Is Dissent Tantamount To Apostasy

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The Kate Kelly campaign for gender equality in the Mormon Church, the ensuing reaction by her (local) priesthood leaders & the media storm this has whipped up has raised a great many issues which are discomforting for many members and in some cases humiliating them in the public’s perception.

An issue which is of greatest concern to many in the Mormon Church is not whose doctrinal interpretation is correct and whose isn’t, but rather, is dissent tantamount to apostasy?

As a current LDS member with questions himself says,

“That is a question that I hope everyone examines independently of our personal views. Understand that the implications of the answer of that question go well beyond the futures of a couple of bloggers you’ve never met. If there isn’t room for dissent, then there isn’t room for people like me. Am I an apostate? I guess we’ll find out. Heaven knows I’m just trying to do right by my heart, my brain, and my people.”

This question is of the utmost importance, because I believe it underpins the most basic of human character traits of integrity and authenticity.

Truth is paramount, and the ability to honestly and openly question without fear of repercussions is the beginning of discovering it.

Fear of the truth is a major impediment to authenticity and freedom to choose. Fear lies behind the actions of many Church leaders in trying to suppress free-speech.

I personally had my lips sealed by the threat of excommunication if I spoke to any Church members about Church history, after I resigned as Bishop.

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My Stake President, under direction from the European Area Presidency, and most likely the First Presidency tried to silence me because of the position of influence I held as a Bishop.

They even gave me strict instructions from the European Area Presidency that I must not talk to the members of my Ward when I visited the chapel for sacrament meeting the week after I resigned as Bishop. At this sacrament meeting I was chaperoned by my First Counselor who had been given firm directions to prevent me from communicating with anyone during my visit.

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After ten months of obediently keeping my mouth shut I decided I could no longer stay silent.

I wrote a letter to my Stake President notifying him of my decision to break the agreement. He has never replied.

Here is my letter:

Sent: Sunday 4th December 2011

Dear President Martin,

It’s been a good few months since we communicated so I thought I would report on how things are going for us, as well as inform you of an important change of mind.

Hopefully you & your family are well.

This year’s absence from Church has been a tremendous blessing, from the point of view of spending much more quality time together as a family without feeling guilty. As a simple example, it’s been wonderful to be able to read books at bedtime each night with our youngest son, Elliot. Something I wasn’t able to do often with our other children because of a combination of work & Church commitments. It seems our relationships have grown stronger as a result of spending more time together. This is a very positive outcome.

It has become much more apparent over the last year how we, as leaders & members, sacrifice so much time for the Church at the expense of spending precious time with our families, without ever realising it, because we’re prepared to serve our God no matter what, in the vain hope of future blessings.

I do worry about my friends & family in the Church. I’m concerned about the effects on children & marriage relationships when parents are absent most nights.

All my life I have been willing to give of myself and sacrifice because I believed, (“knew”), the Church was true, and that God would bless us for our efforts, when really it was actually damaging the most important of relationships.

The sacrifices of time & money we have made as a family did not form any part of the reason we left. We have only realised this as the year progressed.

If the Church could be proved to be true tomorrow I would be back like a shot, and serving with all my heart, might, mind & strength like I used to.

I believed in the Church because of its “truth claims”! Not because it felt good!

However, now I am confident the Church is not what it claimed to be, I can no longer, in all good conscience, continue to sacrifice for what I now see is a fantasy. My dedication to following truth is stronger than ever.

The main reason to contact you is to highlight a major concern I have about our current arrangement.

I agreed not to speak about difficult issues regarding Church History & Origins. In fact, if my recollection is correct, you insisted I should not speak to other members about anything to do with Church History, whether true or otherwise! In exchange you agreed to allow me to retain my membership, or not to hold a disciplinary council in consideration of my membership.

Of course, at that time in May you also became aware of my blog posting which included my ‘resignation letter as bishop’ which had been inadvertently made public by John Dehlin, a friend of mine & member of the Church in Salt Lake City who is the producer of Mormon Stories Podcasts. John hadn’t realised the sensitive nature of my blog at the time & once I alerted him of the problem he kindly desisted in publicising it. However, my resignation as bishop was of such a strong interest the news spread quickly around Church & Ex-Mormon forums, & the blogosphere before he could stop it.

You probably heard that it ‘went viral’ &, despite my best efforts by password protecting it, was viewed over 14,000 times by people worldwide in just seven days! This was never my intention, but as the Church is only too well aware information is difficult to control once it gets on the Internet!

You are probably aware the Church currently attempts to suppress information from its members about events in the past which makes uncomfortable reading today. As an active member I was certainly discouraged from reading it because it was deemed not-faith promoting.

However, in my opinion, & General Authorities from the past agreed with this, any attempt at hiding the truth or covering it up should be seen as unrighteousness dominion! (Of course that was before the ‘information age’!)

Let me illustrate with a few quotes:

Elder James E Talmage, “The man who cannot listen to an argument which opposes his views either has a weak position or is a weak defender of it. No opinion that cannot stand discussion or criticism is worth holding. And it has been wisely said that the man who knows only half of any question is worse off than the man who knows nothing of it. He is not only one-sided but his partisanship soon turns him into an intolerant and a fanatic. In general it is true that nothing which cannot stand up under discussion or criticism is worth defending.” ~ James Talmage, Improvement Era, January 1920, p. 204.

“I admire men and women who have developed the questioning spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas and stepping stones to progress. We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent – if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression. This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence nor any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it.” (Hugh B. Brown, counselor in First Presidency, Speech at BYU, March 29, 1958)

“If a faith will not bear to be investigated: if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak.” (George Albert Smith, Journal Of Discourses, v 14, page 216)

And other famous & respected men have promoted free speech & discussion:

Thomas Jefferson taught that, “However discomfiting a free exchange may be, truth will ultimately emerge the victor.”

English philosopher John Stuart Mill said, “Any attempt to resist another opinion is a ‘peculiar evil’. If the opinion is right, we are robbed of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth. If it is wrong, we are deprived of a deeper understanding of the truth in its collision with error.”

I loved the church because I believed it was true, not just because there was a lot of good in it. The truth was something I felt I possessed and truthfulness was, & increasingly is, something I feel is worth standing up for &, if necessary, sacrificing for!

