About Glenn Ostlund

http://eh-musing.blogspot.com/

Posts by Glenn Ostlund:

Blessed are the Pissmakers

It’s amazing the inspiration you can gain from a simple urine test.  Some might even call it a blessing of sorts.

For many years I have had a degenerative disk as well as some arthritis in my lower facet and sacroiliac joints (aka “lower back pain”). Today I got something called a Tens unit that should help manage the pain. I got it from a local pain clinic, and on my way out they asked me to take a random urine test.  I don’t know what I did that made them ask (maybe it was residual nitrous from last Sunday’s live Manifesto for Dummies podcast – if you are out there sinclaire, that one’s for you).

http://mormonexpression.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/chinese.jpg

Now I have been in the bathroom of this clinic a few times before, and the last time I was in (about two months ago) I commented that the Chinese characters painted on the wall were upside down. I couldn’t exactly read them, but I know enough to know that they were upside down, which I thought might have been a statement they were making intentionally, or maybe some kind of artistic thing – it didn’t bug me – it was kind of cool actually, so I mentioned it to the doctor, and that was that. More

Terrestrial means EARTH — duh!

I’ve tossed this one around a few places, even here on this blog a bit before, but I’ve never had response that really has budged me from my position on this, nor really felt that anyone else even ‘gets’ what I am saying. So I offer it up again — and let’s see what, if anything, comes up.

Years ago when I was GD teacher, I decided to stray outside of the manual to find support for the lesson I was teaching. Dangerous territotry, I know, but I figured since the theme that year was D&C and the topic was “degrees of glory” I was pretty safe to just stray as far as 1 Cor 15. Boy was I wrong.

Now to be fair to the manual, there were some verses there that I was encouraged to look at and use for my lesson. But — big rebellous thrillseeker that I was (I probably really just wanted to sin) — I strayed from the recommended scriptures and decided to read the entire chapter to get a better understanding of the context. And you know what struck me? More

Peacemaker 101: Testicles, Homos, Anti-Mormons, and Me

A few people have told me recently that they feel I need to share more of who I am and what I believe on Mormon Expression. It sort of surprised me, because I thought I had been doing that, and I’m always a little worried that I might be doing it too much. But, since it was brought up, I thought I might share two things with you all here — it’s a little long (but is that really a big surprise at this point?) The first is a talk I gave in church last Sunday and the second is a thread from my Facebook page with a guy I knew in highschool who decided to comment about HBO’s Big Love and turned the discussion into something much more – I think the two are related and are interesting, but if it’s not your thing, then no worries — it’s not your thing. There’s probably something really good on the cartoon channel right now. More

The Naked Truth

Let me keep this brief. I was recently talking to a friend who was concerned by the recent nudist podcast on Mormon Expression. He is pretty new to Mormon Expression, but he likes the podcast as a bridge building project – he sees it as a project that reaches out to Mormons of all ilks, and he finds it educating and intellectually stimulating. But sitting nude talking about nudes and just being all nude and everything – it was just a little too…, well, nude for his tastes. He felt like maybe some bridges might have been burned, and he wondered if he has misread us – if maybe Mormon Expression is less interested in bridge building and more interested in fringe feeding. Surely there will be people who will decide to put their clothes on after this podcast and tune us out for good, he thought.

Maybe.

I had a professor once who was Egyptian. He’s still Egyptian. And he grew up in a very different culture than ours, where women covered every inch of their bodies. The first time he saw a woman’s ankle, he got an erection. Her sexy, curvy, bony ankle.

Perspective?

Maybe.

Like my friend, I too hope that Mormon Expression can be a sort of bridge building experience for Mormons of all ilks. I hope it can be a place where we hold an ongoing dialogue of all things Mormon – like the tagline says – a place where we can do it with respect and a self-reflective, self-deprecating humor. A tricky combo to balance. I hope we are able to balance it well. And I thought that John, Zilpha, Lilith, and Jason were phenomenal and couldn’t have played it better.

Were some bridges burned? Sure, I don’t doubt that. I understand it. There will be people uncomfortable with the topic and especially the approach – the idea of getting naked to talk about being naked – there is a Howard Stern-ish-ness about it that is not really fair, but is an easy obvious shallow observation, I can respect that people might see that and stop right there without looking any further. Fair enough.

But were new bridges built? I think so. As someone who recognizes the value of “participant observation” in cultural anthropology, I can totally see and respect that as well. For me, I am proud to have my name associated with a project that pushes the boundaries and explores topics such as these in ways like this – even times when we hit and miss – and there are plenty of those as well. But to me, this was absolutely a hit. Education and intellectual stimulation – there are many paths to the top of Fuji.

I hope others will see it this way as well. This was an excellent podcast.

No evil or hatred was promoted here. Just an attempt to better understand another side of a different group of a kindred people. Maybe even an attempt for us as an audience to walk a mile in their non-shoes, and to beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, and enduerth all things – even naked things. Oh crap – there I go mingling the philosophies of Glenn with scripture again. It’s because I am giving a talk in church this Sunday. I’ll wrap it up and say these things in my own name now. Later. M&M.

Why Big Love?

I grew up watching TV shows like Happy Days, Mork and Mindy, the A-Team, and Saturday Night Live. And when I created my imaginary worlds, I became these people.

I dressed up in leather jackets, and pounded walls and any juke box I might come across, and said things like “Aaaayy” and “Sit on it, Potsie!” to try to be cool.

I acted like a space-age goof and sat on my head on the couch and pretended to drink orange juice with my fingers and made silly faces and silly voices to also… um… try to be cool.

I lead my super nerdly nerdish friends against our so-called neighborhood bully Franco, armed with homemade paper airplanes with straight-pins from my mom’s sewing basket taped to the tip, and buckets of dirt in one arm and buckets of water in the other to muddy up Franco real good. And I stood back and shouted directions and chomped on a bubblegum cigar and said, “I love it when a plan comes together,” even as we were tripping the burglar alarm to try and scare Franco off our property when the plan actually didn’t come together.

I nearly got kicked out of high school for introducing the homecoming court as the Church Lady at our homecoming assembly, even though my comments have gone down in history (at least in some peoples’ minds) as I correctly identified our school colors with one thankfully good-humored overly-tanned over-bleached-haired cheerleader — “well, look at her school spirit, yellow hair and orange skin!”

See, I took pieces of all of these TV shows and I put them into my life. My privileged, pathetic, laugh-track-seeking life.

But never, until Big Love, did I come across a show that took pieces from my life and put them up on the screen for me and the rest of the world to view with such naked honesty. No laugh track — despite the funny moments — despite the naughty moments — despite the deeply sacred moments that normally no one else was there to see.

So here you have a guy in Bill Henrickson who sincerely believes that Heavenly Father has called him to fulfill a sacred mission in these the latter days. Wait a minute – are you kidding? That’s me! And they even say “Heavenly Father” – and “called” and “sacred mission” and “latter days” – how did they know? How did they get it all right?

Sure, there’s this whole polygamy MacGuffin with his three wives and this crazy compound Juniper Creek thing that he can’t quite break away from — and that’s not really me (right?) — but the heart of Big Love is completely Mormon as far as I could see. It spoke to me. It spoke from me.

One of the earliest episodes in season one shows the fictional fundamentalist prophet leader Roman Grant proudly leading a media tour in front of a historical mural wall in Juniper Creek.

It started with the Prophet Joseph Smith unearthing the long lost golden plates of the ancients Nephites in Palmyra, New York – and even though he called them golden “tablets” instead of plates, and pronounced it Palmeera instead of Palmyra, I felt like I was home.

And he went down the rest of the mural to Brigham Young, the second great President, leading the early saints on the great trek across the American west. And I saw in those faces on that painted mural my own heritage up there on the screen – my own ancestors who walked along side Brigham Young and bled, and sweat, and cried, and laughed, and prayed, and doubted, and overcame that doubt however they could, because it was a matter of life or death.

And at the end of that mural stood the fictional Roman Grant himself, and his symbolic guitar that made the treck with the saints, and The Principal of plural marriage that came along with them, and their point of view that The Principle was God Given, and should never have been God Taken. Because they bled for it. They sweat for it. They laughed and cried and some even died for it. They weren’t just going to give all of that up, and spin a new story, to cave to the pressures of “the world” when theirs was the kingdom of God!

Of course. I can totally completely see that.

So even though I’m not exactly watching “my people” on Big Love – even though it is just a fiction. My own real life story of who I am and all the things that make me me in my mainstream neatly spun Mormon world is really no more or less a fiction than the fictional one up there on that HBO screen. And if any of my real life faithful Mormon brothers or sister has anything negative to say in rebuttal to that, all I really have to say is, “Aaaaaay… Sit on it, Potsie”.

Signing out. Nanu nanu.

Why I (and possibly Richard Dawkins) am a BELIEVER again!

Bust out your label-makers! It’s time for a change.

(and buckle up — I’ve been flying for the past 13 hours, and this is a long one – sorry – maybe you might just want to skip this one).

