Why I Converted to Mormonism


mormon-baptismIn this post I am going to share the story of why and how I converted to Mormonism. This life changing experience did not happen easily. But I am so grateful for my experience, because it has helped me to grow immensely. Mormonism has a beautiful, edifying theology that inspires goodness and growth in humanity. My relationship with Jesus Christ has grown much stronger and I have come closer to God.

To start off I would like to explain a bit of my history. I was born to parents who were/are active members of the L-DS Church. Growing up in the Church I was pretty average. I did what I was asked to, and was very serious about the gospel. I recall exploring passages of scripture and using study guides to understand them better. I enjoyed reading the Words of God and exploring the meanings of them. I couldn’t be part of the Church just for social aspects, I was shy and reserved, an introvert. But I took God, the gospel, and the scriptures very seriously.

missionary-training-center-walkWhile on my mission I remember just how seriously I took my beliefs. I truly believed that I was a representative of Christ. When people helped me, they were helping Christ. If someone fed us dinner, they were feeding Christ. And I just knew they would be blessed, or not, depending on how they treated me; a representative of Christ. Looking back I realize how arrogant that view was. But that’s what I was taught, that missionaries are representatives of Christ; and I took it seriously.

The next phase of my journey was after my first daughter was born and reading in the scriptures about how the sacrament if for those who are baptized. I came to a realization that there was no need for un-baptized children to partake of the sacrament. Yet, every Sunday parents give the sacrament to their children so they can “practice” for when they will partake of the sacrament after they are baptized. The idea of children practicing eating the sacrament seemed a ridiculous excuse for maintaining a tradition we were all brought up in, but is not backed by the Word of God. Do we have children practice baptism, the endowment, or ordination? Of course not. The sacrament is something serious. And how much more special would it be for a child’s first experience with the sacrament to be after they are baptized. They too, would know just how important this ordinance is.

two_mindsThat was the beginning of my journey of discovery. I read the scriptures like mad. I also read a variety of sources and experiences of other people who has already peeled away the layers of traditions that had accumulated in the Church. But I discovered something. I realized that I was relying too much on these people and not enough on the Lord. This issue was manifested to me when I read one blog entry about a topic and agreed with it completely. Then I read an entry on another blog that gave a different interpretation of the same subject; and I agreed with it completely. It was then that I realized that I had completely shifted my view within about 30 minutes. I realized that I was just agreeing with whatever I read and not actually seeking for myself to know the truth. I was relying on these people to guide me instead of the Spirit. It was after this that I committed myself to basing my beliefs in the Words of God and not the opinions of men. Sure these books and blogs gave me ideas for further research, but I wouldn’t agree with someone just because I read it somewhere.

It was during this time that I had an experience. I didn’t have a desire to be involved in any thing other than the Work of the Lord. It was for about a week that I felt like I was on fire.

However, I discovered that many people in the L-DS Church get a little nervous when people start putting forward ideas other than what we were raised with. Now, I don’t blame anybody. Most members of the Church simply struggle to live life and live the gospel. Their primary concern is just living the basics of the gospel rather than delving into those things that are considered “deeper.” So when I started talking about things that were different that what has been talked about in Sunday, people got worried. They worried that I was being deceived into believing false doctrines.

That is certainly and understandable view. If all your life you hear one worldview and someone comes along with something else, it doesn’t seem right. It’s different. And the issue that faithful L-DS face is that different means error, and error means apostasy, and apostasy means following Satan.

Recently I found a comment that exemplifies this thinking. It is this: “Get your priorities straight. Pray. Ask God. Get a testimony. The rest is just words in a book. Once you have a testimony, you might understand the words in the book.”

4_satan-deceivesWhen a faithful L-DS member says this, they are concerned for you. They want you to get back on board with the system of belief they believe to be true. And the advice given therein is perfectly reasonable and sound. I support it whole heatedly. But the issue is that the differences in my belief system came because I HAVE done those things, not because I haven’t. Understandably a lot of people wont understand how someone can honestly seek for truth and testimony, yet arrive at a different conclusion than what we are taught in Church. There is an understanding that such people are being deceived, or did not seek with real intent, or they didn’t take it seriously. However, it is precisely because I took the Gospel seriously that I was led to my differing views.

hawaii-tsunami-debris-skiff_credit-peter-grillo-fv-zephyr-2It’s like I began scraping the barnacles off of the belief system I was given and underneath I found a shiny, sleek speedboat. Most people are just trying to keep their boat afloat and don’t have time or energy to worry about scraping barnacles. But what I realized is that, while keeping your boat afloat is a worthy goal, when I stopped bailing and started scraping the rest took care of itself. My boat was no longer weighed down and I could use the boat as it was intended.

What I found under the barnacles of almost two hundred years was Mormonism. Simple and pure Mormonism. I found God working to reestablish his people and we are all invited to join Him. After hacking my way through the hedge of the maze I found the yellow brick(or rather the straight and narrow) road leading to Zion.

But if I am really scraping barnacles and not being deceived, then why are my beliefs different than what is taught to us in Sunday School and general conference? The answer to this question lies in how I came to my views. I believe that God is our Father. I believe that he has and does communicate with us. I believe that this communication has occurred through many prophets in history and much of this communication is recorded in the Book of Mormon as well as in other sacred texts. I believe that he communicated through Joseph Smith and that those Words of God were recorded and accepted in the Doctrine and Covenants. This is my foundation, my starting point. God’s Word is not something we should dismiss, it is something we should take seriously.

So what happens when a conflict is found between the Word of God and what is taught today? The obvious answer is that we have modern prophets who have received revelation to change the practice. That’s why we have prophets, to reveal God’s will for us today. Now, if this view is correct and God has changed the way he wants us to do something, then there must have been a revelation that changed the procedure.

The first question we should ask immediately after discovering a conflict between scripture and modern teachings is where is the most recent revelation on the subject. What did the Lord say about the change? What I have found to be the case more often than not is there never was a revelation. Agricultural sliding steel gate_250Instead there are minor policy changes that slowly, over time accumulate into major discrepancies with the Lord’s Word. Like the talk President Hinckley gave about the gate. A minor movement at the hinge equals a large movement at the other end of the gate. Usually these changing didn’t come from some malicious deception. Rather they are from honest people reacting to the circumstances they are in. One hundred years ago someone made a policy that is well within the bounds of scripture. Then later as situations change a bit, additional changes to the policy are made. As the years progress the people growing up with these changes believe they are how we should be living. Eventually these people become the leaders of the Church, and teach what they were brought up believing. Minor policy changes are made and the cycle continues until a practice that is contrary to the Word of God is accepted as truth and taught in classes and over the pulpit. People end up asking, “How can we improve this policy?” But in reality people should be asking, “Do we even need this policy?”

