Farewell to a Once Grateful Nation

In the spring of 2014 as I slept, the light of the noonday sun filled my room and I awoke to the shining face of Ángel Coronai gesturing through the window.

Following him to the backyard, I was led between the trees where he was laying new cable, and he revealed to me a stone box in the ground. Inside were many strange objects including a book of ancient workmanship.

BOB_Golden_Plates_in_stone_box_2

Breaking the seal revealed a set of golden plates engraved with squiggly characters, which I believe are a kind of Reformed Gypsum. And as I pondered these things, my Corona passed over the characters, and they miraculously resolved into words.

I quickly drank another and taped the bottles together. And by means of these goggles, the following story was revealed … the final chapter in the history of an ancient civilization.

_______________________________

And it came to pass that I, Boloni, High Priest of the Neophites, was greatly aggrieved. For of the many plates of gold which my brother, the General Moron, gave to me as a record of my people, few now remain.

For being desirous of adornment, the princess Leahona took of the plates of gold and fashioned a plain and precious necklace, and also a tiara, and matching bracelets and earrings, and a belly chain, and many other delightsome and ingenious ornaments that are beautiful to behold.

And though I am sorely desirous of her beauty in her many adornments, and wish greatly to provide her with more, I have sent her into hiding with General Moron, and I must needs lay my stylus down and flee also for my life.

For behold, the Neophites, my once grateful people, have brought war and rebellion to the palace gates. And they are wroth with me, for I have taken the tithes and offerings required for temple worship, and brought merchants to the creek and visitors to the square. And all this I have done to increase the strength of the church and my store of precious things.

And the people say I have strayed from holy matters, and demand an accounting of the tithes I have collected, and the return of their gold and their bili-bíribongs and kilikili-kilí-kis and other precious things, and wages for their unpaid service, and restitution for their sufferings.

And their anger has soured them as the Lemonites of old, and therefore I rename my people Lemonites. And though the true Lemonites of my generation are sweet and peaceful, yet they have refused me sanctuary. And therefore, I curse them all together with ignominy.

BoloniBidsFarewell_2a

And not one senine shall my people receive to reward their selfishness and pride, after such great gifts as I have already given them; to wit, the sweat of their brow and relief from the temptations of the fruits of their labor.

And thus, war lies now heavy upon the land, and the city burns. And even mine own armies do rebel against me, excepting only the Sons of Shelaman, who remain at my side.

And behold, the palace door is broken, and I lay my stylus down and depart to preserve my life and secure my treasures in the earth, even the remaining leaves of gold and the princess’s shapely breastplate and her jeweled eyepiece.

And there they shall remain, until this war is done, and I return to my sweet princess Leahona, and lay these lovely adornments upon her. And I earnestly pray that this may soon come to pass.

And thus I, Boloni, seal this record as a testimony against my lost and fallen people, there to remain until I return, or a peepstone discover it, or the world end. Amen.

No Apologies

The LDS church recently did an about face on the topic of LGBT issues. Check it out here.

Funny thing about this though is in no way do the leaders want this construed as an apology. Dallin H Oaks commented.

“I know that the history of the church is not to seek apologies or to give them,” Oaks said in an interview. “We sometimes look back on issues and say, ‘Maybe that was counterproductive for what we wish to achieve,’ but we look forward and not backward.”

The church doesn’t “seek apologies,” he said, “and we don’t give them.”

I suppose the mountain meadows massacre was counter productive too. But hey the church eventually apologized for that after 150 years. Maybe Elder Oaks means as long as he is alive there won’t be apologies for this doctrine. Because at a minimum it prevent gays from having an eternal mate according to the church and in worse cases causes members to devalue these people as dealing with temptations akin to rape and child molestation.

But hey we want them to have no problems getting a home or a job, so that makes it all good. Because the church understands this whole being treated equal thing, I mean after all they were persecuted for suggesting an alternate form of marriage1 back when temple oaths drove that massacre in the meadows.

The way this whole deal reads to me is like this. ‘In exchange for our support that you all get treated right we still get to tell you God doesn’t want you to live with the person you love here for all eternity. Plus you got to protect our right to hold that view.’

Umm guess what? You already have that right…. It is in the constitution. You know that same one you Mr Church tried to modify back in 2008 when you worked hard to ban these people so much not only from the temple wedding but any wedding at all. So you really aren’t giving anything up are you. Instead you are basically having your cake and eating it too, and yeah saying you won’t apologize for the mess you made.

