Thursday, February 27, 2014

Jesus, our Lord and Annihilator

Torture and death can really change a man. Take Jesus for example. Just before dying on the cross he offered this prayer:

"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)

That was pretty big of Jesus and must have been really hard for God. Shit, let's be real! It might have been hard for Jesus too. However it doesn't seem he had much forgiveness left after keeling over. Look how unforgiving the Savior of the World is toward folks on the other side of the world just moments (hours?) after his crucifixion.

"And it came to pass that there was a voice [Jesus'] heard among all the inhabitants of the earth, upon all the face of this land, crying: Wo, wo, wo unto this people; wo unto the inhabitants of the whole earth except they shall repent; for the devil laugheth, and his angels rejoice, because of the slain of the fair sons and daughters of my people; and it is because of their iniquity and abominations that they are fallen! Behold, that great city Zarahemla have I burned with fire, and the inhabitants thereof. And behold, that great city Moroni have I caused to be sunk in the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants thereof to be drowned. And behold, that great city Moronihah have I covered with earth, and the inhabitants thereof, to hide their iniquities and their abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come any more unto me against them. And behold, the city of Gilgal have I caused to be sunk, and the inhabitants thereof to be buried up in the depths of the earth; Yea, and the city of Onihah and the inhabitants thereof, and the city of Mocum and the inhabitants thereof, and the city of Jerusalem and the inhabitants thereof; and waters have I caused to come up in the stead thereof, to hide their wickedness and abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come up any more unto me against them. And behold, the city of Gadiandi, and the city of Gadiomnah, and the city of Jacob, and the city of Gimgimno, all these have I caused to be sunk, and made hills and valleys in the places thereof; and the inhabitants thereof have I buried up in the depths of the earth, to hide their wickedness and abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints should not come up any more unto me against them. And behold, that great city Jacobugath, which was inhabited by the people of king Jacob, have I caused to be burned with fire because of their sins and their wickedness, which was above all the wickedness of the whole earth, because of their secret murders and combinations; for it was they that did destroy the peace of my people and the government of the land; therefore I did cause them to be burned, to destroy them from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints should not come up unto me any more against them. And behold, the city of Laman, and the city of Josh, and the city of Gad, and the city of Kishkumen, have I caused to be burned with fire, and the inhabitants thereof, because of their wickedness in casting out the prophets, and stoning those whom I did send to declare unto them concerning their wickedness and their abominations. And because they did cast them all out, that there were none righteous among them, I did send down fire and destroy them, that their wickedness and abominations might be hid from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints whom I sent among them might not cry unto me from the ground against them. And many great destructions have I caused to come upon this land, and upon this people, because of their wickedness and their abominations." (3 Nephi 9:1-12)

Can you say "take it easy, Jesus"? That's A LOT OF REVENGE! This Book of Mormon Jesus just wiped out thousands of people. Entire cities. Men, women, and children. Wow! And this right after dying for their sins. Weird.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

God, boys, and country

Why is it that the Church so strongly endorses the Boy Scouts of America? Is it just a convenient institution to occupy church-going adolescents? Could it be that the Church got involved with the BSA in efforts to prove its solidarity with the rest of America? I honestly don't know and the bullshit origin story that the Church celebrated doesn't clear much up. My main point of disgust with the BSA (though there are many) has to do with the fact that it's a celebration of military strength and machoism. Here in the United States duty to God and country is synonymous with military service. It's true that boy scout troops aren't taught military drills (at least most of the time), but the paramilitary shell, with all its prominent signs of honor and accomplishment along the hierarchical track displayed in pseudo-military style, creates the perfect psychological space for a future soldier.

I can't see the Biblical Jesus fitting into any of this. When did Jesus tell the children to dawn uniforms and fixate on war? I don't see the gospel of peace, love, and forgiveness here, but that certainly doesn't mean it doesn't make sense to other people.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Or the children's crusade

Mormon boys in their late teens are expected to dedicate two years of their lives to proselytizing for the LDS Church as missionaries. It's a right of passage. It's proof of conviction. It's a badge of honor. It's a sign of marriageability. It's a test of leadership capability. It's something most young men feel significant pressure to do and be successful at.

The Church has recently found a way to amp up the pressure one feels to serve a mission by lowering the age of service for men from 19 to 18. What this means in the context of the United States is that now, instead of discussing which universities you're applying to or where you've decided to go, high school seniors will be talking about whether or not they've put in their mission papers (the application to go on a mission) and where they've been assigned to serve the Church.

