Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Fallen Hero

Someone on Recovery from Mormonism posted a link to this video a few days ago:
This is Lance B. Wickman, a now-emeritus general authority of the LDS church. I met Wickman about ten years ago when he was a visiting authority for our stake conference. My dad was the stake president at the time, so we drove him from his hotel to the stake meetings and back again.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

2 Nephi 26: A Just God, his Virtuous Servant, and their Equal Followers

This chapter is...wait for it...completely Isaiah-free.

What a relief.  Incidentally, it's the juiciest chapter I've had the pleasure of reviewing in a while--it's chock full of ridiculous ideas, ironic teachings and glorious contradictions.  So let's get started.

Justness Level:  Godlike
Nephi prophesies about the conditions in the Americas following the death of Christ.  He foretells storms, earthquakes, and great loss of life (though mostly among the wicked).  But because Nephi is such a stand-up guy, he has some kind of respect for human life--even the wicked kind:
O the pain, and the anguish of my soul for the loss of the slain of my people!
So he takes it to heart that so many of his descendants will be slaughtered and he seems to think it's unfortunate.
...but I must cry unto my God: Thy ways are just.
So Nephi, the guy that's idolized in Mormon culture as being one of the most righteous men ever to have walked the earth, thinks that God's choice to end thousands of lives as some kind of his son's death is bad.  But he submits that God's ways are just anyway.

I have two problems with this.  First, obviously slaughtering people is bad so I would submit that, no, this God's ways are not just.  Second, this sets the stage for Mormon programming.  The subtle message here is that even when someone so noble and upstanding as Nephi thinks something is is hinky with divinity, they should just shut up and admit to being wrong.  Fast forward to the present day and you get people who understand that the church's explicit and implicit oppression of gays has led many to misery, denial and suicide but still claim that there's nothing wrong with the church or its policies about homosexuality.  This verse teaches believers to disregard their better judgment.

Shun the Non-Believer
Take a look at verse 17:
For thus saith the Lord God: They shall write the things which shall be done among them, and they shall be written and sealed up in a book, and those who have dwindled in unbelief shall not have them, for they seek to destroy the things of God.
So unbelievers can't have the truth (which seems to lock them in as unbelievers forever) because they want to destroy the things of God.  The message here is that anyone who has "dwindled" in unbelief has become actively opposed to all things sacred.  This means that every non-Mormon, and especially every ex-Mormon is an enemy.  And, by extension, going inactive is akin to attempted deicide.

It's also worth noting that it's not the belief that dwindles, apparently it's the person that dwindles.

Nephi shares some words concering the Gentiles and their churches in verse 20:
...they put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain and grind upon the face of the poor.
 So among the characteristics of these false churches is the tendency to amass wealth and oppress the poor?  Interesting. 

On a related note, in last month's Ensign magazine, one of the articles contained a sickeningly faith-promoting story about a recently converted family that approached their bishop with concerns that they didn't have enough money to spare to pay their tithing.  This is what the bishop told them:
If paying tithing means that you can't pay for water or electricity, pay tithing.  If paying tithing means that you can't pay your rent, pay tithing.  Even if paying tithing means that you don't have enough money to feed your family, pay tithing.
And, of course, as with any discussion about the church and money, I have to bring up the multi-billion dollar City Creek Mall that the church built in Salt Lake City.  It sounds to me like the church is attempting to "get gain" and "grind upon the face of the poor" by squeezing even the most indigent members for every dime and using that money to further the growth of its business ventures.

Sounds like a false church to me.  And apparently Nephi would agree.

Right, Because Priestcraft Is Bad, Isn't It?
In verse 29, God commands that there should be no priestcrafts, and further explains that its practictioners only want "gain and praise of the world" instead of "the welfare of Zion."

I think Joseph Smith was hoping that nobody would notice that he was condemning his own behavior.  Smith got lots of perks from his status as the prophet of the restoration.  He had a group of loyal followers who idolized him, he acquired political power, and he had sex with (or at the very least married) just about as many women as he could want. 

As far as neglecting the welfare of Zion goes, he kept his ridiculous cult going, knowing full well that it pissed off a decent amount of the general population.  He didn't try to change any of the things that made his people so unpopular--such as ending polygamy or taking responsibility for his troubles with the law.

Everyone's Equal, Just Not Equal in the Same Ways
In verse 33, Nephi describes how good his God is:
...he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.
So the Jews, which are God's chosen people, and the Gentiles, which God likes to destroy, are all alike unto him.   Males and females are both welcome in God's presence, too, except that women can't get there without a man.  Blacks and whites are equal, too, except for a period of a hundred years or so when they weren't eligible for the Priesthood.  Other than that, everyone's equal in God's eyes.

The Mormon version of God might need some corrective lenses.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Call for Acountability

I feel like I'm witnessing the noble beginnings of some kind of underground resistance movement.

Steve Bloor and eleven of his compatriots have released a "Proclamation for Truth" targeted at the highest levels of the LDS heirarchy.  The proclamation calls for answers and honesty from the Big 15--the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Give it a read.  It's a pretty damn good little document.

