Thursday, December 11, 2008

Brigham Young's statement on Polygamy to women in existing marriages

I recently discovered the following website:

http://www.wivesofjosephsmith.org/

It details Joseph's various marriages, 11 of which were to women in existing marriage relationships.

I, of course, clicked on Sylvia's relationship with Joseph. One paragraph really stuck out for me:

Sylvia married Joseph Smith on February 8, 1842, when she was 23 years old. It is uncertain if her husband, Windsor, was aware of the marriage, but she did continue to live with him. Brigham Young taught that “if the woman preferred a man higher in authority, and he is willing to take her and her husband gives her up-there is no Bill of divorce required...it is right in the sight of God”. Brigham also explained that the woman, “...would be in a higher glory”. This may help shed light on Sylvia’s complex marriage arrangement.

I'm baffled by the terminology 'preferred' here. Brigham Young, the prophet of the church, seems to imply that if you are in a relationship, you may prefer somebody else and that would be ok to marry and sleep with them.

This kind of view seems so counter-intuitive.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Preparing to meet the Church's historian, Marlin K. Jensen

About a week ago, my grandfather, who lives just a few miles away from me called me to tell me that he had procured me an interview with the church's historian, Marlin K. Jensen. Over the following days, I have been wondering how does one prepare to meet with such a person. Until just moments ago, I had planned to simply show up with some of the issues that have been weighing on my intellectual honesty.

I have been calling his office the last couple of days, but I have had the misfortune of missing his secretary, and his secretary hasn't returned my calls.

After today's call, I decided to learn more about Mr. Jensen. What would our conversation be about? Who would I be talking to? Would this man's demeanor be one of righteous irrationality (as I too often find), or would I find my conversation to be a delightful discussion with a man who has studied the church history from an objective point of view?

Would I find a man who had compartmentalized the church's inconsistencies into his back dark closet of items best forgotten and relies on the spirit to keep the door shut, or will I find a man who has been willing to take the risky steps necessary on the path to personal intellectual honesty and individual resolution?

I'm not sure which I would find. Since my visit with him will be so short, I decided it might be useful to 'google' Mr. Jensen to discover something about him that I could understand and gauge my reluctance and interest in him, and learn something about which he might be able to tell me.

My google search returned quite a few hits on him. I found an interview with him done by the PBS documentary called the Mormons, and read it.

I think I may have found a man that may speak on my level. I contrasted his speech with that of other Church historians and apologists such as Hugh Nibley. I could never quite understand the arguments Mr. Nibley would make. Mr. Jensen on the other hand, had some similarities to me. He seemed to question several questionable aspects of church history. Luckily for him, he confronted those aspects early on in his life, rather than pushing them to the back of his conciousness as I did. In some ways, I am jealous of this. I so wish that I could have done that and I could have spared the hurt and personal spritual conflict that I have brought to my own family.

While reading his interview, I considered a few questions that I may want to ask him:

In your PBS interview, you mention that Joseph smith kept a daily accounting of his life since his 20th birthday on, and that the Joseph Smith Papers Project contain that. Will those papers be uncensored? Will those papers talk about his reasoning for taking the wife of another for his own wife?

The Church has taken on Proposition 8 with quite a fury, asking members of the church to use their means and time to promote it. In the church's polygamous history, the church promoted an unconventional type of marriage and attempted to redefine marriage as a union between a man and several women. According to Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith himself even took to wife 10 of the spouses of other married men (including my great, great, grandmother).

The Gay community strives to redefine marriage as a union between individuals of the same sex.

The similarities are great. The church desires to restrict another group from a similar right they were denied in the church's infancy. In that respect, at least they want the government to be consistent.

But, since the church believes that the state should permit them freedom of religion, and that the state should permit it with others as well, why does the church feel so strongly that it should block another group's fervent desire, if not religious desire, to redefine marriage in a way that will allow them equal social citizenship?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Prayer revisited

One thing that I really miss is prayer. Although I don't believe in God, somehow, I wish that I believed in prayer. I don't know where I saw this quote, but I really agree with it. "I don't believe in God anymore, but I really miss Him"
I find that I can't bring myself to believe in a supernatural being, but I miss what believing God can bring. A common God, or religion would really help. For example, for couples and families it provides a framework and guidelines for expectations. God says do this, and the people follow. The people follow without too much questioning, but they follow. I made that sound negative, because part of it is. But the other part of it isn't all that negative really. Kids understand they should act honestly, and husbands and wives have a basis for trust and responsibility.
At the end of the day, or at the beginning of the day, families can huddle together for prayer. While saying this prayer, everyone comes together and you hear what the members of the family are thinking about. You begin to become one as a family.
That's sure one of the things that miss most about losing faith in God.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Paying it forward...

So much thought is put into whether charity should be anonymous, or whether it should have names attached to it. While it is true that many people give to charity in order to improve their possibly tarnished name (The Phillip Morris company comes to mind), I wonder how much it really matters.

Names are important. Good deeds are important. You can tell much of a person by how much that person may or may not give, by their charity.

The Pay It Forward idea seemingly first practiced by Benjamin Franklin, later by the science fiction author Heinlein and finally popularized by the movie based on Catherine Ryan Hyde's book [wiki] doesn't necessarily rely on anonymity. In fact, anonymity would possibly make it more difficult for the young philanthropist played by Haily Joel Osment to sketch out the pay it forward network on his screen.

