It’s time to vote for William Law X-Mormon of the Year 2018!!!

X-Mormon-2018-300x223 Wow, we’ve got quite a list of X-Mormons to choose from in 2018!!


And here are the descriptions of the nominees:

The poll will remain open until Sunday, January 20, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. Switzerland time. And may the X-Mormon who made the biggest splash in 2018 win!!

Collecting Nominations for the 2018 Brodie Awards!!

2018-Brodies-200px The nomination process for X-Mormon of the Year is underway — please be sure to get in your nominations before next weekend when the voting begins.

Now, it’s also time to start on the Brodie Awards!! The Brodie Awards are a fun little yearly activity intended to give some extra recognition and signal boost to the best LDS-interest content published/posted during the past year. This is your opportunity to review your favorite pieces, find out about great works you may have missed, and even promote your own work!

As usual, I will start by posting a list of suggested categories (from last year), but the precise list of award categories depends on your suggestions. Please feel free to browse the sidebar for ideas on award categories we’ve used in the past for ideas. Below the suggested categories, I will post the nomination guidelines.

Year-long awards for people and groups:

  • Best New Blog/Channel/Podcast
  • Best Humor/Satire Blog/Channel/Podcast
  • Best Mormon History Blog/Channel/Podcast
  • Best LDS-Church-Info Site
  • Best LDS-interest Discussion Forum
  • Best Exmormon Reddit Contributor

Awards for Individual Works:

  • Best LDS-Interest Book (Fiction)
  • Best LDS-Interest Book (non-fiction)
  • Best LDS-Interest Song
  • Best Poem
  • Best LDS-Interest Comic or Image
  • Best Post Title
  • Funniest Humor Piece
  • Funniest Parody
  • Best Metaphor/Analogy/Allegory
  • Best From the Pulpit Sermon
  • Most Poignant Personal Story
  • Best Exit Story
  • Best Life Journey Piece
  • Best Activist/Activtist Movement Within Mormonism
  • Best Leak or Personal Recording
  • Best LDS Church Watch Piece
  • Best Response to Apologetics
  • Best LDS-Culture Piece
  • Best History Piece
  • Best Scripture Study Piece
  • Best Discussion on Parenting
  • Best Discussion on Orientation
  • Best Best Discussion on Gender
  • Best Discussion on Race
  • Most Insightful Commentary on the CoJCoL-dS
  • Best Philosophical/Theological Discussion
  • Best Podcast Episode
  • Best Short Media Presentation
  • Best Book Review

And here are the nomination guidelines:

  • Please nominate as many people, books, blogs, sites, podcasts, songs, articles, images, etc. as you want. However, please do not nominate more than two individual works by any one author/artist.
  • You are encouraged to nominate your own works. No one knows better than you do which pieces were your best. No more than two, though.
  • Please nominate works that first appeared during 2018.
  • Please try to nominate people and works that have some connection with Mormonism (eg. either the work touches on Mormonism, or the author is a current or former Mormon and/or is an active participant in our community).
  • A category must have at least three nominations in order to be included in the voting and awards phase.
  • You may suggest your own categories — however please do it as early as possible in the nominations process, to give others plenty of time to add nominations in your proposed categories.
  • Any other proposed changes to the categories or to the guidelines are welcome — feel free to discuss it in the comments.
  • The nominations will be open until mid-January, 2019, depending on my schedule. I will finalize the dates and categories and add my own nominations a few days before the nominations close and voting begins.

How to nominate: Just post your nominations as comment to this thread, but please include links to the works you nominate. If your nomination comment ends up in the spam filter, please email me (chanson dot exmormon at gmail dot com) and I will fish it out.

I can’t wait to review all of the best works from 2018!!!

Beware the False Gods of Capitalism: A Letter to My Son

“The gods of capitalism and the gods of Mormonism are nothing but different faces of the same lie. And I would have you serve neither.”

Adapted from a letter written to my fourteen-year-old son.

Dear Son,

A few weeks ago, I texted asking for ideas for Christmas gifts for you. You suggested over-the-ear headphones. You may have noticed that I didn’t get you those, and I want to tell you why. As your mother, I felt like this year, it was more important to give you something that you need, rather than something that you want. As someone who has known and loved you since before you were born, I want to share some lessons I have learned in life.

The first and most important lesson is this: the idea that anything or anyone in this world can be separated from anything else is an illusion. Think about it. Everything in the universe was once compacted into a space smaller than the head of a pin. And we are part of that universe, part of that stuff that went flying through space, coalescing, heating, compacting, exploding, spreading, compacting again, evolving, becoming, decaying, renewing, again and again. There are no closed systems in our world. Harm in one part of our world reverberates throughout the entire system.

