Commercials

The woman makes a beeline for me.

I’ve been standing in the crowded chapel for fewer than five seconds when her eyes lock on me from across the room; she turns in my direction with the single-minded intensity of a cougar stalking a chipmunk. I force a smile that says, ‘I taste awful.’

I am surprised at how quickly she recognized me as an outsider. For the first time ever, I actually looked up, and then followed, the dressing suggestions on the denominational website. It says ladies generally wear skirts or dresses, so I dug deep into the back of my closet. I even dusted off a pair of old tights. Maybe I’m a bit on the jumpy side because of my preconceived notions of Mormons as a somewhat closed society.

“I saw the commercials,” I screech defensively. I had been planning to worship with the Latter-day Saints all along but they’re not listed in the Worship Directory so I was feeling reluctant. Then I began to see the commercials on television.

I don’t know if it’s a national marketing campaign, but the commercials have been in heavy rotation where I live. Each one has a similar format. The camera focuses on a face and flashes different scenes of the person going about his or her day like a mini-documentary about an ordinary, yet somewhat interesting, individual and just when you’re wondering what the heck this ad is for, they spring it on you: the person says “I’m a Mormon.” It tells you to get more information at Mormon.org.

The ones I’ve seen feature a young Chicano dressed in a shirt buttoned at the collar and baggy pants and sunglasses. In Los Angeles, he is what you might call a “homeboy.” The camera follows him riding his tricked out bicycle with the handlebars way up. Then it shows him giggling with his mother and the voiceover goes, “My name is Valentin and I’m a Mormon.” The first time I saw it, I was like, “No way. Valentin? A Mormon?” The other one that’s caught my eye highlights a big dude with a bald head and full mustache; he looks like he runs with the Hell’s Angels. But, no, his name is Allan and he’s a Mormon.

It is a very effective marketing strategy because it increased my confidence about attending services at the meetinghouse. I mean, if Allan and Valentin are welcome, then I shouldn’t be a problem, right? At the very least, it signaled to me that Mormons are looking to change perceptions regarding their inclusivity.

“That’s great!” she says about the commercials. Up close, she is surprisingly young. I was fooled by how mature she looked from afar. That’s the thing about Mormons: they look and behave like grownups very early. They seem to avoid the angsty pitfalls so many of us experience in our 20’s and 30’s. We Nones are lucky to approach middle age having developed the emotional capacity and patience to share our personal space with a pet and perhaps another human being. By then, Mormons have a bundle of children and marriages going on 20 years.

I’ve been admiring and rubbing shoulders with Mormons for most of my life. It began when I would sit in front of the television as a tiny kid, enthralled by the Donnie and Marie Osmond Show. Since then, I’ve had Mormon landlords, coworkers, and acquaintances. I’ve watched the Mormon Tabernacle Choir perform Christmas carols on television. I’ve visited Salt Lake City and walked around the temple complex, their most sacred collection of buildings. I’ve marveled at the basic story of these pioneering people who trekked across the country, got kicked out of a lot of places, and finally settled in Utah. But until now, I had zero knowledge about their belief system.

Some of Joseph Smith’s ideas were so cosmic, so not bound to earth, that I struggle to wrap my mind around them. His vision was of a heaven filled with billions of spirit children “begotten” by “Heavenly Father” and “Heavenly Mother” in a celestial world near Kolob, the name he gave a theoretical star in the universe. The human forms we experience now are but a mere step, a brief incarnation, on an epic journey toward perfecting our spirit existence…

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14 thoughts on “Commercials

  1. Corinna, “Commercials” was the funniest I’ve read yet. But I foresee a major challenge ahead: laying out Mormon beliefs with a straight face. David

  2. On a daily basis I must grapple with and try to accept that Jesus Christ, born a man, carried our sins for us, died on the cross a real death and was resurrected three days later into a real, physical but changed body; then ascended to Heaven to sit at the right hand of God. Then the Holy Ghost came as the Comforter. As a Christian, I do my best to wrap my head around that major, central concept of Trinitarian Christianity.

    I think that I will leave my mind bending at that, and continue to do my best to accept and believe. I don’t need anything more strange or unique added to it. It’s hard to get weirder than that, nor is there any need. It was and is sufficient. I fail to see the point in changing a jot or tittle.

    Yours in Christ.

