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TAL BACHMAN - SECTION 5
Tal Bachman is an internationally recognized singer-songwriter from Vancouver, Canada. Raised strictly in the Mormon church, Tal spent two years in South America performing missionary work and learning Spanish. Later, Tal resigned his membership in the LDS Corporation.
| It's been a pretty wild couple of years for me. I went from thinking I knew everything of importance in the universe, to wondering if I knew anything of importance at all. I lost some old friends, gained a few new ones, and retained a few who realized the church was a fraud around the same time I did. I spoke at the exmo conference, was filmed for some whitewash job of a "documentary" on the church (that's another story), helped three dozen people close to me see the fraud for what it was, and got stabbed in the back and had my heart broken big-time by three exmos close to me (thanks, you f****** bastards). I've gained a true friend in my mother-in-law since she left the church, and now can't stop hugging her and chatting with her about all kinds of things.
I've gotten emails from people all over the world asking me about the church, many of whom, after some conversation, have come to acknowledge the truth (although some have decided to stay in the church for social or family reasons). I've gotten emails from "official" and amateur Mormon apologists, who all (I found) rely on the same mindgames I used to play on myself to keep believing. Incidentally, the only one of these guys who seemed like a decent guy was John Lynch from FAIR. I know others on here have a different opinion, but that was my experience. I understand he is still doing his best to defend Joseph's untrue claims, and he may always do this; even under the most optimal circumstances, you don't just come to see that your entire life was built on a fraud in a couple of weeks, or months, or even years. Sometimes it takes a long, long time, if it happens at all. It is especially hard once you've taken a public stand; not because you consciously don't want to "lose face", but (I think) because largely unconscious forces, seeking to protect us from pain, loss of status, etc., make it almost impossible to see what's really there.
In the past couple of years, I've had my first glass of wine, my first bottle of beer, and even bought a Playboy magazine once just to see what it was like (pretty lame if you ask me, and that any of us could have thought that people left "the one, true religion" for airbrushed airhead boobs is a real testament to how stupid we were). I've tried to overcome my natural diffidence around strangers, and especially, around attractive females, who I always instinctively froze around since they represented a potential temptation. That is, I've tried to treat them like I treat normal humans, rather than as "potential tools of the adversary to destroy my life".
My passion for music, and performing, has been rekindled; come to think of it, all my passions have felt supercharged since I found myself outside the strange bubble I didn't even know I inhabited. Funny things are funnier, sad things are sadder, delicious food is more delicious, vistas are more inspiring, good stories are more compelling and meaningful...everything is more intense, as though my humanity as a Mormon wasn't so much "kept in check", as entirely diluted by some mind-dulling narcotic draught of smugness, cognitive dissonance, and unrecognized fear.
Another thing I've done is frequent this board. Especially early on, I poured my guts out on here. I never really felt anger in the way others did; I felt mostly shell-shocked, and really, just sad. It is a lie that people cease believing in Joseph's lies because they "wish" to. If anything, the opposite is true - we believe in them, because we want so badly for them to be true. There was, in fact, nothing I wanted more than for the religion I had devoted my life to, to be all it claimed. To find out it was not was a genuine horror, a nightmare become real, and one that just wouldn't end no matter how many times I shook myself. And then my wife lived that nightmare, and that prolonged my own: Where do we belong, if we don't "belong" to "the church"? (Doesn't that sound a tad chilling now?) Who are we supposed to be, if not Peter Priesthood and Molly Mormon? What are we supposed to teach our children about life, when it seems we've been wrong about most of it? Why are we married? If we weren't Mormons, would we have been attracted to each other in the first place? Now that we don't have a cult we're both devoted to...what unites us? What is our mutual passion? All these, and a million other questions, haunted us like phantoms: they were always there to torment, and impossible to bat away. What were their answers? We could no longer just open up a church reference book and read a quote from some self-styled oracle, and imagine "the thinking had been done". No - this was hard. It meant really....thinking, really pondering, really talking and inquiring...it was really hard. And that was another question: Why in the world did we ever think as members, that *leaving* was easier than *staying*? The easiest thing in the world to do would be to keep on playing the stupid mindgames, and just stay put. Just "put things on the shelf". Just keep believing we, and only we, were in the world's only true religion; we, and only we, had the true answers to life's most troubling questions; and we, and only we, were God's "covenantpeople". We were chosen. Who wouldn't want to continue believing that?
In a strange way, I had always thought that my world as a Mormon was "the universe", and that thought provided real comfort: I was in the know. But I came to see that that world was *not* the universe - in fact, it was just the opposite. That world turned out to be unmistakably tiny, and insular, and circular and vanity-flattering, judgmental and stupid for all its occasional prettiness and flashes of insight, anachronistic and even ludicrous for all the comfort it provided, in fact chaotic and capricious and devilishly self-interested underneath its patina of order, constancy, and rectitude, tribalistic and ignorant and superstitious for all the pretensions to cosmopolitanism and the cultivation of intellect, walled on all sides by grossly distorting panes of glass that filtered out any feature of reality which didn't accord with whatever we imagined "the church" still believed in. And in the moment I realized it all, it felt like there was an almighty crack of techtonic plates slamming together, like some connection was made in my brain that, before that, my brain had not been capable of making...and all those thick, warped, distorting pieces of glass that had walled my mind smashed all at once...and for the first time ever, Mormonism made sense. Yet in that same moment, I was more frightened than ever, and all I wanted to do was somehow reassemble the smashed glass and get back inside the tiny "world", or cage, that I had never before been outside of. And in that next moment, I realized that would never be possible. I was out of a "something" I'd never even realized I was in, and certainly never desired to get out of - I was only trying to study the thing so I could be a better Mormon. I would NEVER have believed, as I began preparing my first gospel doctrine lessons, that within two years I would see that Joseph could not possibly have told the truth about his experiences, and that my whole life was based on a fraud.
And now here I am posting this, feeling like I am finally flushing the last vestiges of Joseph Smith's religion out of my system, beginning a long goodbye to all my friends here on the board. I think I will post over the next several weeks a few farewell essays, if I can think of anything to say I haven't already said. I hope something I write there will help someone else through the trauma of discovering we've been wrong about everything most important to us in life.
Best to all - let me know if anyone has an idea for an essay and I'll do my best.
Thanks for all the support and friendship,
| In Randy J.'s excellent thread, "We Shouldn't Judge Joseph Smith by Present-Day Standards", he notes the tendency of Joseph's defenders to claim that his modern critics are judging him unfairly by holding him to today's standards of behaviour. In fact, the opposite is true, and that any adult could make such an assertion, is only testament to how deeply our capacity for rational thought can be corrupted by emotional attachment to ideology.
Mormon defenders cannot have it both ways. Either, as say Mormon GA's, society has fallen from a far superior moral state, and we now live in an era characterized by shockingly loose morals, where chastity is denigrated and mocked, where "traditional family units" are under threat "as never before", where sexual anarchy appears to be a possibility, etc. ad nauseam - OR, our era is in no way superior in sexual restraint and order to past eras. We will call the first proposition "F" (for "fallen"), and the second, "S", for "the same".
If "S", then Mormon GA's cannot be believed when they claim "F". And if they cannot be believed, then they are in fact "leading the church astray", and if that is the case, a canonized item of official doctrine is not true (see the Manifesto page in the DandC), and if that is the case, then Joseph's church isn't the only true religion in the world.
But if "F", then illegitimacy, immodesty, sexual "looseness" and "experimentation", promiscuity, etc., were ALL far RARER in Joseph Smith's era, than now - meaning that his era was far stricter sexually, than ours is. But if that is the case, and as church defenders ask, we judge Joseph Smith according to the "standards of his time", then modern critics are NOT JUDGING HIM HARSHLY ENOUGH. And in fact, history suggests exactly this.
For, who do these genius church defenders think would best be in a position to judge Joseph according to the standards of his own time, other than THE PEOPLE WHO LIVED IN HIS OWN TIME? And how did THEY judge him?
THEY FINALLY ASSASSINATED HIM. They drove Joseph's treasonous band of cult fanatics OUT OF THE UNITED STATES. And before that, they chased Joseph out of area after area. And why? "Because Joseph's church was the only true church, and Satan wanted to destroy it!"? My member friend, just consider one other possibility.
Maybe...just maybe...Joseph wasn't exactly precise with his storytelling....and maybe, just maybe, he didn't actually meet up with back-from-the-dead Peter, James and John, etc....Maybe, like hundreds of other religious men of the time, Joseph didn't really have the experiences he claimed to have had...and keep in mind, that antebellum America was rife with innovative religious societies, most of which were patiently tolerated by their neighbours...
So maybe, all that expulsion had something to do with this, which I think even Richard "They've Broken Me and I Love It" Bushman would admit:
That everywhere Joseph Smith went, in the service of his cult of self-aggrandizement, he gave the finger to American law, American tradition, American mores, American culture, everything that those "in his own time" regarded as sacred and necessary. And as a consequence, everywhere he went, almost EVERYONE got totally sick of him and his band of deluded, obedient followers. The illegal banking, the vigilantes, the false prophecies, the mockery of a religion most Americans thought true, the bloc voting, the occultism, the furtive sexcapades, the shameless public lying, the destruction of other's private property, the delusions of grandeur ("God is my right hand man", "I have no law", etc.), announcing other's people property belonged to "the Saints" by divine right, etc., etc...
And let's keep in mind, since we're talking about judging according to the "standards of the day" - for those totally dependent on what their own farms could produce for sustenance, and the good will of their neighbours for safety and stability, dependent on the preservation of property laws, with disaster and death never seeming very far, Joseph and his cult - with their disregard for so many things their neighbours thought necessary for survival and happiness (including respect for contemporary sexual standards) - appeared to pose a danger. Like...DANGER. Like, their livestock start going missing because Sidney Rigdon and Orson Hyde start talking about how everything around them properly belongs to Zion; like, their civil institutions being overtaken by religious voting blocs (how'd you like your school board taken over by devout Muslims who start reconstructing everything according to Muslim law? Now you know how local Missourians might have felt); like their sisters - AND WIVES - getting hit on by "the prophet"...
The truth is that church defenders ought to be GRATEFUL that Joseph Smith's modern critics may be judging him by the standards of today. After all, how many RFM posters are big fans of vigilante castration and assassination? Most of us would be more than happy to see Joseph's bad behaviour exposed and reproached, and then see his lies fade into the oblivion they - and all other lies - deserve. Joseph's contemporaries were a little more pro-active. When Joseph supposedly hit on (or actually had sex with) fifteen year old Nancy Marinda Johnson, Dr. Dennison, with the encouragement of a neighbourhood mob, nearly castrated him. THAT'S how people IN his his own time judged him "according to their standards". So, I guess by the "logic" of church defenders, who say we ought to judge Joseph by 1840 standards of right and wrong, is that the RIGHT thing for us - AND them - to all be saying now about Joseph Smith is, that he deserved to be dragged out of the Johnson farm house in the middle of night, nearly castrated, then tarred and feathered by a bunch of angry townspeople. No wonder Mormon defenders are confined to publishing their inanities in church-subsidized publications - it's only there that the accidental comedy can go unrecognized...
Of course, it is too much to hope, that some church member, just as sincere as I was, could ever read this, and begin to think, "Maybe...maybe I've missed something....". But in the miraculous case that someone does, here is a final comment:
It was not considered proper in 1840's America for a foster father to secretly have sex with his teenage foster daughters - and Joseph did that TWICE (with both the Lawrence and Partridge sisters). It was not considered proper for a self-proclaimed religious pastor to secretly have sex with his housemaids. It was not considered proper for ANYONE, let alone a "prophet" who had publicly BANNED polygamy in his church charter, to secretly proposition other men's wives, even telling them that unless he could "marry" (have intercourse with) them, that an angel would murder him. It was not considered proper for ANY MAN to slander women who rejected your sexual advances, as Joseph did with Nancy Rigdon and Sarah Pratt. It was not considered proper for ANY 38 year old to secretly have sex with a fourteen year old, and in so doing, consign her to a life of loneliness, devoid of love. The truth is, according to the standards of the time, Joseph's character must be - and was - regarded by most as nothing short of loathsome.
And in case you don't believe me, my member friend, I suggest you read "Mormon Enigma", recommended by the official church historian, Leonard Arrington. It is on sale at your local Deseret Books. In it, you will find another judgment made of Joseph, one made in accordance with "the standards of his time" by one of Joseph's contemporaries. In fact, that contemporary was none other than his wife, Emma. And her judgment, after finding out later from a mutual friend that Joseph's tomcatting was far greater than she had known, was that - "he deserved to die as he did".
When's the last time you read THAT on the special Joseph website run by the church? Joseph Smith's OWN wife - that "elect lady" - the first president of the Relief Society, whose portrait can still be seen in church buildings all over the world, stated that Joseph's behaviour was such, *according to the standards of his day*, that HE DESERVED TO BE ASSASSINATED by a mob of drunken thugs.
My suggestion to Mormon church defenders: Stop asking modern critics to judge Joseph Smith by the "standards of his day". You're only making yourselves look - well...blind, in the way that only real delusion can make us look blind.
If we really needed certain proof that Joseph's church wasn't the only true religion in the world, so true Jesus was a member of it, I think all we'd really need to do is examine the arguments made in defense of it. They are enough to make a nine year old blush.
