Saturday, August 30, 2008

"They leave the church but can't leave it alone"

Ever wonder why Mormons have such a low opinion of former Mormons? Check out the title link. The possible reasons for apostasy listed are:
  • Having once been enlightened their minds are now darkened
  • They are Judas like (traitors)
  • They just don't believe the gospel
  • Having once had a testimony they never deny it. A testimony cannot be reduced to an illusion.
  • They're using intellectual reservations to cover behavioral lapses
  • One loses his testimony only by listening to the evil one.
  • They leave because they have sinned.
  • They left by the instigation of Satan and are now in his service.
I'm actually OK with being called an apostate, because that is what I most definitely am. However if you look at the list above you can see why within the church apostates have a bad name and why apostasy has such a negative connotation. After all, if you trust the church and its leaders then apostates are under the influence of the evil one and knowingly rejecting the truth.

It sort of explains why my father came up to me and my young nephew this summer and said, "Don't believe a word he says, you can trust Uncle Bull." He laughed. My nephew looked puzzled. Perhaps he thought it was just a teasing joke. But who says that? Would he have said that if not for my apostasy?

I'll credit the author of the post with a couple of isolated instances where he concedes that some apostates can leave the church alone and that there may be reasons why they can't (family, etc.) and that they might not all leave because of sin. But the overall tone of the article is pretty consistent with the way the Mormon church, like many other religions, portrays apostates.

By the way. I am a sinner. I won't burden you with a confession here, but trust me that I'm guilty of plenty of problems. But it has nothing to do with my apostasy. My disbelief has nothing to do with my personal faults. In fact I continue to try to improve today just like I did when I believed.

Maybe the Mormons are right. Perhaps my mind has been darkened by Satan. Maybe I've lost the light of the Spirit (whatever that is, presumably anything that makes you agree with Mormonism). But it sure doesn't seem like that to me. I simply became aware of additional facts that I never learned while a member that caused me to re-evaluate the facts and come to a different conclusion. I changed my mind.

By the way, it wasn't easy to make that change. Changing beliefs in such a dramatic way isn't easy and wasn't done casually. And perhaps that's why the attitudes toward apostates irritates me so much. It seems like they want to demonize people like me rather than concede that perhaps I had valid reasons and left for good reasons.

Friday, August 29, 2008

2 Simple Questions (Okay, 3)

When discussing beliefs it is important to consider a couple of questions. The first question can be put a couple of different ways, but it is basically meant to evaluate whether the person is even willing to attempt to be objective and fair. The second is really meant to evaluate the sincerity of the answer to the first question and establish a framework for any discussion of the beliefs. Here are the questions.

1a) If what you believe is wrong, would you want to know?
1b) Can you consider that your beliefs might be wrong?

2) What could you convince you that your beliefs are wrong?

Now, why are these questions important?

First of all, if you yourself can't answer the first question with an unqualified "yes" then you need to do some soul searching. It suggests that you are not objective and are unwilling to consider the possibility that the other person might be right or even that you both might be wrong. It also suggests that you are not going to be listening to the other person or trying to understand where they are coming from or the logic behind their beliefs. Your intent is likely to show the other person they are wrong and as a result you won't be listening to them very well.

If the other person's answer to the first question is "no" then you are wasting your time talking to that person if you are trying to change their mind. Their mind is already made up and it is important for both people to understand that fact up front. If the answer is "no" then all you can really hope for is to try to understand each other's beliefs without any hope of changing them. It also helps to understand that their beliefs will color their interpretation of everything you tell them resulting in seemingly bizarre reactions from them. My next post will give a poignant example.

If the answer to the first question is "no" then the second question is by default, "nothing." However, if the answer to the first question is "yes" then perhaps there is hope. Depending on the answer you can focus on the issues that might persuade either of you to change your minds.

I've only had the opportunity to ask these questions 3 times that I recall.

The first time was during an email exchange with my TBM father.
Me: It's pretty simple in the end if you consider the simple possibility that Joseph Smith made the whole thing up.

