Friday, January 25, 2013

Patriarchs: Psychic Supremacists

Recently I spent a few hours in the Florida village of Cassadaga, which is home to a psychic center with dozens of mediums, spirit stores and even a new age chapel.  The businesses all had that slightly dilapidated, old America homey feel to them.  The hotel, shops and medium stations were grouped together along a few crowded streets in an otherwise remote Florida region.  In addition to the hundreds of books, tarot cards and potions, the curio shops had a lot of seer and divination stones of various types. 
Mediums and spiritualist kept session schedules on white boards and were booked solid during the weekend.  They believe they have a gift, a power and a spiritual skill that enables them to perform the service that others, apparently, cannot. At $60-$100 per hour rates, they were carving out a living in a very affordable village.  One thing stood out in my mind, it didn’t matter who you were or what you did--rich or poor, black or white, tall or short, skeptic or believer--you (and your credit card) are welcome in Cassadaga. 

By comparison, in the LDS church, the Patriarch is a role filled in almost all stakes (units of many congregational wards), where a male priesthood holder is called, usually for life, to pronounce blessings which look suspiciously like psychic foretelling and readings, but with a very Mormon feel to them.  For example, mine (received when I was 19) begins with the following:
“Brother David Twede, in the name of Jesus Christ and by authority of the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood in me vested, I lay my hands upon your head and seal upon you a patriarchal blessing. I pray that the Spirit of the Lord will guide and direct you in those things that you should do, that you may receive an understanding of those questions that are in your mind, that you will be blessed and guided as you travel through life by the precepts of this blessing.”
Here we see a similar claim of gift, power and skill to pronounce guidance that will answer questions needed to travel through life.  It’s really a lot like a psychic reading, minus the cards, stones and credit card charges (there was a fee at one time -- note 1 at end). After telling me that I am special, that I was a good little spirit boy before coming to earth, further on, my blessing makes predictions such as:
  •  “It will be your opportunity to serve a mission”
  •  “You will go to a very special mission”
  •  “You will come to love your mission president with a deep and abiding reverence”
  •  “You will be a leader among men “
  •  “There is a young lady who the Lord is preparing now for this great experience with you”
  •  “The work you do to make your living will be of great pleasure to you”
  •  “Your name will be known for good throughout the annals of the church”
  •  “Your life will be one of direction, achieving goals and great understanding”
Basically, promising me fame, love and even happiness in pursuing my fortune. Repeatedly I am told I am special, loved, have purpose and will achieve great things, have deep relationships and find meaning as well as a (implied wealthy) career.  Throughout my young life, I read and reread the blessing, parsing every nuanced word and sentence to tease out meaning about what would befall me in life.   I remember being told by the Patriarch that I should be careful not to share my blessing except with those I trust.  Like many things in the LDS church, it was sacred, not secret.  But why?

You can view the P. blessings of many former members who've decided to put them up for public viewing at this link.

Most members who receive the blessing are cleared for worthiness by their bishop and instructed to go fasting and prayerful to the Patriarch’s home in preparation for their blessing.  A skeptic or unworthy person would not be welcome to receive it.  That in and of itself may not be such a big deal, except, one element found in every blessing is insidious:  the declaration of Abrahamic lineage. 

The most official LDS definition ( ) I could find on this says:
“A patriarchal blessing includes a declaration of lineage, stating that the person is of the house of Israel—a descendant of Abraham, belonging to a specific tribe of Jacob. Many Latter-day Saints are of the tribe of Ephraim, the tribe given the primary responsibility to lead the latter-day work of the Lord.
“Because each of us has many bloodlines running in us, two members of the same family may be declared as being of different tribes in Israel.
“It does not matter if a person's lineage in the house of Israel is through bloodlines or by adoption. Church members are counted as a descendant of Abraham and an heir to all the promises and blessings contained in the Abrahamic covenant.”

  My own blessing says:
“I bless you to know that you are of the house of Joseph through the loins of Ephraim…”
Why would I say this is insidious? Because it is racism at some level.  All of Abraham’s descendents, as described in the bible story, are white Middle Eastern tribal people.  LDS church doctrine declares that:
“For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.” (D&C 84:33-34)
According to LDS doctrine, if you are not directly part of or adopted into the lineage of Abraham, you cannot fulfill the requirements of salvation and exaltation.  When one gets a patriarchal blessing, the declaration of lineage is always made to that race.  Implied strongly in this is that Asians, Blacks, Indians, Amerindians, and others are not chosen.  They must at some level (blood or spiritual) declare and align themselves with the race of a Bedouin tribe or else be damned.

