Beliefs Culture Jana Riess: Flunking Sainthood Opinion

The best Mormon Family Home Evening ever

A guest post by Mette Harrison

When I got married, I did NOT want to do Family Home Evening.

There was a simple reason for this. In my childhood, Family Home Evening had been a time of constant stress and conflict. I’m sure I should feel sympathy for my parents, trying to deal with eleven children, but mostly I blame my father. He had a temper and it almost always came out on Monday nights with all the kids around, especially when we were teenagers and began to assert our own opinions.

I can’t tell you the number of times Family Home Evening ended with shouting and threats, or with actual physical violence. I’m pretty sure that’s not what Family Home Evening is supposed to be about, but it was the reality of my childhood.

My husband gently asked what had gone wrong at Family Home Evening at my house. I told him, but I’m not sure he believed how bad it was until later in our marriage, when he had his own encounters with my father’s temper. In any case, he kept assuring me that Family Home Evening wouldn’t be like that for us, that we could make it into whatever we wanted. We did a few test runs before we had kids and I calmed down a bit. Then when we had our children, we learned quickly how to adjust lessons for small children, how short Family Home Evening lessons should be, and how long the other parts should last (Activity and Treat are very important at our house).

For some years, we had teenagers in tricky situations. My second daughter left the church when she was about fourteen. The other kids were still very active. We continued to have a rotating schedule of Family Home Evening assignments posted on the wall (Prayer, Song, Talent, Scripture, Lesson, Activity, and Treat). But as my ex-Mormon daughter began to be more vocal about her changing beliefs, the lessons she led were often about a topic she wanted us to learn about. She did lessons about leading the music to help the rest of us who were music-impaired, and some on music history and composers. She also taught us more about historical or political topics she thought were of importance.

This tradition passed down to another child who later became inactive. Lessons were chosen by the child and only they decided if it was appropriate or not. We literally had a lesson once on the Zodiac Killer. We had lessons that were trivia games. We had a lesson on Presidential candidates. Of course, my husband’s lessons tend toward the more spiritual, but he was aware of the need for some change, so he has also added lessons with videos about elephant mating (it made sense at the time) and so on. One year, I did all of my lessons on other religions, because I wanted my children to be more tolerant and understanding, and because I was interested in other religions at the time, as well.

Probably the best Family Home Evening lesson my husband ever did was when he passed out ten dollar bills to each of the children and instructed them that they were to find someone at school or around the neighborhood who needed help and give them the money. There were no other rules for it. He wanted them to come back and explain what had happened and who they gave it to (no names necessary) and how they felt about it.

This was a lesson in compassion: how to exercise it and how it felt. He wanted our children to be more aware of others in need, and this was how he did it.

The results were amazing, by the way. First of all, it was much more difficult to decide who to give the money to than any of us had thought it would be. Some kids wouldn’t take the money if it was offered to them. It was harder to give away a full $10 than it was to give away $1. Some kids would only take something if it was purchased for them. Others kept insisting they didn’t need it, or that someone else needed it more.

This was such a valuable lesson for my children, to understand that people don’t always want to be seen as in need. People have their pride and want to do things for themselves. It also taught them that money isn’t always what is needed, and that you have to be thoughtful about what to offer someone else.

We all still talk about this Family Home Evening lesson. It wasn’t in the manual. It wasn’t directly from General Conference. It didn’t take a lot of effort to hand out some cash. But what a lesson it was.

And for someone who used to hate Family Home Evening, let me tell you, I’m a convert. We make it work for everyone. It’s family bonding at its best, and if you ask me, that’s what Mormonism is great at.


OTHER POSTS BY METTE HARRISON:


 

About the author

Jana Riess

Senior columnist Jana Riess is the author of many books, including "The Prayer Wheel" (2018) and "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church," which will be published by Oxford University Press in March 2019. She has a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University.

94 Comments

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  • Family Home Evening was always one of my favorite things about the Church. It was what brought me close to my foster family in SLC and led them to eventually invite me to live with them. That lasted about 2 years, until they realized that I was probably gay and some of their other kids might catch it from me. Then I moved out on my own and enjoyed Young Adult FHEs with other single adults. FHE was also one of the best things that my companions & I did on our missions. Folks that were resistant to the discussions, were open to an idea that brought their families together. Even though we didn’t “reap the harvest” I heard later that other missionaries lead some of those families into the Church because of the seed we planted with FHE.

    After my mission, FHE with single young adults in my So Cal stake were something that I looked forward to each week. That is, until I was excommunicated for being gay. Some ostracized me just because I was exed. Others thought that they figured out why I had been exed and gossiped about me and made it hard for me to ever feel close to anyone again. My roommate was the ad hoc leader of our FHE. He knew why I was exed, but never treated me any different than before. But one time when he asked me to organize a service project for our group, twin brothers initiated a rebellion and said that they wouldn’t participate if I led the project because I was exed and no longer a priesthood holder. Even though I stuck it out for three years and was re-baptized, it never got better and made it very easy when I finally decided to walk away from the Church.

  • I wonder why Mormons need “Family Home evening”. In my agnostic house, growing up, almost every evening, or parts of every evening, were “Family Home evening””, i.e. we interacted with each other, my parents and I discussed stuff, they taught me stuff, etc.

  • Many Mormons have big families, many children. Children of a wide age spread. Big families are usually busy families with children and parents always going many different directions with activities and responsibilities. Some of those responsibilities used to be Church related. So the LDS Church decided that it needed to help families have time for family by setting aside one night a week, Monday night, on which there would be no Church functions, activities or responsibilities. And they encouraged families to take advantage of this with a night solely dedicated to their families being together. The Church even develops resources to help families with lesson plans and activity ideas.

    Often, the Church sees a need and responds. It is how the consolidated meeting plan came about in the early 1970s. With the OPEC oil embargo, the price of gasoline jumped from 25¢ a gallon to $1 a gallon overnight. So LDS folks weren’t driving to different Church meetings, activities and other functions throughout the week, a schedule was created to allow a family to attend just about everything in a 3 hour time block on Sunday. Even though many folks in larger Utah cities and towns didn’t drive to church anyway because most of us lived in walking distance of our wardhouse or stake center. My foster family lived 4 blocks from our church building, the Little Cottonwood Stake Center in Murray UT, and we walked, even in 2 or 3 feet of snow.

