Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The One Fold Mission of the Church


  We just had stake conference this last Sunday and as I sat there with my family listening to the various talks I was struck by their similarity.  Every single talk that was given was entirely focused on bringing other people into the church.  Whether it was through inviting them to dinner, giving them a BOM, or sharing family history it was all about advertising the church to others.  I felt like I was viewing a web page where all I could see were ads and the content was lost somewhere in-between.

According to the Church website there is supposed to be this Three-Fold Mission involving:
  1. Sharing the Gospel
  2. Perfecting the Saints
  3. Redeeming the Dead
 I don't think I have ever really heard any talks that revolve around points 2 and 3 on this list.  I mean sure I have heard talks about how guilty we are of sin in an effort to make us feel so guilty that we have the desire to run off weeping and throw ourselves at the mercy of the bishop in an effort to repent.  But NOTHING about how one could actually become a better person in the community, to each other, or at school, work, or friends and family.  

 All they every seem to be able to manage with point 2 is that you SHOULD do it but never how exactly.  It's almost as if they don't actually know how, or are so focused on point 1 that they either don't care or have no time left over to explain it.  I just sat in the back of the meeting wondering what any non-members in the audience would be thinking. After all this really was just a bold declaration of the church's intentions, "Hey if you're not yet a member we want to make you one!"  I wonder how I could have overlooked this obvious self-propagation my whole life.  I guess Mormons really are good at turning a blind eye.

 And redeeming the dead?  What was the last time you heard anyone get up in sacrament meeting and give a talk on that subject?  The closest to that I can recall is an announcement that the youth would be doing baptisms or that ward temple night would be this Friday (feel free to feel guilty for not going).  Of course there is the watered down version where the focus is on genealogy (which will fill the lists at the temple for others to do the work for the dead.)


 Every week seems to be the same thing.  Even the classes are the same way, everything being centered around getting other people into the church.  I'm sure I'm not alone in this observation that the church is more focused on expanding its membership rather than trying to improve the lives of the members living within it.  Sure some classes get beyond that a little but I know that Elders Quorum meetings center around pushing people to do their home-teaching and various methods of sharing the church with others using stories of how someone else managed to share the gospel in some inspiring way that makes my want to *face-palm*.


 The really funny thing to me is that the church has done such an amazing job in scaring members away from the evils of those outside the church that people are too afraid to have any contact with those evil corrupted-by-satan non-members that the thought of bringing them into the home is terrifying.  I mean, *GASP*, what would happen if THEY wanted to share their beliefs! Oops, I mean spread their lies and poison from the grasp that Satan has on them.  Because they know that non-members are just waiting to jump at the chance to deceive them using the silver tongued lies of the devil.
For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it -- D&C 123:12
 Well I think everyone knows about Mormon missionaries so I don't think the argument of not knowing where the Mormon-truth is located would be a valid argument.  And couldn't that apply to members as well?  Wouldn't all denominations indicate that many members have been deceived?  Whoops I guess Joseph Smith forgot to include that all important word "other" to say all other denominations.  I'm sure the church will eventually put out a corrected version for that omission later.

 I guess the alternative to hearing talks about missionary work would be testimony meetings with thank-you-monies and travelogues; when people get to stand up at the pulpit and declare, between tearful sobs, how thankful they are from the bottom of their heart for the various trials in their life, or all about their latest gossip with a little fiber-of-their-being sprinkled in at the end for good measure.  As a missionary  I used to cringe when it was time to attend testimony meeting because I never knew what oddities I was going hear.   Now I go for the entertainment value of it all.  I once heard a thank-you-mony that sounded nearly exactly like an acceptance speech at the academy awards.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Full Disclosure 13 Articles of Faith

 I was thinking about how the Articles of Faith were designed to explain the beliefs of the church to non members and realized that they really only give a part of our beliefs. So I decided to extend them to give a proper, more truthful account of what it is that is actually believed. My additions are in blue.

This is not intended to be a sarcastic rant and I have attempted to stick to personal experiences and factual beliefs where I have documented various sources.  I will add more references in the future.  This got kind of long but I hope you enjoy the read.


