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Sacrifice and Service

Recently I was asked to give a talk in church. When I first started this blog I was the elder’s quorum teacher and thought it would be neat to post all the “skeptical” stuff I was surreptitiously teaching the elders. Well I got released. I guess I was “surreptitious” enough. Well they asked me to give a talk, and I thought I would try again to get the members to think a little more than feel. The talk was on “Sacrifice and Service” and was told to make sure to work in Romans 8:18 (a nasty little scripture in my opinion). Below is roughly what I said taken from my speaker notes.

For those of you who don’t know me, you have been making the correct sacrifices to the correct God. For those of you who do know me, either your sacrifice has been incorrect, or it has been offered to the incorrect god/gods. Today I will be speaking of Sacrifice and Service.

In the style familiar to those in the military I am going to put the Bottom Line Up Front. Today I want to titillate your mind more than your heart. To throw out some ideas to you in order to begin a discussion rather than extol words of wisdom. While doing this I hope that the spirit of understanding will be present with us. If anything that I say today strikes you as incorrect, I would love to hear from you about what I haven’t thought through. You may find me at home, on email or normally in the hall outside after sacrament meetings.

In the style familiar with science and rhetoric I am going to offer my thesis and biases up front, then defend it with my premise. I believe that Service and Sacrifice are two separate and severable ideas, you can serve without sacrifice and sacrifice without serving. I believe that Service is the higher law and Sacrifice is the lower law. Finally, I will also inform you of my biases. I find little use for the term idea of sacrifice and that service leads us to a much nobler conclusion. (This was the softened version of the talk, my original thesis was “(edit Service) Sacrifice is a morally bankrupt idea that the church should disabuse itself of, and we should eradicate from our thinking.” I figured that would raise too many cackles from the group.)

First, Service and Sacrifice are two separate and severable ideas. Service is centered on the receiver. Service begins with the receiver of a “goodness” or a “kindness” in mind. We can measure the amount of service rendered by benefit to the receiver. Vice sacrifice which is centered on the performer. Is measured in how much “I” gave up. It is measured in harm incurred by the giver. To illustrate this concept lets consider the following thought experiment:

My wife and I can scrape together $10,000. It will be expensive to us, and we will incur some interest before it is paid off, and we will have to go without some of the other niceties for a while. I can give that money to my hard-working brother, who has just had his car break-down and will not be able to go to work to feed his family. Or I can give it to Warren Buffet, A fabulously wealthy billionaire. Either way the sacrifice is the same. But in only one way has service been accomplished. The recognition of a need, and that need being fulfilled.

Sacrifice can be achieved by only one person examples of this are; Self-denial rituals like lent or fasting, Self mutilation like whipping ourselves on the back. Service requires that there are at least two involved, a giver and receiver. I will grant that it is difficult for me to imagine a situation where a service can be fulfilled without some degree of sacrifice. The issue is the focus, what am “I” giving up vs. what is that person gaining.

Now that I have established that these are two separate concepts, why is Sacrifice the lower law, and service the higher? In the Old Testament one of the first things we see is a requirement for sacrifice. Indeed one of the first evil acts ever performed centered around sacrifice. Cain slaying Abel because God did not like Cain’s sacrifice of the “fruit of the ground”. In a fit of rage over his sacrifice not being accepted by God, Cain slew Abel. Would this have happened if there was an attitude of service (thinking of others) rather than sacrifice? Thinking of the giver, not what “I” had to give up? The Old and even the New Testaments are replete with examples of Sacrifice. We sacrifice to show God how much we are willing to give up in order for God to fulfill the wish that we want. For us as Christians we see the sacrifices of the old testament to be similitudes of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Sacrifice was a center piece of worship when Christ lived on Earth. During his mortal existence he railed on abuses of sacrifice in several instances, Three examples are:
1. From the sermon on the mount: Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
2. And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine. And when even was come, he went out of the city.
3. From the Parable of the prodigal son. It has two stories one of forgiveness of the prodigal son. But the second is that of the faithful son who was sad that for all of his sacrifices he gave “Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.”
Didn’t Jesus came to save us from the law of Moses? “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” And “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Because Jesus came to fulfill the law we should no longer perform sacrifices, Right? We don’t do blood sacrifice, this is true, but we are asked to sacrifice.

