A Pause That Refreshes

Any blogger is only speaking into the wind if no one reads. I want to take a moment to give sincere thanks to those reading this blog!

Thank you!

I would also like, from time to time, to be able to share the wisdom of those I follow, which means I may be making such requests as I find our thoughts converging. I learn so much from you!

Intermission

Recent blogging has dredged up some long lost memories. Two things, for today: immerse myself in these renewed memories; enjoy a scheduled chat this evening with a friend from long ago, a very intelligent friend (graduated high school in 3 years, graduated from BYU in 3 years, got his law degree from BYU Law School, you know, smart!).

Oh, and it’s a gridiron football playoff weekend ad so I will be watching a little footy. 🏈😎

Your turn

I tire. Researching religious topics to inspire family and friends to dig deeper, think more openly is exhausting. My research will now be performed for my own benefit. I don’t mean to sound irked, petulant, bothered, angry, or anything else but tired. Tired is it!

But never too tired to help a family member or friend when these kinds of questions arise. They might arise when I post something (no, I won’t stop posting but will continue as ideas occur or interesting articles need sharing). Whatever the cause, I will be here. Feel free.

Don’t be surprised, though, when I turn the table and ask you for proof, for evidence. You see, even though I cannot prove there is no god, you will have to prove there is, that prayer works, that spirits are real, that…well, whatever it is that you claim.

So, why DO you believe? (Remember, I was a believer once, too)

Oh, and as with all my posts, “you don’t have to take my word for it” because it is all researchable! Do.Your.Homework!

Why couldn’t I have found this earlier?

Watch this YouTube video by Seth Andrews, “The Thinking Atheist”. If you are part of the extended family to which I belong, please watch. If you are an LDS friend, please watch. All else are certainly welcome to watch but I love and care about my family and friends and the better we understand one another, the stronger our relationships can be.

Don’t go into this with assumptions. Just watch. Trust me, it is worth it.

Letter to a Christian spouse

Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)

It has been a journey! Begun in 2013 as a means of solidifying my knowledge of LDS Church history, my forced departure (excommunication) has inspired the name of this blog, Mental Whirlwind.

But I am more than that. Several months before my Mom passed away, my parents and I had a very vocal and emotional discussion regarding my newfound unbelief. My excommunication had not yet occurred because I was yet to make that fateful Facebook post that set that process in motion. But we were able to conquer the emotions and arrive at a point of respect for one another’s position and, of course, reaffirm our mutual love. After the discussion, my Dad noted that I am a man of deep emotion.

Indeed I am!

As much as I value intellectual study, I am a man of deep emotion. It is seldom overtly displayed but it is felt. It can cloud my intellectual pursuits but I am learning to study with more clarity. Critical thinking will become my course of study for the rest of my life. It will take that long to gain results!

So, for those who have been offended by my religious posts on Facebook you, too, must be of deep feeling. I apologize for offending your sensibilities but do not apologize for attempting to inspire critical thought! You, too, can overcome the deep emotions that can make us irrational. We have developed our intelligence over eons, but the last centuries have been astounding when it comes to innovation, scientific discoveries, and technological advances.

Religion is a remnant of times long past. My condition has been checked and found to be headed in the direction for which I hope. That being discarding the superstitious and magical for the wonders of scientific and technological discoveries.

And finally (for now, anyway)…

Illustration

Please read this story. I offer this as an illustration of the difference between faith and critical thought. Here is the story, quoted from the article:

One memory that the Spirit often brings to my mind is of an evening sacrament meeting held in a metal shed in Innsbruck, Austria, many years ago. It was under a railroad track. There were only about a dozen people present, sitting on wooden chairs. Most of them were women, some younger and some older. I saw tears of gratitude as the sacrament was passed among that small congregation. I felt the love of the Savior for those Saints, and so did they.

But the miracle I remember most clearly was the light that seemed to fill that metal shed and with it a feeling of peace. It was nighttime, and there were no windows, and yet the room was lit as if by noonday sunshine. The light of the Holy Spirit was there that evening. And the windows that let in the light were the humble hearts of those Saints, who had come before the Lord seeking forgiveness of their sins and committing to always remember Him.

It was not hard to remember Him then, and my memory of that sacred experience has made it easier for me to remember Him and His Atonement in the years that followed. The promise in the sacramental prayer is that the Spirit will be with us and so bring feelings of light and peace.

Where, in this story, can incontrovertible evidence be found of supernatural events? Where, in this story, can incontrovertible evidence be found of “magical thinking”? See the difference between faith and critical thought?

Discuss, if you will, in the comments.

Blacks and the LDS Priesthood – analysis of the Essay on LDS dot org

This is too well written and researched to bypass. If honest research on Race and the Priesthood in the LDS Church is something you wish to bury your head in the sand about then, by all means, do not read this! On the other hand, if you are honest and researching the Essays on lds dot org (slash topics slash essays) this analysis is well worth your time.

I leave it up to you.

There is additional information in the comments by several knowledgeable people.

Post found here.

The Illusion of Choice

Vaporware: software or hardware that has been advertised but is not yet available to buy, either because it is only a concept or because it is still being written or designed.

I am a software engineer. My current project is integrating two other software systems, both produced by the company for which I work. I write code. It gets tested against design specs. It is not vaporware. It exists now. It has been purchased by and implemented at a few customers. It is undergoing a Software Development Lifecycle and a few versions have been released. Again, not vaporware.

Why would someone buy into vaporware versus available and tested software? Loyalty to a vendor? An anticipation of promised advantages and benefits? An anticipation of a competitive edge? Some of that and other reasons, I am sure.

I loosely compare religion to vaporware. Long-term promises, advance payments. Eventually, is there a product? How would we know?

