Monday, September 4, 2017

Arrogancy in the Church

Another thing that I was unaware of was how arrogant the church seemed.
For example: "We are the ONLY true church on the face of the planet."
"This is God's ONLY true church."
Then there is the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price's line that teaches us that all of the other churches are an "abomination."

For nearly twelve years, this was my mindset. And I was completely unaware of it. I also understand that many church members are unaware of how arrogant the church seems. I did  have a little inkling at times. There were many times when I was a "True Believing Mormon" and would speak to people outside of Mormonism, I would have trouble telling people that the Mormon church was the only true church, because I felt that I would be insulting their own beliefs.

There was a time when a coworker of mine was giving me a ride to the bus stop (so I wouldn't have to walk, or go through the stress of crossing the busy road of Route 175). She was raised Catholic, as was I. We were talking about what it was like growing up Catholic, and what our monthly confessions were like. Knowing that I was a Mormon, she asked me if I missed Catholicism.
I knew the "politically correct Mormon-like" possible missionary moment answer would be, "Yes, but it's not true."  But, I knew that Catholicism meant as much to her as Mormonism meant to me at that time. The last thing I wanted to do is insult my coworker and friend by telling her that her religion was "false" because it was not "Mormonism," all for the sake of the possibility to have a missionary moment and covert her.  In hindsight, I'm glad that I didn't. I just told her what I honestly felt: "I do miss Catholicism. It meant a lot to my mother, and it still means a lot to me. But I am happy where I am now." In which she said that she was also happy for me.

There are other moments where I noticed arrogancy within the church. Unfortunately there were three experiences with my former bishop and home teacher...who was like a father to me.

The first was when the Single Adult Family Home Evening sessions was just beginning, during the beginning of January 2016. We were holding our lesson, and my home teacher had asked me what I thought the world would be like if everyone in the world were members of the church.
My thought was, "We can get along with people outside the church! It is possible! It's just up to us to make it work!" But unfortunately, in his mind the world would be a peaceful place if everyone was Mormon. Apparently Mormonism is the answer to the world's issues.

Some time after I discovered the truth about the church, and after that ill-fated Family Home Evening lesson with him and his wife he seemed to be finding ways to keep me from leaving from church. I guess he and his wife still had an inkling that my feelings about the church had changed.
One experience was an evening when I went to Easter dinner with them, and I was telling them about how much I liked my visiting teacher and how we connected the year before when she was sweet enough to come by my house to take me to the airport so I can catch my flight to California.
He then says, "That's one of the wonderful things about the church, isn't it? People willing to help us in those ways." I just stayed silent and nodded.
I then remembered when I was a teenager working at the child care section of a women's gym. There were plenty of mothers that had willingly gave me a ride home so I would not have to take that hour walk home. Some of them would even let me go grocery shopping so I could have what I need, without having to make that crazy walk. I remember these ladies were not Mormon. They knew me well, and did what they did out of love.
I was not "assigned" to them, so I knew what they did for me was not "commanded" or done with an ulterior motive.

There was another experience when my home teacher and his daughter came by to give me the monthly lesson. After the lesson, we would talk, and my home teacher begins to praise the church, which made me a tad uncomfortable. He probably sensed it because he then said, "This is why we are so great: We don't have paid clergy. We are all volunteers; serving each other and the Lord. Those other churches have paid clergy. They will not do the work unless they get paid." He says this with a smile which made me feel all the more uncomfortable. I felt bad for feeling that way, because this guy was like a father to me.

I remember a story in the Book of Mormon, Alma 31, where Alma and his brothers went to teach the gospel to the Zoramites, and were dumbfounded when they found the Zoramites upon a tower, thanking God that they were a "chosen and holy people." In that book, it was noted that Alma and his brothers saw this action as boastful and prideful.
It's funny, the most important book in Mormonism speaks out against being boastful and prideful, and yet that how a part of the church seems.

Even with those experiences, what truly had opened my eyes to how arrogant the church seemed was a talk during Sacrament Meeting. This would be the exact Sunday that followed that ill-fated Family Home Evening lesson. I still went to church despite my feelings of hurt and disappointment were still real and raw, and I didn't know how to handle it. I still went to church because I guess I was used to it. It was a routine that I thought at the time would take time to break. Everything felt so overwhelming then.

The topic of this meeting was "Following the Prophet." It was the usual; we'd have a youth speaker, then an adult speaker, an intermediate hymn and then an adult concluding speaker. It was the concluding speaker's talk that had brought me to that aforementioned clarity.

He begins with talking about a mission that he had served in Brazil years ago. He talked about how a family that was investigating had him and his companion over for dinner. He talked about how the family would fall ill with food poison the next day, while he and his companion did not fall ill. He then testified that it was God's protection over the two of them; His children.
I was taken aback by this guy's words. What it sounded like was that "God's" protection was over these two young missionaries, who were also members of the church, as well as "God's Children." This is what kept them from getting seriously ill.
And these here investigators were just mere peons, who were not worthy of God's protection since they have yet to be baptized. But, oh! Wait! Once they are baptized, God will then find them worthy of his full attention.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that he and his companion did not get sick, and that the investigators made out okay, but my mind was saying, "What the heck?!" It was probably written all over my face as well, because I noticed that this guy had made eye contact with me and held it for about a minute or two.
After he was finished with his talk and sat back down, I noticed that he looked uncomfortable, and I genuinely felt bad. I did not mean to knock down his testimony, but to me it sounded arrogant...but he probably was not aware that that was how it had sounded. But I realize that the intentions of talks such as that one are to keep members in the church, and to gain new members. Yet sometimes, those talks do sound they (as in the members) are God's chosen people. That used to be my mindset as well.

That was another moment when I wondered how could I have been so ignorant as to how arrogant this church seemed. But like many of its members, I just was not aware.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Reason for Leaving #4 - The Book of Mormon

Even though I found out what I had about Joseph Smith, the priesthood ban, and polygamy, I still tried to convince myself to not leave the church, mainly because I was fearful. I did not know much else since I spent so many years with my head in "Mormon-approved" material. Plus, in your head, you feel that you'll go to Perdition, or your life will be a miserable one without the church.