The captain just announced over the loudspeaker that we are now cruising at an altitude of over 35,000 feet and it is safe for me to break out my electronic devices. Good, because all throughout takeoff I have been smuggling soundbites of Dan Wotherspoon’s most recent Mormon Stories interview with Randy Snyder and Tyson Jacobsen on “Understanding Atheism after Mormonism,” trying to hide it from the policing flight attendants like I am some sort of audio pirate. And maybe it’s the altitude, being up here high’ing so much nigh’er to Kolob and everything, but I feel somewhat enlightened by Dan and Randy and Tyson, and even though their series is being released in carefully consecrated chunks, like so many reverently hand-hewn bread bits painstakingly placed through a thick tree-lined trail that may or may not lead to a cute candy cottage with a warm witch’s oven at the end of the primrose path (but we’ll talk more about all of that later), I feel that I have once again experienced my very own new, shiny, glistening, ridiculously wonderful epiphany — my most recent insight du jour – and I have now been given clearance to bore you to tears with this newfound revelation literally from on high:

I am almost certainly without a doubt sorta kinda a BELIEVER again.

Or, perhaps a better way to say it:

I can once again with almost complete integrity say that I believe that THERE REALLY IS GOD, almost for sure, almost for reals, pretty much no doubt about it.

Because what I’ve realized as I’ve been listening to what so-called Randy and so-called Tyson would have us believe, is that there is evidence all around us – I just haven’t been imaginative enough to see it, or creative enough to make my make-believe worldview strong enough to truly sustain the sneaky certitude that I now truly certify to be almost nearly certifiably true — with almost all of the fibers of my being.

But now I can finally PROVE it! In fact, I will unfold before your very eyes two bulletproof domino logic chain thingies that will remove any doubt from your doubtingly doubtful minds forever and for GOOD! But we’ll talk about more of all that later.

Before we proceed, I just want to remind you, gentle readers, of Richard Dawkins’ 7-point scale of agnosticism. I reckon that so-called Randy and so-called Tyson would self-identify as 6’s:

1. Strong Theist – 100% probability of god – “I do not believe, I know” (Carl Jung, Mike Tannehill)
2. Defacto Theist – very high probability, but short of 100% – “I cannot know for certain, but I strongly believe in god, and live my life on the assumption that he is there.”
3. Technically agnostic, but leaning toward theism – Higher than 50%, but not very high – “I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.”
4. Completely impartial agnostic – Exactly 50% — God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equi-probable
5. Technically agnostic, but leaning towards atheism – lower than 50%, but not very low — “I don’t know whether God exists, but I am inclined to be skeptical.”
6. Defacto atheist – very low probability, but short of 0 – “I cannot know for certain, but I think god is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”
7. Strong atheist – 100% conviction – “I know there is no God with the same conviction that Jung knows that there is one” [Dawkins thinks this is very rare, and really only includes this category for the sake of symmetry]

When I first started reading down that list just a few weeks ago, I quickly ruled out 1, and while most members of the church would bear (or is I “bare” – I never can tell) their testimony from 1, they probably actually live in 2. But I was quite comfortable and happy to define myself as a 3 — “yep,” I thought, “I am definitely a 3. Three is what FAITH is all about – uncertainty with an inclination to believe is definitely where it’s at.”

I kept reading and knew there was no way I was a 4, ‘cuz exactly 50-50 is really just impossible. But then I read 5, and I thought, “hang on – um… is that actually where I really am? Holy crap, I think it is!” Because really I question things more than I just accept them. And then I read 6 and whoa Nellie – maybe I’m really actually almost there. No wonder Dawkins makes so much “sense” to me. In fact, if it wasn’t for the whiteness of these knuckles clinging to this idea of 3, I might be there already. I was absolutely shocked!

Like Randy, if my family had a near-tragedy and my son almost drowned, praying or giving him a blessing would not even cross my mind at any point in the rescue or recovery process. I also would not stop my father from stepping in to give him blessing at the hospital. I wouldn’t stop myself from participating, either. But I wouldn’t think of it myself, and I really wouldn’t expect it to have any impact one way or the other on my son’s recovery – just on the condition of my father and maybe my wife or other family members who might take some comfort from it – unless, of course, it acted as sort of a black feather a’la Dumbo for my son, who is old enough to probably take hope from such things, if he were awake and aware of it as it was happening. But I don’t really go out of my way to present my kids with black feathers as such, despite our recent Christmas discussions, in which case the feathers would be brown, and they wouldn’t be feathers, they’d be fur, and they would come from flying reindeer, along with the little kitten they were hoping Santa would bring them for Christmas this year.

Now again, if this kind of tragedy were to happen, throughout this entire ordeal I almost certainly would be having some kind of internal dialogue with my Heavenly Father in my mind as I was rushing to the scene – because I do still pray. But that is more my own thought processes at work – a Mormon meditation that maybe might have a God remotely on the other end, I don’t know – I’m not ruling out the possibility entirely. But in the final analysis, I don’t live my life on the assumption or expectation that God is actually parting the seas for me so that I can pass by on dry ground. I don’t really think there is anyone listening to tell me which job to take, or which city to live in. And I don’t go out of my way to “bind” God to my will through things like fasting or praying or putting names on a piece of paper in a box in a temple so they will have a leg up on all the other sick people who weren’t lucky enough to have their names put on papers in boxes in temples and placed before a God who supposedly is no respecter of persons – except, of course, for us. All that stuff lost its mystery for me a very long time ago, and I don’t think an omniscient, omnipotent God would be any more likely to save Randy’s son because I reminded him to do it in a prayer any more than he would just do it on his own because he is watching over us anyway, and he supposedly loves Randy’s son just as much as Randy does – “hey, just do me this one solid, God. Come on – please – I know you don’t really want to, but come on – for me – pretty please…” No, I don’t think that way, and I haven’t for a very long time.

So when I first saw Dawkins’ 7-point scale and I recognized where I really actually fit, I assumed that I was well on the path to “defacto atheism” if not already there.

That is, however, until Dan and Randy and Tyson did their verbal thang in my ear today! That is until Mormon Stories gave me a new HOPE and made me a BELIEVER of me again! (But… right, I know… we’ll talk about more about all that later).

Now, remember back earlier when I said that I’d tell you two ways that I would prove to you that God exists, and I even used CAPITAL LETTERS to emphasize the word “prove” to make it seem more impressive (I just used quotation marks here to emphasize the word prove again). And I also said that I would remove all of the doubt from your doubtingly doubtful minds — remember that? And you know how I could have talked about those two things right then, but instead I decided to put it off and talk about it later? Well guess what. I’m ready now.

There are at least two ways that I can prove to you here and now that God exists, and if this doesn’t prove it to you then you must not be spiritual enough to hear spiritual things with your spiritual ears (so you must not be taking your spiritual vitamins – aka, reading the Book of Mormon, aka taking your daily Vitamin BoM), or smart enough to understand smart things (also taking your Vitamin BoM), or clever enough to understand clever things (still Vitamin BoM), or maybe you’re just too drunk from sipping one too many my-aint-I-so-smug-and-smart-cuz-I-only-believe-in-science-tinis (that’s a real drink, too — an acquired taste that comes after the fruity chick drink phase – or so I am told). Nevertheless, I am back in the full zeal of my former missionary self to PROVE (there it is again) to you all the truth of all these things — and dammit, I’m so excited, I think I’m going to pee.

PROOF NUMBER ONE:

Look around at all the believing people throughout history. Go ahead, look.

Are you looking?

This is really the most obvious and most important thing you could ever do to prove there is a God. I mean, can millions and billions and gajillions of people be wrong? Look at Hitler. He was just one guy, and he was totally wrong. But we’ve never had a gajillion Hitlers.

Let me explain it to you this way: if you and your atheist friends throughout history stepped on one side of a giant teeter-totter, and all the believers ever throughout history stepped on the other side of the giant teeter-totter, you atheist guys would, like, totally go flying. And even though God could totally catch you before you crashed and broke all the brittle arrogant atheist bones in your brittle arrogant atheist bodies, he wouldn’t. So you’d just land in one big broken heap (but not even those bones would be enough to fill the transitional gap in the fossil record – ha ha cough cough hack).

Now of course this would never ever happen in real life, because God really would catch you, even if you tried to pretend that he couldn’t, because He’s just that way. But the overwhelming evidence throughout history for all of the beliefs in God is just so overwhelmingly huge (did I say that already?)

Still not convinced? Let’s turn to some examples, comparatively, by subject, cuz this will just totally floor you:

CREATION:
Christianity teaches that God created Adam and Eve at the same time on the 6th day of creation, if you take Genesis chapter 1 literally; or Adam first and then Eve from Adam’s rib on the 7th day of creation, if you take Genesis chapter 2 literally. Now that may seem like a contradiction, and… well… OK, so it totally is, but we’ll talk about more of all that later. But either way, just think of all the thousands of billions of people who have believed both of these contradictory things, like, forever. It’s huge, right? Are you calling all of them wrong? We’re talking about lots and lots of people against just a few little old you’s. I’ve got another “arrogant” card in my hand here – don’t make me play it!

The ancient Japanese believed that the world was created by two gods who copulated (that means that they had sex) – ‘cuz Japanese Gods are especially observant. The female god recognized that she had a special place on her body where there had a lack, and the male god realized that he had a special place on his body where he had an excess, at lest by Japanese standards, and I always sort of imagined that it went down sort of like those old Recess Peanut Butter Cup commercials: “you’ve got your chocolate in my peanut butter, and your peanut butter is stuck in my chocolate – it’s deliciooooouuuuus!!” Anyway… so when the male god’s sperm dripped into the ocean, his seven drops formed the Japanese islands. And as many of you know, I lived in Japan for the past several years, and there were these Ginko trees outside my apartment complex. I’m just saying that there was something about the smell of those Ginko trees, when the pods would fall, and people would step on them, and you’d get that smell on your shoes – I’m just saying that maybe the ancient Japanese were on to something.

