Monday, December 28, 2015

I Wasn't Invited

Christmas time is a time of colored lights, scrumptious food, diet breaking baking, foot-sore shopping, and mostly family.

For many people who have left the LDS church, it's also a time where they feel left out. Often family members and friends no longer invite "apostates" to gatherings, and those people then go on social media and vent about how horrible their families are to them and how all members are these terrible judgmental ogres who should slowly die in boiling pots of Christmas punch. (Okay, I made the last part up).

And so I thought I would write a check list about why someone might not be welcome to a party in an LDS home. Now, bear in mind, this is not victim blaming. There are truly people out there who are not welcome in their family simply because they left the church. Frankly, there's no excuse for that. Family is family whether you believe the same things or not and it is no reason to ostracize someone who believes differently.

But I also know that in every family, there's the person who for whatever reason, makes themselves unwanted at a party. We can't change other people, but we can change ourselves. So let's take a look at several possible reasons. Now be honest with yourself.

1. Perhaps religion has nothing to do with it. Have you been unkind to people? Do you comment on their weight, their finances, their politics or tell them they have horrible kids or in any other way cause them to feel bad about themselves? Do you tell dirty jokes, fail to shower, or insist on kissing people on the lips? Do you bring your dog/hamster/cat/snake along even though there are people who have allergies or phobias? Do you try to convince people to join your MLM? Do you try to sell them insurance. Do you hit people up for a loan? Have you committed a crime against anyone?  Are you a possible danger? Is there something that you're doing or have done in the past that would make someone uncomfortable with you, or even hate you? There are many reasons why a family member is not welcome at family events, and religion is probably one of the far lesser reasons.

2. When you go to an LDS home do you mock the beliefs of people there? Do you roll your eyes when the children perform the Nativity? Do you make snide comments about God, Jesus, or the church?

3. Do you expect your LDS family members to change who they are for you? If they have always said a prayer before eating through all the eons of time that you've known them, do you think they should stop because you are there? Do you complain about the "silly" traditions or laugh at the artwork on the wall, or sniff at the reading material on the coffee table? Do you demand that people stop talking about Jesus?
Even if you don't outright say anything, does your demeanor or actions give you away? LDS people are not blind and can sense when you are disdainful of them.

4. In conversation do you refer to God as "your imaginary friend" or the "flying spaghetti monster". Do you call people who believe in such things as weak or stupid? Frankly if you're going around calling people weak or stupid for not believing as you do, then why would anyone invite you to the party or want to spend time with you?

5. Are you a party villain? Do you call people out and start fights? Do you byob to a Mormon home and get drunk? Do you make fun of games or activities that are planned? Do you hand out copies of your self-published book "Why Mormons are Stupid and Other Well-Known Facts". Do you tell all the kids that Santa doesn't exist and neither does God?

6. Is it possible your partner is someone who does any of these things?  Maybe it's not you. Maybe it's the person you're with who is making people uncomfortable, unloved, stressed out, or unwelcome. After all you can't invite someone and tell them to leave the partner at home.

7. After the party/gathering do you go on social media and vent about how awful all these people are and the horrible things you had to endure - like the nativity that the children acted out and the prayers at the table, and the angel on the tree, and the sing-along of religious songs at the piano? Do you say how stupid your relatives are and how you have superior knowledge and how the world would be a better place if everyone were like you? Sure, they may never find out that you said these things, but frankly, you're probably not that great of an actor and they figured out that you felt that way while you were at the party. Especially when you replaced the phrase "round yon virgin" with "big fat promiscuous teenage girl" which frankly doesn't even fit in the meter of the song.

So if you've gone through this list and can honestly say that you don't do any of these things, and you're still not invited to the party, I am truly sorry. Please ask your family why you're not invited. There might be a reason that's not listed here. Or it just may be that they are jerks and leaving you out because you are an apostate and they're terrified that just having you in their presence would make it catching. 

