Saturday, March 29, 2008

Here’s a quarter, call someone who cares

One thing I don’t think I will ever understand is why some members of the LDS church feel the need to call and preach to those who have chosen a different path. Why do they call to tell me that they are worried and concerned about me and how they “know” the church is true and that I am making a huge mistake with eternal ramifications? I was a member for 29 years and know what Mormons believe regarding those who leave and I don’t need you to tell me. I don’t prescribe to those beliefs and am confident that I won’t be struck down by lightning nor will my soul be damned for eternity for resigning my membership.

I have recently had friends call with the sole purpose of “witnessing” to me. They shove their beliefs in my face and expect me to listen but they are unwilling to return the favor and hear to what I have to say. Why is that? Why do you feel that it is ok for you to preach to me but the second I start to explain myself you claim that I am attacking you and not respecting your rights? Are you really that insecure about your beliefs? Are you afraid that what I have to say will make you doubt that which you have believed for so many years? If you are, I can understand but I cannot help but feel sorry for you.

I make it a point to not talk about my issues with Mormonism unless I am asked directly to share my thoughts. I put my ideas and experiences on this blog and open it to all who care to read it as a way of sharing what I have found in a non confrontational way. Those who want to read my blog are free to, but no one is forced into it. I have never preached to anyone nor do I plan to. It is my hope that my family and I will be treated the same way.

So, if you are contacting us to be a true friend then we welcome you, but the next time you feel the need to call or email us to share your thoughts on Mormonism, don’t bother. I’m sure your time could be better spent magnifying your calling or better yet, having some nice quality time with your family.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The First Big Debate

So, my sisters were in town over the Easter holiday and I suppose it was inevitable that the topic of my disaffection would come up at some point. Every time we would get together, the topic loomed over us but it was never talked about until Sunday night when I actually decided to bight the bullet and say something. What ensued was a 3 hour argument/conversation. I’m still not too sure what to think of it all but here are some highlights.

The conversation started by me asking my oldest sister why she was the only one in our family who chose not to make some kind of contact with me after my letter was sent to the family explaining that I had decided to leave the Morg. She quickly went down the testimony rout and said that I was making a huge mistake and that she “knows” that the church is true. I have heard that phrase so many times in my life that it has lost all meaning for me. What does that even mean? She then said that she had nothing good to say so she chose to say nothing.

Various aspects of my decision to leave were discussed including my decision to go on a mission due to the pressures and stigma attached to someone who does not go and how that affected me. I told them in very tactful but blunt ways that I never really had a testimony and that I only went through the motions for many years. I tried not to get into actual doctrinal issues too much because I did not want to upset them.

The conversation turned to how I believe the church has changed its policies over the years to conform to social pressures. Examples I brought up were the repeal of polygamy, allowing blacks to hold the priesthood and the release of the proclamation of the family. Much to my surprise, my mom actually agreed with me that some were the result of social and political pressures but refuted my claims that the change in who could hold the priesthood had to do with that. My younger sister found the rational that the change to let the blacks hold the priesthood was like unto the church not letting people cook in the church anymore, and that neither one had a huge affect on the truthfulness of the gospel. I of course, had to respectfully disagree.

This same sister told me that I just have to have faith. In response to that I decided to test the waters and I broke out some historical discrepancies. I presented the information regarding the different first vision accounts and asked which one I was supposed to have faith in; the first ones that Joseph’s Myth wrote in 1832 and 1835 or the one that appears in the PoGP which was written in 1838 but not published till 1842? I don’t recall receiving a good answer to that. My mother, with tears welling up in her eyes looked shocked at the information I had just lain down in front of her and she made a point to ask that I not bring up any more information like that claiming that I was attacking her faith.

After a while, they turned their attention to my wife and began to focus their question on her and how a convert could possibility go back on the testimony they had when they were baptized. They held her to a higher standard then me for whatever reason and they could not really understand that you don’t know everything about the church when you are baptized so as you learn, you either gain a greater testimony of the gospel or your belief is torn down. I was then blamed in part for her loss of testimony because I became a negative influence on her.

For me the all-time highlight of the night was when the topic of the Word of Wisdom came up and how I was a bad influence on their kids who were present because I mentioned that I had some tea the other day. In the conversation, my sister actually said that drinking tea was just as bad as molesting a child. When she said that, my jaw dropped to the floor. I don’t understand how anyone could make such a claim. She went on to try to clarify her statement by saying that both are equally bad because they both keep you from being able to enter the temple. What kind of messed up thinking is that? That is like saying it is just as bad to lie to someone then it is to kill them. The church teaches that there are different degrees of sin. Otherwise, there would not be unpardonable sins such as denying the Holy Ghost or murder. Also, if her statement was correct, then you could be excommunicated for the smallest of infractions. I kind of feel sorry for her because that seems like a really crappy way of looking at life. She was even willing to completely disassociate from us if we ever spoke about drinking tea or alcohol around her kids again.

