Thursday, June 29, 2006


I've been teaching my daughter to swim this summer. She's six going on seven and only just learning. The older three kids were where she is at when they were four or five so she's a little behind but I've resisted pushing her until she felt she was ready. This summer she is ready. She's suddenly lost her fear of water and has turned into a fish. Literally overnight she started swimming underwater and jumping off the edge to me. While we were in Utah she was even jumping off the diving board into ten foot water where I would hold her so she could catch a breath and then she'd swim to the edge.

Needless to say, swimming is much more fun now for her and for me. It's also helping me because I'm less worried about her drowning now. That is always the focus of my teaching at the very beginning. I want to make sure that the child is confident that if they accidentally fall into deep water they can swim back to the edge without drowning. It is scary to me that people reach adulthood with such poor swimming skills that they could drown five feet from shore.

Last night I tried something new for myself. I've never swum for exercise, but my running pounds my body so I decided to swim a couple of times each week instead of running. Ack. It's hard! Our pool is about 25 meters long and I have a tough time swimming up and back without getting winded. So, I swam for about twenty minutes with short rests at each end and alternating strokes all the time. It was a good enough workout to keep my heart rate at about 150.

I've never had good shoulders and all my motorcycle crashes and collar bone breaks haven't made them any better. I'm hoping that the swimming will help with range of motion and strength. While swimming and can hear and feel them crackling and popping. They were both pretty sore last night after the swim. The swimming also seems to help loosen up my hip joints which get pretty tight from running. I'm tired this morning, but hopefully the swimming will get easier with practice and it will help complement my running while rehabilitating my messed up shoulders.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

If GAs Were Southpark Characters

As I was making coffee this morning the thought suddenly occurred to me that Eric Cartman and Boyd K. Packer have a lot in common. I can just imagine Boyd saying, "Respect my ah-thor-i-tay!"

So, if the Southpark creators based their characters on Mormon general authorities, then we should be able to match the characters with GAs.

This is really more up JLOs alley, but I have no idea if he's ever watched Southpark. Here's a few of my guesses. But I need help filling in the blanks.

Cartman: Boyd K. Packer





Mr. Garrison: Gene R. Cook just because there's such a tremendous physical resemblance and I can imagine him doing Mr. Hand.

Chef: Sorry, no black GAs that I know of. Perhaps Dallin H. Oaks in black face?

Timmy: David B. Haight because of all of the insipid, meaningless talk.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Fun With Employers

About a year and a half ago I quit a secure job with Intel and joined a small company that whores my services to the highest bidder. Yes, I'm a tech slut. I'm proud to prostitute my knowledge and skills to anyone willing to pay the price.

My first contract was a 6 month deal with a large company (call them XXX). As the 6 months neared completion XXX hadn't given any indications about whether they were going to extend my contract so my company started lining up new work. I'd expressed interest in teaching classes and something came along. I became a certified instructor for a company and started teaching classes. About the same time my original contract got extended. So I had the enviable problem of having two jobs at the same time. The only issue was that XXX didn't like sharing my time while I was teaching. After a little back and forth they agreed that I'd be allowed to teach one week out of each month.

Now, every other time I get ready to leave to teach a class they like work themselves up and complain that they can't afford to have me out of the office so much. This morning I got a call from my employer (my pimp, so to speak) that XXX was making a stink again and had said that I needed to decide if I wanted to work for them or wanted to teach but they were tired of sharing. The problem, for them, is that if forced to make a choice I'll terminate the contract with XXX so I can focus on growing the teaching related business. They don't seem to understand that I get paid 50% more to teach than to work for them. They also don't seem to realize that while they can't easily replace me, I can easily find another contract that would allow me to teach on the side. Further, any new contract would almost certainly pay a higher rate than what XXX is currently paying. It's hard for me to see why I would stay with XXX if they want to put their foot down.

