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 Post subject: Snatching the Phoenix From the Flames by Peter Bleakley
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 11:56 am 
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Joined: Mon Apr 17, 2017 7:00 pm
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Here is the talk in its entirety. He was not able to give it in the time allotted, but provided the Word Document for sharing. There is also available video if I can figure out how to link it:

Peter Bleakley paper for Sunstone London 2019
Snatching the Phoenix from the Flames
Responding to the theme of ‘What is the authentic heart of the Restoration and what can be left behind?’
Some references and a great call to arms I quote at the end are from Greg Prince ‘Own Your Religion’ Sunstone magazine 21 October 2018:
https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/own-your-religion/
Also recommended: Embracing Mormonism in a Secular Age - Patrick Mason - 2016 Fair Mormon Conference
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dJhU_UvRF4

Intent: This presentation is for every kind of Mormon.
It is for those of you who have become disillusioned with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which I wil¬¬¬l be focu¬¬¬¬¬sed on, or perhaps other branches of the Mormon family and are kicking yourself and feeling stupid that you ever believed in these institutions. I hope you will be reminded that you were not stupid for being attracted to Mormonism and loving it even if you no longer believe it as you once did. You were brave and reaching for love, reaching for community, reaching for truth, which is the most noble thing any human being can do with their heart and mind. I hope this presentation will help a bit to heal your wounded relationship with your past in this religion, and help you to do some more sifting of the gems from the dreck as you reflect on your experiences and journey with Mormonism and its Big Ideas.
This presentation is for those of you who are faithful mainstream believers. I hope you will be encouraged to discover or remember the pile of doctrinal gold we are sitting on which has been forgotten in recent years, or not yet developed to its potential. I think that the lucky dragon we could be, flying about blessing ALL the people of world, has fallen asleep into memory loss and complacency. Too much of its treasure is sitting dormant in a big pile we are not sharing with the world. (Lord of the Rings jewel and dragon) In particular I will argue that we already have within our doctrinal toolkit more than enough to make Mormonism totally relevant and very attractive to the Millennials, and the 21st century people of all ages who we are currently losing, or very obviously failing to appeal to as converts in our missionary outreach.
This presentation is for those of you who are like me - straddling both worlds. We are horrified by the car crash going on all around us in the Church and how it has burned the testimonies and trust of 80% of our children and many of our dearest friends and family to ash, and severely singed our own. Activity rates in the UK and the rest of Europe are down to 22% not even including the many thousands of ‘Address Unknown’ people who are not on our ward lists. Overall membership in the Church is about to crash into freefall, and probably already has. Many of our wards have already retrenched to the strength and numbers they faced as new branches in the 1970’s and may cease to exist in the next 10-15 years. We are watching everything we have worked so hard for decades to build being relentlessly erased before our eyes. We are already being ravaged by a plague of chickens coming home to roost.
But we are still in love with the great stuff in the religion of the Restoration, or the community of the Church, and determined to have it radically reform enough to fulfil its potential, or just enough to still be here after we die, or at least enough to stop hurting its own members so deeply.
Our survival instinct has kicked in, but we need to be clear about what we are going to fight on for.

MY STORY
I grew up in a heightened atmosphere of Ezra Taft Benson era Cold War anti-communism and imminent apocalyptic doom. The battle of ideas in both religion and politics was high stakes and intense. Those were the halcyon days when General Authorities could rail against occult Ouija boards and seer stones, when the Church seemed to be growing exponentially, and it was hard to get through a sacrament meeting or an Ensign without hearing about how Bigfoot Cain has been spotted in a potato field in Idaho, or the 3 Nephites had helped a damsel in distress change her car tire on a dark and stormy night. LDS Mormonism was a wild tapestry of faith promoting rumours, flat out lies and mesmerising metaphysical philosophies about life, the universe and everything.
The mission of Mormonism to fix the many flaws in the world’s largest religion got me passionate and proud of my faith. I made a bold move for a very shy Mormon kid and joined the Christian Union at Secondary School. I discovered in practice what I had been taught in theory – that my non-Mormon Christian friends were exemplary and earnest disciples of Christ, there were hardly any of them left, and they were missing a LOT of ideas and practices I took for granted and felt could make their experience of Christianity a lot richer and deeper. I began to realise that what I had in my Church could actually stop their churches from dying, which they all were as they became complacent and irrelevant to ordinary people’s lives and alienated their young.
Most of their congregations were on life support waiting for the last elderly members to die and then shut up shop while I was having an amazing time in the first generation in the UK to have thriving Seminary and Institute programs and an entire social life of activities and dances that added up to far more fun than my secular peers were having with boredom, booze and hangovers. My friends’ churches were making the fundamental error of prioritising the wishes of the loyal pensioners to preserve their cultural traditions while asphyxiating their actual religion and I was very relieved that my True and Living Church was led by visionary prophets and would never be that short-sighted.
I then served a mission in the rural Alabaman bit of the Florida Tallahassee Mission in the heartland of the Bible Belt which was an intense immersion into fundamentalist Christian America and just how spectacularly badly wrong Christianity gets when it is awash with ignorance and extremely wealthy preachers fleecing their flocks.
My proud Mormon worldview was further reinforced at university after my mission when I joined the very pentacostal Christian Union there. The CU leadership team who I had grown to love and trust eventually got round to deciding my presence as a Mormon was a dangerous threat and banned me from praying out loud in their meetings after a tour around some of their churches by a Christian Anti Cult Campaigner.
This prompted my fellow Art student Steve, a truly humble and thoughtful member of their leadership committee, to investigate whether they could really say I wasn’t a Christian. He got hold of every anti-Mormon book and tract he could find, I got hold of my pre-internet Godsends “Are Mormons Christian?” and ‘The Truth about the Godmakers’ and we did battle for months in epic, many hours long dialogues about all the uniquely Mormon concerns and controversies addressed in the hostile propaganda.
After a gruelling year of that Steve was pretty much… converted because he discovered the lucky dragon’s hoard of treasure – that Mormonism had things to say about a lot that his Christianity had no idea even mattered, or what to do with.
And then one weekend while I went home to have my laundry done by Mum and serve in my 3 weekend callings in my home stake, Steve finally started reading the Book of Mormon. I found him on my return asleep on his sofa with the book next to him covered in scribbled notes, took a photo …and baptised him a few months later. His otherwise lovely evangelical Christian family kicked him out and would not even let him leave his guitar in their house because it might be used to play Mormon hymns…. Which was ironic of course because guitars are not allowed in our worship space either!
All my assumptions about our True Church were proven absolutely correct by this pivotal experience in my life. Even the most humble and kind Christians could become cold hearted bigots and kick their own children out of their home because of their fanaticism. Even our weirdest doctrines were so amazing they were pretty much enough on their own even without the Book of Mormon to convert a seeking and sincere soul. Was I feeling vindicated, and smug and 100% gung ho for Mormonism and its destiny to save the whole world? Yes. Yes I was.
Current State of Affairs
And then the internet happened. You can imagine then my disappointment and rage that 30 years after that moment of the planets aligning.. that my Church has started to wither on the vine just as catastrophically as those churches. That despite the long list of things we do and believe that are above and beyond the toolkit of generic Christianity, we also do and believe so many things that are poisonous to faith and retention that we now neutralise every single percentage of advantage over our competitors and are losing members at exactly the same rate as they are now.
I find that MY Church has chased away its children too by prioritising the more pharisaical sensibilities of the reliably attending elderly. My apostles are telling parents it’s OK to kick your kids out if they don’t live by your fanatical beliefs. My Church is riddled with child abuse coverups too and excommunicating the whistleblowers while too often promoting to higher positions of authority known child abusers. I find myself in a Church making a homophobic crusade against civil rights its Prime Directive.
The number of missionaries is plummeting. The number of convert baptisms per missionary is plummeting. The number of missionaries returning home early and traumatised by the intense obedience culture is rising. The mission I live in closed last year. The mission I served in closed this year. The 2 wonderful branches I served in there for 2 years of my life have closed. My ward that once had an attendance of 150 on Sundays has about 45 active members, and almost no primary, youth or Young Single Adults. We were without full time missionaries for months this year because of the general shortage. We are the canary in the mine – my ward’s survival, like many others, is hanging by a very thin thread.
Despite being a common denominator in all these disasters, I promise it’s not all my fault!!
So the urgency I feel about the crisis we face in the Church is particularly raw and personal. This is my life now.
The Challenge We face
We are not in a battle to slightly tweak people's expectations so the good ship Zion can sail smoothly along mostly unchanged. That seems to be the extent to which most of the current General Authorities think it is necessary to reform, living as they do in their pampered bubble of adulation, extreme personal and institutional wealth, absolute power and no accountability. Instead of reforming they are repeatedly commanding the membership to stop questioning or scrutinising anything they tell us to do or say and proclaiming their infallibility.
They haven’t noticed that our ship has already wrecked and we are now engaged in an ideological fist fight with the other survivors to decide who is going to determine the beliefs and practices of the new ship we are going to have to build together locally and internationally to get our people back on the high seas.
Hugh Nibley warned in a powerful speech at BYU in 1983 that the Church has a choice to give power to actual Leaders who think outside the box and have charisma and creative minds, or Managers, the embodiment of the banality of evil, unimaginative but reliable drones who will never rock the boat and guarantee stability but at the cost of becoming stagnant and relentlessly falling behind the times instead of prophetically ahead of them. Nibley’s prophetic warning has been more than fulfilled now.
The power has been given to the Vogons. In ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, Douglas Adams was channelling Hugh Nibley and described the Vogons as an alien race of bureaucrats who are incredibly slow to think and act, but are still extremely dangerous because they stir themselves for occasional moments of intense violent cruelty blowing up planets to make way for a banal civil engineering plan for interstellar bypasses decided upon in remote committees without any consultation of that planet’s inhabitants. They also write and recite boring poetry that mangles grammar and logic so painfully it makes your intestines explode. Now, I’m not saying that reminds me of some General Conference talks, but Douglas Adams DID say that Vogon poetry was the THIRD worst in the universe…..
To me Real Mormonism has transcendent ideas about freedom and choice and personal development and becoming the Gods of creation.
But we are currently being fed very thin gruel indeed. Elder and Sister Renlund even had the nerve to mock members who are not satisfied with living on water from a paper cup in a leaky boat when they could be in a cruise liner…possibly the most self-defeating use of a metaphor in Apostolic Devotional history. They even had a cute animation made of it. What they and their colleagues have failed to notice is that the luxury cruise ship IS Mormonism. We are all meant to be on THAT boat! Not their leaking wreck.
As Saint Deiter Uchtdorf the Holy Silver Fox of Ostrava so wisely put it:


Quote:
"Sometimes we take the beautiful lily of God’s truth and gild it with layer upon layer of man-made good ideas, programs, and expectations. Each one, by itself, might be helpful and appropriate for a certain time and circumstance, but when they are laid on top of each other, they can create a mountain of sediment that becomes so thick and heavy that we risk losing sight of that precious flower we once loved so dearly. Therefore, as leaders we must strictly protect the Church and the gospel in its purity and plainness and avoid putting unnecessary burdens on our members." Oct 2015 Conf, "It Works Wonderfully"



We had a growth mindset in President Hinkley’s mostly open hearted engagement with the world but there has been a radical mid-course correction to the nihilistic ‘time of sifting’ and retrenchment mindset of the current First Presidency and too many members who blame external worldly and satanic forces for all our problems instead of the leaders or themselves. This is what has catapulted me and many others from generic Mormon intellectual to campaigning dissident. We can tolerate well-meaning bumbling incompetence from our Apostles, but there has now been an intensely ideological decisive regime change that is moving fast to rewrite the script regarding our beliefs, our priorities and our power relationships in the Church and they are doing it in broad daylight in General Conference talks, devotional broadcasts and Ensign articles on such a scale now that it is hard to keep up.
The dominant ideologue and driver of this regime and next President Dallin Oaks has very specifically taught in his October 2018 General Conference talk “Truth and the Plan”, which distilled things he has been preaching for several years already, that the Church is only here to service temple married heterosexual breeders. Everyone else can literally go to hell, or lesser kingdoms as he put it. We don’t need to really worry ourselves about trying to keep the people who don’t fit that plan in ours.
“Modern revelation defines truth as a “knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:24). That is a perfect definition for the plan of salvation and “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”
…… Gender is eternal. Before we were born on this earth, we all lived as male or female spirits in the presence of God.
Under the great plan of our loving Creator, the mission of His restored Church is to help the children of God achieve the supernal blessing of exaltation in the celestial kingdom, which can be attained only through an eternal marriage between a man and a woman (see Doctrine and Covenants 131:1–3). We affirm the Lord’s teachings that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose” and that “marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan.”
…The purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ is to qualify His children for the highest degree of glory, which is exaltation or eternal life. For those who do not desire or qualify for that, God has provided other, though lesser, kingdoms of glory.
Our knowledge of God’s revealed plan of salvation requires us to oppose current social and legal pressures to retreat from traditional marriage and to make changes that confuse or alter gender or homogenize the differences between men and women. We know that the relationships, identities, and functions of men and women are essential to accomplish God’s great plan.
…Finally, we are beloved children of a Heavenly Father, who has taught us that maleness and femaleness, marriage between a man and a woman, and the bearing and nurturing of children are all essential to His great plan of happiness.
….Opposition is part of the plan, and Satan’s most strenuous opposition is directed at whatever is most important to God’s plan. He seeks to destroy God’s work. … He … seeks to confuse gender, to distort marriage, and to discourage childbearing—especially by parents who will raise children in truth.”

