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

Pumpkin Spice Latte of DOOM!

I’m so very, very tired of the scare tactics used about GMO, FDA, Vaccines, corporations, etc., etc..

Here’s an example:

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Scare Tactics

On the surface, it looks so very scary, using bold text to make sure that the scary bits are emphasized.

I’ll highlight a few of the more questionable parts.  “After really putting the pressure on, I was finally able to get the complete list, but it wasn’t easy” and “Case In Point: You’ll get 2 doses of Class IV Caramel Coloring” (the later is in absolutely huge text, because we can’t simply read, we have to be beaten over the head with the scariness).

Then there’s a nice picture that has a series of bullet points, using scary terms like “made with ammonia and considered a carcinogen”, and my personal favorite “Ambiguous Natural Flavors that can be made from anything found on earth”.

It goes on and on, and continues to add more and more scary language and references.

The issue here is this… Most of this is just hyperbole to enhance your fear.  There are many a logical fallacy at issue here.

Let’s take a look at the snopes breakdown of this, what I’m now terming the pumpkin spice latte of doom, because I’m scared of it now.

Snopes take on the pumpkin latte of doom

Note that, right off the bat the ingredients are readily available, and in fact you can do a build-your-own style nutrition count, letting you put in size, milk (or non-milk) type, and whipped or non-whipped cream.  This seems to fly right in the face of the claims of this so-called foodbabe.

Not addressed in the snopes article are claims like the “made from anything found on earth,” and I, for one, couldn’t be more scared!  Perhaps there is some sort of controlling body that could protect us from them flavoring our beverage with arsenic and dog feces!  Who will protect us from the addition of lead?  Oh, wait, I remember now, the FDA.  Food products must be verifiably tested to be safe for human consumption, you can’t simply make something out of “anything found on earth”.

Now, just fair warning, I heard from an starbucks ex-employee’s cousin’s friend that if you don’t drink a vegan soy chai from starbucks, you’ll get goiters!  Be afraid! Be very afraid!

Did you know Tom Cruise is a scientologist?

The title is a joke, not a joke in the sense that he’s a scientologist, I knew this, but a joke as a preface for the rest of this entry.

Often, I see or hear of people that are believers of religion X or Y. To be fair, I also see or hear of people that are atheist, there are big lists you can look up.  I used to care, but I don’t anymore, and here’s why (well, I still sort of do on the atheist side, but I’ll explain that later)…

So, let’s take an example… When I was a kid, raised in Utah, not mormon, a girl I was interested in invited me to go see a band she liked.  This was not done on the up and up, it wasn’t stated that it was at a church or involved church, it was just to meet the band.  She knew I wasn’t mormon, and I knew she was.  Well, it turns out that this was what is commonly called a “fireside” (quotes aren’t for emphasis, it’s because there was no fire involved).  The band that was there was the Jets (anyone remember the Jets… anyone?).

The band didn’t play any music (which is good, as I was there because I was interested in the girl, not the band), but instead simply told parables of how their own faith has been strengthened through experiences.  And, for those playing the home game, this comes to my point.  The logical fallacy here is anecdotal.

This is the entire point of people telling you that Chuck Norris is a christian and believes in biblical creationism.  They’ll point out that Donny and Marie (and the rest of the Osmonds, but we can forget about them, they aren’t famous) are mormons.  Or, to a smaller scale, they’ll tell you that some person you know is of religion X or Y. As though that should cause any sway of personal belief.

But, we shouldn’t care!  What does any of that have to do with any reason for becoming a believer?  These people are just people. Famous, or well known, or just someone you know personally has no bearing on why you should be a believer.

In fact, many famous people act horribly, and are of some faith or another. Just look at Mel Gibson, if there ever was an anecdotal reason to not be a christian, it’s him.

As to the list of atheists, and why I still care a little about those lists, I care because it’s people we teach about, because they were contributors to society in some important way.  People like Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan, Sartre, Neil Degrasse-Tyson, Stephen Hawking, Alfred Nobel, and the list goes on…

Oh, I believe in Crom, tell your friends…

the mysteries of god (or god, what an ass)

“God works in mysterious ways”

*sigh* sure.

I love the quote by Epicurus:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?  Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?

Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

It’s not infrequent that I see on my social media feeds people dragging god out as the answer for the great things that have happened to them, things like finding a lost knick knack, or having a loved one (or themselves) recover from some hospital stay requiring malady. Yet, all the horrible things that happen out of sight are forgotten.  Starvation, rape, torture, kidnapping, tsunami, earthquakes, murder, mayhem, theft, and the list goes on and on.

I cannot fathom a just god, unwilling to provide some sort of measurable evidence of his existence, looking out for your long lost signed Ratt poster, and letting all the other stuff happening to people worldwide just slide.

I realize I’m simplifying, and poking fun.  Many people thank god for the “large” things in their own personal life.  Things like family and friends.  Those things are worthy of being thankful for.  Why though are you so “blessed” when others are living a life of abject terror and suffering?  Why, if god has all the power, can he listen to your prayers to bless your food, and somehow does not prevent child rape?  Why do we hear people thank god for the return of their terrified, and brutalized family member, who likely will never recover mentally?  Why didn’t god step in, in the first place?

 How is that god just?  Oh, I forgot, he just works in mysterious ways, and I shouldn’t question. *wanders off to thank god for the latest touchdown*

god ain’t got no checks and balances

Georgia student’s family disowns and assaults him in nightmarish gay ‘intervention’ video

People can make “No True Scotsmen” arguments all they want, but, the fact is that in the world of religion, there are NO checks and balances. One persons interpretation (or that of many people) cannot be validated or dismissed. 

The parents in this 
video quite obviously feel justified by their god in doing what they’re doing, and that’s horrible. I love many people that are religious, but I don’t love religion. You can have spirituality, but the moment you feel justified in treating another living thing as less than, etc., then your religion is horrible. 

Utah has a very high teen suicide rate (5th in the nation according to a ksl article, which I’ll link below), and according to another source I found, up to 1/3 of those are homosexual teens. We cannot treat these people like they are diseased! We cannot tell them it’s ok to be gay, but just don’t have feelings for anyone that your biology tells you to. Even the Mormon church is now admitting that homosexuality isn’t a choice, yet they continue to tell them “It’s ok, as long as you don’t do gay things”

That’s nearly as bad. Imagine that someone told you that the feelings you had for your spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend were bad, or evil. Sure, they acknowledge that you were born that way, but you can’t BE that way.

As an atheist, my morals come from my own place. I know that things are wrong, because I can empathize. I don’t have to have some book (or books) provide my moral compass! I don’t have to have religious leaders telling me what’s right and what’s wrong. I come from a simple place of “Would I like to be treated that way?” If the answer is no, then it’s simple, I don’t treat a person that way.

I look forward to the time that homosexuality is treated the same way as all of the stupid, horrible treatments of people we’ve already decided are wrong. I look forward to the day when those that continue to tell homosexuals that how they live is wrong are relegated to the ‘racists’ and ‘bigots’, like racists are now.

What side of history are you going to be on?

(References: http://www.ksl.com/?sid=24937434 http://mormonstories.org/teen-suicide-in-utah/)