I'm constantly amazed at the self-deluded world that many managers live in.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Mormon Worthiness

A regular part of a Mormon's life is worthiness interviews with the bishop. The first one happens at age 8 in preparation for baptism. They become regular once a member turns twelve and young men get ordained to the priesthood and all the youth start to go to the temple to do baptisms for the dead. In fact, our stake began requiring interviews from the bishop before youth were allowed to attend stake dances to ensure that the youth were aware of church standards and were worthy to participate. As adults, members are supposed to "take out their endowments" after which they are expected to constantly wear the temple garments they receive and after which they are supposed to regularly attend the temple to do work for the dead. A worthiness interview is required at least every two years (used to be every year) from the bishop and stake president in order to receive a temple recommend that allows entrance into the temple. The questions can be found here.

So, what does it take to be worthy and what are these interviews like? Yesterday I was recalling how my abusive father was considered worthy to attend the temple and be in the bishopric despite physical and emotional abuse of his family throughout his life. As far as I know, he never confessed his sins and never repented of them. It suppose it is possible that he never knew that what he was doing was wrong.

One of the temple worthiness questions is whether the member is obeying the law of chastity. I know from personal experience that bishops sometimes ask probing, detailed questions regarding this question since it causes so many people problems. For example, the bishop may ask about masturbation or petting or necking. In a way, I guess this might be considered educational; that is making sure that the person is aware of the church's standards and what it considers acceptable bounds on sexual behavior. Fine.

A number of years ago the church added a question to the temple recommend interview regarding any conduct inside the home. It asks,
Is there anything in your conduct relating to members of your family that is not in harmony with the teachings of the Church?
It is generally understood that it was added to combat incest in the church or at least make it appear that the church is doing something about incest. At least that is what bishops have told me when I responded that I didn't always feel comfortable with the way that I treated and disciplined my children. This is a pretty broad question, much more so than the law of chastity. But, do bishops ask such probing questions regarding abuse in the home? Either they don't or else my father lied in the interviews or else the bishop didn't consider punching, choking, and kicking down doors abuse. If he believed that the question only pertained to incest, then he could truthfully answer no. But, I dare say that if a video camera captured his behavior few people would have found it in harmony with the teachings of Christ or even the Mormon church.

Given some comments I've received, I don't think I was the only Mormon kid who suffered abuse in the home from "temple worthy" parents. If this is truly a big problem in the church, and I think it is, then why aren't the questions more probing? Why don't they extend beyond incest? Why doesn't the church it control over temple access to control and restrain parenting to Christ-like behavior?

I don't have the answer. I wish I did. To me it is a further indictment of the lack of inspiration and leadership of TSCC that it doesn't work to combat abuse in the home in all of its forms. It make me tremble with rage to think that church leaders sign off on the worthiness of people who abuse their family members and show no remorse and make no attempts to reform their behavior.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

One more book

I forgot to include "Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith" in my list last night. Blame it on the Heineken and the fact that I loaned it to my mother. I've edited the post to include it.

Harmony in the Home

My father ensured that our family always followed the prophet's counsel to hold family home evenings every Monday. I think that it was mostly a good thing. The lessons were the worst part, but we always had refreshments and games and we all enjoyed those. Our family was big on playing games. We played marathon Risk and Monopoly games. We played Husker Du (memory game), chinese checkers, checkers, and backgammon. Growing up we loved playing hide and go seek. In the summer we often went to the tennis courts and played tennis or played on the playground. I guess it was good and I'm glad that my parents tried hard to make time for family. This is a very positive thing that the Mormon church teaches.

The church used to publish annual Family Home Evening Lesson Manuals. Each member of the family took turns teaching the lessons. One that stuck and took on a life of its own was titled "Harmony in the Home." I couldn't tell you the exact content, but "and please help us have harmony in the home" became a regular part of our twice daily family prayers along with blessing the prophet, church leaders, missionaries, and leaders of the country. The difference is that I really meant it because harmony was something sadly lacking in our home.

Despite the regular religious indoctrination our family seemed to be in perpetual turmoil. My friend commented that in the summer the whole neighborhood could hear the screaming and fighting. We took pride in how loud we could scream. The teasing between the children was unrelenting. Belts were frequently used to instill discipline and when a belt wasn't handy then wooden spoons were used. At one point we ran out of wooden spoons because they'd all been broken on unruly behinds. My sister had to be taken to the emergency room with a broken finger when she put her hand behind her to stave off a spanking. One year the school carnival gave out paddle balls (cheap wooden paddle with a bouncy ball attached by elastic that you tried to dribble) and we made the mistake of bringing several home. The paddles soon became an implement of discipline and I don't recall us being eager to ever play with paddle balls again.