So don’t be under any illusions – Dallin has clearly laid out his gameplan. He will force us all to choose sides. He has already declared in General Conference that our actual exaltation depends on completely supporting and believing this homophobic worldview and that the Family Proclamation he mostly wrote himself is ultimate truth on a par with the atonement.

This graphic with quote:
https://www.missedinsunday.com/wp-conte ... /oaks4.jpg


His latest homophobic rant at BYU Hawaii confirms that despite repealing the November Policy nothing at all has changed as far as he is concerned. The man is not for turning! And despite other more recent changes to it being announced and made in its text, every word of the November Policy is STILL in Handbook 1. We are faced with an amateur shambles of mixed messages.
People, we need to stop Apostles going to BYU Hawaii on a jolly - notice they always get the Hawaii gig and lesser GA’s have to do much less exotic Provo and Idaho. Hawaii is where they say all their worst stuff. It’s where President Nelson declared the November Policy to be a revelation. Hawaii makes LDS Apostles really really homophobic! Stop it Hawaii !!
If we are going to just go with the flow from Salt Lake and stick with the plan and vision for our future the First Presidency have for us all, we already know what it is. Just read all the talks Dallin Oaks has given with the word ‘Plan’ in the title! He’s a man with a plan! So we are not contemplating the future of the Church in a pleasant neutral. Their path is already clearly mapped out, they have spent the last year relentlessly destroying even the idea of dissent or questioning them in every forum and media platform they control, and they have shown us how they intend to govern. All of this makes LDS Church increasingly toxic and impossible to recommend any more to our friends and colleagues, who would see all this for what it is if they came to Church with us or listened to their talks anyway. As a Facebook friend put it so perfectly recently, “Why do Mormons assume that everyone else will automatically perform the same mental gymnastics they do?!”

The Solution
Part of the solution to our predicament then is going to have to be to offer a far better vision for our immediate and long term future than their one. And it needs to be bloody amazing because we have to pull off a turnaround in ideology, enthusiasm and inspiring engagement that starts from a position of very broken decline and confusion about what even is doctrine and revelation any more.
What is it we’ve already got ready to dust off and run with? How quickly can we reboot Mormon history and delete this unfortunate dive right off the rails into bigotry and the nether regions of the United States of America’s culture war? What Big Ideas can we put front and centre in our missionary programs and study curriculum that have been there all along and are perfectly suited for the needs and challenges of our times?

“The Last Drop of the Chalice” by Vaughn J Featherstone 1st Quorum Seventy BYU Provo Devotional 24 September 1985:
https://speeches.BYU.edu/talks/vaughn-j ... p-chalice/
“Not much happens without a dream. And for something great to happen, there must be a great dream. Behind every great achievement is a dreamer of great dreams. Much more than a dreamer is required to bring it to reality; but the dream must be there first. [Greenleaf, Servant Leadership, p. 16] President Kimball’s life could be summarized in the words servant-leader with a dream. President Kimball said: “Make no small plans. They have no magic to stir men’s souls”

Helen Whitney said to Greg Prince when she was researching and writing the PBS documentary about the Mormons: “I have interviewed hundreds of Mormons for this documentary. You have a good religion, but you need to own it. Most of its members are borrowing it.” (Mormon Stories #660 with Greg Prince c. 45 minutes in.) https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/own-your-religion/

I really recommend her book ‘Falling in Love with Joseph Smith.” Helen nearly joined the Church! But when she realised that the LDS Church today is a very watered down ghost of the radical doctrinal treasures Joseph Smith originally offered its converts and nowhere close to appreciating the full scale of its founder’s visions, she sadly pulled back. Maybe she needed to have discussions using anti-Mormon propaganda as the text with me and Steve instead of what the missionaries recited to her from their manuals.

The unique selling points of Mormon Doctrine are meant to be our healing gift to the world. They are the ideas that make the Restoration necessary, exciting and interesting:


The Treasures

1 - We are here to rescue the world’s most popular religion from its fundamental flaws.

We seem to be in the right club. Christians believe they are the sequel of Judaism. Muslims believe they are the sequel to Christians and Mormons believe we are the successors of all of them. God isn’t faffing about with a microscopic percentage of his children on earth. Project Biblical has been wildly successful so far! There is something really amazing about the Judeao-Christian-Muslim religious tradition that has switched on most of the world to it.

Yet the basic traditional Judeo-Christian-Muslim cosmology – the purpose of the universe their God created – is pretty lame.
It can be characterised simply as a vanity project of a really egotistical God who wanted to make some pets to love Him back because He got lonely. That’s kind of it, but with some really dysfunctional plot twists. We get made out of nothing, loads of us don’t do well at pet obedience school or are not even chosen in the first place by God when He visits the pet shop, so we get shipped off to the animal testing laboratory for an eternity of gruesome vivisection by demons God created for that horrible purpose.
Those of us that get randomly selected by God, or pamper His ego enough with our praise, get to spend all eternity singing more praise to Him in a gilded cage at his feet to keep reminding Him how great He is… but never becoming as great as He is. Presumably He wants us to sing to drown out the screams ascending from all our relatives in hell who wouldn’t even have existed if they hadn’t been created by psychopath God in the first place who had foreknowledge that they would end up in hell… but decided to make them from scratch anyway! What kind of a person would DO that?! Yikes!
I first came across this brutal analysis of orthodox Christian theology in a book I found while stacking shelves at my university library written in the 1960’s by Cambridge theologian Don Cupitt called “Crisis of Moral Authority.” This book completely changed by perspective on Mormon theology. Don Cupitt’s conclusion was that this traditional Christian God is clearly a freaking sadist so the only future Christianity could have with integrity is as a charitable social action group practicing the more tree-huggy end of the spectrum of what Jesus was about, but definitely not trusting the Psychopath in the Sky to save us, or organise an ethical afterlife.
I realised for the first time why the Anglicans seemed to have given up on literal belief in anything, AND that Joseph Smith was, or was inspired to be, a theological genius. My Kiwi Muse Gina Colvin who is always going on about how Mormonism hasn’t got any theology would start smacking me around if she were here right now. Joseph of course could never have a protracted debate about the arcane stuff you need a degree for, but part of his genius was to analyse messy doctrinal situations around him with fresh eyes and see rational and clever solutions for them that clerics have failed to see for thousands of years. Joseph fixed stuff as he encountered it and kind of made it work as part of the Restoration whole. Boffin nuanced Mormons call this “Eclectic Syncretism.”
So how did Joseph Smith fix Sadistic Christian God? There is one idea he taught that old school anti-Mormon literature found the most blasphemous and offensive to Christians: that we are co-eternal with God in some way and have always existed as intelligences with potential to progress to become Gods. That God therefore did not create the whole universe or us from scratch. There was stuff existing or going on before Elohim and Mrs Elohima made stuff happen. God has ancestors. God is not the First Cause that Thomas Aquinas suggested. Yet I found out in the library in Chichester that this is the one doctrine that could save traditional Christian theology from its most fundamental fatal flaw.
It completely absolves God of Cupitt’s ‘Crisis of moral responsibility.’ This doctrine is the antidote to the ethical calamity of a God who creates us ‘ex nihilo’ – ‘out of nothing’ - and invents moral and physical laws as whatever He decides they should be, so is therefore entirely to blame for all our sinfulness and the eternal punishments inflicted upon us for that sin. In Mormonism moral laws and the multiverse exist outside the actions and will of an individual God. There really are absolute truths and an absolute reality that exists whether or not individual lifeforms or senior angels agree with them.
So ironically, the same Mormonism that often demonises ‘the philosophies of men’ and teaches that Greek platonic philosophy led early Christianity into apostasy as it evolved the mental gymnastics of the Trinity and the Nicean Creed has actually embraced Plato’s concept of the world of the Forms – absolute truths and realities that exist as ideals expressed through, but independent of, our physical and mental world and our experiences.
The idea of intelligences with a potential to progress that are co-eternal with God is the Arkinstone of Mormon Doctrine. This is the one we should have a battle of the 5 armies over with the other denominations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, not waste our energies in futile wars we will lose opposing gay marriage with the Family Proclamation.
We need to stop pretending our theology about God is mostly just like theirs. While treating them with respect we need to get back in the game. Take the fight to them. Their God is a freaking sadist! By all means collaborate to build a homeless shelter but if we really have to expend so much effort handing other churches’ Prelates leather bound copies of their genealogy and statuettes of Scandinavian Jesus, afterwards invite them to a public debate and eviscerate their nasty doctrines about Heavenly Father the serial killer psychopath! Give their members mentally terrorised by original sin, exploited by relics and televangelists, and bored rigid by services where everything is being read from a medieval prayer book or shouted by the same hysterical preacher every week a reason to escape and jump ship! Let’s rescue some people from their clutches. We aren’t perfect yet, but by several criteria we are a step up.
And if you think I have grossly misrepresented the Christian God there, bring it on! Fight me! Let’s have that debate, that refining clash of ideas, and see what stands up to scrutiny! Let’s rediscover from that struggle what our strengths really are and get a much better idea of the alternatives on offer by engaging with them vigorously. Instead of hugging everyone into submission but not converting them, let’s get dangerous again! Become an ideological threat! Bestride the earth with our awesome doctrines and put the wind up complacent clergies feeding their people thin gruel and masochism. By withdrawing from the battlefield of ideas with other denominations in the name of ‘avoiding contention’ our leaders have withdrawn not only from caring about doctrinal ideas but from bothering to even understand them if their recent talks are anything to go by.
In Mormonism people are God’s work and glory, for real, not just metaphorically. Gods are real parents who want the kids to become everything they are, not keep them as infantile pets.