The illusion of separation, the convenient lie that if I don’t see it, I neither affect nor am affected by it, is the cause of most of our world’s suffering, human and otherwise. There is a prevalent mindset in our society that we have the right to never be inconvenienced or made uncomfortable by someone else. This attitude is particularly prevalent among people who have never experienced poverty and its accompanying inconveniences and discomforts. But it is an illusion, and it is this illusion that you must shatter, because at its extreme, people who believe that they are entitled to never be inconvenienced or uncomfortable grow up to be Donald Trump.

As I’ve gotten older, I have become so much less patient with lies and illusions. I was raised in a religion of lies. My parents believed and taught me these lies. I grew up in a community where almost everyone around me believed in these lies. When I became an adult, I started to question what I’d been taught. I left those beliefs behind and started developing my own beliefs, my own ways of relating to the world. My parents still believe these lies, so much so that they are spending all of what little money they’ve managed to save throughout their lives on continuing the spread of these lies. Some people never wake up.

We live in a country and an economy built upon lies. You are taught these lies in school, and almost everyone around you believes them. These are some of those lies: “People generally get what they earn and deserve. Those who have money worked for it and deserve to have it. We live in a free market economy, and those who don’t have money could easily get some with just a little hard work. They have no one to blame but themselves. Having money is evidence of someone’s merit and goodness. Those who have money have earned it. Those who don’t have money must not have earned it and don’t deserve to be helped. We have a right to acquire and hoard as much as we want, without any obligation to help those who have less. After all, if we have it, that must mean that we earned it and deserve it, and that they didn’t earn it and don’t deserve it. We live in a free country, and that’s what freedom means: the right to accumulate money without limits, the right to look out for myself and only myself, the right to not have to care what happens to others, the right to not share, the right to be left alone.”

We Americans treasure and violently guard our supposed freedom-to-acquire more than any other liberty. The United States has been extracting wealth from the rest of the world with military force since before it was officially a country, beginning with the land theft and genocide of the Native Americans. We currently have 800 military bases outside of our own borders. No other nation even comes close to maintaining that kind of a global military presence. The closest runners up are Russia, Britain, and France, who each have less than ten bases outside their countries. Some historians argue that we are already in the midst of what later generations will look back on as World War III. We have been involved in dozens of global conflicts, continuously, since before you were born. Why are we engaged in this killing and destruction around the world? Are we protecting freedom? If we’re talking about the freedom of corporations to continue profiting, acquiring, and hoarding without limits, then yes. But if we’re talking about the freedom of ordinary people to live lives of dignity, to have available to them the resources of life to which they should be entitled as organisms of this planet, then our military serves the exact opposite purpose. I worry that the wars that have been smoldering mostly unnoticed for years now may soon erupt into a recognized and officially declared war. I worry that the draft may be reinstated. I worry that you and your younger brother may be called up, drafted, sent to the front lines to kill and be killed to protect corporate profits. I will not stand by idle and silent while that happens. That’s why Mom always goes on and on about this stuff. The gods of capitalism and the gods of Mormonism are nothing but different faces of the same lie. And I would have you serve neither.

Greed has become the ruling principle of our society. Me first. The term our culture uses to describe this phenomenon is “individualism.” Individualism is held up as something to be admired, but it is another name for the illusion of separateness. It is another lie. You appear to have succumb to this lie, and this is not surprising, nor is it your fault. It is what you have observed in the behavior of those around you, in your dad’s family and in your culture. It is what you have been taught, both explicitly and implicitly. And it is a difficult illusion to shatter, because it offers so much comfort. How convenient to be able to manipulate the world around you to never encounter anyone or anything unpleasant or inconvenient, and how appealing to believe that it is your right to do so. Most people do not wake from this illusion unless difficult life circumstances force them to confront the world as it really is. My hope is that you can begin to wake up before such a jolt hits you.

The antidote to greed is connection. It’s understanding and empathy. It’s recognizing that despite external appearances of difference, we truly are all part of the same whole. That we are all from the same stuff, All One, is scientific fact, not just some hippie-dippy fantasy. We, the human race, and we, the rest of life, energy, and matter on this planet. We all belong to and are responsible for each other. And so instead of a gadget to fortify your illusion of isolation, I got you a book by a woman from a culture different from your own. I didn’t expect you to be fascinated with it, and that’s alright. I am planting a seed for now.

You are an intelligent and sensitive young man. From the time you were little, you’ve had an open and loving heart. Some of that sweetness seems to have been clouded over recently with some of the distractions of teenagehood, electronic and otherwise. You’re trying out different identities, trying to figure out who you are, and I think some obscuring of your true self is normal. I know that at your core, that open, loving heart is still there. You perhaps haven’t had as many opportunities to develop your heart as your mind and body, but it is just as important; it is all part of the whole, and one part can’t function fully without the others. Practice caring for others. Practice opening and connecting. Practice developing your heart.

