Saturday, October 3, 2015

Notes on the Saturday Evening Session

If you choose not to take a drink of alcohol, you'll never become an alcoholic.  If you never choose to go into debt, you'll avoid the possibility of bankruptcy.
Robert D. Hales
What a weird thing to say.  Why would anyone implicitly compare alcoholism and financial debt?  How does Hales expect the majority of his church's members to purchase homes and cars?  Hinckley was always counseling people to get out of debt, which is obviously a great idea.  But Hales seems to think that it's unnecessary in the first place, which is completely baffling.  I would greatly prefer to stay out of debt, but I don't have twenty grand in cash sitting around for the next time I need a new car.

If you want more than you now have, reach up, not across. 
Robert D. Hales
Hales is trying to make the point that we should look to our parents and elders for advice instead of to our peers.  Unfortunately, not everyone who's experienced has learned from it.  Age and wisdom are not a perfect correlation.  And sometimes the older generation can't provide the advice you need for a problem that may not have existed in such prevalence in earlier times.  It makes a lot of sense to reach across to those who currently have the same struggles to see what they've learned from their relevant experiences.  Really, the last thing we should be doing is closing off avenues for assistance.  We should be reaching up, across, down, and diagonally, maximizing our exposure to ideas and advice.  That way we'll be equipped with as much information as possible so that we can make our choices.

However painful it will be to stand before God, I cannot bear the thought of standing before my mother.  The gospel and her children meant everything to her. I have broken her heart, and that is breaking mine.
 —Jeffrey R. Holland
Holland is quoting a dying apostate whose biggest regret is breaking his mother's heart by abandoning the church.  I can relate.

Unfortunately, that's not a good enough reason to believe in the church.  Ultimately, we have to live our own lives, make our own choices, and behave according to our own consciences.  I deeply regret the worry and the hurt that I have caused my own mother, but honestly, I think the fact that mothers can be so heartbroken when their children leave speaks volumes against the church.  Shouldn't our mothers care, more than anything else, that we're happy and that we're decent people who sincerely try to do the right thing?  Shouldn't those qualities be a cause for joy?  Shouldn't the specific belief system the child adheres to be secondary to all of that?

The church has too strong a hold over the minds of its members. My mother should be disappointed, perhaps.  Disappointed the way a mother might be when her son decides to flip burgers for a living instead of going to medical school.  But not heartbroken.

Besides, I tried forcing myself to believe for the sake of my parents.  I tried pretending to believe for the sake of my parents.  It was grueling.  It was awful.  It's certainly not fair to expect people to live the rest of their lives like that for fear of offending their mothers.

It's to the children of the church I'd like to speak today.  Brothers and sisters, we are engaged in a battle with the world.
 —Bradley D. Foster
Is it any wonder Mormon youth can turn out so weird?

The very first thing this guy does after announcing he's talking to the children is introduce a war metaphor.  Kids perk their ears up because finally somebody on the screen is speaking directly to them and what do they hear?  They hear themselves being pitted against everyone outside of the church.  The world has such an evil connotation to it when you're growing up in Mormonism.

While it's true that tenets of the LDS faith are coming under increasing fire in the public forum, that does not excuse forcing an upbringing of spiritual Spartanism on children.  It does not excuse preparing them to be constantly at odds with their environment, locked in an endless struggle for moral victory.

When I drove home that night, I asked myself:  What kind of father will Pablo be?  And the answer was crystal clear:  He'll be just like his dad.  Jesus said, "the son can do nothing of himself but what he seeth the father do."  This is the pattern for how Heavenly Father blesses His children from generation to generation.
 —Bradley D. Foster
Clearly that statement of Jesus's wasn't intended to be extrapolated across the whole of human behavior.  Obviously not every father is the same kind of father that his father was.  And this pattern of identical parenting that Foster has deliriously fabricated isn't only used to bless people.  Has anyone ever heard the phrase "cycle of abuse?"  And, of course, when that cycle is broken, that contradicts Foster's claim that sons are just like their fathers.