I was sure that my Prophet, my Church & my leaders lived by a higher law. I certainly believed I lived by a higher law while I taught the LDS gospel as a missionary & as a Bishop. In other words, I believed that truth was the highest of all values taught in the Church. I thought the Church and the truth were one and the same until hearing Elder Boyd K Packer’s talk:
“I have a hard time with historians because they idolize the truth. The truth is not uplifting it destroys. . . . Historians should tell only that part of the truth that is inspiring and uplifting”. -Boyd K. Packer (Faithful History: Essays on Writing Mormon History, page 103)

This goes against everything that I believed all my life. According to Elder Packer, there is some truth to be afraid of. I’m sorry President, but my sense of morality means I disagree. I have been taught otherwise my whole life.

Exodus 20:16 – Thou shalt not bear false witness…

Isn’t telling only half of the story the same as bearing false witness ?

2 Nephi 28:28 And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall.

So, President, is the Church on a sandy foundation or built on a rock? If it’s on a rock, then there’s nothing to be afraid of. If it has a sandy foundation, I can see why the GA’s might harbour ill feelings towards the truth.

If ‘truth’ needs to be protected to the point of lying to cover it up, it cannot be the truth. If a doctrine cannot be mentioned because it will look bad, there is something wrong with it.

Let’s not forget D&C 93:24 stating that “truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were.” Not just things as we wish they were, or as they are faith promoting, as approved by the First Presidency, or as it supports our version of things.

“In conflicting doctrinal and historical situations, we are taught in the church that we should just revert back to our testimonies and put things on a shelf to be answered sometime in the afterlife. Sometimes we’re encouraged to find out for ourselves, although that advice is heavily coated with the warning not to search out information contrary to what the church teaches. The stress is definitely loyalty above inquiry.” ~ Unknown Author

“Each of us has to face the matter-either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.” – President Gordon B. Hinckley. ‘Loyalty’, April Conference, 2003.

President, I’m afraid my loyalty is to the truth, therefore I need to change our agreement. I have felt uncomfortable this last year about avoiding speaking about the difficult issues for the Church.

From now on I will encourage my friends both in and out of Church to ask questions, & to search for truth, even if it means standing up against orthodoxy!

I am not “advocating against the Church”, I am ADVOCATING FOR TRUTH!  So my friends can make their own minds up & decide to follow the truth, if that is what they want to do.

No one should exert any type of force on another in an effort to make them believe, truth or otherwise.

As President Brown so aptly said, “Neither fear of consequence nor any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the Church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it.”

My plea is to all members of the Church, including you, to open your minds enough to honestly consider the question “If the Church was not true, would you want to know?”

It’s not about whether it “feels good!” Truth is never about how it feels! Truth stands independent & doesn’t care how it makes us feel. Truth is the same yesterday, today & tomorrow. The Church can, & has changed, but truth stands firm & immovable.

When you consider why we believe in the Church, & the gospel it teaches, really consider, honestly. It’s all about ‘feelings’!

I would be very happy to discuss this & anything else with you.

Know that I am your friend,

Love
Steve

A few months later I wrote personal letters to LDS family and friends inviting them to join with me in Apologising to The Blacks for ever holding racist views prior to 1978.

For this action I was summoned to a Stake Disciplinary Council for apostasy.

They desisted with this action at the time due to my wife’s then recent diagnosis of breast cancer, for which gladly she has now made a full recovery.

Can the Mormon Church tolerate dissent or even sincere questioning?

Or does obedience, loyalty and conformity always take priority over truth, authenticity and integrity?

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See also David Twede’s excellent blog post about loyalty: Paying Trons Revolt

Mormon Open Letter for honesty, and transparency

Posted in Mormon Issues, TRUTH | Tagged , , , , , , | 16 Comments

God Lives! And He’s in My Brain! (Part 2)

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Does God Exist?

And can we become Gods, as Mormonism teaches we can?

If I’m right in my suspicions, we’re all gods already!

Well, we create god as an imaginary being in our minds. Everyone around the world who has a concept of god or gods has this concept by virtue of the capability of their own mind to create imaginary beings in their minds. Like having an imaginary friend as a child whilst growing up, or like imagining there is a Santa Claus, adults retain the ability to continue this consoling pretense for the rest of their lives.

So it’s not so much that God created man in His own image, but it’s much more likely to be the other way round, with humans imagining a supernatural deity, or multiple gods, in order to ameliorate their fear based superstitious concerns about the world around them, and out of a desire to explain the gaps in their understanding of the, often terrifying, forces of nature.

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There is far more evidence worldwide for this concept of gods created by our mind’s imagination than that there really is a real supernatural being called God who reigns supreme in Heaven.

If this concept is correct, those who believe in gods have already got one – in their heads!

So, by that definition, religions are right! They just don’t realise why and who God actually is!

It all makes so much sense when one considers the fact that our minds are so capable. Incredibly powerful & dangerously malleable! Therefore capable both of amazing feats of imagination, and also hallucination.

Our minds have almost unlimited potentials for imagination. Just think about our night time dreams. How, sometimes, they are so vividly realistic it’s almost impossible to know whether we’re dreaming or awake.

Humans have imagined beautiful potentials for achievement in every medium there is, including cloth & stone, bronze & steel, written word & in art.

We have imagined crossing great distances on earth by foot & horse, ship & plane, more recently by rocket to the moon, and even planting a rover on Mars.

Our minds are capable of imagining war & peace, we have imagined & discovered the fabric of life & the Universe, even the structure of atoms & DNA itself.

Our imaginations have helped us to discover even the very foundational forces of nature through hypotheses to experimentation, and on to the construction of solid reliable models of the universe which have enable us to build technologies for flight and even space travel.

Our minds, as bronze age humans, imagined Gods as our creators & masters, controlling every aspect of our lives & directing our actions in superstitious rituals & religious rites.

Our imagined Omnipotent Masters could extract amazing levels of control over their adherents, inspiring perfect obedience & absolute devotion.