While I found my curious visit to Cassadaga entertaining, it wasn’t any more insidious than visiting a used car sales lot.  At least the psychics don’t universally all spout a racist declaration when giving you a reading.  Patriarchs, while mostly humble, good intentioned men, are serving a supremacist cause at the LDS church’s bidding.

The Coral Castle in Homestead, FL is believed to have been erected by magic.

Many who've recevied a P. blessing have said that they feel it was revelatory.  There were personal things said during the blessing that know one else could've known.  There were experiences in life fulfilled that seemed dead-on predicted by the blessing years before.  You would get the same kind of testimony from customers of psychics at Casadagga.  They will marvel and believe it is magical. 

The techniques used by psychics has been studied by many skeptics. A great summary is found here.  Listed in this are the following standard techiques (in Guide to Cold Reading).
  1. You must act with confidence. You don't need to be arrogant. In fact, you will probably benefit by pretending to be humble. ...
  2. You must do your research. You have to be up on the latest statistics... You have to know what people in general are like from polls and surveys. Also, you must pick up in casual conversation before a performance any information that might be useful later...
  3. You must convince the mark that he or she will be the reason for success or failure. ...
  4. Be observant. Does the person have expensive jewelry on but worn out clothes? Is she wearing a pin with the letter 'K' on it. ...
  5. Use flattery and pretend you know more than you do.
And so on.  Some argue that a difference is, the patriarch is pronouncing a blessing while the psychic plays 20-questions and guides the mark to where the personal information lies.  Most patriarchs will interview and converse with the blessee before the pronouncement.  Patriarchs are given general guidelines in a short manual (which is guarded closely much like the Mission President's Handbook was).  They become practiced in expanding on the guidelines as they pronounce more and more blessings, and have already gained much experience as a priesthood holder giving healing blessings, ordinances, father's blessings and more for decades.  The tradecraft follows closely to the steps outlined above. 
  1. The patriarch does hold the authority and yet they are humble.
  2. The pre-blessing dialogue and interview helps the patriarch to pronounce personalized blessings.
  3. The fulfillment of a blessings is always predicated on worthiness. This is an out for anything not fulfilled and leaves the mark feeling insecure about their standing in the church, and thus reliant on it.
  4. Most patriarchs have personal knowledge of the blessee and his/her family, who lives in the same stake as the patriarch.  Mormon communities are close-knit.
  5. Loads of flattery and very little negative content exist in P. blessings.
I'm willing to bet that if patriarchs could go back to charging for the blessing, as they could in the 19th and early 20th centuries (see note 1), most members would go back time and time again for updates.  Instead, the church ensures one pays tithing to be worthy for the blessing, and teaches that future promises are predicated on continued worthiness (e.g., paying tithing).

Appearing to accurately predicting events that seem too unqiue to be just coincidence is actually not that difficult when viewed in hindsight.  Take a look at this page to see how a high number of nearly identical coincidences between US Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy make it appear they were both destined to be assassinated.

This article from the NY Times highlights more importance of statistical significance and mere coincidence.

Lastly, it was pointed out to me that the Forer Effect could be at play in P. blessings.  The effect "is the observation that individuals will give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically for them, but are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people. This effect can provide a partial explanation for the widespread acceptance of some beliefs and practices, such as astrology, fortune telling, graphology, and some types of personality tests."

Just because it feels meaningful doesn't mean it isn't common.

[1] From  D. Michael Quinn, "The Mormon Hierarchy--Extensions of Power" Chap 6, Signature Books, 1997.
"For several decades only the Patriarch had a set compensation, while other General Authorities depended on haphazard donations from the rank-and-file or ad hoc appropriations from general Church funds. In 1835 the Presiding Patriarch was authorized a salary of $10 a week, plus expenses.
"Both the Presiding Patriarch and local stake patriarchs charged a fee. In the 1840s the fee was $1 per patriarchal blessing at Nauvoo; by the end of the nineteenth century it had increased to $2 per blessing. Joseph Smith, Sr., gave patriarchal blessings without payment of a fee, but would not record them. 'Uncle' John Smith commented that he 'lived very poor ever since we left Kirtland Ohio' in January 1838 until January 1844. Then his nephew Joseph Smith ordained him a patriarch 'through which office I obtained a comfortable living.'
"Financial incentive is another explanation for the fact that individual Mormons received more than one patriarchal blessing in the 19th century, often at the invitation of the patriarch. In October 1877 John Taylor criticized the monetary motivation of some stake patriarchs. He said they were using their patriarchal office as 'a mere means of obtaining a livelihood, and to obtain more business they had been traveling from door to door and underbidding each other in the price of blessings.'
"In addition, patriarchs received fees for giving unrecorded blessings of healing to the sick. In fact, Apostle Francis M. Lyman commended Patriarch Elias Blackburn for 'doing a great deal of good among the sick, without receiving very much pay for his services.'
"Patriarchal blessing fees ended in 1902, although patriarchs were allowed to accept unsolicited donations. Not until 1943 did church authorities prohibit patriarchs from accepting gratuities for giving blessings."

