THE MORMON CURTAIN
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EX-MORMON OPINION - SECTION 12
The "Opinion" topic was created to separate out recovery from opinions on posts made in Ex-Mormonism. A large selection of posts made by Ex-Mormons that do not fit in "Recovery". These are more considered "Soap Box" posts. While they may be opinions, they are still very important in the steps to recovering from Mormonism.
| I'm still attending church but it has been a good six months to a year since I began questioning the LDS faith and even God's existence.
The catalyst that sparked the process of questioning everything was a combination of having a friend who was an exmo and atheist who I respect and know well enough that I can assume that he had really good intellectual reasons for making that transition followed by my viewing on DVD of this program, http://dsc.discovery.com/convergence/..., the Lost Tomb of Jesus.
I felt that the documentary lacked any conclusive proof that Jesus had not resurrected. The information, however, did "make it okay" for me to actually intellectually question a belief that I had held since about 6 or 7 when my Mom joined the LDS church on the basis of faith and social reinforcement alone.
Examining my willingness to believe something for which I had no concrete evidence was the beginning of the end. What was more disturbing was that I found myself justifying my questioning these elemental foundational points of doctrine and history by means of various teachings within the church such as "the glory of God is intelligence," and other statements made by leaders about how the truth will conquer all, etc.
The early Mormon history, going back to original documents, clearly shows irreconcilable discrepancies (lies, deceit, whatever you want to call it) that clearly show things did not happen as current Church leadership would have one believe. The combination of a lack of evidence to support the Book of Mormon and the accumulation of evidence that discredits claims made by the Book of Mormon (and about the BoM by Church leaders) continue to strain credulity to the point where I feel embarrassed on behalf of the Church for its need to ask people to subscribe to this system of belief based on an emotional feeling in one's heart alone.
The premise that anything that is written that doesn't inspire faith and conviction in the Church/Gospel/"Truth" HAS to be of the devil and apostate is so completely contrary to a rational, intelligent approach to gaining knowledge and evaluating ideas to the point of being ridiculous.
To me, Galileo's predicament with the Catholic church on the falseness of the doctrine of the earth being the center of the universe and unmovable is a perfect example of how history repeats itself when this example is called upon to act as a comparison to the LDS, dogmatic assertion that LDS doctrine (the whole spectrum) must be true because God revealed it.
As a Mormon, in the past I would have to admit to having looked upon the Catholic leadership in the early 1600's as being backward, silly, stupid people who preferred to believe in falsehood because of their "false interpretations" of the scriptures rather than to draw an open-minded conclusion based the evidence that was easily open to their personal examination if they were of such a mind to do so. Embarrassingly enough, I felt pride and security in knowing that I belonged to the True Church that would never commit such a blind and foolish error because the restored gospel encompasses all truth in one, etc.
The ultimate question I've had to ask myself is, "Why would a God, who's glory consists of intelligence, require, as a condition for salvation/exaltation, that his own sons and daughters who are endowed with an intellect (arguably the crowning glory found within us) set aside that intellect when trying to come to a knowledge of the truthfulness of the gospel?"
I've arrived at the conclusion that it is actually okay, and even intelligent, wise, prudent, smart, effective, reasonable, rational, productive, useful and just a good idea to expect anything that claims to be the truth to hold up to the rigorous demands and tests that our intellect can put it through.
I would be dead by now if it weren't for the marvels of modern medical science. In an effort to preserve a degree of anonymity, for the present moment, I won't go into details. When I look at all the significant achievements of mankind, from the pyramids of ancient Egypt all the way up to the marvels we see as everyday aspects of our lives today, they are the product of man's ability to apply reason and interpret in a sane, open-minded way the evidence the natural world presents before him on how things work.
Why does religion get such an unquestioned, so easily proffered, "get out of rationality free" card? Try reconciling that from the viewpoint of a religion that claims the glory of God is intelligence.
| My experiences, for the most part, were decent, and happy. It was a "good" life on most levels for many decades. But I was a convert, with Christianity and Spiritualism in my background which played heavily into why we joined with our little family in the first place.
There were enough odd, strange, and weird experiences, that didn't make much sense, however to cause me to wonder what was really going on. I knew from experience, that odd experiences, and not playing fair,lying or twisting the truth, so to speak was not uncommon in anyone's life.
Often horrible treatment leads to "horribilizing" until we get it out of our system. Some folks never get through that process. It becomes very comfortable. I found myself doing that over some specific experiences, but have now laid them to rest.
Some leave Mormonism in spite of the odd treatment we experienced at times, like I did.
We have a large community here with a wide variety of experiences. We, as humans tend to understand similar experiences. Different experiences are just different. They in no way discount others.
It was their own original history that showed me their claims were just too funny to believe. I left in spite of the human behavior that some find offensive. It's no wonder the LDS Church uses that against those that leave.
If everyone who was ever offended in the LDS Church left, there would be no one there! :-)
We may not be able to understand someone else's experiences, especially if they are very different from our own. That's OK. We can't possible understand how others lived or dealt with every aspect of the religion.
But, somehow, we manage to navigate the process of leaving the religion within our families. Some leave with us, some do not.
I have found that people in general are basically gullible.It's human nature to believe what we read also. Repeating it makes it more believable. They believe what they are told. Look at the Ponsi schemes (for instance)that went on for decades, for instance.
Developing the thinking skill of a skeptic was new to me! But I sure like using it now!
Developing a BS detector was a new skill also.
Learning to think before I accept what I hear or read or see reminds me of the old adage: don't believe anything you read and only half of what you see.
I have noticed that women that I know are typically believers in what they hear and see. Religion may or may not have anything to do with it.
The idea of living with making your own rules is foreign also. Or just going out for fun with no rules is also foreign.
Revamping our thinking and creating a new world view is a long process, in my experience after leaving the culture and religion of Mormonism. But its a fun process!
So, I say to those who are believers, it's your right and you are under no obligation to defend or justify it.
The same is true for those that are not believers.
I am also reminded of the old adage: if you want to keep a friend, don't discuss religion or politics.
Why? Because for many those are tightly held emotional bonds that most often take on a strong emotional response.
So, in my experience, I have determined that I want friendly, respectful relationships with friends and family. It they cannot reciprocate and behave badly, I am free to disassociate, no matter who they are. Sometimes by disassociating, there is a new level of peace that is a big surprise! :-).
I loved being a Mormon for the most part, and I love being a former Mormon for the most part. Life is filled with every emotion imaginable, and we are free to develop our own opinions that work for us. That includes, in my case, respecting the right to be a Mormon and not be concerned with trying to change their mind. If they ask, I am willing to share.
| 1. Mormons, you need to treat *your* mishies better as an example to others. See that they have at least minimally adequate food, housing, and medical care. Too often, I hear about how mishies live in squalor as if that means non-mos are somehow at fault for not doing more to help them. Face it, the responsibility rests in mormon hands. Being brainwashed doesn't let mormons off the hook in my opinion.
2. Mormons, please provide oversight to be sure mishies are not in serious danger from gangs, violent neighbors, pathogens, bad food or water. Establish teams of outsiders to investigate complaints and stage audits and inspections to check on the wellbeing of these young people.
3. See that missionaries are WELL trained for whatever they are likely to face. Those going to inner cities need classes in street smarts and self defense. Those going to third world villages need specialized training for those conditions.
4. Teach the mishies manners. People will treat them more nicely if the mishies know and use the basic rules of etiquette.
5. Teach mishies to respect the culture and people. How appalling to learn that mishies in San Francisco are sneering and openly smirking at gays! Or that those in Catholic communities have desecrated Catholic shrines. Ouch!
6. Teach mishies to obey the laws wherever they go. No violations of trespassing, stalking, or visa laws! And no sneaking by locked gates, doors, or restrictive signs.
7. Teach missionaries that people have a right to say no.
8. Establish and honor no-contact lists the way JWs do.
9. See that mishies spend more time in regular community charity and reach-out programs. Asking affluent busy homeowners if they need help is NOT helpful and comes accross as self-serving.
10. Don't make excuses for incidents of poor mishie behavior by saying "They're just kids," or "They mean well," or "Be nice because they have it tough." Those excuses didn't work on me when I taught first graders and they sure as heck don't work when we're talking about young adults!!
11. If someone says they do not like unannounced salesmen at the door, accept their feelings as valid. It's like telephone solicitors. If they say "sorry I bothered you" or "thank you for your time," then hang up quickly, I'm not angry. Those who scold me or become pushy tend to anger me and then I actively dislike the organization they represent.
I promise if you TBMs implement just a few of these ideas, I and others will be MUCH more inclined to be accomodating to the young adults YOU choose to mistreat.
| In almost all cases it's the mormon church leaders and loved ones who most frequently mistreat the missionaries they "love."
Out of "love" mormons threaten to withhold their love. The mormon thinking is that it's better to have an unhappy "honorably" serving missionary far away from the family than an actual loved one at home making whatever choices suit him.
Out of love mormons coerce young people to spend two years of their lives away from home and largely out of contact with those who claim to love them most.
The families and home-ward "friends" support the idea of withholding normal food rations, health care, and privacy from their "loved ones." They support the idea of forcing missionaries to work far more than someone in the most demanding of normal jobs at home. The conditions are much worse than any union would allow.
The loved ones don't bother to find out if the mishie living conditions are safe. When they're unsafe, they don't bother to train the mishies in how to deal with the dangerous of contaminated water and food supplies or disinterested, even violent "investigators."
No one from the organization is required to see that their missionaries have living conditions as minimally adequate as residents in county jails or flop houses.
But these mormons worship their missionaries, idolize and glorify them.
And strangely enough they rail against unconnected non-members who who are minding their business in their homes and who shut doors in mishie faces, possibly hurting their feelings.
Mormons rage over those who don't provide warmth for the loved ones they force into the cold.
They judge strangers who don't give shelter and refreshement to the loved ones they demand to work in summer desert conditions.
They're appalled by those who are unhappy about mishies disturbing them in their sickbeds, or during family time or emergencies. It makes no difference if so-called investigators are sleeping, nor if they're waiting for calls from their doctor or medical lab. It matters not if they're dealing with finacial ruin, divorce, or death.
I've brought this up many times and never do mishie parents or friends care about the unwilling "investigators" in their homes, no matter their situation. Always, they trivialize non-mo reasons for not wanting to deal with uninvited missionaries.
There is no interest among mormons for establishing no-contact lists like the JWs use. The church members are not interested in reminding missionaries to abide by the trespassing laws of the land or the no-soliciting signs on doors, or the posted signs at apartment entrances, mobile home communities, or gated neighborhoods.
Mormons expect all of the concessions and give none in return. They don't properly oversee their mishie program but complain bitterly about slammed doors and public disdain.
To nevermos, these attitudes seem hypocritical and downright incomprehensible. This muddled thinking and harsh attitude from mormons certainly does not make me want to treat mishies better.
| Dear Mr. Paul, |
This post is in response to statements in your recent letter to the Mormon Curtain claiming that Mormonism is not a cult. Below is a list of the characteristics and attributes of cults as prepared by qualified secular academics. Examples of how the Mormon Church qualifies under each attribute are provided.