These collectively imagined Gods behaved in ways which society accepted. In ancient times where superstition had a hold on the fearful imaginations of the people, extreme sacrifices were often required to placate the extreme needs of the imagined Gods. So great was the fear of the unknown, and their anxiety about supernatural forces that this often resulted in blood sacrifices of animals and even humans to placate or appease these imagined Gods.

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Over thousands of years, as human society developed a concept of human rights, the expectations of our imagined Gods moderated to overcome the need for the shedding of blood in animal & human sacrifice, we began to value life & personal freedom, we overcame racism, & bigotry, & developed a social conscience.

Our Gods became more gentle too. Eventually the imagined Gods became one God, including one particular God, Jesus, who most humans imagine as gentle, meek & mild.

Our human brains have been so powerful over the millenia creating all the thousands of Gods till eventually imagining the most wonderful imaginary friends who know us implicitly. They believe what we believe. They always answer our prayers in ways that our best for us.

After 46 years I’ve realised I did have an imaginary friend, & now that I realise I created Him it all makes sense to me. I now realise it was me who answered myself all the times I prayed to ‘Him’.

Neuro-science is discovering the way our sub-conscious mind occupies the vast majority of our brains function & it just ‘copies in’ our conscious mind to let it know what it’s decided.

So in reality God is our sub-conscious mind’s imaginary creation.

“The concept of a supreme being, creator of the world, is the product of human imagination. Each individual, in turn, transmits this to the collective fantasy through an ideology or religion. The fantasy comes back stronger and dulls the mind. If the universe had no beginning, no end and is in constant transformation, dialectically, it is God himself, which, for Marx, was created by man – and not vice versa.” ~ Adilson Clayton de Souza

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There are many of us who have been through that awful realisation and acceptance that we are probably here by chance.

Then begins the wonderful journey to feeling more human & vulnerable, and yet life more vital than ever before.

More connected to the rest of humanity.
More in control of our destiny as individuals and as a species.

More a part of nature and a creation of the planet.

Gaining a sense of ultimate freedom to decide our own destiny and purpose in life.

God Lives! And He’s In My Brain. (Part 1)

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I’ll Be a Skeptical Korihor Any Day

Life Without God

Life Has More Meaning As An Atheist

Do I Believe In A God?

Posted in Mormon Issues, Religious Epiphany, TRUTH | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

God Lives! And He’s in My Brain!

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What is the nature of spiritual experiences, answers to prayer & revelation from ‘God’?

The Mormon Prophet Brigham Young taught:

“I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self security. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.”

- Brigham Young, (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1954], 135.)

There is a whole world of amazing scientific explanations for the processes involved in “know(ing) by the whispering of the Spirit of God”, but many dare not consider, truly consider, anything outside of their own belief system.

There are beautiful, known, scientific explanations for the mechanisms of the brain which can account for these “whisperings of the Spirit of God”, but some would rather continue to believe in the mystical.

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Though scientific understanding is currently a long way from being complete, I think neuro-science will have all the answers eventually.

There is a strong natural tendency to disbelieve any evidence which runs contrary to our beliefs. It is a common problem encountered by every human being who has the ability to think.

Psychologists call it confirmational bias, or observer bias. The bias is only natural. As Professor of Psychology Michael Shermer says,

“the facts of the world are filtered by our brains through the colored lenses of worldviews, paradigms, theories, hypotheses, conjectures, hunches, biases, and prejudices we have accumulated through living. We then sort through the facts and select those that confirm what we already believe and ignore or rationalize away those that contradict our beliefs.”

It’s an automatic process of our minds. You most probably won’t even be aware of this process of filtering information to fit your belief system, especially if the new information contradicts your current beliefs. Then the cognitive dissonance can make it too painful to consider that you may need to change your mind, so your mind just creates a cognitive blind spot.

The evidence is showing how our sub-conscious minds work, which is very likely where we get this spiritual inspiration from.

The conscious & sub-conscious mind is what our brains do. The mind is a function of the brain.

The sub-conscious mind makes up the vast majority of the function of our brains, with the conscious mind, the self-aware bit of our mind, making up just a small part of it.

The sub-conscious mind is busily working away in the background & occasionally letting our conscious mind know what’s going on. In effect C.C.ing our conscious mind. Saying, “Oh by the way I’ve decided this, or that!”

Scientists have discovered that our sub-conscious mind can have made a decision, or come to a conclusion, some time before we actually realise it.

So the question is, “are we inspiring ourselves?” Or, in other words, “is our sub-conscious mind actually our God??”

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The other consideration is how we perceive the conscious physical reality around us. We have to use all sorts of visual, kinaesthetic & auditory assumptions etc about the world at large.

Stage magicians cleverly use these in order to trick our minds. We can inadvertently fool ourselves through these assumptions too. Visual mind tricks are a fun example of how our minds can be easily tricked.

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Both sides of the cube are identical in colour & shade, but appear differently to our eyes because our minds make subconscious visual assumptions based on the background

Also, we see the world around us through the filter of bias. We only notice things which we are already aware of, or are thinking about, where our attention is drawn to, a type of confirmational bias.

And, the mind is so powerful we can experience hallucinations in any or all of our senses. Including through self-hypnosis brought on by meditation.

Plus we often subconsciously ignore what doesn’t fit our desires.

All in all, we are psychologically very complex creatures who can be deceived & deluded by any combination of the above factors depending on our state of emotions & state of consciousness.

I’m not an expert, but absolutely fascinated by how I was deceived for so long.

In the gospel sense, if you sincerely pray to God for an answer, you will always get one!

It will never be wrong!

Either: Yes, No or Wait!

So if I pray for a sick relative to live & they do, then God has listened to my prayer, said Yes, &  blessed me.

If they die, then God obviously said No, because their must be a higher purpose for them dying.

In other circumstances I may just not get an answer, because ‘the time of isn’t right’, or ‘I need to learn patience.’

Either way, the believer is satisfied! ;-)

As a young missionary I was surprised & disturbed when I met a few very sincere ‘Born Again Christians’ who bore their testimonies with as much, if not more, fervency & genuine sincerity as me.

They were just as sure as me of their personal revelation from ‘God’.

They were absolutely, 100% sure of their belief system.

