Dec 8, 2011
John and Zilpha are joined by Amy and Patrick to continue the discussion of the top 10 reasons to leave.
Podcast: Play in new window
By John Larsen
Tags: Boredom, cult, Deceptive, family, Jack Mormons, lies, marriage, money, Prophets, tithing, Weddings
Dec 08, 2011 @ 07:52:00
Enjoyed the podcast very much. Patrick is definitely a strong addition to the ME family.
And of course, there’s nothing like a good rant from John. Maybe a new series of podcasts called Rants could be added along with Voices.
It is certainly true that Mormonism (or any religion that attempts to merge itself with science, as originial Mormonism did) must ultimately be anti-science. This is because science does not deal in eternal truth. Any scientific belief is tentative, and will probably be changed.
Dec 08, 2011 @ 09:24:00
I agree with your statement but not necessarily the reason. The reason, IMO, most religions become anti-science is because they were born before the last 150 years and they made attempts to explain the natural world as well as making HUGE historical claims (ie. flood, exodus story, etc) that are not tenable to what science has revealed and if you cling to prophetic, dogmatic claims of the past, and Mormonism does, you will inevitably conflict with modern science. And science deals with tons of eternal truths like the theory of gravity, quantum theory, the theory of relativity, the germ theory of disease, and the theory of evolution. Your definition (at least what I’ve inferred as your definition) of “eternal truths” is begging the question.
I also like the addition of Patrick, obtuse misogyny aside I think most of us lugs were obliviously sexist in the depths of our TBM days. But this podcast probably made me less empathetic and patient with my TBM friends and family since it served as a reminder to all the church stands for that I hate. Now I have to make sure I don’t talk to them for a little while so the indignation wears off a bit. :-)
Dec 08, 2011 @ 17:27:00
You make a good point.
But I wouldn’t characterize any scientific theory (and I’m using the term “theory” in its scientific sense rather than its popular sense) as an eternal truth. The replacement of Newtonian physics by quantum physics in some applications is a good example of how scientific understanding changes. An older example would be the replacement of Ptolemaic astronomy by Copernican astronomy.
Of course, religious understanding also changes. But there remain some strong underlying themes that play a role in most faiths over very large swaths of time. An example would be the belief or perception that our wills are to some extent our own, and that our moral choices are in greater or lesser conformance with moral standards that are rooted in something greater than ourselves.
Dec 08, 2011 @ 20:23:00
Kevin – actually the understanding that our wills are our own is not at all a universal belief nor is it a long-standing one. The idea of free-will vs fate (or pre-determination) has been an issue in belief for thousands of years.
The same thing is true with a moral standard greater than ourselves – for many polytheistic belief systems morality had little to do with the gods (who weren’t terribly moral themselves). Morality was often decided by the society and was understood that way while the gods were capricious beings who acted according to their own (often very human) desires and whims.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 04:32:00
To me, the interesting thing about the whole free will vs. predetermination argument is that predetermination is impossible to prove. Someone who argues against the existence of free will must also acknowledge that the argument is itself predetermined rather than based on a free consideration of evidence.
Kinda trippy, IMHO.
Moral decisions can fall into the same circular trap. If the term “morality” has any meaning, then it cannot be arbitrarily applied. Meaningful morality therefore cannot be an arbitrary decision by society (excluding mere social customs, like which fork to use with salad). There must be some implicit standard underlying the decision.
The same is true of the old gods’ shenanigans. To say that the gods weren’t terribly moral is true, but it assumes the existence of a moral standard against which their behavior could be gauged.
I think this might shine some light on Mormonism’s problem with honesty. If the whole point of life is to undergo the church’s ordinances and make it into the Celestial Kingdom, then any statement that persuades someone to join or support the church is good even if it’s not true. It’s the whole pious deception thing.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 10:01:00
Kevin (sorry, this reply won’t nest so it looks like I’m replying to me!)
I’m not sure that your contention that morality cannot be arbitrarily applied – why not? I mean, that seems like a specially chosen definition of morality to suit the argument that morals are not arbitrary (ie, circular reasoning), whereas history is pretty much stuffed with examples of how that isn’t the case:
1 BCE Roman – believes it is morally acceptable to kill infants: ”I am still in Alexandria. … I beg and plead with you to take care of our little child, and as soon as we receive wages, I will send them to you. In the meantime, if (good fortune to you!) you give birth, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, expose it.” (letter from a Roman citizen)
9th C Viking – believes it is morally acceptable to rape and pillage and to kill unarmed monks
15th C Azec – believes it is morally acceptable to cut out the still beating heart of an enemy
15th C Spaniard – believes it is morally acceptable to torture and kill heretics
19th C South Carlolinan – believes it is morally acceptable to enslave fellow human beings
19th C Utahn – believes it is morally acceptable to marry multiple women
In all of these cases the immediate culture as a whole accepted these practices while their neighbors often abhorred them. In most cases the practices were acceptable to god, God or gods and in some it was even required.
So why are they horrific to us now? Because our culture has changed – our moral standards have changed. This is why apologists can point to Brigham Young’s outrageous and hateful racist comments or to the OT’s more disgusting episodes and claim that ‘it’s just a reflection of the times.’ Exactly! Because morals change to suit the society which frames them!
If there is anything fundamental to morality it isn’t the specifics of what is or is not moral, it is that morals are chosen by a society to further the interests of that society. When a practice becomes damaging or ideas change then the morals follow suit.
Throughout history, religious definitions of morality have tended to lag BEHIND the evolution of morality in societies which seems to imply that if morals are coming from anywhere it is not from whatever it is that those people are defining as god.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 13:10:00
I think I understand your point, Megan. We appear to simply differ on the definition of “morality.”
If I understand you correctly, you define morality as a set of social constructs that may include or exclude virtually any behavior. By that definition, moral behavior is not inherently good, and immoral behavior is not inherently evil, since good and evil have no objective existence.
Conversely, I define morality as an objective good, which has a reality of its own however much it may be obscured by culture and rationalization. As Randy Snyder points out, this requires some acceptance of metaphysics — a belief either in God or in some moral realm that can be accessed through revelation or intuition.
I know lots of atheists who base their personal moralities on their intuition, and it seems to work well for them. But I find that my faith in God helps to reinforce my own shaky morality.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 13:38:00
I think you’re right, although I would specifically say that we differ on the characteristics of morality. In other words, we would both say that moral acts are those which are good and right while the force that drives them for me is socially and biologically imposed while for you it is external. Is that fair?
For me, I see a fair amount of evidence to support the idea of an internally derived morality:
1) the changing nature of actions defined as moral and just over history
2) the evidence for social morality in social higher apes (I can provide some links if you like)
3) the emerging possible physiological evidence for a biological basis for morality (see Hardwired Behavior: What Neuroscience Reveals About Morality
I can logically understand an evolutionary pressure for intelligent social animals to develop a moral drive.
Since I don’t have a natural belief in god, I have to feel my way to the opposite, to an understanding of a moral system that is externally imposed. Beyond your own faith, do you see evidence for this sort of a system, and if so what? I hope this comes across as what it is, a genuine and respectful question – I have tried to get answers before but the folks I’ve talked to have not been comfortable with going beyond faith-based reasoning which, again with my lack of a belief in god, is kind of like proposing that blue is superior to green because of its blueness to someone who is colourblind!
Dec 09, 2011 @ 00:24:00
You’re begging the question again Kevin and Megan showed exactly why and better than I could have.
But I wanted to address your eternal truths comment. Newtonian physics was not something that was just scrapped as false knowledge. It’s quite useful but proved, via the scientific method, to be more limited than Newton realized. But much like Newton said, “If I have seen further, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants”, Newton “blessed” the world with the first useful understanding of physics that could be built upon. What he didn’t realize is that his physics didn’t work with very large things in the cosmos, or very, very small things with electrons, etc. It’s important to be careful about this because it’s easy for a creationist to look at physics and say, “You see!! Science is always changing. They are just making stuff up as they go along.” But what is happening is knowledge is building on knowledge in science. So, we now have quantum theory for very small things, Newtonian physics for the middle world we live in, and relativity for the cosmos. The next big problem is reconciling relativity with quantum theory but that doesn’t take away from the amazing advances in science and usefulness of the knowledge it has provided in this area.
