Eyes in the Back of My Head

by Johnny Townsend

In the life of every atheist raised in a religious household, there comes a moment when we encounter our first question that can’t be answered. For me, it was when as a young Mormon teen reading lots of science fiction novels, I encountered aliens with amazing abilities. I’d think, “Wouldn’t it be great if humans had that feature?” Nature programs added non-fiction traits other species already had, species inferior to God—according to God—yet obviously superior in some of their physical attributes. If God was the ultimate being, how could that be?

Why, for instance, didn’t humans display more attractive coloring? Blue, red, green, purple? We were mostly drab beiges and browns. We colored our hair and tattooed ourselves and wore flashy clothes because we understood the need to improve upon nature.

Often when I was trying to nail or tape or cut something, I’d think, “Boy, wouldn’t it be great to have an extra arm or two?” What if we could tell ourselves, “Put your finger there so I can tie this”?

When bullies crept up behind me at school, how could I not wonder why humans, made in the image of a perfect God, didn’t have eyes in the back of our head?

Why did we have unprotected shins?

If shivering generated heat when we were cold, why did people who still had adequate stores of fat freeze to death before burning up their reserves?

Why couldn’t we breathe in both air and water?

Why couldn’t we fly?

Why couldn’t we regenerate lost appendages?

Why didn’t we have a mouth on the end of some new appendage that we could manipulate more freely than we could move our head?

I had lots of questions, but the biggest was why a being that clearly didn’t have the best of all possible bodies was still able to label itself the Supreme Being in the universe. And if we as Mormons had the opportunity to become gods ourselves, with the same bodies we had on Earth, only “perfected,” wasn’t it a bit unfair that we beat out other species that scored so much higher on any objective evaluation of overall traits?

Something wasn’t right.

Of course, I would eventually decide that the issue of physical attributes was the least of the problems most theologians created.

Why, for instance, did other animals and insects need to suffer when their moral character wasn’t being tested to determine if they qualified for godhood? They just suffered.

Why was suffering the only method for helping humans progress to the next level? The most intelligent being in the entire universe couldn’t come up with anything better than that? If God himself is bound by “natural” laws, who made up those laws? Atoms and molecules did that all by themselves?

The questions didn’t stop there. After reaching a certain threshold, though, there wasn’t much point even asking anything else.

Despite the dangers of unregulated genetic manipulation, I now accept that our fate is in our own hands, and we have to be proactive in ensuring our advancement. Perhaps soon we can create features to turn us into the superior beings we want to be. More intelligent, more compassionate, more altruistic. Maybe we’ll be able to individually choose specific genes for ourselves. On the issue of sex alone, I can think of quite a few improvements I could make to my body.

Don’t tell me you don’t have a fantasy wish list, too.

The possibilities are as endless as the number of people out there.

But no, we’re stuck with two eyes, two arms, two legs, and—sadly—just the one penis.

If God is the most intelligent, most powerful being in the universe, why can’t he figure out safe genetic engineering?

I don’t need Noah’s flood to make me doubt. I don’t need anachronisms in the Book of Mormon. I don’t need any of the vast multitude of theological issues debated regularly to open my eyes to the implausibility of God’s existence. The eyes in the front of my head are enough for that.

The Final post from my notes: Spaulding Rigdon Timeline and details

6 years in the making, and crosslinking to almost every other timeline I’ve made, this post comprises everything I have found that ties together Smith, Rigdon and Spaulding.  It includes quotes by Oliver Cowdery’s partner claiming he confessed to the Spaulding-Rigdon theory, as well as preachers saying that they saw Rigdon do it, back before anyone published the theory (Quoted by their daughters after the fact).

I include a list of eye witnesses and how non-connected they are compared to the 11 witnesses of the Book of Mormon.  Also in the timeline are the gaps in Rigdon’s history along with the key events of the Book of Mormon translation, that lines up to show that Rigdon had means, motive and opportunity.  This post is the summary but has a link to the timeline.

http://www.exploringmormonism.com/?p=1172

 

The Contradiction of God: Brett Cottrell’s “The Valley of Fire”

The Valley of Fire Theology can be confusing and contradictory. If God’s omnipotence and omnibenevolence can be reconciled with the existence of evil, it kinds makes you wonder what’s going on in God’s head. Even if it doesn’t make sense, it makes a great premise for a fantasy-adventure novel!!

