Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Criticisms of the Mormon faith and the LDS Church, my assessment of which have validity and which do not, a rough draft

Criticisms I do not consider to be reasonable:

Evangelical Christian claims that "the Mormon Jesus" is a completely different individual than the Jesus that they know.  Used as the primary basis to argue that we are not Christians, are not "saved", because our savior is a fictional being with no power to save, because he does not exist.

Claims that the Mormon lifestyle is burdensome and restrictive.  Actually, Mormonism is what you make of it.

Claims that the Mormons will hound you if you try to leave.

Claims that Mormons are inhospitable to their non-Mormon neighbors.

Claims that First Vision accounts contain significant contradictions.

Claim that Utah is a place of stiffing morality, state legislature is a theocracy.

Claims that gay people are being hurt, not just by flawed aversion therapies tried at BYU decades ago, but that they continue to be hurt by church practices today.

Claims that City Creek was an inappropriate use of church funds.  Complaints in general of how the church spends money.  Anecdotal claims have been made those in need are being turned ways by bishops, I haven't seen any such instances.

Claims that the BoM has been significantly changed.

Attempts to prove Joseph was capable of producing the BoM, from the sheer power of his intellect, his fertile imagination, and the library resources of his frontier surroundings.

Conspiracy theories that have Sidney Rigdon knowing Joseph prior to when history says they met, late in the year of 1830.  That have him colluding with Joseph to produce the BoM, and stealing some "second Spaulding Manuscript".  Solomon Spaulding's family knew nothing of the existence of any "second manuscript.

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Criticisms I consider to have some merit:
Specific to the temple:

Jesus said there would be no marriage in heaven.  Matt. 22:30, Mark 12:25.  There is no way his statement can reasonably be interpreted as only pertaining to the "less valiant".

The temple, both the endowment ritual, and the procedure for obtaining a recommend, are instruments of dominion.  Albeit effective instruments.  They do a very efficient job fostering payment of tithes, and heeding other recommend requirements.  Active Mormons would not be nearly as compliant without it.

Very effective indeed.  The temple would appear to be the only mechanism left in this decadent society giving engaged couples a reason to wait until marriage.  Those who don't wait, and don't lie about it, face a serious social consequence when the are wed in what is regarded in the Mormon community as an inferior "civil wedding".  These inferior weddings were once the official practice of the church (Community of Christ edition of the  Doct. & Cov., chapter 111).

Exclusion of family from temple sealings.  Refusal to cancel temple sealings for (female) widows.  Hurtful doctrine: children are considered sealed to man they never knew, who died before they were born, not to actual (biological) father, the man who raised them.

Plagiarized Masonry.  Thankfully some of it has been removed.

The temple endowment contains two brief mentions that "a Savior will be provided".  That is the extent of which it teaches salvation by the atoning sacrifice of a savior.  The whole things fits more with the Old Covenant, than the New Covenant.  The church often pays lip service (for lack of a better term) to the concepts of grace and atonement, while teaching obedience and worthiness.

The temple has created the impression among non-Mormons that there significant things going on within the church that we are concealing from the world.  A perception that we are a people with something "wrong about us" is pervasive.  Thus non-Mormons primarily trust ex-Mormons for information.  The ex-Mos will (supposedly) reveal all the deep dark secrets.  People think if they ask a Mormon about Mormonism, they will get a white-washed sales pitch, with high-pressure tactics to get them to convert, and with significant information deliberately concealed.

No recommend without a full tithe = signs and tokens being sold for money.

Men and women both are given robes that serve a specific stated purpose: the robes are for officiating in the ordinances of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood.  Yet the men never don these robes to officiate in ordinances, and the women do not officiate in ordinances at all.  That includes temple workers, hey officiate over the ritual, but they do not wear the robes.  Only the temple patrons do.

The temple promotes the notion that "temple worthy" members are living up to some standard of righteousness.  As opposed to the true doctrine taught by the rest of Christianity, that we are all hopelessly depraved sinners, trusting in a savior, to grant us a place in the Father's kingdom, that we could never deserve on our own good merits.