Also, I wanted to want myself to stay even though:

The church taught a lot of racist things in its infancy, all the way up to the 1970's and now just blames its racism on "God."

To borrow a line from the show "Escaping Polygamy" - the origins of polygamy (which started with Joseph Smith) was not about religion, it was all about sex. And the church tries to hide it by saying that it was simply a commandment from God, and its reasons changed from time to time.
In the church's infancy, it was claimed that polygamy was "commanded" for men to obtain the highest order of Heaven.
Their current reasons are 1) There were many widows (and single) women that needed taken care of, so the men that were already married had married him. 2) To bring forth many upon many children born in the gospel.

And there was the Book of Mormon. A book that had plagiarized "Views of the Hebrews" book, among other books.

Despite all of this, I talked myself in staying in the church. Even though it was not true. As I mentioned in my first post, I tried to justify things by saying, "So the church has an ugly history (with the Priesthood Ban, Polygamy, Mountain Meadows Massacre, etc.), but America does too (Slavery, Native Americans getting slaughtered. Native American women being raped, etc.), and we celebrate every year and sing songs about how great the country is, and how proud we are to be American. So I will stay." But looking back, it was fear talking, as Mormonism was a safe haven for me for over a decade.
I would miss church the Sunday when my shelf was in extreme danger of collapsing, but I thought that I'd go to Single Adult FHE (Family Home Evening) after work anyway...mainly to get out of the house.

FHE would be held at the Single Adult representative's (husband and wife) home. On my way there, I had all of these conflicting feelings, but tried to settle them.
They would not be settled as the evening went on.

One of the SA representatives (which was my former home teacher and bishop) would talk about George Washington and others, I was tempted to blurt out "How do you feel about him owning slaves?" but I knew that would open another can of worms. He also showed a book of names of historical figures that had indexing(?) done for them.
For some reason this disturbed me.

Things just went downhill from there. My home teacher (who will remain nameless) said that he felt inspired to switch lessons, and he was going to give a lesson from The Book of Mormon, in the section of 1st Nephi, Chapter 13. A section that I've had issues with over the years, but tried my best to ignore them.
So we'd take turns reading them, I tried my best to fight the negative feelings that I had while reading those lines. This one in particular:
And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.1 Nephi 13:12
Number 1) I had a hard time believing that God (the Mormon God no less) selected Christopher Columbus, spoke to him and led him to the Americas. Also The Book of Mormon's introduction is wrong - Columbus did not discover America. He took a wrong turn and found himself in the Caribbean and at one point thought he was in India. And we know that Leif Erikson had "discovered" the continent of North America, not Columbus.

Number 2) Now the Natives (Arawak Tribe if I read correctly) were good to him. Columbus even said so him his journals. Things ended up getting violent, and the Natives were tortured, slaughtered and girls as young as the age of ten were sold off as sex slaves for Columbus and his men. Also written in his journals. Why doesn't The Book of Mormon mention this? Deseret Book also has a book written about Columbus: "Christopher Columbus: A Man Among the Gentiles" written by Clark Hinckley. Why can't that book elude to the true character of Columbus?
More cherry-picking. More whitewashing. And claiming a historical figure as theirs to prove that "the church is 'true.'"

(Side note: I was actually on a message board regarding this book, and Hinckley says something among the lines of; "Columbus was not an evil man, but was he perfect? Of course not." I responded asking him how he felt about the Natives being killed by Columbus and his men, and the Native girls being sold off as sex slaves. This was a over a year ago. I still have yet to hear back from him. I don't expect to hear from him either.)

Another line put some things in perspective for me:
The Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles, and they did prosper and obtain the land for their inheritance; and I beheld that they were white, and exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto my people before they were slain. … The Gentiles ... did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them.1 Nephi 13:15-16

That line made things crystal clear. I always questioned the "cursed with a skin of darkness" line that was consistently in the Book of Mormon. Apparently, the Lamanites were so unrighteous that "God" felt a need to darken their skin as a punishment, while the Nephites stayed "fair and beautiful." It was also noted that the mark was there so the Nephites would not "mix" with the Lamanites. So there was the skin color aspect that bothered me, along with the "Curse of Cain" doctrine that the church held onto until 1978.

(Another thing that I had found out was that the "pure and delightsome" used to be "white and delightsome" in previous editions of the Book of Mormon. That, as well as "the most correct book on Earth" had more than one edition should have been a red flag.)

There was even a video shown during Stake Conference (I cannot remember which year, I just remember that it was the Saturday evening adult session) where an excerpt of Alma 30 was portrayed. You have Korihor preaching "priestcraft" and Alma intervening.
Now here's the wretch. The Korihor character had darkened features, whereas Alma was very fair. Instead of listening to the message like a good Mormon girl, I was thinking, "What is the church trying to say here? Are they playing up that 'skin of darkness' line they have in their book?"
It looked around curious as to what others thought of this, but the people that I could see were just watching intently. I found myself wondering what the members thought about this, and the "curse of dark skin" that's in the Book of Mormon. The Stake that I lived in was very diverse, I was curious as to how every single person felt about those lines as I assumed they read them quite often as they read the Book of Mormon.

Another ongoing issue that I had was these lines:
I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters. "1 Nephi 13:13
I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise; and I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren; and they were scattered before the Gentiles and were smitten.1 Nephi 13:14
Where the angel claims that the "white, fair and exceedingly beautiful" Europeans were lead to this "new land" by the hand of "god" and inspired them to kill the "dark and evil" Native Americans. I have a hard time believing that "God" said to the Natives, "Sorry, but you've been so evil, that I'm going to allow the Gentiles to slaughter you and take your land."
Yes, it happened. And what's done is done. And this was partially how America was developed. But I cannot buy what Mormons try to sell that the ugly beginnings were all "God's plan."

