Christmas is a great holiday. It’s a time when much of the western world gets uptight about the latest Starbucks cup. It’s a time when you get judged by the number of lights on your house. The time of year when snow flies and baby it’s cold outside.
I love Christmas time. In fact it’s one of the reasons I came up with this blog. From a secular perspective I see this holiday as a religion that has been defanged by crowds that love the idea of Santa and spreading genuine care to others.
It’s probably the most powerful example of a myth’s power (treated as a myth outright) to effect change in our behavior.
We look for that perfect gift for someone we love. We think more than normal about the poor and needy among us. Charity is rampant and generosity is common. Stories of Santa Clause fill the airwaves as everyone indulges in a little make believe.
Religions do the same thing. They engage in make believe. But it comes with a price, dogma. Antiquated ideas, like the cursing of black people or the sin of being homosexual live a life far longer that they should as human morality matures beyond stoning people for working on a Sunday.
Dogma even causes people to get wound up about loosing the ‘true meaning’ of Christmas. They actually get annoyed at those who are buying gifts for others and not being Jesus-y enough about it. Think about that. Here are people being generous and thoughtful without their particular faith involved in the process and somehow that makes it a bad thing.
Why you ask? Because you can’t steal all those good things from Christmas!!! Hell, those heathens even use the letter X in place of Christ in the name! (Please ignore the fact that the letter X represents the cross so you can be properly pissed off!)
But here’s the thing. Just a little research and you find out that Jesus had already stolen Christmas from the pagans before them. The celebration of winter solstice and the dawning of a new year when things would get warm again was a pretty big deal for humans surviving the last ice age!
Like Windows interface was stolen from Apple… who stole the idea from Xerox, good ideas survive because great artists steal the best ideas to work from.
Christmas is a stolen idea of new beginnings with a sprinkle of sacrifice added to the mix. Gift giving symbolizes that process and reminds us to be more generous to our fellow beings on the planet.
I think that same transition is happening now as Christmas is celebrated by millions that have no belief in deity at all. They are discovering that you can still be generous and kind, that you can have a community without shared dogma. A place that is truly inclusive because there is no doctrinal tribal exclusion.
Yes Christmas is being stolen again. All that’s left is to do is what the last guys that stole it did.
Last night I had a chance to hear this song in person:
Acceptance… The message struck me at my core. It is exactly what I feel deep inside. It connects with me. I felt lucky to be there and experience it live. I also suffered many levels of irony which is how the Fridge touches me and inspires these posts. 😉
Levels of irony
The first level was the fact I wasn’t quite in my own skin at this event. I couldn’t be entirely myself, I couldn’t openly declare my lack of faith. Fear of the results of doing so kept me from taking that leap. I was me… just not entirely me if that makes any sense. Living in the Morridor of Utah, you take notice how people that aren’t of the main religion are treated. You see what opportunities are lost to those that would openly counter the faith’s views.
Irony hit me again as I did a little research on Alex Boye and found out like me he also has a Mormon background. Yeah I know you are wondering what rock I have been living under the last decade right? I’m sure I’d heard this, but not having him on my playlist till now I wasn’t sure if he was a member or not.
Love each other, stop the hate
I felt the next level of irony when I watched the video above the next morning. In it there are some really awesome concepts, loving not hating, and a clear message that he includes the LGBT community in that concept. It kind of made me wonder just how much of the LDS history and the current stance of the church he is aware of. A little more research turned up this video where Alex describes why he believes in the Mormon faith. The following bit of his talk stood out to me:
“being a member for me started out … a lot less about the facts, a lot less about what was in the scriptures, a lot less about what certain things meant, and certain books and the content. It was about the fact there were principles in it that could…keep my family name above board so to speak”
Cherry picking is ok
I have found I get along best with the faithful that don’t take every scripture to heart, that only care about the good stuff in the holy book. Good people have always cherry picked the best parts of the religion as a point of focus in my opinion. Often I discover that they don’t ever dig really deep in the history or the ‘facts’ as Alex puts it. I get that and have no issue with it. From the believing perspective they have a tool to improve their lives. From my point of view I see a person that would be good, kind and just even without a religion to follow. To me their faith is like dumbo’s feather, a talisman of zero actual merit and yet somehow containing the power to focus works, beliefs and efforts on good things.
