Monday, May 18, 2015

They're all about Christ?


Paul wrote in an epistle that you could be a world-class general conference speaker.  You could prophesy the Higgs Boson, God Particle and end-of-days calamities.  That you could unlock secrets of immortal life.  You could be a billionaire philanthropist.  You could build bombs that destroy evil nations that usher in the millennium...

But if you don't have the love of Christ, called charity, you really suck at Christianity.

Here's the actual KJV quote from Corinthians:

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." (1 Corinthians 13: 1-3)

You heard it at my blog in 2013, based on personal communications I've had with other developers in my area.  The LDS church truly wants money.  They want to take their so-called charity ranch in central Florida and turn it into a hundred billion dollar development for their future benefit.

My hometown paper, the Orlando Sentinel, is reporting what I essentially said two years ago.

"[LDS Owned] Deseret Ranches and Osceola County's vision for accommodating a half-million residents on an enormous piece of ranch east of Orlando has triggered an environmental dispute that could be tough for even the state to solve.

The development plan for the 133,000 acres..."

See this Sentinel pay-per-view link.

But don't worry, no animals were harmed in the making of this money, nor direct tithing used to make a fortune.

Really?  So let's think about the cycle of LDS monies investment.

When they receive donations--whether tithing, fast offering, missionary, humanitarian or whatever--they explicitly say they have a right to use your donation however they want.



This is written into their incorporation documents and bylaws.  The second article says: "This corporation shall have power, without any authority or authorization from the members of said Church or religious society, to grant, sell, convey, rent, mortgage, exchange, or otherwise dispose of any part or all of such property."



They take your donation, invest it into interest or investment bearing accounts.  Scoop the excess interest or investment cash and put that into for-profit ventures.  They pay themselves from that so they can tell members the GAs do not steal tithing money, and then they use the excess for other investments which yield profits that are "donated" to LDS charity so the for-profit venture has little tax burden.  The laundry cycle begins again.

What to do with all that excess, tax-free investment cash?

Put it down on huge developments that will rape the environment and yield a boatload of surplus they can use when the members wise up and stop donating.

Yes, the move to a for-profit venture per the "winding up" and "dissolution" clause of the LDS corporation article on incorporation is in full swing.

I began telling you this in 2013.  The Orlando Sentinel is now telling you again.

Stay tuned to see if the Mormon lawyers can force FL counties to let them bankroll a hundred billion dollar development.  Of course, this is because they're such a charitable church.




Through Fasting and Praying comes...

Ok, it's true, that last blog was an attention whore post.  I'm not re-taking the missionary discussions.  Not exactly -- I am re-visitng them (see below).  I didn't actually write that I was re-taking the discussions (I just used it in the title of the blog).  I implied it, and yes, it was misleading, so I apologize.

It was a trick--a short lived one.  So are the emotional tricks of Mormonism that fool people everyday. Such is the parallel here to what I have done -- to show how "conversion" is an emotional manipulation trick. The LDS missionary discussions use a build up and an emotional tug to trick people into buying their story.

No, I'm not reconverting to Mormonism or to any religion.  Yes, I had a very emotional experience a few weeks ago.  But I know, and most of my readers know that this is physiological and it is explicable.  Transcendent or not, it is still biology.

To illustrate the point I am making, I am re-visiting my missionary journal.  This is an act of vulnerability.  I was a silly, immature, caught-up in the MTC moment kid.  And I'm embarrassed by how loopy I was then.  Perhaps I still am.

To wit, here are the first few entries of my own missionary journal.  At the end, I talk about a very specific spiritual experience you might find interesting.

---

9 Agosto - El Jueves
Well I can't believe it's finally here! My mission has just started and the MTC is going to be great. It was a long day full of orientations and meetings. It would all wear me out except for the terrific spirit here keeps me going. This whole day has been one big spiritual experience. My district is all going to my same mission. ...
We met our teachers and branch president. They all seem nice, and I'll say more about them tomorrow it's going to be hard to learn and study everything that needs to be done. I know I can do it with the help of the Lord! They might make a missionary out of me yet!

12 Agosto – El Domingo
In branch meetings today, we had a short testimony meeting and some of the elders who are getting ready to ship out bore their testimony.  I felt a spirit, but not as much as I thought I should.  They seem so sure of what they are about to do in the field, and I want to.  I don’t know if I can speak with as much power as some of them.  They’ve had spiritual experiences that proved the church is true.  While I believe and feel the spirit, I don’t have that same experience.  It makes me worried I won’t make a good missionary.  Then after meeting, our branch president, Elder P___ interviewed our distrito and he heled me on some personal problems I had.  He also told me to be patient with my full testimony.  That if I fast and pray, it will come.  I plan to do a long fast soon.

16 Agosto – El Jueves
I can't believe it's been a week. The time has gone by so fast. It's surprising how much I have gotten done. I started the baptismal commitment discussion today and learned it real fast in about 2 hours. I passed it off with two mistakes with pronunciation, but I got every word in. That's a great feeling.  We’re supposed to get the investigators to commit to baptism after the first discussion or by the second.  It feels fast to me, but I know the Lord has blessed me and helps me with Spanish and my testimony so that I can be a powerful missionary.  I started a fast last night and continued all day today.  I’m looking to have a spiritual experience like the ones I heard the elders leaving the MTC told us about on Sunday.  I’m already feeling a little weak and praying all the time is harder than I thought.  