My point is that from where I like to stand, which is on the firmest ground available IMO, objective reality, the theories I listed earlier are eternal truths in the sense that they have provided useful knowledge on how the universe presents itself in specific ways. And the universe is the only well established eternal entity there is. Your first post, IMO, begged the question because it assumed in its premise that a metaphysical world, that is eternal in nature, exists.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 08:32:00
I think you’ll find the following audio lecture by the physicist Lee Smolin from the Perimeter Institute very insightful and pertinent. It’s great primer on how science “works” and the underlying ethics that make it, arguably, the noblest of human endeavors.
P.S. The “Big Ideas” podcast is also avialable through itunes.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 13:14:00
Thank you for that link – that is fascinating and really apt for this discussion. I’m only about 50 minutes in but it’s one of those talks that’s just making all sorts of awesome connections in my brain so I had to jump back here and put up a big THANKS.
Going to have to listen again…
Dec 09, 2011 @ 12:51:00
But this is one of the saleint strengths of science. The “changes” could be viewed as repentance. Churches refuse to repent while science is good at it. Religion is “old stuff.”; science is “new stuff.” Our religion still thinks the first Homo Sapien lived 6000 years ago and that we do not have non-human ancestors. Absurd. That’s as silly as thinking the Earth is flat and that the Sun goes around it.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 16:16:00
So Kevin, do you believe that one day 747s will start falling from the sky because we will change science? Or do you believe that scientific knowledge is more permanent than you give it credit?
Dec 09, 2011 @ 20:04:00
Why, John, you must think me a silly goose!
Of course physical laws don’t change, at least as far as we currently understand the universe. So the 747s will probably be okay. But that’s not science.
As you know, science (specifically, “hard” science such as chemistry or biology) is the process by which we acquire knowledge and develop theories about the physical universe. Our understanding of scientific theories changes, which is how science progresses. We can all agree on this.
I think it’s a misconception that believers generally have some sort of axe to grind about science. Many of us see no inherent conflict between science and faith.
But problems definitely occur when people try to attach religious or metaphysical authority to truth claims that can — and therefore should — be scientifically tested. By the same token, I don’t think it is scientific to assume that our understanding of things such as ethics and aesthetics must be ultimately rooted in evolution or other physical processes.
Physical processes certainly play a role in how we experience things like goodness, beauty, and love. But I see no reason to assume that there is nothing more to these phenomena. That’s where metaphysics begin.
All this aside, thanks again for your great podcasts. Can’t wait to hear the one on the Adam-God Doctrine, which I have never been able to get my head around!
Dec 09, 2011 @ 20:36:00
I’m curious Kevin, have you read any of the recent scientific work on the possible biological bases of ethics? I reference some of it in a comment above. There’s some fascinating stuff going on and it is happening in some of the ‘hard’ sciences as well as some of the softer sciences like anthropology, sociology and biology.
I just want to make sure I’m understanding though – are you saying that science can’t make any statements about morality, or that they shouldn’t.
I suppose I don’t understand what is unscientific about assuming (making a hypothesis which can then be tested) that our physical processes have something to do with our morality, or that, for example, as social creatures evolution might have produced a tendency to group-ethics which can then be observed in other socially based animals. If a scientist found no evidence to support that hypothesis when evidence should exist, or if the scientist suppressed that evidence, then yes that would absolutely be unscientific – but not to ask the question at all? That seems to me to be the very definition of unscientific!
What’s funny is that to me aesthetics are more difficult to explain biologically than ethics, or even religion! I have a harder time (with my lack of education in the area) coming up with a logical reason why, for example, a particular Caravaggio is just beautiful and intriguing to me while Jackson Pollock stuff looks like a kindergarten art closet threw up. I may have to concede the metaphysics to you on aesthetics!
Dec 10, 2011 @ 05:59:00
I’ve read a little about the intersections between biology and ethics. Since both biology and ethics affect behavior, it’s not surprising that such intersections exist.
But to answer your other question, I’m not saying either that science cannot or should not make any statements about morality. Science has much to add to our understanding of most things.
What I am saying is that science probably cannot say EVERYTHING about morality, just as it probably cannot say everything about our experiences of beauty, honor, love, nobility, awe, and similar characteristics of our internal (some would say “spiritual”) lives.
I don’t think it is at all unscientific to hypothesize that physical properties have something to do with our morality. I think it is very likely that they do. My objection is to the claim — from either a scientific or a religious point of view — that spiritual phenomena can be exhaustively explained by one process of inquiry alone.
Science by itself does not seem adequate. Neither does inspiration. And for the record, I kind of like Jackson Pollock!
Dec 10, 2011 @ 17:43:00
Okay, thanks, I think I understand what you mean now.
It seems to be a question of sufficiency maybe? Where I see a sufficiency of evidence to convince me that science can (and is beginning to) explain moral urges you feel there will always be some thing lacking. I wonder if this is yet another place where my own lack – a lack of spirituality – makes me blind? At any rate, I really appreciate your engaging and explaining yourself so patiently, it helps enormously!
Poor Pollock, the trouble is that I once saw a sit-com where one character told a story about the first time he got drunk and how he went up the Tour d’Eiffel and hurled and three blocks away someone sold the result as a genuine Jackson Pollock. It’s rather coloured the way I look at his work every since…
By the way, I worried out a little theory as to why humans have this urge for the aesthetic – I wonder if it’s a compensation for our heightened stress levels. As our intelligence rose we lived with greater stress because, unlike a gazelle for example who has the momentary stress of the chase or the low-level awareness of the surroundings, we had all of the horror of the might-be’s in front of us, worries about the future etc which is, of course a form of imagination. That stress required some sort of relief and perhaps then our compensation was a drastically increased sensitivity to pleasure – so that things that pass other animals right by became a continual soothing influence, countering the fizzing of our poor, over-wired brains. Naturally we began to select and surround ourselves with those things which were most effective…
I dunno – that’s the great thing about being massively ignorant about a subject: you can speculate like mad and not know how stupid you sound!
Anyway, thanks again, I’ve really enjoyed learning more about your perspective!
Dec 12, 2011 @ 01:48:00
It is sometimes too easy to dismiss modern, abstract art as silly, meaningless junk. Though some of it undoubtedly is, I have found that that some modern art that at first seemed meaningless and absurd to me turned out to be profoundly meaningful, pleasing to the eye and/or thought provoking upon repeated exposure to it and further study, especially when after I learned somthing about the artist and what the artist was trying to get across.
Sometimes though, even the self appointed critics of modern art are duped into praising meaningless junk as high art. My father once told me about a man in Norway (if I remember correctly) who took a page of random scribblings with various colored crayons made by his baby daughter that featured one particularly prominent scribble that ran clear through the whole mess, and claimed it as his own artwork. He entitled it The Way We Go and submitted it to an art competition. It won first prize!
Dec 12, 2011 @ 20:26:00
Gunnar – One of my favorite things about art history is that when the impressionists were shut out of the ‘proper’ art shows they put their own on and the reviewers who showed up burst out into this fabulous rhetoric about warning pregnant women not to come to see the show because the horror might cause premature labour!
And then, on the other end, I remember seeing a clip about some modern ‘artist’ whose entire method was getting naked, smearing his body with coffee and then writhing about on a canvas.
I would really, really like to think that there is something between these two extremes!
Dec 12, 2011 @ 20:42:00
Megan, I couldn’t agree more! Well said!
Dec 10, 2011 @ 12:30:00
Kevin, you have me thoroughly confused. First you said that religion is eternal and science is transitory.
I responded to show you that the results of the scientific method were not transitory and that you didn’t really believe that.
You responded “of course” but you said you were talking about the scientific method and not about the results of science.
Are you trying to suggest that the scientific method is transitory? Because I am unaware of any changes in scientific reasoning since the days of Euclid. Please tell me what part of the scientific method is transitory.
Dec 11, 2011 @ 05:35:00
I think that both science and religion reach for truth, but for truth of different types. Science reaches for physical truths — i.e., truths about things that can be known through our physical senses, and verified through the physical senses of others. Religion reaches for eternal or metaphysical truths — i.e., truths about the underlying nature or meaning of things.
Like you, I am unaware of any essential changes to the process of scientific reasoning since ancient times. But our theories concerning the physical universe do change as science progresses.
