Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Please, I would love to know…

So, one thing I keep hearing is that so many of you True Believing Mormons have already seen everything on this blog but have come to a different conclusion then I have. Now, just let me say that I totally respect your right to choose your beliefs and understand that there are many who are completely happy in Mormonism. What I don’t get is how, knowing all the negative aspects of church history, doctrine, culture, and the character of those you hold in such great honor, you still manage to come to that conclusion. I don’t see how that is possible unless you are able to do some extreme mental gymnastics. I would love to hear how you rationalize the following facts.

-There were over 5 separate accounts of the “first vision”, all of which differ from one another in some vary major ways. The first of those was not written until 1832. That is 12 years after the vision supposedly happened.

-In the years before and following the first vision, Joseph was well known for his treasure hunting excursions using a seer/peep stone that he found while digging a well with his brother.

-He then used that same seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon by putting it into a hat and then burying his head in it. With the hat pulled around his eyes, to close out all light, he then dictated what he saw.

-There are many accounts of those who helped in the translation process who confirm that the plates were not actually used while translating. They were either covered up on the table or sometimes they were even hidden in the woods outside of the home where they lived. This is completely different then the pictures you see in the manuals and teaching aids the church uses, depicting Joseph going over the plates, page by page, symbol by symbol.

-The Book of Mormon was “translated” by the gift and power of God and according to Joseph Smith, the “most correct of any book on earth”. Why then has it been changed so many times?

-The many anachronisms found in the Book of Mormon. For example: The presence of silk, steel, horses, elephants, wheat and other things that were not present in the Americas until they were brought over by the Spaniards and have not been found to exist during the time the Book of Mormon took place.

-The lack of any concrete evidence of the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

-Joseph Smith had over 30 wives. Some were as young as 14 and at least 10 were taken by Joseph from their current husbands and made his. Some of these men were sent on missions and their wives taken while they were gone.

-Joseph, on many occasions, preached about how polygamy was wrong, even though he was actually currently engaged in its practice. It was even part of the early version of the Book of Commandments (D&C) but was taken out when section 132 was added.

-Joseph lied to Emma about his plural wives and some were the very women who lived with them as her helpers.

-Even after the Official Declaration in 1890, stopping the practice of polygamy, President Wilford Woodruff, personally condoned and sanctioned other plural marriages until 1904.

-Brigham Young, as well as other “prophets” taught that people of color were part of an inferior race, that slavery was “a divine institution”, and that anyone who mixed with their seed should be killed on the spot. According to many, they will “never hold the priesthood”.

-Even though Joseph Smith revealed the temple ceremony and said it should never be changed, it has under gone multiple revisions, taking out parts that made it more acceptable by the members of today. Some of those things are death oaths, the depiction of a protestant minister doing the work of Satan and more recently, the way the washing and anointing are done.

-These ceremonies are directly related to those done by the Masons which Joseph became a part of only months before he “revealed” them.

-The Book of Abraham translation has been proven a fraud and the actual papyri Joseph used to translate the book is actually a common Egyptian burial scroll called the Book of Breathings. Joseph’s translation does not come close to the real meaning of the text and pictures. The Book of Abraham is still used to this day despite the evidence against its validity.

If the church has nothing to hide, why then are these issues not discussed in greater detail? Why does the church tell their teachers and instructors to only teach and discuss the “faith promoting” side of the gospel and history? Is the truth not important to them?

I would love to know what you do to believe in the LDS church despite these things because I can not. If you care to dispute some of these points, please do so with intelligent, thought out points and be sure to site your sources.

Off Topic: Those who insist on harassing my wife because of the things I have written on this blog need to either get a life or enough guts to come to me about the issues you have with its contents. This is where I voice MY opinion and she has nothing to do with what I write and does not see it till I post it. If you have a problem with what is on this blog, you have two choices, either stand up for what you believe, using intellectually sound opinion and sources or leave it alone and go do your home/visiting teaching.

Friday, May 23, 2008

You don't have to hide away

So, one of my all time favorite bands has always been Erasure. My brother introduced me to them when I was very young and I have benefited from their music ever since. They have too many songs to actually have a favorite but “Hideaway” has been at the top of my list for years. The song has great lyrics which are very appropriate for my current situation.

