Why I’m happy to say “NO” to the Young Women’s program

Ladies and gentleman gathered together in this great worldwide kitchen, I would like to testify to you of that great frosty spirit that speaks to the hearts of the profet and the 12 popsicles. We often see that our messages share a theme and by that we know that the spirit of Jack Frost has delivered to us a message that is important for our lives.

Our profet shared recently how his tender feelings toward his daughter helped him make the courageous decision to leave the LDS church. When someone with children decides to abandon the LDS religion, their faithful friends and family often wonder, “What about your kids?” Dear friends and family, our kids are often the very reason why we finally leap into the great abyss of the post-Mormon world. Perhaps we could keep up appearances for our own sakes, but when we contemplate dragging our children into the murky waters of LDS doctrine and culture we realize we can pretend no longer. It is simply too dangerous to the beautiful, vibrant people they are and have the potential to become.

Our profet was not the only one thinking about his offspring over the last few days. I have three daughters in addition to my first-grade son, whom I mentioned in my inaugural post. My oldest daughter turns twelve this week. Were we still attending the LDS church that would mean Sunday she would be welcomed into the Young Women’s program. As a woman who spent six years as either an advisor or member of a Young Women’s presidency, I know the program and the culture well. With my daughter’s twelfth birthday approaching my mental wheels have been turning and this is the letter I have written to her. You can lay it side-by-side with the profet’s letters to his children and see how parental love influences those of us who turn away from the faith of our upbringing.

Dear Oldest Daughter, About to Turn 12:

Because you are the smartest, most terrifying, and most amazing girl I have ever known I will be honest with you: I am so relieved you will not be starting the Young Women’s program next week. It would have crushed the girl you are in order to make you the Mormon girl you “should be”.

In the Young Women’s program you would have learned that a woman’s place is in the home, nurturing and caring for her children, of which there should be as many as she and her husband can handle. Before you had a chance to develop dreams of your own, your future imaginings would have been molded and shaped until they involved a vague university experience, followed by a young marriage and stay-at-home motherhood.

In Young Women’s you would be taught that education is important, because someday you will be a mother and you will need an education to teachyour kids. And what if something happened to your husband and you were forced to work? What if you can’t have kids and you have nothing worthwhile to do other than work? What if you (okay, not you but someone sort of like you) got divorced and were compelled to work or face poverty? Well, then, you’d wish you’d gotten an education, right? You would learn that for a woman, a career is a backup plan and little more. Whatever your interests and passions are, whatever your intellectual or creative capabilities, nothing you can do is as important as being a mother. For some reason boys are simultaneously capable of being fathers and having careers, but for a woman that isn’t possible. A woman who works because she wants to when she has young children at home won’t do either thing well and is sinning.Frazzled-Mom-from-Jennifer-Pereyra1

You would have learned that because you are a woman you are unable to hold the priesthood. You would have been taught that it’s okay, because you’re so gentle and sweet that you don’t need any special powers to give you access to God (never mind that no one in their right mind would ever call you gentle and sweet, dear spitfire daughter of mine). You would have learned that to question the division of leadership in the church on strictly male/female lines would be to question the prophet, yea, even God himself, and that would be horribly wrong, so you should never do it.  Men have the priesthood, women have motherhood, and that’s all there is to it.

You would have learned that your body is something to be hidden, maybe even something to be ashamed of, and that it is a horrible thing to let other people see it, especially boys. Red Sweater

Because boys, in all their mysteriousness, are unable to control their thoughts when they see a girl in a sleeveless shirt. You would be responsible for boys’ thoughts. And if boys have bad thoughts they might do bad things, like masturbate, look at pornography or attempt to “neck” or “pet” with you. You would learn that your clothing determines the way boys treat you and you deserve whatever treatment you get.  

You would have learned that it’s okay for an adult male you don’t really know to meet with you in a small room and ask you questions about sex. You would believe that if you ever touched a boy or let a boy touch you, you would need to go alone into a room with this man and tell him everything you and that boy did. In detail. Because that would be the only way you could be forgiven of such a horrible sin.

You would have learned that sexual sin is the sin next to murder. That’s because sexual feelings can lead to the creation of another human being, and is the means by which God sends his special spirits down to earth, and that any act that incites sexual feelings is a sin. As your body begins to develop normally and sexual feelings emerge in all new, powerful ways you would be told that those feelings are bad unless you are married. And don’t go thinking that just because you can’t sexually explore another human being you are allowed to sexually explore yourself in the meantime. Oh no. All of that, your body, the other person’s body, all of it, must remain a total mystery until your wedding night. And then you will have the most sacred, amazing, spiritual sex and Heavenly Father will be so happy.

You would be taught that homosexuality is a grave sin and that same sex marriage is a major threat to your beliefs and the future of civilized society. You would learn that someone who is gay probably chooses to be gay. But being gay is okay, sort of, if the person never, ever acts on those feelings. A gay person must live his or her life in complete romantic isolation, with no hope of romantic partnership or sexual release. Difficult as that would be, it would be worth it because then the gay person could go to heaven where Heavenly Father would cure his or her homosexuality.

