I believe that God has a plan for all of us.
I believe that plan involves me getting my own planet.
And I believe; that the current President of The Church, Thomas Monson, speaks directly to God.
I am A Mormon,
And, dang it! a Mormon just believes!
Q. Oh, where can I go to learn about God, religion, being humble and serving the poor? (Remember: When claiming he out-gave Barack Obama, Mitt Romney referred to giving money to his church as “charitable donations.”)
A. Take this road two miles, hang a left at the oak tree, and look for the most opulent building in town. You can’t miss it. It’s the one that makes the Tower of Babel seem like child’s play. We call it a Temple. Don’t ask us how it was funded, though. Our financial records are more private than your phone calls.
This weekend, Thomas Monson, the 16th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had a message for his faithful flock of 15 million worldwide via the LDS General Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. We’ve built 142 temples, he proudly said, the most recent one in Gilbert, Arizona, and there will be a modest 172 of them by the time all current construction projects are completed.
Another Mormon leader had a slightly different message for the record number of nearly 85,000 Mormon missionaries crawling around the surface of this planet. Jeffrey Holland, an official member of a select group known as the Quorum Of Twelve, called on missionaries to “defend” their faith.
Holland pointed out that missionaries should stay strong and defend their faith despite the inevitable personal abuse they will encounter. (Source: FOX News.)
Since I couldn’t make the conference this year, I guess you could call this an open letter of sorts containing an opposing point of view from the Abyss. Maybe my invitation got lost in the mail?
Tom’s Law #42
You never have to defend your religion to me if you don’t stick it in my face in the first place. In other words, please don’t put me on the receiving end of your missionary position.
Source: Tom’s Infinite Book of Infinite Laws
Mitt Romney released his 2011 tax return and the media went nuts.
Every angle got explored. The narratives were legion.
- Romney gave a “gift” the the government by overpaying on his taxes.
- Romney’s 2011 rate of making charitable donations is higher than Obama’s. 29.4% for Romney vs. 21.8% for Obama.
- Romney’s tax return was crafted to prove he always pays at least a 13% rate as he previously claimed.
- Romney could have given more to charity but it would have lowered his tax rate.
- Romney’s taxes prove he’s not fit to be president based on his own words.
These are interesting times.
And on every side of every single one of those points there are voices shouting that it proves something and other voices shouting that it proves the exact opposite.
It’s enough to make your head spin. Ah, spin. That word is also interesting.
I have a different sort of question about all of this, though: Where Mitt Romney is concerned, what kind of “charity” are we talking about?
An analysis (by Business Insider) shows in years 2009 and 2010 the “vast majority” (approx. 80 percent) of Romney’s charitable contributions were directed to the Mormon Church.
As always, where Romney is concerned, the financials get rather complicated. The donations take the form of tithes and other contributions, like stock donations.
Interestingly, though, if you set aside Romney’s contribution to his own church, suddenly Obama has the higher rate of charitable contributions. And that’s not exactly the same narrative they want to be sold. Factor in that wee little fact and suddenly Obama’s rate of charitable giving becomes four times higher than Romney’s.
So the question becomes: Is giving to your own church the same as giving to a “charity?”
Today I’m going to tackle the sensitive and topical subject of Mormonism. In contrast to my usual style, I will attempt to do so without sarcasm and snark. I’m going to attempt to be serious.
Note: Within the context of this post, for convenience, the term “Mormonism” will be used interchangeably with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Why think about Mormonism? Why now? I think, mostly, the answer to that is Mitt Romney. He’s a serious candidate for president and, like every candidate before him, his religious views get put under a microscope and become a topic for discussion.
Continue reading →
A little something from my Twitter timeline:
My wife is still not feeling well and saw a new doctor today who listened and asked questions. Is it sad as fuck that surprised us so much?
—April 13, 2011
I don’t care what your job is. Maybe you’re the kid who pumps the gas. (Historical reference.) Maybe the person on the other side of the counter at the fast food restaurant. Maybe even the President of the United States.