1. The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leadership and (whether alive or dead) regards their belief system, ideology, and practices as the truth, and as law. (The Mormon Church requires that the leadership of the Church at all levels, be followed willingly and without question and threatens damnation to those who fail to do so.)
2. Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished. (Worthiness interviews in the Church ask if the member has read anti-Mormon literature and asks if the member fully supports the leadership of the Church. The wrong answer to either question can lead to sanctions.)
3. Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s). (The Church requires fasting and conducts interviews with the members, including children, to insure that they are adhering to the current guidelines of the Church, which can often change without notice.)
3. The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry–or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth). (Young Mormons are strongly encouraged to serve a mission and to marry as soon as possible and thereafter have children. All members are commanded to marry within the Church.)
4. The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar–or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity). (The Mormon Church leaders claim continued ongoing revelation from God. The pronouncements of Church leaders cannot be questioned. When coming in conflict with secular authorities, as in the Hoffman Case, or with Prop 8 funding, for example, Church leaders have claimed special status.)
5. The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society. (Mr. Paul, your own letter is clear evidence of this kind of thinking, which is rampant throughout the Church. As your letter demonstrates, those considered as apostates are feared and reviled. As to conflict with wiser society, again consider the fall-out of negative publicity from Church support of Prop 8, which continued on the international stage as the Academy Awards were broadcast outside the US.)
6. The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations). (See #5 above)
7. The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members' participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities). (A tradition of lies and misrepresentations in the Church was started by its founder Joseph Smith, who was an adulterer and told many a tall tale in establishing a religion in order to make money after failing to sell the Book of Mormon. This tradition continues with misrepresentations by General Authorities in the Mountain Meadow Massacre, the Mark Hoffman trial and many other "adjustments" and "revisions" of Church doctrine and history.)
8. The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion. (Again, Mr. Paul you can start with your letter. Coping with such peer pressure is one of the reasons why Utah has the highest rate of antidepressant drug usage in the nation.)
9. Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group. (The admonition for young men and women to delay attending college in order to go on a mission is but one example of this aspect.)
10. The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members. (The Church supports full time missionaries, stake missionaries, and urges every member to be a missionary. I can tell you that among the missions of my three sons, I spent approximately $6,000 per convert.)
11. The group is preoccupied with making money. (With a 10% tithe plus building fund and fast offering, and supporting family members on missions, and big ticket commercial real estate investments, there can be no question here.)
12. Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities. ( (Consider three hour block time meetings plus endless rounds of planning meetings leadership meetings, Stake temple days, Stake farm assignments, visiting teaching home teaching, etc.)
13. Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members. (Members are encouraged to date only members and attend Church and Church sponsored social events whenever possible.)
14. The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group. (And Mr. Paul that is why Mormon Recovery and Post Mormon / Ex Mormon message boards and websites are so popular.
I trust that you will consider the above listed attributes of a cult, and the associated examples of how Mormonism qualifies under each point. Perhaps you should re-examine your own motives for continued membership in such an organization.
| I looked long and hard at many other religions and studied the Bible, Torah, Tanakh, and Koran only to come to the conclusion they were all baseless also. It was more than a little scary at first thinking about a universe with the strong possibility of no god at the helm. It seemed so dark and lonely. Over a few years I came to a level of comfort with being all alone in our little corner of the universe.
Here are some of the many, many unsettling things I read about the Bible for instance.
"the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land [of Canaan] in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the twelve tribes of Israel. Perhaps even harder to swallow is the fact that the united kingdom of David and Solomon, described in the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom." - Ze'ev Herzog
"the historical saga contained in the Bible . . . was not a miraculous revelation, but a brilliant product of human imagination"
"As far as we can see on the basis of the archaeological surveys, Judah remained relatively empty of permanent population, quite isolated, and very marginal right up to and past the presumed time of David and Solomon, with no major urban centers and with no pronounced hierarchy of hamlets, villages, and towns."
"There is no trace of written documents or inscriptions, nor of the Temple or palace of Solomon, and buildings once identified with Solomon have been shown to date from other periods. Current evidence refutes the existence of a unified kingdom: "The glorious epic of united monarchy was -- like the stories of the patriarchs and the sagas of the Exodus and conquest -- a brilliant composition that wove together ancient heroic tales and legends into a coherent and persuasive prophecy for the people of Israel in the seventh century BCE"
"...most of the Israelites did not come from outside Canaan - they emerged from within it. There was no mass Exodus from Egypt. There was no violent conquest of Canaan. Most of the people who formed early Israel were local people - the same people whom we see in the highlands throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages. The early Israelites were - irony of ironies - themselves originally Canaanites!"
“The conquest of Canaan by Joshua could not have happened in the way described in the Bible. Most of the towns he is supposed to have conquered either weren’t inhabited, didn’t exist or were conquered at wildly different times.
Jerusalem, which was supposed to have become the capital of the great unified empire of King David (he of David and Goliath fame), appears to have been tiny and only sparsely inhabited in the relevant period. Many of the great monuments of ancient Israel attributed on the authority of the Old Testament to King Solomon were of a later date.” –Finkelstein and Silberman
“Solomon ... in the eyes of Israelite historians, marked the apex of Israelite achievement. Curiously, no reference to him or his father David, or their empire in a non-Israelite source is known ... “ – Isserlin (The Israelites, p72)
“Archaeologists have discovered that a series of earthquakes swept through the Eastern Mediterranean, including where Jericho stood, in around 1250 BC, and certainly brought walls crumbling down. However, the dates don’t match with the time Joshua was supposedly conquering the land. Maybe the memory of the destruction of the towns inspired scribes to write about a great warrior who conquered cities with God’s will. Or perhaps the catastrophic collapse of the old world through the earthquakes gave way to opportunism and Israelite groups took advantage of the destruction of the existing Canaanite cities and began to settle in Israel.
There is a twist to the story. Recent DNA research shows that the Canaanites and Israelites were not just similar in their cultures, they were genetically identical. Perhaps the Israelites did not conquer the land at all - they were there all along.”
"For centuries...Jews, Christians, and Moslems have believed that events in their racial and religious history are recorded in the Old Testament. Even today many continue to believe that the biblical account is literally true, or at least basically accurate. Scholarly findings in archeology, textual analysis, history, and newly translated ancient documents all point to a reality which may be difficult for many traditional and fundamentalist believers to reconcile with a faith that depends on biblical events, promises, prophecies, and revelations being historical facts. Nonetheless, this knowledge represents a new dawning in our understanding of these religions and their ancient history." Sarah Dougherty
"Other scholars are skeptical that the tomb belonged to Herod. "From what I've seen, there is no doubt that we're talking about a tomb from the Herodian period," says University of Haifa archaeologist Arthur Segal. "But there was no inscription. It could have been from a family member or anyone important. There is no definite proof that it is Herod's tomb.""
"While the site could be useful to scholars, archaeologist Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University urged adhering to the strict boundaries of science.
Finkelstein...warned against what he said was a "revival in the belief that what's written in the Bible is accurate like a newspaper."
That style of archaeology was favored by 19th century European diggers who trolled the Holy Land for physical traces of Biblical stories, their motivation and methods more romantic than scientific."
"While the Jews of today are connected historically and religiously to the Jews of ancient Israel, the DNA evidence also indicates that a significant amount of Jewish ancestry can be traced directly back to their Israelite/Middle Eastern ancestors. However, these ancestors represented a heterogeneous mix of Semitic and Mediterranean groups, even at their very beginnings. The Israelite Kingdom arose in the 11th century BCE in an area between modern-day Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Current archaeological evidence indicates that the Israelite kingdom arose out of the earlier, Bronze Age Canaanite culture of that region, and displayed significant continuity with the Canaanites in culture, technology, language and ethnicity (Dever 2003, pp. 153-154). While the Canaanites were a Western Semitic people indigenous to the area, they appear to have consisted of a diverse ethno-cultural mix from the earliest times. It is from this diverse group that the evolution of the Israelites occurred. Although little is knownabout these groups, they probably included some of the following populations:
(Dever 2003, pp. 219-220)."
- Amorites: Western Semites like the Canaanites. They were probably the pastoral nomadic component of the Canaanite people.
- Hittites: A non-Semitic people from Anatolia and Northern Syria.
- Hurrians (Horites): A non-Semitic people who inhabited parts of Syria and Mesopotamia. Many kings of the early Canaanite city-states had Hurrian names.
- Amalekites: Nomads from southern Transjordan. Even inimical references to this group in the Hebrew Bible “tacitly” acknowledge that the Israelites and Amalekites shared a common ancestry.
- Philistines: Referred to in ancient texts as “Sea Peoples.” They invaded and settled along the coasts of ancient Canaan. Their culture appears to stem from that of Mycenae.
| As many of us flee from the confines of the Mormon Church, we are left with the ponderous questions of life; spanning from the purpose of life to the future state of our conscious existence following this mortal realm. For many, this is a painful and frightful experience to ponder and contemplate an existence without the safe confines of a defined reality.
Following my personal exit from Mormonism, I was constantly contemplating that nature of god, who was this being, was there even such a being and what were the consequences if such a being did not exist. I struggled to come to terms with the notion that in the end, no one really knows if there is a god or not and that one is left with a gnawing ambiguity of the eternal questions which still remain unanswered.
Through this initial questioning period I discovered a book titled “The Denial of Death” by Ernest Becker. In his work, Becker attempts to understand human behavior from the construction of religion, to the erection of symbol and meaning all in an attempt to deny that in the end all our labors, our endeavors, struggles, pleasures and pains will cease, and we will die. The entire operation is one long pageant designed to reinforce the notion that we will somehow cheat our shared end and remain immortal, unending and eternal; hence his title, the denial of death.
In my journey, I have discovered that in order to better live, we must accept that we too will die, we will end, we will cease. For many this causes fear and pain, and so the pageant continues, the stage remains set as we play out our mortal role all the while pretending that the final curtain will never come. In so doing, we prevent ourselves from truly living. We do not taste the sweetness of life and allow our selves to be succored by the sour. There needs to be a true connection to ourselves and our path, or we will miss the glories that are found along our way.
For some the realization of such leads them to a resignation from existence. For others, it engenders an all consuming passion to feel and be while the grass grows green beneath their feet.
In sharing my experiences with you, I would encourage you to watch this excellent film on this subject titled “The Flight from Death” which is based upon the ideas presented in Becker’s book. You can watch the film broken down into clips here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J65DR5...
Live my friends, for tomorrow we die.
| The actions of Mormon leaders are very similar to what is referred to as "Agenda Setting Theory". Definitely not a surprise that they set the agenda in members lives and the fact they are looked upon as those who deliver directions from god in various forms makes the situation even more problematic.
"Agenda setting is giving priorities to alternative policy issues. Whereas early communications studies had shown a mixed picture about the ability of media to influence opinions on a given issue, Cohen (1963) and others showed that the media had much greater capacity to influence which issues were perceived as important. That is, the media agenda (policy rankings by importance in the media) influences both the public agenda (rankings in opinion surveys) and the policy agenda (rankings in legislative bodies).
