Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The 21st Century Rediscovery of the Seer Stone and the Second Latter-day Restoration


In mid 2015, LDS archivists found the original printer's Book of Mormon manuscript and the brown striated seer stone used by prophet Joseph Smith in the early 19th century to translate the divine record inscribed on the gold plates delivered to him by the angel Moroni.  Members prior to this commonly believed the Urim and Thummim which came directly from God and have an aura of divinity about them were the only instruments used in the translation process.  However, the brown striated seer stone which came from a well Joseph dug before receiving the gold plates, was documented quite readily to have been used for various non-spiritual activities before he employed it to translate the Book of Mormon.

LDS Historian at the time, Richman Bushard, had stated that the seer stone "hadn't been taught in church curriculum, institute or Sunday lesson material--only found in scholarly references…Just as with the general membership, LDS general authorities knew little or nothing about the seer stone before its rediscovery."

President Yuma S.B. Kidden, the 18th LDS prophet used the seer stone to receive many revelations, including sections of the New Book of Laws, which outlines celestial sealing equality for heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual and polysexual couples, and several sections on new investment strategies for the Zion wetlands in the state of Deserwet (formerly Florida).  Until the 21st century rediscovery of the seer stone, there is no historical evidence that any prophet, since Joseph Smith, used it or any other instrument to receive revelation.  The seer stone’s last known location prior to this was on the altar of the Manti temple at its dedication,  and where allegedly President Woodruff used it as a paperweight to hold down drafts of his Manifesto.

Once revealed again in 2015 (found in the Granite Mountain in a long lost well that was covered by the patch blanket woven by Sisters Sheri Dew and Wendy Watson, the first sealed LDS gay couple), the seer stone caused many members to ask whether or not it would be used to infuse the prophets with new revelation.  Rediscovered, the stone led to the Second Latter-day Restoration and a plethora of new revelations, starting with President Kidden in the 21st century, and is the first indication of using the seer stone since Smith's martyrdom.

President Kidden has said, "The Lord took away the Urim and Thummim, in order that the saints have faith, while giving them the actual seer stone used for nearly all revelations, in order that they might have blessings both then and now."

Much controversy surrounds the early use of the seer stone by founder Joseph Smith.  Many members, including leaders felt embarrassed and shocked by it due to its connection to the early 19th century supernatural and magical culture of up-state New York surrounding Smith, and Joseph's use of stones as an instrument of picking up polygamous wives in LDS taverns.  Despite its mortal foundation and common practices by Smith who used his large stones for treasure and wife hunting, God never repudiated the use of the seer stone and its employment in translating.  This shows that by natural methods, and by small and simple means does the Lord bring about his great work and purpose.

Hence the great Second Latter-day Restoration catalyzed by its rediscovery allowed reformation of the LDS Church.  In the process of revelation, divinity is mixed and melded with humanity.  The culture of the prophet is as much a part of the revelatory word as is the divine message sent directly from God to his prophet. Since it was re-revealed, knowledge of the seer stone was absorbed in the standard lessons and curricula of church education.

That the seer stone has been installed in Church History museums within a year of its rediscovery has led some to question the Second Latter-day Restoration since the prophet did not actually hold the seer stone during the revelatory process.  However, just as Joseph Smith did not hold the gold plates or use the Urim and Thummim, but rather placed the seer stone in a hat and put his head into its brim--proximity to the plates or other instruments are unneeded.  Furthermore, with the advancement in technology of modern culture, the Lord may use new devices and methods that far exceed a 19th century stone to reveal modern revelation to the most recent prophets.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Early 21st Century Financial Secrecy, Speculation and Salvation


(Hello, I am a guest writer on this blog.  David T is out on sabbatical for personal reasons.)

During the first half of the 20th century, the Church endured financial hardships that encumbered the church monetary means and required revelations on tithing by Presidents Lorenzo Snow and Heber J. Grant.  President Snow increased tithing reserves by maintaining a ten-percent on income (instead of increase) and President Grant renewed Church Sole ownership by chartering the Church as a Sole Corporation in 1923.  Since that time, the Church enjoyed prosperity and return on investment that allowed it to invest excess tithing into non-profit land speculations and business opportunities that overall, on average, yielded a net increase of over 15% annually. 