One day the boy decided
To let them know the way he felt inside
He could not stand to hide it
His mother she broke down and cried
Oh my father
Why don't you talk to me now
Oh my mother
Do you still cry yourself to sleep

Are you still proud of your little boy
Don't be afraid (Be afraid)
You don't have to hide away

The boy he was rejected
By the people that he cared for
It's not what they expected
But he could not keep it secret anymore
Far from home now
Waiting by the telephone
There's a new world
You can make it on your own
Are you still proud of your little boy
Don't be afraid (Be afraid)
You don't have to hide away
(Don't be afraid)
(Love will mend your broken wing)
(Time will slip away)
(Learn to be brave)

Oh my father
Why don't you talk to me now
Oh my mother
Do you still cry yourself to sleep
Are you still proud of your little boy
Don't be afraid (be afraid)
You don't have to hide away
(Don't be afraid)
(Love will mend your broken wing)
(Time will slip away)
(Learn to be brave)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Nooma 008 - Dust (Jesus Walks on the Water - Peter Sinks)

About 2 weeks ago, a pastor at the church my wife and I go to gave me a DVD of a guy named Rob Bell. He does a series called Nooma and this particular DVD was titled “Dust”. Since I am in a phase where I want to learn as much as possible about religion, I thanked him and took it home. I let it sit untouched on the counter for about 10 days. Not wanting to hold onto it too long, I watched it the night before I knew I would see him again. I was impressed. Rob Bell does a really good job of speaking in terms anyone can understand and I appreciate that since the Bible is relatively new for me.

Part of his sermon, if you call it that, spoke of the story of Jesus walking on water (Matthew 14:22-32). We have all heard the story but after telling the story he said something that got me thinking. When Jesus approached the boat, he called to Peter to come to him. Upon hearing this, Peter stepped, without hesitation, out of the boat, onto the water. He made it a few steps but then began to sink because of fear. When he cried out for help, Jesus pulled him from the water and said “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Rob explained that Peter did not lose faith in Jesus, after all it was not Jesus that was sinking, he actually lost faith in himself.

I thought about that for a while and then asked myself; did I lose faith in Jesus/God, in religion, or in myself? That is not an easy question to answer.

Upon further reflection, I think the answer is “all of the above”.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Learning the truth about Mormonism by watching South Park

I have put other South Park videos on this blog but I have wanted to put this one up for a while now. The way they portray the Mormon family is so perfect. What I love about it is that they got 98% of the story right. I hope y’all enjoy it as much as I do.

via videosift.com

Eight Simple Rules That Led Me Out Of Mormonism

I am working on a few posts but have not been able to get them to the point where I am comfortable with putting them on this site for you. While I continue to work on those, I will give you this to chew on. I found this written on The Mormon Curtain by someone named XTBM. It was done back in 2005 and I could not agree more with it. I don't really like to post stuff that I have not written but hey, why re-invent the wheel?

Eight Simple Rules That Led Me Out Of Mormonism:

Rule 1: Just because someone says something doesn't mean what he/she says is true

I apply this rule to everyone, regardless of intelligence, point of view, etc. Mormon apologists - many highly educated - have all kinds of explanations for seeming contradictions in Mormonism's history. Some people accept these at face value "Oh, see, there are reasonable explanations for all of these problems!" But for a person who is guided by Rule #1, explanations are only as good as the paper they are written on! A rule that leads nicely into Rule 2…

Rule 2: Just because someone intelligent believes something is true doesn't mean it is true

If a high level of intelligence were the most important factor of discovering religious truth, then all - or a majority of - highly intelligent people in the world would hold similar religious beliefs. As it is, the world of religious beliefs is fragmented into thousands of factions, each with its own set of apologists spinning a web of logic designed to entrap their perception of truth upon its strands. There are a lot of smart people in this world who are enlisted in the ranks of the defense of what are often conflicting religious beliefs - quite obviously, not all of them can be right!

Rule 3: Reality-based belief is better than theory-based belief

"Theory" can be used to support almost any belief because all one has to do is come up with an explanation that falls in the realm of plausibility in order for the breath of life to fill a theory's lungs - and plausibility is not all that tough of a standard to reach.

"Reality", on the other hand, is a different beast altogether. The path from "theory" into "reality" is strewn with the lifeless corpses of theories that couldn't withstand the intense scrutiny required for passage. It isn't easy to distinguish between the two because theory-based beliefs are often passed off as being reality-based, but there is value in being aware of when a belief is based in theory as opposed to fact - at the least it helps one avoid the pitfall of holding too tightly to a belief that ultimately ends up being an illusion.