This concept has often been a topic of Fridgy goodness and is close to my heart. I think that’s why his song resonated deeply with me. In the past I would have called it a spiritual witness as I sat there pondering why I feared being openly apostate amongst my fellow men. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel accepted when scriptures decry the non-believer as the anti-christ. Like in the case of Korihor worthy of imprisonment without cause eventually leading to his death by trampling of those that pity him.
The final irony
Alex’s video implies the importance of accepting gay people that in my believing days I thought were damaging families with their desire to marry the one that they loved. Something that today I see as their right to be protected. I simply can’t imagine a loving father who would deny them that right in this life or the next. I just don’t believe a decent God would inspire policies excluding LGBT people. Not when he is the one making them that way!
For me the final irony struck as I pontificated on this post. It’s how this very religion that is loved so dearly by such a prominent member not that long ago would have denied him and his wife the right to an eternal life. Why? Well for the same reason that they deny those who are LGBT the same right today. Because God said so:
“Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so” -Brigham Young
I hope that one day I will have more courage to be myself, especially my apostate self amongst family, coworkers and friends. We need people like Alex to inspire us to accept each other. People like Jane Manning who buck the status quo, and instead pressing forward, leading against divisive dogma that seems to insidiously insert itself into our politics and faith at every turn.
Calling attention to something wrong isn’t hate
I truly believe in love not hate. I feel lots of love towards Mormons, they are still my people even though I no longer believe. It is part of my history that becoming LDS meant following a different path than all the rest. If only I could help those that feel like I’m hating on the church as I leave it realize isn’t the case at all. To me, I am loving the underdog that is getting the short end of the stick. Kind of like how past LDS people like Dr Lowery Nelson were speaking up and sayingthis is wrong. We are better than this.
Just look at it this way. If being black and preventing your marriage to a white person so many years ago was just a prophetic screw up. Isn’t is possible that here and now the same mistake is going on right before our eyes? Could not questioning these revelations now rather than decades later prevent some of these LGBT teen suicides? This is a faith that dictates a persons worth. I think is it reasonable to doubt if that faith leads to death. Please accept that. I honestly don’t mind if you know the facts and still believe. I really don’t, it is fine by me. My only desire in exposing them is to give everyone the opportunity to know and chose with full disclosure.
Because, well because I never got that chance and somewhere out there someone is hurting, believing they aren’t good enough for the celestial kingdom and considering drastic measures. I think they have the right to consider all the facts before believing in a father in heaven that would make them Gay and then deny them being with the person they love.
I desire you know one thing though. Believer or not gay or straight, we shall sup together and care for one another. I believe that truth needs no religion to make it worth doing. Or the words that pricked my heart last night:
We bury her tomorrow. My mother. She had been sick for a while, but after a debilitating month she finally let go.
After the initial shock of her passing, I have to admit I felt only relief and release. Her torment, that she had both suffered and created, was finally over. The fear and apprehension I felt every time I spoke with her, her projection of guilt and shame over my ‘apostasy’, her deep-seated need for comforting lies about her as a mother … and overshadowing it all, her enduring abusive behavior. It all died with her and I finally felt free.
Yet now as the funeral approaches, I’m experiencing a growing sense of dread. In part because of the platitudes I expect to hear about my mother, ‘the angel’. In part because of the mormon service my family is planning. And in part because it will be held in the LDS chapel where I suffered so much as a child.
Buildings and Tearing Down
Attending her funeral in that chapel won’t be easy. Some may see it as a house of peace, but for me it was a house of pain. So many conflicts. So much torment. So many memories. It may seem strange to think how strongly they still affect on me 30 years later, but I suppose that’s why they call them formative years. It was traumatic at the time and it remains difficult to process today, especially at the thought of going back.
I have vivid memories of that chapel. So much of who I am was formed there during the bubbling cauldron of my adolescence.
