Book of Mormon

The OTHER Mormon Moment

Many of you have heard of the “Mormon Moment,” and the items that have happened through the last year:

    Mitt Romney as a legitimately viable candidate for the Republican party candidate for President of the United States
    The Book of Mormon Musical cleaning house at the Tony Awards
     

    The “I’m a Mormon” campaign, focusing on the “everyday” folks that make up the LDS church.

As a matter of fact, if you need a refresher, just pick up the infamous Newsweek magazine from the middle of June this last year.

Many people feel that this our “arriving” moment, where Mormons are now taken seriously as a culture and as a religion. People are now examining the nuances that make Mormons who they are (for example, the the phenomenon of Mormon Mommy Blogs), scholarly interests have been increasing over the years (Oxford University Press seems to have five different books coming out about Mormon Studies), and it being commonplace to hear about Mormons from places like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

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Why The Church Hasn’t Condemned Its Racist Past

As a result of its interpretation of the Bible as forbidding interracial dating, Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina did not admit any black students prior to 1971.  Between 1971 and 1975 it admitted married, but not single, black students and in 1975 began to admit both married and single black students.  Nevertheless, it continued to forbid interracial dating, punishing (or in the first instance simply not admitting) those who engaged in it.  This was a very costly principle.  In 1982, after years of wrangling in court, it was finally determined that the IRS was within its rights to revoke BJU’s tax exempt status based on its racist policies retroactive to 1970, to collect over a million dollars in back taxes and to collect taxes going forward. More

Sojourner in the Lone and Dreary World: Two Years Among the Apostates

My first foray into the online Mormon world occurred when I was 18 years old.  As a young clean-cut Mormon getting ready to go on a mission, I was looking for anything about Mormons my own age, and people who could understand not only why I was choosing to live the way I did, but why I was choosing to go to Korea for two years. Mormons from highly-populated Mormon areas seemed to be living in the “promised land,” the land of “milk and honey.” I never thought my initial journey on that now-defunct message board would lead me here.
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Towards A Mormon “Hall of Fame” of Books

Reading has always been in my blood. I can distinctly remember being 9 years old, losing feeling in my arm, being propped up on my elbow while underneath the covers with a flashlight and a book, and quickly turning the light off and switching positions any time I heard my parents walking outside my bedroom door. I have vivid memories of blasting through the first 4 books of the Harry Potter series on vacation when I was 16 years old, a stack of John Grisham books when I was 17 (and on vacation), and countless others.

Reading is what also got me into a more intellectual/scholarly based look at religion, and Mormonism in general. I realized when I was on my mission that the correlated Deseret Book published books and materials just weren’t whetting my whistle. I wanted something with a bit more substance, a bit more meat, something to help me understand my religion a bit better. After I returned home, I took a break to decompress from my mission, but as I returned to college, I was excited to experience BYU-level religion classes. Little did I know that my classes would be glorified CES Institute classes, with the same milk-type lessons and stories I had heard from my youth.

As I explored the bloggernacle, I realized there were people out there looking for a similar dialogue. I found the main Mormon periodicals, and I started expanding my library aside from the “bestselling” Deseret Book items that left me wanting more.  My time in the online Mormon world has shown me that I’m not the only one that feels this sense of yearning for what is considered to be a “good” book for Mormon research. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked through blogs or Google with the search string “Essential Mormon Books,” or something along those lines.

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Hi, I’m Zelph and I’m a Modernist

Hi, I’m Zelph and I’m a Modernist

Introduction
With the “I’m A Mormon” ad campaign recently hitting the shores of Australia, frequent Mormon Expression board commenter Martin Jacobs was prompted to consider it’s message in light of trends he sees emerging in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I found his analysis intriguing enough to merit stepping aside and letting him mount my soap box as a guest blogger.  I hope that you find his insights as  fresh, challenging, and thought provoking as I did when I heard them for the first time.

Hi, I’m Zelph and I’m a Modernist
by Martin Jacobs
The tag line “I’m [insert name here], and I’m a Mormon” superbly clinches the current advertising campaign by the Mormons. However, I suggest that the message that it projects is not the gospel of Jesus Christ, it’s not even the gospel of Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith; it’s modernism. More

What’s Wrong With The Mormon Church?

Martin Luther hanging the Ninety-Five Theses

Martin Luther hanging the Ninety-Five Theses

Introduction:
Today is October 31st, “Reformation Day”.  It was on this day 494 years ago that Martin Luther nailed “The Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” (commonly known as “The Ninety-Five Theses”) unto the door of The Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. “The Ninety-Five Theses” is widely regarded as the primary catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.