People’s religious views also change. As with science, the best of these changes involve a better perception of reality. But the realities in this case are things that do not seem to be essentially physical. These include things such as goodness, beauty, integrity, and their opposites. Most people would agree that these things, although not apparently physical, are essential to our shared humanity.
I don’t mean to be confusing. Thanks for letting me explain.
Dec 11, 2011 @ 07:56:00
Sorry to keep jumping in here –
Kevin, physics, specifically quantum physics and string theory and other specialties that deal with the very small and/or the very large ARE about truth about the underlying nature of things – that’s the whole point of them. And they are definitely not things that can be known via senses because the theories are formed through speculation, thought processes and eventually abstruse mathematics. Much of it cannot yet be tested. In fact, one of the major arguments against string theory is that it’s untestable and it therefore has been called, by some, a philosophy rather than a science. [Chuck - leap in here if I'm wrong please! I know this USED to be the case but with the new facilities and especially the excitement about maybe finding Higgs boson at Cern I could be way behind the times]
I think that points out that there is a close alliance between the two, between philosophy and science – maybe even a blurred boundary. The reason for that could be that science has been making more and more progress into areas that were previously considered entirely the domain of religion.
Maybe the reason I keep speaking up here is that whenever it seems someone is delineating a special ‘religious’ truths area it appears that at the same time they are declaring a no-go zone for science and that is anathema to me. Science should have – must have in my opinion – no boundaries to its curiosity and as soon as we start laying down restrictions, even mental ones of saying ‘oh, science will never know that,’ we begin to limit not just science but our own advancement.
Had religion had its way and evolution not been accepted and science we would not have many of the vaccinations and therapies we have today – therapies that save hundreds of thousands of lives. Had Tycho Brahe not accepted that the comets he observed violated the ‘known’ religious concept of the crystalline celestial spheres (he along with the brave men who came after of course, Copernicus and Galileo) we would not now have global communication, and so forth.
The limitless sphere of science is what allows for one of its most powerful attributes – revolutionary imagination which doesn’t ask ‘what can we do’ and keep itself in a box but tests out the unknown impossible based on the known possible.
Dec 12, 2011 @ 01:14:00
I definitely agree with Megan and John that science is entitled to be and ought to be concerned with all kinds of truth. As I understand it the very word science simply means “truth”, or is derived from a word that means “truth.”
I can’t believe that it is in any way reasonable to exclude any kind of truth from the province of science. No truth or area of knowledge ought to be exempt from critical examination or evaluation and testing by any scientific means that can be devised to test it for veracity and applicability. Merely claiming exemption from critical examination by science raises legitimate doubts about the credibility of whatever is claimed to be entitled to such exemption.
I fully endorse what Carl Sagan said in his book, Broaca’s Brain: “Skeptical (or critical) scrutiny is the means in both science and religion by which deep insight is winnowed from deep nonsense.”
Dec 08, 2011 @ 07:59:00
Even before I listen to this one, I love that you put a picture of a tropical island area to contrast with the reasons to stay in church podcast!
Dec 08, 2011 @ 09:55:00
This podcast makes me think of a song I heard recently: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVarbJe3_VA.
Dec 08, 2011 @ 10:32:00
All the awesome things that were said, in this pod cast, I’m going to be a jerk and point this out. The reality show you were talking about was “The Joe Schmoe Show” Average Joe was a dating show (ala The Bachelor) where all the contestant males were average looking dudes, but were not plants.
I loved Joe Schmoe Season one.
Dec 08, 2011 @ 14:26:00
I also loved Joe Schmoe Season 1. (I was unaware there was another season.) Matt (I think his name was) was such a good guy! I thought he was awesome. Though, I looked him up on Google and he did a few interviews where he talked about how the show messed him up. He felt really embarrassed by the whole thing. It kinda damaged him, I think. Sadly.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 13:03:00
Awww, Heather…I hadn’t heard the show messed him up That makes me look back on it a lot less fondly. The show was only enjoyable because you had to like him so much, and empathize with him, even though you were “let in on the joke.”
Dec 08, 2011 @ 13:57:00
John, do you have a reference for the comment about blacks not being able to give prayers in church?
Dec 09, 2011 @ 12:46:00
The Opening prayer in Sacrament meeting and both prayers in Priesthood meeting used to require a priesthood holder. Other prayers did not.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 16:17:00
I will glibly reply: “Do you have any evidence to the contrary?”
Dec 08, 2011 @ 14:21:00
It was said about the Daily Universe in this podcast that the Humanities departments would be against evolution and the Science departments for evolution. I don’t think the humanities departments are against evolution or Science in general. I think the Humanities departments tend to be very supportive of the Science departments. I would suggest the anti-evolution, anti-science op/eds are coming from the Business, Communications, Political Science, Family Education, and Religious Education departments.
Dec 08, 2011 @ 18:35:00
ok…fine. I revoke my comments about the humanities and point my accusing fingers at the Business, Communications, Political Science, Family Education, and Religious Education departments.
Dec 08, 2011 @ 21:27:00
Great response Patrick but I think Andrew is right. The liberal hippies in the humanities are not future bishops and relief society presidents like the business, communications, and family educations departments produce.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 12:59:00
Ha – being “against” evolution is like being against gravity. Jump off a cliff and you’ll still fall. The difference is that understanding gravity affects some of our decisions. Evolution is entirely out of our control. Biologists will need to understand in order to function, but for others, it doesn’t matter much.
Dec 08, 2011 @ 15:52:00
You forgot the number one reason: It is NOT true.
Joseph Smith no more saw & spoke with god than I have.
Do not build your house on sand. JS is a sunny beach.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 12:44:00
Not a single religion is “true.” Truth is not what religion is about. That’s science. Being a physicist, I have many scientist friends, but they do not give the services I have enjoyed from my Church friends. TRUTH/SCIENCE LIVING/CHURCH Error in both, but science is better at making changes efficiently. Religion rejects obvious evolution. Science does not care.
Dec 08, 2011 @ 15:57:00
thought this episode was a pretty concise summary of a lot of the ideas that
have been raised in a number of past episodes. I like having Patrick in the
wasn’t very happy to be told that my involvement in the church, despite my
awareness of all the messy stuff, meant I was acting “creepy”. John,
I suspect you were intentionally being glib by expressing yourself that way,
but I take issue with it. I don’t think it was very constructive criticism.
Dec 08, 2011 @ 15:59:00
oops, sorry for the formatting problem. I have to stop pasting from another format.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 16:14:00
I stand by my statement.
Dec 10, 2011 @ 10:08:00
That’s a pretty shallow point of view to stand by.
Dec 08, 2011 @ 20:09:00
Top 10 Reasons I Left the Church
1. The poor selection of reading material in the chapel lobby.
2. Listening to three year olds testify on an empty stomach.
3. Carpet burns every time I drew an offensive foul.
4. A third thumb print in my piece of Wonder bread.
5. The little cups didn’t hold enough water to down four Motrin.
6. Choristers that merely went through the motions.
7. Being asked to teach Neophytes to become Lameites
8. Discovering that garments burn while ironing creases in the bottons.
9. I wouldn’t have to believe that I didn’t have to believe what isn’t true when it wasn’t.
10. I wanted my home teacher to feel guilty about not teaching somebody else.
Dec 08, 2011 @ 21:18:00
Dec 08, 2011 @ 21:20:00
Shit!!! I posted this in the wrong place!! I’m an idiot…
Dec 09, 2011 @ 06:44:00
“White” and delightsome? I thought it was “pure” and delightsome.
No, you’re right. It was white … really really white. Indeed, if I remember correctly, even the crusts were removed
Richard of Norway
Dec 11, 2011 @ 04:10:00
It was “white and delightsome” in the original translation. They changed to pure in a subsequent edition. Here is a little history about the change.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 08:28:00
Thoroughly enjoyed this podcast as well as the one before it. GREAT lists! Right on the money.
I was especially irked by the 3rd reason, misogyny. It was like you guys jumped right into my brain and pulled out all the things I’ve been thinking for years about how women are second class citizens in the church. I even had convo with my hubby (also a Mormon Expressions junkie) a couple weeks back about how women are treated even worse in some ways than blacks and gays in the church. Not that the latter two groups are not treated incredibly badly as well. I’ve always struggled with wrapping my brain around how god must view women because I see how they are treated in the church as well as around the world. I’ve never understood why my vagina instantly disqualifies me as a contender for blessings and leadership positions as well as just overall self worth and safety.