  • I’m aware of the big Mormon families.

    Like so much else regarding the LDS “church”, the idea behind “Family night”, as you spell it out, looks “logical”, but it’s total nonsense, in that it overlooks a much more important issue.

    When small kids exist, they are in fact necessarily the focus of most family activity. This means that families with lots of kids ultimately ROB all the kids of the time and attention of the parents. A parent who has, let us say, 120 minutes of free time in the evening, and 2 kids, is able to give each kid 60 minutes of time, vs. 20 minutes of time for 6 kids.

    Of course, that’s not entirely accurate, because 2 kids are almost always closer in age than the oldest and youngest in a big family, so the 2 kids are able to participate at the same time and share the attention of the parents. .

    This was certainly true in my AGNOSTIC family, and it true in most families I know.

    My strong suspicion is that the reason behind encouraging large families is related to CONTROL. I have always suspected that the authorities in these religions–e.g. Catholicism, Mormonism–somehow believe that in large families, the fathers are more likely to be obedient fathers, focused on their families, and are less likely to “stray” or “cause trouble”.

  • True, except that past high-ranking Mormon authorities, e.g. Dallin Oaks, have of course downplayed study of history, and indeed of anything that might cause believers to doubt….

  • As a convert, my first experience with FHE was on my mission. We would join members for their FHE. Most of the time it was painful. The attitude was usually that it was a chore that had to be done. When I was in single adults, FHE was fun but that had more to do with hanging out with other young single adults than anything inspired about FHE. Asa parent, I was in the same boat as those I saw on my mission. It was just another uninspired program that some men in Salt lake came up with and tried to convince the rest of us it was from God. Hardly.

  • Pretty regular part of my Family Home Evening growing up. I quite enjoyed learning about church history.

  • Howard, your strong suspicions aren’t moored to reality. And I believe family home evening was more of a reaction to other societal pressures to fill up families’ schedules with sports, music, extra-curriculars, etc. If you don’t agree as a family to schedule the time, it loses its status as a priority.

  • In my contacts with Mormons, I have found them to be almost universally sweet, gentle, polite folks. If I were given the opportunity to choose the religion of my neighbors, I would greatly prefer a Mormon–certainly far better than, say, a member of the Southern Baptist Convention.

    That said…I have some familiarity with the LDS church and its teachings, and I find almost everything about its theology, and the statements of its top leaders, to be a lie, usually intended to manipulate followers in some way and/or give its “bishops” some control over the sheeple. And as I said in my post, the top leaders are well-aware of its “fishy” history, which is why study of LDS history is strongly discouraged–in several infamous statements of its leaders, most notoriously, Dallin Oaks and Boyd Packer.

    Let us remember that the LDS church was started by a fellow who was indisputably a con man and a sex addict.

  • “which is why study of LDS history is strongly discouraged”

    Huh? Church history is a regular subject of Sunday School, Seminary, and Institute classes. I find it remarkable that people single out the LDS Church for not diving deeply into unfavorable aspects of its history, when very few churches dive into their history at all. Ask a lay Presbyterian about John Calvin, and you’ll likely get a blank stare. Ask a Southern Baptist about the 1845 Convention and they won’t have any kind of a response.

    “Let us remember that the LDS church was started by a fellow who was indisputably a con man and a sex addict.” On the contrary, both those claims are regularly and credibly disputed.

  • The contents of your last para says to me there is no point in our discussing this matter further. Objective, serious, respected scholars have pointed out both characteristics of Smith, and even Mormons who are not afraid of the truth have admitted to me that he was accused many times of being a con artist, and might well have been a sex addict who instituted polygamy to “normalize” his sexual proclivities. . .

    Moreover, the ignorance of Presbyterians et al is simply that–ignorance. I have no doubt at all that the LDS “history” in books for LDS students is selected **extremely** carefully so as to misinform them. So my statement about Mormons studying their history should have been done more carefully,. I should have said they are discouraged from studying anything other than approved LDS texts.

    Of course, as we know, Mormons are strongly discouraged from reading LDS history written by serious, non-LDS scholars. We know as well that Mormon “scholars” have been kicked off the faculty at BYU for making mistakes and crossing the line by teaching history not approved by the church.

    Amplifying my view, we have the infamous, highly damaging statements of Dallin Oaks and Boyd Packer regarding the study of Mormon history. Surely you’re familiar with them. We really need nothing more than those statements to tell us almost everything we need to know about the LDS church.

  • There’s no doubt that Joseph Smith was accused of those things, but it appears you include agreement with your conclusion in your definition of an “objective, serious, respected scholar” since a number of non-Mormon scholars don’t leap to those conclusions. In fact, I doubt you are familiar with any serious scholarship of Church history, since few tenured professors of history would characterize anyone in those terms without a criminal conviction or contemporary diagnosis.

    Have you ever read a book used in LDS seminaries and institutes on church history? If so which ones? How did you find them lacking? I learned from Seminary and Institute about things like the Mountain Meadows massacre, the Nauvoo Expositor, and early polygamy. Of course those materials are faith-promoting, but it’s not like they are hiding the ball.

    What serious, non-LDS scholarship would you recommend?

    And you keep referring to statements by Elder Oaks and Elder Packer. Have you read them in context? Do you even know when and where they were said? I seriously doubt you have actually gotten into the weeds on any of this, and instead you merely repeat back whatever popular criticism of the church you hear.

  • I am short of time so I will have to answer your questions in small segments.

    For starters, here is a link to one of Boyd Packer’s more infamous quotes:

    http://www.azquotes.com/author/18006-Boyd_K_Packer

    In particular, note this:
    There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful.

    I believe this quote can be found in one of the Mormon periodical publications. I will send you some others from Packer and Oaks. I am well-aware of these firsthand, not from what I’ve heard others say.

