Apostasy Been Berra Berra Good to Me

The LDS church teaches that people like me, i.e., former members of the church, are destined to be miserable, and that we are in the clutches of Satan.  We are as Judas--traitors who would kill Christ if we could.  This sounds harsh, and indeed it is.  It sounds like one of those old 19th-century teachings (like blood atonement) that the church has swept under the rug.  But, alas, this is one of the old teachings that is still alive and kicking in the modern church.  In the current manual Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, published at the direction of the First Presidency (and the only extra-scriptural material permitted to be used by Priesthood and Relief Society teachers in the church) is found lesson number 27, titled "Beware the Bitter Fruits of Apostasy." From that lesson comes this quote, which is representative of the tenor and thrust of the entire lesson:

[A]postates after turning from the faith of Christ, unless they have speedily repented, have sooner or later fallen into the snares of the wicked one, and have been left destitute of the Spirit of God, to manifest their wickedness in the eyes of multitudes. From apostates the faithful have received the severest persecutions. Judas was rebuked and immediately betrayed his Lord into the hands of His enemies, because Satan entered into him.

There is a superior intelligence bestowed upon such as obey the Gospel with full purpose of heart, which, if sinned against, the apostate is left naked and destitute of the Spirit of God, and he is, in truth, nigh unto cursing, and his end is to be burned. When once that light which was in them is taken from them they become as much darkened as they were previously enlightened, and then, no marvel, if all their power should be enlisted against the truth, and they, Judas-like, seek the destruction of those who were their greatest benefactors. . . .

. . .

When you joined this Church you enlisted to serve God. When you did that you left the neutral ground, and you never can get back on to it. Should you forsake the Master you enlisted to serve, it will be by the instigation of the evil one, and you will follow his dictation and be his servant.

I believe that one reason why active Mormons often choose not to associate at all with former members of the church is that they actually believe that former members are possessed by Satan, as the above quote from Joseph Smith unequivocally states.

Continue reading "Apostasy Been Berra Berra Good to Me" »

Understanding Elder Holland's "Safety for the Soul" General Conference Address

My good friend GDTeacher has kindly allowed me to post his in-depth analysis of Elder Holland's recent General Conference address titled "Safety for the Soul."  I commented on the address myself in a recent entry.  GDTeacher's analysis is more detailed and thorough than mine, and I think it complements well my thinking on the sermon.  Also included in GDTeacher's analysis are two appendices.  Appendix A contains the full text of Joseph Smith, Sr.'s dream of the tree of life, which I mentioned in my comments and which is eerily similar to the dream that Book of Mormon character Lehi had, as mentioned by Elder Holland in his talk (without, of course, mentioning Joseph Smith, Sr.'s dream, which predated the publication of the Book of Mormon).  Appendix B contains the full text of the Wikipedia entry on the possible Solomon Spaulding connections to the production of the Book of Mormon.  Elder Holland mentioned Solomon Spaulding (and Ethan Smith) in his talk.  Many Mormons likely are unfamiliar with the theories concerning the production of the Book of Mormon that Elder Holland dismisses as "frankly pathetic" in his talk.  This appendix will provide more background for those whose curiosity was piqued when Elder Holland mentioned their names.

Unfortunately, when I pasted GDTeacher's words into my post editor, all the footnote references were lost.  If anyone would like a copy of the essay with footnote references included, simply email me (equalitytime@gmail.com) and I will send it to you. Now on to GDTeacher's cogent analysis:

Continue reading "Understanding Elder Holland's "Safety for the Soul" General Conference Address" »

An LDS Gem: Elder Holland's Opus

This past Saturday and Sunday, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held its 179th Semi-Annual General Conference, at which Latter-day Saints (Mormons) gathered to hear sermons from their ecclesiastical leaders. At the afternoon session held on Sunday October 4, 2009, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles delivered a 16-minute address that quickly became the talk of the 10-hour-long conference.  The text of all General Conference addresses are available at the LDS church's web site.  The text of Elder Holland's address can be found here.  The church web site also makes the talks available in audio and video formats.  After the jump, I embed the talk as it appears on YouTube, in two parts, and then provide my commentary on it.  In sum, Elder Holland's talk is rife with lies and logical fallacies, and relies on emotional and psychological manipulation rather than rational argument to affect his audience.

