Trial of Faith

Every faithful or once faithful member of their respective religion should be familiar with the idea of a “trial of faith”. When hardship and tragedy strike, we are told that God is testing us. We are expected to endure and remain faithful through our trials, and after… AFTER… we will be blessed. There are many explanations for why the troubling experiences we have supposedly bring us closer to God.

  • We are humbled.
  • We are given opportunities to be forgiving.
  • We learn compassion.
  • We learn how to ask for help.
  • Others are given opportunities to serve.

Mostly though, God just wants to see how much he can fuck with you before you give up on him.

Oh, struck a nerve there, didn’t I?

Well, isn’t that exactly what a “trial of faith” entails?

Take Abraham, for example. God kept him and his wife sterile until well into their elderly years. This, after promising that his prosperity would be as numerous as the grains of sand on a beach and the stars in the sky. Then, God allows his wife to become pregnant, but later asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son. Nevermind that He later reneges. The whole scenario was a “test” in which God wanted to see how far he could go, how much could he ask of his “servant”, would Abraham obey without question?

Probably the best Biblical example of this is Job. In this story, God made a bet with Satan, that Job would remain faithful and obedient despite having more and more taken from him. His wealth, his health, his friends, his home, his family… Bit by bit, piece by piece, Job lost one thing after another, experienced more and more hardship, but still Job was faithful, and God won his bet.

Sometimes, God even asks His followers to die for their faith. The ultimate test. The ultimate sacrifice. Someone demands you deny your faith or be killed. What do you do? Do you remain faithful and die, or do you deny your God and preserve your life? Religions glorify those who die for their faith, calling them heroes. Martyrs. And to deny God is the ultimate shame. In many denominations, it is believed that those who deny their God in these scenarios damn their eternal souls. And so, their lives seem a small loss in that grand scheme of eternity. A small sacrifice to prove one’s devotion.

Being raised with such stories, being told that God loves us with a love more profound than we can possibly understand, and reading that He does all these things for our good (Romans 8:28), leaves one thinking that these “tests” must serve a divine purpose that truly is good for us, even if we can’t understand how. And just like that, every bad thing that happens becomes part of God’s plan to spiritually strengthen us and prepare us for all that will be expected of us in eternity.

I used to believe that all the hard things I experienced were trials designed specifically for me. Meant to build my character and prepare me for future trials that would all eventually shape me into the person God intended me to be. So, I saw having an autistic younger brother as a trial meant to build my patience. I saw stumbling upon my mother’s suicide note she’d written for my father when I was twelve years old as a trial meant to help curb my temper and make me more compassionate. I saw my best friend’s mother dying of a heart-attack when we were fourteen as a trial meant to help me learn empathy. And all these things prepared me for one of the biggest trials of my life – marriage.

I was a late bloomer sexually. My interests didn’t start cropping up until my second year of college, and I was all messed up emotionally. Depressed, low self-esteem, desperate, sexually repressed… a perfect target. I met an abuser who quickly took advantage of my innocence and naivety. Within six months of dating, he practically had me wrapped around his finger, and when I became pregnant out of wedlock the church pushed us to begin our repentance process and to marry. Nobody suspected that he’d been emotionally and physically beating me into submission. I was pregnant. So their only thought was to hurry up and rush into a marriage. We could work out any problems in our visits with our bishop while we worked out our repentance for breaking the law of chastity.

Of course, in saying our “I do’s”, I’d effectively tightened the noose around my own neck. Things only got worse, and I kept questioning and blaming myself. I felt like an utter failure. I thought I was being punished for straying from the straight and narrow, and I thought I could fix it, if only I could pull myself out of my spiritual slump and rekindle my struggling faith.

Then, one night, my then husband woke with severe tooth pain. We had no means to get to a hospital in the middle of the night – no vehicle of our own, bus routes weren’t running, and no insurance to cover the cost of an ambulance ride. So, he took aspirin, hoping it would get him through the night and we could go in the morning, but the pain just wasn’t subsiding. He asked me to pray for him, so of course I did, but… nothing happened. I specifically prayed for the pain to be taken away, but it only seemed to be getting worse. After writhing for a couple hours, he was starting to get pissed. He suggested that God didn’t answer, because He didn’t care.

