Thursday, May 31, 2007

80's Mormon Commercial "Never Tell A Lie"

I ran across this 80's spot on youtube. When I saw it, I felt a sense of nostalgia because I remember the old days when they would have these PR commercials frequently on T.V.

During that time in my life, the church as I perceived it was perfect and could do no wrong. Now, I feel like in a way, that innocence is gone and can now see the hypocrisy behind the message.
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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

We are living in a shaky world

In the July, 2007 church magazine "the Ensign", Adam C. Olson gives an article that talks about how to approach things you might come across about the church that might make you a skeptical Mormon. I think the timing of this article comes as no surprise as the glory days of isolation in Utah are no more as the Internet has ushered in the age of easily accessible and free unlimited information.

Let me get one thing straight. I was absolutely convinced that the Mormon church was true. By true, I mean I believed that it was God's one and only true church on earth. I paid full tithing on my gross (before taxes) income, didn't drink Pepsi, didn't see "R" rated movies or get tattoos, you know, the works. Of course I was far from perfect, but I was for the most part obedient to all of the church's mandates. This is one of the biggest problems facing the church today. They can no longer say that someone that questions the church committed some horrible sin and is just using his non-belief as an excuse to make him justify his sinful ways.

What changed for me?

I am absolutely convinced that the Internet and the ease of readily available free information has led to my disillusionment. I have always been told to stay away from anything that is "anti-Mormon" because it is just a waste of time to disprove every line-item and it will just lead to doubts. As a devout follower, that is exactly what I did. By "anti-Mormon" they mean anything that is not approved by the church. Yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds now, but when you are on the inside, it makes perfect sense.

Am I anti-Mormon?

Anti-anything seems to be such a negative connotation. Can I say that Mormons are anti-homosexuals, or anti-liberals? How about anti-Catholics or anti-Muslims, would that work? Most LDS members would consider this site pretty anti-Mormon because it points out many flaws with the church. I do not consider myself anti-Mormon, because I am Mormon. I like to look at myself as being pro-truth. I just want the truth. I know the truth hurts. Believe me, it pains me to grasp the idea that what I have believed my whole life is wrong, or at least that the claims made by the church are false. I would like to remain in the church, I just wish the church would admit things such as the Book of Mormon not being a literal history and the Book of Abraham being an obvious fraud, which the church has known since 1967.

What I get angry about is how the church that teaches about integrity, honesty and repentance covers up it's past, re-writes history, white-washes questionable events, distorts facts and purposefully withholds information from it's members. The Pharisees in the bible were dishonest because they wanted to maintain the status quo of power, authority and leadership amongst their followers. I just don't see how the LDS church is any different.

LDS Logic

Going back to the article, it talks about many problems that are facing the LDS church today. People are discovering facts and evidence that disproves many claims made by the Mormon church. What does one do when faced with such obvious proof that disproves many claims made by the church? Well, according to the article, it is too late for me.

"once the ground starts shaking, it’s too late to begin preparing"

All hope is lost for me, so it looks like the only hope is for catching members that haven't heard anything that has questioned their faith before in a preempted move. So what is the best way to prepare for issues like archaeology, DNA, history, etc.? Through study and re-search? Focus on learning about those things that we don't know much about? Perhaps if we really understood these scientific fields, we wouldn't look retarded when challenged by them. Should we obtain said knowledge? No, no, no. If only it were that easy to dedicate years of study and thinking on these subjects.

According to the article, you shouldn't waste your time learning about things you don't know, you should focus on things you do know. Or at least what you have believed to be true. It doesn't require years of dedicated study and re-search, it doesn't require a knowledge 0f how DNA words or what archaeology can tell us about the veracity of the Book of Mormon, or the church history. Just bury your head in the sand and stick to what you know.

If someone shows you evidence that disproves claims made by the church, since you know nothing about the subject, you can simply say that you don't know how DNA works, or that you don't know much about Archaeology. That way, you can play dumb. After all, it would be unfortunate if you DID know how DNA worked, DID know about archaeology and church history and still didn't have an answer to these questions. THAT would make you look foolish.

It is articles like these that validates all my assertions.

I found this interview with Bil Maher interesting, because Craig Ferguson's reaction to Mormon DNA issues was demonstrated in an obviously sarcastic and satirical way. However, this is EXACTLY how the ensign article is instructing it's members to react.

Skeptical Mormon
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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Survey Shows Mormons Want The Truth,1249,660224413,00.html

"Active Latter-day Saints want their church to provide a "frank and honest" presentation of church history, unvarnished by attempts to sugar-coat the past in order to make it more palatable.
That's one finding to come from a new e-mail survey done by the family and church history department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The survey targeted members who use the church's resources to do family history and sought to determine how they engage with the faith's past."

To me, this is actually very surprising. Most members of the church that I have spoken with don't want to know the truth about the church history. The leaders of the church know the true history and advise people to not read anything that isn't approved by the church. Anything that brings up the true history of the church is labeled as being "anti-Mormon" and seen as bad to the church as pornography.

