Causing Offense

“It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.”
– Fatherly advice


Nicolas Ulmer is a little upset.  Due to God’s Folly, The Internet, he discovered that one of his relatives was posthumously baptized by The LDS Church.  Even more infuriating, LDS officials refuse to provide him with a sufficient explanation:

Carrying out online research into my family, I was surprised to learn from LDS posts that my direct ancestor, Johannes Ulmer, also of Steckborn, was posthumously “baptized” Mormon. I have repeatedly written to many Mormon authorities, including Brigham Young University and LDS headquarters, asking by what theological or legal right they presume to change my ancestor’s faith to theirs, but have gotten no substantive reply whatsoever.

Read the complete letter here.

When I was a young Mormon boy, I was baptized by proxy for many, many, many, many, many deceased individuals (all male, BTW.  It’s important to God that in proxy baptisms, the genitals match).

At the time, I sincerely believed I was doing those people a great favor; giving them the gift of God’s salvation.  Seeing it from their perspective now, I see just how offensive it could be.

I also have to accept the knowledge that I will have various posthumous LDS rituals performed on my behalf, though I make it  clear that I would not approve of those actions.  Regardless of my wishes, however, one of my relatives, no matter how close or distant, will eventually put my name on one of those little slips of paper.

Meet The Mormons

There is so great a need for civility and mutual respect among those of differing beliefs and philosophies.” Gordon B. Hinckley

Last week, during the The LDS General Conference, the organization reported that the current membership of The Church included 15,372,337 individuals. I am counted among that number.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I pay no tithes.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I do not know where my ward house is located.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I do not own a copy of The Book of Mormon.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I am pretty sure that sea-gulls did not save Salt Lake City farmers from hordes of crickets.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I accept all families as genuine and valid; not just those that resemble my own.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I do not know which of Joseph Smith’s many “First Vision” accounts to accept as truth.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I know the LDS Church lied for decades about Joseph Smith’s polygamist past.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I know the LDS Church lied for decades about the reason(s) Black members were denied full membership.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I believe that Brigham Young was a misogynistic and racist bigot.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I believe my brave, strong, and faithful pioneer fore-bearers were needlessly imperiled and endangered by the dangerous ideas and practices of the aforementioned misogynistic bigot.

I am one of those 15,372,337 million people, though I do not revere Thomas Monson, nor any of his peers, nor predecessors as prophets, nor seers, nor revelators.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I find it unethical, despicable, and immoral for any church to take 10% of their members’ hard-earned money — money that the congregation gives freely in the fervent belief that it will be used to build up The Savior’s churches and temples in order to fill the whole of the Earth with Christ’s light — and uses it, instead, to build a shopping mall in downtown Salt Lake City (I find this so repugnant, I refuse to set foot inside that abomination, yet, still, I remain one of the counted).

I am one of those 15,372,337 million people, even as I believe that Joseph Smith was a known treasure-hunter who plagiarized the text of The Book of Mormon from many contemporary sources, including The King James Bible, View of The Hebrews, and possibly Manuscript, Found.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I know that the church was repeatedly and repeatedly duped by Mark Hofmann because the leaders knew there were ghosts and skeletons in the Church’s history, and would do (and pay) anything to hide them.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I have long believed what the LDS church now readily admits, that The Book of Abraham was not “translated” from the common Egyptian funerary texts, but invented by Joseph Smith.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I do not believe that there is any kind of god, let alone one who lives on Kolob.

My name is Justin, and I’m a Mormon.

My name is Justin, and I’m an atheist.

My name is Justin, and I am not alone.

The Truest Friend We Have

Mother is the name for God on the lips and hearts of all children.”
– The Crow


I want to tell you about my amazing mother.

To briefly recap a few previous entries, I have been an atheist since I was near 18-years-old. Raised in a fervently Mormon household, I served as an Aaronic Priesthood leader in the Deacons, Teachers, and, Priests. At 17-years-old, I had a crisis of faith and a rebellion, leading me to lose my faith and start a journey toward science, critical thinking, and proper skepticism.

