Friday, May 20, 2011

Force, coercion and manipulation

In thinking about the idea of forcing people back to heaven, versus inviting or enticing them, I wanted to outline the various ways it could be accomplished. However, before I can begin to talk about how it could be accomplished, I need to outline the ideas and behaviors that would make up such control mechanisms.

What are the various forms of control over people and how are they manifest?

Based in my experience, control can be exercised in one of several ways:

1. Physical force. This would be causing another to engage in a behavior because one party is physically controlling another to do something. An example of this would be if I hold your arm and drag you up the stairs to bed while you are crying because you don't want to go to bed. The circumstances necessary for this kind of control to exist are one party being physically stronger than the party being controlled and the controlled party allowing, to some extent, themselves to be controlled physically (or not being able to understand, willing to obey, things to that point that it would necessitate the control being administered).

My children often either run up the stairs on their own or try to run away from me when they suspect I am getting to the point that I am ready to drag them upstairs to bed. The reality is, however, this kind of force is only necessary (and remotely practicable) when children are large enough to walk on their own but young enough to feel the need to disobey their parents. When children become physically able to resist such force, it usually becomes ineffective.

Physical force is also justified when attempting to correct children because their behavior being engaged in may harm them. Like pulling their hand away from a campfire, for example. Physical force is never justified when it is solely intended to cause injury to another. The only exception to this, in my opinion, is when having some form of injury is risked in order to prevent some other, more severe, injury. For example, pushing someone out of the way of an oncoming car, may result in some injury, but it would be caused in order to prevent being hit by an oncoming car. It is presumed, however, that physical force is rarely justified among persons who have the ability to think and act for themselves because they are not in a state where the care of another is necessary. Children are said to be in the care, custody and control of their parents or guardians. In other words, parents are the only one's who are allowed to utilize physical force for correctional/instructional/disciplinary purposes. I suppose a very long debate could be started over the kinds of physical force that are allowed to take place by parents with their children (or those that have been placed in responsibility for children by their parents), but I am not prepared to try to outline all of that.

2. Threat of physical force or inflicting injury. This would be control that is exercised by threatening that if a particular behavior is not engaged in, then the person fears that they will experience physical pain or injury that will be inflicted by the one exerting the control over another. The circumstances necessary for this kind of control are one party having the physical ability, weapons or resources to carry out this injury or harm to a party that does not have the physical ability, weapons or resources to protect their self.

I do this all the time with my kids. I say, "You better eat your peas or you will get a spanking." I don't really say this, by the way, I only threaten to spank for much more severe disobedience, like talking back.

This is a form of control that is utilized by parents with their children all time, even though we may not be aware of it. The threat of physical injury is a very real concern for little people who are at the mercy of big people around them. Many times parents may be threatening physical injury and not even realize that they are doing it. For example, sometimes, just getting angry, yelling or moving quickly towards a little person can cause the fear of physical injury for the little person and cause them to alter their behavior.

I have even experienced this misunderstood fear on the part of others first hand. I used to live next door to a lady that was kind of paranoid. She was a single, fully grown, woman that lived alone. She lived in a house that overlooked the road leading up to it and she insisted that no plants or fence be placed in her backyard because she always wanted to be able to see the road to make sure her ex-husband wasn't on his way to "get" her. I assume she feared that he would come and inflict physical violence on her - which fear I am not discounting, because apparently when leaving a physically abusive relationship, is when people are at the highest risk of being killed by their abusive partner - however what she did one day did lead me to believe she was kind of paranoid. One day I was working in my yard on a warm sunny day. I had been working on some landscaping for a couple of hours and had gotten some sun. I was red in the face, apparently, and my two year old son wandered over into her back yard (because there was no fence) to chase a cat that was on her back porch. I yelled over to my son to come back over to our side of the property. My son didn't immediately respond so I started to walk over to retrieve him. Eventually he wandered back over to our property and we all continued about our business. The next day the police showed up at our door. They said they had received a complaint from our neighbor who said I was all red in the face in her backyard carrying a shovel and yelling. She was afraid I was digging up, and taking my anger out on, some weeds in her back yard and thought I was coming for her next, I guess (she never pulled her weeds, so I could have easily gotten very upset that I had to look at them all the time). The police said they were sorry to bother us, but said they had to make sure I was not a real threat and get our side of the story. I could not believe that she would call the police on me! Needless to say, we were not on much speaking terms after that.

