Sunday, January 26, 2014

Brodies? Brodies!

Apparently, this blog has been nominated for a Brodie Award in two categories!  It's pretty cool to be in the running for a couple of things.  Considering how awesome some of my fellow ex-Mormon bloggers are, I don't expect to win but I'm happy just to be mentioned in the same breath.

My ongoing (and seemingly interminable) Book of Mormon commentary has been nominated for Best Scripture Study series and "A New Milestone For Women" is up for Best Humor Piece.  And apparently my Mormon-Themed Memes have been unofficially suggested as nominee material for a meme category that is a little sparsely populated.  So this is all very flattering.

So please head on over to Main Street Plaza to review the nominees or even offer your own.  It's a pretty epic run-through of some of the finest moments of 2013 here in Outer Blogness.  There's lots of great stuff in there, including a lot that I hadn't seen.

And hey--when the voting starts, don't be afraid to throw one of yours my way!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Alma 8. Angelic Reprise

Alma continues his Pre-Columbian Lecture Tour in the cities of Melek and Ammonihah.

Extraneous Information
Verse 7 contains some of the most relevant and easily applicable doctrines yet revealed:
Now it was the custom of the people of Nephi to call their lands, and their cities, and their villages, yea, even all their small villages, after the name of him who first possessed them; and thus it was with the land of Ammonihah.
The whole point of abridging a work of written word is to trim the fat—you're supposed to get rid of the less relevant sections and just stick to the stuff that is most important for the reader to know.  This verse is not important enough to warrant etching it into metal plates so that it can be preserved for future generations.

For having so much divine inspiration, this book sure had some crappy editors.

A Shrinking Angel-to-Missionary Ratio
How many modern LDS missionaries have had angels appear to them?  How many modern LDS prophets have had angels appear to them?  How many of these have had an angel appear to them twice?

When Alma leaves Ammonihah, an angel tells him to turn around and go back (the same angel, incidentally that struck him dumb and caused him to become converted way back when).  The angel identifies himself with literal words—this is not a feeling or an impression.  Alma is physically visited by a messenger of God who verbally communicates with him.  This kind of thing doesn't happen anymore.  Why were angels so common in the Book of Mormon but so scarce in the twenty-first century?

This Miracle Crap is Getting Out of Hand
If Alma's angel wasn't enough, another angel has appeared to a man named Amulek to tell him to take care of the prophet when he returns to Ammonihah.  Here we observe God orchestrating a semi-miraculous meeting of two righteous men so that they can eventually preach the gospel together.  And God uses angels to make all this happen.  Again.

When's the last time someone in fast and testimony meeting told of an angelic visitation and didn't make the majority of the congregation squirm uncomfortably?  The modern church doesn't put much stock in visions and angels and public miracles, but their favorite book of scripture is filled with that stuff.  Somewhere between point A and point B something changed drastically to make the grandchildren a different species from the grandparents.

It's like picking pineapples off a banana tree.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Alma 7: Alma's Stump Speech

This chapter contains Alma's speech to the town of Gideon.

Conceding Credit to God
Alma begins by mentioning that the reason he hasn't come to Gideon to grace its citizens with his speechifying until now is that he was too busy being the chief judge and didn't have time.  And then he says this:
And even I could not have come now at this time were it not that the judgment-seat hath been given to another, to reign in my stead; and the Lord in much mercy hath granted that I should come unto you.
He uses the passive voice to describe the transfer of power and then attributes his sudden availability to the mercy of God.  Except it was all him.  He abdicated the judgement seat voluntarily and hand-picked his successor.  It wasn't the mercy of God.  It was him finally deciding that he couldn't handle two jobs at the same time.

Render unto Alma that which is Alma's.

Pointless Detail
Alma begins prophesying about Jesus, explaining his birth, life, and purpose.  But he also says some stuff that shouldn't be relevant to ancient Americans.  The most baffling example, to me, is "he will be born of Mary."

Why does the name of his mother matter?  This is a prophecy for the people of a civilization that's half a world removed from the locations in question.  Nobody in the audience is going to be at Jesus's birth to say, "Wow!  Her name really is Mary!  Truly he is a prophet of God!"  Why would Alma bother sharing unverifiable details that aren't central to the purpose of Jesus's role as a savior?

And I think the way Alma tells the townspeople the name is bad writing on Joseph Smith's part.  If you're talking about someone your audience doesn't already know, you don't just drop the name in passing ("he will be born of Mary").  You generally offer some kind of introduction ("he will be born to a woman named Mary").  Unless you're that coworker of mine who expects me to have the names of all her cousins memorized and gets confused when I don't know who Meredith is and why I should understand her importance to the story.  Anyway...that phrasing sounds too much like the product of a bad writer who is already familiar with Mary and knows that his modern audience is too.

