Saturday, July 7, 2007

Quakers on the Moon

This is one of my favorite stories from the early days of the Mormon Church.

People dressed like Quakers living on the moon!

    "Nearly all the great discoveries of men in the last half century have, in one way or another, either directly or indirectly, contributed to prove Joseph Smith to be a Prophet.

    "As far back as 1837, I know that he said the moon was inhabited by men and women the same as this earth, and that they lived to a greater age than we do -- that they live generally to near the age of 1000 years.

    "He described the men as averaging near six feet in height, and dressing quite uniformly in something near the Quaker style.

    "In my Patriarchal blessing, given by the father of Joseph the Prophet, in Kirtland, 1837, I was told that I should preach the gospel before I was 21 years of age; that I should preach the gospel to the inhabitants upon the islands of the sea, and to the inhabitants of the moon, even the planet you can now behold with your eyes."

    (The Young Woman's Journal, published by the Young Ladies' Mutual Improvement Associations of Zion, 1892, vol. 3, pp. 263-64)

According to Oliver Huntington, Joseph said there were people living on the moon, and that Huntington himself would someday teach the gospel to them.

What do Mormons say about this?

Steven Gibson, in his book "One Minute Answers to Anti-Mormon Questions" gives a few explanations. First, he casts doubt on Huntington himself, saying that the record is inaccurate, based on a faulty memory. Possible, certainly, but the same thing could be said of just about anything else Joseph Smith or other church leaders said. Was the First Vision victim to a faulty memory? Perhaps so.

His next explanation: It's acceptable for Joseph to hold beliefs as a man that aren't actually true.

I whole-heartedly agree... and it's one of the main reasons for doubting the LDS Church and the Book of Mormon in the first place.

His last explanation:
Another aspect of the matter needs to be considered. At the present time, man has no scientific or revealed knowledge of whether or not there are inhabitants on the earth's moon. The fact that a handful of astronauts didn't see any inhabitants in the tiny area they viewed when they landed on the moon decades ago certainly gives no definitive information, any more than visitors to earth who might land in barren Death Valley would have any idea of the billions of inhabitants elsewhere.

No, I'm not making this up. He actually published that.

The last thing to consider is that the alleged statement from Joseph Smith is consistent with the rest of Mormon theology. In the Pearl of Great Price we learn that God lives near a star named Kolob. The church is based on the idea that multiple worlds without number are inhabited.

Anyway, Brigham Young agreed with Joseph and took it a step further... the sun is inhabited as well:
"Who can tell us of the inhabitants of this little planet that shines of an evening, called the moon?...when you inquire about the inhabitants of that sphere you find that the most learned are as ignorant in regard to them as the ignorant of their fellows. So it is in regard to the inhabitants of the sun. Do you think it is inhabited? I rather think it is. Do you think there is any life there? No question of it; it was not made in vain."

(Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 271)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The God Who Wasn't There

"The God Who Wasn't There" was a documentary released in 2005 exploring whether or not a historical Jesus Christ even existed. Flemming, the director, compares similarities of the Christ story to other mythical figures that predated him.

You can order a copy of the DVD here. Various clips from the documentary are available on YouTube here and the trailer for the film is below:

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Worst Betrayal

I hate making blanket statements about things like abuse covered up by "the Church." "The Church" isn't directly responsible, nor does it intentionally direct leaders on covering anything up.

That said, however, there can be disturbing trends that can be influenced by the general church atmosphere. Teachings that, when taken to a logical extension, result in horrific and dangerous situations. Teachings that include concepts like how a priesthood holder is assumed to be a worthy and righteous leader, someone to be trusted.

The Salt Lake City Weekly, a Utah magazine known for its non-LDS viewpoint, reprinted an article that originally appeared in the Seattle Weekly which discusses this in-depth:

"To hear it from those who have gone to the trouble of suing the Mormons, the reason the church has garnered so little negative publicity is not because it's purged itself of the sin of pedophilia but because it's extremely good at repressing its victims.

Sisters Jessica and Ashley Cavalieri won a $4.2 million award from the church in 2005 for abuse inflicted by their Mormon stepfather in the early '90s in Federal Way. Theirs is a case example of why we haven't heard much about pedophilia in the church: The amount of hurdles the girls had to clear to get their voices heard is staggering.

...Mormon culture is necessarily insular. "They're trying to live so differently from the rest of the world, almost like the Amish," says Jessica, now a 26-year-old student at Idaho's Brigham Young University. That means, she says, the first move when it comes to child abuse isn't always to involve the cops. "The police are outsiders. They don't have the 'true gospel,' so they don't understand things like we do."

The Mormon bishop does understand, however.... If the bishop decides a victim's tale of woe is compelling enough to pick up the phone, he can talk with "professional counselors" (according to the church's Web site) who will rattle off a list of protocol questions and perhaps refer the case to a church lawyer.

Jessica, who's seen the questionnaire, describes it as containing a lot of "risk-management" inquiries—"Did the abuse happen on church property? Did it happen during a church-sponsored activity?"—which made her feel as if the church was already preparing a defense against her claims that her stepfather was touching her at night and offering her money for sex.

The bishop can also do nothing, as was the case for Jessica. When she was 12, she told her bishop about the abuse. He sent her out of the room so he could chat in private with her parents and then dismissed the family, who went home without a word on the subject. Jessica took it for granted that the bishop had told her mother about the molestation and that her mother didn't care. Only after her stepfather confessed, five mentally hellish years later, did Jessica learn the truth: The bishop just told her mom that the two weren't "getting along" and suggested they needed to spend more time together in spiritual study. "He didn't have very much psychological training," says Jessica, "and didn't really understand that child molesters aren't something that can just be treated and cured with prayer."

When the Cavalieris finally decided to pursue their case on a nonspiritual plane, the Washington state judiciary, Jessica says two bishops she had told about the abuse denied ever hearing her tale of woe. Her best friend testified that she was "a complete psycho," while her Mormon neighbors, outside of court, called her "evil" and told her she needed to repent.

Since Jessica's story appeared in the papers, she says she's heard from approximately 50 Mormons with similar horror stories. "I think it's an epidemic," she speculates."