Critics have often complained that the Church is more about money than about increasing its talents as the Lord counsels in the parable of the talents (See "Parable of Talents").  One of the most beneficial investments happened in the last quarter of the 20th century and through the first quarter of the 21st century with investments in land in Florida, including the Deseret Ranch and Panhandle Forestry Reserve, of Property Reserve, Inc, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Corporation of the First Presidency of COJCOLDS (The Sole Corporation of all incorporated businesses owned by the Church). 

At the opening of the 21st century, the Church held approximately $60 Billion in assets and $15 Billion in liquid cash.  (See this news article for historical context.)  This value nearly tripled in value when development of the Deseret Ranch turned to residential estate management, which was pushed through by revelatory edict and proper inspired management in the Lord’s quorums.   

Media of the time declared that, "The biggest development ever planned in Florida would cause no ‘adverse impacts’ to water, wetlands and wilderness in an enormous part of Osceola County, according to a brief statement by the state's top environmental agency." Further that the development would bring,  "...rise of a Central Florida metropolis of a half-million residents within a 133,000-acre corner of the [Osceola] county."  Premature complaints that a "...host of concerns about water supplies, transportation routes and population densities proposed ..." were ill advised.

The investment and management by Church financial advisors tripled the Church assets in a mere decade by 2022, from $60 Billion to almost $200 Billion.  The increase represented to most members at the time evidence of inspiration of the Lord’s anointed, but had been the subject of concern for many members of the US LDS congregation.  This investment also marks the turn of membership increase to high levels of third world members (as the US membership diminished) which turned the tide of membership overwhelmingly to other nations outside of Americans. 

Critics had predicted such shifts in profit and wealth, suggesting it would lead to a reduction in Church membership.  Their prophesies proved false given the dramatic increase the Church saw worldwide due to its rapid rise in wealth and small increase in percent dedicated to humanitarian aide (from 1.8% to 2.6% in a decade of the first quarter of the 21st century), which attracted a vast influx of members in foreign lands.  This abundant global wealth is in fulfillment that the word of the Lord would spread to all lands, tongues and people.  Money, and investment, is necessary to spread the word of blessings to all lands.  The Lord provides.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

20th Century Leaders and Gay Rights


(Hello, I am a guest writer on this blog.  David T is out on sabbatical for personal reasons.)

In theology and practice, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints embraces the universal human family, loves all of God’s children and facilitates salvation to all diverse races and ethnicities while esteeming them all equally.  As the Book of Mormon puts it, “all are alike unto God.” (See, 1.2 Nephi 26:33; Acts 10:34-35; 17:26; Romans 2:11; 10:12; Galatians 3:28.)

The structure and organization of the modern Church encourage gender neutral integration and acceptance.  By definition, this means that the sexual, economical, and demographical composition of Mormon congregations generally mirrors that of world communities.  The Church’s lay ministry also tends to facilitate integration: a gay bishop may preside over a mostly heterosexual congregation; a lesbian woman may be paired with a straight woman to visit the homes of a martially diverse membership. Church members of different gender identities and sexualities regularly minister in one another’s homes and serve alongside one another as teachers, as youth leaders, and in myriad other assignments in their local congregations.

Despite this modern reality, for most of its history--from the early and late 20th century to early 21st century—the Church did not accept homosexual members to its temple sealings or allow gay members to lead in priesthood or auxiliary functions, such as scouting or young men/women organizations.  Even leaders of the late 20th century were misled to declare “A Proclamation to the World” on “The Family” where gender distinctions and prejudice were not just common but customary among faithful white Americans, and influenced all aspects of members’ lives. Under such cultural weight, the LDS leadership made personally misleading statements in so-called “Proclamations” as, “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose,” and “Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan.” 

