Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ballard's Bullhockey

Unfortunately, my work schedule this month kept me from being able to do my usual General Conference roundup.  I mean, I might have been able to catch the last twenty minutes of the last session when I got home on Sunday, but considering I'd just finished off a ninety hour work week, I was more desperately in need of greasy food and a good Netflix marathon than I was of stoking the fire of my anti-Mormon wrath.

But I glanced through the talk summaries on and I perused the discussions on the Ex-Mormon subreddit, and there is, unsurprisingly, one particular talk that I'd like to dissect.


Good God, Ballard.  What the hell, man?

The framework for this insincere and reductive clutter of subtly recycled aspersions is a Bible story in which Christ's apostles refused to abandon him when others lost faith.  The title of the talk is a reference to Peter's reasoning:  "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life."

After relating this story, Ballard immediately begins to spin his knotted yarn of utter nonsense:
In that moment, when others focused on what they could not accept, the Apostles chose to focus on what they did believe and know, and as a result, they remained with Christ.
Okayyyyy then...but here's the thing...
Sure, what I could not accept was what drove me out of the church, if you want to phrase it that way.  But, in another sense, focusing on what I did believe and know drove me out of the church, too.  They're essentially the same thing, only worded differently to reflect our disparate biases.  I couldn't accept the racism because I knew that racism is wrong.  I couldn't accept the brainwashing because I knew that manipulating children is wrong.  I couldn't accept the failure of Moroni's promise because I believed that remaining loyal to an organization which has let you down so colossally is neither virtuous nor healthy.

Ballard chooses to depict those who no longer follow Christ as focusing on what we cannot accept.  But in so doing, he ignores that many of us consider ourselves to be standing up for our principles and that many of us have legitimate reasons for refusing to accept some aspects of the gospel.

If you choose to become inactive or to leave the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where will you go? What will you do?
Hey, man, just because you're terrified of the unknown doesn't mean everyone else should be too.  When I left the church, I didn't know where I would go or what I would do, and it scared the hell out of me—probably because being Mormon was all I ever knew and because the way inactivity and apostasy are treated in Mormonism left me petrified that I was leaving a warm, welcoming haven in favor of a bleak, bottomless abyss.  So nice job amping up the anxiety factor for anyone currently "vacillating" in their faith, Ballard.

The unknown can—and often should—be exciting, though.  Anything can happen now.  I can design my own system of belief.  I can live according to my own priorities and my own sense of right and wrong.  I have cognitive freedom and so much less to limit me.  Where will I go?  Could be anywhere.  What will I do?  Could be anything.  Isn't that beautiful?

Clearly it's not beautiful to Ballard.  But to anyone pondering an exit from the church, it could be.

There may be some doctrine, some policy, some bit of history that puts you at odds with your faith, and you may feel that the only way to resolve that inner turmoil right now is to “walk no more” with the Saints. If you live as long as I have, you will come to know that things have a way of resolving themselves.
If that's the case, Detective Spooner, you'll be in the ER by the time Ballard leaves the pulpit.

What kind of useless reasoning is this??  Things have a way of resolving themselves?  Great, because it's been more than a decade since I desperately tried to receive a confirmation of the Book of Mormon's truthfulness in prayer.  So how long, exactly, was I supposed to wait around doing my home teaching and attending the temple before that situation worked itself out?  People with deeply troubling questions don't want to hear your platitudes about eventual resolutions—they want you to answer their goddamn questions.

Also, I think that Ballard and the rest of the Quorum of the Twelve have effectively demonstrated that being old doesn't necessarily make you wise.  I may not have lived as long as they have, but at least I'm wise enough to know that gay people are still people and that employing Orwellian tactics to manipulate masses of adoring devotees is one of the scummiest things you can do.

So before you make that spiritually perilous choice to leave, I encourage you to stop and think carefully before giving up whatever it was that brought you to your testimony of the restored Church of Jesus Christ in the first place.
Oh, don't make me laugh, Ballard, you saucy little windbag.  Perhaps this line works better on those who converted to the church, but for a lot of people who were born in the covenant (like I was), this might not make a lot of sense.  I never had a testimony.  I mean, I had one, but it was a testimony of the reality of Mormonism, not the truthfulness of it.  The church defined my life, and I thought that this was completely normal because it was all I knew.  I thought I had a testimony, but what I really had was a pre-programmed mindset to convince me that what I believed was the truth and what I felt was happiness.  The only thing that brought me into the church was the circumstance of my birth.

And let's be honest here—how many people leave the church without stopping and thinking carefully?  It's a huge decision, and a traumatic one for many of us.  Maybe there are some people who can just flip a switch and call themselves ex-Mormons, but for a lot of people it's a careful, thoughtful, agonizing process.  Not that Ballard would know any of that, apparently.

Where will you go to learn more about Heavenly Father’s plan for our eternal happiness and peace, a plan that is filled with wondrous possibilities, teachings, and guidance for our mortal and eternal lives? Remember, the plan of salvation gives mortal life meaning, purpose, and direction.
I have very little patience for Ballardry.
This is in the middle of a laundry list of things the church can supposedly offer that cannot be found elsewhere.  But the way all these questions are framed is laughably Mormon-centric.  When I went elsewhere after leaving the church, I wasn't in search of a place to learn more about the Plan of Salvation.  I was in search of truth.  I'd just decided that the Plan of Salvation wasn't true, so why the hell would I care about learning more about it?  Ballard can't even put himself in someone else's shoes in the simplest of terms.