That was where my father forced me to get baptized when I turned 8. I told him that I didn’t believe and didn’t want to make that commitment, but he said my testimony would come after my act of faith and he set the date. When it was over, I couldn’t stop crying from the font to the confirmation. Because I had just made lifelong covenants to a church I didn’t believe in, and I took that seriously.
So you see, that chapel was where I learned to doubt myself, where I learned that those who can’t feel a testimony of mormon truth must be blinded by sin or pride. And that if I couldn’t believe, then I must be sinful … my thoughts and feelings unreliable. And if so, I was better off trusting my leaders instead of myself, even when it didn’t make any sense.
That chapel was where I learned that only mormon kids were worthy of being friends with. That I was to live in the world, but not of the world. And to avoid the world, the people in it and their beliefs at all costs, associating only with mormons whenever possible … because mormons were safe and the world was dangerous.
– But ironically, that was where I was bullied and beat up by the ‘moral and worthy’ mormon boys at church. I was so excited to learn how to camp and earn merit badges with the scouts, but they only wanted to play sports on scouting night. I was asthmatic and didn’t know how to play, so they used me as a tackle dummy and laughed when I lay on the ground and couldn’t breathe. And when I tried to quit, I got in trouble for not being a team player.
– Where the bishop interrogated me in detail about my worthiness. And publicly humiliated me by not letting me pass the sacrament. Why? Because touching myself was the only way to get rid of my morning erections so I could get dressed for school. I tried everything … wearing tight clothes to bed, tying it off with rubber bands or string, self-inflicted pain, icy cold showers, scalding hot water … but nothing worked. The only way to get dressed was to ‘commit a sin’. I felt so horrible about myself that I even tried to follow the Bible’s advice and ‘cut off the hand that offended me’. But the attempt was so painful I couldn’t go through with it, leaving me feeling even more guilty about my lack of resolve as I cleaned up the bloody mess and painfully tried to heal. At church, the other boys laughed and joked about touching themselves, and obviously never told the bishop. I saw them rewarded for lying about something normal, while I was punished and shamed for being honest.
– Where I was forced to attend Youth Conference, where we were lectured about the evils of science, the lies of the world, the temptations of movies and music, and the sins of desire and sexual attraction. They taught us never to touch or fantasize about the opposite sex. And that god would judge us for eternity over every thought and feeling that crossed our adolescent minds.
– Where I was forced to attend church dances, even though looking at girls with desire was apparently a sin next to murder. And touching them with desire would lead to my damnation. But I found out the hard way that declining to attend dances (even with the pure intent of avoiding sin) was also wrong, and would get me in trouble with my parents and church leaders. I guess the only thing worse than touching a girl is acting like you don’t want to touch girls.
– Where I was taught about the blessings of eternal sex in the celestial kingdom. I remember the married man standing in front of the class, telling us all that sex was worth the wait and how he wanted to stay worthy and enjoy it in heaven forever. Which was in stark contrast to his declarations of the evils of masturbation, sex and fantasy from just a few moments before. I was literally being taught that even though sex was good and I should want it, that any desire for it would lead to my damnation.
After these experiences and many more, I grew to hate that building and the faith it represented. To hate the lies my church leaders taught me, the no-win situations they put me in, and the physical and emotional abuse they both inflicted on me and forced me to endure within its walls.
And now my family wants to celebrate my abusive mother’s life in that house of lies and pain.
Out of the Frying Pan
The closer I get to the funeral, the less I want to go. I don’t even want to get on the plane, much less step foot in that building. I feel sick, paralyzed. My wife had to buy the plane tickets, and I’ve been so upset I had to call in sick every day this week.
Some mormons would say my negative feelings prove that ‘apostates’ are filled with the spirit of the devil … or that a sinner has innate intolerance for the holy ghost … or that an ungrateful son will always be selfish toward his mother. But no, this is what happens after 27 years of abuse at the hands of a church.
