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.




Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Excommunication For Teaching LDS Essay Doctrines?



A lot of news on John Dehlin. When I was called in for disciplinary court in Sept 2012, John and I spoke on the phone for about an hour. He counseled me to play nice with the church. I responded by having Mormonthink remove content containing the temple ceremonies and other allegedly controversial material. It was to no avail. They told me that there was nothing I could do to avoid disciplinary court. When I went to the media, I received an email from my leaders postponing my court indefinitely.

John didn't get that indefinite postponement. Despite the media attention, the LDS church took its action against Dehlin. I have to give them kudos for carrying it through.  Perhaps they don't have a US presidential candidate ringing for them, so it's easier to excommunicate with media attention than when I was in the news about Romney.

There is no doubt that with as much media attention as was given, and that the LDS Newsroom posted, which issues most of the LDS Church policy these days, the Dehlin disciplinary court was managed from the top.



Kate Kelly, the Ordain Women excomminicated, said it humorously:
"Love how the Mormon PR machine somehow magically whipped up this simultaneously dishonest AND judgey press release in 30-seconds-flat after finding out the decision from John bc, of course as they consistently insisted, only his *LOCAL LEADERS* were involved."

Indeed, they were ready the moment Dehlin went to the press with their counter statement, from the top, and it's telling that the top was guiding the show.


Yes, John Dehlin asks a lot of questions in his podcasts at Mormonstories. He himself rarely "preaches" or even advocates much of the issues, from what I can tell. 

John has, however, advocated for same sex couples and women's rights. But on the doctrinal and historical issues, Dehlin usually leaves most of his personally voiced content in questions. Are questions so offensive that they should be disciplined?  The Church had been increasing its "attack the questioner" angle until Dehlin.  But he is the most public questioner of all, and the media attention is making them squeamish. 

The management was caught in a big problem. If they opposed Dehlin on his views and support of same-sex couples, they would appear very bigoted in the news. If they disciplined him for questioning (even as publicly as he does in podcasts) would that create shock waves among the hundreds of thousands of members who currently have unanswered questions?

They couldn't admit to either. So they ginned up charges, it would seem.

Here are the official charges, per LDS Newsroom.

  1. Disputing the nature of our Heavenly Father and the divinity of Jesus Christ.
  2. Statements that the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham are fraudulent and works of fiction. 
  3. Statements and teachings that reject The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as being the true Church with power and authority from God.


On (1), interestingly, Gordon B. Hinckley has disputed the nature of the Mormon God in national press interviews. When asked if Mormons believe humans can become gods and if god was once human, he replied famously, "I don't know that we teach it." (Time, August 4, 1997)   

The LDS essay on Becoming Like God reiterates the very idea that Hinckley, then prophet, hemmed on teaching.

Quote:

" Human nature was at its core divine. God “was once as one of us” and “all the spirits that God ever sent into the world” were likewise “susceptible of enlargement.” Joseph Smith preached that long before the world was formed, God found “himself in the midst” of these beings and “saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself” and be “exalted” with Him. "
I don't know what they claim Dehlin specifically taught that disputed the "nature of our Heavenly Father" but...

 if a prophet can deny one of the most profound claims of the LDS faith about the nature of God, the one that separates it more from traditional Christianity than anything else in its quiver of Smithisms, then how come Dehlin got singled out for something of lesser nature?

On (2) again, I don't know specifically what they claim Dehlin taught that stated the Book of Mormon and Abraham are fiction. However, the LDS topic essay on The Book of Mormon and DNA goes at length to show that the DNA studies showing early Amerindian migrations do not disprove the Book of Mormon. The essay admits that there were humans living in America before the time that LDS teachings claim Adam and Eve lived, according to the prescribed timeline in their own bible and Doctrine and Covenants. The essay also admits:

  • "The Book of Mormon provides little direct information about cultural contact between the peoples it describes and others who may have lived nearby."
  • "One reason it is difficult to use DNA evidence to draw definite conclusions about Book of Mormon peoples is that nothing is known about the DNA that Lehi, Sariah, Ishmael, and others brought to the Americas."
  • "Book of Mormon record keepers were primarily concerned with conveying religious truths and preserving the spiritual heritage of their people."
That is:  There is no evidence (DNA or otherwise) for the people of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon does not directly discuss (identify) other people. The Book of Mormon is primarily about religious/spiritual teachings and events. The multitude of wars elaborated in the Book of Mormon are, apparently, not the primary concern, even though the book is very full of their descriptions.  Evidence of these wars is lacking in the actual archaeology record (and in the DNA of dead warriors, which counters the drift and dilution arguments the LDS essay makes).