The Plan of Salvation doesn't give mortal life meaning.  Mortal life has inherent meaning and claiming that you need knowledge of the correct divine gameplan in order to have it tries to cheapen the value of human life and insults approximately six billion people.  And while the Plan of Salvation can give people purpose and direction to some people, it's irresponsible to pretend that those things can't be found in other religions, without religion, or from any number of pursuits entirely outside the realm of religion.

Where will you go to find people who live by a prescribed set of values and standards that you share and want to pass along to your children and grandchildren?

How about a different church?  How about a charitable volunteer organization?  How about a fucking book club?

A lot of times when people have trouble with a church doctrine or a church policy or a bit of church history, it's because the issue in question is not in line with their values—which would immediately disqualify Mormonism as a source of people who share their standards.  If people have a problem with the November 2015 policy, for example, the church will not be a nurturing place for their pro-gay (or, dare I say, pro-family-unity) values.

But the slimiest issue here, to me, is the word "prescribed."  I don't want prescribed sets of values.  I want my own values.  I want to decide what feels morally right to me, and then to do those things.  I want my standards to change and improve when I learn something new.  I don't want someone to tell me "these are your values" only for me to loyally parrot back, "yes, these are my values."  I think that relying on someone else to preset your moral radio stations for you engenders weakness.  You can't discover your best morality unless you work the tuner yourself.

Life can be like hikers ascending a steep and arduous trail.
Okay, this is totally not a doctrinal issue, but this line drives me frigging insane.  This is a terrible metaphor.  Life can be like the ascent.  We are like the hikers.  Life is not like the hikers.  This is sloppy writing.  Did no one proofread this before it went to the teleprompters?
Somewhere in this [Church Office] building is our talent.

He's supposed to be one of the mouthpieces of our omniscient Father in Heaven and he can't even properly employ a decent metaphor?  How disappointing.  

I don’t pretend to know why faith to believe comes easier for some than for others.
Well, what bloody use are you, then?  You're an emissary of God himself!  Your church is struggling against an onslaught of public opinion and a hemorrhage of inactivity and resignation, and you can't even offer some basic insight that could cut to the heart of the problem?

I’m just so grateful to know that the answers are always there, and if we seek them—really seek with real intent and with full purpose of a prayerful heart—we will eventually find the answers to our questions as we continue on the gospel path.
I'm so sick of this crap.  The answers are out there, but we won't tell you what they are, because then we'd have to mention the questions, and we don't want to give you any more ideas on what to question.  But trust us, the answers are totally out there, but as prophets, seers, and revelators, we can't be bothered provide them.

And this also reinforces the age-old myth that those who have left the church haven't tried hard enough to stay.  I really sought answers with real intent and with full purpose of a prayerful heart.  If the church were true, it certainly wouldn't be my fault for not receiving answers because I tried as hard as I possibly could.  And it's unspeakably heartless to expect someone to wait around for such important answers to "eventually" come.  

In my ministry, I have known those who have drifted and returned after their trial of faith.

Please stop giving people false hope.  My parents don't need apostolic bullshit to bolster their already unhealthy belief that I'll one day come to my senses.  Some of us may return.  But in the meantime, please stop talking about it as though it's a likelihood.  (I'm looking at you, Uchtdorf.)

I think I'm done now.  I might try to tackle Uchtdorf's talk too at some point, because that one was particularly irksome as well...just not so much as Ballard's.

Apologies for the GIF dump.  I feel like it's been a while since I've tried to visually spice up a post, and I may have overcompensated!


  1. I will not be able to look at Ballard again without thinking "saucy little windbag." Thank you, Alex! Great talk summation. Yes, we're all sick of this crap, but how sick of it are we? Well, you nailed it!

    1. Haha, thanks, Donna. Maybe next time Ballard comes up, you'll giggle inappropriately instead of being annoyed!

  2. Great job! I'm so glad that I now see that it's all crap.

    In his book The Selfish Gene, that I've just started listening to, Richard Dawkins said, "If something is true, no amount of wishful thinking can undo it."

    In the same light, I would say, "If it's not true, no amount of wishful thinking can make it true."

    We've really enjoyed your conference analysis over the last few years. Maybe this year you can just cover a talk every few days/weeks.

    One thing I noticed is that Monson still hasn't testified about Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, or the restoration in conference during the entire length of his presidency. Crazy.

    1. If it's sinking, no amount of wishful thinking can make people stay in the boat!

      I wonder when the next time will be that a sitting president of the church testifies of something uniquely Mormon.

    2. They probably won't. Too afraid of being sued. However, if the next president does, then there can probably only be one conclusion. Monson doesn't believe it himself. Gonna be interesting, and with the way he's looking, it could be any second.

    3. Yeah, he looks a little rougher every conference. I feel bad for him getting propped up like that.

    4. Prop up is right. You must have seen this picture on Reddit: