Waking Up to the Gay Agenda

February 19, 2014

The blogosphere is abuzz with discussion of A Well-Behaved Mormon Woman’s unmasking of the gay agenda behind Disney’s hit film, “Frozen.” I say it’s about time people woke up to the shameless propaganda that has been cunningly spoon-fed to an unwitting public for a very long time. “Frozen” is just the latest in a long line of subtle and not-so-subtle attempts to promote the pernicious ideology of tolerance for sexual deviants.

The drum beat promoting perversion has a long and storied history, such that most normal people haven’t even noticed it. Sure, we all understood the thinly veiled gay undertones in “Will and Grace” and the more overt propagandizing of the Teletubbies, but now the Hollywood elites are so confident that they have brainwashed the public that we are being treated to Johnny Weir coordinating his admittedly stunning wardrobe with clueless (hopefully) Tara Lipinski during the Olympics. Just shut up and offer color commentary, Johnny! Better yet, NBC, find a real man, such as Brian Boitano, to explain the difference between a triple lutz and a triple salchow. Enough with the fabulousness.

How did we get to this deplorable state of acceptance and tolerance? The answer, sadly, is that we’ve been there for a long time. Before Will and Grace there were George and Jerry (“not that there’s anything wrong with that”) pretending that their show was about nothing. Oh, it was about something, all right: destroying the family as we know it. Lulled into passivity, we refused to see the obvious sexual relationship between “Home Improvement’s” Tim Taylor and creepy neighbor Wilson, the fence between them a clear allusion to anonymous public restroom sex and “glory holes.”

In the 1980s, things were a little less blatant, though the daddy-boy relationship between Coach and Sam on “Cheers” was unmistakable; all that was missing was a dog collar and a leash. And even Bill Cosby, supposed guardian of family values, subverted traditional values by wearing flamboyant sweaters, perhaps presaging Johnny Weir’s ensembles. It has been suggested that Cosby’s sweaters were used to exchange coded pro-gay messages with Ted Knight, whose “Too Close for Comfort” character would respond by wearing college sweatshirts. I believe this demands further research, which I will report at a later date.

From the earliest days of television and film, gay couples have been featured in a very positive light: Cagney and Lacey, Bo and Luke Duke, Mork and Mindy (Come on, does anyone believe Mork had male genitalia? I wasn’t fooled!), Starsky and Hutch, Mr. Roarke and Tattoo, and so many others. A particularly brazen effort to normalize homosexuality came in the form of Felix Unger and Oscar Madison of “The Odd Couple,” who were the very personification of gay archetypes: Oscar the hyper-masculine “bear,” and Felix the effeminate proto-twink. And let’s not forget Bert and Ernie (shudder) or the homo-erotic tension that pervaded the Brady household.

We might attribute this eruption of pro-gay sentiment to the sexual revolution, which is what “polite” (cowardly) people called the collapse of family values in favor of unbridled hedonism and sexual abandon, but unfortunately, it’s been in our culture from the beginning.

I like to remember the 1950s as a more peaceful, ordered, chaste time in our nation’s history, when the few homosexuals there were stayed in their dark corners and black people knew the order of things. But the gay agenda coursed along like an underground stream filtering into our cultural consciousness. Martin and Lewis, Abbott and Costello, and Amos and Andy blazed glittering trails of in-your-face gayness, the latter pushing a Communist-inspired movement to erase racial boundaries and create a nation of mongrels. And don’t get me started on that sick, twisted foursome of Ricky, Fred, Ethel, and Lucy.

I could go on and on, from Laurel and Hardy to Dorothy and Glinda (I know I’m not alone in seeing that one!) to Lincoln and Douglas to our founding fathers. The perverted even infected our nation’s Constitution with their sickness, insisting that a president was not enough but that we needed a “vice” president to serve “together” with the president. (Perhaps it’s time to amend article II of the Constitution to avoid such unseemly promotion of same-sex couples).

In the face of this onslaught of deviance, normal people must be vigilant and proactive, or we may find our most cherished institutions promoting sexual deviance. We expect our priests and vicars to be chaste and heterosexual, as they always have been. And we will never allow missionaries to serve in same-gender couples.

Pornography as Addiction and the LDS 12-Step Program

February 18, 2014

This is a little embarrassing to talk about, but reading recently about how research shows that pornography is not an addiction reminded me of my experience with the LDS church’s addiction and recovery program. I suspect that some people are going to use this point as another angle to go after my character and so on, but I really don’t care. I am who I am, weaknesses and all, and I’m OK with myself.

A few years ago things weren’t going very well for me at home, and I started seeing a therapist in Provo. He was a great guy, a biker and former gang member with lots of tattoos who was also a high priest in the LDS church. Like most men, I have looked at pornography on occasion, and that subject came up because, obviously, it was a sensitive issue in my marriage. My wife had decided that I should attend the church’s 12-step addiction-recovery meetings, though I thought that was overkill. But I didn’t dismiss it because I wanted to respect my wife’s concerns.

