Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Prophet Who Didn't Make Prophecies: Gordon B. Hinckley Dies at 97

I wasn't going to post about it. I have done a good job just letting Mormonism fall by the wayside and move on with more interesting things in my life. I consider myself to be recovered from its influence (except for the occasional clashes of opinion given forth by members of my family who are still involved in it).

Late Sunday night, the leader of the Mormon religion, Gordon B. Hinckley, passed away at the old age of 97, after battling colon cancer. During this period of time between the passing of one "prophet" and the installation of a new "prophet", the body of the church is in a slight state of upheaval. True, by tradition, the next in line is the President of the Quorum of 12, and that would be Thomas Monson. But, Boyd K. Packer, who has been acting President since Thomas Monson has been 1st counselor to the past three "prophets", could be named the next "prophet", because he is older than Monson and has served in the capacity of President of the Quorum for longer than Monson. A person like Packer is likely to even argue the case for himself, and could cause discord and even a schizm within the Quorum who is supposed to be receiving "divine inspiration" regarding the next to be called "Prophet, Seer and Revelator".

I can only hope for such a thing. It would demonstrate that the leaders are merely men, and Jesus doesn't have any say in the matter.

What is a prophet? One would assume that he has the ability to "speak with God, receive instructions from God, or be able to warn of troublesome events". Gordon Hinckley, like all of his predecessors, had neither the ability to see future events, but he also did not even know basic fundamental teachings of his predecessors, and denied many times in public discourse that such things as: "Man is what God once was." and "Blacks are never to receive the priesthood power because of their linage from Cain." These are truths that Brigham Young taught from the pulpit, and all his successors for over 100 years taught and believed, and sent their missionaries out to preach to all the world.

During the course of his "calling", he preferred to be called President of the Church. He shied away from the title of Prophet. He knew in his heart that he didn't have the power to lead by divine providence, only by precedent and tradition had he been handed the reigns of the leadership in the Mormon religion. And, the next "prophet" will be named in the same way, without having to demonstrate one iota of ability to make prophecies, or even have a bright light shine down on him from above, with a heavenly angel declaring that he shall be the chosen seer. It seems a shame that nobody else gets to have the scene with God and Jesus, just Joseph Smith (and we have his word on that).

I personally can't believe how many people are actually surprised that he died. He was 97 years old. He had cancer. It's a no-brainer.

While I'm here, I thought I would bring with me some quotes from Gordon through the years, and then maybe somebody out there can explain to me what exactly makes him so special, and why he gets the title of "prophet".

"Now we are at war. Great forces have been mobilized and will continue to be. Political alliances are being forged. We do not know how long this conflict will last. We do not know what it will cost in lives and treasure. We do not know the manner in which it will be carried out. It could impact the work of the Church in various ways."

"No one knows how long it will last. No one knows precisely where it will be fought. No one knows what it may entail before it is over. We have launched an undertaking the size and nature of which we cannot see at this time."

"I do not know what the future holds. I do not wish to sound negative, but I wish to remind you of the warnings of scripture and the teachings of the prophets which we have had constantly before us."

"Now, I do not wish to be an alarmist. I do not wish to be a prophet of doom. I am optimistic. I do not believe the time is here when an all-consuming calamity will overtake us. I earnestly pray that it may not. There is so much of the Lord’s work yet to be done. We, and our children after us, must do it. I can assure you that we who are responsible for the management of the affairs of the Church will be prudent and careful as we have tried to be in the past. The tithes of the Church are sacred."
- The Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Times in Which We Live,” October 2001 General Conference (Ensign, Nov. 2001, Page 72)

"I hope that prayer will take on a new luster in our lives. None of us knows what lies ahead. We may speculate, but we do not know."
- The Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, October 2001 General Conference “Till We Meet Again,” (Ensign, Nov. 2001, Page 89)

During an CNN interview after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Larry King asked Hinckley if God could have prevented the attacks:

KING: President Hinckley, though, couldn't He (God) have prevented this?

