Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mosiah 4: Inadequacy, Guilt, and Paranoia

King Benjamin takes a break from his remarks for an intermission.

Book of Mormon Prophets are Better than Modern Ones
Verse 3 describes just how much of a miraculous impact his words had on his people:
And it came to pass...the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.
I'm trying to imagine Thomas S. Monson getting up in General Conference and preaching fire and brimstone and our pitiful worthlessness just like King Benjamin.  Then I'm trying to imagine all those in attendance falling to their knees as one, begging God for mercy and entreating him for the benefits of the atonement.  Then I'm trying to imagine all of those people somehow receiving confirmation that their sins are forgiven.

Either the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not the same church that the Book of Mormon talks about or today's prophets are wimps.

Benjamin Institutes Parental Reform
The revered king describes the benefits of believing in God and being forgiven for your sins:
And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that...
Whoa.  Hold up, there, chief.  Are you saying that if I accept the savior's atonement I'll no longer keep my children chained naked in my basement living on only bread and water?  This is just what I've been missing in my life.  Praise God and his ability to transform people into wonderful parents!

Running Faster than your Strength
Verse 27 illustrates another concept that contributed to my crippling guilt as an adolescent:
...for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength
This is a comforting idea on the surface—God will require no more of you than you are capable of accomplishing.  However, this means that when you do break one of the 314,682 commandments, it's because you suck.  It's not because you're human and incapable of perfection, it's because the commandments were fair but you didn't measure up to your potential.

And while we're on the subject, this quote seems a little...un-God-like.  It sounds more like Lucifer.  Lucifer wanted to just save everyone.  God, on the other hand, decided to go with the plan that involved having us jump through a series of hoops to prove ourselves, and then only saving the best of us.  For some reason, Mormonism touts this as a beautiful plan of beauteous beauty.  But if God is going to send us down to Earth and then not require us to run faster than we have strength, isn't that kind of like bending the rules so that everybody can be saved?  I mean, it doesn't work that way, but it sounds like it's supposed to.  Seems like something Lucifer would have done to maximize the amount of saved spirit children.

Remind me again why we hate Lucifer so much?

Damnation by Power Tool
Verse 28 is an odd little detail to throw in:
And I would that ye should remember, that whosoever among you borroweth of his neighbor should return the thing that he borroweth, according as he doth agree, or else thou shalt commit sin; and perhaps thou shalt cause thy neighbor to commit sin also.
Um...okay.  We have murdering and raping and godlessness and hunger and pride, but you're right, we really need to focus on returning our power tools and that cup of sugar.

This kind of sounds like Oliver Cowdery borrowed something from Joseph Smith and kept forgetting to give it back. Finally Joseph got impatient and pretended to translate this verse so that he could say, "See?  God says you're sinning!"  Note the veiled threat at the end about causing your neighbor to commit sin.  "You might cause me to come to your house and thrash the pulp out of you!" Joseph warned.

Sealing the Paranoia
In case you weren't already sweating eternal bullets after being told how lowly you are, how much you owe to God, and how screwed you are if you don't accept the gospel, let's seal the deal with verse 30:
But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish.  And now, O man, remember, and perish not.
This was a scripture mastery.  I memorized this one my freshman year of high school.  I hate this verse.  Want to talk to a pretty girl with an immodest shirt on?  Nope.  Doesn't matter how innocent your intentions are, you need to watch your thoughts.  Want to speak freely, maybe swear a little, so you aren't seen as such an oddball by your peers?  Nope.  Doesn't matter how badly you want and need to fit in, you better watch your words.  Want to go watch an R-rated movie with your friends?  Nope.  Doesn't matter if you'll never attempt to enact the things you see onscreen, you have to watch your deeds.  Considering not serving a mission because you'd rather focus on your education?  Don't even think about it.  You need to continue in the faith and not let up for a single moment—you do what's expected of you and you don't stop.  You can't afford to "perish" when your eternal salvation is at stake—which, apparently, is all the time.

No wonder so many Mormons are so uptight.    

