Monday, April 28, 2008

Tales from a 6yr old…setting Grams straight.

Tonight my wife told me a story that I find very humorous and I just have to share it. While painting with our 6yr old daughter, the subject of church came up. It is not something that we have talked to her about very much except to correct a few points of Mormon doctrine, mainly the Word of Wisdom. We have been impressed on how fast she as adapted to her new teachers and is learning a lot so we keep focused on new beliefs rather then old ones.

She told Amy, in a very adult way; about a conversation she had a couple of weeks ago with my mother “Grams” who is a firm believer in the LDS church. The dialog went something like this…

Daughter: Grams, why do Mormons think they are the “only true church”?
Grams: Well, every church believes they are the “one true church”.
Daughter: No they don’t.
Grams: Sure they do.
Daughter: Christians don’t believe that because there are so many of them and they don’t think they are the “one true church”. It’s wrong to believe that there is only one true church.
Grams: Where did you hear that from?
Daughter: My mom and dad.

She then proceeded to tell Amy that she hears us talk about church stuff while she is in the other room coloring. Apparently, she has become a good listener and is able to absorb and understand more then I thought. When did that happen? She has shown that she can think about and digest more advanced information so I think it is time to be a bit more open and upfront with her regarding my thoughts on Mormonism. She told Amy that she knows that I don’t believe in God and does not understand why.

Is it wrong to take such pleasure in seeing your kid stand up to your own mom like you wish you would of done at her age an even older?

I could not be prouder of my free thinker! If I had one wish, it would be that she would grow up knowing how to think and act for herself; rooting her beliefs in fact and faith, having properly educated herself on a variety of topics. She has shown me how strong she can be when equipped with knowledge and I now take it upon myself to make sure she is properly equipped with the skills needed to use that wonderful brain of hers.

Looks like it is time for our Daddy-Daughter snow cone outing so I can give her a glimpse into my mind and heart, while hopefully passing on some wisdom she will find valuable enough to carry with her for the rest of her life.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mormon Scripture

The LDS church has 4 books of canonized scripture. They include The Bible (King James Version), The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. The last three were of course brought to light during the life of Joseph Smith. Below is a brief intoduction into each.

The Bible they use is the standard King James Version because they believe that it is the most accurate English translation. It has been painstakingly cross-referenced to the other books in the canon and has their own summary before each chapter which I will show you an example of in the next post. Joseph Smith began to correct the KJV due to many perceived errors. He died before he could finish this work. I am not a biblical scholar so I do not know if his claims to errors are valid so I will not comment on that. I do however, find it odd that no Mormon Prophet since his death has found it necessary to pick-up where he left off and finish his corrections.

The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel. The crowning event recorded in the Book of Mormon is the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ among the Nephites soon after his resurrection. Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”(Introduction of the BoM)

The Doctrine and Covenants is a collection of divine revelations and inspired declarations given for the establishment and regulation of the kingdom of God on the earth in the last days. Although most of the sections are directed to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the messages, warnings, and exhortations are for the benefit of all mankind. Doctrine and Covenants is unique because it is not a translation of an ancient document, but is of modern origin and was given of God through his chosen prophets for the restoration of his holy work and the establishment of the kingdom of God on the earth in these days.(Introduction of D&C)

The Pearl of Great Price is a selection of choice materials touching many significant aspects of the faith and doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These items were produced by the Prophet Joseph Smith and were published in the Church periodicals of his day.

Following is a brief introduction to the present contents:

Selections from the Book of Moses. An extract from the book of Genesis of Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible, which he began in June 1830.

The Book of Abraham. A translation from some Egyptian papyri that came into the hands of Joseph Smith in 1835, containing writings of the patriarch Abraham.

Joseph Smith—Matthew. An extract from the testimony of Matthew in Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible.

Joseph Smith—History. Excerpts from Joseph Smith’s official testimony and history, which he prepared in 1838

The Articles of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A statement by Joseph Smith published in the Times and Seasons March 1, 1842
(Introduction of TPoGP)

I know that the idea of scripture in addition to the Bible is something that non-Mormons don’t understand so the next few posts will address the LDS justification for having such scriptures.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Word of Wisdom and the Bible

I was spending some time on a Mormon message board and someone asked if there were any Biblical references to the Word of Wisdom or other laws restricting the consumption of certain foods and drinks. Now, I admit that I do not know very much of the Bible so I hope I get this right. If not, please correct me. In the Old Testament, you have the rules about eating only “clean” animals and things like that, but that was part of the Law of Moses. It is my understanding that Jesus did away with the Law of Moses during his ministry. With that said and keeping in mind the question about the WoW, read this passage of the KJV in Matthew 15.