I discussed this with my therapist, and he not only told me I wasn’t an addict and didn’t need the program, but he advised me against going to the meetings because, he said, the program tended to cause people to obsess about what was only a real problem for a very small number of people. He also said that there was a major lack of training for the people running the programs, who were not professionals but just people assigned to do it, which should be a red flag to anyone. But I figured that attending the meetings was something I could do to show I was making an effort in my marriage (things did get much better with time), so I went.

The meetings were held on Wednesday evenings at the massive student stake center adjacent to Utah Valley University. There were at least 4 rooms dedicated to men dealing with pornography issues, 1 room for women dealing with any kind of addiction, and 2 more rooms for “spouse support” meetings. Most weeks the 4 men’s meetings were filled to overflowing, with most of the participants young, college-age kids.

The meetings were presided over, more or less, by a missionary specifically called to run the meetings, always an older man whose wife was assigned to one of the women’s meetings. The real leader was the “facilitator,” someone who had been through the program and done well enough that the church assigned. The one I remember most distinctly was a white-collar professional who had been abused as a child and definitely had engaged in compulsive sexual behavior.

Meetings opened with participants reciting a pledge not to judge or interrupt or share information about what others had said outside the meeting, followed by an opening prayer. We then took turns reading each of the 12 steps. Each week focused on one of the steps, so each person would then read a paragraph from the chapter of the book covering that step. Then it was time for reporting how our week went.

The program continued just as you would imagine: each person would state his name and say “I am an addict” or something like that and then talk about how things were going. From my perspective, very few of the people there had a real problem with compulsive sexual behavior. Most of these young guys would say, “My name is Steve, and I am addicted to pornography,” or “My name is David, and I’m addicted to masturbation.” The ones that really got to me were the ones who said they were addicted to “lustful thoughts.” Then they would report how many days or weeks or months they had been “clean.”

It would have been funny if it hadn’t been so deadly serious. One guy kept berating himself because, a few years earlier, he had worked as a lifeguard at a swimming pool and had experienced lustful thoughts about the girls in their bikinis. Kids would literally weep as they talked about how they had been more than a year without masturbating but then slipped and had to start all over again. It was as if they wouldn’t consider themselves “clean” until they had banished all sexual thoughts from their lives–and you can guess how that would work out.

With the older men, it was always the same: their wives had caught them looking at porn. Pornography is definitely a problem for some people, but these were normal men who occasionally looked at porn on the internet, not guys spending all day obsessing over it. But the reaction was always the same: the wife was ready to throw in the towel on 10, 20, 30 years of marriage. I can understand the hurt and betrayal spouses might feel, but getting a divorce over it? That just seems crazy to me.

As I said, a few people I met in the months that I attended actually did have a problem with compulsive sexual behavior. They stood out, and I would always think that they really needed to be in therapy, not in this meeting.

At the end of the meeting, the facilitator spoke for several minutes about his experience and the process, and then the missionary spoke, followed by a closing prayer.

The program seemed structured less to control addiction than it was to guide people through the familiar repentance process. Milestones were such things as taking the sacrament again, getting a temple recommend, or putting in mission papers.

My therapist had been right, of course: the main effect was an unhealthy obsession with sexual expression, which ironically is what the program was supposed to help people recover from. There was so much shame in that room, and it was painful to watch. The worst was when these kids talked about admitting their addiction to their loved ones. Most normal adults would think that admitting that you’re addicted to masturbation is ridiculous, but these kids shamed themselves in front of parents and loved ones. I remember some of these boys talking about how they were dating someone and knew they had to tell them about their addiction. Still makes my heart hurt to think of all that pain they were putting themselves through.

Despite all of this, I took the steps seriously because I knew that in those small ways I could reassure my wife that I could and would change my behavior to repair some of what I had damaged in our relationship in other ways, not through any “addiction.” I was glad, however, that I never felt that overwhelming and, it seemed, debilitating shame that many of these guys felt. For me, the meetings were just a reminder to stay focused on my marriage, and I did commit to staying away from porn, which was a good thing.

I did, however, stop attending when I realized that the program was, in the end, a projection of the facilitator’s experiences and feelings. He saw all of us as being the same as he was: a seriously damaged and abused person who struggled with terrible emotional problems and compulsive behavior. The last straw for me was when he started talking about his son, who was serving a mission at the time. He had convinced his son that his occasional masturbation was evidence of a serious addiction, so his son had started attending the meetings at around age 16. When the son went on his mission, he apparently grilled every companion about his masturbatory habits until he became convinced that everyone in the mission was a sex addict. So, he went to the mission president and arranged for each mission zone meeting to have time set aside for all missionaries to go through the 12 steps.

As I recall, the meetings are supposed to help because they are voluntary; you can’t force people to attend meetings for an addiction they don’t have, but that’s what this kid was doing, and his father could not have been prouder.

In the end, that shark-jumping moment convinced me that, just as this man was projecting his life experience and problems on the rest of us, the church had built this program based on how it assumed that members live their lives. One look at pornography was an addiction. Even occasional masturbation was likewise an addiction. But behind the talk of addiction was the old cycle of guilt and shame, and I saw way too much of that.