In Young Women’s you would be taught that marriage is your ultimate end-goal. Once you have dated a boy for a few weeks and are ready to be wed, the temple is the only place on earth that you should get married. Your wedding there will be the most amazing day of your life and a wedding anywhere else would be a bitter disappointment. You would learn that it’s okay if some of your friends or family members can’t be there because they aren’t active, tithe-paying, worthy members of the LDS church. That’s a choice they make and if that means they can’t see their child/sibling/grandchild/best friend be married, then so be it. It’s their own fault. You would learn that the only way for you to be with your family again is to be married in the temple. You would not learn beforehand what promises you would make. You would not be prepared for anything you would see or do once you are inside and you would not be able to discuss what goes on in the temple with anyone, thus leaving you to ponder your concerns for years, all the while believing there is something wrong with you because you don’t “get it”. You would be taught that if you are married in the temple, and you and your husband and all your kids stay righteous then you will be together forever. Anyone who screws up will be left out of heaven. Making bad choices or turning your back on the LDS faith means that you lose your family forever.

You would learn that you got to come to earth and be in a Mormon family as a reward for being so good and righteous in the pre-existence. This means wonderful things for you. You might at times question what that says about people who are born in third-world countries without the LDS church. You wouldn’t think too much about it but you would realize that on some level that makes you superior to them. You’d feel bad for them but you’d know they deserve what they’re getting right now. Maybe you would hope to go on a mission and teach them so they could be happy like you.

You would learn that you are happy. No one else is happy like you are happy. If ever you think you feel sad, you don’t. You have the one true gospel, the knowledge of whom you are, why you are here, and where you are going and this makes you blissful. It makes you happy when you don’t get to hang out with other kids who aren’t LDS. It makes you happy when you turn down a perfectly nice boy that you really want to go out with because you’re only 15 years and 11 months old. It makes you happy when you are sleep deprived from getting up 2 hours earlier than every other teenager at school so you can go to seminary at 5:30 a.m. It makes you happy to have extra callings, 4-5 hours of weekly church meetings, Young Womanhood recognition award goal-setting, scripture study, temple trips, constant example-setting and family home evening on top of the usual 7-hour school day, 2 hours of nightly homework, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, and social engagements of the average teenager. You are happy even though you are exhausted and stressed and always worried that you’re not good enough and you may never make it to the Celestial Kingdom. You are happy. You are happy. You are happy.11949864631307763657smiley107.svg.med

You would learn that if you want to have a testimony of something you should bear your testimony of that thing, even if you don’t believe it’s true yet. If you want to know if something is true you pray about it. If you don’t get the answer that it’s true you keep praying about it. Maybe you fast and study your scriptures more. If you still don’t get the right answer it’s probably because you’ve done something wrong and you need to repent so you can feel the Spirit. So you repent, pray, read, fast and bear testimony and if you still don’t get the answer that it’s true then maybe you just need to set it aside for a while until some later day when you’ll understand things better. You would learn that the church is always right and if the spirit doesn’t tell you that then you will always be wrong.

You would learn that to think differently is to be wrong. You would learn that on many issues you don’t have to think much at all because the prophet has told you what is right. You would learn that you cannot question the prophet, or the 12 apostles, or the stake president, or the bishop. The only person you are allowed to doubt and question is yourself.

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So because I love you I am happy that next week you’ll be home with me on Sunday morning, making waffles or playing basketball in the driveway, not walking into the Young Women’s room at church and reciting the Young Women’s theme and swallowing the Young Women’s messages. I want so much better for you than all of that.

 

To My Children

do it for herTonight I realized one of the effects of my disaffection. My 9 year old daughter came into my room and told my wife and I that when they discussed the history of Utah and how the Mormons settled it she felt uncomfortable. Being in a small town in the north end of the state, her class is probably 99% Mormon. She is our youngest, baptized into the church not long before my shelf collapsed to the point of no repair.

I told her that she should be proud of her heritage, for she comes from those pioneers that were willing to make great sacrifices for the things they felt were true. I told her it is tough sometimes when you feel left out of the group and being the only one in class that doesn’t go to church doesn’t make her a bad person, just different. I let her know if she ever wanted to attend our local ward, I’d go with her and be her support as well. We talked about how all churches for the most part generally want to help people be better people and that for the most part, people in their religion feel like they are doing the right thing in their beliefs.

After we talked a bit, she seemed relieved and gave me big hug and went to get ready for bed. I sat pondering that exchange for a while remembering words my sister once said to me after I confessed my loss of faith to my parents and siblings. She asked, “What are you going to tell your kids? What are you going to teach them?” At that time I told her my wife and I would let them decide on their own what religious or non religious path they would take.  We certainly didn’t feel it right to indoctrinate our kids into the church at a young age even though it is something the church explicitly expects of parents. We would support them and guide them to the ability to think and choose for themselves. After this discussion with my little girl, I certainly pondered again the consequences of my actions in terms of being a father and an example to my children.