In other words, the decision to serve is now made at an even younger, more impressionable age more squarely within the dynamics of peer pressure instead of being made after about a year of higher education and significant social distancing from friends and family. It's stands to reason that the Church is probably trying to increase the percentage of young men serving missions (about 30% in the U.S.)

The demographic that typically goes undiscussed in church is the 70% of young men who aren't going and they young men who return early from their missions for one reason or another. On an anecdotal note, my close friends who did not serve missions have all explained the shame and ostracism they experienced as a result of staying home. Those who come home early share those same feelings.

Isn't their a more inspired way? Couldn't Jesus instruct the Church leadership in the creation of a more flexible and loving program that would allow everyone to participate without all the baggage of social pressure and shame? Is this really how God wants his work carried out? Is this really how we want to treat our children?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Tough love

Learn to be white in a just a few years! It's easy!

As if the LDS Church's quest for spiritual and cultural domination over the earth weren't enough to make to make me doubt, finding out about the Indian Placement Program and electroshock conversion therapy use on homosexuals at BYU certainly brought to mind some fresh thoughts about what Christ-like love ought to look like. The justifications for keeping First Nations children physically distant from their families in order to culturally distance them from their traditions point nowhere near the love and acceptance one might expect from Jesus. Likewise the use of physical and psychological torture to reform homosexuals points nowhere near Christ-like behavior. These are two programs (the IPP admittedly much bigger than McBride's experiments) that have to cause members to scramble for answers. How can these sorts of things be inspired? How offensive is it that Mormons expect First Nations people to turn off their identity? Why do Mormons think homosexuals can do it? How can they be justified in the name of a loving god? How is it that the LDS Church and BYU have not apologized for these damaging programs?

Turning off the gay was supposed to be as easy as hitting the lights!

UPDATE: A Mormon Stories episode on the Indian Placement Program has just been added (4/4/14). Listen to it here.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Living on the edge

Jesus needs our money to make his church work properly. It's as simple as that. Church's don't run on dreams, my friends! So we shouldn't be surprised when our dear leaders make these kinds of demands for our obedience to the law of tithing:

"Bishop Orellana looked at the new convert and said, “If paying tithing means that you can’t pay for water or electricity, pay tithing. If paying tithing means that you can’t pay your rent, pay tithing. Even if paying tithing means that you don’t have enough money to feed your family, pay tithing. The Lord will not abandon you.” (Ensign Dec. 2012)

Sound advice, right? But the promise is clear - the Lord will be with you. We're just not sure how.

"The Lord has commanded us to pay tithing. In return, He promises to “open … the windows of heaven, and pour … out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10). His blessings, however, come in His own way and in His own time and can be spiritual or temporal." (Ensign Mar. 2013)

That's a great way of saying "Want blessing? Go fish."

If it sounds like fraud to you, or a hoax, or a scam, or a pay-to-play scheme, you're not alone

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Blind leading the blind

Mormon stake presidents, bishops, and branch presidents, just like the vast majority of Mormon clergy, receive essentially no practical training when it comes to their very sticky counseling duties. With little more than a secret rule book, a few life lines, and good intentions, lay Mormon leadership the world over take to advising and guiding in matters they often have no experience in and no professional competency. What results are endless stories of bad advice given to members by their ecclesiastical leaders that will either make you laugh or cry or both. The material's good enough for a parody blog all its own. The joke has been made that if the Church were not true the missionaries (the Mormon clergy with perhaps the most formal training) would have ruined it years ago. The truth is that the well-intended stake presidents, bishops, and branch presidents have never needed any help destroying the lives and faith of their congregations.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Children at the bar

"Let's take a second here to talk about your vagina..."

In the Mormon world you start meeting one-on-one with the bishop at age eight when you have your baptismal interview. The bishop asks you questions to determine whether or not your ready to be baptized or not (SURPRISE! YOU ARE!). This is only the beginning of worthiness interviews, which turn into a twice-a-year event once a child turns twelve.

As a member of full faith I faithfully attended and believed in the importance of these interviews. It was awesome (and logical) that the bishop should be personally involved in every member's life and that he should act as keeper of the gate. I seemed wise to give children the opportunity to meet with the bishop without threat of suspicion. Someone who's embarrassed to make an appointment on his or her own wouldn't have to wait long before being called in for the routine check up. Let's not forget those kids who might be suffering abuses at home and who wouldn't be able to meet the bishop without arousing the aggressor's suspicion. Bishop interviews, in my mind, were a total safety net!