I love you. I want the best for you. No matter what, I’m always here for you.

Love,

Mom

 

Leah Elliott lives in North Carolina with her partner, children, and stepchildren.

Collecting nominations for X-Mormon of the Year 2018!!!

X-Mormon-2018-300x223 Hey folks — it’s that time of year again! Time to decide which X-Mormon made the biggest splash in 2018!!

Sorry to be getting started a little late this year — maybe it’s just that the likeliest candidate has never been more obvious. I’m not going to say who I’m thinking of, because I hope you have some other ideas to give this candidate some competition. 😀

I will just say that — as always — getting excommunicated during the year in question is not a requirement… but it doesn’t hurt!

Please post all your nominations below for the X-Mormon who made the biggest splash in 2018!! Thanks, and I look forward to your nominations!

Joseph Smith as Peeping Tom

by “Faraday”

keyhole

This essay hopes to solve a great mystery: the origins of the naked part of the endowment.

The mystery

Most people know that the signs and tokens of the temple come from Freemasons. And the Adam and Eve part comes from the book of Genesis. But where do the washings and anointings come from?

The lost ceremony

In modern temples, “washings and anointings” refer to applying oil to the head, water to the feet, etc. These are like Biblical practices: kings had their heads anointed with oil, and Jesus famously washed his apostles’ feet. And in the 1836 predecessor to the endowment Joseph Smith did just that: washed feet and anointed heads. (The report also refers to “washing” but that seems to refer to washing their hands etc.). But from 1842 there was another part: you had to get stark naked, with a bathtub! Where did that come from?

Let’s get naked!

Most people don’t know that until the early 20th century, the “washing” required you to stand there naked, with no towel to cover you. Then you got in a bath: this was no symbolic dab of water, your whole body got washed! Here is one of those bathtubs, from the Salt Lake temple in 1911, courtesy of Wikipedia.

tub_Salt_Lake_1911

In modern times the “washing” is fully clothed and takes about a minute. In fact the whole endowment session, including all ordinances, is over in a couple of hours. But in 1842 it took pretty much all day. For example, when you were finally given underwear you were left sitting on your own for an hour or so (in the version described in the Naked Mormonism podcast). And it was a lot weirder: originally there were no washings for the dead: you only did it for yourself. So your first time was your only time. And this was the days before electric lights: this was a time of shadows, real blood oaths backed by real Danites, belief in all kinds of supernatural things. Getting naked and having someone wash you was just icing on the weirdness cake.

Where did the weird naked stuff come from? One clue is that the endowment is all about the priesthood. We are endowed with power to become kings, and kings are strictly male. So in the 1836 version it was all male. But in 1842 Joseph decided that women should be allowed in. And the ceremony should involve getting naked. Coincidence?

Naked endowments and Peeping Toms

It should be obvious to anyone that a naked bathing ceremony is a Peeping Tom’s dream.

“While the temple ceremony encouraged reverence and decorum, Brigham Young complained that church members sometimes peeked through partitions to observe others being endowed.” (source)

The peeping problem is so obvious, that only Peeping Toms would want a naked ceremony. So where did the idea come from?

The naked ceremony cannot be traced to Freemasonry. And it cannot be traced to anointing kings and washing feet: foot washing was about being humble, and head anointing was about becoming a king. But the naked washing was abut being promised health and strength. It’s just a different concept. We might try to trace it to baptism, except baptism is a completely different concept too and a separate ordinance. Just where did the naked bathing ceremony come from?

The revelation on polygamy

The endowment is closely linked to polygamy: it was invented to bind people in oaths of secrecy, and polygamy at the time was the biggest secret of all. So to understand the endowment we need to understand polygamy. The key text is Doctrine and Covenants 132, and the key passage is verse 39:

“David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife; and, therefore he hath fallen from his exaltation”

What was “the case of Uriah and his wife”? David spied on Bathsheba while she was bathing. David then sent her husband Uriah away to war, so that David could have Bathsheba for himself.

Marc-Chagall-David-and-Bathsheba

You might wonder how David came to be spying on Bathsheba bathing? This was because David owned the palace and temple, the highest buildings in Jerusalem. Everybody else had small houses. The women could bathe on their roofs for privacy. But David, in his office at the top of his castle, could see them all, and choose any he wanted. As long as Nathan approved.

Modern readers often skim over the “Uriah and his wife” passage without realising its significance. In Joseph’s day the Bible was far better known than it is now. The Uriah story was one of the best known stories of all: the fall of king David! A story of drama, sex, violence, reversals, it has everything! When talking polygamy, this is the most famous example of all! And in those almost-Puritan times, when seeing a woman’s ankle could make a man horny, imagine how this story stayed in a man’s mind. King David could stand on his balcony and see every woman, naked! And then choose to bed the ones he wanted! For a man like Joseph, that idea would tend to crowd out all others. Once referenced it would tend to stay in the mind, no matter what else was being discussed.

