Sunday in Outer Blogness: Savannah’s edition!

I imagine that by now you’ve all seen this viral video:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn’t have to continue to double down on its homophobia. Or its racist policies. Just look what the Southern Baptists did about their past racism:

WHEREAS, the roots of White Supremacy within a “Christian context” is based on the so-called “curse of Ham” theory once prominently taught by the SBC in the early years—echoing the belief that God through Noah ordained descendants of Africa to be subservient to Anglos—which provided the theological justification for slavery and segregation. The SBC officially renounces the “curse of Ham” theory in this Resolution; now be it therefore

RESOLVED, that the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Phoenix, AZ, June 13-14, 2017, denounces every form of “nationalism” that violates the biblical teachings with respect to race, justice, and ordered liberty; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we reject the retrograde ideologies, xenophobic biases, and racial bigotries of the so-called “Alt-Right” that seek to subvert our government, destabilize society, and infect our political system; and be finally

At least the CoJCoL-dS seems to like non-conformity under certain circumstances

Other personal stories of the week include a first trip to the temple, a magical road trip, daily life in an interfaith marriage, and other interfaith connection with family.

In church news, the European outposts are contracting. In discussion topics, Lynette covered the value of life, Andrew S wrote about invisible gods. See also beauty tips, and can the wording of the sacrament prayer change?

Wheat and Tares posted some intriguing articles including a temple mystery and an account of the days of Mark Hofmann.

In Book of Mormon study, we’re up to another part where Joseph Smith throws in a convenient prophecy. Plus what’s up with the iron rod? Alex also made the best of a bad review.

And the latest Trump drama is teaching lessons about sexual coercion.

After all of that, let’s cleanse the palate with a bit of Frog Eye Salad! See you next week!

Do you believe in Priesthood Blessings?

In the July 2012 edition of the Ensign, there is an article by Elder Dallen H Oaks.
In the article, he talks about the different kinds of priesthood blessings. For this post, I would like to focus on Blessings of Comfort or Counsel. The article describes them this way:

“Persons desiring guidance in an important decision can receive a priesthood blessing. Persons who need extra spiritual power to overcome a personal challenge can receive a blessing. Priesthood blessings are often requested from fathers before children leave home for various purposes, such as school, service in the military, or a long trip.

Blessings given in circumstances such as I have just described are sometimes called blessings of comfort or counsel. They are usually given by fathers or husbands or other elders in the family. They can be recorded and kept in family records for the personal spiritual guidance of the persons blessed.”

Part of the article is also very specific that blessings of comfort or counsel, should be requested by the individual receiving the blessing. So, I am curious about your experiences with blessings of this type. Since many people who were raised in the church are likely to have had a number of these blessings, I am curious which of these statements fit your experience:

I have never had a blessing of the kind described above.

I have received the kind of blessing described above, I found it helpful in making a decision.

I have received the kind of blessing described above, I found it brought me peace and acceptance of a situation.

I have received the kind of blessing described above, I found it brought me strength during a difficult trial.

I have received the kind of blessing described above, I found that there were specific things promised me that happened.

I have received the kind of blessing described above, I found the blessing to be non-specific but still helpful with a coming school year, decision, or endeavor in my life.

I have received the kind of blessing described above, I found that there were specific things promised to me that did not happen.

I have received the kind of blessing described above, I found that the contents of the blessing brought guilt or feelings of discomfort.

I have received the kind of blessing described above, I found the blessing to be non-specific and unhelpful with whatever I was struggling with.

Every (or almost every) blessing I received was at my request.

Some of the blessings I received were not at my request.

All of the blessings I received were not at my request.

All of the blessings I received were inspired, and I felt increased influence of the Lord as a result.

Some of the blessings I received were inspired, and most of them brought an increase in faith.

Some of the blessings I received were inspired, but most of them did not bring an increase in faith.

Most of the blessings I received were not inspired and did not have much impact on my testimony.

Most of the blessings I received were not inspired and negatively impacted my testimony.

Some or all of the blessings I received brought feelings of unrighteous dominion and decreased my faith.

