Apostate Behavior: Chapter 8 Transition

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

How does one transition from two years “serving god” to the everyday routines of life? Every Mormon missionary has to do it upon returning home. Before leaving, the Mission President reinforces the idea that the returning missionary should maintain scriptural study habits, prayer, and being a member missionary. At home, the Stake President does the same. Both encourage marriage and place education/work as much less important in life.

This can mess up a young person. Big time. It did me but I didn’t realize it until much later, when consequences were larger. I’ll mention some things now but will explain more fully in a later chapter.

What did I do, after the mission?

I needed money for school. My parents had probably sacrificed a lot of money, just for the mission, so it behooved me to find work fast. Coming home in April meant the rest of Spring and all of Summer could be dedicated to work to earn that money.

But then there was the girl. She did not “wait” for me the two years I was gone but had attended BYU and spent one semester at BYU Hawaii. She was still unattached and we began to date.

A friend of mine from the Chicago area, who I’ve mentioned prior, also had a sweetheart and he was freshly returned from his mission, so we four went on a few double dates. He was head over heels over his girl and I was falling for mine. She was the first girl I ever dated seriously. I should have let that relationship run its course and either end or mature, to be able to gain experience with dating other women or to better know this girl.

But the Church puts pressure on RM’s (returned missionaries) to get married ASAP. I was dutiful. My girl seemed a lot of fun and we got along well so, feeling “the Spirit” confirming a suitable choice (yeah, more likely confirmation bias coupled with hormones), I proposed. She accepted. After we divorced twelve years later, I discovered through a third party (reliable) that she was not in love with me when I proposed but thought I was good husband material, I could be molded into what she wanted, and she was following god’s will, too!

God’s a putz.

(Life plot note: He’s also imaginary)

Day two of our honeymoon revealed a totally different woman than the fun girl I had dated, proposed to, and now had married. That’s when the manipulation began. With the image of the man she wanted firmly in her mind to compare with me, she subtly molded me. But there was the inner me, wanting to grow and become what I wanted to be, the natural maturation process. The two efforts, being incongruent, resulted in something being broken.

In the meantime, children began joining our family.

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 7 The Missionary in Australia

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

I felt my proficiency in Spanish was good. I was raised speaking English (US version). However, I was yet unprepared for communication upon arriving in Sydney! Going through Customs I had to ask the official to repeat himself at every question! Australian English was foreign to my unaccustomed ears, as alluded to in the prior Chapter.

My first discussion in Spanish was the same. Book learning and practice don’t always accustom the ear in the presence of a native speaker.

But it didn’t take long to become accustomed to both Spanish and Australian English. My days were spent speaking English unless my companion and I had a teaching appointment or encountered a Spanish speaking person while we were tracting (in LDS Missionary parlance, this is the going door to door activity with the hope of entering the home to teach a “Discussion”) so my ability to communicate improved greatly. By the time my two years were ending, I was frequently complimented on my Spanish and was told I had an Ecuadorian accent (most of the Hispanics I taught or conversed with were from Ecuador; Argentines and Uruguayans followed). As a result, I was asked to translate for Church General Authorities at a Church Area Conference held in Sydney in April of 1976, just prior to my return home. Specifically, President Spencer W. Kimball and Elder William H. Bennett, an Assistant to the Twelve Apostles (a group later to become Quorums of Seventy).

My relationship with the other Elders (missionaries) and, later, two Sisters (female missionaries) was good. I enjoyed each of my companions (none of the Sisters was a companion, somewhat obviously!). I am connected to some of them on Facebook today. There were a half dozen or so, plus or minus at any given time during my mission, that were Spanish speaking like me. Eventually I became a District Leader (oversight over multiple companionships geographically close) and later a Zone Leader (oversight over multiple Districts). At no time did I get a car. I traveled by bicycle, public transportation (bus or electric train), walked, or some combination of these.

I greatly admired and respected my Mission President, Earl C. Tingey. He was/is the same age as my Dad and so, away from home and in a foreign country, it was easy to place a natural trust in him. It helped that I believed then and still believe now that he was and is an honest and good man by nature. He was and is deluded by the LDS cult, as was I.

Two years, less the two months in the LTM, were spent doing what I thought god wanted me to do. I was not a total goody two shoes, as my first “greenie” (new missionary) could attest (he was a strict by the book missionary at first but loosened up later). Life was easy. I would get a monthly check from my parents and would take it to the bank to exchange it for Australian currency, to pay rent for our”flat” (apartment/room), buy food, pay for transportation, repair/resole shoes, take care of any needs.

Oh, and to buy our cartons of Books of Mormon which we sold for 50 cents Australian each, or would give them away at times, if the situation warranted.

We met people from all over the globe and from all walks of life, mostly blue collar workers. We would assist Hispanics find work, get medical help, find housing. At times, anyway. Actually very few. Mostly, we tried to peddle our brand of religion in Spanish.

