Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Way to a Mormon's Heart is through Her Ego

Who affects true-believing Mormons more?  Ex-Mormons or non-Mormons?

We ex-Mormons play in a sandbox.  We pound the sand, we mold it, and we toss it sometimes angrily.  But outside of our little online worlds, few people care.  We're self absorbed and seen as cranks.  Many dozens of ex-Mormons have written very well studied and worded tomes, including Fawn Brodie's No Man Knows My History, D. Michael Quinn's Hierarchy series, Grant Palmer's An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, Will Bagley's Blood of the Prophets, Kay Burningham's An American Fraud,, Sandra Tanner's Mormonism - Shadow or Reality?... Juanita Brooks, Dan Vogel, and many more (see here and here)

And yet, probably not more than a hundred non-Mormons have actually read these.  True believing Mormons tend to ignore them for other reasons--if you don't see it, it won't harm you.  They get black listed by Mormons, and ignored by non-Mormons.  Why?  

Non-Mormons apparently produce the most influential works portraying some truth about LDS culture and religion. Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven, and Matt Stone and Trey Park's Book of Mormon Broadway play have done more to influence non-Mormons than the combination of all the very scholarly works by former Mormons.  HBO's Big Love is another example.  Popularized and produced for a mass audience hungry for creative and dramatic flare, non-Mormons are interested in the crazy behind our former religion.  So why do they ignore the scholarly works?  Entertainment and mass appeal.

A friend recently saw the Book of Mormon musical and told me that prior to watching, she didn't feel for or against hearing the discussions and joining.  However, after watching it, she said she grew far more interested in the religion and far far more wary of its brainwashing and lunacy.

When I began questioning, I ignored anti-Mormon literature because I believed it was biased.  My non-Mormon friends had no real agenda, and their questions caused me to think of legitimate answers.  When my son's non-Mormon friend asked him about the translation process of the Book of Abraham, I had to research it.  That opened my eyes to yet another issue I hadn't encountered.  The ex-Mormon world had talked about the problem, but I ignored them until my non-member friend asked about it. 

Mormons ignore us ex-Mormon sandpit pounders, but they can't as easily ignore the popular media.  When the world looks at them in bad light, they want to find ways to answer the controversy.  They might even study up on it,  to prepare so that when their non-Mormon friends bring it up, they have answers.  They love being right.  Their egos are Kolob sized.

The way to a Mormon's heart and brain is through his ego.  If he thinks neighbors might view him as crazy because popular media is serving a side of truth about his cult, he will arm himself.  And in arming himself, he'll have to contact the blade of truth.  It may just cut his testimony.

As ex-Mormons, we need to venture out of our sandbox a little more. Let's show our strengths as creative world-class individuals.  Let's make the Mormon story interesting to those outside of Utah--and then by ego-centered necessity, interesting to members.

Myself, I hope to influence the popular culture with a tale about faithful Mormon, Porter Wight, Chief of Police in Salt Lake City, who receiving the Second Anointing ordinance, is propelled into slaying the enemies of his church, only to discover it is a corrupt money-grubbing empire that has sucked him under its control.  I will soon query agents and publishers to hopefully bring this tale to the world and, indirectly, into the homes of Mormons.  Perhaps you'll join me in my endeavor with your own works and promoting others.  Popularize the stories and shows, and get word back to our families.

Thanks for listening.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The First Inoculation of Joseph Smith

As predicted here last June and again two weeks ago, yesterday the LDS Church released its first inoculation, or as in the words of Michael Taylor, an antigen against having hid its own history.  Members leaving the Mormon Church complain loudly that it had lied by not fully disclosing the troubling issues.

About the same time as Mormons uploaded their “First Vision Accounts”, I also finished writing Second Anointing, my novel about the secret Mormon rite called the Second Anointing, that propels the faithful Salt Lake Chief of Police to ritually murder the enemies of his church, only to gradually doubt his own beliefs.  In Chapter 17, I have a fictional character who guest-talks at a fictional radio program called Mind over Latter.  The (fictional) radio host, Finn McGill asks his guest, Celia Franson, granddaughter of a former Mormon Prophet this:

McGill:  “What evidence is there that Joseph Smith was delusional?”