Modern readers also tend to forget what Joseph means when he said polygamy, or some aspect of it, was a sin. For years Joseph had been saying “spiritual wifery” was a sin while practising “celestial marriage.” To outsiders they look like exactly the same thing. But Joseph had to reassure his followers that he would never do anything like that. Until he was found out of course. So when Joseph says the Uriah’s wife episode was a terrible sin, that does not mean he would not do it. It just means it was on his mind, and he wanted to reassure followers that he would never spy on their wives in their baths. Oh no sir. Definitely not. Meanwhile, Joseph was planning a new ceremony that involved naked wives and bathtubs…

In the revelation Joseph says this was the only time David sinned. Why was it a sin? 2 Samuel 12 explains:

“The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. ‘Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.’ David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.’ Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.'”

Note the analogy with the traveler and the rich and poor man. The sin was not in taking the lamb, but in being an asshole about it. In ancient times it was good to give your very best to a weary traveler. Clearly this lamb was the best, so yes, the rich man should have taken it. But he should have made a deal with the poor man: explained the situation and offered him ten sheep in return.

Joseph learned from David’s mistake. Joseph did not simply take women by force, like a rapist. The endowment was designed to first get people totally on board with whatever Joseph needed, and to promise them eternal riches in return. Then if people disobey and need to have their throats slit it’s their own choice. The endowment solves the Uriah problem.

I wonder if Joseph saw other parallels between himself and David. The previous year Joseph had sent Orson Hyde away on a mission so he could marry Orson’s wife. And the new endowment ceremony threatened death to any followers who did not accept Joseph’s way. And Joseph previously created the Danites, showing that he was serious about the death threats.

Finally, note that only a prophet (like Nathan) could decide which wives were justified and which were sinful. Luckily, Joseph was himself the prophet. Even luckier, Joseph was also the king. Well, technically the mayor of Nauvoo, but on 11 April 1844 the Council of Fifty declared him “our Prophet, Priest & King.” So if Joseph the king saw a woman and wanted her, it was not a sin as long as Joseph the prophet approved.

Seers and peeping

Joseph was a seer. He saw stuff. He told us “a seer is greater than a prophet”. Joseph began as a glass looker, a scryer, a peep-stone user. His whole schtick was that he could see things that are hidden. Whenever God or nature had ordained that thing was hidden (far away, or buried in the earth, or lost to history), Joseph could pull aside the veil and have a good old look.

Scrying, or seeing, explains everything. For example, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon is a classic example: a spirit guards buried gold, Joseph with his peep stone finds it, and on the night of the autumnal equinox the spirit gives it up. All of Mormonism is about seeing hidden things: spirits and angels and plates and translations that others cannot see.

Nothing can be hidden from a seer. Using a peepstone or crystal ball, or other means, they can see what they are not supposed to see, and nobody else will know.

crystal-ball

And what did Joseph look for the most, throughout his life? Apart from gold? He looked for women! As Grant Palmer (“Insider’s View”) reminded us, Joseph was accused of sexually harassing women in every single place he lived. Joseph just loved to see women’s private parts, and if possible then show them his. Leonora Cannon Taylor writes about one of Joseph’s chat up lines:

“…I had many tryals about this time [May-Sep 1843, when Joseph made polygamy public and began naked washing] but I am yet alive, “ [Her next diary entry reads] “Come Joseph Don’t be filling that up with balderdash, ‘how is your garden this year I’ll show you some summer apples my lady’ O Dear.” (source)

I am sure that readers can work out what Joseph meant by the lady’s “garden” and his “summer apples”. A lady’s “garden” is a well known euphemism. And Joseph’s “summer apples”? Apples are harvested in the Fall: summer apples are about the size of very large cherries, and summer is the time to play. If you get my meaning. No wonder Leonora’s reaction was “O Dear”.

As Leonora’s case shows, not all of the women agreed to show Joseph their gardens. This must have been extremely frustrating to him. Until one day Joseph received a revelation of how every single one of his friends’ wives could be naked before him. And specifically have their private parts touched. What an inspired idea!

Sacred ceremonies, including naked ceremonies, had to be performed exactly right. So the prophet, the seer, had to be able to see everything, including the naked part, whenever he wanted. But there was a problem with that. Joseph still remembered that time he saw Mirinda Johnson’s “garden”. And Mirinda’s brother Eli found out. Eli and his friends tarred and feathered Joseph, the mob screamed for Joseph’s castration, and he only barely escaped. That was a close call! Another problem was Joseph’s wife Emma. She had caught him in the barn with one of his lady friends. Another time when she found out about his extra-curricular gardening she kicked the other lady down the stairs. For some reason Emma was not convinced that polygamy was divine, despite God’s clear statement that Emma would be destroyed if she did not let Joseph have any women he wanted. Why couldn’t Emma understand?