I have been searching for the ultimate web application. I think I always am, even though the gold rush is mostly over. One idea that comes to mind is the pay-it-forward web application done as a plugin to Facebook. I would model the rules after Oprah's experiment done on October 26, 2006. The money had to be spent within one week and could only be used to help charitable organizations or an individual person but not a relative.

I would love to see how it might possibly blossom, especially when put onto such a large networking site like Facebook.

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Übermensch (Superman)

Frederick Nietzsche wrote about Superman. He didn't write about the Detective Comic's Superman that we all know about, but rather, the next step of man in evolution. His premise referred to man's current disgust and ridicule of the ape, or even of the cromagnon man. When humans finally evolve to the next step in our evolutionary step, won't those humans laugh at what we have accomplished?

Part of his thoughts are that this next step in the evolutionary chain will include moral, ethical and theological evolutions. The next man will be able to produce a moral fabric that doesn't rely on a Supreme, all-knowing, all moral being, but instead will be able to rely on the ever-changing dynamics of the human condition to determine the new rules of morality and ethics.

I continue to live in fear of the morality and ethics produced by religion. I wonder if religion wasn't somehow created to help those in power to establish a baseline morality for the masses. Once in power, with God on their side, they can continuously determine the laws of the land. Perhaps this is where the ancient battle of the God's supremacy emerged.

I can imagine the races and clans discovering more and more gods to form economic and political policies. Each faction would continue to find means of supporting why their god or group of gods is the only true god(s), or is the best to follow. The superstition would run wild in this kind of atmosphere.

Humans are highly superstitious. For some reason, we would much rather accept supernatural explanations for the unexplained experiences in our lives, than search for natural reasons, or accept that we don't know enough about what might have happened in a particular circumstance. Our drive to have answers drives us to create the answers through super natural explanations and realities.

Notes on Reconciliation

Sunday, I spoke with three members of the ward who came to visit. They showed concern for my well being and the well being of my family. I don't want to go into too much detail, but there was one discussion that stood out for me. I explained to them the major issue that I have with polygamy. I asked them how it is that they can reconcile Joseph Smith taking wives from members of the church and having children with them. How can they feel like that is ok with them. Two of the answers were not much of a surprise to me. I have tried these answers on myself:
  • I was not there at the time and things were different then for them then they are now, so I can't judge.
  • All I know is how I feel when I read the Book of Mormon.

The third answer did surprise me. He said, "Brent, if God Himself were to ask you to do something, anything, would you do it?" I thought about it for a few beats.

I replied, "If God Himself were to ask me to take your wife as my own and have children, I would not do it. I would question where it is that I was getting my revelations from."

He replied, "That is the difference between you and me. I would know that God is all powerful, and all knowing, and that he knows things that I don't understand, and so I would do it, just as God required tests of prophets of old, such as Abraham."

He is right. That is the difference between him and I. I later asked him, "Would the same hold true if the prophet asked you instead of God Himself?"

He replied, "Just stick with the premise. If God Himself asked it." I could see that I could not move to the corollary that is generally accepted within the church, and that is that the leadership of the church speaks for God.

This is one of the most dangerous parts of a religion for me. A leader of the church can ask anything of the members of the church because God has asked it. Once it becomes God's will, the followers don't question it, but I believe that they should question it. This is the premise that Holy Wars are fought under, and the premise that polygamy falls under as well.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Does Science Create or Enable Hedonism?

From an essay on : Does science make belief in God obsolete? by Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, O.P., he states:

The increase in leisure and health brought about by our increasing mastery over Nature has not resulted, as the ancient sages supposed, in an increase in wisdom and the contemplation of the good, the true, and the beautiful. Instead, our technology-based leisure is more likely to result in quiet hedonism, consumerism, and mind-numbing mass entertainment.

Definition: hedonism - an ethical system that evaluates the pursuit of pleasure as the highest good

Although I want to disagree, I must agree that we as human beings, do tend to lazily move ourselves toward leisure, rather than loftier pursuits such as wisdom, the good, the true, and the beautiful.

I'm not sure how bad this is though.

Humanist Prayers?

I agree with the idea of prayers. The age-old addage, "Families that pray together, stay together." eludes to the unity, togetherness and commonality that prayer brings. So what does a family do once one of the family members (like me) decides that they don't wish to pray to God anymore? Should the family stop praying? Should the family push this unifying tool aside?

Prayer glues the thoughts of individuals together. In the case of the family, prayer helps everyone in the family recognize common goals that are wished for by some or all of the family members. It helps family members set goals and visualize the future of the family. Throwing out the tool would ignore the benefits just to spite the religious ritual. Not all of the religious rituals are bad.

But how do we make the prayer work for both the humanist and religious mind? In general, prayer has the following structure:
Dear Heavenly Father...
Thank you for...
Forgive us for...
Please bless us with...
In the name of ...

Dear Heavenly Father...
The prayer invokes supernatural help from above by being sure to be thankful, and then asking humbly for those things needed. Since a humanist believes in the moral power of humans, the humanist prayer should invoke it as such. The opening could become: My Fellow Brothers & Sisters...

Thank you for... & Forgive us for...
I find it calming and positive remembering the good and bad in the past together with others that I care about. Thinking back on the things in the past that we are thankful for and regret has intrinsic values. Although I prefer to focus on the positive, without recognizing our errors and crimes against our fellow humans, we are bound to continue them. The only way that I would change this would be to state: We feel thankful for... & We recognize our shortcomings and understand that we have failed in ... We strive to do better...

