Thursday, March 29, 2007

Thinking About What Was Different With My Wife

There have been a lot of posts lately about believing spouses and how to deal with them. It has caused me to reflect on why my situation turned out so differently than the experience of so many others. I am not sharing this to make others envious or feel worse about their own situations. I am sharing this as a way of processing it and to help others who might have a spousal situation similar to mine.

My disbelief did not take place gradually. I had always had an interest in church history, deep doctrines, and apologetics. So, I learned little by little the troubling aspects of Mormonism, along with the popular faith-saving mental gymnastics that maintained my orthodox beliefs. My wife knew that I knew a lot more about Mormonism than she did, and although we were both TBM, I might have been a little more uber-TBM than she was. Occasionally, she would overhear me reacting vocally to myself over something I read of Quinn's, and ask me what it was. I was often reluctant to share because I was afraid that it might weaken her testimony. That holier-than-thou attitude would irritate her until I would tell her what I had just read (since she wanted to know what had caused the reaction). I would then go onto the FAIR website and see if I could find some apologetic interpretation for what I had just read and then share that with my wife. Those issues did not really weaken her testimony, but gave her something to put on her shelf. At the time she felt like her testimony was kind of stagnant, because although she was reading her scriptures and "Jesus the Christ", and attending the church and the temple, none of it was really doing anything for her.

Both she and I have the personality in which we don't want any secrets. If there is information out there, we want to know it, whether it be good, bad, or indifferent. When I finally finished my 6 month long investigation into the Book of Abraham and found that for me, Joseph was guilty of fraud beyond a reasonable doubt (I find Blake Osler's Expansion Theory desperate as well as the idea that the Spirit would lead one to a falsehood that they could still learn from), I knew that my integrity would not allow me to continue acting as a TBM and serving as a counselor in the Bishopric. I let go of all my mental gymnastics about the temple, the First Vision, restoration of the priesthood, the BoM, the polyandry, and Joseph marrying his own foster daughters, and let the weight of the evidence hold sway. I absolutely had to resign from my calling and quit acting like I had the priesthood, etc. My responsibilities in the Bishopric forced an urgency in my situation because I could not lie and lay my hands on people's heads and set them apart, etc. I had to resign my calling and I had to do it then or not be able to live with myself. So, before I spoke with the Bishop, I told my wife what I had found out about the Book of Abraham, and how I no longer believed, and how my integrity demanded that I resign my calling, etc. She was shocked at the possibility that the BoA could be a fraud and that my testimony that I had held to so firmly for so long was gone so quickly, but knew me well enough to know that I could not live a lie if I no longer believed. She trusted my ability to reason and knew that if I said that there was something to this, then there might be something to it. I invited her to look into it for herself, and due to her trust in me and her curiosity and my persistence she began reading some things within the week.

We discussed the possibility of being "foyer members" (you know the ones that don't participate and just come and sit out in the foyer). But, I could not bear the thought of it because I knew people would judge me, since in an instant I would go from counselor in the Bishopric to withdrawn, non-priesthood exercising member. I knew people would bug me to become more active, and I would have to listen to "Praise to the Man" and keep my mouth shut about a man who I felt deceived us all and abused his power and the trust of the people. Furthermore, I wanted to turn my focus to figuring out my own spirituality and theology, and I saw wasting time at the LDS Church as contrary to my goals. Nevertheless, I would have continued to attend if she had wanted me to. I was the one who changed, and she meant even more to me now than she had when I believed. So, I would have done anything for us to be together, but I needed her to know that my integrity would not allow me to deceive others. Thankfully, she did not demand that I keep going. So, within a week of coming to believe the Church was not what it claims to be, my wife and I met with the Bishop, I turned in my temple recommend, my bishopric books and keys to the building, caught the Bishop up on any assignments I had been working on, told him why I was leaving and that I would not be back. He was shocked, sad to hear it, but could tell my mind was made up. We hugged and that was it.

My wife continued to read and now knows just about everything I know. We resigned our memberships last October, six months after I quit attending. We now attend a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, although my wife still goes to the LDS church about once a month and sits in the foyer just so that she can talk to old friends. My wife is known in the DAMU as "lilly of the field". So, if you want to ask her questions directly, you can.

This week is the 1 year anniversary of my no longer believing. I told my wife about it on the Sunday of April General Conference 2006. That may not be an occasion of celebration for some, but it is for us. Perhaps we will have a toast with margaritas Sunday night.

Other DAMU couples of which I am aware: BYH and Greek Goddess, Meg and Jack Slate, ChristFollower and Wife of Bath, Solistics and Chandelier, DisMo and Rose-Colored Glasses, any others?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Genealogy - Its Continued Significance to One Post-Mormon

(Note: This was originally posted by me on (http://latterdaymainstreet.com/ ) a new blog that aims to be an all-inclusive hub for all things Mormon. I wanted a copy of it for my own blog).