    Michael Quinn is (as I recall) one of theBYU scholars fired for saying something politically incorrect.

  • Just as I suspected. You have a quote that you’ve heard from some critic of the church, but you don’t even know the context? Who was Elder Packer speaking to? What was the event? What other words came before and after?

    Elder Packer was speaking to CES teachers–not historians–whose job is explicitly to promote faith.

  • And what would you say if I read some of those books used in LDS seminaries and found what I would call ” significant omissions”?

    For example: do those books talk about the number of wives of Joseph Smith and B. Young? Their ages? The fact that Smith sent some men on “missions” and married their wives while they were away? The fact that after the church banned polygamy in 1890 (? 1896?), several church leaders continued to be secretly polygamous?

    Or do you reject any criticism of the LDS church and its leaders?

  • Post-manifesto polygamy is addressed in chapter 36 of the Church History institute manual.

    I don’t see how the number of wives is relevant to a general discussion of church history, but the same manual explicitly discusses both Joseph Smith’s and Brigham Young’s plural marriages. Other church resources discuss names and ages (e.g. the gospel topics essays).

  • And in doing so he was promoting intellectual dishonesty, or at any rate lack of complete intellectual honesty.

    JHe clearly was afraid of what Mormons might learn if they studied history.

    And haven’t there been several CES teachers who were dismissed because they made the mistake of being too enthusiastic about intellectual honesty?

    And while all this is on my mind, here is a link to another bit of info about dishonest LDS stuff:

    http://www.mrm.org/white-and-delightsome

    More later.

  • Thanks for the info and the idea to look at LDS seminary material. I will be in SLC in a few weeks and I will definitely check this stuff out.

    This is relevant because I *still* encounter Mormons who are ignorant of that stuff.

    Hmm…I wonder if the material you cited discusses the age of Jos Smith’s wives? Well, we’ll see. I anticipate this being some VERY interesting research.

  • Because I spend a considerable amount of time in SLC, and because I’m afflicted with high curiosity, I’ve read several books and other material about/by Mormons over the years.

    One thing that sticks in my mind is the early and enthusiastic support of the Nazis (later quieted down).

    But in any case, as I said elsewhere, I shall check out what seminarians are taught, to see how complete it is.

    I’m sure you will not believe it, but I do not wish to walk around with incomplete or inaccurate info about the LDS church or any other organization, religion, phenomenon, fact, etc.

  • CES teachers aren’t scholars. They’re instructors. They’re delivering a message. There’s a huge difference between telling your own to stay on message and suppressing intellectual curiosity.

    “He clearly was afraid of what Mormons might learn if they studied history.” I arrive at a different conclusion, which is that he wanted CES teachers to stay on message.

    “And haven’t there been several CES teachers who were dismissed because they made the mistake of being too enthusiastic about intellectual honesty?” There have been BYU professors who were dismissed for violating the terms of their employment, and some who were excommunicated for actively teaching false doctrine. In each case, their actions went well beyond reporting on historical facts.

    ….And you’ve posted a link that is a complete non-sequitur to the discussion. Again, you clearly have not really done any independent thought on these issues, but you are instead parroting anti-Mormon propaganda that you’ve heard. Congratulations.

  • “I’ve read several books and other material about/by Mormons over the years.” Wow. I’m impressed. Several, huh? You must be an expert.

    “One thing that sticks in my mind is the early and enthusiastic support of the Nazis.” This isn’t even close to historically accurate.

    “I’m sure you will not believe it, but I do not wish to walk around with incomplete or inaccurate info about the LDS church or any other organization…” You’re right. I don’t believe it.

  • Why do you have to do so from SLC? This stuff is all available online.

    What really gets my goat is that you come here and act like you have some special knowledge about Mormonism. It’s clear to me that you don’t. You are no more an expert on Mormons than I am on Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’ve read quite a bit of material by Jehovah’s Witnesses (based on our short discussion, my guess is far more than you have read on Mormonism), but I would never make broad claims about the motives of the Watchtower Society or disparage them on a forum clearly aimed at Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is uncouth and more likely to expose the buffoonery of the critic.

    And yes, the Gospel Topics essay I cited specifically mentions the ages of Smith’s wives.

    https://www.lds.org/topics/plural-marriage-in-kirtland-and-nauvoo?lang=eng

    https://www.lds.org/manual/church-history-in-the-fulness-of-times-student-manual?lang=eng

  • Tell you what, Z: how about you tell me the titles of the books used in CES, and when I get to SLC I’ll find them in the library and check them out for comprehensiveness and accuracy.

  • What do you suggest as a better alternative than reading respectable books?

    Over the years I’ve occasionally invited Mormon “missionaries” into my home when they’ve run the bell. Every time I ask them tough questions, they say they don;’t know the answer and they will have to have someone else come to the house, or I should go to one of their temples.

    I’ve occasionally written to LDS HQ to ask questions and they always say they’ll send someone out for me. When I respond that I prefer to read, rather than listen, that’s the end of the discussion–there’s no followup. Of course, the reason is obvious: the less there is in print, the less embarrassment the church might later suffer. Better to be able to say “Oh, the missionary you spoke to must have been misinformed/must have misunderstood your question.”

    And of course my comment about support of Nazis is correct. But I read it in a respectable book, so of course you’ll reject that. I guess the LDS church is perfect.

    Why don’t you give me the titles of some of the major books used in CES and I will check them out myself, either online or as books.

  • Thanks, I will check this out. But what will happen if I find something that I regard as incomplete or inaccurate? Will you say I’m wrong?

  • CES instructors may be instructors, and not scholars, but they are presumably using books that have lots of man-hours in them, put together by people who are scholars. So I will expect those books to be complete and accurate. We’ll see; in any case I am very happy that you suggested this to me. Given the lies and absurdities the church has promoted in the past (Racism, Jos Smith looking into a hat to come up with a text, etc? gimme a break) , looking at the contents of the books should be, err…extremely interesting.

    As for propaganda…I reject the lies and nonsense that “Christian” fundamentalists level at the LDS church.

