Whorled View

July 16, 2007

Filed under: Politics,Religion — lullabyman @ 1:32 pm

I’m sick of people saying Bush got re-elected because of his religion and his pro-Christian views. It’s just plain not true. That’s like saying Clinton was elected because America loves womanizers – just watch our sitcoms – seems America does love womanizers, but that’s not why Clinton got elected. By the same token Bush’s religious agenda has done him more political harm than good, and he was elected both terms simply because the Democrats failed in nominating someone who wasn’t an extreme leftist wacko.

“The Democrats should have won the last election…”

The Democrats should have won the last election, and they would have if they nominated a moderate like Lieberman, and then we would currently have a Jewish man for a president. I would have voted for him in a second. Lieberman didn’t have a chance in the primaries though as he was far too moderate for the Democrats, and he was a “Jew” – heaven forbid. It’s okay to nominate a black man or any kind of woman, but not a Jewish man. No way. The Democrats thought they had the election in the bag in both terms and so they nominated their dream candidate each time: someone way out in left field who was neither black, female, or jewish. Now it’s funny that the Republican party seems to be the more tolerant, considering their flirtations with Mitt Romney, an LDS man.

“…the Republican party seems to be the more tolerant, considering their flirtations with Mitt Romney, an LDS man.  Harry Reid (also LDS) would never have made it so far in the Democrat primaries, and he knows it.”

So next time you want to say Americans are a bunch of gun toting Christian-proselytizing imperialists, remember it’s the Democrat’s fault that we don’t have a peace-loving, green-energy spewing, Muslim-tolerating Jewish man in that office. If religion had anything to do with american elections then Mitt Romney would have been a hiss and a byword long ago. Then again, once our beloved leftist Hollywood kingpins wreak their havoc next month with their “artistic liberties” (September Dawn) he just might be, but that’s a topic for another day.

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May 1, 2007

No, that isn’t who we are either

Filed under: Politics,Religion,Sociology — lullabyman @ 10:08 pm

I just watched the 2nd installment (see my last blog), and I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by what I saw. Let me just say that none of the LDS people I know would intentionally plan to have another baby when the mother was 42 years of age and had gestational diabetes. The man who did that, I’m terribly sorry for his loss, but “another spirit waiting to come to our family” concept is not fully justified solely in LDS doctrine. The program presented many other similar stories where the questionable (if not downright wrong) actions of a few Mormons were once again misrepresented as being reflective of the Mormon religion and people as a whole.

All I can say is please know that the PBS “Frontline” documentary called “The Mormons” represented at best a very non-representative cross section of the body of the church, except for one family (out of dozens interviewed). If you want to know the truth then please get to know your Mormon neighbors and find out for yourselves. Personally I’m only further disappointed with the sensationalized focus the documentary placed on fringe members to have the audacity to call the documentary “The Mormons” and suggest that what they described was a fair cross-section of this religion and people.

No No, that wasn’t who they were!

Filed under: Mormonism,Politics,Religion,Sociology — lullabyman @ 3:54 am

I said in an earlier blog this was going to happen. As Mitt Romney’s chances of winning increase we’re going to see an increase portrayal of the Mormon church which will border anywhere from somewhat misleading, to filled with innuendo, to downright wrong. It’s already beginning.

I saw the first half of the public television special tonight “The Mormons” and I was appalled. Those were not my ancestors that they discussed so one-sidedly. One hour of instruction – footnotes given fanfare as minuscule as the short lived action-less Mormon Militia (but not the laudable and much larger Mormon Battalion), inordinate attention to portrayals of Joseph Smith wielding a sword as if he thought he was Napoleon every where he went, calling Smith our “Alpha” and “Omega” (could they get any more offensive?), the 1842 burning of the expositor, but no coverage on vandalized LDS property, a quarter of the time on early Polygamy, another quarter of the time drawing up an elaborate case to blame Brigham for Mountain Meadows massacre despite a complete lack of evidence that he ordered such a treacherous act, and another quarter covering recent polygamy which is outlawed by the LDS church and only practiced by less than 0.01% of Mormons (if you can call apostates Mormons). That’s who my ancestors were? That’s who the Mormons are? This program is called “The Mormons”, right?

