Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunstone West Review

I'm so, so glad I went. For a few reasons.

The only problem is that I wasn't used to these people, this segment of LDS society. I didn't know I'd ever find them in one room. I'm really unsure where to begin.

The sessions my husband and I attended:

Teen Marriage Age in Mormon Polygamy and in American Culture: What was the norm?
(pssst! it wasn't 14. or 15. or even 17.)

"I would confine them to their own species," LDS Historical Rhetoric and Praxis Regarding Marriage Between Whites and Blacks
(interesting indeed)

The Plenary Lunch Session:
Where Big Love Began: The Inception of Mormon Celestial Marriage at Nauvoo, Illinois.

Having a very full plate in my lap, a coke in my hand, and sitting next to a great friend...well, I didn't hear nearly as much of this lecture as I would've liked. What I did grasp wasn't far different from what I've already learned, but suffice it to say I really, really want to get the speaker, George Smith's book entitled "Nauvoo Polygamy...but they called it celestial marriage."

A Marginal Moses: A Case Study in Canonicity, Historicity, and Revelation by Ben Clarke.

This session discussed how Joseph Smith's "restoration" of the Bible includes some errors - logistic, syntactical and otherwise - which the Bible itself still contains as translators continue to learn how to best read the original Hebrew.

As these same mistakes or mistranslations exist in both the JST and in the quoted verses within the Book of Moses, Joseph's "restoration" raises some questions. If this is truly a restoration, a correction inspired by God, one would think these wouldn't remain.

Mr. Clarke argues these issues marginalize the Book of Moses and further suggests we shouldn't take scripture as a whole so literally. He also predicted these changes would be included in the next edition of the LDS canon.

The Myth of the Missing Book of Abraham Papryus by Christopher Smith.

Chris' paper was more difficult for me to comprehend, but I believe I have the jist of it. His thesis was that, after extensive and logisical research, the only realistic explanation LDS have regarding the Book of Abraham (remember how we thought it was lost in the Chicago fire, but it wasn't?) is the so-called "Catalyst theory" - the new explanation which states that the papryus, which had nothing to do with Abraham, instead inspired Joseph Smith to write the Book of Abraham. The evidence suggesting Joseph Smith translated anything from any papyrus is slim to none.

Developing Personal Spirituality
(This session was far too short - we were just getting into it as time ran out. Among the three panelists was Maxine Hanks of the infamous heretical September Six. Perhaps I shouldn't have been so excited to learn this, but I was. I wish she would've spoken more.)

Interesting! Imagine a place where a Mormon felt free and comfortable to say they considered themselves a "Catholic Mormon" a "Buddhist Mormon" or a "Unitarian Mormon" - or even a gnostic, as Maxine identified. People who feel free to take truth where they find it. The idea is still so foreign to me and I know it would be shot down here in two seconds flat. I'd see the bishop faster than I could blink.

Find truth somewhere else, as if it needs supplementing? Nononono, we have all the truth here. They're the ones who could use of our truth. All truth is ours, after all. /sarcasm

That was the last full session I was able to attend. I came down with a buddng migraine and I could hardly keep my eyes open. Thankfully we were able to return for the last 45 minutes or so of the closing plenary session entitled Proposition in all Things: Post Election Perspectives on 8.

I sat by George during this session and listened to the speakers. Among them was Laura Compton, spokeswoman for Mormons for Marriage and Clark Pingree, an openly gay LDS man - the only two I had the pleasure of hearing.

Laura's speech basically reiterated the spread of where most "no" and "yes" votes came from, comparing and contrasting 2000's Prop 22 and last year's Prop 8. She called for greater organization this time around - in 2010 there may be two initiatives on the ballot regarding marriage: one calling for the term "marriage" to be absolved and for all partnerships to be called "domestic partnerships" (so romantic) and the other is simply to overturn Prop 8.

The idea that my marriage could be referred to so coldly as a domestic partnership didn't sit right with me. This surprised me. If it doesn't sit right with anyone else, they should then consider what a gay couple feels when they're told they cannot have the term "marriage" either.

But anyway.

