Thursday, April 27, 2006

It Wasn't All Bad

I have a fair share of unhappy memories from my childhood but it wasn't all bad. Maybe it is a personality flaw of mine to focus on the bad so I've been reflecting on my childhood trying to remember the good as well as the bad. My mother wants an autobiography from each of her children so I'm going to be posting some snapshots of my life that might serve as a basis. I know that this will be useful for me, I'm hoping it won't be boring to anyone reading this, and I think it might be something that I can pass on to my children so that they can come to see me as a human being and not just as Dad.

Anyway, I haven't been posting much this week because I'm doing two jobs: I'm teaching a class and I'm also doing my normal contract work. My students are arriving so I'll sign off and post some more this evening.

Monday, April 24, 2006


I raise my hands, bow my head
I'm finding more and more truth in the words written in red
They tell me that there's more to life than just what i can see
Oh i believe
Brooks and Dunn, Believe
I heard this song on the way home tonight. The gist seemed to be that life sucks so much that there must be more to it. Is that what drives belief in God and religion? A desparate need to believe in something more? Is it the refuge of the hopeless? Is this the reason for deathbed confessions and the growth of charismatic religions in poor parts of the world? Are religion and communism the false hopes of the hopeless?

I was struck at how sad it is that the hopeless turn to an illusory, imaginary hope instead of discovering how to genuinely improve their lives. It strikes me because I spent almost 40 years chasing the illusion. It was punctuated by moments of joy and esoteric beauty, but those moments were overshadowed by the burdens imposed following the faith of my father. It was a joyless, conformist way of life that left me joyless, cold, and full of guilt for the shortcomings that I was constantly reminded of. As I realized that those I had trusted had misled me my entire life I also realized that my religious life was not making me happy. I was doing things because I was told that they would make me happy, without every reaping the promises. It was just another lie.

So what brings happiness? I'm afraid I don't have the answer for that yet. At least not a complete answer. But I'm happy today. Let me tell you why and perhaps partly answer the question.

Friday night I spent a late evening with my wife at the Alamo Drafthouse watching a movie and eating pizza and pecan pie. Then we came home and went to bed but not to sleep. After 5 hours of sleep I jumped on my motorcycle for a sunrise ride to College Station where I met Joseph's Left One for a triple mocha latte and a nice visit. Then off to the race track to watch motorcycles streaking by at 160 mph and visit with old racing buddies. Then lunch with JLO and three of his kids and more interesting conversation. On the way back to Austin I passed through the rolling ranch land along highway 21 and admired the beauty of this part of Texas in the spring. It was warm and sunny, the grass was green, the cattle were grazing in the fields surrounded by oak trees, streams, rivers, and ponds. It's quite a contrast from the rugged limestone hills, stunted scrub junnipers, live oaks, and prickly pear cactus just a couple of hours west in Austin. When I got home I spent the evening watching a movie with my wife and some friends. Then Sunday morning I got up after 4 hours sleep and ran the Schlotzsky's Bun Run 5k at very close to a personal best time despite warm, humid weather. After sleeping a few hours I spent the rest of the day watching motorcycle racing on TV and visiting with the family. It was a great two days. It was great to spend solitary time enjoying nature's beauty on the motorcycle. It was wonderful to share memories and thoughts with an old friend reunited, of all things, by a shared disbelief in what originally brought us together. And it was wonderful to spend time with friends and family. Peaceful time for introspection, thoughtful conversation, and sharing time with friends and family must be part of the equation for happiness.

I don't know. I really don't want more than that. No real need to believe in illusions and pretty promises. Is it too much to ask to be happy now? I don't need to believe in anything else. I guess that should make me sad, but it doesn't.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Off To the Races

Racing has defined my life. I've retired from roadracing motorcycles but am still a huge fan. Tomorrow I'm off early to head to College Station to watch a CMRA 8 hour endurance race at Texas World Speedway. Then on Sunday I'll be heading to Auditorium Shores here in Austin for the Schlotsky's Bun Run 5k. After roadracing I started running to lose weight and manage stress and depression. Of course, simply running wasn't enough so I signed up for a 10k race. I've been running races regularly since then with my biggest accomplishment so far being the completion of the Austin Distance Challenge which included races totalling 101 miles. I now have the distinction of having completed a marathon. I ran it slowly, but I finished.

As I read yesterday: The miracle isn't that I finished, it's that I started.

Have a good weekend wherever you are. My sitemeter has showed visitors from all over the USA, Australia, Germany, Russia, and France. I find that pretty amazing. Feel free to post a comment and say hi.

And remind me to tell you the story of learning Russian at BYU.


Weekly Anamnesis

I wonder what our houses say about us. I remember my childhood house in Urbandale, Iowa. It was on a quarter acre lot with a huge front yard that was shaded by huge catalpa and white maple trees. The VA had foreclosed on the property and my parents purchased it for the princely sum of $12,000 in 1970.

When we moved in I remember the backyard looked like a jungle with its weeds and overgrown grass. Closer inspection revealed why it hadn't been mowed. It took the Elder's Quorum from church, a dump truck, and most of a Saturday to remove several thousand pounds of garbage and junk that the former owners had conveniently disposed of by throwing it off the back porch. It had a huge 2 1/2 car detached garage. Behind the garage were two rooms, one behind the other, that were as wide as the garage and maybe twelve feet deep each. These rooms had windows, electricity, and of all things, plumbing that had long since been disconnected. The neighborhood rumor was that in a not-so-distant past a previous owner had kept a disabled relative in the back room of the garage.

The house itself was a hodge podge of mismatched additions, the last of which had probably been added 50 years previously. I can say this with some confidence because the local paper had run a historical aerial photograph that clearly showed our home sitting in the middle of a corn field in the 1920s. The carpet was old and stained. The cupboards were a faded, chalky pink! The asphalt tiles in the kitchen were a dingy, dirty checkerboard of black and white. The entryway was paneled with a cheap, dark wood veneer. The living room was enormous and about the size of a single wide trailer. In fact it looks almost like someone added the living room by parking a trailer and bolting it on, flat roof and all. We thought that an electrician must have added the living room because it had an electrical outlet about every three feet along the walls. The back additions had very nice paneling of naturally finished pine. Perhaps someone who cared and had some cash had done that part.

We lived in that house from the time I was 5 until we sold it when I was 18 so we had a chance to leave our mark on it. I'm sure that the family that bought it could see a partial story of our life illustrated by our former house and property just as we could read the stories of those that had lived there before us. The large side yard had been carefully crafted into a thirty by forty foot garden that yielded hundreds of dollars of fresh produce each year under the industrious care of the four children that tended it. The house was clean and in good repair. The exterior had been scraped, primed and painted by the teenage boys. The new roofing on the house and the garage had taught a skill and self-reliance to the boys who stripped off the old shingles and tarpaper and replaced it under the blazing Iowa summer sun. The carpets were new and clean even if their different colors and patterns bore testament to the fact that they'd been bought on closeout or on sale by a family that couldn't afford the latest fashions. The gold colored paint on the kitchen cupboards and avocado colored stove had clearly been done during the tasteless 70s. The indentations at the top of the door jamb in the kitchen from a chinup bar was evidence of the emphasis on exercise of the residents. More troubling were the shattered doors and doorways that had obviously been kicked in with such violence that the repairs could never really hide the damage. All painted a picture of an industrious, responsible, if not well-off family that tried to do their best to improve their lot in life and that perhaps had some secret troubles that were only hinted at by the house they left behind.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Childhood Memories

Childhood memories should be happy, right? So why is it that every time that I start trying to remember mine I get depressed and walk around all day on the edge of tears? Why do I have this incredibly sad, unhappy little boy trapped inside of me?