My neighbor apparently felt threatened by me being red-faced, yelling over to my son and carrying a shovel. I feel bad that some people live in such fear that a slight misunderstanding causes them to feel the need to call the police. I guess I cannot discount people, or their bad experiences with physical harm being inflicted by another, but I do think it can get to a point of being unjustifiably paranoid. This further illustrates that sometimes the threat of harm can be interpreted to one person where no threat to someone else is evident. It makes me wonder what can be done when one party is constantly accusing the other of threatening physical violence when that is not their intent and no physical violence has ever been committed?

Threats of violence as a means to control others can be used by so many different parties in so many situations. It can be used by children against their parents, parents against children, spouses against each other, neighbors against each other, communities and, most visibly, countries against each other. As to the merits of this form of threatening to inflict injury to control others, I am also not prepared to write about that. What I will say, however, is that the threat of physical violence as a means to control should diminish as people show that they have no intention, or ability, to carry out the threat.

3. Threatening to inflict physical injury on oneself if a certain behavior is not engaged in. We would say this is pretty foolish because it is based on the assumption that if someone we care about hurts their self the other party will care enough to not let that happen. Sometimes this is a pretty big assumption. Usually when someone hurts their body intentionally, I just laugh. Of course, the laughter becomes more awkward the more it becomes evident they might be causing such injury to their person that it could threaten their life. However, even at that point, I sometimes just can't stop laughing.

On my mission, we were with our zone leaders going to a members house for dinner and, on our way into the house, my zone leaders companion found a fire ant hill. Where I served my mission in south Texas there are a lot of fire ants. We all joked about how these fire ants could literally cause a lot of pain if someone were to be bitten by them. So this Elder says, "I'll stick my arm on the ant hill, and see how long I can keep it there, and see what happens." Of course, after a while, the ants came out and started climbing on his arm and biting him. About 2 or 3 seconds after he put his arm on the ant hill, I started laughing uncontrollably. It turns out, he started to experience an allergic reaction to the ant bites and had to be rushed to the hospital. It was sometime on the way to the hospital that I finally stopped laughing...even though I couldn't help but let out a little chuckle every now and again when I thought about how stupid a move it was that he made.

4. Emotional manipulation. This is when one party attempts to make an appeal to the emotional center (or response) of another person to move them to engage in a behavior. I think forms of emotional manipulation are extremely numerous. Suffice it to say that it involves attempting to arouse an emotion in one party and then telling them that the emotion they are feeling is evidence that they should engage in a certain behavior. Threat of violence and threat of violence to oneself, are forms of emotional manipulation because the fear of harm is the emotion that is utilized to invite a behavior that would otherwise not have been engaged in by the other party.

Aside from fear (which I think is the most common tool of emotional manipulation), other forms of emotional manipulation may involve; security, love, lust, compassion, conformity, sadness, sexual arousal, conviction and dependency.

What I think it all comes down to is everybody is potentially motivated (ergo controlled) by either fear or pleasure. We either fear something bad will happen if we do or don't do something or we do or don't do things because we think it will bring us pleasure.

I wonder which of these methods Satan would have used in his great plan of no-choice to bring us all back into God's presence?

