Sunday, November 15, 2015

To Mssrs. Monson, Uchtdorf, Eyring: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has failed me.

To the Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
            Mssrs. Monson, Uchtdorf, Eyring,

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints failed me.

It failed me, it failed my family. It failed millions of people all around the world. And what’s most disturbing is that it doesn’t care. It has merely offered excuses, clarification, and equivocations. 

The church failed me as a child in primary. It taught me to pray to a god without evidence that one exists. It taught me to interpret my own feelings for their gain. It taught me to pay 10% of my money, every dollar, to pay for living expenses of leadership, malls, and lavish temples in third world countries. It taught me to blindly repeat that god loved me and Joseph Smith was a prophet, though it offered no evidence or reason.

When I was a young woman, the church failed me. It taught me that I was responsible for impure thoughts in young men. It taught me to prepare myself for marriage, to be a wife and mother. It taught me that that would be my greatest achievement. It discouraged me from a career, from a good education. It failed me by teaching me to hate myself for being a woman. It taught me to feel shame about my breasts and my legs and my hips and my butt. It restricted my curiosity, my activities, my dress, my friendships.  It failed me.

The church failed me as a woman in college. It robbed me of normal relationships and experiences.  It taught me my education was meaningless unless I ascribed it to deity. It taught me only to learn the things that were church approved. And that a woman’s main goal was to marry and bear children. It taught me this, and so my education fell by the wayside, as I instead decided to marry and follow the prophet’s counsel.

When I contemplated marriage, the church failed me. It gave me a patriarchal blessing that told me to marry quickly. It required weekly chastity checkups with an unqualified lay bishop, who would probe about my sexual activity. It failed me in my wedding, keeping the majority of my family out of my marriage ceremony. It failed me on my wedding night. It taught me to be ashamed of my sexuality and uncomfortable with intimacy. It failed me in my marriage, teaching me to be a subservient and silent partner. It failed me physically and mentally, telling me to have children before I was prepared.

The church failed me financially. Telling me to not put off having children, and to stay home to raise them. It failed me when because of this I had to quit my job and go on welfare and it still required I pay tithing. It failed me when we had to eat Raman and choose between toothpaste and shampoo so we could pay our tithing.

The church failed me when I was lost. When I was discouraged. When I was earnestly seeking answers. It told me by way of the members that I was the problem. That I didn’t have enough faith. That I had lost the spirit somehow. It failed me as it shamed me for my honest doubts and questions. It rebuked me for wondering. It called me a sinner, an apostate, a sign seeker, a “Korihor” as I sought answers to my questions. The church failed me when I was in Utah and I contacted the office of the first presidency. It failed me when I was taught my worth was great, and I was told there were 15 million other members and they didn’t have time for me. It failed me when I sat crying in the temple listening to the temple worker tell me my eternal destiny was a crapshoot. That the best there was for me was to never be heard of again. To be a second rate deity, eternally birthing babies and receiving no glory, no credit, no prayers or communication from my children. Always deferring to the male.

It failed me as a mother. It failed me as a wife. It failed me as a woman. It failed me.

The church not only failed me, it destroyed me. It destroyed many of my family relationships. For as I began to question, they began to look at me differently. They withdrew. They accused me of horrific things, like adultery and promiscuity. They ignored me or argued with me. These members of the church of Christ, became some of my greatest enemies. Judging and name calling. How could this possibly be a church of Christ of a benevolent god? It failed me in my family.

The church failed me. The church failed itself. But will it ever acknowledge it? No. Because has it actually failed? Perhaps ethically, but financially? It has done very well conning people like me out of thousands, out of millions of dollars. It preys upon the weak minded, the lonely, the lost, the desperate, and the charitable. It preys upon the faithful earnestly seeking a god. It preys upon children. It preys upon mothers and fathers. It ruins lives. It creates anguish and turmoil. It breeds unrest and unhappiness. It councils marriage before it ever counsels compatibility. It sexually represses and creates a culture of rape and sexual addiction. It ignores real problems and shames biology. It has a central membership addicted to narcotics, tranquilizers and SSRIs. It controls women. It absolutely controls women and absolves men from responsibility for their thoughts and actions.

This church is a destructive force in humanity. I can’t help but wonder how the leaders live with themselves. I wonder how they can feel good about taking poor people’s money. I wonder how they can function knowing that god doesn’t exist and still take advantage of so many that have been blinded by inherited and conditioned loyalty? I really, truly don’t understand how they can tell boldfaced lies and think it will go unnoticed? How they can fail so many people who are different, how they can feel good that homosexual and transgender members are ostracized and committing suicide because of their teachings? It is disgusting; they have failed those poor souls as well.

This church has failed. It has failed in so many ways. And so long as I exist I will bear the scars of that failure in my every day life. As my parents weep for my eternal soul, as my siblings converse in hushed tones about my apostasy, as my children are excluded from the family for being raised by my husband and myself , for we saw through the lie. Our world was ripped apart, torn from beneath our feet. Our faith destroyed. Our hopes and dreams dashed. We were betrayed. We were lied to. We were robbed. We were failed.