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Criticisms I consider to have some merit:
General:

The Miracle of Forgiveness.  Terrible book!  Despite it's title, it is actually a warning not to sin, because obtaining forgiveness is supposedly so difficult.  Giving this to someone seeking penance from religious authority will cause intense despair.

Mormons do a horrible job of including those whose lifestyles are at serious conflict with church standards.  The church does not accept people as they are, then work with them to improve.  Far too many people feel that they must either get in line or leave, so they leave.  Where people are actually leaving in droves: the high number of youth raised in the church, who no longer consider themselves to be Mormons in their adult lives.

Catholic families will retain Catholic identity, even through generations of minimal church participation.  Vs. Mormons finding entire families completely out of the church in three generations.  Going from a devout couple, to inactive children who may or may not self-identify as Mormons, to grandchildren who have not been baptized and know nothing of the beliefs of the church.  If those grandchildren feel a need for religion in their lives, they are unlikely to turn to the religion of their grandparents (unlike Catholics).

Use of  I Cor. 15:40 as a proof text heaven will be composed of three kingdoms.  Passage is actually about the physical bodies we will have in the resurrection.  Telestial is a made up word.

Deliberate Utah laws against the father, making Utah a destination for pregnant women seeking to evade father's rights.  LDSFS ran TV ads in the past, encouraging unwed pregnant girls to give their babies up for adoption.  Thankfully this has been discontinued.

Disregarding the fact that adoption to two non-blood relatives takes the child not just away from biological parents, it robs two entire families of the association with their family member.

"Sustaining" appears to be a process of democracy or common consent, but is really a loyalty oath.  If you vote "no", it does not reflect against the person you are "voting" against, it reflects against you.

"Raising the bar".  Elder Ballard: "We cannot send you on a mission to be reactivated, reformed, or to receive a testimony. We just don't have time for that".

Need to register with membership number in order to view webpage with online ward calendar.

A pop up screen specifically instructs ward clerk not to give membership record printout to member

Mormon leaders will not sit down and show those they disagree with the faults in their reasoning.  Instead they "pull authority", teach a Mormon version of papal infallibility, and threaten disciplinary action.  "You will change your mind on doctrine, because those in authority over you are ordering you to change your mind", is simply not persuasive".

Old Testament thinking: belief that sin makes someone unclean, spirit will not enter an unclean temple, steps must be taken to make ones self clean again.

JS teaching that you can become elect.  By New Testament definition, the elect are those born predestined to salvation.

The church right to oppose masturbation, pornography, homosexuality, and alcohol, but misguided in tactics to oppose these evils. Pornography use is considered a reason to break up a marriage.

Obedience, if for no other reason than to show God that we are obedient.

Use of funerals to proselytize to a captive audience.

Members of prominent families enjoy special access to top church leaders, while the vast majority are only allowed to communicate with them through local leaders.  Even letter writing is considered improper and chastised.
example: Steve Benson meetings with Elder Oaks
example: Pres. Monson at the funeral for Marie Osmond's adopted son (suicide)
example: Elizabeth Smart meets Pres. Hinckley

Mormon culture only recognizes the hierarchy as a source of truth, ordinary members attempting to introduce new insights into the church are rejected.

Suspicion of study groups, para-church organizations (Sunstone), and other religious activities outside the institution of the church.  An Evangelical telling others that he's starting his own ministry will receive encouragement.  A Mormon telling his peers he intends to do something similar will immediately be suspected of trying to start something against the church.

Blessings can or must be earned, shovel analogy in relation to tithing, Doct. & Cov. sections, the Lord bound when we do what he says

Victims of Jackson County expulsion told their unfaithfulness was the cause (Doct. & Cov. 100, 101, or in that range?).  This continues today, if you're not getting anything out of classes or partaking the sacrament, there must be something wrong you you.

