Joseph Smith

Sparkling Fake Fruit

Not long after I got old enough to be part of the LDS church’s Young Women’s program, I remember a surreal experience that happened. They brought us all to one of the YW leader’s homes for a very special activity. When we entered, the house was dark. Smoke machines were running, all adding to the eerie experience as we walked along. I recall we were all told to hold onto a string as we made our way though the darkness and we followed with our hands loosely grasped on the string. We saw some scenes illuminated that told us the story we all knew well already of Lehi’s "tree of life" vision from the Book of Mormon.

We girls made our way along the path, holding to the string, going through the mist and darkness. We passed a representation of the "great and spacious building" full of prideful people of the world. We continued on until we came to a depiction of the "tree of life" at the end of our string path. We were invited to each take a piece of fruit from this tree and we each did. The fruit was a precious prize to me. It was fake, a plastic pear-shaped piece of fruit smothered in glitter. I remember loving the way it smelled. It made my mouth water, even though it didn’t smell like fruit but like glitter or tinsel. I still had a strange, pleasant reaction when I smell that weird tinsel smell that seems most prevalent around Christmas. It is a strange feeling and my mouth still waters a little bit when I smell it. I still have that piece of fruit somewhere in a box of keepsakes.

It was a symbol, then and now. Back then, it symbolized the goal we LDS young women were all supposed to be striving for. The journey to walk that straight and narrow path of trial and tribulation, holding fast to the "iron rod," the gospel, and coming at last to our celestial reward. It was beautiful and sparkling and we wanted it. But in reality, that piece of fruit was a vague symbol. In my young mind it was whatever I wanted most. It was this vague happiness. The fake sparkling fruit was displayed on my dresser for a long time as I was growing up. It was my vague, beautiful, goal of celestial glory and happiness.

But the symbol of it now is a different one. Beneath the glitter, the smell, the symbol, there is still a fake plastic piece of fruit. While a real pear would nourish a hungry stomach this fake fruit gives no real nourishment. It looks pretty and it sparkles. But like the fakeness of the fruit, the promise of the symbol was ultimately fake as well. The goal, however pleasant to think of, isn’t any more real than that that plastic pear. It sparkles but it does not truly nourish.
Joseph Smith

The Hostage Situation

Someone you love has gone missing. Perhaps a child, sibling, parent, spouse, or friend. You are desperate to be reunited with them but it seems hopeless. Suddenly, a stranger contacts you with what sounds like good news. They know where your loved one is and can reunite you with that person! The thing is, they want something in return.

They can't prove they have access to the person. No evidence can be given. You can't speak to them on the phone or see a photo of them holding today's newspaper. All you have is this stranger's word. And, in your desperation, you ask what it will take to get your loved one back. What does this stranger want from you?

First, they want money. But not all of it up front. You will have to continuously make payments. 10% of everything you earn for the rest of your life. In addition to this, they also have a list of rules they want you to obey. Some of these rules are sensible but others are ridiculous. There are certain rituals you must preform and a great deal of time you will need to invest. They will be checking up on you and making sure that you are following the rules and making your payments. They say if you do these things you will get your loved one back. But not until after you are dead.

This will also act as an insurance policy for the future loss of loved ones but there are complications. Not only do you have to follow the rules and pay but so do your other family members and friends. If they don't start paying the ransom as well you might all end up separated from each other forever.

Some nicely dressed young men might show up to your door to happily tell you all about the ransom you need to pay for you dead loved ones and the important insurance policy that you and all of your friends must invest in to make sure you can see each other again in the next life. There is no solid proof they can give but, they say, that doesn't matter. The important thing is that you feel that they might be telling you the truth. As long as you feel some hopeful feeling about it, it must be true. Don't you want to see your loved ones again?

And however manipulative it is, however little proof you really have, maybe in your desperation, missing someone you love and wanting more than anything to see them again, you begin paying a ransom that will never end. You will pass it on to your children and as many others as you can convince to pay and hope that it will somehow be enough to insure you get to be with your loved ones again.