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mosiah 3: Under God's Thumb

King Benjamin begins to outline God's plan for a savior.  Here the Book of Mormon really shines in its self-purported role as another testament of Jesus Christ.  The first half of the chapter is all old news, rehashing events from the New Testament so that they sound like prophecies.

We Are All Scumbags But We Should be Zombies
Mosiah 3:19 contains what, despite all the things I hate about Mormonism, is among my least favorite teachings of the church:
For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
The words-per-horrifying-doctrine ratio is at dangerous levels here.  First of all, congratulations to everyone—you are an enemy of God and it's not even your fault.  What a great way to think of yourself as you go through life.  Secondly, it's odd that this clearly states that our natural state opposes God because of the fall of Adam considering that the second article of faith states that we aren't punished for Adam's transgression.  Third, why are we born enemies of God if we were made in his image?  Unless that comparison expires after the fall of Adam—which of course was a necessary inevitable outcome considering that God's commandments to him were mutually exclusive and we wouldn't exist had he not fallen.  Which means that God has a very self-defeating plan for his children—one guy fails to keep an impossible commandment and the rest of humanity is forever cursed to be predisposed against divinity.

And the final putrid point this verse makes is to OBEY AT ALL COSTS.  Become like a child—follow your parents around in pitiful dependency.  Don't make your own decisions, just play follow the leader.  Willfully personify Stockholm Syndrome.  Obey.  Submit.

The use of the word "inflict" when referring to actions God takes on his children is also mildly disturbing.

God Applies Justice Arbitrarily
On the subject of sinners who have shrunk from the presence of God, Benjamin says:
Therefore, they have drunk out of the cup of the wrath of God, which justice could no more deny unto them than it could deny that Adam should fall because of his partaking of the forbidden fruit; therefore, mercy could have claim on them no more forever.
You have to give the guy credit—he has a lot of guts to bring up justice when he's talking about the fall of Adam.

I feel like I've said this two hundred and thirty-eight times, but Mormon doctrine teaches that the first two commandments God gave to Adam and Eve were mutually exclusive.  (See above for iteration #237.)  They were commanded not to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  They were also commanded to be fruitful and multiply.  But without the knowledge of good and evil, for some reason, they wouldn't be able to reproduce.  I guess in order to do the nasty (which, of course, is the most godlike act of creation we can perform in this life), they had to first have the knowledge.  Which makes it sound like sex is dirty, dirty, un-godlike stuff if you need knowledge of evil to engage in it.  Okay, but anyway, the point is that they couldn't fulfill the commandment to have children without breaking the other commandment.  And then when Adam and Eve ate the fruit—which was the only way they'd be able to keep the other commandment anyway—God threw a bitchfit and kicked them out of the Garden of Eden.

Which is a totally unfair situation.  Which is why it seems pretty stupid to talk about justice and use Adam's circumstances as an example.  Because now King Benjamin is taking one unjust situation and comparing it to zillions of God's other judgments (or, rather, actions under the forces of Justice and Mercy), which effectively makes God an unjust jerk across the board instead of only that one time.

Good job, Ben.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Email Discussions with my Dad

Around the middle of February, my dad restarted our email conversation about my feelings toward the church.  I'm going to attempt to summarize our exchanges here.  This is probably going to be a little hard to read, so I'm going to color direct quotes from me in green and direct quotes from my dad in red.  I'm hoping that will make it easier to follow.

My dad reopened the lines of communication by asking me about my comment in an earlier email when I said I felt a lot of anger on the subject.  In response, I outlined my life and the brainwashing process for him.  I mentioned indoctrinating primary songs, getting baptized even though I didn't entirely understand the significance or really make my own decision to do it.  I discussed being taught to avoid "anti-Mormons," gaining the priesthood because that's just what 12-year-old boys are expected to do, taking pride in being a peculiar people, and generally following the map that was designed to get me hopelessly brainwashed, married, and tithe-paying as efficiently as possible.  And I closed with "I want the first twenty years of my life back."

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mosiah 2: The Curious Case of Benjamin's Oration

Mosiah has dutifully announced that his aging father, King Benjamin, wants to talk to every single person in the land of Zarahemla.  So Zarahemla excitedly prepares for their king's epic sermon.