Continue reading "An LDS Gem: Elder Holland's Opus" »

The 50 Best Beatles Songs

I received in the mail today my Entertainment Weekly featuring my all-time favorite band The Beatles on the cover.  This is in honor of the Rock Band Beatles edition set to hit stores next week (can't wait!).  As part of the issue, EW lists its version of the Top 50 Beatles songs.  Well, I love lists, and of course I disagree with EW's.  They got a lot right, and a majority of the songs on my list are probably on the EW list (I didn't count).  But EW says Here Comes the Sun is only the 48th best Beatles song.  I've got it in the top 5.  And EW's number one pick, A Hard Day's Night, is a joke.  It comes in a respectable 13th on my list, but a far cry from the top spot.  Here is my list:

  1. A Day in the Life
  2. Hey Jude 
  3. The Long and Winding Road 
  4. Penny Lane 
  5. Here Comes the Sun 
  6. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 
  7. While My Guitar Gently Weeps 
  8. Eleanor Rigby 
  9. Norwegian Wood 
  10. Yesterday 
  11. Let it Be 
  12. Something 
  13. A Hard Day's Night 
  14. Blackbird 
  15. Across the Universe 
  16. Help 
  17. I Wanna Hold Your Hand 
  18. From Me to You 
  19. When I'm Sixty-Four 
  20. Revolution 
  21. Strawberry Fields Forever 
  22. I Am the Walrus 
  23. You've Got to Hide Your Love Away 
  24. Can't Buy Me Love 
  25. Day Tripper 
  26. Ticket to Ride 
  27. Eight Days a Week 
  28. Paperback Writer 
  29. Getting Better
  30. Good Day Sunshine 
  31. I Feel Fine 
  32. I Saw Her Standing There 
  33. I'm Down 
  34. Lady Madonna 
  35. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds 
  36. Magical Mystery Tour 
  37. Ballad of John and Yoko 
  38. Back in the U.S.S.R. 
  39. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da 
  40. We Can Work it Out 
  41. Michelle 
  42. All My Loving 
  43. Please Please Me 
  44. Love Me Do 
  45. Nowhere Man 
  46. Got to Get You into My Life 
  47. Yellow Submarine 
  48. Golden Slumbers 
  49. Carry that Weight 
  50. The End 
I actually think the last three songs should be ranked higher, but when I play this mix in iTunes, I like to end with that phenomenal medley from Abbey Road.  So, take that, EW!  Readers may notice that my list is top-heavy with later Beatles tunes, and that I am partial to McCartney's songs.  It is also a testament, though, the George Harrison's often underrated impact on the band that I've got three of his songs in the Top 12, and he didn't get writing credit for very many Beatles songs.   

BYU May Lift Ban on YouTube Access

A few years ago, when the YouTube phenomenon first hit, the geriatric leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who manage the church-owned Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, decided that the adult members of the LDS church who comprise more than 95% of the student body population, should not have access to YouTube on campus. Now, at the same time that it has been widely reported that China had disabled Twitter and other Internet communications in an effort to stifle any potential dissent on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations, BYU has announced that the Brethren are considering lifting the campus ban on YouTube.  The announcement also comes on the heels of the LDS church's launch of its own YouTube channel. 

So, being the "polite apostate" as one LDS friend of mine recently dubbed me, I take this opportunity to offer BYU students who may be accessing YouTube for the first time some channels you may want to subscribe to in order to expand your understanding and knowledge of your religion.  After all, the glory of God is intelligence, or in other words, light and truth.  YouTube has immense potential to spread light and truth to the world.  Certainly, that must be the motivating factor behind the decision to lift the ban on YouTube at BYU, should the Brethren so decide.  Enjoy!

Stories and Info on Mormonism

Utah History and Culture

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Edward Current

Mr. Deity

America's Best Christian

Patrician Atheist


Mormons and Ex-Mormons Work Together on Eagle Project

Last week, my nearly 17-year-old son directed and oversaw a community project as part of the requirements he must meet to earn his Eagle Scout award.  In doing so, he employed the volunteer services of members of the Plano Fifth Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as a few helpers from the Ex-Mormon community (namely, me, my fiancee, and a few of my friends).  We were all able to work together for a common good--we built planters, planted wisteria vines, and dug out and shored up a pond that will be used by the students at Julius Dorsey Elementary school.  Julius Dorsey is located in an economically disadvantaged area in South Dallas.  Here are some pictures from the event.  I express my thanks to the members of the LDS church and to my ex-Mormon friends who worked side-by-side contributing their time and labor on a Saturday morning to perform an act of service for the community and to help my son in his efforts to earn his Eagle Scout award.  Here are some pics from the event:



LDS Church Apologizes for Past Missteps

From the Deseret News:

In a surprising move, the head of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today has publically apologized for some of the Utah based church's past missteps.