Dad: I can consider that possibility and then reject is as utterly false. I and tens of thousands of others have had personal experience that is "evidence" that God lives - will you deny that? - that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior and redeemer of all - will you deny that? - by instituting the resurrection of all, good and wicked, and the resurrection was witnessed on both continents - will you deny the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon? and We have personal experience that the Book of Mormon is true and wholesome - and it is LUDICROUS to state or believe it was "made up" by a liar.
So, basically, he can consider he might be wrong, but then he can reject that as ludicrous because he has personal experience that God lives and that the Book of Mormon is true and wholesome. For him, personal experience is the ultimate evidence. After that I gave up. After all, I can't change his personal experiences and he is simply arguing from a standpoint of surety and that my position is LUDICROUS. After this I was regaled with the following nice assessment of my own objectivity.
You have reached a state of mind where you only allow witnesses in support of one side. How fair or logical is that? It is bizarre. You reject what I and others have, out of hand, with derisive and insulting and unsound language about how "less logical we are", not by refuting our evidence with stronger evidence.
If he were correct in his assessment he'd be justified in his outrage. But it's a more than a little frustrating when what he's saying pretty well describes what he does. However, I've spent more time, in retrospect, investigating both sides of the issues than what is justified by the evidence in support of the church.

The second case was a friend who was questioning his testimony. I'd learned from my experiences with my father and asked the first question. We talked for at least a couple of hours and I never got him to answer the question. It was a good discussion, but I tried to mostly listen to his concerns rather than give him any new evidence. After all, what's the point until he's willing to look at it critically and with a mindset that it might be wrong.

The most recent case was in the comments for I'm An Ignorat Dumbass. Here's his response.
1) If the church isn't true, would you want to know?

I favor intellectual honesty. This question, frankly, can seem offensive, which is why I assume your relatives etc. aren't fond of it. I've been asked these questions by many critics, it seems to be a popular sticking point, especially for those who lean towards agnosticism and atheism. The answer is "of course."

2) What evidence would you accept that would convince you that the church isn't true?

I would accept solid, incontrovertible, decisive, evidence.
I can understand that people can feel insulted that you are questioning their objectivity. But, for gosh sake, we're talking about religion. Religious people don't have a history of objectivity when it comes to their beliefs. The whole point of the question is to get that out in the open and dealt with.

I'll repost my comment on his answer to the second question.
The standard of "solid, incontrovertible, decisive, evidence" would seem to be an impossible standard for a belief system predicated on faith. I wouldn't even insist on that as proof that the church is true. But surely you see the problem. In the same way I can't provide that to you, you can't provide it to me either. The best that I've been able to find is systematic factual errors and deception on the part of the church and a large body of evidence that calls its fundamental claims into question.

Am I 100% sure the church is false? Nope. But my standard is more one of likelihood and preponderance of evidence. I haven't found any facts that can't be more reasonably explained in a naturalistic way than by the supernatural.
Naturally LifeOnAPlate disagrees and finds naturalistic explanations more problematic. On that we'll disagree. However, my burden of proof isn't that high.

In the meantime, realizing that I can't produce what would be needed to influence his beliefs I understand that I shouldn't waste any time trying to persuade him, even if I was so inclined. And that really was the point of the questions: to figure out whether or not it would be a waste of time to engage.

However, he has inspired me to post what I consider some of the most persuading evidence against the church's truthfulness.

BTW, I value these questions enough to have added them to my banner.

Guerilla Marketing Idea

While showing my "artistic creations" to my wife and daughter, it occurred to me what a minefield Nike has sown for itself with NikeId. Companies go to great lengths establishing an image, copyrighting, trademarking, marketing, and protecting it. A company like Nike spends bazillions of dollars on it. That's why their products are relatively expensive. You can rest assured that anything with the Nike swoosh on it has been vamped to make sure that it enhances the brand.

So here comes NikeId and all of a sudden idiots like me are allowed to bastardize their product and then, horror of horrors, slap their logo on it symobolizing some kind of corporate approval of my exceedingly bad taste in running shoes.