17 Agosto – El Viernes
I'll tell you today was one big experience! I woke up really tired and cranky probably because I have been fasting. Today the district was falling apart. We all went our separate ways during P-Day. And we quit doing things together. I switch companions to get a haircut and the spirit about us was terrible.  I think the whole district lost it. We could sense something was wrong in our night class. During scripture study after the teacher left, we talked for a little and decided to pray to get the spirit back together. After praying the spirit was better in the room. Then our teacher Elder M___ returned and was showing us how to present a discussion. He did it in English, and at the beginning he mentioned that by the end of the lesson we would feel the spirit very strongly. I was worried because I felt like my testimony was wavering even as I was fasting and praying so much. Near the end of his lesson I felt a little something strange I thought maybe I was tired or something because it felt like the light in the room had gotten a little brighter.  My head then cleared.  Like I could think faster.  And then I felt like I was floating above my chair, and I was happy.  Like the world was so beautiful. At that point Elder M____ turn to me and asked me if I was feeling something. And I barely got the words out that something was happening when I felt consumed or like my whole body was taken over by the feelings that had started.  I was floating I knew right away what I was feeling;  it was the spirit.  It was almost as if I had left my body.  Light headed and very pleasant, comforting and peaceful.  It lasted for many minutes. I’m not sure how long.  When I came back down, tired and I expected to be hungry, but I didn't feel like I needed to eat.  I knew the Lord had answered my prayers.  I had wanted a spiritual experience so that I could have proof in my soul to take to the mission field. I felt so elated that I just bore my testimony right there in class.

---

Was I experiencing a true spiritual experience?

The experience on that last entry is probably what some call Fasting Ketosis.  

The process of ketosis is one of the physiological effects of fasting in which the brain (and some other bodily processes) produces and uses ketones produced from fatty tissues as a fuel instead of the usual glucose.  

"Anecdotal evidence links the initial phase of fasting or a low-carbohydrate diet with feelings of well-being and mild euphoria. These feelings have often been attributed to ketosis, the production of ketone bodies which can replace glucose as an energy source for the brain."    See http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306987706005779










Tuesday, May 5, 2015

On Bended Knees


In my previous blog post, I described a very personal experience while photographing cypress knees that could be called spiritual or transcendent.  At the outset, I will admit, I do not have the answers, but I feel the same needs that others—believers or unbelievers—have felt.  I ache just like you.  Some accuse atheists and agnostics of being hard-hearted and unfeeling on what others call the spiritual.  It’s not true.  We feel it too, but perhaps we humbly accept that the answer is not yet in focus.
   
(click on the images to see any of them larger)
(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)


The diversity of human individual experience leads to a diversity of belief.  I find in the cypress knees vast iconic representations of the spectrum of belief.  I wrote before that the uniqueness of these is like the uniqueness of experience each of us has that lead us to where we stand today.  No knee is truly the same, but they are all of the same genus, and in groups they sprout from a common tree. Each knee representing distinct experiences of the one--some growing large, some remaining small.


(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

One common element humans have is a yearning for an answer to a question we haven’t yet completely formalized.  I really wish I knew the answer, if there is even an answer.  But what am I questioning?  It seems we all ask, generally—is there meaning in our chaotic and seemingly random life?


(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

I've studied the various forms of answers.  I found so many and really no answers.  At times I feel beaten by life; at others I find awareness raised as I look across the various forms and shadows we sculpt into meaning.


(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

Some find meaning in family.  I dedicated my former life to this view.  These build up a philosophy about a blessed mother and perfect child who became the deliverer of meaning through expiation, binding the family together.  It drives at the most essential connection every person has—the desire for comfort and familiarity in the embrace of loved ones.  However, for some, family hurts when human weakness injures their bonds.  They look for self-reliance and abandon the pain.


(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

Some find meaning in pondering.  In my post-Mormon exploration I have pursued a solitary search.  Seclusion allows an inner-focused practice of contemplating the meaning of self, and sometimes finding the eradication of ego.  Meditation has even found support in factual neuroscience, but by digging deeply into the psyche, it vanishes and meaning evaporates along with it.  For some it is a truth they accept humbly; for many the yearning remains unsatisfied.



(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

Some find meaning in pleasure.  Each of us has punctuated moments of self-indulgence.  If there is no meaning, then the import is gratification.   Life is short enough to waste, they say, and squander time on meaningless pursuits of elusive meaning.  Hedonism promises instant rewards, and ancient religions and fertility gods such as Min have been devoted to its pursuit.


(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

Some find meaning in life after life after life.  The impoverished find themselves unable to devote time to philosophical searches or hedonistic paths.  This life has starved them of rewards and peace.  Facts are useless to the hungry.  They hold to the promise of life after life, where we live many different versions to gain a broader and more complete perspective.  


(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

Some find meaning in facts and science—the field in which I work.  My art is based on my own scientific pursuits in technology to sense unseen light. I have patents in detection of unseen light.  Science delivers, as seen in the exponential burst of technology that even promises to save us from universal hunger, from pain to deliver prime fulfillment, and perhaps even reward future generations with immortality. Facts, however, yield no meaning to the yearning about deeper purpose. 



(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

And even some find peace in ignoring all meaning, and relaxing like my cat along the lazy river a quiet life provides.  He doesn't need meaning; just a good scratch behind his ears.  Carefree, whimsical,  happy, unburdened and able to just ignore the yearn that irritates the rest.  These happy-go-lucky souls supply an embrace of solace on our journey to wherever this quest takes us.


(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

Not one school of study, not a single philosophy, nor a particular creed actually has the full gamut of satisfying promises, fact and peace.  Some have peace, but lack extraordinary promises of treasure beyond the earthly.  Some have fact and study, but lack the peaceful answer to the hunger of meaning. Some have promise of splendor hereafter, but lack facts to support their claim.  Many interesting narratives exist.  Diversity of individuals find different narratives satisfying.