To dismiss me as an ungrateful, angry apostate is to ignore the 20 years that I devoted to the LDS church after my baptism. Submitting myself to the mormon faith I had no testimony of. Believing that my thoughts must be wrong because everyone I loved and trusted told me so. Studying, fasting, praying … hoping for a long-awaited testimony with each act of faith. But receiving nothing in return but emotional and religious abuse, a near death experience from arsenic poisoning on my mission, and years of subsequent nerve pain that the LDS church covered up, blamed on imaginary sins, and threatened me to keep secret.
So when I say it will be difficult for me to sit through my mother’s funeral in that chapel, I’m not talking about a little boredom or discomfort.
I’m talking about going to dinner with your rapist and having to pick up the check. Or holding your child’s birthday party in your pedophile uncle’s back yard and having to smile and introduce him to all the kids. Or openly crossing enemy lines after escaping a POW camp where you were tortured and almost killed.
To go to my mother’s funeral, I will have to walk back into the house of pain where I suffered decades of emotional and religious abuse that I’ve worked so hard to leave behind.
The Church Of The Fridge endorses Pokemon Go. Yep you heard it right, it’s a good thing. Since personally playing this magical game my interactions with my children steadily increased. Not by forcing them to talk to me, but in a natural more organic way. We share rare catches on our family text group. We go for walks together hunting creatures and stocking up on Poke balls. It’s an easy game to play. It encourages walking and interacting with each other. The ease of play makes it fun for young and old alike. A game that appeals to such a wide age range is rare indeed. Did I mention the walking part?
It’s been great for me personally, a reason to exercise and chat with my kids. Something to talk about we both enjoy. And according to my old religion it should be avoided. When I first heard the admonition to not play Pokemon Go in a recent broadcast, I was flabbergasted. I mean didn’t he know that there are Poke stops at EVERY church building. Pokemon Go has made many an unwilling teen far more interested in going to church lately than any activity I am aware of. I think the fear promoted in the counsel to not play is unfounded. The rising generation is built to multitask. Information flows to and from this generation in lots of different ways, internet, twitter, instagram, phones, TV, cable and so on. They have been raised on reaching for a device in their pocket to access the knowledge base of the entire planet when their curiosity is peaked. I presume as the old guard, it is hard for the leaders to grasp that a child or teen can swipe a Poke stop every few minutes and still get something out of a lesson. But they can as can be attested to my kids pipping on a conversation I was convinced they weren’t listening to while they played a game.
After pondering the massive generational gap on this edict another thought hit me. Earring’s… I remember when women were limited to only one earring per ear by prophetic decree. At the time my wife was saddened as she removed her second pair. I saw her give up a piece of individuality that day, a dimming in what made her unique and valuable to the world. Sure she complied because it’s all about obedience right? But at what cost? Since we have left the faith much of the light that made her amazing has returned. That has been one of the more unexpected benefits of exiting a regime that controls so much of what you wear and how you are supposed to look.
The next thing that hit me was the poker ban. A little while after the the earring banning came the poker ban. It happened when the world series of poker was at an all time high in popularity. I suppose that is one of the reasons to ban things. If everyone is doing it it must be wrong. At the time, I played a monthly game with some of my best friends, I was playing occasionally with my brothers and sisters too. For me a small amount of $$ in a game was a great way to spend a couple of hours shooting the breeze while basically handing a friend twenty bucks of mad money. For a person that tends to be more introverted, these games were a great way to socialize and develop friendships. But, in an effort to obey I quit going and quit playing with my compadres. I remember how it saddened me at the time.
Concluding that this whole Pokemon No Go really wasn’t all that different than prohibiting other popular items like extra earrings and card games in the past I had an epiphany. I think this is a cry for attention. Religion as a whole is struggling to remain relevant in an ever changing world. For one so ensconced in gerontocracy the LDS faith is a case study in adaptation difficulties. Dogma once shrouded in ritual as divine knowledge is regularly destroyed by accessibility to information on a scale that has not been available to any previous generation. The old game doesn’t work anymore. So faith as a tool to help humanity is … well … kind of showing its age. It’s far too easy to hop back in time to a video or a text conversation and see exactly what was said.
