Satire at the Daily Universe

July 30, 2011

Nice to see those BYU students have a sense of humor:

Pork Barba-Coca-Cola

This is good enough that it could be mine:

Pork barba-Coca-Cola
Mon, 07/13/2009 – 19:34
It is no secret that Cafe Rio is one of the more popular restaurants among BYU students. It is for this reason I felt compelled to write this letter to expose something I found both shocking and saddening. I noticed Cafe Rio uses real Coca-Cola in its recipe for pork barbacoa. That means many of us have disobeyed the commandments of our prophets without even knowing it!
I am appalled Cafe Rio would perpetuate this subterfuge in Provo. Surely the owners must realize how many of us are striving to uphold the Word of Wisdom. How can we do that when they are secretly giving us real Coke? Now that this despicable deception has been brought to light, I think the only solution that we, as students of the Lord’s university, can embrace is to immediately stop patronizing Cafe Rio until it uses caffeine-free Coke in its pork barbacoa recipe.
Until then, let us eat on campus — BYU Dining would never serve real Coke. Further, I call on the Honor Code Office to consider whether students who continue to order pork barbacoa should have a place at this university. Surely we cannot have students attending BYU who don’t think it’s important to follow the prophets. If students insist on eating pork barbacoa at Cafe Rio, they should cede their spot at this university to someone who is willing to be obedient, even when it doesn’t suit their carnal tastes.
Scott Gale
Beaverton, Ore.


Closet Apostate on Mormon.org?

July 29, 2011

A friend pointed me to an “I’m a Mormon” profile on Mormon.org, which reads like it could have been written by any number of my apostate friends:

http://mormon.org/me/1XG8/Andrew

Some highlights:

Although I have come to develop unorthodox views and continue to grapple with Mormon doctrine and history, I continue to be an active Mormon because Mormons are some of the most kind and giving folks that you’ll ever meet.

Read: I don’t believe in the church, but Mormons are nice folks.

Why don’t Mormons have paid clergy? The highest leaders in the LDS church do receive a “living allowance,” Church-funded housing, subsidized/discounted meals at Church-owned cafeterias, and an automobile or car pool service, all of which has a monetary value.

In other words, when they say they don’t have paid clergy, they’re being misleading.

What is done with the tithing that Mormons pay?
Church members cannot be certain exactly how their tithing dollars are spent because LDS leaders do not provide Church members with financial statements detailing how their tithes are actually spent. However, Church members trust their leaders, and those leaders tell us that our tithes are spent on such things as constructing and maintaining meeting houses and temples, financing the missionary program, and operating Church-owned schools like BYU. This very website is an example of something that tithing dollars are used to finance, as well as the Church’s use of professional Public Relations consultants. Church members have been assured that their tithing dollars are not being used to finance the Church’s purchase, renovation, and new construction of the multi-billion dollar City Creek Mall in downtown Salt Lake City.

WTF?

Why do Mormons baptize their new members?
Mormons believe that God will not allow us to live with him for eternity unless we are baptized by someone holding the “priesthood authority,” which Mormons believe exists only within the LDS church. Mormons believe that a baptism performed in any other church will not be recognized as valid in God’s eyes, no matter how sincere the persons involved were. Mormons believe that God is a loving, gentle, kind, compassionate, and merciful Father, but at the same time, He is a Father who only wants to spend eternity with those of his children who choose to receive ordinances through the proper (i.e., Mormon) priesthood authority; otherwise, he considers us “unworthy” to live with him.

Wow.

Some call the Mormon Church a cult because their observations cause them to conclude that Mormon leaders employ some or all of these mind-control techniques.

How I live my faith I believe in the universal human values that all world religions have long embraced, and I strive to live by them. I believe that Mormonism embraces these values, albeit imperfectly, and attempts to implement them through numerous programs, rules, and institutional structures, some of which are unique. I embrace those unique Mormon elements to the extent I find them helpful, and disregard them when I don’t.

A better definition of a cafeteria Mormon one couldn’t find.

I’m wondering how long Andrew’s profile will stay up. Either someone hacked the Mormon.org site, or someone in Salt Lake has reading-comprehension problems. Or maybe the LDS church is trying really hard to appear inclusive.