This is the best I can do.
First of all, let's get one thing clear: there is no case for Mormonism being what it claims to be. And virtually every church member, including prominent defenders, at least tacitly concedes this every time they:
* Distort some point of Mormon doctrine or history in order to defend it;
* Use logical fallacies in their defenses (in particular ad hoc "reasoning", ad hominem insinuations, and red herrings);
* Employ thought-terminating cliches in lieu of coherent, on-topic rebuttals;
* Reference thinkers who deny the possibility of absolute knowledge while defending a religion which claims that all who are sincere can acquire absolute knowledge that it is God's only true religion;
* Criticize irrelevant characteristics of skeptical arguments, like typographical errors or who might be publicizing or supporting the article, while slighting or ignoring core points which appear to expose Mormon truth claims as false;
* Claim that physical evidence is essentially irrelevant to evaluating the truth of Mormonism, since "knowledge of the truthfulness of the gospel is only gained through the spirit anyway", so that manifestly disconfirming evidence should be disregarded - when at the same time, they will present ANY physical evidence which could ever possibly be construed as supporting any Mormon claim;
* And probably most tellingly, immediately switch (when called out on their inadequate defenses of truth claims) to defending the church on the basis of its utility.
And since members do this not occasionally, but all the time, I think it is fair to say that average members, and apologists, tacitly concede Mormonism is indefensible as what it claims virtually every time they try to do defend it as such.
But back to the last point in the list, expressions of the utility argument are comments like these:
* "People need religion to keep them united and moral - and Mormonism in my opinion does that the best"
* "I'm happy, my wife's happy, and all my kids' friends are Mormons - why would I want to tinker with that?"
* "Everyone has to believe in something"
* "I just really enjoy the service aspect".
* "In Mormonism, I have identity, I have consolation, I have faith - what could you give me that's better if I left?"
* "Without Mormonism, nothing would make sense".
Of course, none of these statements has anything to do with whether Mormon truth claims are, in fact, true, so that hearing these suddenly, in the middle of a conversation *about* Mormon truth claims, is rather like seeing a called-out Wizard of Oz frantically pull back the curtain to show off his wizard machine's cutting-edge technology, right in the middle of claiming that he's a real wizard. It seems to be nothing more than an attempt at saving face; but if it achieves this, it achieves it at the cost of conceding defeat on the only issue that ever really mattered, namely, whether his claims to being a wizard were really true. Or rather, whether Mormonism truth claims really were true.
So, because there is no case that Mormonism is what it claims, and because that fact is conceded virtually every time anyone tries to defend it as such regardless of whether they realize it or not, I propose that the only possibility of defending Mormonism *in any respect* is on grounds of utility, that is, that it is useful, and more - that it is more useful than other religions, or even, all other religions. What follows is my attempt at it. I haven't seen this argument made explicitly by any church defenders, but at the same time, it is in essence made every time a member repeats one of the slogans above. And certain Mormon "intellectuals" certainly give the impression they think it has something going for it. Here it is (not saying how much of the following I personally believe - I'm only trying to present a case:
When we take a step back and really look at things, we find little, or no, evidence that a god, or group of gods, ever disrupts the normal flow of human action. One man prays for X and then gets X, another man prays for X and doesn't, the first man prays again for X and doesn't get it, the second man also doesn't get it, while a third does, and then doesn't, and on it goes...there is no discernible pattern in the occurence and non-occurence of X, or to whom X occurs, or in who gets fatally shot, and who narrowly escapes being fatally shot, or in which infant dies and which survives, or in any other event which may occur.
Animals prey on each other, and appear to have no conception of moral law. Human monsters enslave and brutalize their fellow humans, and far from being struck down by a god, can live just as long as others. If they meet justice, it is the justice instigated by human action. (It wasn't a god who found Saddam Hussein hiding in a hole, but a soldier). The wicked, in short, very obviously sometimes prosper, while the virtuous sometimes suffer, and the rain falls on the just and unjust alike. It can seem as though in reality, humans have no more transcendent moral law they need concern themselves over, than the rest of the animal kingdom, and that cosmic karma or cosmic justice is just another fiction. And claims that justice is *really* meted out in an afterlife, when we step back, seem...more likely to have arisen from our own psychological or emotional needs, than something which was ever revealed by a god living in the sky or in another dimension, to a mortal.
People speak of "true" religions, yet if any religion is true, there has been no clear indication of which one might be, from a god. There is nothing but silence on this issue from the sky. Believers claim that this absence of indication or evidence should actually ENCOURAGE our belief, since it means that a god secretly wants us to believe in things for which there is no evidence. And yet, all we have as evidence that a god secretly feels this way, is a fellow mortal claiming he does. And when we ask that fellow mortal how he knows what that god wants, his only answer can be, that he heard it from ANOTHER fellow mortal and "just knew" it was true, and so on it will go back forever. And very clearly, a mortal simply claiming to know a certain something about a silent and invisible something or other, because some other mortal told him that that certain something was true, isn't a good reason to believe that certain something to be true. It is, rather, a good reason to ignore the claim entirely.
Meanwhile, Lisbon earthquakes, Indonesian tidal waves, Vesuvian explosions, rock the earth and kill men, women, and children alike...and no amount of human imploration to a god appears to stay the occasionally genocidal forces of nature.
In short, stepping back, it appears the universe is impassive. We exist, and scientists tell us our existence is the result of chance. But whether it is or not doesn't matter here, since even if we were created by a deity, he or she or they is elusive and silent and inactive to the point of - well, for all intents and purposes, seeming not to exist. Where is that god? Why is there no communication from him or her, that a properly functioning mind could ever credit? It seems either that there are no gods, or that, if there are, they could not possibly care less what anyone thinks, or says, or does, on this planet - which amounts to about the same thing: for all intents and purposes at least, there is no god.
So, we appear to be alone in an impassive universe, on a planet, with not even any indication there are any other human beings anywhere in the universe. And that feels cold; and that feels lonely; and that feels *diminishing*. It can make you want to cry. But no matter how much you cry, no answer from heaven, or any god anywhere, ever comes.
| While I'm waiting for the spirit to reveal "Part Two" of my "Case for Mormonism" essay (nothing coming yet), I thought I'd do some more pro bono work for the church and reveal my idea for a whole new PR campaign. It's based on a little idea I just thought of about four seconds ago, called "Entertainment Theory". (And since it's only four seconds old, I haven't really had time to think it through, so I'm making this up on the fly, kind of like Joseph Smith with his religion).
A synopsis of Entertainment Theory:
People pay attention to, and become devoted to, what entertains them. They generally don't care about any "moral" implications of what the entertainment consists of. No matter what they say or do on Sunday, during the week they watch trash on television, spend more time watching Jerry Springer or car-crash news, than praying or reading the Bible. (Exceptions are those involved in a religion which they find more entertaining than Jerry or CNN). People would even watch live executions for sheer entertainment value, just like they did in ancient Rome. So for a religion to thrive, it has to win in today's entertainment competition. For example, there is no religion in the world right now more entertaining than Islam: people are blowing themselves up, beheading people, fomenting revolution, kidnapping, extorting, trying to start World War Three for Allah, etc. And what's growing like gangbusters? ISLAM. NOT Mormonism. See?
So, I'm thinking that the problem is NOT what Hinckley and Edelman thought it was: "that we have to get our message out". The problem is, the message is boring. This mainstreaming thing has backfired big-time. The church's only hope is to get even weirder than it is right now (I see John Gee as the new editor of the Deseret News, for example). The only interesting thing Hinckley ever does these days is publicly lie about Mormon doctrine, and that's just not good enough. Lying goes without saying in this environment. The church needs spectacular, gruesome, horrific lies, that they can then be caught in, and then offer a spectacular, gruesome, horrific apology for, before lying again, and stuff like that. I ask you: What other action could Winona Ryder have taken to resurrect her dead career, than to commit a crime and get arrested for it? The church needs more drama, and larger-than-life characters. Say what you want about JS and Brigham Young - they sure had people around the globe talking about them. The guys running the place now are DUDS, all caps.
So, a few ideas for the church which come from Entertainment Theory:
Take a page from WWE and develop "characters": Get the GAs out of their cult uniforms and let them go kind of haywire. Immediately waive all grooming and dress standards for them. I'm sure it wouldn't be two weeks before Marlin Jensen (Democrat) was sporting a goatee, for example. The church can then play him up as a bohemian. Let Packer stay in his suit according to the "unwritten order of men's attire" - but let David Burton play the "fun-loving Chris Farley chubby guy" in the Hawaiian shirt and shorts, let Eyring walk around in a white lab coat holding a clipboard playing the studious guy, Hales can walk around in his WWII Air Force uni and, when talking about "the adversary", keep shaking his clenched fists like he's a tail gunner machine-gunning a Messerschmidt, Oaks could dress like Yul Brynner in "The King and I" or else sport his old black robe from the Utah Supreme Court. He could even put on a traditional judicial wig. ANYTHING to get people to start paying attention to the church, without really focusing on its wacko truth claims, would be in the church's best interests. In fact, the more entertaining "the show" is, the more of a POSITIVE will be the wacko truth claims.
After all, you can't even get normal members to sit through (snore) a TV broadcast of General Conference - and MEMBERS actually think that the First Prez and Quorum have SEER STONES and stuff! Contrast that with the series "Big Love". See what I'm saying? "Big Love" has gotten more people intrigued with Mormonism in the past year, than Hinckley did in the past ten with his lame, false-cutesy interviews. Why? "Big Love" has INTERESTING characters involved in INTERESTING, basically freakish, dramatic situations. Mormonism has DULL non-characters involved in nothing interesting at all, for the average person anyway.
Along with this, the GA's should stop pretending they don't have arguments, and start BROADCASTING them - even PLANNING them. (What about fisticuffs between Oaks and Packer?) They ought to bring cameras right into the First Prez Quorum meetings and turn it into a reality show. They could call it "Cult Life".
Quick start: The closest thing the church has to a freak show is FARMS, and if they really want to get rolling on this whole new PR tack quickly, they could immediately install a camera crew into the laboratory where FARMS writers, with all the invincible self-satisfaction and self-importance that only true, full-blown delusion can spawn - cook up each new ad hoc attempt to try to re-assemble the latest item of Mormon belief obliterated by unfolding reality. The climax of each show will show all the FARMS writers congratulating themselves on realizing the conceptual equivalent of a taped-together mess of disfigured, smouldering scrap metal, which they insist is a fully functioning 747. Or something like that.
Anyway, the strategy over the past ten years hasn't worked, given the declining growth rates, ongoing resignations, etc. Why not try out Entertainment Theory?
| Surprise: realizing your entire life is built on a fraud can put strain on your marriage.
You form your expectations of a spouse according to cult criteria, you search within the cult for a spouse, you fall in love with cult versions of each other, your whole understanding of how to make important decisions comes from (insane) cult epistemology, etc., etc. So one day you wake up with 20 kids and a mortgage, and "the church" (that fetishized god we all worshipped) and the cosmos it represented, has imploded, because you saw it for what it was - a fraud. When you've both been cult zombies, what then holds you together?
My wife's had a tough time the past two and a half years. The church was everything to her; to find out she'd been wrong about the most important thing in her life, to lose so many of her friends, to be left suddenly without answers to questions that tugged at her, left her unsure of herself, resentful of missed opportunities, and almost afraid to believe in anything else, since to do so might set her up for more hurt in the future.
In an effort to stabilize things and fill in the gaps, I've really tried hard to find common interests. Unfortunately, when someone is grieving, they're not always that interested in "exploring" together, so it's been tough. I did manage to find matching his and her beach cruisers, so we could go out for evening bike rides (and no, I didn't care that we looked like 70 year olds on them). And we have had some wonderful rides...but then something happened I never expected. One night, Tracy caught "Dog the Bounty Hunter" on TV...
Now, just to back up a bit, I've been a fan of Dog Chapman's since long before he had his own TV show. I can't even remember now how I found out about him, but I've been following him for like five or six years or something. In fact, when he tracked down the Max Factor heir rapist guy in Mexico a few years ago, and got arrested by Mexican authorities and put in jail for capturing him, I made a special point of calling my whole family together (I was still TBM) and having a special prayer for Dog, asking Heavenly Father to help him get out of jail. And no, I'm not embarrassed about it, dammit. It's just who I was at the time. (By the way, he got out, so I guess my prayer didn't hurt...). One other thing - last year for Halloween, my oldest three boys and I almost went out trick-or-treating as Dog and his crew. (My son Ashton called dibs on Leland. For some reason we didn't end up going in the end, but maybe this year...).
Anyway, one night about six weeks ago, Tracy comes down, and Dog comes on TV. She'd never actually seen it, and never shown any interest whatsoever. All of a sudden, she's completely transfixed. Within five minutes, she's talking about how it's the best show she's ever seen, how sincere she thinks Dog is, how sweet it is that they try to help the people they pick up, how sad it is, what a bitch Beth is though she has a good heart, all kinds of stuff. The show ends with the handcuffed bail jumper crying, talking about how he's going to transform his life because he has a new baby girl, and Tracy starts sobbing, "this is so moving...I can feel that he really means it...". I'm like "Wha...?".
