I’m a Mormon/Ex-Mormon.

This clip from Stephen Colbert’s show re: Mormons, Mitt Romney and the PR campaign by the LDS church entitled “I’m a Mormon” is too funny not to share.  Sorry to link rather than embed it but I don’t seem to be able to embed.

For anyone interested, here are the links to the I’m a Mormon  videos as well as the I’m an Ex-Mormon videos.  The former have excellent production value.  The latter are…not made by an organization with millions to throw at an ad campaign.

Which reminds me of the Mormonads which I used have tons of in my bedroom as a teen.  And an example which I still love:

But there are some pretty funny Mormonad spoofs out there too:

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I’m bad, you’re bad, we’re all bad.

Allow me to share with you the gōd-spell.  That is Old English (no, no, not that kind) for good news.  The Gospel.  Whether the word refers to the first four books of the New Testament or the message they contain, in general it conveys the happy news that Jesus has redeemed mankind from sin.  This is good news, right?

There is great variation and nuance throughout the Christian sects about how this redemption works.   Essentially they are lists of varying lengths that you have to complete. The right baptism, the right membership, the right confession, some requiring works and others seeing works as the fruits of grace received.   Some lists are really short and require nothing more than saying something that fits on an index card.  But they all assume the same thing:  you are bad.   Very, very bad.  When Eve and Adam bit that fruit you became bad.  Either you are on the hook for what they did or you inherited a world where being bad is unavoidable or both.  This is why you need saving.

As you sit there reading this do you feel bad about about being, well, bad? You should.  It disappoints God.  It contributed to the horrible suffering that Jesus had to endure.  Also, if you can’t properly check off the list (including not being so bad anymore!) you are in for something unpleasant when you die.  You could suffer endlessly in hell.   You could be separated from your family.  So there is a lot riding on this.  In fact, this whole existence is about getting that right.  Redemption is worth having, right?

People take these ideas pretty seriously and do all kinds of things to relieve themselves of the guilt and effects of being so damn bad. Some whip their backs raw or literally allow themselves to be ritually crucified.  Others cloister themselves in monasteries and deny themselves intimacy or families.  Still others fill their lives with stress and anxiety trying to do each and every thing they believe they are supposed to including endless meetings, activities and rituals.  These are the extremes of course, but lots of good regular people carry around a guilty conscience and the pressure of doing all the many things they should (and not doing the ones they should not) because they have internalized the idea that if they don’t they are a bad person.  They even consciously or subconsciously judge each other on how well they are checking all the boxes while worrying not just about whether their own are checked but also how others perceive them as well as their loved ones in this regard.  Is this beginning to sound exhausting?  But there is a benefit here, right?  All of this angst really does lead to happier people?

It turns out, no, not at all.  Both religious and non-religious people actually tend to be fairly happy when they live around other like-minded people.  Community seems to be key.  But when you look at just the church going folks, it is the ones who take their faith literally who are the most unhappy of all.   For those of you who are church going, this is intuitive, right? The people who are killing themselves to do it all because they think they have to and/or who are constantly casting a judgmental eye are not happy are they?  All that box checking doesn’t seem to bring them joy, does it?  It is the people who have found a way to not feel bad about not doing all they are supposed to who feel good.  The people who have decided that not doing that stuff doesn’t make them bad.  Often we call that “balance.”  I call it the realization that maybe you just weren’t bad in the first place.

What if they are wrong about you being so very naughty? You don’t seem bad to me.  You are nice to people, you love your family and you work hard and contribute to society. Maybe you even recycle your Diet Coke cans.  What if it was okay to just let all that other stuff go, or as much of it as you wanted to let go of, and you could just do those things that feel good to you and fulfill you?  What if what other people expect doesn’t really matter?  What if you had some space to just be, free from someone else’s check list?  To suck a little marrow out of life?  Would that make you a better or worse person?  More or less likely to actually do good because you choose it?  If it turns out that you were actually good along…then what?

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We’re a Mormon Band.