Clark Pingree's speech, though nothing I hadn't heard before, moved me. He spoke of the struggle so many gay LDS go through, the ridiculous notion that he might hurt anyone. He wondered quite reluctantly how many young LDS committed suicide last summer when the Church pulled it's "we love you but hate who you are" rhetoric and closed with the horrific rollercoaster of emotions on November 4 and 5: the elation of President Obama's election and then the sickening feeling when one realized Prop 8 won.

I leaned over and whispered to George that we all felt it, but suddenly realized as sick as I felt, he must have felt a hundred times worse. After all, this doesn't affect my marriage or potential for one. His domestic partnership from Oregon didn't even transfer to California when he and his boyfriend moved back. Ridiculous!

After this, I have a greater resolve next year to stand up and be not afraid. To write letters. Discuss with family. The new young women's value is "virtue" and I consider standing up for what one believes in to be a virtue, even if the Church doesn't think what I stand for is virtuous. The Church has no monopoly on the definition of virtue. What constitutes virtue, like anything else in this world, is subjective. There can be a common foundation, but in the end "what is right/what one believes in" is subjective. And "subjective" is hardly a bad word.

It was so good to see George. I also met Alan of Scrum Central, which was a lot of fun. I'm only sorry I didn't get to speak with him more.

It was so exciting to meet and see all of these people I've read about and discussed, to know there's a place where my ideas aren't shut down as antagonistic. I do get angry, but in the end there's a source, a reason. My anger is my own to deal with - but the substance behind that anger, which drives it is viable. It's real. And really, in the end, I'm more angry with myself and how others I love are conditioned to treat me when I don't parrot what is socially acceptable.

And it gave me so much to talk about over the next few weeks.

One last thing struck me: The prayers. The hymns. Exactly the same and yet so different. No rameumptoms (yes, I do think we've a tendency in our invocations/benedictions) and the openness of all the people there: it didn't matter who was a "nevermo" (never mormon), "exmo" or just plain "mo" - the material was what mattered. Truth was what mattered. Discussion without censorship is what mattered.

Imagine that.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Going to Sunstone!

My husband and I are celebrating our seventh anniversary this Sunday, and we're doing so at Sunstone West.

Perhaps a bit of an odd choice (we were going to go to Tahoe), but the timing is great and there are a few friends I'm looking forward to seeing.

It should be a good time; I'm really looking forward to the discussions. If you'll be there, shoot me an email!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

California Missions

For my U.S. History class, we read a short book entitled Monterey in 1786: Life in a California Mission, The Journals of Jean François de la Pérouse.

Since I realize not everyone lives in California, here's a short history. The California Missions of the 1700s were placed along the coastal areas of California: San Jose, Monterey, San Rafael (one I've visited), San Francisco, Santa Cruz, etc. Each of these missions were headed by Spanish colonists and were there for the express purpose of converting the Native American people to Catholicism.

With questions regarding the new land, trade possibilities, and other issues, King Louis XVI of France asked Pérouse to head an expedition to the colonies to make notes of everything: land, weather, plants, people, etc. so they could learn more of it to see if they could perhaps capitalize on it. This book is part summary and part Pérouse's personal journal of the trip and says much of the Spanish treatment toward the Native American people.

A few things struck me as I read:

First, that the Spaniards sought not to understand the Native American way of life, but simply to judge it, deem it anarchist and godless, and then seek to save them. No matter the motivation they would use to convert the people, those in charge "agreed that converting the Indians to European ways was not merely desirable, but indeed a moral necessity" (40). It earlier states "There was, in their eyes, only one true religion, the one the Spanish monks were bringing with them to the Monterey Bay area" (28).

The Indian people for various reasons all came to the missions voluntarily and, once baptized, were stuck. Without experience with organized warfare, a tradition of strong leaders and of long, drawn out decision-making processes, they also had language barriers between them. No real weapons to speak of.

