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Temple Ceremony, Respectfully Done

So here is the controversial scene depicting parts of the Mormon temple ceremony. As other ex-Mormons have said, it brings back memories. The person who posted the video titled it embarrassing. I don’t think it needs to be. Perhaps some are embarrassed by the ceremony, but I’m not ashamed to say that I once found it beautiful—when it wasn’t dry and repetitive. It embodies beautiful ideas and the fondest hopes of the LDS people.

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Mormons want to keep it secret. I understand this desire. Shared secrets can be a delicious way to bind people together. A secret loses its savor when everyone knows what’s happening behind closed doors. I would feel violated if the secret nothings that I share with my wife late at night were profaned before the vulgar world.

It has become increasingly difficult in the information age to keep secrets. Secrecy begets mistrust. The temple ceremony is only embarrassing because it is alien to our workaday lives. It may be time for Mormons to find a new way to create sacredness that doesn’t depend on secrecy. In my view, their devotion and deference sacralizes this ritual, not its secrecy.

(via Mind on Fire, Mormon Coffee, and Main Street Plaza)

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Why Argue with Mormons?

[I've recently had an interesting discussion with some pleasant Mormon folk and was up to my usual chicanery trying to loosen the death grip on Victorian era hysteria about masturbation. Not that these guys have stereotyped views, but still a psychology doctoral candidate would generally counsel abstinence from masturbation. 8O Anyway, the discussion elicited a response from me unrelated to masturbation that I thought I would adapt and expand here.]

I can’t fathom the need [of former Mormons] to rationalise to the n’th degree every minute point of church doctrine to justify to members (a) why you left and (b) why they are wrong.

I’ll take a shot an answering this for myself.

I’ve heard that many Mormons find the former Mormons they encounter litigious and combative. My guess is because many of us reasoned our way out of the church. Through weighing the evidence and the arguments, we went through an intellectual exercise that ended with our disbelief in the foundational claims of the church. On the other hand, Mormons come to their convictions through a process that is not rational in the sense of not strictly involving logic and reason. Something beyond reason is involved. I’m not denying that there is some irrational reasons that I have left the church or that there is no reason supporting Mormon beliefs; I’m characterizing the two processes broadly.

So when former Mormons want to justify their beliefs, they resort to logic and reason. This probably frustrates Mormons who don’t base their beliefs strictly on that basis. When current Mormons want to justify their beliefs, they go into “bearing testimony” mode which frustrates former Mormons. We usually talk past each other, but I am evidence that sometimes someone is listening to the other side.

When I debate with Mormons, whether on masturbation or some other topic, I do it for a number of reasons.

On the surface, it’s in the hope of persuading either the person I’m discussing with or the lurkers who read the discussion. Leaving Mormonism has been a positive change for me, so I want to share. I think this may be a relic of the missionary part of me that says that I am obligated to share what I see as the truth with others.

Below the surface, I think my views through and test them against the Mormon views I once held to make sure that my new worldview makes sense to me. It’s very important to me that my views are logically consistent, and discussions with people who don’t share my views helps me to see if their are weaknesses in my outlook on life. In other words, I’m justifying my departure to myself.

Sometimes, I am motivated by a need to refute a system of thought that I feel deceived me. I invested a lot in the church. It’s natural to feel hurt and betrayed when we decide that it isn’t everything that it claimed to be. I want to expose the lies in revenge.

Sometimes, as in the case masturbation, I am moved by compassion with those who suffer in shame and ignorance because of teachings and counsel they have received from their leaders. I want to help them find the light if I can.

In answer to the implied “Why can’t people who leave the church not leave it alone?”, I wish it were that simple. It’s not easy to flip a switch and stop concerning myself about something that had such totalitarian control over my life (control that I granted to it). Further, I still have Mormon family and friends. By virtue of those relationships, I can’t leave the church alone because it doesn’t leave me alone. It is still part of my life and the life of my loved ones, as much as I wish it wasn’t.

I remember all of the things that are said about ex-Mormons. I argue to prove those slanders wrong. (Angry arguments probably defeat this purpose.) I didn’t leave in order to sin or because I couldn’t hack it. I didn’t leave because I didn’t know enough about the gospel or because I was offended by someone. I left only when I became intellectually convinced that the claims of the church were in many cases false. I tried to reconcile myself to that and stay in the church, but ultimately I couldn’t stay in an institution that claimed to be fully true but that I believe to be partly false. Many of the harmful aspects of the church root themselves in the conceit that says that Mormonism is without blemish. Maybe one day I won’t care so much, but unconsciously, I want LDS members to understand the real reasons that I left instead of painting me to be morally or intellectually weak.