Our biggest concern with regard to our kids’ belief or lack thereof was the social stigma attached to those that have left the faith. Utah is very cliquish in its schools and not being part of the ‘in’ crowd can be rough. And believe me, you can’t get much more out of the ‘in’ crowd than you do by leaving the church. Even the never-been-a-mormon kids have it better off because they are potential converts to the church. Inactive members have it better too because they are just lost or “wandering in the mists of darkness” searching for the “iron rod.” Literally though, heaven help the person that openly questions the doctrine or points out the illogic of the religion. They are the fallen ones.  They are the lost elect that were once part of the tribe and are now exiled.  They are the Korihor, whom believers tied up, cursed, shunned and eventually trampled to death. (see Alma 30)

So my point is that one of our most stressful considerations is how our children will be treated. Will this be rough on my kids living in the Mormon corridor? There is no doubt in my mind that it will. So why would I write this blog? Why do I speak out? There are those in the church that would call me a false prophet, sent to deceive the very elect.  From the LDS perspective that is literally what I am. For the love of Fridge, I even declared myself a profet (albeit sarcastically) to prove the idea that anyone can do so. From the inside of the religion my kids could have a rough go of it, simply because their dad says what he does. I realized tonight that I owe them each an explanation. They each deserve to know why I write what I do. Personally, I feel I am better at communicating my thoughts in writing than in person and I hope you all won’t mind that I declare here my reasons why I do what I do for each of them individually. I hope that someday in the future they will look back and read all that I have posted and know I did it for them.

To all my kids:
The number one reason I speak up, is I believe it is the right thing to do. If I didn’t feel it was important to reveal truth and teach what is real I wouldn’t do this at all. Truth is simply truth.  Deception, no matter how noble the justification, is still deception. Even unintentional deception leads a person to a false premise, and once that is discovered, I strongly believe a just and good person would do something to correct it. I follow the council of a primary song that I learned as a child: Do what is right, let the consequence follow. Why the Fridge? Well kids, I also believe in a healthy sense of humor and sarcasm as a teaching tool. We have always been a laughing family that has faced tough things with both of these implements. I mean no sacrilege to others’ beliefs.  I see the value of enshrining good principles into people’s lives, even though in my eyes it looks like myth.  Each of you children mean the world to me. I believe, more than ever before, that you are the greatest chance of my own immortality as your own children will be yours. The one way I am confident people live on in this world is via their posterity, and I couldn’t be more blessed than I am with mine. I want you each to know that there are also reasons that apply to each of you personally and individually, with regard to my decision to leave the religion that I once loved.

To my oldest, the inventor:
I knew you struggled with the veracity of the church.  I knew that I had taught you everything that in essence indoctrinated you into the belief system that just wasn’t logical when tested. If you stopped believing and returned from your mission early, I couldn’t bear the thought of you feeling all alone and disgraceful for doing what you saw as right. I got you into this mess and I certainly wasn’t going to leave you there alone. You have a tremendous gift to create, Son, and I am sure you will create wonderful things that will make the world a better place. I needed to show you by example that integrity is a virtue in its own right and even when its tough to do so, you should honor it.

To my second son, the soccer star:
To you I would say, I felt it important that you know it is good to correct yourself, even if you have to admit you made a mistake. One day you may become a doctor or even a politician.   Whatever you choose, you can certainly become it. You already know hard work pays off, so pick a direction, work hard and make your dreams come true. I want you to know that just because lots of people believe something, that doesn’t make it right.  So don’t be worried about fitting in when you were born to stand out!

To my middle child, the brilliant gamer:
Son you are brilliant.  Many things that others struggle with come easy to you. You are a lucky kid. One day you may be an awesome programmer, or you might use your ability to debate to become a lawyer. Like your older brothers, you have it within you to be whatever you choose. Tonight I watched you help your sister when she felt down and depressed. This is a good thing. I would like you to know that my reason for you is that I want you to know that people of all beliefs or no beliefs at all are good people. The good things that are in all religions are what the individuals bring to them. Please remember that even though they will credit God or their church, it is people themselves that make good things happen to other people. I hope you will always watch out for those in need and help whenever you can.

To my youngest son, the charmer:
Everyone is your friend my son, cause you are just so darn likable! Of all our kids health wise, you have been dealt the toughest hand. Physical struggles are often very hard to overcome.  We are much alike in that way and I know for a fact that changing your body and making it into what you want is possibly one of the hardest difficulties to overcome. My reason to you is so you know that there are truths about health that real science has proven.  The enshrined revelation on health (the Word of Wisdom) got several things wrong, and the interpretations that came after, even more so. I want you to know that it’s alright to learn new things and challenge the status quo–to check out things for yourself. You don’t need to take another person’s word for it. Find out on your own terms! Don’t let anyone tell you what can’t be done.  Instead, go about  doing it.

To my daughter, the strong willed:
You, my dear girl, are very outspoken and decisive–much like your mother. I want you to know you are a key reason that I felt the need to speak up. You see, the LDS church is very patriarchal.  This means that if you are a male, things are pretty good. I might have simply toed the line if you hadn’t come along after your four older brothers. But I have watched many an outspoken, strong-willed female eventually buckle under the impossible  expectations of women in the church. I watched your mom go from her outspoken and confident self when we first married to a depressed and indecisive person that always felt she was never quite good enough. Once we stepped back from church she regained her former self. You are a lot like her, my darling daughter.  I don’t ever wish you to feel you aren’t good enough to be a leader, a mom, a veterinarian or any other dream you may have. Your role in the world is yours to define! I want you to know that you have every bit as much as your brothers to offer the world. Become the person you want to be. When I think of you, my youngest, I think of my favorite Simpsons episode where Homer does the difficult thing for his little girl. He did it for her. I might be an outcast due to my unbelief, and you might feel left out at times because of your association with me, but in the long run, I do it for you. Because I think in the long run it is better that you have the opportunity to know truth on your own terms and not have someone else’s concept of what is ideal indoctrinated into you.