The reality of bishop interviews is a little different, though. Every kid hates them and fears them. They're awkward as fuck. You get a healthy dose of hardy-har-har humor from some old guy who lives in your neighborhood and who just might be your friend's dad only to segue into really obvious questions (e.g. "Do you have faith in and a testimony of God the Eternal Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost? Do you have a testimony of the Atonement of Christ and of His role as Savior and Redeemer? Do you have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel in these the latter days?" Duh! Who doesn't?), some kind of fuzzy, corrosively guilt-inducing questions (e.g. "Do you strive to keep the covenants you have made, to attend your sacrament and other meetings, and to keep your life in harmony with the laws and commandments of the gospel? Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen? Are you a full-tithe payer? Do your keep the Word of Wisdom? Is there anything in your conduct relating to members of your family that is not in harmony with the teachings of the Church?" Um... How much striving is enough striving? Does stuffing stuff under my bed and saying I cleaned my room make me dishonest? Does picking up a dime and immediately buying an Airhead mean I'm not a full tithe payer? I've neglected drinking mild drinks made from barley, is that bad? Holy shit, do we really have time for me to sit and examine every aspect of everything I've done since my last interview?), and there's that almost entirely irrelevant question ("Do you support, affiliate with, or agree 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?" Uh? What?)

Answering these questions is never pleasant even for the most believing of youths. They put you on the spot. They seem to doubt you. They subversively get you to doubt yourself.

Bishop interviews are notoriously unpleasant among Mormon kids, who easily see behind all the fluff questions and know the real purpose of these interviews: the bishop needs to know what you're doing with your genitals.

"Do you live the law of chastity?"

This question is almost always expanded into many, many more.

"Do you have or entertain unclean thoughts? Do you tell dirty jokes? Do you look at pornography? Do you masturbate? Do you know what that is? How often? Are you dating anyone? What's your physical relationship like? Are you ever alone in each other's bedroom? What kind of kissing do you do? Do you ever lay on top of each other? Do you touch each other's private areas? Do you engage in necking or petting? Do you know what "Levi loving" is? Do you do it? Have you had sex?"

Mormon kids hate this. Whether you're Molly, Peter, or Jack, you hate these questions. You hate the fact that anyone has the audacity to ask you these questions and yet you believe they must be asked. You hate that you feel obligated to answer the questions.

"I sometimes think about girls in bikinis... I sometimes wonder what sex is like... Sometimes when I get, um, 'excited' I, uh, don't know how to get rid of it..."

Mormon kids hate the fact that they are in a private office with a grown man with the door shut talking about their sexuality. They all hate it. AND SO SHOULD PARENTS.

How in the hell is it acceptable to send your 14-year-old daughter into a closed office with a grown man? How is it acceptable for a man, who likely has ZERO PROFESSIONAL TRAINING in these kinds of sensitive discussions, to interrogate youth and teens about the most intimate details of their lives? Do we honestly think this is God's way or that Jesus gets off on this sort of thing?

I doubt it. I think parents might want to consider limiting what the bishop can talk to their children about. I think parents might even want to be present for some interviews. I think the Church should  make it mandatory for girls to be interviewed by women and not by men. I think the Church should  definitely think about hiring professionals to discuss sex with teens and pre-teens.

Then again, I think kids shouldn't be shamed for masturbating or being curious about sex.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Why are we doing this?

Mormons believe God is a very fair judge. The fairest. No detail escapes his infinite wisdom.

"The Lord’s way of final judgment will be to apply his perfect knowledge of the law a person has received and to judge on the basis of that person’s circumstances, motives, and actions throughout his or her entire life." Book of Mormon Teacher Resource Manual, 2004, 304.

So why bother with the whole missionary work thing? Why do we need to convert the entire world to Mormonism if God doesn't need Mormon law to judge everyone perfectly? All he needs is "his perfect knowledge of the law a person has received" and he has that! Why force new laws on people if it makes no difference to how they are judged? Why not just encourage everyone to be kind and let them sort life out they way they see best? God will still judge them relative to their cultural and psychological circumstances. It's not like we're doing God a favor by telling people God is Mormonly rigid in making judgements. Don't we believe that God knows the desires of our hearts and will judge us according to those desires?