Tell Me More About Your God's Consistency
Alma makes the dubious claim in verse 20 that God does not "vary from that which he hath said."  Let's examine that for a moment.
Thou shalt not kill.  (Exodus 20:13)
And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban.  ...It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.  (1 Nephi 4:10,13) 
Another example?
Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.  ...For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none; For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women.  (Jacob 2:25,27)
...I the Lord justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines....  (Doctrine and Covenants 132:1)
I could go on.  Even if I believed Mormonism were true, the claim that God's commandments are unchanging would still be just plain absurd.  Yet people still try to make it.  It's like they've never read their own scriptures.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Three People I Hope are Now Ex-Mormons

I've lost touch with almost all of my Mormon friends.  I still have a few on Facebook, but our interactions are rare.  But every now and then I'm reminded of someone that I used to know (and now I have Gotye stuck in my head) and I wonder how my old friends' lives have developed.

1.  That Kid I Grew Up With But Was Never Really Close To
I'll call this guy Nick.

Nick and I were in all the same classes at church from nursery on up through the priest quorum.  We weren't very much alike.  I was the nerdy suburban kid and he was the outdoorsy country boy.  I was completely brainwashed but I always felt like he never really believed in the church.  I don't remember him ever serving as a quorum president or giving anything more than a brief, awkward testimony.  He attended church, mutual, Scouting, and stake youth events dutifully, of course, but he never seemed to enjoy or take much interest in the gospel.

Right around the time I left for BYU, his family moved out to Utah.  Nick was going to submit his mission papers but didn't pass his doctor's physical because of some disease he apparently had (I want to say Crohn's but I'm not sure).  The last I heard of him was that he'd gotten a surprise visit from a general authority and had received a blessing that would cure him of his disease so that he could serve a mission.

I feel like Nick spent his childhood having to sit through countless hours of meetings that he hated.  We were never really friends, but looking back, I'm kind of jealous of his disbelief.  I wish I'd acquired a distaste for the church as quickly as he did.  I really hope that rumor that he wound up serving a mission is false, because I feel like he really deserves to be done with boring himself to death for the sake of his firm-in-the-faith family.  Of course, I hope his disease got cured, too, but I'm sure it wasn't at the hands of a general authority.

2.  That Girl I Had the Biggest Crush on in High School
I'll call her Felicity.

Felicity's family moved into our ward around the time I became a priest.  She was drop-dead gorgeous, although kinda big.  My horny teenage preference was generally for the closest I could find to swimsuit models, but her face (and...ahem...upper body) was so hot that it didn't bother me that she was on the chubby side.  She's probably the first girl I liked who wasn't straight-up skinny.

She also had this awesome sense of humor, and I considered asking her out many times (although I was far too timid in those days and it was never actually a possibility).  The big problem was her mother--her mother was perhaps the archetypal image-obsessed Mormon mother.  One of the reasons that Felicity was so attractive was because she clearly took after her mother's predilection for snappy dressing, careful hairstyling and heavy (though not slutty) makeup.  Her mother supplemented her family's physical appearance by boosting their spiritual cred with frequent references to her father's position as a Temple President and the deep doctrines that he'd related to them.

Even as a faithful Mormon, I thought that her mom was shallow and that she'd gone off the deep end with her deeper doctrine.  But Felicity clearly admired her mother.  Clearly.  I couldn't figure out why Felicity would want to grow up to be just like that hot mess.

I think Felicity married a member of the old ward, and I'm pretty sure she's still in the church.  But I hope she's realized that her mother really isn't that admirable.  I hope she's realized that what made her cool was that she was an individual and not a Mormon Stepford Wife-To-Be.  I hope she's realized that her grandfather was a president of a pointless monument to greed, bigotry and brainwashing.

3.  That Guy Who Pretty Much Got Me Through BYU
I'll call this guy Ethan.

Ethan was my roommate during my second year at BYU (the year I came back after not going on a mission) and my next-door neighbor during my third year.  He's pretty much the best male friend I've ever had in my life.

He was a returned missionary and a faithful member, but he wasn't too uptight about things.  As I began to struggle with the church's culture and the social stigma involved with being a nineteen-year-old Mormon who's not on a mission, Ethan became a good listener.  He agreed with me on a lot of my criticisms of how the church works (and I wasn't really focusing my anger on the church itself yet so much as the members) and tried to help me cope.  He didn't judge me for my decision not to serve, and he didn't bother me about it when I seemed uncomfortable talking about it.  He listened to my complaints, made me feel like they were valid, and treated me like a friend instead of a pariah.

Last I heard, Ethan was doing graduate school somewhere in the northwest.  I hope he did some more thinking on the things that we discussed and maybe continued depressurizing from the spiritual frenzy he admits his mission instilled in him.  I hope he's realized that he can help himself finish school a lot faster by keeping ten percent of his sparse income.  I also hope he realized that his ex-Mormon brother was onto something. Because he was a huge help to me during what might have been the most miserable stretch of my life and he definitely deserves something better than the church that rushed him into a marriage that ended within six months.