The more I watch religion in general the more it is like the petulant whiny kid that seems to think the world revolves around them. Religion gets tax breaks because it calls itself a religion. Do gays or straight people get tax breaks? Yet when religion goes too far by affecting policies in ways that are not allowed to by virtue of their own tax breaks they seem to think they are above the rules. Yet when they come to the table after realizing they are losing the battle they need more protection from criticism? Especially when they aren’t giving up a damn thing or admitting any fault?

cannot lead astray
Its like the church is saying we just don’t make mistakes, we just take the wrong approach when we dealt with you people that our doctrine deemed were wrong. Sure we viewed you blacks as cursed of God, or that your sexual orientation was a choice. Yeah maybe were forthcoming about how our founder married a 14 year old girl and lied to his followers about it….Sure we should have used more careful wording. But we damn sure we aren’t apologizing for it!

Because hey its God’s church right, how could it possibly screw up?

left-comic

  1. incase you missed it polygamy wasn’t legal back in the day we JS took brides as young as 14 to be yet another wife. Maybe leaders just smarted at the thought a bunch of rainbow loving hooligans could change the definition of marriage when they couldn’t.

When God Speaks

I have a small confession to make. But first a little background.

During my crisis of faith I spent a lot of time praying and pondering. I often spent many nights restless unable to sleep as I discovered one unsettling historical fact after another. I would often wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to rest at all. Insomnia though was nothing entirely new to me. Stress from work or other areas of my life would often leave me tossing and turning in bed. One way I had developed over the years to deal with it was to soak in my jetted tub. The hot water and white noise of the jets would help me relax and calm down. With that in mind here’s what I experienced a few years ago:

religion war

I’d been learning about the mountain meadows massacre and the doctrine of blood atonement that was clearly a core component in causing it. I was pretty distraught. My faith had taken a beating discovering that the temple experience I held sacred used to include a covenant1 to extract vengeance. It was obviously a driving force2 behind church leaders and their priesthood quorums leading to the murder of men women and children in those mountain meadows so long ago. 3 For days I had been wondering why God would let something like that happen. Plenty of sleepless nights and time on my knees passed while I pondered this contradiction between my faith and my personal moral compass.

Then one night I woke up after dreaming about it cold and restless. I climbed into my tub to try and relax. At the time I was a huge believer in ‘carrying a prayer in your heart.’ If there was something I was working on I would keep this kind of daily running supplication to God. Like saying a prayer to myself, thinking it rather than saying it out loud. So as I lay there trying to relax in the hot water. I automatically slipped into this mode. I began asking deeply and with all my heart for light and knowledge on this topic from my father in heaven. I really needed to understand this bit of history and why he would allow such a thing to happen, why he would want temple covenants that would lead to this result.

As my body relaxed and my mind raced I had an experience I will never forget. I had a conversation with God. One moment I was asking, begging, pleading for answers. I just needed to understand. Then all of a sudden I was in a conversation. I’d ask and then I would hear a clear answer. As if I were talking to a person in the room. These didn’t feel like my own thoughts, it was a very distinct voice I heard. I was sure God was speaking to me. I asked about why Brigham Young could teach such racist beliefs, I asked to understand what was up with gays and marriage and why the church fought it. I was told that some leaders today were just men with social prejudices and one day like blacks got the priesthood gays would be accepted and even married. He told me that plural marriage would return and the church would get back to its more liberal roots. I was told that Brigham was a jerk, but he needed a jerk to drag his people to the rocky mountains where they could be isolated and grow strong. He let doctrines like blood atonement be preached because it made his people stronger.

In short, the theme of this revelation was the ends justify the means. After nearly an hour of conversation, the experience faded and I slept. Deeply and unburdened. I related this whole thing to my bishop a few days later, he had been meeting with me as I struggled learning this history. I left out the part about gays one day being married, because God had told me that most people weren’t ready for that yet so I didn’t need to rock the boat about it.4 Just let it happen. My bishop, a wonderfully kind caring guy, seemed relieved. He told me he felt inspired to tell me something. He said one day I would be called as bishop of our ward, and thats why I had this experience, so I could help others deal with their crisis of faith. We both cried with the depth of the spiritual confirmation we shared after that discussion.

This experience happened about 5 years before my shelf collapsed. I have even alluded to before in other writings. So why is this a confession? Many people know I had this experience, I talked about it plenty. I even bore testimony of it in sacrament meeting the month after it happened causing lots of tears and smiles looking back up at me on the podium. Thing is I only told a handful of people this happened while I was in the tub. Taking a bath. I think I was embarrassed that my earth shattering revelation was while I soaked trying to relax. I kind of felt like it should be in the woods or on a mountain or something. So I kept that part mostly to myself. After all people didn’t need to know every detail. They just needed to know the part that built their faith. God himself had told me ‘the ends justify the means.’ And building faith after all was a great end, or at least so I thought at the time.

god kills

So there you have it. I confess that I believed I had talked directly to God while soaking in hot water. I look back now and think I might have actually been driving myself crazy. I mean this guy pretty much just said the same kind of thing happened to him. Is that not at least a little nuts?