Liberty has been mistaken for license, Jesus turned the water into wine, Mormons have turned their wine into water (Isa. 1:22).  Holy emblems are defiled by being thrown away, when they should be passed until all that has been blessed has been consumed.

Children, too young to gain anything from sacrament meeting, attend and partake of emblems (sanitary issue!) that have no meaning to those not yet baptized.  In other churches, "Sunday School" is held at the same time as the main worship service, and contains material that young children enjoy and are educated by.

The priesthood defers to government in determining what constitutes a legitimate marriage.  A couple legally divorced but still sealed in the temple, and other couples together with no government recognized married, are all regarded as living in sin.

Praying because the clock says it's time to pray.  Fasting because the cullender says it's time to fast.  Fasting and prayer should be done according to need.  To pray before bed, when nothing happened that day that merits discussion with God, is empty ritual, vain repetition.

Nauvoo polygamy is indefensible.

The Book of Abraham is indefensible.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Missing the entire point of the four gospels.

To quote individual bible verses, as if Jesus gave us specific rules to follow, is to miss the entire point of the four gospels.

Jesus gave the people rule after rule, impossible demand after impossible demand. Finally, when a rich young man turned and walked away after Jesus demanded more than he was willing to sacrifice, the bewildered disciples turned to their master and asked, if this is what we must do to be saved, who can be saved?

It turns out it was all one big object lesson. He never really expected us to pluck out an eye or chop off an arm. He never expected us to live like the lilies of the field, having no material possessions, doing no work, just taking up space and expecting God to sustain us.

Nor did he expect compliance with any other supposed commandment. Nothing we can do for ourselves can cause us to deserve a positive reward in the afterlife. We're all a bunch of filthy sinners, a fallen race, hopelessly depraved.

History's most notorious criminal, and most generous philanthropist, deserve to rot in hell just the same. We all do, and not just for some dark misdeed in the past, but for the imperfect way each of us have lived this very day. God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.

But as Jesus responded that day the disciples asked who can be saved, with God all things are possible. He has provided a way.

That place in heaven we could never earn on our own good merits is ours for the asking, by His grace.

Most won't ask. Either they will be deluded by the sophistry of the secular world to disbelieve in a supreme being and an afterlife, or they will be too pious, too proud of their own supposed righteousness, worthiness, and obedience to accept that they cannot earn eternal glory.

There will be no worries of crowding in heaven. Heaven will certainly not be crowded. Though it could be packed, if people were not so stubborn and proud.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

TLC Prophet James Dee Harmston of Manti, Utah has passed away

The (lack of) attention Mr. Harmston's death has received surprises me. This man and his following once were a matter of significant media coverage and community concern. Even the shadowy figures of LDS Church Security were once detected gathering intelligence (I briefly mention an incident I was present for in my opening entry to this blog). Now, The Salt Lake Tribune is the only local news outlet to even report on it.

There have been a few posts to Mormon Fundamentalist related Yahoo groups I infrequently check in on. The one place I would have expected to be buzzing with activity is the attack blog run by an anonymous ex-follower at manticult.com. In recent years, the entries and reader comments on that site have been the only place I have been able to find containing information on the TLC (The True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days) that is not long outdated

I don't know what to make of Jim Harmston. I see two viable possibilities. Either he was a liar and an imposter in the same manner as Elizabeth Smart kidnapper Brian David Mitchell, or a Warren Jeffs-style lunatic.

Testimony and evidence indicate imprisoned FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs would self-induce a state where is body would go into a seizure, and his mind would go into hallucinations. That is the real function of the suspicious, custom made bed with side rails Texas investigators found in the basement of the FLDS temple they desecrated. Jeffs really believes his own delusions. The voices in his head told him his favorite wife Naomi Jessop would die. His grief gave every indication of being genuine. To this day she remains alive and well. In jail he would spend so much time on his knees praying that his knees developed ulcers, and the jailors began forcibly dragging him off his knees. In Utah and Arizona, he let his attorneys present a defense that proved effective, but in Texas, he defied the guidance of his counsel, fired them, and represented himself, making threats that the court must abandon the prosecution or face the imminent wrath of God. He believed that God would follow through.