You have failed us.

And so I hereby resign my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, effective immediately, and request you to remove my name permanently from your membership records. I wish no further contact from representatives of your church except to confirm that my name has been removed from your records. I expect to receive that confirmation within a reasonably short time. I am fully aware that by resigning my temple ordinances are suspended. They are constructed by man, and therefore of little consequence to me. No meeting with local leaders or waiting period is necessary. I am of sound mind, and you have no legal right to retain my membership.

I expect this matter to be handled promptly, with respect and with full confidentiality. You will not contact my family about my resignation. If you contact my family or my local leaders, you will have invaded my privacy. You will send any necessary letters confirming my membership and my children’s membership termination directly to me and no one else.

I sincerely hope as a concerned, fellow human, that you will reconsider what you are doing. That you will wake up from this damned delusion and start doing good rather than committing atrocities. The world does not revolve around your chauvinism, bigotry, hate and fear. Stop acting like it. Make a choice. Make a choice to do right by humanity. Do not fail what is left of your members. Do right by them by telling them the truth and let them decide for themselves if they will stay to help the church change or leave and be free from the deception and lies.

Best Wishes,

Sara-Helen Davis

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

No God, No Point, Right?

I've been thinking about something lately.

There have been several people who have pitied me in my lack of faith and doubt in the existence of a benevolent, or evil, god. They say, why does it matter (existence I presume) or I feel sorry for you, it must be a very sad and dark world you live in.

You know? I used to think that as well. I used to feel that godless folk were to be pitied. That they were amoral, and depressed and had no real meaning or light in their lives.

When we first moved to Iowa, my husband had a friend who was just one such godless individual. Nick would invite him over for dinner, or just to hang out because he didn't have any friends or family around. But this man, was an apostate. And so I looked at him through a lens of anger. I was always suspicious of his motives. He'd bring chocolates to share and I'd wonder why. I was always wary of what he was saying (would he curse at any moment and offend my ears?) I thought the worst of him, because he was an apostate, someone who had willfully left the church and spoken against it. He was always a very gracious guest, he would bring gifts to thank us for letting him use our washing machine, and he always made sure to tell me how good dinner was.  But, how could anyone who turned away from god actually want to be nice for being nice's sake? And so I remained suspicious, and angry, and annoyed at his presence. How could anyone actually be happy without god?

I am ashamed. I am so ashamed that I ever thought that way of this person. My religion taught me to be fearful of people like him. To question their motives, because without god, you could not be moral. Without god, you could not be happy. It was impossible. You lived in a dark chasm of depression without god. I was sure of it.

Now, a couple years later, my views have changed.

I realize I  grew up in a very small world. In a very sheltered world. Most of the beauty of humanity was hid from me, disguised as evil. My religion forbade me from exploring and experiencing. It even restricted what sort of information I learned. It told me how much time I could spend on the computer, it told me how much time I should devote to my religious studies. It praised me for hours on my knees and reprimanded me for hours in Harry Potter. It reminded me that morality is from god, and people cannot be good without him. Anything not of god is of the devil. Including academic achievements of your own merit.

Another example, I have always been a lover of music. And weird as it may sound, motion picture score music. James Horner, John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith and Hans Zimmer were some of my favorites. And I remember as a child laying on the floor of my bedroom listening to the end credits of Apollo 13 and getting those same chills I would get during an especially spiritual event in sacrament meeting. I remember thinking there was beauty in the music by a man who wasn't a member of the Mormon Church. And that I would feel "the spirit" when I listened to it. As a girl, it confused me. But now I realize, it wasn't the spirit at all. It was me, my own reaction to beauty.

In the church, you are conditioned to feel a certain way. You are conditioned to think something is spiritually beautiful and moving. And you will have a real biological response, some people describe it as chills, or a burning in the bosom, because you are told you will fell it. The thing is, if you've ever been carried away in the spirit of a concert, or a football game, or love making, you will probably feel those exact same feelings. Though you might not realize it, or make the connection, if you have been conditioned to think that response is external (from god), and not internal (your biology).

So when I realized this, and began to embrace life without the church, I began to see things in a different light. I realized the scope of my depression within the church. Self hating for sins and mistakes. Self loathing for impure and ungodly thoughts. Self pitying for lack of acceptable talents. Always feeling badly, never feeling I was good enough. Always worrying about my eternal future. Would I make it to the highest degree of the celestial kingdom? Or would I fail? Would I lose my family? It was an ongoing battle in my head, always fearful of my eternal destiny. And always hating it because, well, I am female. The eternal destiny for a woman in the Mormon church is quite a depressing one: to eternally birth babies, but to never have contact with them, to never be praised for their achievements, and to never be heard of again. To be chauvinistically "protected" as an exalted being made absolutely no sense.