  3. Patti, you bring up something that’s been percolating in my head since way back in the JW posts. OK, I believe the stuff Patti believes about the Trinity. But when you step outside it for a sec, it sounds kind of weird too, doesn’t it?

    The angel Moroni? Baptism for dead people? The Messiah living just off the planet halfway somewhere? There is no disease, it’s all in your head? The beliefs of the JWs, the Christian Scientists and the Mormons seem just so….Weird. Like as if I decided to make up a religion, and came up with a bunch of random things like, YOU WILL RECEIVE GOD THROUGH YOUR TEETH, and it’s sin to have cavities filled or crowns because God cannot live through you if your teeth aren’t open.

    But how does my belief system seem to those, like Corinna, who didn’t grow up with it? As Patti says, it’s hard to get weirder than that. If I were inspired to go out & try to convince others that My Beliefs Are The Right Ones, which I’m not, what’s different from that and the Mormons or JWs going out to convince people? When they come to my door I turn them away because their beliefs are so weird. And mine are so normal. Right?
    Shelley

    • I think any belief system can seem strange to an outsider. Sometimes the “weirdness” comes from the language that’s used to represent the ideas. Like Smith talked about “spirit bodies” and this cosmic location called “Kolob” — it seems to me that we may all have some notions regarding our souls or the universe or what have you, but the minute you attach some concrete language to it, it starts to sound a little…strange. The trinity is like that to me, too. It seems like an attempt to put words to absract ideas. I have more thoughts about this that I will address in a future post.

      • Can’t wait to hear your attempt at it Corinna! Christian parents have been attempting that very thing forever…I’ve never felt so humble (or stupid) as when I tried to explain the trinity to my own children…. 😐

      • I’ve always wondered if Joseph Smith didn’t have his tongue firmly-in-cheek when he came up with the name of the Planet “Kolob”: it’s bolok, spelled backwards (where bollocks is a word which appears in the OT, esp the KJV). 🙂

    • Shelley, you have hit absolutely on what I was feeling, with your “You will receive God through your teeth” (belly laugh on that one!!!) and also on how, as Corinna says, any beliefs can sound weird from outside.

      But something that strikes me, and what I was trying to say was this: It’s already complicated, but it’s complete. Why is there the need for further complications and even WEIRDER addendums? It so often strikes me that Christianity, in it’s purest form, comes down to something phrased as my brother in law put it: Jesus was born. He died for our sins. He rose again. If you repent and believe, you have eternal salvation.” THAT is a relatively simple concept, right? Is there a need for golden tablets and halfway houses in the sky and the planet Kolob (or whatever) and sending Jesus on extra mission trips??????????????????

      For me, there isn’t any need for the addendums. And I am very glad I don’t have to wrap my head around the ‘extras’ 🙂

      Yours in Christ.

      • Patti said:

        “Jesus was born. He died for our sins. He rose again. If you repent and believe, you have eternal salvation. THAT is a relatively simple concept, right?”

        Unfortunately, just saying it is simple is simply “begging the question”, repeating the very assertion that is being questioned. Stating that it’s simple doesn’t make it so.

        For If a Xian can explain what Jesus’ death 2,000 years ago has to do with redeeming mankind for a ‘sin’ supposedly committed 4,000 yrs before by Adam, then I’m all ears.

        For his sin, Adam received punishment at the time the sin was committed, and justice was delivered DIRECTLY by YHWH Himself: Adam was sentenced to death by YHWH’s divine decree, and the punishment was carried out by cherubim who blocked mankind’s access to the Tree of Life and hence banished from the Garden.

        So to suggest that YHWH’s Divine justice was somehow “imperfect” or “lacking” in some way, and that the punishment rendered in Genesis 4 wasn’t complete, seems a bit much to most Jews. Hence, Judaism has NEVER accepted the concept of Adam’s ‘original sin’, and see the concept as what it is: a later Xian construct added into the OT, as a classic example of scriptural eisigesis (reading meanings into the text that just weren’t originally there).

        In order to understand the thinking behind development of Xianity’s ‘original sin’ doctrine, someone would need to understand BOTH the way that 1st-Century Jews (since that’s what Jesus was) conceived of sacrificial rituals, AND Xianity’s later understanding of the same rituals, since the sacrificial system upon which Jesus’ sacrifice is made is based on the same principles of Judaism.