"And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good." (Alma 41:3)

A bishop's blues

Here's another great response to Dieter's "doubt your doubts" talk, this time focusing more on the concept of there being room in the Church for everyone. How is a bishop to react when he learns that what he's been teaching has just been disavowed? How is he to sleep at night when he's held his congregation's standard of belief to the heights of pure fiction and disciplined members according to that standard? Former bishop and current high councilman Ganesh Cherian of New Zealand spells out some very real issues that are developing in the wake of recently revealed light and knowledge.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

You've been warned

"Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor." (D&C 88:81)

Do you know how people feel about door to door salesmen? Annoyed as hell, right? Do you know how people feel about Jehovah's Witnesses? They're annoying as hell, right? Do you know how people feel about Mormon missionaries? They find them pretty annoying. How do we feel about street preaching types in general and other people who can't keep their religion to themselves?

I'm of the opinion that "annoying" might not be the best word for this kind of recruitment. I think it's inconsiderate and rude. I think it's arrogant and offensive. I think if you have a convincing argument, people will naturally latch onto it without you hammering away at your talking points. The more I thought about treating people the way I would like to be treated, the more I realized that missionary work wasn't my thing.

I should also mention, however, that at least these annoying, inconsiderate, offensive types are putting action behind their professed beliefs. It's hard to say they don't feel conviction. On the other hand, I am often startled by the passivity of Mormons who claim to exclusively know what brings True Happiness and also claim to love everyone in the world like a brother or sister, and yet they can barely manage to hand out a pass-along card. Most members leave all proselytizing up to the Church's missionaries despite orders that every member engage in missionary work. There's no shouting from rooftops, just quiet examples, prayers, and pent up hopes of seeing the world convert.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The unordained

Priesthood bitch slap Catholic Batman style.

How do the daughters of Mormons feel when they turn twelve years old and watch their male peers get ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood and start passing the sacrament and collecting fast offerings? How do they feel when they turn fourteen and have to hear the boys in Sunday School talk about going to church early to prepare the sacrament and staying after Sacrament Meeting to put it away? How do they feel when they turn sixteen and see those same boys blessing the sacrament for the entire congregation? Is it possible that they feel left out? Is it possible that they are in actuality left out? Is it possible that they feel inferior? Is it possible they feel superior? Is it possible that they feel resentment? Is it possible that they feel confused? Is it possible that the male-only Priesthood policy contradicts the concept of Heavenly Father being impartial? Is it possible that the male-only Priesthood policy is not explicit in Mormon scripture? Is it possible that Jesus inducted women into the Priesthood? How do we feel about the deaconesses mentioned in the Bible? Or the prophetesses? How do we feel about Joseph Smith's intentions to make the Relief Society a parallel institution to the Priesthood? What would happen if the Church started ordaining women, young and old, to the Priesthood?

Bitch slaps outside the LDS No Girls Allowed club.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Girl power

Silent as stone and can't get her hands in anything. Perfect.

I believed for a long time that men and women in the Church were equal. I believed that because I was told that's how it was. Bit by bit, however, I began to realize that the facts do not support this idea. Mormon women get little besides lip service from the Church hierarchy; they're decision making power is essentially nil. Mormon women are put on a pedestal and kept under under glass. The stats speak for themselves.

The question is, why would Heavenly Father, a perfect being who loves all his children equally, be okay with this? Isn't the Church's treatment of women a worthy reason to doubt the rectitude of the organization and it's leaders? It's certainly enough to make myself and others step away.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Shut up and stay in there

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Heavenly Mother is that She knows her place so well. She never speaks out and never leaves her heavenly hiding place. It also reflects well on Heavenly Father's protection. Not only has He managed to keep Her out of reach of Her children, He's managed to stay so silent about Her existence that some might even doubt She's part of LDS theology. Clearly their relationship is the perfect example of conjugal bliss.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Thus vote the Brethren!

Remember how in all of LDS scripture God essentially taps a dude on the shoulder, tells him he's now a prophet, and sends him off to tell everyone else what it is he (God) wants? I'm not sure that process was the most efficient considering the prophet to non-prophet ratio and the tendency for huge portions of the population to be skeptical of what one man has to say, but I think that process would be much more convincing than what we have going on today. The Church leaders (our dear prophets, seers, and revelators) no longer do things Moses' way, or Isaiah's way, or Jesus' way, or Samuel the Lamanite's way, or Joseph Smith's way of wielding all decisive power and authority on a matter; now they sit around in board meetings and vote like businessmen. And nothing passes unless there is a unanimous vote in favor. It sounds a bit Catholic, but such is the business of revealing God's Will for us today. I'm just curious what happened to the traditional method of prophecy, in which men had much less say in what the message would be.