But the people were great! I loved the Hispanics I met, “member” and “non-member” alike. I loved the Aussies too. All in all it was a great experience for me as a 19-21 year old. I grew from a painfully shy introverted boy to a confident young man.

I returned home in April of 1976, to a new Ward, my family having moved into the new house built in Centerville, UT. Prior to returning home, I was interviewed by President Tingey. During that interview I was counseled to go home, maintain my standards acquired as a missionary, and to get married as soon as possible. Education and work were secondary to marriage.

I suppose it was good I had a girl, not exactly”waiting” for my return, but we had dated prior to my mission. And she was still “available”.

She would become my wife.

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 6 The Missionary at the LTM

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

Having studied Spanish in high school three years did little to prepare me for the Church’s Language Training Mission. That level was surpassed in the first week due to a program called “Live Your Language” meaning for me only speaking Spanish. We were taught how to ask “How do you say…” so that we could augment our knowledge in the moment.

Missionaries were segregated by language. We all met together, though, as an entire “Mission”. Further divisions were called “Zones” corresponding loosely to actual missions in most cases and consisting of several “Districts” and I was a District Leader. My District did not live in the usual dormitories but were housed in the Larsen home on 900 East, east of the Wilkinson Center (BYU), due to overcrowding. We walked to the Joseph Smith Building (current Benson Building) for classes in the Spanish language and culture. I loved the “Live Your Language” program as well as my daily classes. My fellow missionaries were a good group of guys and we got along well, from my standpoint. If there were issues, I did not see them.

After eight weeks, it was time to fly to Sydney Australia.

The flight on Qantas was long. We stopped briefly in Hawaii to refuel and spiff up the passenger area. We did not disembark. The next stop was in Fiji for the same reasons. We also did not disembark there. Finally, twenty plus hours later, we arrived in Sydney. It was raining. As we were circling before landing, I noted the red tile roofs of many of the homes below.

Being processed through Customs was uneventful except I was unaccustomed to the Australian accent. It was difficult to have a conversation! I kind of felt the first pangs of homesickness or feeling like a fish out of water, not being able to communicate with Australians in English and hoping my Spanish was good enough for any Hispanics encountered! But first things first.

We were met by the Assistants to the Mission President (referred to as AP’s) and were taken to the Mission Home in Wollstonecraft on the north side of Sydney Harbour. The address was, at the time, “Paxton” 5, Wollstonecraft. I don’t recall why some buildings had “names” or if homes did, too. I may have to research that!

Anyway, we were to meet our training Elder (first “companion”) but mine was ill so the Zone Leaders (leaders over multiple Districts) over the Zone I was to be in took me to my first “Flat”. There I met my new companion. He was standing at a gas stove, cooking cracked wheat, dressed only in a robe, with his garments hanging below the robe hemline. The rain and the sick first companion, dressed as he was, was an auspicious beginning, right?

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 5 The Missionary

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

I don’t remember packing. I don’t remember the drive to Salt Lake City. I don’t remember parking.

I do remember there was a “Welcome Missionaries” banner inside the entryway to the Salt Lake Mission Home, where I was to spend the next three days. My memories of those three days are too dim 45 years later! Only one thing I do recall vividly was we got to spend the afternoon with family after registration. Then it was goodbye.

So, what did my family and I do that free afternoon? Did we go grab a bite to eat and chat about what lies ahead, what’s gone on before, joke and kid around? Nope. None of that.

We meet my maternal grandparents at the genealogical library. We spent the afternoon doing genealogy.

Awesome.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy genealogy. But then, on that afternoon, a good burger would have been much better, I think!

The three days passed and I am sure I was fully indoctrinated with rules and instructions. I was excited, yes, but was never one to be full of fire and missionary zeal. Introvert, remember?

Oh, a memory from those three days just surfaced! Okay, one from those days and another prior. I will start with the latter.

I had received my endowments February 1, 1974. It was a unique experience, for sure. I concerned myself, though, with trying to remember the process, making sure I could do it again without prompting or assistance.

I was certainly aware of how “different” it was. Making covenants without having known what they would be beforehand. Special handshakes. Pantomiming ways I could die if I ever revealed the “signs and tokens” that went with the covenants. Oh, and a secret new name.

Definitely unexpected, for sure. But I was told there was a lot of meaning to be found in the ceremony. I was told it might take a lifetime to tease out even a small part of all the knowledge found in the endowment.

I now figure that’s just a ploy to encourage attendance! There’s just not all that much to it!

Unless you’re a Freemason.

Even then, there isn’t much.

The other memory was a special session in the Salt Lake Temple in the Solemn Assembly room, upstairs. We went behind the sealing rooms, passing by the locked door to the Holy of Holies. Then upstairs. I was in awe.

I do not recall the General Authorities present. There were some. One or more allowed us to ask any question we wanted. Because I don’t recall anything earthshaking, we must not have asked anything noteworthy.

The three days passed and it was time to head to Provo, to the LTM. It was raining. I was a Missionary.