Despite the repeated prayers for harmony, God never saw fit to answer.

It might have been better if our family knew how to express love. I rarely saw demonstrations of affection between my parents or toward us children. Looking back I can recognize that my parents cared because they worked hard to teach us and provide for us. But their parenting style was mechanical and lacked the personal connection that I craved. I don't remember expressions of love such as simply saying, "I love you" or giving a hug or a kiss. I never felt loved and was intensely unhappy. Coupled with the intensely competitive and hostile environment that often prevailed I remember frequently being unhappy and contemplating suicide as I cried myself to sleep. I suppose this has in turn turned me into something of a hard ass and made it difficult for me to connect with people or to deal with emotions, especially negative emotions and conflicts with loved ones.

I didn't have many girlfriends and a big part of the problem was a lack of confidence. I think I found it difficult to believe that anyone would be interested in me. After all, I didn't feel loved by my own family and I really didn't love myself. So it was difficult to believe that someone else could be interested in me. And I can think of several relationships I walked away from because of trivial things that led me to feel like the other person really wasn't as interested in me as I was in them.

I think that our home is better, but still too sterile when it comes to expressions of love. I was better when the kids were little, but I'm finding myself to reverting to childhood patterns as I age and memories of my youth fade. Time to get back on the right path and make sure that everyone knows that they are loved.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

My Mormon Reading List, Part 2

I'm looking at the top of my dresser and decided to list all of the books I've read in the last few years about the Mormon church.

Joseph Smith
  • No Man Knows My History, The Life of Joseph Smith, Fawn M. Brodie 425 pages.
  • Joseph Smith, The First Mormon, Donna Hill, 450 pages.
  • In Sacred Loneliness, The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, Todd Compton.
  • Joseph Smith, Rough Stone Rolling, Richard Lyman Bushman, 561 pages.
  • Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, 394 pages. [I've included this book since Emma's life isn't well documented and is mostly defined by her husband. Much of the book is actually the story of Joseph Smith with Emma in the background.]
Mormon History
  • Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, D. Michael Quinn, 326 pages.
  • The New Mormon History, Revisionist Essays on the Past, Edited by D. Michael Quinn, 305 pages.
  • The Mormon Hierarchy, Origins of Power, D. Michael Quinn, 263 pages.
  • The Mormon Hierarchy, Extensions of Power, D. Michael Quinn, 408 pages.
  • An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, Grant H. Palmer, 263 pages.
  • Conflict in the Quorum, Orson Pratt, Brigham Young, Joseph Smith, Gary James Bergera, 285 pages.
  • The Mysteries of Godliness, A History of Mormon Temple Worship, David John Berger, 180 pages.
Book of Mormon
  • New Approaches to the Book of Mormon, edited by Brent Lee Metcalfe 433 pages.
  • Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited, The Evidence for Ancient Origins, Edited by Noel B. Reynolds, 539 pages.
  • Studies of the Book of Mormon, B. H. Roberts, edited by Brigham D. Madsen, 344 pages.
  • Losing a Lost Tribe, Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church, Simon G. Southerton, 207 pages.
  • Quest For the Gold Plates, Thomas Stuart Ferguson's Archaelogical Search For The Book of Mormon, Stan Larson, 218 pages.
  • By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus, A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri, Charles M. Larson, 195 pages.
Haven't read yet
  • Joseph Smith and the Origins of The Book of Mormon, David Persuitte.
  • Differing Visions, Dissenters in Mormon History, Edited by Roger D. Launius and Linda Thatcher.
Out of curiosity I added up the number of pages and came up with 16 books totaling 5484 pages. When I initially realized the church was a fraud I felt a need to find out the truth about the church to counter all of the books and propaganda I'd consumed during the first forty years of my life. Through all of my reading I never found anything inconsistent with my conclusion that the church isn't what it claims and in fact found a mountain of evidence supporting that conclusion.