Physical force? At that point we would have basically been robots being physically controlled by another entity. I wonder if we would have ever been able to resist such a force? What would have happened then? Would we eventually become so conditioned in certain behaviors/actions, that the force could eventually stop and we would not be able to act in a manner that worked against the will of the force because it became engrained in our being? A lot like muscle conditioning and ingrained memories allow us to engage in certain behaviors without even thinking about them (like riding a bike, for example). Large elephants can be restrained by a tiny chain that they could easily break. How is this possible, you may ask. Well, it starts when the elephant is a baby and it is chained up. At first the elephant tries to break free, but once it realizes it is of no use, it gives up and never tries to break free again. This is a form of control through conditioning of physical force. That may have been a good plan for us too. Tell us that it isn't possible to break free of a behavior or belief for long enough and, after a while, people will stop trying.

How about the threat of physical force, harm, injury or death? This would be a fear based form of control. We would comply because we would fear death or some other form of physical pain or injury as a consequence. We would be told repeatedly that we should comply or else. We might be subjected to seeing or hearing others having the physical pain or injury inflicted on them so that we become convinced of the power of the controlling entity to administer such a punishment on us. And as long as the controlling entity maintains the power to administer such judgments/punishments, we would remain in compliance because it would remain in our best interests to do so in order to avoid the pain or suffering. I also think this form of control could be very effective on us as human beings.

What about Satan threatening to harm himself if we did not comply? I don't think this form of control would be very effective...if we placed Satan in a position that is equivalent to how most people see him today. However, what if he were promoted to being equivalent in status to a world leader or Jesus? Would we work to avoid allowing pain to come to (or feeling the need to inflict pain on himself) if we highly revered his character? Maybe to a point, but our sympathies, I think, would quickly wane as the threat of harming himself continued. We might get to a point where we would welcome the threat of violence towards himself being carried out so we could be rid of him. This would quickly be seen as selfish and would therefore not be effective for very long. This probably would not be a good form of control for us.

This brings us to emotional manipulation. I believe emotional manipulation would be an excellent form of control to be exercised by Satan to keep us in control. He would constantly be appealing to our emotions to get us to do his will. He would constantly be telling us how the emotional response he just elicited in us was clearly an indicator that we should follow him. He would point out that the emotional response is the ultimate indicator of truth for us and that our emotions should be relied on in every case (that is, as long as they are used in a manner that remains in conformity with his agenda). He would tell us to ignore any emotional response that is received outside of the controlled emotions elicited inside his programming because these are obviously deceptions designed by his enemy to distract us or lead us astray. Any emotional independence would be highly discouraged because emotional dependency would be the only way maintain control. Subjects would be told that within their group is the only place such heart-warming emotions are able to be experienced and that seeking for them outside the group setting is a waste of time because they are never experienced.

The tools of emotional control would also need to be implemented throughout a large group of God's children. For that reason, the emotional control would need to be implemented throughout some sort of organization. A strictly hierarchical organization would likely be utilized. Peer pressure would be used to encourage conformity to the "correctness" of behavior by God's children. People would be told about all the bad things that will happen to them if they ever decided to leave the group, however, since leaving or not participating would simply be absolutely prohibited, these appeals to our emotions elicited when thinking about being separated from the group would be absolutely essential. Basically, no one would be permitted to leave, but they might be made afraid to leave by constantly being reminded about how miserable anyone is that ever decided to leave the group. The reasons for leaving would be considered irrelevant. The misery and, almost certain, loneliness of those that leave the group would be the constant mantra of the believers...err, I mean, subjects.

Of course, as part of that emotional manipulation, fear conditioning would be utilized to try and ingrain a fear of seeking information that originates outside the group-think standards of information. Satan's subjects would be told that to seek information from outside Satan's organization would be tantamount to heresy and would be strictly forbidden. Those enticed by such outside information would quickly be discovered because everyone would be taught to turn in those that are guilty of being exposed to, or searching out, such things. Subjects would be told that all other sources of information originating outside the group are false and are only designed to deceive and misinform. Any possible consideration of such information would quickly be dispelled by accusing the author of the information of attempting to lead others astray.