As I said, I don’t minimize the effects of compulsive sexual behavior, but when you put all sexual expression within that definition, you can potentially destroy lives in ways that pornography and masturbation can’t.

Unabashedly Positive

February 11, 2014

I’ve been reflecting on something a critic of mine said in the comments here. He wondered when the last time was that I posted something “unabashedly positive” about the LDS church. I don’t keep score, and I don’t feel like I need to say something positive just for the sake of being positive. But he got me thinking about the positive things I took from Mormonism (and no, I don’t discount the costs of these positive things). Here are some thoughts.

The church of my youth seemed more like a community, in some ways like a large, supportive family than it did for most of my adult life. The things I remember aren’t sacrament meetings but how people came together to create things that, if not “great,” strove for greatness. Our chapel in my hometown was built with a lot of hard work from local members. The paintings in the foyers on either side of the chapel were done by ward members, both talented artists; to this day, when I read the accounts of Lehi’s dream, I picture the painting in the north foyer. Behind the choir seats was a large abstract mosaic stretching from the ceiling meant to represent the light of truth descending from the heavens. My mother tells me that ward members wept when the church was renovated and the art and mosaic removed.

We came together for such things as road shows, a one-act play competition (my first attempt at acting), and a huge dance festival held at the Rose Bowl. But we did things together that were completely unrelated to religion. Each summer 15 or 20 families from the ward reserved campsites together at a state park in Malibu, and we spent the entire week surfing, playing, and enjoying each other’s company. Our Scoutmaster took us on 50- and 100-mile backpacking trips through the Sierras each summer. And we came together for unhappy times, too, such as the terrible mudslides that destroyed several homes in our ward boundaries and took the life of a ward member, one of my mother’s closest friends.

It was the church that helped me overcome my shyness and fear of public speaking. By the time I served my mission, I was comfortable speaking, even at a moment’s notice, and that led me to excel in speech and debate in high school. There were two of us Mormon boys on the debate team, both of us doing Lincoln-Douglas debate, and once our teacher/coach noticed we were both wearing BYU shirts. She asked if we were Mormons, and we said we were. “That explains a lot,” she said. She said that we were both polite, well-intentioned young men who were always helping our team-mates.

During my senior year in high school, our Young Men leader and I worked together to plan a “super activity” trip to Hawaii. We organized the young men and worked hard for a year to earn enough money to do what we had planned and a little more. That accomplishment gave me a lot of self-confidence that I hadn’t previously had.

My mission taught me that I was capable of doing and enduring more than I had thought possible. Living in Bolivia put what I took for granted into perspective, and every time I feel myself getting too interested in material wealth, I remember Bolivia and check myself. And of course, I met my wonderful wife during those two years.

I used to say that Mormonism didn’t mean you no longer had problems, but it provided a framework for dealing with them. That part of it was a mixed bag for me, but I believe my faith got me through a lot of heartache and upheaval in my life. For a time, my wife and I drove 70 miles each way to the Houston Temple once a week. The temple wasn’t that memorable, but the time we spent together talking strengthened our love and friendship at a time when it would have been easy to get so caught up with kids and work and church callings that we forgot to make time for each other.

I know, none of these things are exclusive to Mormonism, but then, I was a Mormon, so they were benefits to me. But I’m glad someone reminded me of these things. Thanks.

Mudslides in Cochabamba Department

February 10, 2014

My wife mentioned this to me last as we were going to bed.


She said she wished we could be there to help during this time of crisis. I realized that, for many Bolivians, every day is a crisis because they lack food, shelter, clean water, and other things we take for granted.

Several times on my mission, I had experiences that brought into stark relief the differences between the way I lived in California and the way Bolivians lived. Once, we held a “Noched de Hermanamiento” (Fellowship Night) in a tiny adobe chapel in Pampahasi, a little village perched on a hill overlooking the city of La Paz. My companion was in bed with an IV in his arm, so the welfare missionaries and I took a taxi up to Pampahasi to show a filmstrip called “I’ll Build You a Rainbow.” Most Mormons have seen this filmstrip about a boy whose mother dies, but she promises to watch him from the skies and “build you a rainbow” to remind him that she’s always there.

The place was packed: the room in the rented adobe house was probably fifteen by twenty feet, with a swept-dirt floor, plastered walls painted a dark teal, and a dais made of wooden shipping pallets. A decrepit piano with half the strings missing sat in the corner.

At the end of the filmstrip, the hermanas were teary-eyed over the orphaned child in the filmstrip. I stood in front of the crowd and explained how God had a plan for all of His children, and then I asked if there were any questions. They came quickly.

“Do people in the United States really live in houses like that?”

“Do people there really have that much food in their refrigerators?”

“Does everyone have a nice car like that boy’s family?”

I hope someday my wife and I can return to serve the people there and help in a small way to alleviate the hunger and the misery.

More about the mudslides (it’s in Spanish): Deslizamientos dejan 5 muertos y 10 desaparecidos

Conflict of Interest

February 5, 2014

Just noticed this little blurb about the Monson summons on the MormonThink web site: “Note: The MormonThink website is not involved in this private lawsuit. We merely report the news.”

