Monday, January 29, 2018

Would Jesus endorse the Mormon Corporation?

Just completed a long post about what the historical Jesus likely focused on. See: What Did Jesus Most Talk About & Focus On? It Might Surprise You 

In this post linked above at my other blog, I mention the Mormon Church/Corporation as an example of how Jesus and his early followers would NOT have run things.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Did Joseph Smith have NPD? - Part 2

I wrote a rather long reply to a comment on my blog post Did Joseph Smith have Narcissistic Personality Disorder? I put so much work into my reply I decided to post it here:

In reply to Anonymous,

You make some interesting points, thanks for sharing.

I humbly disagree with your statement that, “... there is every evidence that he believed what he was saying …” I mean just look at how he changes the First Vision or how he tells Nancy Rigdon in a letter that God is more liberal in his views when trying to seduce her into plural marriage. If he believed God appeared to him, why would he change the content of the First Vision in the differing versions? Why would he first speak only of seeing Jesus (in 1832), then later speak of seeing two personages (after 1835)? If he believed his revelations were actually from God (which revealed a monotheist Godhead prior to 1836), how could he then change paths and give revelations presenting a polytheistic Godhead? Scholars have shown conclusively that he produced monotheist scripture and revelations between 1830-1835; and then, when he began taking many more wives after 1835, his scriptures and revelations begin teaching polytheism and polygamy. It is CLEAR to me that he knew he was making up Mormonism as he went along. Writing a body of scripture and revelation that conveys a distinct Godhead, and then changing to a new version of the Godhead, shows calculation and intent to make it up as he goes along as it suits his purpose.

For more details see these articles below:

http://mit.irr.org/joseph-smiths-changing-doctrine-of-deity

http://www.lds-mormon.com/jehovahasfather.shtml

http://www.lds-mormon.com/changod.shtml

Your hypothesis that psychosis could have motivated his taking "multiple wives and that god, told him to do that”, in my humble opinion, doesn't pass parsimony. A simpler explanation is that just as he used the seer stone, that once earned him money by tricking people, he then moved on to use the trick of “God is speaking to me” to gain ecclesiastical authority and power and control over others and seduce women (see chapter 7 “Priesthood Restoration” in Grant Palmer’s book, An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins and the free online article, Sacred Marriage or Secret Affair? Joseph Smith and the Beginning of Mormon Polygamy by Sandra Tanner).

You said “a narcissist would never admit to being wrong.” Some do in fact, especially if, as in the case of Smith, he feared that polygamy would cost him his narcissistic supply. For example, it is clear to me that he went back to face trial (and was soon after killed by the mob later) because he feared losing his narcissistic supply.

You wrote that “If anything the events directly preceding the ‘first vision’ sound exactly like a period of deep deep depression (where the darkness almost overwhelmed him) followed directly by a period of psychosis (he saw a vision). That IS exactly how bipolar or, delusional disorder or psychotic depression DOES WORK.” That is an interesting observation. Yet, keep in mind that there are different versions of the First Vision, so the events you speak of may have been made up later for dramatic effect, just as he made up his monotheist Godhead, then changed to a polytheistic Godhead. Since I don’t know which First Vision version you are referencing I can’t comment further.

You said, “His own father talked about seeing ‘visions’. His mother had depression. His son clearly had a mental breakdown of sorts and George Albert Smith had both anxiety and depression - depression does have elements of psychosis and mania if left untreated too long (which is distinct to, bipolar).” All of this can just as easily support the theory of pathological narcissism as Smith likely developed a sense of omnipotence in the home as the only one who could keep his family together. For, “Alvin Smith (February 11, 1798 – November 19, 1823) was the eldest brother of Joseph Smith, ... Alvin took a leading role in helping the Smith family work toward paying their debts and building their home. His death at age 25 resulted in his younger brother Joseph taking more of a leading role in family affairs.” Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alvin_Smith_(brother_of_Joseph_Smith)

Smith was thrust into being the hero in a family that was very troubled. There is a lot of social science research on this. He would do what his father could not do. He would unite the family and turn a profit at the same time which would rescue his family from degrees of poverty. See Dan Vogel’s bio of Smith for more details.

You said, “I truly don't think NPD cuts it, Joseph Smith himself often talked of long periods of melancholy - it just doesn't fit with narcissism…” I would suggest that you consider that depression and narcissism often go hand in hand. And that with narcissism there is “frequent presence of mood disorders, such as Bipolar I (co-morbidity).” See https://www.healthyplace.com/personality-disorders/malignant-self-love/the-depressive-narcissist-narcissism-depression-and-dysphoria/

After reading several historical biographies of Smith, the most common label historians use (and those who knew him in real life and spent time with him used), is that of an egoist, i.e. NPD. So I would take a look at what these many other experts have said about his personality.

In my view he had an unstable family life and was traumatized many timed growing up, and NPD was a buffer for his psyche, a way for his psyche to adapt. If he had a more stable family life and no trauma, he still might have been narcissistic genetically, but not as bad. Traumas and a troubled upbringing, combined with intelligence and creativity, and gaining the power and adulation from thousands of adoring fans (Mormons) caused his NPD to fester.

Remember, that when it comes to narcissism there is a spectrum as Dr. Craig Malkin argues in his book, Rethinking Narcissism: The Secret to Recognizing and Coping with Narcissists. Those that rate high in narcissism (the 7-10 range on Malkin's spectrum) experience a range of differing degrees of symptoms. We seem to only see narcissism as negative but narcissistic persons are still human and they are NOT psychopaths. As Malkin says in his book, all psychopaths are narcissists but not all narcissists are psychopaths. Narcissists are also capable of degrees of empathy.