(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

I ache for answers like you.  Why must some claim they have the answer, when they lack some component of the full triangle of human yearning?  Even my preferential bias toward science has left me incomplete.  While I don’t subscribe to any religion, I still feel that science has its biases based on the foundation of incomplete, evolved human sensory organs.  We may have expanded our detection well beyond biology through instrumentation, but we have not come close to the boundary on defining reality.  Our ego tunnel—that narrow cone of what we perceive is real—is still primitive. 

(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

Religions have just as much bias and narrow-minded ego tunnels, when they claim to have a connection to "otherly plains" and "ethereal beings", but their predictions and factual answers are shown time and time again at odds with well-established measurements.  While they have imagination, they lack grounded facts.  Despite this, they call “hard-hearted” those of us who unpretentiously hold to the limited facts we do have.


(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

None of us has the answers.  All of us yearn with questions.  Most of us are a combination of all the above approaches.  The terrain tread by humanity is vast.  Each of us needs respect for the sole-wandering, awe-inspiring thirst of others.  My journey of capturing unseen light represents to me the search for unanswered questions.   In promoting this blog, and moving toward an art show (which I call, "On Bended Knees") centered on these topics, I continue building the examples of surreal lit cypress knees that exemplify diversity of thought, uniqueness of individual experience and iconic human narration.  


(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)


There are times in one's life when we are enormously connected with the world, the universe or whatever higher power to which you ascribe, that the simplest thing reveals enormous detail.  You find the weave of a sweater or the glistening light from a plastic water bottle just amazing.  Something as simple and humble as a muddy root can teach us much about beauty, love and tolerance.  We can touch the hand that reaches for us from deep within ourselves, even if just in form of Plato's shadow.
-- my own hand's shadow across the "cypress hand" --
(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)




Sunday, May 3, 2015

I Had a Spiritual Experience Today

Perhaps I should call it a transcendent experience.  

Most of my readers know a few things about me personally--such as I consider myself an agnostic-atheist since leaving Mormonism.  And that I engage in an artistic pursuit using full-spectrum photography.  I post examples on almost every blog I write here.  About 15 years ago I began taking apart digital cameras and modifying them to sense light that is not visible to our eyes.  The camera receives colors in the ultraviolet and the near infrared that exist in abundance all around us unseen.  Then the camera electronically translates the unseen light into a new message of visual interpretation that I have called my Surreal Color World.  

(click on the images to see any of them larger)
(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use)

In the past few weeks, after a relationship breakup, I have been focusing my attention on a new subject of Cypress Knees surrounding where I live in Florida, with a new optical filter I recently developed to make more vivid the surreal colorism of my world view that I created well over a decade ago.  Following are a few examples of the scenery, seen in a new light, I encountered in my meanderings along the Shingle Creek banks in Central Florida. 




While I was out today (Sunday, May 3, 2015) and listening to piano music on my headphones, the songs moved from serene piano baroque pieces to contemporary pieces.  Songs like Canon in D, well known to me, played in the back as I snapped shot after shot of lovely scenics.



A popish version of the instrumental song “Hallelujah” played by Brian Crain ("Piano and Light" album)--it's one my ex GF loved--and my thoughts reminisced that about a decade ago the song would have meant more to me.  As the song transitioned to another, I came across a cypress knee that took the form of a hand.  



The song became the theme piece from the movie American Beauty, which when I saw not long after I had left religion and become agnostic-atheist, had a profound impact upon me.  There I listened and took in the surreal beauty around me.  The symbolism of the very present subject took on a direct connection to emotions that were bubbling up inside me.  An unseen hand of a sort touched a chord deep inside me.    




I felt overpowered by the beauty of nature that we can’t even perceive with our natural eyes.  There is so much hidden under our limited experiential abilities, our narrow ego tunnel of squat human sensory bandwidth.  Seeing the colors, shadows, illuminations, dimensions in the viewfinder of my altered camera opened me to the idea that the world is so beautiful and we barely realize it. I started to analyze it, but felt the emotive sensation evaporating as I did, so I stopped and let it flow.  It filled me up, passing through me, and I bodily-felt vision and visually-saw beyond where my eyes could see.  No, I didn’t see anything actually real, but I felt it out there.  I felt that I was with it on all sides of myself.  I wished I could absorb it all, and grow with it.  I yearned to slow down all the feelings that rushed by me.  I heard words in my mind call out, “There has to be more. This can't be all there is to it.”  




Meaning took hold without being defined.  I knew there was a meaning to all of this and while I couldn’t verbalize any of that meaning, it felt logical and real for a transient breath of thought. Maybe, I questioned for the first time in almost a decade, just maybe there is purpose and something beyond, or perhaps higher, than us.  Instinct from many years ago almost took me over—to fall to my knees and call upon something—as I was overcome by this lost or perhaps tossed-away feeling, now returned as an older friend with new wisdoms and insights learned during our separation.



Years ago I would have interpreted this strictly in the religious context in which I was raised.  When I had developed surreal color  photography over a decade ago, I had felt these connections and near mystical insights—seeing the dreamlike world I captured in my camera—back then in Michigan and Colorado.  I knew now, however that it was something else.  Perhaps not mystical or even metaphysical--after all I was feeling it inside my physical body and brain.  These experiences aren't exclusive to the followers of one religion or another.  Unbelievers have them often too, but don't usually declare it from the doorstep or rooftop.  

At that moment I felt this grandeur and expansive connection to the world, gathering even a hope of something larger out there, I also felt saddened by so many losses:  My former life in a black and white delusion that gave comfort without actual fact and truth; the loss of relationship with my children’s mother; the time lost with them as they grew.  I felt the loss of other relationships since then, and the burden of knowing that my youthful dreams hadn’t quite fulfilled the way I wanted. Then I realized what an amazing journey it was.  I couldn’t have planned any of it, but it has brought me to so many places in life that I wouldn’t trade away. 



