Monday, April 28, 2014

The Bible "translated correctly"

The Mormon escape clause on believing "the Bible to be the word of God" states that the Bible should only be trusted "as far as it is translated correctly" (Article of Faith 1:8), so one might assume that Mormons have undertaken a very rigorous translation effort and that the Mormon version of the Bible is one of the best around.

The reality is that the LDS Church has stuck to using the King James translation, and the King James translation of the Bible actually kind of sucks. It's archaic and difficult to understand, it's full of mistranslations, and the translation was extremely limited to the texts available in England at the turn of the 17th century.

So why the King James Bible? Maybe because that's the version the Book of Mormon prophets preferred.

The Bible! The Bible! Who assembled the Bible?

A common pet peeve among Mormons is when someone assumes the Book of Mormon is the Mormon version of the Bible. Fuck's sake, people, "we believe the Bible to be the word of God" (Article of Faith 1:8)! We just have another book of scripture to help straighten things out. See, it's like a pair of glasses - one corrective lens isn't going to be enough to get your vision into focus...

So if Mormons are cool with the extra books found in The Book of Mormon how do Mormons feel about the Apocrypha? Well, quite frankly, Mormons never touch it. Here's what God told Joseph Smith:

"Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you concerning the Apocrypha—There are many things contained therein that are true, and it is mostly translated correctly; There are many things contained therein that are not true, which are interpolations by the hands of men. Verily, I say unto you, that it is not needful that the Apocrypha should be translated. Therefore, whoso readeth it, let him understand, for the Spirit manifesteth truth" (D&C 91:1-4).

In other words, there's too much shit to wade through; don't waste your time. Oh, and don't read the Songs of Solomon either - they're not inspired. Those Old Testament apocrypha are the worst! (But the Book of Judith seems to have inspired the Book of Mormon somehow.) But the New Testament apocryphal gospels are a little trickier. Some of those darn Gnostic gospels actually predate the gospels included in the final cut. It seems as though their exclusion from the Greatest Hits compilation was more a matter of politics than unbiased research.

What if, in addition to pseudopigrypha, there were a huge absence of authentic and essential texts in the Bible? Why aren't the LDS Church and Mormons at large more interested and involved in a revision of the canonical Bible texts? Does corrective power of The Book of Mormon really justify having the wrong prescription in the other lens?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The biblical authors

Mormons "believe the Bible to be the word of God" (Article of Faith 1:8). Does this go for all of the words in all of the books? I ask because Bible scholars have found that, for example, Moses didn't write the first books of the Old Testament, Solomon didn't write the Psalms, Isaiah was written by at least two people, and Paul is not the author of all of his epistles. Those are significant problems, but there are still more.

Are they still the words of God if we know that the author is different than what was traditionally believed? Do we need to treat the questionable books, chapters, and verses with any particular care? How can the Bible's pseudopigrapha not be subjected to doubt? Do we need to revise the eighth Article of Faith? Couldn't one of our prophets, seers, and revelators go through and separate the actual words of the prophets and apostles from those of the impostors? What would remain of the Bible were we to remove everything of false or highly questionable authorship? Would we finally have a bulletproof Bible full entirely and only with the Word of God?

Friday, April 25, 2014


I used to wonder what the world had against Mormons and the LDS Church. Ever since Joseph Smith's first vision in 1820 persecution has hounded the Restoration. Why? Why would anyone turn a 14 year old into a pariah for having a vision? Why would anyone attack peaceful, industrious settlers? Why would a governor drive a religious group from the state? Why all the rumors about Mormon boys being born with horns? Why the accusation that Mormons aren't Christian? Why all the disinformation in the media? Why would anyone mistreat a young missionary?

Because Satan.

Remember how Satan bound young Joseph's tongue to keep him from praying? That's the kind of asshole we're dealing with. He hates the work of God. He hates the truth. He controls the hearts of man. He appeals to the minds of everyone who wants the easy way and not the straight and narrow. Satan sucks! It's his evil influence (and God's curse against Adam and Eve) (and human nature, which was designed by God) that makes people persecute the One True Church and the saints.