In conclusion, we have beautiful traditions of service over sacrifice in LDS theology and culture. Think of the three boys who carried the handcart company across the frozen river and ultimately died from exposure. Those boys served, they did not sacrifice. No one asked them to give their life, they saw a deficit and filled it. Another perfect example of service, not sacrifice is our fasting tradition. Most traditions in the world fast only to ask for favor from God “Look at how much I am suffering, please give me what I want.” But in LDS we say, “I am going to go hungry for a day, to remind me that there are other people out there who go hungry everyday.” We then provide that money we normally would eat, and give to this the vast, and robust church welfare system. Sacrifice is proud and puffed up, Service is quite and humble. Sacrifice is self-centered, Service is selfless. Sacrifice feeds the hungry because of a future reward, Service feeds the hungry because they are hungry. Sacrifice is limited in that there is only so much I can give, Service is infinite because there are an infinite ways and people to serve.. Sacrifice puts your son on an alter, Service puts him on a mission. Attitudes of sacrifice will lead people put a bomb jacket on your their daughter to detonate in crowded market place. Service leads her “help those who despitefully use you.” Sacrifice is rewarded in the afterlife. Service is doing good for goodness’s sake and is rewarded in this life. The reward for good living is good living here and now, not in the next life. Yes, it is true that life is sometimes unfair. The rain falls on the just and the unjust, but with service we can make our own sun.

Reactions after the talk were mixed. One woman said that it truly changed her outlook because she said that she hated the way she felt while thinking of sacrifice, and needed to focus on service. Another person said it was on his top list of best sacrament meeting talks (I like the qualifier there). Mostly though it just shows how selective Mormons are with hearing. I swear, one of the most sacred beliefs I just said was a major contributor to suicide bombings, but one man said “that with talks like that I would be called to the High Counsel.”

 

And while I did wear a suit I still defiantly wore a non-white shirt

-Big Al

The Cat is Officially Out of the Bag

It has been a while since I posted, I haven’t been magnifying my calling as a blogger very well apparently. I will try to do better.

Several weeks ago in Sunday School Class, the teacher was making some interpretations about Jesus that I didn’t think were correct. The dummy that I was, raised my hand and said, “but that interpretation means that Jesus enables us to sin.” I truly wanted a discussion to come from this and try to get the teacher to think a little more about what she was saying. However what happened was that there were some audible gasps from the rest of the class and my EQ Pres who was sitting next to me said, “you are just trying to stir the pot.” Well that comment made me sort of pissed. I determined to not go to Sunday School class and just sit in the foyer at least until I can learn to shut my trap and not raise these questions.

So last Sunday, I was sitting in the foyer, playing some inane game on the iPhone when the EQ Pres. came and sat next to me. “Al”, he said, “I noticed that you haven’t attended EQ class for the last while, what is going on?” Well I opened up on him with both barrels. I said “I just don’t think that anyone wants to hear what I have to say, so I am going to stay out here until I can learn to not get so mad when dumb things are taught”. He back peddled and said that everyone wanted to hear from me, and when I reminded him of the previous incident he just said “I didn’t mean that we didn’t want to hear from you”, I said, “then put me back as an Elder’s Quorum teacher”.

He: So what is really bothering you?
Me: I don’t believe all the things that are taught in here are “true”.
He: Like what?
Me: I don’t believe in pre-Columbian horses in America. I think the BoM is a work of fiction, not written solely by JS, but in concert with Harris, but mostly Cowdry. I think that Joseph Smith did some wicked things in his life and if we really believe that God would never lead the church astray, then the mob in Carthage was doing God’s work. I believe that JS was drinking that night and that if alcohol was so evil Jesus should have turned the wine into water to teach us a lesson. That the churches current prohibitions on it are only a remnant of the temporence movement during the turn of the century, and just like giving blacks the priesthood and recanting polygamy, wasn’t divine revelation, the church was just following the rest of the world. I think that Science has confirmed through DNA testing the Land Bridge Hypothesis and the Native Americans are decedent of Asians not Hebrews. I don’t believe that there was ever an Adam and Eve, nor a Global World Wide Flood, and that the Jews didn’t build the pyramids. I had all of these and more doubts (I served in the bible belt after all, and heard it all) but when I heard about the BoA and it’s falseness, it was the final blow to my testimony in JS, and that the Church is the one and only true gospel restored to earth in the later days.

