Posted by: Corpus | December 9, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013 – Cold Turkey

We drove the 12 hours to Saint Louis from Denver for Thanksgiving this year. We essentially invited ourselves because three of my siblings and their spouses (and, in James’s case, his four children) had already been invited. Craig and I had not. We wanted our kids to see and play with their cousins, so we called and asked if we could come.

There were many successes. All the cousins had a great time together: Zoey and Caroline became immediate best friends; Josie really took to 1 1/2 year old Samuel and was constantly playing with him and keeping him entertained. Lorin was amazing in trying to keep everything going, as usual. Christianna was mostly absent after cooking a great Thanksgiving meal.

But there were many … failures isn’t the right word. Disappointments is, I think. James was extremely stressed, apparently before we had even arrived, and had a hard time sitting down to relax and enjoy the time. My mother was extremely anxious. We were told not to show up until late morningtime and were told we needed to leave by early evening because “everyone needed their sleep” (we were staying at the hotel). She also hovered over everyone and tried to essentially manage all the grandchildren’s moves. She completely ignored Ally almost the entire time, going out of her way to avoid any contact or conversation. There was other behavior which indicated extreme anxiety and possibly some fear about perceived problems or threats to the sanctity of the house (physical and spiritual, it seemed). My father could not get someone to take his spot at the temple for his volunteer work there, and so was absent for a large stretch of the Thanksgiving weekend. There were other problems.

I left feeling extremely discouraged about the prospects for our family’s continued interactions. I know part of my mother’s anxiety comes from her believing that I’ve taken her grandchildren from her forever (by not baptizing them, raising them Mormon, etc.). But why would you want to be together forever with family members who merely cause you extreme anxiety by their presence? Why would one choose to be “together forever” with people whom one does not even like?

And as to the together forever doctrine, it makes little sense. The goal in Mormonism is to gain access to the first degree of Celestial Glory, at which time one becomes a god (with wives in tow) to rule over one’s own mortal realm. But there’s no doctrine or indication that once one achieves godhood, one “hangs out” with the other god-members of one’s family. There’s no indication that Heavenly Father is chatting with Heavenly Grandfather or Heavenly Sister about what’s going on in their realms. So one really isn’t “together forever” as much as one is “eternally apart,” from everything I can see. And what happens when the entire mortal existence ends (upon the Second Coming of course) and everyone is either deified or relegated to some other kingdom of glory and/or sub-glory? Does Heavenly Father then move to Celestial Florida to retire, doing nothing for the rest of eternity? What of the boredom? In other words, the entire thing just breaks down. It’s a side issue, but one I had not considered until thinking about the dislike, barely-disguised anger, and extreme anxiety in my family.

I think we can all agree that it is certain that we have this life to spend together. And I contend that none of us absolutely knows with certainty (because Faith is believing things based on the lack of evidence or, at best, upon what one must admit is bad evidence) that there will be anything after this life. So why waste our precious little time together, as a family, when we finally have it to spend? It’s the big question we will likely never be able to confront.

Posted by: Corpus | September 5, 2013

1977 – First Encounter with Racism

When I was five years old, a black man came to the door asking to use the restroom. He was a mover, and his company’s policy prevented him from using the restrooms at the house he was working at. My mother begrudgingly let him in, then herded us away from the bathroom and well-away from the black man. Once she heard him come out, she hustled out of the bedroom and rushed him out the front door. Then she came into the room and told us that he had got poop on the toilet seat (and walls, she said, although I didn’t see any of it as far as I can remember), and proceeded to complain about black people for several minutes, telling us how bad they all were. It’s one of my prominent memories from that age.

Over the next few years, growing up, I noticed that my mother said many extremely racist things. We lived in Texas, in a middle class neighborhood, which meant mostly white folks at that time period. A very few houses contained a hispanic family or black family. She discouraged us from playing with those kids. She wasn’t the only one. At church we were taught that black people were cursed for being fence-sitters in the pre-existence. That Cain and the Lamanites were cursed with dark skin (passed on to black folks and hispanic folks, respectively), which was God’s way of trying to keep us all separate. That white folks and colored folks shouldn’t marry, shouldn’t mix. There were many scriptures and quotes from prophets and apostles referenced. But also “evidence” repeatedly pointed to showing how black people and hispanics were socially, culturally, mentally, and otherwise degenerate.

It’s not 100% my mother’s fault. She grew up in a different time, in a particular part of rural Idaho, rarely exposed to anyone not white (or, incidentally, not Mormon). She was taught by her own church’s leaders, both living and dead, that darker skinned folks were inherently less trustworthy; less acceptable; less good. She was raised to be a racist in a world that did not contain significant outside messages that such beliefs were unacceptable. But it makes me sad to think that she’s burdened with them, and that I still have echoes of those things in my mind.