2 - Our second treasure is a cosmology and purpose for our existence that has far more in common with the eastern religions than orthodox Christianity
Mormons and Hindus and the many Eastern religions that descended from Hinduism, like Buddhism and Sikhism, believe the universe is teeming with souls on a journey to learn and progress and bring everything they have learned and experienced with them as they ascend towards becoming divine, not just lie in a gutter screaming for a saviour to rescue us. Like Hindus we go on a journey of progression following the 4 paths – Knowledge, Meditation, Love, and Good Action - that can take us all the way from amoeba gods in embryo to becoming a deity and returning to join the hive mind of all the Gods as an equal. Like them we believe that all living things have souls – the plants, the whales, the mole rats, the syphilis bacteria… - are part of the fabric of creation and exaltation. Some people speculate that Jesus was a Hindu guru who wandered in to the Middle East. Let’s get Joseph Smith on the guru list!
We are so used to our theological interests being determined by the worldview of a tiny monoculture in Utah in the USA that we forget our religion is meant to speak to the whole population of the globe instead of being ideologically limited to that provincial bubble.
At university two of my friends were devotees of Theosophy and Eckankar and I discovered that the scripture where we most intensively overlapped was D and C 93 with its metaphysical philosophising about the nature of reality, matter, spirit and truth and the journey the soul is on to gain knowledge. While we imprison ourselves in the fundamentalist Protestant snowglobe we will never really explore and realise this and make those connections with the whole religious family.
3 - As well as having things to discuss with Eastern religious traditions, in the temple we also go fully animist and Catholic.
Animism is a generic academic term for the religious format of our tribal ancestors in which the natural world is teeming with spirits, including those of your ancestors who are very closely involved in our lives and need our attention through rituals and incantations. Animist cultures usually initiate young people into adult society by taking them away from normal life for a while to immerse them in kinaesthetic learning by acting out in costumes and actions and words the stories of how the world was created, how the first people were established in the world by the gods and given sacred laws and covenants to live by in the Dreamtime before the world as we experience it now existed.
I love that we totally do this in the temple, although tragically the endowment has, hopefully temporarily, been turning into Death By Powerpoint because the director who made the fantastic 3 new Endowment films turned out to be yet another child abuser that the Church knew about but decided to protect and promote anyway, so they had to yank the new films rapidly when that went public. He just got sentenced to 6 years to life in jail.
The temple also has elements of Catholic tradition we don’t usually notice or talk about like theatrical medieval pageants featuring ‘Everyman’ Adam on a pilgrim’s progress through life, and performing elaborate ritual services for our dead ancestors that can actually break them out of purgatory or limbo, the ‘spirit prison’ in our jargon, and release them to enter heavenly bliss. We could do more to own these dimensions of our religion as we build bridges with Animists and Catholics.
We also go fully catholic regarding saving sacraments and priesthood lines of authority. We are far from being the mostly Protestant denomination we usually think we are. My Northern Irish Aunt and Uncle used to drive their employers crazy during the height of the Troubles by not fitting into their categories of Catholic or Protestant. They were sometimes asked if they were Protestant Mormons or Catholic Mormons and answered “neither”, but really they should perhaps have said “both”!
And now we are doing statues of Jesus and all the Apostle saints to worship, why not go for it big time? Smells and bells! We could start digging up the prophets and venerating bits of their bodies as relics. Instead of Elder Bednar telling us to have the faith NOT to be healed, maybe he could donate a few body parts and we could see I that is a more effective way to get miraculously healed by an LDS apostle these days!
4 - The Goddess
While far from being a feminist icon, Joseph Smith went a long way towards developing a concept of female divinity, priesthood and ministry in tandem with male divinity and priesthood The patriarchy that succeeded him relentlessly crushed that blossoming potential and then totally killed it with correlation, which to my feminist Mum and her pals was the equivalent of mass Mormon female genital mutilation. The spiritual and organisational autonomy of the Relief Society was neutered and brought under the male priesthood yoke.
We currently have a Prophet who has nothing whatsoever to say about women except regularly repeating a verse from the polygamy manifesto D and C 132 and talking about their value only as wives and mothers. Even when offered opportunities on a plate like Peggy Fletcher Stack asking his thoughts about women in leadership at his inaugural press conference he forgot what the question was and had to be reminded. Then bizarrely we were treated to the March of the Nelson Children like the ‘King and I’ when the King has his many children from many wives paraded before Mrs Anna to demonstrate his power and fertility. President Nelson’s multitude of great grandchildren were paraded in front of the cameras – we were being invited in to a royal family event, the dawn of a new patriarchal dynasty ruling our tribe. We had a Mormon State celebration of his 95th birthday with no religious justification of any kind last night in the same year that he cancelled all the Mormon community pageants that DO have a religious and missionary justification.
Mormonism has tragically turned into an oppressive patriarchal machine that mostly ignores women’s experiences, concerns and voice. Very early on we went full Nephite and imposed on our women and children a system of polygamy that continues today, as the feminist manifesto of Jacob chapter 2 describes in some of the most eloquent prose of the Book of Mormon, to “enlarge the wounds of those who are already wounded, instead of consoling and healing their wounds; and those who have not been wounded, instead of feasting upon the pleasing word of God have daggers placed to pierce their souls and wound their delicate minds.”
In the Book of Mormon Jacob warned the Nephites that their demeaning sexual exploitation and emotional abuse of women in the name of polygamy would cost them their civilisation and they would be replaced and their covenant promises given to the Lamanites, who treated their women and children well.
I have grown up distressed and frustrated by the agonies my amazing faithful Latter Day Saint mother who has served in every regional calling available to a women has gone through battling her fears about what her place in the celestial kingdom will actually involve and her endless struggles with male priesthood leaders when they exercised their amateur, untrained unrighteous and insensitive dominion over her sisters from their positions of power and privilege. Her instinctive, raw hatred of polygamy and the atrocities it inflicted on women starting with Emma Smith used to alarm me as a child. How could she be so adamant that something that was so integrated in our early history by these prophets I trusted had no redeeming aspects of any kind? To my shame it took being emotionally blackmailed into modern LDS temple polygamy myself to properly begin to open my eyes and heart to what she meant and the full extent of her pain.
Perhaps one of the more obvious explanations for God apparently withdrawing His favour from our Church as we begin to decline now is that in the 21st century we have no excuses left for treating women as unequal, imposing on them doctrines and cultural norms that open emotional and psychological wounds that privileged men in the Church don’t even have to think about, and failing to do even basic things to protect our children from sexual predators. (‘Letter to a Mormon Man’…)
Far more women in a typical Mormon congregation are involved in actual hands on leadership and ministry than in any other Christian denomination that I am aware of so we are not a total disaster with the feminism, but women are excluded from almost all decision making power in the Church, particularly at the top, and as a result we are usually among the last to catch up with long overdue feminist reforms. But we should be the opposite. We should be the most feminist Christians bar none.
Why? We have an actual Heavenly Mother in Mormonism, not a metaphorical feminine aspect of the mysterious unknowable deity. An actual divine woman… or women plural as Brigham Young insisted, which may be why the GA’s are reluctant to open that pandora’s box. We offer a destiny for women as Goddesses. We need to conceptualise Heavenly Mothers as much more than a handmaid baby making machine and stop suppressing discussion of her.
When the time finally comes and we unleash and fulfil the potential of the Goddess in LDS theology we have some strong starting points to build from in theory if not in practice. President Nelson keeps declaring that the Restoration has only just got going and there is loads more to come. Let’s take him at his word then – just because our prophets have spent decades ignoring Heavenly Mother and we don’t have much specific to reassure us yet, there is no reason we cannot in the future properly flesh out her place in our theology and worship if we really believe the Restoration has only just started.
LDS Living, owned by Deseret Books which is owned by the Church, uncharacteristically opened wide a window on what that could look like when for a few days from 11 May this year they posted an amazing article by Danielle B Wagner exploring lots of ways we could incorporate Heavenly Mother in our teaching, doctrine and worship. It received a rapturous response but of course was never going to last long because it broke all the rules of suppressing discussion and worship of our Heavenly Mother and was removed after a couple of days. But she has a couple of other great articles there about Heavenly Mother that have survived.
We have also reclaimed Eve for feminism. In Mormonism Eve is not the prototype harlot getting men into spiritual danger with her alluring ways who initiated calamity for all mankind, for which Biblical religions have punished women ever since. She is a proactive, innovative creator and the first avatar or ‘type’ of Christ who chose to leave immortality to become mortal and suffer pain and death so that all humankind could have life on earth and be saved. She is much more specifically and impactfully a foreshadowing of Christ than any of the many male ‘types of Christ’ we usually talk about in Mormonism like Moses. As the feminist Christian group who invited me to a gathering on campus pointed out to me at university, Catholicism offers women 3 pathways: Harlot, Mother and Virgin. The ultimate ideal offered is a virgin mother, Mary, who is impossible for real women to personally imitate because they can never be both. The role model Mormonism at its best offers to women is Eve, not Mary. To actually BE God, not just God’s mother or concubine.
Incidentally, isn’t it fascinating that the only 3 women in the Book of Mormon who are actually named are the harlot Isobel, the Mother Sariah and the virgin Abish. One of the first Mormon feminist things I ever came across was Carol Lynn Pearson’s brilliant article in the March 1996 edition of Sunstone Magazine with the fantastic title “Could Feminism have Saved the Nephites?” in which she explores how intensively the Nephite culture erased its women in its records and self-destructed through patriarchal warrior obsessions. It is a warning to us all. 22:51
5 - God has a plan to save everybody who wants salvation and exaltation whether they get that opportunity in their mortal or spirit world or millennial lifetime. That is extraordinarily inclusive and fair compared to the usual Christian ideas about who gets saved. It is turbo-boosted by our rejection of the concept of original sin. Children should not be shamed and told they are destined to hell as their primary nature.
6 – The Book of Mormon goes even further than eventually offering salvation to everyone. It says that God already speaks to all people and cultures and gives them scriptures! In 2 Nephi 29:10-12

“For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; AND I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.”

So this scripture production is not limited only to the scattered lost tribes of Israel. It includes all the other nations and at least some of their scriptures too. Wow! Maybe this is what the First Presidency had in mind in their 1978 official statement which, while asserting Christ as everyone’s Saviour, was surprisingly positive about ancient Greek philosophers and other religions’ founders and scripture writers being inspired by God:

“The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals…. we believe that God has given and will give to all people sufficient knowledge to help them on their way to eternal salvation, either in this life or in the life to come.”
What can we therefore learn from all those nations and religions and their scriptures? How could embracing this Book of Mormon concept transform us from being so uptight about being the only true and living Church and rejecting or ignoring the scriptures and wisdom of other religions? In a century when researchers are constantly telling us that the young are less and less impressed by exclusive claims of truth and authority and like Joseph Smith doing his eclectic syncretism shop around for ideas and spirituality wherever they find something of value, this scripture could be our bridge to embracing that, while still being proud of our own unique selling points.
7 - We have an articulate response to the philosophical ‘problem of evil’ in the ‘Opposition in all Things’ teaching of Lehi in 2 Nephi 2:11-30. God is not a monster letting us down because bad things happen. We are not being unjustly tortured by sin, temptation and physical suffering to punish us for Adam and Eve’s original sin. We aren’t even being punished for our own sins in a past life - Mormonism (now it has dropped the racist nonsense about fence-sitting) tells us that we all triumphed as warriors for truth and freedom against a totalitarian plan of salvation in our previous life and are being rewarded by being here as we are, not punished, which is far more encouraging and cheerful.
It is a fundamental law of the universe and our plan of salvation that we face opposition, struggle, injustice, that we face our personal demons and experience what it is to hurt others and be hurt by others, and have the chance to learn and choose love and compassion when we are just as free to choose hate and cruelty. It is from this struggle that we progress and ascend towards heaven and work out our own salvation.
Critics often say that the Book of Mormon is doctrinally bland, limiting itself to settling Alexander Campbell’s list of 19th century Protestant controversies regarding things like infant baptism and repentance….
“This prophet Smith, through his stone spectacles, wrote on the plates of Nephi, in his book of Mormon, every error and almost every truth discussed in N. York for the last ten years. He decides all the great controversies - infant baptism, ordination, the trinity, regeneration, repentance, justification, the fall of man, the atonement, transubstantiation, fasting, penance, church government, religious experience, the call to the ministry, the general resurrection, eternal punishment, who may baptize, and even the question of freemasonry, republican government, and the rights of man. All these topics are repeatedly alluded to. How much more benevolent and intelligent this American Apostle, than were the holy twelve, and Paul to assist them!!! He prophesied of all these topics, and of the apostacy, and infallibly decided, by his authority, every question. How easy to prophecy of the past or of the present time!!
….and the really meaty stuff of Mormonism came later in the Pearl of Great Price, Temple Endowment and King Follett Discourse, but this is one of the passages in the Book of Mormon that blows that idea right out of the water. It asserts a completely different framework for salvation and even the nature of existence to the Christian usual. It deals head on with the age-old “Problem of Evil” reason so many people reject God – if He is so nice, why is our life so appalling? And it offers us the explanation that became a key component of what Eve learns after eating the Fruit in the temple Endowment. The Book of Mormon teaches here that the idea that humanity should have remained in a paradise in Eden experiencing good and love and everything as it should be and rebellious humans messed up God’s Plan A to keep us there is fundamentally flawed, because you cannot even know what good or pleasure or love is until you have experienced their opposites and really started to learn about life, the universe and everything for yourself.
11 For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.
12 Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God…..And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.
….16 Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other…
25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.
27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

These verses bring me to the next treasure in Mormonism:
8 - Our scriptures about metaphysics intentionally cross the boundary into physics – we have a religion that should be very friendly to scientists. True science is true religion!
This ‘opposition in all things’ is framed not just as a complementary and essential ying and yang of morality but as a fundamental quality of the existence of all matter and reality. “And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.”
Science is revealing that his duality of opposites runs through everything: matter and antimatter, the super-symmetrical quarks and muons, binary code, positively and negatively oriented electrons etc etc.
Early Mormon leaders were confident idealists – they were excited by the doctrine that the entire purpose of life is to insatiably learn about everything and progress until you become a God. They were fearless about including all learning in that process. Their writing and preaching is littered with quotes that make an academic weep for joy:
Joseph Smith wrote in a letter to Isaac Galland on 22 March 1839 from Liberty Jail:
“Mormonism is truth; and every man who embraces it feels himself at liberty to embrace every truth: consequently the shackles of superstition, bigotry, ignorance, and priestcraft, fall at once from his neck; and his eyes are opened to see the truth, and truth greatly prevails over priestcraft. …
“… Mormonism is truth, in other words the doctrine of the Latter-day Saints, is truth. … The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men, or by the dominations of one another, when that truth is clearly demonstrated to our minds, and we have the highest degree of evidence of the same.”

In January 1843, Joseph Smith had a conversation with some people who were not members of the Church and later wrote: “I stated that the most prominent difference in sentiment between the Latter-day Saints and sectarians was, that the latter were all circumscribed by some peculiar creed, which deprived its members the privilege of believing anything not contained therein, whereas the Latter-day Saints … are ready to believe all true principles that exist, as they are made manifest from time to time.”

(History of the Church, 5:215; from “History of the Church” (manuscript), book D-1, p. 1433, Church Archives.)
Brigham Young said, “Our religion is simply the truth” and it “embraces all truth that is revealed and that is unrevealed, whether religious, political, scientific, or philosophical.”
Brigham Young: “Every discovery in science and art, that is really true and useful to mankind, has been given by direct revelation from God. … We should take advantage of all these great discoveries … and give to our children the benefit of every branch of useful knowledge, to prepare them to step forward and efficiently do their part in the great work” (Deseret News,22 Oct. 1862, 129).
Mormonism is a product of the Enlightenment – it offered a rational explanation of the entire universe, evidence in experience and interactions with ancient artefacts, locating itself in history and the history of human progress. It saw and should see all truth as part of a whole.
We once had towering intellects among our apostles. Philosophers and research scientists, like James Talmage the English geologist who jump started the conversion of my Great Grandmother’s Jeannie Bleakley with a sermon he gave as President of the European Mission in Manchester in the early 1920’s, John Widtsoe the Norwegian biologist who led the European Mission and his wife Leah who corresponded with Jeannie for years while she was the only member of the Church in Ceylon, and Utah-Canadian Hugh B Brown who led the British Mission and battled against the racist apostles to try to end the discrimination against black Church members until, like Dieter Uchtdorf, he was demoted from the First Presidency by his arch nemesis, the racist and first First Vision account concealer Joseph Fielding Smith.
Hugh B brown said at BYU “We are grateful in the Church and in this great university that the freedom, dignity and integrity of the individual is basic in Church doctrine as well as in democracy. Here we are free to think and express our opinions. Fear will not stifle thought, as is the case in some areas which have not yet emerged from the Dark Ages. God himself refuses to trammel man's free agency even though its exercise sometimes teaches painful lessons. Both creative science and revealed religion find their fullest and truest expression in the climate of freedom.
"I hope that you will develop the questing spirit. Be unafraid of new ideas for they are the stepping stones of progress. You will of course respect the opinions of others but be unafraid to dissent—if you are informed.”
Contrast that with the recent edict to BYU professors to make sure they never breathe a word out of place that risks influencing their students to question their testimonies! Since these sincerely academic men died the tide of the Apostles has turned aggressively against Science and Philosophy, particularly in just the last few years.
This has become very personal for me not only as a professional teacher of Art, Religion, Politics and Philosophy but as I realise from studying their letters how important it was to my Great Grandmother and Grandad that Mormonism was intellectually credible and even exemplary. They loved what these scientist apostles represented and taught and saw Mormonism as at the forefront of embracing new knowledge and being the best in academia and the arts as well as religion. They declared with pride how their religion fed their minds as well as their souls and made rational sense. (Show article about grandad John Bleakley Gordon Hinckley wrote).
But here we are in 2019 with President Nelson who doesn’t believe the Big Bang or evolution happened. Even though he describes developing his pioneering surgical techniques on animals because of their very similar physiology to humans he stated in 2007 “Man has always been man. Dogs have always been dogs. Monkeys have always been monkeys. It’s just the way genetics works.” and has repeated this position since. Clearly he knows literally nothing about how genetics works at all and I presume believes the Garden of Eden was like a petting zoo of all the modern dog breeds being taken for walkies by Adam and Eve!
LDS Apostles and Church university Presidents are now telling their students over and over again NOT to use rational analysis to find truth, not to question anything about the Church or its leaders. They are mocking sceptical researchers as lazy tools of Satan, and telling them to rely entirely on feelings or even guilt trips about their own sins rather than research to discover the truth about LDS Church history. If you think this is far-fetched watch the Renlunds’ devotional at BYU Hawaii, Elder Tad Callister of the Seventy’s devotional at BYU Provo and the irrational horror story that was Henry Eyring Junior’s devotional as President of BYU Idaho. They have to be heard to be believed. You will be astonished by how far the calibre of our leaders’ ability to relate to the academic and scientific worlds has sunk. Or even to maintian a rational train of thought in an argument without repeatedly contradicting themselves.

