Tuesday, January 26, 2010

More on the LDS Church and Haiti

After my last post about the LDS church and Haiti it seems someone signed me up for the LDS Philanthropies newsletter. Ha ha. {Can you say “unsubscribe?”} It was weird, but whatever.
Then I saw this article about the initial rebuilding costs in Haiti being $3 billion. Don’t forget, $3 billion is how much the LDS church is spending on their mall/condo building project.
Then I heard that just last month the LDS Church bought 3,152 acres in Florida for $31.7 million.
This month the church bought another 13 acres in downtown Salt Lake City for an undisclosed amount.
This past week the church announced they’re building another temple, this one in Payson, Utah.
Yet, with all this spending the church has the gall to ask their members to give, give, give so they can help Haiti. Don’t forget, the members already give 10% of their income {and more} to the church fully believing that the church is doing God’s work, helping the sick and afflicted, the poor, you know…the stuff Jesus taught? Never mind that estimates place the LDS church at giving a mere $3-4 per member to the poor each year {and I’ve seen estimates even lower than that}. Never mind that the LDS church is estimated to give LESS THAN ONE PERCENT to the poor. Never mind that WAL-MART {the store many people think is downright evil} gives MORE to charitable work {1.5%} than the LDS church does. Never mind all that, just pay, pray and obey!
Here’s another disturbing tidbit:
"In 1997, U.S. congregations of the similarly sized Evangelical Lutheran Church in America raised $11.8 million in cash donations for worldwide hunger. The same year it raised $3.64 million for domestic and international disaster response, for a one-year humanitarian cash total of $15.44 million, more than half the amount the LDS provided over fourteen years." P. 129, Mormon America , Richard Ostling {via MormonThink}
So, keeping all that in mind, I was more than a little annoyed when I received the following e-mail from a Mr. Barret Christensen from LDS Philanthropies:
I found your blog online and noticed that you might have an affinity to the work the LDS Church is doing down in Haiti. If this is the case we officially launched a giving/informational widget for Church members to use on their personal blogs and social networks.
If you would be willing we would love to have you post this widget on your blog and social networks, to help spread the word and raise money for the cause. In the first three days of the widgets launch we have raised almost $100K. It has traveled to 89 countries and 54 different languages. We would love to keep it moving. If you have any questions please feel free to send me an email. You are also welcome to forward this email on to other LDS bloggers and social media users.
To share it, click on the “share” button which will expose the embed code for your blog or website. It will also allow you to post it to the more popular social networks.
Three methods for posting:
1: Here is a link: http://farm.sproutbuilder.com/load/swD1vM0bH6iRezSa.swf?_ts=1264353886&v=1264353880515
2: Here is an image of the widget that has the link embedded in it.
3: If you lose track of the widget you can always find it on the LDS Philanthropies, Humanitarian Services Site. http://www.ldsphilanthropies.org/humanitarian-services/
801-422-1940 (w)  |  801-234-9587 (m)  |  christensenbt@ldschurch.org , barett@byu.eduLinkedIn: Personal, Business Personal, Business :Facebook
YouTube: Business Personal :Twitter
NOTICE: This email message is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply email and destroy all copies of the original message.
My response?
You clearly didn't bother READING what I had to say about the LDS church and Haiti. I wouldn't give a DIME to the LDS Church. If they really want to help Haiti they can sell their $3 billion dollar mall and send them the money.
Mormon 8:37 For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.

As for the notice at the end of the message, tough luck. You sent me an UNSOLICITED e-mail asking me to help make you money. Your church has MORE THAN ENOUGH MONEY TO HELP HAITI. STOP increasing the burden on your trusting members. USE THE MONEY THEY’VE ALREADY GIVEN YOU. AND READ MY #$&*ING POST BEFORE YOU ASSUME I’M INTERESTED IN YOUR WIDGET.
And, because I think it deserves to be repeated, here’s that scripture again {from the Book of Mormon}:
Mormon 8:37 For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.
I wanted to write an eloquent post. But you know what? I’m too damn angry. I gave thousands and thousands of dollars to this church thinking I was helping make the world better, helping the poor. I shudder to think how few student loans I’d have to repay {if any} had I not been giving 10% of my pre-tax income to that dishonest organization. And I can’t stand watching loved ones, friends and family, handing over their hard-earned pay under the same {false} assumption. I can’t stand watching them ask for MORE money to help Haiti when they have MORE than enough. I can’t stand the utter hypocrisy of a church that preaches one thing and practices another.
I just can’t stand it.
If YOU can’t stand it either please share this post and my last post {via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, whatever} with anyone you think needs to know about this travesty.