When someone you care about dies it is a devastating thing. The LDS church teaches that you can be with your family again in the next life but only if you live a faithful mormon life which includes a 10% tithe, participating in various rituals, and following a list of other demands. Families can be together forever ...if they all pay the ransom. What kind of church or god would place a ransom on the ones you love?
Joseph Smith

Hymns and Friends

So it has been a long time! I guess I haven't felt the need to write for a while.

I was thinking about hymns and primary songs and how they still pop into my head so often. The brilliant little chants that have been scratched deeply into my brain. I haven't been to church for years now but they still come floating in so easily and reminding me to follow the prophet or hope they call me on a mission or so many other hypnotic little phrases. What an excellent tool they are to implant ideas in heads in a catchy and unforgettable way.

But the real reason I wanted to write was some very good news. Some people very close to me recently revealed to me that they no longer believe the church is true. I was surprised and happy to hear about their journey out and I am proud of them. They have a lot of hard times ahead but I know they will make it though. They have decided to keep the news secret from a lot of people at this point because it would cause so many problems for them. Indeed, they are in a really tough spot with that. I wish they could be themselves and have their families be proud of them but in this case they have to keep up appearances and lie to keep the peace.

I think about how lucky I am that I was able to pretty much rust rip the bandaid off with my family. It wasn't fun or easy and it still hurts. My family is very devout but my parents are more open minded than some, even though I have encountered nightmares with them and I know they are upset and they still are hanging on to the hope that I will come back to the fold. but I haven't been disowned. I haven't been though a lot of the hellish things that many exmormons have had to face. They do still love me. My husband was a convert so when we left his family didn't have any problem with it. it hardly mattered to them at all that we were turning away from mormonism. I know it was hard for them having their son convert but they have never seemed to let it change things. Even when they couldn't go to our wedding. They had to sit outside and wait as their son went though the secret temple ceremonies. They had to feel rejected and alone as they were surrounded by strange people who seemed to speak another language. They were amazing in how well they handled it all.

But these people who are close to me have time bombs on both sides. Both from such devout families. The kind of attitude that they would rather die than see their children leave the one true church. That manipulative attitude has left them in fear or revealing themselves to the people who should love them most unconditionally. The church is more important than anything and leaving it is pretty much unforgivable. In this way I have seen how the church strains relationships and, the church that so strongly preaches family, breaks them apart.

So the exmormons have their dilemma. Should I be "out and proud" at the risk of hurting those I love or should I spare their feelings but compromise myself? I think that often there is a bit of a middle ground where things end up but it is hard to know how to balance things best. I find that even though I have told my family about my disbelief I am still "in the closet" to so many people in my life. Fear keeps me there, wondering how my relationship with others would change if they knew. I try to be honest. If someone asks me "are you mormon?" (and I live in UT and people do ask this) I will be honest and say I am not. But I find that even more often people just assume I am and I let them assume. I wonder sometimes if that is dishonest but at the same time it would seem stupid and unnecessary to make a huge deal about it to everyone just to stop them from assuming things about me. People make assumptions all the time about all sorts of things and I can't really stop that but I don't want to be dishonest. It is a strange dilemma I suppose. I feel there are a few people who I should perhaps tell but I do fear losing their friendships. I have already lost friends because of my decision to leave. But what kind of a friend are they really if they would let this destroy our friendship?

Anyway, back to the people who recently "outed" themselves to me. I wish the best for them and I love them and I will be there for them always. I am happy for them because I know that even though they have started on an excruciatingly difficult path, the rewards of truth and freedom and growth will be great ones.
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Joseph Smith

The Mormons

It's been a while, but just something of note:

On monday and tuesday PBS aired a special about mormons. It is 4 hours long and can be viewed online at this site. I am still finishing up the last few parts of it myself but I am prepared to say that it seems to be a good look at mormonism. I would call it pretty non-biased and it is informative for people who have very little experience with mormonism or a lot. I got some interesting things out of it even though I spent most of my life in the church and have studied it extensively. It is interesting and worth a watch if mormonism interests you.

The web site also has a wealth of information about mormonism and full interviews of people talked to in the program. Interesting stuff. Or maybe boring. whichever. =)
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Joseph Smith

If you don't believe in it you can't quote it?

It has been a while. It isn't that I don't have things to post but I've been busy and less interested in the church than I was. I think that is a good sign of recovery.