Cognitive science is yet young but is producing interesting results. More and more “spiritual” or “supernatural” experiences have been replicated in the lab. In fact, the very feeling of being in the “presence of deity” has been replicated. I look forward to future results, further illumination.

So what has this to do with choice?

Religion promises things like blessings, answers to prayer, miracles, external life, families in the hereafter, damnation, purgatory, fire, and brimstone, and the existence of a hereafter itself! Is this real or is it vaporware? How can we tell?

Aside from the advances in cognitive science, what if we performed an experiment? Take, for example, prayer. Does it work?

Let’s evaluate what happens when we pray, what are the potential outcomes. I suggest:

  1. Positive response i.e. request fulfilled
  2. Negative response i.e. request denied
  3. Delayed response i.e. request involves other possibilities, like an opportunity to learn a lesson

I realize, of course, that these outcomes are also serendipitous. The question becomes, how do we know if the answer was from the deity? Does he/she/it leave evidence of his/her/its presence? A fingerprint? Any physical signature?

Or do we assign the source to be a deity in our own minds? Try this experiment (I read about this a couple times somewhere, can’t remember where, using a rock in one example and a milk jug in another). Pray to an object of your choice. Wait for the answer. Does the answer meet the scenario in the three items listed above? Did you have any evidence the object was involved in the answer?

It’s up to you to decide if you wish to try or not. If you do, be honest. I figure many will feel this kind of experiment is blasphemous. I only suggest this to those who feel a modicum of rationality.

Now, how does this tie into the Illusion of Choice?

How can a real choice be made if the choice favors vaporware? There lies the illusion. Is religion anticipating something never to be delivered, rendering null any choice made?

This is your question to be answered on your own, if you will.

Hodgepodge

It was not just one thing, necessarily, that pushed me over the edge into unbelief regarding the LDS Church. Maybe not even a few. Because there are numerous issues the sheer weight of them all did the deed. The following is a disorganized hodgepodge of some issues.

I am interested in your thoughts, dear reader. Please don’t just hit and run. I encourage comments.

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The Basics

“We declare without equivocation that God the Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, appeared in person to the boy Joseph Smith.”
“When I was interviewed by Mike Wallace on the 60 Minutes program, he asked me if I actually believed that. I replied, ‘Yes, sir. That’s the miracle of it.'”
“That is the way I feel about it. Our whole strength rests on the validity of that vision. It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud. If it did, then it is the most important and wonderful work under the heavens.” – Gordon B. Hinckley -October 2002 “The Marvelous Foundation of Our Faith”
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“Well, it’s either true or false. If it’s false, we’re engaged in a great fraud. If it’s true, it’s the most important thing in the world. Now, that’s the whole picture. It is either right or wrong, true or false, fraudulent or true. And that’s exactly where we stand, with a conviction in our hearts that it is true: that Joseph went into the Grove; that he saw the Father and the Son; that he talked with them; that Moroni came; that the Book of Mormon was translated from the plates; that the priesthood was restored by those who held it anciently. That’s our claim. That’s where we stand, and that’s where we fall, if we fall. But we don’t. We just stand secure in that faith.” – Gordon B. Hinckley – Interview “The Mormons” – PBS Documentary, April 2007

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“Finally, the Book of Mormon is the keystone of testimony. Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. The enemies of the Church understand this clearly. This is why they go to such great lengths to try to disprove the Book of Mormon, for if it can be discredited, the Prophet Joseph Smith goes with it. So does our claim to priesthood keys, and revelation, and the restored Church. But in like manner, if the Book of Mormon be true—and millions have now testified that they have the witness of the Spirit that it is indeed true—then one must accept the claims of the Restoration and all that accompanies it.” – Ezra Taft Benson – 1986

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“Everything in the Church — everything — rises or falls on the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.” – Jeffrey R. Holland – Excerpted from a Church Educational System Religious Educators’ Symposium address given at Brigham Young University on August 9, 1994.

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“I am suggesting that we make exactly that same kind of do-or-die, bold assertion about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the divine origins of the Book of Mormon. We have to. Reason and rightness require it. Accept Joseph Smith as a prophet and the book as the miraculously revealed and revered word of the Lord it is or else consign both man and book to Hades for the devastating deception of it all, but let’s not have any bizarre middle ground about the wonderful contours of a young boy’s imagination or his remarkable facility for turning a literary phrase. That is an unacceptable position to take—morally, literarily, historically, or theologically.” – Jeffrey R. Holland, “True or False,” New Era, June 1995, Page 64 (Excerpted from a CES Symposium address given at Brigham Young University on August 9, 1994.)

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“The Book of Mormon claims to be a divinely inspired record, written by a succession of prophets who inhabited ancient America. It professes to be revealed to the present generation for the salvation of all who will receive it, and for the overthrow and damnation of all nations who reject it.