“That’s a long discussion, Finn.  Let’s just start with the beginning of his prophetic experience; what he calls his First Vision.  The Mormon Church claims Smith had a vision of God, but he did not write it down for more than a decade later and not until several years after he’d written—or some say translated—the Book of Mormon. He wrote at least five and perhaps up to ten versions of the vision, each very different, and generally each subsequent account adding more and more divinity. One of the earliest written episodes had only an angel visiting him. Then it was a host of angels but not God.  Another version claims just Jesus visited him but no angels. And finally, in the officially canonized LDS version, written almost twenty years after the event, Smith claimed Jesus and God the Father as two separate personages and no angels.  The general progression is from lower claims of divinity to more and more grandeur claims of direct connection to God.  That is prototypical delusion; you increase claims when you are enabled by others believing in your delusions.  His need for more power increased the embellishment in his accounts of the delusion.
I emphasized part here about increasing claims of divinity because this is where the LDS antigen against hiding history will fail.  They make it an increasing numbers game.  I say it's a delusional claim on increasing divinity by a deluded ego-maniac.   I'll explain.

At first, the LDS Topic page attempts to spin it in this manner:

“Joseph’s increasingly specific descriptions can thus be compellingly read as evidence of increasing insight, accumulating over time, based on experience.”

Apparently “increasing insight” explains his increasing embellishments and  grandiose claims of divinity.  You see, at first, Joseph Smith couldn't understand what he saw--it was an angel. But increasing insight later told him it was a chorus of angels, no it was God, no it was two Gods! 

His increasing insights included remembering new phrases like God the Father introducing his son. Smith wasn't smart enough the first time he wrote about the vision to realize that God had just introduced his son.  But later, as his insights grew, Joseph realized, "Aha! It was God all the time! "

When they say "uneducated farm boy" they really mean it. 

 How uneducated are you, Mr. Smith, that when exactly two shining "personages" appear to you, and one says "This is my beloved Son, hear him" that you mistake it for a single angel, and then a chorus of angels, and then just Jesus, then Father God and Jesus?

This is like saying "I had lunch with a White House intern the other day. No, wait, it was all of the White House interns. No wait, it was the Vice President. No wait, it was the President who introduced me to the Vice President by name and told me he loved me."

They say increasing insights.  We say increasing delusions of grandeur. 

Then second, here’s what the LDS Topics page says about critics raising Smith’s poor memory and his embellishment of accounts (e.g., deluded ego-mania).   They defend: 

“A basic harmony in the narrative across time must be acknowledged at the outset: three of the four accounts clearly state that two personages appeared to Joseph Smith in the First Vision. The outlier is Joseph Smith’s 1832 account, which can be read to refer to one or two personages. ...  The embellishment argument hinges on the assumption that the 1832 account describes the appearance of only one divine being. But the 1832 account does not say that only one being appeared. …The 1832 account, then, can reasonably be read to mean that Joseph Smith saw one being who then revealed another and that he referred to both of them as “the Lord”.”

Now, the LDS Church moves from insights and argues from numbers.  It’s about the numbers of personages visiting. 

However, what I think is far more interesting, and as fictionalize Celia Franson says, it’s about the increasing divinity.  Smith kept changing the story, and generally over time, the increase in divine claims appears more because his followers enabled him by believing in his delusions.  Smith’s need for more power increased the embellishment in his accounts of the delusion.

Celia Franson also argues that Joseph Smith was no mere ordinary farm boy,  his intelligence and his mental disorders are far from normal: 
“Joseph Smith is clearly ingenious in his developments of a religious organization, structuring cities and maintaining societies on the western frontier. On the other hand, his unverifiable stories about visions of God and angels, his academically falsified claims of translating by the gift of God, and his misguided elaboration on planetary astronomy in the clearly fictional Book of Abraham are definitely indications of psychopathy.  Smith was not dealing with grounded reality, but formed a reality that placed him in pre-eminence above his followers, and he had the intellect and charisma to pull it off.”
The LDS Church doesn’t want you to analyze the First Vision accounts using logic and rational thinking.  The Topic tells you to follow the path to deluding yourself by feelings rather than facts:
“Neither the truth of the First Vision nor the arguments against it can be proven by historical research alone. Knowing the truth of Joseph Smith’s testimony requires each earnest seeker of truth to study the record and then exercise sufficient faith in Christ to ask God in sincere, humble prayer whether the record is true. If the seeker asks with the real intent to act upon the answer revealed by the Holy Ghost, the truthfulness of Joseph Smith’s vision will be manifest.”