The 13 TRUTHFUL ARTICLES OF FAITH (FULL DISCLOSURE)

 


1) We believe in God, the Eternal* Father, and in His Wives the Goddesses and Eternal* Mothers, and in His Father the Eternal* Grand Father, and in His Father etc, and in Godly Aunts Uncles, and Cousins, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in his other Son Lucifer, and that we are all His sons and daughters, and in the Holy Ghost, and in our own Future Godliness as well.
*Eternal here is used loosely as God is believed to have once lived on an Earth of his own and has his own Heavenly Parents and Grandparents back through eternity.  Thus making his spirit not having actually existed until he was born to his Father giving him a beginning much the same as Jesus and the rest of us.

  Eternal parentage is often taught through Church Hymn #292 "O My Father"
the second half of the 3rd verse reads:
In the heav'ns are parents single?
No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason; truth eternal
Tells me I've a mother there.
  It is widely accepted within the church that upon attaining the Celestial Kingdom that men along with their wives will become "Gods and Goddesses" having worlds of their own and having their own spirit babies for eternity.  The family unit is regarded as the most important unit in the church and is believed to go on forever and thus it is one 'eternal round'.  It should become obvious to anyone that one would immediately gain Godly relatives at this point.  God becoming the Grandfather, while Jesus becomes the jolly Uncle, along with our fellow celestial dwellers, and their children being the cousins.  (This is all starting to sound rather Greek to me.)

  Even though no longer practiced, polygamy is believed to be a divine decree.  And since we know that God and Jesus sets the example for us to follow. It must logically follow that God and Jesus also have plural wives like the great father Abraham of old.

    2) We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression except for the first sin which we are all held accountable for.
      If the original statement were really true then the rest of us would all be born into the Garden of Eden.  However that isn't the case and 1 Nephi 10:6
    Wherefore, all mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer.
      The original sin applies to all of mankind and we are all held equally accountable for Adam's decision.
    3) We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances* of the Gospel as defined by the Church.
    *This is a misleading sentence.  On the surface to non-members it would appear that by obeying the commandments and teachings in the scriptures that one might attain salvation.  The catch here is that laws and ordinances is broadened to the scope of anything that the church decides to be important.  Such as receiving your temple endowments after baptism.

      Okay, fine, so give me the extra ordinance then and I'm all set right?  Wrong, in order to qualify for that you will first need to be a member for a year and in that time attend church regularly and pay a full tithing.  Then you need two interviews, first with the Bishop and then Stake President to have them decide if you are worthy to go to the temple.  This is done through a series of questions rather than from divine inspiration known as the 'spirit of discernment'.  Then they will let you wear the temple underwear and get your ordinance.  Following that you will need to find another Mormon and get married in the temple because, yep that's right, single people won't go to the highest heaven.  According to the LDS website

    To live in the highest part of the celestial kingdom is called exaltation* or eternal life. To be able to live in this part of the celestial kingdom, people must have been married in the temple
      So now I'm saved right?  Well, no, not really.  did you catch the word 'may' in the article?  It's kind of important because if you stop attending the temple, paying tithing, accepting callings, attending church, or disagree or question your church leaders, then you are automatically disqualified.  In fact you must 'endure to the end' of your life in all things before you can appear before the 'judgement bar of God' which is actually a panel of your peers chosen by God from his history of prophets and apostles. They will then decide your fate.

      Oh and all those 'promises' you were given when you had your ordinances done?  If you decide to leave the church then God will take back his promise that he made as if it never really happened and you get to go to Hell.  Oh wait, there is no such place.  Okay you get to go to the Telestial Kingdom.  But don't worry, it's a pretty sweet place.  Only a handful of people from all of human history, (actually only the last 6,000 years of it) will ever end up in outer darkness.

    4) We believe that all the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost; fifth temple endowments; sixth marriage sealing.
      It's odd that Joseph Smith chose to omit the remaining 2 ordinances off his list and list only the first four. I mean it says right on the church website that there are only 6.  How hard would it have been to include the remaining two.  As a child growing up in the church and having to memorize this I often wondered about what the remaining ordinances were and how many there were that they couldn't be listed here.  By stating 'the first' would lead one to believe that many might follow when in fact it is removed to not scare away potential believers.  'Milk before Meat' is the phrase that is often quoted.

    Doctrine and Covenants 19:22 - For they cannot bear meat now, but milk they must receive; wherefore, they must not know these things, lest they perish.

    5) We believe that a man must be called of God or the current leadership, by prophecy or by whomever is available, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
      This thought comes directly from sitting through Bishopric meetings where I have watched them use their 'prophecy' to decide who should be chosen to fill a calling. 