"The new focus on active church members doesn't mean researchers will be excluded, but that helping non-scholar Latter-day Saints understand their history will be the department's primary mission... But he cautioned that like other archives, "there are some restrictions on privacy and intellectual property" as well as on "sacred, private and institutional materials. That's something we just won't budge on, and those things will never be made public...We need to provide the context for our members to enrich and strengthen their faith and enhance their doctrinal understanding."

He admits that LDS historians have access to information that your standard rank and file member does not. He also admits that these LDS historians are responsible for putting the church's history together in a faith-promoting way. The last sentence cracked me up, because you can hear the panic in his statement. What he really means to say is that thanks to the Internet, now your standard LDS member has access to a lot of information, particularly the truth to the early church history. Since members are finding out about facts that contradict long held positions of the church, we need to make sure we can get to the people that haven't discovered them yet so we can shape it in a way that won't lead to dis-belief in Mormonism.


This demonstrates the power of words and how words can be shaped to deceive people. This validates my assertion in my previous post where I talk about how words are man-made and therefore we should be very skeptical of them.

Skeptical Mormon
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"Cursed Is He That Putteth His Trust In Man"

"Cursed Is He That Putteth His Trust In Man"
2 Nephi 28:31

According to LDS scripture, we are not to put our trust in mankind, but in God. The reason we should trust in God more than man is simple. Our own understanding is limited, but God's understanding is unlimited.

Who created Nature?

Nature has been around a lot longer than mankind. If you take away mankind, nature would still get by without us. Nature doesn't rely on mankind at all; in fact, I think nature would be in better shape without us. Nature is not man-made, God created nature.

Who created Words?

Words have not been around longer than mankind. If you take away mankind, words would not exist and even if they did, they would have no bearing on nature. Words are man-made. Words have been invented by men. Even if God instructed Adam and Eve in a pure and Godly language, words have been shaped, developed, altered and tailored to suit man's interests.

Words have had a reputation to deceive millions. That isn't to say that every word shaped by every human is deceptive. However, if one was to compare written words with nature, since words are man-made and nature is created by God, to me that means nature carries more weight. I am not trying to convince anyone that my point of view with my words. I want people to do their own research, look at the natural world and let everyone know what you have discovered. As I said, not all words are bad.

I see God in nature. I think God has the greatest understanding and a perfect knowledge about science and the laws that govern our universe. When we learn about the laws of physics or study different aspects of nature, we are able to see little glimpses of God's understanding.

Is Nature Deceptive?

One can not just look at nature and take everything they see at face value. From our perspective, the Earth is flat and the Sun revolves around the Earth. The way we perceive nature is very important. A telescope is a perfect example. Our eyes alone are very limiting and without special instruments, we would only see things from our own perspective. A telescope is one way to open up to a much greater understanding of the Universe. Since the Universe is so much bigger than us, in order to understand it, we have to see it on a much grander scale than just our natural eyes. A telescope is one way we can break out of our physical limitations of our natural eyes and see things in the universe beyond our own physical limitations.

Our natural eyes are limiting. We can look through telescopes to see things much bigger or look through microscopes to see things much smaller. These instruments are ways to see beyond our limitations and give us a greater understanding of the scale of the universe.

Of course our instruments are also created by men. All I can say is that they magnify our natural abilities to see, feel, touch, smell and hear. As man-made objects, these instruments still limit our ability to see an even greater vastness to the universe than we could possibly imagine. Maybe there are tiny particles so small that no instrument or device we could ever construct could see it. Perhaps we are somewhere within the much greater scale of the universe and our entire understanding of the scale of the universe is only a tiny portion of an even greater scale.

Regardless of our limitations, we are able to broaden our perspectives and see things as they are by looking, measuring, studying, weighing and carefully examining aspects that we see in the natural world. Nature is very large and we are very small. A telescope is a way for us to see things much bigger than ourselves. Nature is also very small and we are very large. Microscopes help enable us to see things much smaller than ourselves as well. I don't think nature is deceptive, it just exists. It is our limited perceptions that see things in an incorrect manner.

Our perception of nature is also limited and hindered by time. The time we have on this Earth is just as limiting as our ability to see the scale of the universe without any special instruments. Looking at fossil records and archaeological research is one way for us to see nature beyond our own physical limitations of time on this Earth.

If we could live out our lives for millions of years, then we could rely on our own perspective of nature, since it is also millions of years old. However, since our time on here is short, we can't really rely on our own perspective when studying nature. From our limited perspective, the earth is flat, the sun revolves around the Earth and animals don't evolve or change species.

Words Vs. Nature

I believe in God. I believe there has to be a creator. Why is nature so beautiful? Would nature still thrive if it were ugly? I believe it makes sense for God to create beings that can adapt to the ever-changing environment on this earth. I also believe as stated at the beginning of my post that looking at nature carries more weight than written text. Words are man-made and nature is God-made. That doesn't mean every word written or spoken is void, however, it does mean we should scrutinize everything that people say, including this blog you are reading.