When we consider thoughtfully, why would we listen to the faceless cynical voices of those in the great and spacious buildings of our time and ignore the pleas of those who genuinely love us?
 —Vern P. Stanfill
Nobody should believe that loving a person and knowing what's best for him are the same thing.  Also, no one should assume that when someone leaves the church, he's merely "listened" to faceless, cynical voices.  I prayed, I pondered, I read a lot of stuff, most of it church material, some of it not.  But when I stopped attending, it was a decision that I made.  There was no one who led me out, no pied piper I followed blindly.  There wasn't even one particularly negative piece that made me do it—I made a choice.  Stanfill's assumption that people who leave do so because they're lured by unknown cynics perpetuates a misconception and does everyone on both sides of the issue a huge disservice.

Is it wise to place our eternal well-being in the hands of strangers?  Is it wise to claim enlightenment from those who have no light to give or who may have private agendas hidden from us?
 —Vern P. Stanfill
This is some flimsy reasoning.  How many members of the church actually know the leadership personally?  My family never missed General Conference when I was a kid, but Gordon B. Hinckley was still basically a stranger to us.  All we knew about him was what he said in his prepared speeches and his professionally edited Ensign articles.  Why should we place our eternal well-being in his hands?  How are we supposed to know whether someone has any light to give us before we listen to what they have to say?  Why are we to assume that the Quorum of the Twelve don't have ulterior motives we don't know about?  Is it wise to claim prophecy from those who make no prophetic statements or who may have private agendas hidden from us?

And this also continues the misconception from Stanfill's last quote.  Who said anything about placing our eternal well-being in someone else's hands?  It's about getting as much information as possible and making a decision based on what you can determine from it.  But the decision is in the hands of the individual, not in the hands of any whispering cynics.

God does answer our prayers about the truthfulness of the gospel, but he answers them when we have a sincere heart, with real intent.  He does not answer just to respond to our curiosity.
James B. Martino
Screw you, Martino, I had a sincere heart and I had real intent when I prayed about the Book of Mormon.  Don't reduce one of the most painful struggles of my life to mere curiosity.

It may not come as quickly or in the format you desire, but the answer will come.  Do not give up.  Never give up. 
James B. Martino
So...when am I supposed to make my choices, then?  When do I decide what beliefs to base my life and my behavior on?  Does he seriously expect people to go their whole lives being faithful Mormons, all the while still patiently waiting for God to answer a single, simple prayer?

Giving up makes sense.  If you've satisfied the requirements stated in the scriptures and prayed about it time and time again, at a certain point, you should stop.  If the church isn't true, there are probably some other things you want to be doing with your life.  If you spend all your time going to church and praying for a witness of the Book of Mormon, you'll never get to do those things.  Why waste your life being loyal to a god who either doesn't exist or refuses to fulfill his promise to speak to you when you ask one basic question?

Work without faith is dead. 
James B. Martino
Oh.  That's clever.

He's trying to make the point that in order to receive answers to our prayers, we need to have faith and do good works (which contradicts Moroni 10:4).  But I'm mostly worried that because he's taken a famous scriptural quote and flipped it around all pithy-like, this will be plastered all over social media until the context is forgotten and people are going to think it means that doing good things is meaningless without the gospel.

Who can be succored and strengthened through the atonement of Jesus Christ? 
 —Dallin H. Oaks
This last one amuses me because of the homophone.  As the Apostle Phineas T. Barnum famously asked, "Who can be suckered by the atonement of Jesus Christ?"

Was that a little Freudian slip, Oaks?


  1. That's hilarious! Oaks is standing in the Great and Spacious Building asking people if they can be "suckered" by the atonement.

    I also was disgusted by the guilting placed on mothers. The implications here are obvious. If a child strays, it's on the parents. At least none of them advised parents to abandon their children, but they place false expectations and false hopes in these parents. My wife is still struggling with how to tell her mom that she is no longer attending church and hasn't for years. It would break her mom's heart, because the church has taught mothers that their hearts should be broken when their child leaves the church. That's not unconditional love. My wife has seen the pain her mother has felt when other siblings have left the church. Yes her mom still deeply loves her children, but she has these false hopes that the kids will eventually come back. My wife went to spend the weekend with her mother and exmormon sister as well as a few others. She actually dug out her old garments in order to not have her mom see through her clothes that he doesn't wear garments anymore.

    1. That's really sad. It's crazy how much trouble some of us will go through to try and protect our Mormon loved ones from the truth. My girlfriend and I lived together for three years before I told my parents, your wife wears her garments around her mother...the church thinks it's all about families, but if the whole family doesn't share the faith, the church creates chasms in our relationships.