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

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Simple Message I Got in the Shower (but don't imagine me there)

Christ's gospel is...
Love God, love your neighbor, love yourself.

Christ's people are...
Those who act with integrity and compassion.

Christ's church is...
Anywhere that people worship Him and try to follow in His footsteps

Christ's temple is...
The entire Earth

Christ's message is...
I Love You.

Christ cannot be put into a box. We should stop building boxes.  There will never be one big enough.