During the first century of the Church’s existence, a few leaders engaged in polyamorous relationships within marriage, leading to sexual intimacy among men with other men, with women and other women, who were temporally and celestially sealed.  These relationships, while not documented in acknowledged historicity of the 19th and 20th century, have recently come to light by LDS historians who have been given access to documents not-hitherto assessed.  Historians have also re-assessed events surrounding Apostle Russel M. Nelson and his relationships with Wendy L. Watson and Sheri Dew (the first woman CEO of a major LDS corporation, namely Deseret Book).  An interesting dynamic existed among Nelson, Watson and Dew.  Despite that Nelson signed a petition by the “Religious Coalition for Marriage” including "a Letter from America's Religious Leaders in Defense of Marriage" demanding that the Constitution of the United States of America be amended to ban legalized same-sex marriage and define marriage "as the exclusive union of one man and one woman", recent LDS historians have uncovered that Nelson, Watson and Dew were actually secret advocates of same-sex marriage and polyamory. 

Documents deep within Granite Mountain show that Russel M. Nelson was actually in favor of gay rights and believed that they deserve protection and respect equal to that others have enjoyed traditionally.  To wit, Wendy L. Watson and Sheri L. Dew had been “best friends”  for well over a decade in the last decade of the 20th century. In fact, in October, 2000, the women bought a vacation home together in Heber Valley (where the prophets of that era, Monson and many of the Apostles, had second or third homes).  They were granted a warranty deed as “Wendy L. Watson, an unmarried person and Sheri L. Dew, an unmarried person, joint tenants” and later, in 2002, refinanced it together for $245,800, paying it off in 2007 and rearranging the ownership until at nearly 2020, they are both still listed together as co-owners, when Dew passed away after Nelson was recently deceased as well. 

There were some leaders that spoke out against gay rights in that same era, but were regarded by members and leaders as distorted and opinionated in ways not congruent with high LDS standards.  For example, historians have admitted that Boyd K. Packer spoke insensitively, and is quoted:

"The dangers I speak of come from the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement (both of which are relatively new), and the ever-present challenge from the so-called scholars or intellectuals." (BKP. Talk to the All-Church Coordinating Council, May 18, 1993).

"That young man with gender disorientation needs to know that gender was not assigned at mortal birth, that we were sons and daughters of God in the premortal state.' ” (BKP, Case Reports of the Mormon Alliance. Volume 3, 1997. Salt Lake City, Utah: Mormon Alliance, 1997, chapter 9.)

 “We've always counseled in the Church for our Mexican members to marry Mexicans, our Japanese members to marry Japanese, our Caucasians to marry Caucasians, our Polynesian members to marry Polynesians. The counsel has been wise. You may say again, ‘Well, I know of exceptions.’ I do, too, and they've been very successful marriages. I know some of them. You might even say, ‘I can show you local Church leaders or perhaps even general leaders who have married out of their race.’ I say, ‘Yes--exceptions.’ Then I would remind you of that Relief Society woman's near-scriptural statement, 'We'd like to follow the rule first, and then we'll take care of the exceptions.' " (BKP, 1977 BYU campus speech) 
There are many other statements attributed to Boyd K. Packer about homosexuals during that era.  At that time, news abounded that the LDS Church was involved in California Proposition 8.  The passage of California Proposition 8 during the November 2008 election has generated a number of criticisms of the Church regarding a variety of issues including the separation of church and state, the Church's position relative to people who experience same-sex attraction, accusations of bigotry by members, and the rights of a non-profit organization to participate in the democratic process on matters not associated with elections of candidates. The proposition added a single line to the state constitution defining marriage as being between "a man and a woman."  The Church was alleged to have spent over $25 Million USD in its fight against same-sex marriage, but this was highly speculative and no evidence was ever uncovered in court to account for such charges.  In fact, the Church in the 21st century since 2025 has spent twice as much, around $50 Million in support of gay rights in third world countries, where gay marriages were not accepted until decades later. 

Today, however, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that homosexuality is a sign of divine disfavor or sin, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that gender disorientation or same-sex marriages are a sin; or that gays and lesbian unions are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all prejudice, past and present, in any form.

The 21st century Church today proclaims that redemption through Jesus Christ is available to the entire human family on the conditions God has prescribed. It affirms that God is “no respecter of persons” and emphatically declares that anyone who is righteous—regardless of sexuality—is favored of Him. The teachings of the Church in relation to God’s children are epitomized by a verse in the second book of Nephi: “[The Lord] denieth none that cometh unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; … all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.” (See 2 Nephi 26:33).