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 4 Return to Zion

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

A move to the Deep South halfway through fifth grade and then 5 years in a western Chicago suburb gave me experience “in the world” while learning how to bifurcate worldly life from religious life (Mormon concept: as members, we are advised to live in the world but be not “of it” – this idea probably stems from the New Testament, see the book of John).

Chapter 2 ended with me heading to college. I was accepted to Brigham Young University. The fall semester of 1973 would be the only semester I would attend prior to my mission call (see LDS Church website topic on Missionary Work – calls are not based on the desires of the potential missionary but are “inspired” by the Missionary Selection Committee). As I mentioned, I lived with the second eldest of my mother’s younger brothers (Mom was the eldest of my grandparents’ 9 children – 5 daughters, 4 sons) in Pleasant Grove, Utah to save some money to help support me when my mission call was issued.

However, prior to moving to Provo, I attended Church in our new Ward in Bountiful, the Bountiful 13th Ward. There I met the girl who would become my wife after my return from Australia. She was tall, blond, and pretty, with big pretty eyes. She was friends with the sister of one of my friends who also moved to Bountiful from the Chicago area and whose family were members of the West Suburban Second Ward (later becoming the Naperville Ward) with my family. Their father was a counselor in this new, to us, Bountiful Ward Bishopric.

Also before heading to BYU, I took a language aptitude test. I don’t recall if I received the results or not, but it doesn’t really matter to my story. That they needed to test my aptitude does. In my own opinion, it goes directly to the idea of “inspired” calls.

Just hold that thought for a bit.

BYU.

Dallin H. Oaks was the University President. You remember him; he was a counselor in the Chicago South Stake Presidency while my family lived there. For a bit of a biography, look here, here, and here.

Anyway, I attended my first BYU semester and prepared for my mission call. College was quite different from high school! I had to be more self-directed and I that did not come to me easily. I was an introvert, as I have mentioned before.

My mission call came in the Spring of 1974 after that first semester ended. Here is the certificate from the front of my Mission “White Book”, which contained general Church rules of conduct for Missionaries (there was a separate White Book specific to my mission!):

mission call

My call was to be a Spanish speaking missionary in the Australia East Mission, which was headquartered on the north shore of Syndey Harbour in Sydney Australia. Hmmmmm, Spanish-speaking in Australia? Weird, eh? I thought they spoke English! One of my uncles, the very same one I lived with my first BYU semester, also served a mission to Australia, about 10 years earlier. I knew they spoke English!

This call was interesting in that my own internal desire was to serve a Lamanite mission (Hispanic or Native American) outside of the United States. This call fulfilled that desire. Also, I apparently had an aptitude for language But, was my Spanish-speaking call inspired or was it based on the results of my aptitude test?

One wonders!

With the receipt of the call, I did not enroll in another semester at BYU. Rather, I went with my Mom to Mr. Mac’s for two suits, a few white shirts, some ties, and a couple pair of shoes that would, hopefully, last for two years. Hardly anything else was needed as I was to travel rather light. The girl I had met and had gone on a few dates with me, several doubling with my Chicago friend and the girl holding his attention, said she would not “wait” for my return and I thought that was fair and mature. We were yet young. I still had hopes she’d be available after the mission.

But before I was to go to Australia I had to be able to teach and converse in Spanish. I had taken three years of Spanish in high school but still had to attend the Church’s intense 8-week language training course at the Language Training Mission (LTM) located on the BYU campus in Provo, Utah. I would go there after a three day stay in the Salt Lake Mission Home across the street from Church Headquarters aka the Church Office Building skyscraper on North Temple.

Throwback Post Regarding Cults

Yup, that word again! However, if it applies…

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/laughingindisbelief/2017/03/finland-votes-to-protect-children-from-christianity/

So Finland recognizes religion as Bronze age mythology. It’s about time a whole country did!!!

But your religion has been around a long, long time and just can’t be a cult? Really?

I suggest you think again.

Go Finland!

Edit: Just came across this

New Year Post Mortem

My last post showed my level of frustration after just shy of three years since my “fatal” (LDS Church membership-wise) Facebook post January 31, 2016, wherein I declared Joseph Smith, Jr. was a fraud. He was a fraud! It’s more clear to me now than ever before! It’s still not a concept my family is willing to entertain, though.

My studies in recent advancements in cognitive and neurological science have broadened my understanding of confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance. Along with the backfire effect, I should have known better than to post as I did on Facebook! I should know by now that I cannot convince my family to think for themselves. They have drunk too deeply the Kool-aid of Mormonism.

I should have known, and I did know! But my hubris overcame common sense and I posted. Stupidly.

My bad!

So I had to apologise and suck up my pride. I will now act as if I was wrong, which I was, in a way. Too much hubris!

Never again.

My religious posts will remain here, on my blog.

With you, dear reader! Thank you for spending time with me and my rants and thoughts. This whole process serves to help me grow and mature, as a person and a writer.

Happy New Year!