So I see no reason why Joseph could not have been narcissistic and also loving to his family. On my LDS mission in Missouri I read a replica of a loving letter he sent to Emma when in jail. Yet in D&C 132 he threatens her with destruction. In prison I think he is lonely and is missing attention and so he feels more longing, more love for his wife. When he is out of prison and has a bevy of young girls at his disposal he can manipulate with his religion -- and then when his wife stands in his way -- he has no problem threatening her. He could be loving to his own children yet manipulate young girls into marrying him which put a lot of strain on them psychologically. This is because of the strong genetic pull in a father toward his biological offspring, that usually will override the narcissism to a certain degree. Smith would admit faults and foibles which to me is obviously his way of throwing his followers a bone (“See, I’m not a charlatan, I admit I am fallible”) yet the next minute he is speaking in the name of the resurrected Lord Jesus while also bragging that he is more successful than Jesus was on earth (See History of the Church, vol. 6, pg. 408-409). Apparently Jesus speaking through him and to him did not cause him to pause before bragging he did a better job of organizing and sustaining a religion than Jesus.

You seem to conflate narcissism with the sociopath. This article explains the difference: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-it-together/201708/narcissism-and-capacity-change

Narcissists can experience empathy in degrees, and some studies of narcissists show that if the narcissist tries to imagine what it’s like through another’s eyes this can induce empathy. See https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ulterior-motives/201409/can-we-teach-narcissists-care
and
https://blogs.psychcentral.com/nlp/2014/07/can-narcissists-learn-empathy/

Also, again, a father has a strong genetic pull to be loving toward his kin. Remember narcissism is a disorder and shouldn't be stigmatized or condemned but understood and treated, and exists along a spectrum. Narcissists are human and capable of goodness and empathy if they "try" to develop those virtues as Malkin argues. Since Smith was steeped in New Testament theology that emphasizes love and empathy, it would be a shock if at least some of the NT did not rub off on him.

I think Smith started out as a 7-8 on Malkin’s spectrum, as what Dan Vogels calls a pious fraud: as his family condoned his fraudulent activities, in using magic for pay; but with a different dad he may not have ended up a con man. I think in his 20s he was unconsciously trying to be the hero that would unite his family. Vogel’s bio of Smith convinced me of this. This itself is both very compassionate yet very narcissistic thinking that he could write a new bible and save his family from confusion and disunity and poverty through his pious fraud. But it was a "pious" act nevertheless. However, after 1835, as his power grew and he received more and more constant adulation, I think his egotism festered and he went from a 7-8 to a 9-10 on Malkin’s spectrum.

Its after 1835 that we see him rejecting monotheism and monogamy (in his pre-1835 scripture and revelations) and moving to polytheism and polygamy. His piety decreases as his ego grows from his growing power as a cult of personality and leader of members essentially worshiping him as the mouthpiece of Christ. During this time we see him become more aggressive too. This aggression was likely triggered by a loss of control and power and threats to his status, which triggered narcissistic rage. Grant Palmer tells how Smith may have ordered a murder and that is one of the reasons why William Law left the church: See his interview on April 22, 2015 with Jason Wallace on "Why William Law opposed Joseph Smith in Nauvoo." For even more details of Smith's aggressive and violent tendencies and narcissistic rage, see Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power by Quinn.

Again, the symptoms you mention like depression can be comorbid with NPD, as the first article I mention says. I see no reason why he could not suffer NPD and have other symptoms you mentioned as well. It’s not an either/or in my mind.

Someone can have NPD and OCD, NPD and depression, NPD and whatever, etc.

Regarding his composing the Book of Mormon I think that he was, as Harold Bloom argues, a “religious genius.” I remember when I was Mormon reading the book, The Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (online here: https://archive.org/stream/STPJS#page/n11/mode/2up) -- which has footnotes citing all the words of Smith in his sermons and how they can be tied back to the scriptures -- and being taken aback at how almost everything, or quite a lot, of what he said was a direct copying, rewording, or retelling of Bible passages. In other words, he was clearly intelligent with amazing recall;  and knowing the Bible was authoritative he spoke the language of the Bible to express his ideas and get what he wanted. I mean just look at the letter to Nancy Rigdon and D&C 132 to see what I mean.

Smith told his mother at a young age in 1823, “I can take my Bible, and go into the woods, and learn more in two hours, than you can learn at meeting in two years, if you should go all the time.” So he knew at an early age that he had the intelligence and the confidence and ability to memorize and articulate the Bible as good or better than the preachers of his day.

He was an information sponge with an incredible memory and in his book An Insider's View, Grant Palmer proves conclusively how he absorbed the sermons by the preachers in his area and rephrased those sermons in the Book of Mormon.

It is also obvious that Smith used View of the Hebrews to help compose the B of M, see http://www.lds-mormon.com/voh.shtml. Smith combined many works together and he had time to put together a manuscript in his head. I think the rock in the hat act was merely a prop and that he had already had an outline for the Book of Mormon in his head. He was telling Native American stories long before he composed the B of M. I think the dictation process was the end result of years of formulating a plot line and stories and it was a stream of consciousness activity.

Many narcissist are not necessarily intelligent, creative, or good looking, etc. But some narcissists have that rare combination of extreme ego, good looks, creative skills, and intelligence. I think Smith was the kind of narcissist who had the looks and intelligence and creativity to back up his extreme confidence. When you have that combination you have a personality capable of accomplishing the kinds of things that Smith did.

So NPD passes Occam’s Razar, fits the symptoms best (even if there was comorbidity), and is the diagnosis that most experts apply to him to explain his arrogance and behavior overall.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

A Short List of Reasons Why I am Not a New Order Mormon and Decided to Resign

Note: If you are a New Order Mormon for the sake of family and career, I respect your decision. This is just my subjective point of view.