If that's the case, then I can only suggest to let it go. You could create your own celebrations. Invite who you want. Throw your own parties and have new traditions. Call it "Festivus" or "The Great Flying Spaghetti Monster Fling". Serve what you want and act out what you want and just have a great time with or without family members. You can claim Christmas back.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

No Room at the Inn

Quote from my 18 year old son - The way I see it, if we save 25,000 refugees and 200 people die because 10 of those refugees are terrorists, then we still saved 24,790 people. - Carter Wight

The last couple of weeks, at the beginning of this Christmas season, there has been much upheaval in the world. The bombing of several cities and the deaths of many, the requests for asylum for refugees, the suspicion and and hatred of Muslims, and in the LDS church the leaked information that the children of gay parents will not be officially welcomed into the fold.

Everywhere, people are saying "there's no room at the inn."

My sister D posts links claiming that Canada can't even take care of its own and so in this vast country that is wealthier than most, we have no room. The refugees will take from the poor. The refugees will take from the middle class. The refugees will take from me.

Is it really that we can't take care of the poor, or is it that we don't? Is there not enough room and to spare in this enormous land of ours?

I see it among my American friends too. There is fear. What if we let in those who would harm us? Better to turn them all away. Say there's no room. Lock the doors. Let them take care of their own out there in the cold.

When Joseph showed up knocking at the door of the inn, he could have been a danger. He could have been hiding a weapon under his cloak. Mary may have only been posing as a pregnant woman. They too might have been the terror that grips in the night instead of a young couple looking for a place to stay. Thank goodness that one inn keeper, even though his inn was full, still found a place for them.

On a much smaller, quieter scale, it was discovered that the LDS church created a policy, intended only for the eyes of bishops and stake presidents, that would ban the children of gay members from receiving baby blessings, baptisms, ordination to the priesthood, and opportunities for missions. The leaked information which again, was never intended for the world to know, caused leadership to scramble and make amendments to the original policy which affected families who had listened to counsel in the first place when the church told gay men to marry straight women as an effort to cure them which resulted in failed marriages. And so the church clarified the policy by stating that it was only for those children who lived with their gay parent and it was all intended for their own good because apparently, gay people and their children, are not as capable of making decisions as their straight brothers and sisters.

The clarification assured the membership that the church loves ALL children, even though they are creating a separate class of kids who can only watch baptisms and not recieve the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Boys who can only watch on the sidelines as their friends, some who had been drinking the night before, one who is a drug dealer, and another who is having a sexual relationship with his girlfriend, pass the sacrament. Young men who will have difficulty getting dates with the Young Women in their stake who are counseled to only date boys with the priesthood. Eager young men and women who would like to serve missions but can't because they live with a gay parent.

It is obviously a way to get rid of the gay problem. What gay parent who loves his/her child is going to stay and watch as the place they once loved turns their child into "other". Even if it means that they have to leave their community, their church, their friends, and their family.

It is a way for the church to say "we have no room at the inn for you or your children."

I watched in dismay as decent people supported this, claiming that these men spoke for God. It's easy to not have to justify your own prejudices and bigotry when you can blame God for it. When you can say that God says so. You don't have to be accountable for your hatred. If you can hand over the responsibility to a group of men you don't have to listen to your brain or your heart and the courage of your convictions comes in the form of this group of men. You won't hear the still small voice because you don't have to. You can squelch your conscience. You can claim superiority because you are following those who claim to follow God.

As adults we should take responsibility for our thoughts, feelings and actions. We should not be pointing at men and saying "they say it's from God" as a way of justifying our uncaring responses.

These same people fight to make sure their own children are not labeled as "other". They post memes about acceptance for autism, deafness, race, downs syndrome and other instances where a child might be an outcast or difficult to accept. Yet for the children of gay people they claim that if the leadership says to exclude them, it must be so and that they will be valiant and do what is right by supporting the exclusion and saying "there's no room at the inn."

One person who's Facebook post was circulated criticized those who left the church over it by claiming that you don't just quit when things get tough.

But quitting is a viable option. We quit abusive relationships and marriages for our own well being. We quit jobs when something better comes along. We move away from cities, give up hobbies that no longer feed us, change directions when we discover we're going the wrong way, or quit one college major when we discover that we are better suited to a different career path. We quit things when they no longer work. Quitting is an important part of life and knowing when to quit is part of that eternal progression to higher paths. Quitting one thing opens the way for greater things. Joseph knocked on many doors, quitting each one when he was rejected, so that he could find a place for Mary.