To all my kids:
A smart man once said,

“All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” [Edmund Burke]

We should not support deception once we uncover it. It’s a fine line to walk though, because to some, exposing it is very offensive. I hope to exercise caution in my approach, and to use humor and kindness to explain where I am coming from. If my outspokenness ever causes you pain, please tell me. I will endeavor to correct it in order to eliminate the angst it causes you. Because there is one church teaching that I will always agree with: Family is #1 in importance, and you are mine. There is a saying on our living room wall that your mom and I put there which declares the goal we set when we moved in. “Make our home a place to run to and not from” That goal drives me. It drives your mom. We only want the best for you. We love you more than anything. I love you more than anything. That is what I want you, my children, to know.

Everything is Awesome and Everyone is Special, the Truth of Lego

Why is it religion is so prevalent in todays highly scientific society? Is it a sign there is a God of some sort that is fundamentally part of the universe or could there be an alternate explanation. For 98% of my life I have believe the former to be the case. Lately though I have been considering alternate theories. What does that have to do with Lego’s? Is probably what you are asking. Don’t worry we’ll get there. 🙂

Venturing out my own relatively new hypothesis1  I think the reason for religious belief always comes down to feelings, at some point in our lives we experience a oneness with the universe or God whatever it may be. Often times this comes after a long struggle to figure out the whole reason we are even here on this planet. Why does that happen?

I think one day we look up at the stars and realize in the big picture we are an insignificant spec on a insignificant marble in on the edge of a backwater galaxy in the middle of nowhere in the universe. This feeling makes us desperately want to be special. We seek that out via prayer and by studying scriptural texts, we look to gurus, prophets and leaders to help us find that special thing. Then something clicks and for a moment we feel like the most special thing around. Whichever book we happen to have open when this happens becomes our true reference, our faith and that which we cling to. It is in our nature to do this. That’s why even false prophets will be followed in the right circumstance.

A corollary to this idea is that if you are raised in a particular culture your spiritual awakening will most likely involve the book of that culture. If on the off chance you never clicked with your culture you might find that piece of specialness in another one and become a convert to that culture. Your awakening will often coincide with a difficult time in your life, the loss of a loved one or the struggle to overcome an addiction. These are impulses that drive us to these grand questions of why. Most often the answers to why are found in one religion or another. Because religions are an effort to formalize these feelings and deal with them. People that share common outlooks group together and add substance and ceremony to the concepts they propagate and in doing so imbue them with meaning.

It is fairly easy to see the illogic in the cultures that do not represent your internal truth where you found the answers to why in our search. You almost think it silly that a person believes what they do as a muslim or even atheist and are sure you know better. If only they could see the light you think smugly. This illusion of insight leads to conflict between belief systems.

You readily apply logic and reason to others beliefs that you simply ignore when is comes to your own. Sometimes a person steps back and applies the same logic equally to all the religion she investigates and ends up becoming spiritual but not religious, agnostic or even atheist. But even the most militant atheist though looks at the same night sky and comes to the conclusion that by whatever chance happened in the universe he or she is damn lucky to be here and now, enjoying the sky and thus feeling special. However, along with the feeling of being special comes the desire to be vindicated.

That is where the trouble comes in, desiring vindication is also a human trait. We want to be right. I know I do, if I say I can do something and others say I can’t, that is the single biggest motivation for me to get it done. We loath being wrong, this is well known in religions as well, they call it being puffed up in pride. Some call it arrogance and recognizing the dangers of it promote humility. If we can learn to take our personal perspective with a huge grain of salt we will soon realize there is beauty in all viewpoints whether they are true religion from our perspective or not.

That is where Legos come in, this last weekend I saw the new Lego movie. The hero of the story was special, He was even call the special, he was prophesied to come to pass, and yet the prophecy was made up. The magic of that moment was circular, it didn’t matter if the belief was founded in reality or not, the act of believing made the outcome real. The one place unassailable circular logic exists that even the most ardent realist with agree with you is this.  When we believe we are special, we really are special and that affects us in a positive way. (so long as we don’t get too arrogant about it ;))

Even the most ardent atheist wants to feel special, they want to make a difference, this is a human trait, not a religious one. A very religious man I met not long ago, die hard defender of the LDS faith told me once that his atheist friends viewed every moment of this life as a gift, much more so than his religious ones. I know the feeling, once you accept the idea this just might be the only dance you get it makes you want to do the best with it you can. For me that means in no small part making it a great place for my posterity. To me that is one way I can be special, by setting the stage for those that come after me, giving them the chance to reach higher than I did, hoping they might stand on my efforts to learn without fear and progress in knowledge.

Being naturally skeptical though certainly kicks the old feeling of special right in the gut every now and then. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be the one to fulfill the prophecy or the one to be the hero and change the world. As one who just isn’t really sure about God and is definitely convinced all religion is myth, I’d like to say that the beauty of religion for me is the promotion of the idea that you are special and you can achieve the dreams you set your mind too. I see it as a myth, but for me so is Santa Clause and he still makes people feel the spirit of giving every year.

Even if believing we are special is for a made up reason, it is still a reason to be special and that is a good thing. To me this concept found in a movie about legos promotes the very idea that the church of the Fridge was founded on. That or maybe its just my own confirmation bias kicking in, either way I think it is pretty awesome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. I realize that my ideas on this subject are likely not really anything new and there are probably others out there saying much the same thing, so if you have to, consider them new to me.