So I've been recording Dog episodes for us to watch ever since. Everytime, we both sit there riveted, me still chuckling internally at this weird common interest I never contemplated the possibility of for one nanosecond. (It's especially ironic given the hours I've spent racking my mind trying to think of ways to bring us together, and the hundreds of dollars I've spent trying to spark things up).
Tonight, for some reason, they played two straight hours of Dog episodes (ending with Dog and Beth's marriage ceremony, after Barbara Katy, Dog's daughter from a previous marriage, is killed in a car crash). We sat there the whole time, ate some fine Dutch chocolate (Droste) and drank a bit of wine, and had a really good time. And I'm not really one for TV, and neither is she. But there we were, and it was a blast.
It is funny how at different times of life, the most mundane things can take on more importance than you'd ever expect. My Dad and my stepmother always lay in bed and watch "Coronation Street", and I always kind of thought it was silly. But of course, it isn't silly - it's life, and no different than loving the same football team, novelist, or musician. It's fun. It brings you together. You look through the same window at the world, and it becomes something special between you...
I was exaggerating when I said Dog Chapman saved my marriage, but every little area where Tracy and I can come together, helps, and I appreciate them more than ever. I'm glad Dog got that show!
Good luck to others in rebuilding their relationships.
| Former Mormons still entertained by the embarrassing horror that is Mormon apologetics may have noticed that several BYU professors published a "response" recently to the movie "The Da Vinci Code". I admit that wasn't nearly as stupid as FARMS publishing a negative review of Carl Sagan's "The Demon-Haunted World" - but then, nothing is.
Anyway, I saw Will Farrell's "Talladega Nights" the other night. In one scene, Farrell's character Ricky Bobby says grace, directing it to "Lord Baby Jesus". An argument then ensues between Ricky Bobby, his wife Carly, his best friend Cal, and Carly's dad, about which Jesus one should pray to. Ricky Bobby says he likes infant "Christmas Jesus" best, while the others weigh in with different opinions: "bearded Jesus", etc.
Clearly, (judging from the fact "The Da Vinci Code" elicited a response from Mormon professors), church members are easily confused by movies, and church defenders are on high alert against "erroneous doctrine" being promoted by Hollywood. So I'm just wondering when to expect FARMS' 9000 word rebuttal of Ricky Bobby's take on the doctrine of prayer.
Wait...I think I'm channeling it...even before it's been written...kind of like Joseph seeing Alvin in the celestial kingdom, even though he hadn't been resurrected or finally judged yet...here is an excerpt (footnotes in parentheses)...
"Were (1) it not (2) for the impassioned yet well-reasoned protestations of Clement (3), Constantine (4), Athanasius (5), Hippo (6), St. Augustine (7), and to a lesser degree, Mohammed (8), Moses Maimonides (9), Al-Farabi (10), Julius Caesar (11), Caligula (12), Cicero (13), Nero (14), Thomas Aquinas (15), and other people who I am sure are very, very important (16), and the subsequent responses from rival religious theorists (17) in and throughout (and above, and below) the upper and lower Mediterranean region (18) pre- of course the advent of Gutenberg's printing press (19) or any or all different kinds of printing or copying technology (20) whatsoever as it would have ever applied to the status (21) quo (22) of Christianity as it then existed (23) in altered and indeed apostate form (24), as would obviously be the case by the fact that the pure authority bequeathed by Christ (25) (26) (27) (28) to his apostles in the form of the priesthood had already been lost or at most rescinded by divine decree (29) (though the details of this disappearance are of course not essential to our salvation and are therefore not worth speculating upon in this piece) (30), the age at which Jesus may be imagined most appropriately while praying may forever have been in dispute, the subject of "contention" and "endless disputations" (31), which the author believes would have culminated in a needless and irrelevant distraction (32) from the figure of Jesus himself as the object of adoration (33) at whatever age, an ageless worthiness testified to by the magi (34) and exultant angels (35) and shepherds, although it cannot be stated too emphatically that God the Father (35), not Jesus, is the deity to whom all prayers (36) should be addressed, notwithstanding Joseph Smith's Kirtland Temple dedicatory prayer to 'Jehovah' as recorded in section 109 of the Doctrine and Covenants (see footnoes 37 through 95), an exception much commented upon by anti-Mormons, yet easily explicable once we remember that...".
| I think I might have told this story on here a couple of years ago, but here goes again in case anyone missed it. It's pretty nuts.
Early on in my mission to Argentina, I was stationed in a little town called Recreo, outside of Santa Fe. My companion, Elder "Rodriguez" (alias), was a tough, muscular kid who'd grown up on the streets of Buenos Aires. He had converted to Mormonism about a year before coming out on his mission.
A few months prior to our arrival, missionaries in our area had tracted into a slightly portly, almost child-like guy in his mid/late twenties named Enrique. As I heard the story from the Zone Leader, the elders began to teach him, and were overwhelmed by his enthusiasm to learn about the gospel. He was, in a word, a golden contact. Enrique read III Nephi 11, told them he knew the BOM was true, accepted the baptismal challenge, and everything was going swimmingly, until somehow or other (I think during the fourth discussion or the baptismal interview) they discovered that Enrique was gay. At that point, the previous elders declined to baptize him or continue teaching him.
However, as I saw myself after arriving in the area, rejection didn't diminish Enrique's commitment to the church. He came to every activity, every service project, every baptismal service, and every Sunday meeting, always arriving holding his church books in front against his chest, always flitting round chatting excitedly with all the sisters, just as though he were a staunch relief society sister. During gospel doctrine class on Sundays, he always piped up more than anyone else. Everytime the teacher asked a question, Enrique's hand would immediately go up. He seemed totally unperturbed by (actually, oblivious to) the fact that he wasn't even a member, or that the guys actually running the church didn't even want him around.
Well, a few weeks after Elder Rodriguez and I arrived, a few sisters independently told us that Enrique had developed a crush on me and had talked about it in various conversations (they also said Enrique always developed a crush on new missionaries). Elder R got pretty upset by this news. His concern, like mine, was that Enrique might start talking about his crush around new members or investigators, and that they would then get the wrong impression about the church and the missionaries. I suggested we just talk to Enrique frankly and ask him to keep quiet about his crush, and his future crushes. Rodriguez didn't seem to be in much of a mood for "rational discussion" at that moment, and after a minute or two, we kind of dropped the topic. I actually thought then that we had a plan - we would just have a little chat with Enrique next time we saw him. Boy, was I wrong.
We used to show church movies and filmstrips at the little chapel on Tuesday nights, so a few nights later we met up with the Zone Leaders to put it on. Well, who showed up but Enrique, as always holding his church books tightly to his chest, chatting animatedly with all the sisters. Rodriguez began cursing quietly. I said, "Don't get weird; I'll just talk to the guy and I'm sure everything will be fine".
So movie night ends, and we're outside saying goodbye to everyone. As usual, Enrique was the last one to leave the church, so by the time he came out, no one else was around. So I say, "Enrique, come here for a minute. I need to talk to you".
Enrique came over and we walked a ways away from the door, over toward the property's metal fence. So I say something like, "Listen...we keep hearing that you're telling people you've got a thing for me, and we have to ask you if you would stop it...". As I'm talking, Enrique starts to interrupt, denying, in a high-pitched, lispy voice, that he's said anything like this. He kept repeating, "Yo no dije nada!...pero yo no dije nada!..." ("I didn't say anything"). So I'm like, "Look, if you haven't said any such thing, that's great, but if you have or you feel tempted to, just-"
Well, as Enrique and I have been trying to communicate, my comp Rodriguez has been standing there, growing more and more agitated...and suddenly, as Enrique in his girlish voice denies once again that he could EVER say anything like that, Rodriguez snaps, like a dog, and in a flash grabs Enrique by the front of the shirt and slams him up against the fence, and in a really menacing tone, says something like, "Listen you faggot (the word was "maricon")...NO ONE says anything like that about me or my comp EVER...me ENTENDES?", and then uncoils a right cross, drilling Enrique right in the jaw, knocking him down instantly.
I remember saying "stop!" in that moment, but it all happened so fast and it was so surreal...before I knew it Rodriguez had grabbed Enrique up off the ground and slammed him against the fence again, shouted some parting threat at him and then told him to get away. Enrique, scared to death and crying, frantically gathered up his scattered books in a few seconds, and ran away as fast as he could.
I'd like to say I performed some heroic deed during this assault, but the truth is, it all happened so fast and it was so unexpected, all I really did, aside from saying "stop" and "calm down!", was kind of stand there in shock. In that moment, I didn't know what to do.
We stood there in the dark, listening to the fading sound of Enrique's running footsteps and his sobs. I looked at Rodriguez and said, "WHAT was THAT?". And then...Rodriguez started crying. "What have I done? They'll send me home now...I lost my temper...Prez already warned me once..." (it turned out that Rodriguez had already punched out a previous companion - now why in the hell did they put this nut with me, a greenie? How irrresponsible is that?). Anyway...I said, "We'd better go talk to the Zonies".
So we go in to the darkened chapel where Elders E. (from Buenos Aires) and G. (from North Carolina - are you reading this, dude?! If so, post!), are chatting after putting away the projector and stuff. Rodriguez is crying. Elder E. says, "What's going on?". And Rodriguez, head down, inbetween sobs, says, "Pege el maricon" ("I punched the fag").
"Que?!", says Elder E.
"Pege el maricon". More crying.
Elder E was one of my MP's faves. He was 26, so a lot older than everyone else, a big athletic guy, really smart and capable, and about to turn pro I think for San Lorenzo (soccer) when he converted to the church in Buenos Aires and decided to serve a mission. He had a lot of pull with the prez, and would shortly after this incident be made an Assistant, where he remained for the rest of his mission. He ended up basically as the Deputy MP. So, I knew Elder E., out of duty, would let the hammer fall. Of course - it had to. A missionary in his zone had just punched somebody out!
So there's like five seconds of silence, and then Elder E. says:
"Well...I don't know if it's so bad...".
I'm thinking, "Wha...?"
E. continues: "I've almost punched him out a few times myself..."
Rodriguez sniffs and says, "En serio?" ("Really?")
The conversation ends with Elder E. telling Rodriguez not to worry, promising to "smooth this over" with the prez.
The next week prez came up for a conference and met with Elder Rodriguez. Prez asked him to promise not to do it again, which he did (I guess, just like after the first time he beat someone up on his mission). And that was it.
By then, word had leaked out and every missionary at this three zone conference knew what had happened; and if you can believe it, all the elders who came up to us to talk about it seemed really impressed, asking Rodriguez for all the details. And Rodriguez, perhaps because the reactions of his ZL and MP had amounted to a wink, with his ZL even saying he'd almost done the same thing a few times, now beamed with pride while recounting the whole incident, over and over!
A few final thoughts:
I am positive that any church representative or General Authority would condemn beating up gay people because they're gay. But all this means is that they've achieved "baseline humanity", you know? The truth is, that any organization claiming to have the only legitimate civil or religious authority ON EARTH, and claiming to be led by a genuine prophet, through whom God himself reveals his mind and will to the world, OWES THE WORLD AN EXPLANATION about what it says is a moral issue.
Mormon church leaders have said homosexual acts are immoral. Okay, let's say they might be - how did the Mormon prophet find that out? Can we read the revelation? Where is it? Oh - the ban on homosexuality comes from the Bible? Well, the writer of Leviticus and St. Paul both condemn homosexuality; but they also encourage, respectively, killing children for dishonouring parents, and forbidding women to speak in church meetings, both of which the church totally ignores. When's the last time the church took a public stand on the "moral issue" of legalizing execution for disobedient children, or suspended the speaking privileges of women in their church meetings? NEVER. Therefore, the church's brazenly selective acceptance of Biblical injunctions means that in fact, they have discredited the Bible as a source of authority in the very act of seeking to show they credit it as a source of authority. So, the Bible is out. So, what is there then, as a basis for this pronouncement? If it's "modern revelation" - where'sthe revelation? And if there is one somewhere, are we really supposed to believe all it consists of is, "that's bad - 'nuff said"? Call me crazy, but that sounds rather...suspicious.
I mean, if there was ever a time for some explanatory "revelation" on an issue, it would be now, on this, when the world's greatest countries are struggling with whether to reconceptualize marriage and codify that reconception into law. How does homosexuality come about? To what degree is it innate, to what degree environmentally induced? Why would God consign some of his children to a lifetime of torment, by allowing them homosexual hard-wiring but prohibiting them - on pain of damnation - from ever acting upon it? Where are the answers?
A few more questions: Since church leaders accept Leviticus' condemnation of homosexuality as immoral, do they ALSO accept Leviticus' recommendation of EXECUTION for practicing homosexuals? If yes, why aren't they publicly campaigning for capital punishment for practicing homosexuals along with their campaign against gay marriage? And if no, then why not? They certainly still accept Leviticus' recommendation of capital punishment for murderers - so why not homosexuals? After all, that the writer of Leviticus prescribes the EXACT same punishment for both murder and homosexuality is tantamount to a judgment of (im)moral equivalence between murder and homosexuality. Does the church accept the moral equivalence of a homosexual act, and murder? If so, then let them say so. And if not, then let them explain why not. (They might need the sophists at FARMS for that one. Who better to explain how two plus two doesn't necessarily equal four?)