In The Valley of Fire the different aspects of the mind of God (God’s wrath, God’s genius, etc.) travel through space and time to recapture God’s Insanity — who escaped while helping Jesus and Contradiction help people understand God’s mysteries. Why can’t the other components of God’s mind recapture His insanity? Well — since it’s narrated by God’s Contradiction — the rules of this fictional universe are excused from having to be consistent or coherent. And it works. Our heroes battle angels of fire, have a dangerous run-in with the seal holding back the horsemen of the Apocalypse, and even enlist the aid of Porter Rockwell before discovering that Insanity was running his own polygamist sect. It’s easily a more interesting solution than simply sending God to a shrink and prescribing Him some lithium.

The fantasy aspects aren’t the whole story, though. The cool part is how the fantasy-adventure elements fit into a down-to-Earth, even sensual, setting:

There weren’t many places to eat, so he parked the Mustang in front of a giant chocolate-covered Twinkie. He wasn’t going to eat the Twinkie, it was a taco shop that just looked like a Twinkie, a yellow, wooden, A-frame building with dark-brown trim. It probably served as somebody’s home long before it served tacos. Actually, it didn’t even serve tacos, it served sandwiches masquerading as tacos. Whatever people called them, they loved them. The food was eaten and prepared behind a glass door surrounded by windows that allowed you to consume your food in all the privacy of a well-lit fishbowl. The better to keep an eye out, Insanity thought as he entered.

Brett Cottrell’s The Valley of Fire is an enjoyable and entertaining read. If you like action and fantasy — with perhaps a dash of speculative Theology — pick this one up!!

Mormonism 101: FAQ

The LDS Newsroom’s new FAQ has a somewhat defensive tone. This is probably due to scandals as of late for the Church, an annoyance that certain issues won’t go away. The Newsroom has created paragraphs of text perhaps in hopes to roundly cut off future scandals at the pass, but I don’t think it’ll help that much.

There are a number of answers that are worth responding to, but I’ll just respond to three here:

Do Mormon women lead in the Church?

Yes. All women are daughters of a loving Heavenly Father. Women and men are equal in the sight of God. The Bible says, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). In the family, a wife and a husband form an equal partnership in leading and raising a family.

From the beginning of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints women have played an integral role in the work of the Church. While worthy men hold the priesthood, worthy women serve as leaders, counselors, missionaries, teachers, and in many other responsibilities they routinely preach from the pulpit and lead congregational prayers in worship services. They serve both in the Church and in their local communities and contribute to the world as leaders in a variety of professions. Their vital and unique contribution to raising children is considered an important responsibility and a special privilege of equal importance to priesthood responsibilities.

So, basically, what they’re saying is, Mormon women lead in the Church, but they cannot lead the Church. This will continue to be a sticking point for anyone interested in female ministry.

Do Latter-day Saints practice polygamy?

No. There are more than 14 million members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and not one of them is a polygamist. The practice of polygamy is strictly prohibited in the Church. The general standard of marriage in the Church has always been monogamy, as indicated in the Book of Mormon (see Jacob 2:27). For periods in the Bible polygamy was practiced by the patriarchs Abraham and Jacob, as well as kings David and Solomon. It was again practiced by a minority of Latter-day Saints in the early years of the Church. Polygamy was officially discontinued in 1890 122 years ago. Those who practice polygamy today have nothing whatsoever to do with the Church.

I’ve written on why stripping a Mormon identity from the FLDS is wrong. There are Catholics who engage in voodoo, but you don’t see the Catholic Church going to great lengths to ensure such people don’t get to identify as Catholic.

Why does the Church act so immaturely about polygamy and the polygamy of its past? Do they fear it makes Joseph Smith’s vision less believable when people think about how many wives he had? If the Church wants to fully shed the albatross of polygamy, it’ll have to shed Joseph Smith and the rest of the 19th century. Otherwise, historical honesty requires mentioning the fact that Emma wasn’t Smith’s only wife.