The FLDS are a specific sect of Mormon Fundamentalism. Those on the internet who apply FLDS to all Mormon Fundamentalists are misusing the term. Formally, The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

When he thinks he can talk his way out of trouble, Brian David Mitchell, the self-styled Prophet Immanuel David Isaiah, conducts himself very rationally. It was when he realized the rest of his life would be spent in confinement, the only question was, the big house or the nut house, that he played the fool. At federal trial we learned that though he has commonly been referred to as a street preacher, Mitchell had no desire to convert anybody to anything. Due to social phobia he needed to get thoroughly liquored up, then he would make his way downtown, where his actual activities were a matter of panhandling for money. The measure of sincere religion is whether the purported religious person acts to further the interests of his deity, or himself. The prosecution demonstrated that Mitchell never did any projects of service for either his fellow man or his God. He's not a particularly religious man. His religion-speak and his crudely self-manufactured Old Testament garb were for show. They were no more indicative of his true self than a man's donning of a policeman's costume, for Halloween or for deception, indicates an honest desire to uphold the causes of law and order.

I once traveled to Manti, stayed in the home of Jim and Elaine Harmston, and sat through the two long days he took to present his introductory seminar, The Models. On Sunday, I left about an hour or two before he was due to wrap up. I smiled goodbye at Elaine on my way out. I don't think she smiled back.

This was just before Jim's revelation to withdraw from public outreach, that marked the end of incoming converts and the growth of his organization. If he was just making up wild stories to get the money to fund a luxurious retirement, while his followers sat by candlelight in houses with the utilities shut off for non-payment, then the revelation probably meant he had reached the point where he had stashed away enough dough to accomplish the objective. He took a lot of people for a lot of it.

At The Models, two personality traits were apparent, the charisma to gain followers, and the overbearing and domineering nature that would chew them up and spit them out. A combination of disillusioned mainstream Mormons, and outcasts from other Mormon Fundamentalist factions, TLC converts started out as some of the most dedicated to the cause of building a communal zion.

Ask your average mainstream Mormon what he thinks about quitting his job, selling his house, giving all the proceeds to a new church, moving to a rural agricultural county with minimal job prospects, buying another house, transferring title over to the church, placing a sign in the yard declaring it as church property under stewardship, taking out loans he never intends to repay, giving that money to the church, than trusting the church to provide his family's groceries?

After the TLC, most of them vow to have nothing more to do with religion, in any form, for the rest of their lives.

At first this whole thing began as what I see as very positive, an outpouring of what I believe was genuine spiritual (supernatural) phenomena. In the early 1990's, people from various places, who did not know each other in advance, felt a prompting to move to Utah's Sanpete Valley. They joined the LDS wards in the area, and news spread of a study group (outside the official auspices of the church). They would meet, read the revelations they were receiving, and were amazed that the spirit was independently telling them all some remarkably similar things.

As one who laments the way Mormons have drifted away from their original communalism, I think this had all the makings of something wonderful...until one destructive personality entered the picture. The grandeur of Jim Harmston's claimed experiences with heavenly messengers exceeds every prophet in the entire Restoration Movement, including Joseph Smith. The fruits borne of Harmston's ministry are less impressive.

The mainstream Mormon Church promotes the validity of individual inspiration...so long as you abide by their structure of tiered authority. An individual is entitled to inspiration to guide his or her own life. A father to guide his family. But when you start declaring inspiration for those outside your stewardship, start contradicting the inspiration of those in a calling of priesthood leadership above yourself, your days in the church are numbered.

By the time I made my pilgrimage to Manti, I felt no spiritual manifestation. The study group was no more. The LDS had purged the dissidents, and they Harmston had established the True and Living Church.