        Now, that’s hardly a “simple” deal: I dare say over 90% of Xians DON’T understand the basics of Judaism, but use the excuse their pastor offers on Sunday: “We don’t have to worry about understanding ancient Jewish laws and practices since the New Covenant does away with all that”.

        However, if some cared to learn about ancient Hebrew concepts like ‘redemption’ (go’el), they’d know that Jesus claimed to be the redeemer of his Jewish kinsman (which was not an uncommon role for Jewish men to play on behalf of their Hebrew family/kin). A Jewish audience who heard Jesus’ words intuitively understood the implications, his promise to redeem Jews as the long-promised Jewish Messiah, thus obtaining their salvation from the current oppressor, Rome. (Most modern-day Xians are missing subtle meanings that have long-since been lost; and worse, modern-day Xians overlay modern thinking, resulting in flawed anachronistic interpretations.)

        But to understand what redemption (go-el) meant to Jewish listeners, here’s a ‘must-read’ (remember the target audience of Jesus’ preaching was Jews: he told apostles that he came to redeem his fellow Jews, and basically told them not to waste time preaching to Gentiles. Paul later internationalized Xianity to include all Nations and Gentiles, and history shows it caught on like wild-fire):

        http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/2162-avenger-of-blood

        (Focus on the second definition of redeemer (go’el) in the “redeemer of kin” section, as that’s to what Jesus was referring, and how it likely was interpreted by a Jewish audience.)

        As the article points out, YHWH is often lauded in the OT as the “Divine Go-el”, where YHWH was said to have repaid the debts of His ‘Children of Israel’ to surrounding Nations, in essence paying ‘ransom’ on their behalf to release His ‘Chosen People’ from slavery, releasing them from under oppressive foreign rule (whether it be Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylon, Persian, Greek, or Roman).

        So, the question arises:

        In the Xian belief of Jesus’ offering redemption for Adam’s ‘original sin’, who is the CREDITOR, the offended party to whom Adam’s debt is owed, and is to be repaid? To whom is Christ’s sacrifice (lit. ransom) being offered?

        Per Xian beliefs, Adam’s debt was owed to YHWH, since He’s the party who was offended by Adam’s sin, which requires a sin offering (sacrifice) to obtain atonement.

        Even if only by the process of elimination, we can conclude there is no other party to offer a sacrifice to, ie it makes no sense to believe Adam and Eve’s debt was owed to the SERPENT (who Xians believe was Satan, another example of Xian eisigesis), since the serpent was cursed by God for HIS sin (sentenced to crawl on the ground, to be feared by women, etc). The serpent is clearly one of the perps, an accessory (for aiding and abetting, egging Eve on to commit sin) to the ‘original sin’. So, we’re out of candidates for CREDITORS, since the cast of characters in Genesis 4 is exactly FOUR: Adam, Eve, the serpent, and YHWH. YHWH is the only logical candidate for the offended party who supposedly need to be placated with a sacrifice to ‘set things right’ again.

        So let me get this straight:

        Per Xian doctrine, Adam’s original sin incurred a debt to YHWH, and the debt is supposedly passed along to ALL of Adam’s and Eve’s offspring, who’ve inherited their original sin. Out of Divine mercy, YHWH graciously provided a perfect being (Jesus) to mankind 4,000 yrs later in order to….. pay Himself back a debt that is owed to Himself?

        Say what? That seems “simple”?

        It’s actually some pretty convoluted debt-accounting going on, far worse than ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ (i.e. robbing a 3rd party to repay a debt owed to a 2nd); YHWH basically deprived himself of the company of his Heavenly Lil’ Buddy in order to pay back a debt which was owed to Himself.

        Now, if anyone can wrap their head around THAT concept, then swallowing the Trinity should be a cake-walk!

        (And obviously early Xians were inspired by the story of Abraham, where YHWH provided a sacrificial stunt ram (which magically appeared in the distance, it’s horns trapped in a bush, so it couldn’t run off) at the last minute which could be used just so Abraham wouldn’t have to kill his son, Isaac (as YHWH originally had demanded Abraham to sacrifice to Him).

