Sunday, October 7, 2012

Bring 'Em Young (To The Missionary Training Center!)

In what passes for "prophetic" utterances by the mormon "prophet" Thomas Monson, the news out of Salt Lake City yesterday has the mormon and ministry to mormon world abuzz. Mormon kids will now be allowed to go on their mandatory voluntary mission earlier, 18 versus 19 for boys and 19 versus 21 for girls.

Church Lowers Missionary Service Age 

Salt Lake City — In a move to expand the opportunities for young members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to serve full-time missions, Church president Thomas S. Monson announced today that, effective immediately, men may now begin serving at age 18 and women at age 19.

The previous age for beginning missionary service was 19 years of age for young men and 21 for young women.

The announcement was made during the opening session of the Church’s 182nd Semiannual General Conference, broadcast worldwide from Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Church anticipates that lowering the age requirement will significantly increase the number of missionaries who will serve by expanding the options for when they may begin their service.

Makes you wonder. The stated reason is that it opens more opportunities for mission work. I am not buying that math. There are not more 18 year olds than 19 year olds each year. All 19 year old started out as 18 year old I believe. There is no difference between someone starting at 19 and finishing at 21 versus starting at 18 and finishing at 20. There will not be more missionaries, some will start earlier and end earlier. This seems like basic math and there doesn't seem to be much of a difference. Well there is one difference and that difference is the year between high school and leaving for the mission field.

Maybe the year of being out of the nest and out working in the world might shake these young men a bit. At 18 they go right from high school into the missionary training center before heading out to the mission field. They won't have a year of college or a year out working a job. Just life at home and then straight to mission work. I thought that the year out in the world, working or going to college, was good for them but it sounds like it might have become a barrier.

It is also more convenient. A young mormon woman leaving for a mission at 21 is gone until she is almost 23, which means setting aside marriage. The same for young men, they can get the mission experience out of the way and get about the business of school or work and marriage earlier. I am presuming that this move is caused by the church is having a tough time getting kids out to the mission field and there are few things more critical to long term retention than mission work.

I have long been of the belief that the missionary force is designed more to lock in male members of the church by the experience of being on the mission field than it is about getting converts. To stay on their mission these young men and women have to make themselves believe without question what they are doing. When we meet with the missionaries my goal is not to have them up and quit but rather to plant the seeds that they might pursue later on in life, knowing full well that those two years have such a powerful, mythical quality about them that getting them to leave mormonism and come to Christ is a tough proposition.

Ultimately this strikes me as a way to get kids into the mission field as early as possible, both to make sure they get this experience before they get out into the world and also to make it more convenient. As the mormon church quietly bleeds members there is no better way to retain their children than to get them out on mission and whatever barriers you find to them doing so are going to be rapidly removed.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A New and Everlasting Covenant (Until It Gets Us In Trouble)

I was reading the "manifesto" known as Official Declaration-1 yesterday delivered by mormon leader Wilford Woodruff in 1890 that claimed that mormons were abandoning the practice of polygamy, while not in any way repudiating the doctrine of polygamy. I found what he wrote (this is from the official web page of "the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints") to be fascinating...

I have had some revelations of late, and very important ones to me, and I will tell you what the Lord has said to me. Let me bring your minds to what is termed the manifesto. …

The Lord has told me to ask the Latter-day Saints a question, and He also told me that if they would listen to what I said to them and answer the question put to them, by the Spirit and power of God, they would all answer alike, and they would all believe alike with regard to this matter.

The question is this: Which is the wisest course for the Latter-day Saints to pursue—to continue to attempt to practice plural marriage, with the laws of the nation against it and the opposition of sixty millions of people, and at the cost of the confiscation and loss of all the Temples, and the stopping of all the ordinances therein, both for the living and the dead, and the imprisonment of the First Presidency and Twelve and the heads of families in the Church, and the confiscation of personal property of the people (all of which of themselves would stop the practice); or, after doing and suffering what we have through our adherence to this principle to cease the practice and submit to the law, and through doing so leave the Prophets, Apostles and fathers at home, so that they can instruct the people and attend to the duties of the Church, and also leave the Temples in the hands of the Saints, so that they can attend to the ordinances of the Gospel, both for the living and the dead?

As a quick refresher, polygamy was "revealed" to Joseph Smith as a "new and everlasting covenant" that no one can reject and be glorified.

