Thursday, January 29, 2015

Dear Elder Oaks: I Want an Apology

"I know that the history of the church is not to seek apologies or to give them," Oaks said in an interview. "We sometimes look back on issues and say, 'Maybe that was counterproductive for what we wish to achieve,' but we look forward and not backward. The church doesn't "seek apologies," he said, "and we don't give them." -- LDS Apostle Dallin H. Oaks

Dear Elder Oaks,

I want an apology.

I'm not gay, but I want an apology to all my gay brothers and sisters in the church. I want an apology for teaching them that they were wicked and don't deserve to be loved. I want an apology to all the gay men that the church physically tortured in an attempt to "cure" them. I want an apology to those gay men that were told to marry women and not tell them they were gay. I want an apology to all those straight women who were either not told when they married these men, or were led to believe that marriage would "fix" them. I want an apology to all the members for teaching us that our gay brothers and sisters were evil.

And while I'm at it, I want an apology to all women within the church. For teaching us to "know our place" and not to question it. For taking away our magazine and our voices. For telling us that we had the largest women's organization, and then maintaining full control of it. For advising us to stay home and out of the workplace even though that left many of us destitute. For leaving us out of our children's blessings, baptism's and settings apart. For having devoted women believe that they are equal even though everything around them proves they're not. For denying us opportunities to serve the Lord and overlooking our talents. For telling our young women that they should be ashamed of their bodies and demanding that they cover up in case they make the young men have unrighteous thoughts. For giving us a Heavenly Mother, and then taking Her away.

I want an apology to the men in the church, for telling them that they will be better husbands and fathers if they spent time away from their wives and children working at the church for free. For putting the entire financial burden on their shoulders. For demanding two years out of their lives at their expense at an age when life is just opening up to them. For making them feel guilty for natural sexual desires, even if they are controlled.

In fact, just apologize to all the members for really really bad sexual advice.

I want an apology for polygamy. For all of polygamy. For the women who were forced into it, the young girls who were married much too young and then raped, the young men who couldn't find wives because the older men married the young women, for the men who were forced into giving up their wives or forced to enter into polygamy, and for the young women who traveled from England after being told there was no polygamy only to be married off to polygamists. I also want an apology for the lies that were told about it all these years.

I want an apology for the whitewashing of Mormon history. The urim and thumim story that wasn't true, the one sided defenses that showed Mormons to be innocent victims in every case, the handcart company and all the deaths that happened there. All those devoted pioneers deserve an apology for all that they lost, families, money, limbs, in an effort to follow God.

I want an apology for Brigham Young. Just apologize.

I want an apology to the Native people for telling them that they were cursed and if they were righteous they would become white and delightsome, for lying to them about their heritage and for taking their children away from them.

I want an apology to the people of color. Everything. It was just wrong! For teaching them about the blessings and then denying them. For treating them like they were less than they are. For not recognizing them as sons and daughters of God, equal in every way to their white brothers and sisters. For not including their cultures into the church.

I want an apology to all the poor people that could have been helped by the church but instead had to gaze at multi-million dollar temples that they couldn't go into. Houses of the Lord, they are called. Well you know what? The entire earth is the House of the Lord. And He doesn't need fancy chandeliers. He needs His people fed and housed and clothed and to have decent jobs and clean water and education for boys and girls and women. And He asked you to do it.

And while we're at it, apologize to the members for putting a price tag on going to heaven. You know that one, where we're asked if we pay a full tithing and if we don't then we can't go to the temple which you tell us is the only way to God. By the way, apologize for that lie too. And for the Masonic ordinances - especially the ones where people vowed to kill themselves.

Apologize to families and especially parents who were banned from seeing their children get married. You claim to be pro family and then create rules that tear them apart.

Apologize for misusing funds that members entrusted you with. We don't mind church businesses that are about feeding people. We do mind when the money goes for billion dollar shopping malls and hunting preserves for the rich to kill for sport.