I actually just experienced a crazy example of how horribly women are treated in the church when my bishop confronted me a few months ago about some photos I’ve taken (I’m a photographer) and posted on my blog and fb page. The photos were of some ladies in the ward (as well as some non-lds women) who got together with me to play dress up and do fun vintage pin-up inspired photos just for a fun “girls day out”. The photos were extremely tame, although slightly flirty perhaps, and the ladies had a blast and loved their pics. Anyway, long story short, some others in the ward complained to my bish and he ended up having a 5 hour “conversation” if you can call it that about why “good mormon women” shouldn’t be posting such “pornographic” photos of themselves online. It was completely ridiculous and I fought him HARD about it and other things regarding “good mormon women” until midnight. We finally agreed to disagree. He then went ahead and gave a talk that Sunday in sacrament meeting that was directed at me and the other women about what should and shouldn’t be put online. He also actually READ women’s FB status posts over the pulpit as examples of what is NOT appropriate for “good mormon women” to write online. I purposely missed church that day but he so kindly emailed me a copy of his talk because he was sorry I “wasn’t able to make it”. Needless to say the women involved were publicly shamed and I received several emails following church that day telling me about the bish’s “inspired talk” and how they were removing their pics from their own fb pages and blogs and would I please do the same. It completely sickens me that the bishop thought it his place to shame these women (among others who’s fb comments he read). It also sickens me that these “good mormon women” regarded his OPINION as inspiration and changed themselves to conform to HIS idea of how they should be. Now. Someone try to tell me that this isn’t abuse of power in a misogynistic church.
Anyway, its complete crap. Maybe a good podcast idea would be “Online Church Involvement” to discuss how the church is using members personal blogs and fb pages to propogate the LDS church. I would love to know if others have experienced things like I did with my church leadership trying to police their members online. I think it would also be an interesting topic in light of the church’s “I am a Mormon” campaign.
If you decide to do a podcast like this, I’d be happy to fill you in on my full bishop story and all the ridiculous details…oh yes…there is more.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 09:10:00
This podcast did a wonderful job of pulling me right back into my “angry” phase, as did your comment, Cate.
And there I was, so tranquil for the last 3 days…
Dec 09, 2011 @ 12:53:00
I want to see the pictures.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 14:41:00
No problem! Just go to http://www.caterawsonphotography.wordpress.com and click on the “Pin Up” tab on the sidebar.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 18:27:00
O . M . G
Pure adorable. Your photos are awesome. Too bad the TBM women can’t just enjoy a little fun without being put.in.their.place.
Richard of Norway
Dec 11, 2011 @ 04:11:00
Those are some gorgeous photos! Unless you removed the “racy” ones I have a very hard time having sympathy for the brainwashed minions who would want their pictures removed from Facebook. What…. hogwash.
Dec 11, 2011 @ 09:01:00
Thanks Richard! The ones that I removed were if anything less racey than the ones that you see on my site now. So yes, super frustrating to have a ward wide “freak out” over them. Thank you for your kind words everyone. I’m so glad I’m not the only “CRAZY” mormon out there who appreciates seeing women enjoy themselves.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 15:20:00
Without going into too much detail- it’s a really long story- about 5 years ago, the bishop read something I wrote on a message board, then went to the Stake Pres with it and THEN held a special lunch meeting with my HUSBAND. All before talking to me about what they had read.
It was all very creepy.
Dec 10, 2011 @ 12:40:00
Don’t you love being treated like a child? Like they really take the “father of the ward thing” extremely literally. Blech.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 08:37:00
Very nice podcast. I have to agree with your #1 point. People can handle the humanity and flaws of church leaders past and present. We have a tendancy to forgive past mistakes and misunderstandings because we need that ourselves. However, when an organization purposely deceives people in order to get their time and money, that is a betrayal in the most personal way. I agree with John that continuing to participate in the church, after learning of the deception, is to support and perpetuate it.
The church has the ability to reform itself into something much better, but I don’t know if the leadership does.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 11:44:00
I love the work you do, but I have to set you straight on one comment. The building Discover Card occupies in Lake Park in West Valley was built and is owned by the corporation that owns Discover Card. I was working for Discover Card at its headquarters in Riverwoods, IL when that building was built.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 16:13:00
Hi “Guest” (if that is your real name).
You will find that Discover Card did indeed build the building and paid for every screw and doorknob. You will also find that the land is only leased–probably for a long time like 30 or 50 years. You will then find that the land and all improvements revert to the land holding company, which is a wholly owned corporation of the Church.
Dec 12, 2011 @ 13:25:00
John, how do you know this isn’t Christopher Guest? I’ve actually heard he is a huge fan!
Dec 09, 2011 @ 13:12:00
Right Richard, also I once knew a guy named Patrick, he was big jerk. Now I can’t stand people named Patrick. He has to go. Also, I can read minds and can confirm that the reason he said the things he did was to appease believers.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 14:31:00
I agree with the anti-science stuff, but that wasn’t what spoke to me the most.
I just can’t get over the propaganda, and deception used against me by the church. That’s what hurts the most. I feel like a wimp for saying it. But it just hurts.
Also, I feel obtuse, but I think more discussion is in order on the topic of misogyny in the church organization. The most persuasive part of the discussion (for me) was the part about how the church is missing out on SO MUCH talent by not giving women a seat at the table. Agree agree agree. I’m still having a hard time seeing the negatives.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 14:33:00
Oh, and also. The whole ‘discernment’ power of the priesthood. When I was a missionary Lynn A Mickelson came through and said he had a ‘light meter’. He made us all come up and look into his eyes and shake his hand. Afterward he told us we were doing good but there was room for improvement.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 15:12:00
After further soul searching I feel I need to share additional reasons I left the Church – some of which I am not at all proud of.
11. My auto-sustaining zombie hand started going up at inappropriate times and places.
12. H&R Block told me I was better off taking the standard deduction.
13. I didn’t see myself moving again any time soon.
14. Oxfam sends me Thank You cards.
15. Proposition 8 wasn’t the kind of proposition I was used to spending my money on.
16. Friberg’s paintings made me feel inadequate as a man.
17. Temple clothes (particularly the hat and apron) gave me flashbacks to my days working in an elementary school cafeteria.
18. Mormon.org rejected me for their “I’m a Mormon” profile campaign when I refused to scale Mount Everest solo.
19. I developed an unhealthy fascination for the Ward chapel’s new motorized pulpit.
20. I finally had to dismiss the historicity of the Book of Mormon based on inconsistencies in the account of Gidgiddoni’s defeat of the Gadianton robber in 3 Nephi. To be specific, Gidgiddoni’s military tactics would never have been effective in the mesoamerica terrain circa AD 19, which is the only otherwise plausible geographic model for the Book of Mormon lands. Also, Gidgiddoni would never have executed Zemnarihah without explicit orders of Lachoneus and it is very doubtful that hanging would have been the preferred mode of execution. The smoking gun here is that when one carefully accounts for the distances and times of travel, Gidgiddoni could never have gotten those orders from Lachoneus. Case closed.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 20:49:00
Okay, I was with you until 20. Surely you’ve forgotten to account for the remarkable land speed of the tapir-drawn chariot? In recent computer models* it has been definitively proven that Lachoneus’s messenger would have not only arrived but could have easily worked in a stop for a biscuit at eleven and a nice cup of tea around four.
*models undertaken by the Gidgiddoni Information Testing Society (GITS) in Southwest Utah’s Ideographic Technology Systems (SUITS).
Also, there’s nothing unhealthy about a passionate interest in motorized pulpits, none at all.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 21:33:00
S %#t, I forgot about the tapirs!
Megan, you’ve thrown me into restoration-of-faith crisis.
I thought ME was supposed to be a “safe” place…
Dec 09, 2011 @ 15:59:00
Patrick is a great addition to the podcast. I respect him for playing somewhat of a “devil’s advocate” on some of the topics that were discussed. I think it definitely helps to temper John’s rants too. I have a couple comments on the discussion:
First, I wanted to say something about the discussion on the Church being anti-science. I found it interesting that, out of all the current GOP presidential candidates, the only two candidates who admittedly accept the science behind evolution and climate change were Romney and Huntsman (http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700172937/Mormonism-allows-Huntsman-Romney-to-embrace-science-article-says.html). Now, I realize that the leeway for active LDS members to accept evolution may reside in the ambiguity that LDS leaders teach on controversial topics like this, but I still think it is telling of the Church’s progressivism on science–at least when compared to other Christian faiths in the U.S. While some leaders (like McConkie) were anti-evolution, I think it is important to state that the Church really has been indifferent to how the creation took place since the First Presidency statement in 1909 (i.e., they haven’t been anti-science in regard to evolution for over 100 years).