        Such Yahwistic self-gratification (ie providing the sacrifice which is to be offered to Himself) seems a tad much, since the one offering the sacrifice isn’t really “sacrificing” anything that he owned (in the sense of FORGOING the PRESENT possession of an object of value, based on the promise of FAR GREATER FUTURE RETURNS bestowed by God). By providing humans with the sacrificial animal to be offered to Him, YHWH is depriving mankind of an important element of sacrifice, of going without. After all, Abraham was not “sacrificing” ANYTHING that he had previously viewed as “His” property: he “found” the ram, so Abraham simply got a last-minute reprieve from a blood-thirsty God who demanded the smell of Isaac’s flesh being burned on the altar, but changed his mind.

        And if YHWH’s request of human sacrifice as a test of loyalty strikes anyone as a shining example YHWH’s superior moral code, I don’t suppose you’re going to see a problem with YHWH offering His Heavenly son to be executed by human hands, in order to demonstrate just how much He loves human-kind? I get it: I once offered to let my girlfriend crush my beloved pet mouse (Squeaker) to death, just to demonstrate how much I loved HER. THAT kind of thing doesn’t strike anyone as being just a TAD psychotic or twisted?

        Granted, Xianity came up with the tortuous concept, “Only a perfect sacrifice can atone for the sin committed by the first perfect man”, by relying on the ancient Jewish principle of “measure for measure” (“middah ke-neged middah”, ie “with what measure ye mete it shall be measured unto you”). That principle is expressed by the concept that equivalency in sacrificial offerings is needed in order to be relieved of sin; the punishment must match the crime, or the offering must match the sin.

        HOWEVER, Xians don’t understand a few key principles of Jewish sacrificial practices:

        For one, only UNWILLFUL sin can be atoned via sacrificial offerings; WILLFUL sinners need not apply, since atonement for say, premeditated murder, is not possible since it’s WILLFUL sin (where penitence it IS possible, for say, manslaughter). Instead, willful sin like murder generally requires “cutting off” (‘kareth’, the Divine severance of existence), since the death of the sinner is the ULTIMATE expiation of sin. In Genesis 4, YHWH’s death sentence indicates Adam’s sin was viewed by YHWH as WILLFUL sin. And in the case of unwillful sin being atoned for with a sacrifice, the sinner MUST repent: there’s no account of Adam repenting his sin. Besides, the SINNER himself must offer the sacrifice: Adam was long dead when Jesus was alive.

        From the Jewish Encyclopedia:

        “The expiatory sacrifice needed to be accompanied by a confession of the sins for which it was designed to make Atonement (see Lev. v. 5, xvi. 21; Num. v. 7; compare Maimonides, “Yad,” Teshubah, i. 1): “no atonement without confession of sin as the act of repentance,” or as Philo (“De Victimis,” xi.) says, “not without the sincerity of his repentance, not by words merely, but by works, the conviction of his soul which healed him from disease and restores him to good health.”

        But asking whether Adam’s sin was premeditated (willful) or unwillful opens a can of worms:

        If it was a willful act (as YHWH’s punishment might indicate), then the account suggests the sin was fully repaid by the deliverance of YHWH’s Divine justice and punishment (Adam’s expulsion from the Garden and subsequent death). For as the Mishrah says, “the noxious thorns in the garden of humanity must be destroyed” so as to avoid “polluting the entire land”. The ultimate atonement for willful sin is death OF THE SINNER, where Adam died by YHWH’s Divine order which lead to the severance of Adam and Eve’s existence. With Adam dead, the debt to YHWH was thus repaid in full, per Jewish sacrificial principles.

        So Xianity’s idea of ‘original sin’ is probably based on misunderstanding of Jewish sacrificial law, and likely inspired by necessity: with the destruction of the 2nd Temple in 70 CE, it was no longer possible for sins to be atoned by sacrifices, but only by prayer, fasting, etc.

        But here’s a novel idea, using a concept straight out of Xianity AND Judaism:

        How about if YHWH shows some of those “fruitage of HIS spirit” (love, joy, PEACE, LONG-SUFFERING, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, faith, MILDNESS, SELF-CONTROL), simply FORGIVING mankind’s supposed debt, as the “Divine Go’el” was known to do? If so, God could cut out all the unnecessary rigamarole and the cast of middle-men (Jesus).