And if you want to get super-nerdy about this tragic trend watch Jeffrey Holland’s evisceration of the Maxwell Institute in which he basically commanded them on 10 November last year to give up being academically credible, dumb down their work to the level that amateur LDS family historians can relate to, become a biased propaganda machine for the Church and promised them that the Apostles on their board of directors will never punish them if they have to exaggerate or lie to do it. Watching the poor people behind him as he destroys their institution look sadder and sadder and kind of slump in their seats is like watching the bits in Handmaid’s Tale where the women start to discover that their rights and careers are being erased in the new state of Gilead. These broadcasts are opportunities to actually watch the apostles and their nepotistically promoted children get their flame throwers out and set fire to the precious libraries of knowledge and truth-seeking our founding fathers bequeathed to us. There is a bonfire of the humanities going on in the universities we pay for with more than $1 billion directly from our tithing every year.
One day I imagine them giving one of these keynote anti-educational sermons and the symbol they wear over their heart bursting onto flames like the swastikas on the box containing the Ark of the Covenant in ‘Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark’ because God just cannot stand their betrayal of everything that symbol means for a moment longer.
Our First Presidency and our Gospel Doctrine classes still have anti-evolution young earth creationists in them and noone is challenging them.
Neil Anderson recently celebrated in April 2018 General Conference that Russell Nelson doesn’t do critical analysis of leaders:
“Some will try to overly dissect the prophet’s words, struggling to determine what is his prophetic voice and what is his personal opinion. In 1982, two years before being called as a General Authority, Brother Russell M. Nelson said: “I never ask myself, ‘When does the prophet speak as a prophet and when does he not?’ My interest has been, ‘How can I be more like him?’” And he added, “My [philosophy is to] stop putting question marks behind the prophet’s statements and put exclamation points instead.” This is how a humble and spiritual man chose to order his life. Now, 36 years later, he is the Lord’s prophet.”
This is obviously very inaccurate as one of President Nelson’s first acts upon taking power was to publicly rail against the policies of Presidents Hinkley and Monson to embrace and promote the name ‘Mormon’ as not just speaking for themselves but offending Jesus and giving a victory to Satan! He spent 30 years seething in his obsession that they definitely weren’t speaking as prophets, but the important thing here is how Elder Neil Anderson is spinning this.
The ideal he presents for us all to aspire to is: Don’t even bother trying to determine when a prophet is speaking for God or for himself as a human. In their world the difference literally doesn’t matter because we are not on a quest to find truth and model our lives on Christ any more. According to Russell Nelson and Neil Anderson and several other apostles we are instead being tested to prove our unquestioning loyalty and obedience to the prophet and his colleagues regardless of whether what they are saying is from Christ, and to treat THEM as our role models. The religion these men want us all to practice and believe demands that we elevate the LDS prophets above Christ in our loyalty and veneration. If it really doesn’t matter whether or not the prophets we must unquestioningly believe and obey are actually teaching Christ’s revealed will or their own philosophies there is no other possible conclusion. They have decisively crossed that line to the dark side while hypocritically railing against the people standing up for truth and holding them accountable for this betrayal as the deceptive servants of Satan.
Instead of ignoring, disparaging or demonising science, and shutting down curiosity like these Apostles, our founding apostles embraced all science and knowledge into Mormon religion.
Joseph Smith was happy to declare that “A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge” (History of the Church, 4:588; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Apr. 10, 1842, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Wilford Woodruff.)
Alma 32 even teaches us to apply the actual scientific method to how we discover and determine spiritual truths. The scientific method begins with a hypothesis – an idea that might be true. Then you devise practical or rational thought experiments to see if there is any evidence supporting the hypothesis. After experimenting you review and analyse the data that experience gave you and if there seems to be supportive evidence it becomes the most certain thing you can get in science – a Theory. The word ‘Theory’ humbly acknowledges that we don’t know everything about everything yet, just a bit about that one thing, so you develop more hypotheses and experiments to add to that knowledge piece by piece. There is always more to know.
Wonderfully, Alma 32 very clearly insists on the same caveat after reviewing your experiments on the religious word:
“…when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge…
33 And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.
34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.
35 O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?
36 Behold I say unto you, Nay;”
The default act of mental gymnastics that is all over Mormonism and constantly sabotaging its rational credibility is over-claiming based on too little evidence. The idea that if you feel warm and fuzzy or excited about a passage in the Book of Mormon or one story from the life of Joseph Smith, that is all you need to know to know that it is ALL true! The Book of Mormon is all true! And if it is all true, then Joseph Smith must be a real prophet and God is telling you to trust and believe every single thing he did or taught. And if He was a prophet then you know that this Church 200 years later is all true and the current President of it is also a completely trustworthy prophet and mouthpiece for actual God!
A recurring theme in the talks at the BYU’s I have referenced and most of the efforts of current LDS apologists has been telling people to cure their faith and trust crisis about Church history and lies by remembering or getting a spiritual witness about sweeping ‘primary issues’ like ‘Joseph was a prophet!’ and ‘The Book of Mormon is True!’ and relegating all the information that threatens to disprove those assertions as ‘secondary matters’ to ignore or put on the shelf. But they ignore that you cannot trust what they label ‘Primary’ truth claims without the supporting ‘secondary’ evidence making it credible.
Mormonism desperately needs to rediscover its assertion that true science is true religion. And as LDS historian Patrick Mason recommended to Fairmormon, to start taking things off our truth cart that should never have been there in the first place. It will make our religion much safer for educated people to take seriously, including our teenagers who can’t believe they are still being taught in Seminary that the earth is only 6,000 years old and are still being told at Church by some people that you cannot believe in evolution and be a Mormon. We need to remember that pretty much everyone in the UK goes to school for 13 years during which they study Shakespeare and Science, and about 30% of the population go to university. Sunday School classes cannot continue to be the educational equivalent of storytime at a primary school, which they usually literally are. Our founders challenged us to embrace all academic knowledge and then ascend higher to become creator Gods mastering all the natural and social laws with wisdom and culture. Let’s act like we really mean it.
Embracing our brains again could also significantly improve our ministering efforts, specially now we are so short-staffed. We could restore the critical analysis too often missing from our discussions and leadership meetings that wear us all out with doing dumb things that we know will not work, but no one wants to be seen as faithless and negative for pointing this out. Let’s think and discuss before we launch into the next pointless exercise in futility.
9 – As I have already described, the foundational creation myth of Mormonism is not the Garden of Eden where weak human beings rebel against God and mess up His plans but a titanic struggle for free agency against an ideology of totalitarian control in a premortal war in heaven. Freedom and autonomy to think for ourselves is the foundational purpose of our existence and crucial to becoming like God. Obedience is absolutely NOT the first law of heaven – it is the first law of Lucifer’s hell. Working out your own salvation and what love is with a free mind learning from teachings and experiences is the first law of heaven.
Religion has too often been used to support oppression and secular people are massively put off it for that very sensible reason, so what an amazing message to offer the world! Our religion’s foundation myth is the empowerment and liberation of every individual to live and learn freely. It isn’t an afterthought or side effect of our religion – it is the foundation of Mormon thought.
We need to get our own house in order first before cheerleading for that message to the world. How we ever got from that freedom fight in the pre-existence to telling women in the 21st century that to be faithful to God they must not have…. a second pair of earrings and we must all use Tudor English when we pray or we aren’t being respectful is a tragicomic farce that needs deconstructing just as rapidly as we possibly can.
But if we can return our religion to this foundation we can speak powerfully to a world where knowledge is power increasingly beset by intense totalitarian use of information technology for surveillance, indoctrination and manipulation through fake news and propaganda. Access to true information and freedom of thought are going to be the biggest struggle humanity faces this century and we could be a powerful voice speaking to the Millennials about it.
10- We already have God’s permission to be innovative, proactive, self-determining in Seminary scripture D and C 58:26-29. A passive religious life where we only do what leaders tell us to, grudgingly, is described as the path to damnation. The new concept for ministering that trusts the members to know what to do without micromanaging them is a huge positive step towards actually doing this and unleashing every member’s potential. It wasn’t a miracle that President Nelson thought of it though – this scripture has been telling us this since the 1800’s and we all knew decades ago why home teaching was broken, but at last we have finally taken this important step.
We need to build on that and scale up. Since missionary work is such an embarrassing disaster in most areas now we have very little to lose, so why not free everyone up to do it their way? Have the full time missionaries and local members create their own programme for a daily routine of service and prostelyting activities that gets them out and about meeting the right people at the right times of the day or night in ways that work for the local culture and community instead of one size fits all. Imagine the thousands of great ideas that would emerge from that on a global scale.
26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
29 But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.
This brilliant scripture is a remarkably powerful anti-authoritarian statement. Mormonism will only flourish when it fully understands and practices this awesome game-changing idea.