Also, the sentence — “Those who practice polygamy today have nothing whatsoever to do with the Church” — strikes me as having an Islamophobic tone if a person were to read it without any knowledge of what context the FAQ is addressing.

What is the position of the Church regarding race relations?

The gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone. The Book of Mormon states, Black and white, bond and free, male and female; all are alike unto God (2 Nephi 26:33). This is the Churchs official teaching.

People of all races have always been welcomed and baptized into the Church since its beginning. In fact, by the end of his life in 1844 Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, opposed slavery. During this time some black males were ordained to the priesthood. At some point the Church stopped ordaining male members of African descent, although there were a few exceptions. It is not known precisely why, how or when this restriction began in the Church, but it has ended. Church leaders sought divine guidance regarding the issue and more than three decades ago extended the priesthood to all worthy male members. The Church immediately began ordaining members to priesthood offices wherever they attended throughout the world.

The Church unequivocally condemns racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church. In 2006, then Church president Gordon B. Hinckley declared that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church. Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children.

We’ve discussed this subject at length recently given the scandal with the BYU professor of religion who stated blacks weren’t “mature” enough to hold the priesthood.

It is known precisely why, how or when this restriction began, but to speak of it would require vilifying a Mormon prophet: Brigham Young. Smith is already potentially made a “bad guy” with polygamy, so the Church is interested in saving Young from similar mass scrutiny, since all the Church’s prophets have to be maintained as honorable or else their prophet status is chipped away at.

Unlike the ban on polygamy, which has time on its side, the ban on black ordination ending more than “three decades ago” is not as significant as the fact that it was in place for thirteen decades, more than half the life of the Church. But then, that language wouldn’t be as flattering.

“Welcoming and baptism for all races” immediately followed by “In fact, Smith opposed slavery” is a little odd. The suggestion is that Smith was somehow before his time in terms of morality. But black slaves were often baptized in white churches (“bond and free”); if you put Christianity in the context of colonialism and the slave trade, the stripping of “dark” indigenous theologies, one can see how baptism and slavery have been hand-in-hand in some respects. Mormons chose a unique route during the Civil War era, solidifying with theology that freed black men couldn’t be priests in their church. I say “theology” because the ban couldn’t be removed without top-level revelation over a century later. Plenty of scholars have written on how this fits into the overall story of American race relations. If indeed the Church were in a post-racial place (which I’m not even sure what that means as a goal), it would be comfortable with exploring its racial past, rather than trying to erase it with vagueness and feigned ignorance. It seems the Newsroom still has a lot to learn about “whiteness.”

Sunday in Outer Blogness: What do Mormons believe? edition!

First and foremost — Outer Blogness has gotten a major technical upgrade!!! This is such a huge and vibrant community that it deserves its own page where you can get a clear view of what’s up. It also means faster loading of our main page and more space in our sidebars for additional content. Thanks Kari for your technical wizardry! 😀

And now for this week’s trends! It seems that (almost) everybody loves the new Book of Mormon musical! And one highlight is the song I Believe — an emotionally-charged song where a Mormon passionately croons about what he believes. Trouble is, nobody seems to agree on what Mormons believe.

Even something as simple as interpreting a parable turns up differing beliefs (actually, that latter interpretation makes a lot of sense). So, when it comes to esoteric questions like covenants vs. creeds (which covenants? which creeds?) — fuhgeddaboudit! Contention is ripe in blogspace (and, fortunately, leads to loads of funny comments!). Yet perhaps it’s to be expected. Mormonism, after all, is about proving contraries and ambiguity can be liberating.

Points of confusion include absolute morality, perfection, sin and punishment, the pre-existence and reward/punishment, spirit prison, the Plan of Salvation, capitalization, folklore, divine mysteries, values, favorite guns, where the hell is hell, who is the prophet, who needs the priesthood, who is god, and what does S/He think? Should we silently dump our least favorite scriptures? Some can’t even agree with themselves, as evidenced by this strange assortment of bumper-stickers. It’s so confusing it’s gotten so you (and FOX) can’t tell which ideologies are parodies! And that’s without starting in on Mormon sex and marriage! (Of course, even atheists and humanists have their open questions.) About the only thing we can agree on is that Mormons love Disney!