7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
10 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:
11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
12 Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?
13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
15 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable.
16 And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?
17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.

19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

The LDS church teaches that if you eat or drink certain things such as wine, coffee and tea, you will distance yourself from God and lose the influence of the Holy Ghost. Doing so makes it to where a member is no longer in good standing in the church and, in many cases, cannot participate in communion or holding positions in the church. It always keeps them from going to the Temple which is only reserved for those members who follow all of the commandments of God as revealed by his modern prophets for “no unclean thing can dwell with God”.

D&C 109
20 And that no unclean thing shall be permitted to come into thy house to pollute it;
21 And when thy people transgress, any of them, they may speedily repent and return unto thee, and find favor in thy sight, and be restored to the blessings which thou hast ordained to be poured out upon those who shall reverence thee in thy house.

If you contrast that idea with what Jesus taught in the New Testament, you see something completely different. You see a God that does not care what you put into your body but rather, what you let come out of it. He taught that a person’s heart, mind and soul were more important than a glass of wine. Shoot, Noah got drunk on more than one occasion but that did not stop God from calling him to be a prophet because he knew what was in his heart.

Why then does Mormonism put so much credence in the WoW? I think it is a very easy way to “measure” a person’s loyalty to the church and control its members through social pressure. The Pharisees did the same thing and in return they received a rebuking which I think Jesus would give to the LDS leaders today if he were here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A follow-up post about TRUTH (Part 3)

Alright, one more. This one needed its own space.

The religion of God embraces every fact that exists in all the wide arena of nature, while the religions of men consist of theory devoid of fact, or of any true principle of guidance; hence the professing Christian world are like a ship upon a boisterous ocean without rudder, compass, or pilot, and are tossed hither and thither by every wind of doctrine.
Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v10 p166

If God embraces EVERY fact that exists, that would have to include areas such as the many forms of science that exist like Geology, Anthropology and Linguistics. Keeping that in mind, take a look at the following teachings from Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.

"As far back as 1837, I know that he said the moon was inhabited by men and women the same as this earth, and that they lived to a greater age than we do -- that they live generally to near the age of 1000 years.
"He described the men as averaging near six feet in height, and dressing quite uniformly in something near the Quaker style.
Oliver B. Huntington speaking of Joseph Smith in the 1892 LDS publication The Young Woman's Journal, p. 263

Who can tell us of the inhabitants of this little planet that shines of an evening, called the moon? When we view its face we may see what is termed "the man in the moon," and what some philosophers declare are the shadows of mountains. But these sayings are very vague, and amount to nothing; and when you inquire about the inhabitants of that sphere you find that the most learned are as ignorant in regard to them as the most ignorant of their fellows. So it is with regard to the inhabitants of the sun. Do you think it is inhabited? I rather think it is. Do you think there is any life there? No question of it; it was not made in vain.
Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v10 p166

Typical Mormon response: “They were speaking as men, not as prophets when they said these things.”

Brigham Young: I know just as well what to teach this people and just what to say to them and what to do in order to bring them into the celestial kingdom, as I know the road to my office. It is just as plain and easy. The Lord is in our midst. He teaches the people continually. I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture. Let me have the privilege of correcting a sermon, and it is as good Scripture as they deserve.
Brigham Young - Journal of Discourses v13 p95

Obviously, there are not men living on the moon. Science has disproven that. Based on this obscure teaching and other things that have since been disproven like the translation of the Book of Abraham and the existence of items mentioned in the Book of Mormon, it is my opinion that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young would teach things that they never imagined could be disproven. Back in those days, they could not even imagine that a car would be invented, much less, a rocket that could take us to the moon. Since they never thought it could be proven wrong, they had no reservations about making things up that would grab the attention of their followers and make them look prophetic.

When Joseph “translated” the Book of Abraham, no one really knew what they said so he was free to make them say whatever he wanted and no one would know the difference. It was not till many years later that linguists began to decipher the hieroglyphics and understand what the papyri he used really said. By then, the church already had too much invested in the Pearl of Great Price and still has, for the most part, ignored the findings of those that have studied them and have clearly shown that Joseph was not even close to disclosing their true meaning.

The Book of Mormon is full of things like this. I am working on posting about that but it is still down on the list.