"But it's for their own good," the argument whispers and sometimes shouts. We've seen this before. We saw it in slavery - "it is for their own good. We've taken them from their backward land." We saw it in denying women the vote. "It is for their own good. Women don't need to bother about politics. That is a headache for men." We saw it with the Jews in Germany whose very existence was a threat to good Christian people. It was for their own good that their businesses be taken away and that they be rounded up and cared for. We saw it in the Japanese internment in Canada, when they too had their homes and businesses taken away and they were put in camps for their own protection.

Even more scary we have seen what people have done and continue to do, in the name of God. Witch hunts, the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, holy war after holy war, 9/11, the Taliban, Isis, and Paris. It's more scary because it's hard to reason with someone who believes that they speak and act for God even if it means that they wipe out entire villages as in the Old Testament, turn in their Jewish neighbor, or tell a child that they are not good enough for baptism, or even decide that a baby does not deserve a name and a blessing in the church of her family.

We've seen this all before. Again and again and again. "It's for your own good." "We do this in the name of God." "There is no room at the inn."

There's no room at the inn.

There's no room at the inn.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Family

 Hi Anna, Like you I'm a progressive Mormon thirsting for something better. I enjoy your blog. I was asked to speak in church this Sunday about "The family a proclamation to the world". If you could speak about it what would you say? Have you written about it? What would Jesus say about families? For someone who is going through a faith transition is very difficult for me to speak in church. I would appreciate your input. Thanks. Regards, Shelly.

I received that message just days ago and unfortunately didn't have time to respond before her talk. But I am flattered that someone asked my thoughts. Usually when I give advice I get "Oh Mom!" or "Yeah, I know that, Mahmm", or the dreaded "Motherrrr" (accompanied by excessive eye rolling). Thank you Shelly for asking. By the way, I don't even know Shelly. I'm being asked by a complete stranger! Which is kind of cool. On the other hand, maybe that's why I'm being asked. She doesn't know who I really am.

So even though my response is a little late I thought it would make a good blog post. Here it goes.

First off, I would remember who my audience is. Members don't come to church to have their faith ripped apart. They come to hear words of encouragement, fellowship, and to worship. This is not the time to be saying that the proclamation is all wrong and that everyone who believes in it is crazy. Nope, not a good beginning at all.

In fact, I would just ignore the proclamation and focus on the family part.

I would likely start with the pre-existance. I would talk about the War in Heaven and the Plan. How Heavenly Father and Mother wanted each of us to have free agency and make our own choices. How Jesus was willing to offer himself as the way back home and how Lucifer wanted to take away our choices and force us all to come back. I would say that it was likely that Lucifer fought very hard to have it his way and that it caused such upheaval and chaos that he was given the choice, to come down to earth to receive a body, or to leave altogether, not get a body, but be the leader of his own realm. He chose to leave and since that time has tried to entice and trick others to follow him. Of course our Heavenly Parents knew he would do that and decided to allow it, because of free agency.

I would then go into how the family is our first community, our first government, our first social experience, our first love and that the family is the core for all of society. It is within family that we should be able to grow, learn, love, and feel safety. I would also add, that families are imperfect and it's these imperfections that allow us to learn. I would say that families come in different ways and sizes. That we are born into, married into, adopted into, or even just welcomed into family and that no one should define what our family is or isn't.

I would say that our Heavenly Parents love us as we are. That they don't set out tiny boxes to fit their glorious children into. That our spirits are bigger than those small boxes that the cultures of our world have created. That we are to expand on our own personal gifts, whatever they may be, and not be held back by gender roles, racial identity, or other man made traditions. That we are all to strive to be like Jesus, strong, kind, loving, and that Jesus did not establish that women had to be one way and men another but that we should all be like Him.

I would suggest that we do not rush into marriages and that we choose carefully and when we establish marriages that we remember the commandment to "honor our father and mother" and not leave them out of the wedding ceremony no matter what beliefs they hold that may be different from ours. That we start our marriages with inclusion. That important family members not be left out. That marriage is the godly union between two people at its core, but it is also the joining of two families. That if need be we hold our marriage ceremony in a place where all can attend and hold a sealing ceremony privately at another time. God attends ALL marriages and doesn't limit Him/Herself to grand and expensive buildings that leave people out.