He: Wow, so what about the priesthood, you believe in that don’t you? Are you planning to bless your son?
Me: I don’t believe that for a second that if I stand up that Sunday morning and bless him to find a beautiful wife to take to the temple, and go on a mission, and all of the rest of it, and I don’t train him up to go on a mission etc, that he will go. I also believe that the opposite is true as well. I have yet to see mountains move by the priesthood, I believe that penicillin has cured more people than the priesthood, and that Thomas Monson himself couldn’t cast AIDS out of a dying man’s body. That dribbling blessed oil on heads is as useful as a magic wand (shouts out to John Larson on that one).
He: So why do you still come?
Me: Because I think that the church creates a good community, most of the people here are good people, because it is a good place to serve and be served. Because this is my tribe, I was raised Mormon and these are my people. So I plan to keep coming at least in the near-term, and take the best from Mormonism. I will be a cafeteria Mormon.
He: What do you want for your children?
Me: I want my children to be happy. I want them to know truth. If my daughter knows both sides of the story of Mormonism and still chooses to go to the temple and serve a mission and that makes her happy, then I will support her. But what I want most of all is for her to know that she doesn’t have to believe in mormonism, which was something that was never given me as I grew up. That she can leave all this behind her and that I will still love her. But what I don’t want is for her to be in a 15 year marriage with someone that thought that he had married someone that was going to help him into the celestial kingdom and then find out about the BoA, and have it crash a marriage.
He: So what do you want from the church? Do you still want to have and hold callings?
Me: Sure, as long as it isn’t missionary related, I will do most anything.

And that is where we left it. I told my wife the conversation, she wasn’t pleased. She doesn’t think that we can have friendships in the church with someone who openly doesn’t believe. I concurred that it is possible that we will be shunned, but that I didn’t think so. I also said that if they don’t allow me to bless my baby this fall, that it will probably mark the end of my active participation.

So I guess we will sit back and see what happens now. I am waiting for the phone call from the Bishop. I will keep you posted as this moves forward.

-Defiantly wearing a non-white shirt

Big Al

The Toughest Talk, But the Most Rewarding

My eldest just turned 12, a big step in a young LDS girl’s life. She starts going to young women as a Beehive, and baptisms for the dead.

I found myself alone with her on her birthday. My wife was doing visiting teaching and my son had gone to bed. She and I decide to split the last piece of cheesecake left over from her birthday party the week before. This was the perfect opportunity that I was looking for to give her my last gift for this year. This gift was that I told her that no matter what she did, that I would always be here for her and that I would always love her. It is something that her grandparents never gave their daughters. I had a talk about drugs. Told her that they weren’t evil, but they allow normally evil people to do evil things.  More

The Missing Fourth Fold

With the recent changes in “The Handbook”, I have been released from the “Party Planning Committee” (or was it the “Committee to Plan Parties”) AKA “Activities Committee”. I have also been released as one of the EQ teachers. In the place of those two callings I have been called as the “Not the Perfect the Saints Committee, But Do the Exact Same Thing As That Because ‘The Handbook’ Doesn’t Prescribe Committees” AKA “Move Coordinator” AKA “EQ Temporal Wellness Leader”.

I thought that this would be a good opportunity to review the Three Fold Mission of the church. But I also want to bring attention to an under-serviced population that is not being served. To review, the three fold mission of the church is:

  1. Perfect the Saints
  2. Proclaim the Gospel
  3. Redeem the Dead

This provides service to three core groups of people, Alive Not-Mormons, Dead Not-Mormons, and Alive Mormons. However, this leaves out an under-serviced fourth class of people, Dead Mormons (see the below handy matrix).

Alive Dead
Not-Mormon Proclaim the Gospel Redeem the Dead
Mormon Perfect the Saints ???