Posted by: Corpus | September 5, 2013

Personal Journal

One thing I’ve been thinking about, since coming to the conclusion that I no longer believe in any supernatural claims (until the are established via repeatable, rigorous, scientific testing, of course), is that someday – maybe soon, maybe not so soon – I’m going to die. And the only thing my children will have left of me is their memories. And so much of my life will be a mystery to them. Of the little I’ve told them, much will be forgotten. Of the remainder, it leaves this existence with me.

As an aside, I hope that there’s an afterlife–with or without god(s)–as long as that afterlife will be reasonably pleasant. And by reasonably pleasant, I mean at least as enjoyable as mortal existence, and preferably much more. So if you are reading this, I hope to see you there!

In any case, I’ve decided to write a little bit, hopefully each day, of my memories and actions, hopes and thoughts, and so forth. And in so doing, I hope to keep a record of my doings for my posterity. Kind of like Nephi, except without the voices in my head telling me to murder drunken reprobates, and with 100% more “that actually happened in real life.” I’ll keep each article short (one to two paragraphs, generally), so that reading is enhanced. And I’m not going to shy away from the embarrassing, devastating, etc. No self-censorship!

So, to my amazing wife ACW and to my incredible children JTW, JCW, ICW, KCW, and ZCW, I dedicate this effort to you.

Posted by: Corpus | September 4, 2012

Mormon Urban Legends: the Brigham Young Transfiguration

TL:DR Version

The Urban Legend: During the August 1844 conference discussing who should succeed Joseph Smith as leader of the church after he was murdered, Brigham Young took on the appearance and voice of Joseph Smith, thus legitimizing him as the leader of the church.

Conclusion: MYTH. None of the contemporaneous minutes or journal entries documenting the August 1844 conference recorded such a miraculous event. The first person to claim this happened did not mention it until 1857. After that claim, over 121 people similarly claimed to have witnessed such an event, but further research reveals that many of them were not even in the same town during the conference.

Why?: Memory is a fuzzy thing. Whenever we access our memories, we partially overwrite the events with our current beliefs, ideas, and similar stories we have heard. (SOURCE (describing how memories of major events are particularly susceptible to being “rewritten”).) Without a single contemporaneous document supporting this story, and many contemporaneous statements contradicting it, it is nearly impossible to believe that the story is true.

The Story

After Joseph Smith was murdered at Carthage Jail, probably the most important issue facing the Church was who was going to take over and lead it. There were several candidates to succeed Joseph as leader of the Church, including: Joseph’s son, Joseph Smith III (whom Joseph had blessed to be the next prophet); Sidney Rigdon (the senior member of the First Presidency); James Strang (who had led his own polygamist church before joining the Mormon church); Granville Hedrick (unknown priesthood status); Alpheus Cutler (member of the Presiding High Council and Council of Fifty); and Brigham Young (President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles).

At a large meeting (the August 8, 1844 conference) to decide what to do, Sidney Rigdon and Brigham Young both spoke and both asked to be sustained as the next leader of the church.

Sidney Rigdon was somewhat of a loose cannon. He had previously engaged in incendiary rhetoric which had likely escalated tensions between Governor Boggs of the State of Missouri and the Mormons. But he was also popular among some members – Joseph Smith had intended to remove him from the First Presidency, but the congregation voted against Joseph Smith’s express will and retained him in the First Presidency.

Brigham Young was popular among the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other church leaders as a staunch defender of polygamy. He was an enemy of Emma Smith, Joseph’s wife, because of her anti-polygamy activism. Because the early Mormons fully believed polygamy was the only way to achieve the highest degree of heaven (the Celestial Kingdom) (see Doctrine and Covenants 132), he was seen as a true defender of the most important principle of faith in the church.

Sidney Rigdon went first. He emphasized that he was to be Joseph Smith’s vice presidential running mate in Joseph’s bid to become the President of the United States. He gave a fiery, 90 minute-long lecture which emphasized that he would be the “guardian” of the Church–presumably implying that once Joseph Smith’s son was old enough, he would abdicate that role.

Brigham Young called for a break, and returned with a speech emphasizing the Quorum of the Twelve as a whole as the successors, with the president of the quorum (himself, of course) being named prophet. He cast Rigdon as a man whom Joseph no longer trusted.

The congregation voted for Young to become the next president of the church. Several men took minutes, several others wrote contemporaneous journal entries about the event. No one noted anything unusual. Many of the minute-takers and journal entry-makers criticized Rigdon or Young based on whom they believed should be the next leader of the church.