This book must be either true or false. If true, it is one of the most important messages ever sent from God to man, affecting both the temporal and eternal interests of every people under heaven to the same extent and in the same degree that the message of Noah affected the inhabitants of the old world. If false, it is one of the most cunning, wicked, bold, deep-laid impositions ever palmed upon the world, calculated to deceive and ruin millions who will sincerely receive it as the word of God, and will suppose themselves securely built upon the rock of truth until they are plunged with their families into hopeless despair. The nature of the message in the Book of Mormon is such, that if true, no one can possibly be saved and reject it; if false, no one can possibly be saved and receive it. Therefore, every soul in all the world is equally interested in ascertaining its truth or falsity.
In a matter of such infinite importance no person should rest satisfied with the conjectures or opinions of others: he should use every exertion himself to become acquainted with the nature of the message: he should carefully examine the evidences of which it is offered to the world: he should, with all patience and perseverance, seek to acquire a certain knowledge whether it be of God or not. Without such an investigation in the most careful, candid, and impartial manner, he cannot safely judge without greatly harming his future and eternal welfare. If, after a rigid examination, it be found an imposition, should be extensively published to the world as such; the evidences and arguments upon which the imposture was detected, should be clearly and logically stated, that those who have been sincerely yet unfortunately deceived, may perceive the nature of the deception, and be reclaimed, and that those who continue to publish the delusion, may be exposed and silenced, not by physical force, neither by persecutions, bare assertions, nor ridicule, but by strong and powerful arguments–by evidences adduced from scripture and reason. Such, and such only, should be the weapons employed to detect and overthrow false doctrines–to reclaim mankind from their errors, to expose religious enthusiasm, and put to silence base and wicked impostors.
But on the other hand, if investigation should prove the Book of Mormon true and of divine origin, then the importance of the message is so great, and the consequences of receiving or rejecting it so overwhelming, that the various nations–to whom it is now sent, and in whose languages it is now published, (being the first in these latter times who have been so highly favored as to receive a preparatory message for the second advent of the Son of God,) should speedily repent of all their sins, and renounce all the wicked traditions of their fathers, as they are imperatively commanded to do in the message: they should utterly reject both the Popish and Protestant ministry, together with all the churches which have been built up by them or that have sprung from them, as being entirely destitute of authority; they should turn away from all the priestcrafts and abominations practiced by these apostate churches (falsely called Christian), and bring forth fruits meet for repentance in all things: they should be immersed in water by one having authority, and receive a remission of their sins, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” – Orson Pratt -“DIVINE AUTHENTICITY OF THE BOOK OF MORMON” – 15 Wilton Street, Liverpool, October 15, 1850.
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“Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground. If Joseph Smith was a deceiver, who willfully attempted to mislead the people, then he should be exposed; his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false, for the doctrines of an impostor cannot be made to harmonize in all particulars with divine truth. If his claims and declarations were built upon fraud and deceit, there would appear many errors and contradictions, which would be easy to detect. The doctrines of false teachers will not stand the test when tried by the accepted standards of measurement, the scriptures.” -Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1954, vol. 1, p. 188

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“Each of us has to face the matter—either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.” -Gordon B. Hinckley, “Loyalty” – April 2003 General Conference

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There. Basic. The basis of the whole matter boils down to two things, either of which, if false, will declare the whole a fraud.

  1. Was Joseph Smith a prophet who saw what he said he saw and/or
  2. Is the Book of Mormon true?

It follows that if #1 then #2 is more likely to be true but doesn’t necessarily have to be. So, I say it boils down to #1. All the quotes above would tend to lend credence to this proposition in my opinion. All the above also demonstrate the dichotomous proposition originates in Church leadership, not with me.
===============

Sundry quotes

I think a full, free talk is frequently of great use; we want nothing secret nor underhanded, and I for one want no association with things that cannot be talked about and will not bear investigation. – John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 20:264

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Now, most historians, Mormon or not, who work with the sources, accept as fact Joseph Smith’s career as village magician. Too many of his closest friends and family admitted as much, and some of Joseph’s own revelations support the contention. – B. H. Roberts, Church Historian, Treasure-seeking Then and Now, Sunstone, v. 11, September 1987, p. 5

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One other subject remains to be considered in this division… viz. ‑ was Joseph Smith possessed of a sufficiently vivid and creative imagination as to produce such a work as the Book of Mormon from such materials as have been indicated in the proceeding chapters… That such power of imagination would have to be of a high order is conceded; that Joseph Smith possessed such a gift of mind there can be no question…. – B. H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon by B.H. Roberts, p. 243, 250

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In light of this evidence, there can be no doubt as to the possession of a vividly strong, creative imagination by Joseph Smith, the Prophet, an imagination, it could with reason be urged, which, given the suggestions that are found in the ‘common knowledge’ of accepted American antiquities of the times, supplemented by such a work as Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews [published in Palmyra in 1825], it would make it possible for him to create a book such as the Book of Mormon is. – B. H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon by B.H. Roberts, p. 243, 250

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We talk of obedience, but do we require any man or woman to ignorantly obey the counsels that are given? Do the First Presidency require it? No, never. – Joseph F. Smith, Journal of Discourses 16:248

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We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it. The church is not so much concerned with whether the thoughts of its members are orthodox or heterodox as it is that they shall have thoughts. – Hugh B. Brown, “Final Testimony” An Abundant Life: The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown

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[Joseph Smith] 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 first two promises have been fulfilled, and the latter may be verified. – Oliver B. Huntington, as told to him by Joseph Smith, Young Woman’s Journal, vol. 3, p. 263‑264 (1892)

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The coming of the Lord, which is nigh ‑‑ even fifty‑six years should wind up the scene. – Joseph Smith, History of the Church, v2, p 182

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Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter‑day Saints never ran away from me yet…When they can get rid of me, the devil will also go. – Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 408, 409

(This one ticks me off! Blatant lie!)

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I insert fac‑similes of the six brass plates found near Kinderhook… I have translated a portion of them, and find they contain the history of the person with whom they were found. He was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, and that he received his Kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth. – Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, v. 5, p. 372

(Translating a hoax? Additionally, the Church has vacillated between hoax, not hoax. Look it up.)

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To our great grief, however, we soon found that Satan had been lying in wait to deceive,… Brother Hiram Page had in his possession a certain stone, by which he obtained certain “revelations” … all of which were entirely at variance with the order of God’s house, … the Whitmer family and Oliver Cowdery, were believing much in the things set forth by this stone, we thought best to inquire of the Lord concerning so important a matter … – Joseph Smith, History of the Church, by Joseph Smith, vol. 1, pp.109‑10

(Hiram Page was getting too many followers. Joseph curtailed that. Stone against stone!)