Clearly Joseph had to be able to spy on the ceremony without anyone knowing. Not even Emma. Especially not Emma. But how?

A temple designed for a Peeping Tom

Let’s look at the endowment in general. The “Naked Mormonism” podcast shows how it was designed to disorient the woman. It was confusing, scary, full of strangeness and shadows and starting with nakedness, designed to make her feel helpless. The whole point was to get her to a state where she would bow her head and say “yes” to anything.

Now let’s look at the temple that was designed around the endowment. The Nauvoo temple was built for the endowment and has some interesting differences from the Kirtland temple. The Kirtland temple had its own pre-endowment elements (preaching, washing of feet, anointing of heads) but no naked women. The Nauvoo temple was “Kirtland plus naked women”. Can you see the difference?

temples

The difference is the offices. (And the baptistry, to get people used to the idea of bathing.) Pay special attention to the top floor. Naturally you would expect washings to take place in the basement, where the water was, right? Yet Joseph wanted the washing to take place on the top floor. When Joseph died, Brigham Young changed it to the bottom floor like any sensible person:

“Earlier in 1842 there had been suggestions that the upper story of the temple will when finished be used for the ritual purposes, but at the beginning of 1845 Brigham Young decided that upon each side of the font there will be a suite of rooms fitted up for the washings and also in the recesses on each side of the arch on the first story.” (Weeks, p.351)

Why use the cramped and inconvenient upper floor? One obvious reason is that there are no windows there. But look at the design. Despite having less space, the sides are lined with offices. This is where Joseph would do his work, or wait for his time in the ceremony. In other words, when the women (and men) are naked, Joseph would be just a few feet away behind a door. And for the new washing ceremony to be correct, Joseph had to be able to peep from his office whenever he wanted. Whether he used a keyhole, curtain, or crack in the door is anyone’s guess. But his offices had to be on the same floor as the naked women, and close enough to see every detail of what was happening. Because these sacred ordinances had to be done right!

One problem with the “temple designed for a Peeping Tom” theory might be that Joseph planned the temple in 1841, a year before he got the full Masonic treatment and decided naked women could be involved. But the inside design of the temple was not finalised until after Joseph decided he wanted naked women naked women. The design of the temple, like everything else Joseph invented, was constantly changing:

“Governor Thomas Ford of Illinois gained the impression from Mormons themselves that their temple was commenced without any previous plan and that the master builder from day to day during the progress of its erection received directions immediately from heaven as to the plan of the building. […] temple plans remained
general and fluid no complete plans being presented at any one time. […] changes in temple details from first drawings to final building were dramatic” (Weeks, pp 341-2)

In particular, the interior arrangements (and whether the offices were close enough to the flesh for him to see anything) were still being tweaked right up to the end:

“During April another visitor learned that the interior plan is yet undecided upon or rather the prophet has not received a revelation in regard to the interior arrangements. In June [1844] the prophet informed others that the temples interior structure and arrangement had not been decided on.”(Weeks, pp.347-348)

If these were just ordinary offices for ordinary business why would he care? Why not leave that part to the architect? And why put them on the same floor as the ceremony, squashed next to the naked people, unless being squashed together was the whole point?

Conclusion: the “wife of Uriah” principle

Here, then, are all the elements of the new naked bathing ceremony:

  1. A woman bathes naked. (And men, but the scripture focuses on the woman.)
  2. The king is in his office at the top of his palace, where he might “accidentally” see the bathing.
  3. The king then chooses the best polygamous wife.
  4. This is approved of God as long as all parties agree first, e.g. by being promised great rewards (in heaven)

If this is not the source of the naked bathing ceremony, please provide a better known source from the same general period. Study the Freemasons’ books. Study the Bible. I can wait.

Of course, we do not have video proof of what Joseph did. All we know is that he would be on the other side of a door or curtain while his friends’ wives got naked. Maybe he never peeped? Sure…

 

Sources

The original temple ceremony
(Part 2, the woman’s perspective)
Joseph Smith’s history of chasing women
(part 2)
Polygamy timeline
Endowment timeline
William Weeks, Architect of the Nauvoo Temple
Polygamy diaries etc.
Tarring, feathering, and almost-castration

Yours truly on Mormon Happy Hour!!!

Satan-Beer-Cropped-281x300 Find out everything you ever wanted to know about the history of Main Street Plaza, the Brodie Awards, and Mormon Alumni Association Books!! I have just made a guest appearance on the always-entertaining “Mormon Happy Hour” Podcast. With host Colleen, in addition to discussing my LDS-interest projects, we did a fun send-up/smack-down of all of the new policies of the new head of the CoJCoL-dS — check it out!!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Conference of Changes Edition!!