Recently on a private Facebook group I contribute to I asked the question “If you were starting a band and wanting to give it a name that paid some homage to Mormonism or referenced it, what would you call it?”  I had no idea it would get over 300 responses. Fair warning that many are irreverent, but trust me that this was done lightheartedly.  Enjoy.

2nd Counselor And The Bishoprics
4 Non Mormons
Adams Comission
Algers Fanny
Ammon and the Amputees
Ammon's Arms
Ancient of Days
At the Veil
Beehives and Deacons
Black Nametags
Blazer A's and Targeteers
Bloody Rockwell
Blues the Right
Bon MOvi
Boyd's Little Factory
Brigham's Banshees
Brigham's Kids
Broken Bow
Brother Brigham and the honeybees
Brother of Jared
Brother of Mahonri
By the Hand of Spalding
Cage the American Elephant
Calling and Election
Canadian PostMo Blenders
Chased By Elephants
Cheese and Rice
Cheribum and Flaming Axe
Choose The Wrong
Counting Corihors
Court of Love
Crickets and Seagulls
Curelom and cumom
Dallin and the Oaks
Dancing with Myzelph
Daughters of Perdition
Dead Can Be Baptized
Degrees of Glory
Depeche MO
Diamond Spectacles
Dieter and the UV Rays
Dishonorable Release
Do the three nephites ride bicycles
Dropkick Mormons
Dwindle in Unbelief
Elder Cool J
Eliza R. Snowball
Enoch And The Celestials
Even Jesus Christ
Fishers of everyone
Flaming Sword
Frankie Goes To Zion
Funeral Potatoes
Gadi Anton Roberts
Gadianton Rockers
Gadianton's Robbers
Gazelem's Stones
General Authority
Gid And The Giddonis
Golden Js
Green Jello and the Funeral Potatoes
Guns n Moses
Handcart Homies
Heavy Petting
High on Kolob
Horn In The East
I am Adam
I am Legion
I'll Build You A Rainbow
In My Lovely Deseret
Iron Rod
J. Golden and The Cussing Apostles
Jackson County
Jane’s Perdition
Jello With Carrots
Jenni Alogy and the Ancestral Files
Joe Jr And The JSTs
Joe Smith and the Stoney Peepers
Joseph Smith and the Technicolor Dreamcoats
Julie Beck & the Moms Who Know
Kid tested Prophet approved
King Follet and the Discourses
Laban's Sword
Lachoneus Black Mambazo
Latter-day Aints
Led Zarahemla
Leon's Truck
Let Us Go Down/Lettuce Go Down
Lettuce All Press On
Linger Longer
Lions of the Lord
Lose the Rite
Lost in the Empty Sea
Magic Happens
Magic Underwear
Mahonri Moriancumr and the 16 Stones
Man of God Son of Thunder
Martin Harris and the 116 Pages
Master Mahan And The Great Secrets
Max and the Cultural Halls
Menace to Society
Mild Barley Drinkers
Mingled with Scripture
Mini Van And The Trampolines
Ministering Angels
MLM Attack
MO Two-Oh Tab
Monsons Widows
Mormon Temple Pilots
Name Extraction
Nephi and the Boneheads
Nephi's steel bow band
New World Jesus
Now Lettuce Rejoice
Oingo Boing-Go On a Mission
On Zion's mount behold it stand
One and Only True and Living
Orchestral Maneuvers of Outer Darkness
Ox in the mire
Oxen Mire
Pearl of Great Price Jam
Peter priesthood cottontales
Peter, James, and John
Polygamy Underground
Popcorn Popping
Prayers for Moisture
Predestined for greatness
Preesheeya Chu
Priestie Boys
Prince And The Modern Revelations
Purple Pansies
Pyramid Schemers
Queens and Priestesses
Quorum of the rock
Quorum of the Twelve Apostates
Return and report
Rough Stones Rolling
Sacramental Water
Sanctify Me
scrying for zion
Secret Combinations
Secret Handshakes
Shadow of a Doubt
Shiz's Headless Push-up
Siouzsie and The Band of Gadianton Robbers
Sitting on Laurels
Snow ciphers
Sons of Perdition
Sons of the Morning
Soulful Relationships Committee
Soundgarden of Eden
St. George and the Celestial Smiles
State Street
Stormin' Moor Men
Strengthening the Members
Swearing Elders
Sweet Spirits
Telestial Noise
Ten Cow Woman
Ten From The North
Testimony Barers
The 12 and the Seventy
The 32 Wives
The 5000 Striping Warriors.
The Anti-Banks
The Anti-Nephi-Lehis
The Bedlamites
The Bitchen Stichens (RS Band)
The Blazer Bs
The Bloggernacle Pipes
The BOM squad
The Burning Bosoms
The Carrot Shavings
The Chosen People
The Correlates
The Correlation Committee
The Covered Shoulders
The Curious Workmanships
The Danites
The Dehlinites
The Deserets
The Door to Door Deacons
The Fellowshippers
The Fourth Nephite
The Full Immersion
The Gid Gid Dolls
The Goal Setters
The Golden Oxen
The Goodly Parents
The Great and Spacious Building
The Helaman League
The Hot Drinks
The Jaredites
The Land of Bountiful
The Liahona Zombies
The Little Factories
The Lost Sheep
The Manifesto
The Merry Miss
The Missionary Position
The Narrow Neck
The New Names
The Oath and Covenants
The Other Sheep
The Pi'neers
The Polly Ann Drey Band
The Prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Reformed Egyptians
The Rest Hims
The September Six
The Sons of Mosiah
The Sons of Perdition
The sounds of great rushing waters
The Stake House Brawlers
The Sunbeams
The Sweet Spirits
The Temple Tie Pins
The Tender Mercies
The Thirteenth Wife
The Three Nephites
The Tupperware Cheerios
The Underground Temple Arches
The What is Wanteds
The White Shirts
The Whittling Deacons
The Worthier Spoons
The ZLs
The Zone Leaders
These Things Doth the Lord Hate
They Might Be Gods
Third Witness
Three Degrees
Three earrings and strapless
Thummim's Urine
Together Forever
Top of the Temple
Traitors and Tyrants
Trans-Siberian Area Presidency
Translated Correctlies
Tubal Cain And The Murderers
Two-Pants Suit
U2 by 2
Ugly Mahana
Unabridged translation
Unbridled Passion
Unrighteous Dominion
Unveiled Asherah
Water Tray
We Don't Stinketh
White & Delightsome
White Blood
Wicked This Way Comes
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They tried to make her go to rehab.