I am not saying we shouldn't listen to people, or that we shouldn't read books. I am simply saying that if someone tells me that the earth is flat, but if the natural world is telling me something else, guess which one holds more weight in that argument? Someone else could also be using words to tell me the earth is round, but I could look at nature and see some evidence to support those claims.

Galileo, a devout Catholic, was persecuted and put under house arrest by the church for spreading the false doctrine that the moon had craters. It was believed and taught by the Catholic Church that everything in the sky was perfect and without blemish. Galileo still wanted to maintain his Catholic ties, but maintained that if you just look through his telescope, you can see that the moon has LOTS of craters, big ones too. There are many words in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon that are easily disproved by just looking at the natural world. Some examples that come to mind are DNA proving that Native Americans are not Israelites as the Book of Mormon claims.Other examples from the Bible are evolution, which is also supported by DNA, and the literal story of a global flood of Noah’s Ark as talked about in my previous post. Some have told me just to have faith and believe the stories in the scriptures regardless of DNA, fossil records or archaeological evidence. To me, that is putting more trust in Man than God, because as I said, words are man-made, but nature is God-made.

Skeptical Mormon

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Building a replica of Noah's Ark

I was reading an article that talks about how Greenpeace is building a replica of Noah's Ark. They are building the replica to promote their ideas about global warming. Their point is that we will face great floods due to polar ice caps melting in the coming years if nothing is done about global warming. Ironically, I wonder how many trees they had to cut down to build this thing. I am sure for them it is better for one tree to perish than an entire nation to dwindle and perish as unbelievers of global warming.

The Replica of Noah's Ark is a symbol

Nobody is suggesting that Greenpeace is building a replica of Noah's Ark in order to literally survive the coming floods. Greenpeace is building the replica as an object lesson to draw awareness to the consequences of global warming (i.e. floods). Their re-construction of the ship is not to be taken literally.

The Story of Noah's Ark is also a symbol

If they build it to the same specifications as described in the bible, it would be interesting to see how many animals they could actually cram into the replica of Noah's Ark. According to Genesis 6:15, Noah's Ark was 300 cubits by 50 cubits by 30 cubits high, or around 450' X 50' X 45' high. That seems like a fairly large ship. So large in fact, that I wonder if a wooden ship that large could withstand the torque of the open sea.

Literal view of the story of Noah's Ark

Genesis 6:17 says that the lord is about to create a flood that will destroy all flesh, and "every thing that is in the earth shall die". There is no doubt that it is talking about a global flood. In Genesis 6:19, it says that Noah is to gather 2 of every kind of animal there is in the world, male and female, into the Ark to preserve their seed. And what about bacteria? Did he have to carry the millions of bacteria cultures on his ship in containers as to preserve the bacteria, but not to infect any of the animals?

Herein lies a problem with the literal interpretation of the story of Noah's Ark- there are millions of species in the world today. We would have to think that he put in not just every species, but every subspecies as well. In other words, Noah didn't just put in 2 Elephants, he put in 4 Elephants, 2 African Elephants and 2 Asian Elephants. He didn't just put in 2 Giraffes, he put in 6; 2 Rothschild Giraffes, 2 Masai Giraffes and 2 Reticulated Giraffes. After all, if he only had 2 Giraffes aboard the ship, are they going to somehow "evolve" into different subspecies after the flood?

You also couldn't just stop at 2 bears, you would have to include 2 of each type of bears. So you would also have to include 2 Panda Bears, 2 Grizzly Bears, 2 Black Bears, 2 Sun Bears, 2 Brown Bears, 2 Polar Bears and 2 Sloth Bears. Remember, these Bears can't "evolve", so you would have to include every one of them on the ship.

Don't forget to include 2 of every Ape, Warthog, 80 Dogs, Horse, Zebra, Rhino, Buffalo, Cows, 100 cats, 6 Bisons, 12 Elks, all the different types of snakes, lizards, Ostriches, Bluebirds, Blackbirds, Owls, Cranes, Crows, Ducks, Eagles, all 26 Chickadees, and don't forget all 35,000 different species of worms. Oh, and who is going to feed all these animals? What are they going to eat? Is there room on the ship for food?

To add more work for an already exhausted old sea captain, after the water subsided, I think the 600 year old Noah had a challenging task in sending the animals back to their home origins, I mean how do you make sure the Frilled Neck Lizard makes it to his home country of Australia? As if living in close quarters with all those other animals on the sea voyage didn't make him angry enough. Once off the ark, how did they get to Australia, it is more than a skip across the water. Did he and the female have to climb aboard some Sea Turtles to take them to their home country?

To add insult, in Genesis 8:20 Noah offered some of the surviving animals up as sacrifices to God. Imagine surviving the flood and going through those years of rough seas only to be killed by Noah as a sacrifice after the flood subsided. I can't help but to feel sorry for those poor Unicorns.

