Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mental gymnastics...

I was listening to a lesson at church on  Sunday.  The teacher was following the "approved" lesson manual.  The topic was on obedience.  A great topic, especially when dealing with the young men in the church.  The teacher stated that the way to get to Christ is through obedience.  I think my lip is still bleeding from the the bite marks.  "The way to Christ is through obedience".  That sums up the WHOLE doctrine of the Mormon church.  We can obtain Godhood status by being obedient.  If we do our home teaching, read our scriptures, say our prayers, go to the temple, do our ancestry research, go to church meetings, take dinner to those around us, invite our neighbors to church, etc.....the list is endless, then we have proven ourselves worthy to see Christ.

These acts of service aren't the reasons why I had to do a mental back flip, but the statement of obedience to the get to Christ. I thought it was by faith, that one can come unto Christ.  Obedience, as a necessity to get to Jesus sounds a little like Lucifer's plan according to Mormon doctrine.  We have no free agency to act according to ourselves.  We are to be controlled in all aspects of our lives. It is as if we are circumventing the Atonement of Jesus Christ to get to heaven. We are trying to do it on our own, while at the same time STOMPING on the Sacrifice of Jesus.  This is what bothers me. I have come to an understand that Jesus'  gospel is free to all and so is his Atonement.  We are forgiven and saved. All of us.  He took upon Him all of our sins and made salvation and eternal life with Him free.


Romney has to be good, he was a stake president...

Being a member of the church, I find the current fervor over Mitt Romney fascinating.  Members are anxious about the first Mormon possibly becoming the President of the United States.  They are intrigued by the moral "example" Mitt has been and the savvy businessman he became. 

However, when pushed, most members have no idea of Mitt's past political views.  They are supporting for one of three reasons. 

First;  they hate Obama.  "Anyone is better than Obama" is a common phrase.   This has been the political climate for years.  We are offered a "lesser of two evils".   I remember a little comment my mother always told me, "Two wrongs don't make a right".  We are purposely given two lackeys, whose views and agendas are not that different.  They may differ on the little things but when looking at the big picture, they push for the same things.TARP, Iran, big banks, etc...the two will vote the same.

Second;  "Mitt knows business and will turn the economy around".  Do we really know this.  Mitt has been a supporter of Wall Street from day one.  Look at his predatory business practices.  Buying up companies, leveraging them then selling what is left.  Look at his support of TARP,  he doesn't care about the middle or poor class. Sure he is successful, but who wouldn't be in that situation. The Olympics were a "success",  according to the previous CFO of the Salt Lake games, Mitt used his connections to get the Federal government to give a grant of 13 billions.  Those are our tax dollars.  I think his business record needs to be scrutinized, however that won't change the mind of any true believing Mormon.

Third;  "Mitt was a stake president, so he will have the influence of the spirit".   This statement takes the cake.  Are we naive enough to believe that we really know Mitt?  How do we know he is in tune?  What "spirit" is he following?  Mitt has donated free time to serve in the church, well guess what so have I and many others.  We have all done it.  Who cares?  I heard on NPR that Mitt's campaign are going to have some of those he helped, as a church leader, speak at the Republican convention. What a great way to pull on the emotions strings.  What a biased play.  Only use those who like Mitt as a leader speak. What about those he offended?  Kind of sounds like the church's play on the real history of the church.  "Only use those things are portray the church in a positive light. To vote for Mitt for this reason is the same rationale to vote against him because he is Mormon.

It is time for members to wake up and see what is really happening to us.  We are slaves to a financial system. It isn't going to get better, but probably worse.  Religion is a tool of control.  Christianity  was set up as a control system for Rome.  It is convenient that Constantine was converted on his death bed after being a pagan his whole life.  His becoming a Christian unified Rome.  What better way to control people than to teach them that if they don't toe the line they are going to hell.  Alma in the Book of Mormon taught, that the word had more of an effect on the minds of the people than the sword or anything else.  I am not advocating throwing out your belief, only to stop and think a little and really see what is happening around us. Remember to use our minds, God gave them to us for a reason.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

I know that the church is true......