The B. of Mormon essay summarizes by quoting Apostle Oaks as saying, “It is our position that secular evidence can neither prove nor disprove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.”

The definition of fiction is "literature in the form of prose, especially short stories and novels, that describes imaginary events and people." 

This is their position:  Secular evidence can never prove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.  There's nothing science can do to help them.  Do you see this?  If the people and events have and will always have zero evidence, then how does one differentiate the contents of the Book of Mormon from fiction?

Oak says you can't. He may not have called it fiction, but his "position" statement is effectively admitting to it.

How then do they discipline Dehlin for saying basically the same thing an Apostle says?



On (3) again, I don't know specifically what they claim Dehlin stated, but the LDS essays have admitted the LDS prophets have no authority in many matters.
There is no more important authority to the LDS Church than its priesthood, and in an essay on the priesthood, regarding denying it to a whole race of humankind, the LDS church states:
"[T]he Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form."

They had 11 prophets that continued racism policies. The LDS Church tacitly admits that their statements in the official scripture of OD-1 (D&C), that the Lord won’t allow a prophet to lead the members astray, is false. For nearly 150 years the prophets have led the people astray with racist policies and the current prophet administration does not know why this happened, they just know firmly, racism is wrong. That repudiation of the former policy, of hundreds of statements made by Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, Bruce McConkie, and many more effectively opens the gate to an understanding that the current administrating prophets could be absolutely dead wrong on policies they have in place currently.

If the LDS church essay can teach their prophets were horribly wrong on such a serious issues as their own authority and priesthood, then why are they singling out Dehlin?

They must do this. They can't have Dehlin thumb his nose at the LDS church leaders and continue to dare ask his many questions in public. They had to excommunicate him because he destabilizes their political economy--which depends on hoodwinking temple going full tithers.


LDS doctrine is Jello.  And Dehlin tried to use nails to solidfy it, so they nailed him.

Their own essays and statements condemn them for the same reasons they condemn Dehlin. But they are above their own laws.


Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Trigamy


The number three is special to Mormons. Three in the godhead. Three in the first presidency. 

And temple marriages are a threesome.

The temple has three spires.  In the endowment, the man covenants with God, and the woman covenants with the man.  The sealing is a covenant of both man and woman with each other and with God.

I'm in my eighth year of being divorced.  It happened long before I completely left the LDS Church in 2012.   I rarely talk about my personal situation on the blog because I don't like approaching the line where I involve family in my public activities.  But I've learned a few things about relationships since leaving both my marriage and then the LDS Church that warrant discussion and some of it involves me personally.

My ex-wife went on a public panel at a FAIR conference in August 2014 where she talked quite a bit about me and our former marriage in a very public way.  She implied or characterized that our marriage ended because I became an unbeliever, saying, "he filed for divorce and moved out, and shortly after that, went inactive. Now it was clear to me, because he was not as enthusiastic about attending church..."  

Despite reversing the cause and effect (divorcing catalyzed my inactivity, and not the reverse), her attempt was to blame our failed marriage, and me filing and leaving, on my lack of testimony.  I think a lot of past and future broken LDS marriages may appear to be smashed on the doubts of one faithless spouse.  It would also appear that the faithful one becomes shipwrecked on a desert island, to wander the wilderness with the Lord.  My ex-wife explained it to the FAIR panel this way:  "Now, what I did not understand at the time, was what was coming down the road. My Heavenly Father knew what challenges I would face and He knew that I would be ok through those years of self-doubt, until the time was right for me to receive that answer."