I would tell couples that it doesn't matter who stays home and takes care of the children, as long as the children are being taken care of. Sometimes, if the woman is making more money in a satisfying career, it makes more sense for her to continue to do so. I would also add that having children is a choice that each couple makes and no one should tell them what to do.

I would tell women that education and a career is important. That we never know what might happen. Yes, being home with children is also important and no one should feel less than for choosing to do that, however anything can happen. Death, divorce, illness or unemployment may require a stay-at-home mom to leave the home and find employment and no one hires someone who doesn't have employable skills and a recent work history. She needs to have a trade or a degree and have some of her time devoted to being in the work force.

I would also tell fathers to come home. Even if it means they have to abandon their church callings, because their first calling is to their family. I would tell families to prioritize their lives. Really put family first. Jobs and careers are important because they are needed to take care of family, but everything else is flexible. Spend time with family. Come home at night and don't leave it to your wives to raise the children alone. Forgo the unpaid second job at church and instead concentrate on really giving. Giving to your wife, to your children and to your community. Involve your children in your service projects and charity work. Take time to have fun. Don't turn everything into a "lesson". Lessons are learned naturally, not out of manuals. Let your children see more than a suit going out the door or sitting on the stand. Have them help you do chores. Go golfing, go camping, go swimming, go to the theatre, the ballet or the game. Let them see you read, cook, sew, and even cry. Let them see and know you, not the suit.

I would also tell families to take back the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a gift from God for rejuvenation and relaxation. It isn't about replacing one work day for another. If we're emotionally and/or physically drained from Sunday, if we dread Sundays, if Sunday is a battleground, if Sunday is another work day (just different work) then we are doing the Sabbath wrong. We can still go to church and keep God in our sabbath, but we can also enjoy the gifts that our Heavenly Parents have given us. Take back the Sabbath and spend time with family, or spend time alone, or spend time with friends or do all of it. I would say that we don't need to have others define for us how we should relax and rejuvenate, but that we exercise our free agency and do what is right for the individuals in our family.

I would tell parents to love all their children, even the ones who are different, the ones who are rebellious and the ones who have their own paths to travel and I would remind them that God loves all His/Her children and continues to bless even those we think are not doing the right things.

I would tell parents that being gay is no reason to turn your children away. That many gay youth have committed suicide because they have been rejected or feel hopeless. That if we love our children we will love them, not just when they are what we want them to be.

I would tell parents that if their adult children leave the church, it does not mean their children are leaving them. I would tell them that those who leave still deeply love and respect those who are in the church and it hurts to leave. That we shouldn't jump to conclusions that our children have lost the spirit, want to sin, have been offended, want things easy, or are just rebellious.  It means that their children have different paths to follow. I would suggest that instead of trying to "fix them" by telling them things they've heard all their lives, that they take the chance and ask to hear what their children believe. I would remind them that we can not agree with everyone's choice, but we can support their choices. That the war in heaven was fought so that we would all have free agency and that with holding love, and berating our loved ones for not doing/thinking/believing the same way as we do, is not the way of Heavenly Father and Mother. I would say that we were all sent to different lands, different cultures, and different religions. That we were trusted to learn and make good decisions and I would also point out that not every decision is right or wrong. Sometimes the paths in front of us are all right, they just have different challenges and experiences, but they all lead home to God. I would tell parents to embrace all their children and let them know they are welcome home, no matter what they believe or how they choose to live their lives. I would also remind them that if they make their children feel unwelcome, then they will lose much for their children will leave them and take with them their own children.

I would also warn parents against labeling children as failures simply because they leave the church or are inactive. I would instead ask them to focus on the accomplishments of their children. Are they kind? Do they help other people? Do you enjoy their company? Are they taking care of their loved ones? If so then you have done your job. You have created responsible caring members of society. The rest is up to them.

I would also warn against unrighteous control and abuse. That those two things have no place in family relationships. That we don't allow others to abuse us and that we don't abuse others. That we can lose our families with those behaviors. I would remind couples that they are equal partners commissioned with the responsibility to take care and teach Heavenly Father and Mother's children and I would remind children that they are to respect their parents, even in their old age when they may or may not be able to make their own decisions.