Salience transfer refers to the capacity of the media (or other actors) to influence the relative importance individuals attach to policy issues. A notable study proving the existence of salience transfer was that by Iyengar, Peters, and Kinder (1982), where experimental groups gave baseline priorities, then were exposed to different news broadcasts with different policy emphases over four days, then rated priorities again. The authors found subjects' issue rankings realigned to match the media agenda.
Gatekeeping refers to how media content is controlled...
Framing. The importance and interpretation people attach to potential items on the public agenda are strongly influenced by how the media present news stories (Chyi and McCombs, 2004). Entman (2004), for instance, attributes differential foreign policy perceptions to how the media cheered American victories in Grenada and Panama but took scant note of success of far more difficult missions in Haiti and Kosovo. Another example cited by Entman is the media labeling an incident in which a U.S.S.R. aircraft shot down a civilian aircraft as an "attack," while labeling as a "tragedy" a similar incident in which an American aircraft shot down a civilian Iran Air airplane.
[This is very similar to the way TSCC plays down MMM and Joseph Smith's indiscretions in comparison with the "persecutions" in Missouri. More people died at MMM than in all of the persecutions in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois but that fact is warped via the method of "framing."]
* Priming. Where framing centers on political loading of the presentation of news, consciously or not, priming has to do with drawing attention to certain issues even in a neutral manner. For instance, priming survey respondents with information about street crime may affect the views expressed on crime policy as compared to the same survey administered without priming.
* Determinants of agenda-setting effects.
o Media exposure: Wanta and Ghanem (2006) found exposure was a stronger determinant than media credibility or media reliance, which were unrelated, in a study of Hispanic cable news. Earlier, Wanta and Miller (1996) had found exposure to be more important than media credibility in relation to presidential state of the union addresses. The same study found exposure led to thinking issues were important.
+ Obtrusiveness refers to the extent that the public has experience with the policy issue. The nor unobtrusive the issue, the more the individual may rely on media exposure for orientation. Zucker (1978) found that salience transfer was greatest for unobtrusive issues.
o Need for orientation. Weaver (1977) and others found that some individuals have greater need for policy orientation and thus are more affected by salience transfer. Need for orientation, in turn, is a function of individual interest in the policy topic combined with issue undertainty..."
| I read the thread about a Sandy Girl suing the Mormon Church and others. Having a client with a similar case, I went to the Matheson Court House to review her lawyer’s filings. I have to extend my personal and profession praise to Mr. Roberts. He has breached what has protected the Mormon Church from Sexual misconduct cases for years.
Here is the problem. A Religion cannot be sued over its practices and dogma. So when his client reported the abuse by the neighborhood boys to her Bishop, the Mormon Church can claim in court that she was seeking “Religious” counsel and therefore the Mormon Church is protected.
What Mr. Roberts did was file a Motion in Limine which states that his Client sought protection from the abuse that is offered by the Mormon Church in its Sexual Abuse “hotline” which is available 24 hours a day. It, as Mr. Roberts points out is to give protection to the abused by informing the Bishop on what Secular help (counseling, medical, physical, etc.) is going to be given to the abused. This has nothing to do with Religious rites.
He further points out that once the Mormon Church offered this protection, it took on legal responsibilities to protect his Client once she asked for the protection offered. By, failing to follow through with the protection the Mormon Church breached its trust and therefore is liable for her damages. He also states that had the Mormon Church not offered the protection she would have been better off, for she would have sought protection from other sources.
If Mr. Roberts and his Client prevail in Court it will be a great victory for those who have sought legal recourse against the Mormon Church.
| I drive by an LDS Church everyday to work. Today I started thinking back to the early 60's. Back then I was in the mission with Tommy and Ballard as Mission Presidents. The Church was the focal point of my family and community. I loved Church then. It was a family and a community effort. I truly believed the teachings and what was taught. We had road shows, firesides, lots of activities. You could stop in any time of the day or night and someone was there in the building, even the custodian, and they would sit down and talk to you.
In the 70's we had great single activities, etc. Church was just the place to be. Then things changed. Correlation. Budgets, cutting back on meetings, etc. 3 hour block program. I had just finished my Masters Program and said that the church was doomed. I was right.
People stopped having time for talking. It was rush rush rush for the 3 hour block. Executive secretaries took the place of personal contact with Bishops and Stake Presidents.
You could not meet GA's anymore unless you were in the SP. etc.
Then the 90's with standardized lesson manuals and standardized classes. The Church grew by lots of members but no one had any time for anyone. You could not get answers to questions. Then it was all focus on the family. If you were single you were a cast away. Primary did not seem like fun anymore. Nothing seemed liked fun. At General Conference the talks got worse and less informative. It was pay, obey and follow. People grew distant in my mind.
Today I drive by LDS Churches, as we have lots in our city. Few cars at night. Closed and locked tight in the daytime. If you do your own studying you come up with lots of questions but no one wants to answer.
I can see why people are leaving. The new members are not taught any depth about the gospel then get blown away by what the older members talk about. The older members are feeling less and less connected to the church. There are few spiritual stories ever told any more in Sacrament meetings. There is very little said about personal struggle like back in the 60's when people struggled to come into the church.
The lack of leadership at the top is deafening. Just like the deaf sounds I hear as I drive by the LDS churches day after day.
What happened folks. When I was 18 I thought nothing would every stop the church or how I felt about it. I thought it was the greatest thing in the world. Now if I go to Church with my wife I sit there and feel sorry for the older folks who have limited themselves to paying tithing, going to the temple and denying what they see around them.
It is a very sad state of affairs.
Of course I am a sinner; I have lost the spirit I guess. I have had too many wild things happen to me in my life. I am well educated. I ask questions. I look for answers. The answers are denied by the top. They have to know. BUT I am not empty like the churches I see as I drive by them. Life is good and wonderful. But I still wonder what happened!!!
| Every religion has it's own unique doctrine - their stated beliefs, their canonic scripture, rules, organizational structure, and parameters of behaviors that are to be considered acceptable among the sect's members.
Additionally, each religion has it's own unique culture - a set of community beliefs, behaviors, standards and biases that tend to fill in the spaces that hard doctrine fails to address. Unfortunately, all too often members of religious groups (and their leaders) have difficulty recognizing where doctrine ends and culture begins, blurring the distinction between doctrines that are considered infallible by members of the faith, and cultural idiosyncracies that are considerably more suspect. For many faithful religious members, the line can become so blurred that any criticism of the culture is seen as criticism of the religion itself, and, by association, an attack on the doctrine. While one might not bother to get worked up over a criticism of a minor cultural idiosyncracy, it is difficult for many people to to resist claiming a position of moral superiority and righteous absolution when convinced that they are defending against an attack on their core beliefs, regardless of whether of not their perception isaccurate.
For example, on one occasion, I criticized a painted depiction of Jesus Christ. In the painting, Christ was wearing a long, flowing, pleated robe, the design of which was so utterly anachronistic, and, to be honest, so feminine, that the painting itself was ridiculous. The person who would wear such a robe would have to be possessed of such vanity, and the robe itself would have required such care to maintain, that the version of Christ depicted in the painting had very little in common with the humble man who went out among the poor and afflicted. I dismissed this painting as "Jesus in His Prom Dress."
What a firestorm was created as a result of my off-the-cuff remark! I was accused of hating Jesus, hating God, hating my family, hating my family's religion, etc. (none of which is true, although I find myself assaulted with the same accusations with a frequency I find disappointing), in a manner that was so over-the-top that it seemed unreal. In certain people's desire to defend against a perceived theological threat, they make the leap from defcon 5 to defcon 1 in a single bound, fielding a full-frontal assault where, frankly, it isn't warranted.
When people speak of the extent of the tragedy of the U.S. Civil War, they never fail to mention that the battles pitted "brother against brother." The circumstances that would divide a family were, and still are, considered so grievous, that one would desire to learn the lessons of the past in hopes of ensuring a more peaceful and tolerant future.
Sadly, the demands that religious cultures place upon their membership often become a breeding ground for the level of intolerance that is capable of destroying families. While members warm their hearts to tales of converts who courageously went against the wishes of their own families in order to embrace the "truths" of their adopted religion, members who find themselves unable to reconcile the distance between the beliefs of their present religion and the differences of their own personal beliefs (which may or may not be based on the widely accepted truths of the scientific community) can find themselves alienated and rejected by their culture, and even by their families, until they agree to conform to the beliefs and expectations of the religion and it's potentially identity-destroying culture. The turning of brother against brother is unfortunately a sad and common reality in the culture of zealotry.
Make no mistake, it is in the best interest (financial and otherwise) of religions that their associated cultures impose systems of reward (for conformity) and penalty (for non-conformity) upon their members in order to maintain the numbers of the flock, encourage desired behaviors and discourage "marching to the beat of one's own drummer," usually under the questionable auspices of "freedom of choice."
While it may be true that choices are seldom, if ever, completely free, there is a huge difference between consequences that occur as a direct result of a choice, and consequences that are imposed upon an individual by a culture in order to help ensure that an individual make "the RIGHT choice." While there may be nothing wrong with Person A hoping to influence Person B to make one choice in particular (based on Person A's perception of right and wrong), it is possible for Person A to breach an ethical barrier by presenting an argument so steeped in baseless emotional baggage that it obscures the ability of Person B to freely make a choice based on the actual merits of the available options.
If presented with the option of choosing either a peanut butter cookie or a chocolate chip cookie, it would be difficult and perhaps even unreasonable to argue the merits of one over the other without recognition that the perceived merits being argued are purely subjective and far from being absolute truths. However, if an attempt to exert undue influence by coloring the choices according to a perception of the "righteousness" of one option over the other (i.e.: "God wants you to choose peanut butter") is being utilized, then a person's faith is being exploited, the basis of their faith may become compromised (as a result of the blurring of the disctinction between following doctrine and baseless demands of blind conformity), and true freedom of choice is being removed from the equation as a result of the blatant manipulation of how one perceives one's options.
I grew up in a religion which offered each young adult the option of spending two years of their life attempting to convert people to the faith. Each young man and young woman had the option to choose to do so if they wished.
Sounds simple, right? It isn't.
For those born into the faith, they are bombarded with encouragement from the time they are five years old (and earlier) to make the RIGHT choice. They dress up as missionaries and are rewarded with parental affection and social acceptance for merely wearing the costume. They are taught to memorize songs that help to build into habit the expression of a desire to be a missionary regardless of whether or not they have any idea just what those words mean.
As they get older, the pressure to make the RIGHT choice becomes more intense. Young men are taught there there are temporal and spiritual rewards (including the potential of holding respected positions in church leadership) for their service, and, while marrying within the faith is STRONGLY encouraged, young women are conditioned to believe that if they marry anyone who has not served a mission, that they are scraping the bottom of the spiritual barrel. Young women rationalize the telling of little while lies - promises of marriage upon return - to those who choose to serve. Rarely are those promises kept. At lunch one day, I overheard a number of young women bragging about the number of missionaries that they had "encouraged" into the "mission field" with such brazen lies. The situation wasn't helped when church leaders announced that "ANY reason that convinces a young man to serve a mission is a good reason." In an instant, those little white lies became absolved.