Funny thing - church leaders don't seem to have the faintest idea about how to answer any of these questions. All they can say is, "homosexual acts are bad. Gay marriage is bad. It's bad. Gay bad." Any moron can say, "that's good" or "that's bad" when asked for an opinion. Shouldn't a guy with a seer stone in his vault be able to tell us a little more than that?
NO - because there is no such thing as a "seer stone". There are only...stones.
Just like there are no "prophets" - only people.
| Is Having The Right Opinion On Mormonism Really Analogous To Having The Right Opinion On Global Warming? |
Tuesday, Aug 22, 2006, at 07:00 AM
Original Author(s): Tal Bachman
Topic: TAL BACHMAN - SECTION 5 -Link To MC Article-
| ↑ |
| Is having the right opinion on Mormonism analogous to having the right opinion on global warming?
I suggest the answer is no. Here is, I think, why:
Incoherence (contradiction) of parts proves falsity. The many internal inconsistencies within Mormonism itself - in its doctrines, and as a natural extension in its ad hoc-style apologetics - alone establishes, beyond all rational contestation, that Mormon truth claims are false.
Moreover, leaving aside the examination of the internal, when we compare Mormon truth claims to what we understand about the external world, we are left with no rational option other than to conclude that those claims are false. There is now, for example, no sane way to believe that Joseph's claimed Egyptian translations are Egyptian translations. There is now no sane way to believe that the earth was unpopulated, and in an Edenic state where no creature died, until 4000 BC. There is now no sane way to believe that the sun gets its light through "borrowing" light from an-as-yet-undiscovered star called Kolob. There is now no sane way to believe that every human being on this planet, of every race, descends from one Jewish guy and his family who survived a global flood in 3000 BC, or that every single animal on this planet descends from the relatively few animals the Jewish guy could have accomodated on his boat. Etc.
For an analogy to exist between skepticism about man-made global warming (MGW) and belief in Mormonism, the arguments for skepticism about MGW would have to be just as overwhelmingly refuted by evidence, just as insane, just as internally incoherent, as arguments for Kolobian "light borrowing", 100% cotton physically protective underclothing, a planet where nothing died until 6000 years ago, or a hundred other points in Mormon theology or truth claims. Is that really the case? Even if we all believe that mankind is causing global warming, let's ask this: Who has to be crazier - a Mormon apologist at FARMS, or a climatologist skeptical about MGW claims? I think everyone would say the former; and if so, then in truth, do we not all agree that skepticism about MGW and belief in Mormonism, are, at this point anyway, not really analogous?
Here are a few interesting starter articles about this issue:
| Can you imagine the PR coup that would be?
"After enduring years of ridicule for maintaining that three 2000 year old men are roaming the earth performing acts of service, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has now proven its skeptics wrong...", etc.
The claim that certain persons on this planet are TWO THOUSAND YEARS OLD comes right from what is supposedly "the most correct book on earth", the Book of Mormon. The appearance of these two-thousand year old men would silence every skeptic of Mormonism. It would vindicate the marginalized oddballs at FARMS. So where is the search? Why hasn't the church brought in "The Dog" and Leland and Beth and everyone to track down The Three Nephites? Why isn't Hinckley trying to get them on the Larry King Show?
Since the existence of two thousand year old men on this planet is a MORMON TRUTH CLAIM, and inextricable from the church's claims for the Book of Mormon itself -
Why doesn't any church leader or apologist speak of it? Why aren't these shadowy performers of Christian service lauded as great examples by General Authorities at General Conference?
When you think about it, this silence seems quite telling. What I think it tells us is, that - bizarrely enough - core parts of Mormonism are unbelievable EVEN to devout believers in Mormonism; and the way they deal with that, is to try to stop thinking about those unbelievable parts altogether, and when absolutely forced to think about them, transform them into "irrelevant" "mysteries" unworthy of serious discussion, "so let's get back to what's really important" (i.e., "other Mormon truth claims I still CAN think about without immediately doubting").
Just a thought.
| Both Joseph Smith and John Mark Karr both married and had sex with fourteen year old girls: Helen Mar Kimball for Smith, and Quientana Shotts for Karr (his first wife).
What do Karr and Smith NOT have in common?
Karr was only nineteen when he married his fourteen year old bride; however, Mormonism's founder was THIRTY SEVEN years old, and already married to his wife Emma when he "married" Helen M. Kimball.
In fact, again like Karr, who went on to marry a sixteen year old girl (Lara Knutson) after his first marriage ended, and apparently have sex with several other young girls, Smith had sex with his housemaid Fanny Alger when she was sixteen (her age by some accounts). He also had sex with sixteen year old Flora Ann Woodworth. Another Smith conquest was Nancy Winchester, apparently around fourteen or fifteen at the time of her "plural marriage" to a man who Mormons are still singing hymns in honour of every Sunday.
Can you say "cult"?
| Turns Out, Not Only Is The Book Of Mormon A "Literary Masterpiece", But "Book Of Mormon Cities Have Been Found" |
Friday, Aug 25, 2006, at 06:51 AM
Original Author(s): Tal Bachman
Topic: TAL BACHMAN - SECTION 5 -Link To MC Article-
| ↑ |
| From the magical thinking of FARMS:
"Book of Mormon cities have been found, they are well known, and their artifacts grace the finest museums. They are merely masked by archaeological labels such as 'Maya', 'Olmec', and so on."
Check out the official university faculty photo of the man heading up the church's Book of Mormon archaeology efforts:
| "You know you're a former Mormon when..."
So I and my sex goddess of a wife (can you tell she reads the board now?) went out last night. As we parked and headed toward the mall, we passed an Egyptian import shop. We ducked in.
Ten seconds later I'm standing in front of a bunch of papyrus scrolls with all these figures on them. So I say, "Hey, that's Anubis right? The jackal-headed god...". The Egyptian guy looked shocked. "How you are knowing this?". I'm like, "And he's weighing the souls of the dead to see who gets to go to heaven, right?".
The Egyptian guy looked just like Buckwheat on the Little Rascals when he's really surprised. "Yes sir! This is Anubis, he is - how is it - judging all the people - *but how you are knowing this*? No one here is knowing this!"
I just looked at my incredible, luscious Brigitte Bardot-look alike wife (mousy voice: hi dear), and I'm like, "uh.......it's a really ----- long ----- story.....!". We had a pretty good chuckle afterward.
(Instant trip down memory lane - screen goes blurry...I'm 25 again...and this is what I'm thinking...)
"....It's too bad that that wunderkind of the Egyptological universe, John W. Gee, isn't here to tell Ahab all about the "secret encryptions" and "mnemonic devices" in his dumb little papyrus scrolls, which REALLY tell the whole story of Abraham, Sarah, and Terah! Ha! Those stupid Egyptians don't even realize that their culture's famous, ancient religious documents, are REALLY all about JEWISH guys!"
Glad I'm in the one true church,
Talmage - and proud of it - Bachman
| How did we go nuts?...There are so many parts to it...here is one part, I think.
All ultimate conclusions derive from original premises. But inbetween original premises and ultimate conclusions there is often a series of links: a conclusion is drawn from the original premises, which then serves as the premise for a subsquent conclusion, which then serves as the premise for the next conclusion, and a "chain of reasoning" is built up which culminates in an ultimate conclusion.
Here is one such (short) chain of reasoning we are all familiar with:
(P1): Feeling spiritually moved reading the Book of Mormon is God's holy spirit telling you the Book of Mormon is all the Mormon church claims it to be;
(P2): You have felt spiritually moved reading the BOM;
(C): Therefore, you now know the Book of Mormon is all the church claims it to be.
This conclusion now serves as the premise for a subsequent conclusion:
Now that you know the BOM is all the church claims it to be, you also know by logical extension that Joseph Smith was a prophet in just the way the Mormon church claims him to be.
This conclusion now serves as the premise for the ultimate conclusion:
Now that you know JS was a prophet in just the way the Mormon church claims him to be, you also know by logical extension that the church he founded is all it claims to be, namely, the ONLY true religion on earth, the ONLY one fully sanctioned by the creator of the universe himself.
I called this "the ultimate conclusion". It might be better to view it as the "main hub" of Mormon conclusions, since an infinity of miniature chains of reasoning and conclusions emerge from it, like octopus tentacles, as in: now that you know the Mormon church is all it claims, you know that:
* Just after leaving home, Jesus started the Mormon church and was a proud member of it;
* Joseph Smith's covert, extra-marital, and near pedophilic, sexual behaviour was not only not disapproved of by God, but actually, it was all God's idea, and the previously foot-dragging Joseph was just reluctantly following orders after a homicidal angel gave him a death threat;
* You should not have a vasectomy;
* Your funeral is not your own, but the church's;
* It is better for your child to be killed on his/her mission, than for him/her to attend university instead;
* You should give ten percent of your annual income (on gross rather than net gets you "more blessings") to the church Joseph Smith founded;
* You should not ever be bothered by evidence disconfirming Mormon truth claims, since "disconfirming evidence" of something that is "true" cannot, by definition, exist; it only *seems* like disconfirming evidence, so...no problem;
* Women displease the creator of the universe when they wear more than one earring in an ear;
* You should never disobey any Mormon church president, because God would not ever let him "lead you astray" - so potentially, if he assures you he is speaking as a prophet, and then tells you to murder someone, you should murder, since you know now that's what God wants you to do; and if by some impossible chance the prophet has made a mistake, he will be the one held responsible by God for it anyway: "our duty is to obey";
* In Dallin Oaks' words, the church does not owe the world "'both sides' of the Mormon story", that is, the church owes the world nothing but misleading, presumably self-serving propaganda,
One seductive characteristic of this chain of reasoning is its logic. Each conclusion really does seem to follow from the premise before. No wonder some folks wind up so convinced that, say, they ought not to lovingly raise their own flesh and blood, but rather, that they ought to force their heartbroken daughter to give her illegitimate child up to LDS Social Services to be raised by strangers who may have, like my charming and borderline-criminal sibling, entirely snowed the hapless LDS social worker and the naive birth mother (if they only knew...). Or, why some parent would deliver their fourteen year old daughter over to the prophet for some John Mark Karr-style deflowering (Heber Kimball giving his 14 year old daugher Helen to Joseph Smith). It is no wonder, in a word, that even educated people in 2006 could feel no reservations about devoting their lives to a cult. As far as you can figure while inside of it, "it just all makes sense". It sure did to me, for most of my life.
The fundamental problem with this chain of reasoning must be obvious to us now. David Hume seems to put his finger on it in "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding". He writes that unless a premise is *directly* accessible to knowledge or reasonable belief, all "our reasonings would be merely hypothetical; and however the particular links might be connected with one another, the whole chain of inferences would have nothing to support it...".
So, ignoring for the moment the whole chain (not listed here) which leads to Premise One, let us ask: From where did we ever get the *knowledge*, if indeed it is knowledge, that feeling spiritually/emotionally stirred means that *knowledge* is being beamed into us from an interventionist God through something called "a holy ghost", to the effect that "Mormonism is the one true religion in the whole world"? From where? When we step back and think, is there ANY good reason to have ever believed such a thing? No, there is not. In Hume's words, this series of links turns out to have "nothing to support it" at all.
After all, that all those we trusted most in the world told us this was so from the day we were born, does not constitute a good reason to believe it. Subsequent spiritual or emotional experiences also do not constitute a good reason, since this would only be begging the question: the whole point is, what reason did anyone ever have, to suppose that these experiences were messages from a god - a Mormon god - that Mormonism is the only true religion in the universe? None. From what sufficiently reliable source did we get that knowledge, if we did get it from a sufficiently reliable source?
Tracing back through the hearsay, the original source turns out to be the Book of Mormon itself; and the much-touted "promise" in Moroni 10:3-5, upon inspection, turns out to be, far short of "sufficiently reliable", nothing but the religious equivalent of a magician's card trick (which, however, we all fell prey to). All card tricks depend on an original (uncritical and unwarranted) granting of authority by the observer/participant - a submission of will, if you like - to the magician: the moment you comply with the magician's command to "pick the top card" or "cut the deck", the result is inevitable, and that result will appear - it can only appear - to be "magical" (or in Mormonism's case, "supernatural").
In other words, the really spectacular event in these sequences, isn't that the ace of spades turned into the eight of hearts, or that you got a "yes" at the end of your prayer; it is rather the fact that the magician or religionist got you to cede authority to him in the first place, *without you even noticing*. In that moment, sad to say, no matter how long the process lasts - it is already over, the result nearly a foregone conclusion, particularly when your mother, father, siblings, grandparents, all your friends, everyone around you, are all hoping and praying that you waive your critical faculties and *not notice* the fact that just by virtue of praying, you have already pre-committed yourself to the proposition that praying and trying to "feel messages" is a reliable way of finding out how many angels can fit on the head of a pin, or rather, of finding out whether 180 years ago, a floating angel wafted in and out of visibility in someone's bedroom...(not to mention that you have already accepted as true that if you get a no, you do NOT have a "sincere heart" and you don't have "real intent").