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Now regarding Adam, He came here from Another planet, an Immortalized being, and brought his wife Eve with him, and by eating of the fruit of this earth, became subject to death and decay… was made mortal and subject to death. – Joseph Smith, Records of both Anson Call and Patriarch John M. Whitaker. Nauvoo, Illinois

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Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations, and where is our religion? We have none. – Joseph Smith, Teachings of Presidents of the Church

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It is not always wise to relate all the truth. Even Jesus, the Son of God, had to refrain from doing so, and had to restrain His feelings many times for the safety of Himself and His followers, and had to conceal the righteous purposes of His heart in relation to many things pertaining to His Father’s kingdom. – Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 392

(Lying for the Lord stemmed from this concept. Check the Church’s teachings on honesty. An omission is dishonest.)

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[Joseph taught] that the Gentile blood was actually cleansed out of their veins, and the blood of Jacob made to circulate in them; and the revolution and change in the system were so great that it caused the beholder to think they were going into fits. – Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 2:269

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I have never preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call scripture. – Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 13:95

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Until the last ones of the residue of Adam’s children are brought up to that favourable position, the children of Cain [blacks] cannot receive the first ordinances of the Priesthood. They were the first that were cursed, and they will be the last from whom the curse will be removed. When the residue of the family of Adam come up and receive their blessings, then the curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will receive blessings in like proportion. – Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 7:290

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Adam & Eve had lived upon another Earth, were immortal when they came here. Adam assisted in forming this earth & agreed to fall when he came here, & he fell that man might be & the opposite principle to good, the devil, the serpent, the evil, was placed upon the earth that man might know the good from the evil, for without an experience in these things man could not know the one from the other. As soon as the devil was on earth he sowed the seeds of death in everything so as soon as they began to eat of the fruit of the earth they received into their system the seeds of mortality & of death so their children were mortal & subject to death, sorrow, pain & wo. Then when they partook of life, joy, ease & happiness, they would know how to prize it. Father Adam would never cease his labors to redeem his posterity & exalt them to all the glory they were capable of receiving. – Brigham Young, Journal of Wilford Woodruff, May 6, 1855

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While the statement has been made by some writers that the Prophet JS used a seer stone part of the time in his translating of the record, and information points to the fact that he did have in his possession such a stone, yet there is no authentic statement in the history of the church which states that the use of such a stone was made in that translation. The information is all hearsay, and personally, I do not believe that the stone was used for this purpose. … It hardly seems reasonable to suppose that the prophet would substitute something evidently inferior [to the U&T] under these circumstances. It may have been so, but it is so easy for a story of this kind to be circulated due to the fact that the prophet did possess a seer stone, which he may have used for some other purposes. – Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation vol.3 pg 225‑226

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Apr 11, 1842

Joseph Smith writes a letter to sixteen-year-old Nancy Rigdon in which he attempts to persuade her to become his secret, plural wife. The letter expounds Joseph’s version of situation ethics: “that which is wrong under one circumstance, may be and often is, right under another.” Willard Richards delivers the letter to Nancy. The letter makes its way to John C. Bennett who publishes it in the SANGAMO JOURNAL. Smith denies having written the letter but after his death the Church publishes its content in the HISTORY OF THE CHURCH as an “essay” written by Joseph Smith. In succeeding years portions of the letter/essay are often quoted in general conference and in official church publications.

(This is vile.)

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That suffices for now.

I extend a challenge to anyone wishing to accept it. It is possible. I know because I have completed the challenge myself. Yes, it is daunting. It is at times very tedious. It is also illuminating. One gets the “flavor” of early Church leaders, who knew and served under the direction of Joseph Smith.

The challenge is to read the 7 volumes of “The History of the Church”, the 6 volumes of “A Comprehensive History of the Church” and the 26 volumes of the “Journal of Discourses”.

Anyone willing?

More on Faith

I discussed very, very briefly some thoughts on faith here. Likewise, choice was very, very briefly discussed here. I would now like to expand a little on these two topics.

First of all, some might read this title as “Moron Faith”. I don’t actually blame them! My sense of humor in combination with my new outlooks on the use of rational, critical thought might seem to support this notion! Now, please do not be offended! I mean no offense. But let’s instead apply some critical thinking.

Let’s begin with the LDS idea of faith. This can be found here. The LDS idea of faith is twofold. First is the idea proposed by Paul in the New Testament, Hebrews 11:1. Second, this faith must be centered on Jesus, Acts 4:10-12Mosiah 3:17Moroni 7:24-26, and Articles of Faith 1:4.

For the first part, LDS teachings follow the Great Experiment on Faith as described in Alma 32. This supposedly helps us determine if a “seed” or idea is “good” (it produces good fruit after sprouting, being nurtured, and growing). Verses 33 and 34 are key, making clear that faith becomes dormant in that particular thing in which your faith was exercised and you then can be assured your knowledge is perfect, in that same thing. In other words, regarding anything in which you exercise faith sufficient to gain knowledge, your faith goes dormant regarding that thing. Faith leads to knowledge.

Some in the LDS Church say this procedure is the equivalent of the secular Scientific Method. It just might seem so, at first blush, but is it? A question arises from observation and a hypothesis is created and tested. Results are obtained that give knowledge. It succeeds or it fails. Isn’t this the Scientific Method?

In a word, no!

Why?

Most of the parts are there, i.e.:

  • Observation
  • Question
  • Hypothesis
  • Experiment
  • Results
  • Conclusion

 


Of course, based on the results observed, the hypothesis is supported or not or variations between. Modification of the hypothesis may be required, more tests may need to be designed or the original modified. Eventually, a hypothesis is supported, maybe not the original. This seems to be Alma’s procedure but there are two steps missing.