Location, Location, Location
People come from all over the land of Zarahemla (verse 1) and each family sets up a tent near the temple (verse 5) so that they can listen to King Benjamin speak from their tents (verse 6).  They even bring animals with them for sacrificial purposes (verse 3).

How is that possible unless the people of Zarahemla were dumb enough to build their temple several miles outside of town?  How could there be that much space around the temple that thousands of people could bring their tents and their families their animals and just kind of chill there?

If these people expected to hear Benjamin talk, why did they just face their tents toward them instead of grouping together in a more spatially efficient arrangement?  And was anybody really surprised when they couldn't hear King Benjamin's voice?  When they were setting up camp, why didn't one guy turn to his wife and say, "You know, we're twenty-six tents back from the front row.  I don't think the old guy can shout that far."

The story has kind of an epic feel to it.  But it doesn't make much sense.

A Quote Worth Embroidering
My mom has had an embroidery of part of verse 17 hanging on the wall in her living room for as long as I can remember:
When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.
It always seemed like a nice sentiment.  But from a post-Mormon perspective, it's kind of sickening.  Why the word "only?"  Wouldn't "also" have been more appropriate?  It sounds like Benjamin expects us to discount the positive impact we can make on other people's lives and instead focus on the fact that we did God a solid.  Isn't it purer and more honorable to do good things just because you know it helps somebody else out?  Isn't it better to do good things just to do good things and not because you're worried about how you'll measure up in the sight of God?  Isn't it more responsible to preach good works instead of preaching about how good works cozy you up with the big man upstairs?

I mean, I guess if that's the only way you can get your people to be nice to each other, then that's what you have to do, but it sure doesn't seem very inspired.

King Benjamin Lies
In verse 22, Benjamin assures his people that God "never doth vary from that which he hath said."  This, of course, is completely false.  God has most notably vacillated on racism, waffled on polygamy, and flip-flopped about eternal progression.  So I'm not sure that God's word is something anyone should be trusting.

God Says You All Suck
Benjamin sure knows how to sweet-talk his people:
I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments. 
Translation:  no matter how hard you try, you'll never be good enough, but make sure to do everything you're supposed to.  That scripture did a number on me as a kid.  I learned that I had to run as fast as I could just to stay in the same place.  And if I stopped trying my best for one second, I'd backslide and I'd never even come close to measuring up to God's requirements. That's pretty depressing.

To revisit the God-as-a-parent analogy, this is the equivalent of one of us telling our kids:  "I brought you in to this world, I fed you, clothed you, and put a roof over your head.  At best you're a liability.  So you better do exactly as I tell you because if you mess up even once, you're a complete waste of my time."

That's healthy parenting, right?  It gets better in verse 24, when any blessings you receive from God are compared to payments from someone who owes you nothing.  This way, every time you are blessed for keeping a commandment, you go further and further into spiritual debt to God and you are less and less worthy of the mercy he can grant you.  And in the next verse, Benjamin informs us that we're so worthless that we were created from the dust of the Earth—which is God's dust, so we owe him for that too.

No wonder so many of us grew up feeling like we'd never be good enough.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Mosiah 1: Father to Son, Again

Okay, the little books are out of the way.  Isaiah is behind us.  Smooth sailing on through Mosiah.

Existence Does Not Equal Veracity
King Benjamin's advice to his sons contains some oddities:
O my sons, I would that ye should remember that these sayings are true, and also that these records are true.  And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contain the records and the sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true; and we can know of their surety because we have them before our eyes.
This verse makes complete sense until Mosiah throws in that bizarre line at the very end.  Apparently, to him, seeing something is believing that something has divine origins.  I mean, I have a copy of American Psycho sitting in my bookshelf.  Because I can see that book with my physical eyes, does that mean that Patrick Bateman actually killed all those people?