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Alma the Aviator Saves Hostages, Leaping over Tall Estates on a Single Modest-Stipend

Many New Order Mormons (NOMs) and some traditional members feel Apostle Dieter Uchtdorf is the most honest, humble and interesting Apostle in the LDS church.  This may very well be true, especially given the others in the quorum.   On 13 January, 2013, Elder Dieter gave a church education devotional 

 At around 33 minutes into the broadcast, Dieter says the following:

"…Remember that in this age of information there are many who create doubt about anything and everything at anytime and everyplace. You will find even those who still claim that they have evidence that the earth is flat. That the moon is a hologram. It looks like it a little bit. And that certain movie stars are really aliens from another planet. And it is always good to keep in mind just because something is printed on paper, appears on the internet, is frequently repeated or has a powerful group of followers doesn't make it true."
  True, how true.  This may include the opening paragraph of Dieter’s biography at LDS.ORG.

(click on image to expand)

From this bio, (apparently penned by Jeffrey Holland) we learn that Dieter flew a small group of emergency personnel to follow the hostages in a hijacked 737.  His company president ordered Dieter “to negotiate for the release of the plane, the pilots and the hostages.” He was told after having accomplished this, he should fly the recovered aircraft back to Frankfurt headquarters, which apparently happened without bloodshed.  Reading the bio, it would seem Uchtdorf was at the center of negotiating, rescuing, apprehending and recovering the hijacked hostages and plane.  That’s major hero action.

Uchtdorf gave the church permission to relate a story that apparently isn’t corroborated in other accounts of the hostage event.  See the references & sources of this Wikipedia article to get the facts.

A lot of this has been discussed in forums online (here & here) already this week.  Still some ask, is Dieter F. Uchtdorf pulling a Paul H. Dunn?  Is he as trustworthy as some believed?

What I have uncovered about him may cause more concern.  Not only about the junior Apostle, but about some of what the LDS church is doing related to him in real estate dealings.  This is preliminary, but so far, what I’ve found is alarming.

Apparently, the LDS church is buying lots of land in Utah resort and vacation towns.  Some of these are in highly prestigious gated residential communities.  One is the Red Ledges development.  Homes (estates & mansions) here start at half-million and move up quickly into the several million.  LDS inc seemingly owns a large (undeveloped) plot (lot 184).¹ 

The LDS owned  lot is small enough not to serve for a chapel/church lot, but large enough to place a nice sized estate upon.  Why does LDS inc purchase residential lots in a gated elite community? 

(click on image to expand)

The reason they purchase home lots could be, perhaps, tied to Dieter F Uchtdorf.  He received the very first (Lot 1 Parcel 00-0020-9118 (the link to it changes, so search by parcel)) finished town home late last summer.

Dieter's Summer estate in Red Ledges.

He bought it for $782,000, and it is a tenth the size (at 0.063 acres) of the lot owned by LDS inc in the same development. 

(click on image to expand)
MLS report on Dieter's Red Ledges sale

(click on image to expand)
Wasatch County Tax Report on said property

Uchtdorf’s home is not his principal residence. That’s in the upper-crust North Salt Lake area at 399 Aerie Circle.  This primary residence is worth $778,000, and the taxes for it are mailed to the Church’s offices at 47 East South Temple St in SLC.

(click on image to expand)
Davis County Tax Report on Dieter's primary residence

What we see is, Hero Dieter owns two homes worth three-quarters of a million each.  Hero Dieter, who quit his aviator position at Lufthansa in 1996 hasn’t worked a job in 16 years, but bought two homes with combine worth today of $1.5M.  The latest, last year, in the development where the LDS church already bought homestead plots bigger than Dieters.

This is just preliminary, and already I have found other interesting bits which I will address in future blogs.  But I’d like to point out that for supposedly a modest stipend, the junior apostle is doing very well.  When Uchtdorf  tells his religious student audience to beware of critics who are just like flat-earthers and alien watchers (because the internet isn’t very true), he’s like Alma telling Korihor that his denial of Christ is crazy talk.  Alma, we’re told, worked for his living without even a modest stipend to obtain fancy estates in high-society resort developments.  Readers contrasting Alma the honest with Korihor the agitator feel they can trust Alma. 

