Friday, January 31, 2014

Right in the head

As in the case of acceptance toward homosexuality, Mormons are coming around when it comes to mental illness. Once upon a time illnesses such as depression were downplayed and sufferers were expected to find comfort and healing in Jesus. Now we have an apostle speaking more openly about severe depression, but his advice to seek out qualified professionals only comes after his advice to:

"Never, ever doubt that ['God’s love is there for you'], and never harden your heart. Faithfully pursue the time-tested devotional practices that bring the Spirit of the Lord into your life. Seek the counsel of those who hold keys for your spiritual well-being. Ask for and cherish priesthood blessings. Take the sacrament every week, and hold fast to the perfecting promises of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Believe in miracles."

But even then, seeking professional help is warrented only "[i]f things continue to be debilitating".

Alright, so the Church is still way behind the curve on this one. It almost makes you wonder, has the Church ever been ahead of the times?

Thursday, January 30, 2014


The Church institutionally excludes people simply because they're attracted to people of the same sex. That's messed up. These days we know that homosexuality is not a choice. We also know that homosexuals are not a cohesive, organized block with an agenda to corrupt and morally destroy our children. The Church's homophobia is misguided and wrong, but what's worse is the Church's political involvement in curbing the civil rights of homosexuals. These facts should make us all seriously doubt.

When did Jesus condemn homosexuals? When did Jesus try to influence local politics to stop people from making their own life choices?

Fortunately many Mormons who are close to homosexual individuals show a little more humanity and understanding.

Mormons are changing, will the Church keep up with them?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Denying Mother Africa's children

Hey, this isn't even a fair doubt! Mormon's haven't excluded people of African decent for more than three decades! This issue is totally behind us. Gordon said so.

So why bring this up at all? Lord knows I was never really all that bothered by the ban as a believing member. Aaronic Priesthood leaders would bring it up from time to time or a mission companion might ask me what I thought of it and sadly my thoughts were usually "What's the big deal? If that's how God wanted things we shouldn't have a problem with it." And obviously that's how God wanted things, otherwise he would have told Church leaders to switch things up.

So why bring this up? Are people trying to suggest Mormons are racist? We're not racist.

Early leaders of the Church were a little bit racist maybe.

"In 1852, President Brigham Young publicly announced that men of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood, though thereafter blacks continued to join the Church through baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Following the death of Brigham Young, subsequent Church presidents restricted blacks from receiving the temple endowment or being married in the temple. Over time, Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church."

Now they're dead and the "many theories" denied. There's nothing left in the Church that can be accused of being racist. Except for maybe The Book of Mormon.

But maybe all the skin color changing in The Book of Mormon was just metaphorical and not literal. Or maybe the Book of Mormon prophets were just racist themselves. We can't throw the baby out with the bathwater here. The Book of Mormon is amazing! And hopefully not racist enough to disavow.

Well there's also the Book of Abraham that mentions the seed of Cain being kept apart because they were black, and we all know that Abraham lived way before either Brigham Young or the Book of Mormon prophets. How did God get so many racist prophets? What if it's not the prophets, what if it's God who is racist? He is the inventor of race, after all. What if all this racism is more of a product of Joseph Smith? I mean, he's the one who translated The Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham. Maybe Joseph taught Brigham Young to be a horrible racist. Could he be responsible for such the huge racist mess?

Who knows? We'll just have to take this one on faith, I guess.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I don't always doubt

They judge me, they judge me not, they judge me, they judge me not...

Mormons teach each other not to judge. Dieter's recent Conference talk is proof.

The avalanche of "Stop it" memes that followed bore witness to the fact that Dieter had won the People's Choice Award for Best Conference Talk.

It's a good message. I think Jesus even said something similar. It's hard to argue with a good message that comes from Jesus. I'm just not sure Dieter captured the essence of Mormon judging. The judgment he's speaking of refers to "hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm", there is so much more to Mormon judging than that.

In my experience, Mormon judgment is almost entirely concerned with righteousness and worthiness, and hides behind the fa├žade of helping others. Because "judging" carries such a negative connotation, Mormons prefer to approach the issue in the key of "discernment". We have to discern between Good and Evil, and whether or not something is worthy or unworthy, or clean and unclean all the time. Worthy is good. Unworthy is bad, and sometimes evil. If we can't tell what's good, how will we know what's worthy of us? If we can't tell what's evil, how can we reasonably seek after good things? If we can't tell what's unclean, how will we stay clean before God? We have to discern who's worthy to participate in the sacred rites of baptism, sacrament, and temple work. We have to discern who stands in need of fellowship. We have a lot of discerning to do and that requires a lot of judging.