It is almost absurd to even consider that the story of Noah's Ark is a literal history of an event that actually happened. It is possible that the story was based on a real event, there is evidence of smaller, localized floods from the ice age. However, at best it was extremely exaggerated. On the other side, there is no archaeological or geological evidence to support a global flood. Even if all the polar ice caps melted, there wouldn't be enough water to flood the whole earth.

Non-Literal View of the Story of Noah's Ark

I think it is more likely that the story of Noah's Ark is an allegory that was probably originally published as a fictional story, but as time went by, it became a real history, after all,
flood stories are very common in world mythology. A fictional story turning into a real event happens quite frequently. Have you ever received an email about a story that claims to be a true event, but when it is traced back to the original source, it turns out the original author said from the beginning and always maintained that it was fictional? This happens all the time. Another example is demonstrated in how people have started a real religion based on the Star Wars Trilogy. The name of the religion is called "Jedi". Perhaps in 1,000 years followers of Jedi will believe that George Lucas wrote a true history of events that actually happened.

Most people that I have talked to don't believe there was a global flood in the literal sense. There are many that still believe the story is based on a real event, but that the biblical version is greatly exaggerated. There are not many people that I have talked to that believe in the literal version of Noah's Ark, in that there was a global flood.

The Paradox of Noah's Ark

To say that there was a global flood means you have to say that Noah didn't have to include EVERY subspecies on the ark, and therefore he could fit all the animals onto the ship. For example, Noah didn't have to bring all 6 giraffes, he only had to bring 2 of the Masai Giraffe and they would evolve to the other 2 types after the flood. The contradiction in taking this literal view of the Bible is that you have to accept evolution, which contradicts earlier chapters in Genesis about the creation. However, if you view the bible to be literal, you have to accept a global flood, because the bible says it was a global flood, not a localized small flood. To what degree of evolution you accept depends on how high up the taxonomy hierarchy you go. In other words, at what point is evolution plausible? Can different Subspecies evolve from one species, or can different species evolve from a Genus, but no higher than that?

Not only would one have to accept evolution, you would have to believe that animals evolve much faster than any scientist could ever imagine. Instead of millions of years to evolve, you are talking about a few thousand years from the time of Noah's Ark to develop all the different variations and subspecies. Scientists would be calling YOU crazy for believing that evolution was that swift.

To say that Noah's Ark was a real localized event, but it was sensationalized and exaggerated creates a problem with a literal view of the Bible as well. To prove the Bible, you would have to discredit the Biblical verses. Remember Genesis 6:17 says that it was going to be a global flood and every thing in the world was going to perish.

This begs the obvious question: If the story of Noah's Ark is an Allegory and not a real event, what else in the Bible is symbol? After all, the Cross is an ancient pagan symbol of suffering, and the story of Jesus and his Crucifixion wasn't written until at least 70 A.D., 40 years after his death. How does one sift through the text and figure out what is historically accurate and what is myth? That I don't know at this point. I do know, however that it is stories like Noah's Ark and Giants that are found in the Bible that leads me to believe that many of the stories are allegories and based on mythological creatures from the time period they were written.

Applying the same logic to the Book of Mormon

If one is to accept that some of the stories in the Bible are allegories and not to be taken as a literal history, then they can be open to accepting the same thing about the Book of Mormon. Since the Book of Mormon was written in the 1800's by Joseph Smith, it is also an Allegory which happens to contain 19Th century Christianity.

Skeptical Mormon
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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Why I Choose to Remain in the Church

The most common question I am asked is if I no longer believe that the church is what it claims to be, why do I remain in the church.

Social Aspect

First off, if I stopped attending the Mormon church, where would I go? After looking at other churches, it appears that nobody else is any better. The church is good at what it does best: Provides a social network and social programs. My entire social life is based around Mormons. My family is almost all Mormon, and most of my friends are Mormon. Would it make any sense to start attending a Catholic church, or a Methodist church? No, it wouldn't make any sense at all since I hardly know anyone outside of the Mormon church. The Mormon way of life is the only one I know.

The Mormon church teaches many good principals.

I have learned many good things in the church that I will always cherish, particularly the strength we can draw from having a strong family. Families are an essential element in the LDS church, and you could say that the family is the core unit in the Mormon church. Other principals I have learned growing up include trying to provide service to others, be kind to others, avoid addictions and addictive behavior and the benefit to having a monogamous relationship.

The family is a very important aspect in the Mormon culture. There is no reason to burn bridges and create a disharmony in the family by leaving the church. By rejecting the church, I would be rejecting my family, because the church is a part of who they are.

I think the church is for the most part well organized and well structured. The church gives life meaning for it's members, a purpose, structure and a feeling of self worth. Is the LDS church the only organization that provides these? No, but as I said, it is the best organization for me, since most of my family and friends are associated with it.