Potential missionaries are told that they will someday be greeted in heaven by either a joyful throng of the converted whose lives have been enriched by the faith, or by a disappointed group of hopefuls who wonder aloud why anyone would have chosen to deny them the happiness of the faithful. In some instances, parents willfully shame children who express doubts or concerns, and even withhold affection, sometimes to a disturbing degree, from adult children who choose not to serve.
While the faith pays lip-service to the freedom of choice that each individual supposedly has, it isn't difficult to see that the road is made easy for those who conform to the expected standard. While many do as expected and make what is considered the right choice, one must wonder exactly how pure a choice they were actually being presented with to make.
I have known a number of missionaries who, upon returning, admitted that they were unsure of the reasons why they went, served for reasons that were less than elevated, were attempting to avoid "rocking the boat," were serving in order to obtain the promised affections of a woman, or were simply following through with what was expected of them. All of them thought that they were being presented with a pure choice at the time of their decision, but came to realize that they had merely completed the programming that was essentially the culture's ritual of the passage into adulthood, in a manner best suited to benefit the numbers of the tribe.
It would seem that, if it was clearly God's desire for each member to endure such a ritual, it wouldn't require the extensive degree of social programming, the promise of rewards, and the threat of punishment, in order to convince the membership to do the desired thing.
| Mormons always talk about a "unity of faith," or "a common belief." At least, they did when I was in the organization. We were all "united," or we were supposed to be.
I suppose that is true in many ways. Mormonism is, above all else, ethnic.
But it fascinated me to see how individual Mormons gain followings, and become cult figures in their own right.
I saw this the most at BYU, where individual religion teachers gained devoted
students, who took all their classes, and quoted them as great men.
I was never much of a follower, but the formation of small cults interested me. I heard these paragons of incredible virtue quoted, and struggled to understand the appeal a professor had.
The most famous, of course, had to be George Pace, who became a huge figure at BYU for a brief amount of time. The students flocked to his classes, and getting a spot in a George Pace class was very difficult. So many wanted to sit at the feet of the guy.
Poor brother Pace made the mistake of becoming too popular, and writing a book. When Bruce McConkie got wind of it (through his sister, no doubt) the whole thing came to a rapid an painful end. I always suspected that McConkie, who had a following of his own, did not like Pace stepping on his turf.
But it was not just George Pace, to be sure. Several other religion professors, some nuttier than others, also had a following.
Some of the names I can recall are Rodney Turner, Reid Bankhead, Hugh Nibley (a huge following), Chanucey Riddle, and Truman Madsen.
Students would flock to these guys, and listen, breathlessly, for each new pontification. For those who loathed the religion classes for the waste of time they were, it was all very hard to understand. Much of the things these guys taught were platitudes, or glittering generalities. But they did attract a following.
One of my favorite memories was of a professor named Hyrum Andrus, who had a huge flock of devotees.
I knew a girl who followed every word Andrus said. One day, I told her "Hyrum Andrus is closer to getting excommunicated than I am." She became livid, and said "You are not worthy to tie his shoes."
A year later, Hyrum Andrus was excommunicated. From what I heard, he started getting "revelations," and soon took his inside information to the
brethren, who were not amused. Hyrum got the boot.
I still look back on that, and chuckle. I was right about the guy. People who get big religious followings get big heads. They often get their asses kicked by their betters, who have followings of their own.
The religion classes at BYU were a funny manifestation of a funny system.
They involved forced attendance, strong personalities, arrogant professors, and human frailties. It could often by a toxic drink for those who took themselves too seriously. What they forgot was that they were 45 miles from the Salt Lake autocrats, and becoming too self important was dangerous.
| The Nativity. We're all familiar with the story, in fact some of us have heard it in countless Sunday School lessons, sermons, masses and/or any other opportunity that people utilized to pound their beliefs into someone else's head. Sure, it is a beautiful story - to the extent that you believe and accept everything about it without really asking any questions.
Every Christmas season, I find myself confronted by nagging, unresolved questions about the nativity story. I'm not looking to start a jihad or anything, but here they are:
The three wise men saw the star in the east and went in search of the King of the Jews. They went to ask King Herod if he knew anything about the birth of the new king. For wise men, they seem pretty naive about royalty's dislike of competition, fear of losing command, and tendency to over-react in extraordinarily cruel ways. King Herod asked the wise men to continue their search and report their findings to him. Once the wise men left, God appeared to them in a dream and told them not to return to Herod. God also appeared to Joseph in a deam and told him to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt. When Herod heard nothing from the wise men, he blew a gasket and had all of the children in Bethlehem "and in all the coasts thereof" aged two and under murdered.
Here's my problem with this. God had enough foresight to warn Joseph to get the heck out of Dodge, and warned the wise men not to return to Herod in order to save the life of Jesus. Unfortunately for all of the murdered babies and their mourning families, the wisest all-knowing all-seeing being in the universe didn't bother to appear to the wise men a little bit earlier and ask them not to tell Herod about their quest in the first place. But no, even though God knew where this was going, and what an asshole Herod was, and even though he had no qualms about interfering in the process by appearing in everybody's dreams, he took no action to prevent the murders of the babies, which makes him an accomplice. Sort of a disappointing story arc for the most loving and benevolent being in the universe. Darth Vader makes better use of his clairvoyant gifts, and his Death Star got blown up twice! God works in mysterious ways? Well, so do storytellers who don't really see the holes in their stories.
Speaking of plot holes, let's talk about that star. This star led the wise men to Bethlehem. In fact, it "went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was." Okay, let's take this scripture at face value for a moment. A star moving across the sky, leading the wise men to Bethlehem and then standing over the manger. Two thousand years ago, it wasn't known that the nearest star to our earth - not including our own sun - is 4.3 light-years away. For an object that far away to be moving across the sky - even slow enough to be followed by three men on foot or on camels, it would need to be travelling unbelievably fast, multiple times faster than the speed of light. An object the size of a sun that is located 4.3 million miles away from the earth and is capable of travelling faster than the speed of light without breaking apart is truly something to be impressed by. Some would argue that if God wanted it to happen, then it could happen. Fine.
But then the star stands above the location of Jesus, somehow clear enough in it's proximity that it helps the wise men pinpoint the exact location of the Christ child. My problem with this, is that without modern equipment it is impossible to pinpoint the location that lays beneath an object that is outside of our atmosphere. Don't believe me? Try it sometime.
And, make no mistake, if it was indeed a star, it would have to be outside of our atmosphere. Even the coldest stars known to man burn at such a hot temperature that if one the size of a basketball were to enter our atmosphere it would devastate the planet by igniting our atmosphere into flames. So, again, taking the text at face value, a star, even a small one, located just barely outside of our atmosphere would still be miles above the surface of the earth. Ever try to guess what city a passing satellite is flying over? If a passing satellite suddenly stood still in the sky, do you think that you could walk to the location that is directly beneath it? Good luck.
But let's just assume that it's possible anyway, for no other reason than the bible says it's so. What do you suppose would happen in a town the size of Bethlehem if a bright object suddenly started hovering above it? Keep in mind that this is a very superstitious culture, well versed in the tales of, you know, destroying angels killing people, water turning to blood, etc. Let's put a bright, burning star hovering directly above a town full of these people. What could happen? Amazingly, nothing! No reaction at all! No people panicking, nobody running crazily through the streets, nothing! In fact, the hotels are all full!
The rationalization that is used to proclaim the truthfulness of this and many other religious stories is that "with God nothing shall be impossible." Supposedly, this trumps all scientific fact, as well as the truthfulness of one's own experience. Well, supposedly anybody with enough faith has the ability to walk on water, if you believe the gospel according to Matthew. This is simply bullshit. Sorry, I know that that sounds really harsh, but I think that every dead baby who ever drowned because it had faith that water was a solid surface can testify that this is bullshit. Case closed.
So what exactly is my point? Am I trying to ruin people's holiday? Wreck their faith? Destroy their belief system? The answer is no. My opinions on this little blog don't carry that kind of weight. Religion can be a great thing, but it isn't "one size fits all." People's mileage can vary.
And no, I don't have anything against Jesus. Benjamin Franklin once said that "As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see." Even so, Franklin doubted Christ's divinity.
Personally, I have great respect for Christ's teachings, but I believe that if all we had were his teachings and sermons, that he would probably be categorized as one of the philosophers, like Plato and Socrates. I think that huge portions of his story were fictionalized in order to create urgency and commitment as a new religion was being founded.
Some people, in order for them to accept Jesus' message of love and understanding, need his words to come from a man born of a virgin, who can heal the sick and raise the dead, make blind men see, walk on water, rise from the dead himself and ascend into the heavens. Personally, I don't need all of those stories that contradict all science, knowledge and rational thought. I accept his message of love and understanding, am grateful that such a great and loving man once walked the earth, and I appreciate the extent to which his followers attempt to follow his teachings - assuming that they remain true to Christ's teachings and display respect and tolerance to those who believe otherwise.
Unfortunately, religious fervor doesn't tend to allow for tolerance of other's beliefs, which is why more people have been killed in Jesus' name than any other reason - a statistic Christ himself would certainly be ashamed of.
What is so horribly wrong, so completely unthinkable, about the idea of Jesus as mortal? Take away all of the elements of his story that require special effects, and you still have a strong character with a helpful message.
Perhaps the storytellers of old doubted the lasting value of the story of a man and his teachings, and, over time, increased the entertainment value in order to attract a wider and more committed audience. Before long, the special effects became the story, and the man and his message became somewhat lost.
Now that's a story I can believe.
| According to the mainstream Christian pneumatology, the Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit) is the "third person" of a triune God - one of three manifestations of God, identical in essence, but each with it's own purpose. Several non-Trinitarian beliefs regarding the Holy Ghost exist outside of mainstream Christianity, including the beliefs of the culture that I was raised in.
Like any other structure in religion that convinces it's believers that they are in possession of infallible truths, perceived manifestations of the Holy Ghost have the potential to create very serious problems, including irreconcilable divisions among otherwise rational people.
I have recently been made aware of a situation in which two religious missionaries, working as partners in their efforts to convert non-believers into their faith, have been fasting and praying for the purpose of receiving some guidance that would help to make their efforts more fruitful. They have each received answers to their prayers, allegedly through the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Unfortunately, their answers are mutually exclusive, leading each missionary to doubt the spiritual capabilities of the other while expressing little doubt regarding the truthfulness of their own personal revelation. In such a case, it is simply impossible for the participants to reconcile their disagreement and come to some objective understanding of which of the two of them is correct - assuming that one of them actually is. Each having been raised to believe that they have the capability to obtain direct, divine, and unquestionably truthful revelation through the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and that, as a result, the other person simply must be wrong, will forever impair their ability to interact with each other.
Of course, this situation could be seen as a microcosm of the central challenge that religion poses to modern society as a whole: that two conflicting beliefs held by different parties who each consider their individual beliefs to be above question and beyond reproach creates an irreconcilable divide between the two parties. With no hope for resolution, the only hope that each party can hold for a peaceful existence involves, in one way or another, the absence of the other party - perhaps through conversion, or even a considerably less ethical method. I don't have to go into detail about the horrible events that have been rationalized by this type of thinking.