Finally, I also want to argue for those LDS members who are still active and also support gay marriage. John made the statement that he doesn’t see how a member can, in “good conscience,” remain a member of the Church and still support gay marriage. I am both American and Mormon. As a American, I don’t believe that the government can offer a right (i.e., marriage) to certain people while outlawing it for others. Whether God is for or against gay marriage (or the First Presidency) has nothing to do with my view on the subject–as an American (not a Mormon). For me, it’s a constitutional issue not a biblical issue. So, I think it is unfair to question the integrity of active members (as John did) who still support gay rights.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 16:27:00
The problem with the comparison is that America does not require accepting a certain political theory or pledging fidelity to a leader. Just look at the stuff people can legally say about Bush/Obama. I am allowed to be a good citizen and dissent. Not so in the Church.
If I said I was for the Republican party, but I gave all of my money to the Democrats and attended Democratic conventions…I would say that I couldn’t claim to be a Republican.
Dec 10, 2011 @ 08:00:00
John, I wasn’t making a comparison in my comments. I was simply explaining how I am able to separate my political and religious life and still feel like I am a “good citizen” in both spheres. I guess I still subscribe to the ol’ Hugh B. brown Mormonism: “We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it. The church is not so much concerned with whether the thoughts of its members are orthodox or heterodox as it is that they shall have thoughts.” In other words, I feel like I can have a different stance on something like Prop 8, and still feel like I am not dissenting against my leaders.
Dec 10, 2011 @ 12:35:00
The problem with Hugh Brown is that the church so effectively silenced his opinions and thinking such that 99.999% of the members have no idea he was in disagreement with Benson. They believe that all of the brethren are in harmony.
The same thing will happen to you. When people learn you are a Mormon the will take you for homophobic. You will probably never be able to overcome that. I sure there were compassionate Moguls riding across the Asian highlands, but they have been washed out by history.
Dec 10, 2011 @ 15:41:00
I guess that’s the difference between you and me, John. I don’t care what other people think about me (especially those that would judge me solely based on my religion), nor do I feel the need to be remembered by history.
Dec 10, 2011 @ 16:20:00
Nice passive aggressive insult.
I’m not talking about popularity I’m talking about effectiveness.
Richard of Norway
Dec 11, 2011 @ 04:00:00
You think THAT’s the difference between you and John?!? You really are stupider than you appear.
Dec 10, 2011 @ 16:49:00
Sorry John, I guess I’m just a little offended that you would be so critical of those more “liberal” members that choose to stay in the Church (I think you both questioned our consciences and called us “creepy” in this episode). [Yeah, yeah, I know, you stand by your statement.]
But to take your Mongol analogy from an effectiveness standpoint rather than a popularity standpoint. In my opinion, I think it is still “effective” for those compassionate Mongols to stay among their less compassionate brethren for the influence that they can have on them. I respect those that choose to leave the “Asian highlands,” but I think both choices are effective (and it’s wrong for people to judge which choice is more noble).
Dec 10, 2011 @ 18:17:00
Perhaps Mongols are a poor example for you Thisiscrazy28 – the Mongol society was not friendly to those who were not productive (at least during the time John is talking about which was the formation of the Mongol Empire). Men in the horde fought – it’s what they did. The society could not and would not afford the luxury of a pacifist in their midst. It worked, too, dude was way successful. Genghis Khan’s policy was to kill the men wherever he conquered and then impregnate the women with the result that 8% of Mongolian males have Genghis’s DNA. There was no room for what would be viewed as weakness. Noble or not, they’d fight or be dead.
So, granted, Mongols during the expansion period are an extreme example, but it actually points out what John might be trying to say here. If a society is under stress, or is in a situation of high stress (maybe they’re CAUSING the stress), then their tolerance for dissent and difference is enormous and their resistance to influence from that difference is extreme.
Mormons aren’t actually under stress – by and large they live warm, safe, happy lives surrounded by loving families. However the rhetoric is now, as it has always been, very much that of a society under siege. Whether it’s the government or Satan or the conservatives or porn or the internet, an essential part of Mormonism has always been rooted in a fairly extreme idea of being attacked. Because of this, different opinions and challenges to cultural norms are acts of violence.
I’m torn – I don’t know if I believe that change can come from inside. I rather feel that as the young people lose interest (as they are) and the population tightens it will actually increase the siege-rhetoric and the intolerance for difference. At the moment I think external pressure is far more effective as the church tries to become acceptable main-stream.
[disclaimer - I don't have any strong opinion about people who stay in. There are dozens of reasons why folks need to and I respect that. I HAD to get out, but it was self-defence rather than moral fibre so I am totally not in a position to judge!]
Richard of Norway
Dec 11, 2011 @ 04:05:00
Brilliant post, as always. I’m with you, except on a less intelligent level.
Dec 11, 2011 @ 05:24:00
The real problem is that nutcases (like Benson) can be prophet, whereas sane people don’t get a shot. Idiots have more “tolerance” at church than smart people (i.e. idiots who know that they are idiots).
Dec 11, 2011 @ 13:04:00
Thanks for the feedback, Dick of Norway.
Dec 12, 2011 @ 02:12:00
I wonder if there are any other “Hugh B. Browns” at or near the higher levels of Church hierarchy just waiting for the old guard to die off so they can fearlessly “come out of the closet” so to speak.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 23:22:00
My husband claims that the church stays silent on evolution because they know if they agree with it, they’ll disappoint/shock/lose the older generations. But, if they come out against it, they’ll disappoint/shock/lose the younger generations. So they remain silent, keep both and let people bicker about it amongst themselves. I think there’s probably a bit of truth to this claim.
Dec 10, 2011 @ 16:41:00
Heather, I tend to think they stay silent on evolution for the same reason they stay silent on a lot of other doctrinal issues: they don’t want to paint themselves into a corner. I think Pres. Hinckley was a master at this ambiguity (as shown often in his media interviews). He even had his funeral protested by Westboro Baptist Church because of his stance on homosexuality: “Phelps-Roper also criticized President Hinckley for being too accepting of homosexuals, accusing him of having an ‘ambiguous voice’ about the gay lifestyle rather than taking a firm stand against it” (http://www.deseretnews.com/article/695248839/Church-group-plans-protest-at-Pres-Hinckleys-funeral.html).
Dec 10, 2011 @ 18:40:00
It’s fun to listen to intelligent people in the Church. We don’t know much; we just deal with it. Insects know almost nothing at all, and they’ve been getting along fine for a lot longer than we have. (I don’t think they believe in evolution – that’s ok; it works anyway.)
Dec 09, 2011 @ 17:20:00
Great podcast. Really enjoyed it. I’m currently serving in bishopric and I can’t tell you how great it would be to be able to call women to leadership positions. It would make our job a lot easier and the women in our ward are simply more put-together than mos the men. The misogyny in the church is just plain bad for the church itself.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 20:24:00
No individual living person could make a skatebaord. He wouldn’t likely know how to case-harden the balls for the ball bearings. Or he wouldn’t know how to mine and prepare the steel, or how to develop the glues required for the laminates, nor would he have developed the language needed to communicate with all the other people needed for the job. An individual entirely on his own would be no more than a pre-historic cave man. It’s mind-boggling to me that any intelligent person could believe that a “person” put the universe together. The universe had to be here first, before any person could be at all. If religion, to be of value, must prove itself “true,” then it’s hopeless for there ever to be a religion of value. It’s just plain not about truth and never has been. This is an unreasonable test. Religion should be tested only for its usefulness. When cruel, it should be righted. When exclusive, it should be judged absurd.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 20:51:00
Chuck, the universe was sneezed out of the nose of the Great Green Arklesiezure.
Now go repent before the Coming of the Great White Handkerchief.