So the point of this post is this. If God’s church embraces every fact as stated above, then the LDS church, who claims to be God’s only church, should take these scientific facts and openly discount the validity of the Book of Abraham and other church scripture and beliefs that have been shown to go against modern findings. To my knowledge, it has never come close to doing so.

A follow-up post about TRUTH (Part 2)

The “modern” view on the relevance of truth is much different.

"My duty as a member of the Council of the Twelve is to protect what is most unique about the LDS church, namely the authority of priesthood, testimony regarding the restoration of the gospel, and the divine mission of the Savior. Everything may be sacrificed in order to maintain the integrity of those essential facts. Thus, if Mormon Enigma reveals information that is detrimental to the reputation of Joseph Smith, then it is necessary to try to limit its influence and that of its authors."
- Apostle Dallin Oaks Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith: Psychobiography and the Book of Mormon, Introduction

So, what you are saying is that if anyone brings up issues with Joseph Smith it is ok to discredit them even if what they say is true? To what extent will they go to protect the image of Joseph Smith?

"Indeed, in some instances, the merciful companion to truth is silence. Some truths are best left unsaid."

"Any who are tempted to rake through the annals of history, to use truth unrighteously, or to dig up “facts” with the intent to defame or destroy, should hearken to this warning of scripture:

“The righteousness of God [is] revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” (Rom. 1:17-18.)

"I repeat: 'The wrath of God is … against all … who hold the truth in unrighteousness.'"

To anyone who, because of truth, may be tempted to become a dissenter against the Lord and his anointed, weigh carefully your action
Russell M. Nelson, “Truth—and More,” Ensign, Jan. 1986, page 69

Let me get this straight. If something is true, but talking about it will hurt the church, it is best left unsaid? And even if someone finds the truth, if they give it to others or use it to point out something wrong with doctrine, they are using it unrighteously? I don’t see how using truth to uncover manipulation and lies is a bad thing.

"It is one thing to depreciate a person who exercises corporate power or even government power. It is quite another thing to criticize or depreciate a person for the performance of an office to which he or she has been called of God. It does not matter that the criticism is true."
" As Elder George F. Richards, President of the Council of the Twelve, said in a conference address in April 1947, 'when we say anything bad about the leaders of the Church, whether true or false, we tend to impair their influence and their usefulness and are thus working against the Lord and his cause.
Dallin H. Oaks, "Reading Church History," CES Doctrine and Covenants Symposium, Brigham Young University, 16 Aug. 1985

What if you don’t believe that person was really called of God? Is it ok to criticize then? According to these quotes, it’s not ok, even if what is said is true about that person. Perhaps that is how they got away with so many atrocities back in those days and how they change doctrine of the church today without the slightest flinch from the church membership.

“Church history can be so interesting and so inspiring as to be a very powerful tool indeed for building faith. If not properly written or properly taught, it may be a faith destroyer.

“There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not.”

Some things that are true are not very useful.”
Boyd K. Packer, "The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect", 1981

How do we know which truth is useful? Which events, teachings and facts are to be taught and which are to be ignored? Should they just say that Joseph Smith had many wives or should they mention that a couple of those wives were only 14 years old when he married them? Is that a faith building part of history or a faith destroyer? I think that it is truth regardless of how it affects one’s testimony and it should be left to each individual to come to their own conclusion.

"We are instructed to be like children, who are willing to be taught and then to act without first demanding full knowledge."
"Let us believe all things. Let us have unquestioning faith in all of the doctrines and truths of the restored gospel."
Elder Robert Oaks, "Believe All Things," Ensign, July 2005, page 30

Corinthians 13:11
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Children are naive, gullible, innocent and are trusting enough to believe anything they are told. They are not capable of discerning between make believe and reality. If they were, Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny would be out of jobs. Most children are upset and confused when they find out the truth about Santa, just like I was when I found out the truth about Mormonism.

I am not a child, I am an adult. Many experiences have given me the ability and maturity to think for myself and form my own opinions. The age of innocents is behind me and I have no desire to go back. I no longer believe in “Joseph Clause”. I have seen what living life in the Mormon fantasy land does to a person, and it is no way to live. Life is much better in the fresh air of reality and truth.

"Truth surely exists as an absolute, but our use of truth should be disciplined by other values. ... When truth is constrained by other virtues, the outcome is not falsehood but silence for a season. As the scriptures say, there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.”