The used car salesman tactic of BS’ing your way out of a uncomfortable corner is giving way to a style of open discussion where we have to look at and deal with faults in each other rather than ignore them or hide them. It’s not all roses, the reality is I do look fat in these jeans, and the white lies that greased human interaction such as these don’t work as well anymore. I think we are giving up some privacy sure. But we are also creating a world where open, honest, brutally honest discussion is the norm. This prevents oppression and encourages freedom. This is the party in the world today where the crotchety old man called religion is sitting in his chair being ignored so he lashes out with wisdom that used to be his gift to society but instead is rapidly debunked by google.
If faiths are to remain relevant in the world to come. Faith needs to adapt. Faith in a religion often equated to faith in oneself. Faith in your ideas and choices. Feedback that the risk you are taking is worth the effort. This is why the Fridge endorses Pokemon Go. Because it is a good thing that has strengthened families. Those that embrace it have used it to create positive change in their lives. Sure it may be a short lived success. But there will be another thing and another thing and another thing in the future that humanity creates to feed our social needs. We should watch for it and embrace it.
I think religion needs to finally realize what has always been it’s best product offering to humanity. It’s hope. Hope that wrongs will be righted and things will get better. All the hell fire and damnation fear tactics just don’t work anymore in the world of iPads and information. Humanity is basically good, and the old monster under the bed stories are being exposed for the myths they were all along. The new message is Hope for a Voltorb, but be happy with that Rattata for the candy you get. And always remember just being alive is a wonderfully magical experience waiting to be explored.
It’s time to find what works and promote that, rather than cling to outdated dogma dismissing anything new and popular. That is the sermon on the Fridge today.
Now if only I could get Niantic to put a Poke stop here…
I get a lot of people who just don’t understand how a gay person could be Mormon. When I talk about the discrimination that members of the LGBT community face within the church, many are simply baffled. Why stay in a church that so obviously hates you? Why put up with the crap? So, here’s how this works:
While there are plenty of people who convert to Mormonism and join the church in their adult years, the vast majority of the membership numbers are coming from those “born in the covenant”. That means your parents are Mormons and you get the wonderful blessing of being born into a family already sealed in the temple. It means you get to grow up with Primary. Yes, Primary. A lovely little class where you sing songs like “I Am a Child of God”, “Follow the Prophet”, and “I Hope They Call Me On a Mission”. You get to practice giving talks and prayers, memorize the Articles of Faith, and learn all about how lucky you are to get to grow up with “The Truth” that nobody else has.
As you grow up with this Primary, you’re given a CTR Ring to remind you to always “choose the right”. You’re taught about how the world is in a fallen state and how as a member of the “One True Church”, you’ll be expected to be “in the world, but not of the world” and be a “light” to everyone around you. A wall is put in place early, as you are taught to distrust everything that doesn’t come from church sources. Only the prophets have the truth. Only by following the prophets will you be able to be happy. Only by staying on the “straight and narrow path” will you get into heaven and be able to be with your family for all eternity.
See, family is a very central theme to the Mormon faith. To Mormons, God is quite literally their Father in Heaven. We were all there with Him, His children, before coming to this earth. We even chose our earthly families, as spirits, before we were born. We were sent to earth to get a body and to complete a special earthly mission designed just for us, and our family was designed “perfectly” with a father, a mother, brothers, and sisters to help us along the way. This family is joined together through a sealing ceremony performed in the temples and it is only by remaining worthy of a temple recommend that the family remains together after death.
According to the Mormon faith, we were created MALE and FEMALE as spirits before receiving our bodies, and our gender is divinely connected to our earthly mission. The roles we were meant to play were determined by our gender, and the sacred bond of marriage between a MAN and a WOMAN is the key to the highest degree of glory in God’s heavenly kingdom.
These concepts are taught very early. In Primary. Through songs, games, interactive roleplay activities, and through active participation in teaching peers these basic roles and concepts. At eight years old, children are “blessed” with the opportunity to “choose” baptism and commit themselves to the church. This is considered the “age of accountability”, where you are now entirely responsible for all your actions and all your “sins” starts counting against you.