Please bless us...
This phrase enumerates the goals, desires and wishes of the group. Vocalizing these desires and needs puts them into the forefront of the collective conciousness of the group. But instead of invoking the blessings from a supernatural being, this phrase should recognize the importance that each member of the group has in realizing the need or desire. This phrase should emphasize the level of reliance that each member of the group has on others in the group rather than depend on external forces. This will enable the responsibility of seeing these things to sit directly with the group. To accomplish this statement, the prayer should state something like the following: We need each other to ...

In the name of...
Humanist do not wish to assign this prayer to any deity or other supernatural being, but would rather assign it to themselves. Therefore, the prayer could end as: In the name of (insert name of group here)... Amen

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Humanism, a possible model for moral humans

What Am I Now?

So, after thinking about why I'm not a Mormon, I gotta think about what I am. What do I stand for now. Am I still socially responsible? Do I still love my family? Do I still love my wife? Am I still honest? Am I an ex-mormon, a baptist, atheist or a Jack-Mormon? Who am I?

Ex-Mormon?

At first I thought that I might me an ex-mormon. But this group of people, while it does accurately describe me, does not really fit me. As I read their blogs and writings, I find so much hate. I know that I'm not a hater. I love people. I cherish my relationships with all people, and enjoy tolerance with them as much as possible. I can understand their hate toward mormonism. I felt it too, because at first, you feel like, they lied to me! But now, I realize that very few Mormons knowingly lied to me. Therefore, I can't be an ex-mormon. I think ex-mormon is a synonym to anti-mormon. While I am not for Mormonism for myself, I am certainly not heavily against it. So scratch Ex-Mormon for what I am.

Atheist?

I don't think that I'm necessarily against God either. While I don't believe in God. I don't feel the need to deny others their belief in God. As I read works from leading Atheists such as Richard Dawkins and such, my thoughts and emotions don't harmonize with them. I can see the reasons for their near hatred toward God, religion and the tragedies that have occurred related to them, but I just don't share their utter hatred and intolerance. Scratch Atheism.

Jack Mormon?
I can't say. I don't even know one of them. Maybe I'll end up being one of them...

Baptist?
I think it would certainly be more fun to be a Baptist. they have really fun meetings, and sing up a storm. But the more that I think within my soul, the more I find that I don't believe God exists. Today, there is a letter up for auction written by Albert Einstein. In this letter, he states, "The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish." Reference here. I find that this line of thinking resonates with me and sounds correct. Scratch Baptist, or any theist...

Humanist?
Nearly a year ago, or so, I heard an interview on NPR with perhaps, Kurt Vonnegut. I was searching for some existing idea to attach or relate to. It was during this interview that I became familiar with the term 'Secular Humanist'. I was searching for a reason to continue to act, think and do moral things. When I heard this term on the radio, I immediately looked it up when I arrived at the office. I read the Humanist Manifesto and I was impressed with the ideas presented there. They believe that the fact that humans are humans, and that we are all fellow humans is intrinsically enough reason to treat each other as decent human beings.

This I resonated with. This sounds right to me. I am a warm, caring human being. I care deeply for my dear wife, Colleen, my children and the people that I maintain as friends and family. I see no reason to stop feeling this way towards them, just because I don't feel strongly in believing the God story any longer.
Score 1 point for Humanism.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Religious frameworks.

Yesterday, Mother's Day, I didn't go to church. Instead, I made breakfast in bed for Colleen with my kids. We cut tulips and apple blossoms from our garden, and brought in some pancakes for Colleen. She was ecstatic, and then we napped until noon. Glorious.


Later on in the day though, we got out, and stopped by a park. As Colleen and I sat and watched our children play, she asked me (I'm gonna kinda paraphrase), "So now what do we do. I just don't know what we are supposed to do now with our kids. Raising them in the church was fairly straightforward, and well defined. It would generally promote morally straight people. Now how am I meant to teach them high moral principles?"


Another friend of mine had a similar discussion with me recently as well. He told me that had it not been for the religious framework of the Church, he could have turned out pretty poorly, including various rather criminal and dark activities.


I've never really had those tendencies. For him, he feels that pull towards the dark side is always there, and if it weren't for the church's framework, he would heed the call.


I wasn't sure what to tell her about that. I began by talking about how we might take a humanist approach to it. I cited how I seemed to have read that the humanities taught in liberal universities were after all, created from the great humanists such as Socrates and the Greeks.

She immediately reminded me that those great Greeks were also pedophiles who made their tutored young boys repay their instruction by bending over.

I'm not sure what to say to her about that. I am convinced that a person can live a moral life without the moral frameworks that religious frameworks provide.

I think of the completely wrong frameworks that some provide, and I cringe a little bit at that.

I did find an interesting blog about this though. It seems this isn't an easy answer.

Also, I read another article that talks about how defining an ethical and moral framework for humanists and folks who don't believe in a god as an area of major concern.

Perhaps this is the next step in my journey.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Superstition vs. Religion

Several Months ago, I sat with Colleen in Gospel Doctine class. As the teacher directed the discussion, and pointed out scriptures and references, he eventually opened up the discussion to class members to share their spiritual experiences. I forget the topic of the conversation, but I recall how class member after class member would recount their spiritual experiences to the group, often with tears as they were moved by the spirit. One tale in particular talked about how she was told to do something or else she would be killed. Then she did whatever she was told to do, and she wasn't killed, but feels that for sure she would have been killed had she not done it.