I wanted to post some things from a conversation I am having with a mormon. He is very unusual because though he claims to be LDS he seems to believe that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were fallen prophets.

The best part, though, is probably trying to explain to him that I can quote someone and not believe what they say to be true. He seems to have trouble grasping this. It's the argument of "you are an ex-mormon so you cannot quote mormon leaders because you don't believe in the church!" Excerpts of the conversation follow.

conversation with a strange mormonCollapse )
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Joseph Smith

Isn't it about...the church?

A few things to post. It has been a while. Actually, I have a lot of stuff to post but I haven't organized it or anything so it is a slow process to get it ready to post here.


What is the Most Important thing in the Mormon church?

You've seen the ads, "Family, isn't it about... time?"

Is family the most important thing in the LDS church? the answer is kinda yes but mostly no.

When it boils down to it the most important thing in the church is this: The Church.

I was raised by righteous mormon parents who fulfilled their callings. My mom even got the honor of being relief society president. It was upsetting the way she was taken advantage of to do "the lord's work". She was constantly running around having to put every lady in the ward before herself or her family. She did it all and gave everything. Every needy troubled lady was suddenly her responsibility. My mom gives like crazy. she does her best to serve everyone and make everyone happy and this was the perfect thing to keep her horribly busy. As a good mormon woman her needs come last. Mormon women are taught to be these martyrs bleeding themselves dry for everyone but themselves. It isn't surprising how bad the depression is among them. When you can't think of yourself or make yourself happy, when you are not good enough and will never be good enough, when you are forever living to be the "perfect" wife, mother, mormon, I can't blame these poor ladies for finding a little happiness from a bottle of Prozac. how else can they live?

Meanwhile, the man is the provider, the head of the home. If his wife or children are failing spiritually he is to blame. But he is kept busy with his callings. He often spends Saturdays helping people move. He is called up by the bishop to help with whatever needs doing. He works hard to support the children that he and his wife probably started having immediately after getting married, being the righteous mormons they are.

Visiting teaching and home teaching each month. Callings that keep you busy throughout the week. Just being a good mormon is tough and the most important thing is raising your children to be good mormons too. How do you show them how to be obedient mormons? You put the church first. You obey the church. You accept the callings. You bring the casseroles. you force them to go to seminary and EFY and youth activities. The little family time you have is centered around the church. Read the scriptures. family prayer. FHE lessons. Spending a Saturday cleaning the church. Going to Young Women achievement nights. Mormon life is all about the church. The most "family oriented" thing about the church is doing all you can to raise up the next generation of righteous tithe payers prepared to give their all to the church. And if you raised them right they will raise up another righteous generation of mormons prepared to give the church everything. The church owns their time, their money, their lives. Yeah. It's all about family...
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Joseph Smith

burning in the bosom

Moroni 10:4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

This is called "Moroni's Promise" and is a scripture mormons memorize and repeat often to non-mormons when telling them about the gospel and giving them a copy of the Book of Mormon. The testimony, the faith, the knowledge that mormons have that their church is the one true church upon the face of the earth is based in this scripture. It works like this:
1. read the book of mormon
2. pray about it
3. the holy ghost gives you a happy feeling mormons call a "burning in the bosom" and you know the church is true and get baptized!

For people who are born mormon it tends to be more of growing up assuming it is true because you've just been told that since you were a little child over and over and your parents know it is true and they wouldn't lie to you! hopefully eventually you stop weaning from your parent's testimonies and use Moroni's Promise for yourself and of course the result will be that you will have a happy feeling and know that it is true and be a good righteous mormon.

If you do not receive a burning in your bosom mormons will say
-"you need to wait for god's answer. he answers in his own time."
-"you aren't listening for it enough/you have to try harder to hear the answer."
-"you aren't righteous enough/you need to be a better mormon before god will tell you that it is true!"

Sometimes if you fail to have the "burning in the bosom" you will be asked something like "well, did you have a bad feeling? If you didn't have a bad feeling the absence of a feeling means it is true. you didn't have a bad feeling so that was god's way of telling you it's true!"