11- We have a Christian religion for the Hubble space age that can comfortably inhabit and make sense of every corner of a universe with over 2 trillion galaxies each with hundreds of billions of habitable earths, 11 dimensions of space according to the quantum physicists, and oodles of whatever Dark Energy turns out to be. The traditional Judeo-Christian idea that this is the only inhabited planet and the centre of God’s work only holds up rationally until you comprehend the scale even of our own galaxy. If you could travel at the speed of light it would take 100,000 years to travel from one end of the Milky Way to the other. Now scale up to 2 trillion galaxies – that’s 2 million million galaxies with hundreds of billions of solar systems in each galaxy. Travelling at the speed of light it would take 47 BILLION years to get from one end to the other of the universe we can see. The universe is 13.8 billion years old. That makes our lives on our speck of dust planet seem spectacularly insignificant, and if there is only life on earth creating all of the rest just to show off to Moses an act of ludicrous overkill by God.
Joseph Smith said that some of his first religious and philosophical stirrings began when he looked up at those stars in the clear night skies of the 19th century and bless his heart, he filled our religion with a big love letter to the physical universe with huge distant stars gravitationally controlling the orbits of other ones and made us the same species as God, who exists in real space, and filled the universe with living organisms. We may laugh at the idea of Elohim living on a planet near the star Kolob as fanciful nonsense, but what an exciting idea as we start to get a grip on what is really out there in the universe.
Kolob is starting to very comfortably fit the description of a supermassive black hole since time slows down near it, it governs the orbits of all the other stars in its galaxy and all the information from the solar systems that have been sucked into it from the beginning of time is still present and can theoretically be seen and even decoded and reconstructed on its fiery glassy surface at the event horizon.
D and C 130: 6 The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth;
7 But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord.
8 The place where God resides is a great Urim and Thummim.
9 This earth, in its sanctified and immortal state, will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants who dwell thereon, whereby all things pertaining to an inferior kingdom, or all kingdoms of a lower order, will be manifest to those who dwell on it; and this earth will be Christ’s.
10 Then the white stone mentioned in Revelation 2:17, will become a Urim and Thummim to each individual who receives one, whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known;
Joseph made God an alien scientist with a technology to see the past, future and present and other dimensions of space. In an age when we do the same through crystals and glass and light and hadron colliders, our science fiction has spent a century normalising the idea of extra terrestrial lifeforms using their advanced technology to create and oversee life on earth and transcend spacetime, Mormonism is totally ready for this!
And it is working from the other direction too. While our religion reaches towards modern science, Science is catching up and reaching towards religion and offering multi-dimensional space and quantum physical realities that make the physics that has to be true for Gods to exist possible and realistic. If there are generations of creator Gods exponentially progressing co-eternal intelligences to join their ranks, of course we exist in a universe with trillions of galaxies. Probably trillions of universes. Scientists now talk about a multiverse rather than a universe, and some propose that the nature of quantum probability is such that entirely new clone universes are created every time anyone makes a decision in which all the possible responses from those choices play out. One can definitely argue that science is becoming stranger than religion!
And if science says we each already have the power to create entire universes every time we make a decision, we are already well on our way to becoming like Gods and the Christians who find that blasphemous are lost somewhere in the stone age compared to where our theology and cosmology is at by current scientific standards. We are on the threshold of everything we think we know about consciousness, the nature of matter and our reality being radically reconstructed as we develop artificial intelligence, quantum computing, organic engineering and all the other things that are chugging away in research and development labs all over the world as we speak. It is very likely to completely reframe what we even mean by most of our religious concepts as a species within our own lifetimes. My experience and impression is that it is rushing headlong into the arms of Mormonism and what it has been mocked for saying and believing about physics and metaphysics for 2 centuries.
Electrons are not individual units of energy orbiting a nucleus in an atom but a probability field that may or may not exists at any given moment in a literal ‘sphere of influence’. Gravity may be leaking into our universe as gravitons from invisible parallel dimensions. The greatest scientists now are mathematical philosophers working with seriously counter-intuitive ideas that make no sense to most people. We have entered a new age of alchemy where religious philosophy and science are deeply enmeshed.
It is no longer unscientific to think of a spirit body with completely different laws of physics existing in an invisible dimension yet interconnected with the matter we can see and touch in 3 of the dimensions of space. We have recently discovered that photosynthesis uses quantum mechanics. When a photon of light falls on a leaf and needs to get to the Chloroplasts inside to be turned into sugar it explores every possible route out of millions through all those molecules to get there and always chooses the most efficient path, losing hardly any of its energy on the way. Freaky weird stuff like that is going on all the time in your salad! Nothing is as it seems!
If intelligent lifeforms like us can exist in these 4 dimensions of spacetime, why not in others? Or in all of them at once? Serious scientists are now wondering if human consciousness exists in part in those other dimensions to be able to do what it does.
If our 4 dimensional spacetime has so much in it, why not a spirit world and heavens or hells in other ones we cannot currently see?
The double split experiment proves that mind can control matter – when photons are fired through 2 slits they behave like particles and waves at the same time, but when you observe them they become just individual particles and stop being waves… because they are being watched.
What then is reality or illusion? Do we project the universe from our minds? Do we see what we believe? Are we all in a virtual reality simulation controlled by a superior alien intelligence as serious scientists suggest is MORE probable that actually existing as we think we do for real?
When you transcend time and space as we claim Gods can and Einstein made credible, pretty much anything becomes possible and stories about eternal intelligences being elevated to spirits and mortal matter and immortal matter and similar God-like powers aren’t so fanciful after all.
For God to be able to know everything going on everwhere at once in the universe, information would have to travel across our universe instantaneously, not at the snail’s pace of the speed of light which Einstein said was the fastest anything at all can go. The newly discovered and proven laws of quantum entanglement make this possible. Electrons created together at the same moment have an invisible but powerful connection with each other. Even if you put them at opposite ends of the universe to each other, anything you did to one would be instantly matched by the other, with information passing between them across those vast distances. The magical thing is that because literally everything in our universe was all created in the same time and place when the singularity exploded in the Big Bang, every particle of the universe is potentially quantum entangled with every other particle of the universe - we have the physics for omniscience!
God is sometimes described as an invisible force of unimaginable power who literally holds together the entire fabric of the universe, creating and sustaining it. So is Dark Energy and dark matter which make up 90% of the universe. Have scientists already located God’s power? It is a cliché to describe a ‘god-shaped hole in the universe’ as a metaphor but science has literally found one! Now is NOT the time for Mormon apostles to turn against science!
12 - The Book of Mormon offers unique contributions to Just War theory – War is one of the most traumatising ethical minefields for any religious person or religion. Remarkably the Book of Mormon manages to present both pacifism and defensive war as ethical options that can coexist, and a robust set of criteria for each. The Book of philosophical messages about war seem remarkably modern, more twentieth century in how it frames pacifism AND ethical warfare.
In the fight club corner is Captain Moroni who offers clear criteria for ethical warfare such as protecting civilians, preparing defences, only fighting defensively if attacked, never being the aggressor, exhausting all peaceful and sneaky spying and subterfuge means possible to prevent or minimise carnage before resorting to open conflict, offering opponents opportunities to surrender or make peace, and offering the vanquished the opportunity to promise peace and go home. The motivation in your heart should not be hatred of the enemy but protecting your family, your home and your freedom.
The other ideal offered is the Lamanite Christian converts who called themselves Anti-Nephi-Lehis who were so horrified by their past bloodletting that they vowed never to take up arms again, even to protect themselves. They then practiced what they preached, powerfully demonstrating the full measure of the big idea behind Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in which he taught his followers to turn the other cheek to violence and respond to theft with selfless kindness, and love their enemies more than their own lives. A marauding Lamanite army came and started slaughtering these defectors to the Nephite religion and they offered no resistance. Many died, but then something astonishing happened. Their radical self–sacrifice brought about a radical change of heart in the furious warriors attacking them. The pacifism was so powerful the aggressors realised what they were doing was appalling when their targets didn’t fight back and justify their violence. They threw down their weapons and joined them. They were shown a better way to think and exist that overthrew all their ‘natural man’ instincts and assumptions.
Then something just as awesome happened – the Nephites offered to risk their lives to fight and guard the land of Jershon that they gave the Anti-Nephi-Lehi refugees to live in, in many ways a similarly selfless act. This all offers a model for the many complicated situations we face today juggling mass migration of persecuted refugees fleeing war and religious or political persecution, what to do about conscientious objectors in a time of war, and the need for a defensive military.
13 – The Complete deconstruction of traditional concepts of male priesthood and secular power in D and C 121. This is the revelation to Joseph Smith that will have to be prised from my cold dead hands for me to give up on Mormonism. If it is God’s will to have a male priesthood this offers the only possible justification for it. Priesthood is a brutal test of men that most will fail. It gives them a sceptre of great power and status on a plate and challenges them prove that they can completely resist all their natural male testosterone urges and choose never to even touch it or use it. Their instincts and the way power usually works in society and workplaces encourage men to compete, dominate and seek hierarchical status. Months in a dungeon as a victim of the power of the state and people challenging his leadership seems to have caused Joseph to have deep philosophical reflections about the nature of power and authority.
34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.
39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.
41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.
45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.
Like D and C 58 this is a revolutionary anti-authoritarian manifesto. It forbids reference to authority, rank, half-truths, manipulative guile, ambition, hypocrisy, pride, or controlling other people. All the ideology and tactics of a totalitarian system or controlling individual. A holy leader’s only tools are unconditional love, and convincingly persuading people to do good with pure truth. If you cannot justify your ideas and convince people that what you are teaching is objectively a good idea on its own merits, they are under no obligation to believe you or do what you are telling them to. There should be no place for “obey me even though you don’t understand why because of my ordination and authority” in this religion even though this is being constantly taught now in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Whether or not these verses are specifically about patriarchal men abusing power or are for women tempted to do the same as well, the message is that divine power is something you become rather than are given, and you lose it the second you try to control other people and do their thinking and decision making for them, or lie to them. It is the antidote to all that is going wrong in how Mormon leaders lead and the foundation for a concept of priesthood that can easily expand to include women’s ministry.
14 - The Law of Common Consent offers Mormons a model for democratic scrutiny and oversight of decision making by those in power. The Book of Mormon describes a political transition from absolute monarchy and theocracy to democracy when king Mosiah’s sons decided to be missionaries to the Lamanites instead of heirs to his throne. It presents democracy as messy with its intrigues and corruptions and flourishing profession of lawyers and orators, but still preferable to absolute monarchy because if the society goes to hell it is because of the majority of the people choose it, rather than giving all that power to one individual personality or family. It also creates a pluralistic society of religious freedom where laws exist independently of the whims of a king and the state cannot tell you what to believe.
Within our Church governance the current regime have been very successful at indoctrinating members to believe fervently that there is no place at all for democracy in the LDS Church.
The reality of course is that the Doctrine and Covenants established an extreme level of checks and balances on the power of the prophet and democratic scrutiny by the entire membership. Academics sometimes call it ‘theodemocracy’ – the religious leader initiates revelations and policies but the membership have to evaluate them and vote to support them or they cannot be made official. We call this the Law of Common Consent.