In addition, emotional control would be exercised by telling us our bodies are something to be ashamed of and that our body represents an enemy to the will of our noble leader. Simply because anything that is not directly controllable through fear or some other form of emotional manipulation (like our body) is a threat to the power of the leader and needs to be quickly put in its place as something to be feared and placed under strict and constant supervision for any deviant behaviors. Deviant behaviors would be quickly made out to be bad, forbidden and quickly dealt with through some form of punishment (or fear of punishment).

Anyway, I think you get the idea of what things would be like if Satan's plan had won the day in the pre-existence and one, or all, of the above forms of control were utilized to keep us in line and force us to return to God's all knowing and all loving presence. Thank goodness Satan is not our ruler and our God today. I can only imagine how terrible the world would be if that were the case.

P.S. My thanks to the Stake Presidents blog for my inspiration on these thoughts found here.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Quest for Knowledge

I learned something new over the weekend. I learned that the back brakes on my car are different to work on than the front brakes even though they are the same kind of braking system. For a while there, I was frustrated and confused about why the back brakes did not respond to the same technique for replacing the brake pads that was used on the front brake system. It is a very simple difference really (on the front, the brake piston is pushed back to its starting position, while, on the back, it is twisted), but not being aware of a simple difference in technique would have meant the difference between being able to finish the job or not. I am glad I didn't just give up without searching the internet for the solution to my dilemma because that would have cost significantly more money to take my car to the shop and have them finish the job. Ignoring important information, especially information that I need to make my life better, could end up costing me in many different ways. One way is my pocket book, but another way is the safety of my family while driving our car.

I simply do not understand why people would deliberately choose to stay in the dark when it comes to learning new things or being exposed to new information, however, this is exactly what some people choose to do when it comes to information that does not promote their faith in God or the church. I am fully confident that I can judge when information is beneficial, dangerous, useless or does not fit with what I already know, but apparently these folks do not have that same confidence in their ability. The only reason I can postulate for why this is would be that either; A)There is some knowledge out there that is just too scary (designed to make you afraid), too dangerous (designed to hurt you) or not condoned by God (designed to prevent you from keeping the commandments of God) or B) There is a fear that some people are just actively trying to deceive you and, while on the surface their information may seem to make sense, it is really designed to trick you into believing false and deceptive things.

While these reasons for avoiding information may make sense to some, I am not sure how these kinds of judgments can be made about any information prior to actually becoming aware of, and considering as a possibility, as much of the information that is available as presented by both sides of the question.

While I was searching for clues and examples of how to finish the work on the back brakes on my car, I had to weed through lots of information that was actually irrelevant to my specific situation and brake system, but with each article read and video watched I came closer to the needed information I was looking for. I wonder why there are so many in my acquaintance who, when exposed to new information, choose to look the other way, ignore or immediately discredit the information, (or the source of "my" information) without even actually considering the information being presented?

I wish these people understood what it says to me when they choose to react like that. If I have some piece of information I choose to share with them, that I have taken great pains to find and verify the authenticity of in the first place, that is summarily dismissed as not important, relevant or pertinent to them in their situation, this is very hurtful. When they choose to ignore or dismiss information I am sharing, they are really dismissing all of my efforts to weed out information that is irrelevant, or possibly incongruous or illogical, and my ability to discern when information is accurate, useful or possibly very important. Aside from essentially labeling me as someone who is unable to figure things out on their own, or process information in a way that is beneficial, it is very frustrating and effectively impedes effective communication from being able take place. Once I have been labeled as someone who provides inaccurate or deceptive information, it is easy to then dismiss everything I say as such. It is amazing to me how quickly this label is applied to me nowadays without even checking to see if what I am saying is indeed accurate!