You see, the Lord sustains the deserted spouse. Perhaps even carries them across the sand, where there are only one set of footprints.  Yes, you've probably heard these anecdotes

There's a general assumption in LDS Marriages that it is not a couple, but a threesome: The husband, the wife and Jesus.  Like the Trinity, this Trigamy--the LDS modern spiritual polygamy--has an invisible ghostly character pulling the strings.  The Trigamy puts Jesus on top of the man and the woman, to rope a couple to the bedposts of the LDS Church.

Now you may wonder why I didn't place the man on top of the woman, with Jesus on top of him. The idea of this ordering comes officially from The Proclamation on the Family which attemptes to spell out the roles of men and women.   To wit, men lead in church responsibilities and women nurture at home. 

It's not that clear in practice, though.  While men may be given leadership roles, yet they are dressed down by a relentless spray of faults in lessons and meetings.  And it works—give men praise and they’ll rest Sundays on their laurels; show who’s boss and they rush and stand at attention to take the abuse.  Women are persistently honored and placed on high pedestals such that the determined perfectionism keeps them ever reaching for the stars.  Take to faulting women as is done with men, and the chapel doors will bust at the hinges with sisters fleeing from such abuse.  

In practice, women are praised yet subjegated as 2nd class citizens.  Men are empowered leaders but always told they better get in line and follow.  The constant power in the Trigamy is Jesus.  He's in charge at church, at home, and in the personal lives of both men and women--as an ever present partner spying and tallying up offenses on each.  

I have seen personal experiences on how this works.  Back in August 2014, I wrote the following:


There once was a couple whose marriage was threatened in part by testimony differences.  Their bishop counseled with them and told the doubting husband, “In the temple you covenant to obey God, while your wife covenants to obey you, her husband, as long as you obey God.  How can I counsel her to stay with you if your relationship with Christ is jeopardized by your doubts of the church?”   
That bishop chained the entire future of the marriage around the ankles of the man’s doubts.  The bishop justified the wife to feel victimized by her husband's concerns, rather than develop healthy willingness to consider the validity of her love’s thoughts.  The woman, who believed the sexist doctrines that her covenant was to a man and not with her God, was also caught in the snare that LDS teachings lay for them both—that it is the Mormon church who controls your marriage, not the partners.

When one spouse (or ex spouse) says they are faithfully walking with Jesus and the other is not, this is their way of saying that they are still in the Trigamy on the good side of Jesus.  It's now two-against-one and as such, they are in the right.  Once the partnership dissolves from a threesome to a 1 and 2-some, it's made clear who are the winners and who is the loser.  Actually, it is just the church (as Jesus' representative) who seems to believe it always wins.  

Controlling the marriage and the family is the "political economy" of invisible power in the Mormon kingdom. Keeping the family together on their terms brings tithing. After all, who benefits from dividing the roles in the family, strictly maintained by factors like temple worthiness?    

The Trigamy is one of the most powerful inventions of the modern church.  The Trigamy glues more members to the church than its doctrine, its sealing power or its opposition to same sex attraction.


It's all fun and games until someone loses their salvation.





Friday, November 28, 2014

Corrupt Then, Corrupt Now (part 3)

FAIR justifies Brigham Young's Whiskey Distillery.


"Brigham Young built a whiskey distillery in Utah...The Word of Wisdom was not enforced as rigorously, or with the same requirements, in Brigham Young's day. Many speakers emphasized the Lord's patience in this matter, as applied to both leaders and members."


Bang a glass for Brigham.  And enjoy your holiday parties!  (But "not to excess" --Brigham)




Corrupt Then, Corrupt Now (part 2)

FAIR mormon has an article that speaks for itself.

"Since Brigham realized that a considerable sum ($60-80,000 in 1861 dollars) was being spent annually on tobacco (at least a small part of which was used for medicinal purposes in the 19th century) he preferred that these funds remain within the territory to foster further economic growth and self-sufficiency, rather than disappearing into eastern markets."

The $2M inflated value "fair" conclusion for our times is:



Thursday, November 27, 2014

Wishing you a Happy Angergiving!


I know it's traditional today to give thanks. And in a way, I am, but I think a little anger-giving or even a spank-giving might help shake up your family holiday.

Mormon members sometimes ask us ex-mormons:
  • Why do you keep venting against the church?
  • Why are you kicking against the pricks, when it fulfils prophecy!?
  • Your anger isn’t helping anyone.

