The First First Vision Mashup

I don’t know if my readers can tell or not, I don’t write all that much specifically on Mormonism these days. I think that is normal. This blog being initially cathartic during my transition away from the LDS faith has become more of a social commentary for me personally. It also seems to be a half hearted attempt at shining a new perspective on keeping the positive aspects of faith in a world that is becoming increasingly secular.1 But today is an exception. Today I watched the new First Vision video that was recently released by the LDS Church.

This video is admittedly a mashup of 9 different accounts of the first vision. It is complete with modern sound effects and plenty of emotional theatrics. The reason this video bothered me enough to return to a post that is specifically Mormon related?

Simple, the stuff they left out. You see my own journey out of the faith involved a lot of study on the first vision. I spent weeks reading each account and creating a timeline of events to help me personally understand what happened and when it happened. In fact a large chunk of my work ended up here on a website created by a friend that had a similar interest at the time. http://firstvisiontimeline.com.

Now there are plenty of step by step comparisons of these different accounts on the internet. Here and here are a couple of good ones for further study. Even if I were willing to go into painstaking detail on this post, I have learned that people who don’t want to question don’t care about the details.  People that are willing to be wrong will look them up on their own. So consider those links to be some teasers if you really want to better understand this ‘historic’ event. I’m sure a little googling and you will find a plethora of detail on your own.

I’d suggest this first mashup of the first vision, is really important as far as the LDS church is concerned. You see up till now the primary narrative has been to repeat the canonized version that is the churches scriptures. That narrative doesn’t hold anymore as Richard Bushman, LDS historian and believer points out.

It’s part of the effort of modern leaders (that I personally think have been as surprised by the actual history as I was) to come clean and retell this stuff in light of availability of information on the web. Information that in the past was dismissed as anti-mormon rhetoric, not to be believed. That doesn’t work anymore since anyone with a little curiosity can quickly find most of this ‘anti’ stuff is by and large legit historical fact.

That means this new video is part of the effort to inoculate members against the complications of discovering the history of the church wasn’t all that much like you were taught it was.

Let me put it in Elder Snow’s words:

“…And now curriculum and seminaries and institute can safely weave these essays into a future curriculum to in a sense “inoculate” is a word I use quite a bit for the rising generation.”

Now I totally balk at the idea that truth must be a disease  requiring the seeker to be protected against it. Maybe that is why this video release struck a nerve bringing me to a keyboard today. Because when this apologetic tripe goes down, I see subtle deception at play. It’s done by half truths. For example:

In this video the opening text identifies when these accounts were written.

That part is true, but right off the bat I think some important information is left out. The fact this took place in 1820… 12 years before the first account, and 18 years after the official account isn’t mentioned.

Why is that relevant? Because we don’t naturally expect a world shaking vision to remain unwritten for over a decade, let alone 5 years after we have accounts of Moroni and the plates and 2 years after the church this vision was presumably all about was founded. Maybe they left that part out even though it’s clearly stated in LDS cannon because these other accounts don’t much agree on when it actually happened, one says he was age 14, some 15, others 16, 17 even 18 years old.

For me personally half truths are the worst kind of lie, the ones that the used car salesman uses to gain your trust while selling you a lemon. Unfortunately this video is loaded with them. Please don’t take my word for it, go find all the original accounts and read them for yourself as you watch it.

When I did my own research, the timeline presented a far different narrative as to what went down and when. One detail left out from all the apologetics is the fact no one really talked about the first vision till the late 1850’s. Another are the common themes found in the 1838 canonized version shared with the obituary of a 14 year old boy who saw God and Jesus and just happened to be printed in paper that Joseph Smith was the editor of a few months prior… 2

Could it be that JS was just retelling the angel Moroni story and it took on a life of its own? That would explain how up till nearly 1860 all the leaders of the church talked about was the story of the angel that visited Joseph, completely omitting the idea that God himself came down to get this ball rolling. Could each retelling be a fabrication rather than a recitation of events that happened? Maybe a one-up on other visions being talked about in the community so that Joseph was always the most prophetic?

That’s something you will have to decide for yourself. Maybe it really occurred and this messy history is the best God can do for his one true church. After all that’s what the apologists would have you believe.

Here and now though we can look closely at what we are being told by this new video. It’s obviously leaving out some pretty big details that I think would matter to anyone investing 10% of their income in buying the reality of this story.