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 2 Chicago

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

After our two and a half years in Birmingham, Alabama we moved Lisle, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago (about 30 miles west of downtown Chicago). I was about to start 8th grade. Two neighborhood boys had heard (from who?) there was a boy their age moving in and they came over to introduce themselves. One, Ron, became a good friend.

I was somewhat of a novelty, as were my siblings, at school. Our family was one of two in Lisle who belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Peet family was the other. A couple other “Mormon” families moved in and back out during our years there but our family and the Peet’s remained, ours until after my high school graduation.

These years are very fondly remembered by me. Yes, I was teased mercilessly and bullied by a few because of my Southern accent (at first, my accent now is rather nondescript), my shyness, and my religious beliefs. But I had good friends. Several still remain in contact with me after all these years!

The LDS Ward we attended met in Naperville, just to the west of Lisle, and was titled the West Suburban Second Ward of the Chicago South Stake. A “Ward” is what Mormons call a congregation. It is led by a Bishop and his two counselors. Several Wards in a local region are collectively called a “Stake”, led by a Stake President and his two counselors. The Stake also has a High Council consisting of 12 High Priests (men). The Stake Presidency at the time and subsequent, just before we moved back to Utah, consisted of several men who eventually moved up in the ranks of the overall church hierarchy, one becoming one of the Twelve Apostles and is now, at this writing, a member of the First Presidency (First Counselor to the President/Prophet). His name is Dallin H. Oaks (any initials in an authority’s name are important, it seems).

The Stake Presidency and High Council structures will become important to my story later, hence my attention to this detail now.

Anyway, it was in Lisle and the Suburban Second Ward that I progressed through the Aaronic (Lesser) Priesthood (young boys ages 12 through 18) “offices ” of Deacon (12-13), Teacher (14-15), and Priest (16-18, sometimes older). This took me through high school graduation in 1973.

The Chicago area gave me a peek at non-LDS scenarios, situations, and ideas. I participated in some academic extracurricular activities, such as an after-school Biochemistry Seminar, membership by special invitation to a special Boy Scout Explorer Post sponsored by Standard Oil. There was a core of students that got invited from regional high schools. Five from my high school, including me. Some of the others from my school were part of the “cool kids” and so, by association, I was able to expand my circle of friends from mostly outcasts to include some of the cool kids. That was helpful to a very shy kid, as was I.

My experiences in the Aaronic Priesthood in the Birmingham Branch first and then the West Suburban Second Ward included leadership. I usually was “called” to be a counselor in the Presidency of the Quorum and before being “advanced” to the next office would wind up being the president. Except for the Priest Quorum. The Bishop of the Ward is the president of that quorum and he has a group leader with two assistants. I progressed the same through the Priest Quorum as I did in the others, leaving finally as Group Leader just before we moved back to Utah.

As a Priest, there were times we were asked to partner up with the missionaries on “splits”, meaning the two missionaries (missionaries are usually found in companionships of two) would split up and each would take a Priest. We would go to teaching appointments but would also be involved in “tracting”, i.e. going door to door. This gave us a little glimpse into missionary life, in which we were expected to take part at age 19.

Which age was just around the corner and followed the move alluded to earlier.

I graduated 14th in my class and a member of the National Honor Society. I had been accepted to BYU (my ACT score was 28, so acceptance was no problem) and I had a good interview with my Bishop (worthiness interviews are required for acceptance). Near the end of my Senior year of high school, Dad got a job offer in Salt Lake City, Utah he decided to accept.

So, after graduation, my Dad took my three younger brothers, loaded a Toyota Corolla with stuff he would need for the new job, and off they went, to pave the way for the rest of us after the house sold. Once sold, we loaded the station wagon, three dogs (miniature schnauzers), and stuff we would need at the new house and drove to Utah, Mom and I trading off as drivers.

Our new home was only temporary, being a rental, while our new house was being built just a few blocks north in Centerville. I wouldn’t see that house finished until after serving a mission for the Church. But first, I went to Provo, Utah to attend my first semester at BYU (Brigham Young University). I moved in with an uncle and his family in Pleasant Grove, Utah. That helped me save some money that could go toward my upcoming mission.

Apostate Behavior: Chapter 1 In the beginning

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

My mother slipped on some stairs November 14, 1954. The next day I was born, premature. I spent the following 2 weeks in an incubator. During those two weeks, my Dad spent a lot of time pleading for my life in prayer. Here I am, 64 years later. And I am an apostate.

Dad was born October 2, 1934. Mom, January 2, 1936. Dad was not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (referred to hereafter as the Church or by its full name – however, many know of the Church by a nickname, “Mormon”) prior to marrying my Mom. Dad’s Mom never having joined the Church and his Dad, being divorced prior to marrying Dad’s Mom and being an inactive member of the Church and progressing only minimally in the Aaronic Priesthood, was an inactive member. Grandpa and Grandma Holt drank coffee and alcoholic drinks. I understand Grandpa Holt was a happy drunk, when he drank a bit too much. However, Grandpa was once an active member in an unbroken line from Joseph Smith, Junior’s time and the early Church in Nauvoo, illinois. My Dad broke that line until he met Mom.