On the lighter side, it can also lead to situation like the one experienced by Sharlene Wells, the young Mormon woman crowned Miss America in 1985. Upon her return to the Brigham Young University campus after her whirlwind year as the winner of the United States' most prestigious beauty pageant, she was approached by a throng of eager young men, potential suitors all, each claiming to have received divine revelation that clearly confirmed that Miss Wells was to be the bride of, apparently, each of them. Even the polygamous splinter sects of the Mormon Church would frown at the plausibility of such a thing being true.
So exactly what is happening here? Does the Holy Ghost play cruel tricks on even the most devout members of a faith, leading them to believe in contradictory and irreconcilable ideas, or are people mistaking some other, perhaps physiological, stimulus for divine revelation?
I have heard stories told from the pulpit about mothers who, upon feeling motivated to check on their children, find them in a situation of life-or-death peril. Upon their children's safe rescue, they credit the Holy Ghost with having "prompted" them to seek their children "just in the nick of time." The problem with this type of testimony is that it conveniently leaves out the fact that caring parents tend to find motivation to check on their children on a fairly continual basis. In the event that they find their children safe and sound, the occurrence is hardly noteworthy. After a dramatic rescue, however, the everyday motivation to check on the children becomes credited to a supernatural force, and the parent retroactively displaces their initial thought of "perhaps I should check on the children" with the more dramatic "I had this strange feeling - a prompting, really - that something was wrong."
Why would someone reconstruct the story in such a way? In most cases, they are completely unaware that they are doing it. The influence of their culture and their belief system is so strong that the events of their lives are interpreted through the lens that their background provides, and if they are raised to believe that promptings from the Holy Ghost, as opposed to the natural concerns of caring parents, are responsible for the motivation to check on children, then the story essentially writes itself.
Additionally, there are cultural rewards for restructuring the anecdote in faith-based terms. The promptings of the Holy Ghost are believed to be distributed based on the faithfulness of the individual. Therefore, claiming divine assistance in the rescuing of one's children (or the selection of a mate, or the obtaining of a job, etc.) is a way of declaring to one's cultural/religious peer group that the level of one's commitment to the faith has been recognized and confirmed by no less than deity.
Sadly, the flip side of this is presented in the tragic instance in which a parent is not able to rescue a child in time. Following the logic espoused by the culture, how does one interpret such a thing? Is the parent not living his/her life in such a way as to be "in tune" with the promptings of the Holy Ghost? Is the life of a child dependant upon the faithfulness of a parent? Or is the parent simply choosing to ignore the promptings of the Holy Ghost? The most likely answer that would be agreed upon would probably avoid such speculation in favor of something more along the line of "apparently the child was needed in heaven." As with much religious belief, stories that end well tend to be reconstructed in ways that are both reinforcing to the belief system and self-serving to the faithful, while stories with a tragic end are offered up to unexplained mysteries in order to avoid criticism of God, any aspect of the religion (including the culture), or the faithful. One of the benefits of being God surely mustbe that you get (well, demand, actually) credit for every good thing while avoiding the blame for everything else. Cushy job, that.
Essentially, it is a no-lose situation for the Holy Ghost as well. If, by following the alleged promptings, one makes a faith-based decision that impacts upon one's life in a manner that would be clear to an objective observer that the wrong choice had been made, a believer will do almost anything to avoid doubting the existence of some spiritual entity that helps to silently influence one's thought processes. Similar to the methods used by faith healers to blame lack of healing on one's own faithfulness, by blaming one's self, the faithful willingly give spiritual entities a free pass to be unclear, confusing, and even misleading.
Years ago, while still attempting to avoid rocking the boat by remaining active in a congregation in spite of the fact that I clearly could not swallow everything that the faith was attempting to feed me, a story on the front page of the local newspaper brought to our attention the fact that a member of our congregation, a man who had walked amongst us, befriended us, and knew our families, was a convicted child molester that the police had been searching for for quite some time. According to the faith, one of the Holy Ghost's stated purposes is to keep us from harm - to prompt us with knowledge of a potentially dangerous situation. Amazingly, none of the congregation's over 100 members received such a prompting - not one - and for years a child molester roamed freely in the hallways and classrooms of our chapel befriending the congregation's children - including my own. I hardly feel that the Holy Ghost was watching our six on that one. His batting average was a big, fat zero!
Perhaps the biggest problem with the concept of divine revelation through the promptings of the Holy Ghost is one that I've sort of hinted at up until now without really expounding upon: the fact that these supposed promptings are indistinguishable from one's own ideas and motivations, and in most cases are only deemed revelations after the desired outcome is apparent. In the case of the two missionaries with contradictory revelations, at least one of them must necessarily be absolutely mistaken. In the case of the throngs of eligible bachelors hoping to tap the Mormon Miss America, all of them with the potential exception of the eventual husband must necessarily have been wrong in the evaluation of their "promptings." In the larger sense of the problem, all other divisions of humanity whose most intolerant attitudes towards those outside their belief systems are derived from a commitment to religion (that is almost always endorsed by an interpretation of some physiological or emotional reaction as divine, infallible manifestation of truth) would necessarily have to be wrong if even one of them was to be right. No problem, right? Everybody assumes that their religion is the one that is right. Unfortunately, everybody is applying similar methods and reacting to similar responses in order to come to the exact same conclusion - that their religion is correct. Either the Holy Ghost is giving everybody the same answer, or...
When I was attending Dixie State College in St. George Utah, I was encouraged - essentially dragged - by a family member to continue to attend church in spite of the fact that I was cynical about what I saw and heard there, and frequently made a quiet mockery of the situation for the benefit of a small but equally cynical audience of like-minded friends. One circumstance in particular comes to mind.
In the Sunday School class that I attended, there existed a tradition of giving one of the congregation a book of scripture, with the understanding that this student would give the scripture to a friend or acquaintance at some point during the forthcoming week and report the faith-promoting experience to the class the following Sunday. In a moment of remarkably poor judgment, I was selected. I was handed the book of scripture and went home, where I placed the book on top of the refrigerator and subsequently forgot about it for the entire week. When Sunday rolled around, I was reminded of my responsibility to report my experience by someone who knew full well that the book was still sitting on top of my refrigerator. Never one to shirk from a challenge, a mischievous grin spread across my face and the words "Watch this..." escaped my lips.
What followed was a now-infamous string of pseudo-religious bullshit so deep that it was impossible for any of the unsuspecting faithful to escape unblemished. In an embarrassing display of gratuitous manipulation, every emotional button was pressed (if not completely stomped on), every cliché of belief reinforcing narrative storytelling was utilized, and I simply would not stop until more than half of the class was weeping uncontrollably. My like-minded cynical associates sat slack-jawed in amazement. Admittedly, even I didn't expect my bullshit story to be as effective as it was. Part of me expected people to see right through the facade and be in on the joke, and yet that didn't happen. Afterwards, a line of people came up to me, uniformly commenting on how strongly they felt the spirit while I was speaking.
Clearly, this is a situation in which every single person who believed that they were receiving promptings of the Holy Ghost testifying as to the truthfulness of my bullshit story, and whose individual testimony about the truthfulness of the church were reinforced as a result, was flat-out, unquestionably wrong.
How can such an occurrence be explained? One theory presented to me is that the group of people that I was speaking to was spiritually immature, inexperienced enough in the ways of the spirit that they were all too easily manipulated by my story. I counter this theory with the fact that those who were present in the classroom at the time were, according to the established religious and cultural belief, at the age in which they relied upon the promptings of the spirit to help them to decide which college to go to, whether or not to commit to the service of missionary work, who to marry, and a host of other significant life-changing situations, and that to merely write this entire congregation off as "spiritually immature" is not only judgmental and insulting, but absolutely reeks of self-aggrandizing condescension.
I continue to be amazed at the extent to which, in spite of the global instability that exists as a direct result of strict adherence to mutually exclusive and equally "infallible" belief systems, and in spite of overwhelming evidence pointing to the fallibility of perceived revelation via spiritual promptings, that the vast majority of religious people that I encounter harbor little, if any, doubt as to the veracity of their spiritual claims. Any objective evaluation of human behavior influenced by such belief makes a clear and compelling argument that - by definition, as these belief systems are essentially incompatible - the overwhelming majority of people who profess such belief absolutely must be wrong, that the promptings themselves are inconsistent and inconclusive, that common behaviors are often reconstructed in a spiritual light when a favorable outcome is achieved, that people dismiss the thousands of daily circumstances in which decisions lead to insubstantial outcomes but that might likely be reinterpreted as revelation if the outcome were different, and that people interpret circumstances in self-serving and belief reinforcing ways.
Further, it must be said that any spiritual entity, including deity, whose revelations are so vague and inconsistent that they are indistinguishable from the thoughts and ideas in one's own head, and whose promptings are so easily misunderstood, confused, or unrecognizable, whose ability to comfort in times of grief is identical to the normal process of dealing with grief over time, whose claims of protection are dangerously suspect, and yet has the ability to send people into interactions with others under the impression that their ideas - and only their ideas - are beyond reproach, is not only harmful to the human race as a whole, but damned near worthless to us as individuals.
| The text below is one of several essays that I have written about religion in general that I thought might be appreciated on this board.
In the 1950's, a psychological study was conducted that would soon become famous. Solomon Asch was interested in exploring the power of something called "normative social influence," which is defined as "the influence of other people that leads us to conform in order to be liked and accepted by them; this type of conformity results in public compliance with the group's beliefs and behaviors but not necessarily private acceptance of those beliefs and behaviors."
The study itself was remarkably simple. Participants sat around a table with several other people and were presented with a series of cards depicting straight, parallel lines of varying length. Participants were asked the straightforward question "which of these lines is longest." There was no trickery involved in the presentation of the lines, no attempt to interfere with objective identification through the use of optical illusions of any sort, no distortion of one's depth of field and no attempt to mislead the participants by manipulating perspective.
Further, the information on the cards was not ambiguous - it is objectively clear that one line is longer, and the longest line is not, in any way, difficult to identify.
So, the subjects sat around the table, a card was presented, and one by one the participants identified which line appeared to be the longest. Couldn't be simpler, right?
Well, here's the catch: of the seven individuals seated around the table, only one of them is an actual participant. The other six are working with Asch. The participant, oblivious to the conspiracy surrounding him, has been set up - to see if he will conform to the group.
Here's how it went down. As I stated, cards are presented to the group, and then each member calls out which line is perceived to be the longest. This goes on for several rounds, with each card being evaluated by the group and each individual stating his vote. And, as each card features one line which is clearly longer than the others, each member of the group - the six conspirators and one participant - all find themselves in agreement as to which line is longest.
Now for the change-up. Several rounds into the evaluation, the six conspirators begin identifying, in perfect agreement, one of the shorter lines as the longest on the card. The actual participant is stunned, looking intently at the card, attempting to discern what the group was seeing that he himself wasn't. And each conspirator, one by one, is voting for a line which is clearly incorrect. When it is the participant's turn to vote, what will he do?