Dieter asks in the same 13 Jan CES talk:
"How can we know that this truth is different from any other? How can we trust this truth? The invitation to trust the lord does not relieve us from responsibility to know for ourselves."
 He assures his listeners that truth is found in the whispering of the spirit which only comes from living the gospel.   He encourages them to accept an assumption about how we source truth (through feelings). And goes on to end with this:

"I add my witness as an apostle of the Lord that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God. I know this with all my heart and mind. I know this by the witness and power of the Holy Ghost."
Can he provide any more evidence of these claims than flat-earthers or moon-hologramers do of theirs?  Can we trust the hero, mansions-owning pilot?  He’s no humble-living Alma. He’s Dunn.

1 - Previously I had shown/listed two additional lots(lot 77lot 99) under Church Properties LLC, but it has been commented elsewhere that the two properties listed may not be owned by the LDS church, instead they may be a private company held by an individual with the last name Church.  If so, my confusion is noted here as an innocent and perhaps sloppy mistake.  I'm checking this out.  In the mean time, note that a search on Wasatch County Appraiser's site for owner "LDS:" or "Bishop" or "Property Reserve" (all associated with the LDS corporations) yields a combine more than 100+ properties in that county alone. Many of these are in private residential areas (some are church buildings) and in wilderness/recreational areas.  The Church's holdings are significant, and I did assume the LLC was somehow associated with the Mormons. Red Ledges  Lot 184 is held by the church, and may have been acquired by them from a member donation--another piece I am still tracking down.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Yea FAIRly, it came to pass...

As many have noticed, this blog changed names to Mormon Disclosures.  In keeping with that name comes this tidbit right from the secret archives at the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR).  It appears they have been doing some digging and the movement they're bringing to pass may change the way we critics look at Mormonism.  Some of you may not like the topic in this blog, so I apologetically apologize up front.

Allegedly, FAIR has open the lid on Lamanite doings.  By doings, I mean poo. A document secured from deep in the bowels of FAIR archives shows that ancient fecal matter has surfaced which appears to belong to either the Lamanite king Lamoni (also spelled Lamoani) or the Jaredite Shiz.  The matter was uncovered in what was once believed to be an ancient baptismal font in central America, but is now thought to be a giant loo set in the middle of a notorious battlefield.  FAIR believes that there two verses in the Book of Mormon that reference the evidence of number two.  The first is in Alma 27:1.

"Now it came to pass that when those Lamanites who had gone to war against the Nephites had found, after their many struggles to destroy them, that it was in vain to seek their destruction..."
  The key words here are "and it came to pass" in the same sentence as "struggles".  The words "destroy them" seems to confuse readers and so FAIR has decided that these words must be the writers speaking as men and not for God.

FAIR encourages readers to remember the admonishment of Moroni in the Book of Mormon Title Page:

"If there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that thy undergarments may be found spotless at the throne of Christ."
  (Note, I believe they changed the wording slightly.)

The other verse referencing the matter in hand is Ether 15:31.

"And it came to pass that after he had smitten off the head of Shiz, that Shiz raised up on his hands and fell; and after that he had struggled for breath, he died."
  Again the words "came to pass" and "struggle" are found in the same verse.  In this case, however, the struggling for breath is interpreted as a groan under strain.  FAIR also speculates that since Shiz died as he strained, he very probably voided his bowels, leaving them the evidence they currently sift through for more indication on Lamanite existence.  As a bonus, we critics offer to them the idea that it is not coincidence that his name is Shiz, which is the Reformed Egyptian root for "feces". 

Laboratory testing so far has shown the perpetrator of the evidence ate wheat, barley and horse meat.  Preliminary DNA testing shows that while the mtDNA (maternally linked) is of Asian descent, it is hopeful the Y-DNA will show Mideastern influences.

We encourage FAIR to get with the scientists who uncovered other ancient American, Viking and pre-historic Clovis human waste matter.


FAIR has emailed me to let me know that the entire episode turns out to be a prank of one apologist on another.  It's called "hide the poo" apparently.  I don't have any other details.

