Archive for March, 2012

Mormons and abuse

March 26, 2012

A while back, I was talking with a very capable LDS therapist in a friendly exchange. I asked whether or not Mormons were worse at infringing on proper boundaries than those in different faiths (even the apparent faithless). My premise, was that among my sample size, usually it is the Mormons who are most willing to infringe on appropriate boundaries than the non-Mormons. I was assured, that “I just knew more Mormons on a deeper level.” This assessment made sense then (statistically), and still makes sense now.

However, there is something about institutional abuse I’ve found within Mormonism that I haven’t found elsewhere. Additionally, I’ve found more Mormons willing to rationalize, excuse, and in some cases, even promote the behavior, and this truly worries me. Now, maybe there are some who simply cannot compartmentalize the fact that prophets are fallible, and just maybe Joseph Smith was in the wrong here. If so, we’d have to discuss that with them.

Truman Madsen shared a story illustrating how Joseph Smith needed to know who was loyal to him.

On one occasion, [Joseph Smith] vigorously chastised Brigham Young – accusing the latter of something he had never done in what was clearly a harsh, cruel, unfair manner. As Brigham said, ‘Joseph, what would you have me do?’ – Smith broke down in tears and hugged him. ‘Brigham,’ he said, ‘I was testing you and you have passed.’ ”
-Truman G. Madsen
(Joseph Smith, The Prophet)

Now, while I don’t necessarily blame Truman Madsen for including this story, (he was a historian after-all), and I don’t know all the context. But today’s Mormons tell this story in order to illustrate Brigham Young’s loyalty and humility, with a subtext of “We should all be this humble.”

But this is wrong. No one should ever feel forced to accept guilt in order to be someone’s friend. (Think of that bully who told you, “I’ll beat you up if you don’t admit to taking the last cookie.”) You should not have to do “whatever is necessary to make it right” (think of that bully adviser who told you 100% of interactions were your fault, and not 50%).

If I had been Brigham, I hope would have answered, “Joseph, I have not done what you have accused me of. I accept you as a prophet, but I respect myself, and will not be treated like this. I heard a prophet of the Lord declare:

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; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile— 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; That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death. 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.

Therefore, I will try and persuade you, in gentleness and meekness, that I have not done the things you have accused me of. I find such baseless accusations to lack kindness, love, and knowledge. I therefore reprove you for incorrectly accusing me, yet express my love. My faithfulness is stronger to thee than the cords of death, but in full honesty. I will be charitable to you, and allow you to repent and apologize. I will sustain you as a prophet, but not in actions that are untrue. THAT is what being “Honest in your dealings with your fellowmen” means to me.

So, I guess I’m going to print this out, and give it to every teacher when this story is shared.


Feel Good Songs: “Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal- O Day Full of Grace”

March 12, 2012

I learned from my time in the Martin Luther Men’s Choir of Flatville, IL, that songs of praise can help carry you in times of sadness. Liz and I sang this song (but not this recording) in the Chorale. Praise the Lamb, Praise the great I am…

Then listen to Christiansen’s “O Day full of Grace”, and think about how you can prove that the night is ending… Remember the glory of the rising Son, dispelling darkness and fear from your heart. Remember, in our Father’s house we shall walk in endless light, no more a slave to darkness or sadness.

Hark, I hear the harps eternal
Ringing on the farther shore,
As I near those swollen waters,
With their deep and solemn roar.

Hallelujah, hallelujah,
Hallelujah, praise the Lamb.
Hallelujah, hallelujah,
Glory to the Great I Am!

And my soul tho’ stained with sorrow,
Fading as the light of day,
Passes swiftly o’er those waters
To that city far away.

Some have cross’d before us safely
To that land of perfect rest.
Can you hear them singing faintly
In the mansion of the blest?

Mighty Jesus, bear us over,
There to kneel before Thy throne.
May we join the saints forever
Praising Thee, and Thee alone.

by Gilbert M. Martin

O Day Full of Grace
Den signede dag by N.F.S. Grundtvig, 1826

O day full of grace, which we behold,
to us from the sea ascending;
you over the earth your reign unfold,
good cheer to all mortals lending,
that children of light in every clime
may prove that the night is ending!

