Friday, May 29, 2015

The Land of Make-Believe

For [D. W.] Winnicott, play is acknowledged as other than reality: children grant that they are must playing. Play grants itself the right to treat a spoon as a train, and a parent is barred from asking whether the spoon really is a train. But once play is over, the train is again a mere spoon. Still, play is more than fantasy or escapism. It is the construction of a reality with personal meaning. It takes something from the everyday world - a spoon - and transforms it into something more - a train.

Mormon Barbie's sacred garments.

In Winnicott's terms, play is a 'transitional' activity. It provides a transition form childhood to adulthood, from the inner world of fantasy to outer reality, and from the known outer world to the unknown one. Just as a child clings to a physical object - a teddy bear - to create a safe world that then enables the child to explore with confidence the outside world, so an adult clings to an internalized object - a hobby, an interest, a value, or, I suggest, a myth - that then enables the adult to deal with a much wider world. Just as the child knows that the teddy bear is not Mummy yet clings to it as if it were, so the adult recognizes that the myth is not reality yet adheres to it as if it were. Myth is 'make-believe'. (Robert Segal, Myth: A Very Short Introduction, pp. 138, 139)

Mormon-style robes of the Holy Priesthood.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The temple - re-enacting myth

Robert Segal's explanation of Mircea Eliade's approach to myth strikes me as particularly applicable to Mormons' motives for enacting the endowment ceremony.

To hear, to read, and especially to re-enact a myth is magically to return to the time when the myth took place, the time of the origin of whatever phenomenon it explains:

But since ritual recitation of the cosmogonic myth implies reactualization of that primordial event, it follows that he for whom it is recited is magically projected
in illo tempore, into the 'beginning of the World'; he becomes contemporary with the cosmogony. (Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane, p. 82)

Playing Adam and Eve in the LDS temple.

... In returning one to primordial time, myth reunites one with the gods, for it is then when they are nearest, as the biblical case of 'the Lord God['s] walking in the garden in the cool of the day' typifies (Genesis 3.8) That 'reunion' reverses the post-Edenic separation from the gods and renews one spiritually:

What is involved is, in short, a return to the original time, the therapeutic purpose of which is to begin life once again, a symbolic rebirth. (Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane, p. 82)

The ultimate payoff of myth is experiential: encountering divinity. (From Myth: A Very Short Introduction, pp. 55-56)

Aaaaand... welcome to the Celestial Room!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Nauvoo Expositor

Here are a couple of very interesting facts about the whole Nauvoo Expositor fiasco.

1. The 15 resolutions the Expositor made against Joseph Smith were true. In fact, it's very difficult to find the "vicious lies" Joseph accused it of spreading.

2. Joseph Smith's order to destroy the Expositor printing press was a clear violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution - you know, the one guaranteeing the freedom of speech and of the press? That one. In other words, what Joseph and his followers did was strictly criminal (as was their practice of polygamy, by the way).

How are members supposed to justify Joseph's behavior? Where is God in all of this? What if I seriously doubt God had anything to do with any of this whole affair?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Summer reading - the best of books

Summer's almost here and I know you're all looking for some quality literature to keep the kids' brains afloat. Nothing keeps the mind sharper than reading, so let me suggest the finest of books you could possibly hope for. It's a good long read full of powerful, uplifting stuff like beheadings, theft, the electrocution of threatening siblings, rumors of wars, fort building, city fortification, vigilante justice, dirty prostitutes, deceptions, stratagems, spearing people, dismembering people, rivers of blood, sibling rivalry, family feuds, cousin killing, patricide, fratricide, infanticide, genocide, fear mongering, demonic possession, Satan, devils, magic curses, rape, endless war, cannibalism, torture, threats, coercion, murmuring, conniving, the wrath of God, divine death threats, burning people at the stake, poisoning, conspiracies, government corruption, evil freemasons, guilt mongering, talk of eternal torment, unprecedented amounts of copulation, and more.

What is this fine book, book you ask? The Book of Mormon, dear brothers and sisters!

And for any of you out there who are worried all this might be a little too much for your kids, don't worry! The fact is The Book of Mormon is written so poorly that the boredom of reading such tedious gibberish will certainly have your children zoned completely out while moving through the pages. By the middle of Alma they'll have absolutely no idea of what exactly they're reading or why.

For those of you who aren't concerned about disturbing content but are more concerned about engaging literature, read something else, like Game of Thrones.