Friday, January 15, 2010

What Would Jesus Do?

The Mormon church teaches that Jesus Christ is at the head of the church. HE leads it. It is HIS church {and all the others are wannabes, presumably}. Most members believe that Jesus has appeared personally to the prophet {currently Thomas S. Monson} and his twelve apostles. Many believe he visits them regularly. Keep these things in mind as you read this post.
The LDS Church refuses to disclose its financial information except for in countries where it is legally required to do so, such as Great Britain {though most other churches have no issue opening their books so that their members, and the public, can see what they’re doing with their money}. But it is estimated that the LDS church is worth $80 to $100 billion {yes, that’s BILLION with a ‘B’}.
“It is the wealthiest per capita religion in the world with annual tax-free revenues estimated to be $6 Billion per year.  The LDS Church owns 928,000 acres in North America, is the largest ranch land owner in Wyoming, is the 2nd largest land owner in Nebraska (Ted Turner #1), has the largest  cattle ranch in 48 states (Adjacent to Disneyworld in Florida), is the largest foreign landowner in UK.  The LDS Church owns several businesses, numerous radio and television stations, its own insurance company, and is rumored to be the largest single producer of commercial beef in the USA .  They own enormous properties in Hawaii including a Marriott hotel franchise in Hawaii, the Polynesian Cultural Center (which is the most visited tourist attraction in Hawaii)…” and more. {via MormonThink}
The Church is currently building a $3 billion {yes, again, that’s BILLION with a B} mall/office/condo building in Salt Lake City {a MALL in this economy? Geez, it doesn’t take a prophet to know THAT’S a horrible idea}.  They assure us no tithing money is being used. And since they refuse to let us see their books we’ll have to take their word for it. Of course, any money they make from their business ventures is money that was originally tithing {maybe from a hundred years ago}, and then invested. So really, it’s a bit moot, don’t you think?
The church coughed up at least $189,903 in non-monetary expenditures for Prop H8. And, after sending a letter to its wards {ward = congregation} throughout the US, it cajoled members into giving around $25 million.
This sad thread of comments {many from former ward clerks who are responsible for local money matters} indicates that a single ward may bring in $500K to $1  million each year but only receive a very small amount back to fund ward activities such as Christmas celebrations, children’s programs, etc. {in one case one ward sent $15k per WEEK to headquarters in SLC and was allotted just $7K {yes, there are NO zeroes on that number} for the entire YEAR}.
Members are expected to tithe, and unlike many churches that leave it up to the individual to determine what a tithe is, and if they can afford to pay one, the LDS church has a strict interpretation. A tithe is 10% of your income {and most “good Mormons” will insist it’s 10% BEFORE taxes}. It doesn’t matter how poor you are. If you want to be a member in good standing, if you want to be admitted into the Temple {for worship or family weddings} you must be paying tithing. In some wards if you need financial assistance, or food it won’t be given unless you’re paying your tithing {and even then, it’s not the Church’s job to help members who are struggling}. Every year you’ll be hauled in and asked if you’ve paid a full tithe that year. On top of tithes members are expected to donate extra money to help the poor {wait, extra money to help the poor, what the hell happened to all that tithing they paid?}, help pay for the missionary program, and more. And, since each ward is budgeted so little to pay for its programs, many members end up paying out of pocket for things like photocopying, food, etc. in relation to their callings {callings = assigned, unpaid positions}.