(I realize that some of you have no sense of humor and many won't appreciate this kind of levity, but I spent a bit of time looking through FAIR's website this past weekend, and this is the best response to Mormon Apologetics I can form.)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Utah government-prominent Mormon scandal

Short blog entry:

On 31December, 2012 I posted the following:

In the coming weeks, Utah government may be presented with what some see as scandalous behavior by members of good standing in the highest places of their state offices.  (For a hint of the background, see and this Desnews article)  There are some members who may see the apparent illicit land-sell-off as unbecoming of a semi-high ranking Mormon.  What if the highest leaders of the church have engaged in highly questionable real-estate transfers for years?  The outrage coming for UT government leaders might be eclipsed when other revelations of the religious leaders are unveiled.

Connected to what I hinted about...Just today, Utah state attorney general John Swallow has been accused of derailing a federal investigation on a complex deal, also involving senator Harry Reid.

See the details here

I'll post more later, but be prepared for other scandals to come, which I believe involve the highest officials of the LDS leadership.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Let's be the first one to clean the toilets

"Let's be the first one to clean the toilets"

This is a directive from a highly polished, commercial video produced officially by LDS inc (hear it at around the 2 minute mark).   The video is here (about 7 minutes long).

The LDS church wants members to clean the toilets so badly, they hired an ad agency and produced a testimoaning, sappy music playing, Utah-dialect speaking video that will appeal to the hearts and guilt of every member a custodian.

Apparently this video has been shown at Sunday joint Men/Women meetings in chapels the English speaking world over.  This along with letters to/from stake leaders telling them that they must get members to do the job that formerly belonged to paid janitors.  No longer will the church pay the minimum wages of a custodial staff to keep the Lord’s house shiny.  From thus forward, in order to be a full member of the LDS church, you must reject janitorcraft and only seek a lay janitorship.  One question is:  At what point do new converts find out that they've just covenanted to scrub urinals?

Some other memorable video-ad moments include the on-verge tearful narration done by a very GA looking man, who appeals over and over to the feelings of ownership in the church and to the feelings that members should feel guilty if they do not put a shoulder to the rim and push a long bowl-brush for sparkly porcelain.

Then there is the woman that at first says she is excited, then discouraged and again excited to clean the toilets because in this way, she lifts the burden from everyone else and gets closer to God.  Yes, folks, you can get closer to the God of Monson and Joseph Smith by cleaning toilets. Why? Because Smith’s god is crap and cleaning crap will help you to understand him. 

Okay, silliness aside…So why would a charitable organization with a vast volunteer staff need to produce a heart-felt, guilt-ridden advertisement?  Because it saves them $millions!  It does.

Let's do a little calculating to determine about how many millions the church saves with their lay custiodialhood.  First, we need to know how many buildings are being cleaned.

According to this:
There are 28,784 units. To estimate the number of buildings/chapels, we can divide by the number of units-per-building. Probably on average at least two units per building, and to be on the conservative side, say three-per-building.  That's ~9600. Multiplied out by $100 per week (low estimate of labor for a single minimum wage janitor), it would be around $50 Million per year. 

So the church is saving around $50M per year in motivating volunteers to clean for them.  That's a lot of cheddar not going down the drain.

You'd think they could spring a good $500k on propaganda videos per year to get the members really excited.

Interestingly, that $50M estimated increase is about the same on average they “spent” (cash and goods/services) on humanitarian aid for the past 26 years. “Spent” in quotes because the majority of it wasn’t cash or money…

Take a look at the scant record the LDS church has offered-- LDS stats from one of their many websites:

This kind of document is the only official source on the value the church gives to helping the poor. They do not disclose their financial worth, expenses, income or any other indication of financial responsibility in the US.

The LDS church since 1985 has given a combined $1.4 Billion in cash and service value to the poor as humanitarian assistance. (This breaks down to about $400M in cash and about $1B in non-cash service & in-kind donations. In any event, $1.4 over 26 years is about $50 million a year in value.)

We have to ask, where is the extra $50M per year saved in cleaning going?  Not to charity, that’s pretty clear.  Wouldn’t the church do better to hire its own members who struggle financially to do the work and pay them a reasonable wage while helping them get employed in better jobs?   That would be a welfare service befitting of a true church.  Instead, the $50M saved is going to places like a $2B mall, a $1B ranch and $100+M hunting preserve.

What if bowl brushing members were ever to find out that the top leadership enjoys perks of summer homes and beautiful country-side recreation camping?  If they learn these are paid-for/owned and/or operated by the church to be used exclusively by the top church executive leaders, what would be their reaction?

It may just be an angry, potty-mouthed revolution.

(note: even though it is 2013, the blog will remain with the year '2012' in its name, to preserve links for now.  It may be moved eventually.)