Repeatability.

Peer review.

Alma’s procedure is individualistic. Your own results are not given to others to repeat, although the Church has its own dogma ready to be supported by the prescribed one size fits all experiment to obtain results. Study, ponder, pray, “feel” the answer or, upon observing events potentially in answer, interpretation can be given those events based on feelings.

While repeatable, the results are not peer-reviewed. Individuals can request and get answers without consulting ecclesiastical leaders. There is potential for members to run afoul of their leaders. All one needs to do is observe how many variant religions are based on the “testimony” of the Book of Mormon. They all cannot be “true”, can they? What kind of god would be cruel enough to foist this kind of method on his children/subjects? One would think there would be a more sure way.

So, to me, faith seems a backward tack to take. To exercise faith in something implies, in my mind, that the person already hopes the answer is correct! It involves a faulty methodology to arrive at a conclusion. It is not peer-reviewed, unless the person discusses the whole matter with someone else, like family members. Instead of objectivity, the ideology the person developed over a lifetime exerts an influence on how to interpret results. And so the final action taken is individual and is usually based on their own “feelings of truth” obtained by this faulty method.

The scientific method is the best method mankind has offered for advancing knowledge. The best. Nothing else has been invented that is better.

Here, then, is where choice enters. Here is where I differ with those faithful members who have studied the materials I have, and even more than I have. This is where the rubber meets the road.

They choose to believe in spite of knowledge (those things they have learned but push off to some future afterlife where a better explanation is supposedly forthcoming, an attitude due to faith). I choose to disbelieve because of knowledge (trust is placed in data that can be verified and by an attitude that accepts that ducklike characteristics indicate a duck). Faith pushes them over the cliff. I stand at the edge and watch, helpless.

Addendum: For an example of what faith offers, read this.

Neuroscience

We, being a general pronoun, are learning more in the relatively new field of neuroscience. This is helping to bring us closer to understanding phenomena now attributed to religious or spiritual experiences. I do not offer this as an absolute. We have a ways to go.

That said, note the section on epistemology.

I look forward to more in the future.

Backfire effect.

This “e-book” treatise on the backfire effect has some “language” (very little) but it explains the backfire effect very well. I recommend it. My reason for the recommendation is that I have probably caused this effect with my online posts. Sorry about that! Take some time and read it through. It’s worth it, in spite of a few words I know you have already heard and read before.

The Backfire Effect

Update: they created a clean version

Benefits

Since leaving (okay, being kicked out of) the Church I have met, online mostly but a few IRL, some very awesome people! People I would have never known otherwise. People I would have avoided as a church member had I known their beliefs or lack thereof.

What a terrible shame that would have been! My life has been made immeasurably richer by becoming friends with these people. I am grateful I do not have to miss out on their association. Thank you, my new friends!

My ability to think rationally is improving. It makes a difference IRL too! I can spot liars more easily. Con men have a more difficult time pulling the wool over my eyes. Pseudoscience holds no interest. Evidence is what I want. It is what I seek.

The study of History is much more interesting now, Church History included. My library has expanded dramatically, both in hard copy as well as digitally.

I feel no guilt having a coffee with coworkers when I travel to the office (I normally work from home). I would not feel any guilt if I were to have a beer or glass of wine at a company party, or elsewhere. I don’t usually partake at home out of deference to my wife, who is a believer in the LDS faith, but when I am out and about partaking would hold no guilt.

Sundays are truly a day of rest! I do not have to perform any assignments like Home Teaching. I don’t have to teach lessons, although the calling of Gospel Doctrine Instructor was my all time favorite, followed very closely by instructing priesthood quorums or groups. No talks in Sacrament meeting. No more uncomfortable pauses during Fast and Testimony meeting or during a particularly “off the wall” testimony. No more straining to hear over squalling children. No more splits with the missionaries.

No more tithing. In fact, it has been a prior struggle to build up my savings over the years while paying tithing, which I did fully and faithfully. In the year and a couple months since my ejection from the church, I have saved a tidy sum! Imagine where I could be financially had not tithing robbed me of my retirement!

Peace of mind is probably the biggest benefit. I see things more clearly and so don’t worry over trivialities. I live by the golden rule. My life has peace.

Choice

On Facebook, I have been attempting to engage my family so they can explore for themselves things I have learned. I suspect, though, that the backfire effect has reared its head and my family has entrenched themselves even deeper into the delusion of LDS belief. I am my own worst enemy.

So, I have chosen to desist on Facebook and put my thoughts here.

Now, speaking of choice.

What differentiates me from someone like one of my uncles, an educator who has read at least as much as I and who has studied areas I have not? How can I drop the beliefs I grew up with while he has developed an attitude of expansiveness?

Choice.

Faith or…?

I am a reasonable person, I think. Rational. I look back on my religious upbringing and see a lot of encouragement to exercise faith. Faith in what? LDS members are told their faith should ultimately be placed in Jesus Christ. But that isn’t all. Faith must be placed in leadership. In teachers. In parents. In teachings. In the Spirit. In scripture, particularly the Book of Mormon.

That seems to me to be a lot of faith needing to be placed in insubstantial things. Of course, leadership, parents, teachers, and books are not insubstantial! But where one’s faith needs to be placed essentially is insubstantial.

Like when leaders tell us that when leadership speaks, the thinking has been done. Like believing the story of the First Vision (but which version?). Like believing the story of the translation of the Book of Mormon (interpreters, Urim and Thummim, or seer stone in a hat?). Well, read any of the so-called “Essays“. There are things contained therein that I was not taught in my youth, that I did not teach as a Missionary, or that I was not taught as a young married adult. Or was taught differently.