Therefor, if there was never a revelation which changed a practice; and the change actually resulted from men, however well meaning or inspired; what do we follow? Do we follow the Word of God or the word of men and tradition? It stands to reason that if the Lord revealed something and then never revealed any additional information concerning that, then His original Word still stands. Since I believe that the Word of God is more important than the word of men, I say that we must follow the Word of God. This is where the discrepancy comes from with my beliefs compared to those of faithful L-DS.

How do my beliefs differ and what does that mean? While this list could go one for at great length I will include just a summary of some important topics.

The Church – This is perhaps the most misunderstood topic of our time. And it is misunderstood at our peril. Many members of the church ask questions like “What is the Church’s position?” or “What has the Church said?” Members say, “the Church is perfect but the members aren’t.” The problem here is that “the church” is viewed as something external. It is viewed as the leadership or the organizational structure which exists outside of humanity.

This understanding is not correct. Christ said:

Doctrine and Covenants 10:67
67 Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.

The church is us. It IS the members. The church is the body and Christ is the head. The church is not perfect because we, the church, are not perfect. This concept is important to understand because if we view the church as something external to ourselves then we lose our identity. And when we lose our identity we lose our relationship with God.

Succession – This is another is]sue that is closely related to the topic of the church. This is the idea that Brigham Young was Joseph Smith’s appointed successor and that those who followed other leadership claimants left the church. This is not correct. Joseph Smith appointed Hyrum Smith as his successor to the prophetic calling. However Hyrum died at Carthage. This left most people turning to Joseph’s son, Joseph Smith III, to be the successor.

However Joseph III was too young at the time. So all of those who rose up to claim leadership did so with the intent of turning over the reins to Joseph III when he got old enough. The problem came when Joseph didn’t join with any of the splinter groups and instead joined with a gathering of reorganized branches. Brigham Young then had to institute his own First Presidency.

So which of all these splinter groups is correct? None of them are and all of them are. None of the splinter groups follows everything Joseph taught. None of these groups by themselves is the church. This is because the church fractured in the 1840s. Parts of the church followed Brigham Young, parts of it followed James Strang or Sidney Rigdon. The church exists in all of these groups together. They are all the continuation of Joseph Smith’s work.

What about Brigham Young being transfigured? There is no evidence that it actually happened. There are no contemporary accounts. All are later “recollections.” There are even “recollections” from people whom we know were not in Nauvoo at the time.

The Restoration – This is probably THE biggest barnacle. It is that after the ancient apostles died the church went into apostasy for over a thousand years. Then God restored His church through Joseph Smith.

This belief is not correct. It is a belief that was brought into the church by the Restorationers. A group of these Restorationers viewed the Book of Mormon as evidence that their restoration was correct, and God was performing miracles again. The Mormon missionaries had great success among them and these people brought their beliefs with them into Mormonism.

The truth is that the ancient church continued among the gentiles although it fell into a state of corruption. Joseph’s work was not to built yet another church but to cleanse the existing church. How was this cleansing to occur? Through the Book of Mormon. The purposes of the Book of Mormon are to “show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.”

The Book of Mormon is not to be the foundation of a new church. It is not to be evidence of authority or prophetic claims. It has one simple job: initiate the process of rebuilding Israel.

Consecration – Consecration was never done away with. The idea that God would do away with something because it is too hard is rather silly. It would be like God doing away with the Law of Chastity because it is too hard for people to keep their pants on. God provides a way to accomplish His commandments. He doesn’t do away with them because they are too hard.

Tithing – Tithing is not a lesser law to prepare us for Consecration. First of all the revelation for tithing states that it is a standing law forever, not a temporary preparatory law.

Also tithing is not ten percent of ones income. In the Word of God tithing is first a consecration of all of ones surplus. Then when a person consecrates their surplus property every year thereafter ten percent of that surplus is tithing.

Tithing can only exist as part of consecration; it cannot exist independent of it.

Church Organization – The church organization is traditionally understood as the First presidency at the top. Under which there is the Quorum of twelve; and under them is the Quorum of the Seventy and so on.

This is not correct. Section 107 indicates that all of these quorums are equal in authority and power. They also have realms of responsibility. For example the Quorum of the Twelve operates outside the stakes of Zion. Additionally there are other councils which are mandated by scripture that do not exist in the L-DS Church today.

Missionary Program – According to the Word of God missionaries are supposed to go without any resources into an area. There they preach the gospel. But they also serve another function. Because they go without any resources, they are poor. They then rely upon the charity of the people that they serve among. If the people help these poor missionaries then the Lord will see that they have charity. If they do not; then the Lord will see that they do not have charity. This function of missionary work is to test the people.

Relief Society – The Relief Society is an organization parallel to the male priesthood. They are supposed to have offices just as in the church. You can read more about this subject in my post here.

Gathering to Zion – There is a belief that the literal gathering was ended and there is now a spiritual gathering, meaning that all people will gather to where they live. Which doesn’t make any sense if you actually think about it; because how can you be gathered to someplace you already are. Aside from that, there is no scriptural evidence for an end to the literal gathering nor a phase of spiritual gathering. This idea exists only to excuse our unwillingness to perform that work of the literal gathering. The command to literally gather in actual city/stakes was never revoked. We are still bound by it and stand condemned for our refusal to perform this work.

It was through the process of identification and removal of false traditions that I found Mormonism, barnacle free. Mormonism is beautiful and pure. It is the gospel of Christ. It is the continuation of an ancient work that spans back to the origins of humanity.

I would encourage everyone reading this to just make a little effort to study something new. You don’t have to agree with me on anything; but you should make an effort to grow in faith. You should take your beliefs seriously.

I’m afraid that many people will be worried about searching out these things because of the belief that if God wanted us to do something he would tell us through the Prophet. If we are supposed together to Missouri then President Monson will tell us to. If we are supposed to organize United Orders then we must wait for Salt Lake to institute the program.

In response to this thinking I leave you with the Word of God. Both from the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants:

Doctrine and Covenants 58:25-30
25 Wherefore, let them bring their families to this land, as they shall counsel between themselves and me.
26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
29 But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.
30 Who am I that made man, saith the Lord, that will hold him guiltless that obeys not my commandments?

1 Nephi 13:37
37 And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.

The Lord’s promises are still extended to us. All we have to do is do our part.

bible

Posted in Church, Jesus Christ, Law of Consecration, Prophets, Relief Society, Scriptures, Unification | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

How My Daughter Taught Me the Law of Sarah


*If you are one of the many people who don’t accept this revelation as authentic then this post might not be for you.

The Law of Sarah is contained within Section 132 of the L-DS Doctrine and Covenants.