I rationalised that they obviously were being deceived by half-truths. That the Holy Ghost was witnessing of truths, but that they were conflating error as truth because of the other truths the Holy Ghost was witnessing of at the same time.

But I could never fully understand how they weren’t being led to the whole truth.

It was one of those questions I kept on my proverbial shelf for the ‘God of the Gaps’ to reveal to me one day.

Whilst I was serving as a bishop I was also disturbed by some members who had ‘weird’ testimonies.

How did God inspire those members with bizarre spiritual experiences?

I couldn’t quite reconcile it, other than to think perhaps they were psychologically disturbed, & weren’t understanding or interpreting the Spirit’s inspiration correctly.

Boyd K Packer even finds it difficult to explain how to differentiate between spiritual prompting & emotional feelings! -

“The spiritual part of us and the emotional part of us are so closely linked that is possible to mistake an emotional impulse for something spiritual. We occasionally find people who receive what they assume to be spiritual promptings from God, when those promptings are either centered in the emotions or are from the adversary.”

(http://lds.org/ensign/1983/01/the-candle-of-the-lord?lang=eng)

And Joseph Smith at times struggled to know the difference:
According to David Whitmer,

“Joseph looked into the hat in which he placed the stone, and received a revelation that some of the brethren should go to Toronto, Canada, and that they would sell the copyright of the Book of Mormon. Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery went to Toronto on this mission, but they failed entirely to sell the copyright, returning without any money. Joseph was at my father’s house when they returned. I was there also, and am an eye witness to these facts. Jacob Whitmer and John Whitmer were also present when Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery returned from Canada.

“Well, we were all in great trouble; and we asked Joseph how it was that he had received a revelation from the Lord for some brethren to go to Toronto and sell the copyright, and the brethren had utterly failed in their undertaking. Joseph did not know how it was, so he enquired of the Lord about it, and behold the following revelation came through the stone: “Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of men: and some revelations are of the devil.” So we see that the revelation to go to Toronto and sell the copyright was not of God, but was of the devil or of the heart of man.”

Some people say they have actually heard an audible voice. I did. I had a very remarkable and memorable experience as a missionary:

“I had been fasting for over 24 hours & focusing on an investigator family with all my ‘heart, might, mind & strength’. Every thought was focused on them getting baptised.

“I had promised in my prayer never to eat again till they committed to baptism!!!!

“During our visit with the investigators I failed to properly challenge them for baptism, so on leaving to walk away I heard a voice!

“The voice was audibly telling me to return and carry out my promised action to challenge them to baptism. No one else heard it. Just me.

“I spooked them big time by telling the investigators my story of the voice.

“They were baptised!”

;-)

But then they stopped attending after just two weeks!

Was it an auditory hallucination??

In all probability! After all, I was physically exhausted, thirsty, very hungry and I now realise, susceptible to hallucinations.

What I understand from psychology is that the mind is very capable of playing tricks on us, including creating hallucinations in any of our senses, or any combinations of our senses.

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What our minds perceive is, after all, only electrical impulses stimulating certain areas withing the brain. The mind is actually, after all, what the brain does.

Many people experience these auditory hallucinations when suffering with certain psychopathies, like schizophrenia.

A friend who suffers with this says he can actually ‘hear’ my thoughts!!

And he hears many voices!

So, on looking at the evidence I deduce that it is entirely plausible, even probable, that we all get the same subconscious messages occurring, some with strong hallucinatory aspects to them, but we interpret their origins differently depending on our particular belief system or culture.

I have seen things from the perspective of a faithful Church member & leader. I once believed that the “whisperings of the Spirit of God”, were actually from God. I received (what I “knew” at the time was) divine guidance on a daily basis as I served as a Bishop in the Church for almost seven years.

Over the course of my life from age 17 to 46 years old I have personally had the most incredibly intense feelings of confirmation of truth when I prayed about Joseph Smith & the Book of Mormon. I served a mission based on those feelings or “whisperings of the Spirit” and bore powerful testimony to the truthfulness of the gospel as I taught investigators.

I knew how to initiate a ‘divine learning experience’ and was able to go to God in prayer and plead for answers to many questions over my lifetime. Many members and priesthood leaders were astonished at my spirituality. Frequently my Stake President would publicly acknowledge how strongly God’s Spirit was with me, guiding my leadership of the Ward. They all recognised that I was leading the Ward by the power of God and receiving revelations on a frequent basis. The Stake President strongly emphasised on many occasions that the members should consider me like a Prophet to the Ward because of the way God was guiding me.

Those same feelings of inspiration still come to me in exactly the same way now, even though I’m an agnostic atheist.

How does anyone account for that?

What’s even more alarming is that these “whisperings of the spirit” are not always reliable.

I’ve had those same intensely strong feelings of the ‘Spirit’ several times when important decisions needed to be made, where, after following the so-called ‘divine guidance’, the outcome has been dreadfully wrong. At the time I put it down to God wanting me to have a learning experience, because my mind would not accept the blatantly obvious. The “whisperings of the Spirit of God” were in fact generated within my own brain by simple explainable biological processes of my brain.

There most probably is no external divine communication.

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The more we understand about the mind, the more we understand about who we are as human beings.

Scientific research has massively increased our understanding of both the world around us & the world inside our heads.

Many faithful, believing Latter-day Saints try to explain away the discrepancies and difficulties surrounding their belief system, but in reality God doesn’t need apologists. What we need is honest, open-minded, authentic people who are willing to consider all the facts without filtering them to fit a particular belief system.

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

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Posted in Humanism, Mormon Issues, Religious Epiphany, TRUTH | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Some Ideas Are Like Viruses To The Mind

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I respect everyone’s right to believe whatever they want to believe.

However, I do not believe that beliefs are sacred, in that they deserve special rights to exist unchallenged.

Some ideas & beliefs are dangerous, in that once believed they can hijack a believer’s ability to think rationally. This includes the beliefs and practices of organisations which use techniques of ‘mind control’ or ‘undue influence’.

These organisations are effective because they subtley introduce phobias, biases & prejudices among their adherents which develop fear, guilt & shame. These beliefs and emotions limit one’s view of the world and one’s own potential.