Apparently I don’t have the drive to blog more than a couple times a month, so I’ll just go head and own that fact and say to anyone who enjoys this blog or simply wants to spy on me that you should just sign up for an email notification or add me to Google Reader. I do note that I had a big spike in traffic last week but since I was not linked by anyone I’ll go ahead and assume that someone or a group of people found me all at once. Don’t be bashful, the comment section is there for a reason and friendly hellos, pats on the back and strong criticism are all welcome.

Anyway, Amy Winehouse died today. I don’t know what happens when you die. My suspicion is that beyond the body breaking down into its elemental parts the answer is “nothing.” In other words, whatever the essence of Amy Winehouse was, the thing that made her a conscious being, is in all likelihood gone. Of course, I could be wrong about this but no one can contradict my suspicion with evidence. Since no one has ever returned from the abyss we simply don’t know. But this is not really what the death of this 27 year old musician made me think of.

What I am thinking is: should I feel bad for her? Viscerally I don’t. I’m not cold-hearted, I feel terrible for all the people whose lives were ended in Oslo recently (92 of them) by a man who posed as a police officer then shot people and finally set off a bomb. They didn’t ask to die or nor did they do something risky that made their deaths more likely. No, just minding their own business. But the same can’t be said for Amy Winehouse. Her drug problems are well documented, most famously by her.  I’m going to go ahead and assume her death is drug/alcohol related for purposes of this conversation. If that turns out to be wrong, I’ll come back and edit it.

So did she have this coming to her? Are the wages of sin death? No, I’m not saying that. Frankly “sin” is not a concept I subscribe to and “just desserts” is a cold self righteous idea that only serves a self justifying purpose under these circumstances.  I only think that consequences are ever deserved in the sense that they motivate people not to do harm or literally prevent them from doing harm.  You need that for societies to work.  But Amy’s death serves no good purpose for Amy or anyone.