Perhaps if I could simply leave the church without any recourse from friends and family I probably would. However, at this point I see no reason not to keep the peace and harmony at least for now. I have looked around at other churches and don't see any reason I should join any of them either. To be honest, I feel comfortable and rather enjoy the Mormon culture because as I pointed out, it is the only life I have ever known. I just wish there was more honesty within the organization. I know what you are thinking-attending church on Sunday and pointing out all the flaws of the church the remaining days of the week is dishonest. That may be true, but in a sense, I feel rationalized, because I feel I am spoofing a church that spoofed me first. I have a sense that I must undo the damage I have done by deceiving people into getting baptized, particularly on my mission.

Is there room in the church for open interpretation?

I have seen a dramatic shift in the church in my lifetime. The old way of thinking was that Joseph Smith in a very literal sense translated physical gold tablets that contained writings of actual people that wrote about events that actually occurred on this continent. The old view is also the idea that God speaks to us through prophets and therefore everything a prophet says is literally the word of God. There seems to be a growing number of LDS members that do not share this view. In fact, in my previous post, I talk about an official church press release that outlines this new view. There is also a new view that many members are taking, particularly LDS scholars, which is a non-literal view of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. That is, that the Book of Mormon is true spiritually, but not physically. The story of Joseph Smith is simply that-a story, as is the Book of Mormon.

LDS members are faced with a challenge when they discover that there is absolutely no evidence to support the Book of Mormon, or the claims to it's origins. Many members leave and some become embittered since the church has dominated their lives for so long. Other people, however, react differently. Many take on the notion that although the Book of Mormon isn't a true history, and Joseph Smith wasn't actually a prophet of God, the church today has evolved into a more modern mainstream christian church.

I can't help but wonder why has the Book of Mormon had such a dramatic impact on myself and people around me within the Mormon church. If it was simply made up, why do people attach themselves to it so strongly, even in the face of countless evidence that disproves it. It is possible that people are simply insane, but I think there is more to it than that. From my point of view, it is possible that the Book of Mormon teaches universal truths. In other words, just because the stories are fictional doesn't mean that they don't have good morals, or lessons to live by.

The Book of Mormon is the Adult Santa Claus

Why do parents lie to their children about Santa Claus? If it helps children behave, the parents don't care if Santa is real or fictional. Why do physicians still prescribe placebos? Because giving someone a sugar pill still seems to work and have a positive impact on people's health. Would it do any good to tell someone taking a placebo that their medication is inert? That would be 'the truth'. I think it is important for LDS parents to tell children that Santa Claus is real when they are little. That way they are prepared for the same shock they will experience when they find out the Book of Mormon isn't real when they are older. When children learn that Santa Claus isn't real, they understand immediately that it is now their job to play along and convince the younger siblings that Santa is real. Many LDS members are feeling the same way about the Book of Mormon.

Spiritual Vs. Physical

By spiritual, I mean the intangible aspects of our lives. Things we can not weigh or measure, like emotions for example, are spiritual. Physical objects are things we can see, touch, hear, measure, weigh, etc.

If I wanted to know if the Book of Mormon was true spiritually, I would ask myself these questions: Do I feel better when I read it? Does my life improve as I read it? Can I apply these aspects to my life? Does applying these principals help my life? Even if the answer were 'yes' to each of these questions, it only qualifies for the spiritual truthfulness of the Book, not the physical truth.

If I wanted to know if the Book of Mormon was true physically, I would have to ask myself much different questions. If I wanted to know if the Book of Mormon is a literal history of people that actually existed and lived in actual cities that was in a physical place on this earth, I wouldn't ask the above questions. The questions on how spiritual the book is has absolutely no bearing on how physically accurate the book is. The only way to know if something is true physically is to look at the physical evidence through your physical eyes. Right now, the physical evidence demonstrates very clearly that the Book of Mormon never actually happened. There is not a single artifact or location that verifies any of the claims made in the Book of Mormon. Recent DNA testing has confirmed that Native Americans are not Israelites, but they are in fact from Mongolia.

I certainly hope that one day I can express my non-literal view of the Book of Mormon openly without criticism or threats of excommunication. There does seem to be a growing number of non-literalists within the Mormon community, but they must remain anonymous. One such online community that I associate myself with is known as the "New Order Mormons". The Internet has provided a way for people to communicate anonymously.

Skeptical Mormon
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Monday, May 7, 2007

A New Approach to Mormon Doctrine

The LDS newsroom has released an official press release that outlines an entirely new way to look at Mormon Doctrine. First, let me explain the traditional approach to Mormon Doctrine. Traditionally in the church, statements made by prophets from Joseph Smith, Brigham Young all the way to the current prophet Gordon B. Hinckley were viewed as doctrine.

In the Mormon Scripture Doctrine and Covenants 1:38 it states very clearly:

"What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same."

Most members of the church have always interpreted this passage in a very literal sense that everything that is spoken by our prophets and apostles is directed from God. The statement made by the press release changes in a fundamental way both the way we view our own doctrine and the role of the first presidency.