As it turns out, over the length of the study an astounding seventy-six percent of individuals conformed to the group at least once, in spite of the fact that the group was clearly not making a correct identification. Some participants began doubting themselves, assuming that the group must have been privvy to some additional information, while others simply preferred not to rock the boat. Even in the absence of active attempts at persuasion, seventy-six percent of all participants conformed to the will of a temporary group comprised of complete strangers that would never, ever, congregate again.
If such a high percentage of people are willing to conform under the conditions of the Asch study, imagine how many more people would conform if you replaced the complete strangers with members of your nuclear and extended family, close friends, and religious authority. Imagine how many more would conform if active attempts at persuasion were made by this new cast of conspirators. Imagine how many more would conform if the penalty for nonconformity was exclusion from a perpetual group which includes friends and family.
These are the pressures that religion imposes upon the individual.
Perhaps the biggest lie that many people tell themselves regarding their participation in a religion is that their membership is the result of a choice that they themselves made. Rarely is that the case. In situations where individuals remain lifelong members of the religion of generations of their predecessors, the number becomes almost zero.
Simply put, children are almost never given a true choice when it comes to religion. They are indoctrinated from their earliest ages to believe that the religion of their family makes up the greatest part of their individual identity. They are rewarded for conforming and punished for nonconformity. When presented with a choice such as "do you want to become baptised when you turn eight years old," this so-called choice has a clearly acceptable answer that will result in an immediate reward, and a clearly unacceptable answer which will result in an immediate punishment (such as an adult parent withholding affection), and children are acutely aware of the consequences of giving an answer that their parents do not approve. Many religions avoid the prospect of choice altogether by declaring membership before individuals are even capable of sentient thought. It is through these methods that beliefs become inherited - indoctrinated from within a cultural bubble before an individual can get any objective perspectiveon the situation, reinforced by well-meaning loved ones who have been conditioned to see their beliefs as the only means to salvation, and enforced by the threat of bearing the shame of one's ancestry if one should turn away. Additionally, religions are guilty of the shameful practice of convincing families that their identities are rooted more deeply in religious membership than they are in genetic lineage, leading to the unforgivable sin of deepening inter-family divisions as the direct result of family members being conditioned to feel uncomfortable with people who don't believe exactly as they do (even if those people are family members) as a function of the maintenance of one's own supposedly infallible and often unexamined faith. The level of exploitation that occurs as religions draft family members into service against their own families by enforcing religious membership under threat of an unofficial exclusion from both family activities and even perceived family membership is yet another unquestionedand unexplored byproduct of maintaining a conformity-demanding "family religion." Religions, like any other business focused of the "bottom line," have no qualms about utilizing such effective marketing strategies. In spite of the fact that it is difficult to imagine a God that would condone such practices, they work.
Further, the methods used by family members to reinforce the concept of a family religion are almost always those of psychological control. Psychological control involves the deliberate manipulation of thoughts, feelings, and relational attachments in order to produce feelings of guilt and use the threat of emotional withdrawal to encourage an individual to modify behavior. This is the very vocabulary and emotional currency of maintaining a family religion - the notion that not believing in the family religion will break a loved one's heart. Is there any more blatantly manipulative, more unapoligetically selfish proclamation that an individual can make than that their very happiness is dependent upon the degree that the thoughts in another person's head conform to a specific expectation? Such manipulation is intrusive, demanding a perceived right to invade another individual's psychological world and declare what is to be believed. And it comes at a very high cost: studies have indicated that the levels of psychological control that are often utilized in the maintenance of a family religion are linked to higher rates of problem internalization, withdrawing behavior, anxiety and depression in individuals. It is no secret that many religious cultures are struggling with high rates of depression among their members. The connection seems obvious - the pious family that thinks that it is saving you could be killing you.
Nobody chooses a family religion. Children might rebel, but they are never actually allowed to choose. As adults, they may assimilate the beliefs of their family's religion and take their expected place within the culture, all the while thinking that such participation is evidence of a personal choice that was made, but they would still only be partly correct. The decision to retain membership as an adult is still clouded by the extent that such conformity was expected of them (by friends and relatives who are still keenly aware of the extent to which one is conforming), and by concerns that stepping away from the group places an individual in a social/cultural no-man's land void of the reinforcing social structure that a religious community provides. All questions of theology aside, membership has its benefits.
But making a choice to remain committed to the only religious option that they have ever realistically been presented with is tantamount to having the choice made for you. Belief, under such circumstances, that one's religion is the result of personal choice, is little more than delusional. It is evidence of a level of conformity so comprehensive that one actually believes that the shortest line is the longest.
| Your systematic programming to bask in the glory from birth that you are speshul, from a chosen generation and worthy of your mo-God's speshul attention is so intoxicating that few experiences in life can match the cold-turkey of discovering that you have been duped. We were blind to the big picture that to hanker for a separate fascist paradise is sticking two fingers up to the rest of the human race - the Dawkins objection of separating the "Them" from the "Us",
We know that the Morg's weakest trait is Solidarity and that if the Collective had any real sense of human loyalty they would tell their mo-God to stuff the promise of a separate utopia until we have made a united protest against the Monster that dumped us here. Any Monster that can dump a third of His children in Hell and dump the rest of us on a lone and dreary planet is certainly capable of consigning the lot of us to Outer Darkness. But to sit in judgment on His own children and to separate the chosen few by Grace (certainly not by deeds as it is difficult to detect exactly what the Mo-children have done to merit such reward) is so repugnant that their reward seems to be based on their willingness to betray their brothers and sisters.
"Nonsense," you can hear the Morg cry. "Let the Them join the Us. Let the Them conform to Us." This wilfully ignores the obvious that they have a responsibility to concern themselves with the fate of the "Us", and covering their own unwillingness to unite with the "Us".
We often wonder exactly who the Morg think they are worshipping and what He has done to merit such worship. Critics have recently suggested that God does not need a lecture from people like me who are determined to run our own course anyway. They seem to suggest that to develop an individual conscience is a sin, that independent critics are blasphemous and that we are free only in so much as we agree to what the mo-God commands of us, right or wrong. This is the same mo-God, remember, who is willing to burn His own children on the second coming of His favourite Son for not paying a full tithe, and for the gross sin of owing their mo-God a few quid.
'To rule by fettering the mind through fear of punishment in another world is just as base as to use force.' Hypatia (c. 370-415 CE)
But the mo-God is even worst than the established Dawkins-Hutchins Monster. Betrayal of our brothers and sisters, rank favouritism and turning a blind eye to their mo-God's monstrosities seem to be the criteria for entrance to this Heavenly polygomous sex club.
Let us not underestimate the courage - not of rebellious armchair God-critics - but of those brave souls, say, from 6th or 7th generation mo-landers who break the Morg's umbilical chord and who are forced to cleft marriages, families and their own mental health in twain for their foolishness of enquiring for the truth.
If God exists, I don't wish to be his Enemy. He scares the willies out of me. But I do wish to unite in Solidarity with the rest of my brothers and sisters in protest that Life is a fiddle, that we have been dealt a bum deal. I do not want to tell a four-year-old black girl in the Sudan, who wonders the plains of Africa looking for food and with red and white rheum running from her eyes for having been gang-raped, that her destiny is her own fault for not having been a good activist in the War in Heaven.
"Who made the world I cannot tell; 'tis made, and here am I in hell. My hand, though now my knuckles bleed, I never soiled with such a deed."
A. E. Housman
No. I cannot bring myself to betray my brothers and sisters by hankering for a separate paradise. Even rebellious old hippies have their standards.
'There can be but little liberty on earth while men worship a tyrant in heaven.' Robert G Ingersoll.
I stand in admiration of my brothers and sisters on this Board who have many instances demonstrated super-human courage and dignity.
| The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
- Questioning is not allowed in Mormonism as is evident from the excommunications of the September Six, the attempted excommunication of Tom Murphy, and the excommunications of several on this and the exmormon boards.
- The writings of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and all modern prophets are accepted as the binding word of God, the Truth, and the law.
? Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
? Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
- It should be noted that the list of mind-altering practices listed are just examples. Continual bearing of one's testimony, prayer, and scripture reading are a form a mind-alteration via repetition. Two years of missionary service is a means, perhaps not explicitly designed as such, of immersing your men in the culture and doctrine.
? The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).
- Temple garments, dating and marrying only Mormons, avoid the very appearance of evil, dietary restrictions, the commandment of Kimball and Benson to marry even if still in school and "let the children come", etc.
? The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).
- One must be baptized into the Mormon church, receive endowments, and sealings whether in this life or the next to obtain salvation. God's chosen people, members were the most valiant in the pre-existance, Joseph Smith has done more for humankind save Jesus, etc.
? The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
- Mormons often have a fairly well developed persecution complex.
? The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).
- Not so much in the current Mormon church.
? The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members' participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).
- Milk before meat, not telling members what they are getting themselves into prior to the doors closing for their first temple sessions, whitewashing Church history.
? The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt iin order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
- The bishop's and stake president's interviews, young women encouraged to marry only returned missionaries, etc.
? Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.
- Temple recommend question, “Do you affiliate with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or do you sympathize with the precepts of any such group or individual?”
? The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
- 50,000 full time missionaries, every member a missionary, millions spent on missionary efforts.
? The group is preoccupied with making money.
- 10% plus other offerings.
? Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
- Two years given in full-time service at the member's own expense. Home teaching, visiting teaching, scouts, young women's and young men's activities, summer camps, daily scripture study, journal writing, etc.
? Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
- Does not apply.
? The most loyal members (the true believers) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.
- The attempts to bring the inactive and less active back to church and the missionary efforts indicate this is the case in Mormonism. Reprisals do not need to be fear of physical harm or death. There are many exmormons who have been shunned by former friends and family. That is a reprisal.
| It seems that Joseph Smith's narcissism has pervaded his little organization. Interactions with TBM family and acquaintances is often an exercise in being the target of crazy making behavior. As I read through the following snippets of articles on narcissism it began to dawn on me that the "corporate culture" of Mormonism is one of narcissism. No wonder it is so hard to live within Mormonism and to deal with TBMs. A person just about needs a doctorate in clinical psychology to figure out all of the manipulative techniques often unwittingly employed by TBMs.
"Paranoia is use by the narcissist to ward off or reverse intimacy. The narcissist is threatened by intimacy because it reduces him to ordinariness by exposing his weaknesses and shortcomings and by causing him to act "normally". The narcissist also dreads the encounter with his deep buried emotions - hurt, envy, anger, aggression - likely to be foisted on him in an intimate relationship.
The paranoid narrative legitimizes intimacy repelling behaviours such as keeping one's distance, secrecy, aloofness, reclusion, aggression, intrusion on privacy, lying, desultoriness, itinerancy, unpredictability, and idiosyncratic or eccentric reactions. Gradually, the narcissist succeeds to alienate and wear down all his friends, colleagues, well-wishers, and mates.