Mom was raised in the Church, her parents coming from long lines of Church members. Mom and Dad met in a high school speech class. Dad was converted to the Church and was baptized by Mom’s Dad. Here is his story, in his own words as written in a document he titled, “I got my Testimony by Osmosis”:

That sounds strange, Doesn’t it? Osmosis is the way all plants get nourishment. Water and minerals are absorbed through the roots and transported through capillaries up through the stem or trunk to the leaves and into the cells and by means of chlorophyll and sunlight they are transformed into energy and the building blocks of the plant. There is no motor or pump to make the solution go up into the tops of the plants. That is osmosis.

So, what about me? My father, Aaron Glen Holt, only progressed in the LDS Church as far as a Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood. My mother, Ida Mae Wolf did not belong to any church. Over the years as they were visited by Ward Teachers and Stake Missionaries who preached the gospel to them but they resisted.

Now, the beginning of osmosis. One day every week as my friends and I walked home from school I noticed most of my friends going into the old ward building that was on the corner of 4th east and 8th south in Springville. Over time, curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to follow them into the building. What were they doing? First, everybody went into the chapel where they sang songs and were taught new songs out of a hymn book. Then they divided up according to age and gender and went into the different classrooms. They called this the Primary.

I went into a room with boys my age and the teacher taught us principles of the gospel. We were given green felt sashes to go around our necks, they were called bandalos. We learned the names of the 12 apostles. We learned the names of the temples. We memorized the 13 articles of faith. As we recited what we learned to the teacher we received yellow felt emblems to be attached to our bandalos. Most of them were shaped like chevrons. I took mine home. My mother didn’t sew them onto my bandalo so I did it myself.

The different classes for boys were named Blazers, Trekkers and Guides and each year we advanced through all these classes according to our age, 9, 10 and 11.

Now, mind you, through all these years no one tried to preach to me or single me out. I was just accepted as if I were already a church member. I was never baptized!

Starting at the age of 12 we attended classes one evening each week instead of the daytime classes after school. This was called the MIA and my friends and I became Boy Scouts. My gospel learning slowed down considerably as I now proceed to learn about scouting. However I learned the scout oath and the 12 parts of the scout law and the motto and the slogan. Although the Boy Scouts is non-denominational it encourages a belief in God. I also learned the Scout sign and Handshake and how to tie knots. I learned how to build cooking fires and how to cook my food with my scout cook kit. I learned many other scout skills. My mother took me to a store in Provo, Utah where they sold scout clothing and equipment and she bought me a complete uniform including a neckerchief and slide and cap. I was very proud to wear that uniform to the scout meetings every week.

When I was a Senior in high school I played football. Practice was held during the last period of the day instead of Physical education class. After football was over I had to enroll in another class during the last period. I tried accounting but was bored with it. My friend Stephen Clark encouraged my to sign up for a Speech class with him and I did that. We were the only 2 seniors in a class of Sophomores. In that class I was attracted to a young lady named Janice Weight. Eventually I asked her to go on a date with me. She countered with a suggestion that I attend her MIA class Rose Prom with her. That was the beginning of our relationship.

We went to all the basketball games we could and the dances that were conducted in the gymnasiums afterward, I visited with her and her family nearly every Sunday. I attended sacrament meetings, and sat with her and her family and listened to the speakers, many of which gave inspiring talks. Janice’s Seminary class sold Books of Mormon and Janice bought one that she gave me for a Christmas gift. When I enrolled for college at BYU it was required that the students take a religion class. I signed up for the Book of Mormon class.

Near the end of my first year of college I contacted my Bishop, Oliver H. Dalton, and asked if I could be baptized. He invited me to go to his home for an interview. He wanted to know what I knew about the gospel. I told him what I had learned in Primary and in scouting. He gave me some additional counsel and then gave me a recommend to be baptized. Soon after that I was baptized and confirmed at the age of 19 years by Janice’s father, Leslie LaMar Weight. The next Sunday I was confirmed by the congregation of the Second Ward to receive the Aaronic Priesthood and become a Priest. Bishop Dalton ordained me to the office of Priest after that meeting.

When I asked for baptism that was the end of the process of osmosis for me. In other words advancement from the ground up that was initiated by me. From that time on any advancement I made was by callings from my priesthood leaders, vote of approval from the congregation and ordination or confirmation by the laying on of hands of the appropriate priesthood leaders. Some of my callings were: Priest, Elder, Elder’s Quorum Secretary, Seventy, High Priest, Counselor to three different Bishops, Scout Master, District High Counselor, Stake High Counselor. In all my callings my testimony grew and was strengthed.

I am, then, a product of two (ultimately) unbroken lines of Church members. I was a sixth generation member of the Church. My children and grandchildren are mostly members of the Church, the exception being my youngest daughter and her daughter. My early life in central Utah was uneventful, barring the death of an uncle two years older than me in an accident. I was 7 going on 8. He was 10, being my Mom’s youngest brother and she being the eldest of my grandparent’s children. I am also the eldest grandchild on both sides of my extended families.

