Sunday, September 11, 2011

My 9-11 reaction, just after it happened

A plea to our state and federal legislators: Whether the September 11 terrorists have succeeded or not depends on what you do in the aftermath.

17 September 2001

I think all of us in this country have been asked by friends about our feelings regarding the attack our society suffered on September 11, 2001. I write this one week after the tragedy occurred.

In response to these chilling acts of sheer evil, it has been heartwarming to me to see the outpouring of charity and patriotism from so many in our nation. Seeing the entire group of people who had just fled the Pentagon turn back in response to the call to aid their comrades still inside made me proud to be an American. We will never know the exact details of what transpired aboard the fourth aircraft just before it went down, but what we do know tells us that some of the greatest heros in our nation's history perished before or as the plane fell upon a piece of uninhabited land in Pennsylvania.

However I fear there will be another reaction to the carnage. I expect that already our elected officials are hearing from many of their constituents with the cry, "No measures should be considered too extreme in ensuring that nothing like this could ever possibly happen again."

Don't misunderstand me, this horrific incident provides lessons that we must learn from and act upon. Beforehand we didn't consider the personal grooming items of airline passengers to pose a threat. We now know differently. More restrictions on what may be carried onto an airplane, and closer inspection of these items, are necessary and appropriate.

We have also seen other changes at our airports. One of them is that only ticketed passengers are now allowed past security to the terminals. I see no indication that this restriction is temporary. Being as the hijackers all appear to have had their own valid tickets, I fail to see how this particular security measure would have impeded them, and therefore I fail to see why it is needed.

We have been shown some specific weaknesses that we have had. The fact that four planes could be simultaneously commandeered shows that the security inadequacies extend throughout our entire commercial air travel system. We must deal with this, but we must not take this as an indication that our entire pattern of living needs increased security. If we do, then we grant the terrorists their victory, for societal security is only improved at the cost of personal liberty. We must not let them succeed in curbing our freedoms and impacting each of our daily lives.

Some have said that our lives will never be the same. If we take this as the truth, then our enemies have accomplished at least a portion of their evil objectives.

It is not necessary and it is not appropriate to plot out every possible scenario of terrorist attack, and to implement solutions to the countless myriad of theoretical threats.

It cannot be denied that we have a lot more laws today than we did twenty years ago. Many things are now illegal which were not prohibited in the very recent past. Enforcement has been stepped up dramatically, and enforcement techniques are becoming more and more aggressive. Is this just a reasonable response to society being less safe than it was twenty years ago? As a freedom loving American, I am compelled to respond with a loud, Hell no! In the last two decades I have come to fear excesses in my government much more than I fear criminals and terrorists.

We know those, within our country, who have already been misguidedly advocating more restrictions on the people, will use this tragedy to lobby for causes completely unrelated to air piracy. They have been payed much more heed than I am comfortable with in the past, and sadly, I know that this will only renew their vigor to bring about a society that is more secure in general.

Now we wait. It is in the hands of our representatives, at all levels of government. Will they deal with the specifics of this attack, or will they pursue a broader public safety agenda? When we see what new laws will be passed in response to this, then we will know the extent of the damage done by the terrorists to their ultimate target, our freedoms, western culture, and the American way of life.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The point of the "...and I'm a Mormon" ad campaign.

Notes I was reading from:

There are three statements I see repeatedly from people leaving comments on these "...And I'm a Mormon" videos, that I'd like to expound upon:

- What's the point?

- Your career success is your accomplishment, your religion has nothing to do with it.

- Is this a stealth campaign for Mitt Romney?


The point of these ads is straightforward, there's no hidden motive, there's a lot of unreasonable prejudice against us, and prejudice is always defeated when you get to know the people you've been prejudiced against, and see that they're just regular folks, not all that different from yourself.

I joined the Mormon Church when I was 19-years-old, and here's a rude little introduction I got to what I was in store for.

Around that time a friend stopped by, someone I was attracted to, who was actively dating guys within our circle of friends, but the two of us never got together. She had a couple of her friends with her. While we were making introductions, she blurts out, "He's a Mormon", and I saw their reaction to me change.

I called her aside and told her, "You bring girls over to meet a guy, then you torpedo any chance I had with them...thanks a lot".

A lot of people seem to have the idea that the way Mormons live, and the way Mormons think, is somehow significantly different.

Growing up, about the only thing I "knew", and I put "knew" in quotations, about Mormons, was that they were a restrictive religion, that has a lot of rules imposed on them.