Thirteen years later, in 1857, a man named Albert Carrington stated, for the first time, that during Young’s speech, Albert couldn’t tell the difference between Young and the dead prophet Joseph. Not long after, dozens of others made the same claim. Many people who were documented as being elsewhere at the time — not at the August 1844 general conference–even claimed to have witnessed it. In all, at least 121 people made the same claim after Albert Carrington’s 1857 speech–including Wilford Woodruff and George Q. Cannon, later leaders of the Church.

In a well-documented and thoroughly referenced paper, Mormon historian Richard Van Wagoner researched the event and concluded that the evidence for the transformation event rested on sources which were “dubious at best” and “duplicitous at worst.” He noted that there were *no* contemporaneous recordings of such a transfiguration, and that all definitive transfiguration statements post-dated Albert Carrington’s claims. He argues that the “fable” of the Transfiguration of Brigham Young  might be culturally useful, but is historically unsupported, and ends with a warning by church Elder Brigham Roberts that by allowing myths to be perpetuated, the Church loses credibility.

Urban Legend Analysis

The Urban Legend regarding the Transfiguration of Brigham Young is taught as historical fact in church educational resources and by church leaders. See here (Gospel Doctrine manual) and here (Gospel Doctrine manual) and here (general conference talk) and here (primary manual). In these sources, the story is told as a method of legitimizing Brigham Young as the successor to Joseph Smith by divine intervention. In other words, God rubber-stamped the choice of Brigham Young by miracle.

The urban legend, however, masks and disguises that the death of Joseph left the church in chaos and with no clear choice as to who should succeed him. Brigham Young ended up leading the church that would grow the largest, but the official narrative fails to document that a very large portion of Joseph’s followers decided that Young was not the correct choice, and formed at least five of what would become more than 200 churches, all claiming to be the “true church” founded by Joseph Smith.

The choice of Brigham Young over Joseph Smith III may, instead, have been a referendum on polygamy. Emma’s use of the Relief Society to undermine Joseph and Brigham’s polygamous activities ran into conflict with the expansion of polygamy to include more and more men. This caused Brigham Young to mistrust and mistreat her–and led Brigham Young to disband the Relief Society as one of his first acts as President of the Church. (See BYU FAQ here – note the euphemism “Emma pressed for vigilance in watching over the morals of the community . . .”). It was well-known that Joseph III was very, very close to his mother, and Brigham Young and others were obviously concerned that if Joseph III were selected, it would really be Emma leading the church, and polygamy would come to an end. (See, generally, “Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith” by Newell and Avery.) And yet, any choice other than picking Joseph Smith III would obviously be difficult, as the prophet Joseph had, on many occasions, stated that his son would be the next prophet. (See here, with sources.)

Brigham Young’s claim may have been bolstered most by Joseph III’s age. Joseph III was not quite 12 years old when his father was murdered. Could a 12-year old lead the Church? Sidney Rigdon had seemingly proposed being a “guardian” of the Church until Joseph III was old enough to take on the role. His missteps during the August 1844 conference (including calling Parley P. Pratt to speak for him, with Pratt instead endorsing Brigham Young!) and his prior run-ins with Joseph Smith may have doomed that argument entirely.

In the end, the real drama of the succession crisis is done a grave disservice by reliance on the apparently fabricated accounts of the Brigham Young transfiguration. The real story is much more interesting and underscores the deep rifts in the Church that Joseph Smith had somehow managed to bridge in order to keep people together under one banner. In other words, the Brigham Young transfiguration story unintentionally minimizes Joseph Smith’s charisma and leadership abilities–a sacrifice made in order to end any conversation of alternative possibilities for succession by divine fiat.

For more information, see:

link to part 1

These arguments will necessarily be very brief, or at least as brief as possible. I rely on the Proclamation on the Family and various talks by General Authorities, such as Packer.


Opposition to gay marriage is theologically unfounded, especially in the Mormon context. The Church’s position on gay marriage spells out standards inconsistent with established doctrine.

Polygamy a Problem

The Church’s definition of marriage between “a man and a woman” is theologically inconsistent with past and present doctrine. Joseph Smith was married to somewhere around 42 women, many of whom were married to another man at the time Joseph took them as wife. Brigham Young had 55 wives, again, many of whom were simultaneously married to other men. Polygamy in Brigham-era Utah was the norm, not the exception. Indeed, D&C 132 defined “celestial marriage” not as temple marriage, but as polygamous marriage, and without entering into polygamy, men and women could not attain the highest degree of glory. If the Church’s Proclamation is the “real” doctrine, Joseph, Brigham, and tens of thousands of others were disobeying God’s immutable law.