There’s, like, a group of people somewhere in Polynesia or Asia or somewhere who believed that the world was floating on the back of a turtle. I’m pretty sure I didn’t just make that up. Maybe I should look it up. But I’m on an airplane now and I don’t have internet. Hey, maybe you can look it up for me.

Some Italian guy in the 1600’s named Menocchio believed that the universe was made out of a chaotic mass that he described as cheese. “I have said that, in my opinion, all was chaos … and out of that bulk a mass formed – just as cheese is made out of milk – and worms appeared in it, and these were the angels, and among that number of angels, there was also God, he too having been created out of that mass at the same time.” I think he was put to death in the inquisition, but don’t quote me on that, I haven’t read The Cheese and the Worms since graduate school, and I think then I only actually skimmed it.

Joseph Smith taught in King Follett that intelligences were never really created – they always existed and that Elohim was the greatest among them and that He somehow evolved throughout his own mortality to the point He is at now. So God’s whole “work and glory” thing is trying to get the other intelligences (aka, you and me) further along the path of universal evolution, as it were, towards godhood – even the little dead babies on their celestial thrones. So there wasn’t just one earth creation — but several infinite earth creations, both before and after this earth creation, all part of this whole infinite “work and glory” thing, of which we are playing a key role, and all signs point to us, because we are the reason for it all. And while you’re trying to wrap you’re brain around that, brother, do you mind if your wife and I take a little stroll down by the temple grove? Because God sorta said I have to (see – BELIEVER now!)

Curiously enough, Richard Dawkins suggested as part of his God Hypothesis in The God Delusion that one of the reasons he does not believe in a God nor in Intelligent Design is because any God intelligent enough to design a universe would have to evolve to that state of intelligence through natural Darwinian processes, and that would take so much time that he could not possibly have been there at the very beginning to create it all in the first place. Interesting — but I have to say that to my small mind, I think Joseph Smith may have out-thunk him on this one.

LIFE AFTER DEATH:

Christians believe in clouds and harps. That’s all I know. Isn’t that silly of them? I mean really. Clouds? You’d fall right through. Cleary someone has not really thought about this very much. Wes, really – what are you guys smoking?

Muslims believe in a perfect afterlife. I’m not really sure what it is all about to be honest, and I don’t want to fall victim to unfair stereotypes – actually, forget that I said victim. Whatever it is, it is great. I have no issues with it whatsoever. I just want to be friends.

New Age people (I was going to write wackos, but that would be unkind, and sort of Rush Limbaugh-esque – recoil – and I don’t really mean it anyway – I totally dig new age wackos, with their crystals and Celestine prophesies and ways of the peaceful warrior and auras and astrology and spiritualism and all that fun stuff – especially if I can get massages out of it) – they have these beliefs in reincarnation and souls that lived in other lifetimes – some do, at least. Dan talked about this topic on his podcast.

**aside** Just as an aside, does anyone know if there have been any studies into memory and DNA/genetic coding or stuff that I probably wouldn’t understand even if I read it? Is it possible that a perfectly natural explanation for these “memories of people existing in places they never visited in times before they were alive” might be genetic? Maybe they are not remembering past lives – maybe their ancestors’ memories have been coded and past down in their own genetic codes. No one really knows where memories are stored or what they even “look” like, right? We kind of know that no atom in our body today is the same that was in us – what – like 20 years ago? (what is the right number there – I was just listening to Hitchens talk about this) – we are constantly regenerating our raw matter. Memories have to be stored in some form. I have no idea what I’m talking about. But how did that mother polar bear know to get her two baby cubs out of the cave and over the ice shelf before it melted in that BBC Earth documentary? And in guns, germs, and steel they talk about Zebras (who should be able to do as much as a horse) not being able to be domesticated because they have evolved among predators, so they have a genetic inclination to be jumpy. These animal instincts where they just know things – there has got to be some association to genetic instincts and memory in humans – maybe? – perhaps? — anybody know? **end the aside**

A really smart atheistic so-called general contractor from So Cal believes that his afterlife will most likely consist of an eternity of sweet oblivion, sort of like Michael Jackson sitting forever in a dental chair.

Mormons generally believe in a temporary dual spirit world of paradise for dead people who have been baptized by other Mormons and spirit prison for dead people who have not. Whether or not spirit prison is a place of torment is a matter of some debate, although scriptures suggest it is a lake of fire and brimstone, which doesn’t quite seem fair for the gajillions of people who have never had the opportunity of meeting a Mormon, let alone being baptized by one (even with all of the temple proxy work– cuz there are just some names we’ll never be able to find unless they come back as spirits and tell us themselves, which, if they can do, why don’t they do it already so they can move from prison to paradise, cuz prison must suck. Is it just that we here in mortality are not ready yet? Or are they waiting for that one special person who was pre-ordained to do their work for them, so they made to wait and suffer until we get our act together – as long as we actually exercise our agency correctly and do get our act together, otherwise they have to wait even longer? Bummer. But then maybe time is different for them on the other side, and they don’t have to wait at all and it is just like the blink of an eye, where God in his mercy times it where the spirit missionaries get there just as we are doing the work for them here, so they get their interviews from their spiritual ward mission leaders, and presto, their spirit doorbell rings and the paradise movers show up and load up all their things and take them into the better place, whatever that means — in which case what is the point of all this urgency to get the work done here ASAP? But we’ll talk more about all of that later.)

After the temporary spirit world there is a final judgment and then a resurrection and then we inherit our eternal degrees of glory — kingdoms, if you will — and the celestial kingdom is by far the best, where, at the highest level, we can be like gods ourselves, the ultimate goal of the Mormon afterlife. Anything less is criminal. The celestial kingdom is represented by the symbol of a sun, from a divinely sanctioned misreading of 1 Cor 15, even though celestial means “heavenly.” The terrestrial kingdom is next best, which is represented by the moon, even though terrestrial means “earthly.” And the Telestial Kingdom is the least, represented by the stars, even through Telestial doesn’t mean anything.

(Outer darkness, of course, is neither a kingdom nor a realm of glory – it’s just the eternal garbage dump for those who had a perfect knowledge of Jesus but rejected him anyway. Atheists, as evidence-based risk takers don’t need to worry about Outer Darkness, because once they get their perfect knowledge, they will accept it wholeheartedly and be the most faithful Jesus-followers that the universe has ever seen, although they will make them use another adjective instead of “faithful.”)

So after the final judgment, resurrected beings will go to one of these three kingdoms with their spirits and bodies reunited for all eternity – flesh and bone (but no blood – possibly some other purified, non-corruptible fluid, though, to justify the perfected circulatory system), even though it is not clearly understood what the use will be for a resurrected body in any of these kingdoms, even in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, where speculation abounds that it will be used for celestial procreation – but that doesn’t exactly square with the Mormon view of creation and pre-existing intelligences that can neither be created nor made for they have always existed, as posited by Joseph Smith in King Follett, so there’s a bit of a contradiction there, unless you take the approach that Brigham Young did with Adam-God, which has since been disavowed by the Church, but we’ll talk about more of all that later.

THE NATURE OF GOD:

I think I heard once of a tribe of native American Indians somewhere who believe that a coyote or something like that was a god to them. Come on, it’s probably just a coyote. But I guess if they want to believe that, it’s ok with me. We probably owe them big time — if for no other reason than for season 4 of Big Love.

I knew this girl who was Wiccan, and she believed that God was actually the Goddess, and that She lived in nature, and that She was a spirit, the Great Mother, and that She was all around us. And this girl had all these rituals she would do – a lot of cool respectful earthy stuff, and wore lots of scented body lotions and cool necklaces and loose-fitting clothing. Man, she was hot.

A Catholic girl I dated in high school told me that when she prayed to God, God could make her speak in tongues. It wasn’t a Catholic thing, of course. It was because her brother had gone to a local Pentecostal-ish church called “The Door,” and when he got home, he taught her how to do it, and she tried it once, and it made her feel weird. And I was really curious, so I asked her to do it right there on our date, but she didn’t want to, but I sort of pushed until she finally did, and it was kind of creepy. When I saw her at our 20th reunion a few months ago I reminded her of it, and she admitted after all these years that she had faked it, so I guess this isn’t really about the nature of God at all, is it? I have heard that girls sometimes fake stuff with guys on dates, but I never thought it would be speaking in tongues.

As previously mentioned, Joseph Smith taught in the King Follett discourse that Elohim originated as an intelligence that was never created, nor could he be, but that he didn’t always exist as God, either. He became a God – and it sounded like he was the first greatest intelligence who rose to become the first greatest God, begging the question how he got his body and entered into his mortality – if he had a father, and that father a father, etc etc. That one never really been definitively answered to the best of my knowledge, but my knowledge is still quite limited, and it changes all the time, cuz I keep studying and learning new things – so if someone can help me out here — please, by all means!

Brigham Young taught in the lectures at the veil that Elohim and one of his Celestial wives left their Celestial realm and entered into mortality on this earth and became mortal in the roles of Adam and Eve, and that they – in their mortal “avatars” (he didn’t use that word – but it fits, if you understand it in the Eastern sense) were therefore both the physical and spiritual father and mother of all of mankind. The church of course has disavowed this Adam-God doctrine for quite some time now, but it is an historical fact (neither cultish, nor anti-Mormon) that it was taught for several years in our Utah temples as highly cherished and sacred doctrine

There are, of course, many more examples I could give from many more cultural and religious groups throughout history, but this epistle is long enough already, and by the time you are done reading this, it is likely that the next segment of this recent Mormon Stories podcast series will have been posted and will be ready for us to eagerly listen to and playfully digest again (in love – always in love).