So, another General Conference has come and gone, and this one had some interesting announcements. The worst item right out of the gate was from Dallin Oaks, who explained that LGBTQ advocacy comes from Satan.

Also Satan…? Nicknames! The CoJCoL-dS is apparently really serious about rebranding away from the nickname Mormon (unless this report is true) — because when you say Mormon, Satan wins.

This change is confusing and contradictory, plus it’s annoying because now there is no good adjective to describe LDS-interest or LDS-related things like Mormon literature or Mormon news, etc.!! What if you want to talk about your “Modar” or your lingering connection to your former faith? Sure you can say “LDS” (as I just did), but apparently they don’t want people using that one either.

Then the big procedural change was that Sunday services will be cut from three hours to two. I guess that’s a step in the right direction…? So they’re not wasting so much of the members’ time with pointless non-issues like the above…?

As an alternate strategy, they might consider trying to make their services interesting and engaging… Maybe talk about issues that really matter, like our impending climate change catastrophe…? Or at least make the meetings almost as interesting as you might expect after watching the infomercial.

Another gem from conference was when President Nelson said that women should take a 10-day fast from social media. Not everybody, just women. Coincidentally during the time leading up to an important US election.

If you’d like to hear even more analysis of this crazy conference, tune into Mormon Happy Hour’s smackdown or this series by Mormon Women Speak. (Yikes, another couple of victories for Satan by those podcasters and their evil desire to give their podcasts clear and concise names.)

There have been a lot of great podcast discussions lately such as this treatment of the changes in church policy on contraceptives and oral sex within marriage. And I enjoyed Radio Free Mormon’s illustration of how the leaders of the CoJCoL-dS are gaslighting the members by pretending like they never treated the growth of the church as the inevitable proof of the church’s rightness.

In other news, Sam Young is still continuing the fight against grotesquely inappropriate interviews, despite having been excommunicated.

In film, there’s a new piece about Jane and Emma that looks really interesting.

I recently updated the Mormon Alumni Association Books website to highlight an award won by Mormon Eroticahave a look!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: The Youth of Zion Edition!

Perhaps you’ve heard the news: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has begun excommunication proceedings against Sam Young, with the following charges:

  1. Encouraged others to vote opposed to Church leaders.
  2. Organized more than one public “action” that expressed opposition to the Church or its leaders.

I guess it isn’t that much of a surprise — although it is a bit of a disappointment. Once again the leaders of the CoJCoL-dS have demonstrated that their own authority, respect, and prestige pass above all else. Rather than revisit this terrible, abusive policy of arranging sexually-charged interviews with minors, they shoot the messenger because he embarrasses them. Once again the leaders try to solve the problem by getting the critic to shut up — because from their perspective the only real problem is the damage to the church’s image. As I said in my Sunstone panel on criticism:

I argue that shielding the CoJCoL-dS from all criticism — including criticism from strongly interested insiders — does more harm that allowing criticism to be aired and discussed.

Here’s Sam Young’s response letter, and here’s a list of related vigils and news items.

The other recent news story out of Mormondom is that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is going to finally completely shed the nickname “Mormon”. It looks like this will be one of Russel M. Nelson’s signature issues as president — good thing he has some really important issues regarding the church’s image to worry about!

It seems like they’ve been doing this bizarre dance of embracing and rejecting the term “Mormon” my whole life — will it stick this time?

Well, let’s look at the style guide from the now-ironically-named “Mormon Newsroom.” They don’t want people using the terms “LDS Church” or “Mormon Church” anymore — now when you don’t want to type out the entirety of “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” you are supposed to shorten it to “the Church” or the “Church of Jesus Christ.” Or a new one that combines cryptic with unruly: the “restored Church of Jesus Christ.”

In other words, anything that is clear, concise, and would actually help a lay person to know who you’re talking about is verboten. That’s a brilliant plan — good thing the prophets, seers, and revelators have the hotline to God to get such great ideas. Bonus points for all of the persecution that the Latter-day-Saints-formerly-known-as-Mormons get to feel when nobody goes along with this nonsensical request.

See also Tyler Scott’s 10 problems with the name change and Mormon History Guy’s analysis comparing the use of the term Mormon with (not) referring to the colonized by their indigenous names.

At least they stopped insisting that people shouldn’t use the term “Mormon” for other offshoots of the same religious tradition, which is nice, though they do request that whenever people talk about modern polygamist groups they specifically mention that the groups are not affiliated with the CoJCoL-dS — good luck with that one.

Will someone stick a fork in this church? I think it’s done.