And while readily acknowledging that I’m no Martin Luther, it is with a hopeful spirit for reformation in our lifetime that I offer these Ninety-Five Theses to a modern church that, in my opinion (as well as in the opinion of many others) is badly in need of it. More

Elder Callister’s Book of Mormon Bomb

Leave it to me to tear apart the easiest talk from last General Conference (GC) to be torn to shreds.  If you haven’t heard/read it, you probably shouldn’t.  Before I start picking Brother Tad apart, let me just say that I listened to a good part of GC, as I have twice a year for so many years.  I used to listen repeatedly to the talks on tape, and then on CD.  I could cite quotes from any talk.  I could tell you the order of seniority of the apostles.  I have still not forgotten many of the wonderful talks by President Hinckley.  I loved GC.

Unfortunately, I have hit a rough patch, very well characterized in the previous blog posts by Eric and Tierza.  Most of the time I feel like I have lost my confidence in the General Authorities.  They seem to be just men with more experience than I, who say cute things to make Mormons feel good about themselves (except for when they are trying to make you feel bad about yourself, to convince you to repent and use the atonement in your life). More

The Problem of The Mormon Tank (Revisited)

A funny thing happened on the way to this blog. I was actually planning to publish – and was working on – brand new, original material when several of the Mormon Expression Podcast and Blog discussion boards “lit up” with interesting dialog. I feel that that the content of this previously published article is relevant to several of them. So with no further adieu – and with a nod, a wink, and a grin to Eric’s last blog – I offer for your consideration, “The Problem of The Mormon Tank (Revisited)”.

Artist's depiction of the crew in a Sherman Tank.

Artist's depiction of the crew in a Sherman Tank.

Here’s the problem
If you’re in an Army Tank and pull out a compass the needle will point toward magnetic north. However, the compass is only validated if when you get outside that Tank and it’s still pointing in the exact same direction.Then, it’s only truly validated if it’s compared to yet another “known good” compass while outside the tank and they both point in the same direction. That is, the one point of internal reference and two points of external reference are all calibrated. The reason for this is simple: The magnetic field created by the iron armor of the Tank interferes with the compass’s operating integrity. You could consult a thousand compasses inside the Tank, and still get the same compromised and errant result every time. More

Lying for the Lord: A Grassroots Tale

"If someone claims to have the truth . . . " It’s been said that, “Sex and crime seem to be the perfect recipe for broadcast success in the 21st century!” So it’s no wonder that a recent Mormon Expression podcast appears to be so popular. It features a “Top 10 Count Down” of famous Mormon criminals and sure enough, despite the occassional “downer” moment (some of the criminal behavior is truly apalling) it’s fascinating, thought provoking stuff!

On several occassions the panel tangents from the central topic into the meta-question of “Why?” as in, “Why does there seem to be something in Mormonism that disportionally contributes to these behaviors?”; and as in, “Why do Mormons – including some ‘golden’ Mormons – demonstrate a propensity toward these extreme behaviors?”, etc. And while I thought that several good theories are offered in the podcast, an analysis on the discussion board is, to my way of thinking, particularly insightful:

“Mormonism has a very real problem in this regard: its central book of scripture opens with a story of justification of murder [that is, a divine directive to Nephi commanding him to behead Laban] and the rest of the book is so bland that it doesn’t overcome that message or it reinforces that message with the continual battles between the Nephites and Lamanites. The problem is that if God can justify murder he can justify any lesser sin as well. And that’s where Mormonism fundamentally departs from traditional Protestantism (and perhaps Catholicism as well) where God must be a moral God.

In Protestantism … God must conform to all the standards of morality that we hold or else He/She is not God.”[1]

That said, in addition to the Book of Mormon example, I would propose that the following passage from The Pearl of Great Price be considered in regard to the “lesser sin” of lying:

Book of Abraham 2:22-25
“And it came to pass when I was come near to enter into Egypt, the Lord said unto me: Behold, Sarai, thy wife, is a very fair woman to look upon;

Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see her, they will say — She is his wife; and they will kill you, but they will save her alive; therefore see that ye do on this wise:

Let her say unto the Egyptians, she is thy sister, and thy soul shall live.

And it came to pass that I, Abraham, told Sarai, my wife, all that the Lord had said unto me — Therefore say unto them, I pray thee, thou art my sister, that it may be well with me for thy sake, and my soul shall live because of thee.”