In the end, the night was a mix of both good and bad moments and overall, it was probably a healthy conversation. I was glad that I was finally able to get the issue out in the open and get the first major discussion over with. It is sad to me that they are so closed minded regarding the church. I wish there was some way I could make them open their eyes for just 30 minutes so I could show them the hypocrisy found in the church, especially my mom. I think that if she was really honest with herself she would say that she is not happy in the church but she is in too deep to let that happen.

I am the second of her four kids to leave the church and I am sure she feels like it is her fault in some way but really, she should not feel too bad. Even God lost 1/3 of his kids so why should she think she would fare any better?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Modern Day Prophets

The other day I was mowing my lawn and began to think of all of the latest revelations given to us by a “modern day prophet” I could think of in my life time. I could not really think of very many.

Let’s see, you have the revelation that states that you should only have 1 set of earrings and no tattoos. Then you have the re-confirmation that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world set out in “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles. Then you have the revelation that marriage should be between a man and a woman, we should have many children and homosexual relationships are bad in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”. None of these were a big surprise and already commonly believed by the members.

The big one of course was made when I was only a few months old. In that one, “all worthy male members” became eligible for the priesthood and temple blessings. Now, I’m not a rocket scientist or anything but even I could tell you that black men should have the ability to hold the same authority and positions as any other men in the LDS church. What I really find interesting about this one is the manner in which it was received. President Kimball “received” it after much prayer and meditation but then took it to 3 different levels of the priesthood leadership and had them vote on and approve the revelation before he would make the formal announcement. That sounds more like a CEO going to the Board of Directors of a major corporation to have his new business plan approved before it could be implemented. I can’t recall ever reading where the early LDS prophets had revelations voted on before they were given to the general membership. In fact, I could not see Joseph Smith and many of the early prophets putting the “revelations” they received up for a vote. What the prophet Joseph said in those days was considered concrete revelation from God and no one second guessed it.

What would have happened if there were enough people who voted against the revelation to let Blacks have the priesthood? Would that have rendered the revelation false? Could the general authorities of the church really override the prophet? If they in theory could, then would that infer that the prophet could in fact lead us astray if he did not allow others to review his revelations before they are made public?

The major question I have regarding modern day prophets is what is the point of having them if they only tell us what we already know with the use of common sense? All I hear about is how bad the world is getting and how we need a prophet to guide us who can talk to God in these troubled times but there does not appear to be much of anything coming down from on high. It seems that the church focuses on “personal revelation” because those who should be able to receive revelation for the entire church have not been able to for quite a few years now.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Book of Abraham Sounds Like a Sham

It is common knowledge that Joseph Smith claimed that the Book of Abraham came from his translation of some papyri acquired along with some mummies from a traveling show that passed through his town. What I think is not very well known are the details of that translation.

At the time in which Joseph Smith lived, there was very little knowledge regarding Ancient Egypt and everything that surrounded it was a mystery that intrigued many in the US. There was at that time, no real expert in reading Egyptian hieroglyphics but some were beginning to make small strides in understanding that civilization. When Joseph Smith saw the scrolls he had some of the members put together enough money to buy the mummies and scrolls for the sum of $2,400 which was a very large sum at the time. Joseph began translating the writings but it would take him many years to finish it.

As science has progressed, our knowledge of the Egyptians has increased substantially since the 1830’s. The discovery of the Rosetta Stone helped linguists discover the true meaning of Egyptian hieroglyphics. With the knowledge of today in both ancient writings and time dating, scientists have been able to evaluate the scrolls Joseph Smith used to create the Book of Abraham. The scrolls were believed to have been destroyed in the “great Chicago fire” of 1871 but in 1966 they were found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Many experts in Egyptology, from various parts of the world, have since inspected and reviewed the scrolls along with the three facsimiles found in the Pearl of Great Price and they have come to a very different conclusion regarding their origin and content. For the sake of time, I am not going to go into great detail on the specifics because they are too numerous to put here and I do not want to bore you all to death. There are many great books and web sites that do a good job of putting all of the information together for you. With a quick click on one of the links found on this blog you can read bout it in greater detail. 20 Truths About Mormonism has a very good accout of this and it also has the Mormon response to the issues surrounding the BoA.

Joseph claimed that the BoA was the writings of Abraham but according to those that have since reviewed the scrolls; the name of Abraham is not mentioned. The conclusion they all came to was that the scrolls were actually common Egyptian funerary documents for a man named Horus and that Joseph’s interpretations were far from accurate. The BoA has been identified as the Book of Breathings and time dating of the scrolls puts their creation at around the time of Christ which was approximately 2,000 years later then the time of Abraham. What Joseph Smith claimed to be the Book of Joseph was actually the pagan Egyptian Book of the Dead which dates to at least 1,500 years after the time of the biblical Joseph so it is not possible that he wrote it.