The problem is that we have no reason to believe persecution is even the slightest indication of God's truth under attack. We don't point to the persecution of pre-contact indigenous Americans as evidence of closeness to God. We don't look at the American institution of slavery as evidence that Blacks had the truth. We don't study the ways of the persecuted Aborigines of Australia either. We don't look at those living in slave labor-like conditions today and draw the conclusion that Satan is trying to suppress their saintly souls. We don't look at the opposition faced by other churches and faith traditions to determine their truthfulness. The very idea of using persecution as a measuring stick of truthfulness is absurd - UNLESS IT'S APPLIED TO MORMONISM.

Let me repeat that last point: in the Mormon brain, persecution is only a valid signifier of truth if applied to Mormonism (and sometimes Christianity at large).

Now please don't misunderstand me. Violence, oppression, litigation, misinformation, slander, etc. exist and can all factor in to the unjustifiably adverse treatment of other people. Willfully hurting other people because they don't accept all of your faith claims is immoral, but disagreeing with and challenging someone's faith claims is an everyday part of life and a huge part of the learning process.

Being asked to shoulder the burden of proof is not persecution. Having that proof examined is not persecution. Having that proof rejected on the basis of logic is not persecution. Having someone pointing out that your claims are highly suspicious is not persecution. Having someone speak openly about the lack of proof behind your claims is not persecution.

But it does give you a shit feeling when someone doesn't except your claims at face value. And it feels like shit when someone rejects what you consider solid proof. It especially feels awful when you've based who you are and all of your life plans on those claims. It's easy to feel attacked when everything you think about yourself and the world is based on something so many others find questionable, if not ridiculous.

I wouldn't doubt that having two teenagers show up at your door telling you your brain and life are all wrong might feel equally shitty. Some might even feel a bit persecuted. Especially if you're, say, homosexual or something.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


When the early saints moved down to Missouri Joseph Smith conveniently learned that it was a very cool place. Jesus was going to do some millennial ruling from there and, believe it or not, Adam, the father of mankind, would also be making a return visit! The exact location is called Adam-ondi-Ahman (Adamic for "Adam in the presence of God") but before that it was just good old Spring Hill.

"Spring Hill is named by the Lord Adam-ondi-Ahman, because, said he, it is the place where Adam shall come to visit his people, or the Ancient of Days shall sit, as spoken of by Daniel the prophet." (D&C 116:1)

Actually, before that it was the Adams and Eves family stopping grounds. 

"Three years previous to the death of Adam, he called Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, and Methuselah, who were all high priests, with the residue of his posterity who were righteous, into the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and there bestowed upon them his last blessing." (D&C 107:53)

 No Eden here, try Missouri.

Yes, that means the Garden of Eden was in North America and not somewhere in the vicinity of the Middle East. Here's what Spring Hill/Adam-ondi-Aham/Almost Eden looks like.

I always had a hard time with believing this story. Adam, as in an actual historical non-literary first man created by God 6000 years ago? Missouri, really? God's mentioning mountains, I don't think this can be the right place. What about the whole scientifically-based "out of Africa" thing? And why's Adam coming back for the Second Coming anyway? Won't that steal some of Jesus' thunder? What other big names are billed for the event? If I get tickets for Adam's Blessing will I still be able to catch the Destruction of Gog and Magogs? I hear that show's gonna kick ass.

And how about the Adam-ondi-Ahman temple? Is that venue up yet? I can't wait! I hear it's gonna be sweet!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The New Jerusalem

Are you ready to pack up and move to Jackson County, Missouri? Will you be willing to uproot everything when the prophet makes the call? It could happen any day now. These are the latter days, people!

Back when God revealed the location of New Jerusalem he made it clear that there was not time to waste.

"Yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people, as he has spoken by the mouth of his prophets, and for the gathering of his saints to stand upon Mount Zion, which shall be the city of New Jerusalem. Which city shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jun., and others with whom the Lord was well pleased. Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation. For verily this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill the house." (D&C 84:2-5, emphasis added)

"And in order that all things be prepared before you, observe the commandment which I have given concerning these things— Which saith, or teacheth, to purchase all the lands with money, which can be purchased for money, in the region round about the land which I have appointed to be the land of Zion, for the beginning of the gathering of my saints; All the land which can be purchased in Jackson county, and the counties round about, and leave the residue in mine hand." (D&C 101:69-71, emphasis added)

For those who don't know the story, the saints were driven out of Jackson and many generations have passed away without erecting New Jerusalem in the slightest (I'm sure God was very discouraged, but hopefully he's over it by now). Instead we built Zion in Salt Lake City and after a while just told people to stay put for the time being.