Significance of the press release

The press release was intended to help the outside media to understand Mormon Doctrine. However, I also feel it is a back-door approach to enlighten the members on what the role is of our first presidency and how that differs from the traditional view.

When studying Mormonism, many outsiders look at our history and dig up 150 year old obscure discourses from some of the Early Prophets, including Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor and others. Some statements that have been made by these early prophets are very problematic for the church. They include statements about how Polygamy is necessary for exaltation and if anyone denies polygamy they are dammed, how blacks are representatives for Satan on the earth, and my personal favorite about how there are 1,000 year old Quakers living on the Moon.

In an effort for the church to help the outside media understand the current position of the church, they have made a significant statement that fundamentally changes the way we as Mormons view doctrine.

This statement from the press release:
"Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church."

This statement says it all right there. To say that not everything that church leaders both past and present necessarily constitute doctrine changes fundamentally the way we view prophets. Now, they are no longer the spokesperson directly from God, but they are men doing their best to offer their best opinion on the subject. This opens the floodgates to open interpretation of the Book of Mormon, something that I think is a great thing. This new way of thinking will cause friction amongst members of the church. Brigham Young himself said the following regarding his own discourses: "I say now, when they are copied and approved by me they are as good Scripture as is couched in this Bible" (Journal of Discourses, Vol 13 p. 264)

The new way to approach doctrine

"With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith."

So now, official Mormon Doctrine is established strictly to the 4 standard works, official declarations, proclamations and the articles of faith. The role of the first presidency has shifted to a role that interprets the doctrine to the best of their understanding and personal opinions.

"Some doctrines are more important than others and might be considered core doctrines...The mistake that public commentators often make is taking an obscure teaching that is peripheral to the Church’s purpose and placing it at the very center."

Some doctrines are more important than others. That is much different than the traditional "black and white" view that every aspect of the church Doctrine is important and critical to salvation. In fact, this statement changes the entire "Black and White" approach to church doctrine. Life isn't black and white. I think that perhaps the church is shifting away from a literal interpretation of the Book of Mormon.

Many of the stories in the Bible are made up. Just because a story is fictional doesn't mean it doesn't have good morals to live by. I believe that the Book of Mormon has helped a lot of people improve their lives even if it is invented by Joseph Smith.

I think the church is changing in a dramatic way that may have a place for heretics like me after all. This press release has sparked enough curiosity in me to stick around and see what will happen.

Skeptical Mormon
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Saturday, May 5, 2007

Response to LDS reaction to PBS Documentary "The Mormons

Most of the comments regarding the Documentary have been positive. Most people recognize that it was a documentary made to try to help people understand Mormonism. However, from reading many of the responses by LDS members, it appears that the common consensus is that the film wasn't "Balanced enough". By balanced, they mean it wasn't balanced from their point of view.

It is not a Mormon missionary video

The film was not made for Mormons, and it certainly was not made to try to convince people they should be Mormons. It was made for people that are non-LDS to help them obtain a better understand of Mormonism, even things that the LDS church feels embarrassed about, such as polygamy for example. The point the film was making regarding polygamy wasn't that Mormon polygamist groups exist, in fact, the film wasn't even trying to say that polygamists were in any way affiliated with the church. The point that the film was making, which flew way over their heads, was just how out of touch with reality Gordon B. Hinckley is regarding the existance of polygamist groups.

Gordon Hinckley saying that there is no such thing as a Fundamentalist Mormon would be like the Pope saying that there is no such thing as a protestant. As the film clearly shows, Mormon fundamentalists are people that more closely follow the teachings of Joseph Smith, and therefore are fundamentalists. What is interesting to me is to see how upset and bent out of shape that Church leaders get when they try to distance themselves away from polygamists, yet they don't denounce the polygamist practices of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other early Mormon prophets, leaders and members.

While LDS members can't understand why the PBS special would mention Mormon Fundamentalists, the program isn't about the mainstream LDS church, it is about Mormonism in the broader sense. Look at it this way, if you did a documentary about Muslims, you would most likely talk about Sunni and Sheit Muslims. However, a Sunni would wonder why you would even mention a Sheit Muslim, since according to a Sunni Muslim, Sheits aren't actually Muslim. A Sheit would say the same thing about Sunnis. However, both groups claim to be the true followers of the prophet Mohammad. A Fundamentalist Mormon would say that the mainstream LDS church isn't actually Mormon, just like the mainstream LDS church says fundamentalists aren't Mormon. However, Fundamentalist Mormons have more credibility, because they are following the teachings of Joseph Smith the closest. The mainstream LDS church has become more and more conforming to society.

The Church Today is not the same church established by Joseph Smith

When I started to read about church history and compared what it was before and what it is today, I realized that it is not the same church at all that was established by Joseph Smith. I felt that it was very poetic and appropriate that the film "The Mormons" be shown in 2 parts, because it demonstrates how the church evolved from being an isolationist, theocratic polygamist, anti-government church into what it is today: a worldwide mainstream religion that is asserting itself as a christian church. If Joseph Smith were alive today, he would not be accepted into the LDS church. He would be seen the same way that Warren Jeffs is seen. If Joseph Smith was alive today, he would be seen as an extremist, an apostate polygamist and a great danger to the reputation to the church.