How many times have members of the Mormon church have heard that phrase?  Hundreds? Thousands?  It is a common statement every first Sunday of the month during fast and testimony meeting.  Members of the congregation stand and declare their belief about the church and occasionally, about Jesus Christ. It doesn't matter if the speaker is 8 or 80 years old.  It is repeated over and over.  It has become a memorized statement to probably 98% of those speaking.  "I want to stand and bear my testimony that I know this church is true..."  It is about the same as, "bless this food to nourish and strengthen our bodies..."  Yes the Mormon church has "memorized prayers" like the Catholics.  After 35 minutes of such statements, the bishopric member thanks those who have shared their beliefs and comments on how strong the spirit has been.  For those that have never attended a fast and testimony meeting, it is very interesting.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Member of the Quorum of the 12, has given a talk about finding one's testimony. He stated, "Another way to seek a testimony seems astonishing when compared to the methods of obtaining other knowledge.  We gain or strengthen a testimony by bearing it. Someone even suggested that some testimonies are better gained on the feet bearing them than on the knees praying for them."  (General Conference, April 2008).

That is an interesting statement.  The human mind is interesting organ.  It soaks up information like a sponge. Elder Oak's statement shows the process of "gaining" a testimony or belief.  It is an example of what psychologists call availability  cascade. Which is, a self reinforcing process by which something gains more plausibility through the repetition of the item.  Or to summarize Elder Oaks, if you say something enough times it will become true to you.  This in turn affects those in the audience to begin to accept the statement as true.  It is an interesting cycle and repeats over and over.  A speaker claims to know the church is true, which not only reinforces that statement to themselves, it also reinforces it collectively to the congregation.

This is contrary to what I taught on my mission.  Testimonies are obtained through the praying and asking God if something was true.  That is how Joseph Smith received his answer. 


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cognitive bias....

I have recently reading from a blog named Mormondna.org   It is an attempt to answer questions about the Mormon church.  It's author claims to be not trying to prove the LDS church true but to prove it is not false...?  The author has been involved in many lively debates about various topics.  The blog addresses many sensitive issues involving the history of Joseph Smith Jr and the LDS church.  While reading the banter, I have come to the realization that it is impossible to prove or disprove the validity of the LDS church to members.  Those that are true believing members (TBM), are so bias in their thinking that any rational attempt to have an honest discussion about the church and the foundation of the church causes them to perform a mental gymnastic routine to maintain their belief pattern.

This example of bias thinking is what members of the church hold on to.  They are so conditioned in their lives, that any attack on their religion is an attack on them personally.  When members hear a controversial statement from the history of the church such as Joseph Smith marrying another man's wife, they claim that "there must be a reason for it".  Listen if there is smoke there is fire.  I don't care who you are, that is unacceptable.

If there is a controversial doctrine taught such as the Adam-God theory, one that preached as doctrine by Brigham Young,  only to be discarded as false by later prophets, members will claim, " we will find it all out in the next life".  I call BS on that one. If God is never changing and this the the True Gospel than those claims need to be addressed. 

The members bias thinking causes them to only see the church through rose colored glasses.  The author of the blog  mormondna.org must be wearing two pairs. The leaders of the church are men, and act as men.  They screw up and have led the church down some "wide paths".  Blood Atonement, Adam-God theory, Blacks and the priesthood, etc.  Polygamy, in my opinion, has nothing to do with God, but it was about sex.  Sure they took care the families, although even  Brother Brigham had his favorites.  Polygamy created a second class status for the women in the church while elevating the men to positions of power. But that topic is for another blog.

An example of how cognitive bias can manipulate people seeking the truth can be seen in the Book of Mormon promise in Moroni 10:3-5.  Here is where one must go all in, to find out if the church is actually true.  Millions of faithful members have claimed to have a "spiritual witness" of the truth of that book.  The Mormon church's claim of the only restored gospel lives and dies with that claim.  Either Joseph Smith was a prophet or not.  As Joseph Smith claimed it is the "keystone" of the religion and if the keystone falls than the arch follows.

