Sunday, September 3, 2017

Eclipsing the Truth

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to view a total solar eclipse.  My sister happens to live right in the path of the totality, so a bunch of us drove to her house and made a weekend out of it.  It was pretty fantastic and pictures don't really do the firsthand experience justice.

But the reason I mention that is because this was the first occasion in a very, very long while that I spent an extended period of time surrounded primarily by Mormons.  And there were some interesting conversations.  The one that irritated me the most was between my sister and her friend.

Her friend mentioned that the moon's orbit is slowly changing and that in thousands of years, total eclipses won't happen.  The moon will be further away from us and it will appear smaller to our view, which means that instead of totally eclipsing the sun, the moon will only be able to blot out most of it.  This is a fascinating comment to make, and it was, up until that point, an engaging discussion.

And then...

Since this is only going to be a problem in thousands of years, he continued, by then it won't matter to us.  Finishing his thought, my sister agreed that, by that point in time, we'll just be able to design our own solar systems to make eclipses happen exactly how we want.

Which made me immediately think of this infuriating entry in the Mormon Newsroom's frequently asked questions:

It's a flat-out "no" on the whole becoming-gods-and-designing-planets thing, huh?  

For a church that seems so obsessed with controlling information and standardizing its teachings, it seems kind of weird that so many lifelong, doctrinally educated members don't realize that, apparently, they won't become gods or get their own planets.  The church leadership has sent letters to local authorities to make sure members know what kinds of sex they're allowed to have and to appeal for members to combat specific laws that may go into effect.  And Elder Nelson used his fifteen minutes in the last general conference of the church to deliver a semantics lesson.  But somehow, in the last 187 years, the prophets have never bothered to clarify exactly what will happen to us if we attain exaltation in the afterlife. 

That makes no sense.  Clearly the leadership is not doing a good job of prioritizing the information it chooses to share with the faithful.  It is, however, carefully prioritizing the information it shares with the public, downplaying teachings that are embarrassing or off-putting and obfuscating things that cannot be safely denied.

That is not being very honest in your dealings with your fellow men.


  1. Hmm...I want my money back. I was always taught I would get my own planet.

    Here's a pretty good discussion of it:

    This is what I was always taught:

    "They will receive everything our Father in Heaven has and will become like Him. They will even be able to have spirit children and make new worlds for them to live on, and do all the things our Father in Heaven has done."

    Gospel Fundamentals [2001], 201

    When did it all change? Was it to counter the BOM Musical, which is very crude but extremely funny?

    1. "When the church is right, they are right. When the church is wrong, they are even more right."

      That is...beautiful!

      I'm not surprised the church downplays the "get your own planet" thing because the phrasing sounds silly. That's the way someone deliberately mocking it would say it. But I fully expected the ability to create universes and forge new worlds. There's just no way I can see to interpret all this information in a way that makes the church honest.

      And my money is on this particular lie pre-dating the musical, but that's just a hunch!

  2. To me this gets at "what is doctrine"? Is doctrine communicated via the newsroom? It seems like if such a widespread belief within Mormonism is false, this should be communicated in General Conference or at least the Ensign (such as "no, we don't think polygamy is going to be required in the life after").
    Instead it seems the church "just stops talking about it" rather than clarifying a change (see the position on birth control back a few decades ago). I think the top church leaders don't want to come close to saying any past president was wrong in any way until it gets really painful (such as the priesthood and temple race ban). That just isn't going to work going forward. Google won't let it.

    1. Obviously the Mormon Newsroom is not where people should be getting their doctrine. But sometimes the Newsroom has more guts as far as being specific is concerned than the individual leaders. Faceless press releases draw less concentrated criticism, I guess.

      Google definitely is putting leaders in awkward positions. It's no longer as easy to proclaim that we've always been at war with Eurasia when any ordinary person can pull up WayBackMachine and demonstrate otherwise.

      Gutsy, straightforward clarification from the conference center pulpit would be great. But old habits die hard and you can't teach an old bigot new tricks, apparently.

  3. Congratulations on your Brodie awards for this post and for Ether 15. Two in one year is pretty awesome. Keep up the good work!