·       While I enjoyed Mormon social activities to a degree I didn't much care for Mormon culture at church; like the many (though not all) Mormons who acted uppity and holier-than-thou, the one sided political opinions, backbiting, and naiveté. I like(d) many Mormon individuals but never cared for the boring church talks about the same subjects at church, the uncomfortable seating, and the long three hour meetings was something I always dreaded for the most part. I wasn’t allowed to think such thoughts before I resigned.

·      Unlike other churches that have theologically liberal and conservative branches, Mormonism is not set up for variety in human nature. Instead it is set up to create clone-like copies of the Mormon leaders and their personality style and conservative nature. It is also not a buffet; you have to swallow the whole thing. As one person said online:

The biggest problem with Mormonism is it is NOT a buffet. You are not allowed to pick and choose [which] things you believe, or which things you do not agree with. You need to eat the entire nine course meal. What you don't eat, they will make into casserole and incessantly insist you eat it. If you die before choking it all down, they will take that rotting casserole and eat it in your name after your funeral. In the house of Mormon, one cannot see Jesus with out first seeing the doorman, who is [Joseph] Smith. ~ PolygamyPorter.

·       The feelings of warmth and familiarity at Mormon socials can be felt in varying degrees at other non-Mormon socials without having to sacrifice your integrity on the altar of conformity or check your brain at the door of the church. It is just a matter of resetting your brain’s neural pathways, i.e. rewiring your brain’s circuitry and re-adapting to a different culture. Psychologists say this won’t be easy but it may be worth it.

·       Some bishops may meddle in your marriage and encourage a divorce due to one partner not being a faithful member and for opposing Mormon doctrine.

·       While I like individual Mormons and feel a kinship with the average LDS member as I know their culture well. Most Mormons are indoctrinated to see you in one of two ways: as the enemy or a prospect to convert. Of course, not all Mormons suffer from the same level of indoctrination and LDS dogma fixation. The last few Mormons I tried to be friends with unfortunately did fall into the camp of those who saw me as a conversion project: they weren't interested in understanding my perspective but held out hope of magically converting me with their subjective emotional experiences. 

·       Ultimately, when it comes down to it, I can't be Mormon because I wear the wrong underwear. For the magic underpants represent a perception of reality that includes the "devil's out to getcha," which I can no longer hold. Sorry, but God doesn't care if I drink coffee and Satan's not happy when I take a sip of Tea. I just no longer think or speak the Mormon language.

·        I have met Mormons who rise above the indoctrination-system and reject the rigid dogma the LDS church promotes; but they are dwarfed by the massive group think that pervades the culture.Mormons are not a divergent group but are predominantly mostly conservative. I prefer to be around a group of people with a more divergent set of opinions and a variety of points of view rather than people suffering from ingrained group think. That's not to say that there aren't politically liberal Mormons, there are; I just don't like that the culture is so clearly slanted toward conservative politics which shows there's too much indoctrinated group think compared to other churches where the percentage of liberals and conservative is more even.

·       In my opinion there is more practical advice in Dale Carnegie’s books than all of the scripture Joseph Smith produced, as well as the Ensign, and General Conference talks. The Book of Mormon is boring fiction masquerading as true history. The Pearl of Great Price contains the Book of Abraham which is the best example of a hoax I have ever seen. 

·      Joseph Smith claimed to channel the voice of Jesus, that is what most of the Doctrine & Covenants is! Yet the voice of Jesus coming from Smith (like in D&C 132) is not the same Jesus I read about in the Bible. Grant Palmer makes this very clear in his book, Restoring Christ: Leaving Mormon Jesus for Jesus of the Gospels. Thus one can’t just say I am choosing to interpret a story as a source of inspiring mythos and poetry for pragmatic reasons as many Progressive Christians do with the Bible. In Mormonism, we are not talking inspired metaphors and parabolic language and love your enemy and love one another; for in D&C 132 Smith channels the voice of Jesus in order to threaten Emma with destruction if she doesn't stop interfering with Smith's polygamous agenda, which included taking teen brides and even marrying women who were already married. 

Monday, January 01, 2018

My Resignation Letter (back in 2004)


My Resignation Letter from The Mormon Church 

By William K. (Written in 2004)

            With the sound of Mormon testimonies echoing emotional appeals to my mind and LDS songs and scripture references being called to remembrance, I signed my resignation letter with a feeling of peace and closure. In the past I found it almost impossible to completely disbelieve the religion, that for my whole life, I perceived to be the fullness of truth. I had awakened from a dream and taken captain of my own ship, facing reality would be new to me and it began with my resignation letter. The following is my resignation letter I sent to my LDS bishop at the time. It contains the main body of the letter, minus the boring parts on church policy matters. I felt that my tone was appropriate in order to motivate the LDS clergy into action, and honor my resignation. I was assertive and bold in the letter because I was concerned that if I wasn't then the Mormon leaders might not take me seriously and postpone my resignation; as I heard from others this sometimes happens. This is not meant to be a sample exit letter. For important information on what a resignation letter should include I suggest a google search. I left out the names of church leaders for the sake of privacy. What follows is my letter of resignation with only a few minor edits:

Dear Bishop ______. 

            I’m writing to inform you that this letter is my formal resignation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, effective immediately. I’m withdrawing my consent to being treated as a member. As of right now I’m not a Mormon and no longer subject to Mormon dogma, rules and discipline. As I am no longer a member, I want my name removed from the membership rolls of the church. I voluntarily resign. 