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.

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.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Articles of Incorporation Archive

I have obtained scans of the LDS Articles of Incorporation. For more information about these, see this blog post and this blog post.

Interestingly, there are several new amendments made by Monson, about ten in all from 2009 - 2014.   These amendments are the first ones since the 1973 amendment made by Harold Lee.  The 2014 amendment, given below, is essentially the same as most of them, with the exception of the June 2013 amendment (shown also below).

To wit, here are the scans for posterity. Click on any image to get the large view.

November 1923 original articles of incorporation:
1923, p1

1923, p2

The second article is most interesting.  It allows LDS inc to give property to any member they wish.

"The object of this corporation shall be to acquire, hold and dispose of such real and personal property as may be conveyed to or acquired by said corporation for the benefit of the members ...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."

Did you catch that?  The sole owner can convey in any manner they want any of the property or wealth held by the LDS corporation sole.  

June 1940, fourth article:

This article mostly ensures the continuance of the ownership at the death of the current president.

November 1973, fifth article (on the dissolution of the LDS corporation):
1973, p1

1973, p2

Here's the pertinent quote:
"Upon the winding up and dissolution of this corporation, after paying or adequately providing for the debts and obligations of the corporation, the remaining assets shall be distributed to a nonprofit fund, foundation or corporation, which is organized and operated exclusively for charitable, educational, or religious and/or scientific purposes and which has established its tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code."

The LDS Corporate Sole considerable wealth, property and ownership of businesses could be disposed of to any  non-profit "fund" in the form of a "corporation" organized for "charitable, educational, religious or scientific purposes". That covers a lot of possibilities.

EDIT: A corporate lawyer (friend), informs me that this fifth article is a standard provision required by IRS Publication 557 to appear in any 501(c)(3) non-profit to maintain its charter, to ensure that the organization assets are "permanently dedicated to an exempt purpose" in case of dissolution.  

Perhaps not nefarious, but it sure is to the advantage of LDS Inc. either way.  The "charitable, educational, religious or scientific purposes" seems to have widen the door the IRS opened for them.

Amendment in June 2013, giving designee Robert W. Cantwell a lot of powers to administer to the LDS Corporate Sole:

July 2014, amendment giving deisgnees Robert Cantwell, Douglas Martin and Steven Penrose powers to execute stock and establish trading accounts:

There's a possible big red flag here.  Robert Cantwell, now CFO for the LDS Church, has been the church auditor for years.  I'm investigating it.  Although, according to Cantwell's linked in bio, he stopped acting as the managing director of auditing in June 2013.  Then again, the IRS might find it interesting too that a former auditor goes to managing the funds he formerly audited. (IRS Whistleblower page)

For more info on the other two, see Doug Martin the treasurer at LDS Church and Steve Penrose, the Global Financial Reporting Manager at LDS Church. (Kevin Jergensen is the new managing auditor.)

See these images:

What is interesting here is how many (10) amendments have been made recently.  It could reflect a change in Utah law, requiring designees assigned each year and a change in the presidency (Hinckley to Monson in 2009).  However, I wonder if there isn't something strange afoot with regard to the significant change in designees in 2014.  

Could it be Monson's health is failing?  Could it be the LDS corporations are about to exercise the fifth article of the dissolution and are preparing all necessary powers and accounts?  Or it just could be standard operating principles.  However, there hasn't been an amendment filed like these for previous administrations.  Before Monson, there hasn't been an amendment filed since 1973, that I can find.  I can't understand why, if it is just standard operation to name your designees and officers. 

Now all that said, a little tongue-n-cheek bit:  The IRS Warned us about "Corporate Soles" being a tax evasion shelter.
These corporate vehicles are used by individuals to get exemption from federal income taxes as an organization described in Section 501(c)(3).  

"This scheme shamelessly tries to take advantage of special tax benefits available to legitimate religious groups and church leaders," said IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson.  The IRS also warned that "the scam could be starting to spread with multiple cases seen recently in states such as Utah and Washington."