I decided to Join when someone explained what Mormonism was really all about. Miracles in modern times, and the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ, because by 1830 old Christianity was broken beyond repair and a new start was needed. In my searches I found that all the other churches have is the Bible, and their differing understandings of it, I was excited to find the one church that had something more than that.

I didn't have missionaries hounding me, in fact my first several requests for them to visit me went nowhere.

As a convert, I know the differences between life as a Mormon, and life as a non-Mormon. Is it really that restrictive? Let's see...what do I do without, that I would otherwise have...what do a not go out and do for fun, that I would otherwise do?

We'll start out with the, quote, "restriction", that Mormons are the most famous for. Before I joined I picked up a taste for beer, and there have been some brief times since joining the church when I have gone back to drinking it. I couldn't tell you the difference between a pilsner and a lager, and I don't really care.

Wine, I don't really get the point of. The same goes for any sipping beverage, hot or cold. Give me something I can gulp so I can get the food down. Bars are not comfortable places for me, even if I hadn't found the church I don't see that I'd be spending much time there. Shots or mixed drinks, I have no use for them, whatsoever.

The prevailing view among Mormons is that it is morally wrong to drink, period. My perspective differs, slightly. In my view, there's no basis in the New Testament for the Old Testament concept of becoming "unclean" through sin continuing into the new covenant.

Jesus said (Matt. 15:11,16-20; Mark 7:14-23)... It's not what goes into the mouth that defiles us, it's the words that come out of it.

When I look at all the damage alcohol does in this society, I think that avoiding it altogether is the wisest counsel. Moderation is a concept subject to interpretation, and not getting a taste for alcohol in the first place you're not going to have a problem of use escalating to excess.

Recent wedding reception... the bride was someone I knew, raised in the church...disrespectful of her family members. I can relate to enjoying a beer, but I don't get those who think that not having alcohol at a social gathering somehow diminishes their enjoyment.

The sabbath day, the fourth of the ten commandments, is something that we take seriously. It is against our religion to work, shop, play sports, or go out to a paid meal in a restaurant on our Sabbath. (Since we're not fundamentalists, we don't insist that the Sabbath must be on Saturday). If you invote me to a Barbecue on Sunday, I'll politely decline, so let's have it on Saturday.

Oh, and the so-called "magic underwear". Instead of putting a symbol on a chain around my neck, I have three symbols sewn on my undershirt, and one over my knee. Why anyone would find any kind of prurient curiosity in this, I don't know. When I began wearing them, I was told that they would be a shield and a protection as long as I am worthy. This does not say that they're going to save me from internal injuries in an auto crash, or from having my flesh burned in a fire. I see them much like like a "wwjd" bracelet, a constant reminder of my faith and the need to strive for a higher standard of conduct because of it.

That's it. We do the same jobs (except for being a bartender), play the same sports, enjoy the same hobbies as everybody else. Some difference.

The things that my faith takes away from me are pretty minimal, now let's look at everything it gives me.

Most important is all the divine truth it has brought to my awareness, enabling me to form a deeply personally fulfilling world view that is both magical and reasonable. I'll post a link for my blog entry, "Why I believe, not your typical Mormon testimony". (Link)

It's given me a community. Mormonism is not just you go for a Sunday sermon and a weekday night Bible study, it's a very well put together social and practical support system. Through a coordinated effort, my Utah neighborhood averted flooding in 1983, and this Winter's snowpack poses a very real threat of those conditions reoccurring this year. My wife is recovering from a major surgery. Soon my employer plans to send me out of state for a project. The ladies at church have been eager to offer their help.

This church offers me many ways to help those in need.

Mormonism is what you make of it, and I have made something positive of it.


I am a success because of my religion.

At 19, I was a mess, completely unprepared by the California public school system to function as a self-sustaining and productive adult member of society. If you had the determination, they had the advanced classes, otherwise, there were no plans or programs in place to inspire the unmotivated, they just push you through, until they push you out the door. Need I say anything about what happened after graduation, when I enrolled in the local community college?

Some friends at church suggested full-time missionary service as a means to get my head on straight and my life in order. After being a member for just a year and a half, I got my call from the church to serve in England.

When I returned, I re-enrolled, and this time was productive.


This has run on long enough, so on the matter of Mitt Romney I'll be brief. The church does not endorse political candidates, and although Romney highly regarded in the Mormon community, there are a lot of us who don't want him, or the other Mormon planning to run, Jon Huntsman, Jr., in the Oval Office. My objections to Romney are detailed in a previous blog entry, (Link), and as the campaign progresses, I'll be adding remarks about Huntsman if I see him making any significant gains.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mormon Fundamentalist Theology, And Why I Cannot Abide By It

Previously I have explained some of my experiences looking for a home for myself in Mormon Fundamentalism (link), and where I now stand on the general topic of religious fundamentalism (link).