My reaction to the situation was so adverse, that I had to excuse myself from the discussion before I became visually disturbed and let on to my discomfort. The whole thing felt so superstitious to me. I felt as though I must surely have been transported back to an earlier day during the darkness before the enlightenment period.

Looking back now, I see how superstition and superstitious beliefs crept up in so many cultures. I see how one thing, followed by another's story could build, and build. What worries me the most is that many of these superstitions govern our lives. They act like little parasites, sucking out our ability to reason through the really tough spells in our lives. As an example, consider you are lost in the forest, or in the city, or that you have lost something... Ancient cultures would often consult the sages for guidance to find such a missing thing. If you wer in this ancient culture, you would be out consulting the sages, rather than forming a search possee, or considering other options should the missing article never return. I admit, that you may do all three, look, consult and consider backup options, but in any case, you have dedicated 33% of your energies to the sages, while you could have dedicated those energies to rational thought instead.

This rationality scares me because what should happen when religious leaders take power, and a crisis mounts. Take gasoline for example: Should we pray for lower gas prices? Should we spend any amount of time at all praying for lower gas prices? A religious leader, seeing his congregation in monetary peril, might indeed pray for lower gas prices, and perhaps might even receive confirmation that if his congregation should just pay a full tithing, then lower gas prices would certainly arrive. His coffers would fill up, his congregation would have faith, and then when the gas prices do indeed lower, he would be confirmed as correct. If his prophecy didn't come true, then he could claim it was due to the lack of faith on the part of his parishioners. Perhaps not enough of the parishioners paid their tithing. Either way, the leader has more money for his church, and plenty of work for the future, while the parishioners could have been concentrating on other solutions. They could have been concentrating on rational solutions such as lowering their gas intake through forming car-pools, alternative energies, etc. Instead, they would concentrate on a supernatural power to work on the natural.

I was impressed today while reading about Wang Ch'ung, the ancient chinese philosopher. He had some very impressive arguments against the superstition that plagued his age. Some of his arguments are almost comical.
For instance:
  • If ghosts are the souls of those who have died, then there would be so many ghosts around, that we would see them all of the time.
  • If ghosts are the spirit of a living creature, why don't we see little ghost dogs, cats, insects, etc. since they all have similar vital principle.
  • As a follow on, why do people see ghosts with their clothes on. Are we to assume that clothing also has a spiritual makeup? Shouldn't the ghosts be nude?
  • To say that Heaven provides us food and clothing is to say it acts as our farmer or tailor — an obvious absurdity

Monday, April 28, 2008

Seen with his Spiritual Eye

John H. Gilbert, one of the printers of the first Book of Mormon, counted that he spoke with Martin Harris, one of the three witnesses of the actual gold plates, and financer.

When John Gilbert asked Martin Harris if he actually saw the plates, Martin Harris reported that he saw the plates with his spiritual eyes.

http://www.boap.org/LDS/Early-Saints/JHGilbert.html

What can this mean?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Lure...

Mormonism promises eternal life with our loved ones in a perfectly resurrected state if we will live by the commandments revealed by the prophets. That promise is pretty great. I can't help but consider how that seems so similar to other lures in my life.

The Premise
Confidence men offer you amazing deals to draw you in to their confidence. The offers and promises are fantastic, and they present themselves as experts in their field of knowledge. Some will even present themselves as 'THE' expert to prove how it is that they can offer such promises while no others can. They have been studying, and experiencing and they know their promises and offers will be rewarding because they have experienced the promises and offers themselves.

Human nature pulls us in to listen, and asks us to give it a try. Human Nature requires us to listen out of fear, hope and faith that the amazing promise might actually be real. So we listen, we give it faith because we know that most men are honest and endeavor to help other men where possible. We decide to hear more to determine if the promise and offer is actually true.

We all need to save money and make the best of our lives with what we have, or perceive to have. So when we are looking for something, anything, we look for the best possible option. While we are looking, we encounter everybody's offerings.

Example 1:
Five years ago when I was looking for a new laptop, I looked at Dell, and Gateway and I found the make and model that I thought would work the best for me as a software engineer. Then I thought, I'll look at ebay as well. I found my make and model there and at a greatly reduced price. I had heard that you could get good deals from ebay, so I investigated more. This auction was different from most other auctions. The text read that in order to receive this unbelievable deal, I had to operate by the sellers distinct rules:
  • This auction was a closed auction.
  • You had to send an email to the seller to be approved to bid on the items.
  • You had to wire the money via western union.
  • You could use an escrow company for the purchase, but it had to be the escrow company the seller chose (EU Escrow), instead of the reputable escrow company ebay escrow.

The deal felt fishy, so I emailed the seller and we began to converse over chat about the deal. He was very upbeat and assured me that the deal was completely on the level, and he could even answer many questions I had about the laptop. But when I asked him if we could use an escrow company of my choosing, he adamently refused, claiming that it would break his perfectly streamlined business model and that he just couldn't do it. If I wanted this deal, I would have to adhere to his rules exactly. No matter what I did, I couldn't convince him. I didn't do the deal

Another example that points much closer is the following:

Example 2:
A year or so ago, I began talking with a neighbor of mine, well call him Johnson. Johnson occupied his time by providing financial advice supported by several financial products. These products included standard Life Insurance products and a new and exciting product that promised to provide future wealth to me and my wife and family. Johnson felt sure that this product would work. In a nutshell, he asked me to mortgage my house, take out the equity ($150K) and give it to him. He had an investment fund that would pay 2% every month. With the monthly money from that investment fund ($3,000/month), we would pay for the extra monthly payment on the house + a life insurance annuity that would build up and be very large when we retired. I studied it, read books, talked to Colleen about it and eventually decided that it was the right thing to do. I decided it sounded correct, and I also decided to place trust in my neighbor Johnson. I truly believe that Johnsonfelt this would work to help me become wealthy and him too.

