My Cat is a False Teacher

This is our family cat, Pigeon. She was a shelter cat that we brought into our home almost 11 years ago. We love her. This is a picture of her sitting in my bed. If you’ve ever owned a cat you can tell that we love her because you know how difficult it is to get a good picture of a cat. If you’ve ever owned a black cat you know that it is nearly impossible to get a good picture of a black cat. A picture like this takes work!

pigeon

Despite our family’s love for Pigeon we have cast her out of our home because of her false teaching. Pigeon believes in the Gospel of Overflowing Urine. About 6 months ago she decided that her pee should no longer be reserved for her litter box and that she would like to share it on our carpet.

If you’ve never been around cat urine, you should know that it’s THE biggest problem with owning a house cat. If you are not vigilant about it your entire house can easily be consumed with its distinct odor. Once a cat smells its own urine it feels at liberty to pee in the same vicinity again. This begins to spread throughout the house and eventually the cat views the entire house as a litter box. Like all strong odors, if you live in it long enough, you begin to get used to it and lose the ability to notice it. If your house begins to smell like urine YOU begin to smell like urine. If you smell like cat urine you may not even realize it, but everyone else will. You probably knew someone like this at school. If you don’t take action when you first start noticing the problem you may find yourself a convert to your cat’s false teaching. Continue reading

General Authority Compensation

CompensationAs you are probably aware of by now, MormonLeaks recently produced a few financial documents dealing with General Authority compensation: a set of pay stubs from Henry B. Eyring (then an apostle) from the year 2000, and a January 2014 internal memo noting that members of the First Quorum of the Seventy would have their “living allowance” increased to $120,000 that year.

One of the pay stubs for Elder Eyring is for the pay period ending December 8th, meaning it was likely the second-to-last pay stub of the year, and it shows a year-to-date of $83,132.75. This means that, seventeen years ago, an apostle was likely being paid $86K-$87K a year. (This would match what was told to me by a former church tax auditor c. 1998, that the apostles are paid a “high five-figure amount” while the First Presidency is paid a “low six-figure amount.” It would seem that my source from all those years ago was accurate.) The publication of these documents has produced some tension in LDS thought given the common Mormon criticisms of the “priestcraft” of other paid Christian clergy. My thoughts are as follows:

(1) LDS friends, it is time to give up the “priestcraft” accusations, no “ifs,” “ands,” or “buts” about it. It’s nothing but hypocrisy at this point.  While it’s true that you have very few professional clergy—as in people who planned and trained specifically for a paid career in ministry (I would limit this group to LDS chaplains and some LDS educators)—your top leaders are compensated, and they are compensated well. They are compensated much better than the average pastors and other clergymen (and women) whom you are criticizing. Please do feel free to criticize largesse, consumerism, and materialism in our churches when you see it, but the principle of a full-time minister being reimbursed for his or her service is a sound one, and one that you clearly share.

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Why Good People Drive You Crazy with Bad Politics

If you’ve been bothered by what other people post about concerning politics and religion you’re not alone. “How could they like him?” “What does this matter?” “Why are they persuaded by such stupid stuff?” I might have a way to explain it to you and help you change their mind.

I’ve just read “The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt. It’s a secular book on moral psychology. He doesn’t attempt to explain how you can be “righteous” but instead explains HOW people make moral decisions. I highly recommend you read it on your own. But I’m going to offer a book report with a few highlights for those too busy for it.

The first thing you need to know is that moral judgments are like this picture of a man on an elephant. The elephant represents your intuitions. The rider is your moral reasoning. Notice the size, weight and strength difference between the two. If the elephant leans left the rider looks left to see what’s causing the elephant to lean. If the elephant leans right the rider looks right. The rider despite his superior intelligence has almost no control over the elephant. He might find a way occasionally to persuade the elephant but almost always he goes where the elephant goes. Continue reading

The “influence of a broken heart”

I have a client let’s call him Mark, who a deep crush on his seventh grade classmate, lets call her Nina.  Mark had a crush on Nina in sixth grade. In seventh, Nina left his friend group and Mark started drinking beer every day.  Although the two went different paths in life the human connection was real. Twenty years later Mark found Nina on facebook and chatted her up. Impressed by the attention, and nostalgic for Mark’s 12-year-old style of romance, Nina agreed to meet him at a restaurant. Mark seemed his same sweet self, if dim-witted, self. He told her of his rambling life of drugs and petty crime, his being in and out of jail, his desire to make a new life for himself. Nina  refused his invitation to be his girlfriend, but she agreed to give him a job selling purses and accessories at trade shows.

Mark worked for Nina three or four times, but she fired him because he was an irresponsible worker. Mark became angry, later that day he came to her house, punched her and took her car.  During the year he spent in jail he wrote her every week. The letters became more  insistent that she respond, he threatened to send people to hurt her family. He called her as much as he could, dialing her ten or twenty times in a stretch. She was afraid to be at her home because of the harassment.

When he was released from jail he was fitted with a GPS device.  He went to Nina’s house, waited for her to arrive with her son, and pushed her inside. Her son went to the backroom and called the police. Mark savagely beat Nina until the woman next door came and in and told him to stop. The neighbor found him standing over her her, holding a tire iron. He fled when she told him to leave. Clumps of her hair were found in various places in the room.