I “knew” that wasn’t true though. How could it be? I’d been raised to believe He loved and cherished ALL His children and that He ALWAYS answered prayers, but those answers would come in the way they were needed. Not necessarily what we wanted. I tentatively suggested that maybe God hadn’t taken the pain away, because we needed to go to the emergency room, and I immediately regretted it. My disagreement sent my then husband into a rage. He shouted at me, with spittle coming from his mouth, that God didn’t love him and insisted I “say it”. I thought right then that this was my trial of faith. This was my moment to prove myself to my God.

Knowing what would follow, I refused my husband’s demand, and he immediately started choking me. But I didn’t fight it. I was overcome with a sense of calm. If he killed me over this, I’d be a martyr, for I’d refused to deny my God. When things started to go black, he let go of my neck and as I gasped for air, he beat me upside the head, knocking me to the floor. He stood over me for a moment with a crazed look in his eyes, but then it dissipated and he collapsed in a puddle of remorse, apologizing and blaming his outburst on demonic possession. I’d heard it all before. It didn’t matter. I was convinced that I’d passed my trial and things would start getting better now.

It didn’t. Only when I took matters into my own hands, when my motherly protective instincts kicked in and I sought to defend my infant from the abusive hand of his father, did things finally start getting better. Still, I was a believer and I attributed my escape and recovery to divine intervention. It wasn’t until several years later that I finally started thinking: “What kind of God does that to His children?”

How is it “loving” to put your children in situations where they’ll be beaten, raped, and even murdered ON PURPOSE to “test” their devotion to you? Sure, we all allow our children to experience pain from their mistakes. It helps them learn. But letting a child fall and scrape their knees isn’t the same thing as letting a child get hit by a car. And letting a child experience the pain of their mistakes as a learning experience isn’t the same as pitting them against bullies and rewarding them afterwards if they obediently take it without complaint.

A God who does that isn’t loving. He’s abusive. The whole concept of a “trial of faith” is a form of control. It’s a God who fucks with you and rewards you for continuing to love him anyway. Like a dog owner who starves his dog in order to “master” it… a God who tests his children with such horrors is not worthy of worship any more than a man who chokes his wife is worthy of loyalty and love.

 

The Worth of a Life

If you are religious, then you likely believe that a soul continues to live for eternity. Whether it’s heaven and hell, reincarnation, or the energy of the universe, you believe that life… never really ends. But what if you’re wrong? What if, when someone dies, that really is the end? How easy it is for a light to be snuffed out. There one moment, and the next… poof. Gone.

I don’t think believers really understand what it means to grieve as an atheist. I don’t think they understand how much it hurts. I don’t think they understand the horror in response to acts of violence.

How can they understand?

They think there is no end.

Well, that’s all well and fine, for you. But there is no evidence that a soul even exists. There is no evidence that anything continues on after death. There is no evidence of any of it. If there were, you wouldn’t need faith. All you have is your belief.

If that belief gives you comfort, fine. If that belief helps you cope, fine. But atheists don’t share your belief, and it is no comfort to be told that you are praying for the welfare of a soul that likely doesn’t even exist. Someone DIED. They’re gone. They’re not coming back. Their life ENDED.

They will no longer experience the joys and pains of this world. They will no longer experience love. All those life plans cut short. No more college. No more marriage. No more family. No more children. No more career struggles. No more parties. No more protests. No more movies. No more art. No more stories. No more traveling. No more… no more… No. More… life…

To take a life, to pull the plug on someone’s journey, is to take away something that can NEVER be returned. And no amount of praying can make that better. No amount of hope. No amount of faith. Because they’re GONE.

There is no comfort, no solace, to those who mourn such loss.

And so, as you find comfort in your beliefs, I hope you also take some time to mourn. Consider what has been lost. Consider the debt that never can be repaid. And I hope that you will do something to help prevent more unnecessary loss. I hope that you will care enough to offer more than just platitudes. I hope that you will be there for those who are suffering, and that you will help with action. Not just words. Because a life is worth far more than a few moments of “thoughts and prayers”.

They Deserved It

Do you hear the whispers in the church hallways?

Those sinners got what was coming to them. Sooner or later the price of sin must be paid. You are free to choose, but not to choose the consequences of that choice.

In any discussion I have had where I have pinned down the believer and forced them to look squarely at the core morality they hold the comeback is always the same.