How blest was that gracious midnight hour,
when Christ in the flesh was given;
then flushed from the east the dawn with pow’r,
that spread o’er the darkened heaven;
then rose o’er the world that sun divine
which gloom from our hearts has driven.

Were all of the trees endowed with speech,
were all of the leaflets singing,
they never with praise His worth could reach,
though earth with their praise were ringing.
Who fully could praise the Light of Life,
who light to our souls is bringing?

As birds in the morning sing God’s praise,
His fatherly love we cherish,
for giving to us this day of grace,
for life that shall never perish.
His Church He has kept these thousand years,
and hungering souls did nourish.

With joy we approach our Father’s land,
where day is forever dwelling,
where ready for us His mansions stand,
where heaven with praise is swelling;
and there we shall walk in endless light,
with blest ones His praise forth telling.

Feel Good Songs: “Don’t Give Up”

March 12, 2012

“You Are Loved (Don’t Give Up)”

For the last two weeks, I’ve had a sore throat. I’m finding it hard to feel like I’m able to express myself; I feel others trying to silence and control me … I can relate to this song so much, and I kind of imagine Groban singing words that Jesus would say. I try very hard at communicating, writing things out deliberately, consulting with my wife, seeing if they make sense, and if they can be misunderstood.

Unfortunately, I’ve found those who are either complete idiots or very uncharitable in all of their interpretations. I’ve found those who say I’m not allowed to have an opinion or express it because I’m male. I’ve found those who say I’m not allowed to have an opinion or express it because I’m not a teacher… I guess I should remember that these people are just bullies. No one has the right to silence anyone else simply because they disagree.

I want to be understood, and if I take the effort to write out a 1000 word blog post, you should expect that I care about it, that I’ve taken the effort to rethink and re-word it. In essence, you should at least read it before criticizing it or me for “having the gall to express myself”.

But Christ has not called me to be weak, to be submissive, or unfaithful to my calling. He encourages me to not give up, to always be true to myself. God help me, I will try.

Don’t give up
It’s just the weight of the world
When your heart’s heavy
I…I will lift it for you

Don’t give up
Because you want to be heard
If silence keeps you
I…I will break it for you

Everybody wants to be understood
Well I can hear you
Everybody wants to be loved
Don’t give up
Because you are loved

Don’t give up
It’s just the hurt that you hide
When you’re lost inside
I…I will be there to find you

Don’t give up
Because you want to burn bright
If darkness blinds you
I…I will shine to guide you

Everybody wants to be understood
Well I can hear you
Everybody wants to be loved
Don’t give up
Because you are loved

You are loved
Don’t give up
It’s just the weight of the world
Don’t give up
Every one needs to be heard
You are loved

The Logical Fallacy of “Don’t Knock It Till You Try It”

March 10, 2012

Years ago, my Grandmother told me, that her Presbyterian pastor had instructed the congregation to never choose not to do something without experiencing it first. I’m sure the pastor wanted to teach the congregation something useful, to be more open-minded and tolerant, less judgmental about things when they don’t have all of the facts… But it’s dumb logic. In fact, it is liberal logic. The problem is, this logic has been adopted by some people who can’t see the problem with it. Therefore, I’m going to go through the problem with this, “Logic” and then provide two examples of this I have experienced.

Is it true that one shouldn’t “knock it until you try it”(hereafter DKITYTI)? No, it isn’t true. To determine whether a statement is valid we test it under all circumstances. If the rule fails under any circumstance it is not a universal rule, but one which requires a caveat. The caveat should be expressed. Here is the proof that DKITYTI isn’t “true”. Here’s a list of things where this fails. Drugs, Pornography, Abuse (Physical, Emotional, Sexual), Suicide, Liberalism (OK the last one was just a cheap shot)… I do not need to experience any drug, alcohol, marijuana, any harder drug, to know that they are bad… To know that abusing a substance to try and escape the emotional or physical reality will ultimately lead to more pain. I know this because my parents allowed some of my family to bring their soul-destroying substances into our home, further defiling what should have been a sacred temple with mild-altering substances. I do not need experience with Pornography to know that it destroys souls. I know this because I have had friends describe their struggles, who read about the medical studies describing how it alters their minds, making them crave more, destroying their sense of self-worth and righteous sexuality. Before I learned of my friends’ struggles we had loving church leaders prophecy of this problem warning us all beforehand, and through the fulfillment of that prophecy, the Church of Jesus Christ has been more than proven true to me. I did not need to experience physical and emotional abuse to know how wrong and destructive it is, nor do I need to be sexually abused to recognize the trauma, the sense of violation, the infringement of agency it entails. I did not need to experience depression to know that it is not ideal, that it is a symptom that something is wrong and that something needs to be fixed. I certainly don’t need to experience suicide to have an opinion on it.