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A few examples of limiting beliefs to illustrate my point:

1. Imagine an eagle raised from an egg by chickens. From as soon as it first hatches it believes it is a chicken. It’s only perception of the world comes from being nurtured by birds who don’t fly, and cannot even imagine flying. So the eagle itself never considers it has the capacity to fly, much less the potential to be the King of the Skies, the top predator of the air, but remains all its life pecking grain amongst the dirt. No-one would consider that living life as a chicken promotes the best in eagles’ thriving, or is actually good for an eagle’s wellbeing.

2. Then consider Plato’s Allegory of The Cave. In this story a tribe of people are forcibly kept in a cave chained to the ground facing the back of the cave. For several generations, their only perspective on reality and the world at large is obtained by viewing the shadows of things which pass by the mouth of the cave. They think the shadows of things projected onto the cave wall are the actual things. So a shadow of a bird, is believed to actually be a bird.

When, eventually, someone breaks free of their chains and leaves the cave to view the outside world, they are at first startled by the brightness of the light, the vibrancy of the colours and the vividness of real life. They realise there is a whole host of other dimensions to life than just a mere reflection of it. Reality is far more exciting than they were ever led to believe. Scary at first, but overwhelmingly more conducive to their wellbeing than being chained in The Cave. When the excited escapee remembers his family and friends still trapped in the cave he runs back to inform them of his new discoveries and how much more they can achieve once free of their chains and limited perspective of life. Unfortunately they are hostile to the returned escapee because they cannot even begin to imagine how much more there could be to reality outside the cave and because his explanations of the world are impossible to comprehend and threatening to their worldview from their limited perspective.

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Again, no-one would consider life lived in The Cave to be conducive to the best in human thriving, and certainly not optimal for human wellbeing.

(Plato’s Allegory of The Cave)

3. Consider a Mormon parent’s view of a grown-up child who decides to leave the Church after discovering the true historical reality of the origins of the Church. When that parent’s first response to their child’s resignation is, “I’d rather you were dead than leave the Church”, what does that say about the LDS parent’s view of reality? Of their relationship with that child versus the dogma of their limiting religious beliefs?

The problem with ‘limiting beliefs’ of any kind is that they reduce the capacity of the individual to think rationally and limit their choices.

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Marlene Winell talking generally about the harm of fundamentalism and controlling organisations in her book ‘Leaving The Fold’, speaks about the effect of some organisations ‘limiting belief systems’ on the believers:

“I think that institutions can take on a life of their own & that individuals do get used & hurt.

“There is much that is dangerous about controlling systems that takes away that which is most precious about human beings. This is not about being anti-God, anti-church or anti-spirituality, but it is anti-dogma! It is about problems with rigid religions – those that hold their tenets to be more important than people to the point where believers can be harmed.

“A dogmatic religion is one that does not truly honour the thoughts & feelings of the individual. It is also one that is static, without room for development. Doubt is considered sinful, & contradicting information is screened out. The divine & sacred are seen as derived from outside, with no recognition afforded to a person’s inner resources of wisdom, strength & love. A rigid religion fosters dependency on the external authorities of “God” (as defined by the religion), scripture & the church leaders for guidance in truth. Ultimately, a rigid religion erodes the natural contentment & confidence with which every child begins life and which every healthy human being needs. (pgs 5-6)

“Over the years and continuing to this day the various rigid religions in the world have caused great pain & conflict among people. The very nature of dogma is to separate, because these kinds of systems claim to have the only truth. Therefore, no matter how altruistic its pronouncements, a rigid religion will produce judgement, because there will always be “others” who believe differently. Judgement leads to discrimination and, all to often, persecution. Dogma can never bring us together to understand each other in our shared humanity.” (pg 7)

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Above: an example of Selling Us A Fantasy To Handicap Our Rationality

Personally I think anything which separates individuals from reality by replacing it with a fantasy is not going to empower people to be authentic. Living one’s life based on a delusion is not a good foundation for developing our full potential as human beings. Living one’s life based on pretending to know things one really doesn’t know, has to unnaturally limit one’s life potential.

I think it ultimately comes down to the criteria for the best in human thriving and wellbeing. Mormonism, though encouraging some good traits, sacrifices much that is real and wonderful about this life in favour of prioritising ‘life after death’, which is actually an unknown, despite our desperate hopes for an afterlife. In Mormonism, obedience is valued & respected at any price, in order to obtain Eternal Life.

Mormons often tolerate poor relationships and life experiences because they believe in avoiding conflict, and because they put their hopes for living a better life in the ‘afterlife’.

I’ve heard people rationalise poor relationships with their spouse and children, along with their unwillingness to make changes to improve their relationships, based on their belief that ‘everything will be so much better in the Eternities’. They avoid confronting the issues in the here and now, preferring to continue in a miserable relationship in the hopes of a miraculous improvement after death, with Eternal Bliss.

However, I believe that anything…which separates us from reality…reduces our ability to reach our potential!

The Mormon Church SELLS us a fantasy about Eternal Life which damages our ability to reach our potential in this life.

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It stops us asking important questions which could help us truly grow our characters by giving us fictitious answers and inculcating biases, phobias and prejudices promoting fear, guilt and shame.

The Mormon Church prioritises obedience & conformity over free & independent thought and expression.

Adult Mormons are never allowed to fully mature and develop their ego, but remain like adolescents or children at stages 4 or 5 in Loevinger’s ‘Stages of Ego Development’. Stage 4 being one of unquestioning conformity to the rules of the group, along with a very ‘Black & White’ thinking, and with behaviour judged externally rather than by its intention. Stage 5 being one where people are more self-aware than stage 4, and are conscientious conformists, having an understanding of multiple possibilities in situations, but they lack the power to challenge ideas, norms and expectations.

Yet we know that ‘To Question Is To Grow!’ Positive change in individuals and society can only come about by challenging the status quo.

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The big problem is that once ensnared in the organisation which inculcated these ‘limiting beliefs’ it is almost impossible to recognise the entrapment.

Occasionally a few lucky individuals detect the clever hoax, releasing themselves from the psychological & emotional binds, and leave the organisation.