Leaving the LDS church, not your loved ones

July 27, 2011

Years ago I had a blog called “Joseph’s Left One” wherein I mostly complained about the LDS church. But I had a change of heart, and I thought the best thing I could do was help people who were going through the exit process (I prefer “apostasy,” but you know what I mean) avoid some of the mistakes I had made.

I nearly lost my marriage (twice), and I ended up attempting suicide and spending some quality time in a psychiatric hospital, so I’m well-qualified to discuss what not to do when leaving the church.

I see people going through the same struggles, facing the same decisions, and making the same mistakes I made. So, without rehashing my entire past, here are some things I learned that to me made a difference in salvaging my relationships:

1. Do not make the church and/or your leaving it the focus of your relationship. Every LDS marriage has three entities involved: husband, wife, and the church (Mormons would say it’s God, but it’s really the church). We were taught that the gospel/church was the center of our lives, and the focus of our marriages. But marriage is about love, commitment, companionship, intimacy, and a whole lot of other things that are not dependent on the church.

Obviously, the church is going to be a point of contention, but I am convinced that if you put effort into the other areas of your marriage instead of always coming back to your apostasy, you’ll be all right. If you have a good relationship, strengthen and build it. If you don’t have a good relationship, then you have to decide if it’s worth building. But when you put effort into church issues instead of your relationship, you’re toast.

2. Don’t try to convince your loved ones you’re right about the church. They’ve been taught not to listen, and instead to fight back, if you say anything negative or non-faith-promoting about the church. You cannot make people see what you see.

I think the first thing people feel after they figure out Mormonism is that they want other people, particularly their loved ones, to figure it out, too. But we figured it out because we were ready. Trying to get someone to listen when they aren’t ready is pointless.

We want people to respect our beliefs, and we need to return that respect, no matter how difficult that is. I am not endorsing the constant refrain from church members that we keep our mouths shut about what we know. But I’ve found it’s better to answer honestly when people ask, rather than actively pushing my beliefs on others.

3. Don’t feel obligated to explain yourself to anyone. You’ll get visits from hometeachers and bishops and ward members, emails, “love bombs,” attacks, and all kinds of attempts to get you to change the error of your ways. Just remember that you get to choose who you respond to and how you respond. Just because the bishop wants to see you, it doesn’t mean you have to meet with him. When some confrontational person accosts you with hostile questions, you don’t have to answer.

4. Live the life you want. A lot of Ex-Mormons feel like they have to go out and experience life (sometimes by breaking a lot of commandments) to compensate for the years of self-repression in Mormonism. Others of us, myself included, were so determined to not be the stereotypical “apostate” that we felt we always had to be on our best behavior.

But that’s the wrong approach. Live the life you want, not the one that is governed by how you are perceived by others. The choice isn’t between the Mormon template and its opposite; you have to dig deep down to figure out what you believe, what you want, who you are. And that shouldn’t have anything to do with how Mormons see you.

5. Don’t be afraid of your emotions. In Mormonism, anger and contention are of the devil, so we learned to hide our feelings (except of course the positive ones). When you leave the church, it’s natural to feel angry, hurt, and betrayed. I certainly felt that way, probably for about 2 years. When I started posting on the Recovery from Mormonism board, I almost always ended each post with “stupid fucking cult.” I feel a little embarrassed about that, but it was an honest expression of what I was feeling at the time.

It’s OK to be angry and express that anger. But be careful not to take it out on people, especially your loved ones. The anger will fade, eventually (if not, you probably have other issues), but if the anger has been directed at your loved ones, that will cause lasting damage.

One of the things I love about RfM is that, despite what some apologists say, it’s not a cesspool of bitterness. It’s a great place for dealing with the emotions that come out of leaving the church. Almost without exception, people express their feelings and then move on. That’s as it should be.

That’s probably enough for now.


Honoring Ex-Mormon Pioneers

July 27, 2011

It occurs to me that we were taught to honor our pioneer forebearers because they were willing to sacrifice to follow truth. They gave up home and family to follow their consciences.