We're always looking for signs of doubt, weak faith, idleness in upholding the Gospel and magnifying callings, heresy, and apostasy. These signs show up everywhere and we have to be ever observant. It could be a can of Coke. It could be chronic tardiness to Sacrament Meeting. It could be a reluctance to bless the sacrament. It could be a colored shirt or facial hair. It could be failure to bring your own scriptures to church. It could be watching sports on Sunday. It could be a low cut dress or a questionably short skirt. It could be wearing flip flops to church. It could be reluctance to accept a calling or speak in sacrament. It could be a bumper sticker endorsing a Democrat. It could be poorly behaved children or children who's hair has not been tidied up. It could be a mild swear word. It could be the slightest disagreement with something that was said in General Conference. It could be the mentioning of an inappropriate movie. It could be a slanderous remark against the Founding Fathers. It could be a look of boredom in class. It could be not singing along with the hymns. It could be never raising your hand in Sunday School. It could be an uncorrelated comment in class. It could be your gait and composure. It could be your lack of a smile. It could be your avoidance of someone in the ward, especially authority figures. It could be so many different things, so we exercise vigilance along with our discernment.

Just know that we can and will discern you. Be sure of that. We'll scrutinize your every word and your every move. We'll figure you out. We'll categorize you flawlessly. We'll put you in your place.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I don't know that we deny that

When, in the years following the King Follet Discourse, has eternal progression not been a central tenant of Mormonism, besides when Hinckley said it wasn't (or might not be) back in 1997? I know, I know, this topic has been run into the ground, but, hey, it's a classic moment of doubting a prophet and Mormon doctrine. I think everyone was taken aback when they read the interview.

I think it's a wonderful example of Hassan's distinction between insider and outsider doctrines. No casting pearls before swine. No milk before meat. No freaking out Christian America before getting them to respect our beliefs a bit.

Isn't that a little dishonest? Isn't it a little disconcerting to be lead by men who are okay with deception and denial? How do we feel about justifying that behavior for the sake of maintaining faith in those leaders?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Promoting faith

"As the Information Age is now upon us, we feel with all of this information out there, we owe it, particularly to the rising generation, to provide good, reliable information." That's from Steven Snow, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy (just below the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) and spokesman for the Church on this particular occasion, saying that if it weren't for the Internet the Church would happily keep ugly information about the Church away from its members, especially the youth. It's time to start telling the whole story. Or at least enough of it to keep doubters doubting their doubts and not their faith.

"We have understandably in the past not spent a lot of time worrying about these issues because our mission is to promote faith in the Lord Jesus Christ," says Snow. Is it really that understandable, Steve? I'm not sure I personally understand it. I think my understanding for why the Church has been leaving all the juicy parts of it's history locked up in the First Presidency vault leans more in the direction of "holy shit, the leaders of the Church KNOW this whole thing's a giant clusterfuck of half-truths and total lies and they don't want to blow their cover!"

Members who don't want to consider the possibility that the Church has - since its inception - dealt dishonestly with its members and the world might come up with an accusatory comment like the following:

"You've seriously been to church every Sunday your whole life and never knew about this stuff? Come on! That doesn't make sense! The Church published an article back before you were born that mentions some of this in a footnote, AND an apostle brought it up in a stake conference a couple of decades ago. None of this should be a surprise!"

That makes perfect sense, right? We should all be responsible for finding and reading every Church publication and devoting all contents to memory, shouldn't we? What? Who cares if it's all in English? Members in non-English-speaking parts of the world should be learning English from the missionaries anyway! What? I don't care if they don't have constant access to and unlimited time to spend on the Internet! It's members' fault that they don't know this stuff! It's their fault they don't have a good enough understanding of the Gospel! It's their fault their testimonies can't handle a couple of bumps in the road!