The process of leaving often requires great courage, strength & determination because of the tremendous hold the organisation has over their minds. Quite often the effort involved in leaving the group triggers an existential crisis as the individual works to come to terms with their perceived loss. For some, the sudden realisation that the whole context & foundation of their lives was just a pleasant fantasy can be overwhelming. To those who previously were fully converted and committed to the Mormon Gospel it often feels like they are dying on the inside as they face coming to terms with the truth.

Most members of these organisations believe they are free & could leave the group at any time without any difficulty, yet the stark reality is quite the opposite.

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When completely invested & believing in their organisation they would rather die than deny the faith. So complete is the undue influence over the minds of adherents that their every decision is influenced by the belief system.

Those fortunate people who leave often look back at their former society of friends they love in the desperate hope of trying to save others who they’ve left behind.

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http://www.mormonopenletter.com

How would anyone recognise they were a member of such an organisation?

Neither Jehovah’s Witnesses nor Mormons will recognise or acknowledge they are members of an organisation which practices ‘undue influence’ over the minds of it’s members. But each group of people will recognise the other as doing so.

Beware! Be very wary! Because it’s almost impossible from the inside of an organisation like this to know you’re under the influence of cognitive mind control.

Until you step outside of the organisation and look back with a more neutral perspective you’ll never know.

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I Didn’t Realise The Cage Existed Till I Left

I did! And I’ve never been happier and more free!

I’m Stephen Bloor. And I’m an Ex-Mormon.

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If only…?
http://www.mormonthink.com

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Other Bloggers’ Posts with related themes:

Blood Atonement

The Parable of The Counterfeit Coin

Knowledge Is A Sin

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My other blog posts covering related topics:

Overcoming the Fear Of The Bogeyman: Atheism

Our Beliefs Blind Us To Reality

Sometimes it can be too difficult to admit that we’ve been deceived. Self Deception

Does Mormon Culture Have To Define Us For Life?

Leaving The Mormon Bubble

Posted in Mormon Issues, Religious Epiphany, TRUTH | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Our Beliefs Blind Us To Reality

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Steven Covey used to say, “Believing is Seeing”, but that’s not entirely true. It’s probably more true to say, what we believe is what we see, and what we see is not always reality or truth.

What we see with our eyes is only what our attention is drawn to.

Our attention is focused on those things we believe based on our fears, guilt, phobias, biases, prejudices & assumptions.

So we only see what we want to see. What our subconscious minds will allow us to see.

What we think is true is not always of the same value as other truths.

For instance there are three categories of thought; personal opinion, socially accepted truths and scientifically validated objective facts.

‘Attention’ is a powerful principle.

It’s how stage magicians, con-men & religious tricksters are able to fool their victims.

It’s what makes us blind to those things our subconscious minds want us to avoid because it would be too painful to contemplate, even though in the long-run it would be to our benefit.

If only more people realised this they’d be less susceptible to the “deceptions of evil & conspiring men!”

“The eye only sees what the mind is prepared to accept.” ~ Robertson Davies

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Posted in Barefoot, Humanism, Mormon Issues, Religious Epiphany, TRUTH | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Dear Believer, Why Do You Believe? ~ By Lance Miles

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These are some wonderfully insightful comments from a recently resigned member of the Mormon Church, Lance Miles, which I thought were worth publicising:

There has been a lot of talk about “Truth”. The church is true. The Book of Mormon is true. The Gospel is true. My question is, what is truth? Can we test truth? How do we determine truth? Is truth found in prayer alone?

Please humor a small analogy: What if a stranger came up to you with a glass of clear liquid and said, “Drink this, it’s pure spring water.” Would you simply drink it? Certainly not. So, how do you determine if it’s truly water and not some poison?

Well, you can look at it and see that it’s a clear liquid. You can smell it. You can move the glass around and see that it behaves like water. You can always pray about it. But, is that it? Would you trust the stranger enough to risk your life on his word alone? Do you give in to blind obedience? What if he had an official looking letter certifying that he says it’s truly water? Would that be enough? Would you obey him with this limited knowledge and feelings?

What other ways can you test that liquid to make sure the stranger is telling the truth? Well, you could do a litmus test to find its PH Balance. You could run electricity through it to see if it conducts like water. You could do a chemical analysis of the liquid to see what it contains. You could even analyze the liquid to see if its molecular structure contains two Hydrogen and one Oxygen.

Back to the question posed; how do we test truth? Through ignorance and blind obedience? That actually takes away our free agency. To close ourselves up in a dark, little box hinders our growth and potential. It is no way to live an independent, authentic life.

The default answer in Mormonism is prayer and “personal revelation”. But praying only tends to confirm a bias already seeded in our subconscious. A “feeling” is not a reliable indicator of truth. It only takes a bit of honest reflection to look back into our own life history and see how many mistakes our good feelings have caused.

For forty years, we were taught NOT to question authority. “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan—it is God’s plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy.” -Ezra Taft Benson (Improvement Era, June 1945, p. 354) Interesting that this was preached when blacks couldn’t hold the priesthood.

Mormons are taught from toddlers to “Follow the prophet, follow the prophet, Follow the prophet; don’t go astray. Follow the prophet, follow the prophet, Follow the prophet he knows the way.” It’s blind obedience through and through.

The incredible thing about this day and age is we have more tools to test truth than ever before in history. We’ve never had so much knowledge sitting at the tips of our fingers. Any question or idea can be searched and, instantly, we have volumes of information weighing on all side of the issue. We no longer need to have a shelf full of untestable religious questions for which, “we’ll just have to wait until the next life to get answered.”

The problem is we allow those supposed leaders whom we arbitrarily give authority over us to dictate our thinking and behaviors for us. We give up our critical thinking skills and, in turn, our free agency. We are taught to not question authority. Just stay in that dark, little box and do not test truth for yourself.

As a Mormon, I’m sure you’re shaking your head and saying, “No! That’s not the way it is! I’ve learned the truth and I love it. I’m not in a little box. I can think for myself.” If that’s the case then you must answer this one question honestly: Can you right now take one of those many, seemingly unanswerable, questions off your shelf and simply type it into Google? Can you take a few hours to research just one of your questions and really learn about it from every angle with unbiased, out of the box thinking?

