Saturday, November 24, 2012

Priesthood, Feminism, and Inspiration

The priesthood is an interesting thing.  What was crazy for me was to realize that all of my special moments connected with the priesthood had more to do with emotionality than with spirituality.  When I was feeling "spiritual" it was really just emotional.  The moments that were for me most spiritual were the emotionally meaningful moments.  When emotionality and spirituality get so confounded, it is hard to tell when the priesthood ordinances are truly accomplishing anything.

To think that only certain men that follow certain guidelines are given God's power is a little crazy idea.  Even worse, is the concept that you have this almighty power, but it only works when it is God's will that it works.  This is basically code for "don't lose your faith if it doesn't work," which is complete nonsense.  If you can't rely on a tool to consistently get a job done, what is the purpose of having the tool at all?  The tool might as well not even exist.

There are a lot more problems when we are talking about "priesthood authority."  Supposedly, your bishop has the power of discernment, meaning he can tell what the right thing is for you, tell when you are lying, and he can tell what sins you are committing.  Now, reality is that, of course, he can't.  I can't count the number of times that I, or friends (as they later tell me), will go into a bishop's office and he will either entirely miss the point about what I was doing, will give me terrible advice, or will not have some revelation about something that I am not telling him.  I know my Mormon friends will probably say that it is because they weren't being worthy of inspiration or something like that, but these were all good men and model Mormons, so there is no excuse.

It is very apparent that there are many men in the priesthood that flaunt their gift.  They wield it like a weapon and use it to coerce people into certain behaviors.  Priesthood becomes a control mechanism.  I knew a family growing up without a father in the home, but the one son that was active in the church turned into the head of the household because he had the priesthood.  The family deferred to him in many ways.  This just seems wrong that the youngest in the family becomes the most important, just because he is a man.

Why are men so important in the church?  Why is it that women are so unimportant?  The church treats women as if the only thing they can do is make babies and keep a house.  The church teaches that the highest calling for a woman is to be a mother.  You have no other future.  You need to drop every plan and desire in your life and become a mother as soon as possible.  There is also the teaching that the women don't need the priesthood because of how much more spiritual they are, and that women are the gatekeepers of virtue because men are just completely out of control sex machines, I guess.  These doctrines are completely degrading both to men and women.  Why can't men and women be treated as equals?  Is the church really still stuck in the 1800's?

Anyway, a few random topics that have been sitting on my mind.  Feels good to vent.

Monday, November 19, 2012

And the truth shall set you free

I am having a bad day.  I admit it.  There are times when I am just terrified that bad things are happening to me because I am "sinning" and have lost the "protection of god."  I realize this is total crap, and I will explain why.  Simply put, conditioning will cause you to see things that aren't really there.  It is easy to pick up meaning from randomness, we were taught to do it all the time in the LDS church.  It is called "following the spirit," and those that were really good it were though to be especially spiritual.  Let me explain this more scientifically.  If you take a random number generator and generate two different sequences of numbers you can run a statistical analysis on them.  Theoretically, since both sequences came from the same distribution there should be no significant difference.  However, there are times when a standard student-t test will show that the two sequences are significantly different.  This is, of course, total bullcrap, but this shows that you can find meaning in randomness.

I mean, why would God come out and punish people the second they do anything wrong?  Doesn't the LDS faith believe in a loving God?  A loving God wouldn't say "oh, so you weren't perfect?  Well, try having a living hell for a life, BLAM."  It also seems ridiculous to think that God is punishing someone for not believing, when believers keep asking the question "why do bad things happen to good people?"  If God were really punishing bad people and rewarding good people (this whole argument is pretty close to the argument "This good thing is happening to me, must be because I am doing what is right!") then things wouldn't be so random.  You wouldn't have good things happening so often to "bad" people and bad things happening so often to "good" people.  Let's be serious here, bad and good things happen, at will, to both the good and the bad.  That is life, deal with it.

Why would things hit randomly, months later, when "in the moment" of "sinful" behavior I don't feel any guilt, don't have any problems, no bad things happen, etc.  This seems to defy the mormon reasoning behind "well, bad things are happening to you, when are you coming back to church?"  It is especially annoying when I talk with mormons about my lack of faith and the first thing they ask is "well, have things been going poorly for you lately?"  All assuming that my life must be terrible if I am not a practicing mormon.

I had an interesting thought today while reading a conversion story.  I realized that I felt the exact same way once I left the church.  I have seen and heard of so many people feeling happier than ever once they join the church, that their family can even see the difference in them, everyone notices how much happier they are.  Well, this happened to me in reverse.  I changed a lot for the better, and I felt a lot happier and better, all once I left the church.  Why is this?  I think it has more to do with discovering our true selves, and less with discovering "the truth."  Discovering your true self will set you free.  Burying yourself under falsehoods and half-truths, under compulsions and obligations, will stifle yourself and your personality.  It is really unfair both to you and to the world to do that to yourself.

