The One True Church and the Great Winnowing

March 31, 2011

I was watching a BBC piece wherein they spent some time with church members and leaders, and some ex-members. Church members bore witness that they had the true faith, that they had been called to share God’s message here in the last days. When the interviewer said he thought some of the church’s teachings were “weird,” they said that the secular outsider just didn’t understand them. When the BBC interviewer mentioned what he perceived as personal failings of the church’s founder, members were shocked, telling him that he was a great prophet who had brought the truth to the world at the time we most needed it. Only people with hard hearts would say such things about the prophet.

The interviewer also spoke with ex-members, who talked about how painful it had been to be separated and looked down on by their families. They said they had followed their conscience and what they believed to be right, even though it had been terribly painful. Faithful members spoke of them as “apostates” and said that now was a great time of winnowing or sifting, when the Lord was separating the righteous of his flock from the world.

I’d heard all these things before from friends and family members when I lost my faith in Mormonism, but it was kind of jarring to hear it from the Westboro Baptist folks.


Another Theme Song

March 4, 2011

Years ago, I saw a TV show in which Tracey Ullmann (one of my favorites) played a therapist who counseled her patients to find a theme song for their lives. I think I’ve had a number of them at different times, depending on my state of mind, my hopes, and my dreams.

This is an old song, but it always comes back to me as a good theme song (and it’s a good song for a Friday):

The Kinks, \"Better Days\"

Here’s wishing you the bluest sky,
And hoping something better comes tomorrow.
Hoping all the verses rhyme,
And the very best of choruses to
Follow all the doubt and sadness.
I know that better things are on the way.

Here’s hoping all the days ahead
Won’t be as bitter as the ones behind you.
Be an optimist instead,
And somehow happiness will find you.
Forget what happened yesterday,
I know that better things are on the way.

It’s really good to see you rocking out
And having fun,
Living like you just begun.
Accept your life and what it brings.
I hope tomorrow you’ll find better things.
I know tomorrow you’ll find better things.

Here’s wishing you the bluest sky,
And hoping something better comes tomorrow.
Hoping all the verses rhyme,
And the very best of choruses to
Follow all the drudge and sadness.
I know that better things are on the way.

I know you’ve got a lot of good things happening up ahead.
The past is gone it’s all been said.
So here’s to what the future brings,
I know tomorrow you’ll find better things.
I know tomorrow you’ll find better things.


The Answer Is Always 42

March 3, 2011

I’m about to use a really bad analogy, so bear with me.

Imagine you’re going to take an exam, and rather than studying the questions, you are told to memorize the answer sheet. If you get all the answers right, you pass. If you miss even one, you fail. You do your best, and then when the test comes, you look at the first question.

You know the answer is “42,” but the question on the test is “4 X 11 = .”

You scratch your head, and you figure, well, maybe the answer sheet was wrong, so you write down “44.”

You turn in your test, and you get all the answers right except that one. You fail. So you talk to your professor and maybe a proctor and maybe you go all the way to the department chair and dean, but nothing doing. You’ve failed.

You try to make your case, but the answer is always 42.

“You must have done something wrong in your calculations,” they say, “because if you had done it right, you would have gotten the correct answer, which is 42.”

You tell them that maybe you had a different test than the normal one, and the answers were not the same.

“Nope, the test is the same for everyone. You failed.”

You try to explain that 4 X 11 = 44, not 42. “Just look at my test,” you implore.

“Maybe you’re just too proud to admit that you got the wrong answer,” comes the reply. “Or maybe you just wanted to get the answer wrong just to make trouble. You have quite a bad attitude. Come to think of it, everyone I’ve ever met who got the answer wrong was a liar. You must be lying.”

“No, I honestly did my best, and I’m sure I got the answer right.”

“Obviously you have some distorted cognitive abilities or faulty problem-solving strategies, or you would have arrived at the correct answer.”

“No, I did the work as asked.”

“Look, if you’ll just forget about that answer, leave it alone, I’m sure we can work something out (as long as you don’t tell anyone else about your wrong answer.”

“That would be dishonest. Look, I’ll be happy to admit I’m wrong if you’ll just go over the answer with me.”

“Why would I do that? You’re wrong, period.”

I was thinking today that, among some people, the default position is, “The church is true, and there is no valid reason anyone would ever conclude otherwise.”

This position leads to all the things we’ve heard before: we want to sin, we’re dishonest, we suffer from emotional and cognitive problems, we are following Satan.

I know why this is done, which is why it generally doesn’t bother me that much when people make those accusations. Most critics I know are happy to admit that we could be horribly, terribly wrong. I don’t think I am wrong in my conclusions about the church, but it’s possible.

But I find it interesting that some other people cannot allow for the possibility that reasonable, decent people might disagree on the subject of Mormonism. The answer is always 42.