It brought me back to 2011 when I was taking a history course at a community college. My professor taught how some Native American tribes would live numerously in a housing, but still got along peacefully. My teacher then said, "These are the people that are wrongly referred to 'savages.'"
It had hit me at the moment that the Book of Mormon painted the Natives (or Lamanites) as an evil and unrighteous, and that's why have their "markings." I was in a dilemma after that. I then wondered if I was going to trust a history book or a book that was claimed to be "God's book." That was something I (sadly) had put on my shelf.

There was even a time later when I went to a Gospel Doctrine class being held by a friend where he said, "I am a Lamanite (he's half Cherokee), so technically, I am a bad boy." I remember thinking, "Why would you say that about yourself because you have Native American ancestry?" I have Arawak and Cherokee in my blood, but I didn't go around in Primary and refer to myself as a "bad girl." Not jokingly or otherwise.

Some time later, I would talk to a friend about her mission which she had just returned from. She served in the southwest where the elder missionaries would be the ones to teach on the reservations there. She would say, "The prophecy is right; the Native Americans are finally becoming a 'pure and delightsome' people. It's great to see that they are giving up their old traditions, because they are very much incorrect."
That conversation also caused me to raise an eyebrow. I said nothing but wondered who was she to say whether their traditions (something I'm sure is sacred) were incorrect or not? I also wondered if she was saying that the Native Americans were a wicked people before Mormonism "came back" and the leaders decided to reach out to them.

And then we have the General Authorities (men that I listened to religiously in conference and on my !pod), missionaries, members claiming that there is no racism whatsoever in this church, and yet it was erased from their history.
And yet, that racism is still in the book that they claim to be the most important book in their organization.
There was no longer any way for me to try to justify this.

And that was it. My Mormon Bubble had burst completely.
My thoughts and emotions were all over the place. There was frustration, disappointment, and hurt.

After the lesson I just looked down at the Book of Mormon. I didn't want to look at anyone, or for anyone to look at me. All I know is that I wanted to get away from everyone. I wanted to run outside, or to the nearest powder I could scream...or cry...or both.
But I just sat there, looking down at the Book of Mormon, pretending to look over it.

I must have put out an awkward energy, because that's when the SA Representative wife had said my name and asked me if I had any thoughts that I would like to share about what was just taught. I shook my head no. She then says, "It's amazing isn't it? That Nephi foresaw the coming of Columbus and the shaping of America!" I just nodded.
Her husband chimes in and says, "The Book of Mormon holds many beautiful histories and truths, and we are lucky to have it." Like a good Mormon girl, I just smile and nodded, and counted down the minutes until this FHE event would be over.

Some time later, we had closing prayer where the wife gave the prayer. She must have had an inkling that I was not happy with the lesson, and questioning things because one of her lines was, "And please bless us that we will not stray away due to any influence of outside forces..."

I was finally able to take a deep breath when I locked myself in my room after coming home. I was glad that my roommate was out of town, because I knew that as soon as I walked through the door, she'd pepper me with questions about FHE, and I was far from in the mood to talk about it.
I should have know that this was coming. After everything that I had discovered about this church, how could I not know that there would be more to come? Or that I would be given a reason to stay?

Even with every thing that I had discovered that had caused my bubble to burst...I still had no idea on what to do.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Reason for Leaving #3 - Joseph Smith/Polygamy Pt. 2 (sort of)

I will begin this post with a story:

It is the story of a boy born in Vermont, born to a family that was poor in finances, but rich in love. When he was fourteen, religion had become a big thing in his town and he was eager, and I do mean eager, to find which church is the one he should attend. But he was so confused as to which one he should join.
So while studying the Bible, he comes across a verse in the epistle of James ( If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.), and decided to act on that verse the next day.
It was then in a field where he prayed and saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and was told to join none of the churches, for they were all an abomination to him. After that, Smith receives a visit from the Angel Moroni who has a work for him to do which would be to restore God's true church, which was lost after biblical times.
So he obtains the golden plates, translates them, and the Book of Mormon, along with the Mormon religion is born.  He falls in love with Emma Hale, and they have the kind of marriage and relationship that church members are taught to aim for.
Smith deals with persecution from the time he becomes open about his vision. Persecution due to what he saw, and then persecution over his new religion. At one point, it gets so bad that he has to relocate to the Midwest. Yet, he stays true to God and the church throughout it all. The persecution regarding the religion gets to the point where Smith is killed as a martyr to his beliefs. This is at many times used as an example to members of the church to never be ashamed, and never be afraid of getting persecuted (because persecution WILL come), as the founder of that church was killed for his beliefs, and for not denying "God's one and only church."

Sounds like such a beautiful and inspirational story, doesn't it?
What if I told you it was all bullshit?

This is how the church wants the world to see Joseph Smith.

The church likes to feed us the "sunshine and cupcakes" and keep the integral information hidden. For example, my story above is how the church paints Smith, through the Joseph Smith History book in "The Pearl of Great Price," through the "Joseph Smith - Teachings of the Presidents of the Church" manual, through movies such as, "The Restoration," "Legacy," "My Story (biographical film of Emma Hale Smith)" and, "The Work and The Glory" movie series. Even the primary manuals that I used to teach from painted up Joseph as a giving and brave man.
But through my research, I learned that Smith was dishonest, was very selfish, a philanderer and just came off as a lunatic at times. He also changes his stories from time to time with an example being "The First Vision."

On "The First Vision"

www.mormonthink.comSo as mentioned in my little story, in Mormonism we are taught that Joseph Smith saw both God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Son tells Joseph not to join any churches. This all takes place in what is now called "The Sacred Grove" after Joseph follows a verse in the epistle in James, by praying to find out which church to join.

I discovered that there are many versions of that story. One of them being that Smith saw only one personage, and no instruction on joining or not joining a church was given, just that his sins were forgiven. In other versions, Smith claimed that he saw angels. But the two versions that I learned about was enough for me to see the inconsistency here. It also caused questions to arise about the "Godhead" (God the Father and God the Son being separate beings, not one) that I was continuously taught about throughout my years in the church.