Smith's claim that “I had seen a vision, I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it” is hardly different than the claim made by prophets in other world religions.  If Mormons are to ignore historical issues and pray about the truth of Smith's Vision, then they should acknowledge the Muslims who've pray about Muhammad's First Revelation when the angel Gabriel visited him and revealed a verse in the Quran.  If Mormons are to dismiss the crazy inconsistencies in Smith's accounts, then they should also ignore the crazy issues of soul discovery, E-meters, auditing and more lunacy of Scientology.  If Mormons will turn a blind eye to Smith's increasing grandiose claims as he needed to assert his egomania, they should not get bent out of shape by Pat Robertson's grandiose claims. Come on, Mormons be consistent. If you use the spirit rather than logic, then you open yourself to a lot of bullshit.

(I have another response to the essay here.)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Holy Golf Courses!

The LDS Church has landed a deal with the second largest land owner in Florida.  According to the Tampa Bay Times this morning, the Mormons will purchase over 380,000 acres in Northwest Florida, mostly comprised of timber and other natural resources that they can sell.  They will spend about $565,000,000 to acquire the land, making them the biggest land owner in the state of FL.

The Mormons love Florida.  They've made huge purchases in Orange Juice country before.  In Central Florida they own about 300,000 acres of ranch land, mineral mining and more.

Many have previously reported on the Central Florida Deseret Ranch.  I go out to the ranch for my job on occasion, where my company had leased with option to buy an 11,000 acre parcel in the middle of the ranch.  The Mormons use up everything in pursuit of making a profit.

And profits they make.

They sell oranges, timber, sod, seashells (for minerals) and more besides cattle. Orange county and Orlando buy the seashells for roads.

This is how they phrase the seashell mining business.
"Rapid construction in Central Florida has created a need for road bed materials. Fossilized seashell deposits on the Ranch are excavated by contractors for use in the construction industry for road base and asphalt batching. The deposits range from 20 to 50 feet deep. All excavation sites are restored, leaving in place an attractive lake for fishing, recreation and other uses."

One survey of mining in Brevard county shows that Deseret Ranch mines many very lucrative minerals and elements.

Included: Aluminum, Fluorine, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Uranium.

They also make money on the water rights they have for the rivers that flow through the ranch. I'm still collecting the details on that.  This is how they phrase the water-rights business.

"Water Supply Planning: We will continue to be an active participant in the region’s water supply planning efforts. We will encourage water supply planners to expand the planning horizon to achieve long-term water sustainability."

When they sold off a portion of the ranch (~11,000acres), during the negotiations, one of the corporate reps told me that the church attorney mentioned that they were planning to build a golf course and small resort community on their Deseret Ranch, on the west side, where it is zoned for residential construction by the medical school and industrial zone on the edge of Orlando.  Some plans talked of 5,000-10,000 homes, lake front properties, golf-courses, etc.  The economy tanked, in 2008, delaying those plans. Rumor is, with the tourist industry in Orlando reaching a peak again (they collected > $150M in tourist tax just recently), the LDS corporate engine is back to making plans to develop the ranch into a high-end living area.

One wonders what they will make of the timberland in Northwest Florida once they get their hands on the cleared portions where they've sold off the wood.  That will make for interesting future revenues.

Photos of the Deseret Ranch, August 2013, when I was last there. The sign says: "The mission of Bullseye is to offer its members and guests an ethical quality, fair, chase hunting experience..."

These are some of the cattle just next to the hunting preserve at Deseret Ranch.  August 2013.