For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory. (D&C 132:4)

Polygamy among the priesthood is a new and everlasting covenant, one so important that God saw fit to instruct Joseph Smith's first wife Emma (in King James English no less) that she was to graciously accept however many women Joseph was "called" to engage in adultery er... pedophilia er.... plural marriage with (D&C 132:51-56). Strangely enough this "new and everlasting covenant" didn't last very long at all, less than 60 years! The "god" of mormonism is more fickle and prone to change his mind than a teen aged girl.

I guess it does make sense though, since that is exactly what Christ taught. Do as I teach unless it makes people mad or prevents you from achieving statehood in America and then I will reverse course and change my mind. So much for God is the same yesterday, today and forever.

This is a perfectly legitimate question to ask of mormons, including Mitt Romney. Do you still believe that God ordained polygamy for your early "prophets" and do you still believe in the doctrinal foundations of plural marriage even if you don't currently practice it?Mitt makes a big deal of his laudable marriage, and rightly so, but if we were commanded by the prophet to take a teen girl as his plural wife would he?

There is nothing about the Christian faith I am ashamed of or try to gloss over. I welcome any and all questions without hiding behind cries of pseudo-persecution.When a religion hides behind "sacred but secret", has lots of closed door meetings to interrogate people, tries to gloss over embarrassing past teachings and offers zero transparency on its substantial finances it certainly seems like it is hiding something.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Book of Mormon: Gateway Drug To Mormonism

The Wall Street Journal featured a nice little puff piece on the Hill Cumorah Pageant today, A Pageant of Mormon History and Mirth. This pageant, like other mormon historical sites and events, plays a crucial role in sustaining the faith of mormons in their church. One of the many oddities about mormonism is the role of the story of the Book of Mormon, both the events it alleges and the story of how it was “discovered” and “translated” by Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon is sort of the gateway drug for mormonism. It doesn’t really contain any of the squirrelly teachings of mormonism about polygamy or becoming gods but mormon missionaries ask prospective converts to pray about the Book of Mormon to determine whether it is true or not. If you affirm that the Book of Mormon is “true” then you must aknowledge Smith as a prophet and therefore accept the rest of his crackpot theories and fanciful teachings, from men becoming gods to God Himself telling Joseph to cheat on his wife but not reveal this revelation until his wife wised up to his infidelity. Once you accept the Book of Mormon and join the mormon religion you are slowly introduced to the rest of the teachings of mormonism.

Unlike Christianity, where Christians lay it all on the table while preaching the Gospel, mormon proselytizing efforts focus on getting an emotion driven assent to a poorly written, repetitive book rather than on exaltation, the pre-existence, polygamy and other aberrant mormon teachings. Little wonder that new converts are banned from the “temple” for at least a year to make sure that they are deeply integrated into the mormon story and experience to offset the disturbing events of the “temple” ceremony.

Here is my comment on the original article.

Events like these pageants are crucial to the narrative of mormonism. Mormonism at its core is basically a fairly recent story and adherents really base their entire faith on the story told by Joseph Smith: Is it believable or not? Not the actual events of the Book of Mormon itself as those defy logic, history and evidence. No, the core question is whether or not you believe the most recent iteration of Joseph Smith’s story. Did he really receive some sort of angelic visitor that led him to some plates that were conveniently buried near his home, plates that he “translated” using a variety of methods depending on which version of the story you read, from magic stones in a hat to the “Urim and Thummim”. Did those plates really exist and were they really a record of Jews who fled to America, built an enormous civilization that vanished with nary a trace and were visited by Jesus Christ? If you believe that story, then Smith must have been a prophet and so all of his crackpot teachings that followed and his immoral and outrageous behavior must have had a good reason. If you don’t believe that Smith was telling the truth about the Book of Mormon then it follows that he made up the whole thing, a giant web of lies that kept expanding every time Smith was confronted with mummies or a woman (or young girl) that he lusted after.

If at any point you doubt the story told by Joseph Smith, the whole thing collapses, so it is crucial to drive this narrative home at an early age and constantly reinforce the mormon mythology where all of the mormons are persecuted heroes and all of the doubters dastardly bad guys. Whereas church history is tragically neglected among most Christians, in the mormon religion their church history IS the church. You must affirm the current prophet, no matter what he says, and every prior prophet or you lose the whole house of cards. The leaders of mormonism know this all too well which explains the pageants, the church historical sites, the constant reminders of mormon lore and they discouraging of ordinary mormons from digging too deeply into non-faith affirming history that tends to reflect poorly on the narrative being spun by the brethren.