Today I have chosen to go beyond the generalities of what I have previously written, into specifics on the most prominent beliefs unique to Mormon Fundamentalism, and why I can no longer hold to them.

Alternative Succession Theories

In the early 90's I first learned of Lorin Woolley's claims about what is now commonly referred to as "The Eight Hour Meeting". At that time I thought I had discovered something as significant as what had originally attracted me to Mormonism in the first place, The First Vision of Joseph Smith.

The flowchart on the website run by Brian C. Hales, MD, (link) uses the title, "Alleged 1886 ordinations", to refer to The Eight Hour Meeting. The chart demonstrates quite effectively how central the meeting is to the authority claims of the vast majority of those involved in this movement.

Hales is a biased source, a mainstream Mormon with the intent of picking apart Mormon Fundamentalism, in much the same way outside critics attempt to undermine his (and my) church. Tactics which Mormons usually denounce with the valid question, "Is there so little to extol in your own beliefs that you have to resort to attacking ours?"

Dubious methods notwithstanding, I believe his material to be reliable, though a few more groups could have been listed in the chart. I would add United Order Publications/School of the Prophets (Robert Crossfield, pseudonym "Prophet Onias"), Winston Blackmore and those who left the Canadian branch of the FLDS with him, and the various groups John W. Bryant, Davied Israel, and Hava Pratt have started. Mike Rigby (Modern Automated Publishers) the book he promotes, "Sacred Scriptures", and the study groups he has led, might also have been worthy of mention.

Before I relocated to Utah, at a Sunstone Symposium West, I met author Samuel W. Taylor, (link), son of the apostle excommunicated in 1911 over the polygamy issue, and grandson of the LDS Church president who authored the 1886 revelation, and (allegedly) conducted the meeting. I highly recommend Sam Taylor's works, "Family Kingdom", "The Kingdom or Nothing", "Nightfall at Nauvoo", and "Rocky Mountain Empire". He believed that the Eight Hour Meeting actually took place, but mentioned "The Polygamy Story, Fiction and Fact" by J. Max Anderson, when I discussed the matter with him.

Anderson is associated with Brian C. Hales, and much of the content on Hales' website, and in books the two later co-authored, appear to be an extent ion of this earlier work. I obtained a copy of The Polygamy Story and found it made a convincing case against Lorin Woolley's claims. Were it not for this, I very well could have joined the Apostolic United Brethren. I certainly would have given this possibility much more serious consideration once I had moved.

With this house of cards collapsed and removed from the table, only a few theories remain as to the true successor of Joseph Smith, Jr.

The claims of the Lebaron Family, with their hereditary propensity for mental illness, do not impress me. Though I did take some amusement during the years when I worked a few blocks from the intersection where Ben had gone out in the middle of traffic, and did push-ups to prove he was the One Mighty and Strong. Personally, if I thought I was the OM&S, I think I'd try walking on the water in the fountain outside the Church Office Building (kidding, kidding).

Jim Harmston declared a revelation that time to proselytize had ended. With his source of converts cut off, and the high number of defections, the collapse of his church in eminent.

Chris Nemelka? Don't make me laugh.

Outside of Brighamite Mormonism, we have 167 years advantage over those in the succession crisis to see just how the other contenders had performed.

My conclusion: Thomas S. Monson, through Brigham Young, is Brother Joseph's legitimate successor. Not really by the strength of his own position, he has never translated an ancient language by the gift and power of God, declared any previously unrevealed doctrines to the church, or added the verbatim text of any, "Thus saith the Lord", revelations to the Doctrine and Covenants, but rather by the weakness of all other possibilities.

The One Mighty and Strong and The Setting In Order

And it shall come to pass that I, the Lord God, will send one mighty and strong, holding the scepter of power in his hand, clothed with light for a covering, whose mouth shall utter words, eternal words; while his bowels shall be a fountain of truth, to set in order the house of God, and to arrange by lot the inheritances of the saints whose names are found, and the names of their fathers, and of their children, enrolled in the book of the law of God.
-Doctrine and Covenants 85:7

This person will go through the land, assigning parcels of property...and he will set the entire world right. Huh? Does it make any textual sense to you to have to have these two events, of very different importance, put together into one passage?

One of the more significant faults I see in the reasoning of many Christians (Evangelicals in particular) is their eagerness to take a single excerpt from the Bible, and build an entire theology around it. Fanciful interpretations of the above cited quote outdo any of the Evangelicals imaginative fabrications, such as cars suddenly careening down the freeway unoccupied, by a long stretch.