The writer of the mentioned blog was asked why some people have received a witness while others have tried the experiment and have had no experience with the spirit.  The author answered with the typical answer of not being sincere or having faith to receive an answer.   There lies the problem with faith, whether in the Mormon church or any other religion.  We are told that we must want the answer and be humble to receive it.  This is cognitive bias at its best.  Just by wanting an answer we are tainting the experiment.  We are biased in our attempt to find out.  We skew the results just by wanting to receive an answer.  It is a placebo effect at its core.

One needs to ask if their testimony is truly from the Spirit or from the consciousness of their own mind?  Is it our emotions from wanting it to be true or truly an answer from God.  The same could be true during fast and testimony meetings.  When someone is sharing their feelings and the audience reacts in the same way is it really a witness of the spirit or are we reacting to their emotions. 

The one saving point in the Moroni promise is the disclaimer mentioned in verse 4.  We are told to ask, "..if these things are not true;".  Notice the word NOT.  It is there for a reason.  If one wants to find out the things of God, then one must stop the bias that creates faith.  If the gospel is true it must stand up to scrutiny and the scientific method.   We must not taint the results with our own opinions and wants.  That isn't a testimony.  A testimony or faith comes from the Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. 


What is reality?

I am starting a second blog to voice my frustrations and concerns about my church.  I have no other source for venting these issues so writing about them may help in working through these questions.  So I must admit this is a selfish blog, one that is more for me than anyone else.  If I have no follows, so be it.

I must let everyone know that I am an active member of  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I currently hold a temple recommend. I have served a full time mission, worked in various positions in the church such as Elders Quorum President, counselor in EQ, Young Men's counselor, Executive secretary to the Bishop, ward mission leader, Sunday school teacher, etc...I have been a life long member, have had an active temple recommend since I was 19. I am now in my forties, still attend church and try to go to the temple twice a month. 

The unraveling of the church for me started with the City Creek Center project.  I have struggled with this for the last year.  I find it interesting that a church that is suppose to be the "true church" of Jesus Christ has spent an estimated 1-3 billion dollars on a shopping mall to "revitalize" downtown. 

When I voiced my concerns to other members, they begin to defend the project by saying, "well Crossroads was old", "it can bring more people to Temple Square",  " I really like it".   The concern is that when members are struggling to pay their tithing, especially those of other poorer nations while the "pure and delightsome" members in Utah get a brand new shiny mall. 

Are we a church or a business?  3 billion?, but "tithing funds were not used".  However, at some point tithing funds were used to  begin the purchasing of assets that the church owns.  These "sacred" funds have been used in the past to fund multiple projects eventually leading to the Church's "crown jewel" of City Creek Center. 

3 Billion, what on earth cost 3 Billion in that mall?  Are streets paved with gold?  Is there replica of the Hill Cumorah?  I mean seriously where did all that money go?  I hope it wasn't siphoned off and used to stuff the pockets of the higher ups or used in other projects similar to the Beneficial Life fleecing.  We don't hear about that in Sunday School.  These projects make me nervous,  as members we have no way to find out.  The church has closed the books since the 1950's, thus no accountability.    From the Church's perspective, at least it doesn't have to issue dividends to it's members. 

I don't like the hidden agendas, the "lying for the Lord".  A recent example of this was the BBC documentary of the Church.  When the church's PR representative, claiming he didn't know what the Strengthening the Members Committee was, then when pushed said he needed to get the interviewer to the right person.  Also,  President Holland wasn't completely honest when he failed to answer the questions  about the blood oaths in the Temple.  We can't expect to have the Lord's blessing unless we act like the Lord's servants.  The lying and lying by omission has to stop.  It is ruining the faith of the members, whose backs uphold the church.   The more I find out the more I struggle with what I find.  Oh and by the way I am still waiting for that dividend.