Maybe you’re a pathetic loser, like me, nothing more than a piece of gum on the bottom of the universe’s shoe.
Or maybe you are a doctor.
Whatever your job, and more importantly, whether you hate it or not, you should do your best. Hell, I find myself caring and trying to excel even as I wish I could melt out my eyeballs with a blowtorch. There’s something very very wrong with me in that I care about doing things right even while I hate what I’m doing. It’s a sickness, I think.
That’s probably why I’ve never been fired in my entire life. I know! But it’s true.
It’s no secret that I don’t think too much of doctors. I often bitch about doctors on my blog. In a previous post I called them Salubrious Basterds. (That post was yet another “challenge” post, namely Blog Improv. The day is coming soon, I think, where a post that isn’t part of any challenge will become the most trendy challenge of all!)
My beef with doctors is twofold. First, they still haven’t evolved too far beyond, “Hey, let’s break out the leeches. That should improve your humors. Fuck it, we don’t know what else to try.” There’s still so much we don’t know.
When the U.S.S. Enterprise went back in time (yeah, that narrows it down) Dr. McCoy gave an elderly woman at the hospital a pill and she grew a new kidney.
Alas, we’re not quite there yet.
My second beef is that, out of all the people I meet, doctors seem to be the least concerned about doing their job and doing a good job.
It works like this: You go to the doctor. You wait on them half an hour or more because they are way more important than you. You pay $100 for about three minutes of their time. During those three minutes the doctor won’t listen to you, glances at facts, leaps to conclusions, acts like being near you is akin to being covered in biting, crawling fire ants, scribbles out a prescription based on the latest visit from a pharmaceutical rep, and then flees the room as fast as humanly possible.
$33 a minute for that kind of “work” is fantastic when you can get it.
The last time I went to the emergency room, I was there about 15 minutes, got a shot of something called diloted (which was actually good shit), saw the doctor a total of three minutes, and got billed for $1,200. What a fucking racket.
My main point is, can’t they at least pretend to care? Do they have to act so rushed, like your mere presence is such an imposition on them? We’re paying good money.
My wife and I have been sick a lot so far this year with that damn lingering bug that has been going around. I went all John Wayne on it (perhaps Mike Rowe is the more suitable name these days?) and toughed it out by going to work and never seeing a doctor. I consider it my duty to work when sick and be a vector.
My wife, however, missed a record number of days and used up all her sick time. She went to the doctor a few times, too. And urgent care.
Her primary care physician wouldn’t give her the time of the day and prescribed prednisone, some sort of steroid. Why is it that doctors think steroids are God’s gift to medicine? Steroids must be the modern version of leeches. Then, when the prednisone didn’t work and caused other problems, the doctor stuck his fingers in his ears and went, “naw naw naw I can’t hear you.”
Meanwhile my wife is paying big money for the privilege of having this discussion with him over and over.
Finally, she figured out that if she made an appointment on his day off, she’d get to see someone else. Brilliant! And that’s when something unusual occurred. The person she saw actually listened. And didn’t act like my wife was frothing at the mouth with rabies and stayed in the room with her. And even asked questions! And, get this, said, “I see you went to an urgent care. You need to sign this form so we can get their records over here.”
What the hell?
The thing that really hit us was, of course, how bloody surprised we were to be treated well by a member of the medical profession. Wow. It’s truly sad just how staggering of a surprise it turned out to be. When doing a good job is so damn unusual perhaps there’s something wrong with the whole profession?
I often wonder, “What would life be like if a native American village ran like our modern society?” You’d go to see the medicine man and he’d say, “Yes. I can help you. But in return, I will require from you everything you hunt for the next 12 years. Sound like a good deal? If you don’t like it, you always got that other option. Just go die.”
Somehow I don’t think they ran things that way.
