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My Testimony of the LDS Church & Religion (Part 1. Supernatural Experiences)

All religions fit together in my worldview. Each seems to be a different perspective on pieces of the big picture.

I believe that “all truth can be circumscribed into one whole”.  All religions fit together in my worldview. To me each seems to be just a different perspective or piece of the grand picture of human perception.

As I explain in my ‘What is Truth‘ article, I’ve spent a lot of time and energy in my life trying to figure out how all truth in this world fits together into one cohesive whole. To me, that seems to be the highest idea LDS people learn in our church, taught to us in our highest temple ordinance just before we symbolically pass through the “veil” into the presence of God. I’ve read a good amount of most of the world’s religious works. I’ve had visions of spirits, I’ve heard voices, I’ve battled demons, I’ve dabbled in the hidden mysteries, and I’ve done my best to investigate and integrate into my worldview the best parts of the world’s religions. I was raised in the LDS Church and always considered myself an “orthodox” Mormon, and bought into a subtly condescending attitude toward those with views dissenting from the mainstream. Like much of the world’s religious faithful, I always had a strong “testimony” that our way was not only the best way, but the only true way. But after the death of my father, I gained an insatiable appetite for information relating to religion and the afterworld… and after years of asking—and getting answers, I gained a picture of reality that turned out to be quite different than what I thought growing up. I think my understanding and “testimony” now is in many ways very different from most Mormons, but still similar in many respects.

My testimony now (the LDS term for one’s belief system) is complicated. It’s certainly not black and white and doesn’t correspond to the sound bites of any particular church. (Despite considering myself LDS, and loving the truths in our church). Although this entire site is basically my religious thoughts that I am laying out for my kids or anyone interested, I want to use this article to try and summarize and prioritize my beliefs in a way that might help people better understand me.

 

Unity As The Highest Ideal

I believe the highest ideal is unity. As I explain in detail in my article What is Truth, Is the LDS Church the Only True Church? article, I believe ultimate truth is an understanding of a thing from every possible perspective, and so statements of testimony like “I know my Church is True” distort the very concept of truth. Because to most people such a statement is paramount to making one’s church into an errorless organization free from the lies, half-truths, misunderstandings, issues and limited perspective which are an inevitable part of anything run by fallible humans. I believe the tenets of all religions contain both truth and error, and are perceived differently by every member. Rather than taking sides in debates concerning truth, epistemology or ontology, I love to see what others believe and figure out how their beliefs fit into the big picture. I haven’t met a lot of people that I can’t see the truth’s in their perspective.  I like to talk to people from their perspective as much as possible. I love to try and enlarge the perspectives of others.

 

My Spiritual (Metaphysical? Supernatural?) Experiences

I think like many people I had experiences of synchronicity, and answers to prayers in my youth, which really gave me a sense that there was a higher power. A sense that the natural world we typically interact with was only a small part of a larger unseeable reality. But the first truly supernatural experience (from my perspective) I had occurred in about the 7th grade. Being raised in an active LDS family, I learned about Joseph Smith’s first vision growing up, but for some reason, it suddenly really resonated with me. I decided if praying worked for him to see god, it would work for me. I set up a day to go out and pray in a secluded place but ended up falling ill that day— to the point I spent a few days in bed. So I set my mind on another day some time later… and once again I got really sick. It was one of many strange examples of synchronicity which was hard to dismiss. To me, there seemed to be something very real to this God-thing. My apophenic mind found significant meaning in the fact that God or some part of myself did not want me to seek this experience. (More on my views of ancient and modern theophany experiences below…)

Strangely, that experience served as an important backdrop as I’ve talked with multiple people over the years (and read the accounts of many others) who have had visions and interactions with what they felt was deity.