Section 132: 64, 65

64 And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, if any man have a wife, who holds the keys of this power, and he teaches unto her the law of my priesthood, as pertaining to these things, then shall she believe and administer unto him, or she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord your God; for I will destroy her; for I will magnify my name upon all those who receive and abide in my law.

65 Therefore, it shall be lawful in me, if she receive not this law, for him to receive all things whatsoever I, the Lord his God, will give unto him, because she did not believe and administer unto him according to my word; and she then becomes the transgressor; and he is exempt from the law of Sarah, who administered unto Abraham according to the law when I commanded Abraham to take Hagar to wife.

 

The jist of the Law of Sarah is that a wife has the right to grant permission for her husband to marry another woman. But if she does not grant that right then she may be condemned.

I know that there are a lot of people who look at this Law of Sarah thing and laugh. They say that if a wife must grant approval or be condemned. Then her approval doesn’t really amount to much. I can even hear the retching of thousands of feminists at the mere mention of the Law of Sarah.

laffy_taffy_banana_miniHowever, today my daughter taught me an important lesson that put the Law of Sarah into a new perspective. I was about to head out to class and there was a banana laffy-taffy on the table. I grabbed it and opened it. As it was on its way into my mouth, my four year old daughter saw and told me she wanted it. So I offered to cut it in half and we could both have some.

But she wanted the whole thing. She didn’t want to share. I explained that if we shared we could both have some. But she persisted, she wanted it all. Now I realized that it was just a candy and I could easily resist from adding more fat cells to my body, give it to her, and it would be done with. But I knew this was a teaching opportunity.

I explained to her that I wanted the candy and I acknowledged that she wanted the candy. I told her that if she got the candy then I wouldn’t get any. And if I got the candy then she wouldn’t get any. When she tearfully told me that she would be sad if she didn’t get the candy I told her that if she got it then I would feel the same way. I told her that the only two options were that either none of us got the candy, or we cut it in half and share it. Not having the candy wasn’t an option for her, but neither was sharing. So there we were, stuck at an impasse.

She finally decided to go ask her mother what we should do. My wife explained about sharing and how it would work so we both could have some. But my daughter still was unwilling to budge. She asked where the candy came from and if there were more. Finally she decided it was ok if we share when I told her we could go buy some more later, if she still wanted. I quickly cut the candy in half and let her pick her piece. I headed out the door for class.

Yet, as I was walking to class I was thinking about the situation. What right did I have to the control over the candy? I found it first and I’m the dad, so I could easily have just taken the candy and eaten it. Sure my daughter might cry for a while but then she would get over it. What gave me the exclusive right to decide what to do with this candy that I arbitrarily found first? Finder’s keepers, losers weepers? First come, first served? The fact that I just happened to see it on my way to class?

The reality is that nothing gave me the right to control that candy. It could have been anybody that got that candy and there was nothing granting me the exclusive right to it even though I had it first. Also, it was due to my desire to not exercise unrighteous dominion, that I respected the desires of my daughter and didn’t just eat it right away.

The very fact that my daughter wanted some, meant that if I disregarded her desire for the candy I would have been exercising control over something I didn’t have an exclusive right to in the first place. She had just as much right to the candy as I did.

These are the concepts behind the Law of Sarah. The fact that a woman just happens to be the first to marry a man doesn’t grant her any right over her husband. If any one of a million variables had been different than chances are it would have been someone else to marry her husband. She has no exclusive right to somebody she just happened to be the first to marry.

Therefor, if there is another woman who desires to be married to her husband she cannot object without being unrighteous. To only righteous way to object would be through persuasion and love to convince the woman not to want to marry her husband.

So where does that leave her permission? It sure doesn’t sound like she even needs to give it if she has to consent or else? But it does matter. Because she is the one currently married to her husband. Just as I was the one physically holding the candy and it was my duty to let my daughter have some; so too is it with a wife. She is the one currently married to her husband. Therefor her consent must be given before a husband can be shared. She must be the one to give her husband to the other woman.

Once I understood how this worked, I realized that the Law of Sarah isn’t just some mock authority granted to women to make them feel better. It is a very real and logical principle. Let me boil the Law of Sarah down in more general terms just to make sure I’m conveying my meaning:

1. Because a person is the one in possession of a desired object, they are the only one who can physically share it with another person. They are the ones who must grant the permission.

2. If a person rejects the desires of another person to share the object, they are hurting the other person and therefor acting unrighteously.

However, because in the case of the Law of Sarah the principle of sharing is applied to living people, there is a third portion.

3. The desired object is a living person not simply an object, their will must also be respected. Does this person desire to be shared?

These are the basic principles of sharing. Usually in our lives we see thing in relation to inanimate objects. Yet they can also be applied to people. Thus we see that the Law of Sarah is essentially the law of sharing.

I know that many people will continue to laugh at the Law of Sarah or look at in disgust . But whenever you share with someone, or teach a child to share, you are teaching the basic principles of the Law of Sarah.

Posted in Plural Marriage | Tagged , , , , , | 44 Comments

Monotamy is Unnatural or My Hominem Beats Your Hominem


ImageA friend on Facebook linked to this blog entry: Monogamy is unnatural. In it a blogger replies to an email he received from a professor claiming that monogamy is unnatural. I would like to address my concerns about the statements made by both the professor and the blogger named Matt.

Aside from the Professor’s disgraceful Ad Hominem attacks I will address some of his points here:

Professor: Your prose are rife with fallacies and Neanderthalic musings,

This itself is a fallacy and illogical. I’m surprised that a Professor would accuse someone of being “Neanderthalic.” It has been proven that Neanderthals were a very intelligence and skillful subspecies of humans. In fact most people of European descent have 5% Neanderthal DNA inside of them. Neanderthals even had larger brains the modern humans.

Professor: Sexual unions between humans are not meant to be permanent.

I disagree. Adults benefit from long term sexual unions. Children also benefit from a large community of committed adults. However the professor is right in that humans are not designed to be limited to one long term sexual companionship. We have been culturally programmed to believe that is the case, but both biology and psychology indicate that we are not.

Professor: You do not find it often in the animal kingdom, and where you do it is generally born of an evolutionary necessity. The necessity of monogamy among humankind has evaporated.

This is misleading. He is attempting to minimize the concept of monogamy in the natural world. From what I understand monogamy is fairly common in the natural world. Is is relatively uncommon in the primate world though. He is also incorrect that there was a necessity of monogamy among humankind that has since evaporated. This is not correct. There has never been a necessity of monogamy in human history except for that imposed by ancient and modern western culture(and the Chinese). And in these cases monogamy was instituted to control men and women.

Professor: It is your constant reinforcement of archaic relationship models that really does the profoundest of damage.