One constant for me throughout my recent changes in religious belief has been an interest in genealogy, although even that has changed in its meaning and purpose. When I was Mormon, I participated in genealogy to extend the blessings of the restoration to my dead ancestors and because I was fascinated by the lives and experiences of those who went before me. My immediate and extended family is very small; I often felt like a “stranger in a strange land” and like I did not quite belong. That feeling was exacerbated when my mom, the emotional glue of our family, passed away when I was only 14. Getting to know who my ancestors were and a little about their lives helped me feel that I did have earthly kin and that I did belong here. And since, as a Mormon, I believed that these dead relatives of mine continued to live on and could observe me, I imagined that they were so grateful when they received great blessings in the temple as a result of my efforts. It was richly satisfying and addictive.

Now, as a non-believer, I still enjoy imagining the lives and circumstances of my ancestors’ humble lives. They may not have thought their lives were of much importance, but their lives are very important to me, for their choices and struggles helped to create me and my unique features. But, the bigger picture has changed from a focus on spiritual salvation and the hereafter to the marvelous history of the world and life on it and my small role in its continuation. I am in awe of being such a small part of this massive movement. It is spiritually satisfying to me to contemplate being part of this greater whole. My appreciation of the earthy physicality of it all has expanded as I no longer believe that the real reality lies in the unseen spiritual realm. I am amazed by the process of cultural and genetic evolution especially in my line. I now believe that my ancestors extend beyond the human race and that among my relatives are all living things – from the grass to the apes.


One of the newest lines of research that has attracted my interest is genetic genealogy. I was introduced to this field through Dr. Woodward, my former BYU bishop, who heads the Sorenson Molecular Genealogical Foundation (http://www.smgf.org/ Note: this is not a commercial site, but a research site). I have had my Y-DNA tested and have learned that my patriarchal DNA comes from the Scandinavian areas of Europe some 10,000 years ago (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I1a ). The paper trail on my patriarchal line only goes back to 1560 in southern Germany. I can’t tell you how thrilling it is to know where some of my ancestors (and basis of the genetic code of my Y chromosome) were 10,000 years ago. And through National Geographic’s Genographic Project (https://www3.nationalgeographic.com/genographic/index.html ), I can see how my ancestors got to Scandinavia from Africa. I am also looking into my mtDNA to find out the deep history of my maternal line.

Since I no longer believe in personal spirits, I believe that I am my body and the blueprint of my body is my DNA. I am very interested in the history of that DNA and how that code came to be and what role my genes play in who I am. I am a product of this majestic earth and am related to all terrestrial life; my DNA is evidence of that. Since the awe I feel when I contemplate the history of my creation is a spiritual experience for me, both traditional and genetic genealogy have become an elevating sacrament to me. Genealogy is piece of common ground some Mormons and non-Mormons can use to build bridges of understanding.

Friday, March 23, 2007

More Book of Abraham and Refutation of Expansion Theory

The following posts were originally made on Newsweek's On Faith blog (http://tinyurl.com/2684fy ). So, some of the content might not make sense out of context.

Hueffenhardt:

I don't think you are going to get very far with Mormons arguing about Jesus' teachings on hell or the interplay of omniscience and free will. At least it did not work for me when I was a true believing Mormon.

Even the stuff that I have mentioned thus far on this forum (failed prophecies, prejudice, discrimination against women and gays) would not have had any effect on my beliefs. I found a way to be ok with Joseph's hiding his plural marriages from Emma, marrying other men's wives and his own teenage foster daughters. I found a way to be ok with Joseph's involvement with magic, his repurposing Masonic signs and tokens into the endowment, his so-called lying for the Lord, his anger problems and physically assaulting and threatening others. I was ok with Joseph's evolving first vision stories, and false recreations of early church history. I find a way to defend against the mounting evidence against the Book of Mormon.

How could I be ok with all of that? Because if one looks hard enough, one can always find some remote possibility, however improbable, that would allow Joseph to escape serious condemnation. And as a believer, I would always give Joseph the benefit of every doubt. I wanted to believe him and I had had many spiritual experiences that I interpreted as God telling me that the Church was true.

What finally caused me to quit giving Joseph the benefit of the doubt? A critically important case for which there was no doubt to give Joseph the benefit of - no possibility however remote that Joseph was doing the work of God. A case so solid that even the best attempts by the brightest and most informed apologists cannot create reasonable doubt. Uninformed members will believe the apologetic explanations. But, when one knows and is honest with all the evidence, one cannot help but come to the conclusion that Joseph was a con-man.

The case is the Book of Abraham. This is supposed to be scripture - the word of God. If there was ever a time when Joseph was acting as a prophet, seer, and revelator, and in tune with the Holy Spirit, it was then. And if one can show that this work was a fraud, it undermines everything. After one knows that this scripture is pure fiction, there is no need to give Joseph the benefit of the doubt. Then, one can look at the balance of the evidence and see that the weight of the evidence is against the Book of Mormon, and the temple, and the First Vision, etc. Everything crashes. Futhermore, since I believed that the Spirit had told me the BoA was true, I was forced to rethink what those feelings might mean and where they are really coming from. One thing is for sure, the Spirit is not a reliable tool for identifying what is true. And once that is gone and one looks into the criticism of the Bible and apologetics, one realizes that in all likelihood, the God of Abraham is fictional, too.