Let's turn to Steven Hassan for some interesting considerations of what the Church has been up to. He points out that an organization is guilty of using deception when it (a) deliberately holds back information [that isn't "faith promoting"], (b) distorts the information to make it acceptable [as in the case of Joseph Smith practicing "magic"], or (c) lies outright [like claiming polygamy started in the early 1840s]. But that's only the beginning of the kinds of deception Hassan lists. When information originating from outside the organization is minimized or discouraged (as it is in the Church), when there are distinctions between insider and outsider doctrines [e.g. the temple] and leaders who control all the information are the ones deciding "who 'needs to know' what" (as has been and still is the case with the Church), and when the organization floods its members with propaganda (Ensign, Liahona, New Era, The Friend, Deseret News, I Am a Mormon, Church movies, etc.) you just might be in a cult.

I know Mormons hate being compared to a cult. They absolutely hate it. Mormons don't have to get permission from their bishops to make decisions about things like how to spend their money and where/if to send their kids to school. They can read and watch whatever they want without reporting it to their higher ups. Mormons are free to do what they want. And, no, the stake president isn't demanding members give up their daughters for polygamous marriages! How can anyone dare compare Mormonism to a cult?

We're not a cult! We're just okay wearing Church-prescribed blinders and having the wool pulled over our eyes. That's all.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

It's about time

How many Mormons have added up all the hours they dedicate to meeting the demands of righteous membership?

Monday:  15-30+ min personal scripture study
                15-30+ min family scripture study
                1-2 hrs family home evening preparation
                 20 min-2 hrs. family home evening
                 5 min family prayer
Tuesday:  15-30+ min personal scripture study             
                 15-30+ min family scripture study
                 5 min family prayer
Wednesday: 15-30+ min personal scripture study             
                 15-30+ min family scripture study
                 1-2 hrs + travel time for Mutual or Institute
                 1-2+ hrs lesson/activity preparation for Mutual and Institute instructors
                 5 min family prayer
Thursday: 15-30+ min personal scripture study             
                 15-30+ min family scripture study
                 5 min family prayer
Friday:     15-30+ min personal scripture study             
                 15-30+ min family scripture study
                 1.5 hrs + travel time for weekly temple attendance
                  5 min family prayer
Saturday:  1-4+ hrs talk and lesson preparation
Sunday:    3 hrs for church services + travel time
                 1 hr for leadership meetings + dead time between meetings
                 30 min choir practice
                 15+ min to set chairs up or put them away
                 15-30+ min personal scripture study             
                 15-30+ min family scripture study
                  5 min family prayer
I'm not entirely sure how to tally that all up. Not every member will have these exact duties and a good many will have more than these, especially in smaller congregations. A low-ball estimate puts us somewhere around 14.5 hrs/week dedicated to doing the things the Church wants you to do, the higher estimate puts us somewhere around 25+ hrs/week. That's essentially a part time job.

But, of course, there are even more duties that we have to add on.

Monthly: 2-3 hrs + travel time  to fill home teaching duties for 2-3 families
                2-3 hrs + travel time to fill visiting teaching duties for 2-3 women
                1 hr for any deacons in the family to collect fast offerings
                1-2 hrs + travel time to attend a fireside
                2+ hrs for Relief Society activities + 1-3+ hrs of food/activity preparation + travel time
Other:      1 hr. + travel time for high schoolers to attend Seminary
                1-2+ hrs preparation time for unpaid early morning seminary teachers
                20-24 hrs. to listen to all of the semiannual General Conference sessions
                ?? hrs helping your neighbors (yard work, baby sitting, comforting, socializing, etc.)
                ?? hrs collecting and maintaining food storage
                ?? hrs assisting in humanitarian aid following natural disasters
                1.5-2 years to serve a one-time proselytizing mission
                1.5 years each to serve as many service missions as desired when your kids are grown

Mormons are also instructed to be active in the communities and to get involved in local politics. And let's not forget that when you do have time to relax and seek out personal interests and entertainment it's always a good idea to engage in activities that bring the Spirit, like listening to hymns and Church-related music, reading faith promoting books, and watching wholesome Mormon movies.

Steven Hassan had a few ideas about groups that require "major time commitment... for indoctrination sessions and group rituals" and try to "keep members so busy they don't have time to think," and he included those ideas in his work on cults. But Mormonism isn't a cult! It's just a regular old Restoration-style church founded on the True Christ and the True Gospel and it only makes sense that anyone fully dedicated to loving God and neighbor would subscribe heart and soul to everything Christ has asked us to do through his church!

Jesus says: "Stop working to feed your families, dammit! This is MY work and MY glory, you ungrateful fucks!"