Actually polygamy is the most archaic(meaning oldest) and traditional form of marriage. Monogamy as the standard form of marriage is a relatively recent invention.

Professor: I am married. I’ve been married for 15 years and my wife and I both sleep with other people. We are honest about this, which makes our open relationship more healthy than “monogamous” relationships built on lies.

I agree that an open relationship is better than a monogamous marriage where the spouse cheats and lies(my interpretation of “built on lies”). However a polygamous marriage of committed people is much better than any “open marriage.” It provides safety and security for all people involved. It is much better than temporary sexual trysts with no commitment or cause for support. The professor’s noncommittal “Open Marriage” is very damaging because it treats humans as commodities. They are used for their sexuality. With a polygamous marriage all people involved are valued. They all support and benefit from each other.

Now on to Matt:

Matt: (After addressing the Professor with much sarcasm) No, my dear Professor, I am a humble man and I can only write in plain language, using words that, you know, exist.

This is an appeal to Pathos because he is appealing to the understanding of his audience. It builds Ethos in their eyes because they can relate to being the simple, humble people. He is trying to build authority to his audience will accept his later arguments because they are on the same team.

Matt: A married person who doesn’t believe in monogamy seems an awful lot like a Satanist in a church choir, or an existential nihilist performing lifesaving heart surgery.

False Analogy and Non Sequitur. Marriage does not automatically mean exclusivity. A married person who doesn’t believe in monogamy is simply a married person who does not believe in monogamy. I ask Matt to show proof that marriage is automatically exclusive. I don’t mean various traditions and cultural ceremonies. I mean marriage itself.

Matt: Monogamy is not natural. You’re right about that. It’s supernatural.

An appeal to emotion. It is not rational. Matt presents no evidence to show that monogamy is better than Polygamy. Instead he relies on the readers culturally engrained positive feelings about monogamy to prove his point.

You see Matt one of the things that the professor failed to mention in his attempt at minimizing monogamy in animals is that animals who are truly monogamous don’t have to struggle to be monogamist. They don’t have to “rise above the natural man.” True monogamist animals don’t have to change their thinking to not look at other women after they find a mate. They don’t have to find ways to keep spicing it up after things get monotonous. They don’t have to worry about cheating and high divorce rates. Because monogamist animals are really monogamous. The reason we have all of these “problems” is because our instincts tell us one thing but modern culture tells us another. Our culture tells us that these are “problems” and that we need to rise above them to be pure and holy monogamists.

But it’s time to face facts; our culture is wrong. We are not monogamist creatures and we are doing harm to current generations and will continue to harm future generations if we continue this farce. And yes I can list the ways monogamy is damaging our society if you really want me to.

Matt: If I wanted to be natural, I could live in a hole like a rodent, eat insects, and scamper from one mate to the next, until, after a life of nothingness, I die alone in the cold darkness, decomposing into the dirt without anyone ever noticing. That would be natural. It’s probably pretty realistic, too. So it is fortunate that I am a human being and I am given the chance to transcend the existence of a rat or a lizard. I have the opportunity to experience supernatural things like love, and sacrifice, and commitment.

False analogy. Even the most early humans had experiences transcending those of rats of lizards. This comment reeks of ethnocentricity and cultural evolutionism. Ancient humans living in communal multi-mate tribes experienced more love, sacrifice, and commitment than Matt will probably ever in his monogamous marriage.

You see, unlike the Hollywood images we are given of ancient cavemen who say “ug.” Humans who are more in tune with the natural environment are remarkably sophisticated. I would say that in many way they are more advanced that modern humans because they were in harmony with their surroundings. Can you say the same thing for our modern society of big cities, pollution, smog, and lacking intimacy?

Matt: Monogamy and loyalty are higher things.

Again no information is offered to back up this assertion. But it feels good to the audience because it reaffirms their engrained cultural biases. That statement is also ethnocentric. Granted it is rebutting an “open marriage” but the idea is that somebody who loves more than one person cannot be loyal to all of them. That monogamy is higher and more loyal than polygamy. That is ridiculous and can be easily dis proven. The idea of monogamy being “higher” doesn’t make any sense(Really what does that mean anyway?). How do you rate something as being “higher?” Higher in relationship to what standard of measure?

Matt: Why should it be hard for me to simply refrain from tossing such a gift into the garbage?

Polygamy does not toss people aside as garbage. Polygamous families are just as capable, if not more, at valuing all people in the family. It is you cultural training that tell you that if a man is married to multiple women(polygyny) each women only gets a portion of the man. Or that a man must leave one of his wives to be with the others(again using polygyny as an example). But that is all hogwash. You seem to value the idea of humans transcending something. So why not transcending the numbers game that anti-polygamists play? Love is not a limited commodity. The more love the better. Can you say there is such a thing as too much love?

Matt: Marriages, by definition, are supposed to be closed.

Upon further reflection I actually disagree. I would say that marriage by definition are supposed to be committed. But I say that carefully because there are many societies where the man and woman stay separate. The wife will stay with her family and her brothers will take on the father role of her children.

It is western culture that has placed the “closed” limitation on marriage. It does not have to be there and does not mean that once a person is married they are incapable of entering into other marriages.

Matt: If you aren’t strong enough to stay committed to one person, that’s your business.

I could say , “if you aren’t strong enough to stay committed to multiple people, that’s your business.” But it carries no weight other than to impress your audience by sounding “romantic” This idea is based on American cultural assumptions. It makes the reader feel good about their ideas rather than presenting any real data to back up the assertion.

I pity the man who has to fight so hard against his instincts to maintain a cultural ideal that has been created arbitrarily and handed down to him by tradition alone.

I suggest you get a copy of the book “Sex at Dawn.” It goes into great detail about how human mating is deigned to work. It gives examples of many modern tribes to show how our even more ancient ancestors lived. The proof is in the pudding as they say.

Now don’t be scared, it doesn’t read like a text book it is actually very fun and entertaining to read. So it is perfect for humble men who can only write in plain language.

I believe that God’s(or Nature’s; you can choose but I find the distinction meaningless) design for mankind will ultimately prevail and we will be able to throw of the false traditions of modern society. We will be able to return to a more harmonious way of living. And how do we teach our children to live harmoniously with others? Is it by teaching them to be selfish or to share?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Facebook Page


headerimageszomarah2I started a facebook page for this blog. You can like and follow it here: https://www.facebook.com/zomarahpurenews

I’ve heard that just liking a page does not guarantee you will get all the updates. So it will take a couple extra clicks to make sure all the status updates show up in your news feed: https://www.facebook.com/notes/random-thoughts-n-lotsa-coffee/how-to-make-sure-your-favorite-pages-show-in-your-newsfeed/398706583504230

My idea for the facebook page is to post ideas I have that aren’t long enough to justify a blog post. Also some good discussion might come from these ideas that may lead to future posts.