Gender roles are further enforced once you turn twelve and separate into the Young Men and Young Women classes. The Young Men bear the Holy Priesthood, participate in the blessing and administering of the sacrament, get God’s power to bless and heal, attend Scout meetings, and are prepared for their roles as leaders and heads of households within the church. The Young Women are endowed with the blessing of… motherhood, and they are prepared to be housemakers, homemakers, and helpmeets to their future husbands.
And ALL the youth receive very explicit instructions concerning sexual activity. Chastity until marriage is the rule, and anything that causes even a hint of arousal is forbidden. Young men (AND women) who struggle with masturbation are counseled to meet with their bishops and discuss their sexual sins and seek help in bridling their passions and repenting of their sins. All youth activities in which young men and young women mingle are heavily supervised and regulated to prevent “temptations”. Despite the hard stamp of disapproval on tom-foolery, the youth are still known to transgress, as who can really expect perfection?
The young women bear the brunt of the responsibility for any youthful indiscretions. They are expected to maintain modesty so as to prevent their bodies from enticing the young men. They are taught that the loss of their virginity is comparable to becoming like a licked cupcake or a chewed piece of gum. Rape victims are expected to repent and forgive their rapists. And if a couple engages in sexual activity out of wedlock? The woman becomes pregnant? Abortion is off the table. Adoption? Maybe. But the standard advice is to hurry up and wed so that the baby can have a “healthy family” to grow up in and so that the couple can avoid continued sinful behavior.
And homosexuality? The Mormon church won’t even use the term. Instead, they prefer “same-sex attraction”.
They list it among the sexual temptations that “some” are challenged with, but God designed every individual’s temptations specifically for them. Such are hardships meant to aid in spiritual growth and learning, and the rejection of these temptations is what keeps an individual on course for eternal happiness. If you feel same-sex attraction, it is what God knew you needed for your own personal growth and He endowed you with the skills and attributes you would need to be able to overcome it.
A young child, growing up in this church, who finds themselves feeling attracted to members of the same sex will quickly bury and repress those feelings. Confessing it to peers would be a cultural death sentence. Confessing it to family often leads to getting disowned and tossed out onto the streets. Confessing it to a bishop leads to regular intrusive meetings where your sexual desires and preferences are discussed and attempted to be “cured”. Many will never tell anyone. They won’t even admit it to themselves. Instead they bury it. Deep, deep inside.
Now if you live outside Utah, you interact more with peers and individuals outside the church, maybe you have a more laid-back family and regular church attendance isn’t all that important, you likely aren’t getting the full blow of brainwashing and indoctrination. You aren’t feeling the brunt of the peer pressure and isolation. Maybe, rejecting the church teachings for personal happiness isn’t too difficult. Or perhaps you’re just naturally a rebellious sort. You’re somewhat immune to parental, peer, and community pressures to conform and fit in. You see through the bullshit easily and have little trouble letting it all go, leaving a ruckus in your wake.
For those who find themselves deeply entrenched, though, it’s a very different story. When you grow up in the Mormon church, being Mormon is a huge part of your personal identity. So when your personal identity also includes being gay… you are faced with a major internal conflict as these two pieces of your self war with one another. Many attempt to find consolidation, accepting that they are gay while still maintaining their faith in the Mormon church. These get hit the hardest, as they must constantly struggle with cognitive dissonance and their gay identity is attacked at every angle. If they opt to marry a member of the same sex, they get excommunicated and any children they have are barred from baptism. Other options are a heterosexual marriage, celibacy, or compartmentalization – having a secret gay life apart from their Mormon life.
So how can someone be Mormon AND gay? Because they were raised Mormon. Just picture, if you will, going through this Primary, going through this youth program, being surrounded by your Mormon peers who are competing amongst one another to be the most faithful, being surrounded by Mormon family. And if you live in Utah, add in Mormon controlled media outlets and businesses, Mormon newspapers, Mormon television channels… Church is your life – there are church activities every DAY. If you’re in Salt Lake, you have a massive temple in your backyard to remind you of the expectations. And in the layer of isolation and distrust for any information coming from non-Mormon sources… Now you have a cult. And that can be very… very hard to escape.