As soon as I opened myself up to the possibility that god wasn't real, and the Mormon church was just another religion created by man for the monetary gain of it's leaders (and the hero worship isn't such a bad thing either), I began to view humanity in a very different light. People who were without god were good people. They were kind, they had hopes and dreams, they had feelings and regrets. Just like me. I didn't realize that I had been viewing humanity so negatively until I removed myself from that god-driven mindset. Really, at the time I thought I was having righteous thoughts about my husband's friend. How insane is that? To view someone with so much anger, and think it was from a benevolent god?

Coming back to my original idea, because I tend to run away with my thoughts, if there is no god, then what's the point? And how can I be a happy person without god?

My life is not the dark chasm I always envisioned it would be without a god. Quite frankly, I'm very upset and offended when people think I am a person to pity, and what a sad existence I have now. No! I am happy! Happier than I have ever been, and no, it's not an illusion to get you to join me in my misery. I am happy being me. Not having to live up to impossible standards only to ultimately fail and not be exalted. Not having to succumb to discriminating viewpoints about groups of people because it is what the "Brethren" want. I'm happy enjoying coffee in the morning. I'm happy with my multiple piercings. I'm happy making new friends and learning about new cultures. I'm happy living for me, in this moment, not focusing on an ever elusive eternal destiny for which there is no evidence. Relationships are more important to me because they won't last. Experiences hold more meaning because they may not come again. Humanity is beautiful because we have achieved so many things, and we have done them without GOD. We are special, we are beautiful, we are amazing and we don't need a supernatural force to make this so.  We can be happy and fulfilled because we WANT to be. Because WE EXIST.

So please, do not pity my godless existence. Do not lament my lack of godless morality. The Christian god murdered babies, encouraged slavery and chauvinism, hates gays and their children, and brainwashes you into an endless cycle of sin, self hate, and humiliation. I have no god. The only person I am accountable to is myself, and I have a high standard to live up to. Not for some eternal reward, but because it is what I want for myself.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Why I think the leaders of the LDS Church made a mistake.

These last few days have been very tumultuous for me. And if you are Mormon, or know what Mormon is, you probably understand why.

There have been a lot of arguments, from both sides of a very shocking policy change regarding homosexual couples and their children by the Mormon church.

Aren't familiar? The Mormons, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, recently instituted a change in their official policy regarding the children of same-sex unions: they are not allowed the blessing with a name in infancy which would add their name to church records or the ordinance with baptism which would confirm their membership in the church.

Why? That has been the big debate. Church apologists and sympathizers maintain it is in an effort of love. That it is for the protection of these delicate children, to not confuse them or ask them to choose between their family and God at a young and vulnerable age. Once they are 18, they are permitted to petition the First Presidency for membership, providing they disavow their parent's union in writing.

Critics of the policy maintain this is not protection at all, as they ultimately will choose their family or the church and have to disavow the family they were reared in. At 14 or at 18, it is a devastating choice to make simply to be counted with god's sheep.

Apologists then say they know the prophet speaks for god and this new policy comes by revelation. Strangely, critics remember certain passages of scripture that are in direct conflict with this new policy.

"Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not"Christ said. He often said to become as a little child as well. Forbidding children entrance into the church goes against Christ's counsel. LDS members believe man will be punished for his own sins, and not for Adam's transgression. The doctrine that ensues is that children cannot be held accountable for their parents actions. They believe each person is responsible for their own actions and in charge of their own agency. Not allowing children of gay individuals membership is in direct conflict with this doctrine.

Then the LDS members call for a cease fire. To be allowed to worship however they like, and to not have their faith attacked. They ask to step off social media and embrace our fellow man physically.

This one bothers me significantly. In an age of media, it is just not realistic. Social media is how we communicate in the modern age. You can't just hop on a plane to visit someone you would like to speak to, or go door to door sharing your ideas. Social media is how we learned about this new policy in the first place. It was never meant to be shared. There was no official statement or declaration. It was meant to be quietly, perhaps secretly, added to the official handbook and children of gay parents would learn upon requesting membership they were not eligible. How devastating would that be? To have found faith only to be denied entrance into the kingdom of god simply because of your parentage?

I began thinking about why this policy was instated for myself. Why would the church want to deny these children membership? Was it because they were afraid members would begin to see homosexuality as normal? Did the believe these kids would have a negative influence? Silly reasons, but entirely plausible when you consider the context. Then it dawned on me. When I read that they were even denied a blessing and name in the church, it became clear.

When a child receives a name and blessing in the LDS church, their name is added to the official church record. They are not an official member yet, but they are on the record. And so are their parents. That was it. If they blessed the infant of a gay couple, that gay couple would need to be listed as parents. And then a church that maintains homosexuality is a sin, and only traditional marriage is sanctioned of god, would have a gay union on their official records. It would go completely against a doctrine they have been defending with great zeal for several years.