Mostly, though, they had the fear of God instilled in them. It states,

"The Spaniards also had an enormous psychological edge...while the Indians seemed to have been burdened by the incapacitating belief that the Spaniards were powerful magicians, deriving their powers not just form the bullets in their guns, but directly from the gods. Proof of the alliance between the Spaniards and the gods was everywhere: the monks were seen constantly talking directly to their gods, and it seemed obvious that their gods were answering them. To rebel against the monks and soldiers meant to rebel against their gods as well" (31)
Does anyone think these people had a choice?

In civilizing the Indian people, the Spaniards managed also to take away everything that defined them. Their link to the land. Their homes (they weren't allowed outside the mission). Their calendars and rituals. All gone. Mission president Fermín Lasuén said of the conversion process:

"This can be accomplished only by denaturalizing them. It is easy to see what an arduous task this is, for it requires them to act against nature. But it is being done successfully by means of patience and by unrelenting effort" (33)

The result of such actions? Deep depression. "Unable to rebel, their old way of life destroyed, they sank into the deepest gloom" (33)

But this one really stuck out to me:

"To enjoy membership in this new community, the Indians were invited to partake in the ritual of baptism, thus allowing them to communicate with the spirits and gods who had given the newcomers such great power and wealth. What the Indians could not have understood, however, was that the waters of baptism were, in the eyes of those administering it, taking away not only something called 'sin' but freedom as well...

The Indians had to be kept at the mission, by force if necessary, lest they revert to their old ways and stray into sin. To preserve the soul, the monks understood to regulate the Indians' every activity, monitor their behavior, and teach them (by whatever means necessary) the correct mental and spiritual attitudes...they were now wards of the church - their lives, their bodies, even their thoughts no longer their own." (30)

I think this could all be read in a few different ways aside from the literal historical aspect of it.

Any thoughts?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sodom and Gomorrah: Not about homosexuals.

(I'm on a roll lately, I know. Like I said, will probably post in phases :)

If anyone is like me, they tend to take what they hear and trust in its authenticity, it's truth.

Claim: A can of Pepsi is 150 calories.

Claim: Sodom and Gomorrah is an example of what God will do when a society falls into the pit of rampant homosexuality.

= A largely held belief.

So sometimes the necessity to analyze and discover the truth for oneself doesn't exist. I'm willing to trust the Pepsi can. I remember when this information wasn't required, so I'm just grateful for scientists, activists, and whatnot who make this sort of information available.

It's just not a priority for me to know for myself that my soda has 150 calories exactly. It's an approximation, I'm sure. Don't care. Happy to have something with which to make decisions on.

It wasn't until recently someone presented the idea that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah likely had nothing to do with the "sin" of homosexuality. Intrigued (I love this sort of thing), I looked it up. How many of us have read the Sodom and Gomorrah story for ourselves? I hadn't until just recently. Not really.

If you've a Bible anywhere, it's in Genesis 18-19 (KJV)

It begins in verse 20-21:

"And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know."

Abraham stands in the way and a negotiation of sorts breaks out. Abraham wants to know if God would destroy these cities should 50, 45, 30, 20, and then 10 righteous people reside there. God says he wouldn't destroy the wicked if in the process he would destroy the righteous.

So God, or rather two angels, descend and come upon Lot, their host, who offers them a servant's house, washing of feet - basically a nice stay so they can be on their way in the morning. The angels instead opt to walk the streets that night, but Lot insists and they relent.

Word gets around of two very good looking men staying the night.

Chapter 19, verse 4-5:

“But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us that we may know1 them.”

Lot instead offers his two virgin daughters (what a guy).

“And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my room.”

Now I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d be beside myself if I was one of his daughters. Just unwitting whores, really. Perhaps this is where we get the whole daddy pimp thing? Disgusting! This is JUST as horrific as a gay gang rape.

Why don’t we decry this? Because it was cultural?

The angels then kick ass, declare the city just as wicked as God had suspected and implore Lot to take his wife and daughters out before God destroys it.

And this is the same story where Lot’s wife, upon fleeing, looks back and turns into a pillar of salt.

The end of the chapter is rather disturbing but has nothing to do with Sodom…wait. It could:

Lot’s daughters fear their father has grown too old, and since he has no sons and now no wife, thy figure they should take matters into their own hands. They imbibe him, have sex with him (not one night but two), and both give birth later to their son-brothers.