You’ll get yours, God’s gonna damn you for such insubordinate behavior!!! 

That is when the fear shines through. When you realize in a single swoop the real reason they worship a being that tells Abraham to kill his kid. The reason they revere a supreme being that they believe that is willing to kill millions of children by drowning them because they didn’t worship him enough. A reason that is fundamental, that is basic, that is emotional. The reason is fear. 

It’s that same fear that drives these whispers when people whose lifestyle offends their God are a massacred in a gay bar in Orlando.

They had it coming to them…

Really? I mean really? Did the kids in Sandy Hook Elementary have it coming to them when they were killed? How about the babies drowned in Noah’s flood? Did they have it coming to them? I’m beginning to think you believe those kids deserved it. Why? Because when you are forced to look directly at the morals of the being you worship, you don’t say this is wrong. Instead you tell me I’m gonna get what I deserve. For what? For pointing out the atrocious morality of the being you worship?

Maybe it’s time to try and not be afraid, maybe its time to shelve the fear and instead of seeing ‘other’ or ‘different’ or ‘sinner’ you can simply see another human seeking the same happiness and fulfillment that you are.


Can you find the courage to face your own God’s condemnation of these ‘others’ and step up to the plate and declare this thing as morally wrong as you would if it were your own kid killed in that way?

Can you just for a moment put yourself in their shoes and give them the same benefit of the doubt you’d want if the tables were turned?

If it happened to you, you’d like a little sympathy right?

Don’t you think they deserve it too?

The main LDS church STILL practices polygamy

This is the third installment in a series on the polygamist past of the LDS church. What if I told you it isn’t really past at all, but very much a current doctrine condoned by the highest ranking leaders? Would you believe me?

First lets consider eternity vs this life. Which of them is more eternal?

A little math as pointed out by redditor on a thread about the previous post on this topic1 shows exactly what this means.

1 lifetime/eternity = essentially 0 

Yep in the big scheme of things, this lifetime isn’t much at all. That is why we needed the everlasting covenant According to Joe Smith. So we could bind together all these things on earth and not deal with that ’till death do you part’ malarkey all those other churches do in marriage. After all who wouldn’t want to be with their spouse forever? Or in Joe’s case several spouses in this life…

That’s where it gets interesting. You see The LDS church considers a temple sealing to be an eternal marriage. It’s taught to every daughter of Zion to yearn for marriage in the temple. They seek out the prince that will take them to his Mormon castle for that magical moment they have been taught to crave. For only a true and just man will marry them forever instead of just for now.

But there is a doctrine that isn’t talked about much yet is followed over and over again by the LDS faith. In the case of death of the first wife the man can be sealed to a second wife. Yes, you heard me right. A man can be sealed for eternity to a second wife after the first is gone. How this can’t be considered eternal polygamy is beyond me. Not given the fact the the church thinks the rules of marriage are so rigidly defined by their God that any non sanctioned form of union requires a person to be kicked off the celestial kingdom path to forever.

Celestial marriage = celestial polygamy. It says as much in D&C132 canonized scripture currently used today in the church.

 For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.

 And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God.

 37 Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, because they were given unto him, and he abode in my law; as Isaac also and Jacob did none other things than that which they were commanded; and because they did none other things than that which they were commanded, they have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods.

 38 David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.

 39 David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriahand his wife; and, therefore he hath fallen from his exaltation, and received his portion; and he shall not inherit them out of the world, for I gave them unto another, saith the Lord.

 40 I am the Lord thy God, and I gave unto thee, my servant Joseph, an appointment, and restore all things. Ask what ye will, and it shall be given unto you according to my word.

According LDS conon, the idea of polygamy was part and parcel of the restoration of all things. Now I realize you might have a hard time believing this. If so I suggest you take it to your stake president or local area authority and ask him. 2 I suspect you will get an answer along these lines when the members in Sweden asked church leaders if we believe in polygamy.

But wait, there’s more! If you are finally convinced that the LDS doctrine supports and even likely encourages the idea of eternal polygamy there is something else you should know. The Mormon church (the main one, not the FLDS Warren Jeffs version) believes in polygamy right here, right now, with living women. I realized this when a good friend of mine went through a divorce from her husband. A sealing in a Mormon temple isn’t dissolved just because some legal mortal men said a person got divorced. As is clearly evidenced by the churches actions toward other types of marriage the leaders confidently believe God defines what an eternal union is. Not man.