In our own way, we are likewise pioneers. Many of us here have sacrificed a great deal to follow our consciences. Many of us have lost friends, family members, marriages, homes, relationships because we chose to follow what we believed was right. Leaving the church is an act of courage, humility, and moral strength, and that deserves our honor and respect.

So, here’s to all you pioneers out there.


After “this is the right place”

July 26, 2011

Most people are aware of Brigham Young’s famous declaration upon reaching the Salt Lake Valley. For the first time, I present the ten things said by arriving pioneers after Brigham got there.

10. Is that the welcoming committee from the Eagle Forum?
9. No, Brother Kimball, I’m not seeing anyone currently.
8. This can’t be the place. Srsly?
7. Now that we’re free from the mobs, all we have to worry about are gays, feminists, and so-called intellectuals.
6. No, I am not a Democrat. Why do you ask?
5. You left your keys where?
4. Why would anyone want to re-enact that?
3. Stop crying, Brother Beck!
2. What do you mean, “no beer sales on Sunday”?
1. It’s all right, President Young, but the Correlation Committee recommends shortening “the right place” to “the place.”


Another Victim

July 25, 2011

On another post, I received the following comment from a reader:

My wife of 51 plus years died of Cancer the day before christmas of 2009. I [had] done everything I could do to get the help she needed, including two trips to the Cancer Treatment centers in Tulsa, and in Eaden Il., 50 miles north of Chicago. I was watching a program on Insp Network, and the speaker this time was a Mike Murdock. I put a $1000.00 [donation] on my debit card. My wife passed away not long after that. They made believe I could get whatever I was praying for, so when my wife died I sent 3 or 4 e-mails and did not get any kind of response from them. So I have really have been burnt. I tried to get my money back, but they didn’t even answer me back. My oldest daughter lives with me now and we only got $10.00 to last to payday. I hope my $1000.00 done some good. My light, phone, and those things may get cut off before I can pay them. Pray for me and my daughter.

These are the kind of people that Todd Coontz and Mike Murdock take advantage of: the poor, the struggling, the sick. Not coincidentally, these are the people Jesus said we were supposed to take care of. That these “ministers” are preying upon such folks ought to tell us who they are working for; it’s not God.

When the rich young ruler asked Jesus, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Jesus told him that, in addition to keeping the commandments, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me” Matthew 19:16, 21).

There are so many worthy charities that provide for the poor and the sick. Dr. Todd Coontz and Mike Murdock and their ilk are not poor and definitely are not worthy of anyone’s support. They take from the poor and the sick to enrich themselves in a twisted perversion of the teachings of Jesus. I’m afraid the only “good” that is done by giving to such evil predators is that we provide them with more money to purchase more television time to victimize more people.

They should be ashamed of themselves, though I’m sure they are not.


Report from the Belly of the Beast

July 20, 2011

Yesterday I had lunch with Chris Smith, Mike Reed, and another guy named Steve, whom I had not met before. They are attending a Maxwell Institute seminar on the cultural history of the golden plates, or something like that.

Anyhow, I had to ask Chris where the NAMI is located, as I’d never been there before. It was fun to drive past the horrible basement apartment my wife and I lived in as dirt-poor newlyweds 24 years ago, and then I pulled into the 30-minute space in front of the building.

The seminar was still going on in the center’s library, so I sat on a couch and perused some of the publications sitting on the coffee table (I always wonder if such a table at BYU can properly be called a “coffee table,” but I digress).

I looked in the small window of the library door, and the only two people I recognized were Chris and Mike, but I learned later that Richard Bushman was in charge of the thing (I think he must have had his back to the door).

While I was sitting there, an older man with white hair and glasses meandered in and out of the lobby. I recognized him as Louis Midgley. He didn’t seem all that scary to me, for some reason. I’d been led to expect a raving lunatic with blood dripping from his sharp teeth, but he looked pleasant enough. I said hello, but I did not otherwise engage him. Who knows what he might have done with an apostate like me? 🙂

The student behind the front desk encouraged me to read whatever I would like. It’s too bad that I didn’t notice Brian Hauglid’s book on the display shelves until I was heading out the door. So, I ended up reading Dan Peterson’s “Unapologetic” piece in the FROB, which was sort of vaguely depressing to me. There seemed to be a subtext that suggested that, as an ex-Mormon, there is something wrong with me, at one point that “something” being compared to a fatal illness. It didn’t offend me, but I thought how different my worldview is to that attitude these days.

