not changed, and that Mormon leaders are doing precisely NOTHING to correct that. Why should they, when their own natural hunger for status, power, and overly flattering self-images, is sated by those dynamics?
Mormonism is a fraudulent, authoritarian, loyalty cult, which defines ultimate "righteousness" as "uncompromising" (Hinckley's word) obedience to an external authority claiming God's authority. And that is just why Mormonism, like all similar ideologies and organizations, must be rejected - the sooner the world sees the last of that kind of "righteousness", the better.
| As far as I can figure, Mormonism got the concept of hell pretty much right: it isn't an actual place, somewhere out there in the universe, where you are literally deposited in a lake of fire and brimstone forever (though that's what many devout Christians believe). When hell is spoken of in Mormonism (barring the outer darkness story), usually a certain state of mind is meant; a state of regret and remorse, of knowing that you could have done better, etc. And of course, that is a kind of hell...
Mormonism does a far poorer job on heaven, I think, for it isn't really an opposite of hell, but a series of tiered, paradaisacal domiciles, with hazy rules about who gets to visit whom and in what "kingdom"...and those in the top tier grouped in "family units" according to (once again) very hazy rules of association and hierarchy (how much "presiding" do you really do over your family, when you have an infinity of presidents above you, and your own kids are there with their families...and your daughters presumably subject to their husbands...?). Of course, the other thing about the top tier of Mormon heaven is - despite the disavowals now - Joseph Smith and all his successors, and their apostolic colleagues, until well into the 20th century, taught explicitly that plural marriage will be practiced there - after all, it is, in the words of those men I just mentioned, "celestial marriage".
The tiers as well presumably exist somewhere near a star called Kolob, which is the star closes to God's residence...also, it seems as though time ceases there (see JS's "King Follett Discourse"), and people will all be wearing white robes or temple garments, and also visiting the spirit prisons....Anyway, short story is, the Mormon heaven is a wild and fantastical place, like something out of a Baron von Munchausen story, especially in comparison to Mormon hell, or mental/spiritual torment. Streets paved with gold, sex with innumerable plural wives and their delivery of spirit babies (?), presumably near omniscience via individual seer stones, etc.
But since coming to realize that Joseph Smith didn't tell the truth about his experiences, and so had no reason to be thought credible on matters like this, I've come to think of heaven in a far different way. I can find absolutely no reason to believe that any place like the Mormon heaven will be our soul's destination beyond death (and in fact, I can't even find a good reason to suppose we have souls). I think heaven, in reality, is rather what the Mormon heaven should be, as an opposite to Mormon hell: a certain state of mind, or feeling. I mean, the joy of knowing we've done our absolute best...the joy of forming and maintaining bonds with loved ones...the joy of having blessed someone else's life in some way...the joy of seeing the beauty and wonder of creation, from the smallest levels to the grandest...the joy of being able to look into a soulmate's eyes and saying, "heaven is us, you and I, together, and all our little ones"...
I think heaven isn't a place we go to after we die; I think it is a place we can live in everyday, if we are determined to, and perhaps, if we have a bit of luck. I think it is something we create and find here on earth...and right now. Heaven can be right now...
I feel sad sometimes when I think of how long I lived always thinking of heaven as another place, and another time. I was too often blind to all the beauty right before me, because I was too often straining so hard to see something far, far off in the distance - which, it turns out, there is no reason to believe is even there, at least in the way I thought.
I submit that true heaven isn't crazy stories, or distant stars, or strange names and strange clothes and strange spouses. I think it is something that we all have, within us, the power to create and experience, at least to some extent, right here and right now...
Just a thought,
| What kind of world do we live in, when well-intentioned lunatics have more influence over how we think, feel, and act, than anyone else?
Joseph Smith was a wonderful storyteller - clearly, so wonderful that even in 2007 many people are so enchanted with his stories, that the fact that they could not possibly be true means nothing to them. Their belief in his stories, to them, gives their lives meaning; so why should they ever part with them? Meaning is enough. What difference then can it make then that, contrary to JS's assertions, the human family pre-dates two Missourians who lived only five millenia ago? Or that there wasn't a global flood 4000 years ago as JS claimed? Or that the Native Americans aren't the blood descendants of all, as JS and his BOM claim? Or a hundred other things? Clearly, none at all. These false teachings, which even many members know are false, to borrow a phrase, are simply instantly relegated to "not essential to our salvation" (though of course JS said just the opposite). In the (not necessarily conscious) opinion of the believers, what is essential to the salvation of our psyches, our self-images, senses of safety, perhaps our marriages, etc., is to continue believing in Smith's silly, self-aggrandizing stories, and the authority claims of his successors.