Time…Isn’t It About Family?

I love my family, not just my own wife and kids, I dearly love my parents, siblings, in-laws and numerous cousins as well. There are some I’m closer to than others, some I see more often and some not so much. Some I hardly ever see and some I have never met. We really are a numerous clan, the first cousins alone number in the hundreds. On my wife’s side her parents are converts. On my side of the family as far as I know everyone is a member, we go back five generations to the very beginning of the church. It’s not a family name that is commonly associated with Mormon royalty, but when you dig through history it pops up in various locations, such as the conversions in Salem where the church went looking for gold, sharing homes with such well known names as Lorenzo Snow, and being there when Brigham Young took on the appearance of Joseph Smith.

My great, great, great grandpa converted to the church back when it was very small. For doing this he was disowned by his family and rejected by his friends. After baptism he sacrificed much of his personal wealth for nascent religion and ended up dying of illness at winter quarters. He even warranted an ensign article for his contributions. I am confident that he did so because he believed he was doing the right thing. His oldest son at at age 18 brought his mother, an amazing woman in her own right and 11 children across the plains with the pioneers without a father to help them along. He had a son that founded homesteads in both Utah and Oregon. His son, my grandpa died in an accident when I was very young. I remember members of my family remarking about how the haystack that fell on him looked as though a giant hand had pushed it over and how God must have needed him back in heaven. And you have already read about the courage and bravery my father has taught me.  You can see I come from a long line of strong willed men and women. People willing to sacrifice and even die for their beliefs, willing to take the heat for their integrity.

In the church we often applaud the new convert that is willing to suffer the gossip from their own family members, we tell them they are brave and courageous to testify about what they know to be true in spite of the fact their family considers them a lost soul or a sinner or even just crazy to follow the Mormon religion. Their rebellion to what they were taught is celebrated as a good thing. But one man’s rebel is another mans traitor. Now that I am the one declaring openly the things that I have found to be true, it’s most definitely not celebrated. Why? Because the truths that I reveal contradict long held beliefs.

How do I know this? Because I once held those same beliefs. I know the church teaches the person that left only does so out of sin and some need to justify their un-pious ways. I know the holy book at the core of the religion draws a ‘you are either with me or against me line in the sand. Simply put, there is no reasonable reason to ever leave the church from the inside, to do so is as culturally as disloyal as it gets. From my families point of view, I’m not the rebel my ancestor was, I am a traitor to the family. There are some hints in the church of willingness to change this. It’s difficult because the concept is reinforced in scripture. But in the last general conference, Elder Uctdorf contradicting the canonized reasons for leaving the faith said:

“Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended or lazy or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple.”

He goes on in his talk to obliquely say that there could be other perspectives when a person researches the history that could lead to doubt and unbelief in the foundational claims of the church. Then comes the famous doubt your doubts meme that flooded LDS social media last October. That meme was so popular that I think the average member totally missed this tidbit:

“In this Church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth.” -Elder Utchdorf

Please consider the idea that my conclusions have come from an honest search for truth. I am proud even now of the strength of character that my relatives have shown in standing up for truth the way they see it, do you really think I would turn my back on them just to get an extra day off in the week and a 10% raise? It broke my heart to come to the conclusion that I was mistaken, that the promises of the church to families were simply made up philosophies of men. I desperately wanted it to be true, more than anything. But being completely honest with myself if I judged the truth of this religion with the same critical eye I did others, it had no more validity than those I believed were founded on the philosophies of men mingled with scripture.

From my perspective I really did discover that it simply wasn’t historically true, it might teach good things and even today I still love many of the doctrinal concepts. But I honestly do not think it was started by God himself as I was once taught. I realize that you disagree, I realize you still have faith and I respect that, I still remember what it was like to have that unshakeable belief. I hope that my friends, families and all those that know me will please give me and my family the benefit of the doubt on this thing and possibly accept that from my perspective I didn’t leave because I was hoping to sin or couldn’t handle the commitment. From my perspective my beliefs changed for very valid reasons.

If you need to, put me on your shelf, hope that you might understand my perspective sometime in the future. I know that considering the possibility I may have a point and legitimate reason for leaving is uncomfortable, so shelve me and my reasons if you need to so that you don’t assume the reasons I left. Consider the fact that church leaders already advocate this shelving of the uncomfortable truths rather than dwell on them.

“Sometimes questions arise because we simply don’t have all the information and we just need a bit more patience. When the entire truth is eventually known, things that didn’t make sense to us before will be resolved to our satisfaction.” -Elder Utchdorf

If you want to keep believing I truly think this is the best possible thing for you to do. For me personally, listening to the dictates of my own conscious, I felt I was being dishonest to myself. More so the more I set things aside and chose to ignore them. At the same time I think I can understand the effort and leap of faith that a person takes in doing that very thing. The reason I feel I am qualified to understand this is that I took that same leap for years. But how long should we ignore the obvious? Forever? How many doubts should we shelve? All of them? At what point is enough enough and we are willing to think critically about our own presumptions? I know that many of my family members complimented me on my faithfulness for many years before my shelf collapsed. There wasn’t doubt back then that I was fully convinced of the truth of the church and completely willing to make the sacrifices required by it.