The Book of Abraham is the single most important thing a Mormon can study. And it is way more serious than just not being a true translation, it almost certainly isn't even a revelation and the evidence can show it. And I firmly believe that Joseph knew he was creating a fraud. He was a con-man in Palmyra, he conned Josiah Stowell in Pennsylvania, he conned the investors in the Kirtland Safety Society, he conned all of us with the BoA, and he pulled the wool over Emma's eyes by hiding his plural marriages from her. I see a clear pattern of behavior. But, let every Mormon decide for his or herself. But, that cannot be done if one does not know all that is available about the BoA, both anti and apologetic.

Start here: http://trialsofascension.net/mormon/abraham.html

*******
John D the First:

Hi Dave/ Heuff,

I followed the link. Interesting stuff there, but nothing I found to be terribly compelling, primarily because of my understanding of the process of revelation.

I agree with you that every Mormon should decide for his or herself. Since your webpage does not cover the Mormon side very in depth, I thought I would include a link as well:

http://www.fairlds.org/apol/ai125.html

*******
Hueffenhardt:

John D.,

Yes, that site recommendation was only meant as a starting place. It does not present all of the information necessary to rule out all possible apologetic explanations.

In fact, all that site does is show evidence for why the BoA is not a translation. It does not touch upon the evidence against it being a revelation. Here is the next step: http://tinyurl.com/349hu5

That is just chapter 8 and deals with the text itself: anachronisms and plagiarisms. But, I would invite you to read all of the chapters. It is not long and a lot of it covers the same information as the first link, but with more photographs so that the reader can better understand what is being explained. Pay special attention to the reuse of Egyptian characters in Chapter 7; we will come back to that later.

******
John D the First:

Dave,

I don't think that anything on that site is "evidence against a revelation" unless you assume that revelation cannot also include much from the psych and imagination of God's instrument. I think that necessarily much of both Joseph and God was put into his revelations. Like you have shown, even Biblical revelation cannot be accepted if you do not accept that God worked through ideas and concepts readily available in the social environment of Prophets.

The Mormon veiw of revelation outlined in D&C 9:8 supports this view, outlining a study it out in your mind process involved in the process of revelation.

So if both Joseph and God are put into the revelations, we should expect some anachronism and intertwining of folk knowledge into the revelations.

********
John D the First:

In science a hypothesis can change as new evidence arrives. Many critics of evolution demonstrate that the specifics of the theory have changed over time. They think that the fact that many loose ends are not tied up is enough to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Likewise, my hypothesis concerning Joseph Smith changes as I get new evidence. The only thing this Huff's evidence contradicts is a Calvinist view of revelation, not dialictic revelation outlined in Mormon scriptures. For those who hold to the-

Calvinist revelation or No revelation dichotomy, there is falsification, but indeed these are not the only options.

To me, dialectic revelation makes more sense due to my understanding of human nature, Mormon scripture and the history of God.

The no revelation hypothesis has as many loose ends as the Calvanist revelation hypothesis. I think the dialectic revelation hypothesis has the least loose ends.

Many theological claims are unfalsifiable because the nature of the phenomena under question is not precisely defined. Such is the case with revelation. Your evidence contradicts your definition, but not all definitions; including mine.

As for your question James, it is a complex one. I may address it, but it would require a long treatment. If it was more relavent to the thread overall, I might do it. In other words, ask me later.

**********
Hueffenhardt:

John D. the First,

Ahh, you buy into Blake Ostler's Expansion Hypothesis I see. I will post more when I have time. I had suspected that earlier by some of your comments in the prejudice thread.

**********

John D the First:

In all honesty Huff, I have never read Blake Ostler. If the “expansion hypothesis” is what I think it is, it is a Mormon fundamental, not just the invention of one Mormon Apologist.

I think the loose ends of both the new revelation hypothesis and no revelation (con man) hypothesis are outlined well in

By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion

by Terryl L. Givens, Oxford University Press

If this is going to turn into to a polemics/apologetic crusade I wish a real apologist would step in and provide the Mormon side. For I am just one man with a religious opinion and a family to feed. I will grow tired of this after a while.

Now James I suppose we are back on track with talk of Prophesy. I think the revelation Joseph received on the second coming did provide useful information. Many saints thought the 2nd coming would come within a decade. The revelation communicated that it would not come that soon. Useful information as far as I am concerned.

Prophecy...

Now the naysayers have their apologists to explain away Mormon evidence I know, but despite those who nit pick the language about timing, the following revelation does foretell in a compelling fashion historical details of the 19th and 20th century.