I went to sleep last night trying to remember some episode from my life that would be appropriate for this week's anamnesis prompt of illustration. I continued my walk down memory lane this morning and am wondering if I really want to continue. I was hoping for something humorous or entertaining. Instead I've reminded myself how much I hated my family life when I was growing up and how sad and lonesome and isolated I felt. At times I wonder if it was really that bad. Twenty-five years later I often tell myself it wasn't and that I blew things up out of proportion when I was a kid. On mornings like this I realize that I'm just whistling past the graveyard.

Maybe I'll share in the future. If I can do it without having a breakdown...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Mormons ARE Wierd

I'm a contractor and that means that I'm low man on the totem pole when it comes to office space. I currently occupy what I think used to be a storage room along with eight other contractors. We've been having some interesting conversations about Mormonism lately.

Growing up I always knew that I was different. For as long as I can remember I knew that I belonged to the one true church and that everyone else in the world was wrong and living in spiritual darkness and needed to be converted. This is a heavy burden for a child and colors everything you perceive about all of the gentiles that surround you. It is also a heavy burden since all those gentiles are unlikely to convert if you are setting a bad example. So I was always trying my best to be a good example of what a Mormon should be so that people would see how wonderful my life was and want to know why and want to join God's one true church.

I don't remember it being much of an issue until I entered junior high school. Then I definitely felt like a wierdo. When everyone at school went to dances I had to stay at home because I wasn't 14. Everyone seemed to be experimenting with sex and I knew that that was akin to murder. This carried over to high school except that by then I'd learned that being a Mormon made me different than everyone else. At an age where I desparately wanted to fit in I was terrified of anyone finding out I was a Mormon and avoided the subject at all costs. All I wanted to be was normal but it seemed like being Mormon made that impossible. I knew I was different. I knew I was supposed to be better. I knew I was supposed to be happier. I knew that they should be suffering as sinners and non-members, but somehow it didn't seem to ever work out that way. I was miserable and for the most part they seemed happy.

My mission changed all that. Spending all of your time and energy promoting Mormonism and being a very publicly visible emblem of the church can do that. When I returned I discovered that I no longer feared people discovering that I was Mormon. In fact, I felt quite comfortable in my own skin for the first time I could remember. Given the all-intrusive nature of the church it would be impossible to hide the fact that I was a member and I gladly shared my life and experiences as if they were perfectly natural. I realized that I'd have to really go out of my way to hide my Mormonism and didn't see any reason to do that. It was all very natural to me by that time and I had no problem sharing my church experiences with the gentiles around me. It never occurred to me how strange I must have seemed to them.

Now, as I share my knowledge of the Mormon church and culture with my co-workers from the perspective of a former Mormon I'm having a completely different experience. Since I no longer believe they feel free to share their true feelings. And it's quite funny to see the looks of incredulity and humor on their faces as I share with them. You see, no matter how much Mormons want to portray themselves as normal, happy people, they are still wierd. I'm only rediscovering that again. The whole concept of prayer and faith overriding logic, evidence and reason is just amazing. My co-workers are amazed that any educated, intelligent person could ever believe any of it.

So no matter the marketing spin that the church puts on it, gentiles still perceive Mormons as pretty wierd. They may be too polite to say so, but inside they are rolling their eyes and trying to hold back the laughter.

(And as a side note. Yes, Mormons call non-Mormons gentiles. I had a high councilman try to tell me that Mormons have never called non-Mormons gentiles. Apparently he's never read his own scriptures or he'd know differently. I suppose they don't consider Jews to be gentiles. But that's the only exception. The rest of you are gentiles. Sorry, unrighteous gentiles whose only hope is to join God's one true church on the face of the earth: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)

Top 10 Reasons I'm Still Angry

Someone commented that I seem angry with the Mormon church. So, in that spirit, here's the top 10 reasons I'm angry with them.

10) For leaving me with an obsessive, compulsive need to read and post to exmormon mailing lists and forums.
9) For enlisting me to teach lies to innocent victims.
8) For 20 years of wearing the most unattractive, uncomfortable excuse for underwear ever invented.
7) For the wasted time I could have spent doing fulfilling things for myself or my family
6) For the countless hours spent listening to the same insipid lessons every Sunday.
5) For making it necessary for every activity to have a "priesthood purpose."
4) For making me view every person I meet as a potential convert.
3) For making me never feel good enough.
2) For lying to me in order to get my money and my free labor.
1) For teaching my wife to believe that I'm a defective husband that "she is stuck with."

I'm sorry, but I have every right to be angry and bitter at the Mormon church. But if half of my immediate family wasn't still living under their delusional spell, then I'd have left it far behind and never given it another thought.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

But Did You Pray About It?

When Mormons find out I no longer believe in their religion they inevitably ask, "But did you pray about it?" For Mormons, this is the gold standard for determining truth, especially spiritual truth. Using reason or logic or evidence to arrive at an answer other than that the Mormon church is true is an obvious sign of spiritual blindness and lack of faith.

My answer, of course, is a simple, "No." This is meant with a knowing, smug look of self-satisfaction and self-reassurance. Inside they can feel sorry for me because I've obviously not sought the Spirit's testimony or else I'd still believe. I really don't bother explaining and let them continue in their self-imposed delusion.

A news article had an important impact on me. It was the story of a man that was arrested in the Pacific Northwest of the USA for sexually molesting his two daughters based on memories that his daughters "recovered" during therapy. The story is recounted in Carl Sagan's "Demon Haunted World." A better name for recovered memories is constructed memories. The mind is all about perception and a therapist can cause a memory to be constructed in a patient even if it never occurred. Despite the lack of reality this "memory" can become as real as if it actually happened so that a person can pass a polygraph test. This man was arrested and while in jail was counseled by his pastor to fast and pray to know whether or not he had done the horrible things of which he was accused. Despite having no recollection of having done these things he knew his daughters were good and wouldn't lie so he fasted and prayed at length between interrogations where he was given the details of his crimes. Eventually he recalled with perfect clarity committing all of the crimes that he was accused of and signed a confession.

And that would have been the end of it if a defense psychologist hadn't done a little experiment. He concocted a series of accusations that were provably false and went through the same procedure that elicited the first confession. The father fasted and prayed and once again "remembered" doing all of the acts of which he was accused. Except that there was hard evidence that he could not have done those acts.

Of course, I recognized that this was the same process that Mormons use to determine truth. If it could convince an innocent man that he had sexually molested his own son and daughters, then how reliable was it. There was obvioiusly psychological manipulation involved here. It created a belief in him so strong that he confessed to crimes that he did not commit and that consigned him to prison. It's not much of a stretch to realize that a similar process could convince someone that Joseph Smith was a prophet.

So, no, I didn't pray about it. Even if I did, I wouldn't have trusted the answer since I had cold, hard evidence that I could get whatever answer I desired depending on the answer that I wanted. I could get a spiritual confirmation that it was false. I could get a spiritual answer that it was true. I could fail to get an answer. None of which has anything to do with whether the Mormon church his actually true or not.