I’m sorry to be flippant about it — it’s sad for me to see this organization that has been such a big part of my life so fully embracing villainy. Lately, while thinking about Sam Young’s situation, the following song from my youth bubbled up and lodged itself in my brain:

Shall the youth of Zion falter
In defending truth and right?
While the enemy assaileth,
Shall we shrink or shun the fight? No!

True to the faith that our parents have cherished,
True to the truth for which martyrs have perished,
To God’s command,
Soul, heart, and hand,
Faithful and true we will ever stand.

I found I still have an emotional connection with this song (among others) after all these years. And in retrospect, it upsets me a bit to have been brought up on this. It starts with defending truth and right — which merits universal agreement — but then associates that noble goal with a bunch of stuff that doesn’t necessarily jibe with truth and right.

First, “the enemy assaileth?” — real-world problems are more complex than finding the bad guy and fighting him. This polarizing view is what leads the church to think they’re doing right by fighting Sam Young rather than bringing him into a real discussion. Fighting “the enemy” is just so much easier than introspection.

Then there’s the part about being true to the faith — which, in this case, can be interpreted as the organization or faith community. This is basically saying that challenging the church means being disloyal to your parents and to all those martyrs.

And being completely true “to God’s command”…? That is a terrible idea. Because acts that are good don’t need God to command them. They are justified by their good effects. “God’s command” only gets trotted out to justify things that can’t be justified on their own merits — often because those things are bad, like the closed-door adult/child interview policy.

So, yeah, I’m not happy to have an emotional connection with singing the praises of blind loyalty as being good and right — connecting that with being a part of my family and of the community of my youth. And I’m not the only one — just read this recent tale of how children are taught.

To you, Sam Young, and so many others: My you continue to defend truth and right by challenging all that other baggage.

To wrap up the last couple of items, the CoJCoL-dS is apparently working to prevent legalization of medical cannabis because of course they are. And check out this awesome review of Donna Banta’s novel Mormon Erotica!

Happy reading!

Moral Tyranny

by Johnny Townsend

Elder Boyd K. Packer, as president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church, said back in the April 2013 conference what many of us had long understood and what is still true today. For Mormons, it is a sin to be tolerant. Packer describes tolerance of “legalized immorality,” clearly referring to same-sex marriage, as both a “vice” and a “trap.”

Mormons have given millions upon millions of dollars to fight equality for gays and lesbians, and are still working hard behind the scenes in the National Organization for Marriage and other groups to promote fear and hatred. But while these things might seem bad at first to the sensitive observer, they’re really done out of love. And even more importantly, they’re done out of righteousness.

A central Mormon teaching is that in the beginning, God was presented with two plans, one by his son Jesus, who said, “People will make mistakes, but I’ll go down and atone for them.” Another son said, “I’ll go down and force them to do right so there will be no mistakes.” God chose the first plan, the second son rebelled and was cast out as Satan, and the rest is history.

I find it intriguing that Mormons, and fundamentalists in general, seem more willing to emulate Satan’s example when making laws of the land for all people of all faiths. We’ll make them obey our superior spiritual laws whether they like it or not. The reasoning, of course, is rather convoluted. As righteous people, we have the right to make laws for everyone because we are, after all, superior and right. And we know we’re right because our religion says so. And we know our religion is right because God said so. And we know God said so because I can feel it inside. And I know that feeling is right even though other people claim to feel the same thing because I’m me and I know what I feel and I know it must be more real than what those other people feel because I’m not them and I can’t feel what they’re feeling. And if all these other people would only live the way I’m telling them to, they’d feel it, too. They won’t live that way unless I make them, so I’ll make them do it, for their own good, because I really care about them. And if by some chance they still don’t feel the way they are supposed to and obey all the spiritual rules of my church, then we should kick them out of our society and maybe even put them in jail.

Forcing people to comply not only goes against Jesus’ example, but it also contradicts other basic Mormon principles, that only a gift freely given is really a gift, and whatever negative thoughts we feel in our heart are in fact who we truly are, regardless of what positive acts we might perform. So if we force a gay teen to pretend he is heterosexual, we have in no way saved his soul, and we have certainly damaged ours in the process.

Religious fundamentalists use “freedom of religion” to force their views, and then they use that freedom as a shield against debate, yet all the while crossing over that line between the separation of church and state themselves. But religious freedom is guaranteed so that we can have control over our own religious lives, not so we can control the moral choices of others.

If Mormons don’t want to perform same-sex marriages, they don’t have to. They have that right. But they think they also have the right to tell an Anglican priest that he can’t perform one. They think they have the right to tell a Reform rabbi that she can’t do it, either. The same for the atheist Justice of the Peace. Mormons think they have the right to tell all people that they must shape their lives according to Mormon rules. They insist that anyone who doesn’t agree with their religious views be required by law to act as if they did. The same attitude prevails in their fight against legalizing marijuana in Utah. It prevails in punishing women for reporting rape. It prevails in virtually every aspect of life because Mormons feel that “free agency” really means their agency to make someone else’s decisions.