Then I began thinking about the apology that it is for the child's protection, and they are more mature at 18 and better able to decide if they want to become a member. Children born into the church, or who arrive in the gospel by way of heterosexual parentage, are eligible for baptism at the age of accountability, which is referenced in the Book of Mormon as age 8. I remember being 8, and then as an adult interacting with 8 year olds. Some of them still believe in Santa Claus, and most of them still play make believe. How is this appropriate to ask an 8 year old from a heterosexual union, or single parent home, to make this decision when you say a child of a gay union is not capable of it? If this is the argument, the First Presidency should come out with an official declaration indicating all members must be at least 18 or older in order to be granted baptism in the church.

Through all of this, I have had many negative interactions. Sharing my views has only been offensive to people defending the faith. Stating facts have been misconstrued as scorn and insults. I spoke to one person who said this revelation came from god about Blacks and the priesthood. He told me I insulted him by saying Blacks weren't denied the priesthood in the early church, because it went against god's will. I admit, I have been very confused by people's reactions. By their extreme loyalty and sometimes ill placed justifications of how this doesn't actually harm. I've also had many conversations with my LGBTQ friends. Not one of them welcomed this policy. Every single one of them was saddened, offended, and discouraged. How can this truly be a policy of love when it is hurting so many people it would directly affect? We've heard so many apologies from straight members. We've seen one apology from a gay member, but I believe this poor brother has been so brainwashed into believing his biologic condition is truly a sin, that he has no choice but to defend the Brethren.

The bottom line for me? I don't think god exists. And I've received a lot of flack for it in my view of this new policy. I've had members ask me why it matters if god doesn't exist? Tell me I have no right to have an option since I don't believe. The bottom line is I EXIST. At least I think I do. And WE exist. Just because I don't think god exists doesn't mean I am heartless. Doesn't mean I think we should commit mass suicide because life is pointless. Here we are. We exist. I think we should work on building each other up, including everyone, being kind and compassionate without the promise of an eternal reward no one has any evidence of. I am kind because I want to be. I am mean because I want to be. I don't have an invisible entity pushing me along in my actions. So why does it matter? Because I want it to. And the wellbeing of my gay friends and their families is important to me. They deserve happiness and fair treatment. They deserve all of the privileges and right I enjoy. And while I don't agree with the Church, they deserve to worship god in it if they want to.

Please, take a moment and read the sad responses from members and nonmembers alike who are upset, confused, betrayed, and saddened. Do not sit in your tower glowering down at everyone who has been negatively impacted thinking they simply don't have enough faith. And that you just know that the prophet is right. It was meant to be secret. Remember that. And remember, no one is responsible for your choices but you. You wouldn't want your life opportunities to be dictated by someone else's actions. Don't enforce that on others, just because you don't agree with the sexuality of their parents. We don't choose our parents. We don't always choose our circumstances. But we do choose how we react. And how we move forward.

I propose we stand up against this policy that supports a hateful attitude and work towards being loving and inclusive. Not blind and exclusive. These are real people, real families, real LOVE. And there are people being hurt by the LDS prejudice and blind loyalty. Let's help put a stop to it.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Women and the Gospel

Recently, a friend of mine made a post on Facebook questioning why women seem to take a secondary role in religion. Mormon Christianity in particular.

Her post was a little sad, reflecting on something I hadn't thought about. She said, as a mother, it would be incredibly sad to not have her children talk to her. That if they ever called home, they only spoke to her husband, and gave him credit for their life and achievements.

In Mormon doctrine, there is an obscure little bit about a Heavenly Mother, a partner to Heavenly Father or God. Her first mention was in a hymn entitled "Oh My Father" by Eliza R. Snow. It wasn't widely accepted at the time, or even spoken of. And even now, in LDS doctrine, members are encouraged not to speak of a heavenly mother, not to pray to her, or teach any doctrine about her. This is mainly because there is no clear doctrine, revelations, or information regarding a heavenly mother, other than if families are eternal and we seal a man and woman on earth, it only makes sense that she exists.

I was taught as a child that the reason we don't speak of heavenly mother is because it is god's way of protecting her. And keeping people from abusing and taking her name in vain. It is out of love that god has kept heavenly mother from her children.

Now, let me clarify something. I don't believe in LDS doctrine any longer. So the things I'm speaking about aren't necessarily of great value to me personally, other than to reason through some things I had enormous problems with as a member.

I always had a problem with patriarchy and male divine authority. Growing up, it bothered me severely. As a little girl, I hated not being able to go topless, having to run home to pee while my boy friends peed in the woods. How I had to sit in sacrament meeting while the boys passed the sacrament. How only men seemed to lead. And women got stupid callings, like nursery and primary and music coordinator. Sure sure, there were young woman's presidents, and relief society presidents, but who did they defer to in money and authority? The bishop. A man.