This isn’t sinful? Is it not sinful because the youngest had a son who would be one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (Benjamin)?

I don’t get it!

I don’t think the sin here was so much homosexuality. People enjoy reminding others that the word “sodomy” must be derived from Sodom (or rather Sodom named after sodomy). Don’t you get it? It makes so much sense.

For me, this story has little to do with homosexuality and more to do with rampant, violent sex as well as irreverent attitudes regarding sex. If it has anything to do with sex at all. The thing is, I can’t read this and think Lot is okay here because he offered his daughters in order to protect the strangers who came in.

(yes, I know the JST "corrects" this but for the life of me I don't know why. Would seasoned translators truly have misread this? What would be the motive of such an oversight? The idea of offering daughters seems cultural to me, but I admit merits some research as I've little knowledge in this area)

And anyway, would this have been considered sinful if the two angels were women and the mob of men stopped by and demanded to "know" them?

Lot: “Yeah, they’re right back there. Have at.”

Would we then be using Sodom and Gomorrah to decry homosexuality? Come on!

For further light and knowledge, please visit this site. Just now found it and it's fabulous.

(and now for a fun, out-of-context scripture from the OT:

1 Sam. 18: 1, 3-4

"And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul...Then Jonathan and David made a covenant because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle."

Commentaries like to say this was mere friendship, but it sounds like lots more to me ;)

Check out this website for further information. Just discovered it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Meet my friend, George

George and I, I believe, have attended the same schools (not hard in my small hometown) since middle school, but we've known each other since high school. My clearest memories of him take place our senior year when we shared a creative writing class. For the longest time I felt like I was such a horrible example to him.


I cursed like a sailor and knew my very sweet, unassuming teacher probably didn't appreciate it. Though a godless girl, I wanted to be nice knowing we were about to share our stories with the entire class.

"I don't know if I should keep this one line like this," I said.

"Which one?"

"It scared the shit out of me. I think I should change it to It scared me to death."

George floored me with his response. "No, keep 'shit.' It sounds better."

Another time my boyfriend, my brother, and I took him off campus during a rally. He didn't have a pass. We pretended his pass was in his backpack in the back of the car, and with the line forming behind us, the security guard let us go.

Honestly that was about as bad as I was. But for George, each of these things were uncharacteristic.

See, George was a member of the church. Born and raised. One of the nicest guys I knew. Voted "most likely to stay in town." He rarely brought up the church with my boyfriend and I. He kept to his standards but didn't preach.

George and I kept in touch after graduation. In time, I was more willing to hear about the church. He told me about the Article of Faith stating that we are not punished for Adam's transgression. I ate that up. Loooooved it. It went along with everything I'd always believed but wasn't taught.

I wasn't ready for more, though.

A few months later, I met the girl who would later introduce me to Institute and the Church. It took me about eight or nine months to decide to get baptized. I contacted George and invited him down the hill to witness it and be a part of my confirmation circle.

And of course he came. Told me afterward, "The Spirit was so strong it was almost tangible."

I still agree.

Regarding my confirmation, George had to get special permission from his bishop to be part of the circle. At the time I thought it was mere formality since he was part of a different stake. I don't know now if that's true. Maybe it was my bishop's preference. But perhaps it was something more. I'll have to ask.

While I remember most of the men who participated in my confirmation circle, George and the guy who gave me the gift of the Holy Ghost stand out the most. He (George) even gave me my very first LDS version of the Bible (for any non-member readers, it's simply a KJV Bible with LDS footnotes). I still have that Bible. It's worn and still the one I refer to in my readings and writings.

Sometime after my baptism, George began attending my Institute classes. He enjoyed telling everyone he was a Mormon boy working at a cafe. Then the day came when he showed up to class sporting blue hair and a shirt stating "You know you want me." Everyone laughed, but more out of shock. You don't see that very often, and for me this was certainly not the George I knew.

He also had a habit of trying to tell people that he couldn't go on a mission. I'm proud to say I had good friends who didn't judge him (at least to my knowledge) and didn't care to know whatever indiscretion kept him from his mission. We always stopped him before he could confess.