I clung to this experience as my research continued, later on it held up my shelf as I came to understand in great detail the fraud of the Kirkland safety society and the actual facts of destroying a printing press that lead to the death of Joseph Smith. It held my shelf up the day I realized that the Book of Abraham was clearly a fabrication not based at all on the papyri as Joe himself had claimed. It held up my shelf right up to the day that it collapsed. That was the day I realized that just like todays followers of ISIS, or the people that engaged in the crusades. I could be mistaken. After all, isn’t the justification in their minds the same as in mine? The ends justify the means. Would a zealous follower of Islam brutally kill those who were infidels in his view without that same thought?

The day I questioned the reality of the voice of God I believed I had heard was terrifying. But it made so much sense that I couldn’t stop wondering about the ‘revelation’ I had held sacred for so many years. How many other things were products of my own wants and desires if I could have been so soundly assured I was right in this case? If I was this easily confused couldn’t previous church leaders have been so as well? Couldn’t this even have happened to Joseph Smith himself? After all it made so much sense. Because if this thing5 is that common it could explain in a single swoop the totality of religions in the world.  It makes it clear how even though most agree on grand principles (like being nice and helping each other) the details repeatedly cause war and strife and massacres in places like mountain meadows.

Ultimately the key reason my shelf collapsed was simple. I just accepted the fact that I was every bit as likely to be wrong in what I was absolutely 100% sure that God himself had told me, as I readily considered the Muslim or the Born Again Christian to be. I put myself on equal footing with those that believed differently than I did. All it takes is that one honest look at your own experiences through the same lens you look at others with.6

Am I now 100% sure that this experience wasn’t a direct revelation from God?7 Am I absolutely positive that was something my own brain fabricated to deal with my own cognitive dissonance? Nope, I’m not.8 It could be that God was good with all that…

The chance still remains, and in my mind it is a remote possibility that Mormons got it right and one day I might stand in front of the Eternal Judgement Bar with outer darkness on the table as a possible consequence.the right church If that turns out to be the the case I know what I will do. I will stand up tall and say to his face, “Hasa diga eebowai! Because the ends justify the means revelation you gave me is a piss poor excuse for a supposedly loving being with every imaginable means at his disposal to use. Especially when people rape, murder and plunder in your name and even by your command.”

And you know what, if that means I get sent to the frozen realms of outer darkness, so be it. I’d rather worship the Fridge than that type of mob boss anyway. Because from my experience when God speaks it is only to justify things that I believe are deeply, terribly, morally wrong. To put it in his own divine words:

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! -Isaiah 5:20

simpsons church

 

  1. It was known as the Law of Vengeance in the temple. “After the death of Joseph SmithBrigham Young added an oath of vengeance to the Nauvoo endowment ritual. Participants in the ritual made an oath to pray that God would “avenge the blood of the prophets on this nation” (Buerger 2002, p. 134). “The prophets” were Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and “this nation” was the United States (Buerger 2002, p. 134). (This oath was removed from the ceremony during the 1920s(Buerger 2002, pp. 139–40).) In 1877, Young noted what he viewed as a similarity between Smith’s death and the blood atonement doctrine, in that “whether we believe in blood atonement or not”, Smith and other prophets “sealed their testimony with their blood”.
  2. This oath to extract vengeance pretty obviously weighed on the minds of the men that carried out this terrible deed.
  3. In preparing this post, I read some of the newer posts on the LDS website on this topic. I cringed at this because they clearly laid the blame for all of this on local leaders. Really? Please, please read all you can on this topic. It is a shame that these guys are blamed for this act of vengeance when they were committed to do that very thing via temple oaths.
  4. I remember feeling a lot like Joseph Smith saying God had told him things that the world simply wasn’t ready to handle yet.
  5. I later learned it it basic psychology known as cognitive dissonance
  6. in hindsight I realized how the belief system is propped up, it amazes me now as I watch people repeat rhetoric without even thinking about what they are saying, not even questioning  their own perspective, and yet I know it happens because I did it all the time. I was one of those people that were so zealous they bordered on annoying. Repetition and reinforcement will literally make people believe the craziest things.
  7. I even sometimes consider the possibility that it was Satan that was deceiving me. I am sure some believers might read this and come to that conclusion as well. But what doesn’t make sense is why Satan would come as an answer to an honest prayer and give me something to hang my testimony on? Going down that path tweaks my conspiracy theory gene and one can imagine endless strings of explanation. Ultimately for me Occams razor wins, the simple explanation is my brain is as subject to illusion/delusion just as any other persons that believe something I know for a fact is crazy.
  8. Even now I second guess myself and constantly endeavor to think about all the possible arguments against the position I take now. It is a bit exhausting and leads to these damn footnotes. So much less work to just know you are right without a shadow of doubt!