Dec 10, 2011 @ 18:34:00
Ha – you guys just have too much fun. It is mind-boggling that the universe does exist. People pretending to know how it happened is humorous to me. (Religion or Big Bang – it all falls short of explaining the existence of “stuff.”) I’m a physicist and a Mormon; I find both useful in dealing with smaller things.
Dec 12, 2011 @ 02:34:00
Yes, I love that! Another one of my favorite “theories” from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy series is that if anyone ever actually succeeded in gaining a real understanding of the Universe as it now is, it would immediately disappear and be replaced by another universe that is even more bizarre and inexplicable.
Dec 09, 2011 @ 23:19:00
The main math teacher at my high school is a good good friend of my family and I’ve always been in awe of his smarts. At the time he was my Trig teacher he was also on the stake high council. I remember him speaking in our sacrament meeting about what it means to become a god. He talked about all of the things we’d have to learn and how the most beautiful thing about the gospel was that it wasn’t segregated from knowledge, but rather, depended upon it. I was thrilled by his talk. I LOOOOOVED the idea that I would get to spend eternity learning how everything works.
So, given the nature of infinity, and that Mormons are expected to learn how everything works in order to become omnipotent, why couldn’t one man just build a skateboard? Couldn’t he spend the first 30 years learning how to make laminates and the next 150 years mastering how to make ball bearings, etc etc?
Obviously I think it’s all bunk. But isn’t it conceivable in the LDS eternal framework?
Dec 10, 2011 @ 18:30:00
Interesting. But this skateboard-building man would have to invent English first. To make a skateboard takes the knowledge of millions of humans over thousands of years. What boggles my mind is that people believe that a “people” existed first and then put the universe together. You ask, “Isn’t it conceivable?” and I think it’s a wonder what the human brain can conceive. I’ve done some pretty amazing things in my dreams, as have you, and we have to admit, some of it has been pretty darned fun. With the help of society, sometimes we make seemingly impossible things real, but none of us could do much of anything as an individual without language and without shared knowledge.
Dec 10, 2011 @ 15:02:00
Chuck,Your comment got me thinking …If cosmic and biological evolution are real, which many faithful LDS physicists and biologists teach, then at least 10 billion years would were needed to “create” our heavenly parents’ bodies, not to mention their post-mortal education that Heather referred to.But our Universe is only 13.7 Billion years old. This is not enough time for two generations of spirit beings to collectively learn how to make the skateboard from scratch.One solution is a Multiverse. Rather than inheriting mere relatively close planets, those earning the highest celestial status inherit whole Universes that co-exist in parallel dimensions connected by worm-holes.This still leaves the problem that cosmic and biological evolution do not seem to require any “divine” intervention, at least until a sufficiently intelligent species evolves. Only then will do they merit such things as a world-wide flooding, confounded languages, commandments etched in stone, fishes multiplied, and help translating ancient records on gold plates.But wait. Perhaps there was no need for our 13 billion year wait for our heavenly parents. Consider alternative natural theology.Earth’s heavenly parents are representatives of human-like species from another planet (Kolob). Their society was only a few thousand years ahead of us. This “head start” was all they needed to develop sufficient transportation, climate control, communication, and life-reconstitution technologies that could account for every Mormon/Christian propositional belief and experience.This is reasonable and plausible. Bear with me.There are 200,000,000,000 (200 billion) solar systems in our galaxy alone and most have solar systems. And there are at least as many galaxies in our Universe. It would be “unbelievably” strange if there weren’t millions of other planets well on their way toward evolving complex life. Think about how technology has advanced in the last 100 years and imagine what the next 1000 years could bring? Who needs a Multiverse?And doesn’t Mormonism place divine existence within a framework of natural law? Might not the “more refined matter” be manufactured with advanced technology? Doesn’t Mormon theology describe people spreading out across the Universe fulfilling a prime directive? Perhaps the “Dispensation of the fullness of times” corresponds to humans reaching a point of scientific readiness for “final contact.”Let’s not get too carried away. This doesn’t explain pre-mortal spiritual birth, and likely misses other points of doctrine. But it’s a good start – isn’t it? Can’t we deal with tough issues using a “milk before meat” argument? Or even a doctrine imperfect interpretation?Is this scenario worthy of belief? Am I being serious? Does that matter? Would believing this be OK if it helps Mormonism work for me? Would this be any different from the variety theological speculation that goes on, such as process theology?Perhaps the deeper question is: What psychological and sociological factors make ANY set of propositional beliefs believable?The anthropologist Pascal Boyer talks about the salience of minimally counterintuitive supernatural beliefs. The idea is that the most “sticky” robust beliefs are those that retain intuitive categories (e.g. God is a person) but rises above the mundane. The key is that the belief cannot be too “out there” as to be maladaptive or cross some ridiculous threshold. Indeed, beliefs that are optimally counterintuitive fit our naturally selected brains.Following this line of thought, one might wonder if Mormonism would have survived if Joseph said that Moroni flew in through the window wearing a blue frock, waistcoat and velvet pantaloons, maybe doing a few somersaults in mid-flight. Didn’t the white robe and simple floating ”keep it real”?Perhaps belief needs this “less is more” rule because, as you, holding such beliefs are not really about external objective truth. They seem to do with serving internal subjective needs at the individual and group level. Surely the pervasiveness and wide variety of religious beliefs in the world suggest this. This is also suggested by how readily people change their beliefs when they stop “working” for them. Or, perhaps more accurately, when the group that is held together by the beliefs stops working for them. I remember John Larson making a similar point a couple of times.CheersJT
Dec 10, 2011 @ 03:51:00
I enjoyed the podcast and thought Patrick was a good addition to the team.
Speaking of the Church’s anti-science bias and inherent distrust of secular sources of knowledge, I remember one Sunday School teacher in my youth who said during a gospel doctrine lesson something like, “we really don’t believe the findings and theories of modern science–we just utilize them.” Until I heard her say that, I had admired her what I thought was her good sense and reasoning ability. I was shocked to hear something so incredibly stupid coming out of her mouth. I wanted to say to her (and should have said) “don’t you realize that the very fact that it is possible to utilize these theories to build things that perform precisely as predicted by them is the strongest possible evidence we can have that the theories are essentially correct?” Imagine the foolishness of a carpenter who says to himself, “I really don’t believe this nonsense about invisible electrical energy coming through this skinny little wire and being converted into mechanical energy by the motor of my skilsaw so I can saw wood–I just utilize it!”
I once met a TBM who was so dismissive of any source of “secular knowledge” that he would not even have accepted that 2 x 2 necessarily equals 4, if he had not prayed about it and received confirmation via the Holy Ghost that it was indeed true.
Dec 10, 2011 @ 18:18:00
Interesting, because I see it as the very opposite of what this Sunday School teacher said. It is religion that is not true yet still useful. Santa Claus is useful, though not true. Science deals with the best truth it can put together, and then industry uses that truth to benefit. Asking religion to do your 2 plus 2, we might ask, “How many people will two fishes and five loaves feed?” and the answer will not be like normal math.
Dec 11, 2011 @ 05:00:00
I see and understand your point. I especially agree with your last sentence! LoL! But I think you would probably agree that, in general, untruths are more likely to be useful to those with sinister and selfish motives. Even well-intended untruths, even if sincerely believed, can and often do result in sorrow and loss of credibility, and can even lead to dangerous and deadly situations. I think that, in the long run, most of us are better off knowing the truth to the best of our ability to discern it.
Yet, I cannot deny that truth can also be used for evil purposes. The scientific theories with the greatest potential benefits for mankind can also have the deadliest consequences when used by those with evil and selfish intentions.
Dec 14, 2011 @ 12:25:00
Yes, the true vs false question is hardly at all related to the good vs bad question. Santa Claus is false yet possibly good. (same with God.) Hitler was true (actually existed) and bad. Whether something is true or not has little to do with whether it is good or not. We can find good and bad in the Church, but I think the net is good, and perhaps a more important question is whether it will improve or get worse with time. When the Negro doctrine went away (sort of), I was enthralled, but the more recent gay civil marriage stuff has taken some toll on my confidence.
Dec 14, 2011 @ 19:55:00
Dec 10, 2011 @ 12:14:00
This is in response to your recent comment.
If cosmic and biological evolution is real, which many faithful LDS physicists and biologists teach, then at least 10 billion years would were needed to “create” our heavenly parents’ bodies, not to mention finish their post-mortal divinity education.