Here's the Mormon test, in a nutshell, as defined at the end of the Book of Mormon. You must pray with humility and pure intent, without doubting its veracity, and if you do then you will receive a witness from the spirit that the book is true. So, if you pray and don't feel the spirit it is because you have doubts. You must pray without doubts or it won't work. You must pray, desiring to get an answer in the affirmative or it won't work. If you don't get a positive answer then it may be because you have unrepented sins or you may lack humility. The only valid outcome that Mormons accept is a positive one. Any negative or non-answer is due to fault on the part of the individual because the Book of Mormon is by definition true.

In my case, my "pride" prevents me from even undertaking the test. Of course, the source of my "pride" is the knowledge that the test is rigged and even if it produces the result Mormon's predict it doesn't have anything to do with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon or the Mormon church.

So, given that the Mormon method of finding truth is flawed then I'm left with the questionable proposition (in Mormon eyes) of examining the history of the church and the character of its founders and weighing the evidence and using my own limited intelligence and reason to reach a conclusion. I don't posit that I know that the Mormon church is a bag of horseshit. But I'm pretty certain of it and can give much better evidence supporting my position than Mormon's can give for theirs. I'm pretty certain that you'd have to be dumber than a bag of hammers (to quote a friend) to believe in the church once you know the whole story.

So, in much the same way that I don't pray to know what 2+2 is, I don't pray to know if a convicted fraud, serial liar, child molester, and adulterer was able to look at a rock in a hat and translate a history for a people for which there is no physical evidence. I don't have to believe in things for which there is no evidence when everything for which we do have evidence shows that he was wrong. Prayer is simply a provably error prone way for making decisions and reaching conclusions, especially in areas where we have evidence and reason to aid us.

Parting shot. Who are really the proud and stiff-necked ones? The ones who don't pray but are willing to examine all evidence and admit error when the evidence goes against them? Or those who cling to their beliefs and refuse to admit the possibility of error and refuse to examine the evidence?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Real Men Don't Wear Tighty Whities

I am a Born In the Covenant (BIC) Mormon. That means that both of my parents were members and had been sealed together in a Mormon temple before I was born. This blessed me and all of my younger brothers and sisters with an automatic sealing to my parents at birth with no further need of temple work. My older brother was born before they had been sealed in the temple and the three of them had to go to the temple together to be sealed for time and all eternity since he wasn't BIC.

One of the covenants that adult Mormons make in the temple is to wear special underwear as a sign of their faithfulness. The entire sequence of temple ordinances is called the endowment and you can tell faithful, endowed members by the fact that they wear temple garments. You can usually tell that they are wearing them because they usually show through their clothing. The most obvious giveaway is a panty line at or just above the knee if they are wearing long pants or underwear hanging below the hem of their knee-length shorts.

The garments come in two flavors: one- and two-piece. The one-piece garments are sort of like a poorly fitting wrestling singlet. You put them on by stepping through the very large neck opening and the legs come to the knee and the sleeves are short. They have a fly in the front and a large slit in the back to facilitate bathroom breaks. Due to their construction they are baggy and don't provide support to men or women. Women's are similar except that they don't have a fly. Women are to wear their bras and any other clothing over the top of the garments. The two piece variety is a fairly recent invention that was introduced in, I think, the 1970s. These have a separate top that is like a t-shirt and bottoms that come in either a boxer or brief variety. Both top and bottom must be worn together or else you might as well not wear either since the garment consists of both.

Mormons have to wear it both day and night. The only time they are supposed to take it off is to bathe or partcipate in sporting events. Most also take it off for conjugal relations, but they are admonished in the most serious way to put it back on immediately afterward and not sleep in the raw. Continued worthiness in the church requires that the garments be worn both day and night. If an endowed member is seen without garments and they aren't at the swimming pool or playing sports then they will become a guaranteed source of gossip at church. Members will speculate whether the guilty party was excommunicated, guilty of some serious sin, or simply apostate. Because no worthy, righteous endowed member of the church would ever go without the protection of their garments.

I grew up believing that this was all quite normal and expected. I knew that when I turned 19 I would go through the temple and trade in my little boy's underwear for grown up underwear. That's just the way it was. Grown men wore garments.

Now, I absolutely dreaded the day. I was something of a heathen and ran around all summer wearing nothing but tennis shorts. The thought of having to wear long pants and not one, but two t-shirts in the humid, hot Iowa summer was daunting. But I knew it was the right thing to do, because God had decreed it through his prophets.

And so it came to pass.

I wore two t-shirts, no matter how hot. I wore jeans when it was 98 degrees and 90 percent humidity. I avoided even knee length shorts because the legs of the garments would creep down my legs and wind up hanging below the hem of my shorts. My private parts would inevitably come out of the fly and wind up where they weren't supposed to be. They would ride up my butt and give me a wedgie. They were simply the worst designed, worst fitting underwear I could imagine and I had to wear them all of the time.

After I returned from my mission and graduated from BYU I had a mini-revelation. Some adults didn't wear garments. Of course, I already knew that, but I'd never really seen it because I'd mostly associated with Mormons my whole life. So while I'm sure I got curious glances in the lockerroom at the gym, I also thought it was funny seeing grown men wearing children's underwear. So there. I wasn't the one wearing funny underwear; they were.

Fast forward to a couple of year ago. How did my wife discover my apostasy from the church? We were in bed and she slid her hand under the t-shirt I was wearing. Her hand snapped out as if it had been burned.

"You're not wearing garments!"


"Why not?" Horrified! Up to that point she could believe that I was just an inactive member.

And then the tale of my discovery and loss of belief came tumbling out.

So, you see, it is a big deal for an endowed member of the church to stop wearing garments. A really, big, hairy, f-ing deal. As long as you continue to wear your garments members will operate under the illusion that you haven't lost the faith. Taking off the garments is the final step in leaving Mormonism. The conditioning is so deep that many former members continue to wear them for some time after they lose their belief. But, it is seen as such a big, symbolic step that it is very hard to do.

I didn't revert to tighty whities. I went to black briefs. Love them. I can't tell that I have them on. They are so comfy. While I was wearing garments I could always feel them. They were a constant reminder. They were hot and uncomfortable, especially in the Texas summers that start in April and end around October or November. I feel young again. And that is good.

Friday, April 14, 2006


It sucks when you accidentally read someone else's anamnesis and you get stuck going down a derivative road. Oh well, sorry JLO but I'm going to tell a Bolivian mission story too.

Bolivia is far south of the Bible belt. So far south that winter is summer, summer is winter, and all of the Baptists are Catholics. That meant that even though it was August, the mud puddles had a glaze of ice on the top as we crunched up the dirt road each morning to find the Lord's elect. We were living in a fairly nice house just above a factory in Pura Pura which was just below a ridge that separated Pura Pura from our area in Munaypata (moon eye pata). Like most houses in Bolivia it lacked central heating or central air. In fact, it lacked any kind of heater which meant that the nights were cold and miserable as we hundled under layers of wool blankets and kept the bed bugs fed.

The Bolivian solution was portable heaters powered by propane gas tanks just like you use for your BBQ grill. They used propane for their stoves and also for these wonderful heaters that had an open burner in front of a ceramic grid on the front. Each week you'd see people lined up on the street with their tanks waiting for a truck to come by with full tanks that they could exchange for their empty ones.

The problem with the gas heaters was that they had an open flame that burned, of course, oxygen. When left on all night in a closed room they can kill you as they burn up all of the oxygen and then produce a fatal level of carbon monoxide. This wasn't a theoretical danger. A couple of missionaries living on the Altiplano had gone to sleep one night and never woke up. When they didn't show up for their weekly zone meeting their zone leaders went out to check on them and discovered the tragic scene.