After reading all of the facts regarding the Book of Abraham, I have come to the conclusion that Joseph Smith did not know how to translate Egyptian hieroglyphics nor did he ever think that others would be able to, so he made up his own translation because no one would know the difference. His interpretation of the scrolls has been found to be no where close to the actual text by the scholars of today. Joseph has deceived the church regarding the Book of Abraham and the current leaders of the church choose to ignore the evidence against it.

If the Book of Abraham has been found to be a fraud, then could that same thing be said about the Book of Mormon? Unfortunately, without the actual plates, it would be impossible to make that assumption based on actual translation records alone but there are other issues in the Book of Mormon that I will get into later that lead me to believe it is no more accurate then the Book of Abraham.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Setting the Record Straight

First, I think it is unfortunate that I have to do this but I received a comment that in my opinion made certain assumptions that are incorrect and put words into my mouth that I have never said. The person who made the comment chose to stay anonymous and I respect that however I believe that much of what he had to say was misguided. If you care to read his comment, it is #10 on the “Why I Blog” post. This post will be discussing some of the arguments made by that person.

” You tell us we are all arrogant and then state that we say there "is no hope for anyone else." That is completely false. We believe that other righteous people will be in the Celestial Kingdom.”

My original statement was about how those outside of the Mormon Church interpret the teachings of LDS leaders and then think of members as arrogant and self-righteous due to those teachings. Some examples are as follows:

"And the angel of God said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth. And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the whore of all the earth, and she sat upon many waters; and she had dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people."
- Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 14:10-11

"I was answered by God that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt
- Prophet Joseph Smith, Joseph Smith History 1:19

"...all the priests who adhere to the sectarian religions of the day with all their followers, without one exception, receive their portion with the devil and his angels."
- Prophet Joseph Smith , The Elders Journal, Joseph Smith Jr., editor, vol.1, no.4, p.60

Those are some pretty strong statements. Couple those with the fact that in the early pre-1990 temple endowment ceremony, before it was one of the parts removed, there is a protestant preacher that is depicted as a hired servant of Satan, paid to teach his doctrine and lead away Adam and his posterity, and you have built-in teachings that lead members to believe that anyone who is not Mormon is part of the Devil’s church. In the Teachings of The Prophet Smith on p119, Joseph makes a plain statement regarding this issue as well.

Q: ”Will everybody be damned, but Mormons?”
A: “Yes, and a great portion of them, unless they repent, and work righteousness.”

You personally may not be arrogant but you can not hide from the fact that statements such as the one above and others that claims that the LDS Church is the “one and only true church” are in their very nature derogatory towards other religions and makes the church appear arrogant and better then all the rest.

In the Preparing for Exaltation lesson manual, Lesson 41 it says the following…“What are some things we must do to be able to enter the celestial kingdom? Be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, Exercise faith in Jesus Christ, and obey the commandments.” It then goes on to talk about how a temple marriage is the only way to reach the highest kingdom and be with our families forever. Now, I taught on my mission, that in order for a baptism to be valid, it has to be done by someone having authority meaning that it had to be done in the LDS faith. So, if the church teaches that baptism is a pre-requisite for entering the Celestial Kingdome then it also teaches that membership in the church is also required just as Joseph Smith said. If these “other righteous people” spoken of are also allowed into the CK then they are either Mormon or the doctrine of the church has to change.

"Other Christian denominations co-exist with one another because there is a "body of Christ" and they believe that they each make up part of that."

This is completely false. I guess you haven't been to many fiery Baptist sermons as well as many Lutheran, Evangelicals of most kinds , Methodist or Presbyterian meetings. Many of them bash all other religions and go to great lengths to do so. So your point of how all other Christian religions co-exist in harmony is totally misrepresented.”

I can only speak from my own personal experience in regards to the manner in which other churches co-exist. From what I have seen, they are more concerned that you are going to a church rather then their church. Many preachers stress the importance of being part of a “bible based” church and they understand that people find comfort and salvation in different ways. The church I currently attend with my wife, as a way of support for her, has people from many other congregations who attend the Wednesday night bible study and together, they edify and help each other come closer to God. They do not dispute with one another but rather, they find common ground and build upon that.

”Your blog domain is "Es Pura Mentira" meaning It's Pure Lies is also attacking Mormons because you are saying that Mormons are Liars and so is our doctrine.”

The full name of my blog is “Es Pura Mentira…the thoughts coming from behind my eyes regarding the Mormon Church.” What I write here is my view on the doctrine taught to me since I was a child. The conclusion I have come to is that it is a lie. I have had comments from other people who have taken the same information and arrive to completely different conclusions and I have no problem with that. At no time have I called out the church’s members and called them liars. Those are words that have been put into my mouth. I distinguish the leaders of the church from the normal members because the leaders are the ones who control the flow of information and ultimately have the last word in what makes it into church teaching materials. I believe some leaders have lied and continue to lie to cover-up points of doctrine that paints the church in a negative light.