Moreover, two currently living apostles are sealed to more than one woman for eternity: Dallin Oaks and Russell Nelson. Mormon doctrine is that marriage does not end at death. Therefore, Oaks and Russell are not involved in relationships consisting of a man and a woman, and are breaking God’s immutable law.

Therefore, the Church’s Proclamation statement is inconsistent with established Mormon doctrine, and applies a different standard to heterosexual relationships than it does to homosexual relationships.

Proclamation is not Revelation or the Word of God

It is apparent that the Church does not categorize the Proclamation as a revelation. Boyd Packer, in his recent “why would a loving heavenly father do that?” anti-gay talk, asserted that the Proclamation was a revelation. However, when his talk came out in the Ensign’s conference edition, the correlation committee (responsible for safeguarding the doctrine of the Church from unwanted modification) changed the word “revelation” to “guidance.” No one else has officially referred to the Proclamation as “revelation.”

One might argue that even if this correlation committee changed Packer’s statement, he is an apostle, and so if he said it, it’s doctrine. But the Church disagrees: “Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church.”

Moreover, unlike official revelations (the last of which was well over 100 years ago), the Proclamation on the Family was never put to the membership for a vote.

No Sanctions for Opposing the Church

Many California Mormons actively campaigned against Prop 8, most famously Steve Young and his wife. There is no evidence that the Church, either officially or unofficially, mandated sanctions against those who opposed its position. No temple recommend denials, disciplinary action (disfellowshipping or excommunication), or any other action.

Next, in Part 3: Sociological Arguments

Recently my wife was asked by a former mission companion why she kept posting that she was in favor of gay marriage, when the Church was so obviously against it. My wife wrote a lovely response to that question, but it inspired me to write my own response. Recently, a very good, TBM (“true believing Mormon”) friend and I got into a heated debate on the issue.

So I’m going to take the opportunity to post my thoughts and response here. In Part 1, I will detail my history on the gay rights/marriage issue – i.e. where I have stood, and where I stand now. And what led to the change. In Part 2, I will provide Theological arguments as to why churches (and specifically the Mormon church) have no consistent, logical foundation to oppose gay marriage. In Part 3, I will provide Sociological and Legal (i.e., not related to religion) arguments about why gay marriage should not be opposed.


I grew up disgusted with gay (male) behavior, deeply believing that it was a sin. I actively argued against any recognition of gay rights at all opportunities, through about 2009. I heard about Prop 8 and thought it was a good idea. While my wife was more tolerant, we both agreed with the Mormon Church’s semi-official 1995 Proclamation on the Family from the Church.

In short, it states that marriage between “a man and a woman” is “ordained of god”; that sex is only god-sanctioned if it is between “man and woman, wedded as husband and wife”; and that marriage is God’s plan and children must be “reared by a father and a mother.” In short, the Proclamation strongly infers the Church’s position is that marriage is not: homosexuality (or polygamy . . . but more on that later).

Yet I recognized that people were gay. Reviewing the evidence seemed to contradict the idea that people *chose* to be gay. And while there was some evidence that homosexuality was biologically determined, that evidence did not match with the Church’s position. So I did what all good religious folks do when the evidence does not match their conclusions: I threw out the evidence.

Instead, I developed a theory that homosexuality was developed: somewhat akin to an emotional eating disorder. Early in life, the gay person must have associated homosexual thoughts/feelings with comfort or security or joy or psychological need, and therefore “developed” into a homosexual person. Had they had different experiences, they would have turned out straight. I was very sure in my hypothesis, even though it was not based on any psychological or medical data or research that I knew of. It made sense to me, and it allowed me to feel like my belief was confirmed by prophetic proclamation.

A few events cracked the glass in that worldview.

First, in 2005, I heard about and attended an Adult Fireside talk by Colleen Harrison, an author I admired. It turned out to be an “Evergreen International” fireside. Evergreen International claimed at that time to be able to “cure” gay people of their “same sex attraction,” which they classify as a mental disorder. (Later they amended their position to “help[ing] people who want to *diminish* same-sex attractions and overcome homosexual behavior.” Probably because their track record for “curing” gays was and is abysmal.) The first speaker was a gay man who spoke of his tortured youth, wherein his mother, father, friends, and church leaders could not and would not accept his homosexuality. When he began to discuss his “cure,” he seemed tortured and depressed, rather than joyful. Surprisingly, I found myself feeling immensely sorry for him. In the past, I probably would have just said “serves him right.”