Apologize for leaders who aren't trained, for leaders that have been abusive, for leaders who have sexually molested trusting members, and for leaders who tell abused women to "go home and take care of your marriage". 

Apologize for claiming to be the one true church.

Apologize for insisting that the prophet is never wrong and will never lead us astray.

Apologize to all those who were punished for asking questions and voicing an opinion.

Yes, Elder Oaks. I want an apology.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Saving Jesus 1: Introduction

On Sunday nights I go to a discussion group at the United Church called Saving Jesus. There's a link to it here. Living the Questions.

We discuss Jesus and how the perception of Him has changed over the centuries (notice I didn't say He has changed, I said the perception of Him has changed.)

There's basically two rules at these discussions. Participate, show respect.

No one is wrong.

I love that. It allows open questions and no judgement.

This was the introduction and it had several concepts to wrestle with. In no particular order...

1. Stripping down Jesus. This is about how many layers we have put on Him through the years. It made me think it would be interesting to take the NT and just read what He said.

2. Believing versus doing. I've always had a problem with Christians who have a list of what you have to believe in order to be a Christian. I have problems with that. I also have a problem with the concept of "as long as you accept Christ you'll be saved". Because that's nothing about doing what Christ asked us to do...which leads us to...

3. The sermon on the mount was about doing. Three hundred years later the Nicene Creed that almost all Christian churches have adopted is about believing. What you believe has become more important than what you do, which is not what Jesus taught.

4. Original sin. Now the LDS church does not believe in original sin. Nor do I. In fact Jesus never talked about it. This again was adopted by Christian churches stemming from the Nicene Creed. You are sinful if you are born and you are this horrible being who must live in everlasting hell if you don't accept Christ. But how can that be if we are children of God? In fact we are  princes and princesses. We are His children. Can you imagine if someone said that you're children are horrible and filled with sin because they were born. We're all going to sin in our lives, but being born isn't one of them. I am grateful to the LDS church for not teaching original sin.

5. Jesus didn't want to start up His own church but wanted to reform the faith He was born into. The Israelites are God's people. Jesus and His followers were Jews. Christianity is not a separate entity from Judaism but a continuation. Sure the Jews went down a different path, and Christianity broke off into different branches, but it's still the same roots. That's actually another thing I learned from the LDS church.

My problems with the LDS church aren't problems about Jesus. My problems are with the church, not Jesus. In a lot of ways, the church did teach these concepts that most other Christian churches have moved away from. In some ways the LDS church is closer to original Christianity.

No my problems with the church has to do with it's own history and the way they conduct themselves now.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Book Review: Beyond Belief - The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme - Susan Tive & Cami Osmtman

Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions - Susan Tive and Cami Ostman

This book is actually a series of essays by women from different religions. The compilers, Tive and Ostman, (who also contribute their own stories) are upfront over what constitutes an extreme religion. They allowed their storytellers to define it for themselves. So it isn't always the bizarre fundamentalists, the Moonies, or the cults that are represented here, it's also more mainstream churches, because each woman's definition was based on her own experience.

It seems that almost everyone is represented here. There are three LDS stories, a couple of Jehovah Witnesses, a Moonie, several Jews (of different sects), Baptists, Scientologists, various Christian sects, Muslims, a Catholic nun who worked with Mother Theresa and one Seventh Day Adventist story sounded so much like my own LDS experience it was eerie.

There was even one story from a woman who became addicted to a man, a "spiritual" leader.

One of the things they all seemed to have in common. The women tell how they came from a church that had "the one true gospel" and all else were wrong.

Again, something I have heard for years in my own Mormon faith.

And they all viewed their experiences as strange, constricting, and something to escape from at some point even if at the place where they tell their story they are full supporting participants.

It just goes to show that not only are religions have a lot in common in the good things, but in the bad things as well.

This is a fascinating look into other religions and cultures and beliefs that go with them. I have one of the writer's books waiting for me at the library, the one by the nun who worked with Mother Theresa and I will be following the writing of the other women.

Whether you are happily devoted to the religion of your choice, an atheist, or searching this is a fascinating read.