      My first experience of this was a discussion where a [name of calling] did not agree with the direction the bishop wanted to go with that calling.  The solution?  Release him and call him to a different calling and bring in someone else who will agree so they can move forward.  When they said that I couldn't hold it in and let out a laugh.  The bishop looks at me and told me that eventually I would get over the snickering because that is just how these things work.

      Filling callings comes down to looking at the ward list to see who currently doesn't have a calling and deciding whom they could place into the slot.  If nobody comes to mind then it comes down to 'who showed up at church today'. The bishop once told his counselors to scan the congregation while sitting at the front during sacrament meeting to see who they could put into the calling.  I don't recall hearing any talk about, 'lets pray and wait for the Lord to inspire us with a name'.  That sort of thing is reserved for stories they can relate to the congregation about how some visiting general authority was inspired to give the bishop a name of someone he had never met to call to a particular calling.  Naturally it was in some distant nameless place and completely unverifiable.  The effect is to inspire thoughts into the members that ALL callings are given with this level of divine guidance so you better not say no when they ask you if you'll accept.

    6) We believe in* the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, seers, revelators, deacons, and so forth*.
    * notice it only says a belief in, not of copying said organization exactly.  The intention to not copy the original church is emphasized with two remaining phrases.
    Primitive: defined by thefreedictionary
    1. of or belonging to the first or beginning; original

    2. characteristic of an early state, esp in being crude or uncivilized
      One may argue that only the first given definition is to be inferred but many things have been added to the church organization that never existed in the 'primitive' version of God's church indicating that it was unfinished and only in the early stages of development.  This way of thinking also lends credibility to the desire of the church to include continuing revelations.

       'So forth' is an escape clause meaning 'and anything else we decide to add in later that we can't think of at this time'.  It's also interesting to note that there are no 'pastors' or 'evangelists' within the organization of the Mormon Religion.  It will be argued that it is merely the function of those position and not their titles.  However as all apostles are sustained as prophets I think we can safely agree we are referring to titles here.

    7) We believe in the ancient existence of the gift of tongues*, prophecy*, revelation*, visions*, healing*, interpretation of tongues*, and so forth*.
    * Events involving these gifts are believed to have occurred at the time of Christ and Joseph Smith but are not believed to be occurring now, except in unverifiable whispered rumors and stories about miracles performed in secret by the Prophet and apostles.  Anyone who attempts to claim the use of any of these gifts will be frowned upon by the church and thought (correctly) to be acting a big crazy.

      It is widely accepted in the church that the gift of tongues is given to missionaries to help them in learning a new language.  However as other groups have adopted similar language learning strategies with the same success as missionaries we have to declare that either God grants this gift to everyone who wishes to speak or that this isn't really what the gift of tongues is.  The gift is to speak in a language without prior knowledge of that language.  Then the gift of interpretation is for someone to understand that language without prior knowledge of it.  Given the amount of effort put into learning languages by missionaries it is safe to assume that they possess some knowledge of that language.  Also anyone who has served a foreign speaking mission will tell you that it takes about 6 months to a year to be able to speak the language with any amount of decent ability.

    8) We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly*; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God; we also believe the Book of Moses, Book of Abraham, these articles of Faith, the Doctrine And Covenants, and any word from the Prophet such as declarations and proclamations to be the word of God.
    * This is another escape clause which means 'We hold the right to dismiss anything as incorrect that doesn't agree with our current teachings.'

      According to the wording it would seem that the members are free to dismiss the 'additional scripture' as not being the word of god. Anything said by one speaking by the spirit is supposed to be scripture.  That got out of hand in the early days of the church so it was restricted only those things officially agreed upon by the first presidency, quorum of the twelve and then sustained in general conference.  Then Ezra Taft Benson gave the biggest trump card of all when he said:

    "The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works."
    I think that about sums it up.

    9) We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
      This is pretty straight forward and should be taken to mean that God has not told us everything we need to know as yet (see articles 6 and 8) and so you can expect big changes in the future.  Remember this was written before blacks received the priesthood or Polygamy was rejected.

    10) We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes*; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisaical glory.
    * restoration is done figuratively through Patriarchal blessings where you are told from which tribes 'loins' you spring from.  If your blessing does not indicate your loin-hood it will indicated which tribe you have been adopted into.
    Elder John A. Widtsoe, an Apostle, declared, "In giving a blessing the patriarch may declare our lineage-that is, that we are of Israel, therefore of the family of Abraham, and of a specific tribe of Jacob. In the great majority of cases, Latter-day Saints are of the tribe of Ephraim, the tribe to which has been committed the leadership of the Latter-day work. Whether this lineage is of blood or adoption it does not matter"
    Earth being renewed: No need to explain this one further, it's pretty far out there as it is.  We get to have the Garden of Eden all over the place and the earth will be changed in a number of crazy ways.