In personal stories, people are thinking of Japan. RollerDoll is now officially exmo, and — after a couple false starts — Carson came out to family as non-believing. Some folks have been chatting with General Authorities. Non-believers at BYU are are getting very worried, perhaps with good reason. Chandelle is moving to Broke Ass Farm, Aerin is reading banned books, Holly is honoring bad memories, and Jana is creating new rituals for moving on. It seems apostasy has been pretty good for some folks.

So, given what you know, would you try it again?

Johnny Townsend’s Mormons in life and imagination!

Have you ever wondered what spirit prison would be like?

Mormons believe that when people die, their spirits go to either “spirit paradise” or “spirit prison” to await Judgment Day. They also believe that missionaries from spirit prison can teach the gospel to spirits in spirit prison (who can be baptized for dead — perhaps allowing them access to the nicer accommodations in spirit paradise). But this doctrine opens up more questions than answers. For example “Why wouldn’t someone accept the Gospel once they’re dead and can see that it is true?” or “What’s the point of the ‘Earthly test’ if you can change your answer after death?”

These questions have plenty of answers, to be sure, but they can’t have any definitive answers, because the Prophets, Seers, and Revelators (who are authorized to pronounce on Mormon Theology) don’t “emphasize” (i.e. ever talk in public about) such doctrines. At least not since that embarrassing “Quakers on the moon” prophetic speculation a century or so ago.

Yet Mormon lore is loaded with amusing scenarios that could fire the imagination! What about those other planets full of people who supposedly share the same Heavenly Father with our planet? Or what about “the Three Nephites”? Do they get lonely when their families grow old and die? Considering all of the potential, I often wonder why Mormon lit doesn’t have more speculative/fantasy fiction. Perhaps taking the doctrine too seriously is an impediment to letting your imagination run wild — it causes the critics to worry too hard about whether you got it “right”. And the trouble with that is that you’re never going to get it “right”. Even the play Saturday’s Warrior — as saccharine and faith-promoting and fun to perform as it was — drew complaints from the CoJCoL-dS leaders for promoting a wrong, wrong, wrong picture of what the “pre-existence” is like. Not that they’re much help in describing the “right” picture or anything, but — whatever your Mormon-lore speculation may be — you’ll have no difficulty finding Mormons who will explain to you that it’s wrong.

That’s one of the reasons why I found Johnny Townsend’s new book Mormon Fairy Tales so much fun!! Without fretting about what the theology is supposed to be if it were pinned down, Townsend takes you on a voyage to explore the rich-but-undertapped imagination of Mormonism. I loved his portrait of spirit prison! He really nailed it — not in an official doctrine sort of way, but in a sort of “if you know Mormonism, you know this is what it must be like” way — and what a prison it is!

But flights of fairy-tale fantasy aren’t the only strength of Townsend’s work. He also captures the feelings and personalities of a variety of people on the fringes, fitting their lives into Mormonism and Mormonism into their lives.

Johnny Townsend has written at least ten books of Mormon stories. So far, I’ve read only two (Mormon Fairy Tales and The Circumcision of God), but I’m planning to read the rest — and you should too, if you’d like a fun and interesting new perspective on Mormons in life and imagination!

What happens when journalists don theology hats?

You get arguments like Lane Williams’s in the MormonTimes this morning. Williams begins by lamenting the fact that atheists occasionally receive media attention:

Reporters have provided a great deal of attention to these atheists, stoking the controversy over the existence of God. Even if reporters had no purpose to question religious faith, doubts have become more mainstream, or so it seems to me.

Of course, he then has to claim that the media coverage is actually biased in favor of atheism and against religion:

While I have not undertaken a detailed analysis of the coverage of atheism in the news media, I did once look for a few days in 2007 at the news coverage of Rep. Pete Starks decision to become the first American politician to admit publicly that he was an atheist. My unscientific set of observations suggested that coverage of Starks beliefs was favorable toward his coming out. The decision was framed as a stand for free speech. One typical article in a Bay area started this way: Rep. Pete Stark believes in democracy and free speech but not in God.It seemed a far more favorable framing than I see of most religion coverage, frankly.