Book of Isaiah scholar Avraham Gileadi has said nothing in public about his 1993 excommunication from the mainstream LDS Church. He has since been reinstated. That leaves me to speculate that this believing member of the church received such a harsh sanction not because of any deliberate disloyalty on his part, but rather because his writings found an eager audience in the fringes of the faith. In Isaiah, Gileadi finds prophesy of a figure in the latter days destined to a great work. He calls this man The Davidic King aka. Davidic Servant. Believers in the One Mighty and Strong have latched onto this as validation. The problem is that Gileadi believes that the prophesies can and do have multiple meanings, that they foretell several different things happening, at several different points in history. He takes prooftexts pertaining to Christ, and reads into them a second individual, who will prepare the way for the Second Coming. I don't think so.

The only half-way convincing argument I have found that another great prophet is foretold in prophesy is that Joseph Smith did not accomplish the deeds that the "Choice Seer" of II Nephi 3 was supposed to, therefore this must apply to a later prophet, who will bring forth the Sealed Portion. Believe me, I'm one of those Mormons who long to see another Joseph Smith, liberally proclaiming new truths to the elect who will receive them with joy...and I fear that the current leadership want to exclusively advance pragmatists and businessmen, no dreamers or visionaries, within their ranks. Can he come from outside the church? Doctrine and Covenants 42:11, a favorite for Elder Packer to cite at General Conference (link), would argue not.

Does the LDS Church even need to be set in order?

The very reason that Mormon Fundamentalists are considered fundamentalists (link) is that they believe they are holding to old truths, divinely revealed, that everyone else has forsaken. They (like all alternative succession theory proponents in the Restoration) believe that this work started out perfect, under God's continual guidance to keep out any error, but the mainstream somehow lost their way at some point in time.

My study of history leads me to regard this as a faulty premise. Mormonism, from it's very beginning, has been a collection of ideas, some of them reasonable and profound, some not. Mormon leaders have gotten enough wrong that I cannot accept the notion that the church has ever been under constant heavenly direction. They've gotten enough right that I plan to keep my book collection, church membership, and belief in a God that has, from time to time, communicated with us. Line upon line, precept on precept.

Joseph Smith is the Holy Ghost

"The Holy Ghost is now in a state of probation which if he should perform in righteousness he may pass through the same or a similar course of things that the Son has."
-The Words of Joseph Smith, p. 245; Sabbath address, Nauvoo, 27 August 1843. Reported by Franklin D. Richards.

"You don't know me; you never knew my heart. No man knows my history. I cannot tell it: I shall never undertake it. I don't blame any one for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I could not have believed it myself."
-From The King Follet Discourse

"Would to God, brethren, I could tell you who I am! Would to God I could tell you what I know! But you would call it blasphemy, and there are men upon this stand who would want to take my life"
-cited in Life of Heber C. Kimball, by Orson F. Whitney, pg. 322.

The prevalent view among Mormon Fundamentalists that the time had come for the Holy Ghost to take a physical body, to live out a mortal life as we all must do as an essential step in our eternal progression, and that Joseph Smith was this incarnation, using the above cited (highly cryptic and ambiguous) quotes from Joseph Smith as the basis, is one more example of taking an original source, and building upon it with assumptions.

Continuing Revelation

This is the one thing both mainstream Mormons and Mormon Fundamentalists agree upon, that Joseph Smith's successor, and his, and his, from here on out, would be prophets.

It's a common perception that Mormon Fundamentalists are doing the best job, of all sects in the restoration, of carrying on original Mormonism. Dead wrong! They may be carrying on certain aspects of it, but if you are looking for an organization that lives Mormonism, just like the Mormons in 1844 lived it, (and I have looked!), you will not find it.

The fact of the matter is that all restoration churches have taken the teachings of Joseph Smith and added to them, regarding themselves as being led by a prophet, with the full authority to pick up where he left off. Though it should be noted that Brigham Young made statements that indicate that he did not immediately consider himself as such right after assuming the presidency.

One glaring example is the bizarre hairstyles, clothing, and ideas of the FLDS, like red is prohibited (it's Jesus' color and only he can wear it), or that non-FLDS entering an FLDS house defiles the building (Joseph Smith ran a boarding house). These are very recent introductions of Warren Jeffs. If you look at the pictures of the 1953 raid, you won't find any of it.


To the critic, Adam-God is a simple matter: Brigham Young taught palpable nonsense.

I give him more credit than that. No simple minded fool could have accomplished the things he did.