The Lord is Hastening

Back in June, MormonThink and I posted that the LDS Church would publish a series of essays meant to inoculate members against a growing tide of information critical of their church.  Insider information had indicated the essays would be delayed until 2014, but new rumors indicate the release of the church's troubling issues has hastened, perhaps in part due to pro-truth actions such as the MormonThink Billboard, along I-15 in Utah.

I further speculated that the developing 3-year plan would unroll the essays in three tiers, starting with essays just touching on the tougher issues.  Following those, they will unveil journal like articles aimed at your gospel doctrine student and casual teacher.  Finally, they'll release a deeper set of publications targeted at scholarly members who are on the verge of leaving the church.  This layer of treatment will likely be buried deeper yet on the Lord’s websites so that only the truly steadfast scholars will find them.

The most recent rumors indicate the LDS Church will move or at least enhance their Topics Section at a new website, yet to be named and released. According to an unnamed fulltime church employee, "The project is on a rush order from President Uchtdorf and Elder Holland personally, and should be launched sometime in the next few weeks-1 month."  

Another church employee who works with those handling the marketing and advertising of LDS initiatives like these, reports that the 12 apostles have been upset by much of the recent  successes critics have displayed.  The admission by Grant Palmer's mysterious general authority that the 12 receive gracious million-dollar "loans" or gifts has, reportedly, upset them.  

 I can almost hear them saying: "If only critics and members knew how much money I gave up when I became a general authority then they wouldn't complain."   You see, these men, these prior jet-setting executives and cutting-edge lawyers sacrificed tremendous potential wealth to be your leader.  And what do they have to show for it?  Only a small fortune from the church's accounts as the Lord's servants.  They deserve the million dollar gift from the holy coffers.  Yes, that's a way of looking at it.

Another way of looking at it is these men feel much more special than the common member does to them.  They are above their fellow members. You common members do not deserve million-dollar gifts.  You should stop speaking evil of the Lord's anointed, obey, pray and pay your tithing!   (Oh, and don't be gay!)  They've been working the members for decades and decades, using every guilting, covenant-breaking penalty miming and soft-spoken threatening technique of manipulation they can to keep the tithes rolling in and the obedience and loyalty paying out.
Recall, the church temple covenants ask all members to promise to give all their wealth, time, talents and everything which they are blessed with to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints® for the building up of the corporation--I mean kingdom--of God.  The 12 feel they have done just that--they gave up their pathways to ultra-wealthy living in order to live the impoverished apostle life of owning only a few houses, of  open-ended book deals, of one-time million-dollar forgiven "loans" and of continual reimbursements for their houses, gardeners, maids, cooks, Christmas gifts and more.  

If that's the meek inheriting the earth after giving all their wealth, time and talents to the church, then sign me up for some of that meekness, because I have a million dollar loan I'd like canceled.  Oh, and a french maid in a short skirt would be sweet too!

Ultimately, this hastened move to inoculate members against the actual history and teachings of the past church is aimed at stabilizing the bottom line: tithes and offerings.  A church employee in the finance department has told me that the drop in donations is a great concern among their department, and reporting that up the chain has caused a flurry of memos and action that includes some layoffs in the church's business units. In 2013, layoffs hit three departments over at the church office building.   Times are growing tight for a church that supposedly is expanding at such a rapid rate they need tens of thousands of new missionaries.  Missionaries go up, tithing and profit goes down.  The common link?  Tithing drops and they push to go find new customers to tithe because they've lost market share.  But like CFOs hiding the losses in less viewed columns of their spreadsheets, the LDS Church is not telling its members the whole story on its membership numbers.  I reported about that here.

Elder Uchtdorf and Elder Holland:  The inoculating essays, articles and documents won't fix the tithes bloodletting.  Well over a year ago, I suggested your path around the evaporating tithes.  Brethren, you prepare yourselves to exercise your articles of incorporation on the sole corporation in finding that safe, off-shore "charity" where you can shift the 180 year growth and wealth, laying a golden nest egg for yourselves.  You may just be members of the last solvent Quorum of the Twelve before you vote in unison to dissolve the sole and distribute the booty among yourselves. You'll make Joseph Smith proud.

A Closer Look at their Finances scares the bejeebus out of the Brethren