At this point, Williams plays his first card – “the victim card.” Poor Mormons are so often “reviled” in the media; the coverage is so unfair. And if you don’t believe them, just ask them – they’ll tell you, using wholly unscientific measures. (Of course, when actual scientists sample the media for bias, they find none.)

He then says that it’s okay for journalists to discuss atheism because, well, they have to, and he almost even suggests that they should do so in a balanced way:

As disappointing as it is to say this, reporters may not be able to do much better than provide a balanced conduit for atheists in the modern world we live in. Journalism is a secular enterprise that reports both sides of a prominent issue. So as atheism becomes more prominent, journalism will write more about it. Journalism will therefore become a conduit for atheistic arguments as well as religious ones, I presume. To be sure, if atheism gains increased public interest, then a news reporter, regardless of his or her religious beliefs, should write about atheism in a fair way and allow its adherents a voice. I expect nothing less in journalisms coverage of religion. I cant have a different standard for the less religious among us.

But if you read closely, what he’s really saying is, “We’re going to have to talk about these atheists occasionally. We don’t want to, and we’ll feign objectivity, but here at MormonTimes.com, you all know we won’t be objective. But we’re going to say we are, which, in the minds of our readers, is sufficient.”

(Note: I’d be remiss to not also mention the “both sides” idea, which is also so much bullsh*t. There aren’t always “two sides” to stories; journalists need to get that through their heads. Sometimes there is the side with all the evidence and then there is the side with no evidence. That does not mean the side with evidence should get to say anything. They should get to say nothing! h/t Skeptics Guide to the Universe and Steven Novella)

He then pulls back the curtain on MormonTimes:

So my point today, really, isnt so much about reporters; my point is to use the opinion format of this blog to take a public stand because so few news reporters can or do so.

You heard it here, folks, MormonTimes is a venue for pro-Mormon bias. Okay, that’s not a surprise. But the fact that he’s admitting it is kind of a surprise. MormonTimes.com is the Mormon Church’s attempt at pseudo-objectivity while simultaneously spewing pro-Mormon propaganda.

But the best is yet to come. Williams now dons his “theologian” hat and tries to claim “evidence” for god, as though this journalism professor from BYU-Idaho has better arguments for the existence of god than the legions of theologians over the millenia. What are his arguments?

1) Call into question the idea that there is a uniform understanding of the scientific enterprise:

I would draw attention to Gervais phrase that there is no scientific evidence for the existence of God. I concede his point that science, as some people understand it, does not, indeed cannot, provide complete evidence for God.

Mr. Williams, how do “other” people understand it?

2) Call into question what qualifies as “evidence”:

But in drawing attention to his adjective, scientific, we miss the noun, evidence. Mormons believe there is evidence for the existence God for those willing to experiment upon the word of God. The beating heart of Mormonism is that evidence.

This is where the article falls apartcompletely. His first claimed evidence – “order” and “diversity” in nature (a.k.a. the teleological argument):

Like Brigham Young, I find the unique combination of order and diversity in nature compelling. While I can immediately tell that an aspen tree is an aspen tree, I also know that no two aspen trees are alike. This order amid uniqueness impels me to think there is a God, but, alas, this sense of order is not Mormonisms last evidence.

Of course, science explains diversity in nature. And science explains the seeming order as well, but does not claim that “nature” is some how “designed,” like objects that are created by man. Ergo, this is not evidence for the existence of god but rather evidence for the existence of nature, which is a tautology – nature exists is an assumption of science. (See more rebuttals here.)

He gives another example of finding beauty in nature as evidence of the existence of god, but then gives his second piece of “evidence” – human creativity:

When I experience great art and great architecture and the creativity of the human spirit, this experience impels me to think there is a God, but, alas, this is not Mormonisms last evidence.

This is also not evidence of god’s existence but of the remarkable feats of evolution. Humans are capable of what they are capable because of evolution. That is awe-inspiring, but does not provide evidence of god’s existence.

His coup de grace, the Holy Ghost a la Moroni’s promise:

Mormonisms last evidence sits in the power of the Holy Ghost that comes to the hearts and minds of those who seek God through earnest, submissive prayer and faithful action. It is an “experiment” successfully repeated millions of times around the world.

