Looking for Clarity in Mixed Messages

Competing communications

Mixed messages occur when we communicate two competing ideas. This results in miscommunication and logical conundrums. It is part of life and can often be attributed to our perception of words and actions.

For example a female often sees sexual advance of a male as a guy just ‘being nice’ while the male experiences a woman who is just being nice as a ‘sexual advance.’ Clearly this leads to confusion between both parties.

There are other cases of mixed messages though, such as where an abuser sends signals of love and hate towards the victim. Keeping them wondering exactly what is needed for love from the person in control. The narcissist creates a double bind in the relationship that is difficult for the victim to recognize and often keeps the victim in the situation far longer than expected. It also happens to the dismay of this on the outside that can readily see the abuse while the victim remains essentially blind to it.

In one case the mixed message is a misunderstanding due to personal bias, while the other is a situation where a level of thought control is exerted by one party over another emotionally attached person. There is another category of mixed message in my opinion. The religious one. I think we find components of both concepts in religious mixed messaging.

Relationships matter, good message

There is definitely a relationship at stake. You are supposed to ‘personally’ know Jesus right? In my discussion with people of differing levels of faith it becomes very clear that how a particular scripture or statement by a trusted leader depends greatly on a person’s point of view.

 

obi wan

 

But there is also messaging via the party in control that is worth consideration in my humble opinion. This sermon on the Fridge was inspired by such a message I recently read by a leader of faithful Mormons. There were some ideas in his talk that I really, really liked. Here are some examples:

 

“This is an important reminder to modern Israel that we should treat one another with respect and kindness and especially those living among us who are not members, because we were once strangers too.”

“If a neighbor, work colleague, or schoolmate is not interested in investigating the gospel, we must always continue to extend the hand of friendship”

“I invite every parent listening today to talk with your children about how they should treat others not of our faith on the school playground and in our neighborhoods. Our children learn best by the example of parents and leaders. Let us be careful regarding what we say about others and how we treat our fellowmen.”

“If we are His disciples, we must practice Christian civility and kindness to all we meet, including those who have chosen to disassociate themselves from the Church.”

 

Personally I found these to be great sentiments and appreciated hearing them taught from the pulpit. They addressed concerns I have as I watched my family ostracized from the community due to no longer believing the the prevailing faith. If I had one regret for following truth that lead to the collapse of my shelf it is the effect it eventually had on my children’s friendships when they came to similar conclusions as I did. It’s hard to see your own child treated differently due to not being of the same faith. So that last quote was very meaningful to me personally.

What is the whole message?

If only I could end it there though. The problem is this isn’t the only part of the message. Here are some other quotes from the same talk:

 

“I raise my warning voice, as Paul did, that there are those “that trouble you”—people that “pervert the gospel of Christ.” I would be shirking my duty if I did not raise my voice to warn you of the challenges we face today.”

“We are saddened when we witness some of the “very elect” deceived as Jesus warned.”

“To me this is a perfect analogy of what happens when stalwart Church members, the “very elect,” those who for all appearances seem to stand tall and erect in the faith, die spiritually.”

“Viewing podcasts and Internet sites that raise questions and doubt without being intellectually honest and that do not adequately and honestly present the Lord’s perspective”

 

To me this is a very mixed message. Love the heathen, be kind and nice and civil, but don’t let them contaminate you with their thinking or doubt. The unbeliever apperently needs to be both respected and pitied as a great tree that lost its roots and died? Taking it a step further old stereo types are reinforced with messages like this:

 

“When someone stops doing these simple but essential things,1 they cut themselves from the well of living water and allow Satan to muddle their thinking. Sin and guilt cloud the mind—leading them to deny past inspiration and revelation and causing a “de-conversion” from the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Non-believers are sinful, bad message

The person that leaves must be sinful to doubt the faith is core to this message. I still have no idea what ‘sin’ I was committing when I realized what I considered spiritual proofs of my own faith were no different than the things Muslims or the FLDS felt or any other religion. Looking at this with brutal honestly I had to consider the reliability of these feelings if they could also cause a teen girl to think it was necessary for her to become polygamous bride to a cult leader like Warren Jeffs.

 

 

Reading this talk, the mixed messaging of love your neighbor as your equal, but remember how lucky you are to be one of the chosen few was glaringly obvious to me. I think this is  because once I stepped out of the grasp religion had on my thoughts I noticed this conflicting communication is rampant in all faiths.

Bible says don’t kill, then Nephi is told to kill a drunk guy. Thou shalt not lie, but then Joseph Smith lies about his polygamy and orders a printing press destroyed for exposing it. You don’t even have to leave the bible to find mixed messages.  In one verse Jesus says love one another. Then in another he says you need to hate your family to be his disciple. 2 Entire maps of scripture have been put together highlighting the conflicting ideas.

