Tag Archives: mormons

One Half of Wisdom

“What do you believe, and why?”

. . . is the unofficial motto and often the first question asked of theistic callers to The Atheist Experience.  It is the question that drives most religious debates and discussions.

While listening to Tanner Gillibrand on MormonTransitions this past week, I stumbled upon his response to a family member who asked the question of Tanner when he announced his resignation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (…).  Tanner’s response, in which he details his desperate efforts to keep his faith, is beautiful, heart-breaking, and brilliant.

This was the hardest time of my life. I used to drive out to the fields in Rexburg and pray out loud for hours, begging God for some light, but it never came. Jesus said, “What man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?” I begged for a loaf and received nothing. I would have taken a stone over the silence.

[…]

I thought I loved God my whole life. But as I studied the scriptures I realized I could not love such a God. Rather than a God that was found through love, I saw a God that was found through loyalty tests…

Tanner’s family member was brave to ask the question, and Tanner was brave to lay open his story.  Reading his letter, however, I realized that I had never been asked that question by my family or by those friends who had raised me to be a good, believing member of The LDS Church.  None of them asked me to write on this blog.  None of them likely read it.

When I lost my faith, I was taken to a therapist.  I told the therapist I didn’t believe The Church anymore.  The therapist told my parents.  My parents were disappointed, and hurt, but I never remember them asking me why I stopped believing.

After I stopped attending services, my father once asked me if I was going on an LDS Mission.  Somewhat befuddled by the idea of giving two years of my life to a religion in which I no longer believed, I answered with a quick, “No.”  He asked why not, and I replied impatiently, “Because I don’t believe it anymore.”  He never asked a follow up question.  Was it because of my teenage attitude or his lack of curiosity?  I’ll never know.

Later I ran into a member of the local bishopric and a good friend of my father’s.  He asked why I stopped coming to church.  I replied that I didn’t believe it anymore, and that I had some problems with some doctrines and beliefs.  Before I could go on, he stopped me and told me that he knew people who had left The Church, and knew their problems with The Church, but it didn’t matter.  “It’s just true, and I think you know that.”

Instantly dismissive of my thoughts, opinions, and beliefs.  How intellectually lazy and willfully ignorant.  Though it is highly doubtful, this man may have been able to address some of my concerns, but, for him, it seemed better to dwell in ignorance.

After my child was born, our families passively danced around the issue of religion until I felt it necessary to confront my mother about my lack of beliefs.  Though she acknowledged the atheist position, of which she was already aware, she asked no other questions of me.  Even when I resigned my membership in The LDS Church, and sent a direct e-mail making my actions known, not a single member of my family, including my innumerable extended family members, asked any variation of, “What do you believe, and why?”

Why are we so afraid to discuss this topic?  I am guilty as well.  I often want to ask my siblings, father-in-law, brother-in-law, what they believe and why they believe, but I I avoid it – afraid of offending them, as I have been offended.  Why is this one topic so volatile?  So alarming? Though I study and obsess over these subjects, I never really ask those true believers who are all around me.  Are we all really that thin-skinned, or do we just assume that everyone else is so easily distressed?

It is likely part of why I continue to write here; so that I can openly express to strangers what I’d really like to express to those I love.  In which case, thank you for reading.

“A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.” – Francis Bacon

Sinews of The Soul

This is my much-less polite and anger filled resignation letter, as opposed to the message I sent to my immediate family.  This was originally posted at The Friendly Atheist.

—-

Dear LDS Church,

It is amazing how much The Church has changed since my early Mormon upbringing. So many of the messages and teachings have changed and evolved over time. For example, when attending church:

Yes. This last revelation was the straw that finally prompted this long overdue letter.

Although I have found other policies of The LDS Church hurtful, ignorant, and bigoted, this last policy change seems so malicious. So full of hatred. And I won’t be a member of a hate group, even in name only.

I received many odd and certainly unique lessons on sexual morality, and was frequently told in oblique ways that homosexuality was a sin, I was never taught that this kind of sexual immorality would damn the salvation of my children.

The LDS Church claims to be a loving, knowledgeable, and charitable representative of a just and loving god, but their actions speak louder than their empty words.

Potential converts to The LDS Church are asked to commit to baptism in the first discussion, then rapidly pushed through a shallow and superficial version of The Church’s doctrine and history in a mad dash to get them under the water and on the membership roles.

Eight-year-old children are encouraged, expected, and demanded to make lifetime commitments they cannot possibly understand, to a church which continues to hide, obscure, and deny it’s history and doctrines.  Heavenly Fathers wants everyone, and quickly, before they start looking too deeply into the closet.

Except in this one special case; a child raised by same-sex parents.