Faith is asking too much. I am sticking to reason. If there is evidence, I’m in!

A Journey of a Year

One year ago today I posted this on Facebook. I was pleased to receive so much understanding and support. There was disappointment, too, of course. That is to be expected. It was confirmed that the caliber of family and the friends I’ve surrounded myself with is very high. I am truly grateful for that!

My wife is amazing! I expressed concern to her about what others might say about me but she told me to send them her way and she’d straighten them out! She’s not just my wife and partner, she’s my best friend.

But, back to the post on Facebook.

Apparently, my LDS Church Priesthood leaders were less than excited about it. I think, though, that my Bishop was willing to let the post stand and would have worked with me through whatever questions I might have about Church Doctrine and History. With that thought, I need to step aside for a moment.

Questions about Church History? Doctrine? It used to be that people who doubted, went inactive or outright left the Church were offended or had “sinful” habits they couldn’t or wouldn’t give up. Or were just lazy. Couldn’t commit. Or didn’t have enough Faith. Now it’s “questions” and “doubts” that seem to be the culprits. Well, the others are still considered, just not as much. What it was with me, being unable to speak to anyone else’s case, was that I learned Joseph Smith, Jr. was a con man and a fraud. I learned the LDS Church was not true. No questions. No doubts. No sinful habits. Faith didn’t even apply! In fact, Church leaders seem to advise an increase in Faith will overcome my doubts and questions but even their own doctrine contradicts that. Faith leads to knowledge. Knowledge is the goal. Once knowledge about a thing is obtained, Faith becomes dormant with regard to that thing. (The Book of Mormon, Alma 32)

I have knowledge the Church is false. Faith no more.

Now, back to the task at hand.

This is my own impression of the motivations behind the sequence of events that this post “inspired”, but if there are differences in reality, I think they’re insignificant. Also, one year has passed and I’m 62. The making of this post here helps my recollection!

So, after interviewing with my Bishop the prior year (June/July), an appointment at my home was set up for the Stake President and our local Area Seventy. (Break: nutshell explanation regarding LDS hierarchy – Bishops lead congregations, several congregations – 6 to 8 or so – comprise a Stake, overseen by a Stake President, several Stakes comprise an Area, overseen by an Area Seventy, Area Seventies report to the Seven Presidents of Seventy, the First and Second Quorums of Seventy and the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency of the Church are General Authorities and lead the global church)

They visited, I explained what I had learned. They bore testimony and left. January rolls around and I make my fatal FB post, mentioned above. Because of that meeting in my home with both the Stake President and his line leader, the Area Seventy, the two of them spearheaded my spiritual demise. I think this saddened my Bishop, who also a friend. In any subsequent conversation with the Stake President, he would reiterate that the Area Seventy was fully supportive and in accord with him, the Stake President.

Can you say predetermined decision coming up?

My “last chance” interview with the Stake President was held at his home. He asked me to take down the post which, by this time in late March, had been up for almost two months! I politely but firmly declined.

March 30, 2016, I was excommunicated. The fulfillment of the predetermined decision.

Well, my story caught the attention of the guys at MormonThink and they asked if they could post the short version of my story. It can be found here (including a link to my Disciplinary Council audio recording, where I was excommunicated from the LDS Church).

Do I have regrets? Just one.

I regret my own family cannot yet see.

Time, though, will tell.

Reflections

2016 closes.

Yes, it’s a manmade construct, this ending and beginning. Mankind is a superstitious lot. Our brains are highly developed pattern recognizers, even when there is no pattern! We place significance on some. So, with so many other humans, I celebrate the ending of one trip around the sun and the beginning of the next.

Looking back, significant events have occurred and upon those, I now reflect.

The 30th of March I was excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for apostate behavior. I come from Pioneer stock, going back to the days of the Church’s founder, Joseph Smith, Jr. Some of my ancestors were part of Joseph’s inner circle. The Church is an integral part of what makes me, me.

The 11th of May my 80-year-old mother passed away after suffering a series of strokes, ischemic first and then hemorrhagic. Being notified by a brother the day before my Mom’s passing, my wife and I drove overnight, arriving about 12 hours before she died. It’s hard to know if she knew we were there by that time, but we were able to say our goodbyes.

Any other negative or perceived negative events in 2016 pale in comparison. Both are life-changing.

On the bright side, my wife has been awesomely supportive! Not surprising since she is not just my wife but my best friend. Proven. She still wishes to believe in the Church but supports me in my new secular orientation.

My in-laws have been respectful as well. My own family is disappointed but has not censured me.

I hope our relationships continue in love and respect.

I have a high caliber set of longtime friends and I am making new ones constantly. Aside from the political scene, 2016 has been one of good things and personal growth. The personal growth was somewhat forced due to the two major negatives, but I am now in a place where I am happy and content.

All in all, 2016 has been good, using a certain perspective. While 2017 is just a continuation rather than an ending/beginning, I look forward to what my future holds.

Happy New Year!

“…yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom…”

Reading. Study.

I have always been a voracious reader. Mom instilled in me a love of reading. Eventually, as a teen, I developed my own style of speed reading. For example, ultimately I could read a 300-page novel during my 45-minute study hall.

No brag, just fact. (Will Sonnett – “The Guns of Will Sonnett” television western, 1967-9. )

I graduated from High School in 1973. I attended Brigham Young University that Fall Semester (1973) and then prepared for a mission. I served in the Australia East Mission, Spanish speaking, returning in April of 1976. I worked the summer and restarted at BYU that next Fall Semester.

University courses ruined my self-taught speed reading methodology. Quizzes and examinations forced me to slow down to guard against missing a key phrase or definition. So, I slowed.