You know what I'd do if I was a marketing exec at Asics? I'd order boxes and boxes and boxes of tastelessly colored NikeId shoes and then dump them on the market in select, highly visible markets until people began to think of Nike as that company with the horrendously poor taste in shoe colors.

So, I'm going to take advantage and stock up on shoes that only I can appreciate before Nike realizes the errors of its ways and shuts down NikeId.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Cool Shoe Geekdom

Nike has a pretty cool idea for people like me who are continually disappointed by the color schemes used on running shoes. I like bright, flashy shoes. My theory is if I can't be fast, I'd at least like to look fast. Nike created a web site just for me so I headed over to and designed my own shoes. Tell me what you think.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I'm an Ignorant Dumbass

I wound up on an apologetic blog reading a post about a fireside by Bushman, author of Rough Stone Rolling. Bushman stated how he was amazed at how many members were unaware of Smith's polygamy. I commented to the effect that it really isn't a wonder since the church does a good job of concealing the fact. Of course, I was courteously responded to with lengthy quotations and links to articles on FARMS, FAIR, etc. about polygamy as well as links to institute manuals and church books on the topic. I guess it was a polite way of saying, "Sir, you are an ignorant dumbass." After all, there is so much information out there that the church can hardly be accused of hiding its history.

They have a point.

And yet...

I was active in the church from birth to age 40. I rarely missed any meetings: priesthood, sunday school, sacrament meeting, ward conferences, stake conferences, general conferences, mutual, early morning seminary, institute, etc. I went to BYU for 4 years and took religion classes as required there. I served an honorable full time mission in Bolivia. I taught early morning seminary for three years. I read all of the church's standard works multiple times as well as the missionary bookshelf, and many church books such as Doctrines of Salvation, Mormon Doctrine, Comprehensive History of the Church, etc. I literally have stacks of LDS books that I read over the years. Yet somehow I didn't know that
  • Joseph Smith had an affair with married Fanny Alger.
  • Joseph Smith married a 14 year old girl
  • Joseph Smith married other men's wives
  • Joseph Smith arranged sham marriages to hide his polygamy
  • Joseph Smith married sisters living in his house for whom he was the legal guardian while spending their inheritance
  • Joseph Smith lied about his polygamy and hid it from his wife
  • Joseph Smith destroyed the Nauvoo Expositor because it exposed his practice of polygamy
  • Joseph Smith may have been tarred and feathered because he tried to have improper relations with a teenage girl living in the house where he was living as a guest. He later married this woman while she was married to another man.
  • Joseph Smith ruined the reputation of the wife of an apostle who rejected his polygamous proposal and then threatened to expose him.
  • Joseph Smith excommunicated his first counselor in the First Presidency when he tried to expose the polygamy.
There's more, but isn't that enough?

Okay. You can go to FARMS and FAIR and apologetic web sites and find this information. But the only reason you can find it is because the apologists have been forced to respond to the critics and historians who have brought the facts to light. However, good luck finding this information over at I invite you to go look.

I'm sorry, but I may be simple minded, but I had problem accepting Joseph Smith as a prophet once I had all of the facts.

This is just one topic. There are many others where after a lifetime of membership I was completely ignorant of the rest of the story. I suspect I'm not the only active member of the church that didn't know those things. I don't remember those facts ever being presented to me. I think I would have remembered.

So the question for Bushman and the apologists really needs to be: How can a lifelong, active member not know these things? I guess they would argue that it's really not important and that if I wanted to I could have found the answers.

So, I'll accept the criticism of the defenders of the faith. I was an ignorant dumbass. But I'm not ignorant any more and I suspect therein lies the rub. As soon as I discovered the truth my eyes were opened and Joseph Smith no longer seemed like such a swell guy and I saw the church for what it is. I suspect the reality is that the church doesn't want its members to have a complete knowledge of the facts. And, to me, that is fundamentally dishonest; witholding information because you know it will cause people to reach conclusions you don't want.