Friday, May 8, 2015


The first miracle of Joseph Smith's new church was an exorcism. Now not all latter-day saints know what to make of exorcisms, but it's definitely a recognized practice in the New Testament, The Book of Mormon and elsewhere.

If you've heard the story of how Joseph cast a devil out of Newel Knight, there's a good chance it sounded pretty straight forward. The LDS Church, as it just so happens, likes to present its history in a clean, easy to swallow format fit for children - even if its for adults.

I, however, suggest we look at a more complete version of this miraculous exorcism as described by Dan Vogel, who takes into account a number of witness testimonies (emphasis mine).

"... when [Joseph] Smith asked him to pray, Newel begged to be excused. Like his father, he may have considered prayer to be a private matter and found his first attempt at public prayer embarrassing and difficult. Despite Smith's encouragement, Knight insisted on delaying his vocal prayer until morning when he could go into the woods.

"The next day, Knight attempted several times to pray vocally but experienced great difficulty. He began to feel a flood of emotion: anxiety, guilt, confusion, and finally panic. By the time he returned to his house, 'his appearance was such as to alarm his wife very much.' A desperate Newel anxiously asked his wife to bring Smith to him. 'I went and found him suffering very much in his mind,' Smith recalled, 'and his body acted upon in a most strange manner. His visage and limbs [were] distorted and twisted into every possible shape and appearances, and finally he was caught up off the floor of the apartment and tossed about most fearfully.' ...

"... Knight was unable to speak during his convulsions, for Smith reports that when he took hold of Knight's hand, 'almost immediately he was able to speak.'
"... Newel earnestly requested Joseph to cast the devil out of him. In front of eight or nine people who had gathered to witness the scene, Joseph said, 'If you know that I can, it shall be done.' Then Joseph rebuked the devil, commanding it 'in the name of Jesus Christ' to depart from Newell, upon which the latter 'saw the Devil leave him and vanish from his sight.'

Newel recalls levitating at this point:

"I felt myself attracted upward and remained for some time enwrapped in contemplation insomuch that I know not what was going on in the room. By and by I felt some weight pressing upon my shoulder and the side of my head; which served to recall me to a sense of my situation, and I found that the Spirit of the Lord had actually caught me up off the floor, and that my shoulder and head were pressing against the beams."

"... When Smith is brought to trial in South Bainbridge and Colesville in July 1830, Knight testifies that Smith had cast the devil out of him, but is evasive when asked to describe what the devil looked like. ... Apparently, he was less evasive in his home town, for Joel K. Noble, who presided over the trial in Colesville, remembered that Knight 'swore in open court [that] Jo. Smith cast a devil out of him ... and said how [the] devil looked. Said devil was a body of light..."

 "So I just cast it the fuck out right then and there! Easy!"

"... others remembered that Knight gave additional details. In the earliest account of the incident, [Martin] Harris said to Abner Cole in June 1830 that the devil, whom Smith had cast out of Newel, was of 'an uncommon size.' According to a later source, Joseph Knight Sr. and Josiah Stowell testified that they had seen the devil as well. Once testified that he saw 'a devil as large as a woodchuck leave the man and run across the floor,' while the other said he saw the devil leave the possessed and 'run off like a yellow dog.' neither witness said that Knight specifically described the devil's appearance, only that he had given an approximation of its size. This was confirmed by William R. Hine, a resident of Colesville, who said that Knight's testimony before Justice Noble was that 'Smith had cast three devils out of him. ... The first was as large as a woodchuck, the second was large as a squirrel, the third about the size of a rat.' When the judge asked what became of them, 'Knight said that they went out at the chimney.'" Dan Vogel, Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet, pp. 496-98.

Demon woodchucks and their pals? I fucking hate them. Floating on the ceiling in ecstasy? Fucking love it. Thoughts on whether this miracle is legit? I think I'll go eat some ice cream.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Predicting Christ's New World visit

Around 600 BC father Lehi saw a vision of Christ and his apostles. He was even told that Christ would come visit the Lehites in the New World 600 years from their departure for the new promised land.

And yet despite that very explicit prophecy for centuries the following prophets are clueless. Look at how out of touch Alma is.