A few years after the above experience I started reading the Book of Mormon for seminary. I got through the book of Second Nephi and became engrossed. I couldn’t put it down and read the rest of the book in a day or two. While reading the story of Ammon & Lamoni I had my strongest feeling-based metaphysical experience ever. A warm/burning feeling overtook me that seemed to originate from my heart and radiate through my whole body. It was a classic kundalini experience. It made me collapse in bed and wonder if I was having a heart attack or something — but it was accompanied by incredible feelings of love unlike anything I had ever felt before. This was not simple emotionalism, it was a whole-body biological reaction to what I read. It was not simply like the warm-fuzzies we all feel when we watch a touching movie. It was more biological, with feelings of ecstasy, warmth and enlargement in my brain and heart area. To put it quite frankly, it was much like having a completely unsexual orgasm (not that I would have had any clue what that even was at that age)–where I was spiritually united with some unseen reality. Feelings associated with that initial powerful biological and emotional outpouring lingered for days. I felt anointed and special. I felt connected to God and to that book, and I subsequently used that experience as an initial basis for a testimony of the LDS church and its living prophets. From that point on, I was a fully committed to Mormonism, yet at the same time I felt a connection to divinity that allowed me to define what Mormonism was to be for me—rather than having it fully defined by Mormon leadership. I felt a true unity with “god” and Mormonism and increasingly felt like whatever issues I saw I could get answers to resolve them.

(I’ve since learned that such biological/spiritual manifestations of spiritual experiences are not exclusive to any particular religion, and have been experienced and described for thousands of years by many different religious traditions. It is also referred to as the sacred anointingbaptism by fire or serpent fire of Jewish traditions & Kabbalah; and the coiled serpent, chakra/endocrine theory of Eastern traditions. see The Biology of Kundalini)

 

 

Seeing Spirits

Two months before my LDS mission, my father was killed in a freak accident, and the seclusion and isolation of my mission became a powerful catylist for me in desiring to really know what lay beyond death. This was the beginning of my dark night of the soul. When my dad died, part of me died. After this, religion no longer remained a cultural and social given in my life. I became a true student of religion, because I wanted to know what lie beyond the grave. And although I really didn’t have many particularly unusual spiritual experiences on my mission (apart from very regularly occurring emotional religious confirmations and a few psychic voices in my mind), soon after my mission I began to have a number of experiences with what scientist have haphazardly termed sleep paralysis (which involve dream-like “thought forms“, or spiritual visionary/dream experiences) as well seeing earth-bound spirits. In my first experience of this sort, I woke up in the twilight hours before dawn to what I thought was my mother (a female individual) sitting on my bedside with her hand on my leg. As I opened my eyes and became conscious of her presence suddenly realizing that this was not anyone I knew, the individual instantly flew on top of me as if trying to enter my body (at least that was my perception). Not that this apparition was really even particularly frightening, but that I was horrified by not being able to move—and at the reality and unfamiliarity of the experience. After a few horrifying moments of me futilely trying to scream and defend myself (but not being able to move or make audible noises), the being left and my biological eyes opened (more on that in a second). This type of experience occurred a number of times from the ages of about 21 – 28, and as time went by I got better not freaking out and appropriately dealing with, or interacting with the experiences until it ended.

As I go through my subsequent experiences in this next section, I think it’s important to note that all but one or two of my experiences with seeing “spirits” have occurred with my biological eyes closed. It’s a difficult phenomena to explain and it’s easy to see why those who haven’t experienced it would suspect all such experiences are just a type of dream (which is certainly one way to look at them).  In most of my experiences I am mentally “woken up” to see some apparition from my bed—only to be bewildered by the fact that afterwards I end up opening my physical eyes to find I was actually still physically “asleep”.  And yet I’m not asleep and these seem to me, far different than lucid dreams— I am totally aware of both my thoughts and surroundings and before opening my eyes, I can somehow see things like the alarm clock and room lighting—which don’t change at all when I open my eyes. In these experiences I am always sure I’m wide awake with eyes open, only to surprisingly find myself later opening my physical eyes to an identical scene & feeling. (There is absolutely no sensation of waking up, only of opening my biological eyes). From my perspective I am somehow “seeing” things through the “eyes” of my spirit (for loss of a better word). I know that sounds hokey and I don’t expect those who have not experienced this phenomena to understand— but that is absolutely the perception I have of the experience. In multiple instances I have looked out the window to see the dawning light on the horizon, and then when my biological eyes open afterwards—there is absolutely no difference to what I perceived of the scene before and after my physical eyes open. In fact, it is absolutely uncanny how often these experience occur exactly as a sliver of light appears on the horizon. Even if I am in a dark room with curtains drawn, they nearly always occur within a short period of twilight.