    Umm…how about the Tanners? Are they reliable? Are there ANY critics of the church who you regard as reliable?

  • Of course you should read respectable books to get information, but until you’ve read more than several, you’re in no position to make broad generalizations about the church.

    Why put “missionaries” in scare quotes? Is that not exactly what they are?

    I don’t know who you’re writing at church headquarters, but no one there is going to be interested in answering the criticisms of some no-name like you. There are libraries and a wealth of information on LDS.org. If you want a more comprehensive discussion, I recommend FAIR.

    What is your “respectable book” discussing Mormons and Nazis? Because if you read books like “Moroni and the Swastika”, you’ll get a picture of a religion that had some join the Nazi party, some be executed for opposition, but mostly people just trying to keep their head down until the whole thing blew over. Before the extent of their atrocities were made clear, some leaders tried court the favor of the party in power by pointing out some superficial similarities, but all of that fell short of enthusiastic support.

    Again, I’ve done more than give you titles; I’ve given you links.

  • OK, I downloaded “Church history in the fullness of times” and looked for any mention of how many wives Jos Smith had, and how old the youngest one(s) were. No mention of that, of course. So how are mishies supposed to answer those questions if it’s not in the manual?

    Next, I’ll look for mentions of racism–something which the church has admitted, and attributed to Brigham Young (tho of course no mention of the racism of Ezra Taft Benson).

    I’m glad you suggested that I read the student material!

  • No, the Tanners are not reliable. As D Michael Quinn (whom you seem to trust) noted, “”although the most conscientious and honest researcher can overlook pertinent sources of information, the repeated omissions of evidence by the Tanners suggest an intentional avoidance of sources that modify or refute their caustic interpretation of Mormon history.”

    The Tanners are anti-Mormon. There are lots of people who are critical of the Church that I would not call anti-Mormon, but when you constantly move the goal posts and subject the Church to a different standard than other institutions, as the Tanners have consistently done, then you own that label.

  • I did find a discussion of the 1978 “revelation” on p. 583 of this manual. But interestingly, the text very carefully sidesteps saying directly anything like “Prior to 1978, the church barred African Americans [negroes etc] from receiving the priesthood, which was in accord with original Mormon documents.”

    So although it’s commendable that there is some discussion of that matter, the curious reader really has to know a bit more than is spelled out in the text in order to fully appreciate it.

    And just to be fair about these things, I will say that the church has very commendably condemned racism explicitly. I believe that condemnation and I believe it is sincere–unlike, say, the things the Southern Baptist convention has said.

  • You’ll want the gospel topics essays for details on those topics. While polygamy and the priesthood ban get mention in those materials, the details are beyond the purpose and scope of those.

  • The Church is only recently starting to address this head on, and so I suspect that you will see more frank discussions of this in the future. However, I will note that other courses and manuals are more direct. The seminary manual (which is geared towards high school kids) cites the Gospel Topics essay and invites the student to think about the reasons for the ban (explaining that the Church has disavowed previous theories regarding it).

    https://www.lds.org/manual/doctrine-and-covenants-and-church-history-study-guide-for-home-study-seminary-students-2014/section-7/unit-32-day-2-official-declaration-2?lang=eng&query=black

    A different institute course likewise encourages asking questions about this topic, and similarly clearly explains what the ban was and links to the Gospel Topics essay.

    https://www.lds.org/manual/foundations-of-the-restoration-teacher-manual/lesson-26-the-revelation-on-the-priesthood?lang=eng&query=black

  • Re Nazis: I just remembered something I read some years back about a young Mormon fellow in Nazi Germany. He was a courageous guy and was public in his opposition to the Nazis, and so of course he was executed.

    The really interesting thing about this fellow is that for many years after he was murdered, the LDS church was not quite sure how to handle his situation, and so kept quiet about him. It was only many years later–?? perhaps in the ’70’s?–that the church finally figured out he could be up as a hero.

    Perhaps you know the name of the fellow I’;m thinking of? Why do I think it might have been Heubner, something like that.

    I think the name of the book I read might have been Moroni and the Nazis, something like that, perhaps by a fellow named Conley. My recollection is that many Mormons thought the book was embarrassing, but quite honest.

  • What about sites like exmormon.org? Do they contain any accurate negative info re the LDS church, or are all the comments there false because they’re posted by ex-Mormons?

    What about the book(s) by the Tanners?

    I also recall reading something very interesting by Bruce McConkie, in an encyclopedic book about the church, organized alphabetically. There was an entry explaining in detail why African Americans were denied the priesthood–some nonsense about a “lack of valiance in the pre-life”. In the edition published after 1978, somehow all that information disappeared–because the church was embarrassed by it.

    And of course, we know how well the church respects history by the way it keeps editing out anything embarrasing–like that racist stuff in, I think, 2 Nephi.

  • Of course, I’m well-aware that the Tanners are anti-Mormon. If they are dishonest, as Quinn suggests, then of course they are to be laughed at. I was not aware that they were/are regarded as dishonest; I will try to make some time to investigate further.

    I agree of course that the LDS church should be subjected to the same standards as other churches; and by that standard so many churches fall far short. But I am unaware of any other church that has structured life as cleverly as the LDS church.

  • I regard the entire LDS church teachings as deficient. I think it’sd a big con, intended to control people and to give some individuals control over the lives of others. This is not especially unusual as religions go–the Catholic church tried to do that, succeeded for many years, until it started losing credibility because of the sex scandals.

    I have a friend, devout Mormon, former bishop, lawyer, with whom I’ve discussed a lot of these issues over the years, via email. He acknowledged that Jos Smith was arrested numerous times for being a con artist. As I said elsewhere, I believe the LDS church to be a gigantic con until proven otherwise. I mean, this stuff about Smith coming up with a book by looking into a hat…give me a break.

  • Helmuth Hubener. His branch president was a Nazi and excommunicated him without following proper procedures in 1942. He was posthumously reinstated as a member of the Church in 1946, after the facts came to light. I don’t know how that qualifies as “not quite sure how to handle his situation.” A BYU professor wrote a play about him in 1979. It played then and gained a resurgence in the 90s.