Second, during an early 2006 Con Law class multi-day study of marriage and sex laws, I argued openly in class against gay marriage. Several points were made by classmates, and the professor responded very thoughtfully to my objections. Throughout the rest of the day, I weighed the cases and the arguments I had made and heard in reply, and came to the conclusion that I could find no worthy legal argument against gay marriage. I informed my wife of my conclusion and that I therefore believed gay marriage would be legal nationwide some day. “Of course, I am not speaking about moral arguments. Those are obviously unsupportive of gay marriage,” I clarified.

Third, in 2008, during Prop 8 in California, I fully supported the Church’s position. However, when it came to light that the Church’s leaders themselves had secretly organized, supported, and even mandated member participation in support of Prop 8,  it irked me. How could the Church insist, every election season, that it was politically neutral in light of these revelations? Even though I was very irritated with the Church, the routine Elders’ Quorum meeting “bash the gays” discussions seemed to confirm that the Church’s involvement must be both Just and Required, rather than Hypocritical and Abusive.

Finally, in 2010/2011, I became very good friends with a gay man I had previously tolerated, but kept at arms distance. The more I got to know him, the more I realized that he had never chosen to be gay. He was one of the most genuine, honest, and forthright people I had ever met. He did not hide who he was, and he never held back information or offered excuses. I asked him very pointed questions about his youth, about his experiences, to determine when he became gay (using my previous theory as a guide). I found no such point. The more we talked, the more I was convinced that he was very naturally gay. It was not forced or done in compensation. It was not chosen. It was just who he was.

I realized the Church’s position was wrong. It allowed me to freely feel what I had always felt, but pushed down: that the Church’s involvement in Prop 8 was, at best, misguided, and at worst, meddlesome and illegal. I realized that the Church’s doctrine regarding homosexuality were the “philosophies of men, mingled with scripture.”

Next: Part 2 – Theological Arguments

Mormon apologists are in the news lately, having written a “hit piece” on Mormon Stories founder John Dehlin. Apparently Dehlin asked a general authority friend (!) to call FARMS/FAIR/Maxwell Institute/(insert apologetic organization here) to tell them to scrap it. Daniel Peterson (apologist-in-chief) and Bill Hamblin (trusty sidekick) have hinted that they’ll be releasing it in a different venue or in spite of the GA telling them to cut it out. Good times.

I’m reminded of my first brush with FARMS, which stands for the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies. It was just after my mission, and I was in Deseret Book (or possibly Seagull Book, I don’t recall – it’s been almost 20 years!) with a friend whom I considered a “gospel scholar.” In an attempt to get back into mainstream Mormonism after having my testimony severely shaken on my mission, I was trying to be a good little Mormon boy: read my scriptures, pray, attend church, etc. I admit that my primary motivation was to meet a good little (and hot) Mormon girl, so there is that.

Well I saw a rack of booklets (for lack of a better term) with the sign FARMS on the top. I thumbed through a few of them and was interested in one: an exposition on archaeological findings relating to the Book of Mormon. I took it to the counter, intent on purchasing it. I was intrigued: who was saying that there was no archaeological evidence? What was the defense? How did this fit in with my logical/theological questions that seemed to cast doubt on the Book of Mormon? On my way to the counter, my friend saw me and flagged me down.

“What is that?” he asked.

“Something from a group called FARMS,” I said. “It’s about archaeological findings regarding the Book of Mormon.”

“Go put that back,” he said.


“You will lose your testimony reading that stuff,” he insisted. “Everyone I know who gets into FARMS or Sunstone loses their testimony.”

We had a lengthy discussion about Sunstone, which I’d never heard of, and FARMS, which I had also never heard of. I put the booklet back.

I wonder if I’d be an apologist now, instead of an exMormon, had I bought it anyway. Or maybe I would have exited the Church a lot sooner. It’s hard to say.

One thing I do know. After witnessing the good ol’ boy / back-slapping / ad hominem attack behavior of Peterson, Hamblin, and the others on various message boards, I’m glad I didn’t fall in with that crowd. Maybe my friend did me a huge favor.

Posted by: Corpus | April 17, 2012

Awe and Wonder, the Naturalist Version

This morning I missed my bus. But it’s the reason I missed my bus that has got me writing.

As I walked to the bus stop, shortly before dawn, I looked up and saw the crescent moon ahead of me. I began to walk more slowly, pondering on the amazing phenomenon that is our moon. I stopped, and looked behind me. Mars, defiant in the twilight, faintly glared down on me. I calculated the direction of the unseen sun from its radiance on the moon and Mars. I imagined the earth, rotating and revolving so quickly, but seeming to us to move at a crawl through the heavens. I traced the trajectory the sun would take throughout the day, based on the amazing knowledge we have of our position and place among our brother and sister planets in relation to our father sun. I marveled that I live in a time where a lay person like me could appreciate and understand the rudiments of astrophysics. And I was stupefied by the immense power governing us all.