"Public debate—the means of resolving differences in a democratic government—is not appropriate in our Church government. We are all subject to the authority of the called and sustained servants of the Lord. They and we are all governed by the direction of the Spirit of the Lord, and that Spirit only functions in an atmosphere of unity. That is why personal differences about Church doctrine or procedure need to be worked out privately."
- Apostle Dallin H. Oaks, “Criticism,” Ensign, Feb. 1987

Privately, I don’t think so! The church has excommunicated many people because they were unwilling to keep their issues with doctrine to themselves. Why should I go along with their censorship of truth? I am no longer subject to their rules and I will not keep silent. When I started this journey, I had no intention of speaking out against the church but the more I see, the harder it gets to bite my tongue. I can not stand by and watch while others are deceived. If that makes me an “Anti-Mormon” then so be it.

A follow-up post about TRUTH (Part 1)

I have been thinking about the need to find truth and found quotes from both early and current LDS leaders that address the subject. I have grouped them in two parts. This first post will show what early leaders said about truth.

I think a full, free talk is frequently of great use; we want nothing secret nor underhanded, and for one I want no association with things that cannot be talked about and will not bear investigation.
John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, V20 Ch1 p265

In the early days of the church, the leaders were very bold in their statements and did not shy away from discussion of doctrine.

Convince us of our errors of doctrine, if we have any, by reason, by logical arguments, or by the word of God, and we will be ever grateful for the information, and you will ever have the pleasing reflection that you have been instruments in the hands of God of redeeming your fellow beings from the darkness which you may see enveloping their minds.
Orson Pratt, The Seer, Ch17 p15-16

I love this statement! I love it because it plainly states that logic and reason are valid ways to truth, not just the warm fuzzy feeling you get from the spirit. My approach to this blog is very similar to this. I try to put logic, reason and church history/doctrine together. When they are laid out, side by side, it becomes very easy to see where they contradict one another. Orson Pratt welcomed this added insight and encouraged such discussion for the betterment of the church and its members.

I will tell you who the real fanatics are: they are they who adopt false principles and ideas as facts, and try to establish a superstructure upon a false foundation. They are the fanatics; and however ardent and zealous they may be, they may reason or argue on false premises till doomsday, and the result will be false. If our religion is of this character we want to know it; we would like to find a philosopher who can prove it to us.
Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v13 p271

Can I get an Amen?

Thank you Brother Brigham for making my point. A road made of false principles and ideas will always lead to a dead end. He must have been looking in a mirror when he wrote this sermon.

All of these quotes promote some type of discussion and truth. I see them as challenges to believers and non-believers alike to examine and think about all of the teachings they present and then take any issues to the leaders and they will listen with an open mind.

Do current leaders and members feel the same way?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The whole armour of God

Tonight I was at an adult group where there was a small worship service. During the sermon, the pastor talked about putting on the whole armour of God. This is a topic I had heard a million times as a youth growing up and also as a missionary. Tonight, I noticed something that I had never seen before. Truth is the first thing needed when combating Satan.

Ephesians 6:13-18
13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,
15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

This passage sets out the way we are supposed to prepare for battle against the evil in the world. The first thing we are to do is arm ourselves with truth. Then righteousness is needed, followed by the gospel of peace. The fourth thing is faith. The last few items you need are the helmet of salvation and the word of God (sword of the Spirit).

The order of preparation is very important here. It is common belief that Satan is constantly waging war against us so at any moment, we could be called upon to fight. This would mean that a fight might come even if we are not fully clothed and protected. Keeping this in mind, the first items we are told to put on must be the most vital for our survival. Now, I don’t know anything about biblical warfare and the importance of each article of clothing but I’d venture to guess that without the first item, the rest will not function properly. Ideas were taught in the Bible in terms that the people would understand so I am pretty sure the order of things made sense to those being spoken to.

This part of the sermon tonight really spoke to me. I am in my own search for the truth, not only about Mormonism, but about God in general.

I have been trying to think about times when I was taught that truth was this important and I can not thing of any. Pretty much all of the LDS teachings or sayings seem to put faith first.

Articles of Faith
4 We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

D&C 4:5-6 (A scripture recited on a daily basis by all missionaries and also used to prepare young men to serve)
5 And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.
6 Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.

Young Women Theme – recited each Sunday
We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. We will “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9) as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are:

Divine Nature
Individual Worth
Choice and Accountability
Good Works and

We believe as we come to accept and act upon these values,
we will be prepared to
strengthen home and family,
make and keep sacred covenants,
receive the ordinances of the temple,
and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.