Wow, talk about picking and choosing history. Why not discuss the Mormon battalion where 500 Mormon men marched 2000 miles on foot to fight for this country during the Mexican war, immediately after the government allowed Missouri to issue an extermination order allowing LDS people to be shot on site. Why not tell about the tremendous sacrifices made by 10,000’s selling all they had to come from Europe to “the promised land”? What’s with this “promised land” terminology? Why not tell about the multiple 1000’s (1 out of every 10) who died on the trek westward, or the Martin and Willie Handcart company alone wherein 220 people died? How about the unprecedented worldwide growth rate? How about telling what happened from 1900 to 1960, and the amazing welfare system that abolished poverty among the LDS during the depression … they completely skipped that period (1/3 of our history) … perhaps they couldn’t dredge up any scandals. Any scandals did happen afterward was with splinter groups who make up less than 1% of the “Mormon” population – but they still covered those right up until the program ended.

They gave whatever dirt on Joseph Smith they could find, so why not the many good reports given by non-LDS of Joseph Smith’s character and his good nature? What about all the early 1st hand accounts from non-Mormons of the time that admitted the Mormons were peace-loving and tried to be considerate as possible. How about a more detailed account of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and others who were there and the false charges he was held under, and the murders and raping of LDS people before the trek west, or the draining of the Nauvoo swamp and the 1000’s that died there from malaria? How about the method of church succession (Brigham Young didn’t just “take over” as PBS seemed to suggest), or how about the actual extermination from Kirtland and then Nauvoo and the massive burning of Nauvoo that followed? How about the massive splintering after the martyrdom? How about the surprise that most people followed Brigham to Mexico despite that he chose the most difficult trek of all the splinters? Or why not tell how all other splinters died off except those who inherited Nauvoo who have since struggled just to maintain their numbers. How about the building of the early temples, and the other temples, and what those early temples represent not just to Mormons, but to Americans?

Lastly they never got into the minds of those early converts. Why did Joseph’s church attract so many more dedicated followers than all the other upstarts in the “burned-over district”? Was it the Book of Mormon – or the unique concept of a priesthood restoration – or the 100% lay ministry – or the level of dedication that’s expected – Joseph’s mere magnetism – or the unique “plan of salvation” that he taught? Perhaps these things will be discussed in the second part of the series.

No, they didn’t cover those histories nor those events, but THOSE things were the substance of my ancestors. Not Mountain Meadows. Still, the Mountain Meadows massacre was a harrowing part of mormon history where a secluded group of members disregarded everything they were taught in order to commit so great a crime, and so I and all my Mormon freinds were taught about Mountain Meadows in our youth, and like all Mormons I will always be horrified and disturbed by it. The act was just as contrary to the LDS faith as it is to any other faith – a most important fact that PBS neglected to mention. Even worse, one of the PBS historians for unknown reasons then accused Mormons of not accepting the reality of Mountain Meadows and not having learned from it.  Note the unjustified subversive scare tactic they use that those who don’t learn from the past are condemned to repeat it – we will?!  Well, if you’re LDS then that may well be just what your neighbors now think of you.

I shudder to think that my non-member friends and neighbors saw that incredibly biased treatment of my heritage, and what they must think of my own ancestors now. What they must think of me that I might believe in that horrendous pick-n-choose history, and lastly that they might now consider something so hurtful and baffling as myself having a part of Mountain Meadows massacre in me. Way to go PBS … way to fuel the flames that one of your historians admitted were so unjustified.

January 17, 2007

1st Vision Account Chronology

Filed under: Religion — lullabyman @ 5:26 pm

On Sunday I gave a talk on the first vision in Church (incidentally I’m a Mormon). In the process I thought I’d check out what was out there in cyberspace. I’ve known for dozens of years that there were different accounts, and each one seemed to reveal various things about the event. Critics of the church love to say that these variations constitute inconsistencies. I, of course, am a seeker of truth, while at the same time I choose to believe those things that bring about the most good since “by their fruits shall you know them”. And that logic combined with experiences that I’ve had give me license to explore just about anything without fear that my spiritual foundation is at risk.