There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that we are on the Lord's time here. He paid our ransom and the least we can do is dedicate our lives to his work and our salvation, right?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Waiting downstairs (or outside)

Getting married in the temple means that the only people who will be at your wedding will be those members of your family and friends who have gone through the temple endowment and currently hold a temple recommend. Never mind the fact that no one, apart from the couple getting married, is actually required to do anything comparable to making a covenant. Okay, so there is the issue of seeing the couple take take each other in the "Patriarchal Grip, or the Sure Sign of the Nail" hand grip and maybe having to explain what the hell that is to non-member friends and family, but can't we get around that by simply telling the couple before they enter the sealing room that when they are instructed to hold hands across they alter they need to do the "Sure Sign" thing? I bet no one who wasn't already informed would even notice.

A story of no fun.

I guess there's also the issue of the couple wearing the temple clothes. Those might be hard to explain to the uninitiated. Then again, can't we give our family and closest friends the benefit of the doubt that they will respect our religion and our choice to participate in it?

Or, if we don't want to caste such Mormon pearls before unsympathetic swine, why don't we have civil marriages for all followed by temple sealings for the Mormons? Holy shit! That might actually work!

And really no one, especially not God, would be offended.

Let love in

Mormons are taught early on that they want to be married in the temple. We've been taught that if someone can't or doesn't want to get married in the temple, we should kick their sorry ass to the curb.

George Durrant reported a conversation he had with his fifteen-year-old son. He had asked him, “Where are you going to get married?”
“In the temple,” was the reply.
“I’ve just never thought of getting married anywhere else.”
“Why?” the father pressed.
“Well, that’s where you go so you can be married forever.”
“But,” the father asked, “what if you meet a girl who doesn’t feel that the temple is that important?”
There was a long pause. Then he replied, “Dad, I wouldn’t marry her.”

I can just imagine the numerous conversations shared between Mormon couples in love when they discover that the temple has been eliminated from the equation. My heart swells at all the tear drenched "I'm sorry"s and the understanding "go fuck yourself, you unworthy pig"s that have sent eternal dreams summer-salting off the highway of holy love and into a cold gray ditch of empty Big Gulps and soggy cigarettes. Tragic.

Tragic, but necessary. We can't be placing love of another human over our love for Mormonism. Marriage is so much more. Some teachers of the youth even complain about the expression "marry in the temple" because they feel it makes light of the ordinance and prefer instead "to call the Lord’s way of marriage the 'sealing ordinance' or 'being sealed.'" This isn't just a marriage, it's a godly right of passage; this togetherness isn't simply for time, it's FOR ETERNITY.

Sealings are more than just some silly hoopla Mormons have added to their religion in attempts to legitimize polygamy or an attempt to create an analogous rite to the the highest sacrament of Catholicism, and anyone telling you otherwise is just speculating. The fact is that as much as God loves you, he can't respect your love unless you proved your commitment to him and your spouse at one of his alters. Period. God's house is a house of order (D&C 132:8), and there's nothing confusing or disorderly about making sure everyone on earth who loves him marries in his holy house. So don't worry about the guy who's sealed to three different women, all of whom learned to hate him deeply and divorced him; don't worry about if the atheist grandfather you vicariously sealed to your grandmother probably won't accept the ordinance but your grandma probably will; don't worry that Joseph Smith was sealed to 11 women who were already married to other Mormon leaders; don't worry about your brother who's sealed to an unfaithful woman who doesn't love or deserve him; don't worry about anything, it all makes sense to God.

And yet sometimes I can't help but think about how hard it can be for people to find love and how often the love they find lies outside of their religious culture. Sometimes I think about God being a completely loving and completely understanding father and just how his love and understanding might play out in the eternities. At times I think how strange it is that so many Mormon grandparents are convinced that all you need is a penis, a vagina, and two strong testimonies for a marriage to work. (It's almost as though Spencer Kimball said this: "it is certain that almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price.) And maybe it is a little funny that Mormon kids think that they will conveniently find the person they will marry within their very limited ward boundaries.

Instead of pushing love away because temple requirements get in the way, wouldn't it be more respectful and loving in many cases to trust in God's love and celebrate the love a couple shares with each other? For many people life is too short and too hard to go it alone. It's also true that Mormonism can be very harsh on its single members. Can't God let his children embrace love and companionship as it presents itself without putting harsh parameters on who qualifies?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Good neighbors

Dear brothers and sisters in the faith,

Heaven knows we have some high standards and heaven also knows how easy it is for those standards to be compromised. It only makes sense that we only carefully interact with people who are not of our faith. It's only natural that we avoid inviting certain people over because we have no coffee in the house to offer them and that we turn down invitations to go out because none of us drink. It's right that we keep our children from spending too much time in a home that doesn't share our standards of living, our children might get the idea that it's okay if other people don't believe like we do! I mean, what if our children notice an R-rated DVD next to the TV or something? Scary!