To my surprise, Terryl Givens came in the front door looking a bit flustered and then entered the library. A woman stood by the partially opened door watching a couple of small children play in the lobby, as I sat and tried to hear what they were talking about (couldn’t make it out).

Lunch was great, and once again I am impressed by the quality of people who are involved in these programs. Chris, Mike, and Steve are all extremely intelligent, educated people of integrity, though they come from different backgrounds (Chris never-Mormon, Mike ex-Mormon, and Steve an active high priest).

During lunch, Chris asked me if I had stopped to see Dan Peterson while I was in the NAMI offices. I hadn’t realized that’s where his office was, or I would have done so. Next time I’ll drop by, Dan.

Anyway, I just thought I’d write down my impressions from my first visit to the Maxwell Institute.


Why I’m Not a Biblical Literalist

July 20, 2011

I don’t want to sound proud or condescending, as I can respect the position of Biblical literalists, even though I really don’t relate to their position at all.

It struck me when, in a conversation, an Evangelical friend suggested that we “begin with what the words actually mean.” I don’t really know what to make of this. What words? The English words (if so, which translation)? The Greek words (speaking of the NT, for example)? The original language (which may vary)?

For the New Testament, we are dealing with an English translation of a Greek manuscript, which is itself a translation of the original language. We don’t have the original manuscripts of the NT, so we rely on the accuracy of the translation, whether we’re dealing with English or Greek. My friend suggested that we need a “single standard or reference from which to interpret the text,” but I wonder what that standard is, and who determines that it alone is authoritative. Translators, transcribers, and interpreters (such as those who write Biblical commentary) are human and subject to mistakes and even deliberate changes of meaning. How do we know which translation, which interpretation to trust?

An analogy might help explain where I’m coming from. Suppose I have the Spanish sentence, “De repente llega la guagua.”

If I consult a dictionary, I will see that “de repente” means” suddenly. “Llega” primarily means “arrives,” though there are several alternate meanings, depending on the context. Finally, “guagua” means “bus” in Central America, but it means “baby” in Andean countries, such as Bolivia.

So, I decide to translate it as “Suddenly the bus arrives.” Of course, unbeknownst to me (the translator), the writer is Bolivian, and “de repente” in Bolivia means “maybe,” which is not listed in most Spanish dictionaries. And again, unknown to me, the writer meant, “Maybe the baby is sufficient,” “to suffice” being one of the possible meanings of “llegar.” I know Spanish, and the standard translation is going to be “Suddenly the bus arrives.”

Once that translation is in place, it becomes the de facto authority by which translations are created. So, the German, Farsi, Greek, and so on, translations all read (in their language) “Suddenly the bus arrives.”

So, some non-literalist comes along and says, “Wait a minute. Maybe this isn’t what is meant. Maybe we’re dealing with a baby, not a bus, and uncertainly instead of suddenness.”

“Don’t you trust the text?” our literalist friend asks. “Why shouldn’t we stick with what the words actually mean? It means ‘Suddenly the bus arrives.’ Everyone knows that.”

So, in the end, when we say we are investing authority in the text, we’re really putting faith in the humans who wrote, transcribed, and translated the text.


Mormon Church Proposes Solution to Debt-Ceiling Impasse

July 19, 2011

In a rare move into politics, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued the following statement to help leaders in Washington, DC, to resolve the dispute over raising the United States government’s debt ceiling.

Brothers and sisters and fellow citizens,

At this time of crisis and peril in our nation’s history, we call on leaders of both parties, President Obama, and Congressional leaders to return to the safety and security of faith in God to preserve the financial solvency of the United States of America.

Over the more than two hundred years of our history, we have seen parties wrangling and feuding over spending priorities, taxes, and budget deficits. Throughout these debates, we have forgotten the promises of a benevolent God, who will see us through hard times, if only we will have faith. Has he not promised:

“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10).