It would be irrational of a person not to be angry at being defrauded. A financial con of six-figures alone would keep anyone upset for years. Add the robbing of my youth, philosophy, culture and emotional security…


It's not hard to predict people will "kick against the prick" or be horribly upset if you know you’re screwing them. If they find out, they’re gonna be pissed! To not be angry would be very abnormal. We are rational in our frustration. Those claiming otherwise lack empathy.

Besides, as David Burns points out, there is a lot of hypocrisy in the charge that ex-mormons can’t leave the LDS church alone--we aren’t the ones with 80,000 missionaries knocking on doors.  We don’t hold special family nights just to invite “ex-investigators” to hear our ex-mormon discussions.  We don’t throw special congregational activities attuned to our non-ex-mormon potential ex-converts.  

Are we really seething and angry all the time?  Not at all.  We may have lost the “new and everlasting covenant”, but have found that there is something much much better:  New and Everlasting Curiosity.

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 Mormondom.

Yes, there is some anger at the lies that kept us from experiencing the New and Everlasting Curiosity sooner.  While some of you see "anger" in my activities, perhaps you might remember that Jesus is represented in the New Testament as being angry at the temple money changers and other merchants who turned religion into profit making.  His anger is viewed as justified by many of my critics.  I feel my anger is too.  I see the early Mormon leaders lied to get laid with teen girls and other married women (yes, the LDS church finally admitted to this after we have been told for years we were the liars and now proved correct all along).  I am angry that the LDS bishops are still required to determine sexual worthiness of minor children.

I find it unnerving that clergy in the LDS church routinely ask the youth to discuss sex, masturbation, pornography or other subjects that would be considered highly off limits for anyone other than parents or licensed professionals, all behind closed doors. Very troubling.
Let me put this into perspective: A non-related adult male more than twice the age of the child being interviewed, asking my thirteen or fifteen year-old child about her/his sexual activities in a closed office is inappropriate on many levels. This is not an acceptable community standard any where I know of, and even state-run schools are required to get permission for group discussions on these same topics. Discussing individually, behind closed doors, these topics with a child or teen is deplorable behavior to me.  It seems an outgrowth of long ago practice by LDS leaders to sexualize the youth at early ages (the prophets through Lorenzo Snow/Joseph F Smith all had teen brides when they were in their 40s to 50s).  They lied to their members for a time, to the government and to the world about these activities, only recently coming more clean (but still not entirely).

Now they've gone from lying to get laid in that first century to in this century lying to get paid more tithing and profits.  They maintain huge financial secrets, and they spend billions on real estate speculations, ventures, malls, ranches, condo complexes, hunting preserves, theme parks and more.  We've dug up the records, and we found their encouragement in their "secret" handbooks to avoid taxes in foreign lands.  

When Jesus is depicted angrily overturning the tables at the temple, it is righteousness.  When I highlight the profit making corporation of the LDS leaders, is it really so wrong of me?  I try to live with integrity.  I know deep down inside most members even get this, but I know they have unquestioned loyalty to their leaders, and fear even looking down the same rabbit hole I have. 

As it turns out, our information on the plural marriages, the history and more has been ahead of church admissions.  The financial digging is also ahead of future LDS leader confessions.  It does require sacrifice for us "angry" ones to do this.  Someone has to.  Not because we are angry all the time (sure I have some anger for spending six-figures and thousands and thousands of free hours to that corporation), but because I feel it is a worthwhile effort to help clear the temple so-to-speak.  

Jonathan Haidt said, “Prophets challenge the status quo, often earning the hatred of those in power.”  The power is in their hand, and they are the status quo we challenge now.  There will have to be change in the future and there is a call to repentance out to the money changers and profiteers.

So this Angergiving is thankfully about a promising future of New and Everlasting Curiosity and change in the power structures that hold onto many lives around us.


Let's cleanse the temple!  Every ex-mormon a janitor!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Devil's Sneeze: New Logical Fallacies Defined


The International Society of Master Debaters has released two new logical fallacies.  Here is the press release.

 “Recent media attention to the polygamy of Mormon founder Joseph Smith and the LDS church essay on his plural marriages has spawned voluminous debate in commentary on dozens of news articles and countless replies on hundreds of forum threads.  The debate has developed two new logical fallacies which are not quite like any others already in definition.