With that in mind I set out to create a table showing what was revealed in these different accounts of the first vision, using only the 1st and 2nd hand accounts, with full confidence that I have nothing to hide or hide from. The “first vision” incidentally, lays the foundation for the LDS church, it being the very first (around 1820) vision that Joseph Smith had.

The table references those accounts that are mutually accepted by Mormons and Anti-mormons alike and shows the events that each account discussed. There already exists similar tables like this, but significant effort was made in this one to make it acceptable as an objective representation of the chronology that both Mormons and Anti-mormons could agree upon:1st Vision Account Chronology

Now this table is quite interesting for the simple reason that it shows everything that we know was revealed to Joseph in the first vision. That was the initial reason for creating it. This format also provides a nice birds-eye view of when different parts of it were revealed (whereas similar tables I’ve seen span many pages and seem worded to forward a particular agenda). Lastly, I wanted to use the most widely accepted sources and judging criteria to provide a starting point whereby the topic can be intelligently explored by critics, apologists, and everyone in between.

As I mentioned before, I don’t think mormons have nothing to hide nor do they have anything to hide from. To me much of the variation in the 1st vision can be explained by Joseph’s discretion with attention to his immediate audience and what he was instructed to reveal in each account (more on this below).

For example, it is rather easy to say an angel appeared to someone, as people frequently claim they spoke with a deceased loved one, while escaping any skepticism from even the most militant church-goers or ardent atheists. However, to publicly declare in printed word that God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, personally visited you is to invite persecution from all sides no matter who you are. I’m sure that dynamic hasn’t changed in the last 200 years, and surely it was something of which young Joseph (only 14 yrs old at the time) was fully cognizant. For the fear of a 14 yr old boy, for feelings of insecurity, or from a personal imperative to not allow the event to be mocked, surely he had to be careful what he revealed and when.

Same thing goes for when he told ministers that their church is false … surely Joseph observed this himself through scripture study after God revealed the fact of it in the vision. To tell a minister, however, that God personally revealed their falseness would be quite offensive to any minister – and historically Joseph was very friendly with multiple ministers and congregations in his younger years even though he openly challenged their teachings.

A quick glance of the chronology reveals that the most significant dynamic is that the later accounts revealed information that ministers would have found more explosive. It suddenly becomes clear that Joseph was practicing “milk before meat” the same way the original 12 Apostles taught (1 Corinthians 3:2,  John 16:12,  etc.).

And considering the original apostolic Church that Christ established, it seem people are so much more forgiving of them than they are of anyone who claims to have the same authority they did. Critics, and people in general, somehow expect a modern-day prophet of God to start out like the Son of God – pure, perfect, and undefiled. In contrast, Joseph as a youth was no less righteous and no more guilty of foolish pursuits as any other boy, and his boyhood character was well-regarded by all of his reputable critics. Still, being basically good wasn’t good enough for someone who would be God’s prophet – and so gaining a remission of sins was part of that process, as he claimed in his earlier accounts when that information was most vital.

And while considering his human side it’s only fair to also consider the state of mind of an insecure 14 yr old boy … one who has all the hopes and fears that any other 14 yrs old boy has. I’d be surprised if such a boy would even tell his parents the details of such an amazing event other than he learned for himself that Presbyterianism is false (which is precisely what he did say to his Presbyterian mother). Its foolhardy to think such a boy would gladly publicly declare that he personally experienced such a remarkable and religiously explosive experience. When he did mention the event privately to a minister who he respected, of course he was reprimanded. The “spiritualism” movement was underway and anything dealing with visions was repugnant to adherents of established churches.

I’m surprised with the notion that every account should be a full acount. In the 1838 account of the first vision, canonized by The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, he makes it very clear that there were more aspects of the vision that he could not yet reveal. In otherwords, he never intended to provide a complete accounting for the event at any time – but only intended to reveal those things he was able to reveal.