We are completely justified in keeping certain neighbors at arm's length. We have to keep the World at arm's length given how we've learned that Satan is in reality "the god of this world." We can't take any risks! We have to surround ourselves with light and truth and, while it's true that everyone probably has some truth, we're really the only ones who have it all, so it only makes sense to keep to our own.

It's just that sometimes I get to thinking how Christ-like it would be to be open to everyone. I start thinking about how condescending our attitude is toward everyone who doesn't toe the Mormon line even when they're not Mormon. I ponder from time to time the arbitrariness of so many of our standards and then I consider how so many others seem to be directed at young teenagers who haven't yet learned to think for themselves and act on their own integrity.

Could it be possible that there's really nothing to fear? Would it be better if I showed more respect and trust toward my non-LDS neighbors and also my children? Should I stop taking brownies over with the sole intent of converting said neighbors?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Temple - movie update

Oh, no! Now there's a second new movie being shown in Mormon temples that I haven't seen. If this means the older movies are going to be completely phased out, what does that say about my movie review from earlier?

It's true, I'm now out of date, but I can still doubt. For example, I doubt very much that these new movies are worth a damn. In the meantime I'll wait for newnamenoah to do some movie posting.

Keeping on the sunny side

Mormons desperately want everyone else to see how happy they are with the True Gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the One True Church, covet that boundless happiness, look into Mormonism, decide it's true, and join the fold of the most intensely happy religious practitioners in the world. There are, however, reasons to doubt Mormon happiness. The two biggest in my mind have to do with Utah's extremely high consumption of antidepressants. Naturally Mormons will deny there's any connection of the state's depression to Mormonism stating that Mormon women claim to be happy (so they must be), or that it's probably the Mormons struggling to live the lifestyle who are depressed, or maybe Mormons are more responsible about getting help than people in other states. The counter is that Utah is not the only state to boast both high religious fervor and high antidepressant use.

Utah's new state song.

We might also want to ask just why it is that Utahns are number one for porn subscriptions when the LDS Church specifically prohibits pornography and why it is that Salt Lake City is one of the top U.S. cities for cosmetic surgeries and Utah is 8th for plastic surgeons per capita.

Why wait until the Resurrection to have a perfect body?

Do these look like statistics of a happy people? How might Mormonism be contributing to the pain and rejection people feel? To their secret habits? The desires to be more perfect? Isn't it possible that Mormonism has some seriously ugly side effects on one's mental health?

And what about the kind of self-interrogation designed to make believers feel like utter shit? I couldn't help but wonder.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Mormon house tour

Here we are...

Welcome to our home! We're so excited to share with you the ways in which we've made our house a haven of love and spiritual devotion! Come on in!

So we've recently repainted! Everything used to be off white but, as you can tell, the light greenish gray thing going on really matches the stucco exterior of the home so much better! Please also note the adorable "HOME" decoration that let's everybody know that this is friendly place where all can feel comfortable and loved! And on the opposite side of the entry way we have the true head of the household, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

We hang His picture here so everyone knows the second they come in and as they're on their way out that our Savior not only lives and loves us, but He's also an integral part of our family! He's literally our oldest brother! We would be nothing with out Him and His eternal sacrifice that allows us to be together forever in the eternities! And now for the rest of us! (He he he!)

As you can see we kind of agreed on a family uniform of sorts because it's so ridiculously cute! And also because all of our neighbors do this sort of thing for their family photos! And also to remind everyone who comes in that some of us have penises and are responsible for providing while others of us have vaginas and should be staying home with children! It's all part of our Heavenly Father's amazing Plan of Happiness!

Oh my gosh, you haven't heard of the Plan of Happiness?? It's so amazing and so beautiful and totally proof that Heavenly Father loves us so much! It's all about the family! Basically God will let families be together forever if the husband and wife are sealed (just a fancy way of saying "married"!) in the temple! Our prophet and apostles a few years ago (okay, like almost 20 years ago!) wrote down this incredibly inspired explanation of what a family is and what it should do! It basically says that we were all spiritual penises and vaginas before we ever gained a body (by being born!) and that we all need to be heterosexual and perform within the so called "traditional" gender roles of 1950s America! It's so cool and so true!