One instance in particular really solidified my belief that my experiences with seeing spirits are more complicated than dreaming or super-lucid hallucinations. Sometime around age 27 I had an instance where I was awoken by the spirit of a young teenager in my room (my impression was that this individual had died as a teen). He woke me up purposefully by walking up to me and waving his hand repeatedly in my face. I remained semi-conscious and just watched him as he walked through the wall toward the living room where my wife was sleeping that night. I sensed his intent to try and annoy my wife as well, and so as I opened my eyes to get out of bed and start heading toward the living room, my wife popped in the room a bit shaken and asked if I had just snuck up to her and woken her up by loudly whispering “hey!” into her ear. She got up immediately and looked both beneath and around the sofa, fully expecting me to be hiding just out of her view. When she realized it wasn’t me, she was startled and came into the bedroom to see where I was. I have had many experiences with seeing and talking to spirits both before and after this one, but this experience with my wife sticks out as the first which was objectively confirmed by another individual. It is also interesting to note that my wife also had an experience of “hearing spirits” when she was young. It was a strange and frightening experience for her, and had never been repeated until this night. [There is, of coarse, no objectively provable scientific evidence of clairaudience or clairvoyance,so it deserves the skepticism it receives— but the phenomena has been documented for thousands of years, occurring to countless individuals; and my experiences certainly began to make me a believer.]

 

More Interaction with Beings

Since the shared experience with my wife, I’ve had many experiences where I am “woken up” (although my eyes are still closed), to some ethereal being standing near my bed, teaching me. (I can’t move my head and look at them because I’m not physically awake–only mentally awake). This has usually occurred after I’ve read something to make me sincerely ask heaven for answers to questions.  The beings, (or sometimes just a voice) then give me lengthy, profound explanations which give me unbelievably clear visual and conceptual understandings of different topics. But then after I open my eyes and try to write down what was telepathically communicated to me, the vision and understanding fade and I fail to find the words to explain it. It’s a wild experience and in some periods of my life it’s happened with surprising regularity. Often the explanations will include scriptures or concepts which I don’t remember ever reading or learning, but when I wake up and look them up, they seem to be legit.  I’ve repeatedly considered the prevailing scientific explanation that these visions could just be a product of an insanely lucid imagination or a hallucinogenic mind, but as I’ve analyzed these experiences (and those of others) I believe it is more likely the other way around. (I don’t think current psychoanalysis of hallucinations can account for ‘group visions’, the experience where my wife was woken up too, or psychic premonitions that I’ve experienced (and occur regularly to millions of other people around the earth). As I’ve looked for answers, I think it’s more likely that both spiritual and hallucinatory experiences in general are connected to DMT’s ability to allow the brain to enter subjective states of consciousness wherein humanity is more connected to each other or some type of subconscious group memory and perhaps even to an intelligent infinite creation. (see Rick Strassman’s work at New Mexico school of Medicine, on the Pineal gland’s production of DMT, as well as the link between hallucinogenic drugs and higher states of consciousness. — Note, I’ve never taken illicit or hallucinogenic drugs/medications of any kind by the way, nor have I ever had a metaphysical experience I can remember of while taking any type of cold, flu or pain medication).

While my wife was pregnant, I had one experience where I believe I saw an apparition of the spirit of my unborn child in the same manner as the other spiritual manifestations I’ve seen; however in this experience when I opened my eyes, I could still faintly “see” (or better put, perceive with an extra-ocular sense) the outline of this infant-sized spirit which floated in front of me blinking her big beautiful eyes. Because of these experiences I believe in an afterlife (or at least a spirit-world or global mental realm of sorts, wherein we can subtly interact with the consciousness of the dead, unborn or extra-dimensional beings). I also believe in supernatural events, and certain extrasensory abilities of the human mind; despite the differences in perspective and obvious fraud and forgery existing in the world’s descriptions of these phenomena. At the same time I fully accept the possible validity of purely psychological explanations for paranormal activity; as long as they accept the idea of some kind of subtle shared global, or infinite consciousness. But at the same time I don’t believe that visions and experiences with this unseen realm are a viewing of an objective reality like our own. Attempts to view it as such run into issues both in my own experiences and in those of the thousands of others I have read of.