I would remind everyone of Jesus' commandment. Love thy neighbor as thyself. For in that commandment there is no room for abuse or unloving controlling behavior. 

And I would end with "Love. Just love."

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Brigham's Destroying Angel: The Life, Confessions, and Disclosures of Bill Hickman - William Adams Hickman

Told by the destroying angel himself, Bill Hickman exposes what really happened during the reign of the Mormon churches bloodiest prophet.

Hickman is not a writer. Initially he comes across as an ego maniac, bragging about his conquests as he relates how he killed a mountain lion or a wild boar when he was a kid, all by himself.

It sets us up for what is to come. The brutal murders under the direction of Brigham Young. Yes folks, according to Hickman, although Young never actually killed a man, he was the godfather of the wild Mormon west.

It turns out that Young did direct Hickman and others to do some killing for him. "Use him up" was the phrase even if there was no kissing involved.

Hickman also paints a picture of a man who expected everyone to give money to him but was reluctant to pay for services rendered.

Actually the more interesting parts of the book are the clearer explanations given by the editor. As J.H. Beadle points out that "Mormonism is sanctified selfishness" citing the belief that men with many wives (which leaves some men with no wife), will inherit the earth and lord it over everyone else.

Beadle is also careful to footnote some events and provide background information that supports what Hickman states.

Hickman tries to make us feel sorry for him when he's left without his ten wives, tries to take children away from one of his wives (because they're his and she's married someone else) and ends up in poverty, out of the church and friendless.

Not feeling sorry for him. 

This is a fairly quick read, and it does no favors to Brigham Young.

Book Review: Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet - John G. Turner

This is a thouroughly researched, heavily footnoted, and balanced look at Brigham Young, second prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

It's also a little dull.

But I managed to slog through it. It suffers from what many history books suffer from. Interesting history told in a factual but dry way.

BY was no angel. He was a misogynist, bigot, control freak, hypocrite and had a mouth on him like a sailor. Hardly the image that current Mormons like to present.

He married woman after woman without thought for their well being. Made himself not just prophet but also political leader of Utah, and although Turner doesn't out right say it, there is some question about whether he was behind many murders that were committed, including surprisingly Joseph Smiths.

One of the more interesting stories is the one with wife number 19, Ann Eliza Young, who was brave enough to divorce him, sue him for alimony (which he refused to give) and then went on tour telling the truth about polygamy. She eventually wrote a book about her experiences none of which made Young happy. Hey, if you're going to be cruel to your wife, force her into poverty then can you blame her if she makes money going on tour to tell the truth to an audience who is eager to hear the inside story of polygamy?  Especially when she lives in a time where there aren't that many options for women.

Young also came up with the United Order. He encouraged members to give everything to the church and in return they would receive back according to their need. However, he wasn't willing to do the same. It would have meant giving up mansions and businesses which made him wealthy.

I always suspected this about BY even when I was a devout member. He would make his daughters make everything they used but he would send to the other side of the country for goods he wanted.

The Mountain Meadows Massacre happened on his watch. His rhetoric of blood atonement caused a stir and his laws created suspicion of all who were not members led to one of the worst blood baths in the history of the U.S. It is unknown if he gave the go-ahead to the perpetrators, among them his adopted son John D. Lee (the only one to be executed over it), but according to Lee he approved of the action after the fact and years later when the law was seeking justice he did what he could to cover it up.

Turner did not set out to assassinate the character of a good man. Instead he set out to present an honest portrayal of one of the most influential men of American history. The fact that Young does not end up looking good, is not the fault of Turner.

Book Review: Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape - Jenna Miscavige Hill & Lisa Pulitzer

Jenna Miscavige Hill the niece of current leader David Miscavige grew up in Scientology. Her parents, members of the Sea Org, the organization within the church, willingly handed her over to the church while they served wherever the church sent them.

Jenna explains the billion year contract that she signed as a child to belong to the Sea Org, the years of child slave labor and little education, and the complete control the church held over her family including when they could visit each other, for how long, where everyone in the family lived (it's normal to have a husband and wife in different places and the children somewhere else), communication (all communications are read), what they wear and what they own (which isn't much since they're not paid, the church provides room and board).