I had an interesting conversation with my father on Saturday night over dinner. My brother was there and he brought up religion for some reason (he is now an evangelical Christian and thinks of it as his calling to save all the Mormons from themselves). I don't recall all the details of the conversation because I was really only half listening to what my brother was saying, but it was apparent he was saying some things that were getting my father pretty upset. Of course, to be fair, if I were still a believing Mormon some of the things being said were pretty sacrilegious (to Mormonism, at least) and probably would have made me upset as well, or pretty embarrassed. I tried to refrain from jumping on the bandwagon, but then my father said that Joseph Smith never said that God was once a man like us and as God is man may become and that the information my brother was presenting was not true. I couldn't refrain any longer. I had to jump in and say, well, actually Joseph Smith did say that as God is man may become and as man is God once was. It was the whole subject of the King Follett Discourse delivered April 7, 1844 at a General Conference of the church. However, no matter what I said, my father insisted that it was never said and that I was mistaken. The trust in me as a potential source of information was completely abandoned when I was perceived to be going along with what my brother was saying. While there was nothing he was saying that was untrue, it was apparently offensive to the point where we could easily be discredited in his mind.

It was actually kind of funny because my dad went on to talk about how a discovery was made near the red sea that contained writings in Egyptian, written about a Pharaoh who talked about an evil leader who led the Israelite's across the red sea and that all of Pharaoh's army perished when the water came down on them when they followed. My father was using this information to point out that what you believe all depends on your perspective. This is very true. If I had been able to present a comeback to that information, I would have asked if it was possible to actually translate Egyptian? If so, I would have asked what the translation was of the papyrus the Book of Abraham was supposedly written on and how that compares with Joseph Smith's version? I guess that would have only led to further argument.

The good news is that I wasn't nearly as angry as I have been in times past when talking religion with my parents. I think I am finally letting go of the need to convince others that I am right. It is difficult to let others have their beliefs, even when I have studied those same beliefs at length and come to the conclusion that they are false.

I cannot think of any instance where, if someone came up to me claiming to have information that might be important for me to have, (because they were well versed in the subject matter) I would decide to dismiss it without first at least evaluating the information being presented for myself. Am I really that much different than so many people in my life?

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

"I will choose the first..."

The Pearl of Great Price in the LDS canon gives important information about the details surrounding the grand council that took place in heaven when the Plan of Salvation ® was decided on by God the Father in relation to what course our salvation would take. In Abraham Chapter 3 verse 4 we read that Abraham was given the following by way of revelation:

"And the Lord said unto me, by the Urim and Thummim, that Kolob was after the manner of the Lord, according to its times and seasons in the revolutions thereof; that one revolution was a day unto the Lord, after his manner of reckoning, it being one thousand years according to the time appointed unto that whereon thou standest. This is the reckoning of the Lord’s time, according to the reckoning of Kolob."

From this verse we learn that the Lord is pretty specific that one revolution of the planet Kolob is equal to a thousand years of reckoning based on our earth's rotation. This seems pretty specific and is stating in pretty clear terms that one day to God (on his planet) is 1,000 years to man on earth. Which would seem to indicate that each one of the creative periods (as outlined in Genesis in the Bible and Moses/Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price) was each roughly a 1,000 year time span. This is one point on which science does not agree.

To say that the earth was created in 7,000 earth years (1,000 years X 7 creative periods plus, at most, 6,000 years since man supposedly appeared on the scene, as outlined in the Bible - placing the total time of earth's existence at around 13,000 years), is a belief that, while common a few hundred years ago, is considered just plain ridiculous now. In case you are wondering, scientists say that the earth began to form 4.54 billion years ago. Liquid ocean appeared on the scene about 200 million years later. Life appeared on the scene some 3.5 billion years ago and the evolutionary path that led to the existence of man began about 2.5 million years ago. All of which seem to be a far cry from 13,000 years.