The early 1990's contained many interesting instances of internal dissent in Mormon Utah. The liberals rallied behind the September Six, I watched as they proceed in a long line to place flowers on the steps of the Church Office Building. Patrick Waters began the Utah Free Militia with some well attended meetings and training sessions in Utah County, though quickly what remained was just a few scattered small teams. Since Waters openly used his real name as a presenter at Sunstone, representing the Militia, I feel mentioning it here is giving away no secret. Mike Rigby was actively distributing what people referred to as his "White Bible" (Sacred Scriptures is the actual title), holding study groups with some off-the-wall ideas such as Lucifer had repented and Cain had taken over the job of the Devil, and taking up a collection for a large newspaper ad declaring that the great cleansing of the Earth is about to begin.

Nothing remotely like that is happening today, even though we now have the amazing abilities of the internet to bring together people of common interests. I miss it.

I sent a letter by mail thanking Jim and Elaine for their hospitality. I wished them and their church well, stating that I felt no spiritual indication telling me to get involved, but if that changed I would, be back in contact. I received no reply. I find it highly probable Jim's response was some hocus-pocus in a ritual to condemn me over to the buffetings of satan. Yes, I take that lightly.

If actively functioning Mormon based polygamy groups numbered in the hundreds, I could see one deceased leader not being considered newsworthy. Just off the top of my head I can name off about eight, and a few more that might be, but I don't know the current status.

That manticult site is the only source I have to know what remained of the TLC just prior to Jim's death. Rather than hearing me paraphrase, adding one more person to the kids game of whispering in people's ear to find out how badly the message gets distorted with repeated retelling, you can go see for yourself. I'll just say this, it doesn't sound like much was left.

The tone of this blog entry is harsh. I didn't expect it to be quite so when I started making mental notes for it. I actually am very sympathetic to the people of Mormon based polygamy. The last thing I want to do is join my voice with anti-polygamy activists to create a bad impression of good people. Leaders are another matter.

Libertarian pundit P. J. O'Rourke is noted for his thoughtful quote, beginning with, Authority has always attracted the lowest elements in the human race. It's not just polygamous leaders, and it's not just religious leaders.

Jesus cautioned to be innocent but not naive, (Matthew 10:16). Many common claims against the people of polygamy are based in prejudice and not based in fact. Failing to take this passage to heart is a valid criticism of these people. They find themselves under bad leaders more often than not.

Restore the Fourth, Utah chapter, a group whose continuing efforts I will not be supporting

I'm hearing preliminary reports from today's Restore the Fourth rally near the soon to be opened NSA Utah Data Center that I find troublesome, to the point that I think I'm glad I didn't go. Even increasing their reported number from 150 to 151 was more support than I believe this organization deserved.

Reports indicate that the first speaker, who runs the website battlehymn.com, received vocal rebuke from members of the crowd, as well as the following speaker, and now the event organizers are bashing him online. Some people even walked out and went home.

Most of the objections accuse him of hijacking a political event to preach a religious sermon to a captive audience, who didn't come for that. Some accuse him of compromising the credibility of the event with off-topic matters they believe are not reasonable, such as chemtrails.

If this group collectively harbors significant hostility to religious viewpoints, or is so narrowly focused that their 'open mic' was only to a few authorized topics, then they're certainly not people I would care to align myself with for activist purposes.

Any attempt to limit the scope of what an audience hears offends me as an American.  Don't like the message? Whip out the smartphone, play tetris, and wait for the next speaker.

Some people will only work, politically, with those who think exactly as they do. That is what killed the group Accountability Utah, and that is my main objection to the old guard of the Libertarian Party. Ideological purism, unwillingness to form coalitions with those you agree with half the time, and vehemently disagree with the other half, condemns a group to being a tiny, irrelevant faction, with no capability for growth.

I've seen no evidence that would convince me that Geo Bush ordered 9-11, with Osama bin Laden being a patsy. I do see enough common ground between myself, and the truthers, that I can work with them.

Democracy and political activism are primarily a game of who can marshal the greatest number. Only a fool would tell a group that has shown up at their rally, adding a significant number, "Go away, people generally regard you as crackpots, your presence does more harm than good to our public credibility".