    Any level of support for the Nazi regime is, of course, embarrassing given what we know now. But to the extent that Mormons were enthusiastic about any aspect of Naziism, it was in those things on which they shared common goals. Nazis opposed the use of alcohol and tobacco by youth. However, church materials were censored in Germany because they were too sympathetic to the Jewish people. Much of the accommodation of the Nazis by the church was out of fear.

  • It does seem to me that the church has started to address issues more honestly in recent years. And I’ve been surprised and impressed by some things the church has done, such as, several years ago, endorsing the notion of benefits for same-sex partners for individuals working for the county.

    And there’s a lot of work to be done. For example, I remember a conversation with a missionary in which he stated “but the wine in biblical days had a much lower alcohol content.” How could I do anything but laugh at his ignorance of the bible, and of biology?

    Who knows, maybe eventually the church will get around to condemning the hatred of blacks expressed by Ezra Taft Benson (the church is obviously well-aware of that, and very uncomfortable with it), the hatred of Jews by J. Reuben Clark, and who knows what else.

  • The JWs are another bunch of krackpots taking advantage of people with serious ignorance and serious psychological problems.

    I prefer to do this in SLC, if I can, because I prefer to read books than to read material online.

  • “What about sites like [exmormon dot org]? Do they contain any accurate negative info re the LDS church, or are all the comments there false because they’re posted by ex-Mormons?” That’s a false dichotomy. A source such as exmormon dot org can be unreliable and still occasionally eek out accurate information. Same for the Tanners. Sure, some of their writing may be accurate, but they are certainly not an unbiased source, and are frequently an unreliable source.

    “There was an entry explaining in detail why African Americans were denied the priesthood–some nonsense about a “lack of valiance in the pre-life”. In the edition published after 1978, somehow all that information disappeared–because the church was embarrassed by it.” More accurately, because Elder McConkie, seeing that his suppositions had been preempted by the prophet, retracted his statements as inaccurate. The book Mormon Doctrine (despite its name) is not and never was authoritative.

    Are you really going to rest your argument that the church erases its history on subsequent editions of the Book of Mormon. I’ve got news for you: there are thousands of changes to the Book of Mormon since its first edition, most of them insignificant. None of them are a secret. The current edition uses the language used in the last edition edited by its translator. That’s a far cry from disrespecting history.

  • Howard, no one cares what you think. I am embarrassed to have entertained your “arguments” for this long. If you don’t believe it, don’t become a Mormon.

  • Yeah, you still look ill-informed and bombastic talking about a religion I don’t believe in. It’s not just my bias.

  • It obviously has not occurred to you that maybe I knew quite a number of them, and maybe I know something about organizational behavior and individual behavior.

  • I’ve helped at least 2 people escape from Mormonism, so whatever I do has not been entirely in vain.

  • Sorry, I disagree. It’s exactly like one of the the opening scenes in *1984* (the book, not the movie), where Winston Smith is re-writing history. I mean, if god really inspired Joseph Smith, why the need to re-write something originally written in English? Why not simply append footnotes, or something like that, to explain arcane language?

    I’m enjoying our exchanges. You’re helping me think more deeply and more critically (i.e., carefully) about religion in general, and the LDS church in particular.

  • Aaah, yes, thank you. I agree that no doubt some of the support of the LDS church for the Nazis–in the interests of accuracy and fairness, let us say, *apparent* support–was due to a reasonable concern about survival.

    At the same time, it is certainly true that early on, the LDS church eagerly supported the Nazis. Why? Because Mormons are taught to respect authority, and especially, civil authority.

    I wish I could find the material I read about the LDS church initially being silent about Hubener, until it figured out that he could be held up as a hero/martyr.

    In this regard, I suppose the LDS church actually looks considerably better than the Catholic church, which has always enthusiastically supported dictators who left the church alone–Franco being a particularly good example.

    (And, of course, another thing at least some Mormons had in common with the Nazis was the (badly confused) Jew-hater, J. Reuben Clark.)

  • Sorry, I disagree. I’ve backed up most of my statements, especially when challenged.

    Here’s the bottom line: devout or observant Mormons will surely reject every word I write, since obviously, the LDS church is perfect, free from error, the only true religion on earth, thus, no criticism could have any truth or value whatsoever. But anyone who knows anything about human behavior, and about the LDS church, knows that I’m posting useful, accurate stuff.

  • 1. Historically, several Mormons have called the BoM “the most perfect book ever written”, something like that. Yet, oddly, it contains lots of grammatical errors–I guess god doesn’t have such good grammar.

    2. I guess part of Orwell’s genius was understanding that govts and organizations like to literally “rewrite history”, and that is certainly what the LDS church has done and is doing.

    The total disappearance of McConkie’s entry on African Americans and the priesthood, with no further info and no observation that the policy was wrong, or even that “fortunately god inspired the leaders to change the policy”, tells us an enormous amount about Mormonism.

  • No further info or observation? The following is what Elder McConkie said about his own words and writings: “There are statements in our literature by the early Brethren which we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, “You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?” And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.”

    Every time you write something, you demonstrate that you speak out of ignorance.

  • “I’ve backed up most of my statements, especially when challenged.” Are you kidding me? You have only cited one specific article, and it had nothing to do with what we had been talking about. You have otherwise cited vague recollections or generalizations that I have proven wrong with links and direct quotes. It has become obvious that you don’t know your subject nearly as well as you think you do.

  • Sorry, I realize that I left out any response to 1. Again, you are imprecise and relying on your recollection of things. The quote you are referring to is this: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” It may seem small, but there is an important difference between “perfect” and “most correct”. Context also demonstrates that the “correctness” referred to is not grammatical or linguistic. The Book of Mormon explicitly disclaims infallibility: “And now if there be fault, it be the mistake of men; wherefore conmn not the things of God…”

  • The first thing to note about that comment is that he nowhere says outright, in plain language, anything like “Despite my earlier confidence, I was cleary wrong.” He talks all around that but never says anything like that plainly and directly.