Apostates Not Welcome

The Mormon church has a curious position on religious freedom. Their eleventh article of faith states,
We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own cconscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
I can't really argue with that, but in practice things are somewhat different. Take for example the status of students at BYU. Non-Mormons are welcome, but former members are not. Mormons BYU students must be active church members or else they aren't welcome. It is their school and they can do what they want, but their internal policies don't seem terribly tolerant of other religious views or dissenting religious views. So, if you don't like it, then don't go to BYU.

Recent events have made me wonder how these types of institutional policies bleed over into the personal lives of Mormons.

I went to Utah with my family with the intention of staying with my wife's parents while we visited with her family and my parents and doing activities in the area. We also invited along my 17 year old son's girlfriend who is a very nice girl, but not a Mormon. On Sunday morning my wife and daughters went to church, but the rest of us slept in and didn't go to church. My in laws normally have church at 9:00 am, but things got rolling late so they went to 11:00 am services. I was sitting in the kitchen eating breakfast with the kids when my FIL comes strolling through.

"So, you're all too big to go to church now?"

"Yup," I reply.

As he passes through on the way to his bedroom he very loudly proclaims, "Well I don't like that. I don't like it one bit! Because that's what we do around here and if you don't like it then maybe you shouldn't come here. That's what I think."

Great. So, we all get dressed and, as has become tradition with us apostates, go out for lunch while the rest of the family is at church. After a nice lunch at KFC we start heading back when we notice a remote controlled plane over the houses. So I went over to the local remote control airport and we watch a plan fly and chat with a local RC pilot about his hobby. While we are wrapping up my cell phone rings. My very distraught wife informs me that I need to come back right now.

When I get back I send the kids in and walk down the sidewalk to find my wife who has left the house to escape her father. She didn't give me a blow by blow, but basically he took her into his bedroom with my MIL and told her that everyone who lives under his roof has to follow the house rules. Apparently this includes visitors and the rules included church attendance. He was also upset that my son's girlfriend was staying there. Since one of the main reasons for coming was going to the AMA Superbike races on the following Sunday this was a problem because none of us had any intention of attending church on that day. Of course, my wife had informed him when we were coming, who we were bringing, and what we were doing so he could have informed us before arriving that we weren't welcome. So we walked and talked for about an hour and headed back to the house to discover all of the kids milling around outside and looking uncomfortable.

While we were gone, my FIL had "caught" my son and his girlfriend alone in her bedroom downstairs. They were sitting there reading books, but apparently he vented on them and sent them out. My wife and I went in and my FIL announced that he had a rule that he thought would solve the problem. Our sons wouldn't be allowed downstairs where the girlfriend was staying. Fine, I said, that sounds reasonable and easy to handle. Then it was like nothing happened and my MIL continued preparing supper and conversation turned to normal topics. I waited for him to address the problems with me, but things seemed to be resolved for him with that one new rule.

My MIL was grilling ribs to welcome us and had invited her three other daughters over with their families. I was inside, but as people arrived the party moved to the front yard as my sister informed her siblings of the day's developments. Eventually the whole party moved out front because no one ever came in. My MIL was wearing dark sunglasses while grilling and I thought it was strange but didn't really make note of it until later in the week when she did the same thing.

The rest of Sunday passed reasonably and Monday and Tuesday, too. I was hoping that the storm had blown over and Sunday was just one of my FIL's classic blow ups that I'd only heard about but never witnessed. But Wednesday morning while I was out in the garage with the boys working on the dirt bikes and getting ready to ride in American Fork Canyon my wife comes out in tears. My FIL had accosted her about what bad guests we were and how messy the kids rooms were and how disrespectful the kids were and what a poor job we were doing raising the kids and teaching them values. He also asked her if I was still a priesthood holder. I asked her what she wanted me to do. I was ready to go in and talk to him, but neither of us thought it would accomplish anything. I was hoping we could just try and keep the peace and fly under the radar and get through the week and go back home. It's a little bit of a problem when you're 1500 miles from home with 7 people and hadn't planned or budgeted for staying in a hotel.