Also, Joseph Smith claims that he was persecuted by the town after revealing this alleged vision. I remember at a fireside the teacher trying to drum up some sympathy to the fact that Smith was just a young teenaged boy who dealt with harassment and persecution over his vision. Yet, his vision was not revealed until eighteen years after (1838) it had "occurred" in 1820. So there's one thing that makes you question the persecution that the church claims that Smith had experienced.

Also, after this "vision" and Smith's personal "commandment" to not join any church, he applied for membership to a Methodist church. So here we have commandment-breaking.

On "The Book of Mormon"

There is quite a bit to cover here. So we learn that Moroni visits Joseph Smith at his home and tells him of a work that needs to be done. Moroni shows him an area where the golden plates are, and gives him instruction over the years. When the time was right, Smith would obtain those gold plates, and God will help him to translate them into what would become "The Book of Mormon."
Only, there was NEVER any gold plates. Ever wonder why those plates are never seen in a museum, or in any of the historical sites of the church? (Yes, I am aware of the claim that Moroni had to take the plates back.) Apparently, Smith was able to create this sacred book by...


Looking at a rock that sat in a bottom of a hat. A seerstone as the church likes to call it.
And apparently this was mentioned briefly sometime in 1993. Please keep that year in mind.
And let me refresh your memory on the time that I had investigated and joined the church: The spring and summer of 2004.
So I never learned about some "seerstone." I was fed that Joseph had used the golden plates by the Missionaries, and through my YSA Institute classes. And through those aforementioned movies that I had indulged in over the years.
More of the hiding of information. The church is pretty good at that, aren't they?
You even have President Uchtdorf trying to sell the reality of a rock giving Smith messages by comparing it to a cellular phone. I couldn't buy it. It sounded just ludicrous to me.
I will also mention that this "seer stone" was also used by Smith to find treasure.

Then you the content of the Book of Mormon itself. 
Through my searches, I would learn about "The Views of the Hebrews" booklet that was written by Ethan Smith (no relation) who did not live too far from Joseph Smith, and had published that book about ten years prior to when the Book of Mormon was published. So we can add plagiarism to the resume of Smith's repertoire.
*A link to the Views on Hebrews can be found at the bottom of this page so you can read it and compare it to the Book of Mormon.

On Polygamy

While I found Mormonism's polygamous history strange, what disturbed me most was the fact that not only did Smith practiced it, but the details of his practice of it. This is something the church never told me. Through movies ("The Work and the Glory" and "My Story")and the Relief Society/Priesthood Manuals, Joseph Smith and Emma Hale's marriage was painted up as a golden partnership. Through movies that I watched, Emma believed in Smith's story about his vision and supported him, and stuck by him throughout his "persecutions." They kept each other strong throughout their hard times. There was no mention on any of Smith's many wives throughout those movies that I had watched nor in that lesson manual.
So to find out that Joseph had many wives was a shock, even though I knew something about the polygamy that had taken place, nobody ever told me about Smith's wives.
What disturbed me even more, was that quite a few of his wives were women married to living husbands and some were teenagers as young as fourteen. Let's think back to my friend's reason for why polygamy started: Because there were a lot of widows and married men married them to make sure they were taken care of.
I know these women that we are talking about are not widows, but why would a fourteen year old need to be married to be taken care of? Isn't that what her parents were for?
I had a Mormon friend on Facebook that shared a piece of her family history about how one of her descendants was a man in his mid-to-late twenties, had married a fifteen year old. She then said that it was okay, because Smith did the same thing, and she does not understand why people are disgusted by the fact that Smith had done such a thing.

When you read the church's essay, they mention Helen Mar Kimball, one of Smith's teenaged brides saying that she was married just before her fifteenth birthday (note, Smith was thirty-seven at the time). We've seen from that line that even "God's Church" itself could not bring themselves to say that she was married at the age of fourteen, instead they say, "before her fifteenth birthday).
The essay tries to claim as to whether or not Smith and Kimball's marriage was consummated remains a mystery when there are many documentations of Kimball saying, "I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it."
Reading between the lines, I (and others) would say that the marriage was consummated. Yet is was obviously one-sided consummation.
I could also mention Fanny Alger, but I'm sure many already know about that "dirty, nasty, filthy affair."
In a nutshell, Joseph Smith was the Warren Jeffs of his time. Or to put it correctly, Warren Jeffs is a modern day Joseph Smith.

Then we have the married wives that Smith was sealed to. Going back to my friend's statement of the women needed to be taken care of, so they became plural wives, I wondered what kind of "taken care of" did these women needed since they were already married to their living husbands? And also, why would they need to be sealed to Smith to be with HIM in the next life, rather than the men that they were already married to? Now I do understand that some of these men were sent away to serve missions, and Smith married their wives while they were away serving. I had a hard time believing that this was something that "God" wanted.

What also bothered me was Joseph Smith lying about his practice of plural marriage. If this was a commandment from God himself, and an angel with a sword threatened his life (oh, I'm sorry, "encouraged"), why would he deny this practice?

On Dying as a "Martyr"

I remember a lesson about Joseph Smith during an institute class where Smith dying as a martyr was covered. The class was also told that we should be willing to endure through persecution for this church  because Smith endured persecution for the church and died for it. I don't vividly remember the lesson, but I remember what I had mentioned before about persecution, and that there was an argument on whether the word "martyr" was just a word, or more than just a word. So let's take a look at the word "martyr" shall we?

Martyr -
  1. 1.
    a person who is killed because of their religious or other beliefs.

    "saints, martyrs, and witnesses to the faith"
  1. 1.
    kill (someone) because of their beliefs.

    "she was martyred for her faith"

Now if the religion we were talking about was "Polygamy" then Smith would be a martyr. But polygamy was a practice, a part (sure, a big one in a way) of that religion.