But anyway, this is where it all happens! This is the temple! (Well really it's just the most famous of like, I don't know, probably hundreds of Mormon temples across the entire planet!) This is where a young breeding couple goes to be sealed! Going to the temple is so sacred and so important that we never completely explain to our children what goes on inside, but we do like to hang pictures of temples, like this one, all over the house!

Our prophet, President Thomas S. Monson said it's the right thing to do because another prophet said so. "To you parents of young children, may I share with you some sage advice from President Spencer W. Kimball. Said he: 'It would be a fine thing if … parents would have in every bedroom in their house a picture of the temple so [their children] from the time [they are] infant[s] could look at the picture every day [until] it becomes a part of [their lives]. When [they reach] the age that [they need] to make [the] very important decision [concerning going to the temple], it will have already been made'” and he thinks that's a great idea and consequently so do we! Mormon's love to agree with the prophets because they're always right, so we all tend to have a collection of temple pictures hanging about our homes as though they're fine art or something!

And speaking of fine art, here's this beauty!

This is George Fucking Washington! The biggest badass to never be Mormon! But he would have been, a guaranfuckingtee it! Look how piously he prays in a grove of trees just like Joseph Smith did! I wouldn't be surprised in the least if he saw an angel that day!

We also like just about anything by Brother McNaughton! Look at Obama stepping on the Constitution of the United States! Whoever voted for that guy??

Sorry to get political there, but we all know bad things are happening here in the U.S.! I mean, look at gay marriage! The gays are basically shoving their gayness in our faces and down our throats! Even our oldest daughter struggles with same sex attraction! (But we still love her, especially because she's being so diligent about fighting her homosexual tendencies and is staying married to her husband she hasn't had sex with in years!) It's crazy what people think is okay to do! No, it's horrible! Satan really has a lot of influence over the children of Man!

That's why we have to send out so many missionaries! All of our kids have served missions as they have come of age! We have to tell the world that we have standards that we will not back down from! We have a message of love for everyone! And we can't get discouraged when people don't understand that message and reject it! But we can't give up either! Ever!

Framed quotes like these on almost every wall of the house keep me focused and happy! They teach me who I am and make me proud to be that person!

And I'm not the only one who appreciates a little encouragement! Fortunately there are entire stores dedicated to producing and selling these types of wonderful, spiritually uplifting messages for us to fill our homes with! It's such a blessing! It also makes finding gifts for all occasions so much easier!

Thanks so much for coming! We loved having you over and hope you too felt that special spirit that exists only inside a Mormon home! And remember, that special spirit can be yours, if you want it! Maybe we should have you over next week for an FHE with the missionaries!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Avert thy eyes!

In addition to creating the allusion of threat from associating with non-Mormons (especially apostate Mormons) and indulging in reading anything other than testimony-bolstering words, Mormons also face the threat of other bad influences in the media.

Movies and videos are extremely dangerous, so dangerous in fact that the leaders of the Church have for decades told members to not watch films with particular MPAA ratings. Thank God, Jesus Christ, and Holy Ghost we have prophets to make decisions for us and those decisions are based on the decisions of a small anonymous group under the control of the film-making industry. Then again, what if we have reason to distrust the MPAA? And how do the MPAA ratings translate into ratings in other countries anyway? How can it be that 12-year-old members in the UK can watch The King's Speech but in the US and Canada the R rating would keep obedient Mormon adults from seeing the film? That's a pretty big rating discrepancy.

Mormons are very aware of the conundrum and love to discuss it.  The Church, however, is very clear, especially when addressing the youth.

"Satan uses media [HE DOES??] to deceive you by making what is wrong and evil look normal, humorous, or exciting. He tries to mislead you into thinking that breaking God’s commandments is acceptable and has no negative consequences for you or others. Do not attend, view, or participate in anything that is vulgar [LIKE BOY SCOUT CAMPS], immoral [LIKE MOVIES THAT DEPICT LAMANITES AS MAYANS], violent [LIKE THE STORY OF JESUS' DEATH], or pornographic in any way [STAPLE THE PAGES OF THE SONG OF SOLOMON TOGETHER AND NEVER READ THEM!]. Do not participate in anything that presents immorality or violence as acceptable [LIKE READING ABOUT NEPHI JUSTIFYING DECEPTION, MURDER, AND COERCION]. Have the courage to walk out of a movie, change your music, or turn off a computer, television, or mobile device if what you see or hear drives away the Spirit [FOR ME THAT WOULD INCLUDE THE SEMINARY SCRIPTURE SOUNDTRACKS AND ALL EFY MUSIC COMPILATIONS]."