But Jackson County's still slated to be Zion, the New Jerusalem. That hasn't changed. Since the 1970s the LDS Church has been "purchas[ing] all the lands with money [...] which can be purchased with money," just like it says to do in D&C 101.

So why do I doubt this Jackson County-New Jerusalem thing? Is it because God was wrong when he said "verily this generation shall not pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord" (D&C 84:5)? Is it because the Church seems so ho-hum about hastening the work? Is it because Missouri sucks? I mean, honestly, why would Jesus rule the entire world from Jackson County? It's weird.

Then again, is ruling the world from a throne build in rural America any weirder than ruling from Washington D.C. or London or Paris or Berlin or Moscow or Beijing or somewhere else? Jesus rules, he can do what he wants.

P.S. Goddammit people! Someone beat us to building building the New Jerusalem temple.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Believing blood

One of the stranger beliefs of Mormonism postulates that the more Hebrew blood you have the more receptive to the truth of the Gospel and authority of the LDS Church you will be. Apparently belief is genetic and the Hebrews hold the majority of shares when it comes to believing... that they're the awesomest, most chosenest people of God.

Even awesomer than believing in the truth because you've got a lot of Hebrew is that if you're of the tribe of Ephraim you won't rebel!

"And the rebellious shall be cut off out of the land of Zion, and shall be sent away, and shall not inherit the land. For, verily I say that the rebellious are not of the blood of Ephraim, wherefore they shall be plucked out." (D&C 64:35-36, emphasis added)

So Ephraim just might be the least rebellious of all the believers of Israel. Very cool stuff (even if it's total nonsense).

It really gives you a sense of what the world lost when the blood of Joseph Smith, a pure Ephraimite, a pure non-rebellious believing blood type, was spilled at Carthage. What a fucking waste of the "best blood of the nineteenth century" (D&C 135:6)!

Joseph Smith III, half Ephraimite, half Moggle.

What's worse is that obviously Emma contaminated that blood because otherwise Joseph Smith III would have surely reunited with the saints in Utah. If only we could once again breed the purest of believers...

The literal gathering

One of the most miraculous aspects of the literal gathering of Israel in these latter-days is that it's all done via adoption. I have no idea how adoption into the tribe of Ephraim can be called a literal gathering of people descended from the Northern Kingdom. I mean, if you're not a literal, blood descendent with Hewbrew DNA and you don't even know anyone who is literally descended from the Israelite tribe in question, how can you literally be gathering that tribe by self-appointing yourself a member of that tribe? It's literally got me all mixed up.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Mormons the Israelites

Here's an early doubt for you. According to the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith was a direct descendant of Joseph, the youngest son of Jacob who was sold into Egypt, and Brigham Young confirmed that our latter-day Joseph was "pure Ephraimite." This might lead one to believe that the British Isles were populated by the tribe of Ephraim, right? The Brits must be Hebrew at heart.

But they're not. Neither was the Smith family. The Book of Mormon prophesy was bullshit. DNA evidence proves that.

"Gryffindor! No, WAIT... Ephraim!!"

And yet Mormons continue to claim lineage to the tribe of Ephraim. Isn't that a bit arrogant? How do Mormons expect anyone to take them seriously when they start spouting off about being Ephraimite? Just don't get your hopes up for an Israeli duel citizenship.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Tribal hunting

Mormons believe in the "literal gathering of Israel ... and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes," according to the tenth Article of Faith.

The gathering and restoration project has to happen because in the 8th century BCE Assyria invaded Israel and carried off most of the Israelites. Amazingly enough, the Assyrians pretty much managed to capture every member of all of the tribes living in the Northern Kingdom: Asher, Dan, Ephraim, Gad, Issachar, Manasseh, Naphtali, Reuben, Simeon, and Zebulun. Members of Levi who were residing in the Northern Kingdom were also carried away, but other Levites were hanging out with the tribes of Judah and Benjamin in the Kingdom of Judah. Their separation is obviously a very bad thing and needs to be fixed.

This makes for a very exciting game of Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, but with Israelite tribes instead of Carmen. 