Some or all of the blessings I received brought feelings of unrighteous dominion and led to me completely losing my faith.

I tried to include the variety of experiences I or friends have had, but I am sure I missed some questions. What would you have added to the list?

I realize that many people will have had a variety of experiences that fall into several categories, so I doubt that many people will have only one answer. I can say that I have both had blessings that brought feelings of unrighteous dominion and impacted my testimony in a negative way. I have also had profoundly strengthening blessings, that gave me hope in the middle of difficult trials, and the specific promises of the blessings which happened afterwards, to be an important part of my testimony as an adult.

I am curious about specific experiences that were definitive in your life. For me, during a particularly difficult period with a husband (who I am no longer married to), I requested a blessing from my step-father. The specific information about the needs of my children, and the supports that I should look for as I moved forward to protect myself, were extremely helpful. The fact that my mother took notes while the blessing was being given, and I had those notes to go back to, helped me to keep the promises of the blessing in the forefront of my mind. I have never had an actual recording of a blessing, but until I read this article, I hadn’t realized it was considered appropriate to do so. It is something that I will think about, and consider in the future when I am requesting a blessing.

So, what is your experience(s) with receiving blessings of comfort or counsel? Have they ever helped you, or did they feel like words that were just being said?

Have you ever recorded a blessing either with a recorder of with someone taking notes? If you did, were recorded blessings more helpful than blessings which you did not have recordings for?

Do you find blessings that are specific or more generalized more helpful?

If you have had a blessing that felt like it was simply a priesthood member exercising unrighteous dominion, did you request that/those blessing(s)?

While the main thrust of this post is to talk about experiences receiving blessings, but for those who have given them, at some point,is there anything that you do to prepare for giving this type of blessing, and if you have done specific preparation, do you find it makes a difference in the kind of blessings you give? Were there blessings you gave that you did not feel came from God?

Why I Left the Mormon Church

It’s been about a year now since I realized that the LDS Church isn’t all it claims to be. Having grown up completely devoted to the church, my transition out of it became a time of immense growing and learning for me. Yet despite all the changes, or maybe because of them, I am now happier and freer than I have ever been in my life, and so is my family.

I’ve been invited to post my story here, which explains how and why I left the church and how I came to the conclusions about it that I did, the mental and emotional struggles I went through in the process, and how my beliefs have evolved since then. It’s a fairly long document, so rather than posting the content here, I’m including a link to the PDF version of the document on my website, which you can download and read at your leisure.

A lot of my friends and extended family still don’t know that I’ve left the church, and I’m debating whether or not to make a public announcement to them about it. I moved away from Utah (and the USA) a couple years ago, so I’m not as tied to Mormon culture as I once was. But I feel like many of my old friends no longer know the real me. Yet, I wonder if I would lose their respect and trust if they knew my current beliefs. I’d be interested to hear your experiences about opening up to your family and friends, as well as what you think of my story. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments or contact me directly on my blog,Fullness of Life.

Studying the Original

I recently saw the documentary “Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock” about Teri Horton, a woman who may have purchased a Jackson Pollock painting at a thrift store for $5.

It was a fascinating documentary, with a clear perspective. The crux of the film is that Teri cannot prove that the painting is in fact, a Jackson Pollock painting. Through forensics, it appears as if a fingerprint of Pollock’s is on the back of her painting. Also, you look at the painting, and certified Pollock paintings, and it certainly looks very convincing. In a court of law, it’s possible that this evidence could be used to convict a criminal. Or, it could be faked. Either way, it’s a powerful argument.
Continue reading “Studying the Original”

The Rise and Fall of a Testimony

The following is an essay I’ve written on my journey out of Mormonism (originally posted on my personal blog here). My journey to atheism is another story. Perhaps I will post it in the future.

Tell me about your testimony.

I was 24 years old when my bishop asked me this question and I thought back to the origins of my testimony.

My parents were and are as faithful Mormons as ever you’ll meet. They had raised me and my ten siblings in the Church. We went to church every week and read scriptures every day. When I was 14 years old, I decided that I wanted to know for myself that the Church was true instead of just believing. I decided to test the promise of the prophet Moroni, found in the last chapter of the Book of Mormon: And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things (Moroni 10: 4-5).