To close this section, I’d like to talk about a doctor who is not-so-affectionately known as The Dragon Lady or the The Black Widow behind her back. The woman is a Queen Biatch of Quackery in the highest degree. (In this context, “quackery” is just a general derogatory term based on her profession. I don’t know what her actual skills are.) She had her own practice but suddenly and mysteriously closed it down. Now she works in the field of insurance billing where she is hated. If you are a doctor she’ll treat you with a modicum of respect. Anyone else? Watch out. You are her minions and treated as such. A noble example of a noble profession. And, at least to me, she’s not that exceptional in her field. Just another doctor that doesn’t treat people right.
Big “Q” Bonus: Quetzalcoatl
If you’ve ever played Nethack (the greatest computer game of all time), then you already know that Quetzalcoatl is the lawful deity of the archeologist profession. He’s the guy you pray to when you are dying of hunger or about to die.
Quetzalcoatl was also a God to the Aztecs.
One of the principal Aztec-Toltec gods was the great and wise Quetzalcoatl, who was called Kukumatz in Guatemala, and Kukulcan in Yucatan. His image, the plumed serpent, is found on both the oldest and the most recent Indian edifices. … The legend tells how the Indian deity Quetzalcoatl came from the “Land of the Rising Sun”. He wore a long white robe and had a beard; he taught the people crafts and customs and laid down wise laws. He created an empire in which the ears of corn were as long as men are tall, and caused bolls of colored cotton to grow on cotton plants. But for some reason or other he had to leave his empire. … But all the legends of Quetzalcoatl unanimously agree that he promised to come again.
[ Gods, Graves, and Scholars, by C. W. Ceram ]
It is also interesting that Quetzalcoatl has a tie-in with Mormonism:
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Some Mormon scholars believe that Quetzalcoatl, as a white, bearded god who came from the sky and promised to return, was actually Jesus Christ. According to the Book of Mormon, Jesus visited the American natives after his resurrection. Latter-day Saint President John Taylor wrote:
“The story of the life of the Mexican divinity, Quetzalcoatl, closely resembles that of the Savior; so closely, indeed, that we can come to no other conclusion than that Quetzalcoatl and Christ are the same being. But the history of the former has been handed down to us through an impure Lamanitish source. “
TED: Ideas Worth Spreading
A song by Queen on a slightly different instrument…https://ted.com/talks/view/id/1063
This is my “Q” post for the April 2011 “A to Z Blogging Challenge.”
“What is Mitt short for?” I wondered. Mitchell? Nope. It turns out that Mitt is his middle name. He was born Willard Mitt Romney. Mitt isn’t short for anything.
I admit I didn’t know much about Romney. He popped up on my radar when I learned that he wants to be president. Pretty bad, I guess. And he’s seen as a contender for the Republican nomination in 2012.
I also heard he’s a Mormon. Since I’ve been exploring Mormonism a bit in the last few months, I decided to research Romney a bit further, too.
I have to admit, some of what I have learned surprised me.
Romney, 1994, in Massachusetts: “I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country.” (Debate comments while running for Senate against Ted Kennedy.)
Romney, 2001, in Utah: “I do not wish to be labeled pro-choice.” (Letter to the Editor, Salt Lake Tribune, July 11, 2001, while considering a run for office in Utah.)
Romney, 2002, in Massachusetts: “I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose.” (October 2002, while campaigning for governor of Massachusetts.)
Today, Romney describes himself as “pro-life” and, according to Wikipedia, his web site calls for the repeal of Roe v. Wade. Interestingly, the link cited by Wikipedia now goes to a “Not Found, Error 404” on the official Romney “Believe in America” web site. Trying to hide something or just a site reorganization? A Google search shows the entire web site currently consists of only 10 pages or less.
To me, the above facts paint a somewhat disturbing picture. When swimming in liberal waters, he said the things the constituency needed to hear in order for him to get elected. Flirting with Utah, he changed his tune. Then, when he wanted to be governor, the brief pro-life diversion was forgotten. But now he’s firmly committed to being only pro-life, which, come to think of it, has consistently been his position ever since he wanted to be our president. I find that all to be interesting.