I haven’t been posting here as much as I would like but I do have stuff in the works. So visit my page and you’ll probably be hearing a lot more from me than you do here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Temple Movie Review


DISCLAIMER: In this post I present my biased opinion as to the way it was filmed and put together. I also like to throw a bit of humor in just to lighten it up. This is not meant to disparage the Endowment or the film. Also I don’t discuss anything I have covenanted not to. I hope there’s no hard feelings from any of my L-DS friends(if they read it).

After a brief pre-recorded introduction the officiator sat down. I was surprised how few people were in this session because of how many cars were in the temple parking lot. I had joked with my wife that, “All these people must be here for the premier.” Then lights in the creation room dimmed and the movie began. The first new thing was the music. It had some good oomph to it, but the violin parts made it seem really small for an epic expansive space shot. Then multicolored nebulae appeared on the screen. However they seemed a bit to stiff and motionless, I was hoping for something a bit more epic.

As we panned through another nebula white streaks of light appeared from the bottom of the screen. Then in a bright flash there was God, Jehovah, and Michael. Their bright white clothing was a significant improvement over the plastic shower curtain style of the previous films. God looked Jewish and Jehovah had effeminate lips accentuated by his white mustache and beard. The whole scene was brightly light with glowing effects. The hardest part to make out was what they were standing on. It was like a big glowing rock.

After some dialogue, heaven disappeared and in a bright flash and we were back with the nebula. As the dialogue of the formation of the earth progressed we saw several shots of the earth forming. A ball of gas; a molten planet; then the planet cooling. They definitely did a pretty good job of incorporating modern scientific understanding of planet formation.

fantasy-the-lord-of-the-rings-fantasy-art-artwork-HD-WallpapersThen as they planned the formation of land we saw a “Lord of the Rings”-esque planning shot with drawings of water, mountains, volcanoes and rivers appearing on a parchment-like background. When we got to the stage of actually carrying out the plan(“we will go down”) we saw actual shots of volcanoes, rocks, rivers, etc.

If I recall correctly it was at this point that we went back to heaven in a bright flash. Then I realized just what it was they were standing on. I noticed that this “rock” has an opalescent quality. I also noticed diamond and glass-like qualities to the surface. BING! That’s supposed to be like the “sea of glass” mentioned in revelations. It was kind of cool but also a bit disorienting. They were just standing on this blob of glowy, glassy, shiny stuff.

The creation continued with Lord of the Rings parchment planning scenes and the live shot “creating” scenes. The dialogue hadn’t changed so it didn’t seem any more open to evolution than any of the previous versions. The only big difference is that we saw the earth form as I mentioned above. Also something new happened when they were creating the lights, the greater to rule the day, the lesser to rule the night; when they got to the stars we all cast our gaze skyward as LEDs which had been installed in the ceilling, lit up to engross us in the experience.

Then when the earth is pronounced finished we saw a huge wave crash dramatically over a rock, probably filmed somewhere in the pacific. It was a nice shot.

Then we went back to heaven and prepared for mankind to be created. When they started discussing it, we get the parchment drawings again, but this time of Adam and Eve and a pair of hands holding the forbidden fruit. The actual tree of the Fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was rather small. It was dwarfed by the palm trees behind it.

We went down to the tropical paradise garden(Really, why is it always a tropical paradise? Why not a north American forest or something?). As Adam was formed the camera panned past some rocks with a small cleft where we briefly caught a glimpse Adam laying down. Then it moved past the rocks and we got a clearer view of Adam. He was laying down with his upper body propped up against a rock. Everything below his neck was covered in mist. I noticed that some light chest hair could be seen on our Adam. Behind Adam was something like a thin rock wall. Elohim and Jehovah were standing behind the rock wall. This was one of the corniest shots, because it looked like Adam is snoozing in a hot tub.

40330_proAdam was a Josh Brolin look-alike. He was in his late 30’s. He didn’t necessarily have white-white skin, but his black hair and eyebrows made his skin look white. However Adam’s voice wasn’t what I expected, it was slightly high pitched and nasally.

After Adam got up, Elohim and Jehovah presented Eve to him. Adam and Eve looked off into the distance at the Garden as they are about to be introduced into it. The lights went up and we moved from the Creation Room into the Garden Room.

Eve was also in her later 30s and not as attractive as many have been hoping for. The blonde Eve in the previous film was probably the most attractive. Our Eve was a Miriama Smith look-alike except she looked older and less attractive. Of course for all I know it could very well have been Miriama Smith who would now be older and maybe less attractive than when I saw her in “Other Side of Heaven.” (I don’t think she really is, but then again I don’t follow celebrities).

I spent the rest of the endowment trying to remember what movie she looked like she was from.

I spent the rest of the endowment trying to remember what movie she seemed to be from.

NOTE: I know some may find discussing the attractiveness of the actress who plays Eve to be distasteful. And I find it a bit superficial myself. However I’ve noticed it is one of the topics discussed about the new temple movie. So I feel it is appropriate to include it.

In the Garden Room with the lights dimmed the film resumed. We saw various shots of Adam and Eve walking through the Garden. We literally NEVER saw ANYTHING below the shoulders. Thankfully though, instead of the only employing the miraculously placed flora trick to hide Adam and Eve’s naughty bits, they were carrying baskets woven from plants(I thought there was no death before the fall. So how could they kill the leaves of a plant to make a basket?). They were gathering leaves and fruits in these baskets presumably to eat.

Adam was carrying one such basket when suddenly he saw a red robed man crouched near the Tree of Knowledge. This was of course Lucifer who then stood up and offered Adam some fruit. Adam refused the dried-ornamental-pepper-strawberry-tomato fruit(I would too. It looked all dried and disgusting. I prefer the triple-lobed-pear-plum fruit of the previous film.).

Lucifer in this film was easily forgettable compared to Micheael Ballam’s Lucifer. He was a

For Lucifer just imagine Jim Parsons but with less hair.

For Lucifer just imagine Jim Parsons but with less hair.

small mousy man. He was clean shaven and balding. The only thing that gave him any screen presence was his wardrobe. He wore bold reds contrasted with dark blacks. Golden embroidery adorned his apparel. As the film progressed Lucifer, Adam, and Eve’s attire changed, presumable to represent the passage of time. It was a nice touch that helped the story feel like it was moving along.

Next we saw Eve sitting down, her naughty lady bits covered in the latest“modest is hottest” woven baskets. Lucifer approached her from a distance. Slowly he snaked his way closer, tempting her. Then he knelt before her with his head bowed, offering the fruit to her as the only way to become like God. She paused and contemplated. She stood and looked towards the tree. You could see on her face that this was a difficult decision. Then, almost tearfully, she took the dried-ornamental-pepper-strawberry-tomato fruit and took a bite.