But the point I have been hoping to make is that of contradiction. Most so-called atheists (I just love using “so-called” as an adjective, don’t you? Especially with “atheists.” As if these atheists really DO believe in god but are just pretending. And it is so over-used by real apologists to discredit expert sources – so-called experts, so-called scientists, so-called intellectuals). Dang it, now I’ve gotten all self-reflexive and have lost my satirical voice – let me try and get it back.

Eh hem… Most so-called Atheists look at the contradictions to disprove God, but I will make the opposite argument. Religious contradictions PROOVE that God exists, at least for the way I want to make my argument: Ergo portum satiricum post exum (and other made-up Latin-sounding phrases):

Would a mean, unkind, unloving god allow this kind of contradiction?

Would a vindictive, vengeful, jealous god allow this contradiction?

Would a petty, power-hungry god allow this kind of contradiction?

Would a micro-managing involved-in-every-bit-of-your-daily-minutiae God allow this kind of contradiction? (I mean, come… God does not get hung up on humans’ hat sizes, or whether or not Adam can find his belly button, or things that are not pertinent to His greater exaltation)

Would a non-existent God allow those contradictions to exist? (Don’t be silly. That would be impossible. A non-existent being couldn’t allow anything cuz he doesn’t even exist — that doesnt even make sense, duh!)

So the clearly only logical conclusion is that the God that would allow these contradictions to exist is a kind, forgiving, empowering God, who is also a distant God, who manages things from afar, quite removed from the daily ins-and-outs of what we typically see in all of this man-made religion smoke and mirror behavior control — maybe more of a god who may have evolved through unfathomable periods of time to reach the level of intelligence and ability, perhaps as Richard Dawkins suggested, that he or they could even be considered “gods” in the first place — to perhaps create or design a world or a universe and plant the seeds of life and nurture those seeds through a similar stage of natural evolution, perhaps as Joseph Smith suggested, through his retelling of the Moses legend, that god’s work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

So I totally absolutely positively believe in the very remote chance that even though I’m not expecting him to change the elements to work miracles in my daily life, there is definitely most probably a distant God of love with a grand plan for us, despite all of these maddening contradictions. That is my word-dance (aka “testimony”) and I am sticking to it, at least until I don’t anymore.

Last domino falls. SNAP! That was all part of my first argument. Pretty convincing, huh. Are you convinced? No?

Well, how about the second. It’s at least much much shorter. Because even though I feel very comfortable in practice as a 5.5 on Dawkins’ scale, his scale has no way to measure desire, and in my heart, I still wish I were a 3.

So here it goes…

PROOF NUMBER TWO:

People all over the world all throughout history have claimed there is a god – they have created this messy contradicting thing called God – you can see hard evidence in art, literature, ritual, customary practice that they have created these images of god. The idea of God is pervasive, and it is not going anywhere anytime soon. No single religion agrees what God is – not even Mormonism can historically agree what it is. It is contradictory. It is man-made. Maybe some distant behind-the-scenes evolved being is out there, rooting for us, guiding us somehow — that’s a nice thought, and the evolutionary “work and glory” intelligent designer that Joseph Smith (and dare I say Richard Dawkins) suggests is a nice enough one, I guess. But if so, if he touched Joseph Smith, he left us pretty high and dry, because all I can make out since then are man-made contradictions. So does this contradictory man-made God exist? Hell yes. See? I BELIEVE!

CONCLUSION:

Now maybe some of you think I’m just joking around and taking sacred things too lightly here, and that I’m not really a BELIEVER despite my faithful hopeful yearnings to be a 3, which is still barely a believer at all, I guess, and that you got all excited and got your label-makers out for nothing, and I’ve just wasted about 2 hours of your time (honk if you’ve managed to read through this far – I’m 6 hours into a 13 hour flight, for Pete’s sake – what else am I going to do?). Maybe some of you think I’m just being a smartass and am taking snarky potshots at people because I’m bored and I haven’t really played in the satirical sandbox like this for quite a long time. And maybe some of you just think I’m off my rocker, or any other number of things that may or may not be divisible by three. That’s fine, you can think what you want, cuz I’ve said what I want to say and my laptop battery is about to run out, and besides, we can just talk more about all the rest of that later.

(Sorry, Dan. Do you hate me yet? Cuz that’d be a whole ‘nother thing).

Why on earth are you still here?

Missing out

You guys (and gals) who have stopped going to church are really missing out. There is so much good stuff going on here, I am telling you. Just this past Sunday I heard one of the best talks ever! Well, “best” is kind of a subjective word, I guess. Let’s just say it made an impression that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. It had to do with a certain Elder X who is getting ready to enter the MTC – today, actually – probably as I write. (Do they still give the new MTC missionaries “dork dots?” He may be getting his right now.)

Elder X spoke with a zealotry that I recognized all too well – I was filled with that zealotry myself at 19. And he told a story from this past semester at BYU, where his roommate Jeffery (poor Jeffery!) had come to him and two other guys in the dorms with some questions and doubts about the church – and it was very clear by Elder X’s passion and body language that he had no patience for Jeffery’s doubting doubtinghood at all.

He told us that apparently Jeffery had come across some anti-Mormon information – he didn’t say what – he told us he didn’t want to know anything about it – where it came from, if it had any truth to it or not – he didn’t know and he didn’t care. All he knew was that the church was true. And luckily, their dorm monitor was an RM who had come across this sort of thing before and knew all the historical facts to refute the anti-Mormon information.

So they spent the next hour praying for Jeffery and telling him to stop looking beyond the mark – to start reading his scriptures and stop letting Satan control his mind and sift his soul like chaff. He actually told him that – and when he said it, he said he knew that Satan had control of Jeffery’s heart, and he knew that Jeffery knew it, too.

And then Elder X told wrapped it up by telling us that he was going on his mission to proclaim the word of God, to be a soldier in his army, and that he was not ashamed. And then he read his favorite scripture – Moroni 7:45-47.

And when he said that charity was long suffering, and was kind, and didn’t seek after her own, and was not puffed up, and is not easily provoked, and rejoiceth not in evil, and rejoiceth in the truth … I nearly peed my pants (seriously, I laughed out loud, and had to control myself – I was afraid that people around me would hear me!).

Comic gold like this cannot be scripted and his performance was spot on. Seriously – you guys who stopped going are completely missing out.

Dear Skeptical Friends…

Dear Skeptical Freinds,

If you are a skeptic or an atheist or agnostic or a scientist or just feel really really smart this morning because last night you stayed in a Holiday Inn Express, I really need your help:

I don’t understand the concept of belief.

Well, maybe I think I do. I thought I did. I believed it, at least. But help me understand why I am wrong thinking that the following statements are equivalant — because I generally do — but you generally don’t — and you generally get really pissed at me when I generally make these general kind of statements — and I generally just don’t get it:

Statement A: “There is not enough evidence to support a belief in God, therefore I do not believe in God.”

Statement B: “There is not enough evidence to support a belief in God, therefore I believe there is no God.”

To me, these are exactly the same thing (and really, I don’t believe in “don’t believe” — I think belief is always active — you believe that something is this or that or the other — maybe I’m wrong and I am missing something — if so, please help me see it).

But when I have had these discussions before, people have said “no, I don’t rely on belief at all” so they reject statement B all together. Still, I have never been convinced that the atheist’s belief in no God is not an active belief — even when I myself have claimed the same thing (either from the statement A or B perspective), which I sometimes do — ‘cuz I don’t even know where I land on the whole “is there or isn’t there a God” issue. There are times I believe it is possible that there is someone out there, maybe distantly, maybe — and other times I believe it is less possible, or less likely, or more likely that things are all just man-made — or perhaps some kind of hybrid all-of-the-above that includes things we haven’t even been able to imagine yet. I’m not trying to take sides. I’m not trying to make anyone look stupid or foolish. I’m just trying to understand.

So anyway, I guess my question boils down to belief — what is it? Don’t we still rely a lot on belief, even in scientific hypothesis, where educated guesses rely on leaps of faith in other people’s due dilligence and things that we just can’t really know but can safely guess, like what the world looked like and behaved like hundreds of thousands of years ago? Why is it such a pejorative thing that skeptical minds argue that they don’t “believe” in things? Or am I wrong — do they actually “believe” and I am just missing the point? Help me out friends.

(…especially you , Andrew, if you’re reading — I’m trying really hard to not be overly cute with the language here, especially for you — I really do want to understand this better — that’s why I’m asking — you were awesome with the make-believe stuff — I’m ready to be knocked around again — maybe this time a little more will stick, but you did make an impression last go around!).

The Decem Co-Mike-ments

I love Mike Tannehill for so many reasons, and as was pointed out on the comment boards by several listeners, I wish he could have participated on the D&C 132 for Dummies podcast as well. He did add his feedback on the comments page, however, so I wanted to open those up here on the blog to possibly get some more involvement and discussion from any of you who might want to weigh-in in a bit more detail. And yes, “Decem” actually means ten (10), not twelve (12). Take that TBCs! (True Believing Calenderists).

So here are Mike’s 10 observations while he listened to the podcast, followed by my brief (and possibly lovingly snarky) responses, and hopefully your insightful comments to follow:

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1) Mike: The word Jon was looking for was Quartet, not quatro.