Oh, the other reason I'm a dumbass is for even trying to comment on that blog. The patronizing, insulting responses made my blood boil. What the heck do I have to be defensive about? As I pointed out above it's not like I wasn't trying to read and know my religion. My only problem is that I never ventured into the realm of anti-Mormon literature and apologetics where the real information comes out.

Blessings of Paying Tithing

My PocketPC cell phone was getting long in the tooth, but Sprint didn't have a compelling enough upgrade for me to replace it so I've been living with my adorable little brick despite ridicule from my coworkers. That came to an end when it suddenly completely died. Rather than pay the $50 deductible to get it repaired I decided to go ahead and upgrade so off to the Sprint store I went. The sales lady took it back to the service center to see if they could repair it and I went to look at the latest smart phones.

I picked out the latest version of my PDA phone and got the sales lady busy completing the upgrade. But when she went to activate the phone it wouldn't work so she went back to the service center to get help. She came back with a smile and told me that since they couldn't repair my phone and they don't have replacements for it, they were going to upgrade me to the latest phone for free. Whoopee! Saved me $250.

When I told my dad about it he said that normally he would attribute it to the blessings of paying tithing, but in my case he guessed that wasn't it. Haha.

In logic that is what is known as confirmation bias. You notice the things that confirm your beliefs and ignore or downplay those that don't.

For example, when growing up we would never travel on Sunday while on vacation so we could keep the Sabbath holy. So, if the car broke down on Saturday or Monday we could count our blessings that if we'd been driving on Sunday we'd have been stranded, but since it was a Monday the shop was opened and we could get it fixed right away.

It always struck me as silly. When good things happen you are blessed. When bad things happen you are being tried or punished depending on how devout you'd recently been.

Of course, in the case of my phone it was the result of paying $7 a month for 3 years for the protection plan. A fair bit better deal than paying 10% of my gross during that time.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Head Scarves at the Water Park

The company sponsored an outing at an excellent water park yesterday for all of the employees and their families. I took the wife and kids and we had a great time. One interesting thing was to see the families of some of the Muslim employees. The men and children were dressed in typical western swim attire, but the women wore concealing middle eastern clothes with long sleeves and pants and head scarves wrapped tightly around their heads concealing everything except their faces. In Texas. In August. At a water park. Their families were having a great time, but somehow they didn't seem to be really enjoying themselves.

The little girls wore regular swim suits and romped and played and had a grand time and I wondered at what point they would notice their mothers and wonder when they'd have to start concealing themselves. At some point do they begin to dread the transition from carefree childhood to confinement? Is there some right of passage ceremony like in mormonism or does someone decide one day that they are no longer children and must hide their body as it blossoms into beautiful adulthood?

My wife commented on the poor women in their head scarves. I wondered what the difference was between that and having to wear clothing to cover garments during the heat of summer. While everyone else wears sleeveless shirts and comfortable shorts in the heat, mormons are wearing sleeved shirts over an undershirt and shorts extending below the knees. The head scarves are obvious. The garments only when their lines show or when they peek out below the hem of the shorts. But the clothing mormons wear is definitely atypical for the Texas heat.

It was somewhat poignant for me because during my teenage years I dreaded the day when I'd have to go through the temple because it meant I'd have to abandon my typical summer attire of tennis shorts and nothing else. I never like wearing garments and even the mesh ones were very uncomfortable in the heat. Somehow wearing two layers of clothing, no matter how thin, is going to be worse than wearing one, or better yet, none.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hmmm. Didn't see that one coming

Sprained ankles are no big deal, right? Ice, maybe an ace bandage, some rest, and then you're all better. At least that's what I thought. I've only sprained my ankle once and that was back in 1999 while playing 2 on 2 basketball. Some moron got over aggressive and moved under my when I jumped up for a rebound and I rolled my ankle when I came down on his foot. I heard my ankle snap and was sure that it was broken. But after a little ice I was walking and after a few weeks I thought I was fine. That was nine years ago.