Adam-God is incomprehensible to me. I do not see how Adam and God could possibly be one and the same, how he could have returned to the garden to confront himself about partaking of the forbidden fruit. For that matter, I don't even believe that Adam and Eve literally existed. Most of what purports to be literal history in the Bible is literal history, though the books of Genesis, Job, and Jonah are most certainly mythology. And yes, I'm well aware of the difficulties this presents in reconciling this view within a religious tradition which puts a greater emphasis on the role of Adam than perhaps any other. That's a blog entry all it's own, or possibly even a series of them.

What I do know is that Adam being our Father and our God, the only God with whom we have to do, made sense to a highly intelligent man, a man more successful and inspired than I. I just lack the insights required to understand exactly why it made sense to him.

Multiple Mortal Probations and Veganism

Unlike the rest of the rest of the topics I am covering in this entry, these two are not universally accepted by all Mormon fundamentalists. They have, however, become popular with some, in recent years.

Joseph Smith's journal, 9 November 1835, (HC vol. II, pgs 304-307), records an encounter with a man calling himself "Joshua the Jewish Minister". Wikipedia lists him as "Robert_Matthews_(con_artist)" (link). Joseph regarded this man with suspicion, and concludes by dismissing him, remarking how he, for once, cast out the devil in bodily shape, and I believe a murderer. In their conversations, Joseph declared that this man's belief in this transmigration of soul or spirit from father to son was a doctrine of the devil.

A Sunstone presentation I attended a few years back, did argue that near the end of his life, Bro. Joseph contemplated the idea, and that this seemed to have led Eliza R. Snow to believe in it.

I have to ask, what would be the purpose? Reincarnation is absolutely inconsistent with my understanding of the plan of salvation. To come back, over and over, until you finally get it right? You will never get it right. The entire object of this mortal sojourn is to trust in Jesus as your Savior, and thereby obtain pardon, because fallen man is incapable of attaining heaven on his own good merits. Additional lives would only compound the problem with additional sins.

The Apostle Paul was concerned that contention over abstinence from meat would divide the church (Romans 14:1-3), though he did identify this as something those who have fallen away, in the latter times, would embrace (I Timothy 4:1-4). Peter was ordered by the Lord, in the Book of Acts, chapters 10 and 11, not to refuse the flesh of even those animals the old law forbade.

In proclaiming the unique sanctity of human life, The Christian Faith promotes the interests of humanity. No where in scripture does it say that any life, other than human life, is precious unto God.

Some contend that sensitivity for animal live fosters sensitivity for all life. When I look at the values system that today's vegans operate under, I see animals and the environment taking priority over the well being and standard of living of humans. When they do express care about people, it's in misguided ways. They are eager to buy into alarmist theories about human activity diminishing the habitability of the planet, and they place the "choice" of a mother over the life of the baby.

Plural Marriage

Yes, I've finally gotten to it. I have deliberately placed this last because that is where it fell in my priorities when I considered myself a believer in Mormon Fundamentalism, and a part of that movement.

The one thing I never wanted, nor ever felt called of God to do, was to father a large brood, far in excess of what one wife could carry. My stance is now that Joseph Smith's polygamy, which included polyandry anathema to the later official polygamous doctrine of the church, pushed good leaders out and into public opposition, caused the prophet to defensively impugn the reputations of several women who rejected his advances (Nancy Rigdon, Sarah Pratt, and Martha Brotherton), set in motion events that led to the martyrdom, and hinders evangelism to this day, never produced any offspring, or in any other way accomplished anything positive.

I forgive Brother Joseph. I cannot cast a stone, because in his position, I would be sorely tempted. Testosterone is the most destructive mind altering substance known to man, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

I think better of the motives of those who have developed the doctrine and carried it on. I know them and can attest that they are devoutly religious and sincerely believe that this was established by divine revelation. If multiple sex partners is your real objective, there are much easier means.

It has been claimed that simple logistics compel the expulsion of young men, and intense competition for females just entering the age where they are able to bear children, in a polygamous society. If a group only accepts as members those born into the group, this has some merit. Those groups open to converts are another matter. Attend any church, especially a congregation created specifically for singles above the age of 30, and a fact is apparent, women are much more religiously inclined then men. Humanity's 51/49% female/male split is only reflected with children of the age where they are brought by the parents choice. No advocate of polygamist doctrine has ever said that it is for everyone, they see it as only for a small segment, the most religious of people.