Not only does it call for the church leadership to be held accountable for the "wilful deception" of the membership, but it outlines some of the most critical flaws of the church's behavior and intimates the consequent damage done to its faithful followers. 

Apparently one of Steve Bloor's cohorts recently sent some letters to the Europe Area Presidency challenging the church's right to claim divine authority and posing a series of questions that needed satisfactory answers to legitimize that claim.  These letters were met with no response and necessitated an appeal to the upper management.

I would imagine that this effort will also be ignored.  Which is why I think the decision to also start a petition was incredibly smart.  A petition with enough signatures could convince the First Presidency that the proclamation has irrefutable support.  With a little luck, it could force the church to confront the issues. 

I signed.  I hope you all will do the same.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

My Accidental First Date

For some reason, a memory suddenly surfaced the other day--about the time I accidentally went on a date.

It was during a field trip during my sophomore year of high school.  I can't remember exactly where we went, but it was to some old-fashioned mansion with a local history museum nearby.  Being the socially inept semi-outcast that I was, I was overjoyed that one of my few good friends was actually on the trip with me.  So I spent pretty much the entire day hanging out with him to avoid an utterly miserable experience.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Making Mormonism Cool

Mormonism is not cool.

I'm not saying this from an angry, ex-Mormon perspective, I'm saying this as a young American male.  I don't mean "I hate Mormonism and everything it stands for."  I mean that Mormonism just isn't cool.

The church has been fighting its membership hemorrhage valiantly, but they haven't seen a lot of success.  How long will it be until even the massive Mormon PR machine has trouble justifying the lie that the LDS church is the fastest-growing religion in the country?  The "I'm a Mormon" campaign, focusing on making Mormons appear normal and happy, has had limited exposure and, in my opinion, tends to come off as slightly creepy.

The most recent measure taken to maintain membership numbers was the decision to lower the missionary ages.  This will possibly combat the tendency of college-age Mormon kids from leaving the church.  But this is kind of like putting a band-aid on a cancerous tumor.  Instead of keeping kids from leaving, the church needs to give them an incentive to stay--they need to give membership more appeal in case the brainwashing wears off.  And this, in turn, will also help attract more young people as converts.  The church needs to make Mormonism cool.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

2 Nephi 25: A Little Breather

Nephi's almost done parroting Isaiah.  Almost.

But at least he takes a short break to explain himself.  And explain a little Isaiah.

Nephi Miscalculates
Nephi says that he has not taught his people "after the manner of the Jews."  Considering he's just spent a few dozen pages quoting Isaiah's poetic blocks of prophesies drenched in Jewish cultural references, he has the good sense to acknowledge that "the words of Isaiah are not plain" to them.

So why did he copy down chapter after chapter of Isaiah?  For us, of course.  Because, according to Nephi, the words of Isaiah "shall be of great worth unto them in the last days; for in that day shall they understand them; wherefore, for their good have I written them."

Sorry, buddy.  The average person in 2012 is just as ignorant (if not more so) than your fledgling offshoot society.  Nobody knows what the golden wedge of Ophir is.  Nobody knows what it means to fly on the shoulders of the Philistines.  Nobody understands Isaiah except the people who have devoted a serious amount of time (like, possibly the length of a postgraduate degree) to the study of ancient culture or Bible scholarship.  I'm not really sure how well those people really understand it, anyway.  At that level, it's probably pretty easy to fake it believably.

Works, Grace, Both or Neither?
In verse 23, Nephi opens up a little can of works...I mean, a little can of worms. He makes the claim that "it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do."  As if the works/grace conflict weren't already messy enough, Joseph Smith had to throw his own little spin on it.  That last little prepositional phrase complicates an otherwise straightforward sentence unfettered by doctrinal nuance.

I still don't know what the official doctrine of the church is concerning faith and works.  I do have clear memories of, amid religious debates among friends, advocating the necessity of both.  I had this sense, at the time, that I was the only one who was really seeing through the complexities of the argument to the simple truth.  One friend would be adamant that grace was what saved us, another would be equally as vehement that without good works you get nothing, and I'd be sitting in the middle being brilliant--"Guys, guys, what if you're both right?"

I think maybe this verse works as evidence toward Smith's inability to control himself.  He could have made it simple, but he couldn't stop himself from adding a little more information than was really necessary.  "God has instructed me to restore his church to the earth and return the power of the Priesthood" is a perfectly reasonable thing to say until you end the sentence with "and I get to sleep with anybody I want."

Passive-Aggressive Much?
Observe the beauty contained in verse 28:
I have spoken plainly unto you, that ye cannot misunderstand.  And the words which I have spoken shall stand as a testimony against you; for they are sufficient to teach any man the right way; for the right way is to believe in Christ and deny him not...
Translation?  "I'm making sure you can have no plausible deniability.  You know exactly what's expected of you so you can't whine when you get THRUST DOWN TO HELL FOR NOT BEING CHRISTIAN ENOUGH."  Nephi, apparently, is the kind of guy who will throw the rule-book at you right before he screws you with it.  Lump this in with the fact that he's an arrogant prick, a self-aggrandizing jerk, and a murderer and I kind of wonder why he thinks he has the right or the expertise to teach anyone about how to get into heaven.