The narcissist does his damnedest to avoid intimacy. He constantly lies about every aspect of his life: his self, his history, his vocations and avocations, and his emotions. This false data guarantee his informative lead, asymmetry, or "advantage" in his relationships. It fosters disintimisation. It casts a pall of cover up, separateness, mystery over the narcissist's affairs.
The narcissist divides all women to saints and whores. He finds it difficult to have sex ("dirty", "forbidden", "punishable", "degrading") with feminine significant others (spouse, intimate girlfriend). To him, sex and intimacy are mutually exclusive rather than mutually expressive propositions.
People with Personality Disorders (PDs) are very afraid of real, mature, intimacy. Intimacy is formed not only within a couple, but also in a workplace, in a neighborhood, with friends, while collaborating on a project. Intimacy is another word for emotional involvement, which is the result of interactions with others in constant and predictable (safe) propinquity.
Narcissists have no interest in emotional or even intellectual stimulation by significant others. Such feedback is perceived as a threat. Significant others in the narcissist's life have very clear roles: the accumulation and dispensation of past Primary Narcissistic Supply in order to regulate current Narcissistic Supply. Nothing less but definitely nothing more. Proximity and intimacy breed contempt. A process of devaluation is in full operation throughout the life of the relationship.
Inevitably, the sexuality of patients with personality disorders is thwarted and stunted. In the Paranoid Personality Disorder, sex is depersonalized and the sexual partner is dehumanized. The paranoid is besieged by persecutory delusions and equates intimacy with life-threatening vulnerability, a "breach in the defenses" as it were. the paranoid uses sex to reassure himself that he is still in control and to quell is anxiety.
Thus, paradoxically, the worst his anguish and unhappiness, the more relieved and elated such an abuser feels! He is "liberated" and "unshackled" by his own self-initiated abandonment, he insists. He never really wanted this commitment, he tells any willing (or buttonholed) listener and anyhow, the relationship was doomed from the beginning by the egregious excesses and exploits of his wife (or partner or friend or boss).
Thus, on the one hand, the narcissist feels that his freedom depends upon re-enacting these early experiences. On the other hand, he is terrified by this prospect. Realizing that he is doomed to go through the same traumas over and over again, the narcissist distances himself by using his aggression to alienate, to humiliate and in general, to be emotionally absent.
This behavior brings about the very consequence that the narcissist so fears - abandonment. But, this way, at least, the narcissist is able to tell himself (and others) that HE was the one who fostered the separation, that it was fully his choice and that he was not surprised. The truth is that, governed by his internal demons, the narcissist has no real choice. The dismal future of his relationships is preordained.
In his quest to find new sources, he again embarks on ego-mending bouts of sex, followed by the selection of a spouse or a mate (a Secondary Narcissistic Supply Source). Then the cycle re-commence: a sharp drop in sexual activity, emotional absence and cruel detachment leading to abandonment."
| I watched an old Mel Brooks movie last night--"History of the World Part I." It was a bit dated in part and a lot of the jokes fell flat BUT--
One of the funnier jokes was Moses going up to Mt Sinai and coming down with three stone tablets. He says to the Hebrew children: "I bring you the fifteen . . . (at that moment one of the tablets slips from his hand and falls to the ground shattering into a thousand pices). . . I bring you the ten commandments that you must obey."
Now I never heard of any Jewish groups complaining about Mel Brooks making fun of their sacred scriptures. No call for a boycott when this movie came out that I can recall. But imagine a "Mormon" movie which poked similar fun at the First Vision for instance. Would Mormons just shrug it off as a good bit of humor not to be taken seriously?
Or would they complain that someone was mocking sacred things? Would the film-maker be called in by his bishop or SP and have his "loyalty" questioned?
One things Mormons can't yet do is laugh at themselves. They have made strides in this direction (baby steps) but still suffer from too much of an inferiority complex to be able to say, "yeah we do a lot of things that are weird." The fact that so many Mormons are so "offended" by the Big Love episode and that the Church put out that statement where they played the "victim" card shows that they still have not turned the corner.
In the Mormon movie, "Singles Ward" the protagonist (a less-than-perfectly-valiant-but-handsome guy works as a stand-up comic. His Uber-TBM girlfriend sits in on one of his performances. He's not getting any laughs so he throws out a few "Mormon" jokes. Nothing blasphemous--the one I can recall is the "Mormon version of R-rated movies: no sex just guilt." However his girlfriend is incensed. How could he bash the Church like that? He apologizes as best he can and then, after she leaves for her mission, cleans up his act, rebuilds his testimony and is the EQP when she gets back.
I found it interesting that the "stick up her butt" girlfriend's "highly offended" response to his material was portrayed as fine and good by the film-makers. It shows that the Mormon audiences don't see that as being absurdly intolerant or wallowing in self-righteousness. Anything less than a pro-Mormon propaganda piece is seen as an "attack."
I recall my father reading Irving Wallace's book "The Twenty-Seventh Wife" about Ann Eliza Webb, one of Brigham Young's plural wives that divorced him. He told me how it was just bashing the Church. Later I read the book. Every time it repeated an Ann Eliza Webb accusation against BY it gave BY's side of the story. It was interesting but very, VERY balanced.
Mormons don't want both sides of the story. Any side of a story that differs with the one they want is "anti-Mormon" or "bashing" or "offensive." etc. To Mormons "uplifting" literature or film is that which looks identical to a BYU-produced Morg video. Any other take on the human condition that might not support the Morg's narrow view is denounced just as Big Love was summarily denounced in the Church's official statement.
Until they get away from the "stuck up their butt" posture concerning the rest of the world they will be not only viewed as weird, they will be weird.
| My lovely wife is a psychologist with a focus on children with autism. There’s a fair amount of job security in that field because the number of autism diagnoses has exploded in the past decade or so. Maybe that’s because the actual incidence of autism has experienced similar growth, or maybe it’s because the scope and process of diagnosis has expanded and improved so that it includes children who may have been missed a generation ago.
I see some parallels with the number of people leaving the Mormon church. Of course, unlike autism diagnoses, we don’t get to see actual numbers for people leaving Mormonism. All of the evidence is anecdotal and, therefore, inconclusive. Just the same, it feels like I’m bumping into those anecdotes left and right these days.
In the early 1990’s, I spent a couple of years attending an English-speaking ward in Tokyo. Probably about 80% of the members were American expats who were working in Japan for a few years before moving back home or on to other assignments. It was a fluid group. I’ve stayed in touch with some friends from those days and reconnected with others. I am aware of at least six of us who have since checked out of Mormonism in one way or another. (One still attends sacrament meeting while negotiating family issues and figuring out the next step.) These six people include a former bishop’s counselor, a former relief society president, a former elders quorum president and a former branch president.
On my mission, I spent seven months in one particular city. In that time, there were twelve male missionaries who passed through. I know of four of us who have left the church. The group includes a former assistant to the president.
Throw in a few friends from high school and college, and it does start to feel like an explosion. But is it really? Well, Dude, we just don’t know. You can be sure that the church won’t be releasing the actual numbers anytime soon. Even if they did, those numbers would only reflect those of us who went to the trouble to formally resign. In my own home, that’s only 25% of the people who have actually left the church.
I strongly suspect that the numbers are increasing all the time. Also, things like the Mormon church’s involvement in passing Prop 8 may push a lot of people over the line, whether they resign formally or not. Just the same, I don’t anticipate the demise of the Mormon church in my lifetime. It’s an institution with tremendous resources, and one that has shown way too much adaptability and resilience in the past.
What I think is really at play here is how easy it has become for us to find other doubters or apostates, and to quickly identify them as such. Most of the people mentioned above came back onto my radar screen via LinkedIn or Facebook. I made a few such connections right here on the RfM board. Facebook has a place on each member’s profile where he or she can list religious views. Given the heavy Mormon pressure to declare early and often that the church is true beyond a shadow of a doubt, anyone who lists anything other than “Christian – Latter-day Saints” in that field is a possible apostate, closet or otherwise.
Leaving Mormonism is an enormous step, an emotionally-charged process which often carries huge social costs. None of us gets to dictate to anyone else how they have to navigate the journey or how quickly, and I wouldn’t presume to do so. I do know, however, that Ex-Mormons who have reached a point at which they can be up-front and open about having left the church can be an invaluable resource to those who are still in the early, more difficult stages. I can think of several people from this board who were kind enough to answer some of my early, tentative and anonymous emails around five years ago and share their own experiences. In addition to those one-to-one communications, just reading so many stories here made me realize that I wasn’t alone and that my doubts and misgivings were quite reasonable and normal. On my Facebook page, I list my religious views as “Unitarian Universalist / Atheist / Pastafarian.” When my old friends see that, some of them might not be too familiar with the first and the third term, but they’re quite aware of what the one in the middle means and they know that none of them suggest I’m still a Mormon. Those who are quietly questioning their own faith get the idea that I’m a safe person to tell about it. A few have. I’m happy to do anything I can to pay it forward.
Thus spake Mujun.
| There is no way I would have gone through the temple if the information that is available to young TBMs today had been available to me in 1985.
That, I think will be the real impact of information like that which is available through the internet,youtube, Big Love, South Park, etc.
I know my 20 year old son was leaning toward temple marriage a year ago with his girldfriend. I wrote him a letter and told him some of the things that go on in the temple that no one will tell you until it's to late to turn back without totally embarrasing yourself, your family, and your bride.I told him to check into it on the internet if he doubted my honesty.
I also told him that many mormons get married prematurely just so they can have sex. I told him I would rather he practiced safe, responsible sex than get married for the wrong reason. He is now in a holding pattern with no recent talk of marriage. I think many, many young mormons will choose similar paths.
I also think the whole raising the bar thing has back fired on the church. Many of my unworthy friends went on missions back in the early eighties and they are now bishops, counselors etc. They went on missions to buy themselves some time and because it was the culturally cool thing to do here in Utah. Then the church got its hooks into them and several are now bishops.
My sons did not go on missions and about half their friends did not go and we are in the heart of Mormondom. I really do think the church is losing it's grip on the youth.
| It was an interesting day for the issue of whether consciousness can be fairly said to arise from known physical laws, or whether science is adequate to probe such matters.
First, a prominent quantum physicist and "philosopher of science" - the real deal, Bernard d'Espagnat - received a prestigious (and high money value) religion and science award for his contribution to the interface between science and religion.
The New York Times briefly stated without much background that
"D'Espagnat said in prepared remarks that since science cannot reveal anything certain about the nature of being, it cannot tell us with certainty what it is not.
"Mystery is not something negative that has to be eliminated," he said. "On the contrary, it is one of the constitutive elements of being."
He added that he is "convinced that those among our contemporaries who believe in a spiritual dimension of existence and live up to it are, when all is said, fully right."
One of the better popular science mags in my opinion, stated with just slightly more depth that d'Espagnat's reasoning derives from wrestling with the meaning of Bell's Theorem in quantum mechanics (raising issues of nonreality vs. nonlocality, both being repugnant anathemas to the primates on Rock #3 from Sol). d'Espagnat supports the notion that our premier theory of fundamental reality, Quantum Mechanics, fails to say "why" or "how" events happen but is merely a predictive formalism. As a result we are left with a serious gap in understanding what fundamental reality really is.
d'Espagnat posits "There must exist, beyond mere appearances [of QM] … a 'veiled reality' that science does not describe but only glimpses uncertainly. In turn, contrary to those who claim that matter is the only reality, the possibility that other means, including spirituality, may also provide a window on ultimate reality cannot be ruled out, even by cogent scientific arguments."