To clarify: If you only said, "But why should I pick the *top* card, rather than any other card, if this is really magic?", then of course, nothing seemingly "magical" would ever ensue. You'd just wind up looking at some guy in a top hat and tails, seeing that there is absolutely no reason to believe he is what he claims. It is the same with the Book of Mormon's great "promise": If you only said when challenged by your seminary teacher or missionary, "But wait - what good reason is there to believe *in the first place* that *feeling good* means God is telling me that Mormonism is the only true religion in the world? How does it make ANY sense, how could it EVER be valid, to BEGIN by my investigation into whether I should grant authority to the Book of Mormon, by GRANTING AUTHORITY TO THE BOOK OF MORMON?", then nothing seemingly "supernatural" would ensue there, either. You'd just be left staring at a book, seeing clearly that there is absolutely no reason to believe it is what it claims. And that would be that.
So, the only thing needed for "that" NOT to be "that", is to never notice your original mistake; and you can grow to adulthood, believing in weirder and weirder things, progressively inuring yourself to reality out of allegiance to a whole system of dogma and all the real things resulting from that allegiance, until you wind up, on that particular issue anyway, insane - as incapable of acknowledging reality or observing the most rudimentary rules of thought *on that issue*, as an asylum inmate, or someone who "knows" that aliens are sending him messages, or that there is a spaceship trailing the Haley-Bopp comet, or that Queen Elizabeth is a shape-shifting reptilian.
The truth is, at any moment, any human being can believe anything. Fortunately, most of us don't. Not even devout Mormons will believe anything about anything. Most function pretty well in all kinds of areas, and may be very skilled analysts and thinkers.
Yet, all it would take is one original error of thought, perhaps even made when we are only eight or nine years old, so long ago we don't even remember making it and so have a hard time even evaluating it now, to trigger a "chain of reasoning" which, thirty or forty years later, can lead us to believe, and do, literally ANYTHING about or for Mormonism. That means we've become totally nuts when it comes to Mormonism. It literally becomes TOTALLY INCONCEIVABLE - I mean, PHYSIOLOGICALLY inconceivable, like our brains are not even CAPABLE of considering this thought seriously - that it be a fraud.
And then, we are stuck and helpless, not even able to contemplate we are in a maze, let alone find our way out...in that mental state, our faculties do the OPPOSITE of what they do in so many other areas, and so we can find no good reason NOT to believe that three two-thousand year old men are roaming the earth performing acts of charity, or that once, a man translated an unknown form of Egyptian while wearing ancient spectacles fitted with stones as "translation lenses", but then later had to give the plates back to an angel, or that the hieratic on Michael Chandler's Book of Breathings scrolls wasn't the story of Hor and Anubis and Isis at all, but actually had a "secret code" in it, which no one else could or can find except Joseph Smith, telling the story of Genesis's Abraham and Sarah and Terah. And we can be named John Clark, or Talmage Bachman, or John Doe, or Steve Benson, or Steve Young, or Orrin Hatch...you go to church on Sunday and talk excitedly about your belief in the most insane things imaginable, time zones near Kolob and "darkness so damn dark, you could feel it, boys!", and then on Monday, you sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee screening Supreme Court nominees!
There's a lot more to say about the process of going insane, Mormon-style, and the actual psychological mechanics of the screening process (which has actually been measured by psychologists), but this is already way too long and I ought to stop talking for now.
| For all the friendships and fun we might find in church life, there is something really nauseatingly vile within Mormonism. And I'm not talking here just about the fact that it was founded by a charlatan.
I'm talking about the fact that those on the frontlines of running it and defending it have to become willfully indifferent to reality, and almost kind of blithely agnostic on the question of knowledge, in order to do their jobs for an organization which claims to be the "realest" of real things in the universe, and about which we can gain absolute knowledge. It is like the GAs and apologists have to cloud things in order to keep believing they see clearly. And it almost seems too, that they have to cease caring about the very things they claim to care most about, in order to do their job.
Reading some of those Hugh Nibley things...you start to get that terrible feeling that in some profound way, defending Mormonism was something of a game for him. Ah, the parry and thrust were great fun, weren't they? Stalling for time while we try to think of some way of getting out of the Book of Abraham problem...ha ha ha! And you read the Bushman stuff...who can REALLY believe, after reading his material, that HE really believes that he "knows beyond a shadow of a doubt" that Joseph Smith LITERALLY hung around with a back-from-the-dead John the Baptist? The guy sounds like he's in outer space..."the Mormon god is the only one I was really interested in...ha ha...it was my heritage...I find it *fascinating*!...Joseph, a prophet like Mohammed and David Koresh...", etc. (By the way, how screwed up is it to have these po-mo dweebs defending a fundamentalist religious cult?)
What an idiot I was. I really believed it. I really believed that I "knew" that Mormonism was all it claimed to be. I never imagined it might have anything to do with my own psyche. I never imagined I would find out that its most prominent defenders would reveal themselves to be the weakest of deluded sops, so weak, so broken, so *insane*, that not even a series of signed confessions of fraud by Joseph Smith could cause them to admit their own error (after all, what does "error" really mean in the haze of a world they live in?). Papyrus scrolls? No problem - just redefine the word "translation". No genetic or other links between Israel and Native Americans? No problem - invent a second Cumorah, ignore the statements of every Mormon prophet on this issue, creatively "re-interpret" post hoc the text of the BOM itself and convince yourself that was the "real" interpretation the whole time. Erroneous prophecies and teachings? No problem - by the fact you now see the error, you know that that prophet at that moment wasn't speaking as a prophet at all!
I got up once in testimony meeting about ten years ago, in the White Rock, BC ward, and one of the things I said was, "When you think about it, we either really have received pure knowledge from God himself that Mormonism is the only true religion, or...we are all insane!". I thought it would elicit chuckles, since at the time, the latter option was so "ridiculous", or so I thought. Instead, an uncomfortable silence settled over the congregation...and I wonder now, across how many minds there had that thought passed, with the latter option bearing the unnerving hue of at least *possibility*?
I feel like I was insane, my friends. I feel like for most of my life, I existed in a state of altered consciousness. I literally felt, upon realizing things, that I was awakening from a kind of trance; and almost everyone else I talk to, who was a devout believer, says the same thing. It is literally like I instantly had access to parts of my mind, my consciousness, that I'd never even known existed before...like I had been almost drugged or something before, and had figured out I was, and had managed in that clouded state, to somehow pull the IV out, and now blurriness was being replaced by clarity, and I could see things I'd never seen before...
How else could I have ignored all the logical impossibilities, all the disconfirming evidences, all the indications just through the normal course of church activity that there was something wrong? There was something wrong with my head...Heck, what else did "put it on the shelf" really mean, except "make yourself unconscious of what you are now conscious of"? I was stuck on some quest, the goal of which, seemed to increasingly restrict my consciousness to the point where it was operating just enough to be able to recognize commands from my church controllers, understand them, and then obey them, the end. That, after all, is the climax and culmination of life in a cult. What a waste.
That insanity gripped us, preying off of our emotional and psychic needs...But thank God, now we are free. I know coming out of that state is hard, and our relationships are rocked...but life can be so profound and incredible now...how could anyone really want to go back to *not knowing*, back to that smug, somnolent state? Isn't every struggle worth it, just to fully BE? Just so our children never have to go through it?
There is no chance to be all we can be in such a state. There is no chance to feel all we can feel, to think all we can think, to achieve all we can achieve, in it. There is no chance to feel truly whole there, even though while we are in it, we are convinced that just the opposite is true. But of course, everything is backwards in that poor mental state. Delusion is just like that.
I don't want to be insane anymore. I want to be *whole*, and experience *real* peace, and *real* joy, and *real* friendship, and *real* love, and I am starting to for the first time, and it is wonderful...Life now, for the first time, can be everything it can be. For the first time, I am not burdened by the consequences of being entirely given over to a fraudulent, mind-control loyalty cult anymore...I am not trapped in an endless maze, trying to find and experience all the good life has to offer, while in the throes of a terrible delusion which makes that impossible, traveling forever in circles...
I never would have imagined, as a Mormon, that the greatest spiritual experience of my life, would be to find out that the thing most dear to me in life, my religion, was a fraud. But that's the way it is, and for all the hard times over the past two years, I am really grateful I found out.
I just wanted to get this off my chest, thanks for listening.
| Intense mental conditioning can do really weird things to people.
You grow up having everyone you trust most in the world telling you that the world is *just like this*, and you would no sooner doubt them, than you would doubt that the spoonful of dark syrup your mommy gave you when you were sick was medicine. Why would it ever cross your mind it might just be coal tar? It never would.
And so, you grow up inside of a fraudulent cult which you never see as such...you might see things that don't quite feel right to you, but most of us think that means there was something wrong with US for even thinking that. But there are others who trust themselves just enough to think, "this or that isn't quite right", and then, talk about it in public. And when cult members do that, their cult kicks them out. Those are the rules in a cult: anything that threatens the cult, by threatening to enliven long-dormant rational faculties, the desuetude of which the cult depends on for survival, must be ejected or annilihated.
What is rather pitiful, is that often, those who say such things have NO desire to leave the cult; they have NO idea that the cult might might constitute one massive fraud; they seem to have NO idea what the reaction of their cult to their opinions really indicates; and often, they spend months, years, trying to re-gain their standing in the church, or trying to "reform the system", or pining quietly, now as members trying to work toward re-baptism, over their status as victims of "ecclesiastical abuse", or giving speeches at Sunstone about how "complicated" these situations are, etc.
I say this is pathetic, because all of these types of reactions *continue to grant some kind of legitimacy to cult leaders*, when in fact, they have NO LEGITIMACY AT ALL. Lavina Fielding Anderson, by all accounts a very charming, smart, and sincere woman, reportedly still attends church every Sunday. Fancy that: she still attends church - just in silence, since she is excommunicated. Avraham Gileadi couldn't wait to get dunked again. Paul Toscano, if you'll pardon me, seems to be in outer space or something, manufacturing ideas like that *even within a loyalty cult, dissent is sacred*. No it isn't - it never was, it never will be, it never *could* be.
Maxine Hanks wrote a book called "Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism". When will she publish her follow-up: "Three Foot Midgets in the NBA: The Coming Tidal Wave"? We're talking about a cult, the founder of which was debauching FOURTEEN YEAR OLD GIRLS for fun, who - without too much exaggeration - nailed almost every young girl who passed through the Mansion House, and who seemed to view the original Relief Society mainly as a pool from which he could recruit women (married or not) for his secret harem. And Brigham Young...! The guy living there with forty plus women in a house, treating him as a man/god! And Maxine Hanks, a "feminist", was still working WITHIN this organization? A "feminist", but *still* granting the most baldly phallic of American cults, some kind of legitimacy?! The tragedy is, for all the talk about "empowerment", she's no different, at root, than one of the polygamist cult wives I've seen on TV lately, who complain about the way things are done between her husband and her sixteen sister wives - but across whose mind, the thought has never passed that the entire system is totally illegitimate. It turns out, Maxine, the fake feminist, like the complaining polygamist wife, didn't really want to go a day without a phallic crutch after all.
Something similar was the case with Lynne Whitesides. She was interested in developing a "feminist conception of God". A "feminist version" of a male god married to thousands of wives, all of whom he refuses to make anything other than totally invisible and nameless? Is that like developing a capitalist version of communism? A black version of white? A gold version of mud? Does she believe in magic or alchemy or something? Why is she working from *within* a cult (by that act granting it a legitimacy which it doesn't have), which has no greater claim to insight about the heavens, than the Moonies or a UFO cult? It's madness.
Michael Quinn likewise seems to have been mentally twisted up by this thing, for all the good historical work he's done. He's like a ghostly prosecutor, destined to keep finding and then laying out before a jury all the evidence establishing that the accused is perfectly guilty as charged, but who remains incapable of admitting to himself, what he himself compulsively keeps proving to everyone else...and then, the ghostly prosecutor retreats to finds MORE evidence, lays it out again...forever, in a totally weird cycle, all the while tearfully proclaiming his devout belief in the accused's innocence. My friends, that is really screwed up. Do you realize that Michael Quinn is still affirming as TRUE, all the same insane bullshit as the guys at FARMS are?
Every year, self-styled Mormon intellectuals get together for drama queen hand-wringing and auto-mind-game-playing at various symposia, detailing everything they think is "wrong" or "unfair" or "problematic" about Joseph Smith's church - the one many of them still wish to retain some affiliation with. I talk with some of these people on the phone sometimes, and everytime, I end up exasperated. With one guy I finally blurted, "(David), do you realize that the church is a total fraud, and that Joseph Smith invented his stories? Do you realize that? DO YOU REALIZE IT IS NOT WHAT IT CLAIMS?", and do you know, it was almost like the guy had never even thought of that possibility before.
Let's cut the bullshit:
The leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, without any exaggeration at all, claim sovereignty over every last aspect of human action, human emotion, human experience, human aesthetic sense, human dietary choice, human worship, human social arrangement, human yearning, human achievement, human sexuality, human wardrobe, human underclothing, human entertainment options, human obedience, human progress, and HUMAN CONSCIENCE.
Do you know what that means? It means, for all intents and purposes, they claim to be YOUR GODS.
There is no way around this. They will not put it in these terms, but that they won't takes nothing away from the fact, that they claim - for real - ALL THE AUTHORITY that any imaginary god anywhere was ever imagined to claim.
