Sometimes I write things down in order to process the research I'm doing or the things I'm learning. I'm not sure if this blog will always focus on church related things or if I'll write about my personal life as well. Who knows?
This morning my girlfriend and I were counting all the podcasts I've been a guest on. I think the number is six. I'll just share them here so that they're easier to find. Also pretty exciting!
21st Century Saints
She Became Visible
Our Truth Be Told
Unpacking Mormonism (coming soon!)
I got to be interviewed by René from the podcast She Became Visible.
I had a lot of fun visiting with her!
My dad gave me this ring when I was sixteen. I’ve worn it daily for almost twenty years. The letters stand for Choose the Right. And while I have left the beliefs of the Mormon Church behind and am daily deconstructing those beliefs, what this ring symbolizes is still very important to me.
To me it symbolizes integrity.
Integrity is an adherence to moral and ethical principles and having a soundness of moral character. It means to be honest. I was taught to be honest in ALL things. I was taught to treat others in virtuous and ethical ways.
The more I learn about the church, however, the less I see this behavior within the church. On its smaller levels the church can do much good and the members can be amazing! But within the church’s headquarters and hidden in the church’s history, “good” is far from how I would describe them.
If you have ever wondered why Julia left the church it is because of this: The church didn’t live up to my standards of integrity.
In case you haven’t seen the news concerning the church…
In 1998, Ensign Peak Advisors went to Gordon B. Hinckley (who was in charge of Ensign Peak) They said, Hey President Hinckley, we were notified that we have to fill out these 13F Forms (which are forms any company has to legally fill out if they make over $100 million dollars), yet filling them out would make the church’s finances accessible to the public. The church feared that by filling out the forms, the members would stop paying tithing. So what did President Hinckley tell Ensign Peak to do?
He told them to hide the money
Over the next 22 years, Ensign Peak would continue to approach the prophet and his counselors concerning these 13F forms. And the answer each time was the same. Hide the money. The first presidency told them to create fake companies with fake managers in which to report the money, to some degree, without allowing the public to become aware that the money actually belonged to the church.
Twelve shell companies were created to hold these potfolios. They even went so far as to forge the names of some of these “managers” who had zero autonomy within these fake LLCs that offered no services.
And each year, the first presidency -from Hinckley, to Faust, to Monson, to Uchtdorf, to Oaks to Eyring and to President Nelson -all these men who claim to be representatives and Apostles of Jesus Christ continued to instruct that Ensign Peak illegally hide the church’s wealth.
During those 22 years different whistleblowers tried to call the church out on their violation of the law, but it wasn’t until last week that the church agreed to pay a settlement of 5 million dollars for this legal violation. (Which isn’t much considering the church actually has 180 Billion dollars.)
The church not filling out these forms was not an oversight. They were well aware of them and meticulously made decision after decision spanning over two decades, to keep their wealth a secret.
One of the hardest parts is that Ensign Peak offered none of this wealth to charity. Nothing. Over its entire existence. Is this what Christ wants? For his leaders to hide funds that could literally solve world hunger? The church holds $180 Billion worth of assets. They receive between $5-8 Billion a year in tithing revenue that could be stopped and they could more than cover their costs with the interest at Ensign Peak.
The church doesn’t need your tithing. Prophets and Apostles in the past have foretold that there will come a day when the church will not ask for even a dollar of donations. Does the church honestly need to hoard all this wealth? Is what the church doing reflective of Christ? Is Gods way to violate the law?
To read the article from Religion Unpluggled, please click here.
I recently learned a bit about church history that really bothers me (albeit there’s many things but this in particular).
In the mid 1800s Brigham Young asked Emmeline B. Wells (a future Relief Society President) to be in charge of a grain saving program.
The women worked hard to procure and store the grain. For decades. Church history shows that some of the brethren were anxious to get their hands on the grain so much so that Wilford Woodruff had to make official statements on it, such as: “They [the Relief Society sisters] are the proper custodians thereof” and the bishops have no right to it. And later that, even the Church President “had NO right to take even a handful of wheat.”
However, in 1918, WWI was hitting hard and the government reached out to purchase the grain storage to relieve the United States. WITHOUT consulting Emmeline (who was by now the RS President) the Presiding Bishop Charles Nibley under the prophet’s signal, SOLD the grain to the government.
Emmeline was very hurt that she had not been consulted. Nibley added her name to the letter that went out to the brethren WITHOUT consulting her at all. In the Relief Society minutes he apologizes (to some degree) and promises that “the sisters will get their money.” But that never happens. The Presiding Bishop kept the money and the wheat program was now put under his care.
This entire exchange was very wrong. Back then the Relief Society was its own entity. They were in charge of their own funding, real estate, membership, etc. The wheat did NOT belong to the Church. What should have happened is that the leadership went directly to Emmeline as she was the President. She would have chosen to help the country. That wasn’t a concern. So why did they NOT consult her? Is it because she’s a woman? And the church is a patriarchal system the feels it can disregard the women?