I remember having a conversation about this very subject when I was a newly married girl. I was mad, and talking to my dad about it because I thought maybe he'd understand. He gave me some counsel I thought was great at the time, and now just bugs me. He told me I'd never be truly happy until I embraced my role as a woman, wife and mother. And then he told me to quite worrying about the house being perfectly clean or how long my husband was out fishing. Those were good bits of advice :)

Having grown up LDS, my brain was conditioned to find meaning and contentedness in motherhood. So when I had my first son, I felt fulfilled. And, after some one-sided discussions about roles and jobs, I because a full-time stay at home mom. Looking back, we see the error of our ways now, but then, we were just following the prophet. Women stay home and have babies. Men work.

Having left, or nearly left the Mormon church now, I feel a little more intellectually free to think about these subjects. Like, the role of women in eternity. If what we are taught in the Mormon church now is true, families are forever, and the person you are sealed to is your partner for eternity. So, following that doctrine, and adding that man is now as god once was {King Follet discourse by Joseph Smith}, god probably has a wife, or wives. But this woman, or women, who birthed all the children of the earth who have existed, remain unspoken of. Is that the eternal fate that awaits faithful women of the LDS church?

Silent partners if you will. They make the babies, but god gets the glory. And god gets the prayers, and the authority. And heavenly mother, well, she gets to remain unseen, unspoken of, and disregarded. In fact, in most Christian faiths, she doesn't even exist.

Is that the eternal fate I want for myself? HELL NO! I don't want that for myself, my mother, or my sisters. What an incredible disservice to the intellect, talent, and unique personalities of women. We are sentient beings. We have brains. We have ideas. We can act in positions of power just as well as any man can. We can be mothers and we can have careers. It makes absolutely no sense for a woman to be successful in this life only to become a silent servant in the next.

The excuse of "god is protecting heavenly mother" is a horrible and sexist copout. It further exploits the chauvinistic view that women are weak and need to be protected. What LDS members fail to remember is that a woman deity would be above hurt, would be above sorrow, would be above offense. As a celestialized and glorified being, her name in vain would have as much bearing on her as god's name in vain has on him. She doesn't need protection. And if she is his eternal companion, she deserves recognition, particularly if she put in the majority of the work in the bearing of souls.

But, god will have no other gods before him. God is a jealous god. Makes sense. He hides his wife in the back corners of eternity, pats his daughters on the head patronizingly reminding them they are of value but only in the home and raising children, and lets men do his biding.

So I am very sorry. But even in LDS doctrine, it all boils down to sexist chauvinism, and exercising control over women. Even a perfect, glorified, deity female has to answer to a male. Where is the partnership, equality, and respect there? It doesn't exist.

Like I said, I no longer believe in LDS doctrine, but reasoning through a few of these things, I hope others will begin to see through it too. It's harmful, particularly to women. Ladies, don't let men define you. Stand on your own two feet. Joy in your success and accomplishments, be they family or career. You are important, you are valuable. And not just because you have a uterus and can grow babies. You are more than your body. You are more than your biology. Do not let anyone convince you otherwise.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Guns don't kill, people kill, guns just make it easier and more effective

I will admit, this is a subject I'm not super knowledgeable about, but I'm very opinionated about.

I am 100% for gun control.

One of my favorite movies growing up, don't laugh, was The American President.  Call me sentimental, but something about old people romance is just incredibly cute and sweet to me, even as a 12-16 year old girl. But there was always a speech that stood out to me, and when he says "I'm going to get the guns" it was so powerful. And I kept thinking, why don't we do that now? Granted, media coverage of mass shootings wasn't as avid as it is now, and violence was a little less glorified when I was a kid, than it is now. And video games are a lot more visually graphic now than when I was a kid.

But yes, I always loved the president's speech about gun control, we have real problems and we need real people to solve them. Its wonderful.

So why can't we as a nation realize we have problems and solve them? It seems like the answers are so simple, so why can't the solutions be that simple as well? I realize having a cohesive society is complicated, and new policy takes time. But this seems to be a matter of great importance, and maybe we should declare a state of national emergency. How many children need to be senselessly murdered before we make a change?

I have a friend. Wonderful person. Very kind, very sweet, very selfless. She was in a bad marriage, and eventually got a divorce. The man was literally insane, she had a restraining order against him, and she pleaded with the courts to take away his ability to own firearms. Eventually, my friend remarried. A man she loved, and felt safe with, and had a very happy marriage with. She went out one night with her granddaughter, her new husband stayed at home. Her ex-husband entered her home looking to kill her, and when he discovered she wasn't there, shot and killed her new husband.

They had been married for about two years.

There was an autistic boy, nonverbal and living in a group home. One night, he snuck out to presumably go home. He got lost, and tried entering the wrong home on his street. The neighbor, without calling the police or trying to find out who the boy was, shot and killed him.

He knew the boy as a child.

There was a little boy who was playing with his little brother. The two found their parents guns and decided to play cops and robbers. The older brother shot and killed his little brother.