Anti-polygamy activists will not tell you just what percentage claim government welfare or are involved in underaged marriage. I cannot counter them with any empirical statistics, what I do have to offer is my own eyewitness observations that the real numbers would dispel the prevalent notion that these are problems inherent to the system of polygamy.

I understand a second season of the TLC Channel series Sister Wives is due to air soon, and will focus on the criminal investigation prompted by some people who saw the first season, searched to discover the city they lived in, and called the police department. Good. America should be informed, and should be shocked to learn, that these activists are people who don't just want statutes kept on the books as a symbolic statement of the greater society's moral views, but who actually think that an adult having sexual relationships with multiple willing and knowing adults should be an enforceable offense in 2011, so that any and all polygamists can be brought before the courts. This is the tenuous basis of their shrieks, in the comments of youtube videos and newspaper stories, that "Polygamy is a crime".

So Just What Was It That Once Drew Me To This Religious Movement?

Whenever a dissatisfied Mormon looks into becoming a part of Mormon Fundamentalism, the motivation is always the same: we see things in early Mormonism that we desperately want to cling to, but can't find in the mainstream church today.

What I was longing for, though I was cautious about it then, and have completely dismissed it now as an unrealistic desire of youthful idealism, was something many in the generation half-way between mine and my parents dreamed of. Some actually worked for it, though these efforts had generally failed and been abandoned by the time I became old enough to join in.

I've never shared the radical left-wing politics of the 1960's (when do we radical right-wingers get our 1960's?), but I strongly relate to disillusionment with mainstream society, and the desire to build some better alternative. To separate from the establishment and join others working together for our mutual benefit, holding all material possessions in common. To be given a house, in exchange for getting together with all the men to build new houses when they are needed, rather than paying a mortgage for 30 years. To see my labor go to the direct benefit of all in my close-knit (in my preference-religious separatist) community, rather than watch the bulk of my gross pay go to taxes and loan interest.

The early Mormons shared this vision, though the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has not offered anything like this for a very long time.

Jobs in in Salt Lake City, working with technology, make for a considerably easier life than trying to farm the rough desert terrain that guys like Talmadge Weis and his Immanuel Foundation and Fraternity of Preparation once settled on. Knowing about the novel legal theories they attempted to operate on, in pro se filings in relation to their property taxes, further contributed to my reasons not to seriously investigate the possibility of joining them.

I was not going to place myself into the position other idealists before me had, giving all my money and possessions to the commune, entitled to get nothing back were I to decide to leave, unless I was absolutely sure that I and mine would be safe, and that their doctrines were sound. A wide variety of people have been burned by a wide variety of communal efforts.

Some company out of Las Vegas, Ranger Enterprises, obtained title to the fraternity's land for $15k in back taxes. The fraternity responded by filing appeals (continuing the same ineffectual legal reasoning). While the appeals were in progress, they planned to keep at least one person on the property, to keep Ranger from taking control, demolishing their buildings, and putting the land to their own use.

This place was truly out in the middle of nowhere. The small town of Milford, Ut., 30 miles away, was the closest sign of civilization. It must have been a terrifying experience when those holding the fort, following Weis' no-gun policy, were attacked by thugs employed by Ranger Enterprises.

Tony Alexander Hamilton was an experienced military veteran, and he disregarded that policy. One night the Sheriff's Department arrived to remove him. When he attempted to speed away in his truck, they opened fire, using the possibility that he might have been going to get weapons as their justification. When Tony had stopped a dog handler released his animal. Tony's well placed shot ended the threat of this vicious beast tearing into his flesh...and created a much worse threat. "G- d- it Tony, you killed my dog, now I'm going to kill you". Bam! Another well place shot ripped into the leg of the angry man intent on murder. Tony had neutralized him without having to take his life. A clear cut case of self-defense, though in this corrupt society, a citizen who shoots a rogue cop cannot expect anything other than the rest of life in prison, under any circumstance. At least he is still alive.

Which brings me today, happy with Joseph Smith and the great heritage I was adopted into when I converted, seeing nothing better in either secular or religious life than the mainstream LDS Church, and proceeding in my spiritual and temporal affairs accordingly.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Response to TheWoodsofJordan - Leaving Mormonism

Jordan is a young man I can somewhat relate to. A religious seeker very much like myself. His explorations have received a considerable amount of attention on Youtube. I think he's made a hasty decision recently, and this is my case as to why he should reconsider.

Part 1

Part 2

Notes I used to make these two videos:

Jordan, I'm Gary.

I'm a Mormon who frankly admits that Joseph Smith taught some things that don't stand up to scrutiny. I don't think that it is necessary to agree with absolutely everything a religious teacher ever had to say in order to find value in his teachings.