In a written statement, President Thomas S. Monson, the head of the LDS church mentioned a deep regret for Brigham Young and other leaders' pronouncements about blacks and those with African ancestry. In his words, "These statements are offensive and cannot be taken in any other manner. We renounce what was said as not doctrinal and apologize for any confusion or offense the racist statements or policies may have caused."

The press release also announces a transition so adult women may now be granted the priesthood; the possibility for leadership within the LDS organization. Women and church members have long requested this access, but were rebuffed by traditional and chauvinist policies.

The guidelines given to the lay clergy, the bishops and stake presidents (known as the church handbook of instructions) will be published on the lds.org website. All LDS members will now have access to these guidelines and become aware of previously secret guidelines and policies. LDS weddings will still be held in temples, but anyone who wants to attend those ceremonies will be allowed, without a special recommend.

President Monson references a forthcoming document that will detail the expenses and earnings of the LDS church throughout the world. This document will be made public, so each ward congregation will see where their tithing funds are being spent. Prior to today, this information was not public and even individual members had not been aware of how their donations were being used. President Monson also announces his own retirement, and the recommended retirement of any LDS leader over the age of 65. "For too long, we have allowed people to stay in the leadership when a younger, more diverse population would help the LDS church move into the twenty first century".

The statement reverses the official LDS position opposing same-sex marriage. "We regret our participation in this battle for human rights. As of today, we agree to cease any official sponsorship of anti-gay causes and encourage our members to prayerfully ponder their own participation in such causes."

It appears that as of today, April first, the church will be reviewing its policies towards women and gays, modifying existing teaching materials and pamphlets to vigilantly oppose discrimination based on race, gender, creed or sexual orientation.

The press release mentions that the Book of Mormon will become a spiritual guide instead of historically documented fact. It reads: "We acknowledge that the Book of Mormon was inspired by God, but no evidence has been found that the peoples described in the book were real or in fact ancestors of native americans".

Finally, the statement expresses regret that any historians or members of the LDS church were excommunicated over some of these issues. "These members will be welcomed back into the fold if they so choose. All members should feel free to research and study any all issues and come to their own conclusions without fear of familial, social or spiritual reprocussions".

In a related note, the Utah LDS church has agreed to allow reporters, historians and scholars unrestricted access to all the church archives and documents.

Happy April Fools Day!

Text written by aerin of http://acranberryblog.blogspot.com/

Judging by Fruits

One of the principles from the Bible I agree with is that religions and religious leaders ought to be judged by the fruits they produce.  When judging a religion, I think it a useful exercise to ask the question: "What would life be like if this religion had control of society, if it could institute laws in accordance with its teachings?"  Asking this question while I was at BYU law school was perhaps the beginning of my journey out of Mormonism.  BYU is not governed according to the secular principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.  Rather, it is governed by ecclesiastical leaders in accordance with the principles of the religion as they interpret them.  Life under the BYU "honor code" provides a glimpse into what life would be like if the LDS church ever became powerful enough to shape the laws of the land.  To me, it's a frightful thought.  The way the LDS church behaves when in total control, unencumbered by secular or ecumenical influences, is truly Orwellian.

Similarly, if we want to know the true fruits of Islam, it is instructive to look at places in the world where Islamic law governs, unfettered by the influence of non-Muslim viewpoints.  Islam may appear harmless when Muslims live as religious minorities in a place like the United States, where religious pluralism is woven into the cultural and historical fabric of the nation and also expressly protected by the Constitution. But what about when Islam is subject to no social constraints, where the Qur'an and the Hadith are the basis of not jut religious but civil law? What fruits are produced when the religion governs all aspects of life?  For a glimpse of what life is like under such circumstances, watch this video:

50 Reasons People Give for Believing in God

Guy Harrison has authored a book called  50 Reasons People Give for Believing in God.  In it, Harrison lists the things that people typically say to support their belief in deity and then asks provocative questions about the reasons given, and discusses the answers rationally.  I haven't read the book, but thought it would be fun to provide my own one-line commentary on each of the 50 reasons given.  So here goes:

1. My god is obvious. Not to me.

2. Almost everybody on Earth is religious. So? At times in world history, almost everyone believed the earth to be flat.

3. Faith is a good thing. Faith is neutral. It is good or bad depending on the object on which it rests.

4. Archaeological discoveries prove that my god exists. I call BS. Show me one.

5. Only my god can make me feel significant. Says a lot about you, not so much about god.

6. Atheism is just another religion. Only if you define religion so broadly as to have it lose all meaning.

7. Evolution is bad. Non sequitur.

8. Our world is too beautiful to be an accident. Seen any pictures out of Sudan lately?

9. My god created the universe. Well, if you say so...

10. Believing in my god makes me happy. That's nice.

11. Better safe than sorry. How safe is it, really? Are you sure you picked the right one out of the millions of gods out there to choose from?

12. A sacred book proves my god is real. Which book? Which god? Apply this to others who claim the same.

13. Divine justice proves my god is real. The lack of any evidence for such justice in the world tends toward the opposite conclusion.

14. My god answers prayers. All of them? If not, why not?

15. I would rather worship my god than the devil. False dichotomy.

16. My god heals sick people. But only some of them, right? So the suffering in the world is evidence that your god is a sadist, no? Why doesn't your god heal amputees?

17. Anything is better than being an atheist. Are you sure? Try it, you might like it.

18. My god made the human body. So you worship the Earth?

19. My god sacrificed his only son for me. Sounds like your god is a sick sonofabitch. If I killed my son and said I did it for you, what would you think of me?

20. Atheists are jerks who think they know everything. Some of them. But what do you call someone who overgeneralizes about a whole class of people?

21. I don't lose anything by believing in my god. Just your freedom.

22. I didn't come from a monkey. Who said you did, you moron?

23. I don't want to go to hell. Don't worry, you won't.

24. I feel my god when I pray. Quit putting your hand down your pants when you kneel.

25. I need my god to protect me. From your fellow believers, no doubt.

26. I want eternal life. Be careful what you wish for. See, e.g., the Highlander series.

27. Without my god we would have no sense of right and wrong. You need a book and preacher to tell you that murder is wrong? Really?

28. My god makes me feel like I am part of something bigger than myself. So does rooting for your favorite college football team.

29. My religion makes more sense than all the others. With all due respect, that's not a very high hurdle.

30. My god changes lives. For better or worse?

31. Intelligent design proves my god is real. I agree--your god is about as authentic as the science behind intelligent design.

32. Millions of people can't be wrong about my religion. Whatever your religion, millions more don't believe it than do.

33. Miracles prove my god is real. Is David Blaine god? Criss Angel?

34. Religion is beautiful. If you think Afghani schoolgirls with disfigured faces from having acid thrown at them because they were getting an education is beautiful, then sure, it's gorgeous.

35. Some very smart people believe in my god. Some very smart people drank the Kool-Aid in Jonestown.

36. Ancient prophecies prove my god exists. Name one.

37. No one has ever disproved the existence of my god. No one has ever disproved the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, either.

38. People have gone to heaven and returned. People claim to have been abducted by aliens? Do you believe them?

39. Religion brings people together. Yes, it's working out so well for India and Pakistan. Or the Palestinians and Israel.

40. My god inspires people. To do what? Strap bombs to their chests?

41. Science can't explain everything. Give it time.

42. Society would fall apart without religion. Because it's doing so well with religion, right?

43. My religion is so old, it must be true. So what was the basis for believing it when it was new and competing with older religions?

44. Someone I trust told me that my god is real. Someone I trust once told me to buy Enron stock.

45. Atheism is a negative and empty philosophy. Why so negative? Don't you have anything positive to offer?

46. Believing in a god doesn't hurt anyone. Ever heard of Brenda and Erica Lafferty?

47. The earth is perfectly tuned to support life. Duh. If it weren't, we wouldn't be here.
48. Believing is natural so my god must be real. If I believe in unicorns, are they real?

