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!

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.

.

.

.

Now read this. I’ll wait again.

.

.

.

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.

Muddled thoughts

What is the difference between me, a former Mormon and believer, and many (well, most) of my believing Mormon family members? What would make me leave the community wherein I was raised and go against all I was taught (well, rather than leave, get myself excommunicated)? How could I dash all the hopes and dreams of my family? How could I break the trust?

It’s not a small thing to be excommunicated for apostate behavior. Temple recommends can be denied believing members for simply associating with apostates. I am a risk to my believing family.

This (my unbelief) is certainly my own perspective. I can provide evidence to support it. My believing family can only provide feelings. They’ve been taught feelings provide all the proof they need to support beliefs. I was taught the same.

Feelings. What kind? Well, here is a talk by a current high placed leader. Read it. Watch it, if you wish. Please point out any actual evidence his interpretations are factual. Please. In my mind, he is just using what he was taught to interpret in the manner he was taught.

There is no evidence.

However, cognitive and neurological science are delving into physiological responses and their causes. “Burning bosoms”, elevation, frisson, goosebumps, etc. These things have many causes, not just “spiritual” experiences. But many are taught that these are evidence of the “Spirit” working in us.

How do we know when the cause is “spiritual” and when it is not? What. Is. The. Evidence? Is there evidence?

I’ve said it several times outside this article in other conversations and so I will need to say it here. The sensations are common to all mankind. It’s the interpretation that differs! Each sect has traditional interpretations passed down generation after generation. This is why we have thousands of religions. Interpretation.

The experiences do not differ. Mankind shares in wonder and the unknown. We react with feelings. And we interpret. No real evidence. No supernatural being or force leaves an undeniable and unambiguous physical signature.

Interpretation.

Show me an undeniable and unambiguous physical evidence that an experience is “supernatural” and not the result of interpretation and I will take all this back.

Think about it. Really think.

And keep an eye on what fascinating things cognitive and neurological science are bringing to light.

Zarahemla Branch

A meeting in March 2018

Suggested starting and ending points: 7:30 to 1:28:00 (at 1:17:30 there is an Elder Joseph F. Smith, who is self-deprecating as he begins, with some humorous incidents along the way). Go ahead and watch the whole thing, if you wish. At 1:38:13 begins a section of Q&A. I like that they counsel self-determination of the “truth” of the subject presented earlier and do not necessarily endorse it from the pulpit. 2:32:45 is about the end. The recording finishes at 2:38:51.

Do some digging on their website. “Feels” somewhat familiar, in parts, doesn’t it, dear family and other LDS readers? Post your comments, please! It’s so hard to read your minds! Impossible, in fact. Please comment.

TKR Update

About a month and a half ago, two posts ago, I said the following:

"Having been a member of the LDS Church,
it would normally be an expectation that
such a procedure be prefaced with a
Priesthood Blessing for the success of my
procedure. Of course, having been
excommunicated, it’s not really expected.
I doubt anyone at church or even in my
family will be asking if I want a blessing."

"And I don’t."

"It’s all a myth (religion). I trust in
medical science. I also know that things
can and do go awry but I fully expect to
wake up in recovery and to begin the hard
and painful work to complete making the
replacement successful. In the case I do
not awaken in recovery as planned, I have
lived a good life! I have a great
posterity but do wish they would look
deeper into the mythological roots of
religious belief. I really do! If my time
is up, there is no more time, at least
for me. But there are no regrets. I will
leave behind a great legacy (family) that
I have loved (still do!) deeply."

"Now, not to be maudlin, I fully expect
success."

"And to be writing more blog posts.
Aren’t you lucky?!?!?"

Here’s my update.

Without the assistance of magical or supernatural means (Priesthood blessing), my recovery has been much better than my first TKR ten years ago (I had a Priesthood blessing that time). Part of that is due to advanced knowledge and techniques, I am sure, over those ten years. Bottom line, no magic was needed. I trusted medical science. I trusted my surgeon.

Now, a separate update. Something completely different. Some may note a sardonic tone. They may be right.

Facebook.

It’s become more of a nuisance than an advantage. Yes, it’s great for keeping up with family, especially kids and grandkids (photos). I thought it might help family dialogue about my transition out of the LDS Church. Yes, I thought it might help answer their questions while, at the same time, give me an outlet to express the thoughts and emotions I was experiencing.

Few were interested. None really wanted to discuss, as far as I can tell, without trying to reel me in, “back to the fold”.

There is only one difference, in my opinion, and observation, between my conclusions derived from my knowledge of Church issues and the conclusions of family and friends who also have knowledge of the same issues. I deem my conclusions rationally derived. I deem theirs heavily influenced by faith. I try to follow the evidence, wherever it leads. I think they follow their faith and discard contrary evidence.

My own judgment, to be sure. It might seem harsh but it is what it is.