Fair enough. But let’s look at the court document itself, which begins, “Information has been laid by Thomas Phillips of Kemp House, 152-160 City Road, London EC14 2 NX, UK.”

Who is this Thomas Phillips? you might ask. MormonThink reported on November 29, 2012, “Tom Phillips has agreed to act as the managing editor of MormonThink.”

Oh, that Thomas Phillips.

The frustrating thing to me is that I like the MormonThink web site. It’s as fair and balanced as anything out there, and yet they will forever be associated with Tom Phillips, who is anything but objective about the LDS church. Fairly or not, Mormons will now dismiss MormonThink as the site run by the guy who wanted to put Monson in jail. And that’s a damned shame.

Update: From David Twede’s (former managing editor of MormonThink) blog: “However, what Tom (primarily) and the MormonThink team (supportive) have done is truly amazing.”

Mormon apologists must be celebrating today, as Twede et al. have just given them a huge gift.

February Surprise

February 5, 2014

For quite some time I’ve been hearing that there would be a major development in the Mormon story any day now, which some breathless apostates have dubbed the “October Surprise.” The source of the rumors has been Tom Phillips, an outspoken ex-Mormon from the UK, who in the past suggested something big was coming, only to back off.

Now we know what the “surprise” is:

Mormon Church Leader Thomas Monson Summoned To UK Court Over Claim Of Church ‘Fraud’

In other news, the Pope is to be arraigned for teaching that Jesus was resurrected.

Try as I may, I cannot summon the words to express just how ridiculous and pathetic this is. My eyes have been rolling so much that I fear they might become permanently stuck mid-eyeroll. I’m not going to bother with the “substance” of the charges, as many others have done so already, but I will simply say that the folks at MormonThink.com would do well to distance themselves from Mr. Phillips if they want to maintain any credibility.

I have appreciated MormonThink for its relative fairness in its treatment of the LDS church. Obviously, their website is critical of the church, but they at least provide readers with “faithful” responses to the issues they discuss. MormonThink is certainly fairer than FAIR or Utah Lighthouse Ministry, and they have always prided themselves on being as “objective” as a critical site can be. That’s why I am baffled as to why they would hitch their wagon to someone who seems interested in self-promotion and some weird kind of revenge against the church.

I’m pretty sure this case will go nowhere (the surprise for me is that it has gotten this far in the first place). You can’t prosecute religious leaders for preaching their religion’s doctrines, and that is basically what is happening. The real loser here is MormonThink, not Thomas S. Monson

Ex-Mormons and Belonging

January 31, 2014

A friend pointed me to an interesting article in Newsweek about ex-Mormons.


I thought I’d share my initial reaction.

The article speaks of an organized community of ex-Mormons who actively “recruit” people away from the LDS church with such things as pass-along cards and billboards. I know a few people who do things like that, and Jeff Ricks is a good friend of mine, so I’m well aware of what he does. I’ve never been part of that active effort, but I will say that I don’t think Jeff and people like him are trying to pull people out of the LDS church so much as letting them know, as Jeff’s billboards put it, they “are not alone.”

This is, I think, the important thing to take from that article: as Mormons we lived a highly scripted (for want of a better word) life within a defined context and community. After leaving the church, I realized just how much my life had been built around the church: all day Sunday, seminary, YM/YW, Scouts, cleaning the chapel, firesides, conferences, temple attendance, scripture study, and so on. Leaving the church necessarily creates a huge void in a person’s life, so these support groups are helpful in that, as the therapist in the article mentions, they “parallel the church in the sense that they meet every day … so they can transition out of one community and into another.”

That’s the key for me. Whether I’ve wanted to admit it or not, I had that big void in my life, and I filled it by becoming part of the ex-Mormon community. And I thank God they were there to understand and support me when I needed it. I’ve met some of the greatest people I know in that community, and as different as they are, the one thing they have in common is integrity. I have never met a group of people with as much integrity in my life. I think their integrity is part of what led them to leave the LDS church in the first place: they couldn’t just go along to get along or pretend or quietly sit in the pews. They did what they thought was right.

I laughed at the meetings devoted to learning how to drink alcohol or purchase underwear, but these silly things illustrate just how jarring the experience is and how much of your life you have to figure out, even to the level of what kind of underwear you’re going to wear (boxer-briefs, in case you were wondering).

I’ll always be part of that community, I suppose, simply because I share a common experience with that community, and of course, I have many friends who are active in that community. But I’m never going to be an active participant or organizer or leader because I just don’t care that much anymore. I don’t define myself by the label of “ex-Mormon,” though I may have at one time. Two summers ago I participated in a Sunstone panel about ex-Mormons, along with Jeff Ricks, Carol Hamer, and a couple of other people. It became apparent to me quickly that, for Carol and me, Mormonism no longer generated the emotion or passion that it did in the others. Carol still writes about her Mormon experience, though she’s been out far longer than I have. So, like I hope I am, she’s part of our community but not defined by it.