HINCKLEY: Oh, I suppose so. I believe He's all powerful, yes. I don't know His will. I don't know how He operates.
- Larry King Live CNN Interview, September 14, 2001,
link here

"Brigham Young said if you went to Heaven and saw God it would be Adam and Eve. I don't know what he meant by that." Pointing to a grim-faced portrait of the Lion of the Lord, as Young was called, Hinckley said, "There he is, right there. I'm not going to worry about what he said about those things." I asked whether Mormon theology was a form of polytheism. "I don't have the remotest idea what you mean," Hinckley said impatiently."
- Hinckley Interview in "Lives of the Saint", New Yorker, January 2002
link here

"Beyond the wonderful and descriptive words found in sections 76 and 137 [D&C 76; D&C 137] we know relatively little concerning the celestial kingdom and those who will be there. At least some of the rules of eligibility for acceptance into that kingdom are clearly set forth, but other than that, we are given little understanding."

"The next question you ask is why Eve was created from Adam. I can only respond that an all-wise Creator did it that way...."

"Now, Virginia, you call attention to the statement in the scriptures that Adam should rule over Eve. (See Gen. 3:16.) You ask why this is so. I do not know."

"You ask whether men are more important than women. I am going to turn that question back to you. Would any of us be here, either men or women, without the other?"
- The Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, November 1991 Young Womens Conference, “Daughters of God,” (Ensign, Nov. 1991, Page 97)

Question: "There are some significant differences in your beliefs [and other Christian churches]. For instance, don't Mormons believe that God was once a man?"

Hinckley: "I wouldn't say that. There was a little couplet coined, "As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become." Now that's more of a couplet than anything else. That gets into some pretty deep theology that we don't know very much about."
- Interviewing Gordon B. Hinckley, San Francisco Chronicle, April 13, 1997, p 3/Z1

From an interview Jan 29th, 2002 conducted by reporter Helmut Nemetschek, ZDF television, Germany, at Salt Lake City, Utah, in the Church Administration Building:

Question: "Until 1978 no person of color attained the priesthood in your church. Why it took so long time to overcome the racism?"

Hinckley: "I don’t know. I don’t know. (long pause) I can only say that. (long pause) But it’s here now. We’re carrying on a very substantial work on Africa for instance and in Brazil. We’re working among their people developing them."

Question: "Now, Mr. President, one question which is a little bit complicated for me to understand but I heard it an one colleague asked me to ask you. What will be your position when DNA analysis will show that in history there never had been an immigration from Israel to North America? It could be that scientists will find out?"

GBH: "It hasn’t happened. That hasn’t been determined yet. All I can say is that’s speculative. No one really knows that, the answer to that. Not at this point."
- Interview Jan 29th, 2002 conducted by reporter Helmut Nemetschek, ZDF television, Germany, at Salt Lake City, Utah, in the Church Administration Building.
link here

From an interview on the Australian Broadcasting Company's Sunday night television show COMPASS:

COMPASS:: So in retrospect was the Church wrong in that [denying blacks the priesthood]?

HINCKLEY: No I don't think it was wrong. It, things, various things happened in different periods. There's a reason for them.

COMPASS: What was the reason for that?

HINCKLEY: I don't know what the reason was.

COMPASS: Is it a problem for the Church that it is still.. has a tag of being racist?

HINCKLEY: No, I don't think so. I don't see that anymore.

- Australian Broadcasting Company, COMPASS, April 8, 2005

Question: "Is this the teaching of the church today, that God the Father was once a man like we are?"

Hinckley: "I don't know that we teach it. I don't know that we emphasize it. I haven't heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don't know. I don't know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don't know a lot about it and I don't know that others know a lot about it."
- Interviewing Gordon B. Hinckley, Time Magazine, Aug 4, 1997
link here

When asked about the church's posture towards Homosexuals, Hinckley said he knows they "have a problem." So Larry King asked him if they were born with this "problem:"

KING: A problem they caused, or they were born with?

HINCKLEY: I don't know. I'm not an expert on these things. I don't pretend to be an expert on these things. The fact is, they have a problem.
- Larry King Live CNN Interview, December 26, 2004,
link here

Regarding the Mountian Meadows Massacre, the Prophet said: "No one can explain what happened in these meadows 142 years ago. We may speculate, but we do not know. We do not understand it. We cannot comprehend it. We can only say that the past is long since gone."
- The Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, Mountain Meadows Massacre Monument Ceremony, September 11th, 1999,
link here

When is a "prophet" speaking as a man? Apparently every time he opens his mouth...