Relief Society Declaration
We are beloved spirit daughters of God,
and our lives have meaning, purpose, and direction. As a worldwide sisterhood, we are united in our devotion to Jesus Christ, our Savior and Exemplar.

We are women of faith, virtue, vision, and charity who:
Increase our testimonies of Jesus Christ
through prayer and scripture study.

Seek spiritual strength by following the
promptings of the Holy Ghost.

Dedicate ourselves to strengthening
marriages, families, and homes.

Find nobility in motherhood
and joy in womanhood.

Delight in service and good works.

Love life and learning.

Stand for truth and righteousness.

Sustain the priesthood
as the authority of God on earth.

Rejoice in the blessings of the temple,
understand our divine destiny,
and strive for exaltation.

In all of these mottos and creeds, are the Mormon values that they are supposed to strive for and are models for proper living. In each example, faith comes first. While I know that faith is important, I think having faith in false teachings is extremely harmful. Faith must be anchored in truth if your testimony is to remain calm in troubled waters. The anchor must latch onto a strong and immovable rock, which is truth, so you do not drift away from the protection of God’s harbor.

Friday, April 11, 2008

You might be on your way out of Mormonism if....

• Your heart rate increases dramatically every time you buy a coffee.
• The word "apostate" doesn't sound scary anymore, but instead fills you with a sense of pride.
• The word "endowment" makes you cringe far more than any curse word you know of.
• You realize that viewing bits of history that aren't "always helpful" has gone from being troublesome to fascinating.
• You receive nastygrams left by members in the middle of the night.
• 10% of your gross income goes to Fidelity.
• You stop including middle initials when referring to general authorities.
• You smirk when the latest temple dedicatory prayer in Latin America refers to the locals as "the children of Lehi."
• You start finding ways to use temple endowment language in everyday speech.
• You know who Fanny Alger is.
• The merest glance at the Book of Abraham facsimiles causes you to giggle.
• You declare the proverbial oxe to be in the mire from here on out, and start shopping and seeing movies on Sundays.
• You actually like Sundays.
• You watch a movie without even knowing or caring what it's rated.
• The waitress asks if you'd like a margarita, and rather than being offended by the question, you're offended by the low-quality liquor they use.
• If your temple recommend interview doesn't get past the first question.
• You refer to the former church president as "Gordo."
• If you suddenly find all the truth to be "useful."
• You think that girl's tattoo and extra earrings look pretty hot, actually.
• You no longer consider ice tea to be a "hot drink."
• You've actually inquired as to whether you could get a tithing refund.
• TBMs suddenly stop acknowledging you exist.
• You find that when discussing Mormonism online you write "the church" rather than "the Church".
• You walk shamelessly into Starbuck's, hold your head up high, and proclaim "I'll have a grande americano". Then when they ask "Room for cream?" you boldly affirm, "Yes!"
• You've had a few drinks and found that afterwards you curiously didn't turn into an abusing raving lunatic with no self-control.
• You've got a warm feeling inside. This means you either just drank something alcoholic, or you've been fantasizing about life without Mormonism.
• You think it's more important to be a good person than a good Mormon.
• You discover that most people are not looking for "the one true church."
• You wonder just how in the name of all that's holy they got you to believe that God cares what kind of underwear you wear.
• You feel more sympathy for the missionaries than you do pride.
• a relative says what you're doing will impact the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of others including those not yet born
• Another asks what kind of hideous sin you are covering up with this "concern" about church history
• you've met with your bishop and you ask him what he would do if he was bishop of the Nauvoo 4th Ward in 1842 and Joseph Smith asked for his wife or daughter for plural marriage
• you come to the conclusion that the teachings of the LDS church amount to no more than THE PHILOSOPHIES OF MEN MINGLED WITH SCRIPTURE
• Various forms of the word "offend" start appearing in proximity to your name during ward gossip sessions

This list was taken from Some of the information there is not worth a hill of beans and some Mormons will find parts a bit offensive, but there are some sections that are very well done.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Paint Chips- author unknown

Being a part of the Mormon church is like having your whole body painted with many layers. First you get the lessons...there are several coats of doctrine. Then you get baptized and confirmed; two more thick coats of paint. The "paint" is intended to refurbish you as a member, to make you more acceptable to the church, to "God," to others. With each Relief Society or Priesthood lesson, another coat is applied. With each meeting, each interview, the layers of paint build. A trip to the Temple takes several coats and is inspected after each year. Then one day, you realize, you can't move! When you question about your lack of movement, the inspector tells you that your foundation is just fine. You try and sit still and remain the representation of a church "remodeled" member. But the questions come from within.