I recalled something I had written almost a year ago in a blog.  
“You know that moment when you learn something profound for the first time?  Reading a well written blog or novel that fires off all kinds of new thoughts? ... The Newness of the Everlasting Curiosity is exciting...  Tired of your boring friends at church?  Find new ones.  Seeing the limitation of your inherited, family philosophy?  Search for a new one.
“Leaving the LDS [church] is like becoming a child who is merging into adulthood again.  All the fascination of a whole world opens to your exploration, of choosing new directions, of seeking new friends, learning new insights—it’s the candy store that continues to give when you remove the abundant limits placed on you by [religion].”
 



The words at the end of the movie American Beauty also resonated into my mind.  
“I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn't a second at all, it stretches on forever, like an ocean of time... I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me... but it's hard to stay mad, when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst... And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life... You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure. But don't worry... you will someday.”

That was how I felt at the moment I watched myself connect with the world through light that is unseen.  It was as if I could see everything literally and metaphorically in a new light through the vision glowing on the LCD of my full-spectrum converted camera.  In a short moment, ages passed and I felt as if I had gain the experience of years, all in a few dozen heart beats. 



As the feeling ebbed, I figured I had primed my emotions with the music and scenery; this concoction of emotions, beauty, peaceful surroundings and seeing in a new light opened me up to experience myself in a way that doesn't happen often enough.  We crave this because it feels so alive.  We feel big and tightly loved.  We feel small and ineffably important.  Contradictory elation and sadness all in the same bottle-opening moment, which overcome and fill us with so much wonder.  The New and Everlasting Curiosity is a kind of spiritual experience even if there is no such thing as a spirit, in the dualism sense.  It is transcendent. 

(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use)


Cypress knees grow around the tree, from the roots.  While their function is not fully understood, some scientists have thought they may help in oxygenation in the low dissolved oxygen mud swamp through the knee's bald head. I have also read the knees assist in anchoring the tree in the soft, muddy soil.  Each knee is very unique, and they take on iconic forms which I am investigating through my art style.  Like them, we find our anchors in the mud of the world through our own unique experiences. We rise above the mire and breathe new life into ourselves through very personal transcendent events.  

While I do not know what the future will bring--death dark as empty space, or an afterlife of surreal unseen light--I am glad to be alive and having the experiences I have.  May you have new and everlasting curiosity.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Mormons will throw God under the bus to protect Joseph Smith. Why not you?


I recently had interaction with a close familiarity (family/friend) and was reminded of how the Mormon priority order is Church, career, God, family.  Yes, for an organization that proclaims family comes first, it actually comes last, right after God.

Let me take the long road to explain.


In the "Mad Hatter's" LDS Topic essay on the Book of Mormon Translation, LDS historians write:  

 "Joseph placed the seer stone in a hat, pressed his face into the hat to block out extraneous light, and read aloud the English words that appeared on the instrument."
Get that?  God sent actual English words inside a darkened hat, on a rock Joe Smith dug up inside a well.  Words from God, which appeared and written down onto paper directly are the text of the fundamental foundation scripture of Mormonism.  Words which have been shown by science and sociologists to be horribly wrong.  

This is equivalent to throwing God under the bus, all in order to protect Joseph Smith's silly, early 19th century, unschooled notions that he could translate gold plates, Egyptian papyri and more.  


English words appeared on the stone within the hat.  Joseph didn't need to know any languages.  And the racist, anachronistic, archaeologically incorrect statements of the Book of Mormon (and book of Abraham) came directly from Elohim.  God is the author of some very disturbing words. Even the spelling, according to some BYU Scholarly sources.  "Oliver Cowdery is reported to have testified in court that these tools enabled Joseph 'to read in English, the reformed Egyptian characters, which were engraved on the plates' ".  


In the Ensign, Russel M. Nelson confirmed that Joseph saw English words --nay, English letters-- off the seer stone inside a hat, "Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat...when he came to proper names he could not pronounce, or long words, he spelled them out, and while I was writing them, if I made any mistake in spelling, he would stop me and correct my spelling although it was impossible for him to see how I was writing them down at the time." (said David Whitmer and Emma Smith on Joseph's translating).


Thus, the Book of Mormon words AND letters came directly from God. When the Book of Mormon talks about horses and dark-skin curses, that is directly from God.  This is not a Joseph Smith problem.  God will someday (conveniently in the afterlife) correct the archaeology, the anachronisms, the off-kilter linguistics, and all other language problems of that most corrected book.


They disavowed racism and acknowledge science is correct on the horses, wheel, wheat, steel and DNA lacking evidence to the claims of the Book of Mormon. Did God feed the wrong information to Joseph?


So it was God's fault. If he would deign to correct something like spelling but not horses or simple astronomy, then what exactly is going on?


The LDS church claims the Book of Mormon is the "most correct book on earth" (see BoM introduction). Where does this place God?


Under the bus.  

The Mormon God is a racist.
The Mormon God is a sexist.
The Mormon God is a homophobe.
The Mormon God is a horrible astronomer.
and more.

Look at it this way, LDS--either Joseph and scribes and descriptions of translation are wrong, or God is wrong.  Either way, the Book of Mormon is full of errors from God or from Joseph Smith.  You pick, and with that choice, you have to decide whether this is just a silly fraud or some miraculous err-proned work of God.

It's not me.  It's your work.  But then, I have been criticized by those close to me that I am offensive when I point out these facts.  I guess, if they will throw god under the bus to protect Joseph Smith, then I'm just god's backup going under that same bus.  