        From the Jewish Encyclopedia:

        http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/2092-atonement#anchor12

        “Rabbi Akiba, in direct opposition to the Christian Atonement by the blood of Jesus, addressed his brethren thus: “Happy are ye, Israelites. Before whom do you cleanse yourselves, and who cleanses you? Your Father in heaven; for it is said: ‘I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness . . . will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you'” (Ezek. xxxvi. 26); and again it is said that the Lord, “the hope of Israel” (Jer. xiv. 8), is also a “fountain of water” (a play on the Hebrew word “miḳweh”). “As the fountain of water purifies the unclean, so does God purify Israel” (Yoma viii. 9). This doctrine, which does away with all mediatorship of either saint, high priest, or savior, became the leading idea of the Jewish Atonement.

        Accordingly, Atonement in Jewish theology as developed by the Rabbis of the Talmud, has for its constituent elements: (a) on the part of God, fatherly love and forgiving mercy; (b) on the part of man, repentance and reparation of wrong.

        The following exposition will serve to enlighten the reader on these elements:

        (a) While God’s quality of justice (“middat hadin”), which punishes the wrong-doing, would leave no hope for man, since “there is not a righteous man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not” (Eccl. vii. 20, R. V.), God’s quality of mercy (“middat haraḥamin”) has from the very beginning provided repentance as the means of salvation (Gen. R. i, xii.; Pesiḳ. xxv. 158b; Pesiḳ. R. 44; Pes. 54a.) “Thou hast mercy upon all; thou condonest the sins of men in order that they should amend” (Wisdom xi. 23). “Wherever there are sins and righteous deeds set against each other in the scale of justice, God inclines it toward mercy”(Pesiḳ. xxvi. 167a).”

        Now, I know, I know: THAT kind of behavior on God’s part wouldn’t have made for “the greatest story even told”, esp when you have a cast of characters just begging to be used as plot devices (eg the horrific Roman storm troopers to hang victims on crosses, spill some blood, etc)! And what fun is there in not making people go through mental contortions in order to make sense out of it all? (Most will just go with the flow, figuring they just don’t ‘get it’, blaming themselves since they don’t want to ask the uncomfortable questions they struggle with, for fear of public humiliation).

        But even if someone manages to connect those dots (while keeping a straight face), that STILL doesn’t address the over-arching question:

        What does Adam’s ‘original sin’ (or Jesus’ death to atone for it) have to do with modern humans?

        See, unlike the ancient Hebrews, modern men have largely rejected the concept of multi-generational obligations and inheritance of familial debt (the Japanese being a notable exception, with their famous 100-year mortgages that commit children to obligations incurred by their parents. Japanese culture is MUCH more accepting of honoring the familial name and accepting obligations of one’s forefathers). Western cultures have long-ago rejected the idea of being held accountable for the actions of one’s forefathers (much less one who supposedly lived 6,000 years ago!), when that wasn’t always the case.

        So If someone rejects the premise of inherited familial liability, as if one who lived in the ancient Near East 3,000 yrs ago, then certainly we can see why they’d sense no need to be redeemed for Adam’s ‘original sin’? Certainly some can see why others reasonably question the premise of being held responsible for the actions of another who supposedly existed LONG before any of us were born, right?

        And from the same Jewish Encyclopedia (1906), even the Jews themselves started to catch on that the whole familial inheritance of debt was taking it a bit too far:

        http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/9937-lex-talionis

        “The Pentateuch does not contain the oldest system of Semitic laws, which is found in the jurisprudence of Babylon, mainly as laid down in the Code of Hammurabi. The instances given in this code of the rule of “measure for measure” go far beyond the “eye for an eye” of the Mosaic code, even when the latter is taken in its most literal sense. Thus, where a man strikes a pregnant free-born woman so as to cause her death through miscarriage (comp. the case put in Ex. xxi. 22-23), under that old Babylonian code (§ 210) the daughter of the assailant should be put to death. Again, when through the carelessness of the builder at house falls and the owner’s son is struck and killed in the ruins, the builder’s son should be put to death. This extravagant application of the “measure for measure” law is made impossible in Israel by Deut. xxiv. 16—”Fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death, for the fathers.”

        Catch that last part? Deuteronomy says that, “Children shall not be put to death for the sins of their fathers”. Hence, the wisdom of using the principle of “measure for measure” was undergoing serious questioning when those passages of Deuteronomy were written (which was likely post-Exilic circa 500BCE, per many highly-respected Pentateuchal scholars, such as John Van Seters).