I'm hoping those of us living in the area of the data center will soon hear that it is time to rally again, but this time, the two different factions will hold two different rallies.  I would appreciate an invitation, so long as it comes from those who believe God must play the primary role in restoring our nation, or at least from those who can be inclusive and respectful of that viewpoint.

Related links:

https://www.facebook.com/events/650737448289112/permalink/652175948145262/

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/56543985-78/nsa-data-utah-center.html.csp

Friday, February 1, 2013

Not all conspiracy theories are harmless: satanic ritual abuse

In my last entry (link) I argued that although I am not big on conspiracy theories, I don't see the harm.

Just afterward, an incident on Facebook reminded me of an exception that must be noted.

A woman that I met once in person at a lecture, somewhat prominent in the local liberty community, who participates in a few of the Ron Paul and Libertarian Facebook groups that I subscribe to, started posting material about satanic ritual abuse.  I discovered this as I was getting ready for work, and not having much time, I cut and paste two paragraphs from an earlier entry in this blog, Polygamy, hatred, and the "True Believer" (link), made a few modifications, and posted it.  Later in the day I checked back to see if any further comments had been added, and I found mine gone.  In a private message:

Gary:
R-, my comments earlier this morning regarding satanic ritual abuse claims seem to have disappeared. If they were deliberately deleted, I would appreciate knowing why. Thank you.

R W:
You should be respectful to those that have endured these terrible experiences. Nobody knows everything and we should treat each issue as such. It is like telling a rape victim that there is no such thing as rape. Be respectful towards victims around you cause I guarantee that there are many around you and you have no idea. I deleted your post cause it hurt a dear friend of mine.

Gary:
Your audience is your audience. I will therefore not make any further attempts to present anything to them that you find objectionable.

I would, however, like to continue the discussion between the two of us privately. I have briefly outlined the basis for my disbelief. I was following this controversy even before the Pace memo brought the LDS church into it, and I still keep a large stack of the materials I gathered back then. Before I go any further, though, I would like to hear what has persuaded you to believe?
I should have suspected right away that I was dealing with true believer syndrome, rather than naively assuming this was a reasonable person who had gotten ahold of some bad information.

I waited the better part of a day for an answer, noted that she had been active in posting on other matters, and hit the "unfriend" button.  If she's unwilling to even accept my invitation to present her basis for belief, there's no point in trying to push the matter, to do so would only make me look like a bully.  There's also no point in thinking that there's anything meaningful to learn by continuing to follow the posts of someone whose perception of reality leads her to guarantee that that the problem is so pervasive that the victims are all around us.

She is correct on one account, I don't know everything, but there are a few things I do know.  When a person describes an experience that is not physically possible, that experience did not occur, and, if the problem were really as pervasive as this person believes, and the number of people claiming to be victims would indicate, there would be some physical evidence.

The only evidence we have indicates teenage occult dabblers are scattered here and there, and have done some bad things, usually to animals, though at times to people.  Widespread, multi-generational conspiracies, where people living respectable lives by day have some alternate personality kick in, put on black robes, and torture children the way they were tortured as children (though they have completely repressed these memories), are nothing more than sick fiction.

This frustrates me because R W is such a good illustration of just why it is so destructive to believe that satanic ritual abuse is real.  She apparently actively associates with other true believers, as well as those who believe themselves to be victims.  She shields them from truth they desperately need to hear, so that they can get real help, and get away from the quack therapists who have induced these false memories, and are treating them for abuse that did not actually occur.  Reality does matter.  These quack therapists are about as unethical (and counter-productive) as an MD administering chemo and radiation to anyone and everyone who believes themselves to have cancer.

In the height of this hysteria, our community was not spared.  Alan Hadfield of Lehi, Ut. was just one of our local people whose lives were devastated by a witch hunt (using that name in a google search should start you in the right direction, if you're not already familiar).  Could R W and her friends trigger another round of satanic panic?  Not if I can do anything about it.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Glenn Beck, Truthers, people who are so sure that they are absolutely correct, and the subjective nature of perception.