After BYU, my reading for pleasure increased in speed but non-fiction still took (and takes) more time. But reading is fundamental! In his book “The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle In The Dark“, Carl Sagan wrote of the importance of reading, of literacy. I quote:

“Frederick Bailey was a slave. As a boy in Maryland in the 1820s, he had no mother or father to look after him. (“It is a common custom,” he later wrote, “to part children from their mothers … before the child has reached its twelfth month.”) He was one of [sic] countless millions of slave children whose realistic prospects for a hopeful life were nil.”

“What Bailey witnessed and experienced in his growing up marked him forever: ‘I have often been awakened at the dawn of day by the most heart-rending shrieks of an own aunt of mine, whom [the overseer] used to tie up to a joist, and whip upon her naked back till she was literally covered with blood … From the rising till the going down of the sun he was cursing, raving, cutting, and slashing among the slaves of the field … He seemed to take pleasure in manifesting his fiendish barbarity.'”

“The slaves had drummed into them, from plantation and pulpit alike, from courthouse and statehouse, the notion that they were hereditary inferiors, that God intended them for their misery. The Holy Bible, as countless passages confirmed, condoned slavery. In these ways the “peculiar institution” maintained itself despite its monstrous nature—something even its practitioners must have glimpsed.”

“There was a most revealing rule: Slaves were to remain illiterate. In the antebellum South, whites who taught a slave to read were severely punished. ‘[To] make a contented slave,’ Bailey later wrote, ‘it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken his moral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason.’ This is why the slaveholders must control what slaves hear and see and think. This is why reading and critical thinking are dangerous, indeed subversive, in an unjust society.”

“So now picture Frederick Bailey in 1828—a 10-year-old African-American child, enslaved, with no legal rights of any kind, long since torn from his mother’s arms, sold away from the tattered remnants of his extended family as if he were a calf or a pony, conveyed to an unknown household in the strange city of Baltimore, and condemned to a life of drudgery with no prospect of reprieve.”

“Bailey was sent to work for Capt. Hugh Auld and his wife, Sophia, moving from plantation to urban bustle, from field work to housework. In this new environment, he came every day upon letters, books, and people who could read. He discovered what he called ‘this mystery’ of reading: There was a connection between the letters on the page and the movement of the reader’s lips, a nearly one-to-one correlation between the black squiggles and the sounds uttered. Surreptitiously, he studied from young Tommy Auld’s Webster’s Spelling Book. He memorized the letters of the alphabet. He tried to understand the sounds they stood for. Eventually, he asked Sophia Auld to help him learn. Impressed with the intelligence and dedication of the boy, and perhaps ignorant of the prohibitions, she complied.”

“By the time Frederick was spelling words of three and four letters, Captain Auld discovered what was going on. Furious, he ordered Sophia to stop. In Frederick’s presence he explained:

“A n****r should know nothing but to obey his master—to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best n****r in the world. Now, if you teach that n****r how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave.”

“Auld chastised Sophia in this way as if Frederick Bailey were not there in the room with them, or as if he were a block of wood.”

“But Auld had revealed to Bailey the great secret: ‘I now understood … the white man’s power to enslave the black man. From that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom.'”

“Without further help from the now reticent and intimidated Sophia Auld, Frederick found ways to continue learning how to read, including buttonholing white schoolchildren on the streets. Then he began teaching his fellow slaves: ‘Their minds had been starved … They had been shut up in mental darkness. I taught them, because it was the delight of my soul.'”

“With his knowledge of reading playing a key role in his escape, Bailey fled to New England, where slavery was illegal and black people were free. He changed his name to Frederick Douglass (after a character in Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake), eluded the bounty hunters who tracked down escaped slaves, and became one of the greatest orators, writers, and political leaders in American history. All his life, he understood that literacy had been the way out.”

And then later in the chapter:

“Frederick Douglass taught that literacy is the path from slavery to freedom. There are many kinds of slavery and many kinds of freedom. But reading is still the path.”

Ponder that a moment.

Ponder just a little longer!

Now, returning to life in 2013, I was working in the Information Technology Services department of a well-known luxury retailer in Texas and my schedule was not strictly 8-5. I carried a pager and was on an “On Call” rotation. I would have to take trouble calls 24/7 for the week I was Primary On Call and provide backup for the week I was Secondary On Call. Then I had a week to finalize the issues that arose while I was on call. Eventually, I became the one-and-only UniVerse (a multivalued database) Database Administrator, which put me on call 24/7/365.

One benefit, though, is that during issues outside the usual 8-5 workday I could start up my Kindle Fire and read. I have many LDS Church history books downloaded.

I read and I read!

My reading project took me until March of 2014. In the meantime, I had left the employ of that well-known luxury retailer and joined the company that owned the database I had been supporting. I worked from home. Nice!

In this new position, my wife and I were free to move from Texas to Colorado in order to help my in-laws through some difficult health episodes. We sold our house in Texas and bought one in Colorado, 3 miles from my in-laws.

The contents of my reading project percolated in my mind, creating a bit of a mental whirlwind (hence the name of this blog). It has become a pleasant breeze now! But at that time, wow! In my employment, I was very successful as a troubleshooter because I could correlate seemingly disparate symptoms of an issue that would guide me to the root cause and allow me to propose a solution. This very same ability kicked off a whirlwind of correlation from all that I had read on my Kindle over 14 those months.

Those correlations didn’t bode well for my belief in the LDS Church and its leaders, both present and past.

In July of 2015, I spoke with my wife about my unbelief. I next spoke with my Bishop. The story, from this point until my Disciplinary Council, including a reiteration/retelling of some of what is here as well as the audio of my DC, can be found here.

This brings us up to date on my state of unbelief. Future posts will tell how this mental whirlwind plays out in my life.