I want to be a strong advocate for the voice of women and those marginalized. What the Church did was very wrong. Women in the church are not equal and often disrespected.
Brother Kevin S. Hamilton recently gave a speech at BYU. He told those present to substitute the name of Jesus for “the church.” What does this mean in this situation? Did Jesus steal the grain from the sisters? Or is the Church responsible for its own bad choices?
I got to be part of a panel discussion last night on Mormon Stories Podcast. We discussed a fireside that took place in Canada featuring Charlie Bird and Ben Schilaty. I admire what these men are doing. I am hurt by the old and current opinions of the leaders of the Church concerning its LGBTQIA members. While it is a beautiful message that there is a place in the Church for LGBTQIA members, I cannot see it.
Is their place to be celibate their whole lives? To never experience what it means to be in love? Or to be told that they need BE somone or be WITH someone that they don’t want to be or be with? Is their place to hide who they are for the rest of their earthly life?
If the answer is yes, that’s not good enough.
In it’s current condition, I do not think that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is for everyone. But conditions can change. And I admire Ben and Charlie for doing the best they can do. The leaders need to do better.
In 1980, the church announced that: “Membership in the Church has not been threatened nor withdrawn simply because of expressed agreement with the proposed [Equal Rights] amendment” (Ensign, March 1980).
Yet four months EARLIER, a woman named Sonia Johnson, who was the leader of Mormons for ERA, was notified that she had been excommunicated from the church.
The church claims that they hold the right to excommunicate when it’s members “demean” the leaders (for example, sharing feelings that the prophets actions are NOT God’s will) and when those members encourage others to their point of view (for example, literally expressing your point of view to anyone).
In other words, the church is saying, “It’s okay when you disagree with us, just don’t tell anyone. Stay quiet and don’t criticize us.” In fact, President Oaks is on record as saying, “It’s wrong to criticize leaders of the church, even if the criticism is true.”
What are members to do who disagree with certain political stances of church leaders yet desire to remain in the church? It appears that there is no balance between the two.
I want to discuss this idea of Joseph Smith having been persecuted for his first vision.
In Volume 1 of the History of the Church, Joseph himself says that, “I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy… yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was coming among all the sects -all united to persecute me” [p. 7].
Reverend Wesley Walters later discovered journals of these professors of religion and none of them even mention Joseph’s name, let alone his heavenly vision (although they do report that no revivals happened in 1820).
Joseph goes on to say that he suffered “the most bitter persecution” [p. 7] and that “while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely, for so saying, I was lead to say in my heart, Why persecute me for telling the truth?” [p. 8]
“I continued to pursue my common vocation in life (he conveniently leaves off that this vocation was, in fact, treasure digging with his rock in a hat) until the 21st of Sept, 1823,” and then he asserts that he was “all the time suffering severe persecution at the hands of all classes of men, both religious and irreligious, because I continued to affirm that I had seen a vision” [p. 9].
He even goes on to dramatically say that he was “persecuted by those who ought to have been my friends” [p. 9].
Joseph transitions to say that “While I was yet employed in the service of Mr. Stoal (he leaves off treasure digging again) owing to my continuing to assert that I had seen a vision, persecution still followed me..” [p. 9] and having nothing at all to do with the fact that he’d gone to trial during his employment in May of 1826 for “glass looking,” conning individuals, and then being deemed guilty.
On the following page he says that he was again persecuted, but this time it was because of his reportedly finding buried treasure in the form of gold plates. But this, of course, had stemmed from his reporting to have seen God, not at all on the fact that he had been -all these many years -digging for buried treasure.
I have specifically been combing through the historical records to see if such persecution existed. Such existing evidence, of course, can only be in the form of the written and printed word.
In all of the newspapers and anti-Mormon literature published in the 1800s, very few even mention the first vision, and fewer still actually persecuted him for it. In fact, the EARLIEST reference to his first vision that I could find by those that would persecute him doesn’t appear until 1851 by Reverend Ashley, who seems far from persecuting him for said vision. The next of my findings appears in 1857 in the newspaper edited by John Brindley. Again, I can’t read the persecution in his article. The last of my findings comes from Pomeroy Tucker in 1867, who merely says that Joseph was visited by “an angel of the Lord” who told him all denominations were incorrect. While Tucker had often been seen as anti and unreliable, historians today are giving him more and more credit as his accusations are proving more and more true (namely Joseph Smith’s higher education).
Whether or not he had the vision at all, to me it seems very evident, from the newspapers, the many printed exposés on the young prophet, and from the journals of the religious leaders of his day, that Joseph Smith received no persecution from his first vision at all. Period.
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