Glenn: Um… I’m pretty sure that John used the word he meant to use, but you are right Mike, quartet also means four. Good job. Here. Have a biscuit.

(and the spelling you were looking for was John, not Jon)

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2) The discussion mentions the Book of Mormon references and the question is asked as to whether it is an abomination or is justified. The answer is yes to both.

Mike: Although the Law of Moses permitted wives and concubines, the Lord forbade the practice for the house of Joseph in the promised land. (Although it was practiced among the Jaredites – see Ether 6:20, 10:5-7, and 14:2)

In saying that “whoredoms are an abomination before me” (Jacob 2:28), the Lord was not equating the principle of plural marriage with whoredoms or declaring that all such marriages – including those of Abraham, Isacc and Jacob – are abominable in his sight. He was denouncing the abuse of a sacred principle, not the principle itself.

Jacobs people were seeking to introduce forbidden practices and to justify them by appealing to scriptural precedents, and they were clearly out of order in doing so. The Lords people are bound by the commandments given to them through the prophet of their day, not by those of an earlier time. They are accountable to the prophets they raise their hand to sustain. As President Benson said : “The living prophet is more important than a dead prophet… Beware of those who would pit the dead prophets against the living ones, for the living prophets always take precedence.”

What is abominable to the Lord is any form of marriage where the relationship is motivated by lust, or when it robs one’s wife of her personhood and reduces her to the level of a thing to be used, mistreated, or whimsically abandoned. In that regard, some monogamous marriages among us are abominations.

When wives are neglected, subjected to physical or verbal abuse, to emotional trauma, or to humiliating and degrading conduct by their husbands, the spirit of chastity in them is violated. Chastity is more than a sexual matter, it is also a state of mind, heart, and spirit toward one’s whole being. The very soul is at issue.

Those who sought to “indulge themselves,” as Jacob expressed it, in plural wives were not motivated by a caring love and concern for these women, but rather by pride and lust in their hardened hearts (see Jacob 1:15-16). True polygamy is based on a desire to exalt ones family through Christlike living, not to decorate ones status among his peers.

Glenn: Wow. I’m a little dizzy. But if I understand you correctly, you are saying that the doctrine of plural marriage is truly God’s new and everlasting gobstopper… I mean, covenant. And that our current living prophet President Benson said that… wait a minute… our current living prophet President Monson said that we shouldn’t pit bull the Jaredites against whimsical indulgence… wait a minute… okay, no… I think I get it… yeah, okay… that the people of Jacob tried to copy Joseph Smith’s commoditization of women for… hang on… wait… never mind. I give up.

(although it is certainly one thing to say those kind of marriages were “permitted” or “not an abomination” under certain circumstances and quite another to say they are “absolutely positively required for exaltation” or that they are “the difference between recieving the fullness of god/becoming a god and being a angel who serves the gods” or something like “once this is revealed you must accept this or be destroyed” and then revealing it by making it canonized scripture — a pretty big difference, I think)

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3) The questions are asked, “Why do we need to be married in Heaven? Can we be together anyway? What’s to stop us from associating? Don’t we have free will?”

In answer to this we need only look around us. What does marriage mean to us in the here and now? What does it mean to be a member of a family? Is there a difference between a neighbor’s child walking into your house and getting food out of the refrigerator and your own child doing the same thing? Why?

A family name gives a person identity, it expresses culture and rights and boundaries. In the eternities to be part of the family of Christ will allow one to enter into the Holy City and be a part of the community. If a married couple has tied their name to the Father, they will be permitted into the Temple of the Father itself, and share in his authority and creative power. If a marriage is not sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, a couple will be cut off from those things and their progress damned for all eternity since they have shown themselves unwilling to be a part of that culture.

Glenn: My 6-year-old son has a friend named Body (and no, I don’t mean Brody). Sometimes he walks into our house and takes food from our refrigerator (although usually he asks). His parents are of Asian descent and are not members of the church. We haven’t even told our ward mission leader about them. But I am pretty sure that if we did, and if they were baptized, and if they got their patriarchal blessings, that they would find out that they were of the house of Ephraim, like me. But Body would still walk into our house and get food out of the fridge.

You have some interesting ideas about literal cities and temples in the next life. Will we walk to those places? Or fly? Or sort of just beam there, like on Star Trek? I kind of always thought that we would be able to beam there, cuz we would be beings of glory, fused with a sort of light, and that Moroni kind of beamed into Joseph’s room. But if you can beam places, can’t you just beam past the angels who sit behind the desk at the main temple asking for the celestial recommends? Couldn’t you just beam straight into the locker room? Or better yet, right into the celestial room? Is there a celestial room in the actual celestial temple? Can we put the names of terrestrial people in the prayer box? Can we rent clothing if we have forgotten it back in our home galaxy? Well, I guess we could always just beam back and get it real quick, couldn’t we. Assuming we all have the right name for all of this to work of course. It all starts with having the right name.

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4) Are we genderless in the heavens?

Mike: No, our spirits are male and female and we will be resurrected as such. The creative power in the eternities will be a priesthood ordinance though, and those who do not have the authority will be unable to take part in it. There are things that blood does here that will have no part in the eternities as it is a mortal element.

Glenn: Be careful Mike. I am a very visual person. Creative powers are a priesthood ordinance? You just gave a whole new meaning to the laying on of hands. I’m just saying. Gross. But now I guess I finally understand what the oil is for.

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5) In regards to angels and servitude in heaven:

Mike: Do we really suppose that any angel in heaven is there against their own will? Are we to suppose that free agency does not apply to angels and that both Seraphim and Cherubim are in fact slaves? There is far more going on in the eternities than the organization of spirits.

Glenn: So then if I have decided to opt out of the new and everlasting covenant because I think it is icky, and I decide I want to engage in these many other activities of servitude and that I want to live in the same house with my Terrestrial partner and sleep in the same bed and canoodle from time to time, maybe a few times a week if I can talk her into it, that’s all good in the free-agency-laden here-after? That sounds a lot better than being destroyed. But are you sure you really carefully read D&C 132? Cuz this gospel according to Mike so far is very different than what I saw in the text of D&C 132. I’m just saying…

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6) Mike: Joseph Smith’s comment regarding the salvation of a family if a member of it is tied to him through Celestial Marrige is in fact a true doctrine. The Abrahamic Covenant is far reaching and binds a great deal of things together.

Glenn: Well, ok then. If he had ever approached you and said he wanted to make YOU a plural wife, I think we know what your answer would have been.

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7) Mike: Eternity boring? When is creation ever boring? Is anyone who has been a part of a large family ever bored? I don’t believe anyone who is a part of a large social group can ever be bored.

Glenn: All previous sarcasm aside – if the rest of the Tannehill clan is as thoughtful and engaging as you are, I can totally see why you would say this (and I hope you know I mean that in complete sincerity). A little frustrating? Maybe. Boring? Never.

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8 ) Is salvation guaranteed if you are a part of the New and Everlasting Covenant?

Mike: Bruce R McConkie covered this in his Seven Deadly Heresies talk. The answer is no. A covenant is a contract, and anyone who acts in a way that drives the Spirit of the Lord from their marriage is in violation of that contract and loses their marriage in the eternities.

Glenn: I agree – that has always been my understanding of current LDS doctrine, and it totally makes perfect sense that we must treat our spouses with respect in every possible way — like not hitting them, or verbally abusing them, or marrying other women without their permission — unless of course they are not with the program, then — you know — you gotta do what you gotta do and they, like, totally forfeit the rights of Sara under the Abrahamic covenant. Am I right, or am I right? (just nod and say I am that I am).

However, this whole making-sense modern-day McConkie clarification thing is not what D&C 132 says (specifically in v.19) where all sins except murder of innocent blood are pardoned if the person enters into the new and everlasting covenant of plural marriage and is sealed by the holy spirit of promise/priesthood power of Joseph Smith. Why do you think Joseph said that back then? Wait – that was the wrong question. Let me ask the right one. Why do you think God said that in D&C 132 back in 1843, and why do you think Bruce R. McConkie disagreed with Him later and called it a heresies (and why would President Bensen say that we are pitting old prophets against current prophets if we are just reading the words of the Lord in the Scriptures – is he saying that those were Joseph Smith’s words and that they were incomplete at the time?)

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9) When did the teaching that Man can become God start?

Mike: In our dispensation: We would not be surprised to discover that it was discussed in Josephs First Vision, but we know that it was in fact discussed with Moroni’s vist when Joseph was 17.

Glenn: I don’t know about the Moroni visit, but I did look into it after the podcast, and it is mentioned in D&C 76, which was recorded in 1832. Verse 58, describing the inhabitants of the Celestial kingdom says, “Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God.” So we have the idea there of a plurality of gods that we can become in the Celestial kingdom. No hint of plural marriage as a mandatory pathway to exaltation. But the seeds are there.

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10) Are we to be ashamed of D&C 132?

Mike: Hardly. It is in fact representative of the point of the entire gospel plan, and the main focus of the Atonement itself.

Glenn: Well, I don’t really expect you to be ashamed of it, Mike. But I also don’t see any evidence in your ten points above that you really consulted D&C 132 at all when forming your responses, either. The entire focus of the atonement of christ was about plural marriage as the vehicle to exaltation, distinguishing godhood from angeldum? Whoah brother, and people said that I sounded like I had been smoking something on the podcast!