Also, when I see the church doing something that I find harmful, such as the church’s pushing of Proposition 8 in California, I feel morally bound to speak out against it. My familiarity with the church and its actions compel me to act as critic. Progress happens when people speak out against injustice and wrong. I want bear my fair share of the burden in making the world a better place. That includes ameliorating the harms that the LDS church does.

I think I’ve exhausted the reasons that I can think of why I have rationalized to and debated with church members about their beliefs. Does that help to understand?

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Rogue Mormon Bishop?

Is this a case of a rogue Mormon bishop? Bishop Church of the Nauvoo 3rd Ward authorized an email via the LDS church’s official website that said in part:

As has already been seen in Massachusetts, this will empower the public schools to begin teaching this lifestyle to our young children regardless of parental requests otherwise. It will also create grounds for rewriting all social mores; the current push in Massachusetts is to recognize and legalize all transgender rights (An individual in Massachusetts can now change their drivers license to the gender they believe themselves to be, regardless of actual gender, which means that confused men and women are now legally entering one another’s bathrooms and locker rooms. What kind of a safety issue is this for our children?). Furthermore, while the bill legalizes civil unions, it will be used in the courts to show discrimination and will ultimately lead to court mandated same-sex marriages.

To help defeat this bill, please call your state representative and state senator and ask that they support traditional marriage and vote against the civil unions bill. If you are unsure who your legislators are, please see the link at the end of this email. [emphasis added]

Note the overt appeal to fear and subtle appeal to disgust. This is the typical modus operandi of the leaders of authoritarian followers. The message offers no evidence of compassion or an effort to understand his fellow human beings, something I would expect from true followers of Jesus of Nazareth.

This message also belies the idea that Mormon leaders don’t tell their followers how to vote. It also comes closer to expressing the true desires of most LDS people: no equal rights for people in same-sex relationships. I doubt that the bishop’s leaders will be publicly pleased at his actions.

One more piece of evidence that the fears and squicks of many of the LDS people stand in the way of social justice. These less than honorable gut reactions should not be allowed to masquerade as the moral high ground.

(via Dancing With Crazy)

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Journal Entries from 2006 – Part 2

April 12, 2006

Releasing myself from what I thought I knew about God and Satan has empowered me.

I was taught to be in perpetual combat with my adversary, Satan. This colored my life and perceptions with a tone of crisis. Putting down my weapons of war has given me the calm, inner clarity to see that the evil that I do comes from within, not without. I have the power to direct my actions, not an immaterial tempter. I alone bear responsibility.

Releasing my hope for a life beyond what I can see has made this life more precious. I do not know whether I will live beyond my death or whether my consciousness is a function of the biological processes of my body. I can no longer see injustice and pain and excuse it in the hope that it will be rectified in an afterlife. My best hope is to improve the human situation today, now.

Strangely, Alma the Younger’s word have more meaning to me today than I can ever remember:

“Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.”

My heart swelled with peace and confidence when I finally accepted the evidence that has been before my eyes my entire life. Still there lingers some shame for being disloyal to the community that nurtured me. If anything, the Mormon faith has taught me virtuous principles and a loyalty to the truth above all else. For that I am grateful.

[It is true that I learned the importance of truth from Mormonism. However, the LDS church for all its talk about the truth has a stilted, awkward relationship with it. Where I learned to value the truth from Mormonism, I learned how to find it from scientists, skeptics, and freethinkers.]

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True Name

I’ve still been pondering my reluctance to share my secret name, turning my feelings over in my mind like an excavated artifact. Maybe I hesitate because I value this secret as something special to me alone, even though I know intellectually that I share it with others. When I received it, I assigned special meaning to it, making it a talisman signifying something special about me.

I also hesitate to share the name because once the secret is out there, my actions can’t be undone. I feel trepidation at the thought of irrevocable actions.

It’s been an interesting psychological case study. So be it.

On the fateful day I was clothed in the Garment of the Holy Priesthood and received my Endowment, I heard these words: “With this garment, I give you a new name, which you should always remember and which you must keep sacred and never reveal, except at a certain place that will be shown you hereafter. The name is White Cloud.”

Gotcha! That’s my secret Indian name from Webelos camp. You thought I was going to give up my true name so easily. You should have known better.

Better luck next time,


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