(Now if you want to look at the noun section of the word, and the second definition under the noun section, then I guess in that case he would be a martyr. The many claims of the persecution over his religion and his vision would make him one, but albeit not an honorable one. What I'm focusing on is the "honor" that the church tries to feed us.)

In reality, the people that had jailed and killed Smith were not angry in regards to his religion like the church lays claim to. It was Smith's polygamy and polyamory and destruction of property that got him in trouble. The local newspaper, The Nauvoo Expositor was going to reveal Smith's polygamous/polyamorous  lifestyle (or to be  frank, his sexual liaisons) and Smith ordered the press destroyed. For that action, he was jailed. After that incarceration and a gun battle, he was killed.

This has nothing to do with the religion, not like the church tries to convince us.

After discovering this, I felt that Joseph Smith was not a man that I would want to follow, sing "Praise to the Man" for, or defend him like I used to.

Suggested Reading/Viewing (as always, if there is something that I should add, please let me know in a comment):

    Just for laughs.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Reason for Leaving #2 - Polygamy

 I did not know much about polygamy until after joining the Mormon church. Although I do remember watching a feature on a young woman on a talk show (it might have been Oprah) who had left a polygamous community in the southwest, where she was forced to marry her cousin. This was back when I was a teenager.

When I began investigating the church (not yet attending), I somehow found myself wondering if this was a church that practices polygamy. My question was quickly answered when I attended and noticed that there were men with one wife. 
And kids. A lot of them.

My investigation of the church lasted for about five months, and I never heard anything about polygamy. Not from the missionaries (of course, because they are told/trained on what to teach), not through Sacrament Meeting talks and not in Sunday School or Relief Society.
I even said, "Mormons do not practice plural marriage" to my youngest brother when he asked me if I was going to marry a man with many wives after he found out that I joined the church.

I would learn about it a few years later while attending YSA (Young Single Adult) Institute, where the focus would be on the Doctrine and Covenants. Not much was covered on it, though. The teacher just covered the D&C, talked about his family history (which involved polygamy), what was in his descendant's journals and how things are now.
I talked to my friend about it, and she said that she can understand why polygamy had taken place at that time - because there were a lot of widowed women and (married) men married them to make sure they were taken care of, because it was during a time when women couldn't take care of themselves as they can now.

I'll admit, I bought what she said. I  would use those words to defend the church whenever someone would say that Mormons were polygamous. Then I just dismissed that part of Mormon history.

Until April 2008.

I came home from work one evening and turned on the news to find out about the raid of the YFZ Ranch. It was there I discovered that the men had a plurality of wives, with prairie dresses down to their wrists and ankles, long hair worn in high styles and braids. And I discovered that they were the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS). My initial thought was that THIS is one of the main reasons why people assume Mormons still practice polygamy - they have US confused with THEM!

I would hear a lot about it during Relief Society, and how we had to work hard to set a great example so the world will know that we are nothing like the FLDS.

Of course, over the next few years, I would tell many people that the FLDS was the group that practiced polygamy, not the LDS (whenever they mentioned polygamy). Whether it would be family, friends or random people I would meet. 

And yet, I would wonder why the FLDS would have the LDS name as a part of theirs. I did not know anything about the split that had taken place when polygamy (supposedly) ended. This was something that was never brought up in church or institute. It was then my curiosity about polygamy grew. Especially so after doing some grocery shopping at a Food Lion, and seeing a guy named Kody Brown on the cover of People Magazine with the headline, "I Hope I don't go to Jail for Loving Four Women.
What caught my attention was that he was dressed casually, and he wore his hair long. Even though he was a Fundamentalist Mormon, I knew from his appearance he was not a part of the FLDS.

The questions kept coming.

It got to the point where I asked my roommate why polygamy was practiced in the first place. Her answer? "Because Joseph Smith was reading the Bible and asked Heavenly Father why the prophets of biblical times had more than one wife. And Heavenly Father said, 'Because I told them to. And now you can do it, too.'"
That's it.

I thanked her anyway. I tried to buy it, but couldn't. What made things even more complicated was when I overheard a conversation between my roommate and her father and he said, "My grandfather had three wives." My first thought was, "That is weird." But then I tried to convince myself otherwise my telling myself, "To think that is to go against Heavenly Father. After all He did command it." But I could not convince myself to buy my own words, nor the words of my roommate, or my friend years ago.
I know that things were very different for women than they are today, but I felt that to say that the married men of the church married the widows and single women to make sure they were taken care of kind of sounds as if women were being given a passive role in life. If we check our history, we learn about how women took over house and home while their husbands were off to war (by themselves, with no need to be a plural wife), as well as how women disguised themselves as men to go into the battlefield.

With those thoughts, I decided to do some research, because my gut was telling me that there was more to plural marriage than what the church was telling me, and what was in the Doctrine and Covenants.  
 I would read up on some of the polygamous sects that had broken away from "The Council of Friends," which had broken away from the LDS church. 
I would watch documentaries on the fundamentalist groups (most available were about the FLDS), I would watch shows such as "Polygamy, What Love is This?" in an attempt to gain a better understanding.
 But it would be a certain documentary that would cause things to click for me. That documentary would be (with its apt title), "Lifting the Veil of Polygamy." 

This documentary would cover things about polygamy that the church had not. One example is the belief that polygamy will be practiced in the next life, even though the church does not believe in practicing the principle in this life. Of course, it is pretty obvious when you have widowed men being sealed to single women. They'll most likely be in the next life with those two (or three in some cases) wives. But the church does not mention this, not that much.
Then you learn that the "revelation" on the "new and everlasting covenant" is received AFTER Joseph Smith takes on multiple wives, a way to justify his lifestyle perhaps.
Then you have quotes from the previous presidents of the church saying why Polygamy HAS to be practiced, one of them being Brigham Young's quote, "If any of you deny the plurality of wives, I promise YOU WILL BE DAMED."
And then, that's when it clicks. Even though the mainline LDS church claims to be the one and only true church, and claims not to be like the FLDS, the only real Mormon church is the FLDS church. 
And why is that?