I have determined mixed messages come part and parcel with religious faith. But I doubt most believers consciously realize the mixed messages that are being sent because they have been used to it for years.By now it just seems normal to hear such conflicting concepts reinforced. It’s simply the way religion works if you will. In fact I tend more to that explanation than an overt effort to control the thinking of members. Some find it abusive and cult like. I think it is more mild and unintentional myself.

Seeking clarification

Maybe part of the mixed messaging goes the other way, and like the relationship were one person can’t see things the same way the other can is a failing of not listening… That conclusion I reach because of this last quote that stood out to me.

“It is hard for me to understand why anyone turns to other voices on the Internet without first turning to voices of the scriptures or the voices of the living prophets and apostles.”

Let me see if I can clarify for Elder Ballard that which seems to be so hard for him to understand.

I did turn to the scriptures, and the voices of living prophets. But I kept hearing these mixed messages that frankly put never really get answered in way a that builds faith.

The answers in the new essays, especially if you do your own research following the footnotes, don’t honestly paint a compelling picture. They come off as weak justifications for some pretty awful things. Or they cause massive contradictions about how things that were doctrinal all of a sudden now aren’t. Like how the living prophets of yesterday like Brigham Young where just a product of their racist generation when they prevented Black people from getting the priesthood? Really? If that leader was off his rocker in his time and place why should I believe the current divisive LGBT rhetoric from leaders today?

I did turn to the faithful for answers to my questions. They didn’t have answers. In fact all they had was what you said. Blame to give me for not studying hard enough.

This is NOT a failure of trying

I want you to know I was reading the Book of Mormon daily the night my shelf collapsed, prayerfully looking for these answers that every leader says are there. I have yet to find clear and succinct answers. Only contradictory apologetics that put more spin on the facts than a used car salesman. I did everything asked and more before considering the possibility I was wrong and had put my faith in the wrong place. What have you done? Have you read the CES letter? How is it a director of church education can’t answer anything on the list of those items? How is it so much of what is in there is known to so few members of the faith? Why is the answer always my fault for not trying hard enough no matter how hard I try? Can’t you see how self serving such an answer is? You can use that kind of answer to prove you shouldn’t leave any religion. It’s illogical thinking and rests on circular reasoning that in any situation other than testing your own faith is obviously false.

 

 

Maybe the reason these podcasts and websites you vilify get more attention than the leaders of the church from those that questions is simple. Maybe it’s because these voices that are both somehow evil and to be avoided and yet made by non believers that shouldn’t be avoided but befriended….

Maybe they aren’t sending the mixed messages you have been.

 

 

“I just like to shoot straight, I’m a man of science, “

 

  1. Constant repetition is a well known way to control a persons perception. Is it really any wonder that ceasing to constantly repeat something might change a persons perspective?
  2. Luke 14:26

Making Pokemon a No Go is a Mistake

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…

 

Mormon… And Gay?

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.

Dear Believer, Why Does God Only Help You? 

The Promise

As a preacher/missionary/believer you promise that your God will answer my prayers. You assure me that is why you believe. Because God answered your prayers, you promise that your God will help me in my times of need as well. It’s for that reason you tell me I should believe the same as you do.

As a natural preacher and a person that devoted two years to a mission for my own faith I think I know where you are coming from. When you are talking about your experiences and how you see the world it feels good. It feels emotionally satisfying. You ‘feel the spirit’ when you share your own experiences and ideas about God. When you are talk to another person and they emotionally respond to your testimony it like gas on fire and multiplies what you feel many, many fold.

Sharing Emotional Experiences

If you study religious practices you’ll find it’s a common practice that communal beliefs are reinforced by sharing them.

Muslims have their group prayer, Christians their healing sessions, Mormons have testimony meetings, Catholics commune, Pentecostals dance and sing being consumed by the spirit. In all these cases the common thread is an act, an outward physical expression of their belief and a sympathetic response from their community.

Invariably you leave such a meeting uplifted, filled with an experience that confirms your faith is the ‘right one.’ Feeling a desire to share it more. Willing to enter the realm of the heathen to share this gospel that gives you so much joy.

Hidden Fears

I wonder though if deep down you realize you are envisioning a world that you hope for but don’t see. One where all wrongs are righted, things are fair and good people don’t suffer. Maybe that’s why you bristle when asked for evidence or are shown information that shakes your faith. Maybe deep down you know it’s all an illusion created and sustained via a community willing to reinforce that belief. A community in which each individual is on just as shaky ground internally while they too publicly profess confident belief in what their heart desires.

Hmmm… maybe the reason I preach the kindness of the Fridge is in an effort to capture that same sense of oneness among my new community of heathens and apostates.