Since a mission is the safest possible place for a 19 to 20 year old man to be (the church says so everytime a missionary dies) the church banned the use of all gas heaters in the mission. Instead they sent electric quartz heaters to the mission. Since everyone in Salt Lake City knows that all of South America runs on 220 volt power the heaters were 220 volt heaters. Makes sense. Except that La Paz runs on 110 volts, just like America. 220 volt heaters don't get hot when plugged into 110 volt outlets. That left me and my companion and the rest of the missionaries in La Paz with the choice of whether to freeze or use the gas heaters that they had disobediently kept in violation of mission rules. We did what any sane, rule-breaking missionary would do. We used the heater in the bathroom on the rare occasions when we risked electrocution in the shower and we used it in the morning and evening when we were awake. But we NEVER slept with it on.

It was P-day. That was our preparation day which is the missionary name for our one day that we sort of had off for ourselves and when we weren't expected to do missionary work until 5:00 pm. We got up and it was really cold. OK, it wasn't Minnesota cold. But you try waking up and going to the bathroom when your room is in the 30s. So I hopped up, fired up the heater, and crawled back into bed to stay warm while the room warmed up. And I drifted off to sleep.

As I drifted up out of slumber I heard a hissing noise. What the heck was that hissing noise? I wish it would stop because it's making it darn difficult to sleep in. OH MY GOD! I opened up my eyes and saw that the flame had gone out on the heater. I jumped up out of bed in horror and just as quickly crashed to the floor and held my head which felt like it was going to explode. I stumbled to the windows and threw them open and quickly turned off the gas. Then I ran over and began to shake my companion. Poor Elder Collazos had no idea what was going on and sat up holding his head. It turns out that our gas tank had run too low to keep the flame ignited and had begun filling up our room with gas fumes. I have no idea if propane is fatal, but it sure felt like we were half-way to death's door.

Anyway, we shivered through another cold day without the comforting warmth of our heater and shivered to think that we'd almost added another chapter to the Bolivian mission lore.

Of course, we were out at the curb the next day to get our propane tank refilled. You can only shiver so long.

Weekly anamnesis

Como dueles en los labios

One of the advantages of Napster is the ability to legally download and listen to a virtually limitless selection of songs. Currently playing is the above song by Mana. One thing I learned while living in Bolivia is how powerful the Spanish language is for communicating emotions through music. I don't know if you need to know Spanish or not, but listening to this song never fails to stir my soul and bring tears to my eyes. Music has a powerful ability to speak to us and I think Spanish just amplifies this ability.

God Almighty

Last night we sat around the dinner table and regaled my oldest son's girlfriend with tales of injuries past. Not that our family is accident prone or anything. But our family god is a jealous god and demands sacrifice. For some time he has taken his due on at least an annual basis. I declare that our family deity is the Bone God and he is our one true god. We can miss church meetings. We can miss our prayers. Our god doesn't demand temple worship, tithing, the sacrifice of children or virgins. But he does require a bone to be sacrificed each year to slake his hunger. He's not picky. It doesn't have to be a previously unbroken bone. So we've sometimes gotten by with doing the same bone multiple times. Don't believe me?
  • 1968: Broke my leg playing Batman when I jumped off the car bumper.
  • 1975: Broke my thumb playing flag football
  • 1993: 5-year-old son falls out of tree on Christmas day and breaks two bones in arm
  • 1994: 4-year-old son has tibia snapped like a tree branch by his pre-K teacher.
  • 1995: 7-year-old son breaks both bones in other arm in bicycle accident that required general anesthesia to set
  • 1996: Exploded my left collar bone racing
  • 1997: Son breaks rib in bicycle accident
  • 1999: I break right collar bone in another racing crash
  • 2000: Sons breaks two bones in his arm. Again.
  • 2001: I break two ribs in a motocross crash
  • 2002: Daughter cracks elbow wrestling with dogs
  • 2003: I break my left collar bone again. Doctor asks if I knew that I'd broken two ribs. Duh.
  • 2004: Son breaks shoulder in three places: shoulder blade cracked in half, acromium process cracked but not displaced, and collar bone. Two weeks before state 5A marching band finals where he marched with one arm and took second place.
  • 2005: Nothing? Last year's 3 carried over?
  • 2006: Son breaks his other collar bone. We got the sacrifice out of the way early this year so we're safe until 2007.
As you can see, our god is a demanding god who demands his pay.

Funny, but true, story. One of my daughter's classes did a survey on the number of broken bones in each students' family that they charted on a histogram. Our family, at that time, had more broken bones than the rest of the class combined. And we've increased the total several times since then.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

My Mormon Reading List

Someone on a mailing list asked for a list of books on the Mormon church for someone questioning the church and I posted the following list:

1) "Demon Haunted World", Carl Sagan
Essential information on why people believe strange things and how to reliably discover truth based on reason and evidence. Includes techniques/mistakes that are used to try to convince people of things that are either provably false or at best unprovable. I recommend this first because it doesn't address Mormonism directly, but does undermine the credibility of the church's gold standard for finding "truth".
2) "Rough Stone Rolling", Bushman
Gives incomplete information on some issues such as polygamy, but otherwise an honest and complete at Joseph Smith's life from the perspective of a believing Mormon. It is much more difficult to question the facts when they are coming from a faithful member who still believes.
3) "No Man Knows My History", Fawn Brodie
Same facts from the prespective of a non-believing relative of a church president. Even Bushman cites Brodie's work as being very important.

I wouldn't recommend any other Joseph Smith biographies that I've read since they don't add anything to those two and are not as readable or well-written.
4) "In Sacred Loneliness" Todd Compton
The real scoop on the origins and practice of LDS polygamy by Smith and his successors and the effects on the wives. I simply can't understand anyone who can read this book and still believe in a divine origin for the practice.
5) "An Insider's View of Mormon Origins", Grant Palmer
Good summary of the issues surrounding the founding of the church.
6) "Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited", FARMS
Confirms the facts in the above books such as Joseph using his treasure seeking seer stone to translate. Also shows how weak the case for the Book of Mormon is despite the best attempts of its defenders.
7) "By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus"
A complete and thorough debunking of the Book of Abraham. Addresses and refutes all of the theories of the church's apologists. Given that we can with certainty determine that the Book of Abraham is not an authentic translation, then why would we believe in the Book of Mormon?
8) All of D. Michael Quinn's books.
May be dry and difficult to read for some, but thorough and well-written.
I've read many more, but those would be at the top of my list.

Just for any defenders wondering if I've taken a balanced approach to my studies of Mormonism I'll give the following.

I was fully active in the church for 40 years. I attended church weekly including all of my primary classes, sunday school classes, sacrament meeting, general conferences, general priesthood meetings, stake priesthood meetings, and many others. I also graduated from BYU which included religion classes on the Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, Isaiah, genealogy, Old Testament, etc. I also taught early morning seminary for 3 years after I graduated. As you are aware, the lessons in church classes repeat endlessly and I had the content down pretty well the first time. So, I'm pretty familiar with what the church teaches in its correlated lesson manuals.