One of the biggest IMO? They totally gloss over the part where God calls all other churches an abomination. Probably because these days God is more worried about offending people of other religions than he was back in 1838.


Is the first vision an important event that it warrants a lot of investigation on the part of those who would believe? I think so, after all these are things of eternal importance. So important that you should wait 12 – 20 years to write them down and nearly 40 years before you talk about it. Am I right?!!

I doubt this is the first historical mashup we will see as apologists take over the official narrative of church history. Gone are the days of clear obvious church statements. We are now in the world of mushy careful wording to support shelves heavily weighted with readily available facts. Obfuscating mashups are the new normal. Or to put it in terms of a Jedi to the weak minded… these are not the droids you are looking for… *waves hand*

 

 

  1.  Sometimes all you can afford to put into it is half a heart when it’s not your day job! 🙂
  2. Personally I think it’s very enlightening to read and compare the original first vision story written by Joseph himself to this obituary and to the official account in the Pearl of Great Price. Noting that it came out just months before the official account was dictated.

Loving a Beast is Normal 

Beauty and the Beast won’t get my money!! Disney, how could you ruin such a great story of implied beastiality with a sideline gay character!!!

Or at least that’s how the uproar over this latest appearance of homosexuality in a major production appears to me.

I mean sure the beast magically becomes human after the girl sees he’s really a good person on the inside, but doesn’t that same metaphor apply to seeing a gay person for who they are on the inside too?

The irony of this great example of cognitive dissonance in religion vs reality is about as high as I’ve ever seen it.

Next time someone goes off on Beauty and the Beast over the implications that being gay is ok, point out the homosexuality is implied no more than the beastiality was long before it made it to the big screen… Girls don’t fall in love with animals (beasts) every day you know!

Maybe the real point of this timeless tale is we should stop judging people by how they look… or the bodies they have! Seems like a good idea don’t you think ?

 

Putting God in a Box

The more time I spent discussing religion with the faithful, the more I see the box they put their particular God in.

I blame it on our human decency for the most part, with a dash of reason tossed into the mix. Let me explain.

Some people look at evolution and say, yep that happened. But still somewhere along the way God tweaked things just so and we’d all turn out like we did. You know, in his image and all.

Still others declare no! Evolution is bunk! The earth is 6000 years old and all that evolution science is baloney! Often times these two types of people even go to the same church.

But if you keep exploring enough you will find the edges of the box each person has put their God in. Somewhere you will find that the miraculous answer ‘God did it’ just isn’t the case. They will tell you without reservation what God really meant by very specific words in ancient texts rather than explain it in a miraculous way.

Because you see, the miracle would offend either that believers sense of decency, or their sense of reason and logic. So they box God in. They limit his power over their morality and reason.

It’s a good think too, because when you look around, the people that let their God run amuck with very few limits are the ones we call extremists. They start wars and kill doctors in the name of their God. Rather that impose personal morality on scripture by declaring that passage should not be taken literally… they take it literally.

I think we Fridgidarian’s should promote boxing God in with sound moral judgment and reason. So next time you hear your friend substitute their own moral values in place of scripture or prophetic decree. I say give them a high five for at least in this one instance, of thinking for themselves.


P.S. Do you think it is just coincidence that your Fridge comes in a box? Well now you know! 🙂

 

The Decency of Humanity

Today’s sermon on the door of the Fridge is about decency. More specifically do people need religion to be decent? Then the follow up question: Is it possible that religion actually suppresses the natural decency and morality that we humans seem to portray in every culture and medium we have created? 

Personally I think most people can be moral and decent all on their own. Sure there are some that need threats of hell to be nice to others, but honestly I don’t think that is typical the case. 


Along the same vein, it doesn’t take much research to discover that the ‘divinely appointed sources’ didn’t get it any better than people who relied on their own judgment. 

Even worse, in some cases dogma takes on a life of its own. Keeping things like racism embedded in a culture way past the time the rest of society realized keeping slaves is NOT a nice thing to do.
Case in point. The bible bans shellfish…. but on slavery, that’s all good. God made sure we knew shrimp was bad to eat, and that we should kill homosexuals ‘n all. But on slavery? The nicest thing we get out of the bible about that is:

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.” (Ephesians 6:5 NLT)

Thus is the value of divinely appointed sources that we are supposed to put our faith in and act on. Slaves are supposed to obey, and you are supposed to kill gay people.