            If you recall I have met with you before in your office about a year ago to talk about the problems with Mormonism. I remember you making a deal with me that if I went to church for three months then you agreed to read B.H. Robert’s controversial work in the book Studies of the Book Mormon that I let you borrow. I kept my part of the deal and went to church for three months.  When you returned the book you informed me that you had only read a few pages of the introduction, and I could tell that you were not interested in investigating things any further. So you probably won’t fully understand why I’m resigning from the LDS Church. If you knew what I did, you would probably do the same thing I’m doing. I like you as a person Mr. _____, and you can rest assured that my resigning from the church has nothing to do with you.  In fact, this letter is really between Joseph Smith and me, but since he is dead I'm writing to the institution he created (with the help of others), and so his followers have to be the recipients of my request for resignation…. 

            I have not come to my decision lightly but have been pondering this decision for the last seven years. I can say that my resignation was inevitable being an inquisitive open-minded person of integrity.  I'm convinced (based on the overwhelming evidence against Mormonism) that the LDS Church is not what it claims to be. Therefore, my name on the roles implies that I believe in Mormon dogma, sustain the Mormon leaders, and support Mormon policies, which is not true. Over the years I have wrestled with my conscience against the fear of being socially ostracized by my Mormon friends and family if I resigned. Having my name on the rolls as a member, even though I'm convinced the church is not true, has been a dark cloud over my conscience for some time now. I no longer care if friends and family shun me; if they do they were never true friends or loving and accepting family members to begin with. My resigning from the Mormon Church does not mean that I hold any animosity towards any individual Mormon. In fact, I wish to continue to associate with Mormons on an individual basis outside the confines of the dogmatic LDS institution....

          I understand that some people at this point choose to give some brief reasons for why they resigned. But due to the fact that the reasons are so many and I wish to make this letter short and to the point, I will only give ten short reasons for my resignation. However, don’t receive this list as a temptation to try and resolve these issues. I’ve spoken with the best the Mormon Church has to offer already so don’t waste your time and mine. This is not a comprehensive list but just a few reasons why I’m no longer a Mormon:

1. The Mormon apologists are unable to resolve the problems in the church. Imagine a defense attorney who is unable to defend his client against the overwhelming evidence against him or her. I have read thousands of pages by LDS apologists. I find their defenses both inadequate and based more on emotion than substance. At the end of the day all of their excuses and defensive arguments are largely fallacious. All of the discussions I’ve had with Mormon apologists mostly comes down to them committing circular reasoning, appealing to subjective feelings, and in a lot of cases making ad hominem attacks.

2. I’m convinced that Joseph Smith, and possibly others like Sidney Rigdon, are the authors of the Book of Mormon; which is a false representation of the American Indians on this continent. The book is also racist (just look up “skin” “dark” “black” and “white” in the Book of Mormon Index).

3. The Mormon Church endorses a faulty epistemology. Feelings do not make something factually true! Something is true when it corresponds with reality and logic. I have tested Moroni’s promise many times (which is really 19th century author making the promise) and it has failed miserably. Even the LDS magazine the Ensign (April 1989, pg. 21), admits that not all people get the promised subjective experience of a burning in the bosom. It is not a universal formula for obtaining real objective truth, but is a psychological device used by other Fundamentalist Mormon Churches. Instead of the LDS church admitting that its claims could be false, instead it attacks the disbeliever labeling them everything from an “inactive” member to an “apostate infidel.” Thomas Paine once said, “It is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.” A good juror should not be blamed for forming an opinion and reaching a verdict (someone doesn't like) that was based on the evidence or lack thereof; but unfortunately that is exactly what the LDS church does: it condemns the innocent intellectual for learning the truth and being honest about it.

4. I believe the church exercises cult-like tactics through ecclesiastical manipulation of power, social pressure, testimony meetings, garments, oaths in the temple, and subtle brainwashing that begins in primary with the constant singing songs like “I hope they call me on a mission,” and “follow the Prophet.”  So much for critical thinking skills once that is drilled into the child’s head.

5. The LDS church’s official publications omit any incriminating pieces of information. I consider this the sin of omission. The church then turns around and labels any books or web pages that expose the controversial issues they’ve omitted as “anti-Mormon.” Then LDS members are discouraged from reading these critics. So rank-and-file Mormons are persuaded to remain voluntarily ignorant, and since LDS books omit anything controversial (being mostly faith-promoting propaganda) members remain oblivious and are led to falsely assume that all dissenters are just evil persons of some kind rather than seeking to understand the Mormon dissenter. The vast majority of LDS members fear the opposing point of view, and never learn the facts of the case against Mormonism.

6. I have an obligation to future generations not to perpetuate Mormon mythology as fact. I have a duty to be true to reality lest future generations within my family continue to perpetuate what is essentially a fraud (see The Ethics of Belief by W.K. Clifford).

7. If there is a God then that God must approve of logic and critical investigation since we have a brain that enables us to reason and examine evidence. Therefore, I must be true to reality forming my decision based on logic and evidence, otherwise I would be going against God. By perpetuating Mormon mythology as literal truths I would also be withholding the possibility of learning the real truths of the cosmos through science.

8. Doctrineand Covenants section 132 is a misogynistic document that is not only an insult to Emma Smith, but is degrading towards all women. My research has shown that Joseph Smith had sexual relations with many women through emotional coercion. He promised them eternal bliss in the Celestial Kingdom and rescue from eternal damnation if they would succumb to his desires. He even told some of his followers that an angel with a big sword would strike him down if he did not engage in godly-sanctioned fornication (see Journal of Discourses, Vol. 20, pages 28-29).

9. The seed of Cain dogma is both absurd and racist; and yes it is still Mormon dogma: see Moses 7: 8, 12, and 22; Abraham 1:21-27; and how blacks are labeled the seed of Cain in the Journal of Discourses vol. 7, page 290; and in The First Presidency Statement, August 17, 1949; and in the Personal Testimony of Revelation on Priesthood by Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (Priesthood [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], pp. 126-37). [Note: This was written in 2004. As of 2013, the LDS Church has finally repudiated the seed of Cain dogma in their essay Race and the Priesthood, found in their topics section of lds.org. Of course this essay contradicts the 1949 First Presidency Statement and other official documents].