Back when Joseph Smith wrote the Articles of Faith, much of the world was still an unknown. The tribes could have been hiding anywhere. Many settlers of the American continents believed the tribes would be there, but there was no need to completely exclude the nooks and crannies of Africa, the far reaches of Asia, the Down Under, and the many isles of the sea. The search was on.

Mormons have sent missionaries to every region of the world and have found converts among all peoples, and all we've found are a bunch of Josephites (Ephraim and Manasseh). In fact, the vast majority of Mormons have been assigned to the tribe of Ephraim. It's a little discouraging. Especially when we can't even keep track of the other Josephites

What's even more discouraging is that, even though many people claim to be the lost tribes, researchers who have sought out the Lost Tribes have found no trace of them anywhere. Where haven't we looked? How in the world can Israel hide from today's DNA analyses? It's like the whole Lost Tribe thing was just made up by some ignoramus in the 7th or 8th century CE. But don't lose hope. They'll show up some day soon!

Friday, April 18, 2014


Mormons believe in the gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues (Article of Faith 1:7), but not that crazy speaking in tongues stuff! Well, at least not anymore. That tongues of fire shit was so early 19th century!

This gift of the spirit has really wised up. Today it's all about speaking languages that other people use and live with every day. No more mystical chatter coming to you out of the blue. Now it's about studying vocabulary and grammar and careful memorization of set phrases for prayer or testimony sharing in, say, Spanish or Korean or Twi (and sometimes emoticons).

Never mind the fact that many missionaries return from foreign lands with really shitty language skills. Not everyone enjoys the same gifts. Never mind the fact that world travelers often have stories about being somewhere where they do not speak the language and yet they manage to perfectly and inexplicably experience a moment of clear communication and understanding with a local. The gifts of the Spirit can be enjoyed by all from time to time, like by infants who suddenly start speaking by about two years old. Then, of course, there's everyone else who learns various languages throughout their lives. All of that's through the Spirit.

You might be thinking "hey, the gifts of the Spirit typically come after someone has been given the Gift of the Holy Ghost!" Don't worry about it. All you need to know is that only Finnish babies and Mormon missionaries can learn Finnish, and that relentless study and over a year of living abroad can never produce the kind of gifts of tongues enjoyed by the missionaries. Now do yourself a favor and avoid discussing amazing moments of breaking the language barrier with anyone who's not Mormon.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Latter-day Book of Levitcus

The Book of Leviticus is an interesting bit of scripture because the majority of it is dedicated to the laying out of very specific rules for the worship of Jehovah and the governance of Israel. (There are a lot more rules in Deuteronomy.) God likes to get into the nittygritty. He has a lot of demands and there are a lot of things that make him, the Ruler of the Universe, very angry.

In the Latter-days, God's given us a new set of nittygritty rules. Let's call it a modern-day Book of Leviticus! While the vast majority of members do not have this book in their house and are not allowed to buy it anywhere, you can study up on the ins and outs of God's demands and preferred governance right here, or here.

There's really no need to be left in the dark when it comes to official and inspired Church policies.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

God in the bedroom

I've mused before about the sacredness and beauty of sex and asked a few questions about how God likes it.

It probably doesn't come as any surprise that The Man who has billions of children strongly prefered vaginal sex and isn't traditionally a fan of contraception at all. Thank God he's changed his mind in recent years about what husbands and wives can do to each other. Now whatever the married couple feels okay with is fair game (as long as it doesn't involve more participants, if I'm not mistaken)

and about birth control:

"Decisions about birth control and the consequences of those decisions rest solely with each married couple. Elective abortion as a method of birth control, however, is contrary to the commandments of God."

I wonder what changed God's mind.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Jesus on marriage

Mormons believe that beginning with the union of Adam and Eve marriage done God's way is for eternity. Eternal marriage has become Mormonism's favorite doctrine: FAMILIES CAN BE TOGETHER FOREVER!

Imagine the frustration of all the Mormons who try to learn of ancient marriage practices from the Old Testament, where "eternal" never enters the equation,

or the Book of Mormon,

or the New Testament, where three of the four gospel writers manage to relate the same marriage lesson without significantly contradicting each other. It's the story of the Sadducees asking Jesus about couples being together in the next life. Their question is facetious, but Jesus' response is shocking (if you're a Mormon who believes in eternal marriage).