 Devil’s Ventriloquist Fallacy:  an appeal to dismiss the opponent's argument by appealing to a third being in the discussion.

 Not to be confused with playing Devil’s Advocate in debate, a master debater will sometimes fall into using this fallacy when his opponent uses a large number of facts which contradict the debater’s traditionally held beliefs.  Examples of Devil’s Ventriloquist often uses phrases such as those found in Mormon scripture: “The spirit of contention is of the devil.” (see 3 Nephi 11:29).  Here the fallacious master debater will dismiss his opponent and leave the debate with an apparent win by claiming his opponent’s facts are contentious and of the devil, implying the opponent speaks vicariously through or for the devil.  

The implied ventriloquism also comes in words such as “You carry an evil spirit about you” or “This discussion offends the spirit.”  Upon using the DV fallacy, the master debater will leave the argument and declare a holier-than-thou victory. Meeting in the upper debate rooms of Constitutional Hall, the International Society of Master Debaters considered that this fallacy is already covered by the “Appeal to Motive” red herring fallacy, by the “Ad Hominem” fallacy, or by the “Appeal to Emotion” fallacy.  However, by calling on a supernatural being and dismissing the opponent’s argument on the basis of a third party (spirit) it appears to be a new fallacy not hitherto seen.

 From now on, a call to Devil’s Ventriloquist in debate will be assessed by both those who fear oppressive spirits and by those who know the devil as just a regular (albeit misjudged) guy with great bar conversation game.




 A second fallacy which is very similar, was also newly defined.

 Gesundheit Fallacy: dismissing an argument by invoking a positive affirmation or apparent blessing on an opponent in a backhanded manner.

 Like Devil’s Ventriloquist, the master debater calls on a third being to “bless” the opponent when he sneezes a stream of facts, spewed out in an unanswerable blast.  The master debater apparently having no argument or understanding of the factual sneeze invokes a positive affirmation or blessing in the form of “Well, God bless you and good luck!” just before leaving the argument.  Upon using the Gesundheit Fallacy, the master debater will imply a holier-than-thou victory and even appear magnanimous in blessing his opponent, while seemingly grabbing the upper hand as he exits the discussion.

 From now on, a call to the Gesundheit Fallacy in debate will be assessed by a tribunal of a medical general practitioner, a shaman and a representative of the Kleenex corporation.”





PS- In case you missed it: the above is satire.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

'Nuff the Magic Dragon


This is my 100th post on this blog, and I've written over 100,000 words--a good size novel (oh, and I completed a novel that size early this year too).

Two years ago, I began in September 2012, when I wanted to document my attending the Mormon church as the managing editor of Mormonthink.  That was short lived, and the story is familiar to most of my readers. (You can google it if you want to read the news-stories.  It's in the Daily Beast, NY Times and more.)

For this centennial blog post, I thought I would change it up.

What would my readers think if I told them:

Joseph Smith did something invaluable for human kind.

Yes, I would like to praise the man in a specific way.  I'm serious.  What he did might just change the world, and we might see that happen soon.  Perhaps we are seeing it.

To explain, I want to show you a children's book, which was inspired by Carl Sagan for the original idea.

Some tell me, the gold plates were real, angel Moroni visited Joseph Smith, and God appeared to him and then helped him translate ancient records.

Here is a little tale for you.  (Here is the art source, by J. M. Oudesluys, which makes a great children's story book.)

-- 
"A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage," I tell you.
"Show me," you say. 

I lead you to my garage. You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle--but no dragon.  But I know without a shadow of a doubt I can see it and the fiery breath.
"Where's the dragon?" you ask. 

"Oh, she's right here," I reply, waving.
"But I can't see her!" you cry.

I reply, "I forgot to tell you that she's an invisible dragon." 
"Can I hear her?" you ask.

"You have to learn dragon whispers to hear her.  She is silent to all others," I tell you.
"Can I touch her?" you ask.

"You can try, but she can only be felt by those who truly know dragons," I say.
You reach out, but feel nothing.  "I can't see where she is.  Perhaps we can spread flour on the floor of the garage and see where she walks."