Despite the outside pressure, they did not walk away from the commandments that came from Brigham Young, and Joseph Smith, people they believe to be prophets of God, who they believe had given the former two men these commandments. (It makes sense why many mainstream Mormons would convert to Mormon Fundamentalism, although not to the FLDS since they're an extremely closed community, unlike AUB, Centennial Park, the True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days, etc.)
And they live all of it, from the Adam-God doctrine, the Curse of Cain Doctrine to plural marriage. Also to the marrying of young teenage girls like a certain "special snowflake" of a prophet had (there are a few exceptions like the AUB and Centennial Park as far as underage marriage goes). There are also some cases of men marrying mother-daughter pairs, and sisters just like Smith had.

Now why does this bother me?
Because, once again, the church tries to hide this. I never knew about Joseph Smith, Brigham Young having multiple wives during my investigation (and again, the missionaries are trained on what to teach). The lessons taught on polygamy during institute are pretty vague. Even their biographies in the Relief Society/Priesthood Meeting manuals doesn't mention it.

Then there are interviews of the previous prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley damning polygamy on Larry King saying that it's not doctrinal (funny, since the commandment is in the Doctrine and Covenants - the Journal of Discourses as well but the church today does not acknowledge that book), and then says that it's illegal when polygamy was illegal when Smith, Young and the men of the church were practicing it.
We also have Hinckley lying, stating that polygamy started in Utah, when polygamy actually started in Kirtland and in Nauvoo. Now, even though the majority of Mormons did not practice polygamy until the "saints" moved to Utah, Joseph Smith and his inner circle were practicing it. So polygamy was indeed practiced before Utah.
And we have Joseph Smith denying that he practiced polygamy by saying, "What a thing, accusing a man of having seven wives when I can only see one."
Yes. Lying started with our founding prophet, but I'll talk more about that in a future post.

And then, we have the essays
Yes. Again, my last resort. But it was just more truth-bending. 

I've read somewhere that an angel with a sword threatened to kill Joseph because he was hesitant to take upon him other wives, but the essay says that God sends additional messengers to "encourage."
I don't understand how death threats equals "encouragement."

The essay mentioned how biblical prophets practiced polygamy because God had commanded it.
Now, I may not be completely familiar with the Bible, but I do remember that none of the prophets of old were commanded to practice polygamy (Genesis 16, where it is stated that polygamy occurred, but was not commanded). One example is the story of Jacob, Leah and Rachel. And I remember vividly that God did not command for that plural union to take place.

A brief recap for you:
In that Bible story, Jacob meets Rachel, falls in love, and offers to work seven years for her father for her hand. Instead, Jacob is tricked into marrying Leah by her father, and then had to work another seven years for the hand of the woman that he loves. 
See? No commandments from God here. Just a trick played by the father of the brides. (Unless the author of that bible excerpt failed to mention that God commanded the father to trick Jacob.) That was another red flag. 
Another example of the church lying to save their asses.

Another thing that I noticed was that the essay left out one of the integral claims as to why Polygamy was commanded: To obtain the highest order of heaven. Yet the essay claims that polygamy was started so many upon many of children can be born into the gospel.
An odd claim, considering the mathematics of things.

A man does not need many wives in order for the Mormon population to grow. The wards that I used to attend is proof of that. My family tree is proof of that (even though they were not Mormon, my great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents, etc. had a LOT of kids).
Plus you have Joseph Smith who married around thirty women, and none of them (besides Emma) had any children that we know of. Although there were claims that around nine children may have been born from Joseph's "spiritual" relationships, the majority of them turned out to be negative when tested. Two are not applicable since those were two cases of children that died in infancy.
Even if each of the children were indeed born to Smith, that is only nine children out of Smith's thirty or so wives (excluding the children that were born to Emma). I do understand that some of Smith's wives were older.
Then you have Brigham Young who married about fifty-five women, and only had about fifty-something children.
Through those two examples, I do not see how polygamy can help with the then growing Mormon population.

Yet still, those bits of information that I had mentioned was enough for me to continue to question what others "truths" the church could be bending...

Suggested Reading (if there is anything else I should add, please let me know):
  • The Journal of Discourses

Suggested Videos

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Reason for Leaving #1 - The Priesthood Ban

Everyone has their reasons for leaving Mormonism.

Reading various blogs, I've learned that a lot of times it is the history that causes people to leave. For others, it's the inconsistency between the Bible and the Book of Mormon. I read a blog where the writer said that she did not like what Mormonism was turning her into: She did not like that she felt that she was above others because of her beliefs and lifestyle.

While everyone has their reasons, there are beginnings to the stories behind those reasons. The beginning for me was fateful conversation with a sister from the (now defunct) Beltsville Ward.

I've always made an effort to go to church every Sunday. Even those Sundays when I was out of town. One weekend I decided to visit my family in Greenbelt. That Sunday morning, my brother was kind enough to give me a ride to church while on his way to work, and told me that I will need to find a ride home. So I asked a sweet elderly sister who I knew for about a year from the time I spent visiting Beltsville (out of respect to her, I will not share her name). She sweetly obliged and said that she would meet me in the lobby after services.

During our ride home she begins talking about the church's history, and how black people could not have the priesthood for some time, something that she said had bothered her (which I admire). She then tells me what a beautiful day it was in June 1978 when revelation was received to remove the ban, and how everyone wept and rejoiced.

My response was, "Cool," but my head was spinning. I was taught that God was a god of love. I learned it during my upbringing in Catholicism, in the Baptist Church my paternal grandparents attends, as well as during my short stint in The A.M.E. Zion Church. So if God is a god of love, why would he exclude certain things from his children over their skin color?

The question bothered me throughout the day, so I decided that I would look into the priesthood ban when I returned to work the following day.

What I found shocked me.
Through my online research I found the following quotes from Brigham Young's racist rhetoric:

"any man having one drop of the seed of [Cain] ... in him cannot hold the priesthood and if no other Prophet ever spake it before I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ I know it is true and others know it."