How is he going to grow up knowing he murdered his brother?

There was a woman who got a gun purse for her birthday from her husband. A cute little purse she could keep her concealed weapon in. She was shopping for groceries with her two year old little boy. The little boy, somehow, was able to get into the compartment of the purse that held the gun, and shot and killed his mother in the store.

How will that father explain the boy's mother's death to him?

There have been movie theaters, malls, schools, recruitment centers, post offices, and places of worship that have been turned into scenes of mass murder, because some one used a gun.

But it's the person that kills, not the gun right?

Imagine just for a moment if in any of those instances, the murderer was using a knife, instead of a gun.

Taking away gun rights won't solve the problem. People who want them will still get them.

I can't disagree with that. But would it be more difficult? Yes. I believe so.

The second amendment was created in a different time. It was for the purpose of the people being able to form a militia in the event that the government over step their bounds. In a time when the general population could easily overthrow the government. Let's be honest, that is not possible now. Anyone who thinks their hand guns, rifles or shotguns could protect them against drones, tanks, bombs are deluded.

Then comes the self defense argument. I need a gun in case someone assaults me, or enters my home. Let's imagine for a moment, could we, if our nation had stricter gun ownership laws. Making it more difficult for people without sound mind to obtain a gun. There may be less instance of violence at gun point. As a woman, I'd carry mace or pepper spray before I ever carried a gun because if you're not a good shot, it's not going to be effective. If mace can bring down a bear, it can bring down an intruder.

But guns can kill from a distance. Yes! They can! And they do!

We have allowed our gun problem to get out of hand. Everyone and their dog owns a gun. And everyone and their dog is trigger happy. Kill or be killed. You come on my property you will be shot. Why? Why have we cultivated and allowed this mentality to grow? Why have we allowed savage video games that glorify gun violence be played by impressionable children? You can regenerate in a game, you can't regenerate in life.

Why have we allowed the media to make such enormous deals out of mass shootings? Why have we inversely created gun violence hero worship?

It's a plague on our society. It's a scourge. It is a virus. It's deadly. And you've got a bunch of rich wing conservatives clinging to their rifles on their porches asserting it's them against the world and they'll be damned if the distrustful government ever take their guns away.

I'm not calling for a complete removal of firearms. That would be impossible. Not to mention my dad hunted for our meat growing up. Guns have a time and a place. But just having a handgun in your nightstand on the off chance an intruder might enter your home is ridiculous. It's unnecessary. We need better control. We need to license ownership. We need regulations on purchasing and registering. Not anyone SHOULD be able to own a gun. It should not be a right. It should be a privilege, that should come after education, certification and licensing. We need to stop the insanity.

I am much less worried about an intruder in my home who may want to steal my TV or rape me, than I am about an insane man entering my child's school and killing everyone in the class. I am less worries about someone holding me at gun point in a back alley than I am of shopping in a mall and being shot to death by a religious radical.

I don't know the exact or the best solution. But I know that it needs to be a topic of political discussion, and that our legislators need to work towards a solution, and do it quickly before another mother has to burry her child because some insane person decided to shoot them to death.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Why did Laban need to Die?

The Book of Mormon starts out with an interesting story about the family and life of one young man, Nephi. In the course of the first few chapters, their life is uprooted by the local's desire to kill Nephi's father, and so they flee by the voice of god. When Nephi's father realizes, oops, they failed to bring scriptures along, god sends Nephi and his brothers on a quest back to Jerusalem to retrieve the original copy of the scriptures. They happen to be in the possession of a man named Laban. Why? I have no idea. He must have been a librarian, or curator, or inherited them.

Nephi and his brothers try every method they can think of to secure the scriptures, written on bound brass plates. From asking nicely to offering money. Laban is insulted, and threatens to kill them by their third unsolicited visit to take his property. I might be a teensy bit annoyed at this point as well. So Nephi and his brothers leave, defeated. His older brothers get carried away and beat the crap out of him. And after a bit, he decides to go back and do it himself.

Low and behold, he stumbles upon Laban, drunken to the point of unconsciousness in the street. God says, okay, here is his, kill him and then you can take the plates.
"Nephi Kills Laban" photo credit

Wait, What? You want me to kill him? Of course Nephi was uncomfortable. Not only was this an insane request, it went against the commandments, and probably his own personal morality.  God said, it's better that he perishes than your whole people parish in unbelief. So Nephi does the deed, takes Laban's clothes, steals the plates, and takes the book keeper along.


So, god commanded murder to get a book. Ah, but not just any book, scripture. The word of god, dictated to his prophets and transcribed onto the plates.


Written down by prophets.


Anyone else seeing the irony here? God asked Nephi to kill an innocent man because he didn't want to give up scriptures, when Nephi had his very own prophet daddy at home who could have easily written down the books of scripture through revelation from god.