The other day someone asked me why I have never finished my sarcastic “Concise Dictionary of Mormonism,” and I realized that I wrote those posts during a time when the LDS church was causing a lot of tension in my home, and when I’m annoyed or angry, I tend to react with extremely sarcastic humor. I got to the letter “N” and then stopped. Why? Because the stress had passed, so the motivation passed. Sometimes I think I’ll just finish it off just for some closure, but it’s a good metaphor for my existence after the church. I just don’t have the passion to be angry or hurt or sarcastic anymore. The most I can do these days is to write about specific things that interest me.

I’m glad people like Jeff Ricks are out there to help people who are struggling. Me, I’ll just write what I think, no matter how many people tell me to shut up.

A Conversation with Brother Bishop

January 29, 2014

After I made my post about Joseph Smith attempting to translate English into Hebrew, a curious thing happened: a commenter took issue with my conclusions and then proceeded to veer into irrelevant topics such as Hugh Nibley’s attempt to muddy the Book of Abraham waters by attacking transliterations and, of course, our commenter’s priesthood office. (For the record, I was ordained a high priest in the LDS church 16 years ago.)

In case anyone missed the point, I’ll summarize my earlier post.

1. Before Joseph Smith had any instruction in Hebrew, when he translated, the words he claimed were Hebrew were not Hebrew at all.
2. After Joseph Smith had some instruction in Hebrew, when he translated, the words he claimed were Hebrew turned out to be Hebrew after all.
3. Without knowledge or instruction in Egyptian, when Joseph translated, the words he claimed were Egyptian resembled his first attempt at Hebrew and were not Egyptian.

I think we can make some pretty solid conclusions from this, but obviously others may disagree. Either way, it seems to me that, were I trying to defend Joseph Smith, I could think of a few responses:

1. The first attempt was a secular attempt and does not reflect on his abilities as a translator when inspired of God.
2. The words Joseph claimed were Hebrew really are Hebrew but have either not been revealed yet or have been lost over the centuries.

There are obvious problems with both, but since I have a commenter who has come up with a criticism of my post, I shall respond.

Robin Bishop (I’m going by the comment label) wrote:

Joseph Smith did not have English to Hebrew online translators. So, it is a simple procedure to test the voracity  of the Prophet Joseph. In your post, you have the translation into Hebrew of Joseph’s attempt at “Brethren I bid you adieu”. It apparently produced something nonsensical. Right, I get that.

Not only nonsensical, but non-Hebrew. That’s important.

Using the online translator of your choice, do it for yourself and see what you get. (I’m surprised you didn’t try it for yourself prior to posting. )

For all those who don’t want to take the time to uncover the truth for yourselves, this is what I got.

“Brethren I bid you adieu” delivers אחיהם שיהיה לך in Hebrew. Translating the Hebrew “אחיהם שיהיה לך “ back to English delivers the nonsensical “Their brothers that will be you”.

I got “Brothers I offer you hello.”

This leaves me to wonder what was really contained in the original Hebrew letters of the New Testament. You might want to take a look at the Joseph Smith translation.

Either way, the problem here isn’t that we get a nonsense translation (this is common with online translators, not so much with prophets). There is a fatal flaw in your reasoning:

The Hebrew words the online translator came up with (אחים שאני מציע אותך שלום) are actually Hebrew. “i f s E Zamtri” is not Hebrew. When the translator translated the Hebrew into English, the words it produced were actually English. Nonsensical or not, the Hebrew words Joseph Smith produced are not Hebrew.

Ed Ashment knew this problem before writing his nonsense.

It’s not nonsense to say that the words Joseph Smith wrote are not Hebrew. I’m not sure why you think it was “nonsense” for Ed Ashment to write that simple fact.

Speaking to the translation from English to Hebrew, translate the word “HAVE” into Hebrew….just that simple word. Tell me what you get.

I still get Hebrew words. Joseph Smith did not. Yet just a few months later, he produced correct Hebrew words. What had changed in the interval?

The Great Escape

January 24, 2014

It’s the birthday of a good friend today, and in his honor, I thought I’d share his Mormon “exit” story, which is just a great story, Mormon or otherwise. Happy birthday, Joe! Rereading this story, I’m grateful that he’s received the help he needed and is doing well.


In October 2000 I started university. I was 16 at the time and the youngest student there. My chosen field of study was Social Science, I intended to specialise in political science, and in the end Economics became my major and politics my minor. Before university, I had never really encountered anything that made me seriously question the faith of my upbringing. I knew about a lot of crazy doctrines, but I just accepted them. What other choice did I have? I was the Bishop’s son, the one who was never in trouble, who never misbehaved in classes, and the one with the longest patriarchal blessing. I was destined to serve an honourable mission and become a leader amongst the saints.

One of my first classes was entitled “The Sociology of Sexuality.” The lecturer was a woman who openly discussed her masturbatory habits as an object lesson, and the tutor was the first openly gay man I’d ever met. I did not enjoy the class. It created too many problems: first, given my age my own sexuality was not entirely decided upon, and second, we studied the Kinsey studies in depth and I had a hard time believing that sexual practices outside of the Salt Lake City prescribed norm could be sinful. I simply put these things on the shelf, along with many, many other things I learned during my studies.