That is the calling I need, Perfect the Dead Saints Committee Chairman. Each time I have proposed this in my ward I inevitably get the question “how would you serve them?” Easy I would pray a lot, obviously. I would help with any resurrection requirements as they come up (pun totally intended). I could do programs for the funerals as they die.

So my question to everyone out there is “What else could I do to perfect the dead saints?”

-Defiantly wearing a non-white shirt

Big Al

Alive Dead
Not-Mormon Proclaim the Gospel Redeem the Dead
Mormon Perfect the Saints ???

Alive

Dead

Not-Mormon

Proclaim the Gospel

Redeem the Dead

Mormon

Perfect the Saints

???

A Thrill of Hope

I loved the latest Podcast, thank you to Glen and supporting cast (it is even good to hear from Nyal again). The songs of Christmas make me want to believe again. Like many of the panelists “Oh Holy Night” is one of my favorites as well. One of the passages has always caught my ear, “A thrill of hope a weary world rejoices, For yonder break a new and glorious morn.” Isn’t hope thrilling? The grass is always greener on the other side. What is coming has to be better than what we are living in now.

Another of my favorites songs is”Away in the Manger”. I know that it is a corny sort of childish song, but it has always touched me, especially the last half.

I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle til morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And take us to heaven, to live with Thee there.

The thought that there is an entity looking over me, that cares for me always brings a little tear to my eye. I would love to have the comfort of knowing that there is someone looking over me, ensuring me that everything is going to be alright.

But alas, I just can’t get over that Jesus has been just a big disappointment to me. I can’t allow my mind to let go of the aspects of reality. I haven’t been able to see his effects in the here and now as promised by my religion. I can’t let go of my skepticism starting with His birth that Joseph most likely knocked up Mary and just started swearing up and down that he didn’t so that she wouldn’t get stoned, and the lie grew from there.

I sincerely hope that each of you have a very Merry Christmas. I hope that you all have a wonderful New Year full of health and prosperity. I hope that this coming year we can all have a measure of peace in our own lives. I hope that we can find fulfillment in service to our fellow man.

And it is this hope that is truly thrilling to me.

-Defiantly wearing a non-white shirt

Big Al

My Latest and Last Lesson as a EQ Instructor: Gifts of the Spirit

The EQ Pres grabbed me right after Sacrament Meeting this week and ask to have talk. He told me that I was going to be released from being an instructor to be the EQ Move Correlator (not the real name, but he hadn’t come up with what the title was at the time, and essentially that is all that I will do). So this will be my last post as the instructor, but I plan to post about the lessons when they are interesting.

During our little discussion I mentioned that I had prepared this weeks lesson on the Sacrament (lesson 23) and he said that the other guy did that one last week (I wasn’t there, I was washing dishes from the ward Christmas party, but that is another post). Which left me scrambling to put together the lesson he skipped last week “The Gifts of the Spirit” (lesson 22). I was actually OK with this because the Sacrament is such a boring lesson in comparison the the Gifts of the Spirit! The only really thing that I could come up with for sacrament is showing the Mr. Deity bit “Mr. Deity and the Host“. One of the funniest bits ever on religion and I could talk about how silly Catholics are because the believe in transubstantiation and about how blessed we are to have a prophet so that we Mormons don’t believe silly things like that (hopefully the sarcasm in the last statement is showing through).

I started out my Gifts of the Spirit lesson by asking what the most popular/heard about gift was. The obvious answer and top on the list in the manual was the Gift of Tongues. I talked about glossolalia, and the difference between that and xenoglossy. That we sort of claim xenoglossy when we send our missionaries into the field to learn a foreign language. We talked a bit about how many of us in the quorum have seen it first hand, and how icky it made us feel, and how the spirit just wasn’t there. I then mixed it up about talking about how the spirit was manifested by glossolalia in the early church, endorsed by no less than Brigham Young, and not on a single occasion but on a regular basis in the most holy dwellings of the church. I asked “Why is glossolalia not manifested today?” to which someone answered some excuse that I can’t even remember now. I then explained that there have been Functional MRI scans on people have glossolalia induced by what they interpret as the spirit and when it happens the portion of the brain that lights up is language portions, not story fabrication/lie sections of the brain. These people are not faking it, they have felt the spirit no less than you. They know that they are speaking the pure Adamic Language of God, just as sure as you know that JS is a prophet of God.