        So Xians are trying to resurrect outmoded principles from early Israelite beliefs, which went out of fashion a few millenia before even then, being dismissed for the illogical conclusions that result when they’re applied too literally (“extravagantly”).

        Now granted, many people (including yours truly) were raised in a society which is immersed in Judeo-Christian-based beliefs, and it’s hard for many to even contemplate daring to question the basic premises upon which all of these conclusions rely; it’s literally all some have ever known, and they’ve long ago accepted the premises without question. Doesn’t mean it’s true, though.

        But the fact remains: religious beliefs ARE learned and acquired. All of us were born basically as blank slates, where ALL vestiges of culture have been learned/acquired/stamped onto us.

        Corinna’s words in this weekends essay (Orderville) jumped out, unconsciously demonstrating the psychological mechanisms via which ALL beliefs are built:

        “Despite the inclusion of verses I had never heard, the familiarity is comforting.”

        That’s it, in a nutshell: religion understands human psychology enough to know that repetition is key. The old saying ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ is not quite correct, since familiarity breeds COMFORT more than contempt. Mud-slinging politicians understand this point, eg “repeat a lie enough times, and eventually it starts to become true” (eg GOP and ‘Benghazi-Gate’).

        However, don’t confuse familiarly (often misinterpreted as a sign of growth or “catching on”) with the beliefs actually being TRUE (ie reality). Humans are capable of believing literally ANYTHING “with all their hearts and minds”, without having any verifiable evidence upon which to justify holding such beliefs.

        People who lived 1k yrs ago accepted without question that the Earth was at the center of the Universe (which, BTW, is a belief based on the Bible’s incorrect views of cosmology). Many today accept certain ideas as truths, without so much as an ounce of verifiable supportive evidence but instead relying upon the usual fallacies (eg appeal to tradition, “it was good enough for my great grandparents, so it’s good enough for me”).

  4. As a non-belliever/agnostic, all of the Christian religious mythologies seem a bit strange and far out……but I would have to say that the American Religions (as identified by Corrine)—the JWs, the Christian Scientists, and the Mormons are even more difficult to swallow. What is there in the American psyche that would cause people to construct such weird, convoluted belief systems? I agree with homewithin on that……but then, like I say, none of it seems believable to me……….I prefer a much more straightforward road to right and ethical living….but I also appreciate the spiritual, the interconnectedness of life.. But that is just my take; obviously other people have a need for other paths. I am sure that many who read this cannot understand or agree with my beliefs either!

    A somewhat divergent thought: Today at my Unitarian Universalist Church, a man spoke who has been in charge of the cold weather homeless shelter for men that was housed in our Fellowship Hall for 120 days this winter. He is with a faith-based (Christian) organization, and he is by far one of the finest individuals I have met. He is devoting his retirement to working with the homeless people in my small city. He truly has taken the teachings of Jesus and has put them into action. And the thing I like about him is his authenticity….there is no pious or self-righteous talk. He just goes about the business of working with and caring about those men and women with whom the rest of us won’t even make eye contact because of fear and biases. He is the kind of Christian who lives his beliefs. I do admire that in him. He walks the walk. I can’t say that with many other people I have known. Which has greatly influenced my lack of interest in Christianity. MET

  5. “The beliefs of the JWs, the Christian Scientists and the Mormons seem just so….Weird.”

    Yup, I know what you’re getting at, but I’d probably use another adjective: “incorrect”.

    It’s not weird, as much as it’s all unproven conjecture, some of which actually IS disproven by the evidence.

    Eg in 2013, we KNOW without any question that disease and illness are NOT caused by angry Gods (in the Bible, see tale of Sodom and Gomorrah, where angels cause blindness, or Exodus 20:21, where YHWH takes the dubious credit for causing blindness and deafness in humans) as Divine retribution for one’s sins (eg, the theories offered in the book of Job by his so-called “friends” of why he was suffering skin boils).

    Instead, we KNOW these are medical conditions, and even know the mechanisms of the pathophysiology that exists at the cellular and molecular level in order to develop treatments such that these conditions are routinely cured by doctors.

    As only one example, cataracts caused incurable blindness 2,000 yrs ago, but now are routinely treated (at least in Western counties, where access to care is taken for granted; in 3rd World countries, cataracts still are a MAJOR cause of blindness, primarily due to a lack, not of “faith”, but $$$). Even one eye surgeon who graduated from a cut-rate medical school in the Caribbean “heals” more cases of blindness than Jesus ever did.