BE SEEN BEING GOOD, a trick to helping others see past their bias

In this blog I talk a lot about confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance. Thing is, typically my approach has been to help you see past your own illusions. I think this is a worthy cause because our dreams are more likely to become reality if we work from reality as a foundation. Anyone knows me knows I dream big about great changes, opportunities and amazing futures. Without hope and imagination that comes with the fact we are subject to illusion and bias and dissonance I don’t think we’d be the successful walking primates we are today.

One dream I had after voicing my disaffection with my religion to my family was that we would be accepted even though we were apostates in their eyes, somewhere between confused and lost TK’ers 1 to Korihors of the last days doomed to live forever in outer darkness.

You see our religion2 actively teaches a bias towards those that fall away.3I commented on a blogger repeating some of them here. The only reason believers leave the church is because they want to sin, or were offended, or simply lost the spirt of goodness because of their evil ways.  I sat in many leadership meetings in my church career as people talked about rescuing these lost souls pinning for their life and how miserable it must be outside the religion. I experienced some of this first hand from dear friends when I went public about my changing faith.

There was a point in time when after I voiced my anger at feeling shunned and cutoff my own father said I deserved it. Why? I thought about that a lot and it was essentially because I had been disloyal to the religion by leaving it and exposing its deception. The aftermath of that argument made me nearly step completely away from my family for good. But lucky for me apologies came and we worked it out.

Now two years later I have experienced a radical change in how I feel accepted by my own kin. I think I might have discovered why. So sidle up to the Fridge for a little lesson on helping other people see past their biases.

Here is the trick. Let the believer see you. Let them see how your life has improved, tell them how good things are, show by example how you are still the loving kind and caring person you have always been. Be cautious of triggering their bias with comments that are too strongly worded or offensive to them. But at the same time keep them gently aware of your new understanding and how you see the world.

BE SEEN, BEING GOOD

This is actually a tested psychological trick that will help your friends and family associate positive feelings with apostates rather than the negative ones they have been taught their whole life. It has been proven to work on people with racial bias. The fact is by facing their bias head on eventually it has to be addressed. Human nature rarely lets this switch flip overnight because we inherently base so much of reality as we see it on our personal experience. To change we need experience in what what we are changing to. 

For me the proof this works has happened in my life. A couple of years later after we left the church, we were invited to a wedding on one side of the family, the one that has seen us repeatedly being good, being kind and being family. Even though we don’t go to the temple that isn’t turned into a shaming tactic or anything, we get a loving personal invite to the wedding breakfast and have a great time there. All in all about as good as it can get given the religious restrictions on weddings in the church. We also have a wedding with another part of they family. Ones that don’t get to see us all the time, they aren’t aware of how our lives have been generally really awesome without the church in them and how we have found other generous pursuits and positive things to engage in. They neglect to invite us to things that aren’t verboten for apostates like the wedding breakfast. In one case we are clearly more accepted than the other. I believe this is because the people that see us regularly have formed a less biased opinion of our apostasy.

The thing with biases is they compound and fester in isolation, they get worse when you don’t confront them. And the believer? They simply aren’t inclined to confront them. It is exactly this reason that places like the middle east have carried biases over millennia of generations of people to the point that people there will murder others for a cartoon. It is why the advent of social media allowing people to contact others around the world in an instant is helping reshape these biases better and faster than all the guns and bombs ever have.

So if you want to do your part to help the Atheists, Agnostics, Frigidarians and others that have apostatized from their religion get a fair shake. If you want to remove the negative bias that being a non-beliver carries then the best thing you can do is really simple. Spend less time ranting and more time expounding on the benefits of a reality based world view, expose the goodness of those without belief in magical beings, demonstrate to others that post religion you still have faith in humanity and kindness and love. In short.

BE SEEN, BEING GOOD

be seen being good

  1. Telestial or Terrestrial kingdom to you less mormon literate readers :). Which heaven you are consigned to depends on what you did, only the the most valiant make it to the CK or celestial kingdom, (I just noticed something while typing this and autocorrect kept changing it to get the name of the lowest kingdom taught in Mormon theology all you do is replace C with T???? Thats all it takes to make up a new kingdom not mentioned in the bible? Gah sometimes the simplicity of the con I feel for dumbfounds me.) The lowest of the low they guys that saw the light and defected get outer darkness
  2. As well as many others, shunning is not a new concept!
  3. Just take a look at the headings in this article.

    “Apostasy is turning away from the Church and ultimately denying the faith…

    When we find fault with Church leaders, we begin to separate ourselves from the Church….

    Those who lose the Spirit are filled with darkness and confusion.”