OK. Now, stop. Let it all sink in, particularly the $3 BILLION mall. What else could $3 billion buy?
Well, if a mission costs each missionary {yes, those guys in suits are PAYING for the privilege of knocking on your door} $400 USD p/month {that is, each young man or woman pays the church $400 then the Church gives them money back based on the expected expense of where they’re serving, much like it treats its wards – missionaries often struggle to have good meals, toilet paper, etc. and end up spending extra of their own money – Adam knew missionaries on his mission that depleted their life savings picking up the slack}, and If a mission is 2 years {18 months for the women}, that’s about $9,600. For $3 billion the church could pay for 312,500 missionaries instead of insisting these young men and women VOLUNTEERS and their families be the ones struggling to foot the bill.
Or, better yet, instead of paying for people to go harass us door to door the church could do a lot, and I mean A LOT of good in Haiti.
But wait! “The Church IS helping Haiti!” some would protest.
You’re right, let’s take a look at what they’ve done.
Within 24 hours of Tuesday's quake, the LDS Church joined forces with one of its major partners of late in providing humanitarian aid, Islamic Relief USA, the nation's largest Muslim relief organization.
Islamic Relief USA officials announced Wednesday they were flying aid to Haiti in cooperation with the LDS Church.
Two planes, one departing from Denver as early as Thursday and another leaving from Miami later this week, each will transport to Haiti more than 80,000 pounds of food and emergency resources such as tents, tarps, water filtration bottles and medical supplies donated by the LDS Church, spokesman Scott Trotter said. {via Deseret News, the newspaper owned by the LDS church}
Unfortunately, MONEY not supplies is what is needed right now. And, as of yet, I have heard nothing about the church sending money {though they seem to have plenty to spare}. Even Brad and Angelina have pledged $1 million already. But, it is still fairly early I guess? Maybe it’s too soon to judge. So let’s take a look at how the church helped in an emergency in the past…
As I mentioned before, we don’t know what the church does with its money in the US. But we do have insight to their behavior in the UK. And here is the disturbing summary of what happened after the 2005 tsunami:
The church asked UK members to donate money to help the tsunami victims. Guess how much of the UK members donations went to tsunami victims?
No, really, guess.
OK, you ready for the answer?
Nothing went to the tsunami victims. {For the full story click here and scroll down to “The Tsunami.”}
Personally, I think charity fraud is vile. It’s the worst kind of people taking advantage of the best kind of people. And, in my opinion, what happened in the UK is charity fraud. It makes you wonder what is happening in the US where the church isn’t required to open their books.
Some estimates place the church as donating LESS THAN 1% of its income to help the poor.
In Jan. 2006, from the Church PR department, (Deseret News Publishing Company): Edgley said, “that since 1984, the LDS Church has donated nearly $750 million in cash and goods to people in need in more than 150 countries.” That averages to 37.5 million per year or about $3-$4 per Mormon member went to the poor. The total of $750 million in 22 years spent in cash in goods to people in need is less than HALF what the church is spending on these malls.  Less than half!! The Mormon church is spending less than 1% of its income to help the poor. {via Exmormon.org}
They could prove us wrong. They could be as upfront as other churches, say the Catholic church about their charitable work. They could let us see just where their members contributions are going. But I suspect we wouldn’t like what we’d see.