”Also, the books you say you are reading are not all church publications. Many, like Mormon Doctrine, are not official church publications because even though McConkie was an apostle he put in his own opinions and some of it was not official church doctrine.”

I know that McConkie caught some flack for some of his comments in Mormon Doctrine but that has not stopped the use of that book and others in church meetings. It is my opinion that if something is ok to be used in church talks and lessons then it should be a reliable source of information regarding doctrine. If the book is not correct, then church leaders should forbid its use because it would be impossible to discern which points are correct and which are not.

”You keep going back to the founding days of the church and that is fine but you need to realize that the church has evolved and continues to evolve. In the beginning the leaders were just learning about certain doctrines and they were going "line upon line" They were not perfect and I'm sure you'll find contradictions like I find in many of your statements. This doesn't mean the message of the church is false.”

I was taught as a kid and I taught others on my mission that God does not change, that his gospel is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. I use a lot of information from early church leaders because they are the ones that set up the foundation of the church and many of the most precious points of doctrine. They received the largest portion of revelation and therefore, had more to do with what the key points of beliefs would be. Today, those points of doctrine are often simply dismissed by current leaders. An example follows…

"God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted Man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens. That is the great secret... It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the character of God and to know...that he was once a man like us. Here, then, is eternal life--to know that only wise and true God, and you have got to learn how to become Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you. .. God himself, the father of us all dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ."
- The Prophet Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 342-345, also quoted heavily by the church, see Gospel Principles, Chapter 47.

Speaking about this same doctrine…President Hinckley said the following…

Question: "Is this the teaching of the church today, that God the Father was once a man like we are?"
Hinckley: "I don't know that we teach it. I don't know that we emphasize it. I haven't heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don't know. I don't know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don't know a lot about it and I don't know that others know a lot about it."
- Interviewing Gordon B. Hinckley, Time Magazine, Aug 4, 1997

Joseph Smith thought that this was a very important point of doctrine but it seems to be glossed over now by the current leadership. If it was so important in the early days of the church, then why would it not be as important now?

”I am still waiting for someone to tell me what part of the Mormon church's teachings leads us away from Jesus Christ.”

From where I sit, the mere example of Joseph Smith is enough to make me believe that what he did and taught took people farther away from Christ. Christ taught us not to lie, commit adultery and many other things. Joseph Smith lied about many things including the translation of the Book of Abraham, Kinderhook plates, and many other things. He also made it a common practice to take the wives of other men, committing adultery. This he also condoned for select brethren of the church. Polyandry is a practice that I can not believe was condoned by God.

”Another point you make is that you use your brain and you think for yourself thus making the impression that all Mormons are just sheep and can't think for themselves. This is a great personal attack on every Mormon in and of itself. I am an open minded person and fairly smart. There are millions of members who are very intelligent and smart.”

Once again, you twisted my comments to make it seem as if I said that Mormons do not use their minds and are not intelligent. If you go back and read my original statement, all I said is that I think for myself and that I have come to my own conclusions regarding the history and teachings of the church.

”I just want everyone that is reading this blog to realize that there are several other ways to look at what is being posted here. It all comes off like this is the way it is and there is nothing out there that can contradict these facts--well there are and there are other view points.”

I have never claimed to show both sides of the coin here. These are my thoughts and opinions and I have stated that from the very beginning. Obviously, there are other view points but I can only speak for myself. If you seek the opinions of others, then you will have to go elsewhere.

”Also, it's kind of funny how it was stated that those who post anonymously are hiding behind anonymity when the author is Soy YO (It's Me) and doesn't reveal his identity as well as "your wife:)". That's not a big deal and doesn't make any difference to me I just wanted to point out another contradiction.”

At times, my wife chooses to stay anonymous because she does not want people like you stalking her blog and attacking her and our family. She chooses to not get into posts about doctrine because she has many dear friends in the LDS church and does not want to offend them. Those who know her know me and I am a link on her blog. In regards to my anonymity, you can click on the “contact me” link and see that my name is Douglas Pennington. I have nothing to hide or be ashamed of. What about you?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Why I Blog

Many wonder why I “waist” my time writing my thoughts on this blog, and I am happy to explain my reasoning for it. To me, it is not a waist of time since ultimately this is the medium I choose to express my thoughts and feelings regarding the Mormon Church and what I have gone through on my path to resignation. Many people who comment and read my blog also maintain their own. So to them I ask, why a blog instead of a personal journal or diary? I know from reading your blogs that most of you use yours as a type of journal or a way to let others know what is going on in their lives and it is a great way to communicate with a large number of people. It is a part of the web based era we live in. The only difference with mine is that I am probably more open with my thoughts then most. I have nothing to hide and see no point in sugar coating anything. What you read here is nothing but pure and raw emotion and it come from the organ behind my eyes that I like to call a brain.