The Old "Traditions of Their Fathers" Problem
Verse 5 discusses what would become of Mosiah and his peeps if they didn't have the scriptures.  The second half of the verse, ironically, seems to apply very well to modern day Mormonism:
...we should have been like unto our brethren, the Lamanites, who know nothing concerning these things, or even do not believe them when they are taught them, because of the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct.
Gasp!  An entire group of people who are blind to the truth and resist it when confronted with it because of the false customs of their ancestors?  How horrible!  Those people live in such pitiable ignorance!

Passing the Torch...and the Sword and the Liahona
When Benjamin selected his son Mosiah to be the next king, he also entrusted him with a few Mystical Mormon Metals.  Mosiah is to keep the plates of Nephi, the sword of Laban and the Liahona.  The Liahona doesn't serve any purpose anymore because nobody's trying to go anywhere, but for some reason it's been an heirloom for the last four hundred years.  The sword of Laban has no spirtual significance and it seems odd that it continues to be mentioned despite the fact that the records have supposedly been abridged for optimum doctrinal density.

I half expected Benjamin to also entrust his son with some elven cloaks and the phial of Galadriel, too.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Words of Mormon 1: Editor's Notes

In another experimentation with non-linear storytelling, Joseph Smith inserts a little aside from Mormon, who wouldn't be born until a few hundred years after the events of the previous chapter.

Mormon mentions that King Benjamin had to take up arms to defend his people from the Lamanites, personally fighting with the sword of Laban (which somehow has become a mystical artifact).  This is the emergence of a pattern in the Book of Mormon which I think helps drench Mormon culture in an Us-Versus-Them attitude.  So many of the Book of Mormon prophets are also war commanders.  Nephi, Alma, King Benjamin, Captain Moroni and others all lead the righteous into battle against personifications of evil.  This makes warlike behavior one of the major themes of the Book of Mormon—the church members are in constant battle with ubiquitous forces of evil and the prophet is a military leader.

Weird how Mormonism teaches that America is the promised land and that the US Constitution is divinely inspired despite the Book of Mormon providing repeated examples of righteous societies with zero separation between church and state.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Omni 1: The Joining of Ways

Omni is sometimes mocked, even among faithful Mormons for the "my name is whatever and I received the plates from my father whoever and I make an end of my writing" verses.  During this single chapter, Nephi's plates pass through the hands of Omni, Amaron, Chemish, Abinadom, Amaleki, and on to Benjamin.  An inordinate amount of time goes into chronicling these transitions.

An Unjust God
Amaron mentions in verses 5 through 7 that the iniquitous portion of the Nephites were destroyed.  Apparently, God decided to kill them off for their wickedness but preserved the righteous among them.  This, of course, makes no sense because God still permits the murderous, blood-drinking Lamanites to run rampant across his promised land.

I sure hope my great-great-grandfather didn't make any kind of pact with God that I don't know about, because if I don't live up to whatever the deal was God will strike me dead.  Because, in his demented divine wisdom, this is fair.

Mosiah's Story Makes No Sense
So this Mosiah character pulls a Lehi, gets a warning to get out of Dodge, takes his righteous friends with him, bumps into another transplanted society and makes friends.  But so much about Mosiah's story is...unlikely.
  • Not only does Joseph Smith explain the Zarahemla society's presence with the same plot device as Lehi's (God got them out of Israel by boat), but he also introduces Coriantumr, a character from the Jaredite civilization which used the same exact plot device.
  • The people of Zarahemla were excited to have Mosiah's brass plates containing huge chunks of the Old Testament despite "[denying] the being of their Creator."
  • Because of the language barrier, Mosiah—the guest—decides that his hosts are going to learn his language.  You know, instead of the other way around.
  • Because of the joining of two societies, Mosiah—still the guest—is appointed king.  You know, instead of keeping the government of Zarahemla in place and letting the guests assimilate into the existing culture.

A Bone to Pick with the Jaredites
The stone engraved with the record of the Jaredites is also problematic.  It mentioned that "the severity of the  Lord fell upon [the Jaredites] according to his judgments...and their bones lay scattered in the land northward."  