However, on a more positive note, what we may have in the Bible is a starting point for man's written history after verbal and written language begins to be developed to a point where it is passed down through history. Experts say that the oldest written record (Jiahu script) is from 6600 BCE - which is about 8,600 years ago. This may be the real legacy of the Bible that we have today. The Bible, it could be argued, is one of the oldest texts that we still have in wide use today - having originated some 6,000 years ago.

While all of this is very interesting, it is just a side note to the point I want to make about what we find later in this chapter of Abraham.

We read further in Abraham starting in verse 22 of Chapter 4 additional revelations concerning this grand council in heaven:

"Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;

23 And God saw these souls
(I was always taught that this was you and I) that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born. (Chosen for what exactly, we can only speculate)

24 And there stood one among them that was like unto God,
(Not sure who this is, however, it sounds like it could be another god that is similar in glory to God the Father, hmmm? This would be consistent with the creation account in Abraham where it says "...the gods" instead of God created the heavens and the earth...) and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;

25 And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;

26 And they who keep their first estate
(First estate meaning those who chose to follow Jesus in this large council meeting) shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever. (Keeping the second estate meaning those that successfully complete all the tests administered during life on earth)

27 And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me.
(I was taught that this was Jesus/Jehovah) And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. (I was taught that this was Satan, Lucifer whatever you want to call him) And the Lord said: I will send the first. (Here we are to understand that God the Father chose Jesus' plan over Satan's)

28 And the second was angry,
(We presume this is Satan) and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him.

In D&C 29:36 we learn that it was 1/3 of God's children that followed Satan and did not keep their first estate...meaning they chose not to follow a plan that would result in a limited number of souls making it back to live with God the Father for all eternity.

So let me get this straight. God calls a big meeting. God solicits ideas on, presumably, how to allow his children to become like him. Jesus steps forward and presents a plan that says that we will all have a choice, but the downside will be that only a limited number of children will choose to accept Jesus' plan and subsequent sacrifice and end up returning to live with God the Father for all eternity. Another leader, Satan, steps forward to present his plan. Since his plan is not decided upon, the details of it are pretty sketchy, but the gist is that all of God's children will be able to return to live with him for eternity. It is always presumed that this plan would involve 1. Taking away our choice in the matter and 2. Somehow making us miserable since we would not have any say in the matter. Those two conditions sound about like how I was made to feel as a child when my parents forced me to do things I did not want to do.

My question is this; Is God the Father truly a loving father to us all? I would have to argue that the answer to that question is definitely not. Let me try to put it in simpler terms that even I can relate to;

If I am the parent of 10 children and I get up in front of all of them one day and say something to the effect of, "We need to come up with a plan so we can all be happy together as long as we all live in the same house." Child #1 steps up and says, I have an idea...everybody can choose whether or not they want to stay here and everyone that's left will be happy here because they have decided to stay here. Child #2 steps up and says, I have a better idea, why don't we make rules and say that everyone must stick by them in order to be able to stay here and be happy. However, nobody can leave...because family sticks together no matter what.

So which plan do I choose? If I choose the 1st child's plan, everyone that decides to stay may well be happy in the house, but how many will actually decide to stay?

If I am truly a loving parent how is it possible for me to choose a plan where it is known that I am going to lose 1/3rd of my children the minute I decide to go with that plan and likely another 50-75% (or more) of my children when it is all said and done. These kids, by the way, will never be coming back to stay with all of us. They will be gone forever. Is that the great plan of happiness? Happiness for who?

How many people, as a percentage of the overall population, I wonder, have prophets said will actually make it to the highest degree of heaven where God the Father will dwell and can be with Him for all eternity? We know it is for sure only 2/3rds of His children right off the bat. I realize that, aside from the 2/3rds we can establish scripturally, any other number is based on pure speculation, but I have heard some say that the number that will actually end up exalted in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom is somewhere around 10% of the world's population. I have heard through the rumor mill that some general authorities have admitted in private settings something to the effect that, "it is much less than we all might think." So could it be 1%?