10. Although I am not an “anti-Mormon” but wish to encourage a reformation within the church, I finally realized that even if the church repudiated the racist seed of Cain dogma, took out the misogynistic D&C 132 from the cannon, and did away with garments and the Masonic temple rituals, this would not change the fact that Joseph Smith (and possibly Rigdon) made up the Book of Mormon (which is claimed by the church to be a historical record), and that he lured multiple women into having sex with him through his polygamy doctrine. 

            If whoever is reading this can't understand why anyone would reject the tenets of Mormonism this shows me that you probably form your opinions about religion on the basis of emotion, tradition, and family/social pressures. If you are quick to pass judgment on me personally for my resignation, then I presume that more than likely you’ve never taken on the role of an objective juror critically examining both sides of Mormonism without pride or prejudice. You probably just don’t want to know about anything that might not make you feel good. So writing several more pages of reasons with sources will not do any good, for if you want to know the reasons there are plenty of books and web pages to assist you in understanding my position. Some recommended books and web pages are listed below:

Books








The Changing World of Mormonism by Jerald & Sandra Tanner

Web pages:


            I closed the letter with the usual "please honor my request..." and other political jargon. My bishop has never got back to me in regards to my invitation for him to discuss with me (as a man and not a Bishop) why I resigned. I have to say I'm not surprised. After sending my exit letter I received a letter about a month later from the Stake President telling me my name was being removed from the records. He then said, "You are always welcome at any of our meetings, and I extend a personal invitation to you.  It is clear from your letter that you have done a lot of research and study regarding the church and what we stand for. I would like to wish you happiness and success in all your endeavors. The Lord loves you." I was actually surprised how cordial he was, and the fact that he acknowledged all the research and study I've done. I think telling me that the Lord loves me was possibly his way of being a little patronizing; or maybe it was about his own personal acceptance of my decision, as he has possibly harbored the same doubts that I brought up in my exit letter.

            The second letter arrived shortly after the first, and it merely confirmed that my resignation was complete. All in all it was a smooth breakup. I like to say that I am still friendly towards the LDS Church even though she deceived me. I still like to hang out with her children; I just don't trust her anymore.

            If my reader ever decides to resign or go inactive after examining the evidence for yourself, I recommend renting the movie Pleasantville.


Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Post-Mormon Documents some Recent Positive Changes in Mormonism

I have been thinking lately about how much the LDS church has been changing for the better. Of course it has a long way to go but I felt like posting some positive changes off the top of my head. For I actually like Mormon culture for the most part. So this is my offering of fairness in presenting something positive about the LDS church. I have done this before but it's worth repeating. 

One of the things that spurred this post is that regardless of the problems in Mormonism, LDS culture does produce good people with high character. I was reminded of this after attending a weight lifting gym for a few years after I had resigned from the LDS church. Like other weight lifting gyms in California that I have attended throughout the years, from my subjective experience, a lot of people aren't always that friendly or welcoming at a gym. Which is fine as its a place to grunt and sweat and grimace while hefting metal and elevating your testosterone, not the best time to be chatty. It's not a social club. But still, sometimes it'd be nice to drop the macho facade, which some do, but not enough in my experience. Then again, maybe that's just the "culture Mormon" in me talking. However, at this one gym there was one guy who wasn't as self-centered as others, wasn't as distant but rather approachable and friendly. I later found out that this one guy who happened to be friendly was a Mormon. The owner who was also friendly was an Evangelical Christian. So there is something to say for LDS culture and religion in general. So that's number one on my pro-Mormon list: it produces nice and friendly folks.

The following is some other positive things about the LDS church I have recently come to more appreciate.

One of my first concerns about Mormonism that I had, back in the 1990s when I was active, was what I considered racism. For I kept running into LDS members who taught that black skin was a curse and I did not have any official documents to counter their beliefs. Today there is such official documents. The Mormon Church put out an essay around 2014 called race and the priesthood which states:

"Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form."

The website Blacks in the Scriptures has been able to teach that black skin is not a curse for awhile now, and they have been allowed to teach this at church meetings to LDS members. None of them have been reprimanded by the LDS leadership for what they say. So not only are they allowed to teach this in Mormon churches but many other Mormons are now teaching that the skin cursing passages in the Book of Mormon are not a literal skin cursing but a "spiritual cursing." Fairmormon.og has a whole list of articles discounting the Lamanties as cursed with dark skin idea, which includes an article discussing how the Mormon church has changed the subheadings to these passages in the Book of Mormon to remove any racial connotations. Brant A. Gardner rejects the idea that the Lamanties are cursed with dark skin in the article What Does the Book of Mormon Mean by “Skin of Blackness”? He concludes by stating:

"The 'skin of blackness' [in the Book of Mormon].... was not a physical description. .... skin color as has been part of the more modern U.S. culture. Nephite prejudices were developed on distinctions more common to the ancient world and used reasons other than pigmentation."

This is good news for LDS members who have hated racism yet struggled with the idea that African Americans and Native Americans were allegedly cursed with dark skin. They now have doctrinal support to reject these ideas. I consider this a a huge step in the right direction. 

In fact, there is a YouTube video titled, Mia Love: Congress' First Black Mormon Female Republican?‎ There is also The Sistas in Zion, which I find interesting.