If you prayed and had a bad feeling or a feeling that it wasn't true or just any feeling contrary to the answer that the church is true, well, that's just not possible! if you tell a mormon they will probably say something like this:
-"it was a feeling from Satan that you thought was a feeling from the holy ghost/god!" (wow, how can you tell who your feelings are from then? maybe Satan told you it was true and god gave me the real answer and said it was false.)
-"you wanted it to not be true so you already had your mind made up and it didn't matter what the answer really was." (I could say the same for having your mind made up already that it is true. I think the way mormons take on Moroni's Promise pretty much shows that they already have their mind made up and are just looking for a happy feeling to confirm what they already believe.)

Why isn't it possible to have a testimony that the church isn't true? a burning in the bosom that gives you an answer other than the "It's true!" answer? Well, since mormons know that it is, without a doubt, the one and only true church on the face of the earth, it just isn't possible that the answer could be anything contrary to that. If you try to ask a mormon something along the lines of "what if the church wasn't true?" most often you will get and answer like "It is true and I won't even think 'what if' because it's true and that's that." There really can't be a possibility in their mind that it could be untrue.

Anyway, my leaving the church came after years of serious "search, ponder, and pray." I felt uncomfortable and unhappy and scared to death in the church. I figured this must come from my doubt and me not being good enough or smart enough. It was a process of praying and begging god to give me the burning in my bosom that the church was true. Listening for that feeling and finding only emptiness. But I didn't give up and I couldn't just take nothing as being a confirmation of truth. I knew god would tell me and give me that testimony that I needed, the one Moroni had promised. I went on gaining knowledge that would help me to strengthen my testimony only to uncover more and more challenges. But however much troubling information that only made my testimony more challenged and however much researching to prove the claims false and finding them true, I still hung on waiting for an answer from god. I still believed. I couldn't even fathom not believing.

And one day the burning in my bosom came at last! but it was not what I expected. It was a feeling that the church wasn't true. A feeling of acceptance. A beautiful feeling of peace. A beautiful feeling of finally knowing. An amazing epiphany like nothing I have had before or since. The church was not true. And even though my entire world was crumbing in my hands with that realization...I felt so much peace and happiness. All of the fear I felt melted away! Because I finally knew. I guess you could say god did answer my prayers at last after so much pain and heartache and tears and pleading to him. It felt just like the feeling I was always taught would come. But it was the opposite answer. It was the most amazing epiphany ever.

Honestly, I don't really interpret it as god giving me an answer. I did not hear the voice of god or anything specifically "god-like" but the feeling was identical to what mormons describe about their bosom burnings. I think I can only really say that it was an epiphany. I guess you could interpret it as god guiding me but I think it was more like acceptance of what I already knew. I finally accepted the truth about things even though it was so hard to do. even though my "testimony" had been falling apart in the face of honest study of the church I still had not, until that point, accepted the answers in front of my face. So many times mormons say "I don't know what I would do without the church in my life! Without it I would be miserable and empty and have no reason to live. I feel sorry for people who do not have the gospel and I can see the empty and sad lives they lead because they do not have the truth in their lives!" I was scared. leaving the church was supposed to meean leaving everything behind and every possibility of true happiness. but I was already unhappy in the church.

As I grew up there were a lot of things I had trouble with about the church while I was still a good mormon but I tried to not let my personal feelings manipulate me...wait a minute! manipulate? feelings? what? If it's about having feelings that are from god why aren't my feelings meaningful when they are against the church too? Only the good feelings are talking about the church? That seems silly. In the end I think in matters of "truth" you can't really trust your feelings. What do you feel? what is making you feel that way? what does the feeling mean? you can try to interpret it yourself but with the LDS church they label those feelings for you. they tell you what you are feeling and what it means. they tell you the answer and you make your feelings conform to it. This certainly isn't how a person would successfully go about obtain knowledge of anything. Just having a feeling isn't enough to hold up to most scrutiny. in a courtroom you can tell the judge your client is innocent but if your only defense is "I just feel he is. I prayed about it and had a good feeling" that won't hold up. you will lose your case. The same can be said in almost any situation. Not that I believe there is no place for feelings or faith but if those are the things you a basing your decision on, especially important and life altering decision, it won't stand up. basically, feelings cannot be held as truth. you can feel a certain way about something and it could be true or false but your feeling isn't always going to match up. it's a feeling.
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Joseph Smith

DNA and Mormonism article in the LA Times

I wanted to post some links, mostly just to have them here. some of you probably have already seen the article posted in the LA Times:

Bedrock of a Faith Is Jolted

if you haven't read it I encourage you to take a look. It's a good article.