The logic of this statement has long been presented through the following Mormon Ad.

Not to worry, North American Mormons have their ways of enjoying the ice cream without the cockroaches. Thanks to illegal film editors in Utah and ClearPlay, people all over the country (not just Mormons) have been able to binge on all the cockroach-free ice cream they wanted.

Then again, isn't it a little superficial to redub dirty words and cut the nudie scenes? Isn't there more going on in a film or song? Aren't there other elements to art that can make it offensive? Can't we all think of a movie that objectifies women horribly without ever showing nudity, or a game that maybe doesn't show gore but has more perpetual violence and killing than even Saving Private Ryan? And aren't there at least a couple of movies out there that have a nude sex scene or a graphic murder that actually teach wholesome, conservative values? What about Requiem for a Dream? I bet you can't find a D.A.R.E. officer who wouldn't love for every teen in the US to watch that movie!

Why should Mormons, or anyone else, be content ruling out thousands upon thousands of movies, music, etc. because there are more than a couple of occurrences of the word "fuck," or just one occurrence in a sexual context? Are we that blind to the real world? Can we honestly not take the responsibility upon ourselves to determine what is uplifting and what we feel isn't going to benefit us?

Oh, whatever! Most Mormons ignore this whole "no R-rated movie" thing anyway. Watch whatever the hell want.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Index Librorum Prohibitorum

Mormons leaders love to sing the praises of good literature and encourage members to read quality books. The admonition is even scriptural!

"And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith." (D&C 88:118, D&C 109:7)

Isn't that wonderful? A religion whose revealed scripture admonishes literacy and book learning! How truly inspired! There are so many awesome books out there! Maybe I'll catch up on some philosophy, I've heard a lot about some fellow named Nietzsche... Or maybe some poetry, I've heard wonderful things about Sylvia Plath... Or some quality fiction, maybe American Psycho, a lot of people say it's a great read... Or I wouldn't mind some non-fiction, like that Holocaust trilogy by Elie Wiesel... Or maybe I should read some science-oriented stuff, like Richard Dawkin's The Selfish Gene... Or perhaps something biographical, maybe something about Joseph Smith like No Man Knows My History, I hear that's an amazing read! I could revisit that really long reading list I got way back in high school or that even longer list I got in that one Literature class I took in college. I could even check out what's on the New York Times Best Seller list or the top selling books on Amazon. Maybe I should join a book club. This is going to be so fun!

Hang on a second. Maybe we should see if the Church has any recommendations...

"What kind of wisdom could best strengthen faith? If we are specifically talking about faith in Jesus Christ, the wisdom we must seek is the word of the prophets. The best books containing the words of the prophets are the standard works and the conference addresses."

The scriptures and conference addresses. I guess the scriptures really are the "best books." I guess I'll just keep reading the Book of Mormon on repeat then and play some old Conference talks while I'm going about the house or driving in the car. That should really make me a well-rounded person...

But what if I get tired of reading about sin and Jesus and testimony? Can I read anything that's not coming directly from the Church or Deseret Book?

Sure! Books written by Christians that eventually point you to Christ as the Savior of the world.

Is there anything I need to particularly look out for?

Absolutely! Anything that makes you question the Church. Make up excuses not to look at it! It's all dangerous lies! There's absolutely nothing wrong with the Church or its leaders. Never trust anything that makes you think or question. Avoid such literature at all costs!

Last question. Why would I want to trust an organization that doesn't trust me? Does the Church even trust in God to protect me and help me discern the lies and evil in the world? How is censorship contribute to my agency? How does it aid my learning and education? Putting limits on what I can and cannot read reminds me of...

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Beware thy friends

Mormonism is extremely concerned about whom you interact with. Mormons know how easily it is to be influenced by friends and associates, and the influence goes both ways. That's probably why Mormons advise the youth of the Church to "choose friends who share your values so you can strengthen and encourage each other in living high standards" and to "invite your friends of other faiths to your Church meetings and activities". The Church doesn't want to lose the youth to the non-Mormon influences of others and would instead like the youth of the Church to have a heavy influence on their friends in order to convert them. There's nothing incredibly odd about that approach. It's called protecting your interests.