This is not morality. It is theocracy and tyranny. And while Mormons may be afraid of tolerance, I believe there is a lot more to fear from tyranny. What Mormons don’t understand is that there are a great many other fundamentalists out there who believe that their ideas should rule the land. Lots of other people want the power to compel everyone to live according to their own religious beliefs. When those beliefs collide, as they surely will, whose belief wins out then? The one with the most followers? Mormons will be crying out at that point how unfair it is to let these other groups make rules Mormons must obey.

The only way out of this trap is to practice tolerance, and let people make up their own minds about what is or isn’t right for them. But as long as Mormon leaders preach that tolerance is a sin, this makes both political process and equality under the law very difficult ideas for the Mormon people.

Yet this attitude of intolerance can’t only be blamed on the leaders. Followers must make the choice to follow as well. They can’t pass off their actions and blame them on others. Some have commented on the moral pain Mormons must feel, being taught to hate but actually feeling the urge to love. I don’t feel much sympathy for them, however. The dissonance they experience is easily resolved. Choose to love. Think for yourself. Stop following hateful doctrine.

Use the free agency that God gave you and do the right thing. There’s a reason Heavenly Father didn’t choose Satan’s plan. Mormons believe they chose the right plan in the Pre-Existence. If Earth life is our ultimate, final test, we are certainly capable of doing it now when it matters most.

Inasmuch As Ye Have Done It Unto One of the Least of These My Brethren, It Matters Not to Me

by Johnny Townsend

Mormons (and others claiming to be Christian) seem to routinely ignore Matthew 25:40, one of the most profound statements from the New Testament. No one is perfect, and human nature is what it is, but it seems many people are able to ignore this verse without feeling the slightest bit guilty about it. Mormons, of course, are good at feeling guilty for all the many things they’re supposed to do yet often cannot, but they don’t appear stressed over this central point. In fact, they almost seem to glory in their disregard for “the least of these.”

Is it because of the wiggle room in the statement? When people do or say things that make life harder for addicts, do they say, “Well, that verse doesn’t apply here. Jesus would never be an addict”? When they ban gays from marrying, do they say, “That verse doesn’t apply. Jesus would never be gay”? When they ignore homeless people, do they say, “That doesn’t apply. Jesus would never be a bum who couldn’t hold a job”? When they refuse to guarantee health care, do they say, “That verse doesn’t apply. Jesus could always just heal himself”?

There’s no need to be compassionate to those who need medical marijuana. Jesus would never use marijuana. There’s no need to be understanding of doubters. Jesus never would have doubted. There’s no need to stop shunning ex-Mormons. Jesus would never have left the Church. It seems easy to justify any oppression or lack of compassion for all those people we don’t like because the verse doesn’t really apply. Jesus would never be any of these horrible, lazy, unrighteous people, so Mormons (and other Christians) simply can’t make themselves treat these “others” appropriately. They would never treat Jesus badly, of course, but these other people actually deserve to be treated badly because they’re nothing like Jesus.

If your ward chorister was anything like mine, when he or she directed the congregation to sing “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief,” you were forced to sing every last verse. (I don’t even need to tell you how many verses there are, do I? You know.) And what do we learn from that hymn?

We must feed the hungry without asking anything in return.
We must provide water to those who thirst without asking anything in return.
We must help the homeless without asking anything in return.
We must provide medical care without asking anything in return.
We must be compassionate to those in prison without asking anything in return.

So where is that wiggle room now? Poor Blacks in Flint, Michigan are the Savior. People whose water is polluted by fracking are the Savior. People who can’t afford to pay their heating bill are the Savior. Homeless people who disgust you are the Savior. Syrian refugees are the Savior. Palestinians are the Savior. Roma “gypsies” are the Savior. Climate change refugees are the Savior. That crazy person ranting on the bus is the Savior.

President Nelson and the rest of the LDS leadership need to speak plainly and frequently on the need for Mormons to help these specific people so the members aren’t able to emotionally wiggle out of their moral obligation to help the suffering.

Until they do, the vast majority of members of the Church will continue to feel justified not only in refusing to help but also in heaping additional oppression onto these groups.

Do LDS leaders think that’s really what the Savior would have wanted? Are they telling us that the teachings of Jesus from the New Testament are no longer relevant? Is the Jesus we all studied while growing up outdated?

Many people already think Mormons are not Christians. If they’re right, perhaps it’s time to update the name of the Church to something more accurate.

Is “The Church of If You Need Help You’re Clearly Not Worthy of Being Helped by Latter-day Saints” too bulky?

Well, I’m sure with the direct conduit to Jesus 2.0 (New and Improved!) which LDS General Authorities enjoy, they can come up with something better.