49. The end is near. Only if religious people get their way.

50. I am afraid of not believing. Finally, the real root of religious belief--fear

Song of the Week: You're My Home

This week's song is called You're My Home by Billy Joel.  It's one of his better, though not so well known songs.  I dedicate it to the love of my life.  Lisa, this is for you:

When you look into my eyes
And you see the crazy gypsy in my soul
It always comes as a surprise
When I feel my withered roots begin to grow
Well I never had a place that I could call my very own
That's all right, my love, 'cause you're my home

When you touch my weary head
And you tell me everything will be all right
You say, "Use my body for your bed
And my love will keep you warm throughout the night"
Well I'll never be a stranger and I'll never be alone
Whenever we're together, that's my home

Home can be the Pennsylvania Turnpike
Indiana's early morning dew
High up in the hills of California
Home is just another word for you

Well I never had a place that I could call my very own
That's all right, my love, 'cause you're my home

If I travel all my life
And I never get to stop and settle down
Long as I have you by my side
There's a roof above and good walls all around
You're my castle, you're my cabin and my instant pleasure dome
I need you in my house 'cause you're my home.
You're my home.

You're my home

Three Cheers for Bill Marriott

Famous Mormon Bill Marriott, Chairman and CEO of the Marriott International hotel company, defied LDS church leaders by refusing to donate money to the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign against gay marriage in California.  He has now posted a statement on the Marriott web site, in which he touts the company's long-standing diversity policy, which includes domestic partner benefits, and in which he speaks with pride about the many LGBT events that have been hosted at Marriott hotels over the years.  While it does not take as much courage for a man of Marriott's stature to oppose church leaders on a political issue (certainly, he won't be threatened with church discipline the way Andrew Callahan, rank-and-file church member from Nebraska was), it nevertheless shows that there are some Mormons who are willing to "do what is right and let the consequence follow" as they act in accordance with what their conscience tells them instead of yielding to the pressure to sacrifice their will on the altar of absolute obedience to the prophet.

Marriott's complete statement after the jump:

Continue reading "Three Cheers for Bill Marriott" »

Prop 8 Supporters Celebrate Denial of Rights

Note: I have changed the title of this post from "Mormons Celebrate Bigotry" to "Prop 8 Supporters Celebrate Denial of Rights" because I think it more accurately reflects what is depicted in the phot and because the old title was unnecessarily provocative and unfair--not all Mormons supported Proposition 8, and many who supported it did so grudgingly.

The Some Mormons, while mourning the Obama Presidential victory, are nonetheless celebrating the passage of Proposition 8 in California, which enshrines in the California Constitution discrimination against a minority of California's population--gays and lesbians, whose marriages will no longer be legally recognized in California.  The These Mormons, including those who live in other states (such as Utah), were energetic and enthusiastic in working to deprive gays and lesbians of their right to marry.  In working so hard to pass Proposition 8, the some Mormons continued a long tradition of their religion to oppose civil rights.  In the 1960s, LDS leaders spoke strongly against civil rights for African-Americans, opposing integration and supporting politicians like George Wallace in his efforts to maintain "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever."  LDS apostles argued that segregation was God-inspired, and that to end segregation was to act against God.  For example, Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said in 1954 that:

Now we are generous with the Negro. We are willing that the Negro have the highest education. I would be willing to let every Negro drive a Cadillac if they could afford it. I would be willing that they have all the advantages they can get out of life in the world. But let them enjoy these things among themselves. I think the Lord segregated the Negro and who is man to change that segregation? It reminds me of the scripture on marriage, "what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." Only here we have the reverse of the thing - what God hath separated, let not man bring together again. (Apostle Mark E. Peterson, Race Problems - As They Affect The Church, Convention of Teachers of Religion on the College Level, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, August 27, 1954)

For more quotes from LDS leaders on segregation and civil rights, see the Mormon Think web site. 

The LA Times ran this photo of [some] Mormons [and others] celebrating their "victory" in denying gays and lesbians their constitutional rights:

Prop 8 celeb

Someday, I have a feeling many Mormons will be as embarrassed to have worked for the passage of Proposition 8 and to have been captured celebrating its passage, as they would be to have been captured in this photo:

Segreg rally

Equality's Election Prediction

Here is my prediction for the Presidential election:

<p><p><strong>><a href='http://projects.washingtonpost.com/2008/pick-your-president/'>2008 Election Contest: Pick Your President</a></strong> - Predict the winner of the 2008 presidential election and enter to win a $500 prize.</p></p>

I made this a month ago, and it follows what I have been saying since the conventions. I haven't seen anything, with all the ups and downs of the campaign, to change the basic prediction of Obama in a landslide (yay). I actually think that the result might be even more in Obama's favor--I think the Senator from Illinois has a decent chance at winning Georgia and Montana, which would take his total to 393. To get over 400, he'd have to take Arizona or maybe North Dakota and West Virginia, which might be a bit of a stretch (but wouldn't shock me). I will be shocked if Obama wins with less than 300 electoral votes.