Lastly I’d like to suggest that nobody is an expert on visions except those who’ve had them. I’ve never had anything so great happen to me as happened to Joseph Smith, and I doubt I’ve met anyone who has, and so I don’t think I nor anyone that I know is qualified to understand how revelation is received and interpreted in a way that man understands. The scriptures however provide a clue – and in this clue there is a wealth of information about revelation that provides considerable latitude for Joseph Smith’s different accounts.

Let me explain … surely God speaks all dialects, but I think the Bible makes it clear that scriptural utterances of God the father are put into our language by prophets and not by God himself. For example, throughout the Old Testament each book is called “the word of [some prophet]”, and is not always called the word of God. A precise example is in the beginning of Jeremiah 1: 1-2 : “ The words of Jeremiah … To whom the word of the LORD came”, then in verse 3 ” Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” This is basically a translation into English of what Jeremiah heard from God. Now I’m certain that Jeremiah wouldn’t call it a translation, but I’m also convinced that Jeremiah perceived the word of God as a message that he understood without a need for words. And while I could be wrong I’ve never found anything to suggest that God would need to use the actual language of the person receiving the revelation.

Furthermore, after it is translated into men’s words by the original prophet it is then translated into other languages also BY MEN, and it is still considered scripture regardless what language it’s in (yes, Anglican’s I’m afraid English is not the official language of heaven, *wink*, but neither is the “vulgate”). So the word of God is given to us in the words of men – but this does not invalidate the Bible as being the word of God.

The point is that revelation is given as “the Holy Ghost teacheth”, and “not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth” (1 Cor 2:13), and then put into words with man’s wisdom teacheth so we can understand it. With this in mind, I think it’s reasonable to expect that the Holy Ghost started teaching Joseph with this first vision, but he wasn’t an instant expert on what was provided in that vision. Let me be clear that there can only be one correct interpretation – but Spirit imparts knowlege line upon line and precept upon precept and in this way there very well may have been revelations that occured during that vision that took Joseph some time to understand through the Holy Ghost (see above reference). It would have taken even more time to put it into words which man’s wisdom teaches.

Okay, I beat this topic to death. Anyway, I hope the table I created will provide a nice common ground where people can discuss the topic without getting creative to make it seem more or less consistent or inconsistent to fit their agenda.

December 23, 2006

The Bibical Birth of Christ is Accurate?

Filed under: Religion — lullabyman @ 4:32 pm

I saw a program on TV the other night about the validity of the story of Jesus’ miraculous birth in the Bible. They were talking about how the 4 gospels were sales pitches for christianity and how the authors may have taken some artistic liberties to make the story more compelling. It was a fairly unbalanced treatment, as you can expect, with most of the interviewees saying much of it was made up, and only 1 interviewee saying it was all real. At least the one who said it was all real was fairly intelligent and made a very strong case based on historical records and archeological findings.

To me the whole idea of finding God in an archeological dig is just strange. It brings me back to a scripture which had a great impact on my nearly 20 years ago, and has been the foundation for much of my belief-system ever since:

“Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
-1 Cor 2:13”

The whole 2nd chapter of Corinthians really brings this point home, but the above verse in short says that spiritual matters and temporal matters are two different animals and must be treated differently. In short, spiritual matters must be determined with spiritual evidence, whereas physical matters must be determined with physical evidence. It is foolish to look for God in a tomb or archeological digs because the concept of God is one of a spiritual nature.

By the same token, temporal matters must be determined with physical evidence. I see no reason why temporal matters must validate spiritual matters, and vice versa. The above scripture tells me plainly that I can study the history of the world based on anthropological evidence and make logical conclusions to satisfy my temporal questions on the physical origins of mankind, while having completely different answers to my spiritual questions on the spiritual origins of mankind. The two do not have to validate each other – and when they do seem to disagree we exercise something called faith. Faith really means comparing spiritual with spiritual instead of taking the easy route: comparing physical things with spiritual. Physical and spiritual … they are like apples and oranges. I know spiritually what I know spiritually, and I know physically what I know physically, and the two do not have to agree. That’s exercising faith – also a commandment.