Unfortunately, Johnson's plan failed. The housing market which his fund was based on plummeted and he had to stop the 2% monthly payments to all of his investors. It got bad for him and me really quick, eventually causing him to lose his house, and me to make major cutbacks and take on another job.

Comparison:
This reminds me of Joseph Smith on so many levels.
  • He offered eternal life with our families.
  • He felt he had been blessed from God to reveal the plan that would make it possible for those who would follow the plan precisely to achieve eternal life. Joseph outlined the plan fairly intricately to his investors/followers.
  • He had plenty of reason to think that he was exclusively qualified to present this plan because of past experiences with both magic and other supernatural & divine experiences.
  • He had the trust of those around him, and they trusted him too.


In the end though, Joseph Smith revealed parts of the plan to produce eternal life and everlasting marriage that were just too expensive for his followers and these turned out to be his downfall and he was murdered for it:
  • He required investors to take on plural wives as directed by him or their bishop.
  • He required them to promise to agree to give all they had to the investment group.
  • He began trying many different things to hold it all together.

The implementation of the plan began to crumble, and Joseph did too. He lost everything, and so did many of his investors. They became very angry with him for his lust for the flesh, and his inability to continue to guide the group to prosperity. He created cities and financial organizations that he promised would prosper and bring prosperity to all those who were part of it. None would be excluded. These organizations didn't prosper, they crumbled.

Conclusion:
Draw your own conclusions if you'd like, but for me, I don't believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I don't believe he was completely intellectually dishonest with himself at first, but it seems that at some point he should have figured out that it wasn't working out anymore and that he was mistaken. If there is a God, he wasn't directing Joseph Smith to command his followers to take plural wives. He wasn't helping him find buried treasure. I don't blame folks for following him. I did as well. The promises were amazing, and I wish that they were true. I wished so much that they were true, that I forced myself for so long to ignore evidence that they might not be true. But I can not ignore the evidence anymore. Now I must do with the evidence the same as I did when I figured out that the laptop couldn't be mine. The man didn't even have a laptop, he just wanted investments for his own gain. I have cut off communication with that man, and I don't give anymore money to Johnson either. I don't give money to the church and I don't contribute my time to it either.

The Official Wife Count

Richard Lyman Bushman stated in an interview with Frontline for a PBS special, "... Joseph took as many as 30 wives, 10 of which were already married to other men. Joseph Smith also had an affair with Fanny Alger, a 19 year old house maid serving in his home.

"There was pressure put on these women, telling them it was the Lord's will and that it would bring them blessings." In the end, bringing resentment to Emma as well.

The revelation brings celestial marriage, if you practice polygamy as well. When Joseph asked Brigham Young, Brigham said no, but later relented because it was required to achieve celestial eternal marriage. Eventually, Brigham Young had 50 wives, eventually bearing him 57 children.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Richard Lyman Bushman's Interview

I just listened to Richard Lyman Bushman's Interview:
http://www.stevenrinehart.com/uploads/BusmanIntrv-48br.mp3
In his interview, I was surprised to learn of a few other observations:
  • Joseph Smith was a treasure seeker in his youth, using seer stone magic to help his father uncover buried treasure. More can be found from D. Michael Quinn's study.
  • Joseph Smith was a contemporary of a man named Ethan Smith (no relation) who wrote an article or book entitled 'View of the Hebrews' describing the local indian population as descendants of the Hebrews, coming here on boats many years ago.
  • Richard Bushman Lyman claims that Joseph never 'translated' like we might see somebody translate. In fact, he didn't even look at the plates while translating.
  • Emma couldn't hardly stomach the polygamy. She tried to handle it for about 2 weeks and allowed Joseph to marry 4 women during that time. She just couldn't handle that last part of Joseph's 'religion'.
  • He also describes Joseph in his early years as part money digger & part prophet.
  • He describes the link between Mormonism and Free Masonry as 'there is some relationship'. It's foolish to say there is no connection, but the temple activities were probably seeded from it.
  • Describes Joseph as a great thinker or revelator, whatever you choose to call it.

See, in my opinion, these things don't sit well with me.

The interview was done on a website: http://www.stevenrinehart.com/

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Joseph's Secret Daughter

I've been working in the family history center during church. The church produced a new program called new.familysearch.org. This program allows church members to research and straighten up their family history by removing duplicates. My first day doing this, I decided just to go back on my lines to see where I came from. As I researched my father's line, it went back a few generations to a woman named Josephine Rosetta Lyon.

The church's software displayed her parents: Joseph Smith Jr. and Sylvia Porter Sessions.

I looked and couldn't believe what I saw. I researched it even more and found that it was indeed, Joseph Smith, the prophet of the LDS faith. Sylvia was one of Joseph's other wives. I researched it even a little bit further using the church's software to find that at the time that Josephine was born, Sylvia was married to two men; Joseph Smith & Windsor Palmer Lyon. See the timeline here:

Josephine's Birthday: 1844-1924
Windsor Palmer Lyon: 1809-1849
Sylvia & Windsor Palmer Lyon's Wedding Date: 1838
Sylvia & Joseph Smith's Wedding Date: 26 January 1842

There is no record of a divorce. This indicates that Joseph and Sylvia were married at the same time she was married to Windsor and that they had the child Josephine.

There is some doubt between interested parties and experts as to whether Josephine is really Joseph Smith's daughter or not, but the following points seems to indicate it is true:
  • The church's software indicates that he is Josephine's father.
  • In an online article Josephine claims to have had a death bed conversation with her mother Sylvia Porter Sessions in which her mother told her that she was indeed Joseph's child.
  • Josephine's name takes root in Joseph's name itself.

Ongoing DNA testing as published in the Deseret News has yet to prove or disprove Josephine's claims.

My Feelings.

It is my feeling that Joseph either was a prophet and did indeed fall in his later years, or that he thought himself a prophet, but his own inconsistencies became too complicated for him to maintain as his many doctrines began to conflict with each other. Or perhaps, he really did believe that God told him that having multiple wives and sexual relationships with these wives was commanded of God. Even if these women were already married at the time.

Either way, I don't believe that if there is a God that he would command his prophet to take wives from existing marriage relationships while he was still very espoused to Emma.

This type of behaviour would inevitably breed resentment & jealousy between any normal women and create personal heartache and possibly depression in their hearts. I refuse to believe that any God of love would favor a man's carnal desires over a woman's tender heart.

I have to think about Fanny Alger on this as well. So many women in Joseph's life having intimate relationships. That can not be what any God had in mind.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

I'm Related to Joseph Smith, How About You?

Joseph Smith apparently had over 100 wives. While many of them were 'sealed' to him after death in a sort of spiritual wedding ceremony that had no legal standing, some number, like 35 or 40 were bound to him legally. Apparently, if you are town mayor, as Joseph Smith was, you can influence the local laws to accomodate plural wives.

While I was at church today, the Elder's quorum met in the family history center. We used a geneology/temple work software program to help remove the duplicate entries in our personal family history. This software allows the user to research their own ancestry as far as it has been entered in and remove all of the duplicates found there in. This would remove the duplicated work.

I went back several generations. I saw my ancestors on the Fisher side immigrating from England to New York. I arrived at one of my great grandmothers (whose name slips my mind right now). I was surprised to see her husbands name. Her husband was Joseph Smith Jr., the founder of the church. I confirmed it to be the right Joseph Smith because his parents were Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack.

As I investigated further, I discovered that she had another husband as well.

I can't quite reconcile how I feel about this. I'm not sure if this means that Joseph Smith not only married other single women, but he also married other married women as well.

Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants promises couples that they will be together forever. It also requires that members enter into this covenant of plural marriage for it to work out. The church doesn't follow that doctrine anymore because it is against the law. The church did not stop the practice until external pressures required them to adopt a doctrine that wouldn't put them into jail. The question that I have to answer is: would God want that? Would A loving God allow the lusts of one man, albeit the chosen prophet, to outweigh the heartbreak of caring, sometime emotionally fragile women?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Spiritual Rehab

As part of my spiritual rehabilitation, I studied several books about Abraham. Colleen bought a book called 'A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri' by John Gee. She also picked up a copy of 'Abraham in Egypt' by Hugh Nibley. I read both books more or less completely.

In all honesty, Mr. Nibley's book was very difficult to understand. I was very frustrated by the book though because it did nothing to try and prove that the characters on the remaining Joseph Smith Papyri would translate to the book of Abraham. Instead, the entire book was an extensive study purporting to prove that the story laid out in Joseph Smith's book of Abraham follows the life of Abraham, and since it follows the life of Abraham, it must be a true translation of the Papyri. This is Hugh Nibley's argument. Hugh makes some rather extensive arguments toward the point, but it seems far to complex of an argument and leaves out the simple argument that still lingers in my head. If Joseph Smith translated the Papyri, and now we have the Joseph Smith Papyri in our posession, why doesn't the Joseph Smith Papyri read the book of Abraham.

Mr. Gee's book was very straightforward. It presented many of the views of the Papyri, stating that the Church didn't actually officially support any of the views, and that members were free to support whichever view they preferred. His book did little to console me. In fact, it did more to push me farther away because of the puzzling and varied claims.

During this time, I stopped paying tithing. I didn't feel like I wanted to give money to a church that was false. My bishop became concerned with me at that point, and brought me in. He threatened to take my temple recommend away. I should have let him do so. Instead, I caved to his pressure, and the pressure coming from Colleen.

She tried her best to pull through this. From her point of view though, I could see that this would be very difficult to handle. We are taught from birth that mormons marry in the temple, and that they can have a forever family if they do so. To her, I think I was very much threatening her family. I was threatening just about everything.

The more that I tried my spiritual rehabilitation, the less that I could reconcile the teachings, history and doctrine of the church with my own personal reason. I knew that I didn't believe, and that no matter what I tried, I could force my self to believe. The conflict was too much for me, so I began to give up.

I paid tithing again, and agreed to attend church meetings. But even so, I felt like everytime I was at church, I was lying to folks there. I saw neighbors and fellow church goers, but it was difficult to look them in the eyes. It was difficult to build relationships with them anymore because I feel that relationships should be built on trust. Why would I want to build a relationship with any of them when I know too well, that they are thinking that I am something that I'm not. So I began to stop building relationships. I began to withdraw.