Now in my younger years, I would have meant “god” when talking about a governing power. But over time, I’ve become more and more of a naturalist. Having studied, and therefore somewhat understanding, the forces of gravity, fusion, motion, and astronomy, “god” has grown smaller and smaller in his universe, and the natural laws even s/he must obey larger and larger.

Well, perhaps “smaller and smaller” is inartful. Rather than growing smaller and smaller, I have begun to see god as farther and farther away from me. It’s as if, as I stare into the heavens through a telescope and observe the planets and moons and stars around me, god is staring back from millions of light years away, through his even more powerful telescope, watching with curiosity what we will make of this life on this frail planet, suspended in an empty void, tethered to a life-giving and life-taking flame in the endless expanse, saved from annihilation by its brutal and forceful presence.

“It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

Posted by: Corpus | April 10, 2012


So I haven’t posted in a long time. This does not mean that stuff hasn’t been going on. I’ve been agitating on Facebook, which hasn’t done a lot of good, of course. I really just want people to think and to consider the validity of the points I’m making, but by and large that’s been a failure. Well, an old girlfriend whom I’d discussed marriage with (but ultimately we decided it wouldn’t work out) did say “I’m sure glad I didn’t marry you!” I should have said, I wish I had said! “Well my wife is glad you didn’t marry me, too!” It would have been the perfect response. But, of course, I didn’t think of that, and I went on some little journey about how we never know how things would end up and life takes us in unexpected directions based solely on the choices we make and the circumstances we’re currently in, blah blah blah blah blah. None of it sunk in. Dammit.

Well, I am happy to report that I am happy! I am a happy, hopeful Deist / pragmatic agnostic. My kids are happy and healthy. And most importantly, my wife is happy and healthy. We’re better than we’ve ever been before. It’s amazing. She still teaches Relief Society one week per month (and skips church all the rest). I was so proud of her when, last week, she more or less called the Church out on its use of guilt and shame to make people feel bad. I don’t think she used this line, but:

“The biblical concepts of sin and salvation are an integral part of Christian doctrine. Christianity first creates a problem (sin) and then offers a ‘solution’ (salvation). This is not unlike the protection racket; you either buy ‘protection’—or else!” Rev. Donald Morgan.

My wife is awesome. We’re learning and growing together. We’ve got pretty different beliefs at a very deep level, but very compatible beliefs on all practical levels.

I have several ideas to keep writing. I’d like to write my autobiography on the blog. I know it’d be boring as hell for most, but I’d mostly be doing it for myself (an introspective and retrospective look into my past based on my collected ‘wisdom’ of 40 years) and for my kids, when they get older. I want them to know who I am and how I got here.

I’m probably done with agitating on Facebook directly. My last attempt was an attempt to reach out to two liberal-seeming Mormon friends, a couple, by complimenting them and thanking them for not being orthodox Mormons. It backfired. I believe I offended them. Apparently they see themselves as orthodox, even though I don’t see them like that. I offered an olive branch and let it die, but I don’t want to risk friendships simply because my friends don’t realize how close they are to taking the final step and leaving it all behind! If I continue to agitate, it will likely be with sharing posts without direct commentary or with only general sentiments, as I’ve done in the past.

This rambling update is over. Back to brief writing.

Posted by: Corpus | August 12, 2011

The Challenge for the Church

I read a great talk today by Dr. Richard Bushman, a Mormon historian and the author of the moderately pro-Joseph Smith book “Rough Stone Rolling.” Dr. Bushman is a believing member (although, because he is an apologist, I would argue that he, too, may be an apostate). But he senses the problem the Mormon church faces, and is unusually honest about the reasons for the wave of apostasy washing some of us out into the sea of doubt.

I highly suggest reading it. It’s nothing really new to those of us who have left the Church, but it’s very good information for believing members. It  won’t hurt their faith (hell, it’s given as a Church Educational System seminar introduction) and it will help them understand why people leave and stay away.

I thought this was a good segue into reflecting on the problems that caused me to leave the Church. These are all things I struggled with PRIOR to my decision to leave. After I decided to leave, and then did some additional research, my list grew to one roughly ten times the size of this, at least. Nevertheless, here is what bothered me, roughly in the order that they came up:

1. Scriptural inconsistency/integrity. I discussed this thoroughly in my first post. The scriptures are not internally consistent. The Book of Mormon was obviously not “the most correct of any book on the earth.”

