Category Archives: Opinion Pieces

This is discussion, not negativity

This is people being real. Reality sucks. It’s not our fault that reality sucks — that’s the way it was made. It seems that there’s something important about us experiencing life in a reality that sucks. I am quite tired of people trying to silence me because what I have to say strikes them as “negative.” I’m not saying them to be negative. I’m saying them to be real. Because I’ve been in very bad places in my life, being alone and hurt and …. If you’ve been there, you know what I”m talking about. If you don’t, then shut up and listen and try to understand it. People spend much of their lives there — not everyone, but far too many. They don’t need you Pollyannaing them and telling them to smile and it’ll all get better, because that’s not true. They don’t need you to fix them. Which is good, because you don’t know how to fix them, no matter how much you think you do. Continue reading This is discussion, not negativity

Being me quietly.

I am frequently me quietly. But I make an effort to be me not quietly because nobody else says what I have to say. And I have things to say that people need to hear and think about. Things I’ve paid a heavy price to learn. Things that have reality and truth in them. So I say them. Because nobody else does, and nobody else will. And they piss people off and scare people away. But that doesn’t make them not true, or not valuable. Just not valued.

What I didn’t say, 6 Feb 2017, topic Are Mormons Christian gospel topics essay.

This was in a priesthood lesson, using the Gospel Topics essay on “Are Mormons Christian.”  I did say some things, I probably made more comments than anybody else, but I was left with more things I didn’t say to address problems in the way the lesson material was presented.

“Emperor Constantine (the Great) decided to become a Christian.”

This is an exaggeration at best.  The only sources claiming he was baptized were the priests in  his bed chamber when he died, and they certainly had a vested interest in seeing to it that the rest of the world saw him as a Christian.  What Constantine clearly decided was that the Roman Empire should be Christian, and he did his best to build the Church into the Empire during his reign, and to root out any tools of oppression and persecution of Christians on the part of the Roman Government.  His mother was a Christian.  But I don’t accept the argument that he himself was Christian because he had a very long time to have publicly become one had he wanted to, and he didn’t.  And I’m not a believer in death-bed conversion, even if that story is true, which I’m not persuaded of.

The(first) Council of Nicea

This is a widely misunderstood event.  The problem arose that a presbyter (elder) named Arius proclaimed that Jesus was created by God, and was not co-eternal with God the Father.  This led to a slogan to the effect that “There was a time that the Father was, and the Son was not.”  Arian and proto-orthodox priests, elders and bishops gathered at Nicea to address the problems Arianism was causing throughout the Empire.  They fought about this inside the Council, while other monks chanted slogans and occasionally scuffling with staves, until Constantine the Great came into the counsel, proclaiming the proto-orthodox position to be correct, the Arian position to be anathema, and told everybody to go home and burn their Arian writings.

The reason this was such a big deal that Constantine felt motivated to intervene was that Constantine was looking at Christianity as a way to build some stability and cohesiveness into an increasingly unstable and disunited Empire.  Even when Christianity became the state religion, that didn’t mean that everybody was Christian.  Having Arian ideas like that Jesus was created left believers in traditional Roman religion (aka “pagans.”) free to say “Sure.  I believe Jesus is god, but so is Jupiter, and he was around a lot longer.”  Which was an untenable position for this would-be unifying force.

The Nicene Creed

The Nicene Creed constituted a statement of faith that all orthodox Christians could memorize and agree with.  The business parts of the Creed (imo) are as follows:

We believe in one Godthe Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God,] Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;

The payload of this section is the last part of the quoted material above.  The part about the Father, Son and Holy Ghost being “of one substance.”  Elsewhere, this is translated as “consubstantial.”  The Greek word being translated thus is ?????????, which very clearly means “one substance.”  This clearly states that the Arians were wrong, wrong, wrong, but, in case that wasn’t clear, the last section nails that down as well:

[But those who say: ‘There was a time when he was not;’ and ‘He was not before he was made;’ and ‘He was made out of nothing,’ or ‘He is of another substance’ or ‘essence,’ or ‘The Son of God is created,’ or ‘changeable,’ or ‘alterable’— they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.]