1 Verily, thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will shortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina, which will eventually terminate in the death and misery of many souls;
2 And the time will come that war will be poured out upon all nations, beginning at this place.
3 For behold, the Southern States shall be divided against the Northern States, and the Southern States will call on other nations, even the nation of Great Britain, as it is called, and they shall also call upon other nations, in order to defend themselves against other nations; and then war shall be poured out upon all nations.
4 And it shall come to pass, after many days, slaves shall rise up against their masters, who shall be marshaled and disciplined for war.

Details:

Beginning of the Civil War and place (somewhat compelling)

The South calling on Great Britain (More compelling)

Slaves being marshaled for war (also compelling)

World war alliances (also compelling)

This does not read like a text book, but it does provide information about future states of affairs unknown in 1832. Not a meaningless prophecy by any means.

********
Hueffenhardt:

This a quick note on the Civil War prophecy. This comes from: http://www.lds-mormon.com/civilwar.shtml

"Along the same lines, I think it is quite clear from historical records that unrest was already brewing regarding slavery in Joseph Smith's time. Joseph Smith made his South Carolina "revelation" (D&C 87) on December 25, 1832.

Do you think that the nullification convention held in November 1832 by South Carolina may have had an influence on Joseph Smith's prediction? I think so.

In November 1832 a South Carolina delegation defiantly nullified the federal 1828 and 1832 tarriffs. South Carolina immediately prepared for a military showdown with the federal government. South Carolina regiments were organized and volunteers were gathered together to fight the federal government. The issue was temporarily diffused with the compromise of 1833, but the tension was only postponed. (Secret and Sacred, The Diaries of James Hummond, a Southern Slaveholder, edited by Carol Bleser, Oxford University Press, 1988).

So history speaks to us quite clearly. Joseph Smith's so called revelation was made on the heals of one of the biggest signs to the country that a civil war was evident. A State within the Union had nullified federal law and even prepared its people for war against the Union. Do Mormons consider this information when reviewing Doctrine and Covenants 87? I think not."

*********
Hueffenhardt:

John D.,

This isn't about what the critics or the apologists have to say; I know what they have to say. This is about my and your beliefs about what we can tell from the evidence surrounding the BoA.

Frankly, John, I have come to like you. And although I ultimately respect your right to believe whatever you wish, for as long as you are willing to talk I'd like to point out a couple of things to you. It is sad for me to read that you are looking forward to Christ's second coming, which in all likelihood will never come.

I did not know whether you had heard of Blake Ostler or not, but since he was the first to publish this theory, the concept of the prophet adding his own ideas (that are sometimes false) to the core revelation he receives from God is referred to as Blake Ostler's expansion theory among apologists and critics.

First, I must note that this is a very radical view and very different than the orthodox view of revelation that is taught throughout the Church from GC to Sunday School. Heck, if I could just get Mormons to realize that Joseph did not receive conventional revelation, I'd be fine if they adopted the expansion theory. At least then they would question whether their prophets are leading them astray with their own ideas.

Let's take a look at some of the teachings of the church that reject your new type of revelation (of course the catch is, you can dismiss all of these statements as merely the opinions of the prophets).

1) Satan's ministers teach the philosophies of men mingled with scripture, but according to your view when Joseph created scripture (BoA) he mingled his own philosophies with what he received from God.

2) Wilford Woodruff declared, "The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty. (Sixty-first Semiannual General Conference of the Church, Monday, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah. Reported in Deseret Evening News, October 11, 1890, p. 2.) Yet, with your view of revelation there is the very real possibility that the prophet will lead us astray by getting us to accept his opinion that he mingled with his revelations as the mind and will of God itself.

3) In a 1993 speech by Boyd K. Packer, he listed Cafeteria Mormons as one of the enemies of the church. But, your approach requires you to accept some verses of scripture and reject others.

4) D&C 68:4, "And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation". Yet, according to you, at least sometimes, the scriptures they create will have false opinions of men in it.

5) Duet 18:18-22: "18 I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
19 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.
20 But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.
21 And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?
22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him."

6) D&C 9:8-9: "But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me." So, not only is the prophet to study it out in their mind, but there is a way to tell whether what they think is true. Evidently, Joseph either did not listen for the burning bosom when he wrote about Chaldea or Egypt being named after Egyptus, etc, or he simply cannot tell when he is following God or not. Either way it makes for some very unreliable scriptures.

Look, I view the expansion thesis as a desparate attempt to hold things together. It produces notoriously unreliable scripture in which neither the reader nor the prophet has a clue which parts are true and from God and which parts are simply the prophets faulty ideas. Most of what can be verified or falsified is proven to be false, but you are still going to trust that the non-falsifiable parts are true? I would never trust the statements of a man that I could not verify, if almost all of his statements that I could verify are wrong.