Though my family was obviously aware that I no longer claimed membership in The LDS Church, I never really mentioned the particulars of my disbelief. It was something unspoken. My father once asked me if I was going to go on an LDS mission, and I told him no, because I no longer believed in the Mormon faith, but that’s as specific an answer as I ever remember giving.

My father passed on when I was 21. My wife and I were, understandably, concerned about my mother’s well-being. We did our best to take care of her both financially and emotionally. Even as I continued to research and question and ponder the question of gods and religion, I did my best never to mention the particulars of my disbelief. I never wanted to needlessly, in my estimation, hurt my mother, nor the rest of my family, who still avidly believe in the precepts of the LDS church.

Apparently, I failed miserably.

Whilst recently staying with my mother, my young daughter was taken to a Stake Conference meeting. Neither my wife nor I were told that this was to happen, and this led me to believe that I finally needed to have a frank discussion with my mother about the nature of my non-belief. To the thinking of my wife and I, we needed to be perfectly clear, to avoid any future problems.

To that end, I invited my mother to dinner with the intention of telling her that I was an atheist. I wanted her to know why we no longer wanted our daughter taken to church.

After sending the invitation, I was racked with anxiety. I played over and over again the various scenarios that might take place. My mother being angry with me. My mother being devastated. My mother hating me. My mother disowning me. I had no idea what might take place. Day after day, the possibilities played through my mind. I could barely sleep.

For the record, we don’t tell our daughter that there is no god. We don’t tell her that God is false. We don’t tell her that we think Jesus is likely something of mythology. We tell her nothing at all with regards to the supernatural. It is our hope that we teach her how to think; not what to think.

To that end, my mother and I went to dinner. Previous to our meal, I did send an e-mail letting my mother know that I wanted to talk about my daughter and church. I worried if I brought it up with no warning, my mother would feel ambushed by the conversation. As it turns out, I needn’t have bothered.

We made it until dessert without mentioning religion, but then I knew I had to. I asked my mother what she knew about my religious beliefs. Without hesitation, my mother replied, “You don’t believe in God and you don’t want to.”


I was astounded. Dumbfounded.  Speechless. None of the scenarios I created in my head prepared me for this frank, honest, and immediately curt response.

She went on to tell me that, though, yes, she forgot a church meeting, and forgot to tell us about it, and had to take our daughter, but did her best to not make it about “church.” She told my daughter that they had a meeting, that she had to be quiet, but did her best not to make it religious at all.

Again.  Dumbfounded.  Speechless.

I was as shocked and as grateful as one could be.

I have felt the crushing weight of a potential religious confrontation with my mother and family since my wife and I first considered the possibility of conceiving a child. I knew that at some point, I would have to be honest. I always assumed that it would be a horrifyingly painful experience

I could not have been more wrong.

I don’t know when my mother first realized that I was an atheist. It may have been 20 years ago. It may have been a few months ago. It may have been last week. Largely, it doesn’t matter.

To my mother, should she read this. I can not thank you enough for being the perfect mother and for diffusing all of my fears so completely.

To others who may be reading this with similar situations, or even those just harboring the barest doubt; say something. Though you may fret and worry about what your family might think. Though you may be vexed by worries of how you might make your doubt known, it is likely overblown. Your family likely loves you, knows you, and may already know the secret you think you are keeping.

For this Valentines Day, would you martyr me?

News this past week included the excommunication of LDS church member John Dehlin, whose greatest crime, it appears, was voicing his questions in a snarky way.

If you want to read a very interesting read, you can view the press release here.

Most of the following is based on this release.

On the face of it, based on the letters Mr. Dehlin received from his leaders within the LDS church, it would appear that Mr. Dehlin was verbally bashing the teachings with phrases such as “would rather roll around in thumb tacks than ever teach or support that notion”, and “the probability that God exists is quite low.”

Another mentioned folly of Mr. Dehlin was that he was ordained over the internet to perform a marriage, which according to his accounts, he never did perform. He also offered to resign his ordination.

As I’ve thought this over, in the days since his excommunication, my personal thoughts are that he was really excommunicated because he was an outspoken supporter of marriage equality, and he also was a supporter of the ordain women movement.  Both of which have left the LDS church with black eyes.