Early life was essentially idyllic. Friends were made in spite of my introversion. Some friends were “ready made”, being uncles, cousins, and one aunt near my age. Indoctrination by the Church came by way of Sunday School Sunday morning, Sacrament Meeting later Sunday evening, and Primary Thursday afternoon after school. Ward Teachers and Family Home Evening rounded it all out. These early years took place in Springville, Utah, USA. After Kindergarten the family moved to Granger, Utah, a western suburb of Salt Lake City that is now part of West Valley City.

An uncle 10 years older challenged me, just before he left for his Mission to Australia, to read the Book of Mormon before he returned. I met his challenge easily because of my ability to read quickly. The story that stood out was that of Ammon and his method of protecting the King’s sheep. Most of the rest was too uninteresting to stick in my mind, at that age (around 9 years of age). The edition of the Book of Mormon was the large print illustrated edition and was given to me by the Primary Presidency after my baptism. I liked these illustrations although the men seemed to me to be overly muscular. Unproportionally so. Smallish heads.

Half-way through fifth grade (1966?) we moved to Birmingham, Alabama. The race riots and aftermath were still near the surface. George Wallace was still the governor. Again, in spite of strong introversion, I made friends easily. Half were Church members and half were schoolmates. Walking home from school we could find persimmon trees and muscadine (grape-like fruit with thick skins) bushes. Lots of plant an animal life was very nearby. A creek running in the woods near our neighborhood ran into Hackberry Creek. I would have called it a small river! My neighbor, Jeff Travis, and I would find all kinds of lizards, frogs, toads, ankes, and snapping turles there. To me it was a place to escape. In actuality, it’s fortunate I was never bitten by an Eastern Diamondback Rattler, Copperhead, Water Mocasin, or Snapping Turtle!

I first entered the Aaronic Priesthood in the Birmingham Branch. My first major “shelf item” (an idea that causes cognitive dissonance, to be dealt with later – or never) was created at this time.

The Pearl of Great Price (cannonized Church scripture) fascinated my adolescent mind. I already loved science and the Book of Abraham drew in my curiosity of all things Egyptian. The Facsimiles with translations. The text referring to the facsimiles and their translations. The text itself explaining how to interpret the facsimiles. It was cool!
In May of 1966, Aziz S. Atiya, a coptic scholar from the University of Utah, was looking through the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection when he came across some papyrus fragment among which he recognized as Facsimile 1 from The Pearl of Great Price. The Church acquired them in November of 1967 and announced an upcoming “Improvement Era” (the Church’s magazine) would bedevoted to Egypt and the papyrus fragments.

Wow! Joseph Smith, Jr. could now be proven a translator!

How disappointed I was when the January 1968 Improvement Era came out! Funerary text! No Abraham. Major cognitive dissonance.

But I mentally shelved it to be dealt wih later, after somebody could receive more light and knowledge on the matter.

Which never came. But that’s another chapter in this story.

Apostate Behavior: Introduction

Copyright © Bruce A. Holt. All Rights Reserved. (Comments are welcome!)

Definition of Apostate

Dictionary definition

For me, “runaway slave” seems appropriate given that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be seen as a controlling organization and, therefore, “cultish” if not fully a cult. I did, indeed, “escape” as a runaway slave. Well, maybe it would be accurate to say I effected my escape by forcing the Church to excommunicate me.

This, then, is my story.

Returning to my Return to Faith

For Continuity.

The breakdown:

  • Faith is not the scientific method.
  • Faith is trust in something or someone or confidence in something or someone.
  • Faith is something less than knowledge regarding what is not seen but hoped for.

In my opinion, the religious use the word faith with the preceding and silent word “blind”. It’s effortless. When in doubt, have more faith! When a crisis arises, have more faith! When new learning contradicts doctrine, have more faith!

Blind, blind, blind!

Effortless!

Well, until cognitive dissonance rears its ugly head!

We have three concepts at play here. The first is confirmation bias. This “protects” our core self, our core beliefs. As we perceive and then interpret events around us, confirmation bias draws our attention to that which confirms our core beliefs and “hides”, if you will, that which contradicts the same. For an example, this is a reason the religious believe a god hears and answers prayers. You’ve seen this on television newscasts I’m sure! Some horrific accident happens and a loved one is not injured severely and quickly recovers, in answer to prayer.

But we then notice there was the loved one of someone else involved and they died. No miracle for them, no answer to prayer or, at the very least, not the answer sought for. Fickle god or serendipity?

You decide.

Confirmation bias is my contention.

Oh, God needed them! Um, how do you know? God sent you a letter? An e-mail? Anything physical? No? It was just a feeling? You just know it? How?!?!?

Confirmation bias.

The other side of the coin is that we neglect to track all the unanswered prayers! They do not confirm our bias! We “forget” the many times we did not get an expected answer. Think about it. Honestly. How many have we forgotten?