While I took the older kids riding, my wife escaped the house with her mom and sister so no more confrontations. But when we got back we packed everything else up moved a couple of blocks away to my SIL's house. My FIL goes to bed early so he wasn't up when we left, but my wife told my MIL and think it really upset her. She rarely displays emotion and in my opinion shows all of the symptoms of battered wife syndrome. She knows better than to speak up or contradict her husband. As we were leaving she was wearing very dark sunglasses she got after cataract surgery. I'm guessing she was crying and didn't want anyone to see. I'm guessing that the same thing happened on Sunday afternoon while grilling and listening to her children discuss their controlling father.

The rest of the vacation went well. We didn't see my FIL or MIL again before I left. We didn't go over for dinner or talk to them at all. I feel very sorry for my MIL. But she can't/won't oppose her husband and always ends up going along with him no matter how wrong he is. She stood by while he abused his children when they were young and the pattern continues as adults. Strangely, I feel no anger toward my FIL. I just feel sorry for him because he is such a pathetic creature. He's had a hard life and is 75 now. He'll never change and I doubt he even recognizes a need to change. While staying with my SIL I talked to her husband. My FIL works part time at his business and my BIL confronted him at work and let him know that he's washed his hands of him. He let him know that he has alienated the only people in the world that are still willing to make an effort to visit him. It's really sad to see a person with so little love and consideration and a complete lack of empathy for those who should be closest to him.

I'm having trouble figuring out what role my FIL's Mormonism plays in all of this. He's pretty out there even by Mormon standards and I doubt that most Mormons I know would see what he did as acceptable. Yet, I do think that the Mormon culture and belief system reinforce his behavior. He sees things as black and white. He's authoritarian. He believes that disbelief or disobedience should be punished. He believes that people should be free to make choices but should have to suffer consequences even if the consequences are arbitrarily harsh and serve no purpose. He believes that non-Mormons are bad and have no morals. I'm wondering how he views my son's non-Mormon girlfriend. The impression I got is that he thinks she slutty and can't be trusted to be alone around his grandson.

Oh well. I don't anticipate visiting my in laws ever again or really having any more contact with them. The vacation was uniformly good with the exception of when we had to be in contact with my FIL. The solution for me is to just not have any more contact with him. I'd be sad about that, but I don't want my kids associating with him and I don't think that they'd miss him. My MIL is a different story, but as long as the FIL is part of the package I doubt we'll be seeing her much either.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Vacation in the Fast Lane

I just got back from a business trip and a week of vacation. I've recounted in the past how sudden decreases in stress can trigger migraines. No problems with that on this vacation. Here's a brief summary.

Fr, 6/9: Rush from end of class to airport, arrive SLC 11:00 pm, parents take me to their apartment for the night, get to bed at 2:00 am after staying up reading about the Stanford Prison Experiment.
Sa, 6/10: Up at 8:00 am and head to Hill AFB for airshow, rush to parents apartment for supper at 7:00 pm, concert in LDS Conference Center from 7:30-10:00, dessert, and to in-laws for the night.
Su, 6/11: Sleep in while wife, girls, and in-laws go to church, go out for lunch, watch remote control airplanes, rush home after emergency call from wife to discover that we are now persona non grata due to church non-attendance. Supper w/ wife's family at in-laws.
Mo, 6/12: Swimming, movie, back to in-laws.
Tu, 6/13: Coffee w/ La, Rebecca, and friends, buy tools and parts for motorcycles, more swimming, SLC Hogle zoo with parents and family, dinner w/ parents and family.
We, 6/14: Prep dirt bikes for riding in mountains, wife in tears due to more needling from FIL and notification that we shouldn't plan to stay there in future, ride in national forest all afternoon, return home, supper with in-laws, pack up and move out to stay with SIL.
Th, 6/15: Ride in moutains all day, dinner and movie with another SIL.
Fri, 6/16: AMA Superbike practice and qualifying.
Sa, 6/17: AMA Superbike qualifying and races
Su, 6/18: AMA Superbike races then race to SLC airport, catch flight home, arrive home at 2:00 am.