Nina’s life was never the same.  She was still plagued with health problems due to the internal injuries from the attack, which remained after three surgeries. She lost her business as crippling anxiety kept her from selling in public as she used to.  At the time of Mark’s trial, she was struggling to make ends meet, having been denied disability benefits.

After the trial, Mark wrote the judge in an effort to receive leniency in sentencing. He explained:

I admit my wrongs and I am aware of what caused me to act in such a inhumane manner, I understand I am not the best of people, but inside lives a person who does have good intentions but unfortunately I struggle of substance abuse & misfortune – I do believe I acted under the influence of a broken heart.

Undoubtedly Mark was right.   Human behavior is always worse under the influence of a broken heart.  After spending his teenage years drunk or stoned every day, after his criminal record made him unemployable, I am sure he was heartbroken to realize that in the state he was in, he would never be valued by anybody. If Mark was more introspective he might have turned his rage and violence against himself.  Instead, his pride, combined with his heartbreak  — an unceasing disappointment in his own condition–  led to a sustained rage against the woman with whom he was so disappointed.  Having nothing but his pride to lose, he turned to violence for satisfaction. It is an all-too-familiar story.  The “influence of a broken heart” plays out in almost all violence and passion, collective and individual.

Mark is the sort of man that David referred to as a miscarriage in the 58th Psalm — among those who “go astray as soon as they are born”.Whatever that thing we call Mark is — a soul, a person, an animal, a monster, a child of God — it is not going to be worthy of our love and forgiveness.  Reason and our law of right and wrong have made Mark forever guilty of bringing his brand of heartbreak on this woman and ruining her life.  His crime cannot unhappen, and his disappointment will remain as long as he has reason and memory.  Like the vindictive king, many of the people of California would have been happy if he had been aborted before birth, and at the very least, condemned to prison for as long as possible. What sort of salvation from himself or his community can he find under these circumstances?

No matter what church you hail from, is there something that your religion can point to that will free him the expectations he had of himself, the expectations that his community had of him? Is there some reprieve from the ultimate source of these expectations?

A scientific materialist might say that nature offers no reprieve for Mark. They might agree with King David that there is no hope for such people, that they cannot be saved, and are better off dissolved to nothing, imprisoned, condemned or aborted.

The LDS might tell Mark that he can find joy now through first abandoning his evil mind and adopting the right practice. If he does, the Spirit will be there to help him do that if he really wants to be good. If he is worthy, he will be blessed and exalted, if not he will find himself loved by God after he suffers for his sins.

To the LDS, I would ask, is there something that offers joy and love to the worthy and unworthy alike?  What words will point Mark to that joy?

 

Time For a New Word

The word “evangelical” is quickly getting stretched into incoherence thanks in large part to lazy reporting about the Trump Presidential campaign.  This is an excellent argument about the need to imagine a new word.

So it’s time redefine—or better, reimagine—what “evangelical” means. If the very heart of the evangelical movement is actively living out the Bible’s message that the world can have hope in the person of Jesus Christ, then nothing could be further from the heart of a true evangelical then siloing off from the rest of the world in order to advance a political agenda. True evangelicalism is not about maintaining a particular earthly kingdom, but about calling people into the kingdom of God.
So what kind of word should we use to rename this blog?

What Mormons are like. . .

Jack inspired me to get off my butt and write some jokes about what Mormons are like:

Like Punks, Mormons are  lower-class people that don’t want to conform to traditions.

Like Rastafarians, Mormons are lower-class people that use religion as a way to get higher in life.

Like Catholics, Mormons are lower-class people that respect priesthood authority.

Like charismatics, Mormons are lower-class people that are not ashamed of whatever comes out of their mouths when they are feeling the spirit.

Like Democrats, Mormons are lower-class people that think that one can win in the world through will and intelligence.

Like Republicans, Mormons are lower-class people that think that charisma is more imporant than coherance.

Like Americans, Mormons are lower-class people that think that their holy documents are somehow superior to everything ever written.

Like Hindus, Mormons are lower-class people who believe that their pathetic lives fit in with some cosmic order of things.

Lke Muslims, Mormons are people who swear by prophets.

Like the Insane Clown Posse, Mormons are chaotically creative lower-class people who believe in God.

Like New Agers, Mormons are people who think they they are in constantly in touch with extra-terrestrials.

Like wrestlers, Mormons are lower-class people who torture themselves for an imagined glory only they can understand.

Like Christians, Mormons are lower-class people that condemn themselves under the law.

Like ranchers, Mormons are lower-class people who spend their time herding livestock stamped with their own brand.

Like police officers, Mormon are lower-class people who think that special rules apply to them because they enforce the law.

Like soldiers, Mormons are lower-class believe you receive more glory if you die in the line of duty.

 

 

Because I’m Tacky: Mormon / Ex-Mormon Style

tackyRecently, some short-sighted YSA leaders in Provo urged ward members to go to Amazon and post positive reviews of the Book of Mormon. When their suggestion got out, the ex-Mormon community exploded with class and rushed to Amazon to saturate the book with negative reviews instead.

Consider this my plea to both parties: don’t. Giving Amazon reviews to books of ancient Scripture (or even, you know, relatively modern, nineteenth-century Scripture) is tacky in the extreme. It’s like giving a Yelp review to your local McDonald’s.

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