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Review of John Dehlin's "Why They Leave" presentation

[This is a power-point presentation that can only be viewed by Internet Explorer Browsers using a PC. If you have a Mac, or using another browser, click here to go to John Dehlin's Mormon Stories site.]

I sent a TBM member I know a link to this site. She just sent back an email thanking me, telling me she watched it and can see now why I chose to leave. BUT not one word about the particulars (like JS having many wives, Mark Hoffman scandal, the rock-in-a-hat translation) so I really doubt that she really did watch it, since she has previously denied any of these things happened.

It's frustrating having to plant all these tiny seeds, water them constantly, pull weeds and make sure they get plenty of sunlight, but I guess that's the best way to make a garden...

I just can't understand John's position that the church has a dilemma when it comes to admitting the basis of their religion has been proven unfounded, yet they feel it's in the best interest to perpetuate the myth for the sake of those who still believe in it vs. yanking the rug out from under them and letting the church authority fall apart.

Seems to me that the church is the one that created this false impression and delusion in the first place, and it only serves the interests of those in authority to keep the myth in place. It's not right for them to continue to hammer in the ideas of "one true church" to the faithful masses while a few lucky people that happen upon John's website get to learn all about the problems and then find ways to maintain their involvement by becoming a 'cafeteria Mormon'. Most people don't know they have the choice to do so, and that's the way the church wants it to stay.

That's why I left. I can't abide the constant drumming and drilling of the mantras of "one true church" and then work my way around all those expectations to maintain the perception of upholding Mormonism teachings when I know that there are thousands who take it literally and expect others to do the same. My sister is a classic example of this. I would never be able to get away with cafeteria Mormonism when compared to her interpretations of the teachings.

I think it's dishonest to remain in the church and keep a straight face when you don't believe a word of it. It's a waste of time trying to position yourself as a role model of moderation when you're expected to tow the line like everyone else. Besides, more often then not, if you aren't acting 100% like the most devout, they start to question among themselves why you get to maintain your recommend and do half the work. Then they complain to the bishop that you aren't being held to the same standards they are. Then when they slack off too, and attend only every other weekend, and reduce their calling responsibilities, and limit their participation in classes, etc., they point out that you have been doing it for years and still maintain your membership status on equal footing.

Then it's only a matter of time before the bishop gets on your case about attendance, tithing, calling responsibilities and other such "obligations", because even the smallest perception that someone is getting a pass when others must struggle through the least bit of sin (like making up missed tithing payments in order to obtain a recommend, or being disfellowshipped because of heavy petting) receives scorn and private condemnation of your fellow members. It's somewhat like running a kindergarten, in my opinion. There's always Sister Bertha-better-than-you who runs and tattles to the Bishop every small infraction she sees (like wearing flip-flops to sacrament meeting), and suddenly you're hauled in to explain yourself, or chastised to be a better example.

The church is wrong to keep perpetuating the myth of Joseph's divinity and the restoration of Jesus' original church organization, and just because they have worked themselves into a hole doesn't mean that they should now keep it going for the sake of preserving the status quo and maintaining the belief system so that people don't get upset and question what they have been taught. That's exactly what should happen, in my opinion. They are covering their own asses, by purposefully NOT looking any further than they have to, so they don't have to deal with the possibility of it not being true. Then they can keep up the act and maintain authority.

A lie is a lie is a lie, and it don't matter if it comes in black, white, or all the shades of the rainbow. Everyone deserves an equal chance to decide what to base their lives on, and those missionaries are sent out worldwide with one thing on the agenda: "feed them milk and sugar, never show them gristle or blood".

And John, if you are reading this, consider for a moment that you have an advantage that most members of your ward do not, that you have been presented or made aware of all the pertinent facts and have made a choice based upon that information, but not everyone does. Is that really fair and honest to knowingly allow such a divide within the church? Aren't you actually helping perpetuate that system by remaining active in the church and upholding the leaders, even though you don't take it literally like they expect you to? Don't you see that as cutting corners and re-interpreting to fit your own needs?