The Joseph Smith Papers website is producing a lot of documents that make LDS history more transparent than before. They also have a book out:



In 2013, the website mormonchallenges.org put out a video called Alone (available on YouTube) which respects a young Mormon man who is doubting his faith on intellectual grounds. In the video his LDS father and Mormon leaders validate his intellectual concerns and respect his doubts and do not shame him or ostracize him. So instead of condemning him as a closet sinner and its his fault he has doubts, the guy's dad has compassion and respect for his honest doubts. This is an LDS apologetic website so this shows a change in attitude growing up in LDS culture.The dad even agrees to look over the issues, like the Book of Abraham translation on the internet with his son. After this video the church started being more transparent with their history. This video shows how LDS parents should treat their doubting LDS sons and daughters. 

Back in 2014 Richard Bushman was on the show The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnel and he and the panel spoke openly about the issues in LDS history and how the LDS church, starting in 2012, had decided to be more honest and transparent about it history:



In the video below are excerpts from An Evening with Elder M. Russell Ballard and his
Address to CES Religious Educators on February 26, 2016 at the Salt Lake Tabernacle:




This is a MASSIVE positive change. For as Ballard acknowledges and I experienced first hand, one's concerns about racism or polygamy etc., was brushed off with just go pray about it. So this gives validation to the Mormon who has read the history and has a problem with it. At least now the Mormon Church is not denying it and ignoring it as "anti-Mormon." In fact, you no longer have to find the problems in LDS history from non-LDS critics, you can use the churches own online resources. You can see an example of this at LetterForMyWife.com

In October 2015, the Ensign magazine online released photos of one of the original seer stones Joseph Smith used. Before this, in the PBS documentary The Mormons, LDS apologist Daniel Peterson was honest and forthcoming about the Seer Stone. So after years of essentially hiding this history (except for a very few brief mentions here and there) it appears that the Mormon church is finally coming clean and being forthcoming about the seer stone in a hat. I remember telling the hat and stone method to a Mormon friend around 2005 and him denying it and saying that can't be true and if it was the LDS church can't be true. But when I offered him evidence he did not want to see it and called it "anti-Mormon" lies. Well, now his own church is teaching what I was telling him. This is good news for those who learn these things, for they can use the Ensign or The Joseph Smith Papers, or refer to the talk by Mr. Ballard.

Richard Bushman's Rough Stone Rolling has been very revealing about Joseph Smith, more than any LDS church sanctioned book before. Bushman himself has also been vocal and has basically said that the LDS church needs to be more forthcoming about its history:



The Mormon church has also been rather honest of late about the details of the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

There is a Mormon and Gay website. On the website some of the advice to parents of gay LDS members is:

Don’t blame yourself for your child’s same-sex attraction.
This is no one’s fault. Blame is neither necessary nor helpful.

As a parent, the least productive prayer is “why?”
A close second is “please, take this away right now.”

Source: https://mormonandgay.lds.org/articles/ten-tips-for-parents


There are also 12 videos called Mormon and Gay on The Mormon Channel. I have not watched all the videos, but the ones I have watched document the struggle of gay Mormons and it shows LDS parents loving them and not shaming them for being gay. These gay Mormons are shown struggling with the choice to act on their same sex attraction or remain celibate or marry someone of the opposite sex (which one gay Mormon said basically felt gross as she was not attracted to the opposite sex, and instead chose to be celibate). So the Mormon Church has basically put gays in the category of celibate Catholic Priests in a way. And to be fair a lot of Christian churches do not sanction gay marriage.

One video shows how one of the gay LDS members felt suicidal which I felt was good to shine a light on a huge problem in Utah. In one of the videos a parent of a gay son says they don't know what the future holds for him but her love is unconditional (I took this to mean that even if he went inactive and acted on his same sex attraction she would still love him and include him). Another gay Mormon speaks about engaging in homosexual behavior in the past and his LDS father still loving him and accepting him. So I think it is good that the LDS church is showing how parents should treat their gay kids with love.

Of course, the LDS church could do more, they could make the gay LDS member feel OK with acting on their same sex attraction with other consenting adults. I mean why is it anyone's business what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own homes? The LDS leadership could consult the scientific community and psychologists instead of relying on archaic religious tradition to handle such matters. But at least the LDS church no longer encourages gay persons to get married to their opposite gender like they used to; and the LDS church is no longer telling gay persons they can choose to not be gay like they used to. Instead, unlike some other religious organizations, the LDS church acknowledges the reality of same-gender attraction and claims they don't know why this occurs (which implies they are saying that God did it but they don't know why). Meanwhile the LDS church encourages Mormons to love gay LDS members and treat them with kindness and empathy. This is at least a big step forward compared to how they handled things in the past. Of course, they could do more, but at least this is a positive step forward. They also need to reexamine the potential harm being caused by the policy regarding gay parents and their kids; last I checked LDS leaders claim that the policy to not baptize children of gay parents is to protect the children from feeling torn between the values of Mormonism and the values of their gay parents.

The LDS church admits that The Book of Abraham and the Egyptian Scrolls do not match in one of the new essays. The essay on polygamy admits that Joseph Smith had many wives and one as young as fourteen. It has always been painful enough for a Mormon (such as I was once myself) to learn these things from a reputable history book, but to then be told the respected research is untrue and you are just a sinner was more painful. At least today those days are apparently over, or at least different now.

Many theologians have agreed with Carl Jung who argued that the feminine element is missing from their concept of God in some theologies that portray God as three males and heaven being full of only males angels (an all men's club). This is remedied in the Eastern Orthodox Church with Mary revered as the Mother of God and Queen of Heaven; and in the Mormon Godhead there is both masculine and feminine in the divine with a Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. In Judaism, the Shekinah glory is feminine. The biblical Sophia is also a feminine being and God's partner in Proverbs; and in some sects of the Eastern Orthodox Church Sophia is co-existent with the Trinity. So the LDS follow in this same line of biblical tradition in forming a psychologically balanced conception of God.