Lucifer kind of seemed like a nice guy up until this point; but after Eve partook his demeanor changed as he knew he had succeeded. He told Eve to get Adam to partake. In the next shot Adam was sitting by a tree with bushes that just happened to be blocking the camera view to anything below his shoulders(the camera man couldn’t have moved the camera?). Eve tearfully approached Adam and explained what happened. She told Adam that he will be left alone in the garden. He knew what he must do to remain with Eve. A tear rolled down his left check as a took the fruit and ate it. Then they embraced to show their unity and solidarity through this situation.

They did a really good job at eliminating the mindlessness of Eve. They were portrayed as much more active and loving to each other.

Then Lucifer came back his face was partially obscured by shadows so that it looked almost grey. Another negative against Lucifer was his “Dark Knight” voice. However instead of gargling marbles he just hissed all of his lines in loud whispers. Gone are the days of an operatic Satan bellowing his lines boldly! Now his lines quietly hiss forth out of his mouth.

When Elohim and Jehovah returned, after Adam and Eve had supposedly cover their naughty bits in fig leaves, we saw probably the most campy shot in the film. It is from the perspective of God looking at Adam and Eve. There was literally dense foliage EVERYWHERE. Then in the center of the screen were two little heads poking up out of it. The foliage near Adam and Eve looked like CGI, or they were standing so close to it that was casting odd shadows. I mean seriously, why are Adam and Eve going to be standing around, nearly naked, in dense, prickly plants. They already covered their naughty bits in fig leaves so God wouldn’t see their nakedness. Maybe they didn’t have enough time to weave fig leaves so they just ducked into some brush. Nevertheless, I want to see some fig leaves!

The lights went up and we moved into the room representing the Lone and Dreary World. As the film resumed we saw Adam and Eve get cast out of the Garden. Now when they say cast out into the Lone and Dreary world, they mean LONE and DREARY! They contrasted the lush garden, not with sparse forest and dead trees like the previous film, but with the Grand Canyon. We’re talking DESERT! In some wide angle shots of the canyon you can see a tropical lush mountain in the distance(Eden?).

Then Peter, James, and John came onto the scene. Peter was an older, bald, white guy. James had greying hair and seemed almost middle eastern. John looked like a Filipino American.

Eve doesn’t just stand around during this part anymore, she has a little more to do. At one point Lucifer threateningly sat down next to her and she bolted to her feet to get away.

Finally when Satan want on his schpiel about ruling everything he was standing on a cliff edge with montage of shots of him filmed from a circling helicopter.

Overall, I would say this film is an improvement. The visuals are vastly improved. Yet, I would say there is still a touchy of campy-ness that makes you feel at home. The acting is WAY better. However their casting leaves much to be desired. Adam came of as bit of a sissy; Eve was alright but won’t give the men much their much craved eye candy(not that that is her purpose); Satan was forgettable; Jehovah looked like the bearded lady; and Elohim is about that same as in previous films, meaning he doesn’t do much, just gives commands.

On the drive home I was talking about it with my wife who also agree that the actor for Satan was the most illogical choice. But then I thought that maybe it was on purpose. the most common comment you hear about the previous endowment films is that Satan was the star. So perhaps they intentional cast this guy so that people would like Adam and Eve better. Just a thought.

Posted in Church | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 84 Comments

Priesthood of the Relief Society


Relief-Society-Symbol_Two-Tone_WhiteThe Relief Society was organized on March 17th, 1842 and on March 17th 2013 it will have its 170th Anniversary. This women’s organization was originally called the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo. Before the first meeting began, there was found a scrap of paper laying on an open Bible. On this paper was written the words:

“O, Lord! help our widows, and fatherless children! So mote it be. Amen. With the sword, and the word of truth, defend thou them. So mote it be. Amen.”

This prayer is one of many clues to understand the purpose and structure of the Relief Society. There is a key phrase that is repeated twice, “So mote it be.” This phrase is an archaic form of “So may/might it be.” It comes from Freemasonry. The idea of helping the widows and fatherless children is also strongly connected to Masonry. The phrase “defend thou them” comes from Psalms 5:11. There are probably other scriptural connections that could be made.

It is also important to note that the Relief Society’s first meeting was in the Masonic Hall where Joseph Smith became a Master mason the night before. I suggest that Joseph Smith left the Bible there, and wrote this prayer on the scrap of paper and placed it on the open Bible. It was all prepared for them to find it that day. There may even be some Masonic connection associated with that act. However I don’t know enough about masonry to try and make a connection. Nevertheless, before the first meeting even starts we can see the intense connections to Freemasonry.

In my piece Understanding Priesthood Keys, I attempted to clarify Joseph Smith’s understanding of Priesthood Keys. I demonstrated that, even from the early years, Joseph’s concept of priesthood and keys was tied to Freemasonry. The association that Mormonism has to Freemasonry was not a Nauvoo innovation, but has been there since before the church was founded. It is no surprise to find the Relief Society organized following the same model.

But wait, isn’t Masonry only for men? It’s not. In about 1740 a branch of Masonry was developed in France. It was called ” Maçonnerie d’Adoption” or “Adopted Masonry.” It was developed to allow women to participate in a female branch of Masonry. Its is apparent that the highest rank in Adoptive Masonry is that of “Elect Lady.” In July 1830 a revelation was given, which became Section 25 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Emma is referred to by this title. In our modern editions of the scriptures it is written thus:

3 Behold, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou art an elect lady, whom I have called.

It could just be a coincidence. Since “elect lady” is not capitalized it is probably not referring to a title. However, I looked up the original revelation in my Facsimile Edition. In the original revelation it is written this way:

Behold thy sins are for given thee & thou art an Elect Lady whom I have called

Elect Lady is capitalized in the original revelation. Being capitalized it is far more likely referring to a title and calling. In addition to Emma Smith being referred to as an Elect Lady, some Relief Society Presidents after her were referred to as Elect Lady.

emma-smith-mormonDuring the first meeting of the Relief Society Joseph Smith initially Presided and suggested that they elect a presiding officer. That officer would then choose two councilors. Joseph Smith then said he, “would ordain them to preside over the Society.” Joseph also instructed them that the Presidency of the Relief Society would preside “just as the Presidency, preside over the church.” I suppose this could be interpreted as meaning that the Relief Society Presidency was to preside in the same manner as the First Presidency. However, those are very powerful words to use. I think it puts the Relief Society Presidency on a much more powerful footing than simply being in charge of the girls club.