We then talked about the gift of interpretation of tongues. The manual gave this account of David O. Mckay:

This gift is sometimes given to us when we do not understand a language and we need to receive an important message from God. For example, President David O. McKay had a great desire to speak to the Saints in New Zealand without an interpreter. He told them that he hoped that the Lord would bless them that they could understand him. He spoke in English. His message lasted about 40 minutes. As he spoke, he could tell by the expression on many of their faces and the tears in their eyes that they were receiving his message. (See Answers to Gospel Questions, 2:30–31.)

I asked, “why did God force the whole congregation have the interpretation of tongues instead of giving McKay the Gift of Tongues?” Of course the answer was so that the whole congregation can have the blessed opportunity to feel the gift of the spirit.

We talked a little about the gifts of Translation, Wisdom (and about how some were more wise than others), knowledge, Gift of Teaching Wisdom and Knowledge. I then instructed that contrary to what everyone says in testimony meeting that in reality no one in here knows that Jesus Christ is the son of God, because the manual says that only prophets can know that because they are the “special witnesses” (someone challenged me on that one and I had to point to the book). Which bled into the next one (which is classic) “The Gift of believing the Testimony of Others.” I chuckled a little and asked “shouldn’t we just rename this one ‘the gift of gullibility?'”

We talked about the gift of healing and if the televangelists and revivalists had the “gift of healing”, because I have seen them make people walk on television. They said that that was just the devil imitating the spirit. I then talked about “by their fruits ye shall know them” and by saying that you are implicating that the devil is good. I then explained how it was really done and that it is really just trickery by the televangelist’s part. Basically they will have a line of people wanting to go get healed, pick someone who is frail, but otherwise able to walk and ask them if they would like to have a seat in the wheel chair. When they get up to the healer, the healer will command them to get up, the frail person will, and a miracle has occurred, and never give the person a chance to get healed of what they wanted to be healed from. This led to a little sidebar about whether it was good to lie for the sake of making the rest of the people believe in Jesus.

We then had a small discussion about the gift of healing. I threw out one bomb about how it was funny that only the diseases that could spontaneously be cured are the ones that priesthood blessings are used for, and that no one yet has grown back an appendage (Shouts out to the Irreligiosophy podcast for that nugget).

It was a great lesson which I wish I could have had more time to prepare for. I also wish I would have had two Sunday’s to teach.

-Defiantly wearing a non-white shirt

Big Al

One of God’s Greatest Gifts

This week’s lesson was on God’s greatest gift mankind, the Gift of the Holy Ghost (Chapter 21 in the Gospel Principles book for those who are following along). To be honest this one was a little tough for me, not a lot of stuff to go over in this chapter. The lesson is pretty straight forward and mundane.

I started out by asking brother EQ 1st Counselor if he had been baptized? He answered “yes”. Have you been given the gift of the Holy Ghost? Again he answered “yes”.  I then asked him if he ever desired to do evil? Again he answered “yes, I does from time to time”. But why is that so, because the book here tells us that “The Holy Ghost purifies our hearts so we no longer have the desire to do evil.” There was not really any answer so I just went on. So what came first, holiness or the spirit? Let’s step through this:

1. If I am not Mormon and not doing good, I will not be able to feel the HG

2. If I am not Mormon and doing good, I will be able to feel the HG

3. If I am Mormon and not doing good, I will not be able to feel the HG

4. If I am Mormon and doing good, I will be able to feel the HG

This raises the question, what good is it to be Mormon and have the gift of the HG, because all that it takes for me to feel the influence of the HG is to be doing good things.

I then taught the whole lesson manual except the last section and looked at my watch and saw that I had 30 minutes left to fill. I did have a little skeptical question that I was going to throw out there but didn’t want it to dominate the majority of the time, so I asked if the quorum had anything that they wanted to add. I was amazed at how much these guys like to hear themselves speak.