Even if that child is raised in this fraud of a church by those loving, caring parents. Even if that child believes with all his/her tiny, pure heart that there is a Heavenly Father, and that Jesus knows and loves each of his beloved and innocent children. Even if all that child wants for their eighth birthday is to be washed clean of their supposed “sins.”

The LDS Church will tell them, “No. You are lesser in the eyes of Jesus and Heavenly Father.”

“Though you have done nothing wrong, your parents are the worst kind of sinners.  Jesus does not want you as a member of His church, nor will He take you until you are old enough to curse the names of those who loved and raised you, and shake the dust off your feet at their doorstep.”

As of the writing of this letter, I am an atheist and an ex-Mormon.  Should a Mormon member take my young child to be blessed into your twisted organization, however, my child would be accepted and blessed without pause or question because I am married to a member of the opposite sex.

This hate-filled policy is designed only to cause injury to an already injured population; the same-sex attracted people who The Church considers to be the loved children of Heavenly Father, who are doing their best to make it through this life whilst still maintaining some measure of belief in the deceitful message of eternity and love that you spout between vicious jabs at these wounded souls. It cannot and does not serve any other purpose.

This manipulative “guilt by association” is revolting behavior from anyone, let alone an organization which spends so much time talking out the side of its mouth about the importance and necessity of love, acceptance, and eternal families.

I have not claimed membership in this deception for years, but have never felt it useful or necessary to make it official. I do now. I cannot and will not allow you to continue to count me amongst your hateful, heinous, hurtful, and peculiar number any longer.

I hereby resign my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

A Next Step

Dear friends and family,

I want to let you know that I am resigning my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Though likely unwelcome news to many, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise as I have not regularly attended church service in nearly 20 years, and no longer believe in a god.  Why do I feel it necessary now? To officially cancel my ties with The Church? As has probably been guessed, the new anti-LGBT policies of The Church are the last straw for me.

I hurt so much for those true believing children who were just told by the trusted and beloved representatives of their loving Heavenly Father and Savior that they were lesser and unworthy.

I clearly remember my own child-like and singular love and trust in Jesus — so pure and innocent and all-consuming. Jesus, who gave only love and comfort and acceptance; never a rebuke, even in the face of sin.

Because I remember that so clearly, an image comes to me of having that very love and trust bludgeoned by a visit from President Benson, on the day of my Baptism, suddenly breaking the news to me that Jesus won’t have me as a member of His church today.

I can imagine my heart breaking in my chest as President Hinckley shows up at our ward house, and stops my father’s hands, only to tell me that Heavenly Father will not have me as a member of His Priesthood today.

I imagine being filled with such abject misery and hopelessness when my Primary teacher tells our class that “Heavenly Father needs and wants all of your chosen generation, but not you.  Not you.”

Though I no longer believe in the importance of these events, the thought of the children going through less dramatic but nonetheless real versions of those scenarios right now fills me with heartache. That’s why I’m angry for them. That’s why I hurt for them. That’s why I feel it necessary to take this action.

I’ve considered this final step over the years, but this is the reason I’ve finally decided it’s necessary; to protest a church claiming to speak for a God of love and acceptance, which instead seemingly teaches children hate, exclusion, and shame. Teaching them that they will not only be punished for their own sins, but also for their parents’ love.

I understand that we may have different understandings and interpretations of this policy. I have read several different official, semi-official, and unofficial attempts to explain how this new policy is not vicious nor malicious. I’ve watched D. Todd Christofferson’s reaction video. I’ve read the letter from The First Presidency. I’ve read the press-release from Michael Otterson. I sincerely disagree with all of these rationalizations and explanations.

I don’t mean to preach in this letter, but I felt I owed at least a brief explanation before I join the other compassionate and empathetic believers and non-believers in requesting that we no longer to be counted among the membership of this church.

If this hurts you personally, I am truly sorry. It is not my intent, though that may be cold comfort.

Any and all of you are more than welcome to tell me or ask me anything you like, so long as we can remain a loving family in doing so. I love and value and respect each of you and know that each of us is walking our own path as best we know how.

The Lost Gospel According to Avarice

(This text has been translated from the previously sealed portions of The Book of Mormon)

Chapter 1

1. And it came to pass that Jesus did gather His prophet and his twelve apostles unto His embrace and He did look upon them and did see they were exceeding sad.

2. And it came to pass that Jesus did ask His prophet, “Wherefore art thou sad?”

3. And it came to pass that His prophet replied, “LORD, we have a mighty surplus of gold given into our care by the faithful disciples. It is exceedingly beautiful! But, yea, the gold sits in the dark vaults of various off-shore banks where the multitudes cannot enjoy its mighty splendor.”

4. And it came to pass that The Savior did look upon all of His church and saw many buildings of exquisite design, and meeting-houses most numerous.