When you look at it for what it is – for what it was – this was a doctrine (or a practical set of guidelines) that had been around for many years but had never been written down. Finally, Hyrum gets Joseph to write it down to present to Emma because Emma is so tired of Joseph’s many wives. Then, once he gets it in writing, he (Hyrum) is able to take it to other people, like William Law. Some accept it. Some don’t. But it stays private for another nine years, until 1852. It is not canonized as scripture until 1876. And now, over 150 years later, when people read it they have been taught to think that “new and everlasting covenant” means something different than “plural marriage” – but it doesn’t. At least it didn’t when it was first revealed and when it was first written down. How do we know? (Something about “he who has eyes to see” would fit very nicely here, don’t you think?) You just have to look at the direction the church took — the direction Brigham Young lead them into Utah — the rationale that Wilford Woodruf put forth in the Declaration #1 as to why they should stop it and follow the laws of the land (for now). It’s funny — but it sure looks to me like those quotes that President Benson used in the 14 Fundamentals talk were used by WW to support the underground continued beliefs in plural marraige as the path to exaltation as laid out in D&C 132. Until this past week, I had never made that connection before.

So anyway… Am I ashamed that my core set of modern day scriptures from our modern day dispensation head has step-by-step instructions on how to add additional virgins to my gaggle of wives? Yes, I am. D&C 132 is not relevant to anything I have ever based my hope and faith in the Mormon gospel upon. In fact, I don’t see the voice of the God of mercy behind this section of scripture at all. Where is the God who said ‘come unto me those who are weary and I will give ye rest?” Where is the God who inspired Moroni chapter 7, and all those wonderful characteristics of charity? I don’t see him in D&C 132. I looked. I desired. He’s not there for me. So am I ashamed? Yes. Beyond a shadow of a doubt. Maybe you aren’t. But again – what you have listed above is so far beyond D&C 132 that it really just makes my head spin. In a good way.

Mike, you rock. Thank you for taking the time to write down your comments and observations. I do wish your schedule would have allowed you to be on the podcast this time. I know we will have more discussions about this sort of thing in the future. And I look forward to hearing what you and any of the rest of you have to say about all of this stuff. I just don’t see any way around D&C 132 — even with all the gymnastics listed above. It’s a millstone. Or perhaps it’s just my lack of faith and limited vision (aka lack of willingness to just tow the party line).

Mormon Folklore: French Mission Apostasy

There is a false assumption that all folklore (and mythology) is false. Not true. It is much more complicated than that. The basic premise behind the transmission any traditional story is that the tradition is passed from person to person because that tradition holds value. Sometimes (but not always) that value is a truth value, and often in the telling and the retelling there are human errors and details that change so that the tradition takes on multiple versions. It makes it hard to find one single origin or one single “truth.” But that is a very different thing from saying the thing is “false.”

At any rate, in the mid-90’s I started a website dedicated to collecting Mormon missionary folklore. I let the domain expire around 2001 or so, but I still have what I collected sitting on my hard drive, so, like I did with the Halloween encounters with Evil, from time to time I’ll share examples with you here on the Mormon Expression blog.

This set of stories deals with the French Mission apostasy. This was a real event which, as you will see, has captured the imagination of many missionaries. There’s a lot to read here, so sorry for the overload. But if this is the sort of thing that interests you, enjoy!

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A whole group of us missionaries were together talking about some of the old mission stories that we had heard. One missionary brought up the topic of the apostasy of the Touliess (sp?) Mission, which would have been our mission if it hadn’t been shut down. But there were about 30 missionaries and a bunch of members that were excommunicated from the church. I guess what happened was there was an Assistant to the President, a guy named Tucker, he had gone apostate and there were quite a few missionaries that followed him. He hand picked certain missionaries out of the whole mission — he’d go on splits with them and convert them to his way of thinking. They taught the members their false doctrines, like breaking the word of wisdom, taking off on long trips out of their areas, elders and sisters going on dates and disobeying the law of chastity. When those missionaries got sent home, they started their own religion and a bunch of them went down and formed a colony in Mexico. I don’t know how many, but a lot of them tried to come back into the church years afterwards. I don’t think Tucker was ever let back into the church, but some of his followers were. It was in California where they were re-baptized. It had a pretty big impact on the whole area, because this happened in the mid to late 50’s, and when I was there in the early 90’s we’d bump into people on the street who would tell us that they remember those missionaries that got excommunicated. Sometimes they’d say “Yeah, I was a member of your church, but I got excommunicated back in the 50’s”

Darrin Cummings, March 08, 1997

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In the Franco-Belge Mission area (I was there in the mid 60’s) we had the story of missionaries in the early days dusting their heels and calling a curse down on the whole city of Le Havre, thus explaining why there were no missionaries in the city. The curse must have ended because I believe there are missionaries there now. It would be interesting to me to know if there really was some truth to the original story though.

Another story of legendary proportions was the infamous French Mission Apostasy. This occurrence was of great interest to me in that it occurred exactly mid way between the time my grandfather was president of the French Mission in 1953, and when I came out as a missionary in 1963. I have talked with everyone I could find who knew about the incident. I met a man here in Mesa who was the mission secretary during that time. I asked him if I could come over sometime and have him tell me his story. Before I could meet with him he died. In a moment of inexplicable courage I asked his wife several years after his death if I could read his mission journal. She did not seem too anxious to share it……I am still waiting. Much embellishment has been added I believe to the actual facts. The William Tucker episode and the so called apostasy of his group was in 1958. I have several narrations on the subject but one of the best was in Dialogue by Kalil Maher. I may not have that spelling right.

Mac Woolf, March 06, 1997

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The following was sent to me by a Franco-Belge Mission contemporary Richard Edwards from Layton,Utah. I sent him copies of our email correspondence and mentioned your research and web site. He sent me this letter. We have kept in close contact over the years. Mary is his wife. Herstal and Seraing and Liege are in Belgium, Reims is in France. “R.C.” is a friend of mine who was personal friends with Steve Silver and met Tucker personally. Our Mission President was Joseph T. Edmunds.

3/16/97 Dear Mac,

I really appreciated the stuff you sent on missionary folklore. You spurred me on to re read my missionary diary and I have thoroughly enjoyed the past few days reliving some of those choice experiences. I even copied a few pages and wrote a big long letter to President Edmunds and shared an experience or two. I also wrote letters to two families we were able to teach and baptize that I think are still active.

As regards to the French Mission apostasy, I understand that part of it did occur in the city of Herstal. When I arrived there, it was really a dead place. There was the little chapel there but only about 6 members were regular attenders. One was a Frere Petitjean. The rumor was that he actually was illiterate, but for some reason, he could read the scriptures. I can remember tracting there and quite occasionally when we would get into a door, someone would say, “Oh we used to have the missionaries in our house all the time. They knew the scriptures frontwards and backwards.” We would ask, “Who were your missionaries?” They would say, “Elder Tucker.”

Here is an entry, “Wed, Feb 9 We had a l-o-n-g wet tracting day in Herstal with Elder Larsen and Shepherd. Tracting was really poor, but we managed to get out 4 B O M’s. We didn’t do much else today except talked to an apostate of “Elder Tucker”. We were cold, tired and wet all day long.”

I can remember while a ZAP (Zone Assistant to the President) with Elder Hilton, we had been talking with some other missionaries and the subject got on the devil and evilness and we really began to get spooked. Hilton and I drove across town to our apartment in silence. We had prayers and went to bed. A few minutes later he let out a scream and I about had a heart attack. What had happened was that we had left our apartment door ajar. The neighbor’s cat from downstairs had entered the room, quietly jumped upon Hilton and nestled right on his throat and started to purr. He thought that the devil had gotten him. We had some really good times there…. I am really thankful for the whole thing and the super experiences.

To answer your questions about the French Mission Apostasy, the above story is really about all I know from a first hand experience. There were plenty of rumors but no one had any direct knowledge. I did call Kahlile Mehr and in fact bought my Dialogue from his wife. He lives in Centerville or at least he did. I talked to him once on the phone and I can’t even remember why he did his research because he was not a former missionary. I think he works at the Church Office Building. One of the guys that was “x-ed” was Loften Harvey and he is in the phone book, living in West Valley and someday I hope to visit him personally. I don’t recall you ever telling me the story about “R. C.” I was always under the impression that Tucker spent most of his life in Mexico, where he died at an early age.

I remember the stories of the missionaries dusting their heels in both the cities of La Havre and Brest, and it seems to me that I heard that two early missionaries were murdered there.

I know nothing about money being donated for the chapel in Herstal and while I worked there for three months, I never heard any such thing. I certainly could be true though.

I think that I told you that I went to the Historical Department a couple of times and read all about the Apostasy right from the church records, some of which were filled out and sent in by all of the Mission President’s counselors, Tucker included. You know the report that you used to have to send in, monthly historical summaries? Well, they are there. I read everything that happened during our time too. To my great dismay, I even found out a really sharp family that Elder Erickson and I baptized in Seraing, in the summer of 1964, the Louis Crahay family, had been previously baptized in Leige, in 1959. They never said a thing and pretended to be Golden Investigators. I think during those days, there was not a network of information from city to city or Zone to Zone and no one ever knew. You can be sure how greatly disappointed I was to find out.

I remember the story about two sister missionaries that were way out from no where in the Ardennes or Bastogne visiting a military graveyard and Elder Shields, ZAP, happened to cruise by and see them an they were quite embarrassed. I would know their name if I looked them up.