My skeptical question came to me because of this coming Christmas Season. My wife and I are starting to decide what gifts we are going to give to our children. While preparing for this lesson I came upon the title of the last section “One of God’s Greatest Gifts”. This got me thinking, one of the main reasons I don’t give my children everything that they want is due to cost. I asked one member of the EQ who has a teenager that just got her license what she wanted for Christmas and she wanted a car. I asked another what his kids wanted and he said a large Lego set that costs several hundred dollars. I then asked whether or not they would be giving it to them and they said because of cost. I then asked individuals one of the EQ members the following questions:

Does God love Mormons? yes. Does God love Catholics? yes, …Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Arabs, Muslims, the terrorist plotting to kill you next week, the 14 Pakistanis that the US decided needed to die in air strikes late last month, Baptists, and Pentecostals. Each Elder answered yes to each of the groups. One Elder even blurted out “He even loves Atheists and Agnostics!” That one warmed the cockles of my heart, and I got a little teary eyed (not really my eyes nearly burned up from rolling so hard and fast). I then asked how much does it cost God to give the Gift of the Holy Ghost to all his children and not just to Mormons? Why would God withhold one of his greatest gifts from the entire world, especially if it did what the lesson manuals says and “purifies our hearts so we no longer have the desire to do evil” God could eliminate terrorism with one swift world-wide day of Pentecost as he did in Acts (Note that God is still not removing free will, just as brother 1st councilor stated that he still has his desire). It costs God nothing additional (marginal cost, for those financially minded) to give out an additional unit of Holy Ghost which would do so much good in the world.

Bottom line is, I am having trouble seeing the evidence of HG in my life. I have felt what people claim if the HG. I have pondered and prayed and received genuine answers to questions like “is the BoM true” and “is JS a prophet of God”. But looking back I can see how I can also talk myself into believing in what I am feeling is genuine, because I want it to be true. There is no objective measure for the existence of the HG, just like Mr. Sagan’s invisible dragon in the garage.

-Defiantly wearing a non-white shirt

Big Al

PS, I have a calling update. There is some good news and some bad news. The good news is that with the recent update to the handbook of instructions my job of activities chairperson is being eliminated. The bad news is that they are not going to release me until after the Christmas party.

What is Sin?

The latest Priesthood lesson was about repentance (For Brothers and Sisters following along it is Chapter 19 in the Gospel Principles Book). I often find the opening question of the lessons to be the most intriguing point of the lessons. They are meant to be thought provoking and start a dialog. This weeks opening question was a whopper of a question “What is sin?” I am sure that the textbook/Primary answer has something to do with “things that take your spirit further from God blah blah blah.” But that is not the answer I am looking for.

I am not a philosopher, I am sure there are others out there that know about sin from a philosophical view than I. But the majority of my lesson was spent on these three words. This was not an easy lesson for my quorum. While trying to establish what sin is, I attempted to set up a few things that were absolutely sinful things and those that were not and write them into two lists on the chalkboard (you know the obligatory list on the chalkboard). Here were some of my questions and answers from the quorum:

Q: “Is murder a sin?”
A: “It depends, Nephi was commanded to kill Laban, and Abraham was commanded to kill Isaac (or Ishmael if you are Muslim).”

Q: “OK, Is it a sin to shoot Brother Jones in the back of the head, while he was jogging down the street because I didn’t like his shirt, and God didn’t tell me to.”
A:
“Yes”
My response: “Whew (I chalk ‘Murder’ up on the board under the ‘Sin’ column), Brethren we are thinking too hard on this, don’t try to pull on nuances, remember ‘thou shall not kill.'” (I didn’t go into what if I “heard” God tell me to kill Brother Jones, am I then a prophet or loon?).

Q: “Is having Family Home Evening a sin?”
A: “It depends, are there other things that are more important for you to be doing?”
My response: I start searching for a gun because the voices in my head are screaming out for “sacrificing” this crowd to Baal.

Next we read James 4:17 , “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin”. I read that and I had to ask, “Is this justification for moral relativism?” Is sin just those things that the local culture approves of and disapproves of? It really has nothing to do with what is moral or not, it is just what my parents have said is right and wrong.