Romney even referred to himself as pro-choice:
Over the last multiple years, as you know, I have been effectively pro-choice, I never called myself that as a label but I was effectively pro-choice and that followed a personal experience in my extended family that led to that conclusion.
-Mitt Romney, January 29, 2007, during a visit to South Carolina
The fact that Romney is a Mormon is irrelevant and I only mentioned it because this is my “M” post in the A-Z Blogger Challenge. As an atheist I don’t vote based on the religious beliefs of candidates, nor do I view Mormonism as better or worse than any other religion.
According to Wikipedia, there are approx. 5.5 million Mormons in the United States and about 14 million total worldwide.
It is interesting to note, however, that there is a bias against Mormonism in this country. A study conducted by the Brigham Young University Department of Political Science contained some surprising findings from 2008.
Poll question: “If you thought he or she was otherwise well qualified, would you vote for any of the following who was running for President of the United States?”
14% said they would not vote for a “black person.”
15% said they would not vote for a “Baptist.”
16% said they would not vote for a “woman.”
31% said they would not vote for a “Mormon.”
In 2004, George W. Bush wanted something. It was re-election. And to get his way, his tactics basically boiled down to one single thing: name calling. He wanted the world to know that John Kerry was a “waffler.” I’ll never forget the waffle hoopla. And as much as I predicted that Bush couldn’t be re-elected, I was wrong. The personal attack and name calling strategy from the President of the United States worked. It was effective.
And yet, what Kerry did was essentially just a slip of the tongue. He made a self-serving comment about changing his mind and did so in a way that was easy to ridicule. It was a ridiculous statement. But, I submit, it had nothing on waffles compared to Romney’s fair weather position changes on abortion. If waffles are to be served, I think they were sent to the wrong table.
One thing seems certain: If Romney is the eventual nominee of the Republican party, it will make for a very interesting race against Obama. Can Romney survive the criticism of his evolving positions on the issues (abortion and others) and can he overcome an ingrained bias against Mormons? I guess time will tell.
The following video has some information about Romney and also quite dramatically shows that Ann Coulter doesn’t much care for her beliefs being questioned. Hissy fits!
This is my “M” post for the April 2011 “A to Z Blogging Challenge.”
Trey Parker and Matt Stone have a new Broadway musical coming out. It’s called The Book of Mormon.
To put this in context you need to know who these guys are. They are, among other things, the creators of the South Park cartoon on Comedy Central.
Something tells me that true Mormons are not going to be too thrilled with the Parker and Stone take on Mormonism.
I’m an avowed atheist, something I mention here on the blog from time to time when I feel like it is pertinent or I just feel like drawing attention to myself. (There is decidedly an element of narcissism amongst some of us who blog.)
But it was not always so. I have fond memories of growing up in the Episcopal church. There were good people in our local church and I loved them. Our priest was a young man with a wife and kids and I looked up to him. Heck, not once did he even make a move on me, not even when I was an altar boy.
Growing up in a small town, though, I had a lot of friends who were Mormons. Aside from a few odd rules, like no soda and caffeine, they were a lot like me. And we spent a lot of time at the local Mormon temple. It was probably one of the nicest buildings in town but, more importantly, it also had, by far, the nicest indoor basketball court. We shot a lot of hoops there. I don’t know why, but I never stopped to wonder why our church didn’t have cool stuff like basketball courts.
By the time I was in my early teens I was aware of quite a bit about Mormons. I knew the story about Joseph Smith and the golden plates, I knew that Jesus had visited America, and that it was common for Mormons to go on missions. Hanging out at the temple so much, we got to know a lot of the missionaries who came to our town.
My exposure to Mormonism and knowing that hands down all of the Mormons I had ever met were the nicest people I’d ever known, it seemed only natural to convert, so I began the lessons myself. All went well, including my meeting to confess certain “serious past transgressions.” I was earnest in wanting to join, so I was fully honest. They had to have a meeting about those transgressions, but apparently I passed the test. I was given the green light!