It appears that there are three different groups within Scientology. The regular members who live life out in the world and have little to do with the workings of the church ; the Celebrity group who receive all the benefits and perks while promoting the church; and the worker bees who are told they are the leaders, The Sea Org, an almost military part of the church where even children are members for a lifetime, and another lifetime, and so on and so on.

What is astonishing is that the church can get away with child slaves, for the work is grueling as they force young children to dig ditches and build buildings while neglecting their education. All education is geared towards working within the church where when they grow up they will put in long hours and receive almost no pay.

The other stunner is the celebrities that support this while they live their lives of luxury. John Travolta, Tom Cruise, Kirsty Alley, to name the most prominent.

This is a heart breaking story and as more and more information comes to the surface from former leaders who have left, unequivocally true. It's also a really good read and hard to put down.

Perhaps in an effort to end the child labor problem the church has cracked down on Sea Org members and is preventing new marriages and forbidding babies. It's expected when a young woman gets pregnant that she get an abortion. It was the final straw for Jenna who managed to get away.

This is not just a weird church. This is a dangerous organization.

Interestingly, one of the things they believe is believed by many other churches including the LDS one. They are the only ones with the truth and it's their job to spread it until everyone has the truth.

Yeah, that sounds so familiar.

Kudos to Jenna for her bravery in telling the truth.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Pirates of the Deseret or Mutiny on the Bountiful

An LDS conference or two ago, one of the apostles talked about the church being a boat that everyone needs to stop rocking because otherwise you’ll end up swimming with the sharks. Okay, that’s not exactly what he said, but whatever it was it reminds me of the song from Guys and Dolls “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat.” That song and the Hughes Corporation “Rock the Boat" which I can't get out of my head right now. So I'm giving it to you.

Just recently self-proclaimed LDS expert Krista Cook took the concept and turned us all into pirates. I have no idea how Krista Cook became an LDS expert and what her credentials are, or where you go to school to get that doctorate, but there it is on her blog so it must be so. Interestingly, in one of her blog posts she criticized LDS “pundits” for proclaiming that they’re experts. Hmm, sounds like she’s a little sore that she has to share the title.

Let me make something perfectly clear. I am not an expert in anything. Even if “anything” was something identifiable, I would not be an expert. I don’t claim to speak for God, nor for the LDS people, nor for anyone but myself. I just have ego enough to write a blog and the imagination to believe that anyone is reading it.

So because I have brought up her name and this blog post references her blog post about mutinous pirates, I will link you to her. It’s only fair. You can choose to read her or not. Just come back to me. Don’t abandon my ship just yet.

Okay, so now that you’ve read her, it’s my turn to jump aboard the pirate ship or jump off it or jump somewhere. 

Ms. Cook accuses those who have become disillusioned with being mutinous. Well, you know what? Sometimes there’s a reason for mutiny.
  1.  When the captain is crazy
  2. When the captain is disobeying orders from his superiors
  3. When the captain is going the wrong way
  4. When the captain has the wrong maps
  5. When the captain is abusing his sailors
  6. When the captain has lied about the agreements made and withheld important information
  7. When the captain is about to smash against treacherous rocks or go over a waterfall or glide into an iceberg
  8. When the captain is on a power trip and won’t take any advice from anyone, even the experts who are meant to advise him
  9. When the ship is falling apart due to the foundational materials not being solid
  10. When the captain becomes a despot
  11. When the captain creates rules that harm the sailors and other passengers
  12. When the boat is sinking and the captain insists that everyone sit down and quit rocking the boat.
So you see, lots and lots of reasons to mutiny or abandon ship.

One of the biggest is when you get on board believing that the ship is being guided by reliable compasses and maps created by the greatest map maker in the world, only to find out that the directional materials were actually created by an ego driven con man who made stuff up out of a hat. He created maps that made no sense, had longitude and latitude in the wrong places, built land masses where there were none and moved others to weird locations. He was indeed talking out of his hat. 

Further Ms. Cook mentions a contract that all sailors signed. What she fails to mention is that for some sailors, they signed the contract at eight years old, hardly mature enough to be signing contracts. Others signed contracts only later to find out that important information which should have been in the contract was purposely left out, information that may have stopped them from signing the contract. Now that hardly seems fair, does it? But then I guess we're talking pirates and they don't need to play by the rules.