For reasons which could be due to anything, we lost track of one another. I emailed him to let him know of my upcoming wedding and invited him to my reception (I wasn't inviting many to my wedding b/c my family couldn't be there and it seemed callous to invite too many).

I don't know when the email finally came, but I was at Eric's mom's house checking my email when I received one from George. I'm gay, he said, and I can't believe that God doesn't want me to love and be loved. He was leaving, moving to Oregon for a new life.

In my stupidity I emailed him back and said that I regretted his decision, sympathized perhaps a little more than he realized, and that I would never ever let anything get in the way of my membership in the church and hoped he'd change his mind.

I know.

Fast forward about six or seven years and I find him on Facebook, cautious but willing to befriend me once more. He lives with his boyfriend Miles in San Francisco and is a gay rights activist. In time he learned I was more friend than foe, compassionate if nothing else. I get to see him again for the first time since our wedding reception in 2002 at the Sunstone West Symposium at the end of this month, and I very much look forward to it.

George is today a leader in Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons and has been a very active part of the push to have Prop 8 fail and now overturned. He's one of the good guys protesting at the temple. I invite you all to visit his Affirmation page. If you saw the clip above, he is the good looking guy in a suit getting yelled at by the lady. His calmness astounds many. I know I probably would've lost it, but we all know how impressive those people look like. There's power and authority in those who can keep their cool, and they all have my respect.

I'm very proud to know him, hope he knows how much I respect him and that I now don't fear and will fight harder next time for him and those like him. I also wanted to share this with you all in an effort to lighten things up a bit around here. Hope you like.

Other links: Facebook Affirmation page

USA Today: Meeting of gay Mormons delayed indefinitely LDS Church blasts Affirmation for taking its message public

Friday, March 20, 2009

Debunking LDS misconceptions about Protestants

*Yes, the post title has changed. See comments if you wish to know why.

Historically speaking, there have been numerous churches and faiths which claim to be the one and only truth, and their claims are hardly baseless. All claim authorities believed exclusive to them. All of it is supported by scripture. EVERYONE thinks they're right and everyone else is wrong (and when I say this, I place Evangelicals and Protestants/Catholics/Mormons/Jehovah's Witnesses in their own categories). Of course they do. Even those who permit others to believe as they like believe they're more right than everyone else.

As I can see it, too many LDS complain about misconceptions but fail to truly try to understand each other. Mormons rely on half-truths just as much as non-members rely on half-truths in their understanding of us. It's easier to believe inaccurate things about each other because "they don't have the truth."

But LDS are just as guilty of such hypocrisies and believing whatever they hear. So let's unpuff our chests. Nobody is really all that excited and impressed, only those who are unfamiliar or disaffected with another religion might be. It's more about pride than we want to think. We have to be better. We have to be more right or else why bother, right?

As one who has attended other churches, I want to help dispel a few things. Keep in mind I have many, many issues with the Protestant faith. Many. But all this bullshit about us having the only living true church is just our opinion. Everyone else thinks they have it, too. The only difference is who believes what for what reason.

Regarding Authority

Protestants do believe they have been given authority - from Christ. To His followers. As found in the Scriptures. This is one of the major misconceptions in the LDS church.

We are called by our leaders to positions and believe these callings to be inspired of God. Most of them, at least. But Brother and Sister holy-roller feel an inner calling. They feel a drive to do things. They feel inspired.

Shall we deny them this? No. Not if we want others to believe that we can receive personal revelation. By their fruits...

As to prophets. They believe in prophecy just not in a specific prophet. Much like we believe in personal revelation. Much like we believe God speaks to us through prayer (yes, contrary to yet another popular belief, other faiths do believe God still speaks). Problems? of course. But still.

And truly, the fact is Christ isn't here at the moment. The fact is that any man is sub par. President Monson may be a great and spiritually attuned man, but he is still a man. Like prophets before him, his prior prejudices and ideas can and will (if they haven't already) get in the way of doctrine.