I mentioned a second concept, cognitive dissonance, above. This is the very uncomfortable feeling one gets when confronted by contrary evidence to a core belief. We then do a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g and e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g we can to ameliorate that discomfort! We rationalize, minimalize, or just plain ignore the cause of our discomfort.

We can become blind to the fact discomfiting us.

Cognitive dissonance.

The third concept I wish to put forward for consideration is tribalism. Why do we believe what we believe? Parents, extended family, local teachers all play a part in our tribalism. Babies are born with no knowledge of any god, religion, politics or any other tribally based teaching. They get this because of where they are born geographically and to whom they were born (or raised, as in the case of adopted infants) locally.

I was born to parents in North America, in the United States of America, in the State of Utah who were practitioners of the faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and who descended from parentage who were also practitioners of the same faith.

That’s why I was a Baptist!

Seriously, no. That’s why I was also a practitioner of the Latter-day Saint faith. Parents to children. Tribal knowledge passed down, generation to generation. My chances of actually being a Baptist or adherent of any other faith would be very, very slim until I reached adulthood and chose for myself.

So, please consider for yourself why you believe what you believe. Was it tribal knowledge? No? Really? You say you’ve had “confirmation” from “spiritual experiences” that have let you “know” your faith is factual?

Are you certain your interpretations are not due to tribal knowledge indicating the how of your interpretations? You know, if you see this or hear that or think this or feel that, the experience is from God or is “spiritual”?

Until you can provide objective evidence to confirm your claim, it’s not factual. It’s not what you think (or feel) it is.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

You do realize that with the sheer number of faiths/religions/belief systems that we, as humans, no longer (if ever!) rely on objectivity. Some few do, but not as a whole. We’re tribal.

Mormons, Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, Taoists…

Americans, Russians, Chinese, Europeans, Indians, Africans, Scandinavians, Oceanics…

Utahns, Coloradans, Texans, Alaskans, Georgians…

Holts, Weights…

Tribal.

When, in fact, we are all…

Human.

Once we can appreciate our tribalistic differences along with the same in others, we can better appreciate our own humanity and appreciate it more than what differentiates us tribally, culturally. Maybe even start using objectivity to better navigate life together as a single species. Maybe make this world a better place, reduce division, be better stewards.

Not be blind.

(I know, I waxed very philosophically at the end! I just got caught up in the whole concept. I’m human. smiley emoticon)

Think About It

This will be tough! I, in this post, will ask the true believing reader to pause for thought. I will ask the true believing reader to do the opposite of what we do when reading fiction; suspend disbelief. What I will require instead will be thought and common sense. Realize, though, that what I write here only touches the topic lightly.

Right. Here we go.

What is my purpose?

To overcome confirmation bias and inspire some cognitive dissonance.

Right.

Why?

Until we all can apply our wonderful brains, belief in mythologies cannot be overcome!

If I have not lost you already, let’s start.

The whole idea that religion is valid i.e. contains the “truth”.

Creationists (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one; see D & C 77:6) are at odds with archeological and/or scientific evidence. Joseph Smith, Jr. stated the full temporal existence of the Earth will be 7000 years in total.

Really? Think about that.

Science tells us the Earth is 4.543 Billion years old. The Moon is 4.53 Billion years old. The Solar System is 4.571 Billion years old. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is 13.51 Billion years old.

Which is right? How can we decide?

We (I speak as a former member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) believe scripture because it comes from God through His Prophets. God has said, more than once, the Earth is less than 7000 years old. We pray about it and feel good (spiritual witness), so we decide it’s true.

Easy. That’s all it takes!

But wait. Just how many religions are there? Roughly 4,200. Why? Because each one feels a little differently about some belief or multiple beliefs than the rest. Apparently, god(s) does not/do not speak the same things globally. Weird. One would think a supreme being could overcome this.

Ah, but there’s faith. We just have to have faith this supreme being knows what’s best for us. My own guess is that confusion is the preferred state the SB wishes to keep us human subjects in. I mean, if we had no differences in beliefs, what need would there be for faith? Faith keeps us from thinking too much, from needing all the answers.

At this point, we see why religion impedes the progression of knowledge. At this point, we see how religion encourages a man-made hierarchy that suppresses the believing masses and exalts themselves. We see how regions are nothing more than man’s tendency toward tribalism (grouping into social units of shared values and beliefs) and selfishness.

Then we have science. Some talk about science as a thing. It is not. It is a method. It is the best method to date that mankind has created to gain actual knowledge. The scientific method is a series of steps followed by scientific investigators to answer specific questions about the natural world. It involves making observations, formulating a hypothesis, and conducting scientific experiments.

The (generic) steps of the scientific method are as follows:

  1. Observation.
  2. Question.
  3. Hypothesis.
  4. Experiment.
  5. Results.
  6. Conclusion.
  7. Evaluation and refining the experiment until results are consistent.
  8. Statement of theory.
  9. Communication and peer review.