And this claim of total sovereignty over everything you are, over the entire human race, has NO legitimate basis whatsoever. That Dallin Oaks won't admit that doesn't make it not so. The fact is, because Smith did not have the experiences he claimed to have, his church and its leaders have NO legitimacy whatsoever, and NO reason to be granted anything other than a middle finger; and dissidents like the September Six, and all the other hundreds like them, in a tragic way, make themselves into objects of pity rather than objects of admiration, by continuing to (self-abasingly, by the way) grant legitimacy to an entirely illegitimate organization, in the very act of finding fault with it. They perform the equivalent of a Klansman speaking out against the KKK's Grand Wizard succession protocol.
I hope the next September Six don't provide the world the spectacle of six perfectly intelligent people, so wrapped up in a fraudulent cult, that they cannot see its forests of irredeemable illegitimacy for its trees of mere irritations, being kicked out amidst their begging to be kept in. I hope the next September Six are in fact six hundred, or six thousand, who make a protest infinitely more appropriate: telling Mormon would-be man/gods to go (deleted) - to take a hike, because their cult is fraudulent, they have no divine right to direct anybody on this planet, and that underneath all the neatly pressed suits and friendly smiles and humourous General Conference anecdotes, they embody the attempted legitimization of many of mankind's most repulsive impulses.
(Man, this one was serious lol).
And now I can forget about the September Six for another year.
| On any given day, of any given week, members of the Mormon church solicit advice from a man they believe is privileged to be able to access the mind of God on their behalf, and reveal it to them.
What if he doesn't have any more access to divine inspiration, than any other person on this planet? What then?
(This question might seem hypothetical to member lurkers. Unfortunately, it is not, for I have just stated a fact: Mormon bishops manifestly have no greater access to divine inspiration, than does any other group of human beings on this planet, yet members often trust their advice as if they did, on the most important issues in their lives).
So, what is the answer to the original question? It's this: you've got the potential (and far too often, the reality) of a lot of trouble.
Can you imagine having a terrible medical problem, but instead of entrusting your care to a medical specialist, you entrust it wholly to an accountant, or shoe saleseman, or computer programmer, who has not had *one minute* of serious medical training in his entire life? This is the equivalent of what happens everyday in the Mormon church - sincere Mormons, whose marriages might be breaking up, or who are trying to control an abuse problem, or recover from a terrible loss or a mid-life crisis, or deal with a sexual issue, or figure out who to marry, open themselves up to a bishop, and all too often, follow his advice as though it were a communication from the Almighty Himself. (Why wouldn't they, believing him to have a special calling, with special powers of discernment and receiving revelation?).
I'd like to know (on second thought, maybe I wouldn't), just how many lives have been further screwed up, rather than made better, because some sincere church member believed a bishop, who claimed to "feel prompted (by the 'spirit')" when offering what was only *opinion*, and therefore followed it as though the advice had come just from God. How many? One? One hundred? One thousand? Ten thousand? One hundred thousand? How many things have been recommended in bishop's blessings that people followed, believing them to have been dictated by an omniscient mind through "the spirit", that were either useless ("your marital problems will subside as you read your scriptures more often") or exacerbated existing problems? And yet, the church, to my knowledge, has NEVER ONCE initiated any kind of serious pastoral training for new bishops in how to listen, how to help, how to understand, how to communicate about, various crises. (When you go to stake leadership training, in my experience, most of the "training" focuses on purely administrative stuff).
Not that considering the advice of someone lacking formal qualifications is bad. I've had lots of great advice from just normal buddies. What makes the Mormon situation especially dicey, however, is that when John seeks advice from the bishop, it isn't like John asking advice from Bud, his next door neighbour; John exists in a completely authoritarian world; and that he grants to his ecclesiastical superiors the authority he does, means that he has *already subscribed to all sorts of propositions*, which subscription unavoidably dulls John's ability to evaluate the bishop's advice critically - that is, as a peer would. There is nothing "peer" about this. In the Mormon case, John views the bishop as an AUTHORITY over him, specifically placed there by *God himself*. How "critically" then will he feel comfortable evaluating the words HIS AUTHORITY - the bishop - claims were given to him "by the spirit"?
So John, full of the most sincere faith, after having prayed and fasted to prepare himself to "receive counsel", spills his guts to the bishop...and then the bishop closes his eyes for a few moments...and then, leaning back, says, "John, I feel prompted by the spirit to tell you this: That if you do X, you will no longer have to worry about Y".
In light of all I mentioned above, why would John *ever* seriously question what the bishop has just said? Who is *he* to "question the spirit"? How unfaithful - how ungrateful. So John trusts. John strictly obeys.
Yet in a normal (non-Mormon) setting, John would ponder the advice of his counselor, ask clarifying questions, ask for the counselor's reasoning, and maybe try things out to see how they work. If after some time he found that Dr. Bradley's advice wasn't really speaking to him, he wouldn't think twice about finding a new counselor. Not so with the cult version of John. He would never think of going to the bishop of the next ward over. Devout John, with a prayer of gratitude in his heart, will strictly obey.
And what's really sick is, that if John obeys the advice, and things don't work out, John will most likely blame himself for doing something wrong somewhere along the line. Or, he will feel that the damage which ensued as a result of uncritically and strictly following the bishop's advice, was "part of God's plan" (just by virtue of it having happened after he followed such "inspired" advice). But either way, John, in that cult-induced mental state, will never really learn his lesson: that Mormon bishops have no greater access to divine inspiration than anyone else, and all he really heard was one guy's opinion.
Meanwhile, Hank Bradley, a.k.a. "the father of the ward", his vanity convincing him that he really is something of an oracle now, is continuing to dish out mere opinions (and often grossly uninformed opinions at that) disguised as communications from the omniscient mind of God, to suicidal teens, struggling spouses, anger management types, sexually curious adolescent females, and people in all kinds of other situations. And most of these people are following it like Hank, the car salesman, was a GOD. When you think about it, this is nuts. Would ANY of these people have sought out Hank's advice if he hadn't been installed as their "authority"? Would any of them ever dreamed of strictly obeying the same man's opinions, if he wasn't even a member? Not at all. Yet, because he's got a particular Mormon calling, the man is granted virtually god-like powers by cult members.
Anyway, all I started out to say (before I started rambling), was, if the church is going to keep trying to maintain the fiction that bishops are rather like local oracles with a unique pipeline to deity, why not at least give them a weekend of pastoral counseling upon calling them, so they do less damage than they already do? Everyone on here knows it - there is NO END to the nonsense you can hear from a Mormon bishop, especially once those office doors close. Even the cult-nymphos at FARMS reading this know that's true.
Progress comes slowly in the authoritarian cult that is Mormonism. It was only in the late seventies that its prophets and apostles stopped claiming that converting to Mormonism removed pigment from the skin of Native Americans, and stopped claiming that blacks were an inferior race. It wasn't even that long ago that one of its apostles was recommending that if your gay missionary companion propositioned you, that you should "protect yourself" by physically attacking him.
But after 175 years, isn't it time that the Mormon church took *some* effort to better meet the needs of its members, by - I know it's shocking - actually providing serious pastoral counseling to its bishops? Other churches believe their pastors can receive inspiration, but, presumably because they are concerned about the needs of their members, they still train their pastors. Maybe it's time for Mormon leaders to show that they are more concerned about the welfare of rank and file members than just about "keeping this thing going", by doing the same.
| What is a miracle?
I think one thing a miracle is, is an occurence not ordinary, which is told of, and then re-told of, and then re-told of, over time, until a highly exaggerated version of it is reported as fact. Here's one quick story about a "miracle" I performed (not).
Toward the latter part of my mission in Argentina, I was the Zone Leader of a newly created zone headquartered in a city called Rocque Saenz Paena. Within our large zone there were a lot of native peoples. Most of them belonged to the Toba tribe.
Long story short is, I ended up spending a lot of time finding, teaching, and baptizing members of the Toba Indian tribe (this was back before George Orwell's Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wasn't trying to pretend it had never been church doctrine that America's indigenous peoples were descendants of BOM peoples). Along the way, I made an effort to learn some Toba language, writing down, phonetically, words and phrases in my little book. It didn't take long before I could greet people, ask what their names were, how many children they had, etc. The Indians seemed to have a pretty basic sense of humour, so I also learned a "joke" that never failed to leave them howling with laughter: I learned how to say "my companion has the face of a monkey". (Why this should have been hilarious I'm not really sure - maybe it's for the same reason Moe dropping a brick on Curly's head was supposed to be funny, I don't know).
Anyway, we end up baptizing, literally, hundreds of Toba Indians and forming them into branches. Then I leave the mission field. One day, a year after I'd gotten home, I find my little notebook, and in it is the number of the house where I'd stayed in Rocque Saenz Paena. So, I dial it - and miracle of miracles, I get through, and not only do I get through, but one of the missionaries stationed there answers it!
So I ask about people I knew and we chat. The elder asks me what my name is, but it doesn't register at all with him. We chat for like ten minutes or something, during which time I ask about a few of the Tobas I knew. Then, there's a pause, and the missionary says, "Wait a minute - are you ELDER BACHMAN?". I say, "Yeah...?" "The Elder Bachman guy who baptized all the Indians?". I say, "yeah", and then, to my surprise (and I admit, guilty pleasure) this guys goes (without exaggeration:
"DUDE - Dude - I mean, Dude - Dude - everywhere we go, all these Indians are always TALKING about you, man! Dude, I can't believe it!" (I hear him say to his comp, "Dude, this is the Elder Bachman guy, on the phone!"). He comes back and says, "DUDE, I can't believe this! We've heard ALL ABOUT how you totally learned Toba! Everyday we hear stories about you, about how you were, like, RAPPIN' with all the Indians and everything 'cos you were like totally fluent! Dude, that is AMAZING!!!".
So, I'm kind of caught off guard - all I'd ever learned was like five or six phrases, one sentence about a "monkey-face", and a few vocabulary words, like, nothing you couldn't learn in a fifteen minutes, if that. Now I'm on the phone with a guy who's telling me that he's heard "all about" how I became fluent in the Toba Indian language - I'd been given "the gift of tongues" to be able to become fluent in so short a time, etc.
So, within twelve months, I went from in reality learning a handful of phrases, to reputedly having become totally fluent. Can you imagine what version of the story I'd have heard, if forty years had gone by? (Forty years is about the time between the death of Jesus, and the beginning of the writing of the four gospels).
Last thing - a couple of weeks ago I told the story of "donating to" a game warden in South Africa to let me go in to pet the tigers. How many months, or years, would it take, for that event to turn into "Daniel in the Lion's Den"? (Here's a photo for all the geniuses at FARMS who think I make all my stories up and anyone else who's interested:
I would like to believe that miracles happen, but my experiences leave me doubtful.
Just a thought.
| How many times have you heard the children of Mormon men with leadership callings say they rarely saw their father growing up, since they were "always at meetings"?
For me, way too many. The truth is, the feel-good Mormon slogan, "no success can compensate for failure in the home", is (like so many Mormon statements) grossly incomplete: it should be, "various kinds of success can, in our eyes, compensate for failure in the home, chiefly of which is, success in remaining absent several hundreds of hours each year from your wife and children because you're in church meetings". (I know that's not quite as punchy as the original, but it seems more accurate).
I got a heartrending email a couple of years ago (right after I started posting here) from a young mother in England. Her young husband was, if I remember right, the branch president. She was pregnant, but was experiencing severe medical problems. She said her doctor told her to stay in bed and not move; but that was impossible, she said, because her husband in the evenings was often performing church service or in meetings. When she told her husband she needed help, he said that he'd been promised that if he faithfully performed his calling, the Lord would bless them both, so it was really best for both of them if he kept on as he had been. She said she'd almost died from bleeding a couple of times as a result of this. (She was writing to me because, while researching an RS lesson, she'd found a bunch of information about Joseph's sexcapades which upset her, which prompted her to do more research, and...well, you know it goes). I replied, but never heard back, and then hotmail erased all my saved messages because I didn't use the account for a while - so if you're out there, email me.
If Joseph Smith's church really was all it claimed to be, I suppose it wouldn't much matter how many of its devout members died or suffered for it; presumably, they'd all be rewarded in heaven anyway - dying for the cause, after all, always was a Christian duty, even privilege. But unless all six billion non-Mormons on this planet are in the throes of an horrific hallucination, which causes them to mistake everything true for everything false, and vice versa, it can safely be said that, whatever it is, Mormonism isn't what it claims to be; and this puts the damage - emotional, physical, spiritual, whatever - caused by Mormon demands in a different light, doesn't it? For if Mormonism is a fraud, what is really the case, is that *the most important things in life are being sacrificed for something which does not merit it at all*. That is a real tragedy.
One young father who I hometaught for years resisted all my attempts at re-activating him. One of his reasons was, he valued spending time with his daughters too much, believing they needed that special time together as a family. He further often mentioned he never saw his dad growing up, as his father was always in high callings. He said he didn't want to be that kind of father to his own daughters. Today, he has practically no relationship with his still devout father, who, I must say, still seems entirely oblivious to the possibility that his children were in some ways disadvantaged by not having a close, emotional relationship with him. After discovering, thanks to my wife, that their intuitions about the church were corroborated by the fact that Joseph Smith invented his stories (something they were unsure about before), they have now severed all ties to Mormonism, and from what I hear, are doing better than ever.
One of my close relatives says the same thing: he never saw his dad growing up, because he was always at the ward building or doing some other church task. Even now, he says, his dad is always running around to one meeting or another (he's in the SP), and even when he is physically present, always seems mentally somewhere else. They also have no close emotional relationship, and again, the dad (to my certain knowledge) seems totally oblivious to the opportunities missed. After all, "it's all for the afterlife, isn't it?".