Williams goes so far as to label this an “experiment”:

Faith and prayer would be science because scriptures provide a pattern to follow they provide an experiment, if you will. As with science, this pattern has repeated and replicated itself for many people in many circumstances. Indeed, this faith and prayer might qualify as a partial science were we mortals the scientists in charge of the parameters through which answers to prayers come. We are not, so it is absurd to call this experiment a science.

In science, if an experiment is unreliable, meaning it does not turn out the same way every time, we consider it a failure. In the case of “praying to god” for the truthfulness of Mormonism (or for his existence, which, of course, requires a priori faith in that god that he does exist, else why pray to him?), this is a remarkably unreliable “experiment.” Millions have failed to arrive at the same conclusion as Williams. So, Williams is correct when he says “it is absurd to call this experiment a science.” Bingo! It’s not. What’s more, it’s not evidence. But Williams doesn’t seem to get that:

That our Mormon evidence for God doesnt emerge in a laboratory under full human control doesnt make it any less of an evidence. Indeed, it is the most compelling evidence of anything I have ever known.Millions of Mormons, including me, would say that God answers prayers because of their own experiences with the Holy Ghost and prayer. Therein lies our evidence that God lives. I assume other religious believers feel much the same way.

Mr. Williams, that it doesn’t emerge in laboratory conditions does make it “less of an evidence.” In fact, it makes it “no evidence at all.” Yes, you had some emotional experience. But that emotional experience cannot be replicated with other people reliably and there are perfectly reasonable alternative explanations for the experience you had that have to do with brain chemistry and emotional states. So, I don’t deny an experience, but claiming that your experience provides “evidence” for the existence of a completely nonsensical deity is absurd.

Finally, I have to point out that major failure on Mr. Williams’s part to understand his own beliefs. He claims, at the end of the article, to “know” that god exists. He doesn’t. He believes god exists. In fact, he has faith that god exists. And if Mr. Williams really understood what that meant – believing in things that are hoped for but not seen – he would also realize that he has no evidence for this whatsoever. If he did, he wouldn’t have faith. He would have knowledge of god’s existence. But he doesn’t.

Mr. Williams, if I may make a suggestion… Stick to your subjective reporting on all things Mormon and stay away from theology. You don’t have the bona fides to pull this off.

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Theology and Doctrine Edition!

What do Mormons believe? Seems like nobody really knows. I could swear they were once the church of modern-prophets-filling-in-the-Bible-gaps-with-concrete-answers. Then “correlation” came along and stamped out all of those (controversial!) specifics, and replaced them with a short list of vague warm-fuzzies like “faith” and “tithing”. But that hasn’t stopped the folks of Outer Blogness and beyond from tackling a whole bunch of theological and doctrinal issues this past week!

Do certain utterances have quasi-magical properties? God: Is He all-powerful or bound by pre-existing natural laws? Is He Omniscient? My guess is that — in Mormon theology — God is not omnipotent, but the Mormons hate to emphasize the ways that Mormon doctrine differs from other Christians (regardless of whether the typical Christian belief makes sense or not). They get into enough trouble with the Christians over quibbling points like whether Muhammad was a true prophet. Faith: What is it anyway? Is is make believe & hope? Can you just choose what to believe? Does the actual truth matter at all? Of course, the practical-doctrinal questions are about sex: who can have it, who can’t, and what are the consequences (like the challenges of parenting).

To answer these questions and more, let’s consult the sacred texts! You might analyze some of the original versions of the revelations that came to be the Doctrine & Covenants. Then there’s that semi-secret/sacred book we discussed last week, the CHI. Outer Blogness has practically turned into an online Rabinnical school, with all the Talmudic-style texual analysis this book has been subjected to! Here‘s the line-by-line analysis of what it says about masturbation and pornography. Naturally the parts on homosexuality were scrutinized, backwards and forwards. Of course, if poring over the details of actual texts is too boring, you can speculate about promised or rumored sacred texts instead!

But, hey, let’s not just pick on the Mormons. The big Catholic news is that the Pope has OK’d condoms!! (For non-procreative sex such as male prostitutes — no specific word, though, on whether they’re recommended for pedophile priests). And don’t forget the Unitarians, the Humanists, and the Jedis!