I also read quite a few church books. I'd have to check but I'm pretty sure that they were all from Deseret books. No anti-Mormon books in the lot. Among the books was a book on the Pearl of Great Price that was basically a survey of papers. I also read Jesus the Christ, The Articles of Faith, Joseph Fielding Smith's Comprehensive History of the Church (in English and Spanish), A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, The Miracle of Forgiveness, a series of books (5 or 6 in the series) that contained GA quotes related to each section of the Doctrine and Covenants, some short History of the Church book, Mormon Doctrine, Joseph Fielding Smith's Answers to Gospel Questions (or something like that), The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (by Joseph Fielding Smith).

I guess what I'm saying is that although in recent years I've focused on books that some would consider anti-Mormon, all I was really doing was balancing out a lifetime of pro-LDS apologetic, polemical literature. I believe that these "anti-Mormon" books are actually well researched and balanced. In stark contrast are the publications of the church and in particular FARMS which employ all of the dishonest tactics that the church accuses the anti-Mormons of. The "anti-Mormon" books seem to not need to employ those tactics. I wonder why.

My summary of why I no longer consider myself Mormon is that I discovered that the teachings of the church and its defenders are a completely dishonest, incomplete misrepresentation of the facts. The church consistently suppresses or glosses over its problems and hides those things it can't explain away. The church simply can't handle having a complete, unvarnished retelling of its history because, to put it bluntly, if they told the truth then nobody would believe it.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

New Stage of Recovery?

I was up until 3:00 am working so I'll be brief today.

I've been feeling a strong sense of melancholy lately and Joseph's Left One sort of put a finger on it with a poem he posted yesterday called "19." I'm realizing that something was stolen from me that can never be returned or regained. I'm grieving for the experiences and opportunities that I missed because I focused on being a faithful Mormon. I'm grieving for how I judged and looked down on people who weren't as "smart" as me and able to see the "truth." I'm grieving for how it has shaped my personality in undesirable ways.

I really can't do anything about it but move on and live life as best I can. But even that path is littered with pain as the path that my life is taking separates from the path that my wife is on. We've never fought much and keep our feelings inside, but the signs of tension are there. The "Coffee Brewer Incident" is part of a larger pattern where small items take on a larger symbolism for the changes that are going on that one or the other of us don't want.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

And They Pay Him for This Stuff?

My wife left the Ensign (the church's monthly publication for adults) on the kitchen table on Sunday and so I read it to see if it had any useful, inspirational tidbits I could use to improve my life. What I found was shocking.

Click on the title of this post. I dare you. I double dog dare you. But be warned that the contents are graphic and may cause your head to explode. Or they may put you into a catatonic state. It's this month's First Presidency Message. It's what God has revealed to you through one of his prophets, seers, and revelators.

If I've scared you off let me summarize for you.
  • Christ set an example that we should follow.
  • A New Testament quote about Nathaniel that's supposed to teach a lesson. Not sure what the lesson is since he never explains.
  • Asks several questions: Am I what I want to be? Am I closer to the Savior today than yesterday? Will I be closer tomorrow? Do I have the courage to change for the better?
  • Choose the family way. Supports this with an anecdote about a father who bought a boat. Asks GA for name advice. Advice is to call it the "Sabbath Breaker." Another anecdote about a boy who learned to pray from his mother and her example. Another anecdote about handing out flowers on Mother's Day as a deacon. This taught him a great lesson: when a person gives a flower the fragance lingers on the hands of the giver.
  • Under the heading "Giving Our Lives in Service" he opens with the example of God giving his Son who gave his life. We should give our lives in service.
  • Gives King Benjamin quote about being in the service of God when we are in the service of man.
  • Must have faith and trust not in our own understanding.
  • Then awkwardly segues into a really wierd anecdote about a French widow giving him her husbands war medals on his mission and then giving them another member with the same last name years later at temple dedication with the injunction to do genealogy on the family name.
And that, folks, is how we become our best selves.

This man has a tremendous platform to influence lives and this is the best he can do? The article is barely coherent. I'm to believe he is a prophet, seer, and revelator and this is all that God manages to squeeze out of one of his highest servants?

This is a big reason why I didn't continue going to church as many people do after they realize it's probably not true. There's simply nothing of substance there. This First Presidency Message is like a musician playing a sequence of random, yet harmonic and pleasing, chords on a major scale. The chords are meant to resonate and be pleasing, but they really don't fit together into a cohesive whole or carry any deaper meaning. Sort of like elevator music for the soul. I think that members are intended to read an article like this and feel good because the right notes have been pressed. But if you were to ask them what they learned you'd probably get a blank stare.

The Mormon church offers all kinds of trite, nice sounding ideas, but it is short on how to translate those ideas into meaningful action that will improve your life. Instead you are stuck an endless treadmill of meaningless busy work and left wondering why you don't feel good about it.

Monday, April 10, 2006

"Oh, Shit!" Moments

Racers inevitably crash. You might say that if you don't crash then you aren't really racing. Racing is all about going as fast as you can without crossing that line that separates exhilaration and pain. I clearly remember my first crash. It had rained that morning and as team owner of a team of rank beginners the burden fell on my to scrub in new tires on a drying track. The dry line was fairly wide, but off the line the track was damp and slick. About halfway around the first lap I got a little wide because I was afraid to lean over further on my cold, unscrubbed tires and got onto the damp pavement. As I gently tightened up my line to get back to the dry pavement I suddenly found myself sliding on my butt and following my bike off the track and into the mud. Shit!

The "Oh, Shit!" moment is that moment when you realize something bad has happened and you wish desparately you could turn back time and do things differently. At that moment you realize you can't do anything except hang on for the ride and take your lumps. If you're lucky you'll avoid compounding the already bad situation by doing anything else wrong. What else could you do? How about sticking out your arm to break your fall? How about sticking out an arm or a leg to stop the tumbling? Or how about something as simple standing up before you've stopped sliding and realize that you're still going 50 mph?

One moment life was pure and clean and I was carving up the inside of a slower rider at 120 mph, with my knee on the ground and the tires at the limits of adhesion. Then suddenly my opponent tightened up his line and hits my front wheel. Suddenly I was wishing I'd just stayed behind and not tried the pass. But it was too late. Everything slowed down and I thought, "Oh, shit is this gonna suck," as I felt my shoulder drive into the curb at the apex of the turn at 120 mph. Everything became a blur as pavement scraped by at 120 mph right on the other side of my shield. The backs of my hands got hot from friction as I slid on my belly with my hands on my chest. I rolled over so my gloves wouldn't through and slid flat on my back and butt like I was on the worlds longest water slide. I wondered how long it could take to come to a stop from 120 mph and hoped that the riders behind me wouldn't run over my helpless body. I finally left the smooth, abrasive pavement and begin to bounce through the dirt and dry Texas grass. After an eternity I stopped and did an inventory assessment. All body parts present and accounted for. I rose and numbly took off my gloves and helmet. When I saw the corner workers picking up my nearly intact bike I ran over. It looked rideable so I decided to ride it back to the pits so my teammates could make repairs and continue the race. But as I raised my helmet to put it back on my legs suddenly refused to support me and I found myself sitting on the ground wondering why my shoulder was making that crunching noise and why my body wasn't following orders.

It took over six months for that collar bone to heal and it still bothers me 9 years later. The doctor called it a high energy fracture, something only seen in motorsports. It was broken into "at least" 5 pieces. The reality was that an inch of bone in the middle simply exploded into shards.