Back to the slogan I tried to make more accurate above, my emendation is certainly corroborated by the church's treatment of one absent Mormon father - the one named Gordon B. Hinckley. Here is a summation of his fathering style, by the man himself:
"When our children were growing up, I was away much of the time on Church assignments. In the early days, when I had responsibility for the work in Asia, which I had for a long time, I would be gone for as long as two months at a time. We couldn’t telephone back and forth all the time in those days. She took care of everything. She ran the home. She ran everything and took care of the children."
One poster on here last year also posted claiming to be friendly with one of Hinckley's sons, who (supposedly) told the poster in private that he'd always regretted never really getting to know his dad, since he was always gone for the church. Cult loons might call that hearsay - of course it is; the problem is, it has just been corroborated by Hinckley himself. (See the Oct. 2003 Ensign, "At Home with the Hinckleys").
The truth is, that Mormonism is pro-family whenever being "pro-family" contributes to the cult. When it doesn't, family ties, family duties, familial love and intimacy, must be sacrificed. Family doesn't come first - cult does. What else could be the meaning of the perfectly explicit temple consecration vow? Mormon leaders are merely living up to their word when they hold members to their vow to put the church above anything else, including the welfare of those they've brought into the world.
What a shame.
| Strange - the church publishes an edition of the BOM and gives it away for free to anyone who wants one, but then contracts with Doubleday (a couple of years ago) to do a new edition, to be published concurrently, but sold for upwards of twenty dollars. Not sure what they were expecting...
But what they've gotten was all too predictable for a number of reasons: the Doubleday BOM, at least on Amazon, has not done well. The 1981 church edition, currently sold on Amazon by used book sellers, is about 135 THOUSAND places AHEAD of the Doubleday; the Doubleday's Amazon sales ranking is 245,394. This means that there are one quarter of a million books selling more copies than this latest edition of "the most correct book on earth", and, according to at least one FARMS book reviewer, a veritable "literary masterpiece". Hmmm...the world must really "lieth in sin"...! What other explanation could there be, but that everyone is evil?
To put the Doubleday BOM's meagre sales in perspective, here are the sales rankings of books with (if the world can be believed) far stronger claims to the title of "literary masterpiece" than Joseph's book:
The Penguin (Pevear translation) edition of "Anna Karenina": Ranking Number 1,490.
The Bantam "Pride and Prejudice: Number 736
The Penguin "Of Mice and Men": Number 754
The Scribner "Great Gatsby": Number 662
The Penguin "Grapes of Wrath": Number 1,151
It may be argued that the BOM is a *religious* literary masterpiece, and so should not be compared with secular literary masterpieces. So here are a few rankings of religious books:
The Penguin Koran: 7,153
The Penguin Bhagavad-Gita: 13,537
The Nilgiri Upanishads: 6,243
The Vintage Tao Te Ching: 1,718
The Zondervan NIV Study Bible: 4,263
Perhaps it may be argued these books had a real head start on the BOM, so this comparison is not fair either. So, here are a few rankings of newer religious books:
A Course in Miracles: 3,047
Pope John Paul: In My Own Words: 12,080
The Urantia Book: 9,079
Being in 245 thousandth place, as the Doubleday BOM is, means you aren't selling many books. The average will be less than one book sale per week. By contrast, just one version of the Tao Te Ching will sell over ten times as many every single day. (See http://www.rampant-books.com/mgt_amaz...). Even the whacked out Urantia Book will sell around two dozen copies a week. This is most likely not far from the total *annual* sales of the Doubleday version of the Book of Mormon.
The whole Doubleday exercise in apparent futility smacks of classic Hinckley - the vain hope that mere re-packaging can produce alchemical changes - in this case, that re-packaging the BOM can transform it from a poorly written, justifiably ignored attempt at scripture, into a well written, popular one; or perhaps even, turning a fraudulent book into a true one. But the world just doesn't work that way.
Food for thought for member lurkers: would you really be any different than the millions of others who find the BOM to be far from a "literary masterpiece", and in fact, not very spiritually moving at all at least compared to other religious works, had you not been indoctrinated nearly from birth to believe otherwise? If you'd never heard of Mormonism and were just living your life, do you REALLY think you could read the BOM and regard it as anything but unusually tedious? The truth is, the general indifference of *members themselves* to oft-repeated commands to read the BOM, is all the testimony you really need, that whatever else it is, the BOM is not only a chore to read for most folks, but certainly lacks the spiritual power so often hyperbolically claimed for it by GAs, who probably read it as infrequently as do most members.
Truth is, it's just not that good, and certainly (as BH Roberts concluded) within the capability of a 23 year old Joseph Smith to produce.
Unless the church is subsidizing the Doubleday printing, don't expect it to stay in print for long.
| A couple of days ago, I posted musing that Packer might be a lot better for the church than either Hinckley or Monson. This last GC talk of his suggests to me I might be right.
In it, Packer leaves the impression that the facts of LDS history are as ridiculous as anti-Mormon folktales (like that Mormons have horns) warning people to disregard both (???), deftly places Mormonism on the high road in the religious dogma wars, despite JS's First Vision quoting Jesus as stating that every other creed on earth was an "abomination", and so abominable that attending NO church is preferable to attending one of those currently in existence; paints moral choices as black and white, associating white with Mormonism, and everything else with Satan; insinuates that everyone deep down already knows the difference between good and evil, rather a veiled way of insinuating that everyone (simply exposed to it) deep down could tell that Mormonism is the only true religion in the world; once again uses stark martial imagery to describe the situation of Mormons vis-a-vis a corrupt world; and all in all, gives a talk which sounds very unlike any that you might hear in a normal church, and indeed, unlike most you hear even in a Mormon General Conferences.
Certainly, compared to the Monson talk, which included (yawn) an anecdote about Canadian highways, a story about some girl dying of cancer, a neat slogan seen on the front of a dry cleaning shop, and some doggerel picked up from a speaker's handbook of quotes, Packer's was positively a barn burner. There is always a dash (or bucketful) of the Taleban in Pres. Packer's talks, and yes, I think numbers-wise, the church will benefit from that. Here's why.
The brute sociological fact is that churches tend to dwindle without strong male allegiance and participation. And men tend to render allegiance to churches which are strict doctrinally, which require a high level of sacrifice, and are institutionally patriarchal. It's working for Islam, it's working for fundamentalist Christian churches, and I suppose, it will revitalize Mormonism if Mormonism re-emphasizes these features. (See the book "The Church Impotent" for just one recent examination of this phenomenon). What is interesting is that Packer seems to understand this; he alludes to the attraction of the hardcore in his last GC talk.
Here are just a few articles discussing the outflow of males from Western churches:
The more uncompromising a religion is, the stricter, the more it conceives of itself as "warring" against something or other, the more patriarchal, the more scornful it is of outsiders, the more males like it and flock to it, the more women follow, and then the more it thrives. Packer, the dogmatic, ignorant-sounding, chauvinist, might be just what the church needs to recover from the withering touch of Hinckley and his PR friends.
Maybe those of us who dislike lies, or who think the human race is better off without anachronistic, authoritarian loyalty cults like Mormonism, perhaps should start hoping for Hinckley and Monson to live a long time...
| Church members enjoy quoting D and C 93's phrase, "the glory of God is intelligence". Yet, literally, any single line of inquiry put to any church member, including church propagandists at FARMS, only ever culminates in an admission of total ignorance.
Examples of this:
"We don't have all the answers now, but one day we will. Until then, we just need to put these things on the shelf".
"We have no way of fully or finally verifying what, if anything, Joseph meant when he referred to Native Americans as 'Lamanites'".
"We don't really know how to explain why there is no evidence there was a universal flood".
"The jury's still out on this issue".
"We don't know why William Clayton would have written such a thing in his diary, or why it was even put into the Official History of the Church".
"We don't know why black were denied the priesthood".
"We don't really know who first populated the Americas, where Cumorah was, where the Three Nephites might live, why there are million year old fossils all over the place including human skeletons, how God could punish Eve for committing an act he'd forced her to commit, why Joseph calls God the Father 'Jehovah' in Section 109, how anyone could 'feel' darkness, why Brigham Young said what he did about Adam, etc."
"We cannot finally determine the exact relationship between the Book of Abraham and the papyrus scrolls; (we do know, however, that the spirit testifies that the Book of Abraham is true)".
"I don't know that we teach that. I don't know too much about it".
Of course, in Mormonism, these admissions of ignorance are actually a source of great pride; in that state, being able to look at a mountain of facts which explodes a particular truth claim, and then still maintain belief in that truth claim by making yourself stupid about it, means to the believer that he is "humble", and that he has "faith", and that he isn't "swayed by every wind of doctrine", that he will "trust the spirit" rather than evidence that not even church propagandists would dare dispute.
But all it really means, is that he's made a mistake: for, as he would know if he had not uncritically pre-committed himself to dogma, the Book of Abraham is the result of human ingenuity, not divinely-conferred powers of spontaneous translation; the scriptures are wrong about a universal flood; the human family is not all descended from two people in Missouri just five millenia ago, etc. If it is really, as Mormons would have it, a virtue to disbelieve all those things, then so would it also be a virtue to disbelieve that men have scaled Everest, that penicillin fights off infection, and that overeating causes obesity. But how could disbelieving in true things, or believing in false things, ever really be a VICE, especially if God is All-Intelligent and All-Knowing?
For it to be a virtue to disbelieve true things, would mean that virtue equalled the ignorance always inspired by the uncritical acceptance of dogma - and that in turn would mean that within Mormonism, in practice, the glory of God is actually a defiant UNintelligence. Not that Mormons are the only ones to pride themselves on subscribing to an ideal, which they also pride themselves on routinely violating in practice. As Bob McCue noted at the conference, fanatics never do have a sense of irony.
The pride Mormons take in defiant unintelligence can be most easily observed on apologetic bulletin boards. There, one can find no end of proud protestations of faithful ignorance. One can even find scorn and disdain for those who feel that willful unintelligence is rather more like a vice than a virtue. Of course, they (like all Christian apologists) do have St. Paul, who always had sharp words for the wisdom of the world, on their side - and we all know how reliable he was. He was so reliable, that not even the supposed one true church does anything but cherry-pick among his many exhortations and explanations, since most of them strike even the most deluded now as embarrassing. That is, in the very act of feeling good that St. Paul is on their side, they themselves destroy any credibility he might be given, by IGNORING so much of what the man says.
It is perfectly true that many conclusions about the world derived from procedures like testing must be presumed to be incomplete or defective; and yet, these kinds of conclusions are the most reliable we have. Even Mormon propagandists and leaders concede this in deed, since they continue to re-shape "official church doctrine" in conformity with just those conclusions. To believe otherwise, is to believe that EVEN IF many thousands of swords, skeletons, and shields had been found in Joseph's NY Hill Cumorah, that church propagandists would STILL be spinning out such ad hoc absurdities as the Two Cumorahs Theory. Or, that EVEN IF all 6500 of Scott Woodwards Peruvian DNA tests had come up positive for Israelite ancestry, that he and church propagandists would STILL be saying that "no one ever should have thought the Native Americans descended from BOM peoples". But of course, they would not have said these things at all; rather, they would have been doing cartwheels if the evidence pointed to original Mormon doctrine being true, and claiming victory. Instead, they keep claiming the battle is not over yet, even though it ended, in truth's favour, the very first time the church changed its doctrine in response to physical evidence. The truth is, the battle has been over for a very long time, whether we wish to admit it or not.
To repeat, not even those so defiantly proud of their ignorance, can help (albeit kicking and screaming) following the evidence where it leads. It is just that such folks are far more able, in the very act of following the evidence where it leads, convince themselves they are NOT doing just that. This allows them to still feel pride in trusting the spirit more than the arm of flesh, in the very act that they defer to the arm of flesh over whatever it is they think the spirit is. Cool how that works - it must feel wonderful to feel absolutely right, despite that being an impossibility for anyone who's become a walking, talking paradox.
Once upon a time, Mormons had "knowledge": "the Indians are the descendants of the Lamanites"; "Adam and Eve were the primal parents of the human race" (according to an official First Presidency statement under Joseph F. Smith); "Joseph Smith translated the papyrus scrolls"; "As man is, God once was", etc. Now, on each of these questions, and dozens of others, there is only a proclaimed (and that proudly) ignorance. The sad fact is, that our Mormon friends belong to a church which, at the moment, doesn't even have an official position on who the descendants of the peoples mentioned in its FOUNDING BOOK OF SCRIPTURE are - the very people which the book claims it was written to help "re-gather"! How embarrassing is *that*?
Is there ANY religion so anxious to embrace ignorance as a defense strategy, as is Mormonism? The answer to every follow-up question (the one after the initial offering of a thought-terminating cliche) is only ever, "I don't know". And are there any religionists anywhere who exceed Mormons in the amount of pride they feel in unknowing everything they once knew? It is shocking.
The Mormon Holy Ghost was supposed to be a revealer of "all things", but it seems to spend all its time obscuring everything...
| Orson Scott Card: Dummy? I don't think so.