But our Universe is only 13.7 Billion years old. This is not enough time for two generations of spirit beings to collectively learn how to make the skateboard you referred to.
One solution is a Multiverse? Rather than worthy Mormons inheriting mere planets somewhere relatively close by, they inherit whole Universes that co-exist in parallel dimensions, reaching them via worm-holes.
This still leaves the problem that cosmic and biological evolution do not seem to require any “divine” intervention, at least until a sufficiently intelligent species evolves. Only then will the species be ready for such things as world-wide flooding, language multiplication, commandments etched in stone, fishes multiplied, and help translating reformed Egyptian.
But wait. Perhaps this is precisely how it happened! Consider the following natural theology.
Earth’s heavenly parents are representatives of a correlate species from another planet (Kolob). This species’ society is only a few thousand years ahead of us. This “head start” was all they needed to develop sufficient transportation, climate control, telepathic communication, and life-reconstitution technologies that account for every Mormon/Christian propositional belief and experience.
This may be reasonable and plausible. Bear with me.
There are 200,000,000,000 (200 billion) solar systems in our galaxy alone and most have solar systems. And there are at least as many galaxies in our Universe. It would be “unbelievably” strange if there weren’t millions of other planets well on their way to evolving complex life. Think about how technology has advanced in the last 100 years? Imagine what 1000 years might bring? Who needs a Multiverse?
And doesn’t Mormonism place God’s existence within a framework of natural law? Might not the “more refined matter” be manufactured? Doesn’t Mormon theology describe creatures spreading out across the Universe fulfilling a prime directive? Perhaps the dispensation of the fullness of time corresponds to humans reaching a point of intellectual and technological readiness for “final contact.”
Now, let’s not get too carried away. This doesn’t explain pre-mortal spiritual birth, and likely misses other points of doctrine. But it’s a good start, isn’t it? Or can’t we deal with tough issues using a “milk before meat” argument? Or even a doctrine necessary deception?
So, what do you think? Is this scenario worthy of belief?
Am I being serious? Does my intent matter? Does it matter whether or not I am a faithful member? Or whether I have a PhD?
Is believing this OK if it helps Mormonism work for me? Is this any different from any of the variety theological musings I’ve heard from progressive Mormons?
Perhaps the deeper question is: What psychological and sociological factors make any set of propositional beliefs believable?
The anthropologist Pascal Boyer talks about the salience of minimally counterintuitive supernatural beliefs. That is the most robust religious beliefs are those that retain intuitive categories (God is a person) but rise above the mundane – but not so “out there” as be maladaptive. Indeed, what is optimally counterintuitive for human brains is a matter of natural selection.
Following this line of thought, one might wonder if Mormonism would have survived if Joseph said that Moroni flew into his room on the back of white-winged horse wearing blue jeans and a leather vest with tassels. Or, what if he described Moroni as wearing a shirt woven from fibers of “curious workmanship” made from black oil found deep in the earth?
Perhaps human belief feeds off this “less is more” rule because, as Chuck said, they are not really about external objective truth. Rather, they are about serving basic internal subjective needs at the individual and group level. Surely this is suggested by the pervasiveness and wide variety of religious beliefs in the world. It is also suggested by how readily people change their beliefs when they stop working for them. Or, more accurately, when the GROUP these beliefs define and support stop working for them. I remember John Larson making this important point.
Dec 11, 2011 @ 09:30:00
I haven’t left yet, though it has at times been under consideration. If I left, my reasons would have nothing to do with “truths.” The Church simply is not about truth; we have science for that. If I left, it would be about cruelty. The “old” doctrine about a whole race of people, the almost current (I think going away) position on making civil law to support our religion’s view on gay marriage – things like that. If they can be corrected and admitted as false doctrines, I’d like to stay. The gay argument is being won on a larger stage, one based on the morality of human kindness and not on “immorality,” as the Church suggests. The racial argument has been won with regard to current Church policy, but has not been repented of nor apologized for. (I believe that also will happpen eventually, when the old guard is gone, who still believe it was true doctrine.)
Dec 11, 2011 @ 20:07:00
Chuck – please, let me know if this is coming across as aggressive or offensive because that’s not at all what I want to do here.
It seems you take a very optimistic view that the current cruel church practices against gays will stop, not because it’s the right thing to do but because outside opinion will force the change. Yet you have stayed through all of the cruelty they have perpetrated over the last few years, including the deaths that have been publicized (which are most likely not the only deaths that have happened).
There’s also the systemic cruelty – I’m using your word which is a powerful one and will probably get objections – to women; the misogyny that is pretty much written in to Mormonism but that doesn’t get mentioned too often because it’s done with love, and the women are happy (right??).
Since you say that cruelty would be the point on which you would leave, what sort of thing do you have in mind? What would, to you, be so cruel that you could not stay?
Dec 12, 2011 @ 07:50:00
If the church were to institute a quaint Catholic inquisition, complete with physical torture, then I would leave on principle. If they bothered to call me in for a court of love, that too would send me out the door. As long as they restrict themselves to crediting leaders’ idiosyncratic (not to say idiotic) ideas to God, I am content to remain a wolf among sheep.
Dec 12, 2011 @ 10:26:00
Megan, I would hesitate to use the phrase “systematic cruelty” in regard to the LDS Church’s mysogynism. Especially when we still have real misogynistic cruelty like the following happening among some world religions: http://articles.cnn.com/2011-11-22/asia/world_asia_afghanistan-rape_1_gulnaz-rapist-jail?_s=PM:ASIA.
As for homosexuality, what “current cruel Church practices against gays” are you referring to? Is is their involvement in Prop 8? I would view the electroshock aversion therapy that went on at BYU in the 60s and 70s as “cruel” (it was also happening at many other academic institutions around the country), but I wouldn’t classify the Church’s involvement in Prop 8 as “cruel.” Misguided–yes. Cruel–no.
Dec 12, 2011 @ 13:22:00
Try replacing homosexual with some other trait like albino. See, it seems cruel doesn’t it? What did the albino community ever do to the church? Why would a loving heavenly father… you get it.
Same goes for women. Mormon women that would literally file a lawsuit if their employer treated them the way the church treats them just accept it. If you can’t see the psychological manipulation at work its only because you haven’t looked closely enough yet.
Dec 12, 2011 @ 13:49:00
Elder Vader, I’m not arguing that the Church is in the right on either category. I guess I’m just arguing semantics. Is the church misguided, archaic, backwards, blind, etc.on these catagories–yes. Is it cruel? I guess that depends on your definition of “cruelty.”
Dec 12, 2011 @ 14:53:00
Well, since I was a woman in the church I would argue that I have at least the benefit of experience. I did say that I was borrowing the word and that I knew it was going to be controversial. But the point is that cruelty is a relative term, don’t you think? And while it’s usually going to be possible to find something that is far worse and point and say – see that, THAT’S cruelty, that doesn’t mean that only that act, only that level of behavior can be considered cruelty. Remember that there is the act itself and there is also the person who is being acted upon.
For the person experiencing – let’s say, the constant message that they are inferior, dirty, flawed, unlovable, unacceptable, broken (which is what the church tells homosexuals), a message which leaves them emotionally battered and depressed, often to the point where they will consider or attempt suicide… well, I think they would perhaps label such a message as cruel.
No, I’m not just talking about Prop-8. Prop-8 is one symptom of the cultural disease of homophobia that currently infects the church. As long as the message from the highest authorities – the ones who Speak For God remember – is that homosexuals must live a life without ever having a full romantic relationship, that their sexual orientation is a spiritual flaw that will be remedied in the next life, that they have a ‘special burden’ that they will have to struggle with until the day they die, then I will consider that the church is behaving cruelly towards men and women they profess to love. It a cruel act does not need intention to be a cruel act.
And you know what bothers me? I have had several Mormons ask me, puzzled, in all honesty, ‘why do you care? You’re not gay.’ No. I’m not gay. But I am human.
Dec 12, 2011 @ 15:46:00
Megan, “cruelty” is a very relative term.