Regarding Priesthood authority. Protestants/Evangelicals believe they have that authority by virtue of being a follower of Christ and have scriptures to back it up. With faith unfettered, they too can lay their hands upon another's head (many don't see this as necessary but ritualistic) and ask God to heal another. By invoking the name of Christ they, too, can rebuke evil spirits. With prayer and scripture study they, too, can discern.

Really, it's a matter of formality and what one believes is necessary.

Grace vs. Works

Protestants famously believe all one has to do is profess belief in Jesus Christ as their Savior, and they will go to heaven. Works won't do this, but will automatically manifest because the profession of Christ changes hearts enough that works will mirror His.

There is always someone quipping that Protestants believe a saved person can do anything they want and still be saved. A faithful Protestant will tell respond by saying they are human, screw up, and that is why they have the grace of God. They don't kill themselves striving for perfection, but they do try to rise above "the natural man." They will also say those who have been "saved" but who haven't changed may not have professed Christ with, as we say, a sincere heart and real intent (Moroni 10:4).

Protestants take issue with the LDS fixation on works. We insist our works don't get us into heaven. It's by the Grace of God. Duh.

But consider this (and again, I am hardly saying anyone is right): Ordinances are considered works. We teach without these ordinances one cannot attain certain kingdoms of heaven. Baptism being one of them.

That is where this comes from.

The Question of a Paid Clergy

I loved this when investigating the Church. I'd been turned off by the church I grew up in. The idea that a man would be paid to serve God seemed antithetical. It seemed too businesslike, that he wouldn't care so much about his parishioners as much as he cared about having enough to keep his job.

But consider this: Bishops and Stake Presidents (indeed YW/YM/EQ/RS leaders) generally have full-time jobs. School. Pile on a full time calling and you've a person who cannot see their family. Sunday is out. Too many meetings. Monday evening, perhaps. That's it. Yay.

These leaders are very tired. The burden is immense as they bow under the pressure of ward family secrets, indiscretions, spiritual and temporal struggles. They cannot devote nearly enough time to the ward members as would be ideal, not without sacrificing their own family (and what is most important, again?). I'm sure some men deal with this balance easily, but I wonder of their families. A good friend of ours was very close to his father until his father was called to be Stake President. Though still an active member, he has sworn off ever accepting such a call. It massacred his relationship with his dad.

Is that worth it? Didn't the pioneers sacrifice family time for the Church? Could even a paid pastor lose himself in his work to the detriment of his family? Yes. But the chances are a hundredfold when you've a person who has enough to deal with on top of that. And there's always room for volunteer work in and for the church without having to be bishop.

They also have the advantage of having a pastor who knows our individual families and can counsel them, rather than refer us to another counselor. There've been numerous times I wished I could've had this option. But again, the bishop has enough to do.

Protestants can choose their pastor. While the reasons we are assigned wards is reasonable enough, far too many feel they cannot or will not approach or trust their Bishopric or Stake Presidency because of totally viable differences. But there's nothing they can do about it. While I understand the value of humbling oneself and trusting in God's calling one to an office, there are times when one should be able to avoid certain leaders. Enough with the faith and humility answers - there are real people with real reasons that nobody should ever dismiss.

And this is why some stop attending church at all.

Understanding and learning of other faiths and even the history of our own can be scary, but we do ourselves no favors by believing whatever we're told. And many of us do, myself included, without even knowing it. I think that ought to change.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The End of the World

First I want to assure a good friend I've been planning this post for some time now. It has little to do with a recent discussion and I want to profess my respect for her as well. This is not an attack, a declaration, or me stating fact. These are just thoughts I've had in the past months.

It seems everyone is worried about the economy. And with businesses like AIG, why not, right?

(don't even get me started)

Something I've noticed, though, are the reborn cries to get our food storage ready. Others in Christendom remind us all the second coming is near.

And this is what I have to say:

I'm certain the same cries occurred back in 1929, and again with the Cuban Missile Crisis...and Vietnam. World War I, World War II. The Cold War. The Crusades. The almost incessant fighting between Christians and Muslims which led to the Crusades. The American Revolution. The Civil War. Hell, people: Joseph Smith once suspected he would live to see Christ.