Had a great time with hardly a moment's rest. I brought along a ton of magazines and books so I could catch up on my reading but about the only reading I did was on the airplane flights.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Given the Boot

We're on vacation and have been staying at my in-laws since last Saturday but moved out last night after my dear FIL informed my wife that we weren't welcome and shouldn't ever come back. Our crime? My sons and I didn't go to church on Sunday and we weren't planning on going this coming Sunday because we are going to the AMA Superbike races. According to my FIL, everyone who lives under his roof (including visitors apparently) must follow his rules. He makes the rules as he goes along and changes them at random, but compliance is still required.

Don't worry. We are staying at my sister-in-law's house and hearing horror stories about how my FIL continues to treat his adult children that live in the vicinity.

More details to come when I get back home Sunday or if I get a chance sooner.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Are Former Mormons More Intelligent than Believers?

On RfM the theory was put out there that the church is suffering a brain drain as it's most intelligent see the truth and leave. I don't know about that. It might be true. But at least in my wife's ward the members seem to be pretty well-educated, intelligent, and successful. After I left a couple of members let me know that they didn't really believe. I never imagined that when I was active, but now I look back and think that many of the most active members were probably cultural mormons or New Order Mormons who didn't literally believe the church's teachings.

The problem is, people aren't inherently rational. A lot of our choices and beliefs don't have a foundation in rational thought and logic and evidence. In fact, it's pretty clear that humans are very bad at logic and evaluating evidence to reach good conclusions. It takes years of education to train people to be logical and impartial in reaching conclusions and even then they are very error prone.

Also, very intelligent people can be very good at rationalizing or coming up with very creative justifications for their beliefs. Those rationalizations don't have to be likely or probable, but as long as they are remotely plausible then people will cling to them to justify believing what they want to believe. To a true believer, the implausibility just further confirms that it must have a divine, miraculous origin. To quote the Hinckster, "Isn't it wonderful?"

Look, people believe what they want to believe and if it gives them comfort then they will cling to those beliefs. The church has very effectively set up an environment that severely penalizes non-conformity and non-belief to the extent that most members are unwilling to even consider the possibility that the church is bull until after they become disenchanted with the church for whatever reasons they have. In other words, they are open to disbelief once belief is no longer comforting for them. And in the case of the church, once you allow yourself to consider the possibility, it quickly becomes pretty obvious what a load of bull the church teaches.

So, in the same way the missionaries prey on people who are having difficulty as potential converts, it's probably best to refrain from deconverting your TBM friends and family while they are content with the church. They'll only be open to considering the question if they are discontent with the church's product.

Ironically, I think that the biggest common denominator that former Mormons share it is that they come to a realization that the church isn't meeting their needs. In other words, continued belief doesn't bring comfort and may actually be creating a lot of discomfort. At that point the consider whether it's worth it to continue believing and are more open to questioning. The best thing the church could do to stop the exodus would be to provide a better product and make sure that their members are satisfied. Instead they are becoming more insular and controlling and driving more people out the door.

Overheard at Starbucks

On a layover in the Las Vegas airport I stopped at the Starbucks after supper for a latte and some cake. While I was standing in line the young lady in front of me was on her cell phone. This is what I heard.

"Hi. Dad. What was that drink we got at Starbucks? I really liked it and I can't remember what I got. Yeah. I'm in Las Vegas at the airport and they have a Starbucks. What? Oh, great. Thank! Bye, love you."

She turned around and saw the smile on my face and we both had a good laugh.

I couldn't help but about last year when I was getting breakfast at McDonalds with my 14 year old son. I ordered coffee and he goes, "Dad, when did you start drinking coffee?"

"When I stopped going to church I decided to try it and have been drinking it since."

"Oh. Me too. Get me a large one."

Funny how the guilt and shame that TSCC cultivates around otherwise harmless activities can cause us to miss these pleasant shared experiences.

It also reminded me how nice it is to be able to sit down with a friend for a cup of coffee and just talk. Of course, most of my friends think that drinking coffee is a grave sin, so I've only that once.

I've been in San Jose the whole week on business and last night a met at the bar of my favorite restaurant there with the CEO of a customer and a VP of my company. There was something nice about sitting there and drinking a beer with them and enjoying their company without having the uncomfortable undertone in my mind of thinking how sad it was to be at a bar drinking an alcoholic beverage. The change was really inside of me. The CEO didn't drink anything but water. But previously this would have been an uncomfortable situation with me and now it's not.