In the Senate, I think the Dems end up with 58 seats, including Elizabeth Dole's seat from North Carolina (which will serve her right for the slanderous ad she ran against her opponent). In the House, I expect the Dems to win a net of about 30 seats. Say hello to a one-party Washington.

Great New TV Ad on Proposition 8

As readers of Equality Time undoubtedly know, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) are the principal contributors of time and money to the "Yes on Proposition 8" election campaign in California. Spurred by letters and pronouncements from church leaders such as Thomas S. Monson, many true-believing members have devoted their energies to work for the passage of Proposition 8, which would re-write the California state constitution to take away the right to marriage currently enjoyed by gays and lesbians. Though not all believing Mormons support Proposition 8 or the church's heavy involvement in a state political matter (see, e.g., the Signing for Something web site or  the Mormons for Marriage site), most true-believing Mormons appear to be getting on board, believing, it seems, that President Monson speaks with a prophetic voice on the subject, having apparently been informed by Jesus Himself that this is the most important thing Latter-day Saints can spend their time and resources on at this time.   According to multiple reports, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles instructed the leaders of a number of stakes to "invoke their priesthood keys" to soften the hearts of the people of California (and, one suspects, their minds as well) so that Proposition 8 would pass tomorrow.  And that's not all.  No, we have it on apostolic authority that Jesus is "smiling" on the efforts of the saints.  I guess that is good news for the President of my old stake (Plano, Texas), Mike Wilding, who appears to be the only member in my town of Murphy, Texas to have contributed to the "Yes on 8" campaign (he gave $1500).   And what is it that Mormons think Jesus is feeling all warm and fuzzy about?  Well, this ad says it better than I could:

Open Letter to the Plano, Texas Fifth Ward

To my former ward brothers and sisters:

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, here we go again.  I thought that my posting of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's "Tongue of Angels" talk a few months back when rumors were swirling about me in my former ward might have had some impact.  I thought perhaps you, my Mormon friends, would "listen to a prophet's voice" even if you would not listen to mine.  I thought maybe those of you who claim to follow Jesus Christ would stop engaging in gossip and rumor-mongering.  I guess I was wrong.  It saddens me to learn that a rumor concerning my personal life is being spread around in the ward where my son still attends Scouts and my daughter attends Activity Girls. 

But what really saddens me is not so much that people would spread a lie about me but that the lie itself is considered scandalous in your Mormon culture.  That's exactly what I think needs to change.  You see, the rumor burning up the ward phone lines is that I left the church to take up with a gay lover! 

I look forward to the day when a rumor like that will be about as salacious as a rumor that, say, I sometimes forget to floss, or that I don't make my bed every morning, or that I re-use my dryer sheets.  That a rumor I am gay is considered so scurrilous by the members of my former ward is itself a commentary on today's Mormon culture: narrow-minded, bigoted, and homophobic.  To his credit, one person from the ward (yes, only one) has risen above such pettiness, alerting me that the rumor was spreading.  But what of the rest of you? You who hear something like that and, instead of sending me an email or picking up the phone to call me, call up someone else in the ward and ask "have you heard it? Is it true?"  What do you have to say for yourself? You who call yourselves disciples of Jesus Christ.  Are you not ashamed?

And what of you who started this rumor? Did you think it would hurt me? It hasn't.  First, it is not true.  Second, if it were true, I would not hide it as I think being gay is not something one need hide or apologize for.  So, if I were gay, I'd be more than happy to let everyone know it.  I'll go one step further.  Not only am I not hurt by the suggestion, I am actually a little flattered.  All the gay people I know are exceptional.  I enjoy their association and value their friendship and admire their courage as they deal every day with bigots like you.  I stand by them in their struggle for equal rights and the full acceptance in society.  I'm not gay but I am honored to know that some people might think I am.

I know why you started this rumor.  I have been torn about how much I should say about that.  I don't want to hurt your wife and children, so I have decided, for their sake, to say nothing here to reveal your identity and motive.  It was, however, monumentally stupid for you to start this rumor, knowing as you do that I really have nothing to lose by revealing your own secret.