Mormons may enjoy remembering that it is not only they who have found great meaning in wonderful (untrue) stories. Decades after almost all of his most important theories have been identified as either untrue or inherently untestable yarns, Sigmund Freud continues to inform the worldviews of millions of people. Humans don't actually wish to have incestuous relationships with their parents, and in fact possess an overwhelmingly powerful innate instinct against it? No problem. No evidence that our minds erase all memory of traumatic episodes? No problem. Therapists in the 80's, taking their cues from Freud, actually "creating" false traumatic memories in trying to "recover" these non-existent "repressed memories", and in so doing, tearing families apart, ruining the very lives they're supposed to be helping? No problem. Nothing seems to be a problem to those who like Dr. Freud's stories. After all - the stories give their lives meaning: incest, penis-envy, patricidal fantasies, fictitious anal fixations and all. In truth, it is nonsense, just like Mormonism - but not to the believers. For them, it has become crucial to life itself.
And what of Marx? It is no exaggeration to say that virtually all of Marx's "scientific" predictions about capitalism failed. No problem for his adherents; just like any other ideologues, his followers simply invented post hoc rationalizations to make it okay. To this day, a look at any university department faculty in the humanities or social sciences will reveal professors examining this or that "through the prism of Marxism" - after 80 years of TOTAL MARXIST FAILURE. After all the failed predictions, after MILLIONS DEAD because of the premise that human nature is infinitely malleable (a premise shared also by Mormon theology, hence its own experiments in Utopian collectives), and the desire of "knowers" to realize heaven on earth. It just doesn't matter. All that matters is that Marxism has given them meaning in their lives. Untruth has become "my truth" for the Marxist, "the end".
What about Betty Friedan and other founding mothers of modern feminism? Crucial to most modern feminism "thought" has been that "sex" does not exist; only "gender" does. ("Gender", the word, itself is a claim that all differences observed between males and females are a result of environment, rather than biology.) Now, 44 years after "The Feminine Mystique" came out, many dozens of studies confirm the fact (which, suspiciously, never seems to have been doubted prior to 1963) that the survival of our species has depended on the evolution of certain important differences in male and female human brains, just as is the case in other mammal species. (As it happens, quite a bit of the most important research in this area has been conducted by women themselves [and why not, since women have as much to gain from understanding humanity as men do?] See, e.g., the work of Doreen Kimura, or Louise Brizendine's new "The Female Brain") . Yet, there are still millions of people running around claiming that any observed differences between men and women are the result of social conditioning, and that "gender is a social construct". (No, dear - sex is real, and "gender" is largely a figment of your imagination.) The studies, the proof, the terrible effect on societies and personal relationships of positing identically hard-wired brains...none of it matters to the ideologues. Nothing can matter, by definition, to the ideologue, but his or her ideology. It's the story, stupid. Not the truth.
Translation-facilitating rocks, entirely fanciful "interpretations of dreams" (Freud's magnum lunatic opus), the superiority of central economic planning to free markets, innately identical boys and girls...all are nonsense, and demonstrable nonsense at that. Yet it seems to make hardly any difference to millions. It seems sometimes that we live in a world shaped not so much by what we know, but what we would most like to believe, damn the truth, "whatever 'truth' might mean anyway, as Nietszche taught us...".
Thank God the Bacons, Galileos, Newtons, Humes, Voltaires, Einsteins of the world have cared less about stories, even wonderful stories, and focused more on the business of trying to gain real knowledge about the world. After all, the story of Adam and Eve, which includes women through Eve being cursed by God with pain in childbirth, might be life-giving and appealing to some women - but probably far more life-giving and appealing are safe, emergency C sections and epidural blocks. (And to think there are still some feminists out there who claim that science is inherently patriarchally oppressive...what unspeakable ignorance.)
I like stories as stories, too - but I'm not sure they ought to be favoured over reality itself.