Mormonism is a religion that is high on theory-based belief and short on reality-based belief. The following quote by Daniel Peterson last year in regards to the lack of evidence supporting the Book of Mormon highlights this principle as it relates to the Book of Mormon:

"There is, thus far, little in the way of specific archaeological evidence -- taking archaeological in the sense of artifactual -- for the Book of Mormon. The NHM altars in Yemen may be the best we've got, along with the general accuracy of 1 Nephi's portrayal of Lehi's route along the Arabian coast (via the Valley of Lemuel and the River of Laban, and then through Nahom) to Old World Bountiful. There is, however, considerable philological evidence within the Book of Mormon itself suggestive of its antiquity, and there is a great deal of ancient evidence, artifactual and otherwise, from both the Near East and Mesoamerica, that is consistent with the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon in very specific and striking ways."

Put another way, there is, thus far, little (read: NOTHING) in terms of "reality-based" information to support the Book of Mormon, but there is considerable "theory-based" stuff out there - spun by none other than your friendly, neighborhood apologists.

Rule 4: The definition of "Faith" is NOT ignoring all evidence that is contrary to what you believe

"Faith" is perhaps the single most abused concept in Mormonism. All one has to do is have enough "faith" and the most serious issues facing Mormonism simply fade away into a backdrop of insignificance. The defect is placed with the person, not with the organization - more on that in Rule 5.

But first, for the Biblical definition of faith (this point is about faith as it is presented in Christianity, not on the validity of faith as a principle and the existence of God), let's turn to the oft-quoted standard, Hebrews 11:1 - "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." That definition, though, is incomplete without reading the rest of the chapter where faith is framed as an ACTION-BASED word. It gives many examples of people who were spurred to actions because of their faith: Abel offering a sacrifice, Noah preparing an ark, Moses refusing to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, etc.

Nowhere does it mention that faith is ignoring evidence that contradicts your point of view. Faith is belief that leads to action, not belief in something in spite of its contradictions.

Rule 5: Faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed

This rule ties closely with Rule 4 - if faith is belief that leads to action, that faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed. After all, if any issue can be dismissed with "faith", then misplaced faith simply becomes a license to believe in error. Scrutinizing information that has the potential to contradict your belief system does not represent a lack of faith; rather, it's a great way to keep "faith" from trapping you into a false paradigm.

If you ask a Mormon why there is "little in the way of specific archaeological evidence…for the Book of Mormon" as Dr. Peterson stated, some will say "it has to be that way - if not, there would be no need for faith!" Faith becomes an escape hatch for belief systems knee-deep in errors.

Rule 6: Spiritual experiences alone do not lead to religious truth

This rule strikes directly at the heart of why many people stay in Mormonism regardless of the issues. People have certain spiritual experiences that they take to mean the Church is "true" beyond a shadow of a doubt. It is not my place or my desire to tell people what God has or hasn't revealed to them, but one thing I strongly believe is that Mormons are not the only people who believe God has revealed the truth to them.

People in religions around the world don't go around dedicating their lives to their religion for trivial reasons - they believe it is for a higher cause. I'm willing to bet that if I went and talked to 10,000 leaders in various religious organizations around the world, a good number of them would give me a similar answer: "I'm only doing the will of God - He as led me here and He has revealed to me the truthfulness of this work. I see His hand in this work."

I'm not God, so I'm not going to pretend I know why this phenomenon exists. But it is apparent that spiritual experiences can result in many, many different interpretations of truth. And, no matter how much a person claims that their spiritual experiences have led them to know their path is the way to truth - and no matter how sincere they are in that belief - that doesn't automatically mean that they are right. And if that's the case, I believe one shouldn't base one's beliefs 100% on spiritual feelings.

Rule 7: Everyone's beliefs are grounded in logic

In the world of Mormonism, logic is often turned into the "bad guy", but the reality is no one can escape logic. People who rely solely on spiritual experiences for the basis of their testimony are relying on logic as well, regardless of whether or not they choose to see it that way. They still have to logically conclude that the spiritual experiences that they've had must mean that the Mormon church is "true". They are using logic to determine that there is NO other possible explanation for their experiences. They are using logic to decide they don't need to consider any other information (i.e. - DNA, archeology, etc) in determining the truthfulness of the Church. Everything that a person believes has to pass through his or her own personal firewall of logic!

Some people claim that "logic and reason will never discover truth." Although this might be true on some levels, I disagree with it as a rule that can be consistently applied to all situations. First, as it relates to Mormonism, I disagree with the unstated assumption that spiritual experiences ALONE are a better way to discover truth - see Rule #6. Second, because even the meaning of spiritual experiences must pass through one's personal system of logic. Finally, I disagree because sometimes (though certainly not always) logic does discover truth. One can use logic and reason to determine the truth about whether or not Joseph Smith married other men's wives, or whether or not he revised revelations, or that the American Indians are primarily (probably even entirely) descendants of Asians, or that the papyrus fragments in existence today were not written in Abraham's time. All of these are truths that have been determined through logic and reason! The real question isn't whether or not these things are true,but what will one do when determining the significance of this information?