And what is this spiritual evidence which we use to prove spiritual matters? Obviously it isn’t a beaker, or an archeological dig – those are physical things. I won’t bore you with a dozen scriptures, but will rather put it to you plainly: spiritual evidence is when the Holy Ghost witnesses to your soul of the truth of spiritual things. I can not tell you exactly how it feels to have the Holy Ghost bear witness, because when it’s happened to me it has been so entirely non-physical as to make physical descriptions inadequate.

However I can tell you how you can experience it (through prayer, study, humility, and desire), and I can also tell you how you can know for yourself whether you’re just experiencing a self-induced trance or a very real event given you by the Holy Ghost (also, all this is in the Bible, so you don’t have to take just my word for it).

Although the experience is non-physical, there are physical side effects that occur: emotions of feeling at peace, experiencing joy and happiness, and a oneness with everything that is good around me.

It gives you a shot in the arm that you can do better and be a better person. It leads you to do good and have a realistic and invaluable hope for yourself and those around you unlike anything you’ve experienced. You can’t help it but know that your true potential is great, while also keeping your feet on the ground firmly based in reality. That’s one of the reasons why the 12-step program for treating addiction is giving one’s self to a higher-power. The spirit of truth leads you to do good, and gives you the confidence to do what you need.

And lest you’re one of those who think it’s easy to be spiritually deceived by evil influences, here’s also a great way to determine whether or not you are: by what it motivates in you. (Matthew 7:16-20)

In short, the best way I’ve heard the manifestations of the spirit of truth described is in term of a taste. If the soul had taste buds, the spirit of truth is sweet like honey. You say honey is sweet? Well, so is the spirit of truth. For me, I’ve felt like someone put a spiritual battery pumping feelings of light and exhilaration through me. Sound drug induced? No drug in the world can make you feel that way with no adverse side effects.

It can be fleeting. It seems the spirit of truth is easily offended. I once was on the cusp of making the most significant decision of my life and experienced this feeling for over half of a day. It seemed like it should have been exhausting – but it wasn’t. It left as soon as I no longer qualified for the experience, or I no longer needed it (I’m not sure which). Other than that one experience I’ve felt it for just small glimpses – a second here, a few seconds there – just enough to put me on the right path. But I can remember whenever I’ve felt it, and what it meant, and I don’t need to experience it always. I feel to request spiritual verification after it’s already been given would be disrespectful and ungrateful.

I know what I’ve experienced, and that’s why I can see all kinds of physical evidence proving or disproving the birth, life, crucifiction, and resurrection of Christ with no effect (positive or negative) on my opinion of the matter. As the above scripture suggested, I have learned spiritually on this spiritual matter and I cannot deny those learnings without being false to myself.

In a temporal analysis whether things happened literally as explained in the Bible, or only symbolically as described therein – it doesn’t matter. Yes, it’s interesting and something I look forward to discovering as more archeological findings are revealed regardless what those revelations are, but there are some things that all the physical evidence will never be able to disprove and Christs divinity is one of them.

November 29, 2006

DISHONEST RESPECT vs HONEST DISRESPECT

Filed under: Communications,Mormonism,Religion,Sociology — lullabyman @ 6:53 pm

I was born into a mormon (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints) family. Just so you know where I’m coming from I should probably let you know that I also believe in the doctrine. Much of it I believe is literal (like Christ being the Son of God), much of it I believe is symbolic (like the world being created in 7 days), and I believe in all of it in one way or another. Some would call me “dyed in the wool”.

Mind you, I don’t think I’m any better than anyone else by virtue of my religion. Neither do I think all non-mormons go to hell nor do I think all mormons go to heaven. On the contrary, the LDS (short for “member of the Church of Jesus Christ of (L)atter (D)ay (S)aints”) doctrine teaches that most all people will go to a heaven-like place that is very similar to the heaven that most other Christian churches believe in – but that’s another often misunderstood topic which I didn’t intend on blogging about today.

One can’t be neutral with respect to “respect”. A person is either respectful or disrespectful. There is no middle ground. Actions alone will prove how respectful a person really is.