Constantine also ordered all Arian materials to be burned.  There clearly was no respect for those of diverging opinions on display here.

Many believe that Mormonism isn’t Trinitarian, but that’s based in a misunderstanding of what the Trinity means.  Many Mormons believe that it means that Father, Son and Holy Ghost are trapped in one body, which becomes whichever of them is needed at any point in time, but this is actually a heresy known as Modalism, which Catholics dislike approximately as much as they do Arianism.  The Trinity doesn’t require its members to be in the same set of substance, and is commonly described as “God in three bodies.”  The sticky point of Trinitarianism is that, although there is a three-ness going on, there is only one god, so as to avoid polytheism.  This is a bit tricky to understand, and I suspect that most people who claim to believe in the Trinity have no great understanding of the details of how the doctrine of the Trinity is seen to work.  Also, there are places in the Book of Mormon which sound quite Trinitarian, like Ether 3:141 Ne. 11:21, and Mosiah 15:3.  However, I will posit that the Mormon concept of the Godhead does not differ significantly from the Orthodox concept of the Trinity.  Where the problem comes in is with the notion of bodies among the members, particularly the Father.  Mormons believe that Father and Son both have physical bodies which are tangible and exhalted, while the Holy Spirit is, as the name implies, a Spirit which enables him to do things which a body would make more difficult to go along with his missions as Comforter, Prompter and Revelator.  Trinitarians believe that the Father is a being of spirit (what is to have happened to Jesus’ body after his resurrection, I do not know), as well as the Holy Spirit.  This would be the most direct conflict as to the nature of the Godhead of which I am aware.

Moving along:

“We are just like the early Christians.”

This one really isn’t sustainable.  What would work more honestly would be “We see ourselves as being a continuation of the original Christians, prior to what we call the Great Apostacy.”  Because we do see ourselves that way, but the only way we could live up to the claim in the quote would be if we spent significant time studying the writing of the Early Church Fathers and showing how what they believed and taught was at all similar to what we believe and teach.  But I’ve never even heard that idea suggested in my whole life in the Church.  We tend to take a very oversimplified and presentist approach to the past.  We think that things that were written 2000 years ago are sooo ancient, and that none of them could have survived, but that’s really not the case.  To a classicist, or an historian of the ancient world, the beginning of the Christian Era (aka, when we used to measure dates as Anno Domini, aka AD, now designated as CE in the world of historians, designating “Christian Era,” or “Current Epoch,” or some combination of words to produce the acronym) is not some inconceivable period that is so long ago as to be incomprehensible —  those working with the history of Ancient Egypt, for example, work with periods going back to 10,000 BCE (Before CE).

The Great Apostacy

This is a very slippery concept.  It’s usually taught that, after the death of Jesus, there existed a single Christian Church (as we have denominations and churches today) that was administered by his chosen Apostles, possibly with Peter acting as the President of this Church, but essentially a mutatis mutandis Mormon Church in structure and doctrine.  Over time, as the original apostles died off and weren’t able to be replaced (due to inadequate transportation and communication technology of the day) until there was no longer God’s authoritative structure, and so the priesthood was withdrawn from the Earth until the early 19th Century restoration via Joseph Smith, a time period we call the Great Apostacy, or the Dark Ages.  However, we fail to account for which event in history we can use to designate when the Great Apostacy began.  Since we explicitly teach a very literalist view that John the Revelator was also John the Evangelist and John the Beloved/Apostle, and that, in the personage of John the Beloved, he was promised that he would not die, we can’t really stick to the idea that there was a point that all the Apostles were dead, since John must be alive even yet.  So, although I heard several times in the lesson that “The Apostacy had already started,” I don’t know what authority the teacher was invoking to make that claim.  I also would suggest exploration of the book The God Who Weeps by Teryl and Fiona Givens that points to many beautiful and inspired works produced during this time, and challenges many of the assumptions about this so-called Dark time.