5. And it came to pass that Jesus did dwell mightily upon using the gold in the sending of more missionaries to spread The Gospel unto the gentiles, but nay, He chose it not.

6. And it came to pass that Jesus did dwell mightily upon using the gold in the building of more temples and meeting-houses, but nay, He chose it not.

7. And it came to pass that Jesus did dwell mightily upon sending the ample surplus among those with disease in Liberia, or who lost all in Nepal, or Haiti, or the multitude of hungry children the world over, but nay, He chose it not.

8. And it came to pass that Jesus commanded His prophet, “Go! Takest thou a large portion of gold to King Becker, that he may have joy of it, and, with him, buildest thou a mighty shopping mall in the heart of Zarahemla! And, yay, ye are commanded to make a bridge across the sky, and a shop that contains over-priced devices of fruity disposition.”

9. And it came to pass that The Prophet did question The LORD saying, “My LORD, such a shopping mall shall not survive without fine establishments of gluttony, but such heathens will not enter into The Mall unless they be allowed to serve wine and strong drink.”

10. And it came to pass that Jesus said unto his apostles, “Fear not, for I am well learned in the matter of accounting. Taketh thou the lands devoted to gluttony and leaseth thou the land to a third-party holding company, who then, shall lease the land to the purveyors of sinful beverage, and thus thy hands have been washed as Pilate of old, and are stained with no sin.”

11. And it came to pass that The Prophet and his apostles did go to King Becker, and King Becker saw the gold, that it was good. And, yea, they did build up a shopping mall, even as The LORD hath commanded, and buildest a bridge across the sky, and an Apple Store, and even many restaurants that did serve many strong drinks, but via technicality, did not giveth money directly to The Prophet nor his apostles.

23. And it came to pass that many faithful disciples of The LORD did come unto The Prophet and question this use of their tithes. And one faithful servant did say, “Did not we give unto you this money to spread the gospel?”

24. And it came to pass that The Prophet answered him, “APOSTATE! Get thee behind me! Thou shalt not question The Prophets of God!” And the servant was cast among the gentiles.

25. And it came to pass that another faithful servant came unto The Prophet and asketh, “Would not it be more Christ-like to give any surplus tithes to the poor, needy, and sick?”

26. And it came to pass that The Prophet also named this servant an apostate, and did cast her from The Church, and into the wilderness of disbelief.

27. And it came to pass that the multitude of other faithful servants, who also did question the actions of The Prophet, grew exceeding fearful, for to commit apostasy was to journey into a hell of coffee, tea, wine, and blasphemous words.

Chapter 2

1. And it came to pass that The Prophet and apostles came unto The LORD, Jesus, with countenence exceeding sad.

2. And it came to pass that Jesus did say unto his servants, “Wherefore art thou sad? Hath thou not brought forth thy gold into the public so that they may gaze upon it with exceeding joy?”

3. And it came to pass that the servants of The LORD did speak, “Yea, but, verily, the shopping mall maketh a mighty profit, and thus our surplus gains more gold, which is hiddeth amongst the vaults of off-shore banks.”

4. And it came to pass that Jesus did dwell mightily upon using the vast surplus of gold to heal the sick and the weary, but nay, He chose it not.

5. And it came to pass that Jesus did dwell mightily upon using the massive quantities of gold to lessen the burden amongst the poorest of his faithful disciples, but nay, He chose it not.

6. And it came to pass that Jesus did call together his prophet and apostles and did command them, “Takest thou the grand surpluses even unto Flordia. And there thou shalt buy much cheap land in the central area, which is too far from Disneyworld to be valuable, but not to far as to be useless. There, thou shalt build a mighty cattle ranch.”

7. And it came to pass that The Prophet and the apostles looked on in awe.

8. And it came to pass that The Prophet and the apostles responded, “Yea! Even unto thy word! For, though the land be of little value now, in many years time, it shall maketh a mighty profit!”

9. And it came to pass that The LORD, Jesus, did nod and confirm their feelings, for, though The LORD did once give a commandment against, alcohol, tobacco, tea, coffee, and the consumption of meat in non-famine times, Jesus knew that The LORD only meant the first four, and that the “meat thing” was merely suggestive.

10. And it came to pass that The Church did use the tithes of the faithful to buy up the land in the central of Florida, and they did create a great and spacious ranch in the raising of cattle.

Chapter 3

1. And it came to pass that The Prophet and the apostles did approach The LORD and they did hold upon their countenence exceeding sadness.

2. And it came to pass that Jesus did ask, “Wherefore art thou sad? Hath thou not brought forth thy gold into the public in the form of a shopping mall and also an enormous cattle ranch?”

3. And it came to pass that The Prophet did say unto The LORD, “Yea, but the cattle, much like unto the shopping mall, hath brough forth a greater surplus of gold.”