Today’s blog is a pre-emptive response to all the negative attention the LDS church will be getting as it becomes more and more evident that Capitol Hill needs people with the morals and integrity that mormons like Mitt Romney and Orrin Hatch have.

You might hear innuendos and lies like “Mitt Romney belongs to a cult”, or “Mitt Romney believes in baptizing dead people”, or “Mitt Romney considers his mormon underwear is sacred”, or lies involving partial truths that will make you think “Gee, that doesn’t sound like that mormon I knew”. That’s politics, and I’m just fine with political jabs. The church and it’s people whom I have grown to love has suffered far worse attacks.

What I am not fine with is when these attackers dishonestly claim to be friendly, supporting, or respectful of others when they know that they can be less offesive in their approach. I can discuss almost any topic with anyone in a disarmingly respectful manner without loosing the power of my arguments. If I have to rely on an offensive approach to win an argument then that speaks poorly of my abilities. If I chose to take the offensive approach and then I claim I’m respectful of the person I’m knowingly offending – then I’m just a liar.

Let me give an example … I recently read a blog by Andrew Sullivan, a Time Magazine writer, who is displaying a photograph that most mormons I know would find obscene and the displaying of it as quite offensive, and then he claims to continues to continue doing it without “disrespect”, even after 100’s, possibly 1000’s of LDS people told him how offended they were. That’s without “disrespect”?

One can’t be neutral with respect to “respect.” People are either respectful or disrespectful. There is no middle ground. Actions alone will prove how respectful a person really is. Jesus Christ put it this way: “By thier fruits shall ye know them”. Someone else said “Actions speak louder than words.”

Don’t confuse dishonest respect with honest ignorance. If someone is honestly ignorant that they were offensive then they are offered forgiveness, but forgiveness doesn’t endow them with a wholesale license to perpetuate the offensiveness withouot being considered rude and disrespectful. It is at that point when they add the label “disrespectful toward certain persons” along with “offender of certain persons”.

… which reveals this Time Magazine writer as grossly dishonest, as are all others who knowingly and needlessly offend those to whom they claim they’re respecting. One cannot claim being respectful of a group of people while intentionally doing something that they know is offensive and obscene to them.

I’ve personally known a lot of Anti-Mormons, and there are many kinds: ex-mormons, fundamental christians, someone who had a bad experience with a mormon, the wanabe-mainstream types, the bash-mormons-for-fun hobbyists, and even the I’m-spending-all-my-$-to-publish-evil-tidings variety. Among them there are a few that I respect … and even some that I like, and might gladly spend time with sharing an enlightening discussion with some of them.

Those are the anti-mormons who are honest, but it seems to me that they’re the exception to the rule. It seems there are few anti-mormons that will either admit that thier approach is disrespectful, or few that will show respect by being considerate of the sensitivities that mormons have for things we hold so sacred that we don’t even discuss them outside our temples.

Although the Muslim-Extremist’s response was shameful, the shameful cartoons were extremely disrespectful of all Muslims – a fact that is completely disregarded by most non-Muslims who thought Muslims were being overly sensitive. Respect, however, means respecting another’s sensitivities with no expectation of receiving a rationale for those sensitivites. It means admitting that sensitivities are justifiably unique to the individuals who must have them for good reason.

Although I’ve used anti-mormons as an obvious example because I see this “dishonest respect” hypocrisy so regularly with so many of them, it’s also become so commonplace everywhere that the phrase “not to be disrespectful” has lost it’s meaning. Remember the horrible backlash when those scandinavian cartoonists portrayed Allah with bombs in his hat? It seemed everyone came to the rescue of the cartoonists without considering how disrespectful it was. Although the extremist muslim response was shameful, the cartoons were extremely disrespectful and shameful as well.

I’m not saying let’s not discuss potentially offensive topics. I’m saying lets be respectful in our approach. Society can use some more honest respect. When that isn’t possible, let’s at least see some honest disrespect (where the disrespectful person at least admits their disrespectfulness instead of hiding behind fake”fact-finding” missions), but dishonest respect (where the disrespectful person dishonestly claims to be respectful) is unworthy of anyone’s respect.

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