From the opening remarks in Glenn Beck's daily television show, Wednesday, 23 Jan 2013, an episode devoted to debunking conspiracy theories that the Sandy Hook massacre either did not actually take place, or that the government orchestrated it:
These guys will make us doubt absolutely everything, and I don't know about you, but I already doubt enough.  I have to know what is true and what isn't.  We have detached as a society from the truth, the truth about ourselves, the truth about our country, the truth about our debt, personal and national, all of it.  We don't know what's real anymore.  We don't trust the news departments anymore.  We don't know who to trust.  We don't trust anybody, and when that happens, your nation is over.  Our country now believes - we have more respect for cockroaches than Congress.  And all our institutions are at all time lows.  The institution of the media, the institution of the courts, police, everything.  And it all boils down to trust.  It is a dangerous, dangerous road to head down.  We have to have something to hold onto, something that is real.
A bigger load of nonsense has never hit the airwaves.

Truth is absolute, however humanity currently has no access to any source that represents the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. All we have is other fallible human beings.  One of our biggest problems is people who are so sure that they are absolutely correct.

Glenn Beck is a source of information.  His nemesis Alex Jones is a source of information.  The Salt Lake Tribune, KUTV-TV 10 PM Evening News, and KTKK-AM Radio 630 kHz, are sources of information.  Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC are sources of information.  The blogs and vlogs I follow are sources of information.  The Bible, Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith's writings and speeches, and the current leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are sources of information.

Each one of them has provided enough kernels of useful facts, reports of interesting events that have taken place, and (at least for some of them) profound opinions, that I will continue to pay regular attention.

When asked what I think of any controversial public figure, or any public figure for that matter, my answer is always the same, all sources of information must be subjected to appropriate scrutiny.

People usually, perhaps nearly always, want to know the credibility of a source before they will pay any attention.  They don't want to spend four hours reading a book, only to find something half way through that will cause them to have to have to erase everything from their memory, then throw it in the trash. "I don't want to hear a single excerpt from the Book of Mormon, for fear that I might mistakenly recall a verse from it as if that verse came from God's Holy Bible".

Intellectual laziness, pure and simple.

I will give any one of my fellow human beings the courtesy of listening to their arguments, and deciding whether to incorporate their viewpoint into what I believe to be truth, based upon the strength of the case they present.  That includes people whose arguments on other topics are not persuasive to me, and people with demonstrated character flaws, including the demonstrated character flaw of having been previously been caught in a lie.

Where it is reasonable to question credibility is when somebody asks us to take their word for something, when they expect us to accept their unsupported personal account of something they supposedly witnessed or experienced, as if it actually happened.

Human beings naturally require a very low standard of proof for that which is not controversial, or conforms with what they already accept as truth...and a very high standard of proof for anything which conflicts. When an eyewitness makes a claim that invalidates someone's preconceived notions, the accusation of anecdotal evidence is a common defense mechanism.  That accusation can be valid, when the witness has used limited experiences with a small number within a group to pass negative judgements on the entire group.  That accusation, however, is not valid when the witness has extensive experience with the group in question, though animosity may still render the witness unreliable.  "They were out to get me, but I got away", may either be a slanderous lie, or a delusion...or maybe they really were out to get him.

Glenn Beck, listen up!  The principle that we must employ is to recognize that different sources have differing degrees of veracity.  We must get away from absolute thinking and classify that which we regard as truth in such terms as, "almost certainly", "probably", "likely", "possibly", etc.  To my fellow Mormons, (including you, GB), it has inappropriately become customary for us to use the phrase, "I know the church is true", to express the idea that our conviction is something much stronger than simply believing it.  I have stopped using that phrase, and in fact if asked by priesthood leadership if I know the church is true, I will (and have) told them I no longer think in those terms.