The ‘truth’ of these sources is so bad that most of humanity already ignores it. Just read the part of the Old Testament where God kills a guy for spilling his seed on the ground instead of getting his brothers wife pregnant to any Christian you know. I’ll bet most won’t know it’s in there, then a few will say that part of the Bible doesn’t count anymore. (except the 10 commandments, for some reason those are still ok.) 

That’s why I have a lot more faith in humanity than the dude that is presumably filling all these books up with stuff we should apparently be paying more attention to. 

Because most of humanity already ignores all the bad stuff, even as they claim to believe in their books or leaders as giving us the inerrant word of God.

In the long run I believe humanity is winning this battle. While over and over again churches are losing due to their own greed, lies, illogic and awful dogma. Which thanks to modern information technology is exposed at the touch of a screen.  

It’s almost like the vision of the Fridge is true no matter what my voice has to do with it! 

Humanity is domesticating religion all on it’s own. Humanity is making these myths bow to their own sense of morality. Even disavowing their own scriptures and dogma. 

And that brings me hope!

Waking Up To Discover Who You Are

The feeling of discovering that your life was scripted by others is initially difficult and depressing, but once you have sailed those troubled waters the sun does come up again.

This time though, it rises with a brilliance you haven’t experienced before. A wonderful realization that you are you. You discover that your are meant to be who you want to be. That the mold you were pressed into is nothing but make believe.

So why not believe in yourself? Why not choose your path? Why not find your bliss?

No reason at all.

The Fridge blesses you! Now go forth and bring what makes you, you and bless the world with your light!

The Crazy Logic of Belief

Imagine for a moment that you are a backyard scientist and you are running an experiment on gravity. Your hypothesis presumes that a roll of quarters will fall faster than a marble. Your logical reasoning for this happening is because the roll of quarters is heavier by about 10 times than the marble.

You set up the experiment and discover they fall at exactly the same rate. What do you do? Do you realize your hypothesis is false? Or do you come up with a reason for why the data didn’t match your prediction?

If you are a bit of a science history nut, you will recognize this as a popularized experiment where Galileo proved the previous ideas about gravity wrong. It was a big enough deal for the progress of experimentation and scientific method that astronauts even repeated the experiment on the moon.

Now given the hammer and feather example in the video you can see how it might seem like lighter objects fall slower than heavy ones, a result that also happens to make sense and be a little more intuitive. Changing the object shape but not changing the weight produces a very different result as also seen in the video. So what gives?

Well these days it’s all pretty well known, the difference is air. Gravity without any air resistance pulls on all objects with a constant acceleration.1 Since air can get in the way and mess with the results so much. It turns out in your backyard experiment it is quite possible you could totally miss the underlying law of falling objects. Especially the result showing that without air getting in the way a hammer and a feather fall at exactly the same rate.

This happens because it is counter-intuitive. A person having dropped a lot of feathers expects them to fall slower than a hammer. Their experience builds up an expectation that is not representative of the core reality. But sometimes our intuition is wrong.

Intuition is not necessarily a rational process, it’s something that is trained by repeated observation. It’s often very useful because we can quickly jump to a conclusion when needed. That very skill helped our ancestors not get eaten by tigers when they noticed that rustling grass meant there were bad things sneaking up on them. The guy that took time to logically deduce if it really was a tiger typically ended up as lunch though. So we didn’t get as healthy a dose of his genes.

My point isn’t to say intuition is a bad thing. Just that sometimes it can be wrong.2 That’s why sometimes results are counter intuitive.

Say for example you and a friend were debating this falling object phenomena and he insisted that the weight of the object was related to the speed at which if fell. He kept pointing at the feather and the hammer results to confirm his point.

You try to show him a result using a bouncing ball and a cannon ball and he dismisses your example out of hand, even refuses to run his own test because he has already ran the hammer and feather test and ‘knowns’ without a shadow of doubt the feather falls slower. 

When you get him to discuss it he comes up with a theory that your balls are shaped such that air pushes down harder on the bouncy ball making it catch up to the cannon ball. He even produces complex equations that explain your result and allow him to keep believing that lighter objects fall slower.