{ETA: The death toll in Haiti is expected to possibly be as high as 200,000 people. That's well over the population of Salt Lake City! And yet the church has only helped send a measly $1 million worth of supplies? We, as a family, have given a little over three quarters of 1% of our yearly income to help Haiti. So, percentage-wise we've given more to help Haiti than the church gives in humanitarian aid TOTAL.}

So, remember the first paragraph to this post? You know, the bit about Jesus Christ himself directing this church?

What would Jesus do?

Build a mall, apparently.

Addendum: The church says it is continuing to send aid {though, still no word on whether they have contributed any of there vast monetary resources} and that it is using local church buildings to provide shelter. So that's definitely better than a kick in the face. But the overall concerns I voice in the post {such as the less than 1% in aid} still stand. And I will continue to distrust LDS charity until they OPEN THEIR BOOKS TO SCRUTINY.


Remember when I told you about the new Young Women’s program and how Mormon girls are being taught that they are pink?

Not long after I found this: http://www.pinkstinks.co.uk/  They say their aim is to:

   * Inspire, motivate and enthuse girls about the possibilities and opportunities open to them
    * Improve girls’ self esteem and confidence, raise their ambitions and ultimately improve their life chances
    * To challenge  the 'culture of pink' which is based on beauty over brains and to provide an alternative

Now that is an idea I can get behind.

And no, the irony of ranting against this “girls are pink thing” while having pink in my blog color scheme is not lost on me.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Just Sayin’

You know, maybe instead of spending 3 billion {and more?} on a shopping mall LDS Inc. could have set aside that money for an emergency just like the earthquake in Haiti.

Just sayin’.

Here’s what I had to say about this tragicle.*

Here’s what Jerkface McJerkison Pat Robertson had to say. {SPOILER ALERT: they brought it upon themselves for making a pact with the devil.}

For a list of organizations seeking your donations visit my post.

Please, don’t pray. Pay.

*tragicle: video explanation

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Comment Response

When I get a sincere comment from a member of the church I like to put a little effort into responding. So, for reference, here is a comment I got {in its entirety}, followed by my thoughts.

I have written & re-written a comment 4 times now, because I'm so unsure of how to phrase what I wanted to say, in a way that doesn't sound offensive to you.  
I came across your blog & was curious as to 'why' you left the church. I'm sorry for the trials you went through, & your feelings now about the church. I am glad you are, at least, happy.  
I am an active LDS member, I was converted in New Zealand & now live in Utah with my husband & adorable kids.  
I felt that in your description of when you left & why, you were very one-sided. I felt you weren't pointing out the 'happy' members. As in, the ones who don't 'look down at worldly people', or feel 'inadaquate most of the time'. I try not to judge people, I try to be more loving & understanding & do consider myself a good person. Not brainwashed, & not stupid. I'm following my heart, spirit & head. And it lead my to where I am - I asked a billion questions, got my answers (& some of them weren't easy to get!) But I made sure I knew what I was doing as I lost all my friends and most of my family joining the church.  
But there are members (I meet them everyday) who are "sunday" members. Thinking that because they're baptized, they have a free ticket into heaven. There are those who judge daily, are mean, cuss, cheat & steal.  
BUT - there are those who don't. That have a great feeling about them, that have a testimony, & stick to their covenants. That go in knowing what's what, & understanding and loving everyone. Even those who hate them (not indicating you, I just mean there's alot of people who dislike 'mormons,' for being 'mormons') And I feel like I'm one of those people. I am sorry for what you went through, but I wish you had of been more ... level? Thanks for your post though, & having the courage to post it!

First, I appreciate that you put so much effort into your comment. And I will try to be gentle in my response. But past doing our best to speak respectively we cannot control those we are speaking to. Ultimately you may or may not be offended by what I have to say. But know that I do not intend to offend, and that I will be writing with more care than usual {when I write to a general audience I don’t hold back so much with the snark, but when I’m talking to an individual I try to treat them as I would like to be treated}.

Firstly, it is not my job to be a PR machine for the church and it’s “happy members.” The church spends quite a lot of time and money trying to convince the world that Mormonism makes them, and will make everyone else, happier than anything else. I feel it is my job to point out that that is not always the case, and often is not. If Mormonism is God’s one true church, and Jesus’ yoke is indeed light then that raises some serious questions about the depression rates of members, particularly women.

And of course there are good people in the church. There are good people outside of the church. Good people do not mean that something is true. And while yes, there are good people, there are plenty of bad people too. They say the church is perfect, the people are not. But one has to wonder why “God’s perfect church” produces so many problems in its people. And Mormons, particularly lifelong members, don’t understand that outside Mormonism people are very different {in a good way}. If Mormonism is all you know you might not recognize that people can be, and are, kinder, happier, more helpful, and any number of things.

