Tag Archives: mormon

Strange Power

Years ago, at my brother’s LDS Temple wedding, as we waited outside, my wife and I were approached by a member of my childhood ward and her husband.  She was my first cub-scout leader, and a primary teacher.  Her husband was one of my Scout and Priesthood leaders.  She expressed her hope that I would someday be sealed within the Temple.  I dismissed them rather flippantly by telling them that it’ll never happen.  “Never say never” was their retort.  A few weeks later, I wrote this letter, which I decided against sending:

[The names have been changed]


Michelle,

I have to say I was caught off-guard by your comments at the Temple after James’ wedding, and apologize if my responses were a bit harsh. Frankly I was focusing a bit on James and Becki and the long day ahead of my family and I. I just wanted you to know that I love and respect both you and Brian a great deal. I have learned a great deal from both of you; how not to cut my hand off with a knife, how to avoid setting fire to my house, how to sand down wooden race vehicles, and much, much more.

I am sure you had the best of intentions at heart, and your attempt to shame me into a temple sealing was strikingly more tactful than Brother Akiona’s heavy-handed method. It may be that I bring these comments on myself. Perhaps I emanate an air of uncertainty, insecurity, and self-doubt with regards to spirituality. I assure you that nothing could be further from the truth.

I am not sure if you have gone through something similar, but the decision to go against the predominant teachings of one’s entire life is not an easy one. Similarly, knowing that you will disappoint and embitter one’s entire family, becoming a kind of second-rate family member is not an option that is taken without serious thought.

Admittedly, a great deal of my initial issues with the LDS faith were a matter of 17-year-old rebellion. A know-it-all, stubborn quality that you, as a mother and teacher, probably find all too familiar. That rebellion has led to years of abundant research, on my part, of history, religions, spirituality, and philosophy. A great deal of time has been spent in quiet contemplation of these materials along with my own thoughts and conclusions. It is still an eminent subject of reading, thought, and discussion.

I do hope you posses high enough opinion of my character to believe that I would not have shamed and tormented my grandparents, my sister, my brother, my mother, and most of all, my father without some deliberate and methodical reflection. My father, I think you will agree, was a man of unquestioned faith and uncompromising morals. I am sure that Brian and others have, on numerous occasions, listened to the disapproval of his eldest son and the ‘misguided’ choices he made. It pains me to no end to think of the sadness and disappointment I must have caused him. A sadness and disappointment that never was, nor ever will be resolved. I asked myself, however, would he have not done similarly in order to live his life according to his beliefs?

Perhaps lacking in my decision process was a consideration of those other people who may have felt, at one time or another, responsible for me and my spiritual education. People like you, Brian, David, Christine, Bob, Mary, Pauleen, Elijah, and so many other respected people.

I don’t doubt your faith or your testimony. I know you live a charitable, compassionate, and faithful life. I am sorry for the disappointment I may cause you and others. I am not sorry that I live my life according to my beliefs. I am not sorry for questioning my beliefs, past or current, even if it is unpleasant to do so. I still remember the story of a 14-year-old boy questioning the teachings of those closest to him.

You are right to point out the folly in my saying, “never.” I will grant that, however unlikely, it is possible that someday, due to continued searching and questioning, I may find that the initial teachings of my life were always correct. If so, I will humbly admit my mistakes and return. Having said that, if such a thing does occur, it will not because someone tells me that my father always wanted me to view the Temple, or because I want to see my sister’s wedding. It will be because I have spent hours and perhaps years in careful reflection of those beliefs. There is no end on the journey for knowledge and understanding.

I hope that this letter finds you well and is received in the manner it was intended. It was my intention to reassure you that, as disappointing as it may be to those close to me, I am living a happy, complete, and content life.

Justin

 

“Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.” – Cormac McCarthy

Laying Up Treasures


“If a destitute family is faced with the decision of paying their tithing or eating, they should pay their tithing.” – Elder Lynn Robbins

“To those of you who pay your tithing, I commend you. To those of you who presently are not obeying the law of tithing, I invite you to consider your ways and repent.” – Elder David Bendar

 

The LDS Church is, again, investing in commercial development.  Rather than using their vast holding to help the poor, the needy, the sick, or even their own financially struggling members, they are, instead, helping to build a new stadium in SLC.

One argument often made by LDS apologists is that donated tithing is not used for these commercial ventures.  Instead, The Church uses investment income from their commercial enterprises (one might ask why these exist) to re-invest in the new project.  I’ve written of this before, with regards to City Creek and The Deseret Ranches,  What came to mind today was the following analogy.  I give you:

 

Gospel Profits

Tommy: Hey, Gordie, can you give me some money? I really need some money to fix my bike.

Gordie: No problem, brother. How much do you need?

Tommy: Well, I’m not sure exactly, but if you could spare like, maybe 10% of what’s in your wallet, that might cover it.

Gordie: That seems a weird way to ask for it. But, since you’re my brother, and I love you, OK. Here’s $10.

Tommy: . . . . Are you sure that’s 10%?

Gordie: Sure. I’ve got $110, so I gave you $10.

Tommy: Well, but technically, 10% of $110 is $11.

Gordie: . . . .

Tommy: . . . . Don’t you want to help me? If you help me, I’ll help you.

Grodie: . . . . Fine. Here’s another $1.

Tommy: Thank you! Thank you!

<Several Weeks Later>

Gordie: Hey, Tommy! Looks like you got your bike all fixed up!

Tommy: Sure did! Also got these awesome stickers to make it go faster! And some sweet new biking gloves!

Gordie: Um. Where’d you get the money for stickers and gloves?