I asked them to find the definition of “Sin” in the scriptures and of course there isn’t one, really other than 1 John 3:4 and 1 Cor 15:56 that basically says that sin is breaking the law. So what is the need for the concept of “sin” when we have a strong government and legislative, and punitive/reformation system? (Personal interjection here: Come on God and/or God’s mouth pieces, if there was one bit of information that we need down here before we get our eternal reward it would be a clear cut definition of what sin is and isn’t. This is the stuff that we are going to get graded on. At least put it in the Bible Dictionary for me to reference!)

This lesson taught me a lot about sin. It reinforced to me that there is no such thing as “sin”. But it went a step further, there is not even the need for the concept of sin. It is time to get over this concept and do what is right, not what those in leadership positions want us to do (not just church leaders, but parents, teachers, government leaders etc). We need to the things Christ taught, like love your neighbor, turn the other cheek, and so on. It is the concept of sin that brought us the holocaust, which was nothing worse than any other genocide God has ordered his prophets of the Old Testament to carry out. Only by doing things that are truly right can we improve the world around us.

Now all we need to do is figure out what “right” is.

-Defiantly wearing a non-white shirt
Big Al

Defiantly Wearing a Non-White Shirt – A Personal Introduction

Good morning Brothers and Sisters, for those of you who don’t know me, you still don’t. However, I will tell you a bit about myself. I am a 6-ish generation Mormon on both sides of my family. My heritage includes some big names in the Mormon community, Palmer, Lee, Hamblin, Smith, Anderson and more. As a youth I won’t say that I did all the right things, but I did go on a mission and I did get sealed in the temple over a decade ago. My wife is a faithfulish member who, when left to her own devices understands some problems created by the church, but when confronted she will defend the church to the death. My children are beautiful and believing, but curious (a trait I hope to enhance). I like to wear shirts that have just a little color in them to church, just to stick it to the man and be a rebel (yeah you know you better not cross me in the church hallway)!

I have come to the conclusion that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is not the one and only true church. I believe that the creation story of the church, as told by the church, is bunk. The BoM can’t be correct. Early church leaders were untruthful and motivated by power, celebrity and sex. That said, I think that modern Mormons and Mormon leadership are good people that are creating a good community that is well organized and is probably not corrupt.

I do not believe in science, I trust in science, because science delivers the goods. Science is the best method that anyone on earth has to estimate truth. I consider myself to be agnostic when it comes to God and an afterlife. I am waiting for that piece of incontrovertible evidence to show His/Her/It’s existence before I commit my heart to It any more.

I am still active in the Brighamite branch of the church. I attend most every Sunday. I still wear my Garments, but I don’t want to, and haven’t attended the temple in over 5 years, I don’t intend on returning unless maybe my children want to be married there. I have two callings in the Church, co-Activities Chairman (with my wife) and Elders Quorum Teacher.

It is this heavy involvement with the church and backlash from the wife that I feel I will have to be anonymous here. At some point I hope to be more open. I plan to blog mostly about my adventures as an Elders Quorum Teacher. During each of the lessons I have taught I find some incredible incongruity once I stepped out of the Mormon Paradigm. I have found this interesting, enlightening and even jaw dropping at times. I often stand up in front of the Elders, explain a logical fallacy, or an incongruity and watch the elders do the mental backflips to make Mormonism and Christianity still work for them.

But what I find most frustrating is that I have to teach from the Gospel Principles manual. I and most others in the EQ have heard this same stuff for year on end and some, from the beginning of life. Those who are in missionary callings hear this same stuff twice a week! They hear it in Gospel Essentials and then in EQ or RS. My wife has a friend in Gospel Essentials class and often wants me to go with her. By the end of the day I want to gouge out my eyes and puncture my ear drums. COME ON CHURCH LEADERSHIP, give us just a little bit of meat. I know that we have to have milk before meat but my babies will never grow into adults if all they get is milk! Anyway enough of my ALL CAPS. I am not one given to all caps and exclamation points easily. I hope that you enjoy these writings and ramblings, as much as I have writing them.

Finally, I want to thank John for allowing me to post here. I hope that you all will find my musings enjoyable, thoughtful, and interesting.

-Defiantly wearing a non-white shirt

Big Al