Many things were not discovered until later, long after contracts were signed and the ship set sail, such as the crazy map maker, the ugly uniform that you don’t know about when you board ship but later have to wear even if it's uncomfortable and unbearably hot in the summer; the hours of time and money that’s demanded; the leaky vessel built with substandard materials; the unequal ways that people are treated based on gender, race, gender, economic position, gender, nationality, gender, sexual preference, gender, family and friend relations, gender, residential location, and gender; the censorship demanded even in private life; secret handshakes and passwords required to be in the ships special club; the punishments inflicted on those who have different ideas or opinions; the outrageous spending at the captain’s table and his quarters while some sailors go hungry; and the captain and his officers who don’t have a clue but will do anything they can to retain power including demanding that no one ever question them and throwing those overboard who do.

There’s also the lie that  the Great Ship Bountiful is the only boat on the sea. That there are no other boats to be found anywhere and the only other option is the shark infested waters.

Actually, there are lots and lots of boats in the sea. Great huge cruise ships far larger than the Bountiful, little tugboats, sailing ships, motor boats, war ships, boats that are just for partying and boats that go out to rescue other boats. Sure, some boats are bad nasty pirate ships that promise adventure and leisurely living but are instead commandeered by an octopus face bent for hell. And some boats are well meaning but extremely strict and don't let the sailors have any fun. Some boats treat the women sailors as slaves and regularly beat and torture them. And some boats are completely lost and going in circles.

And then there are other boats where people are nice and help each other and have good maps and a decent captain at the helm, and they won’t kick you off if you don’t agree with them all the time. They drink coffee and tea and play cards and have wine with dinner instead of Kool-Aid and the women can go swimming in bathing suits that show their shoulders and knees. Some of these boats
even have female captains and no one thinks that’s wrong or weird because they know that the Great Cartographer loves and trusts women.  Those boats actually like to travel in packs and help each other and the people visit back and forth all the time.

Plus, the water, although it does have sharks in it, is not shark infested. There’s also lovely porpoises, and friendly dolphins who like to keep a lookout for those who are barely swimming and need some help.

The reason so many on the great ship Bountiful are not aware of all these other boats, is the fog machine that the captain and crew have working day and night. Every now and then the fog gets a little weak and someone has a glimpse out into the water and sees light, and they tell everyone, but no one believes them and calls them names and accuses them of causing trouble.

Ms. Cook also states regarding the mutinous sailors, “Sometimes they persist in walking the plank or scaling a mast, just for kicks.”

Well, hardly. Those scaling masts are not playing around. They’re looking for the lights of the other boats. They’re trying to see above the fog the machine is creating. Those who are on the plank are looking for people in the water who need help. Or they know about the boats and are thinking of jumping out to go to them, but they’re afraid that if they abandon ship they will never see their family again. And what Ms. Cook sees as taunting or creating trouble, is actually the people who have seen the leaky ship for what it is, warning others about the bogus maps, the rotting timber, the weak steel, and the lights out there beyond the man created fog.

Ms. Cook is all for the other sailors shoving people off the boat. Which is hardly sporting. After all if someone feels the call to leave, wouldn’t it be better to gently help them to another boat without recriminations and assure them that they are still loved? But instead, she wants them all thrown overboard, which is nasty considering she thinks the water is infested with sharks. She gleefully envisions them being swallowed up by the sea instead of taken aboard a friendlier boat. 

By the way, the sharks that are around, are there because the captain and the crew keep throwing them meat.

As for me, I managed to find a life raft and I’m scooting around looking for a friendly ship to take me aboard where I will feel like I belong and have something to offer. I like coffee and tea and playing
cards and I think a nice boat where women are equal and people help each other, even on the other boats, and no one is threatening to throw you overboard would be lovely. Especially, if they have the correct maps and are going the right way and they are strong and sturdy and made from the best materials.

Because the Great Ship Bountiful just isn’t it.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

More Thoughts That Make People Mad

Okay, now that I’ve pissed off Mormons, I guess I’m going to piss off Christians and Jews too.