While I’m sure some people think that his phrasing could have been better, he still maintained membership, still attended church, and still wanted to believe in God.  Personally, with the questions that he’s had, of which I’ve shared many, I’m incredibly surprised that he still wished to maintain membership, and to a greater extent that he wanted to believe in God.

The LDS church, at this point, had a great opportunity to embrace Mr. Dehlin.  They had the opportunity to nurture his desire to believe in God, and to attempt to answer, or at least help him come to terms.  They did not do this.  They acted instead as a bitter child would and punished him.

When he asked what he needed to do to maintain membership, he was not given clear answers.

Bryan King: I think you just need to go home and just need to really and sincerely search your heart and think and feel and discuss if this is a direction that you think you can do. If membership in this church is important to you, then I think you will feel the direction you need to go. And I think you’ll know. I really honestly think you’ll know. I don’t think it’s a matter of “oh well should I do this?”, “should I do that?” I honestly think that you will know.

What does that even mean?  This in a conversation between Mr. Dehlin and his leadership in the church concerning putting him on ‘probation.’  How is that even fair?  Would you say to your child, “among these 20 things you did, there were a handful of things that were wrong, I’m going to sort of touch on what was wrong, but when you ask specifics, I’m not going to give you an answer, BUT, you’d better not do it again!  I honestly think that you will know.”?

The mind boggles.  Wait, no it doesn’t.  In the world of religion, there is nothing if not contradictions in what to do, and what is right and wrong.

One particular gem, Mr. Dehlin, who is asking for clarification, and reaching out to his leadership, is getting non-answers, and in the following particular case, specifically given an answer because the stake president knows he’ll be called out:

John Dehlin: Right. And do you understand why someone would, would struggle with the historicity of the Book of Mormon?

Bryan King: Yes… yes. I do.

John Dehlin: Do you have any sympathies or empathies for someone in that position?

Bryan King: I do, in the sense that I hope that they would, they would try to gain a stronger association or testimony of it.

John Dehlin: That’s not sympathy or empathy with a position. That is a desire for them to change their position. But do you have sympathy or empathy for people who feel like there are serious historical problems with the Book of Mormon?

Bryan King: I do. Because if I don’t say that I do, then you’ll say that I’m not—so…

How can a leader give such non-answers, yet claim any sort of ability to discipline?

So, at the end of the day, leadership decided to excommunicate him from the church, stripping him of any of the benefits of membership.  Sure, he can still attend church, but when it comes to participation, he simply cannot.  And in a year or so, he can attempt to reapply, I’m sure with the caveat that he’s towed the line.

I believe this is a PR nightmare for the LDS church.  His voice, which was previously viewed as a member who had some serious doubts, and may have been poorly phrased, has now been validated.  The church, which claims to be a humanitarian organization, has shown its true colors.  If you aren’t in line, we won’t work with you.  We won’t take you in, in your time of spiritual distress.  We’ll kick you out.  They claim multiple times in the transcript that he has a ‘forum’, well, he certainly will now.

This comes on the heels of all the controversy over Prop 8 in California, and the excommunication of Ms. Kelly representing the Ordain Women movement, who wasn’t even given the honor of going to the stake level, but was excommunicated by her local bishop, simply because she’s a woman.  These events become much more public when the LDS church takes the ‘hard stance.’

Of course, it also could be that Mr. Dehlin was asking questions that there aren’t any good answers to.  In the information age, it’s hard to say that the Native Americans are the lost tribe of Israel when it is demonstrably false.  It’s hard to talk about steel weapons in a time when forging steel didn’t exist.  It’s hard to talk about horses on the North American continent before they were brought over from Europe.  All churches are at a point where they must adapt to survive, lest they lose people to evidence that is easily validated, thanks to readily available information.

Something that’s been interesting to me, among the people I know, those that are outraged the most by such this event are the atheists or non-religious.  Strange that we are upset by someone being forced from a religion.

You know, for a religion that claims so heavily that Joseph Smith was a martyr, it sure doesn’t seem to remember what that means anymore.