I am really glad that I am finding myself.  This has been a more meaningful "spiritual" experience than I have ever had in the church.  If only people inside the church would believe that those of us outside could ever be happy.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


This post might be bothersome to those that are still heavily religious, as I am pondering on the possibility of moral relativity.  If that is problematic for you, don't keep reading.

First, I am really annoyed by the assumptions people make when I tell them that I don't consider myself to be Mormon anymore.  Mormons will immediately jump to the conclusion that I am sinning and trying to justify my behavior.  I find this highly unfair, but not nearly as unfair as the next jump they make if they determine that you aren't sinning.  They automatically assume that you are doing things the "right way."  That you are not praying right, or reading the scriptures correctly, or going to church with the wrong attitude, or whatever.  Failing this argument, they jump to the conclusion that you must have been offended by someone.  What gets really entertaining is when this argument fails.  The next jump is completely unpredictable, from "I don't know" all the way to "you must be psychologically unstable."  Why can't they just let people have their own freedom to choose?

That aside, I want to talk more about "sinning" and morality.  The assumption that I "left to sin" is simply absurd.  Sure, maybe there are people like that.  I am not one of them.  I left because I could no longer consider the church to be true.  There was no way for me to reconcile what I was hearing and learning about in the church with what I was feeling and understanding to be true.  That being said, I am not still living the "Mormon lifestyle."  Mormons, however, get the causal relationship all wrong.  I didn't leave to do what I want, I started doing what I want after I left.

The notion of sin is an interesting one.  As such, morality and sinfulness are all described more or less in the context of a religious belief system.  Without such a system of beliefs, the reasoning behind behavior changes completely.  This does not imply a hedonistic lifestyle at all.  Look at things from a more scientific perspective.  Hedonism will not keep an organism happy, it leads to an out of balance life, and will rack up problems more quickly than it will pleasure.  You need to work altruistic notions into your model before a good behavioral model will arise.  Why would you work these notions in?  The most succinct reason I can put (you should be able to extrapolate from here and come up with more of your own reasons) is that you won't stay happy long if you keep pissing people off.  If you keep others happy (to a healthy degree) then they will help to keep you happy.  This is, in essence, the way that we learn to cooperate, even in extremely selfish societies.  If you want to learn more about that concept, I recommend the book The evolution of cooperation by Axelrod.

With that in mind, how do I then determine what is "right" and "wrong" behavior?  It has now become an extremely loose concept, and I can see why this makes many people extremely uncomfortable when they find themselves in a similar situation.  Perhaps there isn't really an absolute right or wrong, but situation rights and wrongs.  We need to evaluate in any given situation what should be done.  We can try and rely on magical thinking or higher powers all we want, but I don't think that any intelligent deity would want to create a culture of complete dependence, but would rather want to foster independent thought and action.  You learn by doing, experience being your master.  You learn by recognizing what will cause problems and what will prevent problems, what will make you happy and what will bring you pain.  In this sense this makes life a lot more formulaic, but that doesn't necessarily need to be a problem.

Here are some interesting questions in the context of Mormon morality.  What makes a person inherently more evil for drinking coffee, tea, or alcohol?  And yet, they consistently treat people poorly for such actions.  What makes a person inherently more evil for masturbation, fornication, or homosexuality?  Why is it that once sexuality is involved, all of the sudden everything not completely controlled by the church is evil?  Am I going to start trying to destroy humanity simply because I have a sip of coffee or tea?  Or will it take something "extreme" like not paying tithing or attending church before I will try to destroy others?  Maybe those aren't sinful enough, maybe I have to be so bad as to go to a grocery store on Sunday, or say no to the church to spend more time with my family?  For all of these heinous crimes and more the church will question and belittle you, in addition to denying you the "blessings" in the church.  So, I am only good if I am completely obedient?  Since when is that a virtue?  Should we be teaching children to obey everyone without question?  Why?  It is a virtue, isn't it?

I would submit that all of this "sinful" behavior only becomes bad when it starts to hurt others or hurt yourself.  There is no need to dictate behavior that doesn't cause any problems for anyone.  There is no need to cause an uproar over simple issues of preference.  These are some of the things that caused me to have an issue with the church in the first place.  It is not their place to tell people to do in half of the instances that they choose to do so.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

LDS Church inc.

"The LDS church is a corporation."
"No it isn't, how dare you say such a thing!"
"Well, look at it.  I can't believe they can retain a non-profit status with all of the profit they make."
"But it is a church!  It is God's kingdom on earth.  All of that 'profit' is used to help the needy and build the kingdom, a corporation would do that."

All caricatured discussions aside, I am starting to see the church as more of a business corporation than as a religious institution.  Now, this might be the case with all churches, but my experience happens to be with just this one.  Perhaps religion is a basic human desire, and there is a brand of business that thrives by satisfying those needs and wants.  That is how most businesses work, anyway.

