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.

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!

Stealing Christmas

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.

Rebrand it.

Merry Fridgemas everybody!!

May your holidays be cool and bright!

Tribal Loyalty 

So today I had an epiphany. Well actually it was a few days ago, today I figured out how to write it down.

Our human default wiring is set to “tribal loyalty.”

That means we tend to cherish those of our own tribe more and those that aren’t part of it not so much.

I have even noted that those that break ranks with the tribe are often most vilified because of this natural default setting.

This came to me after a discussion with a friend. He was very upset by poor Chinese people willing to work for less money just to put rice on the table and thus steal the job from a poor American with a Fridge and a cell phone. Clearly America is in his tribe.

I personally only see poor people in these two groups now, some clearly worse off than others. It dawned on me I have been going to China a LOT lately for work. I realized by getting to know them and their families and their lives that my ‘tribe’ was now bigger than it used to be.

So moral of the story?

-> Try to expand your tribe <-

Get to know someone you wouldn’t normally know. It leads to great epiphanies and just might change that natural default setting a notch or two!

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