Just my two cents.
| || One Man's Quest To Understand How We Believed The Nonsense For So Long (my Foray Into Psychology Graduate Study) |
Tuesday, Dec 18, 2007, at 07:38 AM
Original Author(s): Tal Bachman
Topic: TAL BACHMAN - SECTION 6 -Link To MC Article-
| ↑ |
| I've been out of town for a few days and am just checking back in. Immaterial Girl asked on another thread if I would describe my foray into the world of graduate study in psychology, so here it is.
Why did we believe the stupidity for so long? How did we come to believe it in the first place? What happens in our heads to make us incapable of thinking critically about certain topics even when we can think very critically about others? How does the "compartmentalization" process work, mechanically?
Anyone who was a true believer in Mormonism, and who then comes to see it's all a fraud, wonders about this. I have really wanted to get some answers. Here is how I tried.
Last August, I stumbled across a graduate program offered by the Psychology Department at the prestigious University College London (UCL), home to the world-famous Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience ( (http://www.icn.ucl.ac.uk/). (UCL is a college in the University of London system, which also includes amongst other famous places, London School of Economics, Birkbeck, and King's College). The program was the Masters of Science in Cognitive and Decision Science. Immediately I began fantasizing...and on a whim, I emailed the course administrators to ask about the program, telling them a bit about myself. We exchanged emails a few times and even chatted on the phone. Long story short is, they ended up inviting me to apply. I sent in my USU transcripts (BA in political science), recommendations from my old profs, etc., - and they offered me a place in the program. It was a dream come true! (I even permitted myself to feel an emotion - I'm pretty sure it was what people call "excitement". Or maybe it was "hope").
This all happened only a couple of weeks before classes were to start, however. How in the world could I take advantage of an opportunity to study with some of the most famous brain/mind researchers on the planet, being that I had a wife and eight kids? It costs a fortune to live in England...
We decided I would go ahead on my own to start the course, and once there, try to find a place for us all to stay for the year. After the year, we could either stay so I could do my PhD, or come home if some other opportunity presented itself.
So, with not a single class in psychology on my undergrad transcript, I showed up on September 24th to study psychology at one of the best places in the world to do so.
It was a blast. I clicked immediately with the professors, and I was thrilled when they claimed to see merit and novelty in ideas I'd had about how the brain might really operate. The other students were all very pleasant and also seemed intrigued in ideas which I had thought might have something going for them, but which I wasn't sure weren't totally daft. My creative faculties became very aroused and every few minutes, it seemed like some new great idea for a research project would pop into my head, so much so that for the first time in my life, I bought a little pocket notebook and pen so I could scribble down each idea as it came. I had so many I started to wonder how I'd ever pick one for the big, final project each of us had to do...and because the other students seemed to have a tougher time coming up with ideas, in a few cases I ended up just giving them some from my little notebook. This relieved my worry that some of my ideas would never see the light of day just because of time constraints, and also had the added benefit, I found out, of increasing my popularity :P.
Anyway, daily we would attend lectures and research seminars either at Birkbeck College on Gower Street, or the UCL building on Bedfort Street (a couple of blocks from the British Museum, right in Bloomsbury), or a few blocks away at the Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience. And I must say it was really awe-inspiring to sit through presentation after presentation with world-famous researchers, and watch them earnestly solicit criticism, even from the youngest present - and more, discuss that criticism at length in front of everyone, often taking notes or conceding that they had overlooked something. I couldn't help but compare that attitude with the attitude of the Mormon ecclesiastical "authorities" I'd attended meetings with for years of my life. They always spoke of humility, but it was easy to imagine their response if some local elder had ever openly challenged something they'd said in one of their talks. By contrast, I now sat in meetings with guys who, in some cases, seemed like viable candidates for Nobel Prizes one day, but who had so little ego - at least in that particular sphere - that they would concede their errors once exposed in front of everyone.
Being there with those top men and women, in that exhilarating and concentrated environment, also made me realize just how utterly ridiculous it was that we should EVER have considered Mormon apologetics to be "scholarly research". Indeed, the apologists now seemed so perfectly ludicrous that I felt embarrassed I had spent so much time lampooning them in the previous few years.