D & C 20:65 No person is to be ordained to any office in this church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of that church;…
67 Every president of the high priesthood (or presiding elder), bishop, high councilor, and high priest, is to be ordained by the direction of a high council or general conference.
D & C 28:13 For all things must be done in order, and by common consent in the church, by the prayer of faith.
D and C 107: 21-37 Establishes a balance of power in the leading quorums of the priesthood. The First Presidency, the Quorum of Twelve, the Seventy and the Stake High Councils are all equal in authority if they each vote unanimously within themselves. Controversial matters are to be settled by a conference of the First Presidency, Quorum of 12 Apostles and the Seventy meeting together.
( 32 “And in case that any decision of these quorums is made in unrighteousness, it may be brought before a general assembly of the several quorums, which constitute the spiritual authorities of the church; otherwise there can be no appeal from their decision”.)
The Institute manual for the Doctrine and Covenants is very clear that a common consent vote of the entire membership of the Church is required not just for authorising the appointment of leaders but also to authorise any major revelation or policy:
https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/man ... t?lang=eng
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that “administrative affairs of the Church are handled in accordance with the law of common consent. This law is that in God’s earthly kingdom, the King counsels what should be done, but then he allows his subjects to accept or reject his proposals. Unless the principle of free agency is operated in righteousness men do not progress to ultimate salvation in the heavenly kingdom hereafter. Accordingly, church officers are selected by the spirit of revelation in those appointed to choose them, but before the officers may serve in their positions, they must receive a formal sustaining vote of the people over whom they are to preside. (D. & C. 20:60–67; 26:2; 28; 38:34–35; 41:9–11; 42:11; 102:9; 124:124–145.)” (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 149–50.)
Not only are Church officers sustained by common consent, but this same principle operates for policies, major decisions, acceptance of new scripture, and other things that affect the lives of the Saints (see D&C 26:2).
Could a Person Hold an Office in the Church without the Consent of the People? Joseph Fielding Smith wrote in 1954 in ‘Doctrines of Salvation’ that “No man can preside in this Church in any capacity without the consent of the people. The Lord has placed upon us the responsibility of sustaining by vote those who are called to various positions of responsibility. No man, should the people decide to the contrary, could preside over any body of Latter day Saints in this Church, and yet it is not the right of the people to nominate, to choose, for that is the right of the priesthood.”
Unfortunately in recent decades the principle of the membership voting to authorise leadership appointments and new revelations and policies has been abandoned and turned on its head when it comes to holding the Apostles to account and authorising their power.
No policy or revelation has been presented to the membership of the Church for a ratifying sustaining or opposing vote since the 1978 proposal to end racist segregation of access to the priesthood and the temple. That was the year before I was baptised as an 8 year old! The good news is that if you don’t like anything they have claimed as a revelation or policy since then you can totally ignore it because none of it has been authorised. If they practiced this properly we could well have killed off idiotic and harmful errors like the November 2015 Policy of Exclusion that led to a mass exodus from the Church, faith crises all over and suicides. We could also have nipped the racism in the bud or killed it off much sooner than 1978, but that was never presented to the Church for a common consent vote until way too late. Robust common consent brings together the collective wisdom and spiritual inspiration of all the leading quorum members and all the members to filter out things that are just stupid or the personal hobbyhorse of individual leaders when it is practiced properly. We need it back urgently.
The other aspect of it to do with authorising leaders is also being completely ignored. In 1830 the first appointment of a First Presidency and leading Church quorums was delayed until the newly baptised first generation of Mormons could meet in a conference and vote to authorise those ordinations to key-holding positions of leadership. At some point since they stopped doing that for new First Presidencies and some apostles. I am really struggling to find out when, or whether anyone tried to justify this blatant violation of the rules in the Doctrine and Covenants. Usually new apostles are sustained in General Conference first and then ordained the following Thursday but some aren’t, including Jeffrey Holland who was ordained in June 23 1994 months before being sustained at the next October General Conference by the people he was already presiding over. Violating D & C 20:65 which forbids that:
“D & C 20:65 No person is to be ordained to any office in this church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of that church”
For a long time now there has been no common consent oversight or sustaining at all, even among the top quorums, of new First Presidencies. We have returned to autocratic theocracy. After President Monson died the remaining Apostles met together in secret in the Salt Lake temple on 14 January 2018, released Dieter Uchtdorf from the First Presidency, demoted Henry B Eyring from first to second counsellor and appointed and ordained a new First Presidency of Nelson, Oaks and Eyring. The Seventy were not consulted. 2 days later on 16 January the new First Presidency held a press conference announcing their ordinations to the press, and they then functioned in their roles for 3 months before the Quorum of Seventy and general membership were allowed to vote to sustain or oppose them in the farce pretending to be a ‘Solemn Assembly’ at the April 2018 General Conference.
This usurping of administrative power by a self appointed and unauthorised regime in a repeating coup d’etat of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been augmented by an ideological campaign to remove from members’ minds the idea that common consent votes mean that our leaders are accountable to the people they lead. They have replaced that concept with the idea that sustaining them means you are now accountable to THEM, obliged to totally believe and obey everything they teach and command you to do. To be “loyal” and “obedient” to the human leaders.
Dallin Oaks declared that there can be no loyal opposition to the prophetic voice in our Church – we cannot oppose anything they teach or do and still be considered faithful Latter-Day Saints, before he trotted off around the world ironically preaching to national governments the religious freedom he had just declared is conceptually impossible within the Church he is a leader of. In April 2018 General Conference Elder Anderson finished the job and completely reframed a sustaining common consent vote as making an unconditional covenant promise to believe and obey anything the prophet says after being sustained. As usual with the General Authorities when they are about to preach blind obedience, they know they are about to preach blind obedience so they throw in a declaration that of course they are not preaching blind obedience, then preach blind obedience anyway:
…. Our raised hands were not counted by our bishops, but they were surely noted in heaven, as our covenant is with God, and our action is recorded in the book of life.
….The selection of a prophet is made by the Lord Himself. There is no campaigning, no debates, no posturing for position, no dissension, distrust, confusion, or commotion. I too confirm that the power of heaven was with us in the upper room of the temple as we prayerfully encircled President Nelson and felt the undeniable approval of the Lord upon him.
….. While we sustain the prophet as the Lord’s anointed, let it be clear that we worship only God, our Heavenly Father, and His divine Son. It is through the merits, the mercy, and the grace of our Savior, Jesus Christ, that we can one day enter again into Their presence. But Jesus also taught an important truth about the servants He sends to us. “He that receiveth you,” He said, “receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.”
…. Although we admire all of these noble qualities, why do we follow President Nelson? Why do we follow the prophet? Because the Lord Jesus Christ has called him and designated him as His watchman on the tower. …We listen to the Lord’s prophet with the faith that his words are “from [the Lord’s] own mouth.” Is this blind faith? No, it is not. We each have a spiritual witness of the truthfulness of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. By our own will and choice, we raised our hand this morning, declaring our desire to sustain the Lord’s prophet with our “confidence, faith, and prayer[s]” and to follow his counsel. We have the privilege as Latter-day Saints to receive a personal witness that President Nelson’s call is from God.
For those diligently seeking eternal life, the prophet’s voice brings spiritual safety in very turbulent times. Anchoring our souls to the Lord Jesus Christ requires listening to those He sends. Following the prophet in a world of commotion is like being wrapped in a soothing, warm blanket on a freezing cold day.
…. If we choose to set his counsel aside and determine that we know better, our faith suffers and our eternal perspective is clouded…”
(Note the overclaiming based on a spiritual witness of a vague principle being taken as confirmation that a whole range of vey specific other truths must be true and infallible I referred to earlier: “We listen to the Lord’s prophet with the faith that his words are “from [the Lord’s] own mouth.” Is this blind faith? No, it is not. We each have a spiritual witness of the truthfulness of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” So Elder Anderson says that if you believe the Gospel was restored to Joseph Smith you have plenty of rational justification for therefore assuming everything Russel Nelson teaches is infallible – as if it is “From the Lord’s own mouth.”)
The most astonishing example of this was a year earlier in April 2017 General Conference when Elder Whitney Clayton declared in his very honestly titled talk “Whatsoever He Sayeth Unto You, Do It” that the LDS ideal is unquestioning and unconditional obedience without asking why. He claimed of course “I am not speaking of “blind obedience” but of thoughtful confidence in the perfect love and the perfect timing of the Lord.”
Well, that basically means blind obedience because the way we find out what the KLord wants us to do and believe in the church is through the Apostles.
Whitney Clayton then went on to precisely describe unconditional blind obedience as being the only thing God will bless:
“The trial of our faith will always involve staying true to simple, daily practices of faith. Then, and only then, does He promise that we will receive the divine response for which we long. Only once we have proven our willingness to do what He asks without demanding to know the whens, the whys, and the hows do we “reap the rewards of [our] faith, and [our] diligence, and patience, and long-suffering.” Real obedience accepts God’s commandments unconditionally and in advance.”
Accepting orders unconditionally and in advance is of course basically the dictionary definition of blind obedience, and they aren’t talking about taking these orders from Jesus or an angel turning up in your bedroom for a chat – they mean obeying them, the apostolic prophets, seers and revelators who are the infallible communicators of God’s will, whose timing is perfect and who “cannot lead us astray.”
Incidentally, the solution the wise Elder Clayton offered in this talk to questions about Church history is not to research or give answers but to ignore them completely and focus on serving, reading the scriptures and ….any guesses?….paying your tithing!
We desperately need Common Consent back in full force because look what has happened without it - without it we have become a dictatorship of unauthorised self-appointed theocratic tyrants with zero accountability who think they are infallible and preach Lucifer’s plan of salvation through unconditional obedience without question or ‘pondering’ analysis or even prayer in General Conferences. There is no need for pondering or prayer or personal revelation about a specific matter if you have already covenanted to believe and obey the apostles delivering it “unconditionally and in advance.”
And they have become so incompetent that they now have to repeal their revelations on a 3 year turnaround and are driving the Church off a cliff. Facepalm! They need to let us help them and save them from themselves.
15 - Our primary scripture is an anti white supremacist epic.
The Book of Mormon begins with a situation of entrenched racial division with light skinned people assuming they are God’s chosen people compared to brown people, but gradually we find out they aren’t. Brave princes give up their thrones to reach out to their brown brothers, they integrate their peoples and in the long run the whiter people are removed from the face of the earth and the brown people prove themselves the most loyal and faithful followers of Christ and they inherit the covenant promise as God’s favoured people.
2 Nephi 26:33: ‘For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.’
The Book of Mormon was always meant to be our manual to be at the forefront of combating prejudice against any group on the basis of race, class, gender or religion and radical inclusiveness as God does NOT deny ANYONE who wants to come to Him. Despite a good start originally welcoming and ordaining black members as equals, under threatening political pressure from slave owning neighbours the Mormons quickly dropped their racial idealism like a hot rock and never really picked it up again. The Mormon track record on racism, sexism and homophobia has been horrific. It has derailed the whole project from what it could and should have been so we need to do what it takes to get that train back on the right track as we move forward and live up to this scripture.
Really believing it would be a start, and we are still in the middle of a struggle for that moral high ground.
Back in 1988 the Church issued a “Statement on Racial Equality”:
“In view of current public interest in the question of equality of men and women of all races, the Church has issued the following statement:
“The concern of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the well-being and equality of all men and women was well defined by President Ezra Taft Benson as he began his present responsibilities:
“‘My heart has been filled with an overwhelming love and compassion for all members of our Heavenly Father’s children everywhere. I love all our Father’s children.’ (President Ezra Taft Benson, 11 November 1985. Church News, 17 Nov. 1985, pp. 3, 7.)
“‘We say again, as we have said many times before, that we believe that all men are the children of the same God, and that it is a moral evil for any person or group of persons to deny any human being the right to gainful employment, to full educational opportunity, and to every privilege of citizenship.
“‘There is in this Church no doctrine, belief, or practice that is intended to deny the enjoyment of full civil rights by any person regardless of race, color, or creed.
“‘We call upon all men, everywhere, both within and outside the Church, to commit themselves to the establishment of full civil equality for all of God’s children. Anything less than this defeats our high ideal of the brotherhood of man.’ (President Hugh B. Brown, 6 October 1963. Improvement Era, Dec. 1963, p. 1058.)
“We repudiate efforts to deny to any person his or her inalienable dignity and rights on the abhorrent and tragic theory of the superiority of one race or color over another.”
https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/stu ... y?lang=eng
The 2012 LDS Newsroom statement and 2013 Gospel Topics Essay ‘Race and the Priesthood’ disavow all racism ever in or out of the Church.
“The Church unequivocally condemns racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.”
https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.or ... ace-church
However, the conditioning is so strong that a LOT of members including senior leaders still cannot allow themselves to believe or see that that is what the essay and the statements say because of its implication that the prophets DO sometimes lead the Church astray, and it has led to all kinds of conflicts and temple recommends being withheld and so forth. Dallin Oaks even backpedalled the repudiation at the actual ‘Be One’ event that was meant to celebrate 40 yours of Mormon God NOT being racist. He taught that the racism was God’s commandment after all, we just don’t know why…. and backed this up with one of his new repeated mantras by explaining (inaccurately) that in his study of the scriptures his observation is that God usually doesn’t give any explanation or justification for His commandments. This is how he gives himself a mental get out of jail free card to avoid ever having to process mentally to himself or justify to us the cognitive dissonance of doctrines and policies that change or contradict each other, or justify controversial policies that directly contradict scriptures like the 150 years of racism long after the Gospel and priesthood went to all the gentiles and the 2015 November Policy that contradicts the article of Faith about being punished for your own sins not those of your parents, everything Jesus taught about children and the commandment in the Doctrine and Covenants to baptise 8 year olds or be responsible for their sins.
Of course our missionaries are still teaching people that God doesn’t do ANYTHING without revealing any ‘secrets’ of it to His prophets, who then explain it all to us. You just couldn’t make it up.
Imagine the alternate timeline that could have happened where Mormons were the most enthusiastic anti-racist emancipationists instead of among the last Christian denominations in the whole world to racially desegregate. What if we had been the first to ordain women and treat them as equals? We get so focused on the ‘black and white’ bit of that Book of Mormon verse we sometimes forget that it also says that ‘male and female’ are also ‘alike unto God’.
We were handed on a plate a manifesto for being the Church with the proudest track record on earth regarding race and feminism when we were given the Book of Mormon and we failed on both fronts royally. We would be hoovering up Millennials like topsy if we had lived the alternate timeline we were meant to all along as a Church. Our credibility would be sky high. We could try to get back onto that track with a big effort and a spectacular apology from our apostles. But unfortunately Dallin Oaks has declared that he and the Church don’t seek or give apologies, which is odd since they were delighted to receive the apology of the State of Missouri for past persecutions in 1976 and they apologised for doing temple work for holocaust victims after promising not to in recent years.
Also Dallin’s track record on LGBTQ matters, the third shibboleth of wokeness along with racism and sexism, is appalling, starting with 10 years as BYU Provo president during which the infamous reparative therapy for homosexuality using electric shocks and nausea-inducing drugs program was in full swing there, populated by gay students he used the BYU police and the Honour Code systems to spy on even off campus and then blackmail with the choice of going into the reparative program or being kicked out of the university and losing their academic credits and having their university education rebooted to square one without a refund…..and did not get a lot better thereafter. So we are going to have to wait a while for the happy day when Martin Luther King’s dream is truly fulfilled in our multiracial pews…. But be ready! He isn’t immortal.
‘President Newsroom’ who now runs part of the Church as we progressives wish it would be, also managed to sneak out an official statement declaring that ‘white supremacism is a sin’ after the Charlottesville massacre on 15 August 2017:
“It has been called to our attention that there are some among the various pro-white and white supremacy communities who assert that the Church is neutral toward or in support of their views. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the New Testament, Jesus said: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37–39). The Book of Mormon teaches “all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33). White supremacist attitudes are morally wrong and sinful, and we condemn them. Church members who promote or pursue a “white culture” or white supremacy agenda are not in harmony with the teachings of the Church.”
https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.or ... e-virginia
I much prefer that thought crime being a sin to the one Henry Eyring has in mind when he declared in April 2019 General Conference that speaking or even thinking of our local and international leaders as having “human weakness” is a sin we must review and repent of before every conference and worthiness interview.
Who is this mysterious President Newsroom sneakily triggering progressive and reformative action from deep behind enemy lines? Is it Uchtdorf? Is it Radio Free Mormon? Is it like Zorro where one gets assassinated by the Danites of the Strengthening Church Members Committee and then another brave rebel insider steps up to take on the role? I cannot wait for the day we find out what the heck has actually been going on behind all these mixed messages from the Church Office Building. It must be like the Cold War MI6 in there riddled with double agents and spies. Or maybe the Hunger Games!
16 – As a child in Primary, memorising Article of Faith 11 was a powerful first introduction to the idea of tolerating and protecting diversity in a neutral secular space.
“We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”
In the first flush of idealistic Zionism the founders of our religion declared that we can only enjoy rights and freedoms if we allow exactly the same to others in a secular space of tolerance and diversity. In the Book of Mormon under the democratic rule of law no one could be compelled or punished because of their religious beliefs.
The Sikhs share a strong ethic of fighting to defend the freedom to worship of people in other faiths to your own. Joseph Smith taught the same.
Joseph declared it was the “the inalienable right of man … to think as he pleases [and] worship as he pleases.” This right was “the first law of everything that is sacred” and was not just to be acknowledged; it was to be defended. He wanted every man in the council to be able to say at the end of their lives “that the principles of intolerance and bigotry never had a place in this kingdom, nor in my breast, and that he is even then ready to die rather than yield to such things.”
In the alternate timeline of living up to our founding principles, imagine if the Mormons had an unblemished track record of going out of our way to fight for and defend the civil rights of groups of people who are different to us, including LGBTQ people, not just other religions, if only for the selfish reason that because when they are not completely free and protected by law we become vulnerable too.
After declaring ourselves holy martyrs for enduring persecution for polygamy, our own leaders have used exactly the same language to condemn and campaign against allowing other citizens who are not even members of our Church to have the civil right to same sex marriage. Our leaders, many of them descendants of polygamous marriages, have called those people unnatural, unchristian, un-American, a threat to ‘traditional’ marriage and an existential threat to civilisation.
We have ruined our credibility because everyone will remember how we campaigned against making similar allowances for others that our leaders are now pleading for ourselves. The pleading began this summer and is now gathering momentum.
Elder Whitney Clayton addressed this topic in his July 2019 Ensign article and talk “Religious Identity: Like Marrow in Our Bones”
https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/stu ... s?lang=eng
Totally ignoring the Church’s protracted campaign against gay marriage and with a hypocrisy so shameless it beggars belief, Whitney Clayton even used exactly the same arguments and language about having a right to be openly religious in family life, schools and other public settings that Dallin and other LDS leaders have repeatedly condemned for LGBTQ people. LDS leaders and particularly Dallin have railed against LGBTQ people being public and open in public forums or in schools about their ‘values’ and ‘lifestyle’ but Whitney talks about it as if it is a completely reasonable expectation that Latter-Day Saints should also be entitled to with an expectation of tolerance from everyone else:
“Government must not be allowed to marginalize and delegitimize religion by confining it to purely private spheres, as if it were some kind of infection to be quarantined…..… I recognize that the commercial realm is far less vital as a place of religious gathering and thus legitimately subject to greater regulation for the public good than the other family, ecclesiastical, and educational spaces I’ve just mentioned. ……No democratic government that claims to value personal dignity and human rights can ignore the moral imperative to respect the fundamental right to freely, openly, and peacefully exercise one’s religion—to be who one truly is, faith and all, in the private and public spaces where people live out their lives….”