Emma Smith was elected unanimously to be the President of the Relief Society. The “Presidentess Elect” then chose Sarah M. Cleveland and Elizabeth Ann Whitney to be her Counselors. Joseph then read the revelation to Emma Smith which had been received twelve years earlier. He then “stated that she was ordain[e]d at the time, the Revelation was given, to expound the scriptures to all; and to teach the female part of community; and that not she alone, but others, may attain to the same blessings.”

I searched the word “expound” on scriptrues.lds.org and found that every entry in the Doctrine and Covenants was associated with some ordination, calling, or priesthood office/responsibility.

Joseph Smith further hits his point home about Emma’s position by reading the first verse of 2nd John which also refers to an elect lady. Emma was not simply called an elect lady because she was a special person. She was an Elect Lady because that referred to her office as a President. After Emma’s election John Taylor then ordained the two women* to be councilors to “the Elect Lady.” President Emma Smith and her two councilors then took charge of the meeting only deferring to Joseph when they needed instruction on how to conduct the meeting.

We can see further Masonic connections in the 3rd Meeting of the Relief Society on March 30th. Joseph Smith was in attendance and was worried that they were growing too fast. He instructed them that they should, ”grow up by degrees.”

In an Epistle sent on March 30, 1842, Church leadership was going to disclose some confidential information to the Relief Society but they weren’t sure that the Relief Society could ensure it’s confidentiality. They are worried that “there may be some among you who are not sufficiently skill’d in Masonry as to keep a secret.” They then close the epistle with, “Let this Epistle be had as a private matter in your Society, and then we shall learn whether you are good masons.”

Masonry is very closely tied to the nature of the Relief Society. The Endowment was an Appended Body to the Blue Lodge degrees of Masonry. It was often called “Celestial Masonry.” Emma Smith was ordained to a Masonic title in 1830; and the parallel women’s organization, which was established in 1842, has definite Masonic ties. It would actually be very surprising to find that it didn’t have those ties.

Women and Gifts of the Spirit

Gifts of the Spirit are those acts which are fruits of the Holy Ghost. They come through the Spirit to be a proof that the a person is a true believer. In 1 Corinthians chapter 12 these gifts are listed as: the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, divers kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. These gifts were abundant in the Relief Society. On April 19, 1842 during their fifth meeting, Sarah Cleveland said that she felt things in her heart that she could not express in our language; so she powerfully spoke in tongues. Another women then gave the interpretation of what had been spoken. During that meeting it was recorded that, “The meeting was very interesting, nearly all present arose & spoke, and the spirit of the Lord like a purifying stream, refreshed every heart.”

At another meeting later in the year “Mrs. Chase” prophesied that if the sisters are faithful the gifts of the spirit would be with them. Thus showing that the gift of prophecy was also present among the women.

During the sixth meeting on April 28, 1842 Joseph Smith spoke to them. He had heard that members of the Relief Society were saying that women shouldn’t be laying their hands on the sick and healing them. Joseph addressed this concern saying that people should rejoice that the sick could be healed. He went on to say that the Gifts of the Spirit should follow all who believe whether male or female; and that “if the sisters should have faith to heal the sick, let all hold their tongues, and let every thing roll on.”

Joseph gave further approval of women laying on their hands to heal the sick by saying that if God gave his sanction, in that the person was healed then, “there could be no devils in it.” Dealing the final blow to settle the matter concerning whether women should heal the sick he said, “there could be no more sin in any female laying hands on the sick than in wetting the face with water— that it is no sin for any body to do it that has faith, or if the sick has faith to be heal[e]d by the administration.”

It is important to remember that there is a distinction between laying on hands to heal the sick and laying on hands for a priesthood blessing. They are two different things.(D&C 42:43, 44)

Even though some members of the Relief Society, and probably the church in general, doubted that women should be able to exhibit these spiritual gifts; Joseph corrected this misconception. If women are believers in Christ they too should exhibit the gifts that follow believers. The Relief Society in these years was filled with the exhibition of these spiritual gifts. Women were healing and being healed, they were speaking in tongues, and they were prophesying.

Women and the Priesthood

There is a strong correlation between Joseph Smith’s views on priesthood and Masonry. With the Relief Society’s close ties with to Masonry could it be possible that priesthood plays into this? This is actually exactly what we find. During the very first meeting of the Relief Society Joseph Smith instructed them that officers should “be appointed and set apart, as Deacons, Teachers, &c. are among [the church].”

During the meeting on March 30, 1842 Joseph Smith said that “the Society should move according to the ancient Priesthood” He also said that he “was going to make of this Society a kingdom of priests as in Enoch’s day— as in Pauls day.”

Sarah Kimball recalled Joseph Smith’s invitation to the first assembly of women. She recalled his description that the Relief Society would operate “under the priesthood after the pattern of the priesthood.”

Later, on April 28, 1842 Joseph visited the Relief Society and spoke to them, “respecting the Priesthood, and give instructions for the benefit of the Society.” It is recorded that his instructions were intended only for the Relief Society. Later during this meeting he read from the twelfth chapter of 1st Corinthians and instructed them concerning the different offices. Thus seeming to indicate that those offices were to be present in the Relief Society

28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

It seems that the climax of Joseph Smith’s discourse to the Relief Society was when he most clearly “spoke of delivering the keys to this Society and to the church.” He continued by stating “that the keys of the kingdom are about to be given to them, that they may be able to detect every thing false— as well as to the Elders.” Not only was Joseph Smith going to give the Keys of the Priesthood to the Quorum of the Twelve(Elders) but also to the Relief Society. Following those statements he reaffirmed, for a third time, his intent of giving the keys by saying “I now turn the key to you in the name of God and this Society shall rejoice and knowledge and intelligence shall flow down from this time.”

Elder Reynolds Cahoon addressed the Relief Society on August 13, 1843 and said that he was “perfectly satisfied with the order of this society.” He also compared the Relief Society to other organizations in the world by saying, “There are many Benevolent Societies abroad design[e]d to do good but not as this[;] ours is according to the order of God connected with the priesthood.”

We can further see the Relief Society’s role as a parallel priesthood organization in Cahoon’s statement that “the organization of this Society & the Church is similar[,] according to the mind & order of God.” The church leadership(First presidency, Elders, Priest, teachers, Deacons, etc.) are to be mirrored in the Relief Society. Joseph established it this way to be a parallel priesthood organization for women. This follows the Masonic model and also manifests the complimentary male-female duality of humanity. When some people discuss women and the priesthood they expect it to be some androgynous concept with women in the First presidency, and potentially men in the Relief Society Presidency. But this is not the case as it does not preserve the unique qualities of each.

The biggest problem in people’s minds is that they view genders as competitive. They believe that there must be women in the First presidency or else women are not equal with men. This is because they view the Relief Society as lesser than that First Presidency. But they are not. Remember what Joseph Smith stated about the Relief Society Presidency; that they should preside “just as the Presidency, preside over the church.” The Relief Society is the female priesthood counterpart to the male priesthood offices. One is not higher than the other, rather they are complimentary. Just as males and females are complimentary to each other.