I think it’s also noteworthy to mention that I’ve never had any experience with seeing my deceased father in dreams or my night visions.  I was woken once at my grandma’s house by a Spirit who I had the distinct impression was related to me, but I’ve never had anything like that happen with my dad, other than possibly feeling his presence or guidance during normal daytime activities. I would think, that if these experiences had to do with some kind of hallucinatory wishful thinking, that they would most certainly end up revolving around the one person who I always wished to talk with most beyond the grave?  But nothing. Even despite having a small experience with another loved-one shortly after their death, where they told me something of what it was like there, I have never been woken at night by my father.

You can read the near-death and spiritual experiences of thousands of others on the sites I have featured in the After Death portion of this website. Read Part 2 to see possible explanations of these phenomena.

continued on page 2  –>

 

Commentary on the LDS Articles of Faith

LDS Articles of Faith with my commentary

1 We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

All of these are profound esoteric symbols of which volumes could be written. They are not simplistic dogmatic statements of one sided mortal-like individuals. God is the Creator and the Creation . He is a composite of all that is . He is in the Sun, moon and stars and the power by which they were made. He is in the Galaxy and the power by which it was made and so forth. He is all of creation. We are His “members” and a part of him much like a body is formed of many cells (D&C 88:6–13, Acts 17:28–29, Col. 1:16–19, Romans 12:5, John 15:1–7, John 17:11,21). All descriptions of Him end in paradox. All descriptions of him are partial and distorted by human perception. He is Father/Mother because he is Creator. He is Eternal because He dwells apart from time or relative mortal dimensions. Mankind knows Him only through what they can perceive of him… what He has revealed of himself to us. The Creation & Creator reveals itself through the symbol of the Son (Hebrews 1:1–3). The Son is Created yet also contains the power to Create, yet the Son is also Eternal. The Son is less than the Father (John 14:28) and yet since the Father is a composite of all that exists, the Son is part of the Father and thus One with and equal with the Father (John 14:8–11). The Son (created thing) reveals the Father (creator/creation). Jesus Christ is a living archetype or symbol sent by the Creator to teach us about creation and ourselves. Christ means Messiah or Anointed One. Jesus (or better translated Joshua) means loosely Jehovah is Savior. The Lord God is Jehovah Elohim. Jehovah is the Name given to the creator by the ancients because it contained the most three fundamental sounds Ye-Ho-Vih (see Oahspe). Elohim is a plural form of the Word “El” meaning God. Yet despite its plural form it is always used in a singular context showing the paradox of God’s Singularity and Plurality. A concept the GodHead also is trying to teach. Since God the Creator is a composite of all that exists, He is many. Yet since all his Creation is a part of Him just as cells in an organism or Members/limbs in our body He is One. Since the God’s who deal with our earth in the galactic scheme are perfect microcosms of the God’s above them and They presumably act in unison and form a chain which leads through infinity to the Most High God, we wrap them all into a term which is both singular and plural. El-ohim. Jesus was one of many mediators sent to help us relate to the Creator. To save us from the darkness of ignorance by revealing the creator. Just like all of us, He was the Son of God and yet he was God because like all of us He is a part of creation. Thus like the Elohim he is both Father and Son (Mosiah 15:1–5). To truly understand God and our full relationship to God is impossible for mortal man with his limited perceptions. But by understanding the microcosm of human parent and child we better understand macrocosm of eternity and our relationship with it.

2 We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.

In other words we believe the concept of original sin as taught by the Medieval Christian churches is a convoluted and corrupted version of a true principle. Much like the “God-Head”, the creation drama taught in Exodus 1-3 is a historical allegory meant to teach us very profound philosophical concepts concerning the purpose and destiny of mankind. (By historical allegory I mean we believe it really happened in some place at some time, but its historical accuracy or reality were not important to the writer, as the revelator’s goal was to teach eternal philosophical concepts which play out again and again throughout history, not to give details of some one-time historical incident). Go into detail about how the creation drama relates to original sin, that mankind is lost because we have been veiled from a knowledge of our true character as part of god, so we need to be redeemed or saved from our own ignorance. Salvation comes form seeing our relation to all of creation. Redeemed from our pride and ego that suggests we are gods or the most or only intelligent life in our planet, solar system or galaxy; and thus not accountable to the rest of creation for ways our actions effect others/the creation. Redeemed from ignorance which allows us to be oppressed by more powerful individuals and beings. Redeemed from the veil which hides the knowledge of our unity with creation which makes us part of God and indeed “a god”. So the concept that we are a lost and fallen people is true, and in need of the truth of our reality which brings redemption from ignorance. But the Medieval Christian churches convoluted these profound philosophical truths into practices which suggested that if a person dies without baptism, they are damned to some tortuous Hell. They did not see that the ritual of baptism had no power to save us from ignorance (which is essentially the meaning of and reason for “Hell”), but that baptism was a symbol pointing us to the idea that we can be “raised” from the death slumber which is ignorant mortal life. More on this later.