But people aside, the gospel isn’t true. The church is built upon the lies of a charlatan, a man who used religion to manipulate people for money and for sex. And if Mormons were the nicest people in the world it wouldn’t change the history and truthfulness {or lack thereof} of the church, nor the fact that these things are hidden. And you may choose to look further into these issues or not. Despite the church discouraging personal research I would recommend that you do. Read “In Sacred Loneliness” or visit even this member-run website. Visit some of the sites in my sidebar. If, as Gordon B. Hinckley said, the church is either true or it is a fraud, wouldn’t you want to be sure? If it is true, what does it have to fear by having the full history known by its members? And if it is a fraud, can’t you think of better ways to spend 10% of your income? ;)

This next bit won’t be pleasant to read, I’m sure. I’d probably not like to have read it a year ago, but I want to be honest in my response to you. Just know that I don’t say this in an attitude of condescension, but one of sincerity:

“I try to be more loving & understanding & do consider myself a good person. Not brainwashed, & not stupid.”

Would you expect a brainwashed person to think they are brainwashed?

I would encourage you to read Lyndon Lamborn’s excellent book on the topic of mind control as it relates to Mormonism. But if you don’t have the time, or the money for his book, watching his presentation or reading this overview would be second best. Whether intentional or not, Mormonism in practice, changes the way people think. It “brainwashes” people {a crude term but it will do}.

I do not think you are stupid, by the way. Plenty of VERY smart people believe some very strange things. Breaking free from Mormonism is very seldom about intelligence. It’s usually about courage, a honest desire to know the truth no matter what, and sometimes, luck.

“…as I lost all my friends and most of my family joining the church. “

In the same comment in which you tell me how happy you are, and that you are not “brainwashed” you tell me you lost all your friends and family to join the church {an experience I’m somewhat familiar with, as a convert myself}. What sort of church causes such rifts? What kind of loving father in heaven would want to drive wedges between his children because he insists one church is better than another? I suppose you could argue that it’s the fault of all your friends and all your family that the rift exists. But are you sure? Are you sure you sacrificed those relationships for a good reason, and not because you were influenced to believe it was a good reason? I would want to be sure.

I felt sure at the time that I damaged my own family relationships and friendships. I thought feelings were proof of truth, because that’s what I had been told. And I liked the people telling me, so I believed them. I believed my emotions {or “the spirit”} could testify of truth. I didn’t stop to think how easily feelings can be manipulated {aka “brainwashing”}. I didn’t stop to think that “the spirit” felt just like I feel when I watch a moving film, or read a touching story. I didn’t stop to think that other people’s feelings about Islam, or Zenu, or any other number of gods/religions are just as convincing to them. Many things did lead to my eventual “deconversion” but ultimately, the one thing that started Adam and I on our exit path was facing this question: How is my “knowing” the church is “true” any different than the Pentecostal who “knows” the rapture is about to happen or the suicide bomber who “knows” he will receive 72 virgins in heaven?

After honestly asking ourselves that question everything started to unravel. After we answered that question and made the decision to resign our membership came many “revelations” about the true history of the church, the changes to temple ceremonies, etc. It took us many, many months to undo the thought training we never thought we had. Now I’m not saying the church maliciously plans how it can manipulate people. But people are being manipulated.

“There are those who judge daily, are mean, cuss, cheat & steal.”

As a side note, it’s troubling to me that you placed cussing alongside stealing in your list of reprehensible sins. That you would place them in that manner as if cussing is as an indicator of what makes a person “bad,” makes me wonder.

All that said, if you are happy, then be happy. But consider this, I thought I was happy too. I told anyone who would listen how happy I was. But I came to realize that I thought I was happy because I was told that I was happy.

Thank you for YOUR courage to post your comment here. I can imagine, especially if you’ve read some of my snarkier posts, or earlier, angrier posts, I might come across as pretty scary. I’m really not. I’m outspoken, but I’m honest. I guess you think of me as a “missionary” for freethinking and truth. Take care.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Thinking Has Been Done