Surely the Pilgrims thought their world was spiraling to the end days while they tried so many immoral dissenters. Surely they believed anyone who engaged themselves in the gospel of the Enlightenment/Renaissance were turning away from God, and isn't that a sign?

We seem to think the end of the world comes with WWIII. And we're always looking for it, too. We're waiting with baited breath for the war to end all wars so we, the righteous, can be taken while the wicked receive their just reward.

I seem to remember hearing of those who believed any war after WWI would be the end all.

Every generation has a crisis which leads its people to point out the end is near. Everyone points to the signs discussed in the Bible, 2 Timothy 3 and Matthew 24, specifically. Some OT prophets. And Revelation, of course.

And let's face it: many believe President Monson and those before him to be false prophets in sheeps' clothing. And why not? To them it's perfectly reasonable. Look at the millions they believe the prophets of the Church have led away from the one and true Christ. Look at the scriptures. I'm hardly saying they're right, but we have to acknowledge the rationale in their thinking.

To the signs so many point to there is historical precedence. Instead of pointing at famines (the Europeans/Spaniards introduced epidemics so horrific to the Native Americans their populations were literally decimated, not to mention the Bubonic Plague, etc), rampant homosexuality (again, don't get me started), unbelievers and those who call evil good and good evil, I suggest we take a look at ourselves.

The Catholics think their truth is the only truth.
The Muslims believe their truth is the only truth.
The Buddhists...don't care.
The Pilgrims thought they were the only truth.
The list can go on.

And of course we will stand here and say "Yes, but we really, really, really do have the truth!"

So did they.

It's really easy to stand on one side of a line, point and tell other people they're wrong because we're right. It's easy to accuse others of havng immoral morals and values and virtues because to suggest otherwise would be to admit, even in part, that we are or could be wrong.

We just don't know. We have some guidelines, but nothing so specific that we can say "Look, that's never happened before" because it has.

These signs, however, are harder to ignore: The rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem (let's face it though, could this be self-fulfilling? Perhaps. Perhaps not), Jerusalem will come under the control of Israel, a new leader named David (a descendant of the ancient King David) will become a great leader in Israel, etc. But these have yet to come to pass.

Don't tell me the end is near because there is much wickedness and wars. These sorts of events are hardly new.

And really, is today's society that much worse than that of the Middle Ages, the times of slavery (horrendous what I have learned - and that racism stemmed from Christian people. Perhaps another post), etc? Some will suggest evil has found it necessary to be subtle these days, and surely I can see that argument as well.

But again.

I'm not saying evil doesn't exist or that it is somehow lessened now from before. It has only changed. It hasn't gotten worse, hasn't gotten better. Where once we called something evil good (slavery, for example) we no longer do so. Our forebears burned women at the stake for suspicion of being witches and called that "good" - better safe than sorry, right? Best to send a message to keep in line. Much like those who beheaded their enemies and placed said head on a stake as a message.

But even now we ignore the subtle evils that occur in otherwise good institutions. The stifling of freedom of speech. The turning away those who don't conform. The spiritual murders some of us and our churches perform in the name of Christ is just as bad as those physical atrocities performed in the name of Christ. So many have killed themselves. So many have found justification in killing others. We're told that a good true can't bear evil fruit and vice-versa, but I could never help but think: we're human. We're going to have a bit of both in our systems, right? Else what is the purpose?

It's a matter of relativity, really. I can't be convinced that the end of the world is around the corner when I think of all the times long past where others felt the same. We just don't know. We continue looking for specific dates when none will be given. We're not supposed to know. In the meantime, I believe we ought to follow Christ's core teachings despite whichever religion we profess: Love our neighbor as ourselves and love God. The rest will figure itself out.

It's all about what one believes. And that makes all truth relative until we ourselves come face to face with it.

But that's just what I think.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Guthrie's "Jesus Christ"

Jesus Christ
Woody Guthrie, 1940

Jesus Christ was a man who traveled through the land
A hard-working man and brave
He said to the rich, "Give your money to the poor,"
But they laid Jesus Christ in His grave

Jesus was a man, a carpenter by hand
His followers true and brave
One dirty little coward called Judas Iscariot
Has laid Jesus Christ in His Grave

He went to the preacher, He went to the sheriff
He told them all the same
"Sell all of your jewelry and give it to the poor,"
And they laid Jesus Christ in His grave.