    It was excusable to believe in miracles and laying on of hands to heal 1k yrs ago, in the “dark ages” (which was darkened primarily on theological grounds, with no small role played by the RCC who squelched prior millennia of attempts to advance man’s knowledge). But in 2013, there’s just no excuse, aside from willful ignorance and blind denial of the evidence.

    I looked on the Mormon site, and saw awed utterances of the name of the modern-day prophet who leads the Mormons like a modern-day Moses, Thomas S. Monson.

    In contrast, JWs believe that God communicates to the rank and file via a group of men called the ‘Governing Body’, who live in Brooklyn, NY (presumably God is not just a New Yorker, but enjoys hanging out in Brooklyn)! Interesting organizational structure, since the Mormons are placing all the power in the hands of a single man, vs the deniability afforded by a body composed of members, where a whistleblower (eg Ray Franz) can be pushed out and labelled an apostate. The Mormons are thus consolidating power in the figure of one person, like a Mormon Pope.

    It’s interesting to read comments from Mormons who say God loves humanity enough not to abandon us, and hence gave the World the first modern-day prophet, Joseph Smith.

    Apparently they must believe God DIDN’T love humanity during the period after Jesus’ death, but before the appearance of Joseph Smith some 1,800 yrs later! Sigh, m’kay. God abandoned humanity for 1,800 yrs, because he really loves the Mormons!

    That’s a reflection of the narcissism of most humans, thinking they’re alive at the MOST IMPORTANT AGE in the history of Earth, EVER!! But not just that: they have the good luck to have “The Truth”!

    I guess we are living in the “Latter Days”, right, at a time just before Jesus does his thing? Stuff’s going down any minute now, so you don’t want to look away!

    Why am I thinking of “Waiting on Godot” right now (and is Godot an abbreviation for “God, Old Testament”)? 🙂

  6. I’m sorry that this is so long, but I have a lot to say.

    Merrill said “The American religions, the JWs, the Christian Scientists and the Mormons are even more difficult to swallow.” She also wondered what would “cause people to construct such weird convolunted belief systems.” And “Homewithin” says she turns Mormons and JWs away “because their beliefs are so weird.” I can’t speak for the Mormons, but I can for JWs, since I left a mainline church and became a JW some 56 years ago, when I was fresh out of college in my early 20s. Are the beliefs of JWs really “so weird”? Right up front I will say that JWs actually do follow the teachings of the Bible very closely. Their main concern is the love of Jehovah God, and love of neighbor–not just their JW neighbors, but all neighbors. That’s why we go from door-to-door, (see: Acts 20:20 and Acts 5:42) trying to help people understand the Bible. And, when they do understand who Jehovah is, who his Son is, Jehovah’s purposes for mankind and the earth, etc, etc, they make these life-changes. In our door-to-door work, besides helping people (who want help) understand the Bible, we have also stopped suicides, divorces, abortions, drug and tobacco misuse, etc.. One young man I had the privilege of studying the Bible with, for example, was a heavy drug-user, even though his step-father was a Methodist minister, told me years later that if he hadn’t become a JW, he’d be dead by now. Instead he’s the superintendent of a public school system in New Mexico.

    Almost all Christian religions claim that their beliefs are based on the Bible. But are they really? Granted, some are, but interestingly, there are three teachings that are central to most Christian churches. Most (but not all) believe and teach that God is made up of 3 persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, or Spirit (1+1+1=1). The Bible does not teach this. This teaching is a pagan concept that carried over from pagan worship, with some changes intended to allow the doctrine to be adopted into Christian belief. Yet, this doctrine is not taught in the Bible at all. Many clergy of various religions even admit this, but teach it anyway. Jesus, nor any Bible writer, including Paul, ever taught it. While there are some verses that seem to indicate that Jesus and God are “one,” there are no verses of scripture that ever mention THREE being one. All of these few verses can readily and easily be explained in context. For example, at John 10:30 Jesus says “I and the Father are one.” He doesn’t explain what he meant there, but just a little further on in John, he does. John 17:20-22, which is part of Jesus’ prayer to his Father (which would be strange for Jesus to be praying to God, if he IS God), Jesus explains that he is one in agreement, purpose and unity with his Father, and he prays that all of his disciples would also be ONE with them.