"The Lord had cursed Cain's seed with blackness and prohibited them the Priesthood."

"You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind . . . Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 290).

"Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 10, p. 110).

I stopped reading and researching after discovering these quotes, because I wanted to remain in blissful ignorance when it came to the church. I did not want to find out that a church that I had given up so much to join was not true. Especially when I used to get in fights with one of my brothers about why I decided to join it.

But what I had found continued to bother me. Being taught to believe Brigham Young was an early day prophet, I wondered where was God to chastise him for teaching such hate and ugliness? Where was God to tell Young that he loved all of his children no matter their ethnic background?

It took me back to a time where I would tell people that I met about the church during my bus rides home from work. One guy that I rode the bus with told me, "Brigham Young was racist, and Joseph Smith was an adulterer and pedophile." I naively defended both Smith and Young, thinking them to be real prophets of God saying, "There is no way. They were men of God. God would not condone such behavior from them."

Imagine how stupid I felt after finding out what I did. I came to the conclusion that either the church was not true; it was just founded by racist leaders. Or the church is true, and God was a racist and just decided in June 1978 to lift the ban after persuasion from his prophet and apostles.

What made matters worse was when I was on YouTube, I saw the following videos under the "Recommended" tab:

Donny & Marie Osmond On Why Blacks Can't Hold Priesthood In Mormon Church

and then:
A Message For Black Mormons
In the first video, Donny and Marie are asked  by Barbara Walters about black people not being allowed to become priests. Donny says that "the church has more to offer to blacks than any other church."
Okay, more to offer with the exception of: The Priesthood, being sealed to their families and exaltation. When they get to the "kingdoms" they'll be beneath everyone else. Sounds sickeningly symbolic. I know that this was back in the 1970's, but I'm just stating an opinion.

Donny also says that "blacks cannot hold the priesthood (at this time) and that's how the Lord wants it."
So God told him this himself?

The second video shows a man (his name was not provided) who is reading pages from Mormon Doctrine, and mentions that church leaders today pretend to not know why the priesthood ban took place. Then he asked how black Mormons were able to find God through a church that once taught such things. That also had me thinking.

I had feelings of confusion and  dismay. Unsure of whether to talk to my roommates (who describe themselves as "Hardcore Utah Mormons") or my home teacher about this issue, or to keep silent. Or if I should leave the church or stay and turn a blind eye to my concerns.

I then decided that I would try reading the essays. I remember they were written and made available through the LDS website because my friend shared one of them on Facebook. I was hoping to find an answer, an explanation on the history of the priesthood (even though I already found it). I wanted, NEEDED this church to be true. The essays were my last resort.

After reading the essays (mainly Race and the Priesthood, and Plural Marriage), I noticed that the church had no real answers. They just give you a history of what happened, and where they stand on that issue today. I noticed that there was a lot of cherry-picking involved, and information kept hidden.

The essay acknowledged that Brigham Young said that black people could not (no longer) be ordained to the priesthood, but the essay fails to explain WHY.

The essay acknowledged that past church leaders proposed many theories on the priesthood ban, which the church does not agree with today, but fails to mention what those theories were. Also, it sounds as though they are throwing the early-day prophets/apostles/leaders under the bus.

Near the ending of the essay, the church said they don't believe that interracial relationships are a sin. But if they felt the need to mention that bit, they must know what Brigham Young said about the punishment being death on the spot for "any of God's chosen people who chose to mix with the seed of Cain."

 If you compare the former three notes from the essay with the quotes by Young above, you'll see how the church tries to hides their "little flecks of history."

That and the essay just sounded like the church was saying, "The curse of Cain Doctrine was never true, our leaders from that time were just a little racist. But that's okay see, because EVERYONE was racist during that time. No apology will be given for the 150 years of what blacks had endured because they have the priesthood and all of the blessings NOW. We did them a favor! (Well, actually, we did ourselves a favor. We had a c(3) non-profit status to protect! So in doing them a favor, we did ourselves a big favor as well!) We encourage you to forgive our past leaders. We love our negroes."

I know that racism, racial discrimination and segregation was commonplace during the time of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. I also know that there were many churches that did not integrate until around the Civil Rights Movement. But for a church that claims to be God's only church on the face of the planet, the only church that Jesus Christ himself leads, I expected much more.

The church always talks about setting a good example. Well, the early leaders of the church should have set an example and integrated and allowed the blessings to everyone no matter their racial background. A Mormon sect, The Church of Jesus Christ (also known as The Bickertonite Church) had integrated and allowed men of all races to hold the priesthood  since it was founded in 1862. They even had an African American serve as an apostle from 1910-1955,a time where rights for black people were scarce. They took a strong stand for human rights, something that "God's only church" did not.
Interesting how "God's only true church" did not take a stand during the civil rights movement, or set an example like its splinter group had.

Another thing that did not help matters for me was that the church leaders (and others) act like they don't know why the priesthood was banned. I watched a video where Spencer W. Kimball said something like, "I don't know why black people cannot have the priesthood, but God knows."

Then you have these two videos. One is of the late church president, Gordon B. Hinckley, being asked about why it took so long for the priesthood ban to be lifted. The other is a video of a member of a fundamentalist Mormon sect, *The Righteous Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (or the Peterson Group) being asked about the Curse of Cain doctrine (among other things). Please watch both videos and compare the two.

Gordon B. Hinckley

Interview with Mormon Fundamentalist. *For this video, you don't have to watch it the whole way through, you can just watch it up to 2:55.

Do you see the difference here?

You have Gordon B. Hinckley, a Prophet who claims to be Joseph Smith's Successor, who allegedly communes with God continually, who was a general authority from 1958 up until his death.
So when asked why it took so long for the church to get past it's racism, Hinckley just dodges the question and says, "I don't know" and tries to justify it by saying, "We have it now" and talking about how the church is doing work in Brazil and Africa.
Now for someone who was a General Authority during and after the "ban," and someone who was an Apostle during the time when "revelation" was received to lift the ban,  you would think if there were anyone who had an answer he would. But he pretends to not know.