Tommy: Oh, well, so, before I got my bike fixed, I took the money you gave me and I bought some candy bars. Then I sold the candy bars door to door, and made $15! Then I used that $15 and bought more candy bars, and made $25!  At the end of two weeks, I had $130!  So, then I used $80 to fix my bike and used the rest to buy the stickers and gloves!

Gordie: But, I gave you that money to fix your bike.

Tommy: I know! Thank you SO much!

Gordie: But you had money left over? Shouldn’t you have paid me back with the excess, or at least saved the money so that you didn’t need to ask for money next time?

Tommy: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Gordie:  Well, could you at least help me mow the…

Tommy:  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! <rides away>

 

 

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon. – Matthew 6:19–21,24

 

An Uncomfortable Condition

“Don’t you dare bail. I am so furious with people who leave This Church. I don’t know whether ‘furious’ is a good apostolic word. But I am. What on earth kind of conviction is that? What kind of patty-cake, taffy-pull experience is that? As if none of this ever mattered. As if nothing in our contemporary life mattered. As if this is all just supposed to be “just exactly the way I want it and answer every one of my questions and pursue this and occupy that and defy this – and then maybe I’ll be a Latter-Day Saint!?” Well, there’s too much Irish in me for that.”
Apostle Jeffery R. Holland (audio link)

Mr. Holland was not yet an apostle when I was a Conference watcher, so I don’t have much experience with him, but may I offer a brief riposte to the above tersely worded statement?

Dare to bail.  I am so joyous when someone grabs hold of truth, and facts, and reason.  To take the path they know is right, even in the face of difficulty.  I don’t know whether ‘joyous’ is a very good heathen word.  But what on Earth kind of conviction does that take?  What kind of fidelity to veracity?   To let your ability to reason and logic lead you into the unknown and unfamiliar?  Just as if this all is exactly the way it is supposed to be, with all it’s warts and problems, and that “I don’t know, but I will strive to learn more” is a perfectly acceptable answer to hard questions.  To admit that knowing something with your heart isn’t the best way to know anything, and that not knowing is far more honest.

Well, I suppose there’s just enough skepticism in me for that.

Bail on beliefs that can be shown to be false.

Bail on beliefs that cause more strife than they relieve.

Bail on organizations that promise hope and deliver pain.

Bail on leaders who command sacrifice and give none of themselves.

In the words of a man much wiser than I, “Believe as many true things and as few false things as possible.”

“Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a
ridiculous one.” – Voltair

Well Documented Evidence

“Some have mistakenly argued that any variation in the retelling of the story is evidence of fabrication. To the contrary, the rich historical record enables us to learn more about this remarkable event than we could if they were less well-documented.” — Richard J. Maynes, Seventy

The founder of the Mormon faith, Joseph Smith Jr., began his journey to prophet with an event that has been called “The First Vision.”  When I was growing up as a young Mormon boy, I was told that Joseph knelt to pray in a grove of trees to ask God which of the many churches was true.  According to the story I was told, Joseph was visited by both Heavenly Father (God) and Jesus Christ, who told him none of the churches were true, and that he was to found a new one.

In the 17 years I was active in The LDS Church, that was the only version of the story I ever heard.  It turns out that there are many versions, with widely differing timelines and subject matters.  The LDS Church even has an official essay on the subject, and you can read them for yourself at The Joseph Smith Papers Project.

FirstVisionsMormonInfographics

For many people, who were as ignorant to these facts as I once was, discovering this can be a bit faith-shaking.  This event is absolutely pivotal and essential in the Joseph Smith narrative, and the inconsistencies are troubling. One might think that such a momentous moment as meeting God, or God and Jesus, or an angel, or a Pillar of Fire, would be distinctly memorable.

If this is bothersome to you, let not  your heart be troubled;  Elder Richard Maynes explains how differing versions of an important story, with different dates, and different people, with different messages actually make The First Vision “the best-documented vision in history.”

To demonstrate my particular reaction to this breach of logic and reason, I present my original one-act play:

The Best Documented Dinner in History

[Scene:  Interior.  A small police department interrogation room.  Two detectives (Cop #1 and Cop #2 stand at a table in front of a seated ‘Gary’]

Cop #1: Hey, Gary. We brought you in because someone said they saw you over by the old Buckner place last Monday, just before it was robbed. Can you tell us where you were last Monday night? At about 7:30pm?

Gary: Oh. I was at dinner.

Cop #2: Yeah? Where’d you go? Any good?

Gary: Oh, yeah. New taco restaurant. ‘Los Amgios.’ Great chorizo.

Cop #1: That sounds great. What time did you get there?

Gary: Let me see. I started walking from my place at about 7:00.

Cop #2: And how far away do you live?

Gary: About 3 miles, which is why I took my bike.

Cop #1: But you just said you started walking?

Gary: That’s right I started walking over to Les Poissons, the French place.

Cop #2: Huh? Didn’t you say you were going to ‘Los Amigos’?

Gary: I did. It’s really good.

Cop #1: What about Les Poissons?

Gary: It’s really good.

Cop #2: Did you get a receipt?

Gary: Yup! It’s there in my wallet.

Cop #1: [shuffles through the wallet] Is this the one? To a restaurant called The Burger Bar?

Gary: Yup! I drove over there at a quarter after seven last Monday.

Cop #1: Is he putting me on, or am I putting him on?

Cop #2: So, on last Monday, you walked to a Mexican restaurant, biked to a French restaurant, and then drove to a burger joint, all on the same night, during roughly the same time period?

Gary: Of course! The consistent inconsistency proves how true it is.