Of course, the LDS Church was there first.  The LDS Church holds 501(c)(3) status AND owns a big chunk of the fashionable City Creek Center (even if it is paying taxes on its profits) I think its legitimacy as a church and "charity" are questionable.  But again, it was there first! UTAH!!!  This is the most prophetic thing to come out of Mormonism ever.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Ask: How could God have inspired it?

All Mormon children one time or another get this lesson. As you read the Book of Mormon, ask yourself: How could an uneducated young man, practically a boy, have written the Book of Mormon? 

Then they are given something like this list:

  • 1. Could an uneducated boy come up with 531 pages in a few short months?
  • 2. Could that boy understand ancient Hebrew literary writing styles?
  • 3. Could that boy know so much about the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula?
  • 4. Could that boy come up with about 180 new names in the Book of Mormon?
  • 5. Could a boy be deceived by the Devil to write a volume that inspires morality?
  • 6. Could that boy have accounted for the “Lost Sheep” mentioned in the bible?
  • 7. How could that boy know decades before that non-LDS scholars would agree that Christ visited America?
  • 8. Could that boy have accounted for the “sticks” referenced in Ezekiel 37:15-20?
  • 9. Why would the other 12 witnesses of the gold plates lie or be part of an uncovered conspiracy?
  • 10. Could that boy write a complex volume that doesn’t ever contradict itself?
  • 11. Could a boy have conceived of the marvelous Moroni 10 promise?
  • 12. Would tens of thousands of learned intellectuals follow the book written by that boy?
  • 13. Could that boy have convinced an older man to finance the printing of that book?
  • 14. Why would that boy, as a man, suffer persecution and eventually die for the book?

These questions give the illusion that Joseph Smith couldn't have written the Book of Mormon by himself without inspiration or God's help, therefore you are constrained to accept that it is a miracle and given by God.

Lists like this have been floating around Mormondom for decades or longer.  You can find arguments like these on many blogs (like this, or this).

Most of these are answered in one place; all of them have been addressed in various places.

I want to turn the tables on this Go-Fish game.

How could the supreme intelligence, God, have inspired prophets to write something as erroneous the Book of Mormon? 

If it were actually God-inspired, consider the following:

  • 1. Would God have inspired ancient writers to waste so many engravings of 1,381 “it came to pass” phrases and other wordy words on gold plates swelling the book well past 500 pages when the main part of the story would actually fit in about 60-70% that space if edited by skilled or thoughtful editors, redactors and writers?

  • 5. Would God have inspired ancient writers of 3 Nephi to contradict so much archaeology yet to be discovered (but known by God), leaving no evidence of the 3-day darkness, and the deaths of so many with the destruction of dozens of cities that God angrily smashed, drowned or burned when his son Jesus was crucified an ocean away?

  • 6. Would God have inspired ancient writers to confuse the meaning of ‘horse’, ‘sheep’, ‘wheat’, ‘barely’, ‘elephants’, ‘cow/cattle’, ‘goats’, ‘honey bees’, ‘steel’, ‘coins’, the ‘wheel’, ‘silk’, ‘chariots’, ‘cimeters’, ‘bellows’,  and more from 2000 years ago in America?

  • 9. Would God have inspired ancient writers to put so many erroneous claims, anachronistic mistakes, and miscalculations about ancient America that dozens of Mesoamerican and Amerindian scholars come forward to witness that it is just imaginative fiction with no basis in real science?

  • 11. Would God have inspired ancient writers to introduce so many linguistic issues into an ancient America text, including adding Deutero and Trito Isaiah texts into plates purported to be about 2600 years old, when the Deutero and Trito Isaiah texts weren’t actually written until 100-200 years later (2400y.a. (trito) or 2500y.a. (deutero))?

  • 12. Would God have inspired ancient writers to create an ancient American work so dull that one of modern America’s foremost writers (Mark Twain) would call it “chloroform in print”?

  • 13. Would God have inspired the “translator” of the ancient record to endeavor to sell its copyright and all rights to the book in Canada, yet fail to get anyone truly interested in the book because it was fraught with grammar issues and boring stories?

Anyone giving me their list of "Could a boy have written it" needs to explain away my list.

You can also ask, how could an educated person have made so many mistakes writing the Book of Mormon and attempt to pass it off as a true history?

And so the argument falls...