Everything will go under the bus to protect Joe. Especially family.


It will take a Big-ass bus to run over me.  A big ole orange school bus full of spit-wads, fat-kid farts and four-eyed geeky boogers.

(the 4-eyed kids are us exmos)


My new life in Florida. 
Lake Eola, Orlando, 2015



My old Mountain West life, while beautiful, was Black n White.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Re-taking the missionary discussions



Earlier this week, the Mormon missionaries knocked doors in my cul-de-sac.  I was going to hide from them. 



But as they went through the neighborhood, the entire coincidence with my recent spiritual experience left me open to the idea of listening once again to their message.





At one point, I was touched as we circled together in prayer.



The gospel is as simple as I had once perceived.  Things feel very clear, almost black and white obvious.  My engagement lately with photographing cypress knees feels like a revelation in coincidence with these events.  




I have felt emotionally touched and I am rethinking my former position.



More to come...




(Ok, now that I have played this out for an hour, I admit, it was a cheap trick. A short lived one. So are the emotional tricks of Mormonism that fool people everyday. Such is the parallel here to what I have done.

See this post for more explanation about how emotional brainwashing happens with my MTC experience as a young missionary.)


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Guilt

It's said that Mormons share a table at the International Guilt Board of Directors with the Catholics and Muslims.  But I say, the Mormons have an advantage over the other two.  They create an imbalanced precipice of near narcissist self-view and abasement of ever-present guilt, and secure each member on the pointy pinnacle of this narrow ledge through psychological manipulation. 

God is omniscient and all seeing, "For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil." (1 Peter 3:12).  The idea that you are ever being watched is fundamental to keeping you obedient in almost all punishment-based religions.  All of your life is known.  Eventually, it will be accounted in a final judgment.

Final judgment is a part of all Abrahamic faiths.  God will review all your life's actions, words and perhaps even thoughts.  Catholics believe some combination of God/Jesus and even Mary and Peter will perhaps wait for you at the pearly gates and then judge your soul for eternal reward and damnation.  Muslims have Mohammed and God judge you.

In Christianity, the idea that the 12 apostles judge with Jesus is founded in the New Testament.  
"Ye [the apostles] are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Luke 22:28-30; see also Matthew 19:28.)

And reiterated in the Book of Mormon, to include the Amerindian 12 as judges over the Nephites and Lamanites: 
"Thou rememberest the twelve apostles of the Lamb? Behold they are they who shall judge the twelve tribes of Israel; wherefore, the twelve ministers of thy seed shall be judged of them; for ye are of the house of Israel.  And these twelve ministers whom thou beholdest shall judge thy seed."  (1 Ne 12:9-10;  See also Morm. 3:18 (18–19))

And yet again in the Doctrine and Covenenats:
"...it hath gone forth in a firm decree, by the will of the Father, that mine apostles, the Twelve which were with me in my ministry at Jerusalem, shall stand at my right hand at the day of my coming in a pillar of fire, being clothed with robes of righteousness, with crowns upon their heads, in glory even as I am, to judge the whole house of Israel, even as many as have loved me and kept my commandments, and none else." (D&C 29:12)

Each dispensation, it has been taught in LDS lessons, will have those that preside over the children of God.  Joseph Smith is the prophet of our dispensation, according to their canon:
"Behold, there shall be a record kept among you; and in it thou (Joseph Smith) shalt be called a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church through the will of God the Father, and the grace of your Lord Jesus Christ." (D&C 21:1)

About Joseph Smith LDS prophets declared, in the 135th section of the D&C:  "Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it." (verse 3)

Greater even than the 12 disciples Jesus called in Jerusalem?  Will Joseph Smith judge the latter-day saints like the apostles of previous dispensations?

Brigham Young stated: 
"Joseph Smith holds the keys of this last dispensation, and is now engaged behind the veil in the great work of the last days...no man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith." (Brigham Young, "Intelligence, etc.," (9 October 1859) Journal of Discourses 7:289-289.)

If that's not enough, Mormons have the sentiment in their cultural memes that their bishops, stake presidents and other ecclesiastic leaders will be called up to witness at the judgment bar.  Through them your secrets will be revealed, and "...whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops." (Luke 12:3).

Most Mormons believe God is merciful and will forgive their sins.  They might worry what mortals like Joseph Smith, their bishops or other will think of them, but they usually don't feel as beholden to these men as to those closest to them.

Mormon scripture takes the judgment and guilt to the next level.  In Alma 11:43, it says:
"we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt."

The Bright Recollection of all our guilt has been interpreted by many seminary, Sunday school and gospel teachers, by bishops and quorum presidents as something akin to a video playback.  A bright-lit movie, where we review our entire life before the judgment counsel and witnesses of our life.  That implies our family too.

How many Mormons have felt that someday, in the hereafter, their life's deeds will be on DVD (or YouTube) for all their friends and family to see?

The all-seeing, but merciful eye of God has nothing on the feeling your mom, sister, dad or spouse will eventually see your secrets.  God may forgive, but everyone of us have a tsk-tsking family member that will not approve and frown their resurrected face at our morally repugnant behavior during the world-audience life review.

The idea of a bright recollection of all your guilt is probably the one thing that upset your stomach and tensed your jaw in the former Mormon life than any other teaching.  This is guilt on latter-day steroids.

What a great ploy to get you to feel that your whole judgmental family will eventually see everything you have done.  God forgives, but family gossips.

When you begin doubting the LDS church teachings, the idea of your doubts being on display to family and their rejection of your thinking; their ostracization of your life steels you to the ulceration and lock-jaw of internal tension you feel.  You won't do it.  You won't leave. 