The proof is so astounding, I have no choice but to convert back….

This is going to contain some VERY high levels of snark, as this was sent to me in a letter, anonymously.  The person that sent this to me didn’t even have the balls to be known.  Because of that fact alone (not to mention the sheer absurdity of the letter), it will be mocked.

Here is a two page letter I was sent in the mail.  The mind boggles at the sheer complexity of this argument.  It’s so incredibly simple, the U.S. is shaped like a Native American’s head, that I must truly believe!




I note that in the drawn head, it has no representation of Florida.  Perhaps they can’t explain a strange penis chin?  Not by the penis of my chinny-chin-chin!!

What about Alaska?  I dunno, maybe that should be a short pony tail?  No, that would prove that following the Grateful Dead was the true work of god.

Man, that guy needs a tissue to blow off the boogers, too.  Maybe he had a cold when the land masses were being put into place?

Here’s page 2:


I can’t even follow this one.  I’m not sure the point here at all.  Up at the top “Adolf Hitler Idol Shitler Idle Destroyer?”

What does this even mean!?  The labels of Europe, “Lucifer’s Clipped Wings”, “Lucifer Treading on Israel”, and the icing on the cake “Hitler’s Shitler”.  Seriously?  What am I supposed to be getting from this?!  Apparently there is also something cut off on the right hand side that is an arrow to Italy.  Whoever sent this couldn’t even do a copy job correctly!

The person even got my zip code wrong.

So, with all of the amazing proof on this that makes so much absolute sense, I hereby am converting back to mormonism… I mean, what other logical choice is there?

Oh, right.  Logic.


Eyewitness Faith

“Faith can move mountains, Milt, but it can’t beat a faster draw.”
– El Dorado

Each Monday morning, I start off my podcast listening schedule with an episode of “The Atheist Experience.” It’s a show out of Austin, TX that takes open calls – mostly from believing Christians – which discusses and debates the callers ideas on belief and God.

This past week, one caller brought up a subject on which I have often dwelt. After rambling a bit on his woefully inaccurate understanding of biological evolution, he came to tell his own conversion story. The caller claimed that he used to be skeptical and once fell to his knees and asked God if he was real and if He was the god of The Bible. The caller then claimed that he was visited by a being that convinced him that God was real, and that He was the god of The Bible.

A powerful story. At least, it was for the caller. Fair enough. Mayhaps it did happen, just as the caller purported. Neither the hosts, nor I, nor anyone else is in a position to claim it didn’t happen. We were not there, and there is no other evidence to prove or disprove the event.

There are a great number of issues I have with that story (start with the assumption that he asked God if God was real), but chiefly it reminds me of the story of Paul – struck down on the road to Damascus. Apparently Paul had been preaching against God, which upset God, and thus he was visited by an Angel, told to change his ways, and struck blind. Somewhat unremarkably, this confirmed to Paul that he was woefully wrong to doubt The LORD. Hence, Paul went on to become a mighty advocate for Christianity – though he no longer had need of faith as he now had pure, unequivocal knowledge. If questioned, he might have answered, “God and angels and supernatural things exist; I have seen them.”

Similarly, Jesus reportedly performed many miracles for the inhabitants of Israel during his life. Attendees to the wedding in Canaan did not have to have faith in the power of Jesus; they saw the water turned to wine. Neither did witnesses to Lazarus’ resurrection, nor those who were healed of blindness or leprosy. Their faith in miracles was replaced by sure knowledge that miraculous things, being the will of God, could and would occur.

Of course, we in the here and now are to take on faith that these events occurred. We cannot verify their experience. Even if the Bible stories were written first person, they are anecdotal at best.

I have prayed for miracles. Long before my doubt took full hold of me, I prayed often, and sincerely that I be made to understand. I asked God that I be shown something that would take away the rushing tide of doubt. I am still waiting for His response.

I am left to wonder, why a Paul-like experience does not befall me? I am known to most of my friends to readily question the existence of God, and miracles, and anything supernatural. I write this blog (which, admittedly, not many really see nor read), but nary once have I been visited by an angel, nor spoken with a deceased relative, nor struck blind, nor seen water turned to wine.