“If you believe that taking constitutional and human rights seriously requires social respect and legal safeguards so people can live out their core identities openly as equal participants in our communities and nation, then I hope that same conviction also extends to religious people and their core beliefs, even when those beliefs may be deeply unpopular.
… The Church also acknowledges the right of others to live according to their core convictions and needs. It has openly supported LGBTQ rights in areas such as employment and housing.
… These religious institutions must have broad freedom to govern themselves in their ecclesiastical affairs, free from government regulation. Why? Because these zones of family and religious autonomy are vital to preserving our identity as individual disciples of Jesus Christ and as a covenant religious community…
Government must not be allowed to marginalize and delegitimize religion by confining it to purely private spheres, as if it were some kind of infection to be quarantined. As a large majority of the U.S. Supreme Court held in 2018, official bigotry against religious business owners, including those with traditional beliefs about marriage and sexuality, has no place in the United States. Even so, I recognize that the commercial realm is far less vital as a place of religious gathering and thus legitimately subject to greater regulation for the public good than the other family, ecclesiastical, and educational spaces I’ve just mentioned.
… No democratic government that claims to value personal dignity and human rights can ignore the moral imperative to respect the fundamental right to freely, openly, and peacefully exercise one’s religion—to be who one truly is, faith and all, in the private and public spaces where people live out their lives….
Yes, there are challenging situations to be worked out. We cannot escape what Elder Lance B. Wickman, the Church’s general counsel, has called “the hard work of citizenship” —the work of finding common ground and generous, even loving, accommodations for those whose beliefs, personal needs, and lives are different from our own. We may not get it right at first. There will surely be tense moments along the way. And no one need affirm the ultimate truth of another’s identity, religious or otherwise.
But I believe that religious and secular people of goodwill have big enough hearts, broad enough minds, and strong enough wills to forge the hard compromises that will allow all of us, whatever our identities, to live together in dignity, respect, and peace. It is to that task that we must commit ourselves for the good of all.”
Read that again changing ‘religion’ for ‘sexuality’. If the Apostles would for goodness’ sake just remember what they memorised in Primary in the Articles of Faith they would not have made most of the catastrophic blunders they have in recent years that have publicly humiliated us and left our Church’s reputation and integrity in tatters.
17 - An alternate Christmas story for grownups. In the Book of Mormon the night of Christ’s birth was a perilous test of faith for Christians in danger for their lives, waiting to be slaughtered if the star did not appear in the sky. In an era when many traditional fairy tales are receiving a darker, more adult themed makeover, we have put The Nightmare Before Christmas in our actual scriptures!! Badass gothic win!
18 - Alma 30. Alma 30 is another of the anachronisms in the book of Mormon that come from the future rather than Joseph Smith’s present. Satan tries to derail Alma the Younger and Amulek’s fledgling Christian church in Ammonihah by sending Zeezrom to preach false religious ideas. Alma fairly easily defeats him and converts Zeezrom to his religious worldview.
Satan then hits the intellectual nuclear button and sends in his supersoldier, Korihor, to the capital city Zarahemla. This time he is armed with politics and philosophy – pretty much every idea that has been used to destroy religious belief in the 2 centuries AFTER the Book of Mormon was published, including Social Darwinism and the Marxist critique of religion as an opium of the masses sustaining an oppressive wealthy elite and convincing the workers not to make their lives better here and now with the hope of a better afterlife. He also covered atheism, postmodern deconstructivist theory and more.
Korohor argues that:
• Noone can know the future,
• Religious belief is a mental delusion,
• Religious belief is the result of being brought up to believe a tradition rather than being based on anything real you can prove,
• Korihor said ‘there could be no atonement made for the sins of men, but every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength;’ In other words, Social Darwinism and fascism – we don’t need God to progress, just human ideas and superior strength. (Charles Darwin’s "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life," was published in 1859)
• Korihor said ‘whatsoever a man did was no crime’ – a short statement with big consequences. In other words, beliefs or ideas about right or wrong are man-made delusions, not absolute truths. This is the basis of Post-modernism and Deconstruction which have been the major philosophical trends of the 1970’s onwards. I had a whole term on Post-modernism and Deconstruction during my Arts degree course. These say that no written statement or belief can be eternal or definitely true because everything we mean by what we say or believe varies depending on what each person thinks it means, so everything is ultimately meaningless.
• Korihor said that there was no life after death,
• He then spent a long time expressing almost word for word the Marxist view of religion. He said “I do not teach this people to bind themselves down under the foolish ordinances and performances which are laid down by ancient priests, to usurp power and authority over them, to keep them in ignorance, that they may not lift up their heads, but be brought down according to thy words. Ye say that this people is a free people. Behold, I say they are in bondage…..And thus ye lead away this people after the foolish traditions of your fathers, and according to your own desires; and ye keep them down, even as it were in bondage, that ye may glut yourselves with the labors of their hands, that they durst not look up with boldness, and that they durst not enjoy their rights and privileges. Yea, they durst not make use of that which is their own lest they should offend their priests, who do yoke them according to their desires, and have brought them to believe, by their traditions and their dreams and their whims and their visions and their pretended mysteries, that they should, if they did not do according to their words, offend some unknown being, who they say is God—a being who never has been seen or known, who never was nor ever will be.” (Karl Marx wrote his ‘Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right’ - ‘religion is the opium of the people’ in 1844 and the Communist Manifesto in 1847.)

“I do not teach this people to bind themselves down under the foolish ordinances and performances which are laid down by ancient priests, to usurp power and authority over them, to keep them in ignorance, that they may not lift up their heads, but be brought down according to thy words. Ye say that this people is a free people. Behold, I say they are in bondage…..And thus ye lead away this people after the foolish traditions of your fathers, and according to your own desires; and ye keep them down, even as it were in bondage, that ye may glut yourselves with the labors of their hands, that they durst not look up with boldness, and that they durst not enjoy their rights and privileges. Yea, they durst not make use of that which is their own lest they should offend their priests, who do yoke them according to their desires, and have brought them to believe, by their traditions and their dreams and their whims and their visions and their pretended mysteries, that they should, if they did not do according to their words, offend some unknown being, who they say is God—a being who never has been seen or known, who never was nor ever will be.”
The Book of Mormon was published in 1830, 14 years before Karl Marx even wrote his famous criticism of religion in ‘Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right’ and 29 years before Charles Darwin’s published ‘The Origin of Species’ and unintentionally kicked off the social Darwinisim that the Eugenicists and Nazi’s used to scientifically justify their genocidal persecution and slaughter of the disabled and less that whitey white races.
If Joseph Smith made up the Book of Mormon he not only had to be a religious genius but a political and philosophical one too with the foresight to preempt Charles Darwin and Karl Marx, the 2 most influential thinkers in the modern age, and make sure their ideas got the most airtime in Korihor’s list of rational arguments against religion.
Faithful view: We see in the philosophical toolkit Satan gave Korihor that he was limbering up and flexing his muscles for future victories
Nuanced faithful view: Joseph Smith was inspired to prepare the world for what was coming around the corner to revolutionise and destabilise it when he created the Book of Mormon.
Skeptical view: These ideas were already around in Joseph’s contemporary environment in a significant enough way that he would give them such prominence on the Book of Mormon. Personally I’m very sceptical about that because he seems to have really got there first in these cases.
Whatever your views about that, the Book of Mormon speaks to the dominant political and philosophical conflicts and ideologies of our age in far more specific ways than the Bible. We are allowed to see the ideological battle with these anti-religious political and philosophical arguments as part of our religious life.

19 - Logical ideas about what angels are – they are us rather than some confusing other category of advanced spirits. By extending our lives into the past before our births Mormonism introduces some extra weirdness but also tidies up a mess. It has always been a bit odd to have humanoid devils and angels created by God cluttering up the landscape and not quite fitting into the Jewish, Christian or Muslim plans of salvation for human lifeforms, although to his credit Joseph was into the idea of non-human aliens and all life having an exalted future with his interpretation of the descriptions in the Book of Revelation of strange hybrid creatures around the throne of God. He said they were actual aliens rather than metaphors. Sci Fi win!
The Bible describes angels as having enough moral autonomy to rebel against God and fall if they choose and do strange things like breeding with humans to make the Nephilim race in Genesis yet nothing is said of their pathway to repentance or redemption after falling so it just makes a lot more sense to make them us.

20 - The Book of Mormon insists that our teachings and revelations to us should be ‘plain and precious truths’. All our doctrines should be transparent and justified.
John 4:23-24 says “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
The truth and the Spirit are meant to work together. Truth matters. As missionaries we quoted Amos 3:7 ‘Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.’
As mentioned previously, we are being taught by Dallin Oaks that God never or rarely explains the reasons for His commandments, absolving himself as an apostle of any obligation to provide rational arguments or explanations for anything he teaches. As well as avoiding having to explain or be accountable for new changes in revelation and policy generally, he has already used this argument at the ‘Be One’ event to bring back the doctrine that the 150 years of racist segregation in the Church was a commandment from God after all, resetting us back as a Church to 1853.
Reemphasising the principle of keeping ‘What is Real’ very real will be essential if we are to be free of arbitrary mental gymnastics by our leaders without accountability or explanation which violates our rights to be informed about plain and precious truth instead of kept in the dark and never questioning. Their job is to reveal and explain, not hide information and blame God for that or tell us it is ‘too sacred’ to give us the knowledge and explanations they have been given, or tell us to trust and believe them till we ‘understand’ what they are refusing to help us to understand.
Joseph Smith declared “God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them, for the day must come when no man need say to his neighbor, Know ye the Lord; for all shall know Him … from the least to the greatest [see Jeremiah 31:34].” (History of the Church, 3:380; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on June 27, 1839, in Commerce, Illinois; reported by Willard Richards.)
Joseph Smith’s ethos of having everyone know as much as he or other prophets and apostles do is unfortunately contradicted by other times when he was secretive and declared that things like how he translated the Book of Mormon were not to be shared generally. But this is a vivid microcosm of the dilemma and challenge and choice everyone in Mormonism faces. As the Sunstone tagline says, ‘There is more than one way to Mormon’ and one of my overall themes has been that there has always been a struggle in human societies generally, the communities described in all the scriptures, and within Mormonism specifically between what can be characterised as Christians vs Pharisees, Freedom Fairies vs Control Freaks, Jesus’ plan of working out our own salvation vs Lucifer’s plan of unthinking obedience. They all boil down to the same thing. They are like conflicting parenting styles. Tyranny vs democracy and so forth. So when we are presented with opposing ideologies and priorities in what was said by founding leaders like Joseph Smith and Brigham Young or contemporary apostles we have to choose what our personal and our institutional religion will be.
My opinion is that if we have studied and absorbed the prime directives of our scriptures the answer is pretty clear each time there is a choice to be made because it is the one that feels right and is the dominant one in what Jesus and the wiser prophets taught. The answer should always be Christian not Pharisee. Freedom Fairy not Control Freak. Jesus’ plan of salvation, not Lucifer’s. Democracy not tyranny. Love not hate. Welcome not segregation. Equality not hierarchy.
This great quote from Joseph Smith about giving all the truth to everyone echoes William Tyndale’s wish for his dangerous project to translate the Bible into English and have it accessible to everyone: “I defie the Pope and all his lawes. If God spare my life, ere many yeares I wyl cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Scripture, than he doust.’
Centuries before him another great British hero Alfred the Great worked hard to personally translate important books from Latin and Greek into English so the ordinary people of our nation could read or hear them in their own language and have access to the knowledge they contained. He once wrote “He seems to me a very foolish man, and very wretched, who will not increase his understanding while he is in the world, and ever wish and long to reach that endless life where all shall be made clear.” Alfred the Great ADORED plain and precious truth and making sure all the people he led had it.
He was intensely conscious of how catastrophically Britain had declined since losing the knowledge and values it once had under the rule of the Christian Roman Empire:
“Remember what punishments befell us in this world when we ourselves did not cherish learning nor transmit it to other men.”
Unfortunately the LDS leadership have chosen for decades to stop cherishing learning and go with withholding information and truth from the ploughing peasants, to regularly describe themselves and each other not as channels for seamlessly pouring all the truth they have into every one of us but as an exclusive club of mystics who see things we cannot, so when they ask us to believe and do things that seem un-Christlike or just weird for no reason, instead of telling us what they think they see and understand they say it is not for us to understand, or that the only way to understand it is to totally believe and cooperate with them ‘unconditionally and in advance’ as Elder Clayton puts it, and then if we are worthy God will one day help us understand, perhaps in the next life after we are dead! We have been played. Good people sincerely devoting their lives to Christ have been manipulated in all the ways our scriptures forbid, and we are now in the middle of the firestorm that has inevitably developed from the internet and brave dissidents and researchers broadcasting their secrets and lies and schemes from the rooftops.
As someone commented in a social media thread recently:
“..that’s what I don’t understand. We like to preach that the point of our mortal bodies is to have free agency, but then information is withheld to manipulate free agency and choice. So....which is it? You can’t tell someone they can have the freedom of choice if you don’t allow them to make an informed decision.”
Mormonism actually empowers average citizens with far more tools to filter what the leaders teach us and determine which bits of what they are saying are really compatible with God’s will that we usually realise. It’s not just about having a ‘spiritual witness’ strong emotional feeling, which is notoriously unreliable because people have the exact same spiritual feelings confirming to them the truth of completely incompatible religions and beliefs and there are countless examples of people feeling ‘spiritual witnesses’ of things that later turn out not to be true, whether it is in the words of a blessing or Elder Paul H Dunn’s many faith-promoting stories that were wildly popular among Latter Day Saints in the 1970’s and 1980’s and later turned out to be fabricated lies. The list of filters we have been given when you combine all the LDS scriptures and teachings by prophets over the decades has 6 main components:
1- Does it make sense rationally? We are often urged to use our God-given brains and think or ‘ponder’ about something before going to God for a revelation about it. We also claim that our leaders are meant to prioritise “plain and precious truths”, that the reason we have living prophets is to make sure we are sure and is clear and confident about what to believe and why we believe it. We are not ever meant to be peddling in vague mysteries or NOT understanding our doctrines and revelations. Use our rational or intellectual intelligence. The Spirit of Truth is not the author of confusion.
2- Does it FEEL right using our emotional intelligence? Does it feel compatible with the compassion and love that Jesus Christ taught us to have towards ourselves and to other people, particularly sinners and lost sheep? Experienced Mormons are experts on this – we have studied Jesus’ example and teachings in scriptures for years and have many years of experience personally ministering with a Christ-like attitudes and seeing the people around us as God does. We can trust our instincts for what feels right.
3 - Is it compatible with the canonised scriptures of the Church? If it contradicts scriptures that should ring alarm bells.
4 - Do we receive a clear spiritual witness from God that it is a true principle or His will when we ponder and pray about it?
5- If it is a significant doctrine or new policy that we are to be expected to practice in our Church life, has it been presented to the entire membership of the Church in General Conference for a sustaining or opposing vote following the laws of common consent commanded in the Doctrine and Covenants and reiterated in the current Doctrine and Covenants manual which teaches that this applies to significant policies as well as individual people’s callings? The last time this happened in the Church was 1978 when the entire membership of millions were invited in General Conference to vote to sustain or oppose ending 150 years of racist segregation in the Church. Nothing since as a doctrine or policy has been ratified in this way.