First of all, let me say that this all or nothing, the church is true or it is not, either everything is 100% true or it is 100% worthless, is not reasonable. The missionaries and the members may have been of such a mindset, but I'm telling you right now, throw that nonsense away. Mormonism, like every other philosophy, is a collection of ideas. Ideas should be taken one at a time, considered each on it's own individual merits.

I think you're being hasty in throwing throwing away a tremendous source of truth, and the resources that really helped me as a 19-year-old, when I converted. At that time, psychologically, I was a mess, completely unprepared by the California public school system to succeed in college, and function as a self-sufficient, productive adult in society. Through the church and it's unique programs, especially in my case the missionary program, I found helpful people who enabled me with the tools to take the pieces and put together the foundation for a great adult life.

The Bible says that if a prophet proclaims a false prophesy, you should not be afraid of him. Evangelical Fundies may WISH it said that if he issues a false prophesy, he never was a prophet in the first place, and that none of his previous pronouncements have any validity, but that simply is not what it says.

Sometimes the material we have from Joseph was on par with what we would expect from someone of his educational level and frontier surroundings, sometimes downright silly, other times we have things that were extremely profound. And Therein lies the proof. A man who exhibits knowledge and wisdom far beyond what he (and all those he associates with) are normally and naturally capable of is obviously getting this advanced information from an external source.

He taught that death was not the final opportunity to accept Christ, that there will be preaching in the afterlife while we await the day of resurrection, and the opportunity to accept, answering the hopeless dilemma of how a just God could deny heaven to people for not accepting a Savior that they never had the opportunity to learn about. The entirety of Christendom, and not just Evangelicals who think that their faction of Christianity are the only real Christians, but all the sects who accept Jesus of Nazareth as the promised messiah, seems to be in unison in the belief that death is the final opportunity to accept Jesus. Yet this one young frontiersman steps forward and challenges them all, in this unfair standard, that unjustly condemns so many souls, and is not supported anywhere in the Bible.

Then there's the Book of Mormon, intelligent educated people to this day find it's teachings deeply meaningful. In the day, it was dismissed as a stolen manuscript of an incomplete novel written by a deceased preacher. The real manuscript has been discovered, and only superficial similarities, a few still cling to this, trying to put forth a speculation that there was a second Spaulding manuscript, though the critics have mostly moved to another book, View of the Hebrews, but I've read it, again found only superficial similarities, and major differences. It's about a completely different tribe of Israel coming across the ocean for an entirely different set of reasons. A plausible naturalistic explanation to the origin of the Book of Mormon has simply not been given, though many have tried. The fact remains that producing this book was beyond the capabilities of Joseph and his associates, unless they had otherworldly help. It leads people to Christ, and that answers the question of whether negative supernatural forces could have been behind it.

Some people, who don't actually know any Mormons, or at least don't know any very well, may think that Ed Decker's cartoon, that get's so many views here on YT, and the rest of the defamatory material being passed around by those with an agenda against the church, represents what real Mormons believe, and therefore Mormons must, one and all, be psychotic, completely detached from reality, in order to believe such obviously absurd things. But c'mon Jordan, you've actually gotten to know us, you know that the church is full of thoughtful and reasonable people.

It sounds like one of our missionaries has done you a great disservice by discussing his personal speculation about multiple gods in existence. As if we don't have enough problems with our detractors taking the Lorenzo Snow couplet, "As man is, God once was, as God is, man may become", drawing their own absurd inferences, and proclaiming that their own absurd inferences are what Mormons believe. Forget this nonsense about space gods having endless celestial sex in order to populate new planets. It's all a load of speculative, unauthoritative crap. Real Mormon doctrine teaches that this earth, after it has been made perfect, will be the location of the Celestial Kingdom.

[pt. 2]

In your explanation of your reasons for renouncing Mormonism, you cite and challenge Joseph Smith's description of the nature of God as being unbiblical, advocating the traditional trinitarian position. The third and final point I will make, supporting the strength and value of Joseph Smith as Christian theologian, who introduced bold new ideas that deserve much more thoughtful consideration than they have received (outside his own church), is for the clarified information about God that he gave us, information that is not in conflict with what we already have from the Bible.

Jesus cannot be his own father, the idea that trinitarians are trying to convey when they proclaim that, "Jesus is God", is false. In Matthew 4, Jesus is tempted by the devil. Tempted into what? Rebellion against himself? Jesus rejected glory for himself, directing all glory to the Father. He constantly emphasized his subordinate role to the Father. How could he be subordinate to himself? In the Great Intercessory Prayer of John 17, Jesus prays that all his disciples, and later in the prayer all the world, may be one, as he and his father are one.