It seems strange to me that a large stone containing a long history of the Jaredites up to and including their destruction would find its way to Zarahemla.  Coriantumr clearly couldn't have taken it with him—he was half-dead and in no condition to lug around a huge rock.  It seems more logical that the Jaredites kept the record when they were civilized, which means that when they became a society solely dedicated to war and destruction there would have been no one left to chronicle their demise.  Ether could have done it—but then the people of Zarahemla would have had no knowledge of its existence. I suppose there are ways that this huge rock containing the complete history of the Jaredite nation could have found its way down to Zarahemla, but at best it's implausible.

And...not to beat a dead horse (which shouldn't be there either) about the bones, but...if the bones of the millions of slain Jaredites were in the land northward, where the hell did they disappear to in the last two thousand years?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Jarom 1: The Dudes Abide

Enos's son Jarom takes over the writing duties for a whopping fifteen verses.  Jarom is not the brightest bulb in the pack.

Jarom:  All-Around Good Dude
Why do I say that?  Take a look at verse 2:
And as these plates are small, and as these things are written for the intent of the benefit of our brethren the Lamanites, wherefore, it must needs be that I write a little; but I shall not write the things of my prophesying, nor of my revelations.  For what could I write more than my fathers have written?  For have not they revealed the plan of salvation?  I say unto you, Yea; and this sufficeth me.
So Jarom makes sure not to overly benefit his brethren the Lamanites by not writing very much about the things that can give them eternal happiness.  That, and he doesn't feel the need to write anything of importance because apparently Nephi, Jacob and Enos wrote it all.  But if those guys wrote down everything important that we need to know, why did Jarom receive those revelations and make those prophecies?  And why did all those others mentioned in verse 4 have all their revelations?  And why did the remainder of the Book of Mormon need to come forth?

God:  All-Around Good Dude
Verse 3 mentions that, despite the fact that the young American civilizations were wicked, "God is exceedingly merciful to them and has not as yet swept them off from the face of the land."  How is it merciful to simply avoid killing someone who poses no threat to you?  How can God be perfect if he's so petulantly vengeful toward those who don't follow the commandments he's not exactly efficient at disseminating?  And why should it be reassuring to believe in a god who pats himself on the back for declining to wipe out an entire civilization?

Lamanites:  All-Around Good Dudes
During our passage-of-time montage, we see little snippets of Lamanite behavior:  they "love to murder," they frequently attack the Nephites, and some of them apparently drank animal blood.  But in his brief but unabashedly negative description of the Lamanites, Joseph Smith/Jarom forgets an important aspect of writing a completely made-up story—motivations.

Why are the Lamanites like this?  They just represent some incomprehensible, barbaric evil and there's no explanation as to why they became that way.  Sure, their ancestors didn't really jive with the whole church thing and had a falling out with the Nephites' ancestors, but it's a long road from being non-religious to stabbing people through the throat and drinking curelom-blood-Gatorade.  The Lamanites are poorly and unrealistically depicted—which seems more like the effort of a first-time novelist instead of the revered text of a God-given book of holy scripture.

Thankfully, however, Jarom is pretty short-winded, and he quickly passes the plates on to his son, Omni.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Enos 1: Marathon Man

Here we have one of the more memorable standalone stories in the Book of Mormon.  Enos, son of Jacob, demonstrates a truly epic example of the power of prayer after his father's words cause his soul to "hunger."

Enos Finds a Cheat Code
Apparently all you need to do to be forgiven of your sins is to pray for a ridiculously long time.  Enos started praying during the day and continued into the night.  It seems he spent hours on his knees begging the Lord to help him.  Not only does this merit hearing the actual voice of God (which, of course, is in keeping so far with the miracle-drenched plot of the Book of Mormon), but this also initiates forgiveness of his sins.  The wording is a little vague, but the implication is that all Enos's sins, whatever they were, were forgiven.

He didn't have to, like, demonstrate that he'd "forsaken" his sins by going a certain amount of time without committing them.  He didn't require weekly or monthly interviews with his bishop so that they could work on his forgiveness process.  He just typed in "idprayallnight" and his soul was scrubbed clean.  (That was a DOOM joke.  All the cheat codes in that game started with "id."  I thought it was funny.  Never mind.)