It's just wierd, and a little startling, to reflect on how differently I see the world and common situations now as a former Mormon than I did when I was active and believing. I feel more at ease and comfortable with non-Mormons.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Out of Town

Sorry for not posting this week. I'm in California on business this week and haven't had any free time. On Friday I start a week of much needed vacation in Utah. We'll be hanging out with relatives, riding dirt bikes up American Fork canyon, and watching the AMA Superbike races at Larry Millers new race trace west of Salt Lake.

I have a couple of posts in progress and will see if I can finish them off tonight.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Sacred Temple

I'll probably be struck down and rot in hell for this, but this link shows the changes in the revealed temple ordinances that opened a breach in my belief in Mormonism that I was never able to plug.

This web site ( is a better source for actual information about the temple than anything you'll ever find within TSCC (The So-Called Church) including going through the temple for yourself. I remember being told that all of my questions would be answered when I went through the temple. But, no matter how many times I went I never had a single opportunity to ask anyone any of the many questions that I had. When the changes happened and they (whoever they was, perhaps a committee in the church office building) removed the portions that were most problematic for me, it was a confirmation, really an admission by the church, that those portions were not revealed and were not required and were not necessary. That leaves open the question of what else in there is wrong or unnecessary. Maybe it really isn't necessary to wear your temple garments all of the time. Maybe the whole thing could be boiled down to nothing but the covenants, signs, tokens, penalties, and veil ritual. Wait, those parts were changed rather dramatically too. Hmmm. Maybe it's all a bunch of bull and the real point of the temple is to put pressure on members to be able to pass the temple recommend interview. Maybe what goes on in the temple is superfluous and it is just to keep the members in line, paying their tithing, and following the leaders without question. Maybe what is important is being "worthy" to get in there. If you review the temple recommend interview questions to see what constitutes "worthiness" I think you can reach your own conclusions.

Scientology and Mormonism

A click on the title of this post should take you to a Rolling Stone article on Scientology. Reading it reminds me a lot of Mormonism except that the origins of Scientology are even more recent and even more open to investigation. I get the feeling that Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard would have gotten along famously. Perhaps as well as Dan Lafferty and Mark Hoffman allegedly get along in the Utah Penitentiary.

I don't know if I've mentioned it in the past, but it was an article on Scientology that opened my eyes to Mormonism. The parallels were striking and the utter ridiculousness of Scientology was so apparent to me that I wondered if Mormonism looked the same to an outsider. Furthermore, I wondered if Scientology was able to successfully control the knowledge that its member had of L. Ron, then I wondered if it was possible that the Mormons had done the same for Joseph Smith. I quickly realized that the parallels ran deeper than I thought and quickly realized that the Mormons, like Scientologists, were not a credible source for information about their own churches' histories or doctrines. Both are completely comfortable with lying, hiding, or distorting information in order to further their agendas. Both seem to feel that ethical behavior is defined as anything that will strengthen their churches.

Anyway, thanks L. Ron for helping me realize that Joseph Smith was just as ridiculous as you are.

Ouch, I think a thetan just bit me....

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Review: The Worth of a Soul

Well, I couldn't finish the book. I've already posted a bit of a review of the first couple of chapters where the author describes his slide into sin which ended in a brief affair. I started trying to read the section on his excommunication, repentance, reform, and eventual return to full faith and fellowship in the church and just couldn't read it. The book is only 123 pages with pretty large type so it's not exactly long. So why couldn't I finish it? I suspect that a large part of the reason is the overwhelmingly gross oversimplifications of complex situations that are explained by superstitious beliefs in supernatural intervention in our personal lives.

