Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Resign, Withdraw Your Comments, or Face Church Court

Many of you read my post on An Insider's View of Mormon Origins by Grant Palmer. In that post, I detailed some of the amazing misconceptions of the history of the church. That post appears to have been my undoing. On Thursday, I met with my Bishop to discuss that post, and my apostasy. The church's handbook describes apostasy as follows:

1. Repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.
2. Persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after they have been corrected by their bishops or higher authority.
3. Continue to follow the teachings of apostate sects (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishop or higher authority.

My Bishop pointed out to me that the last paragraph is considered apostasy. He brought a highlighted copy for reference and read it to me aloud with a bit of strain in his voice. I include it here for reference:
It matters to me. I think the truth should will out, and no matter how much Mr. Smiths 'works' draw people to Christ, they were built on complete falsehood. Like former President Bush was wrong to go into Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein under false pretenses, even though Saddam was bad man, Mr. Smith was wrong to invent this wonderful fairy tale to bring people to Christ. Seems like a good goal, but completely unjustified.
In his opinion, this followed point 1 from the manual. I.e. it 'Repeatedly act[ed] in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.'

The key phrase here, I believe, must have been the Mr. Smith was wrong to invent this wonderful fairy tale.

Anyways then, I have resigned. Below follows my resignation letter:
To Whom It May Concern:

With this letter, I hereby submit my resignation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, effective immediately. Please remove my name from membership records.

Last week, my bishop explained to me that I could stop publishing apostate thoughts about church history, resign, or risk enduring church court proceedings. In considering the aspect of censoring my thoughts about this church and its history, I was reminded of Joseph Smith’s attempts at censoring the truth about the sordid details of his polygamous philandering published in the Expositor by his second counselor, William Law. Mr. Law tried to keep quiet as long as possible, but then found he no longer could keep quiet upon learning of the prophet’s indecent proposals to his own wife. Upon publishing the Expositor, the prophet ordered the former friend’s printing press destroyed and all copies of the Expositor destroyed.
I believe that the truth about Mr. Smith can no longer be suppressed, and should be spoken of openly by members of the church and the public. I fear for the morality of the members of this church, that are expected to profess knowledge of the divinity and veracity of both the Book of Mormon, and its prophet, when at most, members have only a strong faith generally based on faith promoting versions of the past.

This decision has come as a result of much study and heartfelt sorrow discovering the shady past of this church that has for so long been such a big part of my life.

I look forward to the day when this church openly and honestly discusses the past and lets the consequences follow as they may.


Brent Fisher

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Can you identify this fossil?

Thanks to an old classmate of mine, Darrin, for this one:

A 47 million-year-old fossil may be from a primate species related to humans, apes and monkeys. Michigan paleontology Professor Philip Gingeric said the newly discovered fossil also supports the adapid theory of evolution, The Wall Street Journal said Monday. A major ongoing evolutionary debate is focused on whether humans descended from an ape-like group called the tarsidae, the known descendants of the modern Asian primate tarsier, or the adapidae, whose modern descendant is Madagascar's lemur.

Gingeric said the new fossil offers evidence for the latter and traditionally less accepted theory.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Hunt For Red October

I'm not sure if you ever saw the movie: The Hunt for Red October. In that movie, Captain Marko Ramius and the officers of his crew conspire to defect because of moral objections they have to the 1st strike weapon they control. To seal the decision to defect, and unknown to his co-conspirators, Captain Ramius sends a letter to high ranking Soviet official, to be opened after they have sailed. This seals his decision, and motivates the rest of the crew to succeed, under penalty of death if they are caught.

In essence, my blog was my letter to the high ranking Soviet official. It let everyone know my thoughts and views, and deal with these thoughts and views on their own time table.

Before that, when I talked to people close to me about it, they tried everything that they could to get me to deny my conscience on the subject, and I succumbed one time - but that only made things harder for me, so I don't back slide anymore.

My stance is that, if they desire to discuss this with me, I'm open, but they had better arrive pretty well prepared, and they should also be willing to risk their own testimonies, because the only way to describe why I left is to detail the proof. The proof is pretty clear in many cases, and sooner or later, reason will engage to take over myth. (Although, some do prefer to remain in ignorant bliss).

Can Cognitive Bias Influence Religious Beliefs? Part I

This is Part I in a series focusing on these cognitive biases and their influence on religion.

Recently, a friend on Facebook shared a thought provoking, albeit crude, video, illustrating how religious beliefs (perhaps unwittingly) suffer from a human evolutionary judgment phenomenon called Cognitive bias described in Cognitive Science and Social Psychology. Unfortunately, his video was too crude for me to share with you, as it is somewhat verbally offensive in several places, so I pulled it from my site. I prefer discussion on a more respectful, objective level.

Since I have degrees in neither Cognitive Science nor Social Psychology, I will be consulting experts and students of the field to learn and discuss openly how Cognitive Biases have shaped our World Views historically, in current events, and in the future.

The purpose of this investigation will be to gain understanding of the evolutionary processes that have moved humans to fall prey to these phenomenon so we may eventually lead humans to overcome them. I.e. we may find that path to the elusive √úbermensch described by Nietzsche.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Fishtells added to Outer Blogness

www.fishtells.com has been added to the Outer Blogness Blog roll. Check it out!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lunch with Bill McKeever of the Mormon Research Ministry (MRM)

A couple weeks ago I sent a post concerning my visit with Mr. Marlin Jensen to admin@mrm.org with the purpose of sharing my experience with whomever would listen there at MRM, to gauge there response.

Apparently, they monitor that address fairly well because in a few days I received a message back from Mr. McKeever inviting me to lunch, his treat.

We met today at Bajio grill in American Fork to discuss religion over delicious fish tacos and chicken burritos. Religion is always easier to talk about over delicious mexican food. More pastors should use this approach!

Mr. McKeever presented himself sincerely, and no matter what my queries, questions, differing views, contrary positions, critical thoughts or stubborness, he maintained his calm, friendly demeanor, while presenting his position fairly clearly.

Going in, I had become accustomed to folks believing in God due to a spiritual feeling confirming their faith in God and whatever religion they ascribed to. Mr. McKeever disagreed with this position. He asserted that his belief in Christ stemmed from a background of Atheism and Skeptical approaches, eventually leading him to study Christianity and the historical aspects of it, leading him to believe that Christ did live, and that he did get resurrected. Disbelieving him, I pushed to find the depths of this religious model. I.e. I asked him if most evangelicals develop their sense of Christian testimony from skeptical rational thought, as he did. The ones in my circle sure do, he asserted.

This perspective was a breath of fresh air, having become accustomed to the Holy Spirit inspiring folks to believe in God.

Our discussion went in all sorts of interesting directions from there including the history of man, archaeology, his calling to missionary work to the Mormons, etc., and I rather enjoyed the whole of it.

Upon leaving, Mr. McKeever presented me a book, "The Reason for God" and suggested I investigate the Christ Evangelical Church in Orem. I think I will attend to confirm more of what he said. It would be such a breath of fresh air from ending discussions with, "I have a spiritual witness, and that trumps rational discussion and thought".

Thanks Mr. McKeever. I wish you luck in your future endeavors, and peace in your personal life.

Atheist Blogroll

www.fishtells.com has been added to The Atheist Blogroll. You can see the blogroll in my sidebar. The Atheist blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to Atheist bloggers from around the world. If you would like to join, visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Review: An Insider's View of Mormon Origins

Mr. Palmer asserts with heavy clarity and sources that Mr. Smith authored the Book of Mormon. He cites several cases where Mr. Smith claimed to translate something, and the translation was later proven completely incorrect, including one encounter with a man who presented him with a Greek Psalter where Mr. Smith claimed it was reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics, and gave him its translation. The man happened to speak Greek, and knew right away that Mr. Smith had no gift of translation at all. To which, Willard Richards rationalized, 'Sometimes Joseph Smith speaks as a prophet, and sometimes he speaks as a man'

He moves logically through comparisons of Josephus and the Book of Abraham, Book of Mormon and several areas of the Bible, Methodist questions, current Protestant doctrines, etc.

Then moves into a compelling argument considering the spirit. The spiritual swelling in your heart is an unreliable means of proving truth. I.e. all religions claim these spiritual feelings verify the authenticity of their religions, but obviously, they can't all be true because they all teach such differing doctrines.

He asserts that the spirit merely urges souls towards God through Christ. (Personally I don't know how he can make that assertion since Muslims feel it too).

My personal feeling is that this feeling is probably something more evolutionary and biological in nature that instinctively moves humans (and other animals) to affect goodness to their fellow earth dwellers. My thoughts are that Human beings have a primal need to pack together, to form communities, stemming from the human evolution of trying to take over larger animals and make these personal connections, and whatever else. We must respect each other as Gods, for without each other, we would not exist. We would become depressed, violent and ultimately never even come together to reproduce, an instinctive trait present in all animal species.

I postulate we would live something more like Autistic lives, possessing the ability to carry on and reproduce, but without the desire.

After you have read this book, I am curious specifically about your thoughts on Joseph Smith. Did he author the Book of Mormon, in your point of view? Does it matter?

It matters to me. I think the truth should will out, and no matter how much Mr. Smiths 'works' draw people to Christ, they were built on complete falsehood. Like former President Bush was wrong to go into Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein under false pretenses, even though Saddam was bad man, Mr. Smith was wrong to invent this wonderful fairy tale to bring people to Christ. Seems like a good goal, but completely unjustified.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Change a life

I served my two years for the Church in Barranquilla, Colombia. While there, I came to see people living in poverty. I visited on a daily basis with folks who were happy to have a cup of rice per day to feed themselves. Work was scarce, and living as the head of the household in Colombia, like here was a hard thing. The economy there isn't that great, really. There are so many people, and family planning is difficult to do. The cheapest form of entertainment is beer and sex. There was a lot of that going around.

I sometimes told a fictional joke (in bad taste) about one lady we knew who had three sons, all named Joseph (Jose'). "This way," she said, "if I need them all to come to dinner, I can just yell, Jose'". It is easier.

"But, what if you only want one of them?" I purportedly queried?

"Well then, I simply call for them using their last name." She said matter-of-factly.

The joke is in bad taste, and it never actually happened, although the situation it describes exists quite a bit. This situation cyclically produces more children living in poverty and everything that comes along with it: no education, disease, over-population, depression, crime, etc.

In one house that I lived in, a young lady lived and worked as the maid/housekeeper. After talking with her one afternoon, she told us that she had been with child 8 times, and had aborted each of them. I don't know where she got the money for it, but she was very 'active'.

This story isn't uncommon around the world where ever poverty exists.

You've probably seen Television advertisements where a Christian group asks you to personally sponsor a child in one of these areas. I've watched quite a few myself. Several years ago, I decided to help out. I sponsor a child in Colombia. I was able to pick the child (a two year old), the location, even they provide pictures of who you can choose.

They send me letters every so often to tell me things are going well, and I write at times as well, just to encourage them to study their homework, etc.

These groups assist this child with enough food to eat so that he can study at school on a full stomach, and provide him with clothing so that he can be sure to go.

You can do this too. Visit World Vision's website right now and browse through their list of children in need. Its true that you can't change the whole world by helping one child, but you can change the whole world for one child.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A sense of community

I recently accepted the Facebook invitation to attend the Mother's Day meeting at the UVUU (Utah Valley Unitarian Universalist Church).

This will be only my second time attending. I went two weeks ago for the first time. My kids were more than a little bit nervous about it. My eldest son, Logan, said as we approached the church (which is a presbyterian church) "Let turn around. I don't want to go in".

And when they split out the classes for my kids to go with all of the other kids, none of them would go... well, Shea would go if someon e would go with her (she's up for adventure), the rest were stuck to their seats.

Afterward, we had a potluck dinner, and we were able to mingle a little bit more, so it was a little bit nicer. I met some really nice folks who were really into this Medieval re-enactmants and fighting with swords, etc. But it was wonderful to sit and mingle with folks going through similar trials that I was. Everyone was a former Mormon in various stages and heavy ties still in the community.

They gave a very warm welcome to us as we shared their food. We brought brownies because we didn't want to come with nothing to the occasion. If any of them are reading this, thank you so much for your warm welcome and sharing your community with my family.

This mother's day though, I don't know if anyone is going to come with me this time or not. We'll see. I'm excited for the little boost of energy I got from going last time. It was very upbeat, and incredibly educational, as the speaker was from a female couple sharing her struggles to navigate the complex state laws preventing her from establishing a family and all of the laws connected with it.

Understanding her struggle on a personal level went a long way to sway my vote on issues related to establishing family units in relationships like hers.

See, a whole new world, right here in Utah County. Who would have guessed!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Why not just go along?

Recently, a discussion with a friend ended when he suggested that I just go along. Other close friends and family members have suggested the same.

And don't think that I haven't thought of it. In fact, I thought of it for fifteen or so years... What's wrong with just going along anyways. Clearly there would be many benefits to 'just going along', but I believe that 'just going along' is destructive, dishonest and ultimately puts me on a path to personal mental risk and will produce long term family disfunction.

I've often tried to consider 'just going along'. As my friend suggests,

"if the church is true and you just have some issues with some things, wouldn't you still rather err on the side of going through the motions and potentially receiving the blessings promised"

Of course, this was my take from the beginning of my trail. I believed that the church was true, but just had some issues that must surely be misunderstandings on my part. After all, I had felt the spirit, and therefore, it must be true on that basis alone because an extra-terrestrial being of light (the holy ghost) sent by the actual creator of this world (including me) had sent a confirmation of my requests for knowledge. Certainly, that must be enough. And if the source of that 'confirmation' could in fact be verified and if it could be wholly claimed by the Mormon church, sort of like a spiritual patent, then I would accept it. Unfortunately, I have realized that this 'spiritual witness' is claimed to be used by nearly all spiritual denominations in one form or another, including Spiritualists, Muslims, Evangelists, Catholics, etc. By this test, all of the churches are true, true enough to pass the test anyways. In fact, Atheism, or Humanism as practiced by John Lennon, would also pass the test. If you don't believe me, take a minute to watch his music video 'War is Over' promoting the absence of Religion (among other things) to remove the wars fought in the name of absolute organized religion and patriotism, or take a listen to 'Imagine'.
Both songs invoke a very strong 'feeling' using both imagery and music to stir emotions.
While I'm not saying that we should disregard feelings, I am asserting that a spiritual testimony of the Book of Mormon based on feelings is enough to establish the truth to Joseph Smith's claims to supernatural communications with a supernatural being such as an all powerful God.

For my part then, there is enough evidence to suggest clearly to me that Joseph Smith wasn't in fact directed by God. Under this line of reasoning then, to 'just go along' would be to deny myself and betray my own mental capacities.

What if I were to ask the same of one of these fellow human beings? What if I were to ask my friend to 'just go along' with the Jehovah's Witnesses, or Muslims, or radical muslims for that matter? After all, they might be true as well. Sure they aren't the pre-dominant religion of this area, but they are the pre-dominant religion of another area. Could he ever see himself 'just going along' with them? Would he be able to deny his daughters their privileges and rights to learn and grow their intelligence? Or would he fight to bring them their rights of study and intellectual growth?

To remain silent at that point would clearly lead him to conscienciously deprive his family of the tools necessary to not only survive and prosper in this world, but it would also remove from them, their ability to pursue their own human fullness, or as Maslow put it, the highest rung in the hierarchy of needs, 'Self-actualization'

My friend may argue that he would never do that, and he may also argue that the comparison isn't apples to apples. Islam is nothing close to Mormonism, and the comparison isn't valid. That might be true, however, there are many aspects to Mormonism that as a follower must be received as follower as inspired revelation. I.e. Mormonism teaches members to accept Mormon Doctrine on Faith. In the past, there have been some very strange Mormon Doctrines that members have been asked to accept on faith, and there may be future church positions that require it as well.

E.g. the Mormon church has made its (current) position on marriage clear. A marriage is defined as being between one man and one (or more in the hereafter) woman. Members of the unfortunate homosexual community are asked to remain second class citizens. The Mormon church has even used its power to influence political processes regarding this issue.

Why don't I just go along? Questions such as these are difficult questions, and should not be left up to Mormon leaders. Instead, individuals should investigate these issues as they come and search out their own thoughts, and the thoughts and experiences of others in deciding their support for such things. I don't want my children, or those I know to agree with the Brethren on anything, unless they would investigate an issue for themselves and independently come to the same conclusion.

I want my children and those that I know that I don't simply accept the decisions made by the church because at the least, I know that the church is fallible. This point is important. The church is fallible. If the church is true, i.e. formed by an all-knowing supernatural being that created it and controls it, then it wouldn't be fallible, but it has reversed many direct revelations (See polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, interracial marriage, the voree plates and strangites, McConkies predictions on space travel, etc.). The church leaders are good men, but they do not speak with a supernatural being that knows everything. They are humans, running a church built by fallible humans, and their decisions are therefore suspect, and should be subjected to normal human skepticism and held to the same standard of proof, reason and justice as the rest of the world.

I don't 'just go along' because just going along indicates my acceptance of it being ok to claim divine providence when none exists. I can go along with science because science makes no claims of supernatural beings directing their findings. It's all an open book. Science admits fallibility, and openly requests careful scrutiny by all, and hides no sources from view. Religion claims exclusive rights to sources of immutable knowledge whereas science understands that humans are often wrong.