Can we be wrong using this method? Absolutely! We often are. Not just that but one favorite activity scientists enjoy is disproving accepted theories! It’s how we advance in knowledge. It works. It self-corrects.

Using the scientific method over a few centuries of observation, our knowledge of our planet, solar system, galaxy, and the universe has advanced tremendously. Meanwhile, faith has kept us stationary using knowledge up to thousands of years old.

This is why religion declares the Earth is less than 7000 years old.

Think about it.

The excommunication of Sam Young

This brought back memories. The steely gaze of my Stake President, signifying to me his decision had already been made and the purpose for a Disciplinary Council was moot. In a prior one-on-one interview with him, he declared the next level in authority above him (Area Seventy, specifically a member of the Church’s 6th Quorum of Seventy) encouraged my excommunication. I imagine the Area Seventy had received counsel, as well, from his peers and maybe some from those in even higher authority.

So this decision was, seemingly, not entirely “local”. Nor was it the result of counsel (the High Council and Stake Presidency). It was predetermined.

It wasn’t just my Stake President’s steely gaze, either. It was his cold, business-like vocal tone. No love. No concern. Just, essentially, “good riddance”! And how can I know he was happy to be rid of me?

This man, who spiritually assassinated me, who took away all eternal blessing and promises, saw me with my wife and my sister-in-law at Costco before Christmas the same year I was excommunicated and he called to me, mistaking my identity and using the name of some other church member. And when he realized his error, well, after I corrected him and extended my hand to shake his in a friendly greeting, he guided his wife away from the aisle we were in and speedily left the area. No apologies for the mistaken identification. No further greeting. He just exited, stage left, as fast as he felt he could go without drawing too much attention to himself! His wife looked back a couple times in confusion. I suspect he explained to her later.

So, Sam Young (and my dear reader). This is not Christ’s church. Godly men do not walk its “hallowed” halls. Godly men do not sit at the helm.

It’s a corporation, with billions in real estate and business holdings. The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve can live for quite some time on those investments, with or without any further donations from church members. Society and its issues do not dictate the church’s direction. Membership does not have its privileges.

While you (Sam) and I have left (been forcibly kicked out, rather), the church will go on.

And so will its abuses. For now. Maybe, just maybe, “god” will drop a clue into Russ’ head and the policy will change. But not any time soon.

To quote an infamous malignant narcissist in today’s political scene who tweets in the wee hours of the morning nearly every day, “Sad.”

Man cannot change the church. Only “god” can. (Well, in my opinion, it’s all a myth and man-made, so the pretense of revelation will come down from the top in due time, as I said above. Probably when all the “heat” from the furor you inspired, Sam, dies down.)

I leave it to you, reader, to decide for yourself:

Link to a short (13 minutes) recording taken by “Alma” at Sam Young’s Disciplinary Council. This is the portion of the meeting where the Stake President reads the charges.

Link to the recording I made of my own Disciplinary Council. Link to my story on MormonThink.com. Link to the Facebook post that led to my interviews with the Bishop, Stake President, Area Seventy, and eventual excommunication.

 

Note 1: As of right now, there are Sam Young Aftermath - quitmormon resignation requests submitted and waitingresignation requests that have been sent into church headquarters from QuitMormon.org alone to be processed. That would be, roughly, a full Stake. Yesterday there were nearly one thousand submitted and in legal review after Sam’s letter was read.

Kick out one honorable man and, in a single day, hundreds follow willingly! Well done, leadership. Well done!

Note 2: To learn more about what Sam Young stands for, please visit his site ProtectLDSChildren.org and click on the “Read The Stories” link. You’ll come to know why Sam was and remains so outspoken. This is his personal blog, as well.

Note 3: Comment! Please! Do not just “hit and run”.

More, on manipulative organizations

This site, needing translation for us English readers (your browser can do it), offers a quiz for evaluating how manipulative any organization one might belong to might be. I took it and answered regarding my years of membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You could compare the questions with all the things I have posted on this blog regarding cults, aka manipulative organizations.

Screenshots of my answers to the quiz.

Your answers will surely differ from mine on some points. One possible reason might be that people in manipulative organizations seldom realize they are in one.

“The cult member doesn’t believe that he or she is in a cult. Instead, he or she believes they have achieved a privileged status in an elite group which offers them ultimate salvation.”

“Your attempts to save them from the group ring hollow or sound nefarious.” – Sam Smith

It takes something powerful to enlighten them. It took something powerful to force me to see.

Anyway, let’s see where we differ and maybe explore why. Are you game? Answer in the comments.

Return to Faith

Not what you’re probably thinking! I am not getting re-baptized or doing any such thing. I am, though, returning to the topic of faith.

Here is my last treatise on the subject. Take time to read or re-read it. I’ll wait.

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Now read this. I’ll wait again.

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For now, I am going to leave both “out there” without further comment (unless no one comments, per my usual experience!) awaiting comments from readers. Another post, in a while, will explore this topic further.