We agnostics can certainly resonate with this fundamental frequency (sorry, can't resist), especially if we do not reject 'spirituality' as a type of human comprehension or sense.
As I see it d'Espagnat posits that the limits of Quantum Mechanics derive from an incompleteness inherent to Quantum Mechanics (QM) similar to Kurt Godel's famous incompleteness theorem regarding recursive axiomatic mathematical systems, i.e. they inherently cannot describe certain true propositions that lie outside of their ken.
See, e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godel though I am sure there are better articles on line if I looked for them.
"So what is it, really, that is veiled? ... It is a holistic, non-material realm that lies outside of space and time, but upon which we impose the categories of space and time and localisation via the mysterious Kantian categories of our minds."
In other words, for all our pretensions about science and progress, we fundamentally really don't know s**t about the 'real' reality, and our limited evolved mentalities may be unable to construct the constructs necessary to do it.
So does this mean there is a God? The Big Question?
Well, who knows. d'Espagnat's 'God' may be Spinoza's 'God' - the unknown and perhaps unknowable ultimate reality of nature. Or, not? Nobody knows.
On a slightly related note, there are people seriously trying to understand human consciousness (the real, live, mortal kind) using materialist assumptions and the best science they can muster - ironically including Quantum Mechanics - and rather conspicuously failing to solve this problem. One of their failures was reported today at
where an approach called Frohlich Condensates has reportedly been kicked off the playground.
Might something else work? Who knows. d'Espagnat suggests that invoking QM is inherently limited and may be unable to compute 'real' reality much less consciousness. Godel's QM equivalent ghost may torpedo such efforts, forever.
But I'm sure they'll keep trying. And of course we'll keep pushing QM too, and keep trying to figure out what it means. Our primate brains aren't just going to quit because some old guy physicist is throwing cold water on it all.
At the same time, the cosmologists are trying to figure out whether gravity is really constant over time and distance, claiming recent data show it is not. One hypothesis is that our three dimensional perceived universe is stuck on the 'surface' of a higher dimensional brane, with gravitons leaking into the 'volume' with distance. How that squares with the hypothesis that we are a hologram projected from a lower dimensional true reality, I don't know, but it sure shows the wildly different directions of scientific speculation that exist as seriously proffered ideas. Bottom line is, in the big picture we fundamentally don't know what the universe is or how it works, and the questions and answers just keep getting weirder.
If you like being agnostic, this seems to be a good time to be one. And there may be room left in the universe for some mysticism/religion/higher spirituality too. Just maybe.
| I've heard some members and even exmembers who feel that Mormonism, with all it's faults, helped them to grow up to be 'moral'. Admittedly I've often thought that perhaps they have a point-that perhaps morality and motivation require at times a degree of self-deception.
However I've come to the conclusion that this is one of the many problems that Mormonism has-a system of enforcing morals which cannot survive and which even worse cultivates hypocrisy and deception. In a world where reason and logic are increasingly valuable to our civilization it will be ever more difficult to use illogical tools of invisible superbeings and demons to convince people to reform their behavior.
The tragedy of raising children in such a fashion is that it gives the false impression that such fantasies are the principle justification for moral behavior, giving a relatively insignificant role to the types of consequences that require no leap of faith. You don't need to have faith, for example, to understand that promiscuos behavior leads to STD's and broken relationships. You don't have to have faith to know that dishonesty can lead to loss of trust and the inability to gain the confidence of friends and employers. These consequences are the ones that children should be focusing on instead of playing second fiddle to imaginary beings. Such teaching leaves them ill-equipped to evaluate real consequences when their faith in the illogical falters.
It may be that such Mormon morality is in fact effective-I know it certainly frightened me into treating my dates like an infectious disease in order to always preserve my 'chastity'. But the other problem is that such beliefs are ultimately doomed to failure. Certainly many of us have seen through the deceit and if not us it will be our children, grandchildren or someone else along the line that can no longer support the absurdities of such a belief system particularly as reason and logic continue to play an ever greater role in our civilization. If reality and reason are insufficieint to keep us moral then we or some future generation are doomed to failure.
But I believe the vast majority of individuals are capable, if properly instructed about real consequences, of achieving a life of morality and balance without relying on lies and deception. Such a life is not only free of the continual conflict of trying to fit one's observations and reason within one's faith but releases one from the bonds of needless guilt and zealous extremes. It is the type of future I hope to enjoy in my own life and certainly the type of future I hope to pass on to my children.
| Guy walks into a bar in Utah and easily gets a drink.
Come this summer, that simple scenario will become a reality: No special fees, club memberships or partitions required.
After more than 40 years, some of the strictest – and strangest – liquor laws in the nation are being hustled out the barroom door, yet another sign that even a state dominated by teetotaling Mormons is willing to reconsider decades-old mores if it helps the economy.
No longer will bartenders be separated from customers by a glass partition known as a "Zion Curtain." And patrons won't have to join a social club or pay a membership fee before entering bars.
"Having to pay $5 or $10 to join a club to drink any kind of alcoholic beverage is absurd," said Mark Caraway, a San Diego businessman who travels to Salt Lake City at least once a month.
Tourists frequently leave bars and restaurants here after becoming flummoxed at what it takes to get a drink. And the state's tourism industry has frequently complained that the liquor laws send lucrative conventions and skiers fleeing to neighboring Colorado.
"We were told that some places would require us to buy a license to buy alcohol. We were kind of dumbfounded by it all," said Gary Catlett, who was drinking a beer at the Park City Mountain Resort after skiing while on vacation from Houston.
While not technically requiring a license, Utah does require anyone entering a bar to be a member of the club or a member's guest. At most bars, anyone can become a member by paying a state-ordered fee for a three-week pass that costs at least $4. An annual membership costs at least $12. And a separate membership is required at each bar.
Those who live here are often just as infuriated by Utah's liquor laws, and they have developed crafty ways to bend the rules.
Buying a temporary membership allows someone to bring up to seven guests into a bar without the visitors filling out forms or paying fees. An annual membership allows an unlimited number of guests.
Many people pool together memberships with their friends so they never buy more than one membership – if any – each year. In a state where relatively few people drink, bartenders quickly begin to recognize regular customers and usually assume they or one of their friends are members.
For years, conservative lawmakers who didn't drink said the memberships prevented bar hopping. It was far from true. There are at least two annual, highly publicized events in Salt Lake City where close to 100 people in costumes go pub crawling.
If anything, some locals say eliminating the membership requirement will spare them from sitting out in the cold waiting for friends to sponsor them, and it should free up more money.
"It'll be nice to not have them anymore. It's less money, so I'll probably be able to buy other things," said Donaca Bilyard, a Salt Lake City flight attendant who was having a drink downtown at Murphy's Bar and Grill on St. Patrick's Day.
Bilyard, originally from Richland, Wash., said the changes should make Utah look a little more normal.
Besides improving the state's $6 billion tourism industry, the effort to overhaul Utah's liquor laws is also meant to send a subtle message to the rest of the world that Utah welcomes non-Mormons.
In Utah, about 60 percent of the state's population and more than 80 percent of state lawmakers belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which tells its members to abstain from alcohol.
In the cultural divide between Mormons and non-Mormons, the church's influence on alcohol policy is among the most visible sources of contention.
In 1968, at the urging of church officials, voters killed a proposal to allow the sale of liquor in restaurants by a 2-to-1 margin.
The next year, the state's private club system as it's known today was created, primarily as a way to shield the state's Mormons from being exposed to alcohol while giving drinkers a shot at the state's heavily taxed booze, if they were willing to jump through some hoops.
The foundation for this year's changes was laid in 2004, when Republican Jon Huntsman, a former deputy assistant secretary of commerce, was elected governor.
Huntsman, a Mormon, got an earful from tourism officials about the liquor laws. But reforming the rules was politically impractical until November, when Huntsman won a second term in a landslide.
Still, Huntsman faced an uphill battle. Some lawmakers waited until the final days of the legislative session, expecting to hear opposition from the Mormon church.
When it didn't come, lawmakers could vote for the changes without much fear of backlash from Mormon constituents.
The church worked with lawmakers behind the scenes to broker a compromise that included scanning the IDs of anyone who looks younger than 35 and adopting tougher DUI penalties.
"The mechanism is not the important consideration, but rather the results," church spokesman Michael Purdy said.
Many people who live here never thought they would see the end of the private club system.
"This is a big deal for Utah," said Art Cazares, general manager of Bambara restaurant in downtown Salt Lake City. "The issue is that the out-of-state guests do feel like they're being targeted. Not only are the liquor laws weird; in some ways it sends a message that you're a bad person if you're drinking."
| Back when I was a kid, I loved primary on tuesday's after school. Growing up in the Church we'd sing "Teach me all that I must KNOW to live with him someday." The line has been changed these days to "Teach me all that I must DO . . ."
Back in the old days of the Church there was a line that used to get repeated a lot. It went like this: "A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge." It is a quote from Joseph Smith (DHC Vol 4, p.588)
I haven't heard this one mentioned in the past couple of decades
Back then it was all about gaining knowledge. Now it seems to be about avoiding knowledge. "don't look at that...don't read that stuff" etc. The shift from knowledge to obedience has been rather striking. These days a more common line is, "that is not essential to your salvation."
Knowing to Doing is a SWK driveby.
From "Teachings of the Presidents of the Church, Spencer W. Kimball", p. 1:
Church members all over the world love the Primary song “I Am a Child of God,” with its simple but profound message of who we are, why we are on the earth, and what the Lord promises us if we are faithful. Sister Naomi W. Randall wrote the text to the song in 1957, when Elder Spencer W. Kimball was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. At that time, the song’s chorus concluded with the words “Teach me all that I must know to live with him someday.”
From "Sunstone," Dec, 1979:
While visiting a stake conference, Elder Kimball listened to a group of Primary children sing “I Am a Child of God.” Soon after that, he commented on the song in a conversation with a member of the Primary General Board. “I love the children’s song,” he said, “but there is one word that bothers me. Would Sister Randall mind if the word know were changed to the word do?”
Sister Randall agreed to change the song. Now the chorus ends with the words “Teach me all that I must do to live with him someday.”
Whereas in the hymn "I Am A Child of God" we used to sing "teach me all that I must know to live with Him someday" (which I would suggest in passing raises some extremely interesting questions), now we sing "teach me all that I must do to live with Him someday." We have three verses in "I Am A Child of God." I would like to see us keep the first chorus as it was and sing "teach me all that i must know." The second chorus we could sing "teach me all that I must do," and then with the third sing "teach me all that I must be to live with Him someday."
-- Bassett, Arthur R., "Knowing, Doing, and Being: Vital Dimensions In The Mormon Religious Experience," Sunstone, Dec 1979, p. 67.
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