Now it may be that I can have more compassion for those who have experienced the same traumas that I have. Perhaps. But I don’t feel it is necessary for having a valid opinion. In fact, in some ways, having the experiences I’ve had have added emotional, visceral, and sometimes irrational reactions that can’t be tempered by the rational arguments of others. For example, I believe that welfare recipients should receive drug testing (including alcohol), because of the human cost associated with children in homes of drug users. I think that those who physically or emotionally abuse children should be sterilized, and those who sexually abuse children should be put to death (I’m deadly serious, not a joke).

In actuality, maybe it’s best that people don’t listen to me more because of my experience. Those who claim the DKITYTI philosophy are just restating the logical fallacy of an “argument to authority”. Wikipedia explains this fallacy is created whenever 1.) the person cited as an expert isn’t actually an expert or when 2.) there is not census among legitimate experts. Just because someone has experienced something does not make them an expert on it. An example of this is bullying, just because one has been bullied in the past does not mean they are on expert on recognizing, or even responding well to the bullying, in teaching others how to recognize, or respond to the bullying. The second way it is a logical fallacy is that there is not a consensus among legitimate experts. We, the human race, are fallen, and we judge ourselves and each other with broken rulers. We are not experts and we have reached no consensus. God is the only expert. Therefore, we must end these silly logical fallacies, these claims of “Don’t Knock It Till You Try It”

Now I’ll share some examples of this unfortunate fallacy. Now I don’t care which side of the recent abortion and contraception debate you side on, and that is beside the point of this post. But during this debate, we have encountered plenty of this DKITYTI mentality. So-called “women’s rights groups” have declared that men have no right to an opinion or a voice in this matter. A matter that deeply affects our families, our children, and our very society, men are to stay silent on, just because we don’t carry the right plumbing… We’ve heard these arguments before, and they are now, as they were then, sexist. And the quickest way to end sexual and racial discrimination, is to cease discriminating based on race or sex.

The second example came from the most unlikely of sources. While discussing with a teacher the fact that 1.) teachers are not infallible, and 2.) sometimes make mistakes when punishing children … I was informed by a friends mother-in-law that “unless I was a k-8 teacher” I wasn’t allowed to say anything. Now, I’ve known that elementary school teachers tend to treat adults like children, but I was pretty surprised by this unprofessional, un-adult, infringement of proper boundaries… but I think it illustrates perfectly this problem. Of course I don’t have the same feelings and even understanding as a k-8 teacher, but it is precisely that distance which helps me to make more rational decisions about it. It is the duty of the k-8 teacher to be able to describe their viewpoint, both facts and feelings, so that everyone else can come together and reach a consensus. If they weren’t teaching “my” (figuratively) children or using “my” (literally) tax funds to do so, I wouldn’t care as much, but as I’m paying for it, and it affects my future, I get a say. This f/b conversation has mysteriously disappeared … so I don’t know how my friend responded … but sufficient to say, I’m getting tired of this logical fallacy.

If you think you’re viewpoint is right, find a way to express it in words that convince. Don’t appeal to your own authority, because I don’t take you as an expert. Abandon the sexist viewpoint that men aren’t allowed to have valid opinions, thoughts, and ideas about any topic, and allow men to express their viewpoint as well.

Well, I’ve gotten to the end of my rant. Earlier I thought demanding that anyone who buys into this philosophy promptly remove themselves from my friend list. I have too many good friends to waste my time with sexist, logical-fallacy loving people. But maybe I’ll take my own advice first and allow others to have their say too, before I de-friend them. They may even find something wrong with my logic.

Fixing the problems with “Praise to the Man”

March 5, 2012

One of my philosophies in life, is that one shouldn’t just complain about life. If you see something that you don’t like, try to fix it. Today I’ve followed that philosophy. A year ago a wrote about the problem with the LDS hymn “Praise to the Man.”