Overall response

Overall, the responses have been fairly positive in the general sense. I don't think this show will change any one's mind about Mormonism, and I don't think it should. However, I do think that it will spark curiosity and interest in both Mormons and non-Mormons in re-searching Mormon history. I find it fascinating that the main problem that most LDS members had with the documentary is that they were upset that the film didn't accurately show their point of view. Again, I say that the film was not supposed to be a Mormon recruitment video, and I think church members have failed to understand that . Although LDS members wished that the film could have shown non-members the point of view of church members, I think members of the church should look at the film to understand the point of view of others.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Intellectualism is a Danger to the Church

Response to Chapter 19: "Dissenters and Exiles

In the 19th chapter of the PBS Frontline program "The Mormons", it confronts the issue of intellectualism that is currently happening in the church today. The question is as follows: Is too much intellectualism is a danger to the church?

Adam and Eve in Mormon Doctrine

Let me first point out something very important in Mormon Doctrine. According to Mormon doctrine, it was necessary for Adam and Eve to partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, even though it was disobedient to God. The lesson that we are taught in the church is that if Adam and Eve never partook of the tree of Knowledge of good and evil, they would have remained in a state of innocence like little children, not knowing good from evil. Remember that when Adam and Eve ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they discovered their nakedness and as a result, they were cast out of the garden of Eden and the beautiful paradise they once knew was transformed into the lone and dreary world we live in today. However, it was still necessary for Adam and Eve to partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If they never discovered their nakedness, they never would have produced any offspring, and they would have remained like innocent children, not knowing good from evil.

In Mormonism, education is highly valued. Most members are encouraged to study hard, get good grades in school and go to college. The church has many programs that encourage the study of the scriptures and church doctrine. That is, of course until what you are studying contradicts claims made by the church. At that point, the church leadership considers intellectualism a "great danger to the church".

Statements made by church leaders regarding Intellectualism

It was reported that Boyd K. Packer, a member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles for the LDS church said years back in a meeting with other church members that one of the greatest dangers to the church were Homosexuals, Feminists, and Intellectuals. When asked about it in an interview for the PBS Frontline program, he responded with the following: "I suppose uh...I...I think I remember saying those things (laughs to himself)...If it's in print, I said it.(laughs again)"

Dallin H. Oaks, also a member of the Quorum of the 12 said the following: "I think all the leaders of the church are conscious of an obligation to warn the people when there is a danger...Intellectualism is a danger to the church."

Hypocrisy in the Mormon Church

One of the greatest contradictions in the LDS church is on one hand, you value education and stimulating thought. On the other, if what you discover disproves some of the claims made by the church, then if you entertain those questions, you are an apostate and a heretic.

In our own Mormon Scripture, D&C 9:8 it says that we should study things out in our mind before we pray about something, not the other way around. D&C 88:118 says that we should seek out and read the "best books". Finally, D&C 130:19 says that the more we learn on this earth, the greater advantage we will have in the life to come. In other words, we will have to learn everything there is to know about science at some point, so we would be better off by learning as much as we can while we are here.

To say that Intellectualism is a danger to the church contradicts our own scriptures. Why was it necessary for Adam and Eve to partake of the tree of Knowledge of good and evil, even in disobedience to God, to obtain knowledge, but it is dangerous for us to test the waters of science and philosophy if those thoughts do not conform with the teachings and claims made by the church.

What we can learn from the story of Adam and Eve

The story of Adam and Eve is a metaphor. The garden of Eden represents the church. When you are young and innocent, the church is flawless, perfect and beautiful. However, the garden of Eden was not flawless and perfect, Adam and Eve were naked, they just didn't know about it. The tree of knowledge of good and evil represents intellectualism. When Adam and Eve partook of the fruit, they discovered their own nakedness. Their nakedness represents flaws in the claims and history of the church. When people get involved with intellectualism and start to study the history of the church, they discover their own nakedness, in that they realize that many of the things they have always believed in are simply not true. At least many of the claims made by the church turn out to be inaccurate. And thus, because they discover their own nakedness, some are cast out of the church, just as Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden of Eden.

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Response to Tal Bachman's comments

Tal Bachman's comments on the PBS Frontline documentary "The Mormons" were very interesting and understandable. He talked about how he was so entrenched in the Mormon church that he would have done anything, including strapping a bomb to his chest and blowing himself up like a suicide bomber. I think his decision to leave the church is respectable, but I politely disagree with his notion that even if something is good, if it isn't what it claims to be, we shouldn't be a part of it.

Tal Bachman: "I left the church because I felt that I was forced to conclude that for whatever else it might be, it wasn't what it claimed to be"

Tal Bachman of all people should know, just like any musician, that the music industry isn't what it claims to be either. The music industry is full of empty promises of wealth and a glamorous lifestyle, where the reality is that the majority of musicians don't make it in the music industry.