4. And it came to pass that Jesus did say unto his prophet and his apostles, “Thou hath given great effort unto the gospel. Giveth thyselves a raise in stipend and in living quarters.”

5. And it came to pass that The Prophet and the apostles replied, “Lo, we have done that already, a great many times. We dare not more glamorous decoration, lest the faithful disciples present questions and dissatisfaction.”

6. And it came to pass that The Savior, being wise in his thoughts and accounting, did council The Prophet and the apostles, “Fear not, for the mightly lands thou hast purchased for thy cattle are exceeding valuable. Taketh thy gold and visit The Government of Florida. Council the advisors therein that much of thy land may be developed into a city of glamor and of opportunity. Yea, it mayest be a beacon to our use of over-ample contributions given by faithful members, even unto their detriment, but that we may looketh awesome in the eyes of Our LORD, The Capitalist.”

A Quicksand of Deceit

“They are as sick that surfiet with too much as they that starve with nothing.” – William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

My wife and I have been known to give amounts of our income to charity.  When we do, we always attempt due diligence to ensure that they money we give is not being squandered. We visit Charity Navigator, and other websites in an attempt to learn how much of our money actually gets to the intended recipient. Some charities are just terrible; with overpaid CEOs and staff, extravagant management costs, buildings, fundraising costs, etc. As we want to help as many people as we can with our donation, we avoid those. Others, like The Road Home, do so much with so little, it’s hard not to want to give them more and more so that they can help everyone in need.

This is probably why I gasp in awe, wonder, and justifiable rage at the singular audacity of The LDS Church.

We’ve known for years that they hold profit making companies and corporations – largely renamed or built into a tangled web of corporations and holding companies in attempt to conceal direct involvement (Bonneville Communications, Property Reserve Inc, Deseret Ranches, etc.) For some reason, The LDS Church owning broadcast stations never bothered me. I thought it funny that they often aired the most euphemistic and humorously filthy shows on television (Will & Grace, Friends), but it didn’t really bother me. It seemed largely out in the open – everyone knew that KSL meant “LDS News”.

City Creek, on the other hand. That bothers me. That bothers me a lot. The LDS Church used tithed money – money they require from their parishioners in order to remain in Temple Worthy standing – to buy and build a giant for-profit shopping center. Not a church. Not a Temple. Not a meetinghouse. Not a humanitarian aid station. Rather, a glorious monument to excess, gluttony, and opulence.

But, the restaurants there will not sell alcohol, because Mormons consider drinking alcohol a vicious sin.

Oh. Well, rather than scare off all those exceedingly profitable eating establishments, who won’t come near a location upon which they cannot sell booze, The LDS Church chooses to manipulate their leasing and perceived ownership through a third party to make sure they can say, “We don’t profit from the selling of demon alcohol,” while profiting from the selling of demon alcohol.

I’ve seen it argued on LDS apologist websites that no tithed money was used. Nonsense. Accounting tricks may, apparently, fool God, but they do not fool me. The apologists claim that only dividends from previously invested tithed money was used to pay for the $1.5 billion shopping atrocity. Why was that money invested in dividend-providing accounts in the first place? Why does any tithed money go unused? Why is it not, instead, used to invest in future tithers – er – members? Why was that money not used to build more churches? Open more missions? Recruit more missionaries? Lower the financial burden for faithful missionary families. Increase humanitarian aid? Or – ha ha ha – reduce the amount of tithing that members are required to pay? I feel that at least one of those alternative investments might be something a certain Nazarene might feel comfortable in endorsing.

Not content with the success of its lecherous City Creek experiment, The LDS Church is seeking to build another monument to its seemingly true focus of worship; currency.

Under the name of ‘Deseret Ranches’ in Florida, The LDS Church is planning, along with other organizations, “a decades-long rise of a Central Florida metropolis of a half-million residents within a 133,000-acre corner of the county.

Revolting.

Mormon families are often counseled to pay their tithing first. A whopping 10% straight off the gross amount of their income. Before shelter. Before food. Before medical expenses. The Church needs have the first taste.

From the December 2012 issue of the church owned magazine, The Ensign:

If paying tithing means that you can’t pay for water or electricity, pay tithing. If paying tithing means that you can’t pay your rent, pay tithing. Even if paying tithing means that you don’t have enough money to feed your family, pay tithing. The Lord will not abandon you.”

In my godless opinion, it is of the utmost immorality to ask this massive sacrifice of church members whilst The Twelve Apostles and other General Authorities are given generous stipends, who then use the monumental excess of tithed money (and their dividends), not to spread The Word of God into “Every corner of the Earth”, not to feed the starving, nor clothe the need, nor heal the sick and suffering, but rather to ensure that their coffers continue to overflow with glorious abundance.