I think this is why it is disheartening to me to learn that a year after I opened up to my family that the gossip about why I left still goes on. Some still think it was a dark reason, that I was fooled and went down this path because I wanted to sin, because I needed to justify my own desires. This simply isn’t true, not from my perspective.

If you really think that is the case, please have the respect to talk to me face to face about it. I’d love the chance to answer the question why of my own accord rather than have it assumed. Ask me why I concluded what I did. I will do my best to explain it without offending you. Sure my viewpoints are now different, I don’t see sin from the same perspective as you anymore, my morals are dictated internally and I bet on the all the major facts we still agree. For me this change is part of learning and progression. I realize you still feel the pain of losing a son or brother or cousin to the ‘dark side’. I can feel the sadness of your perspective because I once shared it.

Sometime after opening up about my disbelief I found out that I have cousins that have been warned to not associate with me, why does this happen? Why is it about family right up until we don’t believe the same thing? Can’t you see this thought comes from the religion? Can’t you see you are being taught by the doctrine to think that way? We have zealous genes in our DNA, I know that we tend to dive in with both feet when we commit to something. It is that commitment that causes us to internalize the doctrine that leads to this treatment of family members. It is that same zealous DNA we share that drives me to speak up about things I have found out, doing so even though I know it means being branded as an outcast and a pariah. If you don’t believe my search for truth was honest please ask me about it, give me the chance to explain in private message, in person or however you wish please give me the chance to make my case before you assume the worst, that is all I ask. If you can’t bring yourself to ask, then please put me on your shelf and hope to understand one day.

In my last post I indicated a truth that I felt makes a lot of sense to me, made by a completely fabricated person named Obi Wan Kenobi. Just because he is a fictional character doesn’t mean we can’t realize the value in this statement.

obi wan

 

That value is recognizing there is a different point of view, one that if we strive to see it will help us understand that person better. Sure it means some risk to our closely held beliefs. We may be afraid that we might end up like them, it is possible they might be right about some of the issues. But if we don’t try to learn why they came to the conclusion they did and instead just  gossip about it aren’t we denying them the very benefit of the doubt that we would want if the situation were reversed? I have a good friend and we grab lunch together every week often we talk about religion, he believes what I don’t and yet we are able to have meaningful dialog and understand each other better. I think we have become much closer friends now than we ever were because of this simple fact, we reason together both seriously and jokingly. It is possible to completely disagree and still respect another persons point of view. It is possible to joke and even mock each others position when you know that the reason you are talking is because you desire to understand each other better. When you realize that you aren’t criticizing the person when you criticize the belief that is how you have meaningful dialog. Dogma can be questioned, your sincerity cannot. Not when you trust a person.

Of course that is my own point of view. I can see how others would take it in ways it wasn’t ever meant to. To some the very premise of this blog is sacrilege. It takes deeply held beliefs and puts them in a silly light using sarcastic humor. There are several people now that post on the door of the Fridge, we keep in semi anonymous (it really isn’t all that hard to figure out who is the creator of it) because we feel the concepts are universal and don’t apply to a single individual, we keep it silly because we never ever want to be taken too seriously. The whole point is to question what you have always assumed and be open to learning new things.

The greatest lost to humanity is when smart, intelligent people think they already have it all figured out and stop looking for more. It is that desire to reach, that desire to go beyond our own bounds that makes humanity special. It is the ability to have faith that contrary to what the majority in your own community thinks that you could be onto something new, something that can make the world a better place. Look past the rails of your preconceived notions, get outside the box you were born in and start thinking for yourself. It matters not if it is the Fridge you believe in, or Christianity or Islam or Secular Humanism or any other of the 20 plus major religious categories or hundreds of sects we have created to differentiate our beliefs. If it helps you be a better person, that is a good thing. When it tears apart families due to differences, that is not so good. If it seems like I am saying take your own religion with a grain of salt, I am.

Grain of Salt
The mormon religion historically has been a very black and white faith, recently however they are becoming more moderated, in essence by example the church is pointing out even their scriptures can’t be taken too seriously and can be ignored and disavowed if the ideas lead to bad stuff. Maybe this is a sign that more moderate heads are prevailing in the leadership, maybe it is a reaction to the growing loss of believers from their ranks. We don’t really know. But pointing out that even the guys you are taught trust implicitly don’t always channel the word of God, that they don’t require your undying loyalty in spite of it going against your better judgement is a good thing. The articles the church keeps slipping into the limelight lend to the idea that when the prophet speaks, the thinking is NOT done. Consider this, if the scripture that said skin color was a curse can be disavowed then is it really too much to let go of the holy writ that declares all those that leave the faith sinners and lost souls? Is it really wrong to give your own family the benefit of the doubt?

The world at large will be a better place the more we learn how to get along in spite of our differences. I may have lost my faith in an all powerful being guiding us along a path to greatness, but I still have faith that humanity at large is destined for exactly that because of the amazing beings that we are. So you see while our faith may differ in the driving cause, we both believe the future can be great. What do you say? Shall we start from there?

 

 

 

The One True Church of Internet Mormons

“If you want to know what a Mormon believes, you should ask a Mormon, not a critic or a book or anything else.” -Every Mormon ever

“Don’t tell me what I believe.” -Also every Mormon ever

I want to make it clear, with no uncertainty, what Mormons believe with respect to “the true church.” Fortunately for Mormons, I am one and have been for many years, so not only am I qualified to answer questions on Mormon belief, but I can also tell Mormons what they believe with respect to their core doctrines.