I guess I was just trying to give the church credit for its evolving stance on homosexuality. I mean, the church has gone from performing electroshock aversion therapy at BYU to censoring an apostle for essentially stating that homosexuality was not an inborn trait (as Pres. Packer was in the Oct. 2010 conference). I know it’s slow progress, but it’s progress nonetheless. I think Mitch Mayne’s calling as an executive secretary in San Francisco is also a sign of progress on the issue. There is no way that you would have seen that 10 years ago. I don’t think we would see this kind of progress if the leaders of the church were preaching a message that gays are unloveable, inferior, or broken (though I hurt for those that feel that way). Obviously the Church is a long way off from acceptance, but I think they are really trying to be tolerant.
Dec 12, 2011 @ 20:47:00
Thisiscrazy28 – I agree, and I think that was what I was trying to say. Cruelty is a relative term, but I think it’s vital to recognize that the people on the receiving end of the action are the ones who probably should have the most say in what is or is not harmful or cruel.
I didn’t choose the word cruel – it’s loaded – but I went with it for the sake of the argument. Personally, I think that the leaders would be horrified to be accused of cruelty and would search their souls and feel themselves innocent. However. The damage that has been done in the past to people of colour (and is still done – honestly, the Lamenite story is a horrible one and the ‘darkened skin’ idiocy is still lurking around the corners of Mormon theology), and still to this day to women and to LGBT’s is significant.
The thing is that the church is behind, WAY behind the rest of society in these most basic of human rights. If they are truly led by men of God they should be blazing the trail, speaking out in conference about how to love and accept people, not being dragged reluctantly into halfway stances of near-acceptance that leaves gay members torn between being true to their own identities and following what they believe to be the word of God. Giving the priesthood to black men happened well AFTER the civil rights movement was established, not before. Prop-8 is a rear-guard action of a hide-bound group of bigoted people.
Saying that the church is no longer actively promoting physical abuse of gay members is sad. What a weak defence! Yay! We’re not giving electrical shocks to people who were born to love others of their own gender!
This isn’t progress. Progress would be looking and what is ethical, what really follows that radical commandment: love one another, and anticipating what should come next.
Dec 12, 2011 @ 14:35:00
I think you write your opinions completely acceptably. I enjoy honest argument. I don’t think misogyny is “written into” Mormonism. Joseph Smith ordained quite a few women to the Melchizedek (sp?) Priesthood – not just the Aaronic. They were then given the specific calling to heal, and they used the consecrated oil – not just prayers. He also ordained at least one Black man (likely others) to an Elder, and then later the same black man to a Seventy. I really think most of this racial and gender bias came through Brigham Young, whom I think was just not smart on these things. The people followed him without question, and as time went along, those who joined the Church were those who could accept this. Eventually a very liberal organization became quite conservative. Brigham even commanded, becasue of imbalance, that half the Mormons become Republicans. Then more time, and now it’s more like 90% (or more.) Imbalanced the other way round. If I and others who see this leave, the percentage will only go up more. It’s not so much how much cruelty but how likely to be fixed I care about. I was enthralled when the racial doctrine was swept under the rug and not applied any more, but would like to have the whole doctrine exposed for what it always was, simple prejudice against a great race of people. The gay marriage thing is not a Mormon thing; it’s been illegal in all fifty states until recently. This thing is going away, and I really believe the Mormon Church has learned some lessons and will recognize the civil contract of marriage as a right for all, including gays, in the relatively near future. (Not temple marriage – all religions have the right to their own beliefs – if that ever happened, it’s a long way off.) After all, we don’t even have to let a smoker marry in the temple. Murderers can have the civil contract - anyone guilty of any crime or carrying any disease – only gays are barred. (A gay man is allowed to marry, (or the other way around), so long as he marries a woman – how’s that for stupid?) The Church is not stupid; they will eventually figure this out.
I object strongly to religions trying to put their religious laws into the civil law. Imagine, we could make it a felony to baptize by sprinkling if it were ok to affect civil law. In this country we can worship idols, dishonor our parents, covet, have more than one god, etc. Of the Ten Commandments, only not stealing and not killing make sense in the civil law, and this is true for all countries, religious or not.
Countries run by religions are awful. Christians should not want to run this country. Each person can vote, but that’s all.
Dec 12, 2011 @ 14:57:00
Thanks, I’m glad it came across well – so hard to express nuances without body language and voice tones, you know?
I agree that JS was far more egalitarian towards women than anyone following… however, I have been through the temple and so I stand, absolutely, by my statement that misogyny is written into Mormonism. It is at the very heart, in the most sacred place. It is where I least expected to find it, and while I admire the efforts that some women have made, with great honesty and true faith, to rescue that ceremony I do not find their explanations convincing. The church teaches misogyny at every level and it does it with love, and it tells women that this repression is joyful to them, that it’s where they will find fulfillment and happiness. And that, to me, is pernicious.
Dec 12, 2011 @ 09:07:00
Just wanted to weigh in on the whole ‘destructive to family relationships’ point. Out of three bishops that I know in my stake it breaks down like this:
Affluent Ward: The bishop is a CEO of a large employer in the area. He’s more of an administrator than a minister, but he’s a good guy. All their children are grown up.
Less-affluent ward (mine): It seems like the stake leadership used the following algorithm. Youngest+Faithful+Most Stable Job. He’s a good guy. His kids are all in the primary. Wife is very competent. They believe, and they mean it. I’ve had a disagreement or two with him, but I like him.
Least-affluent ward: Same algorithm. Youngest + Faithful + Most Stable Job. Again, a really good guy. But he’s my age. With young kids. He still drives a 10 year old used minivan. I’ve had several interactions with this guy before he was bishop, and I have to say that the church made a good choice. For the church. But I’m glad its not me.
I think part of the reason the younger bishops are chosen is to get them while they’re still somewhat pliable. Not sure how to describe it. But the younger guys are going to go by the book a little more than the older guys. Probably because they’re not as confident in the role.
Dec 12, 2011 @ 19:36:00
Did Patrick bear a “testimony” once at an exmo conference saying he had dropped out of YBU to attend a normal university? His voice sounds familiar?
Dec 12, 2011 @ 22:32:00
Wasn’t me. Although I did find BYU hugely spiritually unfulfilling.
Dec 13, 2011 @ 00:57:00
Maybe it’s the accent – Utah mixed with feigned belief in magic?
Dec 12, 2011 @ 23:08:00
I don’t know why John and Zilpha don’t join the Community of Christ.
THE RIB STORY WAS FIGURATIVE
Dec 13, 2011 @ 01:07:00
Do you need clay to make a man, or will sandy loam with some organic matter also work?
Dec 14, 2011 @ 09:54:00
Great discussion. John continues to be the reason I listen. He is the right combination of smart, observant, didactic, flippant, and folksy. I thought Jared was a nice counter-balance to John’s “sometimes” bombastic style.
Sticking with the literal title of the podcast, I’m going to tell a key story. I was working alone, late one night, on a 50 acre farm. I had been all over during the evening and when it was time to go home my key was nowhere to be found. My only key. To make matters worse it is a VW key that is just a little black box when it is closed. After 15 minutes of checking the usual places I realized I had dropped it somewhere on the property. I had been all over. I started to get worried. It was the exact moment when I would have said a prayer during my tbm days (call me an “Active NOM” right now).
I made a conscious choice at that moment NOT to make any appeals to any deity, ancestor, ghost of Christmas past, leprechaun, etc. Call it a test. I tried to let my conscious mind go blank, grabbed a flashlight, and started walking around. I had just about finished looking in the field. At the VERY MOMENT I was about to enter the woods for at least an hour of fruitless searching, the flashlight caught something that looked like my……..KEY!
John’s mother said he was blessed for paying the tithing he didn’t pay. My key turned up quickly against the odds. When I attributed all my good fortune to God I never really looked for (or tested for) other causes.
Dec 21, 2011 @ 19:55:00
Well, now I have 10 reasons for each. NOW WHAT?
Dec 27, 2011 @ 17:56:00
I was going to come over here to voice my strong disagreement with the “it’s a good way to raise kids” item in the reasons to stay podcast, but then you covered every point I might have made under the “psychological damage” topic in this one.
I grew up believing I was a bad person (as in, so wicked I was “past feeling”) essentially because I was extremely shy and wouldn’t give talks or pray publicly.
Jan 07, 2012 @ 16:29:00
John, while you were talking about how much women can contribute in church leadership positions, I couldn’t help but notice how often you cut off Zilpha as she was talking. I don’t think you did it on purpose — you were just excited to say something — but you did cut her off frequently.
It’s just something to be careful about.
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