Now, people want to make a big deal about the things Joseph got right. They want to claim that there is no way that he could have gotten those things right without true revelation from God. And that is why they prefer the philosophies of men mingled with scripture version of revelation over the alternative of no revelation. I have yet to see or hear of anything Joseph or any of his followers ever did that was so unlikely to happen without metaphysical help, that one simply must conclude real revelation exists. I already shot down the Civil War prophecy handily by looking at the news of the both prior to the day he made his prophecy. What else have you got?

To me there is no reason to even suspect Joseph had access to anything supernatural or metaphysical. And being that he is so wrong even when creating sacred scripture on facts that are verifiable, why would I ever consider that he was a true prophet? So far, I have only shown that Joseph was incorrect. Now that leaves two possibilities, either he was sincere, but mistaken, or he knew he was pulling a fast one over everyone. I believe that there is sufficient evidence to show that he knowingly deceived us all and abused his power and the trust of the people. And that makes me mad.

To email me

From time to time it is necessary for someone to send me a private message. It does not appear that this site offers a way for you to email me without showing my address. So, I have created a junk account that I probably will not check that often and will probably be hit hard with spam. But, you can contact me there and I will eventually get back to you:

enochville (at) yahoo (dot) com

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Hating the Sin and Shunning the Sinner

Dathon posted this recently on NOM, and I just had to repost it here so that I have it for future reference. It is beautiful. I only wish more LDS leaders would speak like this.

The May/June 1979 issue of Sunstone [and reprinted in the May 2000 issue] featured a 193? General conference address given by Apostle Stephen L. Richards that had never been published because its topic angered Church President Heber J. Grant and the apostle refused to revise it. Sunstone titled it "Bringing Humanity to the Gospel":

"In application of this question, I must mention some delicate matters. I call them delicate because I run a great hazard of being misunderstood when I discuss them. Take smoking for instance. Is there more or less tolerance for the user of tobacco by the Church, as represented by its officials and the faithful membership, than there was twenty-five or fifty years ago? I cannot say. I have no way of knowing. We feel that it is wrong and we inveigh against it. Men often construe the Word of Wisdom as a commandment against it and invest the practice of it with the stigma of sin. I think my own preaching against it may be so construed. Am I right? Are all of us right? Have not some of our people failed to distinguish between the offense and the offender?

I do not mean to say that I doubt the wisdom of the Word of Wisdom. I know that it contains God's wishes and direction for the welfare of His children, and I am sure that those who fail to heed the teaching of it will lose blessings of great worth, but I am not sure that we have not estranged many from the Church or at least contributed to their estrangement by attributing to violation of our standards of health, harmful as it may be, a moral turpitude and sinful magnitude out of proportion to the real seriousness of the offense. Maybe I am wrong. I do not claim that my analysis is correct, but I think it is worthy of your attention.

I have said these things because I fear dictatorial dogmatism, rigidity of procedure and intolerance even more than I fear cigarettes, cards, and other devices the adversary may use to nullify faith and kill religion. Fanaticism and bigotry have been the deadly enemies of true religion in the long past. They have made it forbidding, shut it up in cold grey walls of monastery and nunnery, out of sunlight and fragrance of the growing world. They have garbed it in black and then in white, when in truth it is neither black nor white, any more than life is black or white, for religion is life abundant, glowing life, with all its shades, colors and hues, as the children of men reflect in the patterns of their lives the radiance of the Holy Spirit in varying degrees."

Monday, March 19, 2007

Prejudice in the pre-1990 endowment

It seems like every time I post on the On Faith blog, I get an increase in visitors to my site. So, I figure this time I will have something for them to look at. Otterson, the Church's Public Relations guy, was appointed by the Church to respond to Newsweek's invitation to answer questions about contemporary issues with religion.

Recently, Otterson made a post entitled, "Prejudice Can Be Unlearned" . He talks about how he was baffled at the prejudice against Catholics and how prejudice can be unlearned.

I posted this:

"

I praise Pres. Hinckley for his April 2006 Priesthood session talk in which he encouraged the brethern to be kinder to those of other religions and races. This is a step in the right direction. John D. the First said:

"Many current General Conference talks by President Hinckley highly stress tolerance of people with other points of view; they are probably largely directed at Mormonism's Utah/Idaho base. Whether Mormons there follow his injunctions in this regard is a different story."

Do you not know why the prejudice exists in the first place and why it is difficult to get the people to follow a new injunction when for generations they were taught prejudice in their most sacred ordinance, the endowment in the temple?

I praise the LDS church for changing the endowment in 1990 to take out the character that represented a sectarian priest who was employed by Satan to teach the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve and the language that linked popes with false priests. Prejudice is taught. It was blatantly taught in the temple and from the pulpit and in the original "Mormon Doctrine", but that is changing and that is good. But, the church has a serious responsibility to undo the harm they caused by teaching prejudice for all those years, and it is going to take a lot more than the occasional GC talk."