That passage is troubling because it portrays the Mormon God giving a divine directive to Abraham that he lie to Pharoah in a manner that’s quite similar to the way he instructed Nephi to murder Laban.[2] This is in direct violation of the moral criteria that the Jewish God established in the Bible via the 10 Commandments[3] and the Mormon God reinforced via The Book of Mormon.[4] Further, and as a practical matter, it’s vexing because I’ve found that some Mormons use it as a divine justification for lying. In other words, Book of Mormon “Blood Atonement” meet Book of Abraham “Lying for the Lord”.[5]

On the Delicate Matter of “Lying for the Lord”
A Mormon Wiki describes the Mormon practice of “Lying for the Lord” as follows:

“Lying for the Lord refers to the practice of lying to protect the image of and belief in the Mormon religion, a practice which Mormonism itself fosters in various ways. From Joseph Smith’s denial of having more than one wife, to polygamous Mormon missionaries telling European investigators that reports about polygamy in Utah were lies put out by “anti-Mormons” and disgruntled ex-members, to Gordon B. Hinckley’s dishonest equivocation on national television over Mormon doctrine, Mormonism’s history seems replete with examples of lying. Common members see such examples as situations where lying is justified. For the Mormon, loyalty and the welfare of the church are more important than the principle of honesty, and plausible denials and deception by omission are warranted by an opportunity to have the Mormon organization seen in the best possible light.
(Link to Source; bolding and underlining added for emphasis)

Now I’m not here to rehash the aforementioned historical record of Mormon Leaders engaging in “Lying for the Lord” – that’s been done well enough by others and I have no interest in reinventing the wheel.[6] My interest is far more immediate, practical, and close to home – more “grass roots” if you will.

And I know that modern Mormons typically bristle when critics accuse the members of the LdS Church of “Lying for the Lord”. The typical response involves citing The Articles of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Article Thirteen which states:

“We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men…”
(Link to Source; bolding added for emphasis)

And I will readily admit that most of the members I know personally would consider deviating from the Article Thirteen standard unthinkably unethical and integrity compromising. Never-the-less just as soon as the “Enemy of the eternal gospel and only true Church” label is slapped on someone or something, somewhere out there from the deep, dark lunatic fringes of the Mormon Church a “Liar for the Lord” will quickly emerge.

A recent firsthand experience served as a painful reminder.

The Blue Devil and Dr. Jones: A Grassroots Tale
For some reason the Internet tends to bring out the worst in people. As a result of that sad fact one of the Mormon-centric websites that I frequent eventually tired of the constant, seemingly endless, often childish bickering that goes on between Mormon Defenders and Mormon Critics. So, being predisposed to the critical stance (which is in fact implied by the site’s purpose statement), the web site owner decided to bring peace to the proceedings by making the discussion board exclusive to critics. The announcement was made, the user accounts of the Mormon defenders were revoked, a banner explaining the new policy was posted on the main page of the website and life went on for all. We remaining members were then left to continue in our misguided efforts to critique and discuss the history, doctrine, and practices of the only “perfect” church on earth in peace and harmony.[7]

But apparently, the stress and anxiety of seeing the LdS Church publicly analyzed, criticized, deconstructed, reconstructed – and in some cases even denounced – without challenge was just too much for some members so a solution had to be found – and that fix was (of course) “Lying for the Lord”.

In the latest such case a new board member “BlueDevil” (from the great state of North Carolina of course) registered and posted on the board. He came roaring in with both guns blazing – clearly a “Porter Rockwell” Mormon who was “ready to rumble” with these despicable eternal darkness bound “Children of the Devil” and “Enemies of the only true Church!” In his wake, a “DrJones0″ (from the great state of Texas) arrived with a quieter, gentler, more tempered and reasoned approach with the members.

The regular members first reminded BlueDevil that Mormons apologists weren’t allowed on this particular board and encouraged him to comply with the rules by not posting. These requests were met with number of angry and hostile posts calling down judgment on high on these blind deceivers. He then disappeared. Poof! Gone! Just like that!

Well, that was easy!

Oddly Dr. Jones’ posts then slowly began to drift into a more decidedly pro-Mormon, apologetic stance. He eventually began using stock and standard Latter-day clichés and language. He then was asked directly if he was a Mormon. At first he demurred and then flatly denied it – not once, not twice, but three times. Yet, at the same time, his posts were simultaneously becoming more and more fanatical. By the day three they had collapsed into a shard pile of stock word-for-word LdS Apologist pabulum. Finally, he simply spammed the discussion board with the same copy and paste “REPENT and be baptized ye apostates destined for outer darkness!” post (well over 100-times in fact) before the board SysAdmin could stop the bleeding via a well-deserved ban.

Given the gawd awful mess that he’d been left with the (solo) SysAdmin enlisted my help (I’m an IT guy in my day job) in scrubbing the site of the spam that Dr. Jones had left behind. The SysAdmin duly “Deputized” me and gave me full administrative privileges on the board. We then got to the hard work of purging the “faith promoting graffiti” off of the site one virtual urban scrawl at a time.

Now, I hope it doesn’t shock or surprise anyone that Internet discussion boards enable administrators to see the IP address of the computer that the users post from. So I did some quick forensics and discovered that not only were “BlueDevil” and “DrJones0″ the same person [8], their posts were all generated through the same Internet Service Provider in (drum roll puh-lease) central Salt Lake City.

(Yes, yes, I’m sure that you’re as surprised as we were!)