I guess the important part of the cheat is the amount of continuous time spent in prayer.  Because that's the only thing I can think of that separates my experience from Enos's.  I wanted to know if the church was true. I wanted to know if I should serve a mission.  And I prayed several times a day about it, "crying unto [God] in mighty prayer and supplication" and I didn't hear his voice.  And I definitely didn't get an answer.  So even though the total amount of minutes I spent praying on the subject was probably roughly equal to Enos's, I guess my mistake was not taking the time out of my busy college schedule to do it all in one sitting.

Faith Changes God's Mind
Next, Enos prays for the Nephites and the Lamanites.  After he prays on behalf of the wicked (and loathsome) Lamanites, the Lord tells him, in verse 12, "I will grant unto thee according to thy desires, because of thy faith."

Well, that's just a slap in the face to everyone who's prayed and not received the desired answer.  Enos had enough faith, and that's why God changed his mind and decided to be nice to the Lamanites after all.  God made a promise to Enos concerning the eternal welfare of innumerable Lamanite descendants hundreds of years later just because of his faith.  But if you really need that promotion at work so that you can provide for your family while continuing to pay ten percent of your earnings to the church and your prayer isn't's probably because you didn't have enough faith.

This is, of course, exacerbated by God's problematic comment to Enos in verse 15:
Whatsoever thing ye shall ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive in the name of Christ, ye shall receive it.
So either this is a blanket statement issued to all of God's children which is clearly false because it doesn't work...or this is a statement made solely to Enos.  If it is only for Enos, then it demonstrates the kind of promises God makes to those of us who have exercised enough faith.  Which means that if your prayers aren't answered and you haven't received any divine blank checks, again, you don't have as much faith as you should.

This was Entirely Pointless Then?
In verse 18, God informs Enos that his forefathers had prayed for the same things that he'd just asked for and assures him that he'd hold up his end of the bargain because of Enos's faith and  his ancestors' faith.  It seems kind of disingenuous of God to make such a big show of answering Enos's prayer and making promises to him when the stuff Enos was asking for was already taken care of.  Why wouldn't he say that up front?

Verse 20:  Why is having your head shaven such a bad thing?
Verse 21:  Horses.  This is an anachronism in the Book of Mormon that has been pointed out many times before.  They didn't exist in the Americas then, but the Nephites had them anyway.
Verse 22:  Why were there so many prophets?  God needs more than one at a time?
Verse 24:  Wars.  The civilization started by a handful of Nephi's family and friends has only been here for less than two hundred years.  The population can't be that huge yet, especially not if there are continuous wars.  Maybe the term "skirmishes" is more appropriate.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Articles of Faith...Kind of

I've been thinking about the Articles of Faith lately.

More specifically, I've been thinking about the hypocrisies and fallacies contained in the LDS Articles of Faith.  Mormons still present them as the basic tenets of their faith despite the fact that they were penned to summarize the beliefs of a fledgling church which has undergone almost two hundred years of evolution since these articles were authored.

The first article starts out reasonably, professing a belief in the godhead.  But after only one sentence of the creed, we arrive at the first problem, in article two:
We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.
That's interesting.  In the Book of Mormon, the descendants of Laman and his followers were cursed with a dark skin so that they would be unattractive to the righteous Nephites and limit the temptation for intermarrying.  Laman's great-great-grandson would have been punished with a dark skin to separate him from the Lord's faithful followers--despite the fact that he'd had nothing to with the actions that initiated the curse.  In a more modern setting, church members were punished by being denied the right to hold the priesthood for no other reason than for having the gall to be born black--which obviously, was completely out of their control.  The claim that people are punished for their own sins and not for the sins or skin colors of their ancestors is absurd.  Although the whole bit about Adam's transgression is mostly true.

The third article addresses the atonement, and there isn't much argument there.  But the fourth offers the first two saving ordinances--baptism and confirmation--without bothering to mention the other saving ordinances.  Why?  If this is supposed to be a summary of the most basic LDS beliefs, why does it not include all the things required to obtain the highest degree of exaltation?  Why not mention sealings and endowments?