When I left the Mormon Church back in (around) 2005 I went searching for another church to join and was introduced to the doctrine of Hell-fire torment. I was told that my Mormon father was going to hell. I was told I had to believe in the Trinity in ways that negated the feminine element. These ideas and others are something many exMormons are unprepared for and shocked by. Since that time, I have learned that many Christian theologians have rejected the hell dogma. Shaun McCraney, an outspoken critic of Mormonism, recently scolded Sandra Tanner for leading LDS members away from their faith and into hell-scares and Calvinism:




Growing up LDS I was able to admire and love the figure of Jesus and live his teachings without having to deal with hell fire dogma. But as soon as I resigned from Mormonism, one of the first churches I attended manipulated me with fear of a hell and to go up to an Altar Call "or else!" (which is pagan according to the book by Christians titled Pagan Christianity). I should say here that the Altar Call tactics have been removed from most Christian churches. I also have no problem with the concept of seeking salvation itself (or accepting Jesus into your heart and being "born anew") from a biblical perspective.  I personally consider myself a Christian (though not a Fundamentalist) and accept Jesus as the Savior (in a way expressed by Marcus Borg and Grant H. Palmer). I just did not like the high pressure sales tactics and controlling attempt to manipulate me.

I was also told by some church leaders that my LDS loved ones will burn and suffer and scream and be tormented forever, for having the wrong ideas in their head and for thought crimes. This caused me psychological suffering and turmoil and I was horrified that other Christians believed this. It is one of the reasons I later became an agnostic-atheist for a time. I was deeply disturbed by the nonchalant way some of these types of Christians would assign my loved one's to endless torment without showing so much as an ounce of emotion at such a thought. But in Mormonism I had no such horror and anxiety. This is worth appreciating in Mormonism, as I lived my childhood hell-fire-manipulations-free and was allowed to value Jesus' teachings without the baggage of hell-fire fear mongering dogma, while many kids growing up in some Christian groups are psychologically abused by the dogma of hell; some even going to a therapist to remedy this. I have since devoured Christian history and studied the origin of hell and realized its not even biblical what many of these churches teach today. So the LDS church deserves credit for not fear mongering with hell dogma and scaring children which I consider abusive.

Ironically a lot of the positions I now hold through independent study aligns well with Mormonism. My views on the afterlife align with John Shelby Spong but biblically I think the most humane interpretation is the Universalist Doctrine: which is what Mormonism teaches in its own way with everyone, after they die, entering one of The Three Degrees Of Glory and only extremely evil people end up in Outer Darkness. There is a growing movement of emergent Evangelical Christians who are questioning the hell dogma, which the LDS church has rejected from its beginnings. Rob Bell put out a book called Love Wins and he was basically kicked out of his Evangelical Church for doing so. 




Shaun McCraney, who is again an outspoken critic of Mormonism, has recently gone through a change in theology and in 2014 began teaching what he terms Subjective Christianity. I am currently listening to the audio book Knife to a Gun Fight by McCraney for free on his website. Ironically, much of what Shaun is now teachings aligns with LDS theology and Shaun has become close to a Universalist (similar to Rob Bell) and dared to question the traditional orthodox doctrine of the Trinity and was verbally attacked by Fundamentalists in 2014 for doing so (called The Inquisition on YouTube). After watching this video, and how Shaun was/is treated, the LDS church starts looking really good in comparison to these types of Christians. Thankfully, these types of Christians are the minority and there is a lot of Christians today who are coming around to believing in a more humane concept of the afterlife, and allow for a difference of opinion on doctrinal matters.  

The Mormon focus on faith and works appears to be more and more supported by many Christians, especially academic Christian scholars, such as those endorsing the New Perspective on Paul and the view of Messianic Jews and those who repudiate Replacement Theology or Supersessionism, in books like the ones below:





There is also the Complete Jewish Bible (available on Bible Gateway) that presents a completely different theology than one finds in for example the NIV. I am currently reading Mathew Bates' Salvation by Allegiance Alone and Bates calls for using a whole new language to speak of salvation which accords with Mormonism in many ways:


Just the other day I came across another book similar to Bates' book titled, Saved by Faith and Hospitality by Joshua W. Jipp: 



Jipp basically argues that the saving allegiance to Christ in you leads to the virtue of hospitality as a fruit of the Spirit within the believer. Both Bates and Jipp emphasize not just merely believing and then ignoring the call to justice and Kingdom building, but living one's conviction outwardly, which is basically what the LDS church teaches.

The LDS church has JustServe.org which does a lot of good in the world.

I still like the Book of Mormon sayings like Adam fell that men might be and men are that they might have joy, or wickedness never was happiness and there must needs be opposition in all things. 

Many moderate and progressive Christians are rejecting the doctrine of original sin and total depravity and instead offer the doctrine of the Fall upwards. This is similar to what Mathew Fox teaches, what he calls The Original Blessing. All of this is what Smith was preaching back in the 1830s.

While I have criticized Smith's polygamist Gods doctrine, his original doctrine of Theosis in the Lectures on Faith were similar to the Eastern Orthodox doctrine of Theosis or Deification. This is psychologically more healthy for one's self-esteem than other ideas in Christendom and has a biblical basis, see:

and

There is even an article by an Evangelical Christian on ChristianityToday.com titled, Keeping the End in View: How the strange yet familiar doctrine of theosis can invigorate the Christian life by James R. Payton, October 27, 2008.


Joseph Smith just took the idea of Theosis further. In fact, according to the book The  Human Faces of God some of Smith's ideas about God were actually correct, for example that the original Hebrews were polytheistic in that they believed in the existence of many other gods but worshiped only Adonai. And in his book Paul and Jesus James Tabor argues that Paul taught that "humans were created to become Gods!" (pg. 135).