2. God-endorsed Evil. For some reason (probably because I grew up with it), I initially didn’t react negatively to the God-endorsed murder of Laban. But as I read the Old Testament, the God-commanded murders, rapes, thefts, and genocides of the Books of Moses really started to pile up. But the one back-breaking incident that got me was the story of the prophet Elisha. Here is what happened in Second Kings:

2:23And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.2:24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

 Basically the Prophet of the Lord, using the Priesthood, murdered 42 children because they made fun of his male pattern baldness.

I thought, “well, this is Old Testament. None of it makes any sense, and it’s pretty much 95% theological garbage, and half of that atrocity.” Then I got to Acts, chapter 5. Here, the Apostles of the Lord (from whence come our own Apostles), confront a man who sold his own property, but didn’t give the apostles 100% of the money he made. So the apostles murder him, apparently with the Priesthood. (Acts 5:1-5.) His crime? Lying and not turning over all of his gain to the Church. Then his wife comes in, and they do the same thing to her. (Acts 5:7-10.) In fact, people heard about it and were so afraid of the apostles that they believed the apostles might do the same thing to them. (Acts 5:11-12.)

Revelations repeats the Old Testament pattern of God getting pissed off at a group of people, and then commanding (or being directly responsible for) the murder of the entire group. (Compare Exodus 13:15 and Numbers 31:15-19 with Revelations Chapters 9 through 19.)

3. The Book of Abraham. I detailed this in my second post. Flatly put, Joseph Smith’s translation of the Egyptian papyri was a farce. Apologists do a fair bit of hand-waving and brush off the argument, but the fact of the matter is that Joseph Smith was 100% wrong. His translation missed on every substantial point.

4. The Prophets that Do Nothing. Less than one month after the attacks of 9/11/2001, for the first time in a long time, I tuned into General Conference with eagerness. Surely President Hinckley would have something meaningful to say, as our world, even a month later, seemed turned upside down. If ever we needed the prophet to speak the will of the Lord, the words of the Lord, it was then.

And President Hinckley basically just said “well, I dunno. Bad stuff happens. Just have faith.” At least that was my impression of his talk.

The Apologists have drifted. It used to be that everything that came out of the Prophet’s mouth in any kind of official capacity (i.e. formal communications with the Church, whether at General Conference or not) were the WORDS OF THE LORD. Now we get this “speaking as a man / speaking for the Lord” rubbish. The problem with that rubbish is that the Prophets NEVER say “THUS SAYETH THE LORD.” How long has it been since they said that? I”ve never heard it in Conference, unless they were just quoting a scripture that said that.

The problem with the Church’s pride in its “living Prophets” is that these men do nothing. They don’t speak for the Lord. They don’t even talk face to face with the Lord. If they did, I’m pretty sure they’d tell us. “Guess what, I talked with Jesus Christ last week, and he’s pretty upset that the Home Teaching isn’t getting done. It’s a vital part of the Church, and he specifically told me that we’re under condemnation for not doing it.” No. We don’t get that.

Instead, we get boring, repetitive, condemn-the-members-but-never-admit-fault speeches for 10+ hours every six months. The talks lack substance or originality. If you’ve been in the church for a long time, you’ve already heard these things ad nauseum. The members rationalize this by saying “well, they must be repeating themselves because we’re just not getting it or not doing it.” IF THEIR METHOD OF TEACHING ISN’T MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN OUR LIVES, WHY DO THEY KEEP TEACHING LIKE THAT?!! Any High School teacher getting the same results would be fired on the spot, and they’re not even in charge of our eternal salvation!

The best doctrine of the church ever is that someday we can become gods. It’s probably the most positive, uplifting, and motivating doctrine the church has. It’s a beautiful doctrine that makes us feel like we’re *in essence and in fact* the children of God. But the church now denies this. Gordon B. Hinckley went on national television and said he wasn’t sure we taught it anymore. He wasn’t sure it was an essential doctrine. WHAT?!! If there is ANY essential doctrine of the church, THIS IS IT. Yet the leaders have no interest in developing it, speaking about it, and promoting it.

It seems to me that the only thing the prophets are good at doing (and by Prophets I mean the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, all of whom we sustain as “Prophets, Seers, and Revelators”) is managing the Church’s real estate holdings. They’re extremely good at that.

5. Inconsistent Local Authorities. Our local authorities handle punishment of minor sins in such a widely inconsistent way that it’s mind-baffling. For minor, run of the mill things, one might get a slap on the wrist or be disfellowshipped. Same person, same attitude of repentance, same sin, different result. I realize that these are “just men,” but they have been called of the Lord and given his mantle to lead the Ward/Stake. Is the Lord communicating and directing them, or is he not? If he is, he’s doing a very poor and inconsistent job of it. If the program is so broken, it should be changed.