Article five discusses how only those who are called of God should be preaching the gospel and performing ordinances.  But these men should be called by prophecy.  When was the last time the next President of the church was foretold by prophecy?  Where is the prophecy in which the church's practice of selecting the senior apostle as the next in line is set forth?  Why exactly should every little priest and teacher be called by "prophecy" other than the fact that it sounds pretty cool?

The sixth article laughably implies credibility by asserting the church is the same as Jesus' church, right down to the organization of it.  But, of course, there are no "pastors" in the modern LDS church and there are no "second quorum of the seventies" or "stake patriarchs" in the church of New Testament times.

The mystical, miraculous gifts that article seven professes belief in, with the exception of revelation and maybe healing, are rarely mentioned in the church.  And usually when they are mentioned, they come from those on the outer rings of the church's social circles and tend to be taken with a hefty grain of salt.

The eighth article of faith unwittingly makes the claim that, despite all the changes the church has made to the text of the Book of Mormon over the years, the Book of Mormon is the infallible word of God but the Bible can be disregarded when it's translated wrong.  Joseph Smith made a wise PR move by placing the Bible first in his discussion of scripture, but in reality the Book of Mormon takes precedence over the Bible.

The concept of continuing modern revelation is introduced in the ninth entry, promising lots of great new revelations to come.  Oddly enough, though the amount of revelation concerning the Kingdom of God has tapered off over the years and I don't think I've ever heard a prophet or apostle claim to speak the exact revealed words of God in my life--unless he was quoting exact revealed words of God as recorded by ancient cultures.

Article ten speaks to God's vague endgame, uniting Israel and such.  But I'm not sure that the earth receiving its "paradisaical glory" is really a central belief for your average Mormon.  I've never seen a pass-along card proclaiming an opportunity to see the Earth renewed in the Millennium.

As stated in the eleventh article, Mormons do in fact claim the privilege of worshiping the Almighty God.  And they do indeed allow all men the same privilege.  But they will do their darnedest to legislate the crap out of their own religion so that everybody else has to put up with it.

The twelfth statement is an attempt to assure everyone that those rascally Mormons aren't actually up to anything by setting forth a firm belief in obeying government laws.  Of course, the church continued to practice polygamy long after the United States explicitly outlawed it.  More recently, there's the failure to report contributions made to the Proposition 8 efforts and sneaking medicine through customs and plenty more if you keep digging.

The thirteenth and final article says a whole bunch of stuff.  It mentions honesty--despite the church's frequent dishonesty about its history and even about its own doctrine.  It mentions searching after lovely, praiseworthy things of good report--despite the fact that the leadership councils its members sternly to avoid R-rated movies and other forms of artistic expression that don't jive with the church's current standards.  It mentions "doing good to all men"--despite brainwashing its children into a constant fear of inadequacy, sexually repressing its members and driving some of its gays to suicide.

So, I guess, the church's thirteen articles of faith aren't really an accurate representation of the church's doctrine or an accurate representation of the behavior of the church and its membership.  It's kind of funny that the church hasn't realized this yet.  According to Wikipedia, the last edits the church has made to the Articles of Faith were one hundred eleven years ago.  But the church has changed a lot in those one hundred eleven years.

But I guess the self-contradiction, doublethink and hypocrisy have stayed pretty much the same.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Problems With the Mormon God

God makes no sense.

I guess that's not an entirely fair statement.  I'm more educated on the subject of the Mormon version of God than I am on the bajillion other interpretations of the supreme being.  So I'll only really go as far as to say that the Mormon version of God makes no sense.

He doesn't act like a God.  His oft-lauded Plan of Happiness is laughably ineffective and the reasons for its necessity are questionable.  His expectations for his children are unreasonably high and his plan is designed to reward things that aren't necessarily desirable attributes.  He's a mess.  He's a failed god given one more world to run as a last chance before he's unceremoniously forced into retirement.  He sits brooding over the chaotic inelegance of Earth, sporting a stained wife beater and three-day stubble, chain smoking and muttering drunkenly to himself about how if given half the chance he'd show those other punk upstart gods the skills that made him one of the all time greatest deities.