    Does that sound like our denial of this teaching (based upon so much more than the above) is “weird and convoluted”?

    Another “mainline” teaching is that we all have within us an immortal soul that lives on after the death of the body. There is not even one verse of scripture that teaches this, although it was a prominent teaching in the religion of ancient Babylon, which spread to Greece and other ancient peoples. This teaching is as old as Satan’s lie, telling Eve that “You surely will NOT die, after God said she and her husband WOULD die if they disobeyed a simple commandment. JWs deny the teaching of inherent immortality of the soul, simply because the Bible clearly does not teach it, but teaches just the opposite, that death comes about as a result of sin. (See Romans 5:12). There is not a single verse of scripture that even has the word “immortal” or “everlasting” or “never-ending” along with the word “soul” or “spirit”! Instead, the Bible teaches that when we die, we are actually DEAD and know nothing, until the future resurrection when all those who are in God’s memory will live again. If we all have an inherent immortal soul which never dies, but immediately goes to its reward or its punishment, what would be the purpose of a resurrection—which the Bible DOES teach?

    Then, Most mainline churches also teach “hell-fire” as the everlasting punishment of the “unsaved”. Jesus did use the Greek word “gehenna” as a symbol of eternal death or destruction, but the King James Version translators applied their own idea of a burning punishment and translated this word “gehenna” as “hell” or “hell-fire” whereas, this Greek word has nothing to do with the “grave” which is what “hell” means. Jesus used his word “Gehenna” as a symbol of complete destruction, and NOT as a symbol of a place evildoers go where they burn forever and ever. Since Jesus said we are to even love our enemies, is it even logical that he and God would burn THEIR enemies for ever and ever? Is it OUR disbelief in an everlasting torture–hell-fire–that is “weird” or “convoluted”? Or, is it that of the mainline churches that teach this God-dishonoring doctrine? God is not a fiend, but he is a loving Father.

    The Bible teaches that the majority of the righteous, including millions, if not billions of resurrected ones, both the righteous and the unrighteous (Acts 24:15), but not the willfully wicked, will live forever on a restored paradise earth. (Ps. 37:29). (The willfully wicked will be destroyed–not suffer in flames forever). That will fulfill God’s original purpose for the earth and mankind and then God’s will will truly be done “on earth as it is in heaven”. Think about this: If our first parents had been obedient, would there have been any need for Jesus to come to earth as a ransom sacrifice? (Another very scriptural teaching). The Bible promises this earth will become a paradise like it was when mankind started out on earth. Mankind will also become perfect eventually, as our first parents were. Does that sound like a weird, convoluted teaching? To me it sounds wonderful to have an opportunity to fulfill God’s original purposes for mankind and the earth.

    If anything, it is mainline Christendom’s teaching of Trinity, Immortality of the soul, and hell-fire that are weird. JWs recognize their pagan source and reject these, and other teachings. Some other things JWs believe and teach may sound “weird” to some, such as not celebrating Christmas or Easter, but this is with good reason! It is because we don’t want to offend Jehovah God, or Jesus Christ by mixing in pagan ideas and practices. These holidays (and others) were originally pagan holidays in honor of pagan false gods, and have nothing to do with true Christianity.

    Several years ago I spent many hours in the University of New Mexico’s Zimmerman Library and did research on Easter. I put together this research in a paper, which anyone interested can pull off the computer by typing in “Easter–Who Does it Really Honor?” I used NOTHING from JW literature, but instead I used ALL secular sources. There was only one quote from a secular source that I know of that has been quoted in one of our publications which is now out of print, that I included, so I can say that everything in my report is from secular sources, both from my time spent in the library, as well as some “online” information. If anyone here reads this research, it will become clear why JWs do not celebrate Easter. After reading the paper, I doubt if Merrill will consider it “weird” that we distance ourselves from Easter. If people would do their own research on Christmas, those who, like JWs, who don’t want to offend God and Christ, will also understand why we don’t celebrate that religious holiday either.

    I’m not going to debate with anyone on these points. Certainly everyone has the right to believe what they choose to believe. I’m just explaining why we, as Bible-believing Christians don’t believe in some mainline church doctrines, and DO believe in others, even though some of our beliefs may seem “weird” to Merrill, “homewithin” or others. Thanks for reading the other side of the story.

    Chuck

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