Some who know me from my youth may feel that I have witnessed miracles. It is true that I have been given a blessing and felt better. I cannot deny that. Of course, though I felt better, I still had a fever, still had a cough, still had strep throat, my leg still broken. Knowing what I know now of placebos, confirmation bias, and Pygmalion effect, I cannot help but assume that time, biology, and knowing I had the care and concern of my family, friends, and church leaders, did most of the healing, and that the most miraculous event was the love of a family, fortunately so common amongst our fellow human beings.

But, forget my tiny and insignificant contributions to the heathen realm. What about Dawkins, and Shermer, and Dennet, and Hitchens, and Harris? People who have truly led so many away from the road of faith – and specifically Christianity. Why does God not see fit to send upon them the visitation of an angel, much like Dicken’s Marley? Warning them of their folly? Their arrogance? Their pending damnation? Their damage to humanity? Why are they so different from Paul? Why am I? Why must we who doubt take the anecdotal word of long dead prophets as truth, whilst others are given visions that confirm the truth?

Deep Water

“You don’t know me; you never knew my heart. No man knows my history… I don’t blame any one for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I could not have believed it myself.”

(It is The Law of The Internet that every religious blogger must, at some point, narrate and detail their conversion story. This is mine.)

I, Justin, being born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, was raised up in The LDS Church, receiving all of the blessings thereof.

And it came to pass that I did learn The Gospel, and studied carefully. And, lo, I was blessed and baptized. Wherefore, I did walk in belief of The LORD. And, yea, I went forth to the ward-house each Sunday. And I did learn and answer and teach and sing mighty praises unto The LORD.

And it came to pass that bestowed upon me were the keys of The Aaronic priesthood. And I did take up fast-offerings, and did pass The Holy Sacrament, and was set-apart and sustained as President of The Quorum of Deacons.

And it came to pass that I did wax strong in the service of The LORD. And after a time I was raised to the office of Teacher and then of Priest. And I was set-apart and sustained as president of each. And, behold, I was exceeding diligent in the exercise of the office to which I had been called.

And it came to pass that bestowed upon me were many sigils of my faith. And I took each with great and unending joy. And, I carried their meaning in my heart. And, yea, I was loved of my parents, and I did love them mightily in return. And, lo, I did see upon the countenance of my father immense pride that I walked with The LORD, and I took joy.

And it came to pass that I was laborious in the exercise of The Gospel. And I did plan mightily to wander for two years so that I may spread The Word of The LORD amongst the gentiles in The Wilderness of Disbelief.

But, verily, it came to pass that without intent, I stumbled into knowledge of The Forbidden Fruit. And I did ask questions that were not deemed appropriate. Nor were they answered. And, yea, mine teachers did become stubborn and wroth, and hardened their hearts, and they did advise me to keep my faith and forsake my questions.

And it came to pass that I did also find a love of dance, and music, and theater, and explored those desires of my heart. And, verily, I did no longer find joy in the ward-house.

And it came to pass that my parents grew wroth. And they did beseech me hearken to their words, and command me to return to the ward-house. Yea, verily, they bid me serve the duties they deemed sacred, but which I did not. And they were exceeding diligent, yet the anger of mine young mind awoke and I did harden my heart against their words.

And it came to pass that I did rant and rend and was taken to see the shrinkers of heads. And, lo, they helped me not, but did impart my goodly parents with the knowledge that my anger and disbelief was genuine. And, though they grew exceeding sad, they did leave me to the desires of my heart.

And it came to pass that I did as my goodly parents feared. I no longer entered the ward-house. And, yea, I wasted many nights in the company of both friends and fiends and secret combinations. And I adorned myself with cloth of blackness and of jewelry, and of symbols deemed to be of The Adversary. And, lo, I did engage in the forbidden fruits of coffee, tobacco, and alcohol.

And it came to pass that this period was known as ‘The Rebellion.’