Did you just wince? Did you justify or rationalize why you shouldn’t? Did you say to yourself, “Those questions bring an evil spirit so I will not do it.”? Or, “The internet is full of lies and anti-Mormon propaganda.”? Mormons are told to “doubt your doubts” yet every member and missionary is telling any non-member to completely doubt their current belief system. That, supposedly, Mormons have the real “truth”.

Ignorance is bliss but truth based on ignorance leads us into wrong conclusions and false ideas of reality. As I now seek for truth I put the “answers” into three categories: 1) Absolute truth 2) Justified/rationalized truth 3) Fallacy. When presented with a question, after exhausting my research and learning on the subject, I can put my “truth” into one of these three categories (ie-the earth revolves around the sun in #1). As you honestly seek truth through study and learning, see how many questions were/are in the “2) Justified/rationalized truth” category. Then ask yourself, “Why do I have to justify this belief?”

~ Lance Miles

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*******//*******

Are you willing to bet your eternal soul on your particular religion?

You already know what it’s like to be an atheist in regards to every other religion. As do millions of other believers of other religions in regards to your God. How do you determine which god to worship?

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Posted in Humanism, Mormon Issues, Religious Epiphany, TRUTH | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Achievements Of Tom Phillips Fraud Case Against Thomas S Monson

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The Church has changed through being challenged
In essence, the Church has been changed in several ways by the process of Tom Phillips challenging the Truth Claims of the Church.

1. Beliefs should no longer be considered facts

2. Priesthood Leaders not needed to represent the Lord’s Church, instead lawyers who make pronouncements on behalf of the Church.

3. One more step to having true freedom of, & from, religion

4. Tithing is voluntary and optional

5. Catalyst For Change

Beliefs Not Facts, & Lawyers Not Priesthood Leaders Speak For The Church
Many members now know of the ten recent essays which the Church Historical Department has produced to clarify certain controversial issues. (Responses To LDS.org Essays)

Issues which have become more significant as an ever-increasing number of committed members leave the Church every year on discovering the ‘truth behind the curtain’. It could be said that the Church has been forced into producing these essays as an attempt to quell the losses from the ever-decreasing tithing receipts because the majority of those leaving are tithing worthy members.

It is because of the work of many diligent, truth-seeking historians and due to the  excellent websites like MormonThink.com that these issues are being brought to light and the Church leadership are being forced to come clean about them, admitting they were in error. (President Uchtdorf, “To be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the church have simply made mistakes,”http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/mormon-leader-dieter-uchtdorf-says-church-has-made-mistakes-8862663.html)

These essays can be seen as admissions of guilt by the Church that many erroneous historical and doctrinal ideas were taught in the past as facts. Often those prophets and apostles of the recent past who taught these now disavowed ideas etc. are seemingly blamed as speaking as men, and of inflicting their own opinions on the Church as a whole. (“if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God” – Book of Mormon Introduction. Book of Mormon Title Page)

Just the examples of some of the fundamental teachings of the Church which have changed include:

Blacks & the Priesthood

Throwing The Prophets Of The Past Under The Bus

Disavowing Past Teachings On Race & The Priesthood

Apology To The Blacks

Can Mormonism Hold Onto Faith & Science?

Indigenous Americans are not descendents of Lamanites

There Really Is Nowhere To Lose Or Hide The Lamanites

The Shifting Sands Of A Shaky Foundation

Joseph Smith used a stone in a hat to translate the Book of Mormon

Mad Hatter Translation

Difficult Aspects Of Mormon History

It is believed that more essays are in the pipeline.

We can take heart for our loved ones still in the Mormon Church that more openness, and transparency is coming when we hear Elder Steven Snow commenting on this subject:

“My view is that being open about our history solves a whole lot more problems than it creates. We might not have all the answers, but if we are open (and we now have pretty remarkable transparency), then I think in the long run that will serve us well. I think in the past there was a tendency to keep a lot of the records closed or at least not give access to information. But the world has changed in the last generation—with the access to information on the Internet, we can’t continue that pattern; I think we need to continue to be more open…. Fortunately Seminaries and Institutes and Curriculum have really stepped up and said in essence, ‘You know we really want to take this on, we would like to talk about these sensitive issues in our seminaries and institutes.’ It’s one thing to tell a fourteen-year-old some of these sensitive things and they say, ‘OK, that’s great.’ But sometimes when you are twenty-something, it comes across a little differently. I think we can build faith and better prepare people if we weave some of the unusual threads in history into the curriculum…. We have an obligation to provide our members with reliable information on some of these more difficult questions from our history. We are committed to do[ing] that.” (“Start with Faith: A Conversation with Elder Steven E. Snow,” Religious Educator 14, no. 3 [2013]: 4–5)

The question surely arises in the enquiring minds of those who seek the truth, how do we know that today’s leaders are speaking as the Lord or as men when they teach us of anything in the Church? Or is it all ‘of Man’ with no influence from God?

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Beyond this, because of the Tom Phillips’ Court Case, the Church has now been forced to admit there is no factual truth in the Church teachings.

The Church leadership sent lawyers to defend President Monson against accusations that tithing was being obtained, or sought to be obtained, from its members by the making of untrue statements of fact.

In defending the Church from the accusations of fraud those lawyers admitted on behalf of the Church in a Court of Law that there is no factual basis to the claims for Mormon beliefs.

The Church lawyers said, “the question of beliefs is not allowed in law.”

“Statements made by the Church are not facts, they are beliefs. Nothing is ever said as fact, it’s just belief!!!!”

Every General Authority’s testimony and all the members too will now be seen in a different light. Not as truth, but merely belief.

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So from now on we know that there are no facts in Mormonism, only beliefs!

One more step to having true freedom of, & from, religion
The act of challenging the Church in this way has eroded the legal and political systems’ reluctance to consider religious fraud.

At first sight it looks like Tom Phillips’ evidence in the case wasn’t tested in court, but actually it was. Not by a jury as we wanted, but by the very experienced District Court Judge, Elizabeth Roscoe. 

Tom’s evidence for the fraud being carried on by the Church was tested by Judge Roscoe. She tested the evidence very thoroughly in Court for nearly four months, putting every conceivable defense to Tom’s legal team until in the end she had to accept 90% of the evidence and issue the Summons. She did not do this lightly, her own reputation was on the line.