Maybe I think my goal of faith in the improbable is one where religions no longer impose tribalism and hypocrisy on their followers. Maybe my insane hope that humanity will be able to just get along is shared by others no matter how crazy it sounds.

Feels are Reals

Even now as I write this that familiar feeling in my chest swells, burning with confirmation. A feeling that in the past I invariably took as a sign God was telling me I was on the right path. The inward realization of an outpouring of love by community, friends and family. A hope of shared purpose and common ideals. When I see some bit of wisdom from the Fridge shared on Facebook or Reddit, it warms my heart. When I see that hundreds of thousands of times these words have been read and touched someone’s life it makes me feel good. In short, as a heathen and lost soul by definition of my previous faith I still feel the same spirit and passion in a totally new, albeit completely fake one.

In this new world I have met many people who didn’t have such a positive experience in religion as I did. One such was abused as a little girl, raped and beaten by priesthood holders as she prayed with the faith of a 7 year old to be saved. She told church leaders of her plight and they ignored her pleas for help instead thinking their power of discernment worked because they believed the adult perpetrator over her. Her prayers went unanswered, yet for those that have felt an answer it’s as if they can’t believe she had been ignored. I have seen church members preach to her about how if only she’d have faith their God would come through. Thier God would make it all better because thier God fixes everything… For them.

Why is it your God is always there for you? Why is it your God lets others down but still answers your prayers? Are you special? Do you deserve help finding keys or paying the rent while a little girl is left on her own pleading to not be raped and beaten? Can you feel the spirit of the Fridge right now, pricking your heart, signaling a deep truth is about to unfold?

The Power is Within

I have hope that you might realize your God was you all along. You helped you and the moment you realize that you will realize that you helping others is exactly how your God helps others. It’s not by preaching about your better belief. It’s not by converting others to your faith. Do you want to prove your God helps others and doesn’t ignore their prayers? I’d suggest hold out your hand to help. The Fridge would say; Bend your ear in sympathy to another’s plight. Be there for your fellow being. Don’t take the lazy way out by sending a prayer begging someone else to do what needs to be done. Reach for the improbable, hope for the impossible and do something.

Sure it might feel impossible to help, overwhelming even. But don’t let that stop you from the smallest action. Remember this universal truth found even in fake religions:

The Fridge helps those that help themselves. Those that bless others will be blessed in return.

Don’t believe me? I promise you it’s true. Try it for yourself. 🙂

“Let’s think the unthinkable, let’s do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.”

– Douglas Adams

Who Does God Obey?

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 a telegram 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 embarrassed 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. 🙂

 

On Dreams and Reconciliation

I don’t dream very often, but when I do it provides a very clear picture of my emotional state. Worries and fears that plague my subconscious make their way into dream land, and via sleep I become consciously aware of those problems.

For example – when I fled my abusive relationship, I found myself in a state of hyper-vigilance. For several months, I kept having dreams where my abuser would just “show up” in seemingly benign situations, interacting with the people around me. Everyone seemed unaware of the problem his presence presented or how it was causing me to go rigid with fear. I’d try to leave, and he would keep following me. In my dream, I’d be constantly looking around corners and finding him there. I just couldn’t escape, and I’d wake up with my heart racing.

Clearly, my dreams were feeding off my fears of being found by my abuser. Those dreams ended with a blast when I was able to ensure a sense of safety and security for myself. In the last dream of the series, he came to my home. When he knocked on my door, I pulled out a shotgun and sat waiting on the other side. When I refused to let him in, he forced the door open, and I pulled the trigger. No more bad dreams.


I’ve recently had another very telling dream which has brought me to a reflection on my path of self-acceptance; a path which has included a departure from religion and a recognition of my LGBT identity. There’s a whole story building up to this dream; a story worth telling.

As a Young Woman in the Mormon church, I believed it was my duty to reach out to my non-member peers and invite them to attend church activities. I believed that this inviting was a sign of true friendship and compassion, as I was sharing the truth of the gospel with them and providing them with an opportunity to experience the blessings promised by the church. So when I found myself forming a friendship with a butch lesbian struggling with anger management issues who’d shared with me her story of having been molested by her father, the first thing I thought to do was to invite her to church, thinking it would help her.

She accepted my invitation and she clearly enjoyed coming to the activities. She also extended an invitation to me in return, to attend one of her church meetings with her (which I did) and then to see a movie with her. When we went to the movie, she wanted to hold my hand, and I realized she saw the outing as a date. I told her that while she was most certainly my friend and I enjoyed her company, I was not interested in dating women. She was okay with that and kept coming to church.