A temple sealing continues to be in force until the first presidency says otherwise. This is expounded on very clearly in the handbook given to all local leaders of the church. Here is a screen shot to save you some time digging for it:

 

My friend told me one day that she was now an eternal polygamist. The reason is spelled out right there ^^^ in book one. Her previous husband had just been sealed in the temple to his new wife. She wasn’t allowed to dissolve their eternal sealing, while by policy and doctrine it was totally ok for him to be eternally sealed to two women at a time. Even when both of them are still alive.

So does Eternal sealing = Eternal Marriage? That is the question right? And if the answer is yes, then it is pretty clear that the LDS church here and now promotes polygamy of it’s own Celestial variety even as it denies monogamous couples that same right if they happen to have the same genitalia. It is obviously unfair and unjust and more than a little embarrassing as well as hypocritical to most people. Maybe that is the reason when it comes to polygamy the LDS church keeps lying… or maybe should I say careful wording about it.

  1. Click here for part 1 and part 2.
  2. There is no her to ask… after the answer you get you might realize why.

But Polygamy was a Commandment!

Last post we discussed the normality of young brides and polygamous unions in the 19th century. Once the difficulty of lying about it is pointed out to the Mormon faithful most will retreat to the final bastion of all religious when pressed with assessing their faiths morality. They will say something like, ‘it was a commandment’ justifying it because God said so.

In fact apologists are fond of pointing out this quote from Joe the prophet himself implying this defense:

That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another. God said, ‘Thou shalt not kill’; at another time He said, ‘Thou shalt utterly destroy.’ This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted—by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. – Official History of the Church, Vol. 5, p.134-136

When you think of Abraham and Issac or and how God flooded the whole planet killing babies, this sort of makes sense. The believer tells himself, ‘sometimes God does stuff I’m just too stupid to understand.’ And that makes it ok to shelve the thoughts that are causing cognitive dissonance.

In fact when your own spiritual feelings are screaming wrong, wrong, wrong to you, what is the counsel of LDS leaders? Just shelve it. 1

Wait a minute! Wut? Aren’t those very feelings the ones we are supposed to use to find truth? Apparently not if they are telling you the LDS church isn’t the #onetruechurchonthefaceoftheearth

Convenient isn’t it?

But moving on. I think there is some merit to revealing exactly the situation in which Joseph Smith said these words.


You see Joe was trying to get Nancy Rigdon to be yet another of his wives and she was not at all interested in the idea. In fact it lead to a blow up over the whole situation where Nancy said:

“if she ever got married she would marry a single man or none at all.” Grabbing her bonnet, she ordered the door opened or she would “raise the neighbors.” She then stormed out of the Hyde-Richards residence. (Sidney Rigdon Biography by Richard S. Van Wagoner, p.295)

So did you know that it was specifically to get under the skirts of a reluctant woman in Nauvoo that the idea of God commanded, it so it must be ok was such a core teaching?

Eh, maybe now that I think about it that is the underlying assumption right? So what is different between Joe and Warren then?

  • They both pushed young girls into doing things that are abhorrent to most people then and now.
  • They both assured their victims or faithful (depending on your perspective of the whole deal) that God said to do it and that was why these young teen girls should submit to their leaders and do as they were told.

Imagine for a minute that you were a bride of Warren Jeffs. Imagine if your family and church leaders all pressured you to do this thing that felt so wrong. Imagine then if you were told not to doubt the leadership of Warren the prophet. To stay in the boat. That if you bail on this religion that you are risking eternity with your family and that you’d never see them again. That if you stood up and said no, this isn’t right you were a taffy puller and not capable of commitment.

Can you see how hard it would be to leave the FLDS faith? Can you see how even today there are followers that are so sure they are doing what God wants (even if in their heart they find it abhorrent) that they still comply?

If so you can see exactly how religion can mislead you. It promises amazing things for compliance and terrible consequences for not doing EXACTLY what you are told no matter how bad it feels.

The hardest question to ask though is this:  What if is has already happened to me?

  1. Did you catch that even GA Turley tried to claim it was ‘normal’ for a 14 year old to get married implying a poly marriage to a 37 year old man was ‘you know what they did back then’ and one of the swedes called him out on that poor comparison?