When Jesus come to town, all the working folks around
Believed what he did say
But the bankers and the preachers, they nailed Him on the cross,
And they laid Jesus Christ in his grave.

And the people held their breath when they heard about his death
Everybody wondered why
It was the big landlord and the soldiers that they hired
To nail Jesus Christ in the sky

This song was written in New York City
Of rich man, preacher, and slave
If Jesus was to preach what He preached in Galilee,
They would lay poor Jesus in His grave.

This is a reading for my American Lit class. It struck me, not because I thought I was the only one to come to such conclusions, but because so many have - indeed for so long. Though unoriginal, the sentiments are shared by many.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

It Ain't Mental Masturbation

Yes, I know. Last post schmast post. I have some things to say, so I figure I'll probably go through a few phases. I don't want to post often - I've too many other things I need to focus my energies on. But sometimes I have to get it out.

It's no secret I've different beliefs and feelings than I did even five years ago. Some want to believe I'm merely questioning, but that ship has sailed. That said, the inner dialogue continues to torment me. For every thought/assertion there is an equal and opposite one. It's led me to believe there are really no answers, though I know the standard response for that as well.

I reject the notion that I must either believe it's all true or all not. If Joseph was truly a man, he messed up. Often. But we refuse to acknowledge this beyond simple lip service to please the masses - indeed we'll say that and then throw him a gigantic and rather embarrassing 200th birthday party while singing Praise to the Man and teaching serial church lessons about how wonderful he was.

I'm tired of doublespeak. I'm tired of hearing the prophet and the GA's are always right except for when they're not. That stories and history and even scripture don't change except they have but that's okay because it's revelation. That I can consider voting for gay marriage and still be a worthy member in good standing but that my actions will reveal if I have a "true" testimony or not. Screw that.

We like to think internal struggles of this nature indicate Satan is at work. I know it's easier to say that, but those who struggle in the Catholic or Jehovah's Witnesses' church experience the same struggles. They are taught their church is just as true as the LDS believes in its only truth. Their beliefs are just as valid as our own. Their leaders say the same things to them. Not too long ago I read a conversion story of a brand new Catholic and it was word-for-word a standard LDS conversion story. It was mine. Just Catholic. In this way truth as we know it is subjective.

So I feel guilt and doubt either because I'm doing the wrong thing or because Satan wants to keep me from doing the right thing. It's getting easier, but even then the voices quip it's because I'm drifting further and further away from God.

We have an answer for everything. Makes my brain hurt, especially when I consider my dad and stepmom have probably been praying for years that I'd "see the light." So the answers to their prayers are being answered while the prayers of some faithful LDS friends go unheeded? What's up with that? Raises more questions than answers.

So I don't know that I'm right but I don't know that I'm not either. I'm tired of focusing on the insignificant things (such as what I eat or drink or even wear) and ignoring what really matters.

It's not all cut and dry, and yet we insist it is. I can believe whatever I want as long as I keep it to myself. I can do whatever I want - free agency, after all - but if I choose to drink coffee I won't get into the highest degree of heaven.

"Well of course. If you can't follow the smallest commandment how can you be expected to follow the big ones?"

"That's ridiculous. It's coffee. It's not as if you're telling the world Christ doesn't exist. Christ doesn't care about what goes in the mouth after all - it's what is in the heart."

Do you SEE the bullshit I'm going through?

The inner dialogue never ends. I'd call it mental masturbation but that sounds like more fun.

I wish it wasn't so hard, but it is. I need the respect of good friends and good family and I'm scared to death I'll lose it. I know my member family will be afraid I won't be sealed to them anymore, perhaps disappointed in my "example." They've heard of the consequences. They don't want me damned to hell and I do appreciate that.

But I've always killed myself over doing the right thing and over other people. I don't want to be a martyr anymore. It's miserable and I can be good without that burden. So I picked a side, but not because I wanted to: because I can't not now. Not if I'm to be true to myself.