This was a clear case of not just “Lying for the Lord” but blatantly, repeatedly, and overtly doing so.

“It’s Like Getting Married”
Now, all fairness, given the number of anonymous unregistered hits that this site and other such sites receive each day, this case – and the others like it – are the exception not the norm. Never-the-less this case study demonstrates one way that “Lying for the Lord” is practiced in modern Mormonism.

And, of course the whole issue of using deceit in the name of God, regardless your religious stance, is never a good idea because as one person put it:

“Joining a religious group is much like a marriage, often including a type of “falling in love”. When two people are seriously involved and contemplating marriage, is it really the ethical responsibility of each to, say, hire a private investigator to fully investigate the background of their loved one to make sure there are no ugly surprises after the wedding? Or is it the moral and ethical responsibility of each party to make that disclosure?” [9]

Or put another way, “If someone claims to have the truth you should probably first make sure that they’re not lying to you.”[10]

 

NOTES:
[1] Post by Mike Michaels dated June 23, 2011; retrieved 6/23/2011; the bracketed text summarizes the prior paragraph for clarity. Mr. Michael later explained in another post, “I was/am not responding as a believing Christian for I am not. I am merely trying to explain the difference in mindset that I held as a believing Christian before I converted to Mormonism (subsequently followed by 20 years of active participation).”

[2] It should be noted that it’s generally conceded in the Biblical narratives that parallel this Book of Abraham account the biblical characters took it upon themselves to lie since only did God not mandate the lies but went so far as to expose the attempt at deceit to the unsuspecting victim. (see Genesis 12:10-19, Genesis 20, and Gen 26:1-10) As a result, most expositors exegese these passages as morality plays regarding failures of faith on the part of the humans that did not please God. (see http://www.enduringword.com/commentaries/0120.htm ; http://www.easyenglish.info/bible-commentary/genesis-mwks3-lbw.htm )

[3] See Exodus 20:16 and Deuteronomy 5:20

[4] See Ether 3:12 and 2 Nephi 9:34

[5] One need go no further than Dallin H. Oaks’ September 12, 1993 BYU address, “Gospel Teachings About Lying” for an example how arguments for lying are exegesed from LdS Scripture. And though it may seem extreme to some “Blood Atonement” p. 93, by Independent Mormon Fundamentalist, Ogden Kraut provides us with an excellent example of how an argument for murder can be developed from the Laban narrative.

[6] Former Church Educational System employee Ken Clark’s list of such case studies is an excellent overview as is the aforementioned MormonWiki.org article.

[7] This, as I’m sure anyone familiar with the Internet knows is not unusual as there are many Latter-day Saint discussion boards where the opposite has been the case. This is no big deal – it’s just life on a planet whose inhabitants would rather bicker than agree to disagree (or so it seems).

[8] Another charge that he had angrily denied.

[9] As cited from “Missionary Sophistry?” at http://www.mormonwiki.org/Lying_for_the_Lord from an original post now scrolled off discussion thread of a blog post at “Latter-day Saint Liberation Front”; Accessed 8/23/2006.

[10] Richard Packham, ExMormon Foundation Conference 2009. Mr. Packham’s full case against Mormonism’s use of lying can be found here.

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 Quotes That Haunt Me

I openly confess that I am by nature somewhat of a contrarian.  I like to argue just for sport.  Therefore, in a forum such as Mormon Expression, I feel a very strong pull toward playing the apologist role, since my impression is that the majority of followers of ME are non-believers in the LDS Church.  I realize that this attitude is dangerous, as people will call my motives and sincerity into question.  But I hope what I say here will come across in a sincere way.

At times, I have been accused of lacking integrity because my beliefs in the church are nuanced, and I have not just thrown up my hands and said, “it’s all a lie.”  Yet I still want to be understanding, and try my honest best to have an open dialogue with those who do not share my beliefs, whether Mormon, ex-Mormon, or never-Mormon.  While I have many doubts and questions myself, I find value in maintaining as healthy a relationship as possible with the church of my upbringing.  I have done my best to be honest with my family and leaders, and they still consider me a faithful, temple-recommend-worthy, member of the church. More

I’m Leaving the Church (Glenn Beck Said To…)

Every once in awhile, I come across a link in a totally pro-LDS publication that really blows my mind.  This morning, the stunning article came from none other than Meridian Magazine.  Usually, I get links from people I know from said magazine that talk about supporting traditional marriage, or about Joseph Smith’s great-granddaughter joining the LDS Church.  I read most of whatever comes my way, but I am well aware that Meridian Magazine is probably just as conservative as Sean Hannity or the Ensign on pretty much any matter you can think of.

However, today’s article was by Grant Hardy, and it was about The Book of Mormon and Social Justice.  Other than the fact that it came packaged with various scriptural reference from The Book of Mormon, this thing read like it came from the commentary section of the New York Times, or The Huffington Post. More