"The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven." (Matt. 22:23-30)

"Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man’s brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed. And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise. And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also. In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife. And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven." (Mark 12:18-25)

"Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him, Saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man’s brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children. And the second took her to wife, and he died childless. And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife. And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage" (Luke 20:27-35)

Jesus makes it clear: the question is ridiculous because RESURRECTED PEOPLE DO NOT HAVE SPOUSES, they're like the angels. Once again, of the seven women the man married in life, Jesus says the man will have none of them in the resurrection. Zero. No eternal marriage, according to JC.

Other translations of the New Testament might help point out that "in the resurrection, they do not take wives, neither do men have wives," but probably the most important translation is the Joseph Smith Translation. Let's take a look.

"For in the resurrection, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angel of God in heaven." (JST Matt. 22:29)

"For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels of God who are in heaven." (JST Mark 12:29)

"But they who shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, through resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage." (JST Luke 20:35)

Shit. Looks like Joseph wasn't inspired to have Jesus say something about how the man would only keep his first legitimate wife (take a look at 21-8 in the New Testament Institute Manual), or any of the others. For whatever reason, God wouldn't let his prophet foresee eternal matrimony in the early 1830s.

How disappointed will faithful Mormons be when they're resurrected as angels instead of their earthly families?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Jesus on divorce

It's very clear that Jesus would not be very happy with today's divorce practices.

"I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery." (Matt. 19:9)

JC says no divorce unless you've been cheated on and no marrying someone who's been divorced (because they're cheaters!).

I'm not sure who to doubt on this one. Do I doubt Jesus for wanting to force people to stay in unhappy relationships and for showing so little forgiveness to those who have been unfaithful to their spouse at some point? Or do I doubt the LDS Church for not following Jesus' teachings?

Divorce runs rampant in the LDS Church, just like it does in the rest of the Western World. I can't even begin to count the number of temple marriages of people I know personally that have ended in divorce - and not because of infidelity. A lot of those same people have been remarried. Is their married life a sin in Jesus' eyes? Do they not care about Jesus' words on the matter? Have they not read the New Testament? Is the Church in a sinful state for allowing divorce?

It seems the LDS Church might have created for itself a "comfortable" god and some "comfortable" doctrine, and we all know how apostle Jeff feels about that!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wow - the joke

You know what would really be funny? If the revelation currently known as the Word of Wisdom were actually a joke that has since been taken very, very seriously!

But I doubt it was a joke. I have to doubt it.

WoW - divine origins

It's pretty much clear to every Mormon that the Word of Wisdom is a inspired counsel straight from God for the benefit of all who wisely decide to heed its words. Don't use tobacco? Nailed it! Don't abuse alcohol? Nailed it! Eat your veggies? Nailed it! Eat your grains (and drink others)? Nailed it! Don't kill animals unless you have to? Nailed it!

Who cares if God's law of health missed the boat on coffee, tea, sugar, recreational drugs, prescription drug abuse, mental health, social health, physical exercise, and diligent study? And anyone who tries to argue that God's instruction on alcohol is confusing or contradictory can just shut the heck up! All that bad, confusing, or absent information can easily be rationalized away.

The bottom line is that the Word of Wisdom obviously came from a divine source. There's no way in hell Joseph Smith was simply parroting the popular tenants of the temperance movement of the 1820s and '30s! Or is there?

Maybe Joseph didn't need God for this one after all.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

WoW - mental health

Remember how the Lord finally addressed depression only six months ago? Of course, there are a number of disorders that God could have mentioned long long ago, way before last October, and yet he didn't bother. Mental and emotional disorders are nothing new, nor are they confined to human beings alone, and yet God never bothered bringing our various issues. It's almost as if our psycho-emotional well being had previously been of no interest to the Almighty otherwise he might have included a little something in his holy books and revelations. The Word of Wisdom would have been a wonderful place to address mental health. Not only did he not mention any of the common disorders people suffer from, he didn't bother mentioning the need for a loving family and trustworthy friends.

The Lord's law of health is an interesting law indeed. It makes me wonder what good prophesy and revelation are when they fail to effectively address such an important source of human suffering or warn us of things to come. When it comes to issues of mental health, God has left us entirely in the hands of modern science, medicine, and therapies.