Nephi also had the option of noticing Laban drunk, gone to the library, created a diversion to get the book keeper out and stolen them. He ended up taking the dang book keeper along anyways, maybe he could have just lied and said Laban said he could borrow them. Or offered the guy his freedom up front and they could have left together. Or! Laban was drunk, he still could have taken his clothes and impersonated him.

So why did Laban need to die?

Obedience. God is obsessed with obedience. Not morality, obedience. God has defied what is commonly accepted as ethical and moral for the sake of obedience. 

Example: Nephi and Laban

Example: Israelites and Canaanites (The children of Cane were thought to be the a fallen race, and the children were punished for the disobedience of the father. And they were made to be slaves, killed as children outside of the covenant, and just all around poorly treated)

Example: The genocide of the Hittites (god commanded the slaughter of every man woman child infant and animal {save the virgins who were spoils of war}, which is unethical and amoral. How can we say he was a loving god when he was happy to slay babies and women?)

Example: Esther marrying out of the covenant (marrying outside of the covenant was a nono, and subject to shunning, banishment, stoning, disowning, loss of birthright etc. And yet Esther had to marry outside of the covenant to be queen and get the king to not kill her people. So it was marital coercion in which god acted out his will that time around)

Example: Young pregnant virgin (do you really think Mary had a choice in the story? not only was she unmarried, she was under age, if she was only espoused, she was near to or just going through puberty. Which means her body wasn't physically mature to carry a child. And in her patriarchal culture, she would have been legally stoned to death for a pregnancy out of wedlock. If the sanctity of marriage and sex was so important to god, why did he bring his chosen son to the world in such a repulsive manner?)

Example: death to every first born in egypt (murder is bad, especially innocent babies, not that all were babies, but how many were children under the age of accountability who had committed no wrong? all to prove a point to the Pharaoh?) 

Example: Polygammy (so many times in the scriptures it say to have more than one wife is amoral, it's also unethical and unfair treatment of women, but church members were called to obey this "law" even though it went against the current laws of the land)

Example: slavery (slaves obey your masters, where is the morality or agency here?)

Example: Job (the agency of all of the people around Job was essentially taken away and morality thrown to the wind to show Job's obedience. Why did they not have a choice? If church members believe Satan can only temp and not force, how was he able to "tempt" so effectively everyone in Job's life? It seems like god had a hand in it to prove a point that Job was in fact blindly obedient to a fault)

Example: women are property (how is this moral or ethical? Of course, this isn't current, this is biblical, but it is still sick and wrong. And it was sanctioned by god. How could a god treat his "precious daughters" as property?)

Example: the flood that killed every man, woman, child, suckling baby, animal and insect in existence except one family. (I don't think this needs explanation......)


So it has never been a question of morality. Which is strange, because LDS doctrine affirms eternal laws and eternal morality, or objectivism. When their own doctrine is the antithesis of objectivism. It's all subjective. It all changes. Well, they say, god makes the rules, god can break the rules. Which also goes against the doctrine of god is bound by eternal laws.

So what are these eternal laws? Gravity? Evolution? I always thought that god made commandments based on objectivism, like murder is always wrong. But it seems like the scriptures are littered with god sanctioned killing. Holy wars, pity killing, scarifies, punishment. Don't kill, unless god tells you to, then its okay. That sure opens up a can of worms allowing people to claim absolution in god's name.

So again, it has never been about morality. It has been about obedience to god's subjectivity. Call me crazy, but I think that is ridiculous.

Why did Laban have to die for Nephi to prove his obedience? Why was that important to his eternal salvation? Let's take it a bit further. Why is any experience necessary for eternal salvation? If god was a fair god, he'd make it the same across the board. Instead, he lets some children be raped, some nursing mothers starve and watch their children die, some people suffer through cancer, some people get shot up in a public setting by a maniac, some people go to "war" and be away from their family because the price of oil is going up. Its sick. It really is. Why are any of these experiences necessary to gain salvation? And why does one person get to have the trial of living in a lavish mansion and not being able to find the right brand of caviar, while another wastes away from cholera? 

Well, god knows what each of us need. Tell me please! Explain this to me how a 10 year old girl in Bangladesh needs to work long hours each day in a fire hazard factory getting paid less than 10 cents to sew my shirt? Why is it necessary for that five year old boy in the monastery to be assaulted by his superior every night? Why does a morbid elderly woman need to "endure" to the end as she slowly bleeds to death in her brain?

Either god is a sadistic narcissist, or he simply doesn't exist. I'd much rather not have god exist, than know that he does and happily allows and often commands the evils of the world. 

Do I believe the Book of Mormon is true? No, so I don't believe the story of Laban and Nephi. I do believe it points out a very sick part of religion though, particularly the LDS religion, where obedience to god (the prophet in charge at the time) is what secures your salvation. And we mustn't forget the gobs of money required to fuel god's empire and build multimillion dollar malls and invest stock in word of wisdom fails like Burger King.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Lean not unto thine own understanding

Human understanding has been in a constant state of flux, of growth. Where originally, early hominids may have ascribed natural phenomenon to superstition, now we are able to understand with remarkable clarity how the world works around us. Is it perfect? No. Are there some things we still don't understand? Yes. Should we immediately jump to faith based claims and answers? Let's think about it for a minute.