Typically, the brain is what is used to sift through data and it uses past experiences as well as intellect to decipher what information is valid and what is not. I do not claim to be the most intellectual person around but I do know how to think for myself. I have been reading books regarding the history of the church and its doctrine and it has opened my eyes to so many beliefs that contradict each other. The books I have been reading are Teachings of The Prophet Joseph Smith, Mormon Doctrine, Journal of Discourses, Times & Seasons, History of the Church, and others. These are Church publications and I have no reason to doubt that they reflect accurate church beliefs and teachings since they are used on any given Sunday and by church leaders. When speaking on a topic, I will always quote my source so that anyone who doubts my information can look for themselves and come to their own conclusion about the same passages.

The purpose of this blog is not to persuade anyone to leave the Mormon Church. It is not the result of misplaced anger, but rather a vehicle for me to express the hurt and distrust associated with leaving a church that I have spent all my life serving and from my point of view, has lied to me. I acknowledge the fact that many of the things I write about will come off as harsh or shocking to those who believe in Mormonism but I do not and will not apologize for any of it.

Some have asked why I spend my time researching the problems in the Mormon Church instead of focusing on my current beliefs. For the most part, my research has already been finished. My posts are the result of that study but it is impossible for me to write everything in one day. In fact, I started with what in my mind were the more simple issues and am working my way up to the ones that were the main cause of my disaffection. Due to the response I am getting, I will push this week to get more of my thoughts posted. It takes a considerable amount of my time to do this due to the fact that I am the kind of person that speaks only after much thought and I try to be very careful not to speak out against the members of the church, but rather the doctrine, how it has changed and those who work to keep the truth from those that put so much faith in them.

It has been stated that I should spend my time focusing on my current beliefs rather then those I so recently left. In order to understand where I am now spiritually and where I want to go, I must first understand where I have been and what affect that has had on me. To do that, I feel the need to educate myself on the LDS church to find both the positive things that I can take from it and the negative things that I want to make sure do not follow me. At this point, I consider myself an Agnostic. I am uncertain of the existence of God. I am also at the point where I can not trust any religion. It is my belief, that the LDS church betrayed the trust I gave it for more then 25 years and that realization has made it impossible for me to put my trust in another “man of God”. I believe that Mormons do not have a monopoly on morals and righteousness and that I can be a great husband, father and person without it or any other church. I have begun to focus more time and energy into Eastern Philosophy. I have found peace in practicing Yoga and reading and pondering the teachings of Taoism. It quiets my soul and brings peace to my mind.

To those who choose to read the thoughts coming from behind my eyes, Welcome! I honestly appreciate the fact that you have chosen to spend some of your precious time today reading what I have to say. I encourage everyone who feels the need, to please comment. There is no need to be shy. If you choose to stay anonymous, I understand. Your comment is welcome either way. All that I ask is that you follow standard blog etiquette and refrain from personal attacks pointed towards those who also share their religious thoughts and beliefs. I encourage open, intelligent and respectful discussion here. If in your comment, you make reference to a certain quote or doctrine, please note your source so we can also read it and expand our knowledge on the topic at hand. If you would rather send me an email, you can do so knowing that I will not share your comments or identity with anyone else.

May you find peace and happiness in whatever path you choose.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Don't drink don't smoke - what do you do?

D&C Section 89
1 A WORD OF WISDOM, for the benefit of the council of high priests, assembled in Kirtland, and the church, and also the saints in Zion—
2 To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom

I was doing some reading about the Word of Wisdom and came upon something interesting. Before I get to my main point, I feel the need to give a little back story.

Now, after I graduated high School, I went to live with a former bishop of mine whose family had moved to Seattle. It was a chance to get away from Texas for a while and hopefully point my life in the right direction. While living up there, I was asked to speak at a fireside where different topics were being addressed. My topic was the WoW. In preparation, I asked Bishop for some insight on the subject. He asked me one question…”Is the WoW a commandment?” I thought about it for a second then I replied, “Yes”. He opened to section 89 and had me read the passage I quoted above. I was surprised to see that it says in very clear language, “not by commandment or constraint”. He explained to me how the revelation came about and that it was, at the time, a suggestion to the brethren. He left it at that and let me formulate my own opinions about it. I decided to ask his question to the group of youth there and they answered just like I had. I explained to them the same thing as best I could and then got into the traditional aspects of the revelation.

Over the years since, I have thought about that experience a lot. I could feel at the time how uncomfortable the leaders in the room felt when I told them that it was not a commandment. No one spoke to me about it but I always ask myself if I was right in saying that. After all, in the church today, you are asked very specific questions regarding the WoW and you must follow it to be considered a “member in good standing”.