In the novel Second Anointing, a psychiatrist works with the protagonist, Porter, to understand a dynamic that is not easily seen from the entirety of one's life.  He said:

“On the one hand, as a life-long believing Mormon, you’re told from your earliest years that you are the most special spirit saved for the latter days. That you’re part of a strange, peculiar and wonderfully distinct group of people. That your world view is the only true one and that it will save the world in the end.  You receive special patriarchal blessings telling you how wonderful you are, and how uniquely blessed your life will be.  That Mormons have a special position in the world, to go out and find everyone else special.  Mormons feel empowered, even narcissistic at times, by these kind of repeated extoling.
“On the other hand, you are given guilt over the smallest things. Alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea.  No nudity, no masturbation, no petting or unmarried sex.  Avoid tattoos, body piercing, dancing too close. Don’t question your leaders. Don’t talk about sex, even within your marriage. Shun doubters, shun gays, keep secrets.
“Many truly believing Mormons teeter between these two extremes—the special feelings and the intense guilt—on edge of anxieties and depression.  Their scrupulosity creates dysfunction, but their superiority allows them to avoid complete breakdown.”

This pinnacle, along with ever present awareness of the bright recollection video-like review of our life before the less than merciful family can create generalized anxieties that salivates and wets the mouth of almost any career therapist.

Being guilted will leave you sitting all alone.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mr. Holland's Opus: first level truths dismantled


It's been widely reported and now linked that on Feb 6, 2015, Mr. Jeff Holland, an apostle of the LDS church, spoke and became as emotional as a TV preacher.  His anger pointed at skeptics (and perhaps timed with the Dehlin excommunication) and their questions.

Here's a quote, from the video (at LDS.org) starting at around 51 minutes in.
" You’ve heard these questions, they are not new. They first arose in the neighborhood of Palmyra, when the 14-year old Joseph first reported his heavenly vision, and they continue in one form or another to the present day. We have recently addressed a dozen or so of these issues in a series of essays desiring to be both accurate and transparent – within the framework of faith. Not all gospel questions have answers yet, but they will. And they’ll come.
"In the mean time, I have a question! (Holland speaks loudly and emotionally) What conceivable historical, or doctrinal or procedural issue that may arise among any group could ever overshadow or negate ones consuming spiritual conviction regarding the father’s merciful plan of salvation; his only begotten son’s birth, mission, atonement and resurrection; the reality of the first vision, the restoration of the priesthood, the receipt of divine revelation both personally and institutionally, the soul-shaping spirit and moving power of the Book of Mormon, the awe and majesty of the temple endowment, one’s own personal experience with true miracles and on and on and on. It is a mystery to me, talk about a question, it is a mystery to me how those majestic eternal first level truths so central to the grandeur of the whole gospel message can be set aside or completely dismissed by some in favor of obsessing over second or third or fourth level pieces of that whole. To me, this is, in the words attributed to Edith Wharton, truly being trapped in the thick of thin things. "

I italicized a few parts that I want to dissect here. 

I'm glad Mr. Holland raised the LDS Topic Essays.  This is the first time I have heard an apostle discuss them.  The only other GA I know of that has raised them is church historian (Q-70) Steven Snow.  The questions members (and skeptics) have are sometimes new, relative to the era of Palmyra.  For example, race and the priesthood, DNA and the Book of Mormon, polygamy and more.  None of these existed in the era of Palmyra.  Perhaps polygamy is closest, but it wasn't acknowledged hardly at all during Joseph Smith's entire life.  Race and the priesthood became an issue much after his death, and DNA, well that's obvious.  

The essays the church put out did perhaps address some "second or third level pieces" (questions), but the answers dismantled Holland's opus of "majestic eternal first level truths". 

Here's an example, direct from the LDS essays themselves, with comparison to the list of first level truths given by Holland above.

First Vision
President Gordon B. Hinckley taught the First Vision of Joseph Smith is “the hinge pin on which this whole cause turns. If the First Vision was true, if it actually happened, then the Book of Mormon is true. Then we have the priesthood. Then we have the Church organization and all of the other keys and blessings of authority which we say we have. If the First Vision did not occur, then we are involved in a great sham. It is just that simple.” 
(Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 227.)

In other words by Hinckley:  “Our whole strength rests on the validity of that vision. It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud… upon that unique and wonderful experience stands the validity of this church.” (General Conference, Oct 2002)


First Vision essay claim 1 -- “The various accounts of the First Vision tell a consistent story, though naturally they differ in emphasis and detail.”

Truth -- Consistency? The number of personages, the angels and events surrounding his first vision change (see the table below).  A more consistent thread through the versions is that he never actually names the personage(s) appearing. The claim that Joseph Smith testified specifically that God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him is not founded in his own words.  He repeatedly said “personages”.


Version
Sins Forgiven
Personages
Pillar of Fire
Angel(s)
Beings named
Told No True Church
1832
Yes
1
No
0
“the Lord”
Vague*
1835
Yes
2
Yes
Hosts
No
No
1838
Yes
2
No
0
“Son”
Yes
1842
No
2
Light only
0
No
Yes
1835**
No
0
No
Angels
No
No
*The "No true church" statement is shadowed in the 1832 account. "...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..."  http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/history-circa-summer-1832?p=1#!/paperSummary/history-circa-summer-1832&p=3
**The Topic article fails to mention that Joseph Smith wrote about his First Vision a second time in 1835, found at http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/journal-1835-1836?p=38 . 

First Vision essay claim 2 -- “Historians expect that when an individual retells an experience in multiple settings to different audiences over many years, each account will emphasize various aspects of the experience and contain unique details.”