Let's add some perspective. The current population (living) of our planet is about 6.8 billion (in 2009 according to the World Bank). The current number of members of the LDS church (put out by the church) stands at 14.1 million members. This puts the membership of the church as a percentage of the world population at less than .2%. Some have said that it may only be half of the members of the church that make it to the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom, which would mean that less than .1% of the world's population will make it back to live with God our Heavenly Father. And this is just among the living. I imagine if we were able to count all those that have lived on this planet before us, we could probably come up with an extremely small number (compared to the total) of people who will end up living with God the Father in his presence forever. No wonder they will be encouraged to eternally increase their numbers through polygamous relations...their numbers will have been significantly diminished!

So, going back to my family with 10 children example, would you choose to go along with a plan that would mean that only 1 of your kids ends up choosing to be with you and, therefore, is privileged enough to live out your days together in your house? What parent that loves ALL of their children could go for such a plan? The only thing that makes sense, is that either A) God wants us to think for ourselves and therefore live in an independent sphere and maybe make it to be like Him independent of living with him (and this is what would truly make Him happy - but would make him sort of unnecessary really) or B) God only wants to live with a select few whom he will choose to bestow his ultimate knowledge and glory on forever. The rest can just go to hell, apparently, and never get any of the goods he has to offer. As a father myself, I simply cannot relate to this way of thinking. This mindset, of giving rewards to those who are the most obedient (often without any knowledge of why they are being asked to be such), and threatening those that are not with being cut off, sounds less like the work of a mature, loving father and more like the teaching of an outdated institution bent on controlling people who do not think for themselves.

Anyway, I hope I have made it clear that the teaching that God is our loving Father in Heaven cannot logically co-exist with the idea that He decided that only a limited number of his lovely child creations would be able to come back and live with Him forever. I hope to elaborate further thoughts on this at some future point.

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Monday, May 9, 2011

My Church Resume

I would like to try and outline some of the things I have discovered about the LDS church so that I can have a reference for people curious about the path I am on. In an effort to try and convey my journey out of belief in Mormonism I would like to start with my background in the church.

I am the oldest of 5 children and, from as young as I can remember, my family regularly attended the LDS church. I don't really remember many specifics, but I remember that I was all in and believed 100% in pretty much everything I was taught. I remember feeling very special when I was baptized. I also remember feeling very special most of the time as I reflect on my early years growing up in the church. When I "graduated" from Primary, a friend and I went back to sharing time for a couple of weeks to visit after we weren't supposed to be going to primary any more because we loved Primary. There was one especially nice lady in Primary that we all loved and we didn't want to graduate to Sunday School and have to leave.

I also remember being involved as an extra in the play called, "My Turn on Earth". I was very excited to be able to do that. I think primary was different when I was a kid than it is now. We sang songs like "Popcorn popping on the apricot tree" and "Give said the little stream" which have messages of sharing, kindness and enjoying the beauty of nature found all around us. It seems like I was also taught moral concepts like being honest, being kind and doing the right thing and there was very little emphasis on following the prophet or listening to and obeying what church leaders said. Instead it seems the new songs coming out in primary (since I was in there) have to do with obedience, conformity and stating knowledge about things where no real knowledge (as defined traditionally) can really be had. In my personal opinion, it seems more like brainwashing type affirmations are emphasized where they used to not be so much. Which causes me to wonder if children growing up in the church nowadays will be even less likely to question the authenticity of the church's claims than I was or if it will be that much more difficult for them when they do...I don't know.

I was the quorum president in teachers quorum for a short time and really loved my teacher's quorum advisor. When I became a priest, I remember I would get compliments all the time on the way I read the sacrament prayer because I was able to read them well with appropriate emphasis on the words and in a smooth and solemn, yet interesting tone. I believed I was gifted to some extent in the area of public speaking. When I graduated from high school I went right to BYU Provo for the summer term following my graduation (since that was the only time I could get in). I loved BYU. I had a much easier time living on campus than off, however.