Some further information:

At Religious Tolerance site

Simon Southerton's "Why I Left" story at exmormon.org

I'd also like to say that I have read Simon Southerton's book, Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA and the Mormon Church and I highly recommend it. It's a really interesting book and goes into detail about things but isn't difficult to understand.

I'm happy to see this article in the LA Times and see this issue getting attention. People don't know about it, especially good faithful mormons. I hope it's a wake up call to at least a few people. I know for the most part it will be rejected by mormons and they will refuse to think about it or they will just make excuses to make their faith fit. I am already seeing that reaction. things about how satan changed DNA or hid evidence to trick us or that god did it to test us. things about how scientists are out to get the church. it's stupid.

When you set your mind to something like that, no matter how foolish, no one will change your mind. no fact, no evidence, nothing. It's up to you to be willing to be open to the fact that your faith might not be the "one true" one. that your faith is just faith and not fact. Especially when the facts don't fit.

For me being able to admit the church wasn't true and leave it had two parts, and one had to come first. firstly I found the information. I had the information but I would not accept it. It couldn't be true. I couldn't move on until the second part finally came...the willingness to admit that maybe the church wasn't true. Being open to the possibility that it wasn't. And once I got over my stubbornness and my fear I could take all that information and finally apply it. use it. build with it new knowledge. You can't build anything until you have a spot to build on. I think that is the hardest but most important part: acceptance. and once you can accept and be open-minded you can begin to learn new things, even if they conflict with old beliefs.
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Your Brain: Use It

OCD and "the spirit"

I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I don't have it all that severely but it does cause some problems.

For a little while now I have been thinking about OCD and my experience with the LDS church. Since leaving the church I have slowly managed to lower my dosage of Zoloft (which I have taken for a long time mostly to help with the OCD) and I seem to be doing quite a bit better. I don't necessarily expect that I will ever be cured of my OCD but leaving the church has actually helped it. The mormon church was exploiting my OCD. Both OCD and the LDS church are enveloped in unhealthy "superstitions" that controlled my life.

LDS believe in what they call "promptings," that is, the holy ghost speaks to them. Like if an LDS person is driving and suddenly they feel like they should slow down and then they see a policeman...the story could be like "I was prompted by the spirit to slow down and I avoided a speeding ticket because I listened to the spirit!" or even "I got a speeding ticket today because I didn't listen when the spirit prompted me to slow down." Sometime the things are really trivial and sometimes they are bigger or more important. Basically any feeling about something, rational or irrational, could potentially be a prompting from the holy ghost. LDS feel it is important to listen to the promptings of the spirit. If the spirit prompted me to check if my door was locked and I obeyed that prompting I might never know what could have happened if I had not obeyed but I must obey the spirit to avoid something terrible from potentially happening.

When I, a sufferer of OCD, felt the need to check the lock on the door over and over to make sure it was locked, I often wasn't sure if this was my OCD or a prompting of the spirit. to me it felt the same. My strange little rituals took on another level. the feeling of needing to check a lock or do something a certain way might be the spirit. I had to listen to it. Many destructive OCD behaviors could be even more crucial to me because the spirit might be speaking to me. I might be actually being prompted by the holy ghost. In this way my OCD was exploited and worsened. I can't and don't blame the church for my OCD but I think it made it worse and reinforced my behavior.

It is amazing now how I do feel more power over my OCD with the LDS church and it's "promptings" out of the way. If I feel I need to check that the door is locked, even though I know it is, I can think to myself "It's only the OCD. I don't have to listen to it." instead of thinking "maybe this is a prompting from the holy ghost and if I don't do it something terrible could happen!" I have more control and I feel better. I still have some feelings that eat at me, telling me to do things, but it isn't as hard to reject them as before. The "spirit" is no longer involved. I can look at it more realistically instead of having to worry that some magical messenger from god is trying to tell me something.
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