I believe that people are free to do as they please with their lives so long as they do not harm others. But setting aside the issue of others for a moment and sticking to whether Amy deserves any sympathy (yes, I know I said there is no more Amy, just follow me here!), I respect her right to live hard, take a lot of chances and burn brightly and out quickly. Her life after all.

Each person is as amazing phenomenon in and of themselves. We might be the only sentient creatures in the whole cosmos (though I suspect not) but in any case this brief moment of consciousness we are each experiencing is exceedingly rare. For me, the realization that this might be all there is makes me value it more. It makes me want to get things as right as I can before it is over, which could be any time. I don’t believe there are any second chances.  But who am I to say that a particular kind of long life is better than another kind of short one.  Only individuals can decide that for themselves (or decide that a certain kind of life is worth the risk).

So if you want to do risky things, I respect your right to. On the other hand, if you then experience those risks, I don’t really feel bad for you. You confronted them knowing what they were.  In the law we call that concept assumption of the risk and it is a complete defense for those whose negligence harmed the person who saw the danger being created and chanced it anyway.  This is common sense, right?  It is not a question of deserving anything or hoping that bad consequences will follow from risky choices. On the contrary, I would have loved to hear her make more music. It it is merely the realization that each of us own the life we have and the foreseeable consequences of our decisions.  Like anything else that belongs to us, we take care of it or we don’t. How and how well are up to the individual.

My sympathy is for those who love her and for those to whom she brought enjoyment. They didn’t play fast and lose with her life, she did. I think I can rightly direct some judgment in her direction for living her life in a way that did ultimately harm others. None of us live in a vacuum.  The thing that promotes the most happiness for all is the thing which is, to me, the best most moral choice.  Taking more care with her life would have been just that.  But this principle should never override personal autonomy.  Still, every risk we take is not just for ourselves but for others who get no say in it but who will be affected.  Similarly, others take risks every day that we cannot control but which will affect us.  Balancing being true to self while thoughtful of others is something that one simply grapples with.  This is just the nature of existence.  We balance as best we can.

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Let’s still be friends, okay?

I’m back! From New York! Where I saw THIS. Whew! Anyway, sorry for the long layoff. What follows is a post that I put up in another internet community that I have been part of for a long time, but it was also intended to be something for my family to see. So, family, if you have made it here, this is for you.

As many people now know, I am no longer involved with the LDS church. I realize that probably comes as one hell of a surprise (pun intended) to a lot of people. A year ago I was wrapping up being a seminary teacher and still talking about that experience. And now I am somewhere else completely.

I don’t want to go into all the whys and wherefores in this setting, though I am willing to tell people privately if they ask. But basically I have been chewing on major concerns about the church for at least ten years. Like a lot of you, I had a lot invested in the church both figuratively and literally. It is my heritage and my entire family and virtually everyone I know is a faithful LDS. This is not something you discard lightly or over minor issues, offenses, or other trifles. For this reason, I spent years trying to establish a “middle way” or “middle path” for myself where I could participate in a believing way without getting overwhelmed by the things I could not reconcile or didn’t believe. I know a lot of people can relate to this. Maybe everyone.

During this long process I held callings and for most of that time kept my recommend current. As time went on I continued to encounter more things that I could not provided satisfactory orthodox explanations for. A few things that bothered my conscience. The best I could do was to put them on the shelf and focus on what was good in my church experience. Many of them I talked through on CUF and on CG to try to get ideas and to try to refine my thinking. Sometimes it worked, but most of the time they were headed for the shelf. Pretty soon I needed a bigger shelf. But somehow it seemed easier to do this in internet land rather than with intimates. Perhaps that was not fair of me.