Why not ACTIVELY promote it, John Dehlin?

Don't you think having a website sometimes isn't enough?

My family used to come by all the time and read my blog, accusing me of all kinds of sin for "tearing down the church". Like you, I arrived at a place where I couldn't believe the literal interpretations of the church, its leaders and most of the devout followers. I left because I feel it's dishonest to help perpetuate the myth, even by allowing them to count me as a faithful devout member. I knew that I wasn't ever going to be devout again, after learning that the literal interpretations were wrong.

I am not on board with remaining in the church and acting as a covert spy, skimming under the radar to avoid detection, and gaining the popular vote for my acts of kindness. You are still subjected to the judgment of humans who believe they have the authority to intercede between you and God. Remaining in the church means having to pass their judgment from time to time, and that keeps the myth of priesthood authority alive and well in the Mormon belief system. But, I was a convert. I don't have multi-generations of Mormonism. I can see how 'cafeteria Mormonism' helps those who don't want to cause family strife or burn away the memories of those early pioneer families who believed 'literally' that Brigham Young was their God on the earth.

There are thousands converted every year, based on the same myth that holds those who have been born into the belief. This is wrong, in my opinion. Those who are multi-generational have reasons to hold on to those myths, because it ties the family together. I believe that those who are converted should be given the entire truth before choosing to join, or it's not an honest gain. I feel that the responsibility lies with SLC and the missionary program. They can (and have) done whatever it takes to gain converts, to keep the church alive, to keep the coffers filled with tithes, and to keep the loyal base strong. It involves the use of "fluffy bunny" information. They do it knowingly. That's why I call it a lie.

I read your essay on your website, (How to Stay in the LDS church after becoming disaffected) and I can't understand how you can advocate paying less than 10% tithe and the church will be satisfied with whatever you decide to offer. Either you are just fortunate to live where you live, or you simply have never heard of cases where people are compelled to pay the entire 10% of their gross, or lose their temple recommend. Is the answer just "move to a different ward"? That doesn't work, because that file follows you everywhere, and so do your past sins, and actions of rebellion (like not paying tithing). If you have a bishop who is out to 'bring you in line', moving to another ward 200 miles away does not solve this problem. (personal experience talking).

What if every member was eventually like you, John? What if they all let go of the literal interpretation, but kept their membership covertly like you do? How would that help prevent thousands of newcomers every year from being indoctrinated into the "one true church" concept?

Let's say that in your ward of 200+ members, everyone was just like you, taught the lessons they felt were acceptable to them as Christians, skipped over the parts they don't agree with, and re-interpreted the messages of the GA's so that it fits their world view? How long would that last, before some SP or Area Authority noticed this rogue ward and made a special trip to give the sacrament talk on "Loyalty to the Church"?

In my view, it would be impossible for everyone in the church to adopt your position, because it would tear down the base of loyalty and devotion needed to sustain the church in the first place. They need the myth. It's the only magical claim they have. It's what sets the Mormon church apart and lures people to leave their own church behind to join up. People are becoming convinced that the Mormon church has something to offer them that no other church can do: authority and priesthood power. By choosing to remain, you are becoming complicit in upholding the myth.

I chose to leave because I refuse to uphold a church whose claims are designed to "replace" mainstream Christian beliefs. Missionaries don't limit themselves to non-Christian types, their target group is other Christians. Their bait is a lie, in my opinion. And I have the concern for others of various Christian beliefs, in that I don't wish for them to chose to become Mormon, live the Mormon lifestyle of "literal belief", make the sacrifices necessary to belong, and cut off their children and grandchildren who decide it isn't for them. In my opinion, they would do just as well without the Mormon belief system if they just maintained their membership in whatever Christian denomination they currently uphold.

I can see why you would want to stay, John. But making the case for others to stay is only helping the church continue to draw others in that are not as enlightened as you are. Do you ever hope to reach them all with your message? And if you reach enough to really make a difference, wouldn't that be undermining the authority of the church? Lots of people get ex'd for doing what you do, and I don't think it's right that some get to remain in good standing while others are cut off and bullied into submission. That's another reason to get out, in my opinion.