6 - Some Apostles, including recently, have taught that we should apply a further filter: Is it something that is taught by several, or all, the Apostles in several times and settings rather than an idea only one or two of them teaches or mentioned only once or twice?
Each of these considerations on their own have some potential weaknesses, but when you put them all together they add up to a very robust set of criteria by which to be close to certain that something being taught or done Is actually God’s mind and will and filter out the many opportunities for human error or personal hobbyhorses that can confuse what General Authorities teach, and have done a lot of harm over the years.
Mormonism was never meant to be a totalitarian cult where we completely trust one leader or even 15 Apostle leaders to do our thinking for us and just believe and do exactly what they tell us to even if we know or suspect they are wrong. That was Lucifer’s plan of salvation that we soundly rejected in the preexistence ‘war in heaven’ so we shouldn’t touch anything like it with a barge pole now having made it this far. We must avoid all appearance of that evil, but sadly too many don’t because it seems temptingly safe and simple, just as it did to 1/3 of our brothers and sisters in that battle of ideas who rebelled with Lucifer.

Conclusion
We each need to decide whether we are going to run from the burning building and let it burn down or see enough glittering treasures hovering like a beautiful phoenix before us in all those flames that we can choose to reach for in an act of faith and courage and love for all the good we see in it, and release it from that furnace to be reborn.
I have no judgment for people who give up that struggle and fully acknowledge that the reason I can still engage in it in my case is luck, comparative wealth, white privilege, male privilege, personality type, educational privilege, a 4 generation heritage in Mormonism, an unusually rational, tolerant and supportive ward and stake leadership, and that list goes on.
Since I am for now still engaged in bringing the phoenix or the lucky dragon back from the edge of extinction, I find strength in the LDS definition of truth that has no caveats or compromises: D & C 93:24 ‘And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come; 25 And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.’ It is the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
All the time we have been bogged down and entangled in degrees of deception we have set ourselves and our members up for a world of pain now the internet has revealed the full scale of the deceptions they engaged in that has been thoroughly researched and authenticated by professional and amateur researchers.
We need to reform radically enough to keep our brightest and best instead of alienating and traumatising them. We need their talents and spiritual gifts to guide us back to spiritual and intellectual and numerical growth and health.
It strikes me that the chastisement given to Frederick Williams in D & C 93 applies to rather too many of the LDS leaders: “You have not taught your children light and truth, according to the commandments; and that wicked one hath power, as yet, over you, and this is the cause of your affliction.”
This collective failure by the Apostles to teach us only light and truth has indeed given the ‘wicked one’ power over them and power to cause traumatic ‘affliction’ to millions of sincere members of the Church who trusted them and had their faith and trust blown up, spinning them and their families into crisis, when they discovered how very much they were lied to or how many lies or half lies they were told by leaders and ‘correlated’ manuals they trusted to teach to other people as absolute truths.
The way forward therefore has to include a heartfelt and fulsome apology and fully embracing honest presentation of our history, not more carefully whitewashed propaganda and refusal to take responsibility and acknowledge faults. Our truthiness has to become voluntary and get well ahead of the arc of history, not dragged screaming behind it constantly flailing around in torment at the event horizon where continuing to hide facts becomes literally impossible.
So thankyou from the bottom of my heart to Sunstone, my first lifeline, to all the podcasters and researchers and eccentric obsessives and campaigners who have given so much to empower us all with knowledge, with truth, with examples of assertive compassion, with reforming zeal, with comfort when we are broken, who have given us a voice and wisdom and pioneered trails into a better future so that our journey can be easier and perhaps even go further than they could with the strength we have left. Whatever your path is and whatever the phoenix you need to snatch from this wild bonfire and burning faith is, I wish you well.
Let’s take President Nelson at his word – he keeps repeating that the Restoration has only just begun so let’s run with that idea that we still have loads more to learn and develop in our practice and beliefs and we are not imprisoned by what has or has not been revealed up to now.
But our enthusiasm for reform and progress needs to factor in the grim and unavoidable reality that it is going to get worse before it gets better – a LOT worse – so brace yourself and take your vitamins! We are going to need to treasure up the amazing and inspiring and powerful ideas and doctrines that have already been given to us in our hearts and our blogs and our Sunday School discussions ready to bring about the Mormon Reformation when the time comes.
The first phase is well underway where the complacent oligarchy excommunicates the reformers and publicly burns them at the stake and condemns their ideas as heresy and from the devil and commands its followers never to read their books and messages. I just hope that truth and reason prevails as quickly as possible. We are on sure ground because it is Christ’s foundation. His personal example from the dawn of time in the pre-mortal war and throughout his mortal life has been to do battle with religious tyrants and Pharisees even if it means suffering the sacrifice of excommunication and, in their minds, spiritual execution. If you are on the side of truth and right you have a habit of coming out of that experience resurrected and more powerful and glorious than ever, and your ideas eventually sweep the earth and prevail. I was taught that by Mormons and I am profoundly grateful for that.
“Instead of using religion to control reality, a healthy spirituality helps us to engage with life as it is, and live in harmony with it.” (Rainbow Mormon podcast episode 12) This is what the Enlightenment era founder of Mormonism were trying to accomplish at their best.
Greg Prince worded the call to arms that I hope I have been able to communicate brilliantly in his recent Sunstone article “Own Your Religion”
https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/own-your-religion/
“…since Mormonism does not employ a professional local clergy, all of us—even those not ordained to our lay priesthood—are citizen soldiers in the Army of God. How we perform will have much to do with how—and if—the Church will move forward.
…First, make yourself a player, not a spectator. Become a citizen soldier by developing tools that can be used if and when you are called to the ranks. Read outside your comfort zone, read things that humble you and open your worldview. And then, with love for the people around you and humility for your own shortcomings, nudge the conversation toward higher ground. For example, in the 1950s, Hugh Nibley was asked by President McKay to write the Melchizedek priesthood manual. When he gave the completed manuscript to the reading committee, “they kicked out every lesson in the book. They said it was over peoples’ heads,” Nibley told me during an interview 20 years ago. “And every time, President McKay overruled them. The book is exactly as I wrote it. They wanted to make hundreds of changes and get rid of the whole thing entirely, and President McKay said, ‘No. If it’s beyond their reach, let them reach for it.’”
The mirror image of what McKay called for is, unfortunately, the default position for many in the Church: willful ignorance, and therefore an inability to move the Church—or even a Sunday school conversation—forward.”
WE as citizen soldiers have to be the change and we have some amazing weapons of mass instruction to fight with. Let’s embrace these treasures and talk about them and get them out there as lifelines, iron rods to guide us through these firestorms of confusion and negligence until we find the phoenix and snatch it from these flames.
Making Mormonism a bit better helps a lot of people. Making it really live up to the best of its big ideas and values could still change the world.


The End


Last edited by Meadowchik on Fri Sep 13, 2019 3:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Snatching the Phoenix From the Flames by Peter Bleakley
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 2:47 pm 
Seedy Academician
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Thank you so much for posting this, Meadowchik. There is a lot here to chew on, and I like a lot of what he has to say. One thing that really grabbed my attention was this bit:

Quote:
As Saint Deiter Uchtdorf the Holy Silver Fox of Ostrava so wisely put it:


We had a growth mindset in President Hinkley’s mostly open hearted engagement with the world but there has been a radical mid-course correction to the nihilistic ‘time of sifting’ and retrenchment mindset of the current First Presidency and too many members who blame external worldly and satanic forces for all our problems instead of the leaders or themselves.


Surely he is glossing Uchtdorf pretty radically here. Am I to understand that Uchtdorf essentially accused post-Hinckley leadership of taking the Church in a dark direction? Have I missed something jaw-droppingly awesome here?


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 Post subject: Re: Snatching the Phoenix From the Flames by Peter Bleakley
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 3:25 pm 
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Kishkumen wrote:
Thank you so much for posting this, Meadowchik. There is a lot here to chew on, and I like a lot of what he has to say. One thing that really grabbed my attention was this bit:

Quote:
As Saint Deiter Uchtdorf the Holy Silver Fox of Ostrava so wisely put it:


We had a growth mindset in President Hinkley’s mostly open hearted engagement with the world but there has been a radical mid-course correction to the nihilistic ‘time of sifting’ and retrenchment mindset of the current First Presidency and too many members who blame external worldly and satanic forces for all our problems instead of the leaders or themselves.


Surely he is glossing Uchtdorf pretty radically here. Am I to understand that Uchtdorf essentially accused post-Hinckley leadership of taking the Church in a dark direction? Have I missed something jaw-droppingly awesome here?


I'm sorry, there is a graphic missing:

The graphic includes this quote by Uchtdorf from October 2015 General Conference Talk, "It Works Wonderfully,"

Quote:
Sometimes we take the beautiful lily of God’s truth and gild it with layer upon layer of man-made good ideas, programs, and expectations. Each one, by itself, might be helpful and appropriate for a certain time and circumstance, but when they are laid on top of each other, they can create a mountain of sediment that becomes so thick and heavy that we risk losing sight of that precious flower we once loved so dearly. Therefore, as leaders we must strictly protect the Church and the gospel in its purity and plainness and avoid putting unnecessary burdens on our members.


I apologize for this. I will go through the word doc and make corrections, and edit the post.

Edit: I believe all I have needed to add was the above quote and a link to a graphic, so it should be complete now.


Last edited by Meadowchik on Fri Sep 13, 2019 3:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Snatching the Phoenix From the Flames by Peter Bleakley
PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 3:33 pm 
Seedy Academician
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LOL!!! :lol: :lol: :lol:

Oh my! Yes! That makes a HUGE difference.

Thanks for the correction, Meadowchik.


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 Post subject: Re: Snatching the Phoenix From the Flames by Peter Bleakley
PostPosted: Sat Sep 14, 2019 7:25 am 
God
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This is HUGE........... no I mean it in all ways possible. THANK YOU for sharing this with us!!!!!!!
Wow that's a lot to take in, but it underscores what we have been talking about in relation to how the apologists, and Smoot especially are completely missing and misunderstanding. It is no longer about finding ancient authenticity in questionable scriptures that the problems lie. There is something much more fundamental the church has to deal with and they won't because the noose of obedience is already around the necks of the sheep and they are getting hanging and don't know it. No wonder Mormonism is stifling.

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Is Midgely serious? Peterson's blog is a patty-cake, surface only, all too frequently plagiarized bit of ephemeral nonsense. Why would anyone suppose avatars must be real? Midgley has lost his tiny little mind. Maybe he can go over to never-neverland and harass Peter Pan for not really knowing how to fly. -Lemmie-


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 Post subject: Re: Snatching the Phoenix From the Flames by Peter Bleakley
PostPosted: Sat Sep 14, 2019 7:30 am 
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Trying to link the video presentation here, which he posted publically on Facebook:

https://www.Facebook.com/peter.bleakley ... m8Qq5n4En2


The presentation time was to short to cover everything. If there are issues with the link, one can try looking up Peter Bleakley on Facebook and scrolling down to the post.


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 Post subject: Re: Snatching the Phoenix From the Flames by Peter Bleakley
PostPosted: Sat Sep 14, 2019 7:34 am 
God
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Meadowchik wrote:
Trying to link the video presentation here, which he posted publically on Facebook:

https://www.Facebook.com/peter.bleakley ... m8Qq5n4En2


The presentation time was to short to cover everything. If there are issues with the link, one can try looking up Peter Bleakley on Facebook and scrolling down to the post.


I don't have Facebook it would be helpful if it could somehow get onto Youtube.......

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Is Midgely serious? Peterson's blog is a patty-cake, surface only, all too frequently plagiarized bit of ephemeral nonsense. Why would anyone suppose avatars must be real? Midgley has lost his tiny little mind. Maybe he can go over to never-neverland and harass Peter Pan for not really knowing how to fly. -Lemmie-


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