In 2008-2009 I was gospel doctrine teacher in my ward. 2008 was the BOM and 2009 was the D&C. I actually really enjoyed both because I like to teach. I knew that I was teaching as a not totally orthodox teacher, but I figured I could get around that by teaching just the things I did believe. It seemed to work. In a class of adults if you can spark a conversation you can just sit back and moderate it. Then in the fall of 2009 I began teaching seminary. This is a different deal. With sleepy teenagers, basically none of whom want to be there, you really have to be super prepared and know your stuff. I was teaching the BOM. This experience was, I think, the final straw for me.

Apart from being a personal struggle in terms of the grind, as I went through and studied the BOM in-depth I was confronted on a daily basis with lots of material that I simply didn’t believe. The volume of things on the shelf was now so large that I couldn’t any longer just skirt around my disbelief. I had to teach things I didn’t believe to do the job I said I would. I thought about quitting, but I didn’t for a number of reasons. First, I said I would do it and it is hard enough to find a teacher in the first place let alone mid year. Second, my parents are in the ward. And what am I going to tell my wife? People lose their marriages all the time over this stuff. I decided to grind it out.

Maybe that was a mistake, and maybe the kids deserved better. But I gave them the content of the manual and did not teach them one unorthodox thing and did it with as much seeming sincerity as I could muster. But I was a fraud and I knew it. And it was making me miserable. I even tried to make hopeful comments to people in a variety of settings to see if I could convince myself that maybe it was okay. But the more I said the less it rang true.

At the end of the seminary year I told Gabe that I was churched out and needed a couple of weeks off. So during that month we laid low and took a couple of weekend trips. I had agreed to teach a young adults gospel doctrine class somewhere near the end but after having only one student come for two weeks, I basically blew it off going forward (not my finest moment). Somewhere in that period, not sure exactly when, Gabe through several long talks (unbidden by me) revealed that she no longer believed the church to be what it claimed to be and wasn’t sure if she wanted to go any more. For me, this was an immense relief. I hadn’t even really thought through what I would do if I didn’t have my marriage to worry about. Gabe was not firm on not wanting to return. She was still figuring out if she still wanted some involvement. And in fact, she actually went once or twice after that but has not been in many months and does not plan to return. But she made it very clear that no matter what I decided to do, it would have no impact on our marriage which was the most important thing to her. She was disappointed that I had actually worried she might leave me over this. I similarly told her that I would support any decision she made, including returning to full activity.

As I write this, I have never been back. I don’t intend to return. As my crowded shelf fell apart and I finally felt I had the freedom to really look at things without there being consequences I couldn’t live with, I became even more convinced that the church was not for me. I just don’t have faithful views of any of the basic foundational LDS beliefs. On the other hand, I have not resigned nor do I intend to. I don’t see what the point would be.

I have not known how to “break” this news. Basically I chickened out for a long time and said nothing. You don’t exactly send announcements on expensive stationary. I’m not sure there is any good way to do it. In some places and with some people I have hit them with it without enough warning. And not expressed myself very well or with the tone I would hope I would. I’m hoping what I am writing here is going to shed some light and in some cases open a dialog.

Here is what I want you as the reader to know (I assume my family will see this and that is totally fine). I am not your enemy. I am not the enemy of your church. I am not looking to do harm to you or it. I do, without question, harbor some negative views about both the institution and some of its teachings. Were this not so I would still be there. And yet, I respect it. I respect its members as being the good and exceptional people I have known my whole life. I am grateful to have come from a family and a tradition that cared enough about me to impart to me something they and it sincerely believed to be of the utmost importance. I will make not any attempt to refute that idea that it does much good and that many find people find peace, tranquility and purpose within it. But I don’t. And yet, I am still the same person, for better and worse, that I have always been. I still care deeply about my family and my friends. I still want to live a good life and to do good. To love and make this shared experience of living the best I can for myself and others. I still believe that the teachings of Jesus, with one or two exceptions, represent the very highest aspirations of mankind as we learn how best to live together and love each other.