Truth -- Emphasizing different aspects is one thing. Contradicting statements between versions are another. Besides the changing number of beings and angels, besides the changing conditions of pillars or light, of being forgiven or not, there are a few contradictory points found in the various accounts.  For more details on these, see this blogpost and this blogpost


First Vision Essay Dismantle:
The credibility of the first vision is at risk.  All we have is Joseph Smith's words.  Hinckley based the foundation of the LDS Church on the words of Smith who was inconsistent, unreliable, history-revisionist and worse, exploitative.

What do I mean by exploitative?  The general progression of Smith's accounts is from lower claims of divinity to more and more grandeur claims of direct connection to God as time went on.  As his followers believed in his claims, he strengthened the divine nature and increased the embellishment in his accounts.  Why is this progression exploitative?  Because it gave him more power over more people.  Ultimately, the "Father and Son" claims happened after Smith had died, and that gave power to the prophets that succeeded him.


Divine Revelation
One of Holland's first level truths, divine revelation, has at its foundation the restoration given to them by Joseph Smith. Three elements of the restoration discussed in the essays are eternal covenants (polygamy), revelation of scripture, and priesthood authority.  I'll get to the priesthood in the next "dismantle" section.

On Polygamy:
Polygamy Essay claim 1 -- " plural marriage...was instituted among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the early 1840s."

Truth -- Not until they discuss Jospeh Smith's polygamy many months later in another essay do they acknowledge that in fact, it happened in the 1830s, as well documented by Compton,  and http://www.wivesofjosephsmith.org/  Why did they lie and then contradict themselves in another essay?  Because they can't keep their own story straight.

Polygamy Essay claim 2 -- "On an exceptional basis, some new plural marriages were performed between 1890 and 1904, especially in Mexico and Canada, outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law; a small number of plural marriages were performed within the United States during those years.”

Truth -- In Official Declaration 1 of the D&C, Woodruff  said (in 1890), "We are not teaching polygamy or plural marriage, nor permitting any person to enter into its practice." 

Truth -- In another essay, they do admit, "Some couples who entered into plural marriage between 1890 and 1904 separated after the Second Manifesto, but many others quietly cohabited into the 1930s and beyond."  But they do not ever address why President Woodruff would lie in public, as God's spokesman and truth-teller.  How can we be sure other prophets, namely Monson today, or his successor aren't also liars?

Polygamy Essay claim 3 -- "Women were free to choose their spouses, whether to enter into a polygamous or monogamous union, or whether to marry at all."

Truth --  Joseph Smith at 37 "convinced" Helen Mar Kimball (at 14) to marry him after he'd already married several other women 
“… it will ensure your eternal salvation & exaltation and that of your father’s household & all of your kindred," he manipulated little Helen.

Polygamy of Joseph Smith essay claim -- “Although the Lord commanded the adoption—and later the cessation—of plural marriage in the latter days, He did not give exact instructions on how to obey the commandment.”

Truth 1 --  The commandment specifically states “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 … But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery” (D&C 132:61-63)  

Truth 2 -- The commandment also states: “I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.” (D&C 132: 4).  And that “if a man receiveth a wife in the new and everlasting covenant, and if she be with another man, and I have not appointed unto her by the holy anointing, she hath committed adultery and shall be destroyed. …And if her husband be with another woman, and he was under a vow, he hath broken his vow and hath committed adultery.” (D&C 132: 41-43).  Further, that to a man, virgins in plural marriage “are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth” (D&C 132:63)

What are the rules?  The exact instructions (quote above) in Section 132 are:
  • marry only virgins
  • the first wife (virgin) has to give consent
  • women are not to be with other men
  • multiple wives are given to a man to multiply and replenish the earth (by sex)

Why did the LDS church obviously lie about the "exact instructions" in their essay?  Because they know Joseph Smith disregarded the rules he apparently revealed and followed his lusts to whatever bed they led him.  Polygamy was not a revelation about eternal life.  It was a revelation on getting multiple "wives" in bed.

Polygamy Essay Dismantle:
There's much more I can show on the polygamy essays, but in essence, this essay trashes the LDS church credibility in reporting the actual truth. It shows that revelation and official declarations are lies.  And it shows that Joseph Smith abandoned his own revelation's rules so he could get more action.  "Divine" revelator or da-swine operator?

On the historicity and truth of scripture:
Book of Abraham essay claim 1 -- “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints embraces the book of Abraham as scripture.”

Truth -- Well, this is still true--they haven't abandoned the book of Abraham, actually. That will haunt them in the future.  One can note they almost never use the book in conference talks or much in manuals anymore.

B. of Abr. essay claim 2 -- “It is likely futile to assess Joseph’s ability to translate papyri when we now have only a fraction of the papyri he had in his possession.”

Truth -- Credible Egyptologists and mathematical measurements all confirm we have most of the papyri.  The residual leaves “simply no room on the papyrus for anything besides the Breathing text.”

B.of Abr. essay claim 3 -- “None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham’s name or any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham. Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham.”

Truth -- How does LDS inc explain the book then?  They can’t. Did  you catch that essay self-contradiction?  In one breath they say it is "futile to assess Joseph’s ability to translate papyri" and in the other breath they say "the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham."  They can't keep their own story straight.   In the end, they can only say, “The veracity and value of the book of Abraham cannot be settled by scholarly debate…The book’s status as scripture lies in the eternal truths it teaches and the powerful spirit it conveys.”  In other words, it’s all bullshit.

Book of Abraham Essay Dismantle: 
Trashes Joseph Smith Credibility.  If he couldn’t translate regular Egyptian, how could he translate “Reformed Egyptian” (in the Book of Mormon)?