Your Friend,

Rich

Mac Woolf, April 06, 1997

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I was in Framce from the end of 1969 to 1971. (Gee, has it been that long???? ACHHHHH!) I am not sure but what this Apostasy story has taken on a life of its own. All the accounts here seem close to what I was told but they are differing in a few details that seem to render them almost “urban legends.” I served in the French-East (France-Switzerland, Switzerland, Geneva mission – we changed names a lot) that was under quite serious behavior restrictions at the time I was there. We were told it was because of what happened there a few years before.

It was reputed that there was a very special missionary – a very gifted and insightful worker – who at times, it was said, could walk down a street in a town, point to a building and tell you on which floor someone could be found to be baptized. He was consistently correct. He rose to the position of Assistant to the President with some very heavy duties. For one thing, he opened and read all correspondence to the President. He would sort that which others could take care of and send them to others and pass on to the president only those that really required his time. He was also empowered to formulate transfers.

Then he went over the hill. He started teaching privately that polygamy had been restored, that missionaries could, and should, date and marry – each other preferably (Brothers and sisters…he did not go that far over the hill!) Those that listened to him and accepted what he said he maneuvered, through transfers, to get them in the same general area. I was told it was Marseilles (but other accounts have it in Belgium and the French Mission – so the feeling it might be urban legend.) From the missionaries he also introduced his teachings to many of the members in the area who took it as gospel – after all, it was historical and the instructions WERE on mission stationary. When complaints would come in, since he filtered everything the President saw and heard, he would short-circuit the message. Thus he became the de-facto leader of the church in that area.

The story goes that the President KNEW something was amiss but he couldn’t quite figure out what. About that time there was the dedication or something happening with either the Swiss or London temple at which an Apostle made an appearance. He then came to the mission where the president expressed his concerns. It is said as they walked down a hallway they passed a small room with the door open where this Assistant was running something off on the mimeograph machine. The Apostle turned to the President and said, “There’s your problem.”

By the time they got it all figured out, several missionaries were excommunicated and sent home and several members were too. It was told me that there was, shortly thereafter, a conference meeting in Marseilles. At this meeting this elder showed up making the claim to revelation and leadership and asked all those who would to follow him. It is said a significant portion did.

In my two years I met less than 10 members who had been members for ten years. Only one who had been a member in the area longer than twenty. Several of these older members lay it at the feet of this affair. I can’t remember the name given. However, it may well have been Tucker – again the Urban Legend thing. He was said to have returned first to the Ogden area where he recruited several members to his church, which I believe was the “Church of the First Born” or something like that. Anyway, through their in-church contacts they got a hold of many membership records. My mother uses her middle name ONLY on Church records. She got a mailing from these people using her Church-only name. There was quite a to-do that several clerks had been pulled into this new church and had stayed as apparent LDS members to get such records. It is also said they recognized the importance of the Temple and were specifically targeting temple workers in hopes of getting the full temple ceremony.

An acquaintance of my mother’s (We were living in Ogden at the time) rode to Salt Lake with a friend who also had a couple of other friends with him. My mother’s friend said he felt uneasy getting into the car. One of the other passengers was this fellow. As for moving to Mexico or what happened after that, I have no idea. The legend continues.

As I said, I have no idea whether I was told the truth or some urban-legend or if someone was just spinning a tale. This, however, is what I was told by more than one source while on my mission.

Charles Marston, April 17, 1997

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I don’t remember when or where, I suspect some time after my mission, but I recall hearing something about The Church of the First Born being started by a French Missionary. The way I heard it He and his father had planned the whole thing sometime before his mission.

Carl Nielsen, May 1, 1997

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I was interested in reading the stories about the French Apostasy. My husband and I both served in the France Bordeaux mission, which includes the city of Toulouse. I did not serve there, but he did. It is apparent from reading what you have under French Mission Apostasy that there are two stories that are getting mixed up. One took place in the late fifties, but the Toulouse apostasy occurred in the late 70s, after which they closed the Toulouse Mission. There were a lot of stories floating around the mission about what happened there, so I don’t know what is fact and what isn’t. It is true that there are a lot of inactive members in Toulouse who left the church over the whole thing. On paper there are enough members for two wards, but whenever they try to split the ward there, one falls apart. I do know of one elder who went to the library in Toulouse and read the old newspaper accounts of the whole thing. His name was Bart Taylor (though I don’t know how well he understood the French in the papers).

Abby Omerza, May 17, 1997

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I was interested in reading the stories about the French Apostasy. My husband and I both served in the France Bordeaux mission, which includes the city of Toulouse. I did not serve there, but he did. It is apparent from reading what you have under French Mission Apostasy that there are two stories that are getting mixed up. One took place in the late fifties, but the Toulouse apostasy occurred in the late 70s, after which they closed the Toulouse Mission. There were a lot of stories floating around the mission about what happened there, so I don’t know what is fact and what isn’t. It is true that there are a lot of inactive members in Toulouse who left the church over the whole thing. On paper there are enough members for two wards, but whenever they try to split the ward there, one falls apart. I do know of one elder who went to the library in Toulouse and read the old newspaper accounts of the whole thing. His name was Bart Taylor (though I don’t know how well he understood the French in the papers).

Abby Omerza, May 17, 1997

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Just to add my two cents to the fire: from what I understand, there were two French Mission Apostasies. The first involved the infamous Elder Tucker back in the late fifties. This is recounted in the Dialogue article and in a chapter of the book “Prophet of Blood”. These are legitimate, authentic retellings. The Dialogue article is based mostly on interviews with Loftin Harvey, who seems to have been a victim of circumstance. He was later re-baptized and is a strong member of the church. His son, also named Loftin, served in the France-Marseille mission (I was his trainer).

The second apostasy is a little more sketchy. In the late seventies there was a France-Toulouse Mission but the whole mission was shut down. According to lore, elders and sisters were marrying and the normal apocryphal stories. One of the juicier ones deals with a hot tub party in a baptismal font. Like I said, this is based purely on stories I heard, except that the mission was closed, that’s fact.
Just to stir the brew up a little bit more, after returning from my mission in 1993 I heard rumblings of more problems in the south of France (what is it with that place?!?) Apparently, the entire mission was placed on “probation” by the General Authorities. Anyone that can add any info on this, either to totally refute or to add anything that they have heare, please post.

Law Clerk, July 18, 1997

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I served in the French Mission from December 1955 to June 1858. During the Summer of 1958, I studied German at a place near Salzburg, Austria (Bad Reichenhall), and then traveled in Europe (these were the days when such travel was allowed), arriving in London just a few days before the London Temple dedication in September 1958. While in London I visited with French Mission President Milton Christensen. I was asked to return to the French Mission for an indefinite period. I served for several weeks in Nice, where I had been district president earlier, and then was called to be a counselor to President Christensen, succeeding Bill Tucker in that position. I have in front of me a copy of the Dialogue article (Autumn 1988 issue) by Kahlile Mehr. My recollections of what went on in our mission basically accord with his findings, but do differ in a few particulars.

In March of 1960 Bill Tucker came with Dan Jordan to my home in Logan, Utah with the intention, I believe, of trying to convert me to their cause. He told me at that time that David Shore, after his release from the French Mission, obtained some materials about the Church of the Firstborn of the Fullness of Times which he sent to Bill, that he read these documents and believed them. After replacing Bill Tucker as a mission counselor, I toured the mission about three times, spending time with each of the missionaries. It was my impression, contrary to the numbers noted in the Mehr article, that although many were impressed by Bill Tucker, as I was for a short time, only a few took this to excess. I encountered only three missionaries during my 5-months service as a counselor (October 1958 to March 1959) who appeared really troubled by what had happened. Among the members I met during this period, there were less than ten who seemed so troubled at the time.

The following is what I know of the nine missionaries excommunicated in London in September 1958. I would love to receive an update on those still living if someone knows anything about their present status.

*William Tucker died in 1967, apparently of a ruptured appendix. Elder (later President) Howard Hunter, who had been Bill’s stake president before his mission, had been in touch with Bill and believed that he was having doubts by 1967 about the course he had taken and was thinking about returning to the Church.

*Marilyn Lamborn (Tucker), I was told, returned to Ogden, Utah with their children after Bill’s death. I don’t have any information relative to her present Church status.

*Nancy Fulk (Tucker) is one of whom I know little since here departure from the Mission in 1958, though she apparently was divorced from Bill and has remarried.

*Loftin Harvey returned to the Church soon after his return from France. He married Rosalind Bousquainaud, a good member from the French Mission. For several years he taught at BYU-Hawaii and is now living in the Salt Lake Valley. He was a faithful member of the Church when I knew him at BYU-Hawaii in the early 1970’s.

*Neil Paulson returned to the Church, or so I have heard. I know nothing of his present status

*Daniel Jordan was killed in the late 1980’s.

*Stephen Silver and I had several long discussions in the early 1960’s. It is my understanding that his last wife, a woman named Carolyn, returned to the Church with her children, apparently with his approval. I know nothing of his present status. He and I were missionary companions in France for much of 1957.

*Bruce Wakeham is, I believe, living somewhere in Arizona under an assumed name.

*Juna Abbott (Wakeham) died of cancer about 5 years ago.

As for myself, I was released recently as a student ward bishop and am now the executive secretary in my resident ward. I retain a love for and interest in those who took this tragic path, and pray that all who are not yet will, at some time in the future, return to belief and full activity in the Church.