Life can be like that. I remember just as clearly an "Oh, Shit!" moment a couple of years ago. I'd struggled with doubts about the church for 13 years. Half of me lived like an active Mormon and despately wanted to believe. Half of me knew that the church's teachings had big problems but didn't really want to go there. An article on a Scientology civil suit against a web site led me to that web site where I proceeded to read some of Scientology's secret documents. As I laughed and wondered how anyone could believe such drivel I suddenly found myself googling Mormonism. In a blur of an hour I devoured page after page of information that confirmed my doubts and just like that my testimony exploded into dust and I joined the ranks of the unbelievers. Its two years and thousands of pages later and I'm still dealing with the repercussions, but I think I've mostly healed from the initial pain.

One moment in time. One critical decision. Life's path splits based on what happens. Of course, you could always play it safe, stay off the track, and avoid these moments. But then, would you really be alive?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Inspired or Smart

Growing up Mormon I was taught to listen for the whisperings of the spirit. They seem like your own thoughts, but they just come to you, seemingly out of nowhere. If this inspired thought turns out good then we are taught that it was the Spirit of God or Holy Ghost teaching us and guiding us. The church teaches that this is a great gift that Mormons get when they are baptized and confirmed members of the church that no one else in the world has.

I got wondering this morning about what impact this has on members of the church and what effect it has had on me and my world view. I was thinking about an experience I had on my mission where I had to make a critical decision on the spot and I just seemed to know what to do. When I later discussed it with my mission president we both agreed that the Holy Ghost had guided me and I had handled the situation just as God would have wished. I felt very happy to have received that divine inspiration and proud that I had been worthy to receive it.

Looking back on it now I don't see that anything unusual happened. I was a smart kid and I pretty much adapted what I'd been taught my whole life to a situation that I'd never faced before. I don't feel any particular pride in that or feel a great sense of wonder. You might think that would make me feel bad. But it doesn't.

The church's definition of inspiration hijacks a commonplace experience and assigns it cosmic, divine attributes. When your intuition is wrong, then it is unworthiness or lack of sensitivity to the Holy Ghost on your part. But when you get it right, then God gets the credit.

Which is better for an individual? Under the church's world view a person has to deal with feelings of worthiness and guilt when they don't get the inspiration that they are led to expect and fail to get. When they do get inspiritation, they don't get to take credit beyond feeling a perhaps undeserved sense of righteousness. On my mission I was confused at times when I felt the Spirit strongly and yet knew I was not living all of the mission rules faithfully. How could the Spirit inspire me, an unworthy vessel? The church taught that that couldn't happen. Yet it did. Repeatedly.

Without the church I get to deal with reality. I get to take credit when my intuition is correct, but I also have to take responsibility when it is wrong. I think I am more calculated and reasoned in my decision making because I am under no illusions that perhaps God is magically influencing my thoughts. I've continue to listen to my intuition, but have learned that my feelings can and are manipulated by calculating people.

I like the way it is now. But I feel a sense of loss at the sense of wonder that comes from believing that God has spoken through you.

Maybe he does anyway, but through his creations using their God-given gifts and talents to travel through life as best as they can.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Eating and Drinking Dirt

Someone commented on drinking coffee being equivalent to drinking dirt or something to that effect. That reminded me that although some tastes are more difficult to acquire than others, they can definitely be acquired.

Prime example: that Bolivian gourmet delicacy called chuno (sorry, don't know how to do the Spanish ny). While preparing for my Mormon mission in Bolivia they taught us about chuno in culture class and prepared us for how awful it is. The title for this post will take you to a link showing chuno being produced. This is a link to the Wikipedia page. Describing it as a freeze dried potato doesn't really do it justice. Have you ever gone into your pantry to get a potato and been assaulted by the earthy, rotten smell of a potato gone bad? You pull it out and it has gone black and mushy? That is what chuno smells like. It's more than a freeze dried potato. It's a freeze dried rotten potato. Except that a rotten potato is mushy but when reconstituted chuno is crunchy like a raw potato. In chuno the cells of the potato are surrounded with the black essence of a rotten potato. I can tell you're drooling.

My first time in a Bolivian market I saw piles of brown dirt on top of blankets. "Why are they selling dirt," I asked my companion.

"Oh, that's chuno," he replied.

I wasn't there long before lunch was served with chuno soup. Nothing like a steaming bowl of soup that smells like a rotten potato to get your mouth watering. I sampled it and it didn't make me puke (ironically, nothing I ate in Bolivia ever did). But it wasn't an immediate favorite.

One morning I went into the kitchen to make my carrot tea and saw the dirt soaking in a bowl. I knew we had something in store for lunch. What came out on the plate was something of a surprise. The cook had fried the chuno with cheese and served it with a really rich Bolivian corn that looked like hominy but tasted so much better. The salty cheese and the chuno somehow did something for my taste buds that neither could hope to do on their own. And a taste was acquired.

Later in my mission I got strange looks from companions as I'd pick up a packet of Know chuno soup mix at the shop. I got positively disbelieving looks of disgust when I actually prepared it and slurped it down back at our apartment.

Anyway, I don't feel a need to drink coffee just because it's popular and it was forbidden to me for the first 40 years of my life. I like some of it that I've tried and detested others. I like the mild boost it gives me in the morning. It helps my migraines. It is full of antioxidants and has other health benefits.

I appreciate the comments and suggestions. I'm actually rather suprised that anyway has dropped in. I'm enjoying the blogging and browsing around. It's rather addictive. Just what I need...

Friday, April 07, 2006

Those So-Called Intellectuals and Why the Mormons Excommunicate Them

Hopefully the link above will come through. It's to an article in the Wall Street Journal about D. Michael Quinn. If you want authoritative, complete history of the so-called church (TSCC) then you simply must read Quinn's books. I also encourage you to read the publications of TSCC and its apologists. You be the judge of who is giving you the straight story.

Anyway, Quinn and several others (the September 6) were excommunicated in 1993 because they insisted on publishing articles and books that the church didn't like. The correctness of their writings were never in question. The issue was their failure to obey the church leaders who had told them to stop because they cast the church in a bad light or simply because the leaders didn't like what they were saying.

Since that time the church has frequently use the term "so-called intellectuals" to refer to thoughtful people who disagree with the church based on logic and evidence. I think that the "so-called" epithet is meant to imply that they can 't really be very intellectual if they disagree with the prophet and his minions. After all, we all know how recognized Gordon Hinckley (as a sign of protest and disrespect I refuse to use his middle initial as is common practice in the church), Thomas Monson, James Faust, and Boyd Packer are for their intellectuality and academic accomplishments.

One reason they were excommunicated was to keep the church ideologically pure and in line with orthhodoxy established by its Salt Lake City headquarters. The church's leaders don't claim inerrancy in anything, which is a good thing since they've been shown to be wrong so often in the past. But, they expect the members to act as if they are inerrant. Members can disagree as long as they keep it to themselves. The church has drawn a clear line that cannot be crossed: if you disagree publicly then you will be excommunicated. They feel that if they don't do so it will appear that they condone the disagreement. They can also point to the secret oath taken in the temple to not speak evil the Lord's annointed. I guess disagreement, even based on good evidence and reason, is speaking evil. Unfortunately, many (most?) members agree with this. The prophet, and to a lesser extent all church leaders, are held in such high esteem that to question them openly is seen as a great sin.

