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.

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A Sense of the Despicable

I originally posted this back on May 28, 2006. But in honor of the subject being "called" as a new "apostle" today in the LDS church, I thought I'd resurrect it and post it anew. I wonder if the opinions he expressed in the article will now take on additional heft among the members? Are words spoken prior to one's call given apostolic authori-tay?

If Jesus were to walk into an LDS church meeting today, how would He be received? If the latest article in a church magazine on the subject of dress and grooming is any indication, Jesus very likely would be asked to leave. Why? Well, let’s start with hair: in all the pictures I have seen of Jesus, He has long hair. And, typically, He is shown wearing open-toed shoes. According to an LDS church General Authority, such things are offensive to God.

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Comments on Mormon Matters Episode 12: Inoculating the Saints

For the 12th installment of the Mormon Matters podcast, John Dehlin has posted the audio from a panel discussion at the recently held Sunstone Symposium in Salt Lake City, Utah. The panelists comprised a “who’s who” of Mormon apologetics: Charles Randall Paul, Blake Ostler, Mike Ash, and Kevin Barney. They discussed the idea of “information inoculation” with respect to thorny issues in Mormon history, doctrine, and culture. The idea of “information inoculation” is that the church could teach troubling issues in a faithful context (in classroom instruction, periodical materials, conference addresses, seminaries and institutes, etc.) so that when members eventually encounter the troubling issues from sources critical of the church, they will not feel a sense of having been lied to, deceived, and betrayed by the church.

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Lost Opportunity

I was reading the local news the other day and I saw an interesting article:


In case the link goes dead, I will provide a summary. A few days ago, a local medical school broke ground and started official construction on a new teaching hospital. It had been having contractual disputes with it's teaching hospitals, The Methodist Hospital, and St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, so they decided to build their own hospital. The part of the story that really caught my eye was the price tag: 1 Billion Dollars. Does that amount sound familiar?

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The Book of Abraham: Did William the Conqueror Know Henry VIII?

You may have noticed that I added a new category in the left sidebar with links to web sites that have information on the Book of Abraham. I have culled these sites from extensive Internet searches. They represent the best resources available on the web for folks who want to know more about the Book of Abraham. I include a link to a page that links to numerous apologetic sites, including FARMS and Jeff Lindsay’s Mormanity. Having studied the materials of both those skeptical of and believers in the Book of Abraham as an inspired revealed “translation” of an ancient text originally authored by the biblical patriarch Abraham, I think the disputes over this book of LDS scripture focus on three main areas: the text itself (irrespective of translation methods used to produce it); issues regarding the provenance of the papyri and the translation of the text from those papyri; and the translation of the facsimiles included in the canonized text and found on the papyri discovered in 1967. 

In this first of a series of posts on the Book of Abraham, I focus on one aspect of the text itself. I have chosen this as my first installment for two reasons. First, apologists since Nibley have said that critics do not address the text but focus only on the translation issues.  Jeff Lindsay repeats this mantra on his web site. It is simply untrue, as will be demonstrated by this post and as is demonstrated by even a casual review of the materials linked in my sidebar. Second, the apologists presumably make this statement to imply that critics avoid discussion of the text because the text is immune to criticism. Of course, the apologists are wrong on this as well. The text itself presents numerous problems for those who assert that the Book of Abraham originated in antiquity. Among these problems is one which is, in my opinion, most devastating to the apologetic stance: anachronisms. 

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Things That Don't Make Sense #4: A Prophet Who Does Not Prophesy

Between 1829 and 1844, Joseph Smith received hundreds of revelations. He produced the Book of Mormon, a tome of more than 500 printed pages. Guided by the inspiration he claimed came from God, he revised the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. In the process, he produced the Book of Moses which contains much information not covered in the Genesis account. Many, but not all, of his revelations were compiled and printed and are now contained in the Doctrine & Covenants. And he produced the Book of Abraham, a book apparently received by direct revelation and not through any traditional means of translation. Whatever one may conclude about the source of Joseph Smith’s inspiration, continuing revelation was the principal identifying characteristic of the religion he founded. Joseph Smith said “if we do not get revelations, we do not have the oracles of God; [we] are not the people of God.” HC 5:237.

That such revelation continued in the church from Brigham Young to the present day is a fundamental tenet of the modern church: 

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Things That Don't Make Sense #3: LDS Ordinances as Vestiges of the Magic World View

I had often wondered how Joseph Smith was able to secure employment as a money-digger or treasure-seeker after the first few attempts came up empty.  Why would people continue to hire him if nobody ever was able to secure the treasures he claimed he could see buried in the earth beneath their feet?  In  Rough Stone Rolling by Richard L. Bushman,  Early Mormonism and the Magic World by Michael Quinn, and in An Insider's View of Mormon Origins by Grant Palmer, we get a picture of the Smith family immersed in the magic world view that permeated the 19th-century American cultural milieu.

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God's Unwanted Puppy

The Mormon view of human wordly existence is like being God's unwanted puppy.

God sent us to this world, erased our memory, gave us instincts and desires, and then told us (through those infallible beacons of virtue, His Prophets) that those same desires are carnal and against God's plan.  We need to find our way back home!

First we need to realize and figure out that we used to live with God, that He sent us here, and that we need to get back.  This is The Plan.  Then we need to realize that in our natural state (how God made us) we are evil.  This is The Shame.  When The Shame motivates us to follow The Plan, if we are extremely obedient to the servants of God, after a life of toil and hard work, we can finally make our way back to God's presence, where we have to prove to Him, by showing sacred tokens and pass-phrases, that we are worthy of His love and deserve a place with Him.

Is it just me who sees this as God taking an unwanted puppy out to the countryside, putting us in a box by the side of the road, and then leaving to go back home?  Like the plot of a Disney animated "Classic," we will go through a series of adventures, until we haul our plucky selves back home, to be welcomed by God's Son, who is crying with tears of joy that we made it back.

I think I'd rather go explore the world than waste my life trying to go back home to someone who abandoned me in the first place.

Things That Don't Make Sense #1: The Best That God Could Find?

One of the things that I have been trying to wrap my mind around is the connection in Mormonism between being “pure” or “worthy” and the ability to receive revelation. We see this, for example, in the story of the Three Witnesses. According to the story, when Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris went into the woods with Joseph Smith with the hope of receiving an angelic visitation to confirm the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, they prayed for awhile and received no answer. Martin Harris then retired from the party, thinking his lack of worthiness the cause of the group’s failure to obtain a witness.

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