Monday, February 3, 2014

"Christians" and "Mormons"

LDS Church and its members feel horrible when people (usually people claiming to be Evangelical Christian) insist that Mormons are not Christian. It's a very confusing accusation to most Mormons. Why? Because the full name of the Church is The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints! The PR department even had the "Jesus Christ" part enlarged on the Church logo just to make it clear that Mormons are all about Jesus. This isn't the Church of Joseph Smith (even though he started it up in 1830), or Brigham Young (even though there are other Mormon branch offs that the LDS Church dismisses), or the Church of Tom Monson (even though his is the only living human with any legal power to manage the organization). Mormons believe that Jesus is the Savior of the World and that this is his church!

Fundamentalist Mormons feel horrible when people (usually people claiming to be LDS) insist that polygamists are not Mormon. It's a confusing accusation to most fundamentalist Mormons. Why? Because they wholeheartedly believe in Joseph Smith and The Book of Mormon. How can you believe in The Book of Mormon and not be a Mormon? How can you carefully and religiously follow the examples of conjugal life as set forth by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, and Joseph F. Smith and not be Mormon? Why does the LDS Church get to determine what "Mormon" means and who can use it when there are so many other faith traditions that share the same history and almost the exact same beliefs?

Why don't Mormons understand how hurtful it feels to be excluded from certain beliefs simply because someone wants to take control of a word's definition and use?

And how about this fine example of doublespeak from the Mormon Newsroom's Michael Otterson? Here's his defense of Mormons calling themselves Christian:

"I submit to you that a group should be allowed primarily to define itself."

And here's his objection to groups he doesn't like defining themselves:

"Some polygamous groups use names similar to ours, as we have seen. Some describe themselves as fundamentalist Mormons. We can’t stop people from calling themselves whatever they want, but for the sake of clarity for your readers and viewers, we suggest that the term “Mormon” is not an appropriate adjective for members of these communities – as, in fact, the Associated Press style guide suggests." (emphasis added)

What the fuck, dude?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Oh say, what is the LDS Church?

What if there is no legal entity called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? What if that name is nothing more than a trademark? Would that surprise us? Would it be worth looking up who's in control of some of the Church's legal holdings?

Losing the Lamanites

Back in the day Joseph Smith regularly spoke with Nephite angels and had no trouble at all locating their evil kin, the Lamanites. They were all over the place and they were commonly referred to as Indians. Joseph knew exactly where the Lamanites overtook the Nephites in a great final battle, he found the remains of a Lamanite warrior named Zelph (as revealed to him by God) once, and he even took direction (from God) to send missionaries to western Missouri to convert the Lamanites residing there.

We knew exactly who the Lamanites were and it wasn't uncommon growing up to hear someone say to a young man with a mission call to Central or South America "Oh wonderful! You'll get to teach those wonderful people about their own family history!"

Today the Church isn't nearly as certain about who's a Lamanite. In fact, the Church now openly admits that it cannot find any Lamanites at all. But don't worry! Lack of evidence is not evidence of non-existence! (The existing evidence, however, does discredit the notion of Nephites and Lamanites ever physically existing.) So believe on, dear brothers and sisters! Everything has been explained sufficiently for our needs, and, on the plus side, the Church's statement indicates that it has finally officially accepted human evolution as legitimate, truthful science!

Or you can read why Simon Southerton thinks we should doubt on.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Large and spacious

Mormons fear large and spacious buildings unless they're temples where they can imagine ascending into Heaven, a conference centers from which they can judge and mock the world, or a mall.

I don't understand it either.

Show me the money

The LDS Church's finances are all entirely secret. Members are required to pay 10% of their income to the Church, plus additional monetary offerings, and yet they have only the foggiest idea of how that money is being spent. Mormons trust the Church is using their money exactly the way Jesus himself would use it. I assume the Church administrators would tell you the same thing and insist that all monies are spent only after prayerful consideration. So why the financial secrecy? What is the Church hiding? Can we trust that all our tithes and offerings are going toward Christ-like endeavors? It's a topic worthy of investigation.