Now, back to my current reading on the topic. I was again asking myself if I was right in teaching that so I began to read in Mormon Doctrine to see what McConkie had to say about it. I found what I expected. He states that it was not originally a commandment but was made one by Brigham Young. I then stumbled upon a quote by Joseph Smith made on April 7, 1838. The quote reads:

“No official member in this Church is worthy to hold an office after having the Word of Wisdom properly taught him, and he, the official member, neglecting to comply with and obey it.” (Teachings of The Prophet Joseph Smith p117)

The reason this quote struck me is because I read an account from History of the Church where, even up to the night before he was killed, Joseph Smith did not obey the WoW. The following account is from the night before his murder at Carthage Jail.

"The guard immediately sent for a bottle of wine, pipes, and two small papers of tobacco; and one of the guards brought them into the jail…Dr. Richards uncorked the bottle, and presented a glass to Joseph, who tasted, as also Brother Taylor…" (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 616)

At the time, the use of wine as part of the Sacrament was generally accepted but this was not the use here as confirmed by john Taylor.

"Sometime after dinner we sent for some wine. It has been reported that this was taken as a sacrament. It was no such thing; our spirits were generally dull and heavy, and it was sent to revive us." (History of the Church, vol. 7, p. 101)

Based on this account as well as others, and the quote by Joseph Smith in 1838, he himself should not have been worthy to hold the calling and office of Prophet.

This is just another example of the hypocrisy of Joseph Smith and the Mormon Church. I find it odd that in “worthiness interviews”, the only aspect of the WoW spoken of is abstaining from coffee, tea, and tobacco. They completely ignore the revelation that speaks of the good and healthy foods to eat and put no importance in being healthy as a requirement of worthiness. They choose to only follow/require the part of the revelation they want to enforce and the rest is just an afterthought in the last 2 minutes a Sunday school lesson. I have found that this is a typical practice of the church. They change their own doctrine to suit their needs at the time or to rationalize a behavior and then change it back at their convenience, acting as if nothing ever happened.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

If some are of God, some are of men and some are of the Devil, then how do we know which is which?

In my studies, one story that I read has constantly bothered me. The story is about how Joseph Smith received a revelation sending some of the brethren on a trip to sell the copyright of the Book of Mormon. They went as they were told but were not able to complete the task. The explanation they received from Joseph Smith as to why is what concerns me. It is better to hear the whole story from the source, so here is the account of the revelation as told by David Whitmer in a book he wrote in 1887 called, An Address To All Believers In Christ, by a witness to the Devine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon. I hope it is not too long for you to take the time to read it. The last part is important to the point I am trying to make.

“When the Book of Mormon was in the hands of the printer, more money was needed to finish the printing of it. We were waiting on Martin Harris who was doing his best to sell a part of his farm, in order to raise the necessary funds. After a time Hyrum Smith and others began to get impatient, thinking that Martin was too slow and under transgression for not selling his land at once, even if at a great sacrifice. Brother Hyrum thought they should not wait any longer on Martin Harris, and that the money should be raised in some other way. Brother Hyrum was vexed with Brother Martin, and thought they should get the money by some means outside of him, and not let him have anything to do with the publication of the Book, or receiving any of the profits thereof if any profits should accrue. He was wrong in thus judging Bro. Martin, because he was doing all he could toward selling his land. (Page 30)

"Brother Hyrum said it had been suggested to him that some of the brethren might go to Toronto, Canada, and sell the copy-right of the Book of Mormon for considerable money: and he persuaded Joseph to inquire of the Lord about it. Joseph concluded to do so. He had not yet given up the stone. Joseph looked into the hat in which he placed the stone, and received a revelation that some of the brethren should go to Toronto, Canada, and that they would sell the copy-right of the Book of Mormon. Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery went to Toronto on this mission, but they failed entirely to sell the copy-right, returning without any money. Joseph was at my father's house when they returned. I was there also, and am an eye witness to these facts. Jacob Whitmer and John Whitmer were also present when Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery returned from Canada. Well, we were all in great trouble; and we asked Joseph how it was that he had received a revelation from the Lord for some brethren to go to Toronto and sell the copy-right, and the brethren had utterly failed in their undertaking. Joseph did not know how it was, so he enquired of the Lord about it, and behold the following revelation came through the stone: "Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of men: and some revelations are of the devil." So we see that the revelation to go to Toronto and sell the copy-right was not of God, but was of the devil or of the heart of man. When a man enquires of the Lord concerning a matter, if he is deceived by his own carnal desires, and is in error, he will receive an answer according to his erring heart, but it will not be a revelation from the Lord." (Page 31)

Now, ok, first I have to comment briefly on the whole stone in the hat thing. For years, I heard non-Mormons talk about how Joseph received revelation by putting a stone in a hat and putting it over his face. This sounded so absurd that I could not bring myself to believe it, especially since I had never heard that in all my years in Sunday school and other church classes. Some might ask if that is a significant omission and I have to say that it is. My reason for thinking that it is something that the church leaders do not want to talk about is the topic of my next blogs where I will talk more about the early life of Joseph and the translation of the Book of Mormon.