Because that’s what sometimes happens when you start questioning things. You discover something wrong and it’s like dominos that go upstairs, down bannisters, around corners and into the litter box.

Things fall down.

Before I start let me preface this by saying that I am a believer of God and Jesus Christ, even if it isn’t the way that some Christians say I have to believe. 

I’m done with believing in men’s interpretations and trying to stick Jesus in their parameters of understanding and telling me I’m wrong for not agreeing with them.

Once I discovered the face in the hat trick and realized that the Book of Mormon is not a book of scripture, and neither is the Pearl of Great Price, my mind opened up to other possibilities. 

I believe there are there are other inspired books out there. I think there are histories unfound. I think there are books locked away. I think a lot of it has to do with people’s experiences and beliefs in God.

About three years ago when I was still a faithful LDS I gave myself the challenge to read The Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenants straight through like a regular book, in one year.

I accomplished it.

Going into it, I had thought that the bible was a book of light with dark moments. It’s not. It’s a book of dark with light moments. It’s actually in a lot of ways, a pretty horrible book.

Oh sure, there are some wonderful, inspiring stories, and words of wisdom, but there were more disturbing and dark stories, much of it showing God to be a really bad guy, at least in the Old Testament.

And as we all know there is so much that is contradictory. 

I had trouble imagining a God that would command His people to go into a town and murder every man, woman and child, and yet that same God gave us Jesus and commanded that we love one another. It didn’t make sense.

Besides, who wrote the bible?

I’m pretty sure God didn’t sit down at His desk, carving out figures in stone, or scratching a quill into papyrus and personally deliver it to Moses, or Abraham, or some other man or woman we know nothing about.

So it had to be people who wrote it. Imperfect, culturally dependent, people. 

Certainly some were inspired. Some weren’t. Some may very well have made things up to justify their actions as people do now. Like when they wrote that God commanded them to wipe out entire towns. I don’t believe God did that. Nor do I believe that Jonah was eaten by a big fish. Sounds like a tall fishy tale that Jonah may very well have told himself, and it got bigger and bigger the more it was told.

So what makes the bible any more special than any other book, other than its age? Because one day a group of men got together and decided which ancient books were to be lived by and which ones weren’t?

I’m not saying the bible isn’t valuable. I think everyone should read it, believers and non-believers, simply because it’s such an important book. You can’t understand history, literature, culture, politics, art or architecture, without studying this book.

But perhaps we should look at spiritual writings in a much bigger way. Who’s to say that far more recent writers haven’t said things that have been just as inspiring, just as faith promoting, or even more so?

C.S. Lewis, Maya Angelou, and yes, even Dieter F. Uchtdorf come to mind (I liked his Forget Me Not talk).

Why hold the bible so sacred with its stories of murder, incest, rape, slavery, misogyny, polygamy, war, and destruction and call that good? Is that something you really want your children reading?

I’m not about sanitizing the stories. I love the story of Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors, and you can’t tell his story without telling what his brothers did to him, or his time in prison. But that’s a positive story about rising above your circumstances. And I’m not saying that any of the bible should even be edited from what it is. But why view it as a book to live by? Do we really want to teach our children that if they hear voices in their head to kill someone that they should do it? Or that if a girl is raped she should marry her rapist?

As I lose some of my scriptures, understanding now they are an amalgamation of several sources and the imagination of a con man, I am on the lookout for more positive stories and thoughts. And frankly, it can be fiction too. As a writer who has felt inspiration there can be some powerful truths in fiction.

And even in the Book of Mormon which is almost all about war, there is that lovely moment when Jesus visits the Nephites. It’s uplifting. It’s inspiring. And I find some truth in it, even if it is made up.

But there are other writings out there that should be studied as well. Savored, mulled over, and either accepted or forgotten by the reader, but are they not worth just as much if not more than the words of men from thousands of years ago?

Maybe in our churches and our personal studies we can recognize that men and women now, can be inspired. There are amazing stories out there, and amazing thoughts, and amazing deeds, and amazing miracles.

Why worship a God from long ago whose story has been twisted and changed, when we can worship God here and now. A living God who continues to use people to accomplish miracles. Why not add those stories to the canon as well?

Because following a confusing, contradictory, and dark book, has not created a world of love. 

Searching For Grace