However, rather than participating in what had been planned, she opted to “hang out” in the gym, play basketball, and interact with the Young Men doing their scouting activities. Several of the Young Women started following her lead, and the Young Women’s President perceived my friend as a threat to her “flock”. She asked the bishop to speak with her, and so the bishop took her into his office and instructed her to adjust her dress and manner before coming back to any activities. My friend told me about what had transpired in the office, told me that she wasn’t interested in a church that wouldn’t accept her for who she was, and we parted ways.


For many years after, this experience has plagued me. It was the first time I’d seen church members (church LEADERS) behave in a way I considered to be un-Christlike. I was deeply hurt, seeing my friend turn away from what I considered to be the only thing that would bring her true happiness, because of the way my church leaders had treated her. The experience also opened my eyes to other faults in members of the church and even in church teachings and history, especially as it relates to the LGBT community. I was stubbornly obedient and naive though, and it took me many more years of uncovering problems to bring my illusion of truth crumbling down.

Even deeper than my disillusionment with the church, however, was my own buried and repressed sexuality. My experience with this friend has stuck with me after all these years, because it became linked not only to the first time my trust in the church had been broken but to my very own identity. I never dated anyone as a teen. I just wasn’t interested. Or at least that’s what I told myself. Looking back, I realize now that part of why this situation affected me so deeply was because I WAS interested in this individual as MORE than a friend. I just couldn’t admit it to myself while mired in the teachings that gender was a divine trait that had been predetermined and could not be “mistaken” or “mismatched”, and that interest in those of the same sex was a Satanic temptation meant to lead individuals astray from the straight and narrow path of eternal happiness.

It took rejecting these “truths” to FINALLY be able to start exploring who I was on the inside and what my interests and preferences actually entailed. I started internalizing EVERYTHING and really thinking about every belief that I’d accepted as truth without evidence. I slowly started realizing that much of my unhappiness and poor relationship decisions could be tied to a failure to accept and follow my own inner feelings and desires. I’d been pursuing relationships with men because that was what was expected of me, not because I had any actual interest in men, and I’d long considered my lack of interest to be a problem. I thought I was somehow broken inside and in need of fixing.

Then there were the other issues – how in my dreams I typically saw myself as male. I kept picturing myself in the roles of my favorite heroes like Spiderman, Robin Hood, and Han Solo. I never wanted to do anything feminine, despised dresses, make-up, shaving, etc, and fit in better with the guys than I did with the girls. My parents said I was a tom-boy, which was explanation enough to satisfy me while growing up, but when I cast aside the Mormon-centered concept of divine gender, I started questioning everything.

In the past couple years, I’ve been treading a journey of self-acceptance that could never have started without first rejecting the religion of my birth. As that journey has progressed, and as I’ve opened myself up to expressing the “me” I’d repressed for so long, I’ve been becoming happier and happier. I’m less stressed, less guilt-ridden, more confident, and even more outgoing. As I’ve been becoming comfortable with my identity, I’ve been starting to share it with others and “come out”. Shortly before my dream, I attended my very first LGBT event, a major step forward in being open about my authentic self.


The dream that put me on this path of reflection was really very brief and simple. In the dream, I was able to reconnect with this old high school friend in a surprise encounter. I recognized her, but she didn’t recognize me, so I shared with her everything I remembered about our brief friendship, and I told her about how her refusal to participate in a church that would not accept her had stuck with me for all these years. I told her about my own journey and how I’d slowly come to realize what a wonderful example of courage, confidence, and self-acceptance she had provided for me. We hugged, we cried, and we wound up dating.

When I woke, it struck me as odd that I would dream about this individual, but I realized that it was a dream of reconciliation. This dream was a sign that I had finally come to terms with my past and that I am now ready to embrace my path forward.

My journey is not all that unlike what many LGBT individuals born into the Mormon church find themselves going through. While the world is becoming more accepting as science shows that gender identity and sexual orientation have genetic and developmental foundations that cannot be altered or “cured”, the Mormons remain intolerant, even going so far as to exclude the children of LGBT couples from the ordinance of baptism. They still teach that gender is of divine origin and that “same-sex-attraction” is a temptation not to be acted upon. Affiliation with LGBT friendly groups renders one unworthy of their temple recommend, and anyone “struggling” is counseled to speak with their bishop.

The Mormon church has a long history of repression, suppression, and oppression of anyone who doesn’t fit their hetero-normative lifestyle. From political involvement to attempted conversion therapies, they have systematically treated homosexuality and trans-sexuality like a disease to be eradicated. As long as churches like this remain, there will always be those who spend lifetimes questioning and repressing their sexuality rather than accepting their unique identity and pursuing a life of happiness. While I have found my own sense of inner peace, I yearn for the day that journeys such as mine are no longer necessary and everyone can have the strength and confidence of my high-school friend in rejecting oppressive teachings and cultures.