Mormonism really is a religion based on the story told by Joseph Smith. It stands or falls on his story. If it is true, then mormonism is true no matter how it defies logic, history and especially the Bible. If his story is false then he is a liar, the Book of Mormon is a lie and ultimately mormonism is shown to be what it really is: a pseudo-Christian religious cult that mixed a few truths in with a bunch of lies.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Trading one lie for another

I read something both interesting and sad this morning, I Was a Good Mormon Wife ... Until My Husband Stopped Believing in God. The author, Maren Stephenson, sounds like the prototypical young mormon wife. While we were older when we joined, I understand the mindset she had:

I was only 19 on the day we were sealed for eternity, the wet snow blowing into our faces as we exited the Portland, Ore., temple. I imagined a life of Church service, my husband at my side as we finished our BYU degrees, raised our children, and served missions together in our old age. On the night we got engaged, we struck a deal. “I’ll get you to heaven,” I said. “But you have to keep me here on earth.”

That is mormonism in a nutshell. A nice, neat life of being good mormons and an eternity as gods. Just stop thinking and do as you are told and everything is planned out for you. My wife and I had similar dreams until the lies of mormonism came to light. In this case her husband stopped believing not just in mormonism but God in general, an all too often outcome. Marne followed her husband into unbelief. She traded the lie of mormonism for the lie of "freedom" from God. For so many mormons faith outside of mormonism is unthinkable and many mormons who discover the truth about mormonism simply walk away into unbelief. Either way, the enemy is pleased.

I read this story with sadness and yet I also am profoundly reminded that outside of the grace of God my wife and I could be in the same boat, free from mormonism but still trapped in the bondage of sin. I pray that God will save the Stephenson's just as He saved us. True freedom is not found in drinking coffee or buying different underwear, it is only found by resting in Christ and calling Him Lord.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Bargains?

Further proof that the mormon church is the true, restored church.

Late last March the Mormon Church completed an ambitious project: a megamall. Built for roughly $2 billion, the City Creek Center stands directly across the street from the church’s iconic, neo-Gothic temple in Salt Lake City. The mall includes a retractable glass roof, 5,000 underground parking spots, and nearly 100 stores and restaurants, ranging from Tiffany’s to Forever 21. Walkways link the open-air emporium with the church’s perfectly manicured headquarters on Temple Square. Macy’s is a stone’s throw from the offices of the church’s president, Thomas S. Monson, whom Mormons believe to be a living prophet.

On the morning of its grand opening, thousands of shoppers thronged downtown Salt Lake, eager to elbow their way into the stores. The national anthem blared, and Henry B. Eyring, one of Monson’s top counselors, told the crowds, “Everything that we see around us is evidence of the long-standing commitment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Salt Lake City.” When it came time to cut the mall’s flouncy pink ribbon, Monson, flanked by Utah dignitaries, cheered, “One, two, three—let’s go shopping!”

Watching a religious leader celebrate a mall may seem surreal, but City Creek reflects the spirit of enterprise that animates modern-day Mormonism. The mall is part of a vast church-owned corporate empire that the Mormon leadership says will help spread its message, increase economic self-reliance, and build the Kingdom of God on earth. “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints attends to the total needs of its members,” says Keith B. McMullin, who for 37 years served within the Mormon leadership and now heads a church-owned holding company, Deseret Management Corporation (DMC), an umbrella organization for many of the church’s for-profit businesses. “We look to not only the spiritual but also the temporal, and we believe that a person who is impoverished temporally cannot blossom spiritually.”

Hey, the apostles' invested in real estate and fostered conspicuous consumption. Right?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Who Is Afraid Of The Truth?

Apparently a lot of mormons on Facebook. A bunch of Christians I know, notably Aaron Shafovaloff, Rocki and Helen Hulse, a few other Facebook friends that are former mormons and several ministry pages have been incessantly harassed by mormons who flag their material as inappropriate leading to Facebook blocking material and banning individuals. This is nothing less than attempting to muzzle the free speech of individuals and avoid having the truth about mormonism hitting the public square.