3 We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

We believed mankind may be saved, but saved from what? Saved from separation. It is separation which causes all negative aspects of mortal life.

4 We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The ritual of baptism had no power to save us from ignorance (which is essentially the meaning of and reason for “Hell”), but that baptism was a symbol pointing us to the idea that we can be “raised” from the death slumber which is ignorant mortal life. It is the redemption from the grave which is a symbol of mortal life. As

5 We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

6 We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

7 We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

8 We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

9 We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

10 We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

13 We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

My Articles of Faith
If I was going to write out my personal beliefs or my personal articles of my faith, I think this is what they would be (at least at the time of writing this… I would image they change from year to year).

1. Agency or preserving the ability of all men to exercise free will is the first principle of the gospel. All other doctrines and principles are inferior appendages to this.

2. Unity in selfless service or love is our goal & desire. We wish to convince all men to use their agency to choose good; which we define as unity through selfless service or love of others. It is the central theme of our religion.

3. Wisdom, light and knowledge of truth are the prize and outcome of unity through selfless service. One day I believe these principles will unites us with even those who seek to progress through the illusory path of selfishness or putting love of self before love of others.

4. I believe in the ONE God. A God who is Father and Creator to the earth and all mankind. I believe God creates through repeating processes of separation and unification, which makes existence possible and meaningful. I believe division of mankind has been the prevailing system of creation on earth for many thousands of years, but our hope is in the Good News sent by God through many messengers teaching that the age of prevailing global unification is upon us. We seek to serve with God toward this global unity through selfless service.

5. I believe the ONE creator to the Human Race has played a part in revealing ALL religion and science to mankind. I believe his purposes were sometimes to unite and other times to divide. I believe as the prophesied era of unification unfolds, He is now maintaining and upholding those religions and sciences which show they can unify mankind through selfless service. We seek the maintenance of the Creator through His active force.

6. I believe in direct communion with the ONE creator of all that exists. We also believe in many mediators who stand between the ONE creator and the MANY creations, attempting to explain Him in concepts people can understand. I believe Christ was the quintessential mediator of this epoch in teaching the ways of love. We also believe that Buddha, Mohammed and all other great religious leaders were mediators of the Creator. We also believe in chains of higher mediators not of this world. I believe all mediators point the way to unity with the Father or ONE creator. I believe communion takes place through God’s Holy Spirit and Divine Energy/Light.

7. I believe mankind has an innate desire to know his Creator. I believe in this quest the pride of mankind leads him to idolize, rigidly define and depict their Creator and HIS will. I believe the desire of a child to pretend he can accurately explain his Parent most often leads to division. I believe that the best way to know the creator is through selflessly serving each other. I believe that by truly understanding each other and the creation we come to better understand the Creator God. We call upon all scientific and religious institutions to put selflessly serving and understanding others before, above and ahead of trying to prove the correctness of their own perspectives. I believe it is this attitude which enabled the Creator’s messengers and prophets to be so successful in creating lasting ideological systems which teach mankind of their Creator.

8. I believe Creeds, tenants and rules have a tendency to divide even as they seek to unite. For those who find these words divisive, we invite you to rewrite them in your minds in a way that becomes unifying instead of selfishly interpreting them in a way that divides. I believe that through the Spirit all mankind can find the truth which unifies in all things. Again I believe the key is selfless service in love.

9. I believe that all social norms and commandments given through the Creator’s unifying Mediators were calculated to encourage the practice of unity through selflessness. I believe the selfishness of mankind tends to distort the original goal of these regulations, adding to them and turning them into practices and traditions which foster self-righteousness, oppression, disharmony and division. I believe this is why new mediators must be sent from time to time to overturn traditional political and religious organizations when they no longer fulfill their intended unifying purposes. I believe it is a best practice to keep rigid rules and regulations to a minimum. To preserve free will at all costs. To keep religious and political regulatory bodies as close to a local level as possible. To teach selfless principles and truly let local polities govern themselves as much as possible; in matters of worship, assembly, sexual practices & marriage, food & substance consumption, commerce and speech.