    11) We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own* conscience, and allow all men the same privilege**, let them attempt worship how, where, or what they may***.
    * 'our own' refers to the conscience of the leaders in place at the time.  All members in the church are taught how to open and close a prayer. (we had an ordered list on a display card on my mission) How to fold our arms, bow our head and even the proper posture.  Naturally those in the scriptures who stood tall and raised their hands to heaven to pray were in the wrong.

    ** all men may have the same privilege of worshiping in the prescribed way.

    *** They can attempt to worship in a way different from the prescribed way but it won't do them any good because God only listens to Mormons anyway.  At least that is the attitude that any believer of a religion takes towards their own.

    member Bob has broken his leg: It's a trial from God  which he will gain blessing by enduring.
    non-member Bob has broken his leg: It's a punishment from God for his heathen ways.

    12) We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law as long as they conform to church's teachings.
    This is very obvious with the current case of the Law stating that same sex marriages ought to be allowed and the church saying that they won't obey, honor, or sustain it.
    Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society.

    13) We believe in the appearance of being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men our friends; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul-We believe all things approved by the church, we hope all things that were promise will actually happen, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things provided their prior approval.
      It is generally accepted that many members of the church are very nice and generally tend to be honest in dealing with others.  Many companies will actually prefer to hire Mormons on this general premise.

      Anyone who has been in the church for a while will see the gossip and backbiting that abounds within the church.  Relief Society is often associated with being gossip central.  As long as you give off the appearance of obeying the rules then members will generally do good to you.  However the moment you step out of line then you can expect to have dirty looks and withdrawn friendships from those who profess benevolence.  Such as in the case when someone decides that the church is not for them but has no ill-will towards any of it members, many of which have been long time friends, they may find that the person they once thought of as their loving friend now views them as a contagious spawn of the devil with whom any contact with could taint their spiritual well-being and thus affect their chances of entering heaven elite. (See article 3)

    Tuesday, January 14, 2014

    Introduction


     First off, welcome to by blog.  I assume that you are here because you are either a Mormon yourself or know someone who is.  Perhaps you have doubts or just find some of the beliefs to be a bit odd or confusing.  Well you are not alone.  Here you are welcome to vent your frustrations and hopefully find your own resolutions and find peace within yourself.

    About Me

     I am an active Mormon.  I attend church every week with my family and even attend the temple twice a month.  At the time of this writing I currently have a calling as a minor member of the Bishopric. I have regular scripture study with my family and hold weekly family home evenings. Basically all the things I'm supposed to do to keep from falling away from the faith.


     Oh and I'm an atheist. 


     Okay, so maybe you think that seems a bit odd and out of place, or maybe you don't.  Either way that is my circumstance.  There are a number of reasons why I still go to church and am a 'closet atheist' which I will be happy to expound on later, for now lets just put it down to family reasons.

     I have no ill-will towards Christians or those of any faith.  I'm not out to convert you to atheism, you are free to make that decision on your own but I'll be happy to share my conversion story with you.  Unlike the pretended stance of the church I honestly believe that people should be free to make their own decisions.  To put it briefly it was not a decision I made quickly but was about 15 years in the making.  I have been off and on a devout believer in the church and God and fully understand why believers believe. As of this writing I have been an atheist for a little over a year now and I feel better about my decision each and every day.


    So Why Blog?

     I have to thank my friend Mormon411 for encouraging me to start this up.  I have been making comments on his blog and he made me realize that I have a lot that I want to say.

     Coming to realize the church is false was hard.  At the time of realization you have no knowledge of where you can turn for support, you feel angry, betrayed, and lost.  You can't tell anyone you know because of the fear of rejection, judgement, and loss of friendship that would ensue.  You are left wondering where you can turn to find someone with whom you can express your new found self and accept and understand you for who you are.  I imagine that the fear and experience would be similar for anyone faced with the need to 'come out' with socially unexcepted beliefs and/or feelings.  It can be a confusing and frightening time and I hope that not only will you find an outlet here but you can then in turn help and become a shoulder for others to lean on as well.

    Live long and prosper,
    --Senigami