    Nor, of course, does he mention LDS racists like Bring’em Young or Ezra Taft Benson, who influenced his, and the church’s, view. (Please don’t dispute me on Young’s racism–the church has admitted it.)

    Somewhere in my files I have a photocopy of the entry he wrote in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism (that might not be the exact title). I made a copy because I was sure that eventually his entry would disappear.

    I would look for that entry, but you would find some convenient way to ignore or downplay it. I will look for it later, for future discussions on this matter.

    In the entry he was very confident of his reasons why Negroes were denied the priesthood; he made idiotic statements (of course, without any backing) like Negroes were denied the priesthood because of a lack of valiancy (I assume that means bravery) in the “pre-existing life.”

    Of course, one reason (among several) he and the church are reluctant to be fully candid about being wrong is that some smartass like me might say “Umm, excuse me, if you were wrong about THAT, isn’t it possible you’re wrong about other matters, e.g. gays, abortion, etcv”? And of course that’s the main question that ALL churches don’t want to address.

    FINALLY, consider the 1978 “revelation” in which god instructed the top men of the church to change their policies. We all know that was because the church was in danger of losing a tax break if it did not change.

    If, in fact, god gave a “revelation”, isn’t it interesting that it was so private? How come this all-powerful god of yours was not able to make his change of mind known to all Mormons?

    Every time you write something, you demonstrate that you are committed to defending the LDS church and its teachings regardless of the truth or history or reality of those teachings. That’s OK–that’s exactly what we expect of a “True Believer”.

  • Mormons are the only people who don’t know that the BoM is a total fraud. “Seer stone” indeed–how gullible does one have to be to believe such nonsense?

    The church is “editing” the BoM because if you consider the grammatical mistakes, and think about what they tell a careful reader, it’s DEVASTATING to the church.

    I will find the original passages from 2 Nephi and post them, and we can compare them to the changes made by the LDS church to get away from the embarrassing matter of racism.

  • You don’t think “Forget everything that I have said” is the equivalent to “I was wrong”? You are impossible!

    “We all know that was because the church was in danger of losing a tax break if it did not change.” You base a lot of your blathering on things that “we all know.” The fact is, the Church had not been threatened with losing its tax-exempt status in 1978 or any year prior to that. Do you have a newspaper article, statement from someone within the church or the government, or any other credible piece of evidence that it was? Your “we all know” is based on pure speculation.

    “How come this all-powerful god of yours was not able to make his change of mind known to all Mormons?” Prophetic revelation has been the pattern for these things from the beginning, going back to the days of Noah, Abraham, and Moses. You may not accept that, and that’s fine, but there’s no inconsistency.

    “Every time you write something, you demonstrate that you are committed to defending the LDS church and its teachings regardless of the truth or history or reality of those teachings.” I am dedicated to defending truth, to the point that I can be bothered to look up facts and quotations. You, on the other hand, appear to be more interested in stating your ill-founded conclusions as fact.

  • “”Seer stone” indeed–how gullible does one have to be to believe such nonsense?” Arrogance is not an argument.

    “The church is “editing” the BoM because if you consider the grammatical mistakes, and think about what they tell a careful reader, it’s DEVASTATING to the church.” Nope

    You don’t have to go looking; I already know the changes. We’ve already discussed the changes. Joseph Smith, as translator of the Book of Mormon, made edits to his translation for the sake of clarity. This happens regularly with any publication especially translations. Even accepting that the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, it still went through a transcription process, editing process, and preparation for printing. The original manuscript had no punctuation at all. If the Book of Mormon fails some test in your mind of what the process should be, it’s because you require something of it that it does not require of itself.

  • Hmm…let’s see;;
    2 Nephi 5:21 And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.

    Do you notice the last 20 words or so?

    And from 3 Nephi 2:

    15 And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites;

    16 And their young men and their daughters became exceedingly fair,

    Looks pretty racist to me. So either god was a racist, or Joseph Smith was a product of his time, and was racist.

    It is very revealing that people could believe the nonsense the LDS church hands out about its history and in particular its history of racism.

  • You have changed your story here, Howard. This whole time you have been claiming that the Church is trying to cover up its past history of racism by changing the Book of Mormon, and now you are quoting the current edition of the Book of Mormon. Which is it, Howard? Does the Church cover it up or embrace its scripture? If the Church were interested in simply covering up inconvenient verses because social norms now consider it racist, certainly these would not have gone untouched. A lot of ink has been spilt on interpretations and explanations of these verses, and I invite you to read them, but I need to point out that you cannot even keep your argument straight.

  • 1. “Prophetic revelation” is pure BS. Does it happen in any other large denomination? RCC, say, or SBC, or Episcopal church? It is simply a very convenient way for a a leader of some cult or religion or denomination to get his gullible followers to believe. It’s always very convenient, and of course, not independently confirmable.

    God gives people all sorts of revelations–some of which lead to schizophrenics killing other people. The problem is, of course, how can an ordinary person know what god has said?–other than by listening to a leader of the religious institution? And why won’t he give the same revelation to everyone, at the same time? Why just the leaders? What could be more powerful, and more believable, than a revelation available to all? Please answer that.

    2. Bob Jones “University” was in danger of losing its tax break pre-1978, and so changed its racist policies. I will see what I can find re the LDS church, tho of course you will reject anything I find, since I will not be able to find any Mormon leader saying “we did it to avoid losing our tax-exempt status”.

    So can I “prove” to your satisfaction? Of course not. I was not inside the minds of the top men, and of course, they left nothing in writing. Some phenomena and events must be inferred based on other, verifiable facts. After all, the LDS church has a history of doing that–e.g. the 1890 change re polygamy in order to gain entrance to the union. You may be familiar with Ockham’s Razor.

    Here is one link I found:
    http://www.politicususa.com/2012/06/10/voice-god-irs.html

    3. I do not think those 2 phrases are equivalent. “Forget everything I have said” is a convenient way of avoiding saying outright “I was WRONG.”

    If you have a big ego, that makes it difficult to say “I was wrong.”