Rule 8: I will not allow other people to dictate my life

This rule is what gives meaning to all the other rules - at least in regards to Mormonism. After all, what good is it to know something is false if you aren't willing to abandon the falsehood? Many here have felt the intense pressure applied by family and friends when they discover you no longer believe. Too often, in their eyes, "good" is defined relative to belief in Mormonism - it doesn't really matter what type of life you lead, if you don't believe in Mormonism, you are in the grips of evil!

This outside pressure can vary in intensity depending on one's personal situation and it causes some people to live a life that is not in harmony with their underlying beliefs - an "active" Mormon who doesn't believe in Mormonism's claims of truth. I will not fake belief to appease anyone because as soon as I do so, I have lost control of my life and, at that point, what good is that kind of life?

Each of us at some point must decide if we will live life on our own terms or if we will live it on someone else's terms. For some people, this rule is easy to live by, but for me it has been extremely difficult - and, after reading this board for quite some time now, I don't think I'm the only one who has struggled with this issue. Too many people feel their belief system is superior to your own, even when it is riddled with issues that contradict the "simple rules" that you live by…

Any other rules that you live by that caused you to lose you belief in Mormonism?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

They Can’t Have It Both Ways

A friend of mine asked that I write a post about this topic so, Lunar Quaker, this one is for you.

For the past few years the LDS church has really made a strong push to promote themselves as being part of Christianity.

According to Webster, Christianity is…

"the religion derived from Jesus Christ, based on the Bible as sacred scripture, and professed by Eastern, Roman Catholic, and Protestant bodies."

Those who are part of Christianity are referred to as “Christians”.

Mormons claim to be “Christian” because they believe in Jesus Christ but those in the Christian community point to many reasons they should not be considered as such and by pure definition, Webster agrees. That is not the topic of this post but definitely worth further discussion in the near future.

This post is actually being written to talk about the LDS church and how they have responded to the FLDS issue that is going on in my “backyard”. Below, are two clips from LDS spokesmen regarding the separation they wish to make between themselves and the fundamentalist groups that practice polygamy.

In both statements, the men have asked for total separation of the term “Mormon” from that of any fundamentalist or polygamous sect. It is important to note that there are over 200 religious groups, which are recognized by the US Government, that follow the teachings of Joseph Smith and consider the Book of Mormon to be scripture. The term “Mormon” obviously comes from the idea that the LDS church has an additional book of scripture that sets them apart from other churches. They are often called Mormons because of that simple fact. Why is it then that other churches that use the Book of Mormon can not be referred to by that name as well?

On the church website, they have listed guidelines for how they should be referred to in publications.

"While the term 'Mormon Church' has long been publicly applied to the Church as a nickname, it is not an authorized title, and the Church discourages its use.

When referring to people or organizations that practice polygamy, the terms 'Mormons,' 'Mormon fundamentalist,' 'Mormon dissidents,' etc. are incorrect. The Associated Press Stylebook notes: “The term Mormon is not properly applied to the other ... churches that resulted from the split after [Joseph] Smith’s death.”

I have two main questions regarding this issue:

1. The Mormon church wants to called “Christian” because they think they share the same basic beliefs as the groups that make up Christianity but they do not want churches who have the same beliefs as them to be referred to as “Mormon”. Does anyone else see the hypocrisy in this besides me?

2. If the LDS church discourages the use of the term “Mormon” even when referring to themselves, why all the fuss when another group claims a term they don’t really like anyways?

No matter what the church does, it will never be able to separate themselves from polygamy and those sects that split from them that still practice what Joseph Smith taught. If the LDS church wants to really make a statement regarding polygamy, they need to revoke section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants which gives the eternal law of polygamy and speaks of the fact that polygamy will be practiced in the Celestial Kingdom (the highest level of Heaven). Until they do that, they will always be known as the church that practiced polygamy and still practices celestial polygamy.

As for me, from now on, I am only going to refer to the FLDS group as “Mormon Fundamentalists”.
To deny the connection is to deny reality.

So Long, Farewell - parody

While on a Post-Mormon discussion board today, a guy named “Laman & Lemon”, who has been blessed with great wit, wrote a song parody to the Sound of Music tune “So Long, Farewell”. Don’t be afraid to sing as you read it.