The real reason is to besmirch the credibility of the excommunicant. To outsiders he will have an obvious axe to grind. After all, how impartial can a historian be if he is an excommunicated member? Where there's smoke, there's fire. To those inside the church the implication is much greater. They believe that non-members lack the gift of the Holy Ghost to guide their lives and aid them in the quest for truth. Apostates and excommunicants are even worse since they've had the "truth" and the Holy Ghost and have now been cut off from the divine to wallow in spiritual darkness. Any former member has been left to the buffetings of Satan and is obviously not a credible source. So, if a member sees someone reading Quinn, the next question will be, "Did you know he was excommunicated? I heard he is gay. How can you trust an openly gay, apostate, excommunicated member?" One member seriously criticized my approach to church history for even reading Quinn's books. An official in the church put in nicely.
W. Rolfe Kerr, commissioner of education for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the faith's formal name, said Mr. Quinn is "highly regarded in his discipline" and the church would not "campaign against him" for any academic post. However, Mr. Kerr said, "there may be a perception" of Mr. Quinn in the Mormon community "that would cause him, in the eyes of some, to be less acceptable."
Where did that perception come from? Perhaps from the church that forced him out from BYU and then excommunicated him? What further campaigning would they need to do? They have branded him with the church's scarlet I: Intellectual, so-called.

Take this quote for why he was not hired at the University of Utah:
"There was a concern by several of us in the department that Mike was not the right person to head up any kind of Mormon history or Mormon studies program given the fact he's very publicly excommunicated. There would be quite a number of people in the Mormon community who would look unfavorably on that. That gave me pause."
It seems that the excommunication achieved its purpose. Nothing more was necessary to destroy a scholar's reputation and ability to find employment. Note that his credentials and scholarly accomplishments were not questioned. In fact, this same person notes that Quinn is the second best LDS historian behind Bushman (and I would swap the order). The decision was based solely on the actions of the church toward Dr. Quinn.

Why is the church so worried? Straight from the horse's mouth:
Boyd Packer, one of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles that helps rule the church, declared in a 1981 speech that writing and teaching about church history "may be a faith destroyer."
I wonder why that would be?

How sad that this ignorance extends to even non-Mormon institutions.

So what have the consequences been for Quinn crossing the church?
Mr. Quinn says his only significant income since leaving Yale was a $40,000 bequest from a Los Angeles doctor, contingent on his writing a biography of his late benefactor. So far, he has received $15,000, with the balance to come when the book is finished.
This has a chilling effect on academics who write about Mormonism whether they belong to the faith or not. I'll close with a telling quote that should cause you to read literature on Mormonism with a grain of salt:
"If you want to succeed in Mormon studies you have to make compromises and you have to tread gently," says Colleen McDannell, a professor of American religions at the University of Utah. "Michael would not do that."
And that is why most writing about Mormonism skims over its many problems if it addresses them at all.

I'm sure that the church is proud of itself. Mission accomplished. One man ruined to save the faith. And people wonder why former Mormons are sometimes angry and bitter.


Thursday, April 06, 2006


The line is the quickest way around the track. When you are going slowly you can stay in the middle of the track, but as you speed up you need to enter the corners on the outside, swoop down to the apex in the middle of the corner, and then accelerate out of the corner as your momentum takes you to the edge of the track. If you turn in too early then your apex will be too early and you won't be able to accelerate out of the corner without running off the track. The line is defines where you'll start to brake for the corner, where you'll start to turn, when you'll stop braking, when you'll start accelerating, where you'll apex and where you'll stop turning. Between the end of the corner and the next braking point you simply connect the dots while holding the throttle wide open. Ever track has an ideal line that will allow you to get around the track as quickly as possible.

The racers that find the line quickly are running up front and winning races. Many racers find the line, some just get close, and others never find it. Local racers often have an advantage over visitors because they know the tricks of the track. For example, the pavement on the ideal line may be rippled from heavy braking forcing you to run wider or tighter. Tracks often have patches and pavement sections with different levels of available grip. Locals know where they can push it and where they should reign it in. They know about that invisible bump right in the middle of turn 6 that will send you wobbling down the next straight at 150 mph. Locals also may know where water or oil bubbles up onto the track surface when it gets hot. Locals sometimes embarrass visiting professionals because they know where the fastest line really is. Ultimately, there is usually one line around the track that is faster than all of the rest and if you want to win you have to find it.

The line has one small problem. Only one racer can be at any given point on the line at any point in time. It has something to do with two physical objects being unable to occupy the same space at the same time. Quantum mechanics aside, if you are behind another rider and want to get in front then you have to get off the line. If you follow, you'll never be able to pass and your speed around the track will be limited by the person you are following.

If the racer in front of you is faster then following can be an advantage. You can see where he pulls away from you and where you close the gap. If you can stay with him long enough you may be able to improve to his level. But, if all you do is follow then you'll never be faster than him. If you ever go to the races pay attention during practice. You'll see racers pushing hard all by themselves. Then you'll see them dip into the pits to wait for someone to follow. You'll see fast riders on a flying lap suddenly slow up when they realize that they are being tailed. It is a delicate game of cat and mouse where everyone is trying to learn from everyone else without giving anything up in the process.

Following can be hypnotic. Races are too often uneventful processions with everyone screaming around at the limit and unable to execute a pass. If you look closely, the followers never get off the line. They will close right up on the rear wheel and then have to back off. They know they are near the limit and that venturing off the line may send them tumbling or may let the rider behind them to come by. So they are satisfied to ride the line and hope for someone up ahead to make a mistake.

But some racers are special. What makes them so special? They aren't satisfied with following. When trapped behind another rider they constantly probe. They venture off the line while braking, try to brake a little later, try to stick a wheel in and make a pass. If they get everything right they slide up alongside their opponent, force him wide, and take the line away. Both have to slow down because neither is on the fastest line, but once past they can get back on the line and try to pull away. When they get it wrong the consequences may be as simple as having to tuck back in behind. Or they may make the pass but run wide in the corner and let the other ride back past. Worse still they may make it past and then crash because they are going too fast in the corner. And worst, and most humiliating, they may crash into the rider they are passing and take both out of the race. But champions aren't content to follow and venture off the line and make it work. The rest try and crash or just never try.

The landscape of life is more complex than any race track. Yet some people claim to know the ideal line and beckon us to follow them. Straight is the way and narrow is the gate. Hold to the rod. Follow the prophet. Do it my way and God will love you and you'll be happy. Pay me 10% of your income and the windows of heaven will be opened and you'll never want. Keep my commandments and you'll be happy. Depression is the result of sin. Don't think; when the prophet speaks, the thinking is done. Obedience is the highest law. Follow, follow, follow.

What line are you on? Is it the best one? Have you learned from the locals? Are you stuck in a rut following another person's line? Is your line adapted to your abilities and weaknesses? In life, is there a best line that everyonen should follow? Even if there is, are you content to follow or do you need to take calculated risks and deviate from the line so you can get ahead?

I think that in real life the best line is unique to each person. The track of life is shaped by our own individuality. We each have different talents, preferences, likes, and dislikes. I love women and you may dig guys. You like a quiet night curled up with a romantic novel. I dream of racing along at the ragged edge with my knee on the ground and my heart in my throat. We're all different and it would be suprising if what works for me works for you. So, how can we be happy and fulfilled by following someone else's idea of the perfect line? Pray, pay, and obey. Magnify your calling. Have more kids. Serve a mission. Praise Jesus. Give thanks. I have no doubt that this works for some people. My parents seem genuinely happy researching the vital statistics of corpses so they can perform vicarious Mormon rituals for them in the temple. I'd rather shoot myself first.