I know that to some the very fact that I no longer believe will be hurtful and in some cases offensive. There is no explanation or rationale I can offer that will change this. The church teaches that people leave because they are lazy, weak, offended over something silly (personal or doctrinal), are sinning or desire to sin or are under the influence of Satan. Believe what you will about whether the last one applies to me, but none of the others do. They really don’t. They don’t apply to most people who leave. I can’t avoid that people will speculate about the real reason I have left, but all I can tell you as sincerely as I know how is that I have made a decision, after a lot of thought and after many years of resisting it, that makes the most sense to me. I don’t judge or criticize the way anyone else approaches their faith or questions of faith. We all have to make decisions we can live with. But for me, I am doing what is right, consistent with what allows me to have integrity in my own heart and mind.

I’m not asking for understanding and I’m not asking for anyone to pin a gold star on my shirt. What I am asking is whether people can consider bracketing our differences over these issues and having a relationship with me based on shared experience, mutual respect, and mutual interests. Or at least not allowing these differences to be impediments. To that end, I am going to do my very best not to volunteer opinions that might offend, except when asked and except in settings that exist for the purpose of frank discussion and for assisting people like me in adjusting and not feeling isolated (not CUF). Processing this change and my Mormon experience in conversation with others is helpful and important to me. I can never leave it alone because it is who I am. I realize not everyone will understand or agree with that. That is okay. Even so, I am personally committed to expressing my views in a way that reflects the respect I feel for my LDS family and friends and, again, to not volunteering these views where they aren’t wanted. This is an issue that it is easy to take personally. Hell, football is easy to take personally. I get it. But if you can, please try to see me through the lens of your experiences with me (again, for better and worse) and not through the lens of any stereotype. It’s just me here.

Last, this transition has been very hard for me on a number of levels and at times has been emotionally intense. If during that time I have offended family or friends through what I have said or not said (I’m also looking at my internet pals) I am truly sorry. I have a lot of history with you all and I hope to have more. I will be happy answer questions people have in person, on the phone, on Facebook, CUF or any other appropriate medium. I reserve the right to answer privately. Thanks for reading this.

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Daughters of Mormonism/Rapture Fail

I intend for feminism to be a frequent and recurring topic in this blog and have several blogs planned to address feminism/women’s issues in Mormonism and more generally. In the meantime, feast your ears on Daughters of Mormonism. I have had these podcasts waiting to be listened to for a few weeks and after listening to a couple this morning am very impressed with how well done this new podcast is. Give them a listen!

Next, as an addendum to my last blog, I guess it is apparent that I didn’t get raptured. I’m not disappointed. I still have a lot to do, for example, wait to hear how Harold Camping explains the Rapture Fail.

Addendum: Within five seconds of posting this, the power cord to my laptop literally exploded in a flash of blue and caught fire. Nice try Satan, but you were foiled again (this time by my battery!).

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Early rapture day status update.

It’s a bit after 3:00 am on the East Coast and so far no earthquake and no one has been caught up to heaven that I can tell. Of course, I am in the basement of my house on the couch so some of my neighbors could totally be gone.

I have been jeering and mocking away from the great and spacious building at work and in a number of online settings. I have been trying to see how many people will join me in agreeing that believing that the world is ending on May 21, 2011 is absurd. And actually most people are right there with me. Of course, many of them actually agree that the world is spiraling toward its demise, they just don’t think the date is knowable. Hmm. The line between strange and sacred is 100% in the eye of the beholder.

UPDATE: It is just after 11:00 am on the East Coast and unfortunately none of the crazies have disappeared yet. But apparently that is because the rapture is not scheduled to begin until 7:00 pm EDT. So that means there is still time to make provision for your pets. Also, the battle on Harold Camping’s Wiki page is under way. Camping is the prophet who has been predicting the end of the world would be today since 2008, having previously been wrong about it ending in September 1994.

The first line on his page has been alternating frequently including:

Harold Egbert Camping (born July 19, 1921) is a fringe Christian radio broadcaster[1] and president of Family Radio, a California-based religious broadcasting network that spans more than 150 outlets in the United States as well as a website.

Harold Egbert Camping (born July 19, 1921) is a liar who says the world’s going to end to make more money but is is a peice of crap.

Harold Egbert Camping (born July 19, 1921) is a Christian radio broadcaster[1] and president of Family Radio, a California-based religious broadcasting network that spans more than 150 outlets in the United States as well as a website.

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