Now the interviewee of the Fundamentalist Mormon group does not dodge the question at all. He just answers them and says that the Curse of Cain Doctrine was something that Brigham Young had taught, and is something that the group adheres to.

In trying to understand the LDS church's logic, I figured that there will never be an apology or real explanation from them. To apologize would be to admit that they were wrong, and members will then wonder what else they were wrong about (questions I've noticed that ex Mormons had asked), and cause them to question how "true" this church is. Keeping up their perfect fa├žade will bring in and keep membership.

In conclusion, I find it funny that when some members (noticed that I said "some," I will not broad paint brush every Mormon member) are confronted with issues such as this, they are quick to say, "That's just Anti-Mormon literature!" But how can The Journal of Discourses, Mormon Doctrine, The Way to Perfection and Mormonism and the Negro be Anti-Mormon literature WHEN THOSE BOOKS CAME FROM MORMONS?!

Like another blog poster openly wondered, I wonder what the leaders will say twenty years from now when things change. Years ago, racist things were preached about black people being the seed of Cain, inferior, etc. President David O' McKay preached for members to date and marry people of their own racial background, class, education, etc.
Then after the Priesthood Ban was "lifted" you have church leaders acting like they don't know why the ban took place, but claims that only God knows. Even Mitt Romney dodged Tim Russert's question as to why it had taken so long for the church to be "inclusive."
Then there is the church claiming that they don't believe that interracial marriages are a terrible thing.

And there is this line from Alexander B. Morrison, published in Ensign Magazine:
"How grateful I am that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has from its beginnings stood strongly against racism in any of its malignant manifestations." (Ensign, Sept 2000, p 16)
Obvious lies here.

So when things change twenty years from now, will the leaders then throw the leaders of the church now under the bus? Will they deny what the leaders are teaching now? Will they hide more "history" (among the many other things they hide)?
What new wool will the leaders then try to pull over their members' eyes?

Sources/Suggested Reading:
  • Journal of Discourses - Brigham Young
  • Mormon Doctrine - I recommend the First or Second Edition. The Third Edition is just a whitewashed edition to be more politically correct now that the "ban" is lifted.
  • Mormonism and the Negro - John J. Stewart
  • The Way to Perfection - Joseph Fielding Smith

Suggested Video(s):

If there is anything book or video that you think that I should add, please let me know in a comment.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Yep, ANOTHER Ex-Mormon Blog!

As you can see from the title of the blog, and the title of this post, this is another Ex-Mormon blog. I decided to create my blog to get my thoughts on the church out (being surrounded by Mormons, it can be pretty tough, but more on that later), and to let anyone who just found out about the truth about the church and is having a hard time with it know that they are not alone.

A little bit about me...

I was raised Catholic. My mother was a devout Catholic, went to Catholic schools until High School, and my father converted after they had married. After we lost her, the family tried to continue to go to church, but eventually stopped going altogether. I still prayed and had the thought that I needed religion to have God in my life. That's when the missionaries came in.

I thought that that the church looked good on the surface (which is mainly why I joined). I actually enjoyed the lessons with the missionaries. I enjoyed that every Sunday (with the exception of fast Sundays) that you hear talks from different people, and getting a glimpse of how the gospel worked in their life. And, being  twenty-two (yeah, I know what women - especially in the church - are usually married by that age), inexperienced at life (besides a hard-knock one), without a mind of my own, and looking for a place to fit in, I enjoyed being greeted so warmly by the members. I enjoyed that they would sit with me and ask me questions, leaving me to believe that they were interested in me as a person. I admired the families that I had met, because they seemed stable and close, things that my family were not. I also loved the wholesome aspect of the church. It was the safe haven that I spent four years looking for.

After a few months of investigating, I was baptized late August of 2004, and spent many years living in blissful ignorance within my Mormon Bubble.

Who would have thought that that bubble would have been burst by a fateful conversation with another church member during a ride home from Sunday services?

If I get into everything that made me find out that the church wasn’t true, that would make for a long post. So I will separate them into different posts based on these the following subjects that caused me to discover the truth about the church:
(and how the church's essays hid the facts, in their attempt to explain the first two subjects)

Before I get into these four subjects, I would like to mention that once I discovered what I did, I read and listened to accounts by several Ex-Mormons who have heard the same things from the TBM's (True Believing Mormon) in their circle:
“People believed that I left the church because a) I was offended b) didn’t pray enough, didn’t have enough faith and did not read my scriptures enough c) I wanted to sin.”

It’s scary how a good number of Mormons are conditioned to believe this about people that leave. I never believed this (heck I didn’t even though that this is what members thought!), and now that I am near the other side, I can definitely vouch that it’s a lot deeper than that. That definitely is not the case for everyone that leaves.

At one point, I thought that I could still attend church because I was happy there, and I felt that the church was good “now” despite its ugly history (and the fact that they hide it). I even tried to justify things by thinking, “Well, the church has an ugly history, but so does America. America has come a long way and (even though we still have a ways to go) we still celebrate and sing about how wonderful the country is. The church is good now, so I can stay.” But as time passed, I would get uncomfortable about how general authorities would talk about Joseph Smith (and Brigham Young at times) and paint him up as a saint. Also on how arrogant some of the talks given during sacrament meeting (more on that in another blog post). I would also have to keep silent about my issues with the church.

As far as my beliefs goes, I still do believe in God. It works for me. It may not work for everyone, and I respect that. That’s one of the beautiful things about getting out of Mormonism, being respectful of the beliefs of others. I've always been fine with religious diversity (and diversity in general), because it keeps me open minded.

So now, we’ll get to the four aforementioned posts (and more to come, of course!).  I’ll try not to make my posts too long, but I am an aspiring writer (and former English Literature major) so that would be tough.

Brace yourself. Shit's about it get real.