Of course, I've never met OSC, or read any of his novels. But in my experience, cognitively-impaired people (musicians, actors, and athletes perhaps being exceptions) rarely achieve the professional success Brother Card has.
But that said, it is certainly possible that Orson, like any other human, can sometimes make very unwarranted conclusions, but believe in them just as devoutly as if they were warranted. Here is one such conclusion, and it is the same one made in essence by many thousands of believers in untrue things, Mormon or not. Speaking of his acquaintance Hugh Nibley, Card said that as a young man, he thought to himself:
"If someone this smart, this rigorous of thought, this widely and deeply educated, believes that Joseph Smith was a prophet, the Book of Mormon is true, and the Church is God’s kingdom on earth, then I will not let myself get swept away by whatever questions come up during my life. I’ll question my questions, I’ll doubt my doubts, confident that one way or another, everything will be reconciled." http://www.meridianmagazine.com/peopl...
This is one of those kinds of statements I referred to in my "Church of JC of Total Ignorance" post the other day: it expresses not just an appalling mental error, but *pride* in the "humility" it takes to make such an appalling mental error. The truth is, far from being rather *proud* of having made such a conclusion, Card (like the rest of us at one time) ought to be positively *mortified* to have made it. And if the all-too-predictable residual effects of this mental error were not so powerful as to still blind Bro. Card, he could even now see it for what it was. I'm not counting on it, though. Once you drop the hammer on a giant bell, it rings for a very, very long time, and while it is still ringing, you can't hear anything else, even if it was a mistake to ring it in the first place.
Here is Card's argument, as I see it:
P1.) People who are smarter and more educated than I, make better judgments than I;
P2.) Hugh Nibley is smarter and more educated than I;
P3.) Hugh Nibley judges that Mormonism is everything it claims to be;
C1.) I therefore am justified in concluding that Mormonism is all it claims to be.
Superficially, this might make a lot of sense, but only superficially. It is a real pity that so many members of the church, even now, make pretty much the same argument to themselves. For them, as someone mentioned on a thread the other day, the mere presence of a Hugh Nibley book on a shelf is a real aid to remain in the psychological state we once believed was "the possession of a testimony".
Here are a few reasons why the Card argument fails as a rationale for Mormon faith.
Granting for the moment universal validity to Premise One, it necessarily follows then that people who are "smarter" and "more educated" than *Hugh Nibley*, would in turn make better judgments than Hugh Nibley. And I think it can safely be ventured that the overwhelming majority of non-Mormons posessing greater intelligence and education than Hugh Nibley, after studying Mormonism, would judge Hugh Nibley's religious beliefs to be false. Why then would Card not accept THEIR "judgment" over Nibley's? By his own argument, he would be bound to do just that - yet he does not. This suggests there is something very wrong with this kind of argument, or at least, in its relationship to the believers, like Card himself, making it.
Another problem: Even the smartest, most well-educated people can have untrue beliefs. (This is admitted most of all by smart, well-educated people themselves, everytime they change their minds about something). Beyond the mundane fact of mind-changing, it's no secret that equally smart, equally well-educated people often disagree - this means that either one, or both, are wrong (was it Rehnquist and Ginsberg who came in first and second in the same Stanford law class?). In short, nothing could be more obvious than that human beings do not cease to be human beings despite great intelligence and education. This in turn suggests that it is irrational for OSC (or anyone) to defer to the *very extreme degree* he does, to the final judgment of another human being on the question of Mormon truth claims, no matter how intelligent or educated that other person might be - particularly when there is a mountain of evidence suggesting that other person is wrong. Card, between the lines, seems to say that he ceased critical thought about Mormonism after encountering Nibley. If so, how could that be anything other than a pity?
Moreover, I'm not even sure that Premise Two is entirely true - it is conceivable to me that, regardless of differing education levels, Orson Card might have been better at evaluating the truthfulness of religious claims than was his hero. Why not? OSC might have been "smarter" than Nibley in BS detection, just like a 19 year old with relatively rudimentary musical knowledge might be "smarter" at picking future hit songs than a college graduate in music composition. But, I suppose Card will never know how good his BS detection kit might have proved to be, since early on he fell squarely in line behind Nibley and then, seemingly, never gave Mormonism another critical thought.
Rather than go on forever, I'll just add one more point: I think it is fair to say that Hugh Nibley, for all his personal talents, as a professional historian is not quite the towering Olympian Mormons believe him to be. As an aid to them remaining in their peculiar psychological state, he is indeed quite the marvel. But as an historian? What is his great contribution to the field of history? I'd bet 500 bucks right now, that not one in a hundred working historians today has even so much as heard of him, let alone read one of his "history books", such as they are.
From what I can tell, Hugh Nibley was innately intelligent enough that he could have very much contributed to our understanding of the past; but instead, he spent his life writing what amounts to propaganda for a fraudulent "one true religion". And it is all the sadder, that so many folks like Orson Scott Card so easily fell in line behind him.
| If DNA tests had revealed that Native Americans were descendants of Israelite immigrants, would that have been good evidence that the Book of Mormon, in its form as a book with pages of gold, was really delivered to JS by an angel named Moroni, and was really 1600 years old?
Let's answer that question with another question:
If your next door neighbour tomorrow published a book he said he'd translated from a book with pages of platinum, delivered to him by an angel named Peter Gabriel, which told the story of a certain Asian family who crossed into the Americas 20,000 years ago (call it "The Book of Ying Yow"), would the fact that his characters were Asian constitute evidence that all *his* stories were true?
Not in the slightest, because it is a very common belief in 2006 that it was Asians who first populated the Americas. This fact is identically analogous to the fact that it was a very common belief in the United States 175 years ago, that the red man was a descendant of the Israelites. Your neighbour placing his story amongst ancient immigrant Asians, then, has as little to do with the veracity of your neighbour's angel stories, as does JS's placement of his story among lost Israelites have to do with the veracity of *his* angel stories. In fact, it tells absolutely NOTHING about the veracity of their claims for, and about, the book.
In other words, even if modern DNA studies had shown that the belief common 175 years ago was true, all it would mean is, is that modern DNA research has shown that the belief commonly held 175 years ago is true. It would as little support JS's tales, as it would those of Ethan Smith or Solomon Spaulding if they'd included mentions of a unicorn or team of fairies bringing them *their* books. It almost seems sometimes like Mormons and former Mormons are watching, waiting, to see if ancient Israelite ancestry will one day be found among some Native American population - as if this would lend some credence to Mormon truth claims. It wouldn't.
But the matter is even bleaker for the BOM. If our neighbour had the most sterling reputation, and yet told such a fantastic story, we would still have every reason to be skeptical, for a couple of reasons:
1.) It has NEVER, in the entire history of mankind, ever been shown to be the case, that beings from other dimensions or regions of the universe, visit earthlings and give them things - but it *has* been shown many *thousands* of times, that the human brain is capable of "seeing" all sorts of phantasma.
2.) All human experience tells us, that the fact we have never observed a man to lie, or perform any action whatsoever, is no guarantee he does not, or never will.
What if the "translator" produced witnesses?
It strains credulity to note that in 2006, there are grown men, in posession of advanced university degrees, who continue to take as "very strong evidence" that the Book of Mormon was composed by human beings 2000 years ago, the fact that friends and relatives of Joseph Smith once put their names to a document saying they had seen angels and Joseph's plates.
It seems never to have occurred to such folks that you can find at least eleven people on this planet, all with good reputations, to testify to ANYTHING. And I mean, ANYTHING. All you have to do is turn on the Art Bell show. You can find THOUSANDS of seemingly intelligent, reputable people, who will testify that some homeopathic remedy cured their cancer, or that they saw the Virgin Mary, or that they were healed by the holy water at Lourdes...You can find thousands who would testify that they've seen space aliens, or even, that they've been abducted by space aliens, or even - that they've been raped by them. And the truth is, there is nothing less extraordinary about these claims, than there is about the claim that an angel once came and showed eleven people a book of gold. That testimonials are still touted as "good evidence" that a man who came back to life after he died, came from another dimension or part of the universe, to deliver a book of gold to someone, is almost embarrassing. The truth is that thefallibility of the human brain is such, and the evident inviolability of physical laws is such, that the former can never be counted as adequate evidence against a suspension of the latter.
Besides, it even gets worse (it always does with Mormonism). EVEN IF Joseph Smith once really found a spiral bound book of gold, with strange characters on its pages, what chance is there he translated it correctly? We have reason to presume there is ZERO chance, given the accuracy (rather, the lack therof) of his other translation efforts. In those cases (the Book of Abraham, the Kinderhook Plates, and to some extent, the Bible), Joseph Smith failed to produce an accurate translation. So, it is only he himself who has given the world every reason to believe, that the Book of Mormon is NOT what it claims to be, namely, a "translation" of a 1600 year old "most correct book on earth".
The historical novels of James Michener, that I can tell, are accurate contextually in every detail; yet they are novels. The Book of Mormon, by contrast, is (almost without exaggeration) inaccurate contextually in every detail, and moreover, was produced by a man so manifestly untrustworthy, that not even FARMS writers (whose job it is to defend Smith's religion) will defend his trustworthiness in debate.
Kinda seems like zero plus zero plus zero equals zero for The Book of Ying Yow, I mean, The Book of Mormon.
| I propose a moment of silence...for all those people we know, or know of, who will never know what human life can really be.
They are all those people who will never come to understand that their life really, truly belongs to them, and to those they choose, of their own unfettered, unmanipulated will, to share it with. They will never know what it is like to explore all the wonderful, intriguing depths of themselves, or develop as much of their potential as they might.
They will never know what it is like to live without a core of fear, which has been so much a part of them for so long, that they are not even conscious it is there until it is gone.
They will never know that thrilling, primal-and-transcendent-at-the-same-time feeling of profound, soul-to-soul connection with every other human being on this planet, or feel that same kind of connection with every other living thing.
For them, there never will be a moment where they feel able to drop the mask and expose their own humanity; they will spend their entire lives trying to "be an example" of something, which not only doesn't deserve their consciences and wills, but not even their passing attention.
There are many things worse than mistakenly believing that Joseph Smith told the truth about his experience, and devoting your life to a fraudulent church. Yet it must also be said that there is nothing so sweet as being fully alive, all you can be, devoid of fear, empowered to freely love and search and yearn and *be so in contact with yourself, and those around you*...it is the most spiritual feeling in the world. How ironic that those who spend so much of their time talking about feeling the spirit, will never even feel one-tenth of the spiritual exhiliration that others not psychologically and emotionally bound by dogma, superstition, and conditioned reliance on a fellow mortal no more in contact with the heavens than they are, feel all the time.
I feel sad that those I am related to, and those members I know of still in, have been so manipulated that they will not even *open their eyes* for fear of what they might see. They "know" there are real monsters under their beds - and so, they will not even check to see if there really are monsters under their beds. And there they stay, in their beds, for their entire lives...
And for what? There never were any monsters under the bed; only stories from men who wished us to believe it, for their own gain, and that is the truth.
| To hear starry-eyed FAIR posters tell it, FARMS writers are "world-renowned scholars", so smart and talented that the very fact they still claim to believe Joseph Smith always told the truth about his experiences, is more than enough reason for members (and by implication, everyone else on earth) to believe it, too. And certainly, Bro. Peterson doesn't seem shy about referring to himself as an "Arabist". He did it most recently in the current issue of the Mormon propaganda organ he edits.
So, I recently took a few minutes to email the department heads of America's top five Near Eastern or Middle Eastern Studies programs to ask them about the "world famous" Arabist Peterson, thinking that if anyone would be most familiar with productive Arabist scholars working in the United States, and qualified to comment on Peterson's scholarly reputation and research, it should be them.
I emailed the department heads at Princeton, Harvard, Columbia, UCLA (Peterson's alma mater), and Michigan.
Of the five, neither the Columbia nor Michigan DH bothered to respond (can't say I really blame them given the subject matter). However, the department heads from the other three did respond to my original email, in which I solicited their opinion of Arabist Peterson's scholarly work.
And...not one of them has ever so much as heard of Daniel C. Peterson.
Here are a few excerpts:
"I'm afraid I've never heard of him".
"I have not heard of a Daniel C. Peterson who is a scholar of NES".
And lastly, this, from the current head of the very graduate program from which the world famous Arabist got his Ph.D.:
"I'm not aware of any scholarly work of his in the fields of biblical studies or Semitic languages. I'll take your word for it that he graduated from UCLA at some point in the past...Mormons generally think their beliefs are credible. I'm not aware of non-Mormon scholars who find their beliefs credible, but that's hardly surprising".
Another "world famous FARMS scholar" named John Gee is so well-regarded, that at least one of his former Egyptology professors (Robert Ritner) has all but disavowed him (after demolishing his "research") in the prestigious Journal of Near Eastern Studies.
I understand that Peterson recently wrote a non-Mormon book on Islam. If so, I am pleased; if there is one thing the West needs right now, it is an understanding of the psychological closedness of those who continue to pledge allegiance to "one true way" authoritarian loyalty cults. While Peterson's Mormon propaganda pieces themselves shed all the light the world would ever need on just that mindset (all the more effectively by doing so inadvertently), a piece which does this, and which is *intended* to do this by its Mormon apologist author, can only be welcomed. Maybe such endeavours will even one day help reverse Peterson's current anonymity within the community of Arabist scholars.
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