And it came to pass that with new freedom to wander outside the bounds of the ward-house, I did question the doings of The LORD. And I did wonder upon natural law. And, lo, to question as to why The LORD was once the cause of great earthquakes, but now it was left to the movements of tectonic plates. And, lo, I did dwell upon the creation of life, and the evidence for evolution. And, lo, I did also dwell upon the whole of creation and the singularity of “The Big Bang.” And, though I being somewhat ignorant in the ways of science due to budgetary cuts in The Public Schools, I wondered if these, having evidence, were better explanations for natural law than The LORD.

And it came to pass that I did pray aloud, and in my mind, “Is there no god?”, and answer there came none.

And it came to pass that I wondered with regards to the miracles of The LORD. And, lo, I wondered, “Wherefore does The LORD no longer do as he did in The Bible, or The Book of Mormon? If we are a wicked generation, as has been many times spoken, wherefore are we not smote as Lot’s Wife or as Zarahemla or as Babel? And how could so many animals fit on a wooded boat? And wherefore did God need a flood? Could he have not just smote every evil living thing in an instant?  And, yea, there are many amputees who have not limbs, yet pray, and they are not restored?”

And it came to pass that I did speak aloud, and in my mind, “Is there no god?”, and answer there came none.

And it came to pass that for forty days and forty nights, many such questions did I dwell upon. And, lo, I wandered in the desert of Southern Zion, but I read neither book about god, nor website, nor blog, but dwelt in mine own thoughts, and called myself ‘atheist’, as I believed not in The LORD.

And it came to pass that I deceived a wise and most beautiful woman. And unto me she became my bride. And, lo, I saw that she was very, very good. And I did cleave unto her, and she to me.

And it came to pass that my wise and goodly father did pass away from The Earth, and all who knew him did morn mightily. And, verily, I did again, question my faith in The LORD.

And it came to pass that The Ass of The LORD did visit upon me at the grave of my father, and did tell me that which I already knew. And The Ass spoke that my father’s heart had been saddened because I did no longer walk with The LORD. And, verily, I bid him, get thee behind me. And he did so. And I did name him Ass.

And it came to pass that I once again did speak aloud, and in my mind, “Is there no god?”, and answer there came none.

And it came to pass that it was given unto me a book. And, lo, the title of the book was “No Man Knows My History.” And, lo, the contents were familiar to the stories of my youth. And I did read the book and comprehend the words, and dwelt upon the words. And I did study and verify and look up sources. And I grew exceeding wroth once more. For, verily, it came to me that I had been deceived by those attending the ward house, and also by my goodly parents, who themselves had been deceived by their goodly parents, and their goodly parents, even unto the many generations since the parents of my ancestors traveled across The Great Sea and through the wilderness to The Promised Land.

And it came to pass that I sought more from The Tree of Knowledge. And, lo, there fell two wizards, seeming from the sky. And, yea, the wizards called themselves Penn & Teller, and as I beheld them, scales of ox dung fell from mine eyes. And, behold, the wizards did make appear in mine sight a multitude of scholars. And they were called Carl Sagan, and James Randi, and Michael Shermer, and Christopher Hitchens, and George Carlin, and Eugenie Scott, and Eddie Izzard, and Greta Christina and Richard Dawkins, and Bertrand Russell.

And it came to pass that I read the words of the scholars, and I heard the words, and I understood the words, and I questioned the words, and I pondered long upon the words. And, yea, the words rang with The Truth of Evidence and The Truth of Logic. And, yea, I saw that many had questioned as I questioned. Yea, verily, they thought as I had thought. And, verily, they had written down their thoughts and their questions and their answers.

And it came to pass that I discovered in me a deep and abiding love of physics, and astronomy, and geology, and paleontology, and biology, and all that which illuminates The Path of Science. And, lo, the whole of the firmament appeared much different to me, and mine eyes were opened – and I saw with the wonder of a child. And, lo, I found myself not alone in my skepticism. Yea, verily, there is among us a great multitude of those who take joy in not knowing, and discovering, and questioning.

And it came to pass that I saw that it was good. And, yea, verily, as I dwell in unbelief, I have found much joy.

One Small Step For A Man

“We will never get a man into space. This Earth is man’s sphere and it was never intended that he should get away from it. The Moon is a superior planet to the Earth and it was never intended that man should go there. You can write it down in your books that this will never happen.”