10. No mortal can really understand God because God IS creation of which we are only a minuscule part. God is the creator of all that is, and in fact IS ALL creation. We are but a tiny cell of his body. To understand him would be to understand all that exists which is not possible for a mortal mind. But we can see patterns in creation which help us to see a part of creation much larger than ourselves. The microcosm or fractal nature of matter.

11. We believe the purpose and destiny of the LDS Church was foreshadowed by story of Joseph and the Twelve Tribes of Israel in the Bible. We believe some aspect of the LDS Church will have the privilege if worthy and desiring of gathering and aiding the twelve tribes of Israel, just as Joseph gathered his brothers and gave them bread, saving them from famine. As God blesses us with power and influence it is our desire to use these things to bless the world and save them from disaster even as Joseph saved Egypt. We believe in the equality and brotherhood of all man, and that those who are abused and weakest are destined to become the most powerful and strong, while those who esteem themselves as greatest and most powerful are destined to become weak and humbled.

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-care for the poor and needy, perfect the saints, redeem the dead, preach the gospel.

-allow for more agency. less division and more unification. The world divides enough, Christ united. It is the age of unity. If it was HIS church for the millennium it would be about universal principles. Not about HIM, not about Christianity, not about rules that divide, but principles that unite.

-Christ’s church would actually teach every religion. It would utilize ALL the worlds scripture and prophets to bring people together into one organization that promoted unity. Exaltation would depend on unity.

-Should it not teach the two paths? No. As this religion is trying to bring the world into becoming a positive terrestrial realm it would teach the left hand selfish path as undesirable. It would allow its existence within limits. It would seek to convert those following this path to the positive. A celestial understanding cannot abide in a terrestrial glory. We are bringing people into the terrestrial glory.

Women and the Priesthood

——–under construction————-   finish later

I think it is appropriate to compare the issue of Women and the Priesthood to Blacks and the Priesthood. I think there is a lot in the church that is essentially “traditions of men” carried over from Gentile Christianity. I think that Joseph Smith was incredibly progressive in trying to break some of these long held traditions with revealing principles such as a “heavenly mother”, and the role of “prophetesses” among the church. I think most the church and its leaders are largely ignorant of the precedences set by Joseph Smith in essentially giving both Blacks and Women the priesthood in his day… a progressive move that the religious world was simply not ready for at that time. But what is so sad is that those things never caught on in his day because the world wasn’t ready for it—but now the world has passed the church in its views of equality and righteousness! Modern prophets have always been about revealing progressive ideas of equality and righteousness to a world entrenched in outdated cultural and religious dogma. But what has happened to our prophets? They show very little difference from the religious leaders Joseph & god started Mormonism to escape.

I for one have often wondered how my wife and I can be set apart to be “priests and priestesses” in the temple without us both holding the priesthood. I’v really felt that it wasn’t “my priesthood” anyway, but “our” priesthood. I believe this is why positions above bishop call for a man to be married. Because an unmarried man does not hold the entirety of the higher priesthood… because the highest expression of the priesthood can only be expressed in one who is celestially married. (So I say shame of bishops who don’t include their wives in the decision making processes. They are cheating the ward of blessings.) For the last few years I’v often felt like it would be entirely appropriate for my wife to join me in giving blessings to my children.

The priestess is not only an important aspect of the LDS temple ceremony, but also of many ancient religions predating the apostasy.

The priestess is not only an important aspect of the LDS temple ceremony, but also of many ancient religions predating the apostasy.

I see the symbolism involved in the “hidden” aspect of God which a woman or our mother-God or the feminine aspect of God seems to represent. (the Holy Ghost/Spirit is feminine in most ancient traditions, and all mystic traditions Iv encountered.) But at the same time I’v thought we’re a bit cheated in the church by not having the equality of women more visibly represented. I’v often wondered if women hold the positions of preeminence in the Spirit World (God knows they probably greatly out number the men in the higher regions of paradise).

I think that as the Times of the Gentiles draws to a close in the coming few decades, and the new age begins, we will see the abolishment of many of the “traditions of men” that have been adopted by the church from the Gentile Church. I think we’ll see a greater equalizing of the relationship between church leaders and lay people of the church (I don’t think the church hierarchy or apostles ever wanted to have the “god-like” status and control that many members give them or that utah’s social perceptions have given them). Hopefully we’ll see the Stake presidency and high council given the equal perception of authority and power that D&C 107:24–37 say they should have.