Score so far? Holland's "first level truths" - 0, Skeptics - 2 or 3.  Divine revelation of new (and everlasting) saving covenants/ordinations is trashed, and revelation of new scripture (not truly translated) is trashed.  We have blow after blow for Howling Holland.

Restoration of priesthood
The Race and the Priesthood essay discusses the idea of how the priesthood was used for about 150 years.  That's most of the LDS history, so far.  If they misused their authority for the majority of their time, how should we score this first level truth?

Race and Priesthood essay claim 1 -- “During the first two decades…a few black men were ordained to the priesthood… There is no evidence that any black men were denied the priesthood during Joseph Smith’s lifetime.”

Truth -- An attempt to buoy up Joseph Smith as not a racist.  However, the Book of Abraham, Moses and Book of Mormon, which he produced, teach very racist doctrines, with their white and delightsome doctrines, skin marks on whole Indian nations, and withholding of priesthood during the days of Abraham according to racial curses.

R and P essay claim 2 -- “[LDS] embraces the universal human family. [LDS] scripture and teachings affirm that God loves all of His children and makes salvation available to all.”

Truth -- “makes salvation available to all”?  Tell that to gays…  Explain to women why they still can’t hold the priesthood.  Tell us again why we must be adopted into the clan of Israel--a race, and the family of Abraham, a white man?

R and P essay claim 3 -- “Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse…or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way … [LDS] unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.”

Truth -- They just performed prophetic segregation by throwing past leaders under the back of the bus.  They also deny the teachings in their canonized LDS scripture.

Race and Priesthood Dismantle:
Trashes prophets from Young to Kimball.  If they could be wrong on Race for 130 years they’re certainly wrong on gay marriage and more.  Why trust these men for any authority claim?

Plan of salvation/Atonement:
I'm going to group this first level truth with the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon is supposed to have restored the plain and precious truths that were lost during the apostasy, and restore the gospel to its pure form.  Can we trust the Book of Mormon to really be from God, translated by Joseph Smith?  This is important.  If he made it up, then the plan of salvation it supposedly restores is made up.
Book of Mormon translation essay claim 1 -- “Joseph placed either the interpreters or the seer stone in a hat, pressed his face into the hat to block out extraneous light…”

Truth -- If plates were unneeded why the need for all the years waiting, digging treasure out of Hill Cumorah and the witnesses?  If plates were not needed, why did Nephi have to murder a docile Laban to steal the brass plates?  If a hat is all that's needed, does this mean God wants you to wear a (temple) hat? (You must watch that video, or you've missed the best part of this blog.)

BoM translation essay claim 2 -- “Joseph … pressed his face into the hat … and read aloud the English words that appeared on the instrument.”

Truth -- (Snug face= muffled!)  Joseph Smith didn’t interpret “Reformed Egyptian”. He just read English words that appeared.  God was the source of all words, including racism, anachronistic errors, the duetero/trito Isaiah additions, the KJV bible error inclusions…

BoM translation essay claim 3 -- “Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon was ‘the most correct of any Book on earth & the keystone of our religion & a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than any other Book.’ “

Truth -- The most correct(ed) book that needed over 4000 edits and still contains racism, anachronistic errors and a story that is “chloroform in print”.  Apparently God is a horrible writer.

Book of Mormon Essay Dismantle:
Trashes God, as a racist and horrible historian. Joseph didn’t make the errors. God sent him the wrong words and the need for over 4000 edits.  The plan of salvation in the Book of Mormon is as suspect as the words, translation errors and lies about its origin.

Atonement:
The Atonement relies on sin entering the world through Adam, who is counted as the "First Man" in LDS scripture and counted as a literal person.  If by Adam all die, and by Christ all are made alive again, let's examine how the essays dismantle this chain between creation and atonement.

DNA Book of Mormon essay claim 1: “the majority of Native Americans carry largely Asian DNA…the DNA of Book of Mormon peoples likely represented only a fraction of all DNA in ancient America… Book of Mormon peoples were ‘among the ancestors of the American Indians.’ “

Truth -- Affirmed that Americas were heavily populated (in about 10,000-30,000 years ago) before the alleged migration of the Book of Mormon clans.  

DNA BoM essay claim 2 -- “nothing is known about the DNA that Lehi, Sariah, Ishmael... it would be impossible to know exactly what to search for.”

Truth -- True. Nonexistent DNA is hard to match.  However, Mulek founded Zarahemla—the largest BoM city, and he was Jewish Royalty (son of king Zedekiah). That match is obvious.

DNA BoM essay claim 3 -- “It is our position that secular evidence can neither prove nor disprove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon... the Book of Mormon stands as a volume of sacred scripture with the power to bring them closer to Jesus Christ.”

Truth -- Secular data was used throughout the essay.  What is agreed: Migrations before first man Adam, no DNA found, no archaeology found.  Leaves doubt that Adam or Lamanites ever existed. Can truth or facts advanced from an allegory about so-called "Adam"?  If there was no real Adam, then was there really an atonement?

DNA Book of Mormon Essay Dismantle:
Trashes the need for Jesus Christ.  If the Lamanites mixed with people older than Adam, there was no Adam, no Fall, and apparently no Atonement.



Mr. Holland's Opus of First Level Truths are dismantled by his "dozen or so ... series of essays".  These claims and truth addressed above are not second, third or fourth level issues. They are the buttresses of his first level claims of divine revelation, salvation, atonement, authority and priesthood.

If he can't see that, then Mr. Holland is trapped as a thick-headed Opie, with a thin argument.  (Apologies to Ms. Wharton.) 

The essays are not a bridge to anywhere.  
They're not even stepping stones.  
They're stumbling blocks.