And no family members seem interested enough to talk with me, at least for any length of time. They get too offended, I suppose, or too aggravated. I call it cognitive dissonance. I am not sure what they call it.

So, I am “vacationing” from Facebook. My return is TBD.

I am sure family will be grateful.

Honesty

de·cep·tion
/dəˈsepSH(ə)n/

noun

the action of deceiving someone.

“obtaining property by deception”

a thing that deceives.

“a range of elaborate deceptions”

synonyms:

deceit, deceitfulness, duplicity, double-dealing, fraud, cheating, trickery,

chicanery, deviousness, slyness, wiliness, guile, bluff, lying, pretense, treachery;

informal crookedness, monkey business, monkeyshines

“they obtained money by deception”

LDS lesson on honesty.

From LDS essay on plural marriage:

After receiving a revelation commanding him to practice plural marriage, Joseph Smith married multiple wives and introduced the practice to close associates.

From the “History of the Church”:

“What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one.”

Deception? Fraud?

Discuss.

One Is The Lonliest Number

Or, another jumble of thoughts. I hope you can follow them!

My third great-grandfather, James Holt, was a convert to Mormonism, during the time the Saints had built the City Beautiful.

Nauvoo.

Joseph Smith’s time.

I have communicated with other Holt descendants from different lines who refer to James with the descriptor “the Mormon”. Joining this new movement had put him at odds with his family, with his dad. Eventually, however, he and his father would reconcile.

As much as Mormonism touts families are forever, it also divides them. Only with understanding can some rifts be mended, as was the case for James. He doesn’t say much in his autobiography about it but he had to have known and conversed with the “prophet”, Joseph Smith, Jr., as well as his family. James was truly converted and lived out his life faithfully, at the expense of his father’s family. I am sure he wished his father and siblings could have accepted the teachings of the Church. I think some may have eventually or, he at least had some in-laws who were members. He was not totally without family who shared his beliefs.

Thankfully I have family members, also, who no longer believe in Mormonism. Like James, we are breaking new ground into a different way of thinking than our predecessors. I think I have a better understanding of James and how he may have felt, breaking new ground and breaking familial hearts.

To us, his descendants and faithful Mormons, James is revered. To other related Holt’s, he’s James “the Mormon”. They might as well say “the deluded”. Their attitudes, at least of some of the older Holt relatives with whom I’ve communicated, insinuate such. They were polite when I told them I was Mormon, too. But I could tell what was behind their politeness.

Now I find myself apart. Like James, I think and believe in a manner different from my family. At least most family members. In 2013, while still a faithful member of the Church and with a responsible “calling”, I embarked on a course of study. As a missionary years before, I made a goal to study church history more completely and more deeply than is usually taught in church curricula.

And so I did, fulfilling my goal.

What I learned was unexpected. What I learned was the Church could not be “true”. In expressing my knowledge (as opposed to any “belief”), I fell into disfavor with my ecclesiastical leaders. I was accused of apostate behavior and asked to retract what I had said in my expressions of my current state. How could I? It would be a lie. So I politely declined.

And was excommunicated.

My wife and I do not discuss my situation. Her parents asked me once what it was that caused my disaffection and once I began, they changed their minds about wanting to know more.

With all but a very few, my conversations with family seldom touch on my disaffection. My posts on social media garner responses similar to this, “Thanks, that was interesting. But here is my testimony. I still love you.”

They don’t understand how that feels. But, let’s speak of feelings, in a different light.

Feelings. Emotions. These are demonstrably unreliable for fact-finding. For proof. And yet that’s what works, it seems, for believers. If it feels good, it is true.

I approach things more and more often with objectivity. And I am accused of empiricism as if it is a bad thing.

But am I devoid of emotion? No. Do I trust it? Sometimes. Is it valuable? Sometimes. Maybe as more of a guide.

Can feelings prove the truth of anything? No.

Why?

Ask yourself how many ideologies there are in the world? How many religions. How are they “proven”? Do adherents “feel” their chosen path is true? Are these feelings all the proof they need? Do these proofs conflict with other religions and ideologies? Indeed, they do!

Here is where my “empiricism” might be helpful. Objectivity.

There are “visionaries” in the family. Church members are encouraged to have and recognize “spiritual” experiences. So in having such, rather than empiric discovery or investigation, the answer has been taught. It was spiritual! What else could it be?

What else, indeed?

The real problem is that my family won’t look at things empirically. It’s always the eye of faith. Because that is what they have been taught. Even those who ARE knowledgeable about the things I studied maintain faith. They revere “spiritual” experiences. It’s all the proof they need. I know. I used to value them, too. I had some myself.

But I have learned there are other explanations. Natural ones. Not spiritual.

But it ends up in spite of mounting evidence from objectivity, science, empiricism; faith.

I should understand why. I was as they are. What makes me different?

I am not sure.

Whatever it is, it also makes me alone.