Then you hear something. A crack. A deep crack begins from the inside out. You doubt yourself because you know if you don't keep quiet, someone will hear! Someone will SEE that your appearance is now damaged. Someone might question if you have been properly taking care of your foundation, etc. Then one day, it happens. Just a small patch breaks away. You see something unusual. You touch it and are surprised. "Is that my skin?" you ask. It feels so alive and real. You begin to gently pick it away, then in a fervor you are scraping as much as you can off. Paint chips are everywhere! Soon you are standing there uncovered. You feel free. You breathe. Your body aches from the release of all that weight. You sigh and do not worry that other "painted folks" will see you without your so called "protective shell" You start the clean up job. Quickly and efficiently you sweep up all the chips and flakes. There are so many of them! It seems overwhelming at first, but then the job is done. All the mess is tossed out. You love your clean house; the way your body can breathe and move and LIVE! You are rearranging your life and then BAM you find a paint chip under the rug. Somehow you missed it...or did you save it? One day you go to get a coat and a few missed chips fall from a sleeve. Little reminders of what used to be. "It may take a while to get rid of all this residue" you say. But that is ok.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The FLDS church and mainstream Mormonism

Unless you live under a rock, you have either heard of or read about the raid on the polygamist compound in Texas. Over 400 kids were taken, many of whom were sexually abused. Any time something like this happens, everyone I know asks me about it and I have always wondered why. Having put distance between me and the Mormon church, I am beginning to understand.

When Mormons hear about the FLDS practices, they usually dismiss them because they do not consider that religious group part of Mormonism. I know that because I did it myself for many years. My canned response to such questions would always go something like this.

“While the LDS church once practiced polygamy, they no longer condone it and anyone that is found practicing it is excommunicated. So, the “Mormons” spoken of in this case are not really Mormon and have nothing to do with the church I belong to.”

That would be the end of the conversation and I would think nothing of it. Since then, I have become a bit more enlightened on the subject and have realized that this kind of attitude is dangerous. LDS members seem to ignore the fact that those in the FLDS religion are actually following the teachings of Joseph Smith very closely. They believe that he was a prophet, and they follow the Book of Mormon and other revelations, just like mainstream Mormons do. They have the same roots and their basic tenets come from the mouths of early LDS leaders. They have chosen to stay with those doctrines while mainstream Mormonism has, in many cases, gone in a different direction.

If Joseph Smith lived today, would Mormons think the same way about him as they do Warren Jeffs? If you compare the actions of the two men, they are very similar. They both forced women and underage girls, through coercion, to marry them. They provided the same service to other men who proved their loyalty to them. They both had sex with those women against their will and held their victims hostage through threats of eternal damnation and physical punishment if they were not obedient.

While the church stopped the practice of polygamy back in 1890, there were actually still other plural marriages that were permitted by the prophet up until around 1904. The belief in plural marriage still exists in the Morg and it is my contention that if they had not received so much social and political pressure to change, they would still be practicing it today.

Here’s the question that comes to mind when I think about this topic. If the Mormon church had not stopped the practice of polygamy, would I have ended up like one of those poor kids? As a grown man, would I have been a participant in something so degrading and hurtful to women and children? It is a question worth thinking about because it is my opinion that most Mormons don’t understand how close they were to being put into the same situation.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A few random thoughts

One thing this blog has done is show me who my real friends are and that alone makes it worth it. I have seen a wide range of reactions to what I am doing here and those reactions have given me a very good look into the heart and mind of each person.

I think there is a misconception as to the tone of this blog. Many see anger towards the LDS church in my posts which I can assure you is not the case. Am I angry? The answer is a resounding YES! But that anger is directed toward me and no one else. I am angry at myself for letting others dictate how I live my life. I am angry because I failed to properly educate myself and know more about the religion I claimed to be part of and even defended using what I now know to be half truths and smokescreens. I’m pissed off that I spent two years teaching people in Spain the same things I now see as manipulative and dishonest. The mere idea that I had a hand in the conversion of the people I taught makes me cringe. I hope they will forgive me for being part of the facade.

I like to refer to myself as a "Hopeful Agnostic" because I have a natural tendency to want to believe but have lost all trust and faith in religion. You see, I have spent the large majority of my life living a religion that hid truths from me. The discovery of those truths has affected my loyalty to them and God. It is a horrible feeling realizing that you have been deceived by someone who claimed to be a man of God. It destroys everything you have built your life around. The moment I realized that the LDS church is not what it claims to be, my faith came crashing down. I was left holding the pieces, having to rebuild my belief system but not knowing where to begin.