The real problem of all this is how it plays out on the ground. The reality is that choosing "friends who share your values" typically translates to other Mormons which fosters Mormon insularity. Non-members, non-believing members, and even believing members coming from a part-member family are often excluded a priori from the friend list. Even a seemingly innocent relationship might actually be the water hole of a "spiritual crocodile" who will be your downfall.

 This is not a spiritual crocodile.

"These spiritual crocodiles can kill or mutilate your souls. They can destroy your peace of mind and the peace of mind of those who love you. Those are the ones to be warned against, and there is hardly a watering place in all of mortality now that is not infested with them." (Boyd Packer)

It's fear mongering that continues to this day.

"Now, a word of caution to all—both young and old, both male and female. We live at a time when the adversary is using every means possible to ensnare us in his web of deceit, trying desperately to take us down with him. There are many pathways along which he entices us to go—pathways that can lead to our destruction." (Tom Monson)

Mormons stick to themselves for fear of having to suffer or - Lord help save us! - be seduced by opinions that are unsympathetic or antagonistic to Mormonism.

But it's more than fear of your spiritual downfall. There is another very practical reason to avoid non-Mormons, struggling Mormons, and unorthodox Mormons: you might not get a temple recommend! Question number six, to which you must reply in the negative, asks

"Do you affiliate with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or do you sympathize with the precepts of any such group or individual?"

Yelp! Does this mean you can't affiliate with your beer-drinking uncle? Does this mean you can's play sports with that one guy who's always trash talking Mormons? Does this mean you can't have your daughter over for Thanksgiving because she has a profile up on "I'm an ex-Mormon" and got married to another woman? Are you really a good Mormon if don't cut your ties with the pant-wearing, Ordain Women-supporting Feminist Mormon Housewives?

(I know, I know! This shirt's about having sex, not turning friends and family away.)

How many people give relationships up because the Church teaches them to avoid diversity? Why would anyone want to belong to an organization that tells you who you should and should not accept into your life?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

On the inside looking out

"Faith-killers are to be shunned. The seeds which they plant in the minds and hearts of men grow like cancer and eat away the Spirit." Carlos Asay

Mormons don't shun like other religions, at least not anymore. Nowadays when someone leaves the Church he or she will likely still be welcome to come home to be with family and friends will still answer a disaffected friend's calls, but to say that everything stays the same would not be accurate for the vast majority of people who leave. Mormons handle dissidents with extreme care and expect former Mormons to agree to an awful lot of self-censure. It can make for some extremely uncomfortable encounters when family and friends are obviously concerned about casting their pearls before a swine such as yourself or when they're afraid that your opinions are aimed at corrupting and corroding their faith. It's not a pleasant feeling to have something you would like to say but don't dare say it for fear of offending people you love.

Mormons don't typically shun, but don't be surprised if they speak less frequently to you once you've left. Don't be surprised when old friends and acquaintances shy away and eventually disappear. It's only natural that removing a cornerstone of your relationship, if not the entire foundation of your relationship (as in the case of friends from church), would place some serious stress on both parties. The party who stays will, of course, be thinking "damn, I wish my friend would lighten up a bit and let the Spirit guide" while the party who has left is thinking "for fuck's sake, why can't they turn off the Church-installed chanting and think about this as though they were hearing it for the first time?!" How could a get-together between these parties possibly feel comfy and cozy? This is is just the natural result of growing apart, right?

Not really. Mormon leaders and Mormon scripture actually teach adherents to view those who give up Mormonism as sad, pitiful people, who are often consumed with bitterness and hatred. Apostates are cold and aggressive. They've adopted unhealthy lifestyles that drag them further down. They've been beguiled of the Devil and are too hard-hearted to accept the gift of Christ's Gospel. Mormons pray for those who leave the same way they pray for sick people.

Why should anyone belong to an organization that believes people who once believed but now think differently are mentally ill or possessed by the Devil? It's really weird. It's one of the reasons why Mormons don't dare think outside of Mormonism - it would be like having sex with someone who's saturated with venereal diseases - distasteful and dangerous! Most Mormons won't touch it. At least not without their 10' pole and their gloves on. It's not quite shunning.