Who does God obey? To answer that question I’d like to start with a personal observation. The LDS religion isn’t what it used to be. Over the course of my life I have noticed an effort by the church to become more mainstream. PR responses if you will, to make the doctrine more palatable to the world at large. In many cases it’s a good thing. For example, the Book of Mormon declares skin color to be a sign of a curse that God put on those who were wicked specifically to make them loathsome to the good guys. In 1978, realizing the growth opportunities in countries with dark skin as well as facing some serious tax repercussions due to racist policies at BYU. God ‘revealed’ that all men no matter the color of their skin were now worthy to get the priesthood. An old doctrine went away and a new one of equality was ushered in.
A little history lesson
To better understand where I am coming from you might need a little education on this blacks getting the priesthood thing. Look here at the critics position and here for the apologists. You might notice that the apologetic response doesn’t mention the fact that other universities were feeling tax exemption pressure when all this went down. When I dug back into it, I also noticed that FAIR mentions a letter from Kimball to Carter, but neglects to point out “U.S. President Jimmy Carter commended President Spencer W. Kimball for “compassionate prayerfulness and courage.” In atelegram right after the ‘revelation’ was announced. I think the full text of that commendation is relevant so I took some time to find it for you. President Carter specifically mentions the courage of president Kimball to get a revelation. Does it really take a lot of courage to talk to God and ask him if he really, really wants to keep banning black people even if it means loosing BYU’s tax exempt status?
To add insult to injury why would FAIR neglect to mention this telegram in their rebuttal? Could it be because in hindsight it adds weight to the idea that the revelation was contrived due to pressure from the president of the United States? I leave that up to you to decide.
Changing doctrine isn’t new
The idea that the church changes policies and doctrine dependent on society isn’t something new. In fact exactly that situation is part of the LDS cannon. The faith was under fire for its polygamous doctrine (D&C 132) long before the black priesthood thing came up. Polygamy was preached and practiced openly once the faith moved the Utah territory, (before that it was a secret practice in Nauvoo.) Slavery and Polygamy were hot topics of the time when Utah was applying to become a state. The church was even in danger of losing a lot of church property due to the Morrill anti bigamy act of 1862. Then president Wilford Woodruff took the matter to the Lord and got the revelation to stop marrying multiple wives. This is canonized in D&C, official declaration 1 of LDS scripture. What I find interesting is the commentary on this revelation that is also canonized. Church President Woodruff declared:
“The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty”
He says this:
“The Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice. If we had not stopped it, you would have had no use for … any of the men in this temple at Logan; for all ordinances would be stopped throughout the land of Zion. Confusion would reign throughout Israel, and many men would be made prisoners. This trouble would have come upon the whole Church, and we should have been compelled to stop the practice.“
And thus, the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, the one where most of the revelation is dedication to justifying lots of wives for one man well stopped… lasting, sorta. It’s still there for eternity if you dig a bit, just not while people are alive well… kinda. It must be hard for God to give a command and then rescind it. Sure takes away from his ‘never changing modus operandi’ that he’d like to propagate don’t you think? This has to make you wonder though. Why did God have to change because of the threats of little ‘ol mankind?
Who Does God Obey?
To me this is a very relevant question for a lot of reasons, one of them is the idea that we need to obey God is core to nearly all religions. In fact it is often considered by the faithful the only way we can be morally good people. But, if these two examples are carefully considered doesn’t it look like God obeys man’s will rather than the other way around? That seems kinda whack for an all powerful being though doesn’t it? Almost like man invented God to do his will rather than the story we have all been told.
Up till now, I have used examples of God’s changing but not changing doctrine due to societal pressures that were a good thing. But what if good ideas lose out to popular opinion thanks to man pushing his will on God?
Man Can Become God
This is or at least was a core doctrine of the LDS faith. Man can become God. It’s right there in the same revelation as the polygamy stuff section 132 verse 20:
“Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.”
Joseph Smith declared this concept just days before his death in the King Follett Sermon. Men get to be Gods. Just like the God before him became God. Blasphemy cried the rest of the Christian world! The response of the church to this public defamation? Well, I first noticed it when one of my favorite prophets President Hinkley when interviewed said regarding this topic.