Earlier in the Book of John, Jesus proclaimed, "Before Abraham was, I am". In Exodus 3, The God that Moses interacted with proclaimed, "I am that I am".

So let's look at this God of the Old Testament.

In the poetry of Psalms, God is once described as having wings and feathers. Prominent anti-Mormon author and traveling speaker Walter Martin was fond of using this verse, in isolation, to ridicule us, saying that our God is a chicken. But let's go back from this literary portion of the Old Testament, back to the historical accounts of Book of Exodus, to Moses and his God, in chapter 33. Can you seriously tell me that there is some alternative explanation, other than that this chapter detailing a literal encounter with a God, who is a corporeal being?

This God traveled in front of the Isrealites, and and periodically came to visit their portable tabernacle, covered in a cloud of smoke by day, and in fire by night. We find this description over and over. Does this sound like the formless spirit-god of sectarian Christianity, whose being occupies the entire universe?

Now if you believe that God the Father was the being that Moses and the Israelites interacted with as their God, then there's your proof that the Old testament God has a physical body. But here's where things get a little more complicated.

Ironically, one of the favorite proof texts used by trinitarian advocates of strict monotheism is actually their own undoing.

[Isaiah 43:10-11] A God that was "formed" (created), a time before this God was "formed" (created), the Savior.

Did Moses see the Father? Not according to John 1:18 and 6:46.

To further demonstrate that Jesus was the firstborn of all God's created beings I refer you to Colossians 1:15 and Revelation 3:14.

Now let's look at a few other proof texts used against the Mormons.

"God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth". Now that sounds pretty clear. Since this idea is Biblical, it must be found all over the Bible, supported by the preponderance of scripture, right?

The closest thing is Numbers 23:19, "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent". Why do men lie, and need to repent? Because we are corporeal beings?

Evangelicals have a great propensity for taking a single passage, and building an entire theology around it. Just look at all these tales of unoccupied cars, and other fanciful notions about "the rapture".

Wrapping this up, you express that you have grown weary from organized religion. Fair enough. I myself have gone back and forth as to whether to consider myself a loyal supporter of the LDS Church, or an independent, unaffiliated Christian who finds value in the teachings of Joseph Smith. At the present I find that there is benefit in active membership. The crucial thing is accepting Jesus of Nazareth as the foretold messiah, your personal savior. Anyone who thinks Mormons teach that we can work our way to heaven on our own merits is mistaken. We believe that we have all come short, that obtaining a pardon for our sins through the attoning sacrifice of Christ as our only hope. The difference between us and other Christians in the fine details of what puts grace into effect.

Many Mormons don't understand why it is claimed that that we are not Christians. They'll say "We teach Christ, of course we are Christians". Since they are not aware of the notion we supposedly have a "different Jesus", they can't offer a persuasive argument against it. The idea that Mormons have a different Jesus is ridiculous. If I were to look at you and declare, "Behold Jordan, a formless spirit and not a corporeal being", would you look behind you? All that is proven by all the irreconcilable differences is that once side, or the other, has some very mistaken notions about Jesus, it does not prove that one (or the other) is trusting in some different, fictional, imaginary Jesus hat has no power to save, because he doesn't exist. That is why we Mormons challenge the teachings and authority of other churches, but we do not question the Christianity of the people in those churches.

Eternal salvation is dependent on trusting in Christ. Accepting Joseph Smith as a prophet is not as absolutely crucial, but I think that those who reject him are throwing away a lot of blessings that have enlightened my mind and have enriched my life and my relationship with God. If Joseph Smith was indeed acting on behalf of Jesus Christ, then there is some danger that rejecting his works are a rejection of the works of Christ, constituting a rejection of Christ, at least in part.

If you can't bring yourself to believe that Joseph Smith was a proven true prophet, then why not at least keep an open mind? You expressed an intention to seek formal cancellation of your baptism and church membership. I have to ask what would this accomplish? I was christened in a Presbyterian Church as a small child, and I have no problem with that. At the very least, I figure I've got both bases covered. Keep in mind that LDS leaders consider renunciation an act of wrongdoing, and if you ever do reconsider, they will expect a lot more in penance than simply being told that you want back in.

I find there to be unnecessary authoritarian rhetoric in the church, but as long as I'm free to leave at any time, then I'm not going to get worked up about it. If that's more than you can abide, then you can still study Joseph Smith's teachings, and accept those things that make sense into your own belief system, without accepting everything, calling him a prophet, or without being an active participant in church meetings.