LDS Apostle and future President Joseph Fielding Smith said the above in 1961, during a Honolulu Stake Conference. I guess he was wrong. Fair enough. In fact, he was kind enough to admit it freely when asked about it post-moon-landing.

I have been wrong about a great many things in my life as well. I do not, however, claim the gift of prophecy, which makes it a bit different. The Twelve Apostles, by contrast, claim to be and are sustained by church membership as “prophets, seers, and revelators” during each LDS General Conference. So, why was this prophecy regarding the moon incorrect?

From what I find online, most LDS apologists claim that Mr. Smith was not prophesying, but merely expressing his opinion on this occasion. Again, fair enough. I am forced to ask, however, how are church members supposed to know the difference? Mr. Smith was giving a speech during an official Church event, not casually conversing at a dinner party. When Brigham Young taught that interracial relationships would cause “death on the spot” – was it prophecy, or opinion?  Or when he taught about people living on the Sun?  Spencer Kimball reported in a 1960 General Conference report that Native Americans were becoming more light-skinned as they lived and taught The Gospel. When he did, was he speaking as a prophet, seer, and revelator – or as a man.

It seems that whenever one of the prophets has been decidedly proven to be blatantly and woefully wrong, they were speaking as men. When, however, they might have been right – Joseph and The Civil War is a popular example – then they are speaking on behalf of God. As long as the congregation agrees with The Prophet, on polygamy, the priesthood restriction on “negroes”, on the sinfulness of same-sex marriage, they are God’s representatives, but when the congregation and society move on – banning polygamy, rejecting racism – retroactively, then they were speaking as men.

A convenient strategy of constant revisionism.

Imagine What You’ll Know Tomorrow

Fifteen-hundred years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was the center of the universe. Five-hundred years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was flat. And fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.”

Continuing on some of the thoughts I had in my last post, I can’t help but wonder what will change in The LDS Church tomorrow.

From Brigham Young to Spencer Kimball, every president of the church, countless apostles, members of The Seventy, and lay leaders prophesied and testified about “negros” and the priesthood.

Brigham Young claimed that a white man who “mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.” When did this change? Does God have a different definition for ‘always’ than we do?

John Taylor taught “Cain and his posterity must wear the mark which God put upon them; and his white friends may wash the race of Cain with fuller’s soap every day, they cannot wash away God’s mark.”

Speaking at BYU, Apostle Mark Petersen stated, “it is the decree of God that the mark should remain upon the seed of Cain, until the seed of Able shall be redeemed, and Cain shall not receive the Priesthood until the time of that redemption.”

But, in 1978, for whatever reason you may believe, The Church changed direction, and allowed Black members to become full members, receiving the priesthood and temple rights. They did not, however, disavow their immense collection of racist teachings. Black members had to wait until 2014 to learn that they were not cursed with the “Mark of Cain” and that they were not punished for unrighteousness in the preexistence, and that these discriminatory policies were just an artifact of the commonplace racism prevalent in The United States when the church was founded. How is it that God let so many spiritual giants like Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Joseph Fielding Smith, Bruce R. McConkie, Mark E. Petersen, lead his chosen people down the wide and curved path of bigotry and abject racism within the confines of His restored gospel?

Today, though I am allowed to remain a member (in name only), faithful, diligent believers like Kate Kelly are excommunicated for essentially asking, “What if you’re wrong about something else? What if the male-only restriction of The Priesthood is just another artifact of our time? Perhaps the sexist nature of society has seeped into gospel teachings as racism did before?”

The Church claims today that homosexuality is still a sin, but in 1959 David O. McKay, Spencer Kimball, and Mark Petersen also saw it as a disease that needed curing. How many good people were harmed and injured by the despicable practice of reparative therapy? But, no more. In the 1990s, The Church learned that same-sex attraction was a “tendency”, to be worked through. And, today, The Church knows that it is not a disease, nor a tendency, but a test; a moral challenge to be faced.