 
"Now there's an idea!" I say.  Thinking, I add: "But this dragon floats in the air.  Flour won't show the dragon's footprints.  Only those who truly love dragons can find her." 


"Invisible or not, a dragon has fire!" you exclaim.  "Perhaps we can get a infrared sensing, thermal camera and see her fiery breath!"
"You think a lot," I reply.  "Unfortunately, the invisible fire is also heat-less." 


"Hmm." You think and think some more.  "Let's spray paint everywhere in the garage, and see if we can make her appear!"

"Perhaps you are over-thinking this.  Clearly, being invisible, heat-less and floating everywhere, you must realize she's an incorporeal dragon.  Without a body the paint won't stick." 

"How big is your dragon?" you ask.

"She can be very very big, or very very small," I explain. "She can change into anything she wants at any size she desires.  She's very magical." I smile proudly and take a deep satisfying breath.


You sigh and shake your head.  "Your dragon can't be touched?"
"Nope."
"Can't be seen or heard?"
"Not unless you are a superior lover of dragons."
"Can't be detected with sensors?"
"Nope."
"Can't be painted and won't leave footprints?"
"Nope."

You sigh and ask, "What's the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who breathes heat-less fire...and no dragon at all?"
"Your problem," I tell you, "is that you don't have enough faith." 
"I find your dragon non-sensed, and un-real."


--


Now, compare this story to another story on the history on religion.


Social anthropologists find the earliest signs of religion in cave dwellings.  

The hypothesis is that in the cave tribe leaders received visual and auditory hallucinations feeding words and vision, like one sees in sensory deprivation chambers.  The "invisible entities" of hallucination were revered, and perhaps offerings were made to appease it for more revelation and protection. A further hypothesis is that the leaders took the offerings and became wealthy; perhaps they grew lazy and even cruel. Eventually followers went into the cave and found the leaders had lied.

The leaders eventually moved their spirits and gods to man-made, above ground and guarded lairs. 




Great expense went into building them and the leaders ruled and lived lavishly, as if gods themselves.  The pinnacles of these temples pointed up, while the gods were buried inside.  The guards and others did know the truth, and eventually the leaders' cruel reigns ended.

The end of that epoch seems to have brought humility to religious leaders. The people couldn't build temples big enough, but they moved god to the highest points, even further away, out of reach for most people. 



Ancient Hindu and  Jewish texts speak of prophets going to mountains and finding inspiration or bringing down commandments.  The Old Testament never mentions heaven as a place in outer space, just that god is in a lofty place such as the mountain of the Lord.

For a long time, the New Testament moved god beyond human reach, into space above the sky, or heaven.  Only god could reach the people when he wanted,to reassure chosen leaders that he is real and miraculously powerful.  




Then science with telescopes peers into the skies and beyond.  And as science found no heaven, and pushed at religion's claims,they have moved god beyond space-time, outside of the measurable universe.  Beyond science even.  



Each time the goal posts of god are moved, he becomes less personable.  Non-corporeal, non human.  An indiscernible force everywhere. Invisible, non-sensed, not-detected or found by any means except through faith and the feelings the religions tell you to have. 

What did Joseph Smith do?


Smith brought god back to human form, residing within the universe at Kolob and revealing artifacts to back his claims.  People loved the more tangible, personable, approachable god.





Joseph Smith did this in the golden era after the printing press and before the internet.  Documentation exists, actually abounds, but was hard to access in his era and subsequent times.  If one could collect all the old documents, newspapers, court proceedings, journal entries and more, one could piece it all together to see almost precisely how Joseph Smith created his scam.  

Now that the LDS church has grown large enough to merit attention, we can scrutinize it as a model for how religions form and can be easily discredited.  It is large enough, and the internet is now bringing back all the old documents, newspapers and more.  Soon enough, we will have the jigsaw picture complete and it will serve as a model for how older religions, whose records are lost, also started from lies by charismatic leaders.


Here is the entire 2-minute primary talk on the history of religion, for those that want it.

(click on image to zoom in)



Happy 100th!


PS- I'll be taking a break for a while.
 I'm writing the sequel to Second Anointing, to be called Next Eyes.