The following quote sums up the nature and purpose of both men, women, and their priesthoods. It was given by Bishop Newel K. Whitney in the presence of Joseph Smith during the May 27, 1842 Relief Society meeting:

In the beginning God created man male and female and bestowed upon man certain blessings peculiar to a man of God, of which woman partook, so that without the female all things cannot be restored to the earth. It takes all to restore the Priesthood.


* Cleveland was ordained to be a Counselor to “the Elect Lady”; and Whitney was ordained to be a Counselor to “Mrs. Smith, the Prest. of the Institution.”

Most of these quotes were taken from the Nauvoo Relief Society minute Book which can be found here.

Posted in Church, Prophets, Relief Society | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Coming to Terms With Change


Here’s an Essay I wrote last week for my English Class:

For young men who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one of the most anticipated events is the reception of a mission call. A mission call is a letter, sent from Church leadership, “calling” the young man on a mission to a certain place. On this mission the young man will be expected to spend two years in a certain area, preaching the message of the Gospel. Missionaries are only allowed to email home once a week. Their time and attention is to be focused on their mission.

Such was my experience, in late 2003, after having sent in my papers to inform Church leadership of my desire to serve; I received my mission call. The simple white envelope arrived in the mail and my family and I went to the park and gathered around a bench. I sat there with the white envelope held in my trembling fingers. As I prepared to open the envelope, my mother asked me, “Where do you want to go?” I thought of all the places I might want to go; my father went to England; and I was studying Russian. After a few second I replied, “I want to go anywhere, as long as it’s not hot.” With that, I quickly ripped open the top of the envelope. I pulled out the papers from the envelope and began to I slowly read the letter. My family stared at me with excitement.

“Brother Michael Ellis, you are called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are called to serve in the,” I paused for dramatic effect, “Philippines Baguio Mission.” After I had slaughtered the pronunciation of the name Baguio, I knew my desire to serve someplace, “not hot.” had jinxed me. I was going to be serving in a tropical area, the Philippines.

The following months were followed by a variety of preparation including purchasing necessary books, and materials. A new suit was purchased, as a well as three pairs of shoes. On January 2004, I went to the Missionary Training Center(MTC) in Provo, Utah. In the MTC other missionaries, and myself, were trained in preaching and languages skills. We were taught the importance of being obedient to our Church leaders so that we could effectively teach by the Holy Spirit.

Almost two months later we flew to the Philippines to begin our missions. Missionaries are always paired with another missionary. This is so there are always two together at a time. As I served, I became close friends with many of the missionaries I was paired with. I also became close friends with many of the Filipino people I served among.

During the first months of my mission it took a lot of patience to understand the Filipino culture and even more to learn their language. The language skills we had been taught in the MTC were barely sufficient for basic communication. There was another challenge I had to overcome. For a long time I had been afraid of public speaking and starting conversations with people I haven’t met. My pulse would race with each person we contacted. In contacting people, we would start a conversation about God or some other subject. We would then inform them about the message of the Gospel we had to share. If they did not have time at the moment we would set an appointment to return.

The first lesson we would teach people was about the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is a text that is believed to have been miraculously translated from an ancient record by Joseph Smith, Jr. in the 1800s. This book is used as evidence to support the belief that prophets have been called by God again in our times. We would then teach them that the successors of Joseph Smith from the 1800s until today were also prophets.

In other lessons we would teach them about the various beliefs and doctrines of the Church. We would teach about the basic principles of the Gospel, such as: faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism of water and receiving the Holy Ghost. Other things we taught concerned eternal families, and the importance of temples. Perhaps the most important thing we taught was that thanks to Joseph Smith, Jr., the true Church of Jesus Christ had been restored to the earth. We taught people that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was that true church; and that the leadership was divinely inspired of God.

Ever since I can remember I have always been interested in scripture. I believed that what I was taught was correct, and that we missionaries were the representatives of the Lord. It was my belief that as a representative of the Lord when others were kind to me, or helped me, then they were really helping the Lord. I would offer quiet prayers for those people who were good to me.

While it is true that the main objective of a missionary is preaching, relationships are also formed. The local members of the Church would help us in contacting and teaching people from the local area. Usually bonds of friendship would be formed with these people. I can recall many nights eating dinner at a member’s house. We called him Brother Dudi. The Filipino missionary I was paired with would chat away with him, while I sat and sketched in my notebook, catching only a few words here and there. As time progressed, I could communicate better in the native language, Tagalog. I also became better at sketching.

Towards the end of my mission a member of the Church gave me the phone number of a woman in the area. Missionaries are not allowed to date on their mission; so after my two years were up and I returned home, I called her. Three years later we were married here in Idaho.

After a couple more years I began doing serious study into my beliefs. I read and searched the important texts of my religion. Through this research, and other online resources, I discovered that there were contradictions in my religion. I realized that the teachings of my religion contradicted the revelations and texts we viewed as authoritative. As I continued to examine these things it was as if my eyes had been opened. I could clearly see the differences between what the texts were actually saying, and what I was told they were saying.

One of the biggest discrepancies came in the area of missionary work. The book Doctrine and Covenants contains, what Mormons believe to be the revelations of Joseph Smith. In this book it is stated that missionaries should leave without taking any money or food, and that they should rely upon the charity of others for their sustenance. However the actual practice for the Church today is that missionaries and their families should pay a monthly amount to the Church. That amount is put into a general fund; the missionaries then receive a monthly allowance from that general fund.

I realized that, rather than being representative of the Lord, I was actually just a representative of a religious corporation. I had been teaching things not found in the scriptures, but instead were found only in the traditions that had been passed down through generations. This contradiction weighed heavily on my mind. What I had previously accepted as correct doctrine was actually only the opinons of others; rather than the actual doctrine itself. It was necessary that I either accept the modern contradictory teachings or accept the original texts.

Now as I look back on my missionary experience I see myself as having been used to promote this corporation whose teachings, in many cases, I no longer agreed with. Yet, there were still many positive experiences I had experienced on my mission. It wasn’t all bad. I had made friends, learned things, and even met the woman who would become my wife.

I cannot throw away my missionary experience like so many others have. How then, do I accept my mission as a good thing, while also disagreeing with it? Is it possible for good to come from bad means? Even today, these are the question I ask, as I seek to reconcile my current views with my previous actions. Changing a world view is not an easy task. Though perhaps, the process of change in our lives is never really complete. Maybe the journey is the destination; and we all must find the good out of all the things we have done, and all the mistakes we have made.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments