Wednesday, March 29, 2017

All Religion is Bologna

Source: Wikipedia
The year was 1997, and I was sitting in the living room with my parents watching the news.  The breaking news of the day was that of the Heaven's Gate cult committing mass suicide in California.  Heaven's Gate was a religious group founded by Marshall Applewhite, and it was their sincere belief that an Alien ship was tailing behind the Hale-Bopp comet and was there to receive those true believers and bring them to their next stage in human evolution.  In classic cult fashion, 39 Heaven's Gate members, including Applewhite, took their leave from this world by consuming phenobarbital with apple sauce, washed down with vodka.  They all wore the same outfits, and placed bags over their heads to ensure their "transition".

My Mom jumped at the news; not because of the story itself, but because her brother was a member of this cult, and she had no clue if he was among the dead.  She was a mess of emotions, as she hadn't spoken to her brother Chuck in years since he had been a part of this faction.  The only communication she had from him was from letters he had written years ago explaining the group he had found and their beliefs.  Chuck had alienated himself from his loved ones, and fully embraced his new life as a member of Heaven's Gate.

My Mom soon learned that my uncle Chuck was not a part of the 39 that killed themselves.  He called the house and spoke to my Mother shortly after this incident and explained how he missed his moment.  A couple months later, he would try and kill himself alongside another Heaven's Gate member who was also absent the day of the mass suicide.  That guy was successful, but my Uncle was not.  It would be another few months, if I remember correctly, that my uncle would finally succeed at killing himself.  Obviously, by this time, the Hale-Bopp comet was long gone, so I can't fathom why he would do this, except for some emotional remorse for feeling like a failure by not being there with the rest of his cult family.

Pretty much anyone can look at the Heaven's Gate group and see what nut jobs they are.  My Mom certainly knew it.  It's easy to see really.  Their ideology was literally out of this world.  Looking back on it now, I see the humor in my Mom calling uncle Chuck's "religious" beliefs a sham.  Here's my Mom, a devout Mormon who believes one day she will help produce billions of spirit children for my Dad the God, saying Heaven's Gate is silly.

Isn't this really the same with all religions though?  Growing up I found everybody else's religious beliefs to be silly, but mine was not.  It's even easier to cry bullshit, when the religion promotes mass suicide.  I feel like this is the ironic state of religious world.  But is what Heaven's Gate asked of its members really all that different than the other religions?

Nephi slaying Prince Laban
In Mormonism, the members are still waiting for the day their prophet commands them to drop everything and travel to Missouri to set up "Zion".  I've asked my parents if they would obey this command should it ever happen, and they would.  It causes me pause, because what would they not do, if commanded by their prophet?  In the Book of Mormon, Nephi was commanded by an angel to behead a Jewish prince called Laban, so that Nephi could steal a set of brass plates containing the Old Testament to date.  The angel's rationale was that it were better for one man to die, than a nation to dwindle in unbelief.  This is the best way an all powerful God can provide this record for Nephi?

Please, it's all just silly when you take a look in from the outside.  This sets up this precedence among Mormons that they will "go and do the things which the Lord commands", like Nephi.  This mantra is repeated over and over and over again to Mormons, so it's no surprise they would follow their prophet without hesitation.

It wasn't until I was able to step out of the proverbial box and look back at Mormonism with a skeptical eye, that I saw it for what it really is, a sham.  There are many examples of people committing atrocities in the name of their God.  The Old Testament is plagued with these "honor killings", yet Christians don't bat an eye.  Jephthah's daughter anyone?  When Parents kill their kids nowadays because God told them to, we see it as mental illness.  What has changed?

At the end of the day it is all bullshit.  Every religion is bullshit, including Heaven's Gate.  In fact, if Christianity hadn't changed and evolved over time, and was the same as it were in the dark ages, it wouldn't be highly believed anymore either.  The only difference between me now, and my Mother, is I believe one more religion is bat shit crazy than she does.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Book of Mormon, DNA

As I studied more about the historicity of the Book of Mormon, I soon discovered anachronistic animals, metals and other materials weren't the only issue plaguing the Book of Mormon's claim of total authenticity.  As I stated previously, I was taught growing up the characters in the Book of Mormon were the ancestors of the native inhabitants of the Americas.  This is from the introduction page of the Book of Mormon as I grew up that said the book is “a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas”.  Also, regarding the Lamanites, the introduction read, “. . . all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.”

This was common among Church members.  The story of Nephi and his family inhabiting the "promised land" was history, and therefore the Native Americans and those that occupied Central and South American were descendants of ancient Israelites.  The Mormon church was able to get away with this teaching for so long simply due to the inability to test those claims.  Much like the Book of Abraham would eventually not stand the test of science and time, neither would the Book of Mormon.

“Holy scripture records that “after the waters had receded from off the face of this land it became a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord; wherefore the Lord would have that all men should serve him who dwell upon the face thereof.” (Ether 13:2.) Such a special place needed now to be kept apart from other regions, free from the indiscriminate traveler as well as the soldier of fortune. To guarantee such sanctity the very surface of the earth was rent. In response to God's decree, the great continents separated and the ocean rushed in to surround them. The promised place was set apart. Without habitation it waited for the fulfillment of God's special purposes.

With care and selectivity, the Lord began almost at once 
to repeople the promised land. The Jaredites came first, with stories of the great flood fresh in their memories and the Lord's solemn declaration ringing in their ears: “Whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fullness of his wrath should come upon them.” (Ether 2:8.) (Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland (A Promised Land, The Ensign, June 1976) [emphasis added]

With the advancement of science, the study of DNA has become very prominent.  It has freed many wrongly convicted "criminals" when suddenly the DNA evidence supports their innocence.  It has also shed light on many people's heritage, including the natives of the Americas.  Extensive research has told a story far different than that of the Book of Mormon.  Even prior to the DNA studies, the common theory was of Asians who migrated to the Americas via the Bering Straight over 14,000 years ago.

The DNA studies done only supports this theory.  When researchers tested a large amount of Native American and Central/South Americans, it wasn't a glorifying moment for the Mormons.  It wasn't even a moment they could embrace partly.  The studies show abundantly, from the DNA of those tested, they were of Asian decent.

I found this very interesting, as I would have at least thought there'd be something to validate the historicity of the Book of Mormon in their DNA.  I remember going to some Mayan ruins in South America, and thinking, the Lamanites once dwelt here.  These native Mayans are descendants of the Book of Mormon migration.  Amazing! But, not true!

I then found out, the Mormon church actually began to change the narrative regarding the Book of Mormon ancestry.  To accommodate the new evidence provided by extensive DNA research, the Church actually changed the wording in the Book of Mormon's introduction!  Below I outline the text as I remember it growing up, with the new textual changes implemented after evidence to the contrary.

"After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians." 

To this,

"After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians."


“a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas” 

To this,

“a record of God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas” 

By removing the word "the" in the above quotation, they essentially course correct to facilitate the idea of the Book of Mormon people simply being a portion of the inhabitants instead of "the" only inhabitants.  The changes are very subtle, but significant to say the least.  It shows a narrative shift from the Mormon church.  Of course, in expected back peddling fashion, the Church is quick to say, 

"Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church."

The problem here is that it wasn't just spoken by a prophet or apostle of the Mormon church.  It was added to the cannon of scripture.  Of course, the Church says the parts of scripture like the introduction and footnotes and chapter summaries aren't included in the "cannon", but are to be used more like tools.  Convenient.

Collapsing Bookshelf, Pinterest
While I was on my mission, I was told that often times we will come across questions regarding church teachings that we would not have an immediate answer for.  In those circumstances, I was instructed to put those concerns on a "shelf", to answer later.  Not all answers are available at the moment, but they will be delivered through righteous study and prayer.  Much like putting too many things on a physical shelf, my proverbial shelf was beginning to weigh down.  It wouldn't take long, if I wasn't able to remove some things, before it would collapse all together.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Book of Mormon Anachronisms, Animals

2000 Stripling Warriors in The Book of Mormon

An anachronism is when something is placed in a story for a particular time period that did not exist historically for that place in time.  So, if I were writing a story about an author in the 18th century, and said he used his laptop to write his stories, that would be anachronistic.

Of course, having anachronisms in a book generally isn't an issue.  It becomes an issue though, when the book claims total authenticity and history.  On top of that, when the book claims to be "the most correct" of any book, translated by the power of God, you would have some certainty that everything in the book is real.  The Book of Mormon is no stranger to these anachronisms, and I never even knew it.

Why would I have ever known it?  The majority of Mormons are simpletons really, never really researching the stories in the Book of Mormon.  There was never a need to research them.  Again, I had known it was a True book from childhood.  Now, I had been tipped off to these concerns and I wouldn't be honest if I didn't look into them, and not just wave them off because the book is True.

I learned in church the Americas were populated by people who migrated over from the Middle East. That the first inhabitants of this land were the Jaredites around 2200 BCE. (Chapter 50: Ether 1-5Book of Mormon Student Manual (2009) and "Book of Mormon Time Line," Ensign October 2011.)  Then, the date Moroni buries the Plates into the ground is approximately 421 CE. Therefore, all the events that play out in the Book of Mormon are between 2200 BCE and 421 CE.  There was nobody in the Americas before 2200 BCE, according to everything I was ever taught growing up.

Horses play a common role in the Book of Mormon, and were found by Nephi and his family when they arrived in America:

"And it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men. And we did find all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper." (1 Nephi 18:25)

Elephants to:

"And also all manner of cattle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep, and of swine, and of goats, and also many other kinds of animals which were useful for the food of man.

And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms." (Ether 9:18-19)

Horses simply did not exist in America during the Book of Mormon time period.  They died out about 10,000 years ago and did not reappear until the Spaniards came over to the Americas in the 15th and 16th century CE.  Mormon apologists will try to explain away these animal anachronisms by saying:

"Is "horse" in the Book of Mormon merely a matter of labeling by analogy some other quadruped with the name Equus, the true horse, or does the scripture's use of "horse" refer to the actual survival into very recent times of the American Pleistocene horse (Equus equus)? If, as most zoologists and paleontologists assume, Equus equus was absent from the New World during Book of Mormon times, could deer, tapir, or another quadruped have been termed "horse" by Joseph Smith in his translating?" (Reexploring the Book of Mormon, Once More: the Horse)

A Tapir
By even implying the horses in the Book of Mormon could be something else, misunderstood by Joseph, goes against everything Mormons are ever taught about the translation process of the Book of Mormon itself.  Even knowing about the stones in the top hat method, it is still taught Joesph saw the words in the hat and dictated what he saw.  His scribe would read back the words to ensure it was correct before they could move on.  So, if that were the case, would God, who was presumably providing the words to Joseph, be wrong and not understand the difference between a horse and a tapir?  It's one thing to see an animal, and not know what it is, so you use a word you do know to describe it, but another thing to have a perfect knowledge and still get it wrong.  The fact Joseph writes about a curelom and and cumon in the same passage tells me he can write down animal names he has no clue about.  Whatever a curelom and a cumon is, Joesph didn't use a modern word to try and describe this animal, so why would he do the same for a tapir?

Elephants are in the same boat as horses.  They are mentioned, but no evidence supports elephants being around during the time periods of the Book of Mormon.  The closest possibility are mastodons and mammoths, which even if Joesph simply mistranslated those, were extinct by the time the Jaredites came over from the Old World.

As far as goats and cattle are concerned, there is no evidence of domesticated cattle or goats to exist in the Americas before the 15th century.  There were bison and mountain goats, but those were not domestic animals, and the Book of Mormon even distinguishes between goats and wild goats. (Enos 1:21)

Again, if these animals are mentioned in a work not specifically claimed to be a perfect history, then it could be forgivable.  Even if these things were claimed to be misinterpreted by the authors themselves, like Nephi calling a tapir a horse because that's what he knew in Jerusalem, then you would at least expect a perfect God to correct that misunderstanding for Joseph.  It wasn't Joseph translating by reading the Plates and giving the English version to his scribe.  He was spoon fed the words from God.  And if God intentionally gave Joseph the wrong interpretation just to "try our faith", then God is simply a dick.

As I stated in my last post, the fact Joseph translated the Book of Mormon by non traditional methods isn't a problem for me.  It's when that reality is mixed with the errors within the Book of Mormon itself, it becomes an issue.  This is just the beginning of the Book of Mormon issues, and it was just the beginning of my realization the Book of Mormon was in reality, a work of fiction.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Book of Mormon

As far back as I can remember, I was taught how the characters in the Book of Mormon were the ancestors to the Inca and Mayan Indians.  Also, the forefathers to the Native American Indians.  These people came over to the Americas way back in the 500's BCE, when a family from Jerusalem migrated over at the direction of God.

Jesus visits America
The Book of Mormon is filled with tales of good versus evil, the dark skinned versus the light skinned, the God fearing versus the heathens.  It tells of a family that sailed to the Promised Land (America) and set up a colony that would split and grow exponentially over the ensuing 1000 years.  Always fighting with each other, and endlessly attempting to convert the other side to Christianity.  Jesus himself pays a visit to this people after his crucifixion and brings them into his fold, and establishes his Church among them, and choosing 12 disciples much the way he did in the New Testament.  The peace established at the coming of Jesus was short lived, and eventually the heathens would appear again and fight the righteous to complete extinction.

Mormon's are taught from a very young age of the last living remnant of this righteous people named Moroni, who was the steward of a set of Golden Plates, handed down by his Father, Mormon.  These are the plates the ancient American prophets used in detailing their journey, teachings, wars and dealings in the Americas.  Moroni was commissioned to hide these plates away from his enemy so they would be protected and unscathed for when they would be brought forth unto a new generation.

1300 years after Moroni buried these Golden Plates in a hill called Cumorah in New York, Joseph Smith was given, by way of angelic revelation (from Moroni), the whereabouts of said artifact.  Joseph unearthed these plates and took them into his possession and would later translate it's "reformed Egyptian" engravings into English, and publish it as The Book of Mormon.

Joseph Smith translating the Gold Plates
As a child brought up in the Mormon church, and even up until I went on my mission, I always had the understanding Joseph translated this record by traditional methods.  I fully understood Joseph was unable to use his own knowledge to translate the language, but that he relied on God's power to translate the plates.  Even though he was given the power by God, Joseph still read the engravings on the plates, and subsequently dictated its translation to a scribe from behind a curtain.  Joseph had more than one scribe over the course of translation.  I was taught Martin Harris was his first scribe, and when he screwed up, Joseph began using Oliver Cowdery.

All this was taught over and over and over as a young Mormon and on.  It wasn't until my mission I discovered Joseph actually used an alternate method to translate the Gold Plates.  In reality, what happened was Joseph had two stones, he called seer stones, and he would drop the rocks into a top hat and bury his face into the hat so it was completely dark.  Joseph would then see words in the bottom of the hat and would speak these words for his scribe to write.  This method seemed a little more bizarre, but I thought whatever, it was still true.
How Joseph actually translated the Gold Plates

It really didn't matter to me the method in which the Book of Mormon was translated, but rather the product itself.  Since I had prayed about the Book of Mormon several times, and received an answer from the Holy Ghost that it was true, then that's all that mattered.  What did matter, now that I was questioning the foundational claims, was the translation method, on top of the content of the Book of Mormon itself, that was either anachronistic, or just historically inaccurate all together.  The Book of Mormon is known to Mormons as "the most correct book" on earth.  So, with this status, one should expect the book to be historically accurate in it's details.  This, along with the story how the book was buried in order to preserve it's content from alteration, and Joseph translating the Plates with the power of God himself, brings one to understand the book to be flawless.  I certainly believed this my self growing up a Mormon.

Instead of my thoughtful study into the Book of Mormon bringing me closer to the Mormon church, it pulled me farther away.  Because as I studied the content of the Book of Mormon, from a more neutral perspective, I saw just what I had hoped I wouldn't.  The Book of Mormon was not True.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Book of Abraham

Facsimile 2, printed in the Book of Abraham

Growing up I was always fascinated with the Book of Abraham.  It had such mysterious teachings, and it's the only source we have for the star Kolob.  I would sit in church mesmerized by the facsimile, and daydream about ancient Egypt.  I was taught Joseph Smith acquired these ancient scrolls and translated them by the power of God.  That's all I ever knew of the matter.  After recently learning about the Word of Wisdom debacle, I was now revisiting other foundational Mormon teachings.  The Book of Abraham was next to rock my theological world.

In 1835, William Chandler brought four mummies to Kirkland Ohio, where he met with Joseph Smith and the Mormons.  After seeing the mummies and the pair of scrolls that were with them, Joseph used the Church money and acquired the lot for $2400.  Upon receiving the scrolls, Joseph claimed that they were the scroll of Joseph of Egypt, and the scroll of Abraham.  Joseph claims that the scroll of Abraham was “written by his own [Abraham] hand upon papyrus.” 

Facsimile 3, printed in the Book of Abraham
Joseph Smith took to translating the scrolls by gifts and power of God, which became known as the Book of Abraham.  This book was canonized into Mormon scripture within The Pearl of Great Price.  

This was a bold and undisputed claim, as there really wasn't anybody that could translate ancient Egyptian since the Rosetta Stone had only recently been deciphered.  However, by 1856, a copy of The Book of Abraham found it's way to the Louvre in France.

"It was sometime during the year 1856, about five years after the Pearl of Great Price had been printed in England, when one of the small pamphlets found its way to the Louvre in Paris. There the facsimiles from the Book of Abraham, together with Joseph's accompanying explanations, were brought to the attention of M. Theodule Deveria. As one of the pioneers in the field of Egyptology, Deveria was asked to offer any comments on them he cared to make.
To Deveria the project probably did not seem worth the minimal effort it would require. However, he proceeded, and immediately recognized all three drawings as copies of rather common Egyptian funerary documents, of which he had examined hundreds. To be sure, most of the hieroglyphic and hieratic figures had been too poorly transcribed to be of much use for translation, and some elements in several of the drawings appeared to Deveria to be guesswork, probably incorrect restorations of missing sections of the original papyri. Still, most of the major elements fit very well into the established pattern associated with Egyptian mythology and the preparation of common funerary documents. Enough of the writing was legible for Deveria to decipher the names and titles of various Egyptian gods and goddesses, and on one of the drawings (Facsimile No. 3) he was able to determine the name of the deceased Egyptian for whom the scroll had originally been prepared. Concerning Facsimile No. 3 he wrote:
The deceased led by Ma into the presence of Osiris. His name is Horus, as may be seen in the prayer which is at the bottom of the picture, and which is addressed to the divinities of the four cardinal points.
Deveria dismissed Joseph's explanations as rambling nonsense. His comments first appeared in French in a two-volume work by Jules Remy entitled Voyage au Pays des Mormons (Paris, 1860)." (By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus, p. 25)
I never knew this.  Most Mormons don't.  Likely, they would argue and say that is just anti Mormon literature.  I know I would have.  But even though most Mormon know nothing about this, it is not even disputed among Mormon scholars.  And that is just the comparison of the facsimiles.  The actual scrolls Joseph used to translate the Book of Abraham was supposedly burned in the great Chicago fire of 1871.
Fragment found 
Never fear though, because in 1966, a piece of papyrus including facsimile 1 was found in the Metropolitan Museum of New York.  It was studied, by Mormon and non Mormon alike.  Both sides of the isle came to the same conclusion.  This papyri has nothing to do with Abraham.  Instead it was an excerpt from the Book of Breathings, a common funerary scroll that accompanied the mummified remains of the deceased.  Also, it dated to about the first century AD, a full 2000 years after Abraham.  So, this could not be "by his own hand upon papyrus".
Not only were Joseph Smith's interpretation of the Egyptian characters and facsimile wrong, but his rendition of facsimile 1 was incorrect.  The original fragment as shown above was not complete, and Jospeh drew the missing portion to give us Facsimile 1 in the Book of Abraham:
When Egytologists reviewed Josephs's facsimile, they found discrepancies, and below is what the original would have looked like:

Everything I read about the Book of Abraham cried fowl!  Nothing of what I was taught growing up was correct.  What we know for sure was Joseph claimed to have translated the papyrus by the power of God.  So either Joseph was full of shit, or he did not really have the "power" to translate.  When I tried to reconcile this damning piece of evidence, I found the following to be pretty much the best response possible given the circumstances:

"An example of what I am talking about is the recent discovery of the papyrus scrolls from which Joseph Smith was presumed to have translated the book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. Modern scholars, looking at the scrolls, found nothing they considered to be similar to that book. I remarked at the time that such a finding didn't bother me in the least. God doesn't need a crib sheet in the form of a papyrus scroll to reveal Abraham's thoughts and words to Joseph Smith, with any degree of precision He considers necessary for His purposes. If the only function of the scrolls was to awaken the Prophet to the idea of receiving such inspiration, they would have fulfilled their purpose."
(Henry Eyring, Reflections of a Scientist, p. 46)

The official response from the Church is now Joseph simply used this papyrus as a catalyst to have the words of Abraham "revealed" to him, and he simply was confused thinking he was translating.  

Give me a break!  It's very convenient to shift the narrative in light of evidence contrary to your rendition of history.  Had any portion of the papyrus vindicated Joseph's translation, the Mormon church would have lauded Joseph's true prophetic nature.  It didn't though, and instead the Mormon church had to make excuses for it's clearly falsified claim of prophesy with regard to the revealed words of Abraham.

The sad part is, the Mormon churched derived two the most controversial doctrines from the Book of Abraham.  Both polygamy and the Mormon's stance against black people were both introduced thanks to Joseph's translation of the papyrus.  Interestingly enough, both "eternal" principles were eventually denounced by the Mormon church later on.

This was a big issue for me, because now it caused me serious contemplation of the other works of scripture Joseph produced.  At this point I didn't know what to do, but I felt I could still be a faithful Mormon, and not believe in the authenticity of the Book of Abraham.  That would come later as I looked more closely at the Book of Mormon itself.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Word of Wisdom

I was attending church and meeting with my Bishop on a regular basis so that I could be back in full fellowship.  Which meant living the standards of the Mormon church, which I was.  I had given up drinking alcohol at this point and prepared to do what it took to be worthy to baptize my daughter when she turned 8.

On one particular Sunday, the lesson was about the Word of Wisdom, as revealed to Joseph Smith in the Doctrine and Covenants.  I have always been familiar with the Word of Wisdom, since I've grown up in the Church.  I knew what I wasn't allowed to take into my body, but I had never truly studied the history behind the revelation, or the early church implementation of said scripture.

Of course we didn't study the historical side of the Word of Wisdom during church, nor did we delve into the early church usage of the doctrine.  I had to take this on in my own study, but it's what I carefully read during the lesson which first caused me to pause and contemplate.

In Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants, we find the Mormon church's sole scripture regarding the Word of Wisdom doctrine.  In verse 5-7 we read:

"That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.

And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.
And, again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies".
Mormons are taught what is meant by "strong drink" as read in this verse.  They are told it is all manner of alcohol.  So this is your liquor and beer combined.  This is what I was always taught growing up, and what was taught even during this class on this day.  Mormons take it to heart because it's what their leaders tell them.  This was fine with me, as it was familiar.  I had no objections to this interpretation... until this day.  

This was because I continued to read this Section, which was not done by the teacher, as it wasn't really part of the selective lesson plan.  As I read further into the Section, I came across verses 16 and 17, which read:

"All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—

Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain".
Now, what is this "mild drinks" mentioned in verse 17? Being that I had taken up drinking alcohol after my divorce, I understood the difference between liquor and beer. One is a strong alcoholic beverage, while the other is mild. Also, barley is commonly used in the production of beer.  I thought to myself, could beer actually be permissible as dictated by this verse? I knew the Mormon church would say no, as it was strictly forbidden. However, I would later learn the following about what is considered "Doctrine" of the Church:

  • Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency(the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted. (Official church stance)

So, to be considered Church Doctrine, the statement must be within the Standard Works of the Mormon church.  There is a section at the end of the Doctrine and Covenants that are "Official Declarations" of the Mormon church.  These statements, because they are within the Standard Works are considered Doctrine, and they include the statement abolishing the practice of polygamy and granting blacks the priesthood.  

There was, however, nothing within the Standard Works that dictated the definition of "strong drink" and "mild drink" found within the Word of Wisdom.  Instead, we only have policy statements made by the Church leaders regarding the used of all alcohol.  So, I was curious.  Was abstaining from beer merely a requirement to enter the temple, but not a sin?  What was more, is the beginning of the Section states, "To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint".  This drove me to deeper study of the matter, and to prayer.

I found that when I researched this topic, it opened Pandora's box to a heap of other topics of questionable Church history/policy.  For now, I focused on the Word of Wisdom, and this is what I found.

I learned the origin for the Revelation came by way of a frustrated Emma Smith, as she and other sisters had to clean the floors after the Elders of the early Church would make a mess with their spit from chewing tobacco.  As David Whitmer recounted:

“Some of the men were excessive chewers of the filthy weed, and their disgusting slobbering and spitting caused Mrs. Smith … to make the ironical remark that ‘It would be a good thing if a revelation could be had declaring the use of tobacco a sin, and commanding it's suppression.' The matter was taken up and joked about, one of the brethren suggested that the revelation should also provide for a total abstinence from tea and coffee drinking, intending this as a counter ‘dig' at the sisters.”(Des Moines Daily News, 16 Oct 1886:20 c. in: Newell & Avery 1994:47, also c: An Historical Analysis of the Word of Wisdom, Paul H. Peterson - Masters Thesis, [no location provided]; Also: c. in Tanner 1987:406. See also Tanner 1987: Ch. 26 for excellent coverage). (Emphasis added).

I learned that, as it reads at the beginning of the Section, the Word of Wisdom was not a commandment, but a set of advice as directed by God.  Joseph Smith himself would continue to smoke a cigar on occasion and drink beer and wine.  

"Joseph Smith tried the faith of the saints many times by his peculiarities. At one time he had preached a powerful sermon on the Word of Wisdom and immediately thereafter, he rode through the streets of Nauvoo smoking a cigar. Some of the brethren were tried as was Abraham of old." (Tanner 1987:6 c: Joseph Smith as an Administrator, Gary Dean Guthrie, M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, May 1969:161, in turn c: the diary of Apostle Abraham H. Cannon. V.19. 1 Oct 1895. Special Collections Dept. BYU Library). (Emphasis added).

Then, I found this:

"The text of the Word of Wisdom forbids "strong drink" (D&C 89:5, 7), which was initially interpreted as distilled beverages (hard liquor). Beer, unfermented or lightly fermented wine, and cider were considered "mild drinks" (D&C 89:17) and therefore acceptable (note that verse 17 specifically permits "barley...for mild drinks"). The complete prohibition of alcoholic drinks of any kind only became part of the Word of Wisdom following the temperance movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries; Presidents Joseph F. Smith and Heber J. Grant supported the movement and Grant made complete abstention from alcohol in any form a requirement for a temple recommend in the early 1920s". (

So, there I was, utterly baffled by what I just discovered.  I took this to prayer and asked God if what I had learned was true, and if beer was permissible and I still be right with Him.  The answer was yes.  I dutifully studied the principle, formulated an opinion, and took it up with God and asked if it be right.  This is what I had taught investigator's while on my mission, and now I did the same regarding a gospel principle.  

Of course I knew my position would not be supported by the Church leaders, nonetheless, my reasoning was sound.  There was no official Church statement banning beer from Member consumption.  All we had, was a scripture which expressly permitted it, and nothing else.  Beer was a "mild drink".  This personal revelation didn't cause me to be a faithful mormon while drinking beer.  Instead, it made me pause and think, for myself for once and not how the Church wanted to think for me.  This made me look more deeply into other matters, and to harmonize the things I researched with being a faithful Mormon.  

I had opened a brand new chapter in my life, and an honest journey to discover the Truth of the matter began.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Married for Eternity, but Not For This Life.

Photo by: Jennifer Pahlka via Wikipedia

It wouldn't be long before I took solace with another woman.  I developed an emotional relationship with a girl I had met, and we connected in ways I never had with Swede.  This relationship began as just a back and forth via text message, and quickly grew to meeting up and actually doing things together.  I wouldn't have sex with her though, as I was still married and did not want to go that far.  This didn't stop me from doing other things, and eventually I couldn't take the guilt of partaking in extra marital affairs behind Swede's back.

I remember the day I opened up and explained what had been going on to Swede.  I did so in an attempt to see if we would be able to salvage our relationship.  I cried out to her that our relationship was so bad, that I've made these mistakes and apologized for them.  I was open and honest with what had transpired.  Again, I had not had sexual intercourse with this other woman, but I had been intimate with her.  This drove a wedge that would ultimately lead to divorce between the two of us.  She took the kids, and fled to Utah to live with an Aunt out there.  I stayed in Ohio of course, and through bad advice from my divorce attorney, allowed her to leave.

The relationship I had with this other woman, wouldn't last either, as the guilt from my doings would cause me to end that relationship as well.  I knew deep down inside, that a relationship built on lies wouldn't stand the test of time, so I ripped that band-aid off quickly and just moved on with life.  I no longer went to church, as I just couldn't care enough to do it.  I hadn't actually questioned my beliefs at this point, as I still considered Mormonism to be true.  I just decided I was going to rebel for a bit.  I started drinking and enjoying life.  I never had any freedom really as an adult, so now was my chance to just date and enjoy single life.  Enjoy single life I did, but eventually met the woman that would become my next wife.

I met Allison through work.  I was a police officer and she was a dispatcher.  She was separated from her husband for about a year when I met her and she was going through her own divorce battle.  I was cautious at the beginning of our relationship because I didn't want to get involved with her drama.  I already had my impression of her ex, since he was getting about $1200 every two weeks from Allison since she was the income earner of the two when they were together.  Talk about being ass backwards to everything I had ever been taught.  So, I didn't want to be too serious at the start, until her affairs were in order.

I enjoyed our time together though, and I continued to just be me, and not Mormon me.  I enjoyed kicking back and throwing down a few beers with friends, and I forgot about Mormon life.  Eventually, Allison was fully divorced and had stability, and we became more of an item.  We started to live with each other, which was a big no no for Mormons.  My thought was, doing things the Mormon way ended up doing me wrong, so I'm not going to do it that way this time around.  I wanted to live with the woman I may one day marry first.  If anything should be wrong, then time will tell, but we would give this a trial run before making it permanent.

I couldn't very well go back to church at this point because Allison and I were living together in sin.  So I kept my distance until I decided we would be married.  I proposed, and unfortunately she said yes, and I would once again be a married man.  I started to go back to church at this point and even brought Allison with me on occasion.  I wanted to start doing things right again, and after we were married, I could.  No longer living in sin, I could start taking the steps to get back right in the Mormon church.

It had been a few years after Swede and I divorced now, and my oldest daughter was soon to turn 8 years old, which meant baptism time.  I wanted to perform this ordinance, and not Swede's new husband whom I will call Aussie.  Swede met Aussie online a few months after our divorce, and without ever meeting him in person, flew to Australia and married him.  They then both flew back to America and settled in Texas where my kids would now relocate and live.

I began to speak with my Bishop about my wrong doings in order to get myself right with God.  I had to admit all that had transpired, and at the direction of the Bishop, I was put on a sort of probation while I worked out my sins to be fully forgiven.  During this time I began to study the Gospel again.  This was different than on my mission though, as I wasn't expected to devote my studying to approved sources.

Perhaps it was my love for beer that caused my first questions to arise, but none the less, my earnest studying of the Gospel would become my demise within the Mormon church.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Officer Down!

I remember it like it was yesterday.

My wife and I just had our second child.  She was a healthy baby girl, and a happy moment for all.  My parents were coming in town to spend time with us during this week.  My Mom was already there and my Dad would follow shortly after wrapping up work business back in Indiana.  Everything went textbook, and we took baby home from the Hospital.

Three days after my daughter was born, my Mother and I were out walking around the block with my oldest daughter when she got a phone call that literally stopped her in her tracks.  I knew something was wrong by the tone of her voice and the expression of shock and terror on her face.  She ended the phone call and just blurted out, "Jason was shot".  My brother, a police officer in Indiana had been shot in the head.  She said my Dad told her he was stable though.  This didn't make any sense to me.  As a cop myself I knew any gunshot wound was not stable, let alone one to the head, so I quickly called my Dad back to get more details.

Apparently the details were lost in translation from point A to point C, and my brother was not in stable condition.  No, he was going to die.  The bullet went straight through his brain, in the front and out the back.  He was in dire straits and it couldn't come at a worse time.  My Mom packed up her things and drove three hours back to Indiana and I stayed home.  I wanted to go, but Swede made me feel a lot of guilt for even thinking of it.  How selfish I was to contemplate leaving her with a newborn baby and our other daughter all alone while I went off to Indy.  So I rationalized it and stayed there with her and continued to get updates.

My brother made it out of surgery and now the real trial would begin.  Over the next 72 would determine if he would live or die, as the brain could swell as a result from the trauma and kill him.  I was stuck at home, tending to my wife and kids, relying on updates and not being there in person for support.  That night though, there was a knock at my door.  My precinct Sergeant, along with officers from the county I lived in, were at my door.  My sergeant hadn't known if I knew yet about my brother, but I informed him I was aware.  He didn't give me any options, and just told me to grab a change of clothes and let's go.  This gave me my out, and there was no argument from my wife about it.  My Sergeant drove me to Indy that night, where I would join my family in support while we all waited for the worst news.
The man convicted of shooting Jason.

The next morning, things had gone well, and Jason was doing as good as he could.  I was driven back
to Ohio to pick up my wife and kids, then back to Indy to be with family.  It was a time of great conflict and solidarity.  I was taken to the scene where my brother had been shot, and relived that moment as if I were there.  The community rallied behind my brother, and provide monetary and emotional support.  The bad guy was in jail, but my brother was still hanging on to life by a thread.

It was during these moments that caused me to reflect upon my life.  I realized I should have never left my home town.  I blamed my wife for forcing me to leave.  Had I not left, I would have waited for this department to hire me, and my brother and I would have rode together.  This ordeal may never have happened if I had stayed.  I felt a great deal of responsibility in this because I left, and wasn't there for him.  Now, he was on the verge of death, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Eventually, Jason survived the incident, but he would never be the same.  He would forever be marred by this injury and be forced to retire.  Jason was partially paralyzed, as the gunshot wound forced 15% of his brain to be removed, and a prosthetic skull was made to cover half his head.  Jason now has the mentality of a 13 year old, or even younger at times.  My brother, the one that I knew, died.  What was left was a different person all together.  Our relationship would not be the same, and I cursed myself for not developing a better relationship with him before this incident.  I blamed my wife, and my church for that.

As a faithful Mormon, I couldn't condone some of the behaviors my brother took part in.  My wife was quick to point out his flaws and how I couldn't allow him to be a negative force in my life.  So, even when we lived in Indy, I didn't spend a lot of time with him, because I was a dutiful Mormon, and his example was that opposed to the Church's teachings.  Now, I was filled with regret for how I treated him, and knew I would never get the opportunity to build this relationship with my brother.  When he came to, he was different.  His childlike mentality caused him to draw closer to the Church, and do everything our Father would condone.  He was like a child, and as such, leaned unto our Father's influence as the gospel truth.  I was angry, and conflicted, but relieved my brother didn't die.

My life from here took a downward spiral, of which it would never recover.  I've heard it said before, that often a traumatic experience is needed to shock somebody into a new way of thinking.  Usually, this is in reference to finding God.  In my case, I was going to lose Him.  My wife was no support, and a new baby wasn't saving anything.  My marriage continued to be strained to the point I could no longer emotionally or physically withstand temptations embrace.  I was bound to happen eventually, and finally it did.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ohio or Bust

Ohio Welcom Sign 90's Style.  Photo from Wikipedia

From the time I was a young kid, I always wanted to be a police officer.  My dad was, and my brother and I always dramatized ourselves working the beat together when we were old enough after both of our missions.  In fact, this was how things were going.  My brother had become a police officer while I was on my mission, and that’s what I was going to work towards when I got back.  Unfortunately for me, the police department my brother worked for was not hiring any new officers when I was ready.  They were in the talks of merging with the county sheriffs department, so until that was resolved, there would be no new hires.  

Since my wife at the time gave me the ultimatum to move out of state or country, I couldn’t wait for the local police department to hire again.  This is why I applied for a police department out of state, and was subsequently offered a position to a department in Ohio.  On one hand I was fulfilling my lifelong dream of becoming a police officer, but on the other I was far from home now, and not doing this with my brother as intended.  

There in Ohio we did everything Mormons are supposed to do.  We went to church on Sundays and paid our tithing and fulfilled our callings in the ward we belonged to.  Things got a little more difficult when I graduated the police academy though.  As a brand new police officer I was stuck working either 2nd or 3rd shift.  I chose 3rd shift so I could be home in the evening time with the family.  I didn’t have weekends off, and so dragging my ass to church on Sundays became a challenge.  We still did though, but I wasn’t in it 100% due to being very tired.  We still paid our tithing, but I had to give up any church callings as I couldn’t be depended on due to my schedule.

My relationship with Swede became strenuous the longer I worked nights.  I never slept well and Swede didn’t seem to care.  She expected me up by a certain time, and didn’t cut me any slack.  She didn’t work.  Instead, I provided and she was a stay at home mom.  Which is fine, but I certainly didn’t feel appreciated at home.  Swede was a very conservative person, and our sex life wasn’t much to brag about.  She was very self conscious about her body and wouldn’t let me see her naked.  Even when we had sex, she would keep her top on.  Sex didn’t happen often either, and I needed it.  She really only wanted to have sex in order to make a baby, so when we weren’t trying for a baby, we weren’t having sex.  

This led me to self gratification.  And if you’ve followed my other post about “little factories”, then you’ll understand how the Mormon church feels about masturbation.  None the less, I turned to it because I wasn’t getting fulfilled by her.  This soon turned into my viewing pornography on the computer.  One day, Swede saw my Internet history and called me out on it.  This made matters even worse.  Instead of talking about why I was watching porn, she just shut me out all together.  The Mormon mentality we had caused a great rift between us.  I was a terrible terrible sinner and she made certain I felt it, and I did.  Being a Mormon, I knew these things weren’t condoned by the church, yet I did it anyways.  I felt a lot of shame due to my actions and with my wife not allowing a discussion to occur between us, we became strangers to one another.  

This didn’t stop her from wanting another baby though.  After all, Mormons believe there are spirits waiting to come to earth and it's our job to create the body for them.  Naturally, doing God's will, she felt it would make everything better, and I wanted to have the sex and try to repair things between us.  I wasn’t able to ever see her breasts again though.  I couldn’t even touch them because I had chosen to look at boobs on the Internet.  After a few attempts, we were successful and she was pregnant with our second child.  We continued to go to church and I tried hard not to look at porn or masturbate.  It’s not very easy, and when I wasn’t being gratified by methods approved by the church, It became increasingly difficult to restrain myself.  She wouldn’t touch me or allow me the pleasure of touching a woman’s body.  She blamed me for taking her away from her home, and told me numerous times she should have married a different missionary.  She always pointed out my follies, and never blamed herself.  On top of all this, I had to deal with the stresses of being a cop.  I had to see terrible things.  Children killed, people blowing their brains out, decapitated drivers, parent’s overdosing, abused spouses and just the utter suffering of the innocent.  The last thing I needed, was a wife that shut me out and blamed me for all her woes.  I was slowly losing self control.  

But, the church was always first, and everything we did was in attempts to be good Mormons.  So we still went to church and paid our tithing, and put on a happy face.  I remember this time very vividly.  Like I said, the Church is a round hole, and it expects it's members to become round pegs.  I couldn't.  I was a square peg, and couldn't change that fact.  I was so focused on trying to be a round peg to fit the Church, that I didn't focus on just being me, and working on what I could control.

My second daughter was born in 2008, and her arrival brought both excitement and terror.  What happened next would utterly change the course of my relationship and life forever.