But for those like me, who are younger than 36 and never saw the pre-1990 version of the endowment, let me quote the relevant parts. All of it can be found here (http://www.lds-mormon.com/compare.shtml):

"
ELOHIM: I will place enmity between thee and the seed of the woman. Thou mayest have power to bruise his heal, but he shall have power to crush thy head.

LUCIFER:: Then with that enmity I will take the treasure of the earth, and with gold and silver I will buy up armies and navies, Popes and priests, and reign with blood and horror on the earth!

******
ADAM:: Who are you?

LUCIFER:: I am the God of this world.

ADAM:: You, the God of this world?

LUCIFER:: Yes, what do you want?

ADAM:: I am looking for messengers.

LUCIFER:: Oh, you want someone to preach to you. You want religion, do you? I will have preachers here presently.

(Lucifer turns his head as a sectarian minister approaches.)

LUCIFER:: Good Morning sir!

SECTARIAN MINISTER: Good morning!

(The preacher turns and looks into the camera.)

SECTARIAN MINISTER: A fine congregation!

LUCIFER:: Yes, they are a very good people. They are concerned about religion. Are you a preacher?

SECTARIAN MINISTER: I am.

LUCIFER:: Have you been to college and received training for the ministry?

SECTARIAN MINISTER: Certainly! A man cannot preach unless has been trained for the ministry.

LUCIFER:: Do you preach the orthodox religion?

SECTARIAN MINISTER: Yes, that is what I preach.

LUCIFER:: If you will preach your orthodox religion to these people, and convert them, I will pay you well.

SECTARIAN MINISTER: I will do my best.

(Lucifer guides the preacher to Adam and Eve, who stand nearby.)

LUCIFER:: Here is a man who desires religion. He is very much exercised, and seems to be sincere.

(As Lucifer presents the preacher to Adam and Eve he steps back and observes the ensuing conversation. The preacher is made to sound sincere, although misguided and credulous. Adam appears humble, faithful and immovable in his determination to serve God. He is not swayed by the preacher, and is astounded by the doctrines espoused by the preacher.)

SECTARIAN MINISTER: I understand that you are inquiring after religion.

ADAM:: I was calling upon Father.

SECTARIAN MINISTER: I am glad to know that you were calling upon Father. Do you believe in a God who is without body, parts, or passions; who sits on the top of a topless throne; whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere; who fills the universe, and yet is so small that he can dwell in your heart; who is surrounded by myriads of beings who have been saved by grace, not for any act of theirs, but by His good pleasure. Do you believe in such a great Being?

ADAM:: I do not. I cannot comprehend such a being.

SECTARIAN MINISTER: That is the beauty of it. Perhaps you do not believe in a devil, and in that great hell, the bottomless pit, where there is a lake of fire and brimstone into which the wicked are cast, and where they are continually burning, but none never consumed?

ADAM:: I do not believe in any such place.

SECTARIAN MINISTER: My dear friend, I am sorry for you.

LUCIFER:: I am sorry, very very sorry! What is it you want?

ADAM:: I am looking for messengers from my Father.

******
(Peter, James and John approach Adam and Eve.)

PETER: What is being taught?

ADAM:: I cannot comprehend it.

PETER: Can you give us some idea concerning it?

ADAM:: They preach of a God who is without body, parts, or passions; who is so large that he fills the universe, and yet is so small that he can dwell in your heart; and of a hell, without a bottom, where the wicked are continually burned but are never consumed. To me, it is a mass of confusion.

PETER: We do not wonder that you cannot comprehend such doctrine. Have you any tokens or signs?

*******
(Peter, James and John exit; Lucifer stares into the camera.)

LUCIFER:: Now is the great day of my power. I reign from the rivers to the ends of the earth. There is none who dares to molest, or make me afraid.

SECTARIAN MINISTER: Shall we ever have any apostles or prophets?

LUCIFER:: No. However, there may be some who will profess revelation or apostleship. If so, just test them by asking that they perform a great miracle, such as cutting off an arm or some other member of the body, and restoring it, so that the people may know that they have come with power.

*****
(The scene changes again to the lone and dreary world. The three Apostles boldly approach Lucifer.)

PETER: I am Peter.

JAMES: I am James.

JOHN: I am John.

LUCIFER:: Yes, I thought I knew you. (He turns to the Preacher.) Do you know who these men are? They claim to be apostles. Try them!

(The Preacher approaches Peter.)

SECTARIAN MINISTER: Do you profess to be an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ?

PETER: We do.

SECTARIAN MINISTER: This man told me that we should never have any revelation or apostles, but if any should come professing to be apostles, I was to ask them to cut off an arm or some other member of the body and the restore it, so that the people might know that they came with power.

PETER: We do not satisfy men's curiosity in that manner. It is a wicked and an adulterous generation that seeks for a sign. Do you know who that man is? He is Satan!

SECTARIAN MINISTER: What? The Devil?

PETER: That is one of his names.