About 6 weeks ago I fell off my daughter's horse a week before I started training for the KC marathon. My biggest concern was a serious deep thigh bruise from where the horse's hoof hit my right leg. My left ankle was a little sore, but not really painful and didn't have any swelling. The bruise went away after a couple of weeks, but the ankle kept getting sorer and sorer. On one early run it felt like I had glass in the joint for a few steps, but I'd had a similar pain a couple of years ago so I kept running and after a few steps it went away. After each run the ankle would be sore and a little swollen, but after a day or so it would be okay, and I was able to run 20 to 25 miles a week so I figured it couldn't be too bad.

On Saturday my left calf gave up after running 7 miles of a planned 16 mile run. I had a bad cramp on the outside and as I rolled it on a foam roller it was very painful. I got it loosened up and stretched and tried running again, but after another mile I realized that I was done for the day. Later I was poking around on my lower leg and found very, very painful points along the outside of my lower leg that made me wonder if the bone was broken. When it still hurt on Monday I bit the bullet and scheduled an appointment with my running doctor. He diagnosed an unstable ankle joint ordered an MRI.

Today I got the results. A bad ATL ligament, probably from the basketball sprain nearly a decade ago, probably aggravated by falling off the horse, and even worse two osteochondral lesions of the talus. That's doctor speak for broken bones in my ankle joint. The unstable ankle has allowed the bones to smash into each other and pulverize the bone under the cartilage in a couple of spots. Unfortunately, the breaks require surgery to drill out the broken, dead bone and repair the damaged ligament. The break is still fairly small, about 1.0 cm square, so the prognosis is probably pretty good.

There's no urgency in getting the surgery so I'm waiting until the end of September, but I'm done running for some time. The KC marathon is definitely off, and the Houston marathon in January if very unlikely. In fact, any serious running is probably several months in the future. After the surgery I can't put any weight on the ankle for at least 6 weeks to allow the bone to heal and then I can start putting weight on it. I guess resumption of activity depends on how quickly the bone and ligament heal.

I'm a little shell shocked right now, but I'll deal with it. I stopped by the running store on the way home from work and picked up an aqua jogging belt. Running in the water is supposed to be a very good way to work out while you have injuries like this. I'm going to give cycling and swimming a try too. Who knows, maybe I'll come out of this as a triathlete.

I'm considering getting my left shoulder looked at. I've broken it twice and it pops, clicks, and grinds when I move it. It's pretty gross when I swim because I can hear it really well in the water. I figure it the first surgery maxes out my insurance deductible I might as well get the shoulder done this year too to minimize my out of pocket expenses.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


My left ankle has been sore since I fell off my daughter's horse at the end of June. Since then, every running log entry has contained the following notation: "sore left ankle." Occasionally the pain has been severe, but mostly its been mild pain that gets better as I warm up followed by moderate swelling and pain when my toes flex toward my shin. Saturday took a pain for the worse as I started having severe muscle pain in my calf during a long run that got bad enough that I had to abort the run. Pressing on the outside leg revealed severe pain and tenderness on the outside of my lower leg right along the fibula. A quick google took me to an orthopod website that led me to think it was the peroneal muscles and tendons that rotate the foot to the outside.

I've been debating going to the doctor about the ankle for a couple of weeks, but kept putting it off because it seems silly to go to the doctor for a sore ankle when you are able to run 25 miles a week on it. I mean, how bad can it be?

Well, unlike most minor injuries this one seemed to be getting worse and spreading to other parts of my leg so I went to my running doctor today.

He immediately pointed out the swelling and said that shouldn't be there after 6 weeks. Then he held my leg and pulled on my foot and I could feel the bones in my ankle slopping fore and aft. Could I feel that? Yep. Other foot, not movement. Left foot, slop. Thirty minutes later I was kicked back reading Car and Driver for an hour and a half while an MRI machine scanned my ankle.

Thursday I go back to find out what's screwed up. Probably tore a ligament enough to make the ankle joint unstable. In the meantime, no running.