I spent a weekend and shut myself up in my room and read all 531 pages of the Book of Mormon. I fasted during this time, interrupting my reading only to attend church Sunday morning. I finished the book late Sunday night and knelt beside my bed, giddy with anticipation for the testimony I was sure God would give me. Father in Heaven, I prayed, Is the Book of Mormon true?

I waited. Nothing happened.

I looked at the verses again, scouring the instructions like a recipe; perhaps Id forgotten an ingredient.Hmm, well, it says to ask if these things are nottrue. So I asked again, Is the Book or Mormon not true? Silence.

Again and again, I reread those verses and prayed, asking myself,Do I not have enough real intent? Enough faith in Christ? Is my heart not sincere enough? But no matter how I tried, I couldnt make any kind of revelation come.

I walked through the dark house to break my fast and wept alone in the kitchen, eating a peach.

When the Churchs semi-annual General Conference convened a few weeks later, apostle Robert D. Hales related the story of how David O. McKay, the ninth president of the church, as a boy had wanted to know for himself regarding the truthfulness of the Gospel, and decided to pray about the matter: Continue reading “The Rise and Fall of a Testimony”

How Mormon values gave me courage to leave

I have thought of my “exit” story as boring. Boring, but different. Rather than a narrative of the Once-Happy-TBM who unwittingly came across a troublesome theological or historical issue and lamented as it gobbled a once easy faith, my story has from early on featured something amiss…but what I’ve thought to be amiss was something about me.

And so, my story was not finding some troubling history or troubling scripture. Even when younger, I looked at odd parts of history or scripture with incredulity. Instead, my story was discovering that I didn’t have to beat myself up for my doubting nature. And until I looked carefully, I had failed to realize that it was the church that had given me values that enabled me to take a step away.

Continue reading “How Mormon values gave me courage to leave”

What was the straw that broke your belief’s back?

I’ve been reading an article at Mormon Matters about More Open Mormon History, and it seems to me there is a fundamental idea at play here: if you hear about “true Mormon history,” you’ll lose all hope and faith and then apostasize. OMG!

The author, Mormon Heretic, tries to deflect this claim. He posits that people should learn about true Mormon history upfront and that it won’t lead to more apostasizing — this original assertion is baseless. Instead, those who know more about Mormon history tend to be more active and those who know less are actually less active (but this study that he refers to hasn’t been parsed in the topic). Continue reading “What was the straw that broke your belief’s back?”

Seeking First to Understand

After years of talking with current and former mormons, I am well aware that the reasons for people leaving and becoming disaffected are as different as snowflakes.  Everyone has a different story and takes a unique path. I didn’t get a chance to listen to John Dehlin’s mormon stories podcasts while they were still available. This is a link to the new staylds site – and an essay on staying mormon after a “crisis of faith”.

Lisa, from the Liberal Mormon that Could blogged about the “bitter fruits of apostasy” lesson here. Personally, I’m disappointed by some of the points in this lesson about apostasy.  I resent the implication that all or most former mormons leave because they aren’t strong enough, or they want to sin.

What strikes me as the most interesting is the impression that no one (in the current LDS leadership) made a concerted effort to find out WHY former mormons left.  From the lesson, it seems that there are quite a few assumptions that have been made – assumptions which may or may not be grounded in reality.  It may be true that there are smokers who become inactive because they fear the judgment from other ward members. But many of the examples are the same that I remember hearing  in the late 80s, that a person is offended or wants a particular calling. Continue reading “Seeking First to Understand”

Hellmut’s Deconversion

I have been miserable at Church ever since my mission. I still couldn’t get out because I had to act on my testimony even though I experienced Church as toxic every Sunday.

To me, the mission experience was dehumanizing and sacrilegious reducing converts to trophies and missionaries to tools. Any amoeba will leave an inhospitable environment and strike out for greener pastures and yet I came back for more for something like sixteen years only to despair more because I could not get over my testimony. Continue reading “Hellmut’s Deconversion”