It is odd that the omniscient God and His spiritual representatives have so much that they must learn as society advances. Today they know that polygamy is wrong. Today they know that racism is wrong. Today they know that reparative therapy is wrong.

Imagine what they will know tomorrow.

Apostasy of Truth

For those who don’t know me, my name is Justin. I was born into an LDS family here in the state of Deseret.  My father served as a bishop and high-priest.  My mother served as relief society president, stake primary president, and many other positions.  My mother’s family has a long pioneer history going back to the cross-country Willy and Martin Handcart treks.

For those who do know me, I am sure it is not a surprise that I no longer consider myself a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Besides a few funerals, I have not attended a sanctioned church event in 20 years.

Acknowledging this, some people might be curious as to why I get angry when I read some of the recent noteworthy essays from The LDS Church, supposedly attempting to explain some of their more controversial and baffling past/present policies. The latest of which acknowledges that Joseph Smith was a polygamist, and married teenage girls as well as the wives of other men whilst in Nauvoo.

Prior to that it was an essay on the authenticity of The Book of Abraham. The essay admitted that those images were taken and “translated” from nothing more than common Egyptian funerary texts.

Prior to that, an acknowledgement that the priesthood ban on African Americans was nothing but racist bigotry and had nothing to do with gospel or God’s plan.

These infuriate me for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is that I was taught exactly opposite of these things when I was growing up. When I dutifully went to church each week. Whilst I served in the office of Deacon’s Quorum President, Teacher’s Quorum President, and Priest’s Quorum President. Whilst I studied the Book of Mormon. Whilst I read the D&C with my mother each morning at breakfast. Whilst we read the official church history.

I remember specifically asking if Joesph Smith had other wives and was told, no, there was no one but Emma. I remember specifically the lesson that told me that The Mark of Cain was black skin, and that bigfoot might be Cain (a ‘fact’ quickly and rightly dismissed by my father), and that the black skin of African Americans was a punishment for unrighteousness – just as darkened skin was for the Lamanites. I remember repeatedly pondering and studying the images and text in The Pearl of Great Price, amazed at the rich cosmology built there.

(I stopped going to church for none of these reasons and contradictions, but for reasons that belong in a different and much longer missive.)

But, I think the real reason I am infuriated is that I will upset people simply by writing this.

The facts are these:

I was taught lies, plural. Not just differences of philosophy with now I disagree. Not just pedantic logical arguments and fallacies. I was taught multiple admitted concrete falsehoods – as if they were gospel truth. I have little doubt that if a common member were to have read those essays, word for word from the pulpit when I was yet going to church, they would quickly have joined the ranks of excommunicated Mormons. Imagine for a moment that the essay on African-American priesthood prohibition has been written and read by a ward leader in 1960. What do you suppose would have been the result for the author? A Mormon man named Douglas Wallace was excommunicated in 1976 for bestowing the priesthood upon a black gentleman – apparently doing the true, inclusive will of The Lord – whilst the appointed leadership of the church continued to lead the membership upon an immoral path of racial bigotry and discrimination.

Whether those lies were spread knowingly by the good people in my ward or whether they themselves were misled by their leaders, I can’t possibly say. It is my contention, however, that this demonstrates a concerted effort to cover-up history, distort facts, and mislead entire congregations of good, well-intentioned members of the church – including many members of my family.

There are so many other things that I could write regarding my various views of The Church – but why bother? These are confessions. Written, uncoerced, by The Church’s own hand. They are lies and damned lies by The Church’s own standards.

But most damningly, I hate that by simply publicly acknowledging these facts, I will upset people and be viewed as an anti-Mormon apostate. I hate that some people will think I have some agenda other than pointing out the clearly obvious truth – that the foundation of “The Church” is built upon a sand-bank of admitted lies, and governed by admitted liars. And I hate that these new essays will not likely cause more than a fleeting moment of pause.

I am not “anti-Mormon.” I am pro-truth. I never set out to disbelieve, and I never set out to break my family’s heart. If you don’t understand that, then you don’t understand me.


It is astonishing what force, purity, and wisdom it requires for a human being to keep clear of falsehoods.” – Margaret Fuller, 1842