I began watching TV again too. I watched a lot. I don't believe in taking drugs to escape my problems, but I think that my TV watching has got to be some sort of Mormon drug. For the time I am watching it, I'm able to relieve my mind from the conflict.

Perhaps I am in total denial, much like folks on drugs... But I believe that I am not. I believe that I know who I am, and what I believe.

It is just so hard to actually come out and totally cut myself off because of the pain that will follow. But it is something that I will have to do very soon, before my bad habits take over, and I forget who I am.

Next Joseph's Secret Daughter (My great+++ Grandma)

The Intervention

The somewhat struggling cable channel A&E has a series titled Intervention. I've watched it from time to time, once or twice. The show is always too depressing for me. It involves real people, living really sad lives.

In one episode, a beautiful young daughter turns to drugs and alcohol when her parents get divorced. She loses herself to the narcotics and her life becomes unrecognizable. She lives her life like an animal.

Her loving family finally decides to intervene on her behalf to try and save her. Her family loves her and they miss her dearly.

I am reminded of this television show when I think about the string of events that followed my coming out.

In so many ways, I am flattered at the outpouring of love that my family showed to me. Colleen called several family members of mine to tell them of my apostasy. I received a visit from my grandfather Cheerful Charlie Spurrier. I spoke at length with my father Frank. My mother called and spoke to me for hours at my office at Dynix.

They had some success. They talked to me about the hurt it would cause my family. They spoke of their testimonies. I'm not trying to be sarcastic here. I understood that there was love, hurt, anger as well as several other complicated emotions teaming from them. I promised to go into spiritual rehab.

Next Spiritual Rehab

Intellectual Honesty

After a few days, I decided that I would tell my wife Colleen. I had to tell her. My first step had been honesty with myself, and my next step would be to provide the same with her. As I had mentioned before, this brought me much pause. I knew that I could not go back. But I knew that the way forward would be painful. Somehow, I gathered up the courage to tell her.

Before I did though, I went through so many approaches. I tried to think of when would be the best time. Somehow, my dull mind came up with the brilliant idea of waiting until she was in a great mood. I remember that we went on a date to IHOP. At IHOP, we sat down, and we were enjoying a light meal and each other's company, much as we had always done.

After I told her, I knew it wouldn't be good. My mind kind of blanked a little bit. I mean to say, I felt light headed. I felt light headed and I was glad that I was sitting down. I was glad that she was sitting down too.

She was visibly taken aback. She kept her cool in the restaurant. If I recall, she said things like, is that it? You're not having an affair are you? I wasn't. I never have. But she often thinks that I might be having one because I'm so good looking, I guess. She didn't lose herself until later.

The next day or so, as our whole family were travelling on the I-15 freeway from Orem back to our home in Highland UT, she broke. Our van was travelling down the freeway at about 80 miles an hour and she began yelling at me. She reminded me of all the covenants I had made in the temple. She reminded me of all of the promises that she made to me. The kids were in the back and they were frightened. They began imploring us to stop fighting. One of the kids called me stupid. This was something I already knew.

What kind of smart man would quit watching all that TV and living in Mormon marital bliss for this? A stupid man. Me.

Next The Intervention

The Early Roots of Doubt

Sunday, January 06, 2008

My name is Brent Fisher. I live in Highland Utah. I am a Mormon since my birth, 12 May, 1972. After so many years have passed, I realize now that I must write according to my conscience, both intellectual and spiritual. I suppose the reason that I have not written about this before may stem from my own procrastination. But I think in the interest of my own intellectual honesty, I believe that I am not actually that lazy of a person, but my procrastination has stemmed from a deeply held fear of the truth. This need to procrastinate complexity has formed many bad habits in my life, including excessive TV watching and other wastes of time aimed at taking my mind of off discovering truth.

I think most of us fear some sort of truth. There are many truths that instead of setting a man free, may remove the simplicity from that man’s life, leaving room for an intellectual complexity that could affect most aspects of life including the most important ones. The truths that I speak of are far more inconvenient than the inconvenient truth spoken of by Al Gore. While his truth is inconvenient in that it would cause most of us to bicycle in to work, or car pool, or ride the bus, or telecommute, I speak of life’s complexities.

These complexities are difficult to describe, perhaps, to those who haven’t experienced them. To these fortunate souls, I smile in love and often wish I were them. The spiritual and intellectual complexities that I am speaking about would seem to challenge and shake most of the everyday life. These complexities would change how all of your current relationships with other loved ones would be formed. Family members, who once loved you and cherished you, would now grimace and feel displaced hatred or confusion towards you. Or worse, they may feel misplaced pity.

These complexities may strain extended family relationships in much the same way that you might accidentally strain a muscle in a sporting event, but this muscle may never heal. If each muscle represents one of the aspects of your everyday life like a relationship, or going to work and the sporting event represents life. You may have once enjoyed this sporting event immensely, but now that all your muscles are strained, the sporting event is now painful. The metaphor may not be exactly right, but sometimes it feels like it.

Now imagine, those pains would not occur if you would simply ignore the cause of that pain. Would you do it? For so long, that is exactly what I did. I have endeavored to ignore those stirrings of intellectual incongruity to allow me to continue to enjoy the sport of life.
I am not entirely sure what has caused my intellect to convince my smarter self to quit ignoring those stirrings and investigate. I think part of it must have come from my own stubbornness. Perhaps it was this or something more virtuous such as the proverbial search for truth. I rather doubt it is the latter, since I generally consider myself a bit on the lazy side, but I am a rather stubborn, yet patient man. Whatever it was, I finally started paying attention about three years ago. The seeds of this complexity were planted, however, long before that.