For example,
  • When we are righteous and bad things happen we are being tried and should be happy in our trials.
  • When we are unrighteous and bad things happen then we are reaping the consequences of our sins.
  • When we are righteous and good things happen it is evidence that we are being blessed and should convince us of the wisdom of being righteous.
  • When we are unrighteous and good things happen then we aren't really happy. It is Satan telling us that we are happy, but it is temporary and we will eventually rue the day that we sinned.
  • When good coincidences happen then it is obvious proof that God has intervened. Even though we can't begin to understand how he might have arranged it, its obvious he must have intervened or else things wouldn't have happened exactly the way that they did.
  • When bad coincidences happen then it's the same except that now it was Satan that made it happen instead of God.
  • We should let others define what is sinful and feel guilty and shamed if we can't obey their arbitrary definitions of morality.
  • We should focus on the moral shortcomings emphasized by the church at the expense of recognizing the real sources of our problems. For example obsessing about the Word of Wisdom or masturbation but not worrying about neglecting family and personal needs so that you can fulfill time consuming church callings. Or faithfully paying 10% of your gross income to the church while going bankrupt. You get the idea.
It's not exactly irrational, because it is all internally consistent and every possible situation can be interpreted in a way that confirms Mormon beliefs. No matter what you do and no matter what happens the church's teachings are true. Isn't it wonderful!

What is sad is that it really isn't helpful except for reinforcing and confirming the believer's dependence and subservience to the authority of the church.

However, I would like to mention that I think that several ideas in the book have great metaphorical value. I don't think that they are literally true, but I think that the concepts behind the doctrines are.
  • Atonement: Christ will forgive us of our sins. I think that believing that a cosmic restitution for our sins has been made allows us to put our past sins behind us and stop beating ourselves up. It is essential to be able to let go of the past, the guilt, and the shame. A belief in the atonement helps people with this.
  • Punishment and restitution: I think that people need to take responsibility for the consequences of their choices. Sometimes saying you are sorry and that Christ has made you clean just isn't enough to mend the damage you've done. You have to make a sincere effort to make things right and help heal.
  • Accountability: I think that the beneficial role of church courts and is that some problems are very difficult to resolve on your own. Knowing that you will need to report to someone can help. I think that this is part of the role of sponsors in AA and other such programs.
  • Counseling: I think that having a confidant is important. A bishop or stake president can play this role. Again, in AA a sponsor and the group also help in this role.
  • Resolution/absolution: A church member who is rebaptized has symbolically completed an arduous journey to fundamentally change and reform his life. I think that this kind of power symbol can be an extremely healthy, confirming milestone.
The one overwhelmingly problematic teaching in the book for me is the necessity for public shame and humiliation as a motivator for change. Excommunication is very public in the Mormon church and serves as a virtual scarlet letter that brands that member for the remainder of his life. At the very point where the member is most at need for support and fellowship, the fellowship is withdrawn. For those that truly believe in the church, this is a HUGE issue. It is crushing. For this man it seems to have been a large motivation to make the personal changes that he needed to make. But not before crushing him even further while he had already bottomed out and needed a hand up. It seems to me that there must be a more Christ-like, compassionate way to support people struggling with problems such as alcoholism or sex addiction or any of the other many "addictions" that afflict our society.

The fundamentalist implementation of these principles in the Mormon church concentrate too much power in the hands of people with minimal training and knowledge in dealing with personal problems and then doesn't have any system of accountability to prevent abuse of the extreme power that they hold. The administration of "justice" within the church is very unevenly implemented depending on the personalities of the church authorities involved, the social and economic status of the sinner as well as the age, personality, and gender of the sinner. Refer to the Mormon Alliance web site if you want to see tragic examples where bishops and stake presidents have protected pedophiles to save the church from embarrassment, persecuted members for publicly stating their opinions, and punished individuals for relatively minor moral deviances.

While I appreciate the need for powerful personal change, I just don't think that the church provides a consistently positive, effective way of achieving it.

I'm glad that the author was able to successfully improve his life and reach a state of satisfaction and happiness. I'm glad that his superstitious beliefs provided a framework that he found valuable in understanding and coping with his problems. But I don't share his world view and beliefs and wouldn't make it through the process he describes. I think that professional counseling as well as non-demoninational support groups such as AA or SA leave open many more personalized approaches to rationally analyzing, understanding, and dealing with life's problems without having to submit to the doctrinaire dogma of any church.

Conclusion: Off to the round file with this one. I don't want anyone to come across this book because I think that the warped world view that it promotes is harmful and abusive.