After the fall semester I came home to earn money to go on my mission for nearly a year. I got a job framing houses when I came home and am grateful for that experience. My boss was LDS and he was instrumental in helping me prepare for my mission. It was during this time that I was riding on a spiritual high and I had several special spiritual experiences that really strengthened my testimony and resolve to serve a mission. It was during this time that I received what I believed to be a revelation regarding faith and that it is truly the power to create. I also believed that I received a revelation that the current president of the church had passed away and I thought I received some words from him as a spirit confirming that he had indeed passed away and he was comforting me and encouraging me. I have written more about this experience here.

I was called to serve in San Antonio Texas speaking Spanish. In the MTC my companion was the assistant to the branch president and I was the assistant to the assistant...whatever that was supposed to mean. I really enjoyed the MTC and did not have any doubt that I was in the right place doing the right thing at the time. The transition to the mission field was kind of difficult because I went from studying in a classroom most of the day and eating in a cafeteria at a place about the size of a large high school to going out and riding a bike all day around west San Antonio. I was physically exhausted when I came home every night and I truly missed all the social interaction that was available in the MTC. Now, I was living in a small 3rd story apartment stuck with one guy all day long riding a bike all day. This was hard. It didn't help that my companion, while very intelligent and likeable didn't say very much. I honestly think he was not very social and really struggled getting out and talking to people. However, I do think the mission helped him to overcome this to a certain extent.

About a year and a half into my mission I was called to be a zone leader and had a really great time in that capacity. When I returned home from my mission after a couple of years attending the singles ward, I was called to be the Elder's quorum president. I adjusted well to life back home, although it was an adjustment that took some time nonetheless.

It was while I was serving as the Elder's quorum president that a certain lovely young woman caught my eye. I called her up to invite her to a ward family home evening activity and we ended up talking almost the whole night on the phone. Needless to say, we really hit it off and decided to get married shortly thereafter. About six months later we were married in the Portland, OR temple. I also enjoyed going to the temple and was a set apart veil worker prior to getting married.

Once married, I continued to hold various callings while staying active in the church. I was an adviser to the teachers quorum, Sunday School counselor, Primary worker, nursery leader, Elder's quorum second counselor, Sunday School adult gospel doctrine teacher, Sunday school president, Deacon's quorum adviser and cub scout wolf leader. I am currently serving as the cub scout wolf leader in my ward.

I guess the whole reason I wanted to give all that history about myself is to further declare that I believed 100% in the religion that I was brought up in. It was not until I was a gospel doctrine teacher that I ever caught any wind that the church might not be all that it claimed to be. And, even then, I did not give any serious consideration to the difficult questions I was posed. It was not until after I had moved to a different ward and a couple of years had passed before I really began to seriously question my beliefs and consider all the evidence surrounding the history of the church.

I am also not sure what specifically led to my questioning the authority claims of the church or being able to look somewhat objectively at the history of the church (not giving Joseph Smith 100% of the benefit of the doubt), but I know doubts crept up upon learning about Joseph's polygamy and all the problems associated with that. Those doubts were only solidified as I learned more about all the details of the polygamous affairs through books I later read on the subject. It seems to me that it is fair to say that my whole time growing up and serving in the church, I was never exposed to any of the more sordid and potentially faith damaging information that I became aware of after I started actually asking questions about who Joseph Smith really was and wanted to know more about his actual history. That and I had to be willing to read from sources of historical information that were not necessarily church approved or sanctioned. I think this is a hard obstacle for some to overcome, however, I think that there is plenty of difficult stuff that can be found in authorized church sources if one desires to find them and look at things said with half an objective eye to a truth that makes sense.

I hope this serves to let people know that I was not always a doubter and for the vast majority of my life I was 100% in and had no doubt about the authenticity of the claims of the church. I also find it interesting that I could go my whole life being brought up in the church and not even be aware of so many things.

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