“I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. I haven’t heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don’t know. I don’t know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don’t know a lot about it and I don’t know that others know a lot about it.”
When I heard this I felt kind of taken aback. I loved this doctrine. As Joseph Smith stated, it was sweet to me. It made sense with the idea of free agency that the purpose of this life was to learn how to responsibly handle the power one would get when they became well… god of their own universe. But that doctrine seems to be getting down played more and more. Even to the point of selectively editing prophetic statements to make it go away. Most recently becoming a god is now describe as becoming like god in the LDS essays. The faith seems to be embarrasses of the entire concept of human’s following the same path as God from man to Godhood. That’s where this obedience question comes in.
Who Do You Obey?
If we do get to become Gods, who will we obey then? For myself and my family I have always felt the right thing for a parent to do for his kids was to teach them to think for themselves. Strict obedience for obedience’s sake makes no sense in this paradigm. As our children matured we decided to let them make choices on their own only suggesting how some of the consequences might turn out badly but letting them try it out anyway if they chose to. (Free agency right?)
Ultimately our goal was that our kids would be making their own decisions by the time they left the house. If they weren’t making nearly all of their own rules by age 16 to 17 then in my opinion they were totally unprepared for going it alone at 18. For this reason hard curfews in our home were replaced with mutual respect for each other. We didn’t say, ‘you must be home by 11:30.’ We asked the 16 year old when he planned to be home and then expected him to abide by his promise.
Can you see the difference from a ‘strict obedience’ style of parenthood to our apparently uber-liberal ‘fostering personal growth’ way of approaching it? Now of course this method isn’t without its bumps in the road, and I found more than once my gut just wanted to scream, ‘because I said so!’ when my own children questioned my judgement. But overall, so far with two kids out of the house and three more on their way I’d say the results are far, far more positive than negative.
Don’t Be A Dictator
Who do my kids obey? Certainly not me, I’m not a dictator. Maybe that is why I respect so much the ideas of Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris when it comes to the terrible concepts of unflinching obedience demanded by so may religions. In fact 10 years ago when I was still a true believer I’d probably said people like Hitchens and Harris just didn’t understand Mormon doctrine well enough to realize there is a religion out there that isn’t just obey, obey, obey. Looking back maybe it was some of the recent focus on obedience to the leaders of the faith no matter what that helped me realize that my own faith was every bit as flawed as all those other abominations as God called them.
Obedience without question is lauded as the best thing to do in Mormonism, that’s what Abraham did with Issac, it’s what Nephi did when he killed Laban. It’s what Joseph taught the women he wanted to marry to increase his harem when they balked at the idea. If God says so, that makes it right. Especially if God sends an angel with a sword to make sure you are listening. It seems to me that a path like this only leads to subservient soldiers that can’t think for themselves.
Think For Yourself
Contrary to the idea that men are here to think for themselves the core tenant of the faith really is “when the prophet speaks the thinking is done.” First taught here. Of course the response from then church president George Albert Smith says God won’t ‘force anyone to heaven’... He will just deny you access to your family for all eternity if you don’t do exactly what he says, which means becoming LDS, and pledging 10% of all your income to the church so you can be eternally sealed in the temple. Because that’s the ONLY way you get an eternal family according to LDS doctrine.
The Mormon faith teaches obedience is core, thinking for yourself not so much. Don’t believe me? Try this experiment, go to LDS.org search for ‘obedience’ see the hundreds of links that popup. Now search for ‘thinking for yourself’ and notice there is only one link with that phrase in it from 1971. Don’t fool yourself like I did that the Mormon religion encourages you to not be anything but a blind and obedient sheep.
If you feel mankind is more than obedient sheep to be lead merrily to the slaughter without defiance. You will soon discover as I did the people that think like you have a hard time with this jealous Yahweh/Allah/Jesus guy. A guy that is ready to damn anyone that isn’t gonna worship him and can’t let people think for themselves runs counter to the concept of free agency and responsibility. If you think that our destiny is truly divine you might want to stick with the Fridge, after all you can’t prove it didn’t inspire Rick to dispense this wise council. 🙂