  • Joseph Smith was clearly semi-literate, and that shows in the words, grammar, etc of the original BoM.

    The seer stone is just plain nonsense. Any thinking person can see that. It is a logical extension of Smith’s activities as a con artist.

    And what about the translation of those documents that Smith did, which turned up at a museum in the 1960’s and were shown to be not at all what Jos Smith said they were? The church has, of course, sidestepped that.

    My best guess about the church is that the current leaders realize how shaky are the foundations on which it is built, and are trying to gently and slowly guide members to more acceptable notions, so they will gradually forget the original nonsense.

  • I admit I was very surprised to find that that clearly racist passage (et al) had not been carefully changed or excised. (Or maybe you will find it more acceptable for me to say “It appears I was WRONG.”) I wonder how those verses appear in the BoM books used by the members?

    I will see what else I can find.

    And for the record: I have noted several announcements from the church that make it clear that the church is clearly, unalterably, and sincerely opposed to racism of all sorts. Needless to say, I find that highly commendable.

  • Here is some more information about the racist history of the LDS church.

    On this page–
    https://www.lds.org/topics/race-and-the-priesthood?lang=eng

    Note this sentence:
    After praying for guidance, President McKay did not feel impressed to lift the ban.16

    And yet, in 1978, when tax exemptions were threatened, somehow, god did send the right message! How interesting! I guess god changed his mind about racism some time between 1950 and 1978.

  • “Joseph Smith was clearly semi-literate, and that shows in the words, grammar, etc of the original BoM.” Very true. In fact, in the last general conference, the general sunday school president reiterated as much. “Joseph’s wife Emma confirmed the impossibility of such an undertaking: ‘Joseph Smith [as a young man] could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter; let alone dictat[e] a book like the Book of Mormon.'” https://www.lds.org/ensign/2017/11/sunday-afternoon-session/gods-compelling-witness-the-book-of-mormon?lang=eng

    Not sure what your point was there.

    “The seer stone is just plain nonsense. Any thinking person can see that.” More nonsensical than burning bushes, talking snakes, and people coming back from the dead? I understand you find all religion to be bogus, but I don’t think you can speak on behalf of the entire category of “thinking persons” given that many of the great minds of history held to such religious beliefs (e.g., Isaac Newton, Lord Kelvin, and any number of religious scientists).

    “My best guess about the church is…” That’s all you do, isn’t it? You just guess. I think you’ve proven that even your best guesses are based on knowing just enough about the Church to think you know something.

  • 1. “”Prophetic revelation” is pure BS.” Again, no one cares what you think, and that’s all you’ve stated. You think it’s BS. Great, take your thoughts and move right along.

    2. “tho of course you will reject anything I find, since I will not be able to find any Mormon leader saying “we did it to avoid losing our tax-exempt status”.” No, if you can find anyone who would have been in the know, Mormon or not, I would accept that. The BJU example is, admittedly, evidence for your argument, but it is far from convincing evidence, since that matter had a number of important distinguishing facts. Your link suffers from the same problem your arguments do–it doesn’t cite any credible source. Again, it’s rank speculation.

    “I do not think those 2 phrases are equivalent. “Forget everything I have said” is a convenient way of avoiding saying outright “I was WRONG.”” I guess you and I don’t speak the same language then.

  • Burning bushes etc etc are all nonsense too, and more and more denominations and scholars are accepting those things as metaphorical or allegorical (or one of those English-major things). No, I am not going to find sp[ecific scholar who’ve said that, because you’d just disagree.

    Of course, this raises an interesting question: how do you decide which portions of scripture (NT, OT, BoM) are to be taken literally, and which metaphorically or symbolically?

    I know of someone who came back from the dead! Many years ago, we were playing on the ice, in winter. One of the guys (I only knew him by sight)–he was maybe 8, 9 y.o.–fell through the ice. By the time he was recovered, he was not breathing. But a doc thought he could revive the guy, so the kid was covered with blankets and someone did mouth-to-mouth. And sure enough, the guy came back from the dead!

    Years later, it was learned that this was not so unusual–it was in fact a scientific phenomenon! A drowning in very cold water did not necessarily result in permanent death, or even in brain damage, if appropriate measures were applied in time.

    Of course, that’s a little different from someone deliberately killed, in warm weather, who “revives” 3 days later.

  • Howard, it’s nice of you to use citations, but it would be better if you used them to back up statements of fact with which I disagree.

    I don’t know why President McKay did not feel impressed to lift the ban. I have my own suspicions, which center on the fact that I don’t think the members of the church were ready for it (there were a lot of racist Mormons). But you are engaging in circumstantial ad hominem, and it’s unconvincing.

  • “No, I am not going to find sp[ecific [sic] scholar who’ve said that, because you’d just disagree.” Wow, that’s a convincing motive to not provide evidence. Someone might disagree with my evidence, therefore I do not have the burden of presenting it.

    You’ve not really addressed my point, especially with that story. My point was that there are “thinking persons” who accept supernatural phenomena and religious stories as literal. Based on this exchange alone, I think you of all people are woefully unqualified to speak on behalf of “thinking persons.”

  • But if, as you say, there were lots of racist Mormons then, doesn’t that make it even more important for McKay to have spoken out against racism? I mean, did he stand for truth and god;’s values and so on, or for appealing to and comforting the members?

    My impression, based on lots of stuff I’ve read, from a wide variety of sources, and contacts with Mormons, is that Mormons are especially *un*prejudiced. Or at least, if they have prejudices, they don’t spend much time voicing them.

    Of course, I agree that it’s always best to provide specifics and details and so on. There are some matters on which, even if I provided highly specific details and citations, you;d find some reason to reject what I say and what the citations say. As well, there are some things which I’ve learned, over the years, and on which I am now unable to find citations without an excessive amount of searching.

    BTW, I appreciate that in our discussions, you are being polite and your disagreements with me are on the basis of our discussions, and not ad hominem attacks. When I discuss things with (non-LDS) fundies, the discussion usually devolves to personal attack and silly stuff.