In addition to the discussion and debate, there were — as always — fascinating personal stories! Invictus Pilgrim has a whole series on growing up gay and Mormon! Paul has a fascinating tale of the one (Mormon) friend he had while growing up as an outcast in a small town. LittleMissAttitude had a weird week (including mishies and Christmas carols). Tracy M. got a taste of what it’s like to have her life treated as “an object lesson in failure.” And Insana D. tells a real-life tale of “Sandy and Danny from Grease only Danny in this case did not have a sweet bone in his body.”

(Also note some great political discussions: how analysis of countries’ actions in war can get you branded an Islamophobe or Anti-Semite. The CoJCoL-dS and Prop. 8: are they proud of their own actions or ashamed? And don’t miss the new G. W. Bush library!!!)

I’d like to close with the one discussion question that wraps it all up: Are young people leaving the LDS church in droves, and, if so, why? I started to compose a response on that thread a bunch of times, and couldn’t. I thought I knew when I started typing, but trying to put words to paper… It hit me that it defies any one simple explanation. What do you think?

“These beautifully flawed vessels”: The Conclusion of ExMormon!

LDS Godhead

I love to joke around. I’ve got the perfect joke for just this occasion. It’s an oldie, so stop Me if you’ve heard it:

Way back when Jesus and I were creating the world, I turned to Him and said “Hey Jesus, let’s create a really gorgeous mountainous region, with lakes and rivers full of fish, beautiful canyons, waterfalls, valleys, and peaks…”

Then Jesus said “But Dad, that’ll never fly! Everyone will want to live there, and it will get so crowded, it will suck!”

Then I said “I’m one step ahead of You Jesus, My boy! Why do You think I created Mormons?”

Hahahahahahahahaha!

I’m just kidding, of course! The Mormons are My chosen people these days, so that’s why I love having a little fun with them!

Now this whole idea of leaving the only true church is so completely nuts that I couldn’t help but be fascinated when I noticed that some of My children were organizing a whole conference just for people whom I was planning on sending to outer darkness. Being omniscient and all, of course I knew it was going to happen. But that didn’t make it any less entertaining to watch!

Not the conference itself, mind you — heavens, no! I avoided that like the plague! A bunch of egg-headed lectures on History, Theology, Philosophy and any other dry poindexter subject that My naughtiest children could possibly research at length! Yawnsville! It was as bad as Sacrament Meeting! Well, almost.

But there was plenty of fun stuff going on in the coffee houses and bars in the surrounding area. Here’s what I saw: Read the rest of the story

Dallin Oaks tries to remain relevant

For some reason someone thought it would be a good idea to invite Dallin Oaks to Harvard to talk to students. First mistake.

Dallin Oaks went. Second mistake.

Dallin Oaks said something. Third mistake.

Quick summary of what Oaks said: People in the US, generally, are ignorant about religion. He says that’s bad. Oaks then blames higher education for this, claiming that higher education has lost its focus now that it actually spends its time teaching students things like science, medicine, and engineering instead of theology. (Makes me think of Mencken on theology, “Theology is the effort to explain the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing.” H L Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy, “Sententi: Arcana Coelestia” (1949).) I’m sure we’d have the technology we have today if all we did in college is just talk about the unknowable. Yep, this is genius. What a great idea, former law professor Oaks! (I wonder if he followed his own advice when he was a law professor; talk about worthless law school classes.)

Not having made a big enough fool out of himself, Oaks tries harder by claiming he knows ‘The Truth’ and is going to tell the students ‘The Truth.’ Though, apparently, ‘The Truth’ is really 3 ‘The Truths’:

  • The nature of God, including the role of the three members of the Godhead, and the corollary truth that there are moral absolutes.
  • The purpose of life.
  • The three-fold sources of truth about man and the universe: science, the scriptures and continuing revelation, and how we can know them.

Maybe I’m just a jaded secularist, but it sure seems like: #1 is heavily debated and certainly not knowable; #2 has as many “truths” as there are people on the planet; and #3 is an oxymoron.

So, what have we gained from this? Oaks thinks all universities should teach just Mormon theology. I bet we could learn more if I simply put my 9 month old son in front of everyone and we all watched him for an hour; at the very least he’d be more entertaining.