One of my very favorite episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender happens in season 1. It is called "The Fortune Teller". It features a new character, Aunt Wu, who makes predictions about her village. Main character Sokka, who believes whole heartedly in science and reason, can't stand the blind ignorance of the people in this village, and thinks Aunt Wu is a crack pot. He meets someone who asks if science and reason can explain why is rains. He says yes it can. Another person says Aunt Wu told him he would be wearing red shoes when he met his true love. Sokka asks how often he has workn red shoes. And the man answers every day since the prediction. When Aang discovers the long dormant volcano above the village is about to erupt, he tries to tell the village. They respond that Aunt Wu said the volcano would not destroy the village. So Aang and his friends resort to trickery to get the village to believe in a false prediction by Aunt Wu. Eventually they save the village, and the villagers respond by saying, well, Aunt Wu's prediction came true.

So there is a little bit of both sides here. Katara, Sokka's sister, maintains that there are just some things that cannot be explained. Sokka, believes there is an explanation for everything. While Aunt Wu made a vague prediction that did eventually come true, it was self fulfilling to those who understood it. They made it happen because they were told it would happen. The explanation for the village not being destroyed is simple, they made a plan and kept the village safe.

There are things that cannot be easily explained, either because we don't have the tools to understand it, or we haven't discovered the answer yet. Example, gravity. We know it exists. We can feel its effects. We are pretty sure it will continue to exist. What we don't know is how. Or why. We have ideas, and hypothesis', but we still cannot explain it. 

Religion has taken these "unexplainable" things and filled in the gaps of our understanding with deity.  We can't explain, therefore god. We don't understand why, therefor supreme being. We don't know how, therefore creator. It's an easy way to explain things we simply can't fathom. And it's a comforting thought as well. 

Vikings had an interesting way to explain the eclipse. They thought a wolf creature swallowed the moon, and that a god made him spit it back out. Ancient Greece and Rome had a plethora of gods to explain the good and horrible things that went on in the world. Zeus was a crazed eternal being who enjoyed wreaking havoc on humanity and sleeping with it's maidens. Ancient Israel had Jehovah, a warrior who would save them from their enemies. Different cultures have nature gods to explain volcanos, rain, the harvest is a common ideology throughout the history of mankind. It was our way of explaining the world around us in the best way we could. But as our brains evolved, and our understanding improved, and our ability to research and think expanded, we have been able to solve in part many of the mysteries aforeto ascribed to deity.

However, as we have trended away from supernatural superstitions, there have always been those in religious power who have feared what this would do to their positions. Think about it, if you will for a moment, what those in religious power stand to lose. The dark ages, for instance, were "dark" because of religion. There were theocracies that kept the people in a stagnate constant of ignorance. Then, the Renaissance, when men began to question and move away from the church. Scientific knowledge exploded in the 19th century with men like Darwin and Edison. 

Still, the trend in religion is that the knowledge of man is prideful. And to have faith in god about things we can't understand, instead of finding a way to explain them. "My ways are not your ways, neither are my thoughts your thoughts" coins a famous scripture in Isaiah. In the Mormon church, there is a scripture that states "lean not unto thine own understanding" and another in the Book of Mormon that says " O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken notunto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God."

Basically, the Mormon church counsels against education while advocating for it at the same time. It's a paradoxical problem that lands a lot of otherwise faithful members into a stereotype of prideful. To think you understand something of your own merit is frowned upon, and all the credit must go to god. Though it is taught that god frowns upon excessive education because then it makes you question his existence. And then that is bad, because the business of religion will lose its patrons, which will lose it money, and ultimately lead to its demise. So one thing, in the Mormon church, they are sure to reinforce is "read from the best books". Meaning the ones they say are okay. And not to put much stock in the knowledge of man. Which is completely ludicrous because the knowledge of man is what has made technology and medicine for example what they are today. There was a time when devils were being cast out of children who had mental retardation. And when homosexuals were stoned. Now we understand biology and that it's not a devil that causes down syndrome, but a chromosomal problem. We understand that evolution is responsible for earths diversity. We understand gravity is what makes the sun rise and set in our sky. We understand the earth was not created first, and we also understand that people can be easily swayed by the promise of eternal splendor, which is what makes it such a successful business.

I suppose that is another thing that bothered me severely. The very obvious aversion to knowledge, particularly knowledge that is employed on a daily basis to make our world function. And the way some religious people look down on the scholarly because of their academic success. It's unfortunate that an ignorant person's first response to the theory of evolution is "I don't come from no monkey". This demonstrates how little the understand about the concept, and how poisonous religious counsel can be in keeping otherwise intelligent individuals from understanding the world around them.