We must all always remain conscious of the subjective nature of perception, open to reevaluate our position when additional information makes it apparent that the limited information we have been operating on has led us to premature conclusions, and down wrong way paths.

I don't have to trust public institutions to make productive use of them.  Beck's claim that social collapse will result when they are no longer trusted is absurd.  I keep informed of news that helps me gauge their capabilities, their limitations, to know when it is wise to turn to them for help, to attempt to help others through them, and when it is wise to stay away from them.  Also to know when it is wise to offer constructive criticism to try to improve them, or destructive criticism designed to discredit them and tear them down, so they can be replaced with something different and better.

I may be wrong, if you have information I currently am unaware of that shows that people will be hurt if those public institutions I see no use for, and am engaged in activism intent on damaging or destroying them, were to cease to exist, I will give your case a fair listening.

Conspiracy theories usually strike me as complex, speculative possibilities, where viable explanations that are much more simple and direct already exist.  I'm not big on conspiracy theories, though I keep an open mind.  I would find relief to believe that no one died that day at Sandy Hook, though I find the arguments unpersuasive.  My sense of patriotism doesn't close my mind to the possibility that minds similar to those who planned the burning of the German Richestag could rise through the ranks of our government.  Neither does my distaste for increasing authoritarianism in our government (link to previous blog entry) cause me to promote Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, when I lack the academic background needed to render an informed evaluation of their claims.

I have more use for some conspiracy theories, and theorists, than others.  My old VHS tape of Cover up in Oklahoma raises questions for me that are not satisfied by a more recent production aired on one of the cable channels (the exact title, air date,  and which specific channel I don't presently recall).  It impresses me more than what I've seen from 9/11 Truthers.  Alex Jones has called my attention to many news stories across the country, most often dealing with police brutality, I would otherwise have missed, while I've never found anything useful in material produced by Jesse Ventura or Bill Cooper (deceased).

Glen Beck has long declared there is something destructive about Truthers (link to youtube video):

These Truthers are exactly the kind of people who want to rock this nation's foundation, tear us apart, and plant the seeds of dissatisfaction in all of us.
As if this were some kind of a bad thing.

If belief in something, even if not true, causes one to watch the bureaucrats more closely, alert others at the slightest indication of a cause for concern, work for a sharp change to the course this country is presently on (nearly any other direction would be better than this one), become a prepper or at least give your food storage more consideration, get a gun and the training to safely, accurately, and appropriately use it, and rely on self, family, church, and the private sector more than on government programs, then I say let's give this nation's foundations a good hard rocking!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Is this country in the midst of a gun crisis, or a mental health crisis?

I doubt anyone would come out and say, "Had the shooter been limited to a gun that took longer to load, and needed more frequent reloading, or better yet just used some other type of murder weapon, things wouldn't have turned out as bad".  Yet what other message are we to infer from currently proposed approaches to the problem?

Mental illness is the driving force in any killing rampage.  A weapon is merely an instrument.

Even if these schemes resulted in less lethal killing sprees (highly doubtful), I don't want less lethal killing sprees, I want the killing sprees to end!

If sacrificing rights is necessary, then let's at least choose rights to jettison that actually are contributing to the problem.

A case in recent years, that dragged on for years, centered in my local area, but receiving news coverage worldwide (I'm not being more specific because I am sick of hearing about it, I'm sure you are sick of hearing about it, and I'm sure you know exactly what I am referring to) was prolonged in the courts over the question of whether the perpetrator could be forcibly medicated.

It would seem that the mentally ill have somehow acquired the "right" to refuse treatment.  An absolute right, no less, if even a man in custody for his wrongful acts is still entitled to it, and can use the fact that he is not being treated to postpone the day when he has to answer for his actions.

The time to treat mental illness is before the anti-social actions begin.  Failure to do so is packing our penal facilities, draining the resources of government and private aid programs, filling our streets with the homeless, and putting children at grave danger.  The objections of the mentally ill person, or his family (if he is a minor), must be weighed against the consequences of allowing them to refuse.