Phil Smith, August 29, 1997

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If you’re really serious about correcting many of the details which are erroneously reported and/or distorted in this file about the affair, I suggest you contact Dr. Philip C. Smith @ BYU Hawaii. Phil is/was a Bishop in a student Ward there. Phil and I served in the French Mission during overlapping periods: I between [Spring,] 1955 and [the Fall of] 1957; he I believe from 1956-1958. Both of us knew some of the ‘players’ in this episode. One of William P. Tucker’s subsequent plural wives, Marilyn Lambourne, served with the two of us in the Liege District. By the time Tucker visited Liege in his Assistant capacity and operated out of Paris I had been released. Wm.Tucker initially passed through the Mission Hq. in Paris while I was laboring in the Paris District; at which time I met him. Phil was, I believe, still in Belgium at the time. Following the blow-up and expose` of what had been occurring in areas frequented and visited by Tucker and related releases and excommunications, Phil was asked to stay on as Tucker’s replacement as Assistant to President Harold W. Lee during a transition period to President Christensen which Phil can best explain himself; should he be disposed.

The best to-date write up on the affair of which I have any knowledge is [with due regard to the K. Mehrer Dialogue article] still: “Origins and Development of The Church of The Firstborn of The Fulness of Times” …Masters Thesis @ BYU…by Lyle O. Wright, 1963 Chapter VI “Conversion of Missionaries To France” 121 et.seq.

As Wright correctly records, the saga came to a head in connection with the dedication of the London Temple, the early Fall of 1958. The key dissidents were Tucker, David Shore, [who had left France before the movement surfaced and was instrumental in developing the interest of others, sending LeBaron literature, etc.] Stephen Silver, and Bruce Wakeham. The key General Authorities involved were Hugh B. Brown, Henry D. Moyle, and Thorpe B. Isaacson. In addition to the above missionaries, Daniel Jordan, Niel Poulsen, Loften Harvey, Juna Abbott, Marilyn Lambourne, Nancy Fulk were intially excommunicated.Ronald Jarvis, later. Three others decided to return home; confused.

Jordan, Jarvis, Abbott, Wessel, Wakeham, Silver, Poulsen, Lambourne, and of course Tucker…went to Colonia LeBaron, Mexico and many joined the Joel and Ervil LeBaron group, “The Church of The Firstborn of the Fulness of Times.” Tucker and Wakeham were assigned as missionaries thereof to their home state of California. Shore was assigned as Pres. of the Canadian Mission for the LeBaron church. Tucker married Lambourne and was assigned President of the California Mission of the Firstborn church. Wakeham[who married Abbott as his first wife] was assigned as Tucker’s assistant. Silver edited a LeBaron periodical for their U.S. Mission.

Jarvis defected soon from the LeBaron church, and was rebaptized a Latter-day Saint in August, 1959. Wessel decided to remain LDS and subsequently returned to France to complete her mission. All in all, there were thirteen missionaries to France who became deeply involved with ‘Fundamentalism’ and the LeBaron brothers church in Mexico.

It would be interesting to track the demise of said church, and its affect on the lives of these young missionaries. William Tucker died of a rare disease in California. Some, like L.Harvey, I believe returned to the Church. Perhaps Bishop Smith can fill you in on others.

As for the bulk of the stories on this episode I’ve read on your website: as with most folklore many contain grains of truth. All are no doubt what their authors understood. Some are woefully distorted. Others completely inaccurate. This is unfortunately how Mormon Folklore evolves. Hopefully we can all learn something from it.

I am now in my 63rd year, proud of my service and grateful for my experience and growth in The French Mission. I’m sad to see its record tainted in a few minds by unfortunate events of a little season. That too, has long since passed.

Robert Frame, August 26, 1997

Philosophies of Glenn, Mingled with Scripture

I have some questions. A lot of questions, really, and not a lot of answers. In the recently published podcast, Mixed Feelings for Mormonism, John, Zilpha, Tom, and I drew some messy and disjointed parallels between Myth, the Tower of Babel, Santa Claus, Temple Ordinances, and God. I want to briefly try and tie those parallels a little more closely if I can, although I fear that I will fail miserably, but mainly I’d like to hear what the rest of you think.

Zilpha asked a question that I don’t think received a very good answer on the podcast. Essentially, it was, “Why is a belief in Santa Claus required to enjoy the pageantry and “magic” of the Christmas season.” This was in response to something I said about enjoying membership in the church without a literal belief in God and/or Temple ordinances. Maybe what I am about to say is stupid and contradictory and lame (but that hasn’t stopped me before, right)? Here are my thoughts – stab them as you will:

Even if I don’t believe literally the same way that others around me believe, I will try to respect their beliefs because I care about these people and I want to associate myself with them and try to be, as much as possible, of one heart and of one mind with them (the concept of Zion, right? Moses 7:18 for Mike). So I will try to show as much goodwill and patience as I can possibly muster, and charity, and kindness, and all those other great qualities from Moroni 7:45 and I will not rain on their parade by saying, “hey, guys, there is no Santa/God/Priesthood, etc,” even during those times when I might feel that way the strongest (especially in the case of our Mormon religion, where there are strong family connections, and a strong unwritten social contract). Instead, I will honestly say, “I just don’t know,” in an honest attempt to be kinda sorta humble (yikes) and even resort to make-believe (double yikes) and try to make room for perspectives that are different from my own. Fake it until you make it? Oi… I don’t really like that expression for a number of reasons. But if you must… OK, sure, I’ll wear it. Ugh.

Is that too insincere? have I linked to too many scriptures? Have I invoked too many “try’s?” or flip-flopped too much wishy-washiness? Is it too ideal? It might be. I often make this stuff up as I go along, you know. So trust it if you can. And if you can’t, well… have a nice day, and thank you for playing. But I think that is how I would answer Zilpha’s question in my bestest most sincerest possible way.

But what about you? Is a belief in the literal (i.e. Santa/God) required to enjoy a communal celebration of the culture (i.e. Christmas/Mormonism)? Are these even the right parallels? What is the best recipe for egg nog? Ponder and pray and discuss.

Anti-?

Is Mormon Expression an anti-Mormon podcast?

I recently introduced two new friends to the Mormon Expression podcast (in fact, if things go well, I am hoping that I can soon introduce the two of them to the rest of you as well). The first episode they listened to was the 14 Fundamentals of Following the Prophet [scratch needle across the record HERE].

Now they are very open-minded active members of the church, and the verdict is still out on where they are going to land on all of this Mormon Expression mumbo jumbo, but suffice it to say, they were a little shocked and slightly put off by what they heard.

Their initial feedback was that they wanted more balance in the discussion. They wanted less extreme. They wanted less vilification of the church from the ex-mos and mamby-pamby so-called NOMs with their blazing axes to grind, dropping the “cult” bomb with their evil-speaking of the Lord’s anointed and their loud laughter and ripping ripping ripping everything apart without putting humpty dumpty back together again.

On the other extreme, they wanted less vicarious dummification of faithful members by the one so-called token TBM-ish proxy guy with his crazy deference to all things Abraham and his willingness to drive a javelin through his wife’s heart for simply failing one measly tenth of Moses’ obsolete law.

In short, they wanted a greater progressive discussion towards better understanding.

Understanding.

Hmmmmm….

I kinda sorta thought that’s what ME was all about. You know? I kinda sorta thought that’s what I was trying to get at towards the end of the podcast when I posed the TBM perspective — the perspective that most members won’t see this as any big deal because they have real spiritual feelings of love for the prophet, and following someone you love like that is really no big deal, and all this angry ranting will just confirm their feelings about anti-mormons in the first place. See? Ain’t I the good one?

Yeah… Understanding.

So I’ve been thinking about that word a lot. Is it just a euphemism for “don’t say anything negative against the church?” I know these two — or at least I’m starting to — and that’s not really what they’re about. I believe they really do want a more progressive discussion towards understanding. But this notion of “understanding” always begs the question for me — who’s perspective is it that we are trying to understand better? Because there are lots and lots (and lots and lots) of differing perspectives out there, and lots (and lots) of room for understanding. Even the ones that seem anti. Cuz if there must needs be opposition in all things, then every anti must needs have an anti, right?

And when you really think about it, this quest for understanding is what John was doing, right? Yeah, OK, so maybe on the 14 Fundies he was a little more unhinged and venomously venomful than his normal balanced moderator self. But if you listen to his message, and especially if you try to empathize with his tone, don’t you get a better understanding of the frustration and anger people feel when they are told to turn off their minds and follow things that don’t really “make sense” to them — don’t you understand how they feel when they don’t have a place to even question that? So, from that perspective, can’t you listen to John and get a better understanding of people in his position?

And when you really open up your mind (I can’t believe I am about to say this…) and listen to where Mike is coming from (take a deep breath…), can’t you get a better understanding of how someone with his worldview about Abrahamic covenants and dispensation heads could interpret himself as a crusader in this world against liberal thought and sin? Doesn’t that at least (at the very least) lead to a better position of understanding? (next step — suspending judgment — and we all have some work to do on that one).

So are we at Mormon Expression doing a good enough job representing the full spectrum of Mormon Expression? I think we can do a lot better. I think there are many more voices to be heard — many more perspectives to be understood — and hopefully we can attract more voices without turning them away by coming across as too crazy, or extreme, or too anti. But, like most things in life, I don’t really have the answers here — just a lot of questions. I know from conversations with John that he would like Mormon Expression to be balanced, open, and fair — so is that what we are? Is it really even possible to be all of that and informative and entertaining and be a place where different, sometimes conflicting voices have a home? Or is Mormon Expression just doomed to become an anti-Mormon Podcast? (shudder) How do you see it? What has the podcast been for you? Please, pull up a chair and discuss.