Things started out swimmingly, but as it turned out, I had a bit of bad luck. Having applied so late, I missed deadlines for scholarships and grants, meaning I would have to pay most of the fees myself - I thought I could do it, but when the "big" royalty check came I'd been expecting, it was less than half of what I was expecting (they fluctuate). Further, I couldn't find any place for a family of ten to stay. The only places big enough were literally, like five thousand pounds a month ($10,000.00). After I had been there for a couple of weeks, the course administrators pulled me aside and told me they had recently been given several thousand pounds to award as a scholarship to a student in the program, and they'd selected me. I was thrilled and flattered, but also kind of mortified, since not even that, I now knew, would be enough to allow me to stay, and so I had to decline. (And for those wondering, it was too much for all sorts of reasons to stay in England alone for a year, with my wife at home with eight children, from two to fifteen).
There was also another little issue. As ahead as I seemed in some classes, there were two which proved a struggle: statistics and MATLAB. The stats class turned out to be quite advanced and involved quite a bit of mathematics. MATLAB is a software program used by everyone from astrophysicists to engineers to social scientists; our class was a crash course in learning the MATLAB language so we could write up our own programs. Unfortunately, due to a series of administrative errors, I and several other students didn't get our UCL Psychology computer accounts until about ten days in, and so couldn't start doing the MATLAB exercises when everyone else started. I'm not computer savvy at all, and so when finally we were able to get rolling, it seemed like everyone else was miles ahead. Actually, they were miles ahead to begin with, since most of the others had done computer programming before, whereas I never had. So, in addition to withdrawal/deferral appear to be a financial necessity, it also seemed like I wouldbenefit from preparing for the quantitative stuff.
I then found out about, shall we say, yet another little crisis back at home, which wouldn't have happened if I'd been there - and so, with a feeling of great disappointment, and even fear that life would intervene so as to keep me away forever after, I felt like I ended up with no choice but to withdraw and defer my entrance until September 2008. The professors were very understanding and said I was welcome back...but like I said, maybe it's superstition, but I wonder if I ever will be able to go back. (If anyone wants to donate several tens of thousands of dollars so I can go to UCL next year to study the role of ideology in the brain's (neural) self-construction, that is, as a physiologically impactful variable on brain hard-wiring and operation, send it to my PayPal account! :P ).
So that is the story of my foray into the world of graduate study in psychology.
| One of the bizarre things about being human is how our social needs can overwhelm our capacity for clear thinking.
Every organization in the world has members who claim great allegiance to it, yet who wish to transform that organization into something entirely different - abolish it, in a word. Each one of these people, in this context, has come to embody a perfect oxymoron, and I find it almost sad, because in virtually every case, the human oxymorons wish to belong to a pack which doesn't want them around.
"Mormon feminists", for example, are one particularly bizarre breed. They belong to a baldly phallic religion, the founder of which viewed women as not much more than a means for gratifying his lusts, and the theology of which describes heaven as a place where a man becomes a God and has innumerable wives who spend eternity having his babies. In Mormonism, a twelve year old handicapped boy has more ecclesiastical authority than a sixty year old woman. In Mormon temple ceremonies, "the patriarchal order" - not the "matriarchal" or "meritocratic" or "egalitarian" order - is revealed as the Mormon governing principle. Mormon doctrine stipulates innate sex differences (possibly the only Mormon doctrine with good science behind it). And Mormon feminist women sit in General Conference and hear 85 year-old control freaks announce just how many earrings women are allowed to wear in an ear, how long skirts should be, et cetera, ad infinitum.
So what place is there in Mormonism for a "feminist"? None - like those of many religions, the theology, culture, and policies of Mormonism are simply not reconcilable with any conceivable form of "feminism". Put that first question another way: how can there be, strictly speaking, any such thing as a "Mormon feminist"? I submit there cannot be, any more than there can be a square circle, or a seven foot midget, or a great, straight, interior decorator. All there can really be are torn, or oblivious, people.
Of course, this isn't unique to certain Mormons. We see the same thing in political parties: we can all think of folks who appear to agree with a rival party on most issues, but who remain as Republicans or Democrats. Why don't they just join the other party? We see the same thing on internet bulletin boards - people come on, wish to "join the community", then start agitating for a total revision of all the board rules. That is, we can observe in lots of places the spectacle of a person wanting to belong to a community which, fundamentally, s/he wants to abolish!
What a funny species we are...
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