I don’t want to delve too much into the Mormon culture because there is plenty of material out there that talks about both the Doctrine and the culture of Mormonism. I want to just kind of sum it up. I was born into a Mormon family, complete with my Mom and Dad and eight kids. Growing up, I believed in Mormonism because it felt good and my parents were very strong and faithful in taking me to church every Sunday. We all participated faithfully. There are a lot of good things about Mormonism. Following the teachings taught in Mormonism produce a pretty good society I think. I went to church, including Sunday school, Priesthood and graduated from Seminary. When the time came for me to serve an LDS mission, I served in the Barranquilla Colombia mission in 1991-1992, after I graduated from High School. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

Although I had heard of the anti-Mormon literature produced and distributed at the Mormon Miracle Manti Pageant, I was able to intellectually ignore them for most of my teenage life. None of these complexities entered into my life until one day while walking back to my flat in Barranquilla Colombia.

One evening, while heading back to my flat after another hard working day of missionary work, a young man in his twenties began to walk with my companion and me. This young man didn’t talk to us, but waited to be talked to. He knew that even poor grade missionaries wouldn’t pass up a chance to open their mouth to a contact that they didn’t have to knock on a door for.
I don’t want to go into too much detail about my discussion with this fellow. I just want to say that we soon found out that this fellow was a returned missionary who had attended Rick’s College in Idaho. He had since left the church. When we asked him why, he told us that he had discovered that the Book of Mormon had been changed quite a bit since its first release and that to change the book changed some of the doctrine in it as well. This paradox, or conflict of it being a book given by revelation from God, but then requiring revisions to maintain consistency with Mormon doctrine was one of the main reasons that this man left the church and returned to his home in Barranquilla.

After this brief meeting with this man, my companion and I were both mostly speechless for about an hour. We both were shaken. I was fearful to speak a single word of my thoughts to my companion. My companion was much bolder, however. I’m glad he was. After some time spent in deep self thought, he spoke to me. “Did that shake you up like it shook me up?” I answered affirmatively. “Let’s call the Mission President.”

Our conversation helped to ease our fears and thoughts. Our Mission President spoke of the Holy Ghost and the feelings we had that confirmed that the Book of Mormon was true. I justified my belief at that point again, and continued my mission faithfully until its fulfillment. I rarely revisited that experience again during my mission except to immediately dismiss it without further thought. To do so proved practical, convenient and necessary. Any more thoughts about it and I would have had to get to the bottom of it, and the bottom may have led to somewhere that didn’t fit with being on a mission for the Mormons.

I was plenty able to dismiss this first conflict. Then, after I returned home from my mission, I began dating a girl named Tara. Tara and I decided to take a class on the Pearl of Great Price. I didn’t know too much about it, and I hadn’t studied it much. Neither had she. So we began our classes at the Logan Institute of Religion at Utah State University. In that class, we learned that the Pearl of Great Price was papyrus translated by Joseph Smith. The papyrus came from a sort of travelling museum. Members of the church brought the papyrus to Joseph to see what he thought. He declared it as writings from Abrahams own hand. Then our instructor told us more about the history of this papyrus. How it was first believed to be burned in the Chicago fire, but then later turned up at the Metropolitan Museum and ultimately made its way back to the church. It has since been translated using the Rosetta stone and the true translation of the remaining Papyrus discovered. I have learned that this is highly controversial even within the church, and that scholars within the church don’t actually agree on what went on there. I don’t want to go into too much detail about it here because there has been so many books written about it both within and without of the church, that to reproduce it all here would be ridiculous. I will state, however, our instructor’s view. Our instructor taught that when Joseph Smith proclaimed to translate the Papyrus, he used the term ‘translate’ to mean receive a revelation. I.e. Joseph used the papyrus as a sort of spiritual catalyst to receive the Book of Abraham as revelation. At the time, this sat well with me, but ultimately, did not. I took this class sometime in 1994, I believe. I procrastinated resolving it with myself until after I married, had kids and moved back to live in Utah three years ago.

One day, while I worked for Dynix in Provo, I thought upon that experience once more. My thoughts wouldn’t allow me to procrastinate resolution on the matter any longer. I had to decide for myself if I could agree with that man’s intellectual and spiritual reconciliation on the translation vs. revelation matter as it concerns the Book of Abraham. I tried to convince myself that the explanation made sense and that I could continue with my life. If I could agree with the view, then I could maintain simplicity in my life. But I couldn’t do it. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t convince myself that I agreed.

In my mind, either the man translated the Book of Abraham as he said he did, or he should have stated to the world that while he did not translate it, he did receive it as revelation.
I did not agree with it. I knew that I did not agree with it. I felt strongly that I should trust myself and my intellect. If I was wrong, at least I was wrong by myself, not wrong because of so many people before me. I knew that if I were to act on this, I would begin to be singled out, to feel alone. Despite this fear of separating myself from this church, from this social organization that I have known my whole life, I knew that I had to do it. I can’t say that I had hours of continuous deep reflection on the matter. I didn’t. In fact, I did everything in my power to ignore the conflict in my mind. I watched a lot of TV.

Next Intellectual Honesty