Many organizations have a troubled past

Walt Disney was racist. As you can see above, one of the early Mickey and Minnie Fantasy pieces entitled "A Black Outlook" talks about Mickey and Minnie being pitted against "Fierce Ni&&#rs". His idea of a theme park about a fantasy utopia was based on the idea of a paradise that only white people would be. The point is do I stop watching Disney Movies, shows or participate in anything affiliated with Disney because the founder was a racist ba$&@rd? That may be the case for some people, but not for me. Although racism may still exist within the organization, they aren't producing racist cartoons anymore.

I can still understand the anger and resentment that people feel about the church when they discover that it isn't what it claims to be. Perhaps Bachman's comments about blowing himself up like a suicide bomber were inappropriate, but what scares me is that I don't think he was exaggerating. Perhaps he would have more credibility if he left that part out, but it sure makes good T.V. However, many people within the church can point out that he is just angry and bitter at the church since he is no longer a member. I think the people that become the most bitter and upset are those that were the most devoted to it.

Bachman also makes a good point that if the churh isn't real, life is too valuable to risk it for something made up. I can see his point on this respect and if he did infact risk his life on his mission, I can see why he would feel this way. I have never been in a situation where my life has been threatened. I wouldn't want to put myself or anyone else in harms way for the church either. If anything, I have a better understanding that although people follow religion to answer questions that have no answer, not everything is black and white all the time.

Tal Bachman: "It might be the best thing ever invented, but if it is invented it's not worth dying for"

I can't help but to wonder if democracy itself is worth dying for. Democracy is invented. The constitution of the United States is invented. Many people have given their lives to defend those things.

Skeptical Mormon
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Who funded the PBS Frontline documentary "The Mormons"?

"Funding for FRONTLINE and American Experience is provided through the support of PBS viewers. Additional funding for FRONTLINE is provided by The Park Foundation. Additional funding for "The Mormons" is provided by Edward D. Smith, Steven J. and Kalleen Lund, Mr. and Mrs. Blake M. Roney, and others. A complete list is available from PBS."

I was curious to see who helped fund this well done and well executed documentary on the Mormon Church. I would assume that the names mentioned at the beginning of the program and on the website are the principal supporters of the project. I decided to do a simple Google search to see who were the major financial backers of the film. I found some interesting information.

Mr. and Mrs. Edward D. Smith- they are active LDS members and are also members of the Philo T. Farnsworth Society. The Philo T. Farnsworth Society members support KBYU and BYU Television with charitable gifts of $1000 or more annually. Edward D. Smith was a Mission president for the Georgia Atlanta North mission from 2003-2006.

Steven J. and Kalleen Lund- They are active LDS members that established a charitable foundation based in Provo, Utah called the "Steven J. and Kallen Lund Foundation" It appears that Steven J. Lund was also a mission president for the Georgia Atlanta mission from 2003-2006. Steven Lund is Vice chairman of the board at Nu Skin Enterprises, Inc. Based in Provo, UT.

Blake Roney- Chairman of the board at Nu Skin Enterprises, Inc. based in Provo, UT.

Obviously there is a connection between the three major donors to the PBS Frontline documentary "The Mormons". We know at least 2 of them are active members, Edward Smith was Mission president for the Georgia, Atlanta North mission, during the same 3 year period that Steven Lund was Mission president of the Georgia, Atlanta misison.. Steven Lund and Blake Roney are both on the board of directors at Nu Skin Enterprises. It is reasonable to to think that Blake Roney is LDS.

Obviously, the private donors of the program didn't have direct control of the content, but they were fully aware that it would be an objective view of the Mormon church and it's history from an "outsider's" perspective. This demonstrates to me that many active LDS members wish to shed light on the truth as to our own history so that we can finally confront it and move forward. This makes me very pleased to see that the major donors for this program were active believing LDS members, because that way nobody can say that it was funded by "anti-Mormons". It is refreshing to see that there are honest people within the church that want to take an honest approach to the church's claims and history.

Skeptical Mormon
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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

PBS Frontline presents "The Mormons"

"A four-hour exploration into the richness, the complexities and the controversies of the Mormons' story as told through interviews with members of the church, leading writers and historians, and supporters and critics of the Mormon faith."

After watching the first part of a two-part series, I am very impressed so far with the documentary. It is a very fair and objective view on the history of Mormonism. It does a very good job of staying factual. It provides all different points of views and is full of terrific information. I would have to say it is the best film I have ever seen on the Mormons. I will expand more on what I thought of the film later on, but it is 2:30 a.m right now and I am ready to go to bed. I look forward to seeing the second part tomorrow.

The film will be available on DVD and will be available for viewing online Tuesday, May 1 at noon. If you have a few hours, I would highly recommend everyone see it, it outlines many aspects of the church that have caused me to question my faith.

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