Somebody shared this article with me. Here it is, in its entirety, with my own off the cuff comments {in blue italics}.
A woman sat at her dining room table, buried in dozens of books and magazines. She looked discouraged. Her daughter asked if she could help. This little story strikes me as made up. There’s nothing wrong with made up examples…when they’re clearly labelled such. This just irks me.
The woman said she was preparing a Relief Society lesson. She told her daughter she didn't know how she could possibly "boil down all the information" she had collected for the lesson. The process, the woman acknowledged, was both time consuming and frustrating.
The daughter looked surprised.
"Why," she asked, "are you trying to boil down information? An inspired Church-writing committee has already done that for you." Oh yes, the thinking has been done. No need to do it yourself. Thinking is what? Too hard? Too dangerous?
The committee's work, the daughter continued, has been approved by the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency. It has been translated into dozens of languages and sent around the world. It corresponds with the lessons and information taught at the same time to other auxiliaries and quorums in the Church.
Now the woman looked confused.
"Everything you need — and more — is in your manual," the daughter said.
As Church members, we are asked to prayerfully prepare Church lessons and activities. We are to seek personal revelation from the Lord and study Church materials and instructions. We can counsel with our presidencies or committees and seek advice from priesthood leaders as we strive to meet the needs of those we serve. The scriptures are an invaluable resource.
But we may be tempted to do more, to turn to unofficial lesson plans, resources and information found in books and on the Internet. DANGER! DANGER! DANGER! DANGER! OMG! THE INTERNET, BEWARE! “Don’t read anything not from the Church! It’s anti-Mormon!” They’ve been playing that card for years. But I love that they’re tightening their grip and, as illustrated in this article, saying to not consult anything EXCEPT the manual {the recently dumbed down manual for 2010}, not even books from Deseret Books! Not even the history of the Church or the Journal of Discourses! HAH! I can bet why, too! BECAUSE THERE IS SOME REALLY MESSED UP STUFF. You read the real history of the church {and I mean, from Mormons, not just non and ex-members} and you learn stuff they won’t teach you in Sunday school. It’s true, what they say about “studying your way out of the church,” it happens quite a lot. What does it say about an organization that discourages people learning about its history? What does it say that there are people who set out to seek knowledge {often so they can affirm their testimonies} and the knowledge they gain sends them running? Many TBMs would say they have something wrong with them, that their testimony isn’t strong enough, that they need to have faith…when what they need to be asking is this “what did they learn?” The problem isn’t with the people, it’s in the knowledge they gained.
Sometimes, the material might seem like an easy solution to meet the time-consuming demands of Church service. Other times it might feel like a way to spice up a lesson or activity.
But leaders and teachers in the Church do themselves and the people they serve a disservice when they turn to unofficial — not correlated — materials in the planning of lessons and activities. Translation: Leaders and teachers in the Church do THE CHURCH a disservice when they turn to unofficial—not correlated—materials in the planning of lessons and activities.
Correlation is an inspired effort overseen by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve to simplify the programs of the Church and unify Latter-day Saints in faith and doctrine.
Since the early 1960s, Church members have seen the results of more than four decades of correlation efforts, established to:
Maintain purity of doctrine. Translation: Bury the stuff the Church would rather we not know about.
Emphasize the importance of the family and the home. Translation: Appear more mainstream and focus on milk, not meat.
Place all the work of the Church under priesthood direction. Translation: CONTROL, CONTROL, CONTROL.
Establish proper relationships among the organizations of the Church.
Achieve unity and order in the Church. Translation: Squash dissent. Silence questions.
Ensure simplicity of Church programs and materials. Translation: BORE THE MEMBERS TO TEARS.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve said that correlation is a process "in which we take all the programs of the Church, bring them to one focal point, wrap them in one package, operate them as one program, involve all members of the Church in the operation — and do it all under priesthood direction" ("Lesson 42: Continuing Revelation to Latter-day Prophets," Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual, 243).