What gives? Is it possible that someone would be so stubborn to not let go of their intuitive understanding and accept a new idea, in this case the law of gravity?

To us it seems silly right? Yet exactly this kind of bizarre reasoning, justifying ones own belief happens all the time when it comes to religious discussions. 3

The fundamental logical flaw that occurs when a person takes the apologetic route for justifying their beliefs is simple, they don’t weigh evidence the same. Evidence that supports belief gets all sorts of rationalizations while the same kind of evidence that would negate the validity of their belief is dissmissed out of hand.

This is a human flaw that knows no bounds of intelligence or education, in fact in a lot of cases a smart person is quite capable of coming up with such complex reasoning that you can hardly follow it. The great Randi points out in this clip its precisely because of their education smart people are sometimes the easiest to fool.

All this came to mind as I recently debated the historicity of the Book of Mormon with several LDS apologists. Their best proffered evidence of authenticity was the NHM = Nahom idea. Proving that Nephi’s bountiful is a really place in the old world was the best actual proof for the book.

Ignore the fact that things like smelted steel, swords, elephants, coins, chariots, horses and even DNA, are completely lacking in the new world… Oh, look over there! It’s is a place that shares 3 letters and some grass and trees in the description! That MUST be proof!

I pointed out to these guys the Vern Holley maps that were part of what collapsed my own shelf. They dismissed by my evidence out of hand just like the gravity example above.

The 30+ correlations with names from that area and time meant nothing to them. I had spent a bunch of time digging through old geography maps to make sure they names were there so I knew they existed in the past and I said as much. But the apologists still insisted it was a meaningless correlation.

Why did they mean nothing you ask? (Because I did ask.) We’ll geez you know just because some letters match up with other words it just isn’t proof!

Really? Like NHM = Nahom? I postulated. That lead to them accusing me of  being a horrible anti-mormon. The idea that I would challenge their expertise showed my lack of knowledge and or intellect. Then they ejected me from their group.

Later, following up on some of the references presented by these guys. I found some more of the arguments promoting the idea that Vern Holley correlation is meaningless. Here are a few:

  • These names are only 11% of the BoM. (using the same calculation the NHM = Nahom correlation is 0.2%) Are you starting to see what I mean about not weighing the evidence equally?
  • These places don’t show up in a google search as existing back in the 1800’s. Seriously, that is fundamentally the point of this guy on the topic. You’d think a PHD in physics would realize that the internet wasn’t a thing back then! Seems obvious to me that not ALL the worlds information is on the web, you might need to go beyond Google. 🙂 4
  • Not all the names match up so therefore none of it is valid. Are you willing to reject your entire NHM = Nahom theory out on a single failure or mistake?

It becomes pretty apparent, pretty fast that we humans are far more likely to confirm our bias than we are to willing to challenge the status quo.

My point in this post to the Fridge door today… I’m not really sure. The more I think about it just doesn’t seem all that effective to try and teach critical thinking post commitment. People need a reason to change their mind about something, an emotional one for the most part. 

You just can’t logic someone out of a crazy belief. Trust me, they will just come up with crazier logic that makes complete sense to them. I honestly doubt I seriously affected the apologists position with my reasoning at all.
So maybe this post is for the select few that think its worth looking behind the curtain to see what Oz really is. There has to be a half a dozen or so of you out there right?

  1. Technically a mutual force that includes both bodies mass but since the earth is so much bigger percentage-wise it’s mass is all that matters, even more technically there are some more effects that show up with more mass that are explained via Einsteins work.
  2. Side note; if you want to be a particularly effective problem solver, use experimentation to repeat known counter intuitive results. By doing it you can effectively retrain your intuition to more accurately depict reality. That is a hugely useful skill in any complex field. I personally did it in electronics, my chosen profession, and it repeatedly helps me solve problems quickly and accurately. A very employable skill!
  3. I don’t think it is a small coincidence that the Fridge inspired me to use Galileo’s example for this post, after all the guys that tried to prove him wrong were none other than the Catholic church itself.
  4. But a lot is if you dig deep enough. There are some really old maps of the area that have been scanned into the system that  can be searched out and looked up to find the existence of them. It’s just a huge pain in the ass, took me several days of eyeballing old maps on my own. Drop me a line if you want me to point you to them.