Three years passed, and it came time to go on a mission. I wasn’t forced or pressured into going. It just seemed like the next stage. I was conditioned into thinking that a mission was the thing to do. I duly sent off the paperwork to church headquarters and got sent to Germany–ironic, as German was the only subject I ever failed at school.

I was sent to the MTC in Provo in order to learn the language before being sent to Frankfurt. I hated the MTC. It was horrible. The food made me ill, and the culture and regime were oppressive, humourless, and grey. My early mission days were fine. I had good companions whom I liked. My first area was friendly, and the mission regime was laid back. We were expected to do a job, but there were, unlike most missions, no pharisaical rules to keep.

After some time I was moved from my first area to Bonn. Bonn is a beautiful town, and I enjoyed the younger university town atmosphere; however, after only a few weeks, I was emergency transferred out and to the mission office in Frankfurt. Bonn was important to my exit, as it was where I first noticed historical whitewashing. One day an elder in my district handed me a copy of the ‘King Follet Discourse’ that had been sent to him by his grandfather. In that discourse there is a paragraph about child gods. I thought it would be a great idea for language study to compare the German and English versions of the speech. However, when I got the German version in the Joseph Fielding Smith book, ‘Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,’ I immediately noticed a curious omission: where the child gods paragraph should have been there was simply an asterix. The note at the bottom of the page said that this had been removed because it was a transcription error.

For two years, there had been a couple in the mission office who dealt with the mission finances, and they were due to go home. The church had sent another older couple, but the man told the MP that if he were made do the finance job, he’d have a heart attack. On the phone the MP told me that since I had a degree in Economics and had worked in banks for years, I was the best match for the job. I had only been in Germany four months, but I did not mind.

Life in the office was good. I liked the other elders, and the MP and I developed a good relationship. He liked to talk politics with me because he knew I’d disagree with him. Missions are all about ass-kissing. I was never into that, so I’d disagree, and he actually appreciated that he could have an intelligent conversation with me. Running the mission finances was a big job. We had a budget of more than €1.5m, every penny of which needed to be accounted for. During this time, I became known as mission cook. I hate bad cooking and can cook well, so I used the office to practice my hobby. I cooked for between 6 and 8 missionaries every day. This will become more amazing later in the story.

I was quite able to do all the tasks required of me. It was weird, though; my mission, which was supposed to be a great spiritual experience, had become something like a 9-5 job, only with longer hours. Spirituality was really not a high priority. Sometimes the car elder and his companion got out and did missionary work. I always had too much work to do. I was enjoying it all until, after a while, I stopped being able to sleep.

My sleep patterns went to hell. It was really bad. I was getting only a few hours of sleep a night. I could not function properly during the day. About this time moves happened, and all the office elders changed, except me. One of the new elders was a self-absorbed, ignorant arsehole who thought he received personal revelation about everything. The personality clash between us was a catalyst for major mood swings. One minute I was happy and the next furiously angry. I slipped into a general depression and was referred to the newly assigned area psychiatrist.

The church psychiatrist in Frankfurt dealt with missionaries all over Europe, usually by phone. His office was in the area office, a 10-minute drive away. On my first consultation, he diagnosed me, based on previous experiences and family history, as having Cyclothymia, although this quickly changed to BiPolar Mood Disorder, Type 1 (BP1). Around the same time it was suggested that the office elders make a better attempt at the more ‘spiritual’ side of missionary life.

For most, this meant going out to appointments at night, but more importantly for me, more personal study. I had always felt that church history was a little disjointed and slightly incoherent. I considered this to be a failing of my own knowledge. I started to study church history, including the Journal of Discourses. All the usual suspects were new to me: blood atonement and Adam-God, etc. At this same time, the church psychiatrist decided that some cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) would be useful, especially until the medication kicked in. I had been prescribed Zoloft, which, although it slightly lifted my by-this-time extremely dark mood, also increase the severity of my manic upswings.

When manic, I studied with great speed and intensity, I was devouring the Journal of Discourses. In my CBT sessions I discussed many things relating to the church. For years, I had disagreed with all the political statements the church issued. Having studied world welfare systems, I knew that the church welfare system and the principles upon which it are founded were based on a model of right-wing conservatism for which I had no support. Politics became the first point over which my doctor and I bonded. He was a lifelong Democrat from a line of Democratic politicians in Idaho. He started to relate his feelings as I did mine. During one session I said that, as a result of existing beliefs and the new information I had discovered, I no longer believed the church was true. His response was, “Neither do I.”

He went on to explain that he had known the church was in no way divine from his mission days, too, and that for years he had said very little and never interacted with his wards. As a psychiatrist and a liberal, he had always felt uneasy and unwelcome. Sunstone magazine would call him and his wife, ‘borderlanders.’ From this point on, I have believed that Mormonism is nothing but a facade for most people. Their final straw was the excommunication of the “September Six.”