6. Anti-Gay Fundamentalism. I’ll admit that this one didn’t bug me until recently, but still before I decided to leave. Last year (2010), a gay guy and his live-in partner joined the World of Warcraft guild that I used to lead. It was a competitive raiding guild. This will mean nothing to most people, but for those in the know, they’ll get that the guild was serious business. I devoted a lot of time and energy to it, and that means a lot of time with the 40+ people that were members of it.

This gay guy was really cool. I liked him a lot. He was open about his homosexuality, but not annoyingly persistent, defensive, or in-your-face about it like some militant gay types. I grew to appreciate his opinions enough that when I needed a new second-in-command, I asked him to step in. I did it because I valued the fact that he had a different outlook than I did, related to different people in the guild better than I did, and I wanted an alternate voice in the leadership group to keep me honest.

Within one week I had become very good friends with him. Like most people of my generation, as a teenager and even into my 20s, I made fun of gay people a lot. I kind of mellowed out about the issue in my 30s, but still found dudes kissing to be pretty gross, to the point where my wife, when watching Brothers and Sisters, would call my attention to the television whenever dudes were kissing to see my reaction. Well, in a moment of indiscretion, she shared my reaction with my newfound gay friend as an example of how my attitude had changed recently.

I became concerned that my past attitudes would severely harm my friendship with him. I didn’t get to talk to him for a couple of days, and I became sick to my stomach that I might have lost a very good, if new, friend. But when I talked to him and apologized for my behavior, he told me there was nothing to apologize for. He was totally cool about it. He instantly forgave me. Which is more Christlike than I’d ever been with anyone who ever criticized Mormonism in my guild — at one point I threatened a dude who was quoting South Park stuff about Mormons to cut it out or I was going to remove his speaking privileges in the guild.

I realized at that point that gay people are not evil, deluded, inherently immoral, or spiritually inferior to anyone else. And in further talking to him about it, I realized that his homosexuality didn’t come about as some conscious or unconscious “choice,” nor did some degree of sexual sin (on his part or an abusive other’s) play into who he was. He was who he was. I didn’t know exactly why, but I did know that the Church’s stance on why gay people are gay was wrong.

Dudes kissing still makes me uncomfortable, and maybe always will. But at least it doesn’t make me mad, or instill in me the desire to try to stop them from kissing. I developed the attitude that gay people should do what makes them happy. They didn’t try to stop me from being straight. So why should I stop them from being gay? And there’s no logical argument in the world that I’ve heard that somehow two people being gay together, married or unmarried to each other, somehow hurts me, my marriage, or my children.

7. Sunday Meetings are Horrible. I recently heard someone describe going to the Mormon church on Sunday as “eating styrofoam: it doesn’t taste good, and it doesn’t have any nutritional value.” This fit me to a T. I learned early on (more than 10 years ago) that people do not want deep doctrinal discussions or hard questions at Church. They quickly shoot out pat, preformulated responses intended to silence all doubt. “You just have to have Faith.” “That will be revealed to us later, so there’s no use thinking about it now.” “Questioning the Church is apostasy.” “Satan is trying to mislead the hearts of men.”

Every single answer ignores the actual question, and blames the questioner.

So for about 10 years, as much as I could stomach it, I sat in Sacrament Meeting, Gospel “Doctrine,” and Elder’s Quorum listening to the same boring, superficial garbage. It was mind numbing. Most of the time I fell asleep — it was like the droning of these people was an anesthetic in my brain, just knocking me out. And whenever anything uncomfortable came up, you could sense it in the room, and people would just rush past it and move on. Case in point: last year (maybe the year before) we were reading the D&C in Elder’s Quorum, and got to Section 132. We read like the first 8 verses, wherein people started getting uncomfortable. It is clear from D&C 132 that Polygamy is the New and Everlasting Covenant required to get into the Celestial Kingdom. The Church has never retracted it. People were visibly shifting in their seats, just getting uncomfortable. Someone weakly argued that the New and Everlasting Covenant no longer meant polygamy. Everyone nodded vigorously in agreement and we moved on. No discussion of Joseph Smith’s polygamy. None of Brigham Young’s, or the large portion of the Church Leadership’s involvement up until the 1890s (and after).

I wanted to scream “IS POLYGAMY REQUIRED TO GET INTO THE CELESTIAL KINGDOM OR NOT?!! AND IF SO, ARE WE ALL DAMNED TO THE TERRESTRIAL KINGDOM AT BEST?” But I didn’t. I knew where that road led. I wish I had, and considering my current outlook, I probably would have.

There are probably some other minor things that bugged me, but these were the primary building blocks that my apostasy was built on.

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