There's a sad sort of lying
from the books of our past
And from mo-dern research too
And up in my noggin, there a part of my mind
Is popping up to say "it's poo"
"it's poo"
"it's poo"
Mormon histr'y it tells us
"it's poo"
And logic compels us
"it's poo"
To say goodbye,

"it's poo"

to you!!

So Long, farewell, our feet are stained, good night
I'm shocked, that Joe would lie about his wives

"doot, doo da loot doot doo doot doo- doot do da loot doot doo"

So long, farewell, papyrus showed his lies
It's poo, it's poo, to you and you and you

"doot, doo da loot doot doo doot doo- doot do da loot doot doo"

So long, farewell, offended I am not,
I've ne-ver had beer, cigs, tea or champagne

"doot, doo da loot doot doo doot doo- doot do da loot doot doo"

So long, farewell, I've only "known" my wife
I leave and heave a sigh and say goodbye,
Good bye (I'll have to REALLY gird up my loins to hit THAT high note)

I'm glad to go,
The church has told me lies.
I read, I know
My spirits's on a high

"doot, doo da loot doot doo doot doo- doot do da loot doot doo"

The lies I've put to test and so must you (slowly)
So long, farewell, truth does not change, goodbye,
GOODBYE!!!!! (final goodbye is done by the member/leaders. I doubt they will have the personality to do it)

I love humor like this!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Humanitarian Aid

Since I was a kid, I remember seeing reports between sessions of General Conference about how much good the church was doing around the world, in regards to humanitarian aid. I was proud to be part of a church that gave so much to those in need. I assumed, as the true church, that our giving was beyond comparison. I was on LDS.org the other day and ran into information about the church humanitarian aid donations that I thought was both interesting and sad.

Total church Membership – 12,868,606

Countries receiving humanitarian aid – 163

Humanitarian Cash Donations Since 1985 to 2007 – 259.8 million

Humanitarian material assistance since 1985 – 750.9 million

Total Humanitarian aid between 1985 to 2007 - $1,010,700,000

At first glance, it looks like a large sum of money. That is over 1 billion given in money and material since 1985 (22 years). I did some further math to break it down into something I could wrap my mind around. Here is what I came up with.

Aid given per year - $45,940,909.09

Per month - $3,828,409.09

Per member - $78.54 over 22 years ($3.57 per year)

Even in 1985, when I was 7 years old, I gave more than that to the church by way of tithing and fast offerings. Every Christmas, my 6 year old daughter gives more than $4.00 to the Red Cross just by dropping money into a red pail each and every time she walks past one. As an adult, I gave thousands a year and there are those that make enough to give tens of thousands to the church. Where is all that money going? The Mormon church does not release its financial records, which is another post for another day, so we cannot really know how much money they bring in and how much goes out. According to this Time Magazine article, the LDS church brings in around $5.2 Billion in tithing each year. If that is true, then the church gives less than 1% of the tithing it receives to humanitarian aid. In my opinion, that is not nearly enough.

I wanted to put this into perspective so I have looked up the charitable donations of other prominent businesses to see where they stand in comparison.

Target – “5% of our income goes to support education, social services, and the arts – which adds up to $3 million a week.” (That is $156 million a year, over 3 times what the church gives annually.)

Nike – “In fiscal years 2005 and 2006, Nike contributed more than $100 million in cash and products to nonprofit partners around the world.”

Wells Fargo – “In 2005, Wells Fargo contributed a record $95.2 million to over 15,000 non-profits nationwide. We thank our team members, who give hundreds of thousands of hours as volunteers, working to improve the well-being and economic self-sufficiency of our communities.”

Microsoft – “Sept. 21, 2006 — Today at Microsoft Corp.’s annual company meeting, Microsoft announced that the company has surpassed a mark that will not show up on a stock ticker or retail shelves. Since 1983, Microsoft and its employees have given more than $2.5 billion in cash, services and software to nonprofits around the world through localized, company-sponsored giving and volunteer campaigns.” (Double what the LDS church has done in basically the same amount of time.)

Now, I understand that Microsoft is a “super company” but Target, Nike and Wells Fargo all outdid the Mormon church. In a time where all we hear about is corporate greed, we see that what we are told can be deceiving. I have to tip my hat to those businesses and corporations who feel a moral responsibility to give back to the same communities that make then what they are and also to areas around the world that are in need. Certainly there are others that I did not look at that do the same.

The part that bothers me the most is that I have heard many times and very recently, “I don’t give to other charities because I already give my 10% to the church and they distribute it to charities they trust.” Unfortunately, according to their own statistics, only about $4 of their donations actually make it anywhere. That brings me to the point of this post.

Hey, Tommy Monson, where does all of the rest of the money go? I think you’ve got some explaining to do.