The rumor itself is interesting from a sociological standpoint, in what it says about Mormonism.   I have been very open about my issues with the LDS church.  I have chronicled my journey out of the church here on this blog for the last 2 1/2 years.  I've posted about Mormon history, doctrine, and practice.  I've identified 96 specific reforms I think the church ought to adopt.  And I've talked about the value differences I have with Mormonism.  I believe in freedom of thought and expression; the church does not.  I believe in honesty and openness in teaching history; the church does not.  I believe in the equality of the sexes; the church does not.  I believe in racial equality; the church does not.   I believe in science; the church does not (when it conflicts with dogma, which is often). And so on. 

But many Mormons seem to have a very hard time believing that anyone could really leave the church because (a) it's simply not true and (b) personal integrity demands it.  No, for many Mormons people leave the church only because (a) they want to sin or (b) they were offended.  The rumor that I am gay fills a cognitive need for some true-believing Mormons--it provides them with a "reason" for my departure that they can understand.  Brother Equality didn't leave the church because he discovered the truth about its doctrinal and historical claims, or because the church is lacking in ethical values.  No, Brother Equality really left because he wanted to sin--with his gay lover!  It's a much more satisfying reason for the devout believer.  It requires no examination of the church, no self-reflection about the things one believes and the values one embraces.  My departure can simply be attributed to my own personal weakness and moral failure.  And to a believing Mormon, what epitomizes better a condition of personal moral depravity than homosexuality? 

So, I understand the allure of the rumor, and I understand why it would be almost impossible for a believing Mormon to resist spreading it.  But it's still disappointing to witness it.  And it confirms to me, once again, that the decision I made to resign earlier this year was absolutely the right one.  I am so glad to be free from the mindfuck that makes people think that way. 

LDS Church to Discipline Member for Supporting Gay Marriage

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims to be "politically neutral."  It also claims that its members are free to vote according to their conscience and that there are no political tests for membership in the church.  Indeed, the LDS church encourages its members to "study the issues and candidates carefully and prayerfully, and then to vote for and actively support those you believe will most nearly carry out your ideas of good government." 

But now the LDS church is threatening to discipline a faithful member from Nebraska (Andrew Callahan, a high priest) for "conduct unbecoming a member" and for "apostasy."  His crime? Disagreeing with church leaders on a political issue--Proposition 8 in California, which the church supports.  Proposition 8 would take away the legal right that gays and lesbians currently enjoy under the California state constitution to marry.  You can read more about Callahan (who posts online under the name Flat Lander) at the Further Light and Knowledge discussion board here.

Callahan helped start a web site called Signing for Something.  The purpose of Signing for Something was to give Latter-day Saints who had followed the First Presidency's admonition to study the issues and engage in the political process to voice their opposition to Proposition 8 and encourage church leaders to reconsider using church resources in a state political campaign.  The idea was to let church leaders know that a significant number of LDS church members do not support enshrining ignorance and bigotry into the state constitution but rather believe in equal protection under the law, individual liberty,  and tolerance for those who may not share church members' religious beliefs.

With this site, Callahan joined a growing number of Latter-day Saints expressing their love and support for gay and lesbian Mormons.  Another site shedding light on the challenges faced by being Mormon and gay is the Mormons for Marriage site.  These sites, along with yet others such Understanding LDS Homosexuality show that a small but growing number of rank-and-file Mormons are willing not only to disagree with Mormon church leaders' homophobic statements and policies, but are willing to do so in a public manner.  That's a significant thing.  Disagreeing with the Brethren, though highly discouraged in Mormon circles, is generally not something that will result in church "discipline" (i.e, disfellowship or excommunication).  But open, vocal opposition to the Brethren, even on a purely political issue, is perhaps the quickest way to get an "invitation" to a "court of love" in the LDS church.  Absolute loyalty to the LDS church, evidenced by an uncritical, unblinking obedience to the male church hierarchy, is the highest value in Mormonism.  Callahan is now running afoul of it, and will likely pay the price by being excommunicated.  That Callahan has been threatened with church discipline for "conduct unbecoming a member" when all he was doing was getting involved in a political issue and exercising his conscience, is revealing of just how far LDS church leaders will go to ensure that their vision of perfect conformity and bland homogeneity is realized.

Update: since I first drafted this post, Callahan received word from his Stake President that no church court would be held "in his behalf" (the euphemisms in Mormonism are legion) until AFTER the election.  This merely confirms that the whole matter is political.  If his crimes were spiritual, why would the election timing affect their decision at all? The LDS church simply did not want the negative publicity that would swirl around Callahan's excommunication, should it occur before the election.  Now the church can wait to cut him off and hope the public relations nightmare can be contained.