Mormons apologists are awfully bold when no one challenges them but when faced with a solid argument they fold like a house of cards. In the past they would always retreat with some sort of statement about a "spirit of contention". Now they just try to silence and intimidate people engaged in free speech to avoid having the truth come out. That tactic should tell you a lot about how weak their arguments are.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Pushing Mormonism For Political Gain

Kevin Williamson, writing for the normally fairly respectable National Review, has published a heavily commented on article about Mitt Romney, An American Gospel. The article is a thinly veiled puff piece that could have been written by the media relations office of the mormon church and simultanesouly a risible attack on the very people he is trying to convince to support Romney, namely American evangelicals.

Mr. Williamson uses the whole bag of rhetorical tricks. He tries to paint mormon doctrine as no stranger than Christian doctrine by doing what he decries elsewhere in his essay, namely completely misrepresenting Christianity. For example:

There is a weird contrast at the heart of American attitudes toward Mormons: Their doctrines may sound exotic to mainstream Christians — whose idea of sensible and respectable orthodoxy is engaging in weekly sessions of symbolic or mystically literal cannibalism in honor of a Jewish god-man who ran afoul of the Roman criminal-justice system after a dinner party went south 20 centuries ago — but, personal planets or no, Mormons themselves are practically the yardstick of normalcy. Every religion gets a stereotype, and the Mormon stereotype is: nice, clean-cut, well-mannered, earnest, sober.

Ha ha ha! What a card! I have to say that if your intent to is write a piece that is sympathetic to mormonism in the hopes of convincing Christians that they aren’t that weird after all, mocking Christianity is probably not the way to go. He also clearly shows that not only does he not understand mormonism at all, at least based on what he wrote, but he also doesn’t understand Christianity at all. Being polite and clean-cut is not one of the marks of a disciple (John the Baptist anyone?). No one is questioning that mormons are generally speaking nice, civic minded people who make good neighbors. The question is really this: does mormonism faithfully and accurately present the Gospel? If it doesn't but it pretends to it must be opposed and exposed for the damning fraud that it is.

He also pulls out an obscure writer and describes her as somehow a representative spokesperson for “anti-mormonism” (a term used by mormons to avoid substantive discussion). Again for example:

“A Mormon One-World-Theocracy Brought to You by Mitt Romney?” Apparently, Romney has a 59-point plan for that, too, if you believe the more hysterical anti-Mormons, the doyenne of whom, quoted above, is Tricia Erickson, a Mormon apostate and professional opponent of all things Latter-day Saintly. She is the author of, among other works, Can Mitt Romney Serve Two Masters? The Mormon Church Versus the Office of the Presidency of the United States of America. (She also is fond, as you can see, of rhetorical questions.) She believes that the fact of belief in the Mormon faith is in and of itself disqualifying for an aspiring president.

“Doyenne” is a word that means “a woman who has a lot of experience in or knowledge about a particular profession, subject, etc.” I had to look it up to be honest. Is that really true? I have never heard of Tricia Erickson and I can point you to a whole host of other “anti-mormons” who are far better known and respected that have written on this topic extensively, from Sandra Tanner to Bill McKeever to Albert Mohler. By picking an obscure writer and then mockingly discounting her Mr. Williamson demonstrates either intellectual laziness or intellectual dishonesty. It is easier to go that route than have to engage substantively on the real issues. The planet Kolob is a weird and obscure belief in mormonism (although hymns are sung about it all the time) but mormon teachings on the nature of God, the person and work of Christ, the nature of man, the purpose and function of the church, salvation, etc. are not merely weird but perversion of the Gospel.

He also does the “mormonism is growing, it must be true” canard, a oft stated and just as often refuted by those who can convincingly demonstrate that mormonism is bleeding members as fast as it is adding them.

Again, here is the big issue. It is not with Christians voting for a mormon. Rather it is with some people trying to gloss over the enormous issues in mormonism to convince evangelical voters to support someone who belongs to a “church” that sends tens of thousands of young men out every year with the message that the church evangelicals attend on Sunday is an abomination in the eyes of God.

I don’t care if you vote for Mitt Romney even though he is a poor representative of political conservatism. Given the trajectory of the primary season I am quite certain that he will be the Republican nominee and I will vote for him over Barack Obama any day of the week. Where I am very concerned is that many “Christians”, including many presumably “Christian leaders”, are so concerned with getting President Obama out of office that they are willing to be unequally yoked with an unbeliever to do it, no matter the cost.

I have to say that I am encouraged by the flood of comments from those who are calling out Mr. Williamson for his ridiculous essay and pointing out the myriad issues found in seemingly every sentence he wrote. I would encourage you to check it out yourself.