SECTARIAN MINISTER: He is quite a different person from what he told me the devil is. He said the devil has claws like a bear's on his hands, horns on his head, and a cloven foot, and that when he speaks he has the roar of a lion!

PETER: He has said this to deceive you, and I would advise you to get out of his employ.

SECTARIAN MINISTER: Your advise is good; but, if I leave his employ, what will become of me?

PETER: We will preach the gospel unto you, with the rest of Adam's posterity.

SECTARIAN MINISTER: That is good. (He turns to Lucifer) I would like to have a settlement. I want you to pay me for preaching.

LUCIFER:: I am ready to keep my word and fulfill my part of the agreement. I promised to pay you if you would convert these people, and they have nearly converted you! You can get out of my kingdom, I want no such men in it! (As the preacher turns sadly and leaves Lucifer approaches Peter) Now, what are you going to do?

PETER: We will dismiss you without further argument."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Adapting Familiar LDS Hymns for Atheist Beliefs

My wife and I grew up in active LDS families. I am now atheist and my wife is agnostic, yet we are still interested in experiencing transcendence and awe on a regular basis and raising our son to enjoy the same. We are now active in a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, which supports us in our personal spiritual quests. But, we have also been trying to create new family traditions. Perhaps, I’ll post on some of those efforts later, but today I’d like relate what we have been doing with music.

We would like to have some hymns to sing during family nights that convey our new values and beliefs. Singing of course creates unity, accelerates the learning process, and encourages emotional elevation. The problem is we don’t know any of the Humanist or UU hymns, yet. But, we do know an awful lot of LDS adult and children’s hymns. Unfortunately, the messages in many of those hymns are no longer consistent with our beliefs. So, we decided to do two things. First, go through the LDS hymnbooks and identify hymns that we know and can still use unchanged, such as #92 “For the Beauty of the Earth,” although we did replace the words “Lord of all” with “Mother Earth.” Second, modify existing hymns to teach principles we agree with.

Below are two examples that are slightly modified:



“Families Extend Through All Generations”
To the music of “Families Can Be Together Forever”

1. I have a family here on earth. They are so good to me.
I want to share my life with them through all mortality.

Chorus:
Fam’lies extend through all generations through parents and children.
I often like to think of those who went before,
And imagine those who’ll follow me.
Imagine those who’ll follow me.

2. While I am in my early years, I’ll prepare most carefully,
So I can lead my family to live in harmony.

“Love One Another” – modified

As I have loved you, Love one another.
Practice compassion. Love one another.
Be understanding. Show empathic list’ning.
Strive to have love One to another.

Rank Order Voting for President

(None of the following ideas are original, but I believe they deserve greater publicity). There are a number of problems with the current system of selecting a new president of the United States. Due to the electoral college, only the votes in swing states matter, effectively disenfranchising voters from the rest of the country. States like Maine, Nebraska, and Colorado addressed this by splitting up their electoral delegates, but why have delegates at all. From Wikipedia, "The Electoral College dilutes the votes of population centers that might have different concerns from the rest of the country. The system is supposed to require presidential candidates to appeal to many different types of interests, rather than, say, the urban or rural voter only" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Electoral_College ). The problem is that in the current system the interests of non-swing state voters can be safely ignored (which happens to be most of the country).

And due to the staggered primaries, only about 6% of the voters get a chance to affect who the main candidates will be in the general election (voters in New Hampshire, Iowa, and maybe South Carolina) because by the time the primaries in those states are over, the losing candidates tend to drop out. Furthermore, people tend to weigh the electability of a candidate in a general election quite heavily as opposed to simply choosing who they would really like to be president. Additionally, primaries are expensive, limit choices, and effectively shut out third party candidates.

I support a better alternative - do away with the electoral college so that every vote counts, and do away with the primaries. The concern with having no primary has been that there would be too many candidates for the general election, effectively splitting the votes into small fractions, wherein no candidate would obtain a clear majority. If we declared as the winner the candidate with the most votes, he or she might only represent the desires and interests of a large minority. People would still need to vote for the candidate they believe has the best chance of beating their opponent as opposed to simply voting for who they really want. That problem could be remedied with a run-off election, but that would make the first general election a primary.

But, there is a way to hold only one general election, and yet select the candidate who appeals to the majority (i.e., greater than 50% of the voters). This could be done with a rank-order election. Each voter would be given a ballot with the names of all the candidates. The voter would only need to give a ranking to the candidates they would want as president. Out of just the candidates that the voter wants, the voter would rank order their preferences by placing "1" by their favorite candidate and "2" by their second, and so on for as many candidates that they want to give a ranking to. The votes are tallied by counting the total number of "1" votes each candidate has. If one candidate has more than 50% of the "1" votes, then he or she is the winner. However, if no candidate has more than 50% of the "1" votes (which is quite likely) then the two candidates with the most "1" votes advance to the next round. Then, for each ballot, the candidate among those two, who received the highest ranking, gets 1 vote. The results are tallied, and the candidate with the most votes wins.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

What the Ten Commandments Should Have Been

At this point in my life I pretty much have an allergic reaction to the word "commandments". But, often as a believing Mormon, especially after learning a little more about how humans function psychologically, I began to be dissatisfied with the big Ten. With all the wisdom, insight, and understanding of human nature and our needs that God was supposed to have, the Ten Commandments seemed to be lacking in the instructions that would really be useful to humankind.There is no commandment against physical abuse. There is no commandment to work for social justice. It would have been nice if the message in the Beattitudes was in the big Ten.