I’ve been a part of a number of debates recently with some Mormons online who express a more liberal belief, wherein they insist that it’s acceptable in God’s eyes for a person to follow whatever they feel God tells them. That sounds great to most religious people in general, but that is not what Mormons believe.

I can just hear some Mormons shouting right now, “Oh yes it is! You are a liar!” Dear Mormon, allow me to remind you of what you actually believe.

Say I’m investigating your church and the Baptist church at the same time. I read the Bible and Book of Mormon both in their entirety. I reach the point where I need to ask God which church I should join. I ask sincerely, with real intent, having faith that God will answer, and he does. And he tells me I need to be a Baptist.

Now, more and more “Internet Mormons” when they hear stories like that are responding, “That’s great! You need to follow that path!” And I agree with them, personally. If you have an experience in which you feel very strongly that you should follow a particular spiritual path, and it’s not harming you or anyone else, then you should follow it if you feel so inclined. But that is not what the Mormon church teaches. The Mormon church teaches:

“And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, … the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased…” -God Himself 1

They also believe that the LDS church is the only church with authority from God to perform essential saving ordinances that allow one to live in God’s presence. 2 They teach that you absolutely cannot live in God’s presence if you live your life as a Baptist doing good your entire life, but refusing to ever be a Mormon (now or in the eternities) because you feel you’re following what God has told you. They also believe that God would never tell someone to join another church and stay there forever if they met with the Mormon missionaries, read the Mormon scriptures, and sincerely wanted to know which church is God’s true church, but yet that has happened to many, many people in this world. To make sure I wasn’t insane and that the church didn’t change its doctrines to agree with what Internet Mormons are claiming, I chatted with a few missionaries to get the truth:

MissionaryChat

This LDS doctrine that God has only one truth and only one church has become a point of dissonance for many Internet Mormons because they want so dearly for the idea that people can follow any spiritual path they want to be true. They want it to be true because that’s what a loving compassionate person would believe. That’s what mainstream religions teach. But Mormonism is not a mainstream religion – it does not teach that. If it did, there would be little need for temples (specifically proxy ordinances for the dead). Mormon missionaries’ instructions would be completely different. Many of the church’s other required teachings would of necessity be different as well, such as tithing, the Word of Wisdom, Sabbath observance, etc., because once you allow people to believe in whatever god or religion they want, you have to allow them to believe in whatever religious teachings they want across the board.

Mormonism is a very rigid dogmatic religion at its core today. You are expected to follow what the prophet says and maintain a current temple recommend, which requires you to follow a strict set of rules and beliefs that other religions would not require. 3 And if you don’t follow them, you are risking your eternal salvation.

For any Mormons out there that disagree with me, I suggest you try this: leave the church. Live your life in service to others doing more good than you ever have, but without Mormonism. If you did that, how would your family react? How would your ward friends react? How would your bishop and stake president react? You know exactly how they’d react. They would not be ok with you following that path, even if you felt God specifically told you to follow it, and you know it.

To be clear, I think it is wonderful that so many Mormons are accepting of other viewpoints and spiritual paths these days. But when they proclaim to non-Mormons that they believe their spiritual path is good as long as they follow what God tells them, they are contradicting their own missionaries. You will never hear Mormon missionaries tell their investigators to not join the Mormon church in favor of another church. So if you’re a Mormon and think people should follow whatever path God tells them to follow, you need to either get in line with what your prophet says or you need to start believing and proclaiming that the LDS church is not the one true church, and that “cafeteria Mormonism” is acceptable at all levels of church leadership and belief. It’s time Mormons own up to what they believe about their own church. The Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley said:

“the Church … will expect loyalty from those who profess membership therein.” 4

I don’t care if you’re an uptight chapel Mormon or the most liberal Internet Mormon. GBH loyaltyOwn your religion. According to church leaders you can’t be lukewarm. In the same talk referenced above the prophet of the church said: 

“They who are not for me are against me” (2 Ne. 10:16)

“Each of us has to face the matter—either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.”

Bear in mind, I’m not the one telling you this – it’s your leaders that are saying it. If you disagree with your leaders you are essentially a Korihor like the rest of us. If you believe these guys are called of God then you’d better fall in line and be loyal. Because according to your own religion’s holy books and leaders you can’t have it both ways.

  1. See D&C 1:30
  2. See Handbook 2: Administering the Church
  3. To my knowledge, the church does not publicly publish its temple recommend questions, but they can be found over at MormonThink.com
  4. See President Hinckley’s talk entitled Loyalty

The Withering Lamanite Rose and The Meaning of Truth

Something bothered me about the recent LDS article on DNA and the Book of Mormon but I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it. That, coupled with the fact there were about 20 different takes on it in outer blogness the Sunday it released, kept me from putting keyboard to the inter webs till now. Over and the article rolled around in my noodle as I tried to figure out what was bugging me. Then I realized it, the Lamanite promise that they would blossom like the rose has been washed into the past along with all the other doctrines that the church is so readily disavowing these days.