  • “Prophetic revelation” is pure BS because it’s simply a person saying “I received this revelation from god” and no way of verifying it. Suppose a person says “I rec’d a prophetic revelation.” How do you know he’s telling the truth? Maybe, for example, the person is psychotic and hears voices.

    I could say I rec’d a revelation–but I’m pretty sure you’d find some reason to argue with me. How would you know if I received a revelation or not?–or is it only church leaders who receive them? Hmm? You don’t find that a little suspicious?

    As to language, do you recall when the Acting President said “Mistakes were made”? He was unable to say “I made them”–unlike, say, Harry Truman, who famously said “when I make a mistake it’s a beaut.”

  • Howard, I’m not going to go down the rabbit hole of debating the process of learning spiritual truth. Suffice it to say, that the process involves going to God directly for confirmation of what another person says. If you don’t accept prophetic revelation, that’s fine. Your criticisms are still based on bad reasoning and incomplete facts, and your ignorance of the subject of your criticism is glaring.

    As to language, those aren’t the same things at all. Elder McConkie’s statement included himself. “Forget everything I have said” does not weasel out of responsibility because the first person is still present.

  • “My impression, based on lots of stuff I’ve read, from a wide variety of sources, and contacts with Mormons, is that Mormons are especially *un*prejudiced. Or at least, if they have prejudices, they don’t spend much time voicing them.” This is the problem. This is akin to the current president saying “everybody agrees.” If you can’t back it up with something specific, don’t bother.

    “There are some matters on which, even if I provided highly specific details and citations, you;d find some reason to reject what I say and what the citations say.” Yes, that’s the nature of debate. I have thoroughly examined these issues, to the point that I can very quickly point to sources that back up my claim. If you present something and I reject what it says, it is likely because I have already considered it and rejected it. It has been a very long time since someone presented a criticism of the Church that is new to me.

  • This comment, combined with another comment of yours elsewhere regarding “spiritual truth”, is extremely revealing.

    The bottom line is, even if I provide extremely strong documentation of a fact that displeases you, you will reject it. OTOH, it is unreasonable to ask for any kind of proof regarding “spiritual proof”, prayer, and other traditional religions matters, such as revelation, afterlife, existence of god, and so on.

    VERY revealing. Thank you for alerting me to this aspect of “strong belief”.

  • There is a huge difference between my comments regarding spiritual truth and your assertions. I have explicitly stated that I don’t expect you to accept claims of spiritual truth. I’m not interested in debating that topic, as the only way to know it is through personal experience, which I can’t impart on you through the Internet.

    I can, however, correct your demonstrably false assertions, which is what I have tried to do, and I have used quotations and specific sources to do so. You, on the other hand, have recognized that you could provide evidence, but have refused to do so (just my hunch, but I’m guessing because you can’t find them).

  • There are openly gay members of my YSA ward. They are widely accepted, and have callings. Some are very active, and others are quite inactive. I am not judging you. I have to ask, however, were you actually excommunicated for being gay, or were you excommunicated for engaging in homosexual activities?

  • If you define two sexual virgin guys occasionally hugging, kissing and holding a boyfriend’s hand in private, homosexual activity, then I was excommunicated for “engaging in homosexual activity.”

    It was also a different time, late 70s early 80s. It isn’t an equal comparison to what you may experience in YSA situations today.

  • LDS missionaries would never have said you would need to go to one of their temples. LDS Temples require a Temple Recommend, only available to baptized members in good standing and after an interview with one’s bishop & stake president.

    I’m not sure of your purpose here, but you don’t actually seem to know squat about the LDS Church, its leaders or its beliefs. You just offer a lot of jumbled recollections about this or that from what may well be a garbage publication. Not everything in print is true nor respectable.

  • This started as a discussion of Mormon family Home Evening, and went from there. It progressed from there to a contentious discussion with Zampona (and you).

    I am no expert on Mormonism, and I don’t claim to be. My knowledge of Mormonism comes from *respectable* books Ive read, such as those by the Ostlings and Quinn and others whose titles I no longer recall, conversations with present Mormons and ex-Mormons, books such as those by McConkie (I no longer recall exact title–“Handbook of Mormonism” or “Encyclopedia of Mormonism” or something like that), stuff I’ve read on sites like exmormon.org, and other places and interactions.

    I am not an expert in human behavior either, but I’ve read enough to know some important things about human behavior. And regarding the LDS church AND human behavior, to know what I don’t know.

    Re Mormonism, I think I know a fair number of things about church belief, AND church practice, including some things the church does not promote, and some which the church is trying to stamp out, such as shunning. And I know, for example, about Joseph Smith’s numerous arrests, about the flagrant hatred expressed and promulgated by Benson, Clark, and Young; about the church hiring ex-FBI agents to snoop on Mormons; about basic beliefs such as about sex, marriage, families, hot drinks, alcohol, “volunteering”, non-professional clergy, Mormons being assigned to neighborhood churches and temples, near-absolute obediance to what the bishop says, “courts of love” (hahaha), TRs and much of what they involve, missions, “lying for the lord”, and so on.

    My experience with Mormons has been that they automatically reject any allegations about the church that are uncomplimentary to the church–more so than adherents of other faiths.

  • Yes, you are not an expert by any means. And I repeat, you know squat about the LDS Church. You seem to have the sole purpose of looking for opportunities to tear LDS folks down. If you don’t wish to be LDS, don’t be LDS. I’m not sure I understand your need to jump in when you get the chance to say bad things about the LDS Church. It’s a very bizarre obsession!

  • I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree about how much I know about the LDS church.

    As to your statement “You seem to have the sole purpose of looking for opportunities to tear LDS folks down”, you obviously have missed much of what I’ve stated here–I have very specifically stated often that there are lots of things I admire about individual Mormons, and that my problem is the teachings of the LDS *church*–with LDS ideology.

  • Came back to this discussion to grab the link for a resource I had sent you, and I saw this. I can’t help but comment that critics of the Church often put “lying for the Lord” in scare quotes, as you just did, as though that’s a phrase used by Mormons. To be clear, it is not. It’s a phrase used by anti-Mormons. That is all. Thanks.

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