Now, I don't believe in god anymore. I realize that today many of the big Ten are ignored and violated, many times even by believers. But, for many, many years people tried to live by the big Ten and many still do today. So, if you could change history, what would you make the Ten Commandments, if you knew that many people would try to live by them?

As a reminder, here is a list of the old commandments:

ONE: 'You shall have no other gods before Me.'

TWO: 'You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.'

THREE: 'You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.'

FOUR: 'Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.'

FIVE: 'Honor your father and your mother.'

SIX: 'You shall not murder.'

SEVEN: 'You shall not commit adultery.'

EIGHT: 'You shall not steal.'

NINE: 'You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.'

TEN: 'You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.'


Here is my revised list:

1) Strive to use your best judgment. Realize that these commandments are aspirational in nature. Their intent is to guide and inspire toward the very highest ethical ideals. There may be times when the most appropriate course is to supercede one of these principles, so use your best judgment. Practice moderation - you need not run faster than you have strength.

2) Strive to limit the harm one causes. Be aware of the possible consequences of your actions, and make a reasonable effort to not cause unnecessary injury or obstruction or damage. This includes harm to one's self, others, all creation and the environment. This does not mean that you should seclude yourself so as to limit the chances of doing anyone harm and it is understood that by living you will cause some harm - you have to eat something, your body fights bacteria, you will produce some waste products, etc. Be reasonable with one's expectations on this point.

3) Strive to benefit one's self, others, and the environment. In as much as it is possible, and with respect for the desires of others (i.e., don't help when your help is reasonably not wanted), help all to live healthily and adaptively.

4) Strive to be trustworthy. Excepting times when honesty puts others in danger, seek to be honest in your dealings with others. Hold in confidence information that should be kept confidential. Act with integrity and be true and honest with one's self.

5) Strive to take appropriate responsibility for one's actions. Keep your word and uphold your commitments. Repair the damage your actions may have caused. Sincerely apologize to, and if possible reimburse, individuals you may have injured. Know the laws and what is expected of you. Once you have done what you can to right your wrongs, forgive yourself and move on.

6) Strive to be fair and just. Inasmuch as possible practice equity. Be aware of and try to limit the influence of one's biases and prejudices.

7) Strive to respect and protect the rights and dignity of one's self, others, and all of creation. It is not enough to ensure that you are not mistreating others, you must strive for social justice for humans and the humane treatment of animals. All people have a right to self-determination. Special safeguards may be necessary to protect the rights and welfare of persons or communities whose vulnerabilities impair autonomous decision making.

8) Strive to be patient and forgiving. Try to have patience with one's self, others, and anticipated events in life. Free yourself of the bondage of resentment and disappointment.

9) Strive to gain understanding. Knowledge enables one to make better use of that which is available and helps one to successfully adapt to one's environment.

10) Strive to love, show empathy, and be compassionate. We are a social species and for much of our lives are dependent on one another. It is important to our well-being and mental and emotional health to have strong relationships with others. Loving is satisfying to the soul and beautiful. Empathy and compassion can calm arguments and disagreements.

Did I forget anything? What would be your Ten?

Friday, March 02, 2007

NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Pool

Are you a fan of men's college basketball? Do you enjoy March Madness? Would you like to compete against your friends from the DAMU in predicting who will win the championship? If so, I have a game for you!

ESPN.com has a Men's Tournament Challenge that is free to enter! The brackets will be available after selections are announced on Sunday, March 11, but you can still create up to 5 entries and join our DAMU group. Pick the most games correctly and you could win $10,000 cash from ESPN. All entries in the game are eligible for the Runner-up Prize, a $5,000 Best Buy Gift Card (awarded after a random drawing). So beat the rush, and start planning how you'll cut down the nets!

If one of your entries performs best in our group, you'll have bragging rights for a whole year. No money, sorry. It doesn't matter if you don't know anything about the teams, just come have fun with your buddies.

You'll need to sign up for a free account with ESPN.com. Then create your entries (to help us recognize each other use your DAMU name in the name of your entries). Then select join a group, find the DAMU group, and enter the password: NOM. Then return to your entries after March 11th, so that you can pick your winners. Hopefully, this is all clear.

Get in the action now:
http://games.espn.go.com/tcmen/group?groupID=1050&password=NOM

Game Front: http://games.espn.go.com/tcmen/frontpage
Group: DAMU
Password: NOM

Thanks for playing with me! I'll see you over there!