“The day of the Lamanites is nigh. For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised. In this picture of the twenty Lamanite missionaries, fifteen of the twenty were as light as Anglos; five were darker but equally delightsome. The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation…. At one meeting a father and mother and their sixteen-year-old daughter were present, the little member girl-sixteen sitting between the dark father and mother, and it was evident she was several shades lighter than her parents on the same reservation, in the same Hogan, subject to the same sun and wind and weather. There was the doctor in a Utah city who for two years had had an Indian boy in his home who stated that he was some shades lighter than the younger brother just coming into the program from the reservation. These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and delightsomeness. One white elder jokingly said that he and his companion were donating blood regularly to the hospital in the hope that the process might be accelerated.”

– Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, General Conference, Oct. 1960

Why does this matter to me? Probably because it affects a brother I had once, a foster brother I suppose you would have called him. His name was Kim, he came from the Indian reservation. Our family welcomed him into our home with loving arms.  He was part of a church sponsored Indian placement program. It was to help them blossom as the rose; it was a BIG deal during my formative years as you can see by this Ensign article. Eventually Kim went back home, I don’t remember why. I don’t know if that program was temporary or not and I don’t know if living with us for the time he did affected him or not; I do know it was the first time I was exposed to a very different culture than my own. Things that were normal to him seemed odd to me. That was a good thing, I think I realized then what Ben Kenobi meant when he gave Luke this advice after he found out that his mentor had lied to him about his father being dead.

Obi-Wan: Your father… was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and “became” Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true… from a certain point of view.

Luke: A certain point of view?

Obi-Wan: Luke, you’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.

Kim liked to sleep in and moved slowly, something that in his culture was normal. To us it just seemed lazy. We tried to make him ‘better’ by instilling our values. Looking back now I realize that being taken from your home and placed with strangers was likely very upsetting. You see my point of view has changed. My point of view then was Kim was a Lamanite and we needed to help him blossom. Nowadays though it’s all different, the curse of skin color has been completely disavowed even though it is canonized in LDS scripture  as the word of God. The DNA article seems to say there weren’t really that many Lamanites to begin with, and besides we couldn’t even tell anything by DNA anyways. (Other than the fact we trust DNA in our courts to convict people and prove fatherhood) For a missionary that preached the gospel to the Mayan version of the Lamanites this pulling back is a big deal. You see the Lamanites weren’t just the the American indians, by the end of the 80’s they were all the natives in Central and South America as well. We preached to them that they were the ones in the promise, the ones to blossom as the rose. We didn’t know back then that there wasn’t a stitch of Jewish DNA in the whole lot of them. The apologists that came up with this latest article would have been better off trying to say the BoM meant DNA when it said skin color and that is what God was going to change in the Lamanites.

Unfortunately though, the recent changes to the scriptures had already set the course of downplaying the impact of Lamanites in society today. For the love of Fridge there was even a Lamanite Apostle at one time in the church till he was kicked out. These days we get the uber white Utchdorf instead of a little color at general conference.  Lamanites have gone from being all the Indians everywhere 1 to we aren’t really sure any trace of them is left. The DNA article says the Book of Mormon doesn’t claim all these indians were progeny of the Lamanites, and they are sorta right, It was in fact the prophet that gave us the book that made that claim as you can see by what is written in his journalI just don’t see any way around it, the simple fact appears to be as far as the church is concerned. The Lamanite rose is withering.

So what does this have to do with truth? Well that takes us back to Obi Wan. It depends on your point of view, from the current church’s point of view, with all these essays, they are trying to come clean as fast as they can. I’m confident there are many honest upright leaders in the church today that are hopeful of doing this as smoothly as possible while at the same time trying to not upset stalwart members testimonies. I am sure from their point of view it is the only way they can approach the topic. Because for them the church is true, messed up, screwed up sure, but true none the less.

From another point of view though, they aren’t coming clean fast enough; as you can see by the recent lawsuit and this open letter:

http://www.mormonopenletter.com

It invites all to register their concerns for more truth and openness in the church (nearly 1000 signatures at the time of this post). From their point of view things like tithing and how it is used is a big deal in terms openness. My thoughts are if the church wants to hold onto its members that stay for the good works it does even if they have a different take on the doctrine it proclaimed, well then they will have to get more open about the truth and they can’t move fast enough. You see information travels fast these days. So fast that when the doctrine follows society and scientific knowledge you can’t rely on the memory hole for it to disappear down and pretend like it didn’t happen. Truth depends on your point of view, Obi Wan was right Fridge bless him.

obi wan

Sure you can say you that DNA evidence isn’t all the important, you can downplay the role of the Lamanite in today’s church, you can take the stance that the church really isn’t sure what Lamanite blood or DNA exists today and that it was some sort of small community swallowed up whole by the other inhabitants of the Americas. In essence you can say the Lamanites as a people don’t really exist anymore… That is one point of view.

Here’s another one, I had a brother named Kim, he was a Lamanite, I’m pretty sure he existed.

 

 

  1. Just a few more links if you like to research as much as me 🙂 )

    http://www.mormoncurtain.com/topic_lamaniteplacementprogram.html

    https://www.lds.org/ensign/1971/07/lamanites-and-the-church?lang=eng

    http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1976/04/the-lamanites-must-rise-in-majesty-and-power?lang=eng

    Joseph Smith Journal on Moroni’s first visits:

    He told me of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold, I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited, he said the indians were the literal descendants of Abraham he explained many things of the prophesies to me.

    http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon/Lamanites/Relationship_to_Amerindians/Statements/19th_century

    I looked for this on the JSP website, they haven’t published these journals yet, look here under later journals http://josephsmithpapers.org/the-papers