I think we’ll see a greater utilization and acceptance of the gifts of the spirit such as the gift of prophesy (for ANY individual, regardless of age or gender… that would mean far more prophetesses). And who knows… maybe we’ll see women formally given the priesthood, so they can visibly stand in their temple ordained positions of priestesses. I surely would welcome that… because in my mind its already a hidden reality… Perhaps I’ll never be a bishop because of it, but I would sure tell my ward that the bishopbric was a calling shared between me and my wife and I would involve her in all decisions (unless she didn’t want to be involved). And every ward should know that, as Julene has reminded me, that its the relief society president who really keeps a ward functioning anyway.

I would hope that the only reason men stand visibly as the leaders in the church, and not women, is to protect women from the bad-talking and condemnation that inevitably goes with visible leadership… but if a woman wants to be the visible leader… is a man really justified to hold her down even if its in the name of protection?

Issues to Doctrinally Address.

-Blessings of health and comfort are not priesthood ordinance. The laying on of hands to administer to the sick is not a priesthood ordinance.  It is a gift of the spirit. To forbid women to do it is wrong.

-Prophesy is not solely a function of the priesthood. To make women feel bad about doing it is wrong.

-dig up the articles and links to show evidence of joseph giving priesthood to blacks and women.

-men have always feared the physical and spiritual power women have over them and over men in general. they seek to subjugate that power. This is not to be in the new age… men are to empower women and gender equality is to be based on principles of freely given self sacrifice, not manipulation or subjugation.

Women are culturally programmed to see their primary role as being breeders in the home. Those who do not embrace this role are made to feel inferior in various ways.
Strong family and gender roles are obviously important for a balanced and healthy society. But when we manipulate people into a certain lifestyle at young ages using threats of “not making it to the celestial kingdom” we do more harm than good. Using manipulation instead of appealing to an individuals sense of wisdom, selflessness or humanity often backfires. D&C 131:1–4 is taken out of context and used in manipulating people who may be unready for marriage or family to jump in because of social/religious pressure. Women have been made to feel like having more children or children sooner makes them more “righteous” even if it is not the path of wisdom. Once again, instead of pointing out the advantages and disadvantages or wisdom in certain paths, women are manipulated with truisms, homilies and threats of eternal consequence and relegation.
Women are culturally programmed to feel they play a religiously subservient role to males or the male priesthood.
Both women and men in Mormonism are taught to respect and “honor the Priesthood” in an attitude of humility and submission. Respect for authority and power structures is also an important part of a healthy society and national organization. But throughout most of history women have been excluded from those power structures in both religious and political organizations? Why? Because their “place is in the home”? The subtle difference in the idealized active and passive characteristics of men and women should certainly be taken into account when making cultural decisions on gender roles; but it is my belief that historically POWER has always ruled (law of the jungle) and this is the main reason for why women have FAR less frequently held positions of government and religious authority. Maybe they don’t have the stomach for it, or maybe its because of gender domination, be what it may, my point is that inequality brings sickness and gender balance IS the path of wisdom and greatest self actualization. We as a society and as a church do not understand what we are missing by not empowering our women to be equals in intelligence and authority. I suggest that as with the blacks and the priesthood the disunity caused by this subtle inequality a large part of the reason why the Church was and is still being chastened and must wait to “be redeemed” (D&C 105:4–9).

 

 

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A good thought on Mormonism and Women and the Priesthood….

You may have heard about the big to-do over a group of women that organized a “wear pants to church day” movement which was held this weekend. The goals of this movement are assumed by many, but few people it seems, took the time to really understand what it was all about. This was evidenced by the many comments that were made on the Facebook page which was set up to help organize the movement. After only a few days the creators decided to take the page down, because of the many vulgar, demeaning and even life-threatening comments made on the page (see http://msmagazine.com/blog/blog/2012/12/16/women-who-want-to-wear-pants-to-church-outrage-mormon-traditionalists/ for more information).