Unless everyone else was as ignorant as Alma, why would anyone be impressed by Samuel the Lamanite's prophecy

Why would this be? The answer could be as simple as this: Joseph Smith didn't know how he was going to bring about the advent of Jesus in the Americas during the earlier stages of writing The Book of Mormon, but by the time he finished up Moroni and went back to replace the missing 116 pages of manuscript with what became 1 Nephi through Words of Mormon he had the whole thing figured out and could include all the appropriate prophetic details.

Sound doubtful? Good. Doubt your heart out!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Persauding men to do good

Even though there is zero evidence for the veracity of The Book of Mormon, could it still be true?

"To those in the last days who might reject the Book of Mormon, God through Moroni warns that they shall be 'accursed' (4:8). Conversely, anyone who wants to know the truth of the book is promised that 'because of my Spirit he shall know that these things are true; for it persuadeth men to do good. And whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me. I am the same that leaded men to all good' (4:11-12). In other words, since all good comes from God, and the Book of Mormon tries to persuade humankind to be righteous, it follows that the Book of Mormon is true, independent of its historicity. This statement, together with a similar one in Moroni 7, provides a glimpse into Smith's psyche, particularly the manner by which he might rationalized the use of deception. Although he felt inspired as he dictated the text, he would have known that there weren't any gold plates, and hence, no Nephites and no Jaredites. Still, he was dictating spiritual truths despite the absence of historical authenticity." Dan Vogel, Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet, pg. 348

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Nephites' Book of Mormon

We're lucky to live in a day and age when Heavenly Father has bestowed on us The Book of Mormon. There are so many unbelievable stories in there! One of the most incredible parts is that in this book about the colonization of the Americas by Jews contains within it a book about a previous colonization of the Americas by possible descendents of Ham (Noah's son) following the Tower of Babel. It's basically a Book of Mormon-like record for the people who then wrote the record that became The Book of Mormon. A Book of Mormon within a Book of Mormon, and it's called the Book of Ether! So cool.

Here's Dan Vogel on just how unbelievable the Book of Ether is:

"Moroni tells readers that he has abridged 'the twenty and four plates which were found by the people of Limhi, which is called the Book of Ether' (Ether 1:2; cf. Mosiah 8:9; 28:17-19). The book is named after the last prophet of the Jaredites, Ether, who like Moroni witnesses his people's war of total annihilation. In fact, the parallels between the two stories are so striking, down to the last battle occurring at the same hill, that Mormon writer B. H. Roberts wondered: 'is all this sober history? ... Or is it a wonder-tale of an immature mind, unconscious of what a test he is laying on human credulity?' It is puzzling why Smith would add a repetitive story to the the Book of Mormon, but it does emphasize the overall theme of his work, which is that Americans must repent or be destroyed." Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet, pg. 340.

Totally far out prophetic shit! Love it!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Second Mindfulness Training

Reading Thich Nhat Hanh's Five Mindfulness Trainings, and despite him being a Buddhist and all, the Spirit whispered to me that he's probably taken out his endowment at some point (think "time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed you or with which he may bless you" as you read this!):

"Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to cultivating loving kindness and learning ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I will practice generosity by sharing my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth." The World We Have, pp. 11-12 (alternate version here)

OK, so it's not totally LDS but the Spirit's still telling me a lot of Mormons could really get behind this. It's like, you know, one of those those fragmented bits of truth out there in all religions that fits so neatly into the whole entire Truth found within the doctrine of the Church, right? Make sense to me (kind of). Except for the fact that here it feels like Buddhism has something to add to Mormonism, rather than Mormonism adding to Buddhism.

Where in Mormon doctrine do you find explicit prohibitions of exploitation of people, animals, plants and minerals? When was the last time you heard a prophet or apostle tell you to oppose anything causing "the suffering of other species"? The best we have is an awkward statement in the Doctrine & Covenants about how the U.S. Constitution "should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh" and how slavery (in the U.S.) is bad. Even if we want to believe the Second Mindfulness Training and the verses in D&C say the same thing, the truth is Thich Nhat Hanh says it way better.

So I'd like to bear my testimony that Thich Nhat Hanh is a partial prophet who should change his ways and be baptized by true authority and be saved, and that Buddhism can sort of be right sometimes but never as right as the Church I was born into. Nham oh Jheses Christh, ahmen!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Searching online

To whomever made the first search, it seems like you might be struggling with a previous decision to have an abortion. I can only imagine how painful living with that decision could be. I hope you found something online that has helped you.

To whomever made the second search, WTF?

Keep doubting, my friends.