Since I was younger than 18, all I need to complete the process was my mom’s signature on some forms. That’s where a little monkey wrench was thrown into the works. She refused to sign. I cried and I was angry but there was nothing I could do. Then my mom arranged to have her boss pick me up one day and go for a ride in his bitchin’ hot rod. He even let me drive and that was one sweet car! What a clever plan tempting a young man with a hot rod.
Eventually we pulled over on the side of the road and had a discussion about his religious beliefs. It turned out that he was a born again Christian. The more we talked, the more I agreed with him, and then, through my tears while bawling like a baby, I also was born again.
Don’t worry. It didn’t stick. A year later the same thing would happen to me at my Korean girlfriend’s church. The preacher seemed to single me out and I ended up at the front of the church, kneeling while he talked only to me. Before I knew it I was bawling like a baby again. Apparently back then I really wanted some damn answers. But at least I was sincere.
None of it mattered, though. As I grew older, I was less and less interested in God until I realized one day I had become an atheist. And that’s how it has been ever since. But I still have my Book of Mormon on my shelf next to my parallel Bible, though.
And, that’s also my personal experience with Mormonism and how I came very, very close to being one myself. I now know that, nice people or not, my mom did me a favor that day.
For one thing, during the lessons and baptismal interview, the missionaries and church personnel I spoke with played things pretty close to the vest. They certainly weren’t dishing out any of the more controversial beliefs of the Mormon church. Things like the planet Kolob and stuff. I never heard anything about Kolob when receiving my lessons.
So yeah, the Mormons aren’t too happy about the new musical. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints issued this response:
The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.
Of course, the musical isn’t Parker and Stone’s first volley at Mormonism. Via the show South Park the pair has skewed all sorts of religious beliefs, including the Mormons. In an episode called “All About the Mormons” they humorously poke holes in the Joseph Smith and gold plate mythology. (If interested, you can watch the full episode on SouthParkStudios.com.)
They’ve also gone after Tom Cruise and Scientology and the “dark lord Xenu” in the episode “Trapped in the Closet.”
The episodes “Go, God. Go! Part II” and “Go God Go XII” tell the story of an atheism war. The episode “The Fantastic Easter Special” goes after the President of the Catholic League.
And yes, they take on Islam, too, in the episodes “Cartoon Wars, Part 1 & Part 2” which takes on the issue of any depiction of the prophet Muhammad as a cartoon on a television show.
Other South Park episodes on religion include:
- The Passion of the Jew
- Red Hot Catholic Love
- Super Best Friends
- Do the Handicapped Go to Hell? / Probably
- Are You There God, It’s Me Jesus
The point here is that Mormons shouldn’t feel especially picked on. The South Park creators clearly enjoy going after all sorts of sacred cows.
I know one thing. The Mormons played a huge role in California in regards to the passage of Proposition 8. Religions increasingly see themselves playing a greater role in public discussion, policies and law making. Personally I’m against that.
Let us consider the words of one of the leaders of the LDS church. Elder Quentin L. Cook is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. According to Wikipedia, Elder Cook is the “thirteenth most senior apostle in the ranks of the Church.”
In a posting entitled “Let there be light!” on LDS.org in Nov. 2010, Elder Cook wrote:
As Church leaders, we have met with leaders of other faiths and have found that there is a common moral foundation that transcends theological differences and unites us in our aspirations for a better society.
In our increasingly unrighteous world, it is essential that values based on religious belief be part of the public discourse. Moral positions informed by a religious conscience must be accorded equal access to the public square. Under the constitutions of most countries, a religious conscience may not be given preference, but neither should it be disregarded.
I don’t know about you, but to me this sounds a lot like religious leaders saying they want a seat at the table of lawmaking and public policy. And this from a church that recently used its tax-exempt status to greatly influence the outcome of an American political election. Isn’t that one of the things our founding fathers feared the most?
When our nation’s religious leaders step up and overtly state that it is their intention to influence the political landscape, methinks we just might have a rather serious problem on our hands.