Only when we remember to give back what is rightfully God’s will we find that the windows of heaven, even the avenues of prosperity, will be opened unto us.

In a spirit of humility and faith, we call upon leaders of the United States to remember God’s covenant and provide, immediately, ten percent of the government’s gross revenue to Bishop Robert Gardner of the Washington DC Fifth Ward. Federal records indicate that the total revenue for the US government is equal to $2.174 trillion dollars for 2011, thus Bishop Gardner will be expecting a check in the amount of $217.4 billion.

We solemnly promise that, when the tithing has been received, God will pour out His blessings on the United States, just as He sent rain to the drought-stricken Saints of St. George, Utah, over 100 years ago.

President Heber J. Grant taught us a timeless principle:

“I want to say to you, if you will be honest with the Lord, paying your tithing and keeping His commandments, He will not only bless you with the light and inspiration of His Holy Spirit, but you will be blessed in dollars and cents; you will be enabled to pay your debts, and the Lord will pour out temporal blessings upon you in great abundance.”

More recently, Elder Sheldon F. Child of the Seventy taught, “If you always pay an honest tithing, the Lord will bless you. It will be the best investment you will ever make.”

But our national commitment to God should not end with the law of tithing. As President Thomas S. Monson has taught:

“There is another aspect of sound financial management, and it concerns our budgeting and offering to the Lord a fast offering to bless those in need. We must cheerfully and gratefully apply this principle if we want to perfect ourselves.

“I remember as a young bishop getting a call from the hospital late one night to inform me that a widow in my ward had died. I went to the hospital, then obtained the key to her apartment. A note had been left that this was to be the procedure I was to follow. As I entered her humble basement apartment, I turned on the light and went to the little table that was in the small living room. There on the table were two small bottles with a note beneath them. The bottles were filled with coins. This sweet little widow, Kathleen McKee, with no relatives surviving her, had written this note. “Bishop, here is my fast offering. I have been just with the Lord.” I think we simply need ask one another, have we been just with the Lord? Remember the principle of the true fast. Is it not to deal our bread to the hungry, to bring to our own house the poor who are outcast, to clothe the naked, to hide not ourself from our own flesh? An honest fast offering, a generous fast offering, will certainly be an indication to our Heavenly Father that we know and abide this particular law.”

Surely our nation is in need, and we encourage our government to cheerfully and gratefully give a generous fast offering. Once again, Bishop Gardner will be happy to take receipt of this free-will offering.

God’s promises are certain. At this time of financial need, the best investment the US government can make is to invest in faith through tithing. We promise a great increase of blessings, both spiritual and financial, if our nation begins again to honor its commitments to God.

Sincerely,

The First Presidency

P.S. Donation slips are available outside Bishop Gardner’s office. Make sure you remember to bring a pen.


Disliking Joseph Smith

July 15, 2011

Sunday I realized that, despite what I tell myself, I still have kind of a residual negative reaction to Joseph Smith. I find myself thinking of him like an unpleasant acquaintance from my past, like the kid up the street who used to throw rocks at me when I was a little boy.

I went to a missionary homecoming Sunday, and the boy was talking about service. He said, “Of all the people who have lived on this earth, there is one man who stands out as the greatest example of selfless service: Joseph Smith.” I had a kind of viscerally negative response, thinking that there were a lot of people I would put ahead of Joseph Smith on the service scale.

When I came home from church, I was watching the news, and they were talking to Kody Brown, the “Sister Wives” guy. He seems pretty sincere in his beliefs, but he comes across to me as rather self-absorbed, a bit self-righteous, and sort of creepy. I thought, self-absorbed, self-righteous, creepy polygamist with big hair. Sounds like Joseph Smith.

Mind you, had I lived in Joseph Smith’s time, I would not have advocated his death or imprisonment. He did a lot of manipulative, selfish, and just plain wrong things, but nothing that I can see worthy of imprisonment or death. To the degree that he was responsible for creating the culture and worldview I grew up with, I’ve forgiven him, which I think was an important part of my “recovery,” if that’s what you want to call it.

But it struck me that I don’t really like him very much. He’s not someone who would be my friend, and I certainly wouldn’t let my daughters babysit for him.