I spent the first 40 years of my life trying to follow someone elses idea of the perfect life. It didn't make me happy; I wasn't getting the promised results. So now I'm exploring new lines, trying to find the one that works best for me. I've walked away from a controlling, dishonest cult disguised as a church. I stopped taking advice from men who condemn dishonesty and then turn around and brazenly lie. I turned my back on being a corporate lackey and struck out on my own. I've tried beverages that were previously forbidden. I enjoy sexual practices that some deem impure and unholy. Some of it works. Some of it doesn't. But I'm pretty sure that I'll learn more and come out ahead by finding the line that works for me instead of following the line chosen by someone else.

weekly anamnesis

Coffee Talk

What do you know about Mormons? If you know anything, then you probably know that they don't drink alcohol, coffee, or tea and they don't chew, smoke, or snuff tobacco. Most drink Coke and don't believe that all caffeinated beverages are off limits, however their prophet has said on national TV that it is wrong to drink Coke or Pepsi so the best Mormons either don't drink them or else wrestle with the guilt on Sunday while deciding whether or not they are worthy to take the Sacrament. This is all part of something called the Word of Wisdom and it has become a litmus test for practicing Mormons. Sort of like a behavioral yamulka (did I spell that right?). It makes them stand out, it makes them a little strange (but not too strange), and they are proud of it. They may be otherwise despical human beings, but if they keep the Word of Wisdom, go to church regularly, and do whatever their leaders ask (even if they do it poorly) then they consider themselves worthy and righteous.

I always wondered about this emphasis on the Word of Wisdom. It comes from a revelation given to Joseph Smith. You can read it here. It's not too long and not too ridiculous. Go ahead and give it a spin.

Note that the second verse says, "To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint."

You should understand that this is God talking through his prophet, Joseph Smith. Not by commandment or constraint. Hmmm. What could that mean? Sounds like advice. Sounds like you can take it or leave it. It promises blessings if you obey, but no penalty if you don't.

Most Mormons don't know that Joseph Smith Sr., the prophets father, was at best an immoderate drinker if not an alcoholic. They also don't realize that the prophet was known to drink, even after the above revelation, and later prophets such as Brigham Young also drank. Journals of the pioneer members of the church also reveal that they regularly drank coffee and tea. The church somehow fails to mention this in its regular church lessons on the Word of Wisdom. I wonder why. I've also never seen a Mormon stock tobacco in their first aid kit to treat bruises. Never seen a doctor do it either.

So what happens when people don't voluntarily follow the Lord's advice? Apparently the Lord gets pissed and changes it from advice to a commandment. Sometime around the 1920s Heber J. Grant decided that disobeying the Word of Wisdom made a member unworthy to enter the church's temples. They're nice on the outside, but I assure you they have a gooey, yucky center. But, you have to understand that the church's highest saving ordinances are done in the temple. You can't be saved if you can't go to the temple. So, this essentially makes the Word of Wisdom a key to salvation (exaltation in Mormon-speak). Practically, if not theologically, it puts drinking Pepsi up there with adultery as things that will keep you from going to heaven. You can be the nicest, most saintly person in the world, but if you enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning you're screwed. Plain and simple.

Why am I telling you this? Because I was raised Mormon. So was my wife. We got married in the temple. I'm not so Mormon anymore. I decided to try out coffee. It started out at McDonald's in the morning. With enough sugar it was good. Then I tried the Starbucks lattes and really liked them. So, I decided to try brewing my own coffee so I could sample the different types of coffees. I bought a brewer and brought it home.


My wife saw it and has been speaking to me in short, cold, polite sentences ever since. Nooky? Cuddles? Forget about it. You gotta love a religion that causes a wife to give the cold shoulder over coffee. It's been a week and counting and I'm wondering when or if this one will blow over. To her this is just another part of my "secret" life that I've been leading. You know, the one she won't talk to me about. Last night she commented that she was thinking about all of the topics that are off limits. ???? I never put them off limits. She did. She doesn't want me attacking Mormonism or her testimony of it. All those facts just confuse her and make her feel bad. So we don't talk about anything Mormon related. Her choice, not mine. She'd rather think badly of me and refuse to confront the shakey foundations of her own faith. Things had been pretty peachy recently until the coffee brewer incident.

So, when considering whether Mormonism is a cult remember that it can cause the purchase of a common kitchen appliance into a major sin worthy of shunning. At least in my house.

On a more serious note, I hate the coffee that I've been brewing. Is it supposed to have this strong, nasty taste? I got "bold" coffee at the local Exxon and I thought that it was just crap coffee. It turns out to taste exactly like the Starbucks Komodo that I brewed this morning. I'm sorry, but even with a lot of sugar I find the tast unpleasant. I like the McDonald's stuff. Maybe I just don't like the dark coffees. Any advice? I'm going to be really pissed if I discover I'm not getting laid over a beverage that tastes like something left over from producing polyethylene.

Any recommendations?


Motorcycle racing is a glorious sport. If I had known then what I know now I would have never married, never had children, never bought a house, and probably never joined the ranks of civilized society. No, I'd be living in the back seat of a pickup truck spending all of my money on racing.

You see, racing is an addiction and I've been told that I have a thrill-seeking, addictive type personality. If I was growing up today I'd be labelled an ADHD kid. But, we didn't know what that was back then. I was just a hyper kid who was too smart for his own good who got bored really easily. Boredom defined my life growing up.

"Allan, how are you."

Me: "Bored."

"How was school?"

Me: "Boring."

"How was church?"

Me: "Booooooriiiiiiiiiiiing." (Eyes rolling up in my head)

Very few things kept my attention unless I could get totally lost in them. I read a lot of books and I played in the woods. Hunting grasshoppers with a bb gun was a favorite pastime as was blowing things up with firecrackers or simply burning thing up. You wouldn't think that burning ants with a magnifying glass would be engrossing, but the ants keep on coming and the fun never ends until the hot summer sun goes behind a cloud or drops too low on the horizon.

I was too smart for school. I didn't need the endless repitition and homework. I just picked things up easily. Still do. But, schools back then didn't have talented and gifted programs or allow kids to skip grades. At least mine didn't. Programs for exceptional kids meant kids that were exceptionally below average or exceptionally disturbed. Kids like me got straight As, never caused problems, and were basically ignored.

So I hated school. I was yanked kicking and screaming, quite literally, to my first day of public education and finished 12 years later with an internal scream of relief. Imagine my suprise to discover that I loved college. I chose my own classes. I loaded up on so many classes that boredom was out of the question. Plus the classes were challenging and interesting. In four years of school I completed 175 credit hours of classes spanning the required electrical engineering curriculum plus philosophy, history, Russian, Spanish, and literature. I loved it. Funny what freedom did to my educational experience. Transformed it from a mind-numbing chore to a constant quest for more knowledge.

That's carried over to my life today as a doddering, 41-year-old engineer. I still constantly search for the new, the stimulating, and the exciting. I know I'm getting older and I guess I've gained some maturity, but I still feel young and I'm still trying to discover everything that life has to offer me. Sure, life sucks sometimes, but it's amazing what freedom has done to remove the boredom from my life.

So, does a blog need a general topic or theme? What can you look forward to if you drop in every now and then? Well, I'm here for me. To get my feelings out and put down in words what's going on in my life. So, I'll probably be writing about motorcycle racing, computers, relationships, and my ongoing exit from the clutches of the beast, the abominable church, the so-called-church (TSCC), the cult that is variously referred to as the Mormons, the LDS, or more concisely, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.