Now let me put it this way.  The church has a high mandatory (Now, whether or not it really is compulsion is an argument in and of itself, but when not paying has such a high social and religious cost, it can hardly be said to be optional.) membership fee - tithing.  You pay 10% of all your income to the church, no questions asked.  The church doesn't even disclose what happens with this money.  They will throw the members a bone every so often at general conference, but nobody really knows what happens with it all.  This tithing goes to pay for their biggest source of income: temples.  Why are temples the biggest source of income?  You have to pay tithing to get in them.  The closer temples are, the more likely members will get a temple recommend and attend the temples.  The more temple recommend holding members, the more tithing coming in to the church.  The more tithing coming in, the more the church can do God knows what.

What other indicators are there that the LDS church is a business?  Well, the church has plenty of investments.  The recently opened mall is a great example.  The church owns tons of land across the world (not all of it has a building on it, or even planned).  This isn't even "hidden" knowledge, most members have heard of some investment or another, especially the high-ticket ones (like said mall).

Whatever else the church has done, the biggest kicker is how it promotes itself.  I was recently attending some meetings for my workplace where they were discussing best practice for the sales industry.  Surprisingly (or perhaps not), all of these best practices would obviously be beneficial to the missionary program.  Some of the best practices were taught to me in the MTC or at zone conferences in the mission field.  Others were practices that the "best" missionaries were performing without being told to do so.  Is it any surprise that the "good" missionaries all are really good at summer sales jobs?  I would venture not...

Look at it this way.  What is the product that the church offers?  The Gospel, eternal happiness, eternal families, peace, forgiveness, these are all product offers that the church is trying to sell.  Ultimately trying to sell its specific form of opiates.  The church also has plenty of education on these offers, through Sunday meetings, missionary discussions, and other church activities.  The church also has membership and loyalty benefits, if you are loyal and follow specific rules, you can be inducted into the "gold membership" club, which offers a better selection and better quality product (this is referencing the temple, if you couldn't tell).  The church also has a referral program, if you refer friends and family to the program, you get extra access to the product line.  Also, like a business the church has a huge focus on expansion and growth.  They are constantly seeking newer and better ways to deliver their product, to an ever expanding market, with the goal of 100% market penetration and market share.  In fact, as a member you can hardly go by a couple of weeks without the church trying to push you out to go do their marketing for them.

Now, the devil's advocate in me has to come out for a second.  Is this just an overly cynical view on the "way things simply are?"  I don't think so, but let me argue that point for a second and then debunk it.  Perhaps all experience can be reduced to a "business model."  Perhaps I am just viewing the world through a cynical lens, and I could see anything as being this business like, I simply haven't applied the model to everything else in the world.

I don't think that is the right way to look at it.  If the church really were everything it claimed to be, it would be more transparent, less exclusive, less tithing hungry, etc.  I feel like there are and can be more altruistic organizations.  The LDS church simply isn't that organization.  I feel like the LDS church does not truly promote Christ-like behavior, but I will write more about that in a future post.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


I was talking to a friend about being bitter about the church.  I realize that I am bitter, perhaps not in an extreme, but I have a lot to resent.  I figure that I need to write about what I am actually bitter about.  It will be easier to deal with if I can let it out and examine it, rather than bury it and ignore it.

Word of warning, this will be more angry sounding than it probably needs be, if you don't like it, deal with it.

What am I bitter about?  Probably more than anything else, the fact that I felt like my personality was suppressed by religion.  The church seemed to prevent me from being able to fully express myself, and I haven't felt able to really get to know myself until I finally let go of the church.  Instead I, like everyone else that is truly faithful, buried my personality and took on the standard Peter priesthood type of behavior.  Knowing that that isn't me, I slowly pulled away from that, but it took a long time to fully break away and discover myself.

Another thing, the fact that the church seems to be filled with lies and deceit.  The many "revelations" and scriptures and teachings, the leaders that, at least the higher ups, have to know that it isn't true on some level.  The fact that everything is more or less a farce.

The guilt and control are things that I have talked about before, but I resent being forced to do so many things that I really didn't need or want to do, the fact that I felt guilty if I didn't go to the temple enough,  pray enough, read my scriptures enough, and then I would feel guilty for not doing things "the right way" because I didn't ever feel what I supposed to, which in retrospect is more indicative of it being hollow, not being my fault.

I also resent the amount of time the church took and still takes.  While my mission was a great experience in some ways, that was two years that I won't get back.  All the hours and pain and work for the church in callings and attendance, at church, activities, and at home.  These things did not necessarily add value to my life, except within the context of church.  It all helped me to "progress" on the gospel, but all of that is now meaningless once I leave it behind.  No wonder so many people don't want to give it up, even if it becomes obvious.  So much is invested in your church membership, that it becomes painful to break away.  However, once you know the truth, it really does set you free. There is no need to hide from the truth, it can only help you to be happier and to grow.

Now, I am really just left with lots of questions, like where am I going, where did I come from,Mehta is the purpose of life.  However, I also know that having and answer just to have an answer will never satisfy me, and I am not greatly perturbed by not having all the answers.  Perhaps that is more of my life's work, to discover the answers to these important questions, to discover it for myself.  I want the truth this time, not something made up and manipulative,