I enjoy going to church with my family now more than I ever have in my life. However, I cannot bring myself to the point where I can let go and put my trust in another church and to me that also makes it impossible to put my faith in God because that is where I am supposed to learn about Him. I see all of this as a process and it is going to take time to find solid ground to stand on. In the end, will I find a belief in God? I don’t know, but I do know that, regardless of where I land, I will be better off for having gone through all of this. Knowledge is power and the truth will set you free.

Monday, April 7, 2008

My source for the story of Bishop Snow

I have had some people request my source for the story regarding Bishop Snow and the young man he castrated due to disobedience. The account appears in a book written by John D. Lee who was part of the Mountain Meadow Massacre and was a good friend to Joseph Smith and part of the leadership of the church. He was also an alleged member of the Danites. The Danites were a group of men who were the enforcers of the laws. They would protect the leaders of the church and quietly take out those who opposed them. Many acts of Blood Atonement in the early church were also attributed to the Danites. There are different historical views on the extent of the actions of the Danites but none deny that they did in fact exist.

The full text of his book is available on-line by clicking the link below. This story is found on page 284-286.
Confessions of John D. Lee, Photo-reprint of 1877 edition

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Which one of these is not like the others?

Let’s play a game!

Which one of these is not like the others?

Having a hard time? I’ll give you a hint. It is the picture featured in most church magazines and lesson manuals. The correct answer is, picture number 3.

Why is it so out of place in this line-up? Well, it is the one that does not depict how the Book of Mormon was actually translated. For years, the church has shown images like this, leading its members and investigators to believe that this was how Joseph translated the golden plates. They depict Joseph intensely focused on the plates themselves, taking the translated words directly from them. This is what the church wants you to believe but it is not in synch with actual accounts of the translation process.

Emma Smith was the first person to act as a scribe for Joseph and she had the following to say about it.
“In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us."

David Whitmer offered up the use of his house for the translation and this is his account:
"I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear."

He also said that:
"I, as well as all of my father's family, Smith's wife, Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris, were present during the translation. . . . He [Joseph Smith] did not use the plates in translation."
~An Address to All Believers in Christ, David Whitmer

Of course, this brings us to the question of why is the church not forthcoming with the true method used to translate the plates. I would imagine that they are rather embarrassed by it. Try to put yourself in the shoes of an investigator. When the missionaries tell you about the coming forth of the BoM, instead of showing you a nice picture of Joseph using the plates in the translation, they tell you that he put a stone in a hat and then covered his face with it to make the words appear to him. Which account would you be more likely to believe?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Who gets into heaven?

Just to add a little humor to the blog. This video is funny yet true to Mormon teachings. Enjoy!

A quote about leadership

I read this quote today and thought that is fit in well with the topic of my last few blogs.

"Ethics must begin at the top of an organization. It is a leadership issue and the chief executive must set the example."
~Edward Hennessy

The story of Bishop Warren Snow

There is a story that stands out above the rest in when looking at the horrible practices of coercion and unrighteous dominion of the leaders in early church history.

Warren Snow, who was a bishop in Manti, already had a few wives but a young woman caught his eye. He had a problem though in that she was already promised to a young man. He told her that it was the Lord’s will that she leave her man and marry him. She respectfully declined his proposal a couple of times. Not willing to take no for an answer, Bishop Snow then approached the man she was promised to, telling him to break off their engagement. Staying true to his love for her, he also told the Bishop that he could not leave her. Snow then met with some of the brethren and decided to call a meeting with the young man to discuss his unwillingness to follow their council. The unthinkable then happened. When the young man arrived, he was taken, beaten, and strapped to a bench. Bishop Snow, himself, took out a bowie-knife and castrated him. His severed parts were then nailed to the schoolhouse for all to see. He was left there, bleeding with no one to help. After struggling for a while, he managed to free himself and crawl to where someone would find him. He was used as an example and warning to all, showing what could happen if they did not obey the leaders of the church. The young woman was later forced to marry Warren Snow.