To the point I would like to focus on. When Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery returned from Toronto empty handed and disillusioned, questioning the revelation. The answer they received from Joseph was one that should have been alarming to them and one that should send up a red flag to everyone that hears it. "Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of men: and some revelations are of the devil."

What I find so troubling about this statement is that at this point in his life; Joseph Smith already had many “experiences” with revelation and visions and was the prophet. He claimed to have seen God, Jesus, Moroni, John the Baptist, Peter, James, and John amongst others, not to mention the revelation needed to actually translate the golden plates. If all that is true, then how is it that he, as the prophet, could not tell the difference between a revelation from God or Satan? Shouldn’t he know the difference by now? If he could not tell one from the other, then how can we trust that anything he claims to be revelation actually came from God and not the devil?

My wife reminded me of this scripture that I thought was appropriate for this situation.

2 Corinthians 11:13-15
13For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
14And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
15Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

I also found this one…
2 Nephi 9:9
9 And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; yea, to that being who beguiled our first parents, who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light, and stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness.

I can’t help but question Joseph’s ability to discern revelation from God from that of Satan. If he himself had been deceived by the devil on something relatively small like the Toronto revelation, how do we know he was not deceived on other occasions as well?

Some of his visions and revelations relate to these scriptures. He refers to the first vision as seeing an angel in a pillar of light and Moroni was surrounded by light. Could these possibly be the “angel of light” spoken of in these passages? Could the “secret combinations” be what is practiced in the temple? What about the “murder” and “secret works of darkness” mentioned in 2 Nephi? I can find many accounts in early Mormon history that speak of these types of things. The Meadow Mountain Massacre, Blood Atonement and others are documented proof that Mormon leaders sanctioned and condoned these types of practices. Is it possible that Satan, disguised as the “angel of light”, used Joseph Smith to lead away millions of people and destroy the salvation of their loved ones for generations to come?

These questions have plagued my mind for a while now and I don’t expect I will get an answer for them any time in this life. I remember being taught, “By their fruits you shall know them.” Personally, I have seen all the fruits I need to see from Joseph Smith to know that he was nothing close to what he claimed to be.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Resignation Day

Well, today we made it official. We drafted our resignation letter and sent it to our Bishop. It is a rather liberating experience but I can't help but feel a bit sad. This closes a very long chapter in my life and opens a new one. It will take time to navigate through the uncharted waters outside of Mormonism but I am anxious to get started. It will be nice having my wonderful wife by my side as we work together to write our new story.

The church has taught me many valuable things and I owe a lot to those that have helped teach me the values and principles I try to live each and every day. Without them, I'm not sure what kind of a person and where I would be today.

I want to express my appreciation to my Bishop and Stake President. They are both great men and they mean a lot to me. I hope that they will be able to accept and understand our reasons for leaving. They have been tremendous examples to me and I hope that I can be like them in many ways.

This by no means puts an end to the feelings of resentment I have regarding the parts of the church that have been hidden from me for some many years. I know the process of getting over those feelings will take time. I am still researching the church's history as I am more intrigued by it then ever. I will continue to express my thoughts on what I find here on this blog as I find it somewhat cathartic.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Eating a piece of humble pie

I have to say that the hardest thing I have had to deal with so far was spending time with my wife's family after we told everyone that we were leaving the LDS Church. She is the only member of her family and at the time of her baptism, her family was very opposed to the idea of her becoming Mormon. She showed great strength and courage to go against her family's wishes. It is because of that decision that we met several years latter. Had she backed out at the last minute, we would not have met.

Over the past 8 years, they have asked various questions about the church. Some were simple while others involved what members like to call, "deep doctrine". Since I met them, I have spent an enormous amount of time defending the church, trying to convince them that we believed in many of the same things they did and that Joseph Smith was a prophet and the Book of Mormon was a true book of scripture.

Talk about having to "eat crow"! About a week ago, we spent some time at her mom's house and the topic of religion came up. That was of course no big surprise. I could not help feel a bit embarrassed at the fact that I had spent so much time defending something that I now think is rubbish.

To their credit, they have been nothing but understanding and supportive. I have not heard one negative word come out of their mouths regarding the church or my repeated defense of what I then believed. I must say that I respect them so much more for the way they have handled the situation. They could have easily thrown all of my certainty back in my face but they have taken the higher road and that has made all the difference.

"Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start."

I know, singing songs from The Sound of Music entitles me to give up my man card but I have always loved musical and this one seemed to fit nicely into the theme of this post.

Last night I was trying to collect my thoughts regarding my disaffection with the Mormon Church and it became rather clear that what I need to do is start from the very beginning. Where is the beginning of the LDS Church? Joseph Smith, the First Vision and the books of scripture he translated. So, the focus of my next couple of posts will be on those subjects.