From a masculine studies or muscular Christianity perspective (by artofmanliness.com), the Mormon religion is a fairly pro-masculinity religion. Smith himself was certainly a strong and manly man. While some Christian churches have emphasized celibacy and sex as depraved, Joseph Smith was, if anything, pro-sex; and (knowingly or unknowingly) even depicts God in the Book of Abraham using the image of an Egyptian phallic God:



From a feminine studies perspective, yes of course the Mormon Church has far to go, especially with their rejection of the points made at ordainwomen.org; but the Relief Society is one of the largest women’s organizations in the world.

Joseph Smith also did a lot to remove sexual shame and despising of the body by removing the dogma of Original Sin from his sect when he said, “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression” (LDS Articles of Faith 1:2).

When seeking to entreat the nineteen year old Nancy Rigdon to become his next plural wife, Smith equated marital coitus with happiness: which he argues in the letter is the object and design of our existence. Thus, on one level Smith was bringing back to Christianity the pro-sexual mythos of the Hebrew Bible, like in The Song of Songs. In fact, while researching this post I came across this interesting blog post: Why I Would Totally Have Slept With Joseph Smith (Thursday, December 11, 2008)This is certainly a whole new way to think of Smith, by a female no less! However, lest I am misinterpreted, this perspective should be balanced with Smith's apparent predation on young women which I of course reject and consider wrong and immoral (and is one of the reasons I remain a post-Mormon). Yet, to be fair the founders of many Christian churches today are problematic as well: for example, Augustine endorsed torturing people over doctrinal disputes; Calvin thought heresy should be punished by death and basically colluded with others to have a fellow Christian named Servetus killed for heresy; and Martin Luther was a vicious anti-Semite and many historians believe that his anti-Jewish teachings infiltrated the culture of the time and later contributed to the holocaust! So just as there are Evangelical Christian apologists who deal with these leading figures in Fundamentalist circles, there are Mormon apologists who deal with Smith's sex life.

Ironically, the modern LDS church has swung in the opposite direction of Smith's sexual activity and according to researchers the LDS church ranks number one in producing guilt and shame in its members (compared to the other denominations). One of the ways the LDS church shames and tames its members is through declaring masturbation a sin. Hopefully that will change, after all the LDS leaders used to teach that oral sex was sinful even within marriage (see The First Presidency Letter, Jan. 5, 1982). Hence we see that the First Presidency can change their views on such matters! Also, given that the LDS church has been more transparent about its history, perhaps when LDS members study more closely Joseph Smith's teachings and actions they will realize that Smith thought God was "more liberal in his views" (as he writes to Nancy Rigdon) compared to what modern LDS leaders preach. After all, Smith discarded nearly every conventional Christian dogma in his day, like monotheism/the trinity, hell-fire, creation ex nihlo, original sin, etc. So its clear to me that he also rejected the idea that the body was depraved and sex was intrinsically evil. I consider this one aspect of his ideas a good thing (that is his view of the body, which by the way is held by most Jews who gave us the Hebrew Bible).

The Mormon Temple has gone through massive changes as well. Nearly every uncomfortable ritual has been removed, from the penalties, to the five points of fellowship, to the nearly naked washings and annointings. Having attended dozens of temple sessions myself over the years I think the ritual structure is psychologically beneficial for meditative purposes, etc. Yes the secret handshakes are still there, but I suspect these will be removed as well in the future. And even if they are not removed, what's the big deal, really. 

A lot of these changes mentioned above have occurred in just the last ten years or so since I resigned from the Mormon church. These changes and the progress in the church gives me confidence that even more positive changes will be done.

Reading this one might wonder why I don't go back to the LDS church. Well the totality of this blog explains why. The short answer is that I still have huge problems with a lot of Joseph Smith's actions and character (one of which I mentioned above) and would encourage LDS members in the Mormon leadership to take the advice of Grant Palmer and demphasize Smith and emphasize Jesus more. However, to return to the positive, the church has been doing this. In fact when I was a kid walking through the church halls I saw a lot more pictures of Joseph Smith than I do today whenever I am in a Mormon church building in California. So perhaps this is a sign that things are changing.

 I am less unhappy with the way the Mormon Church deals with its history, as they used to withhold and hide historical information; for they appear to have remedied that to a large degree by being more transparent with their history than they used to (like with the Joseph Smith Papers project). But there is still a lot of white washing of LDS history in the church itself and in Sunday School, which leads to the dichotomy of Internet Mormonism vs. Chapel Mormonism. The church should be more honest in their church services so that Chapel Mormons are as informed as the Internet Mormons.

I am sill bothered by how the church spends the member's tithing money while they are a billion-dollar corporation (for more information see the letter referenced above titled Letter to my Wife, where the author discusses Mormon tithing in the Mormon church's wealth and lack of financial transparency). However, to return to the positive, LDS members do get a substantial return of investment, practically speaking, in being part of a family fraternity and the use of churches and temples, etc. 

Another major issue I have is how the Mormon leadership (past and present) seeks to control members with what I consider unrighteous dominion, often using ecclesiastical bully tactics and the obvious narcissism of some of the leadership is off-putting. Nevertheless almost every corporation or organization has such personalities in their leadership as well. And on the positive side not all high ranking leaders are controlling or narcissistic, and some I like and admire to a degree.

The intent of this post was to shine a light on the positive changes in Mormonism and to acknowledge some of the positive teachings that have been there from the start. I believe it is the LDS membership that will cause further positive changes. In other words, I don't have as much faith in the LDS leadership who are, some of them (not all) often drunk on power and have controlling authoritarian and rigid personalities, but I do have faith in the LDS members themselves and believe Mormon Culture is a product of their overall high character and moral integrity.

Would Jesus endorse the Mormon Corporation?

Just completed a long post about what the historical Jesus likely focused on. See:  What Did Jesus Most Talk About & Focus On? It Might ...