Now it seems another Judge, or the legal/political system in the UK, has decided it is not time to attack religion in this way. Maybe they are thinking there are bigger repercussions for religion generally?

Nevertheless, for this case to get this far in a Court of Law is unprecedented in legal history.

Just as with gaining votes for women with the suffragette movement, or overcoming people’s attitude to slavery, social change takes time and effort. It takes losing a few battles to gain the greater victory eventually. The time in which religion can commit crime with impunity is coming to an end.

Religion cannot get a free pass to do what it likes. It cannot be allowed to break the law without consequences.

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At the moment there is still far too much respect for religion generally in our societies. Yes we should respect people’s rights to hold ideas or beliefs which are different than our own, but those ideas don’t deserve to be respected just because they are religious ideas. If that was the case we’d still be living in the Dark Ages with Catholic beliefs determining our daily lives and behaviour. Thank goodness for people of courage through the centuries like Galileo who challenged the thinking of his day to become “the father of modern science.”

One day in the future, people may look back in time to thank Tom Phillips for his actions in challenging the ability of religions to commit fraud without fear of legal redress.

Tithing is Voluntary & Optional
I was taught that tithing is a commandment of God with consequences for disobedience including being burned at Christ’s Second Coming and losing my Eternal Life.

https://www.lds.org/new-era/1982/01/the-blessings-of-an-honest-tithe?lang=eng

Children as young as four are taught that tithing is necessary to obey God.

Primary Children’s Lesson on Tithing

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Notice question 6 states that it is wrong to say, “It doesn’t matter if we pay tithing”, strongly inferring in the vulnerable minds of very young children that tithing is not optional.

People cannot even join the Church without agreeing to pay tithing for the rest of their lives in a Baptismal Interview.

Baptismal Interview Questions

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Since the Tom Phillips Fraud Case we now also realise, through the lawyers acting on behalf of the Church, that tithing is no longer required, but is optional.

Several times throughout the Initial Hearing in the Fraud Case the Church lawyers stated categorically that “tithing is a voluntary donation” made by members of the Church. 

This being the case, maybe members being asked to serve in a Calling in the Church, attend an LDS Temple, or as a priesthood holder baptising their own child, could ask their Bishop if they are okay with them choosing not to pay tithing, because it is optional!???

The Voluntary Nature of Tithing & Misinformed Consent

Your Money Or Your Eternal Life: Conned Out Of £60,000

The Tom Phillips fraud case against Thomas S Monson should be seen as a catalyst in growing support for change in the Church
The court case has raised awareness of the controversial issues to vastly more people than ever before. More members are now reconsidering their own testimonies.

This means many more people are talking about the controversial issues this case has raised than ever before. Many previously unmentionable subjects  (the ‘elephants in the room’ we all know of) within in Mormon/Ex-Mormon relationships have been noticed and spoken of since this case became world news. Many of those relationships have improved as new levels of understanding have been achieved, whilst it’s sadly true that some have worsened, I am heartened to hear of many situations where relationships have been strengthened because of this action. 

I celebrate the fact that many new avenues of communication have opened. I believe in authenticity for ourselves & with others. For ourselves as we live lives of honesty & integrity, and with others as we can be open and honest in our communications with friends and relatives, rather than living with the unspoken differences of opinion.

With the courage which Tom Phillips’ has shown in bringing this case against the Church for fraud, many more disenfranchised members and former members have felt emboldened to come forward and plead for change. Tom Phillips bravery has acted as a catalyst for other action to gather pace. Because of this case we now have the wonderful Mormon Open Letter which in only a few weeks has been signed by several thousand members and former members, with every growing support across the world. The aims of the Mormon Open Letter of encouraging the Church to be honest, open & transparent regarding the controversial issues in its doctrinal beliefs and history I believe will bring about more positive change in the Church. Another aim of the Mormon Open Letter is to encourage more acceptance of those who question or change their beliefs, which I think will happen at an accelerated rate because of the issues raised by this case.

My own view of the Church is that it was built from a rotten core of lies from its inception. That doesn’t mean I don’t accept there has been some good achieved by the Church. However, I mainly think that any good that has been achieved has been because of the members and in spite of the Church.

Just because I think the Church has done some good things in the past, I don’t think it should necessarily continue.

Much like I agree that the First World War helped emancipate women.

Both of the vehicles of change were tragically flawed, but there were some good outcomes.

From a personal context I do wonder if it hadn’t been for the Church and my eventual epiphany from it that I may not have had such a curious interest in psychology of belief etc. Which again I see as a good thing.

However, I tend to think of Mormonism a bit like hitting one’s head against a wall. It’s only a good thing when you stop it!

Music which became very poignant for me during my transition out of Mormonism was the stirring musical piece ‘Now We Are Free’ from the movie Gladiator by Ridley Scott.

Moving forward
We will continue the campaign for Honesty, Openness, Transparency and Acceptance.

We will find other ways to challenge the Church to be obedient to the laws of the land and be honest with its members and investigators about its history and doctrines. The Church will eventually be forced to give full and frank disclosure instead of ensnaring members in a web of deception, half-truths and lies.

History is on our side. This is what happens to all religions – eventually.

“Dr. Martin Luther King said, “We must not drink from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” We can be angry about the injustice, but we can’t let it get us down. We have to remain happy, joyful, fun-loving people. We can be the more fun people. We can have the most fun! We don’t have to be repressed by their morality. Let’s live happy, joyful lives. Yet, we can never compromise on our critique of dogma. We need to increase the understanding of who we are by coming out and living openly.

“We need to be humanitarians. We need to do charity work. We need to choose to be good because it feels good, it is the right thing to do, and it will lead to the salvation of humanity, not in the next world, but in this one!

“No longer will we let discrimination stand. No longer will we hide what we believe. We believe in truth, integrity, love and honesty. We believe in freedom. We will gain respect as we gain the love of our friends, our family, and our neighbors. We love and we deserve to be loved like anyone else.”

~ Delivered March 24, 2012 by Todd Stiefel at the Reason Rally on the National Mall in Washington D.C.

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