There is evidence that shows that Brigham Young supported this action…

“In the midsummer of 1857 Brigham Young also expressed approval for an LDS bishop who had castrated a man. In May 1857 Bishop Warren S. Snow's counselor wrote that twenty-four-year-old Thomas Lewis 'has now gone crazy' after being castrated by Bishop Snow for an undisclosed sex crime. When informed of Snow's action, Young said: 'I feel to sustain him...' In July Brigham Young wrote a reassuring letter to the bishop about this castration: 'Just let the matter drop, and say no more about it,' the LDS president advised, 'and it will soon die away among the people.' "(The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, Vol. 2, pp. 250-251)

Wilford Woodruff spoke about a meeting he was in with Brigham Young where the topic came up as well.

"I then went into the president office & spent the evening. Bishop Blackburn was present. The subject Came up of some persons leaving Provo who had Apostatized. Some thought that Bishop Blackburn & President Snow was to blame. Brother Joseph Young presented the thing to president Young. But When the Circumstances were told President Brigham Young sustained the Brethren who presided at Provo…
"The subjects of Eunuchs came up…Brigham Said the day would Come when thousands would be made Eunochs in order for them to be saved in the kingdom of God." (Wilford Woodruff's Diary, June 2, 1857, Vol. 5, pp. 54-55)

The idea that prophets knew about and encouraged such things really makes me wonder what kind of men they really were. I see them as greedy, power hungry men, who only looked after the desires of their hearts and cared nothing for the actual will of God or the salvation of those who so willingly followed them.

Many Mormons find peace in the idea that God will never let a prophet lead away the members of the church. My question to them is how many examples do you need before you begin to see that the Mormon prophets have, many times over, lead their followers down paths that only lead away from God? Is this something that the God you believe in would approve of?

I didn’t think so.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none

So, for years I defended the idea of early Mormons practicing polygamy by saying that they only did it to take care of those poor pioneer women whose husbands died on the plains. Or that it was something that was practiced by those in the Bible as well so why not now. After all, God does not change, right? These were ideas that I was taught by various church leaders but they never seemed to sit too well with me. I was reading yesterday and came upon an interesting passage in the Book of Mormon that talks about those who practiced it in the early days.

Jacob 2:22-28
22 And now I make an end of speaking unto you concerning this pride. And were it not that I must speak unto you concerning a grosser crime, my heart would rejoice exceedingly because of you.
23 But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.
24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.

25 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.
26 Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.
27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;
28 For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.

Now, I think I probably read this section 20+ times in my life but never really stopped to think about how it relates to Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and many other men in the early days of the church. Joseph himself “translated” the BoM so you would think he would know about how God felt concerning the idea of having more then one wife. After all, it was the translation work that brought up questions about baptism and the priesthood so why would he have just skipped over this part?

I have not found a passage that states so clearly the disdain God has towards those who have more then one wife and take away the chastity of women. Now, why then would God command Joseph to implement the principle of plural marriage if he was so displeased with David, Solomon and the Nephites for doing the same thing? If there is a God, I do not think he would. I especially don’t think he would have compelled Joseph to do it by sending an angel with a flaming sword to him threatening to take his life. I also do not think that God would command his prophets to take other men’s wives for their own while they are still married and even pregnant. If what Joseph claims is true about plural marriage, then his God is not one I care to believe in. I believe that Joseph, thinking of his own need for power, did this knowing it was wrong. Why else would he have hid it from Emma, his first wife, as well as others for so long? Why would he send men off on missions and then only months later, take their wives as his own? That practice, in any time in history, would not be looked upon with favorable eyes.

For those of you who doubt that Joseph practiced polygamy and polyandry, go to yourself, just like I have done, and do a search for Joseph Smith marriage records from 1827 and on. I will make it easy on you, just…click here. What will you find? On a church run website, you will find the records of the majority if not all of his marriages, including those women he married while they were still faithfully married to another man.

D&C 132:61-63
61 And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.
62 And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified.
63 But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed…

So, according to the revelation given above, as long as the second wife is a virgin and the first wife gives her consent, the marriage is ok. While I disagree with the principle, I am willing to give Joseph the benefit of the doubt up to this point. The problem for me comes next. If the woman is not a virgin and or is vowed to another man, the one trying to marry her is not justified. By that note, anyone who Joseph and others married that were previously married, they did unjustly and committed adultery because of it. Now, it is believed by those brethren that they were not committing adultery but what of the women how already had a husband? According to verse 63, they did commit adultery by being espoused but also being with another man. That is quite the double standard.

I leave you with the words of one of the late Apostles of the LDS church…

"I think no more of taking another wife than I do of buying a cow." - Apostle Heber C. Kimball, The Twenty Seventh Wife, Irving Wallace, p. 101.

I think that statement just about sums it all up. Now I think I’m going to be sick!