It’s really quite sad that people, likely Mormon people, would stoop to this type of intimidation to stop something that they do not understand or agree with. In addition to these outrageous examples though, there are others that were kind but said they didn’t agree with the premise or how it was being conducted. I respect these people’s decisions. Though upon talking to many people that I know, I found that few understood even the basics of what was happing. Once I explained a bit of it, they often agreed with what was being done. It is for this reason that I want to address a few of the misconceptions on this whole matter, and the Mormon feminist movement in general.

First off, I want everyone to know that I am an active, fairly conservative male member of the Church. I hold a current temple recommend, I served a mission, and I do my home teaching fairly well. I do however, feel it important that when faced with an intellectual issue, that I don’t just repost what someone else said on Facebook, that I don’t go to the opposition to find my facts or that I don’t make assumptions based only on what I have heard from others. I think it is important that each of us “prove all things, and hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21), that we seek after those things that are “honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous” wherever they come from (Articles of Faith 1:13).

The most common problem people have with the wear pants to church movement that I have heard is that church, specifically sacrament meeting is not a place to protest, it is a place to worship our Savior. I and the organizers of the movement 100% agree with this. In 1971 the First Presidency of the Church said it had no position what people wear to church. In an official statement made by the Church spokesman Eric Hawkin this was further explained that people should wear nice clothes as a sign of respect, but that the Church would not dictate what that was (see http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-mormon-women-pants-facebook-20121214,0,3860687.story).

This is further emphasized by the fact the people wear whatever they can all over the world. Many investigators I worked with on my mission in a very affluent area of the United State wore things that might be considered inappropriate simply because they did not know any better. In many countries people wear rags to Church, but they are the best rags they own. Would those same people receive demeaning and even life-threatening comments? Everyone that wore pants was encouraged to wear their nicest, most respectful pants they owned. One prominent blog even said: “not jeans, or sweats, or yoga pants, but dress pants. Tailored suits and flowing shalwars and holiday-appropriate black velvet. Pants that are modest, elegant, and feminine, and not at all out of place in a church house” (see http://www.ldsmag.com/article/1/11915).

What were they trying to accomplish by wearing pants to church? (And as a side note wearing purple for men or women that did not want to wear pants). The goal was a sign of solidarity. It is sign that many faithful members of the Church are comfortable with the changing in women’s roles in the Church. Perhaps that needs some explaining on its own.

For years (all the way back to Brigham Young in fact) members of the leadership of the Church prayed that men of African descent could hold the priesthood, and that all worthy members of the Church could receive all the blessing of the temple. The civil rights movement of the 60’s came and went, but still God did not grant that revelation. While it has never been said specifically why these blessings were withheld for so long, there is a growing number of people in Church academic circles that felt this was not reveled until the late 1970’s perhaps because the members of the Church were not ready to receive it (this falls in line with many other revelatory experiences found in the scripture, the Law of Moses for example). As it was, there were many that had a difficult time accepting it even after years of integration.

This idea, that things can be changing, often things that buck the cultural norms of the day, but that have nothing to do the revealed doctrine of the Church, is much the same as the “wicked traditions of the fathers” or the “traditions of men, mingled with scriptures” that have hampered so many people throughout the scriptures. Just because something is of “ancient date” does not make it God’s revealed will. Most of the things that the organizers hoped to bring to the public’s attention have nothing to do with doctrine or priesthood (granted there are a few extremists that do take it that far, but the majority do not).

A few things that I personally feel passionate about are these: Why cannot women pray in General Conference? Why do young men’s programs get nearly double the funding of young women’s programs? Why cannot women serve in many of the callings that do not require priesthood leadership? Why women as aren’t encouraged to serve missions (this seems to be changing though)? Why the priesthood is usually compared to motherhood as opposed to fatherhood? Why, with the many changes to the temple covenants over the years, do some still place emphasis on men’s position over women?

I want to end by saying that I believe that “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World). I believe that unless God says otherwise, the priesthood is men’s call to serve God’s children. I do believe that it was correct that Emma Smith, Eliza Snow and many others blessed their families in the name of Jesus Christ in the early days of the church, that women served as prophetess in the scriptures, and that women continue to this day to bless and serve in the temple in some kind of joint administration of the priesthood with their husbands and the male members of Church. I believe that our Church is lead by a prophet of God that receives revelation.

I also believe that traditions and cultural norms that blind us will need to be broken away before we can have a restitution of all things and see ourselves as God sees us.