And, for those lacking historical background, Dark Ages refers to a time with a lack or absence of written records.  Not particularly to a time when things were really evil or bad.

TBM Guide: Definitions and concepts

Groups/types of Mormons:

Belief classifications:

  • Traditionally Believing
    • The TBM.  Generally believes this group to be the only real Mormons, with other groups not really being Mormon.  Label is most likely to be imposed on someone, rather than self-selected.  Some translate TBM derrogatorially:  Truly Blind/Brainwashed Mormon, etc.  I only use it to mean Traditionally Believing Mormon, which I do not see as derrogatory.
  • Literally believing
    • Refers to literally accepting every spiritual claim of the Church and any of its leaders, and of scriptures.  This means a very literal six day creation, a young (6,000 year old Earth), literal global flood, etc.  Generally describes the TBM.  “The scriptures say it.  I believe it.  That settles it.”
  • Nuanced Believing
    • Believes in God, Restoration, Priesthood, etc., but with understandings that are less than literal.  Generally make literalistic TBMs uncomfortable
    • less literally believing
      • Looks at the same events that a literal believer takes at face value for their symbolic meaning.  Not usually associated with the TBM,  but some TBMs are open to less literal readings.  Sometimes “Mystical believers.”
    • Non Believing
      • Cultural (only) Mormons
        • Raised in a Mormon setting.  Generally model themselves around Cultural Jews — identifying themselves with the people and identity, but not necessarily as devout or believing the tenets of the religion.
    • not literally believing
    • Agnostic
      • Literally means “I don’t know.”
    • Atheist
      • Don’t believe in God.
      • Believe there is no God.
  • Some categories of less/not literally believing Mormons:

    • Sunstone Mormons
      • People involved in the Sunstone Foundation, whether through subscribing to Sunstone Magazine, or attending any of the Sunstone Symposia.
    • Dialogue Mormons
    • Bloggernacle Mormons
    • Prefix-Mos
      • A term I use to describe a number of categories of Mormons that are outside the box.  Such as:
      • Ex-Mormons
        • People no longer affiliated with the Church.  Stereotyped as “angry,” and more likely to attack the Church and become anti-Mormon from the perspective of the TBM
      • Post-Mormons
        • People no longer affiliated with the Church, who accept that their time with the Church is over, but without the assumption that they are angry about it.
    • NOMs
      • New Order Mormons, who are trying to make a space for themselves, and a less-literal understanding of Church matters.  May or may not have retained a belief in Church truth claims, but what belief and testimony they have will be much more nuanced than what it was at an earlier date.

Trump

I am no fan of Trump.  Those who know me know I’ve consistently referred to him as a buffoon.  I have not supported his candidacy in any way, and never will.  I want to still be able to make fun of Bill Clinton for being a philanderer and sexual predator without being a hypocrite.  Among other things.  But I see people consistently getting things wrong about him, so this is to address several of those things.  I would like to see people understand the Trump phenomenon better than they do. Continue reading Trump

Silenced again.

This is a comment I was unable to post to a FB conversation because, apparently, I have been blocked from any kind of conversation with the “friend” that was hosting the conversation.  This was the comment that would have explained what I was doing in the conversation, but, having been blocked from doing so, my participation is being forced into a form that will leave me looking more than a little incoherent.  Which is more than a little uncool with me.  Cowardly and intellectually dishonest, in fact.  I’m neither going to include the full name of the person involved, nor hide the mentions of her first name that I wrote in the comment.  If you know who this is, you can know that I’m calling her out for conversational cowardice and intellectual dishonesty.  If not, don’t worry about it.  