Today, we had Stake Conference, Liz and I sang in the choir. Everything went fine until the “rest” hymn when the congregation stood and sang it, apparently with “gusto”. As I promised I did not participate, neither standing nor singing. But those damned lyrics kept annoying me. Unfortunately, their existence spoiled the rest of the meeting for me. So in order to help myself feel better, I’ve attempted a re-write on the lyrics. It’s not perfect, and I welcome suggestions, or better examples. My hope, was to remove the focus from Joseph Smith and back to God (where it should be in a “worship meeting.”). As I pointed out before, I have no problem with “Joseph Smith’s First Prayer” precisely because the focus is still on God.

I wrote these up, and after the meeting went home and printed up my previous post with these lyrics. Then I returned to the conference and delivered them to the presiding authority, with the admission that I expected nothing from him (no response, no action, just that he read them).

Anyway, I open this up for suggestions.

Praise to the Lord who communed with a mortal,
Calling, anointing a Prophet and Seer
Instructing him to open this last dispensation
That all men may know and worship their King.

Praise to the Lord, Joseph died as a martyr,
to honor and praise Jesus’ blessed name,
cleansed by Christ’s blood shed for our salvation,
We implore heaven for the redemption of all.

Praise to the Lord for sharing His priesthood,
given to man for His service below.
Faithfully obedient we enter Christ’s kingdom
with Joseph and faithful prophets of old.

Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven
we will give our all for our Father’ great cause.
We labor to teach the truth of the gospel,
till the world shall follow the gospel again.

-Andrew Mills

In Defense of Reality

March 4, 2012

There are some things in life that are true only because we (individually, and a society) choose for them to exist as they are. There are other things in the universe which are actually true. Millenia ago, everything fell into the latter category. Today, in the post-modern world, those who follow the religious viewpoints (even if they call themselves reasonable agnostics) of the former. The problem is that neither of these viewpoints is correct, and jumping from one extreme on the pendulum to the other has helped no one.

Classifications of truth.

Earlier worldviews accepted that all truths were immutable. Today godless crew accept the viewpoint that there is no truth, only perception.

Part of my explanation involves this visual. On the left side I classify truths that are not dependent on us recognizing them, things which are true regardless of whether we know them. This includes things which are physically verifiable (to humans) and things which are currently not. Our understanding of which classification truth fits in may change as our understandings change, but these categories are eternal.

An example of eternal truth, not physically verifiable is that God Exists. I cannot prove to you that God Exists. I have had experiences which have given me reason to believe (faith) that He Exists. But he would continue to Exist (capitalized because it is a sacred verb), even if you or I refuse to acknowledge it.

An example of eternal, physically verifiable truth, is that neon absorbs light at 632 nm (at least in our area of the Universe). I have had experiences which have given me knowledge, that Neon absorbs red light. I can physically prove that to you, but it still absorbs light there, even if you or I don’t recognize that.

An example of metastable (non-eternal), physically verifiable truth, is that some Jewish survivors perceive LDS proxy baptisms as “offensive”. We could take a survey of every person on the planet to “prove” this. But it is not an eternal truth, it currently exists, dependent on the contrivings of people with an ax to grind: 1) A silly ex-Mormon with literally nothing better to do with her time (Helen Radkey), 2) Silly Jewish groups who somehow claim to speak the will of the dead, 3) News organizations whose existence depends on the outright fabrication and misrepresentation of “the facts” all calling it “news fit to print”. In the end, these fabrications and contrived representations will be removed, and will look as ghastly as the ghosts in the presence of Real Truth in CS Lewis’s “The Great Divorce”.

An example of a metastable, physically unverifiable truth is those things which I think, feel, and what my motivations are. No one, least of all an intelligence-starved liberal, can know what I think, feel, or why I do what I do. It’s not a verifiable truth. But I can know it.

All truth exists within its own realm, yet it all exists around us today. Each of us will have to do their best to put up with the genre of these truths. You may not like the rules about the genre, but you don’t get to choose them. And their existence doesn’t depend on you recognizing them. My admonition is to place your faith in the eternal truths, and recognize the meta-stable truths only as necessary. Those who choose to make the meta-stable truths generally go insane, while those who ignore the eternal truths find that Eternal Truth can be a hard opponent to ignore.