Today, the correlation process helps ensure that materials published in the name of the Church — carrying the Church logo — are scripture-based, doctrinally accurate and appropriate for the intended audience. “Appropriate for the intended audience?” Am I the only one who finds that kinda creepy? That’s the kind of thing most people use to describe making sure a movie or book is OK for a child to enjoy…it is certainly not the kind of thing I’d expect in reference to mature adults who should be capable of thinking for themselves. All Church publications are planned, prepared, reviewed and implemented under the direction of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.
Following the advice of her daughter, the woman above turned off her computer, shut the dozens of books open on her dining room table and picked up her manual and scriptures. The frustration she had previously experienced disappeared. She knew the material was doctrinally accurate. She knew its source was valid. She knew it had been approved by the men called to lead the Lord's work on the earth today and that it was what they wanted her to teach. Following the advice of her daughter, the woman above turned off her brain. The frustration she had previously experienced disappeared. She didn’t have to face the prospect of learning unpleasant things and struggling to make sense of them without losing her testimony. Besides, it would be less time consuming to just teach what the men wanted her to teach.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks said in his October 1999 general conference address that as he traveled the Church he had been pleased and impressed with how Relief Society and priesthood lessons were presented and received.
"However," he added, "I have sometimes observed teachers who gave the designated chapter no more than a casual mention and then presented a lesson and invited discussion on other materials of the teacher's choice. That is not acceptable.
"A gospel teacher is not called to choose the subject of the lesson but to teach and discuss what has been specified. Gospel teachers should also be scrupulous to avoid hobby topics, personal speculations, and controversial subjects. The Lord's revelations and the directions of His servants are clear on this point."
Elder Oaks asked Church members to be mindful of President Spencer W. Kimball's great instruction that a teacher in the Church is a "guest."
Quoting President Kimball, Elder Oaks said a gospel teacher "'has been given an authoritative position and a stamp of approval is placed upon him, and those whom he teaches are justified in assuming that, having been chosen and sustained in the proper order, he represents the Church and the things which he teaches are approved by the Church. No matter how brilliant he may be and how many new truths he may think he has found, he has no right to go beyond the program of the Church'" (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "Gospel Teaching," Ensign, November 1999, 78). STOP. READ THAT AGAIN. If that quote came from a South Korean government official, or a radical Muslim, or any number of people would anyone hesitate to take issue with it?
President Thomas S. Monson said there is peace that comes from teaching with the spirit of obedience. Oh, yes! Just like a dog, who when obedient to his master, is rewarded with food, and shelter, and the occasional game of fetch. Yes, let’s be like animals. Let’s not use the brains we’ve been given to think for ourselves. Pray, pay, and obey. Because, don’t you know, the rest of the world has no peace? We atheists, especially, are miserable.
"As we teach others, may we follow the example of the perfect teacher, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," he said. "He left His footprints in the sands of the seashore but left His teaching principles in the hearts and in the lives of all whom He taught." (Thomas S. Monson, "Examples of Great Teachers," Ensign, June 2007.)
The Church — through its inspired correlation program — has given us official sources of information to help us prepare lessons and plan activities. Instead of turning to unofficial books and Web sites, let's use those sources.
It’s amazing how the same organization that gives us the song and dance about the glory of god being intelligence is the one working SO hard to keep its membership from USING intelligence. The thinking has been done. Not all truths are useful. OBEY! Teach what we tell you to say. Turn of the internet. Put down the book. Only gain the knowledge we WANT you to gain.
But, mostly, I just feel bad for the members who have to sit through these dumbed down, repetitive lessons. I’ve certainly got better things to do on Sunday morning.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Women Who Need Gods, Handsome Princes, Paramedics, and Vampires