The reason I brought this point up here is that a week or two ago, Amy and I had a long and unpleasant conversation about her assertion of a “fact” that racism is only found in systemic oppression, and not in individual acts of hatred and cruelty motivated by race. I disagreed with that usage of the word, because it’s not the way ordinary people use it. They also use it to describe indiidual acts of hatred and cruelty motivated by race, and belief in racial superiority. As the CBC did in this article (although, honestly, they didn’t quote any of the graffiti that used terms that indicated a racial aspect to this, as I pointed out above). The hatred (which I neither share, nor condone, nor excuse in even the smallest degree) was focused on people based on their religion and their nationality/ethnicity.

Again, I am not a fan of hatred toward Muslims. The only Syrians I have contempt toward are named Assad. I’m not opposed to helping refugees from Syria. Nobody can provide evidence to the contrary because none exists. I’m not trying to distract any attention from this act. I think it’s deplorable, and that those who carried it out should be made to account for it.

For those who disagree with the idea that racism is only an institutional phenomenon, welcome to my side of the disagreement.

If you chance to meet a frown, respect it.

If you chance to meet a frown,
Do not let it stay.
Quickly turn it upside down
And smile that frown away.
No one likes a frowning face.
Change it for a smile.
Make the world a better place
By smiling all the while.
I probably learned this song when I was three-years old.  I disagree with it.  Negative feelings are legitimate and valuable and doctrinally solid.  They aren’t necessarily a sign that anything is wrong.  They are a sign that life isn’t always fun and games.  As mentioned in a podcast episode I was listening to earlier today, Jesus in the Garden wasn’t (probably) smiling while begging God to release him from what he was there to do, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t okay for him to do it.

Continue reading If you chance to meet a frown, respect it.

Feelings, wo wo wo….

Feelings are tricky things.  It’s not that they’re bad, or weird, or unusual.  We all have feelings all the time.  And that’s a good thing — it has to do with why we exist, I think.  Everybody has a right to all of their feelings, and those feelings are valid.

But having strong feelings about something doesn’t make you right or wrong about it.  It’s just another thing — perhaps relevant to mention, but more likely something good to think about when it comes to the issue to see where the feeling might come from and if it’s worth reconsidering.  Dialectic Behavioral Therapy teaches the idea of Emotional Mind and Rational Mind (derived from Eastern Philosophies, iirc), and of balancing those together to form what is called Wise Mind.  Jonathan Haidt talks of these as Emotional Mind being an elephant, and Rational Mind being the driver of that elephant — Rational mind may be able to direct the elephantine Emotional Mind in most given moments, but Emotional Mind is big and strong and can go where it wants to go, whether the driver likes it or not.  Anybody who has made a really stupid decision because it felt good or right will understand why Emotional Mind is the elephant.

I tend to discount the value of what Emotional Mind wants when talking to others, in favor of pushing them toward Rational Mind, trying to find a Wise Mind balance when it comes to whatever ideas are being discussed, especially when it comes to making choices.  I’ve just seen too many really bad results from Emotional Mind-based decisions to be really comfortable letting that be the guide.

Caitlyn Jenner

I’ve been in places where I felt out of place and very uncomfortable. I would hate it if that place was in my own skin. I would hate it worse if everybody and their dog thought their opinion about what I did about it mattered. And worse yet if they were jerks about it.

Why this sustainer isn’t opposed to “any opposed.”

I sustain the leaders of the Church as prophets, seers and revelators.  Recently, a group of people who do not openly voted against them at General Conference, setting off a small firestorm of angry and uncharitable comments about them throughout the TBM community.  Although I disagree with their opinion on this matter, I don’t see what they’ve done as terrible or wrong.  I see it as a desperate act of those who are trying to have their concerns heard, if not addressed, and I see it as a failed effort, as the leaders of the Church, in the voice of Pres. Uchtdorf, once again refused to listen to them, and referred them to local leaders who will not pass the details of those concerns along, and will likely threaten their membership.   Continue reading Why this sustainer isn’t opposed to “any opposed.”