Although I was in a bad way, I was very grateful to have a friend in whom I could confide. He and his wife were in my ward, and I began spending more and more time with them. We are still in contact and very much friends. Soon after this, things took a turn for the worse. L. Tom Perry announced a mission tour to start his stint as area president. His letter to the MP stated that he wished to examine mission finance records and to ensure that everything was in order. I had managed to make some major innovations to our systems, but having been in a deep depression, I had fallen well behind in everything other than paying bills. I had spent many a day sleeping under my desk, unable to move.

To get ready for L. Tom, I worked 18 hour days trying to get months of transactions to balance, trying to file receipts and the thousands of bits of paper that were strewn around the office. I worked myself into the ground to get things into some semblance of order. The sisters from the neighbouring area even came round to polish and hoover the place for me. This frenetic pace lasted several weeks, my condition continued to deteriorate, and by this time I was suicidal. I was now on the highest possible dose of Zoloft and on mood stabilisers. I felt like shit. There was huge hype about the apostle coming to visit. At his talk in the Frankfurt stake centre, I sat next to the doctor and his wife.

Perry spoke about time management. Where was the spirituality in that? I leaned over and told the doctor that this sounded exactly like a corporate training session I had been to two years earlier with the bank I worked for. Perry even talked about productivity rates. The whole thing was a load of shit, and I said so to the doctor. He and his wife agreed. L. Tom then proceeded to meet with the MP and his staff in the office. His questions were incoherent.

He continually asked questions about mission finances, but they made no sense whatsoever. He was unaware of mission accounting software or any procedures and continually asked about punch cards. I’m sure they were obsolete by the late 50’s. There was no inspection of financial records, no detailed questions that made any sense. I was pissed off. I had worked myself into the ground whilst suicidally ill for this man, and it appeared that he was too senile to have any concept of what was going on. I met L. Tom Perry several times, and I am convinced that he has early to middle-stage dementia, which goes unreported to the general membership.

Throughout my illness, I have to say that everyone was quite understanding. Whenever the APs got haughty about me sleeping during the day or refusing to go to events, the MP always straightened them out for me. However, one day whilst paying invoices, I came across the invoice from the pharmacy. All the medication for missionaries in Europe came from this one little chemist’s shop next to Frankfurt’s West Centrum, and I got a copy of the invoice with the items for my mission highlighted. I suddenly realised that I was on more medication than any other missionary in Europe. Added to this, I knew that I was to be moved in six weeks to become a zone leader after ten months in the mission office. Talk about an inspired calling!

I went to see the doctor, and in my session I told him I’d had enough and that if he did not send me home after training my replacement over the next six weeks I was leaving. Evidently he did not take my threat seriously, something he has since apologised for. His reports to the MP had been increasingly vague, and we had become such good friends that I think it would have been too difficult for him to send me home. His wife was a huge critic of the church. She was forever biting her tongue, and one day, shortly before my departure, she gave me a copy of ‘No Man Knows My History.’

It was moves night. I was moving anyway, and so my packing was in no way suspicious. I was up later than anyone else, not surprising given the length of time I had lived in Frankfurt. Over the previous couple of weeks, I had used the office Internet, my credit cards, and some investments that I sold to buy an aeroplane ticket to my never-Mormon grandmother’s home in America. I even bought a car on E-bay. The deception involved was huge. I had experienced missionary disappearances before. I knew that the APs were sent to Frankfurt airport and the ZLs in Düsseldorf to the airport there. I therefore bought a ticket for a night train to Zürich.

At 1 am I got up very quietly, dressed in full missionary attire. I lifted my suitcase rather than use the wheels and placed it in the stairwell. I then sat down at the table and wrote a letter to the Oberbürgermeisterin of Frankfurt to register my departure from the country. I left the letter and closed the door behind me, my heart racing. I crept down the marble stairs and out the front door to the street. I then drove the mission car to the office, directly next to a major train station. I locked the car and placed the keys in the office letterbox. I then boarded the train. I was sitting in Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, crying over the decision I had taken–a decision I felt I had to take. I could not have been a ZL or enthuse my zone when I myself had no testimony.

I boarded the night train to Zürich. I had a compartment to myself. I watched through the darkness as I left Frankfurt and travelled south. I went through the most southerly town in our mission with elders in it. I imagined them sleeping peacefully in their beds as I struggled with my own feelings, moods, and the horrific side effects from the medication I was on. As I sat alone in the compartment, I slipped off my name tag and breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

That morning I reached Zürich Flughafen. I checked in for the flight. The man addressed me in German the whole time until he saw my passport. He apologised and said he had thought I was German. For a fleeting moment I wondered if this was a sign. I dismissed it and boarded the flight to Newark. I was in a terrible state, so I was surprised I was allowed to fly, but as I am told constantly, I cover up very well. The stress and my situation combined, and I collapsed in Minneapolis Airport but was allowed to fly. Whilst flying across the Atlantic I used the airphone and called the doctor. He was crying, not for any gospel or related reason but because I was alive and safe and that he cared. I explained where I was and where I was going and why. He realised that I had been cornered without much choice.