 {This was posted by a regular at one of the forums for ExMormons that I frequent. I thought it was fantastic and got permission from the original poster to repost it here. Enjoy!}

When I was a little girl, my sister ("Mary") and I would often play make-believe together. Mary was obsessed with a certain TV actor (Johnny) who played the part of a paramedic in a weekly series. So was I. Mine and Mary's playtime usually involved pretending we were injured so Johnny could come and rescue us. It was quite hilarious but we were quite infatuated. Especially Mary.

I remember one specific occasion when Mary wanted me to break her leg so paramedics could be called to her rescue. No, I'm not kidding. Of course I would not even try to comply with her demands and even at that young age (5ish?) her obsession struck me as not a good thing. Not emotionally healthy. Where did it come from? Make-believe was one thing, but hurting oneself to get attention took playtime to a whole new level.

Mary and I were raised in a very patriarchal home and had several other siblings. We read lots of fairy tales about the beautiful princess who was always saved -- not by herself -- but by a handsome prince. So we dreamt about handsome princes who would someday come to save us.

Our mother and older sisters devoured Harlequin Romances that were all pretty much the same: Some perfect chiseled and ruggedly handsome brilliant man who possessed a bottomless fortune, who was named something like "Roarke" or "Thor" or "Rex" somehow fell madly in love with insipid female idiots with "honey brown hair" or "silvery blonde hair that framed her elf-like face just so."

I started reading those "books" when I was in junior high school. At first I devoured them too. But after about a year, I learned to hate them. I hated the women. I hated the men. The men were all about rugged and authoritative anger and passion while the women were boring and weak and helpless and unbelievably stupid. And somehow it was supposed to be a turn-on when the perfect man roughly grabbed the blank woman in his painful and passionate grasp because he could no longer contain his inexplicable passion as his lips crushed hers in their bruising and mobile moist exploration while his manhood made his desire for insipidly boring femininity painfully apparent. Ahhh. Romance.

I moved on to a different genre where the women were more intelligent and interesting and the men were more human and interesting and frankly, attractive. My sisters and my mother thought I was weird. Thank God, I was breaking the mold. Well, sort of. There was still that God I was still thanking.

Our father was a well-respected and perhaps even idolized church leader who also had a prestigious job. People in our ward and stake loved him and told us how brilliant and amazing and spiritual he was. Because he was our Dad, that made us feel special and important too. We basked in his priesthood and patriarchal glory. So did my Mom.

The boys in our family were treated with more respect than the girls. My older brother "needed" a car so he could drive to high school. I "needed" to take the bus. My mother expected me to clean my brothers' messy rooms and it raised all kinds of hell when I refused. I never thought it was fair that "housework is for girls and boys do yard work." What was so special about having a penis?

Then there was Jesus, The Perfect Man, who was also a god. Only he could save me. My puny efforts fell far short of sufficient. I couldn't escape my need for a male savior even in my faith.

In our patriarchal world where men were the idols of our idle thoughts, where the idea that women were nothing without men was the reality, Mary and I both married young. Of course we did.

While I had no visible talents, Mary was a talented and naturally gifted artist. She was an excellent student and only a class or two away from graduating with a degree in art when she casually discarded her gift upon realizing her one true dream of becoming Mrs. Johnny Doe. Now, several years after her divorce, she draws cutesy signs and posters and disposable handouts for her calling in the Young Women's program. She feels her lack of a man like a chronic pain. She knows she is nothing without one.

Mary found her "one and only" for the umpteenth time several months ago. She fell head over heels and said things to me like "he hangs the moon and the stars in my heart." Mary is still a little girl pretending, waiting and hoping to be rescued by the love of a fantasy man who will finally prove her value. He's an exmo and she's still hopeful. An unworkable combination. He persuaded her into his bed, and she persuaded him to attend church, all the while clinging to her temple recommend so she could show up all "righteous" to my TBM daughter's temple wedding -- from which I was excluded. I don't hold it against Mary. I feel sorry for her. Mary's exmo boyfriend recently dumped her. Poor Mary is again sitting at home alone feeling like she is worth nothing because no man appears to want her.

Her efforts to find her "one-and-only" have become increasingly more desperate as she expands her search to the internet, where she is advertising her availability like some package deal on overpriced ink cartridges for an outdated printer.

Mary loves the Twilight series about obsessively controlling and stalking vampires who step out of a magical world into the reality of young women who, like Mary, are not that special either ... and inexplicably fall madly "in love" with someone who has no special talents, no dreams or ambitions of her own to speak of. She's happy and fulfilled just being loved by some fantasy version of perfection.

What Mary does not realize is she does not need a god, a handsome prince, a cute paramedic, or a vampire. She is a beautiful woman with an inner strength she refuses to realize. Every week when she attends her church meetings her status as a second-class citizen is systematically confirmed. Her reliance on men for any sense of her self-worth is carefully reinforced. Her female role-models of true beauty, intelligence, strength and independence are silently absent. Instead, she gets bombarded with examples of bitchiness, jealousy, submissiveness, and obedient resignation to the patriarchal status quo.

Ahhh. Romance.