On my mission, one of the first things I learned in Spanish was the account of the first vision. For weeks it was the only thing I could say so I got really good at it. It has always been kind of special to me and I still have it memorized. While studying the topic of the first vision in the recent past, I was very surprised to find out that the official account we read in Joseph Smith History was written in 1838 but was not actually published until 1842 in Times and Season. I was always taught that the vision happened in 1820 so that would mean that 18 years passed before our version of the account was written and 22 years from when it was published. There were many accounts written before that and they all contradict each other in some way.

The fist time Joseph wrote about the account was in 1832.

"… thus from the age of twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things in my heart concerning the situation of the world of mind become exceedingly distressed for I become convicted of my sins and by searching the scriptures I found that did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatised from the true and living faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ…Therefore I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and to obtain mercy and the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness and while in (the) attitude of calling upon the Lord (in the 16th year of my age) a piller of fire light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of god and the (Lord) opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph (my son) thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy (way) walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucifyed for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life (behold) the world lieth in sin and at this time and none doeth good no not one they have turned asside from the gospel and keep not (my) commandments they draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me"

Joseph makes a few statements that are different then the "official" version we know. He states that he had already come to the conclusion that there were no denominations teaching the true gospel of Jesus Chris. He also says that he saw the Lord but there is no mention of him seeing God.

Another account was written in 1835 in Joseph Smiths diary.

"“being wrought up in my mind, respecting the subject of religion and looking at the different systems taught the children of men, I knew not who was right or who was wrong and I considered it of the first importance that I should be right, in matters that involve eternal consequ[e]nces; being thus perplexed in mind I retired to the silent grove and bow[e]d down before the Lord … I called upon the Lord for the first time, in the place above stated or in other words I made a fruitless attempt to p[r]ay … I called on the Lord in mightly prayer, a pillar of fire appeared above my head, it presently rested down upon me, and filled me with Joy unspeakable, a personage appeard in the midst of this pillar of flame which was spread all around, and yet nothing consumed, another personage soon appeard like unto the first, he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee, he testified unto me that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; I was about 14 years old when I received this first communication."

In this account, he no longer knows that there was not a true church on the earth. He mentions that the personage testified that Jesus Christ is the Son of God but he does not say that he saw Jesus or God. He also talks about seeing many angels but that is not part of the "official" account.

Later in 1835, Joseph gave another account to Erastus Holmes that was published in Deseret News and History of the Church.

"This afternoon, Erastus Holmes, of Newbury, Ohio, called on me to inquire about the establishment of the church, and to be instructed in doctrine more perfectly. I gave him a brief relation of my experience while in my juvenile years, say from six years old up to the time I received the first visitation of angels, which was when I was about fourteen years old; also the revelations that I received afterwards concerning the Book of Mormon, and a short account of the rise and progress of the church up to this date.”

Again Joseph only talks about seeing angels and there is no mention of God and Jesus.

In 1844 Joseph wrote a chapter on Mormonism in a book called An Original History of the Religious Denominations at Present Existing in the United States.

"I retired to a secret place in a grove, and began to call upon the Lord. While fervently engaged in supplication, my mind was taken away from the objects with which I was surrounded, and I was enrapt in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in features and likeness, surrounded with a brilliant light, which eclipsed the sun at noonday. They told me that all the religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines, and that none of them was acknowledged of God as His Church and Kingdom. And I was expressly commanded to "go not after them," at the same time receiving a promise that the fullness of the gospel should at some future time be made known unto me."

As in other accounts, Joseph does not specifically say that he saw God and Jesus and only refers to them here as personages. i find Josephs accounts puzzling. When talking about an experience so important and great, why was he so vague? Would he not be more specific in telling who it was he saw? If this is such an important event in Mormonism, why then are there so many different accounts?
I think it is hard to believe that an event so important to the world and the center of the LDS Church could have been told in so many different ways. Why could they not get the story straight and which one am aI supposed to believe? The "official" account is obviously the one the Church teaches but it appears to only be a compilation of different facts from the various accounts.
A fellow blogger has a great blog about this as well that also has many quotes from Brigham Young and other church leaders that clearly state that the first vision was the visitation of Angles and not God and Jesus. You can read it here.

The accounts of the first vision were taken from a web site called Mormons in Transition and it has the sources listed there if you would like to research further.

3 out of 5 ain't bad

I'm happy to report that I have now heard from 3 of the 5 family members I sent my letter to and they have all been surprisingly supportive. Obviously they do not understand my decision but they are willing to accept it. I'm sure there will be rough or awkward times and many questions in the coming months about the reasoning behind leaving the church so I will start to put my thoughts down here on the blog. Hopefully that will at least give them a glimpse into my mind so they can know where I am coming from.