58 Years – summarized!

I’ve never been good at keeping a journal, even on my mission, although I did better on my mission that at any other period in my life. So this will be an experiment in recall!

At the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon lies the little (but growing) town of Spanish Fork, Utah. Late in the year of 1954 a young woman, expecting her first child in February of 1955, took a little tumble down some stairs. The next day I made my early debut into this world.

It was touch and go back then as to whether I would survive or not. Nowadays the survival rate of preemies much smaller than my 4 pounds survive much more often. But it was a tense couple of weeks for my parents as I struggled to live in an incubator.

Obviously, I lived!

My parents raised me the best way they knew. My father was a convert to the LDS church, having a mother who was never a member and an inactive father. My dad’s conversion kept the LDS line from my paternal third great grandfather to me intact.

My dad’s parents had agreed that religion would never become a question in their marriage. They held to that mutual promise, as best as I can tell. When held against other marriages I observed over the years it was theirs that stood out. They were devoted to one another. Grandpa was a heavy equipment mechanic and operator, mostly operating a road grader on new roads in Utah. I-15 was one such road upon which he left his mark. Properly graded mountain roads were others. It seems his perfectionism in his work was highly requested among Utah’s road engineers.

Grandpa’s work took him away from his home for long stretches of time. Grandma and Grandpa had a little trailer house they took out on the job when Grandpa had to spend these long stretches away. Grandma wanted to make sure Grandpa could come home after a day at work to a home-cooked meal. As for social activities while out on the job, Grandma and Grandpa loved to find a local/nearby bowling alley. If the job was to be a long one, they’d join a league for a season. They made many friends!

My father was born in a small town in southeastern Utah but really grew up in north-central Utah. It was in a high school drama class that he met my mom. It was my mom’s dad who baptized my own dad prior to my parent’s marriage. They were sealed in the Salt Lake LDS temple a year later. I was sealed to them as well. The rest of my siblings were “Born In the Covenant” aka “BIC”.

My youth was nondescript. I was kind of shy. I attended kindergarten in the same little town my parents and both sets of grandparents lived. Before first grade, we moved to a southwestern suburb of Salt Lake City and I attended first through the first half of fifth grade. The second half of fifth grade and 6th through 7th grades were spent in a southern suburb of Birmingham, Alabama. Our move to Birmingham was precipitated by a job promotion my dad received.

Birmingham in the mid-1960’s was an interesting place in an interesting time. George C. Wallace was the Governor of Alabama and was noted for his firm stance on racial segregation, including an infamous stand, blocking entry to the Foster Auditorium of the University of Alabama by two black students, and a speech on State’s rights when a US Deputy Attorney General tried to interfere.

We attended church about 30 miles away. Membership wasn’t large enough for a full LDS Ward, but it had enough to be a large Branch! My dad was called to be a District High Councilman and my Scoutmaster.

My first “Hmmm…” moment happened in Birmingham. In 1966 some of the papyrus fragments were located in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. I heard talk late in 1967 that an upcoming issue of the Improvement Era (LDS church’s magazine at the time) would be dedicated to this discovery and what it implicated.

The January 1968 issue is that issue. You decide for yourself what the implications were/are. In my case, I was very disappointed the magazine contained absolutely no proof that Joseph was a translator.

After approximately 2 and a half years in the South, another job change for my dad took us to a western suburb of Chicago. I began and finished 8th grade and went on to 4 years of high school there, graduating in 1973, the tail end of the Viet Nam war.

This was an interesting time as well.

There were few members of the LDS church in my high school. There were never more than three or four families with kids in my high school at any given period. I think that helped “cement” my faith at the time and at a relatively young age. One activity I engaged in while a Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood was to go out with the missionaries. It only happened a couple times but that also helped “cement” my faith in place.

One thing I’ll mention for this period of my life is that the Stake Presidencies of the stake in which we resided had some rather powerful (in LDS church terms) men. All of them except one ended up serving in one of the Quorums of Seventy and that one exception became an Apostle (Dallin H. Oaks)

After graduating from high school, my dad took another job opportunity that brought us back to Utah and near family. I started my first semester at BYU in Provo, Utah. Dallin Oaks was the President of the University then. My first semester came and went and I was called to serve a mission. I was called to the Australia East Mission (Spanish speaking). Yes, Spanish speaking. I served under President Earl C. Tingey, later called into the quorums of Seventy ultimately as the Senior President among the seven Presidents of Seventy. He is currently Emeritus status, meaning he is still a General Authority but not actively assigned.

I married soon after returning from my mission in the Salt Lake temple. Six children followed, with my one and only son being the eldest of them and my eldest daughter being born early and only surviving about six hours. I don’t think I was really prepared at such a young age to be the single pallbearer at my daughter’s funeral. Experiences add to the person.

Twelve years of marriage ended in divorce. I married again but between the two marriages was an on and off relationship with a Hispanic woman that resulted in my bringing one more daughter into the world. My second marriage is childless. This year, though, we celebrate our 25th anniversary. She’s truly my best friend, aside from being my wife and companion.

After my first marriage failed and due to the relationship with my youngest daughter’s mother, I was excommunicated from the LDS church. Cohabitation without the benefit of marriage is highly frowned upon! I was re-baptized a month before my second marriage (NOT to the mother of my youngest – she was a little “untrustworthy”, so to speak). We eventually moved from Utah to Colorado. My “priesthood blessings” were “restored” in Colorado in the summer of 2001 by Neil Anderson (now an Apostle) who was then in the Area Presidency. We moved later to north Texas and while visiting family in Colorado, my wife received her “temple endowments” in the Denver temple. Later we were sealed in the Salt Lake temple.

This summarizes a life of 58 years, ending up in early 2013.