When I landed, I phoned my parents–my head spinning–and told them where I was. I regret that my mission ended the way it did. I am glad that I learned about the fraudulent nature of the church. I just wish it could have been better timed, not on a mission and not during a nervous breakdown. I spent eight months in America before I came home to Scotland, eight months before I felt well enough to return home, but not to the church.

Hebrew Lessons from Joseph Smith

January 20, 2014

Most people at all familiar with Mormon history know that Joseph Smith, a young farm boy, claimed to have translated the Book of Mormon into English from the original “reformed Egyptian” written on gold plates. The book tells the story of ancient Hebrews who crossed the ocean around 600 BC and settled the American content.

Outside members of the LDS (Mormon) church, few people know that Joseph Smith also claimed to have translated real Egyptian, not the just the reformed kind. Specifically, in July 1835, Joseph Smith bought two Egyptian mummies and some papyrus scrolls accompanying them for $2,400 (some $53,000 in 2012 dollars). From the scrolls, he produced “A Translation of some ancient Records that have fallen into [his] hands from the catacombs of Egypt. The writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus.” The English translation was apparently begun in or after July 1835, though the timeline is in dispute. After making a few revisions in March 1842, Smith published the Book of Abraham serially in the church’s Times and Seasons newspaper in 1842.

It’s important to remember that, for most of the world in 1835, Egyptian was a “dead” language in that no one spoke it, and no one knew how to read or write the different forms of written Egyptian. The discovery of the Rosetta stone in 1799 began the process of understanding ancient Egyptian language. This stone provided Greek text along with its equivalent in Egyptian hieroglyphics and demotic text, and phonetic characters that spelled foreign and Egyptian words. Scholars–specifically Jean-Francois Champollion–took some 23 years to transliterate the Egyptian and become confident in their ability to decipher ancient Egyptian. During Joseph Smith’s lifetime, Champollion’s achievements had been reported in the press in North America, but the specifics were unknown in frontier Ohio, being limited to a few scholarly works published in Europe–and most of those were in French. As a non-Mormon press noted in 1844, there was “no Champollion, or Denon among the Mormons of Nauvoo” to validate Joseph Smith’s translation.

I’ve discussed the content and themes of the Book of Abraham elsewhere, but here I want to look at the two types of transliterations of Egyptian words that Joseph provides in the Book of Abraham:

1. “Egyptian” words, such as “Oliblish” and “Enish-go-on-dosh.”
2. Hebrew words, such as “Shaumahyeem” and “Kokaubeam.”

The former, of course, are not actually Egyptian words but appear to have been invented by Joseph Smith. The latter are best understood when you know that during the translation of the Book of Abraham, Joseph Smith began studying Hebrew, first with a few books, and then with a teacher, Joshua Seixas. It’s not surprising that the transliterations above and others come from the first few chapters of the Bible and follow Seixas’ transliterations exactly (see Louis Zucker’s essay on Joseph Smith’s use of Hebrew for more information).

The difference, then is obvious: where Joseph Smith had some familiarity with the language (Hebrew), the words are more or less correct; where he didn’t know the language, the words are, well, nonsensical. Of course, some Mormon apologists respond that we don’t necessarily know what the real Egyptian words were and what they meant. For example, Kerry Muhlestein has argued that the validity of Joseph Smith’s translation and transliteration of Egyptian depends on whose translation skills you believe: Joseph’s, or Egyptologists’. Not surprisingly, most scholars side with the Egyptologists.

But what if we had an example of a known language that Joseph Smith didn’t know but that he attempted to translate? Suppose, for example, that Joseph Smith had told us that “sont des mots qui vont tres bien ensemble” is French for “I’m friends with the monster that’s under my bed.” Imagine, further, that Joseph Smith then translated the English into another language he also didn’t know, so using our example, he might tell us that the Spanish translation of the above reads, “Wingardium Leviosa.”

Amazingly, that’s essentially what Joseph Smith did. In December 1835, just when he was beginning to read about Hebrew, but before Joshua Seixas arrived, Joseph attempted a “translation” of the Reformed Egyptian characters from the gold plates first into English and then into Hebrew (the text is clearly from Jacob’s allegory of the olive tree). See Ed Ashment’s essay for more information. Here are some of the results, with Ed Ashment’s modern transliteration of the Hebrew following in brackets:

English: For it grieveth me that I should lose this tree & the fruit thereof
Hebrew: ofin Zimim ezmon E, Zu onis i f s veris etzer ensvonis vineris
[Modern transliteration: ki car li ki yo'bad li ha'ec hazzeh upiryo]

English: Brethren I bid you adieu
Hebrew: i f s E Zamtri
[Modern transliteration: 'aHay 'omar lakem shalom]

Needless to say, the “Hebrew” appearing here exists only in the mind of Joseph Smith. As Ashment notes, “Fresh out of Palestine, the Hebrew known to Jacob should have been biblical Hebrew. But as Figure 1 illustrates, it bears no resemblance to Hebrew at all.”

I’m surprised this episode doesn’t generate much interest among critics of the LDS church. I understand why apologists wouldn’t want to touch it, but it’s pretty clear confirmation that Joseph Smith had no ability as a translator but rather had a pretty vivid imagination.


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