Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What does a man have to do to be cursed around here?

I am white.  I am really white.  I am the pasty color of Elmer's Glue.  Sometimes, I would argue that not only am I white, but somewhat transparent also.  I do not tan.  I am capable of being two colors.  Red and white.  Insomuch as red is uncomfortable, I try to stay white.  I have considered buying stock in various sun screen companies as I am one of their major customers and felt it would be only right that I at least have some small say in how they do business.  I hope to have been clear in what I am trying to say.  I am white.  

I used to joke around with people when I was teased about my exceeding whiteness.  I would say it was because I was so virtuous and righteous.  I would point out that when we are all resurrected and have gone to live in heaven, we would all be whiter then I presently am.  I just wouldn't have so far to go to obtain the pearly color of a perfected immortal being.  

I used to feel that my color was one of the burdens I would have to bear.  That it was just a trial that I would have to cope with.  Now that I'm not doing the whole church thing anymore, and in fact are no longer even a believer of the divine, I'm starting to feel a little cheated.  

The Book of Mormon is quite clear about what happens to those who rebel against God and do not keep his commandments which they have been given.

In the first book of Nephi, chapter 12 verse 23 in the BOM it says:
And it came to pass that I beheld, after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.  
And in the book of Alma chapter 3 verse 6 its says:
And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men.
And lastly, the second book of Nephi (there are actually 4, but they are all different people at different times.  I guess the ancient people of the Americas weren't very imaginative.  Actually, now that I come to think about it, this tradition continues to this day.  Just look at the Latino American use of the name Jesus) chapter 5 verse 21:

And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.
So.  There you have it.  They were exceedingly fair and delightsome (like I am now) and they rebelled against God and to prevent them from enticing his righteous people, God made them black.  Or at least a nice cocoa brown.  
WTF?  I was one of the chosen.  I have rebelled.  I am currently, even as I am writing this, enticing the people of God to other paths.  (These are wide and curvy and much easier to walk, with some pleasant scenery and hedges, as well as the occasional scantily clad jogger going by on the other side.) Where the hell is my cursing?  I want to be cursed with dark skin.  I want to be able to play in the sun and be full of idleness, as well as possibly participating in some or all manner of abominations.  I mean, am I supposed to take these "scriptures" seriously or what?  I would think that a fair God would spread his curses around in a just and even handed manner.  What more do I have to do to wake up with a nice caramel coloring to my skin?
I guess what I am trying to say is this:  Summer is right around the corner.  Being able to be out in the sun for more than 20 minutes without suffering for it would really be awesome.  I have heard that money is a curse and I have been asking to be cursed with that for decades.  So, God, I will leave it up to you.  Money or a tan.  Choose you this day whom you will curse, as for me and my household, we'll take either.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Satan needs a publicist.

This blog was contributed by my younger sibling.  It's becoming quite the family affair.
Growing up I would often hear tantalizing and horrifying stories of disobedient, prideful, and sinful people and their close encounters with “the adversary”, Satan, that old snake, even Lucifer!  Being a good LDS child I knew that the Devil was real, and that he was doing everything in his power to corrupt those people who walked too far from the light.  Stories of Ouija boards leading to Satan knocking at the door, or disobedient girls dancing with a handsome boy looking down to see cloven hoofs only cemented my already firm belief that the Devil was real and at work in our lives.  There he lurked, at the edge of the light, tempting us to step closer so he could grab us into sin and evil.
You see, to the LDS (Latter-Day Saints: Mormons) Satan is a real and ever present force.  The LDS church teaches that in the “pre-existence” our pre-mortal life, Satan was one of the good guys, a much revered older brother who was second only to Jesus when it came to the love of the Father, God.  When it came time to decide how to get this whole “life and creation” thing done, two plans were put forth, one from Jesus, one from Satan.

Satan’s plan was quite simple: knowing that god couldn’t have unclean things near him in heaven (allergies I guess), and knowing that having a body is a prime way to get dirty, Satan proposed that he would make sure that everyone played nice and got along in the earth life so that they could all return.  For his hard work, he expected to get a little love from those he saved, you know, fist bumps in the hallway, high fives from Jesus, the usual.

Jesus, on the other hand, had a plan for creation that was much different.  Jesus thought that we should all enter life with no knowledge of any kind, unaware of our pre-existence.  We would then be left adrift in a sea of competing ideas with no clear understanding of who we are and what we are doing.  While there would be no “hell” per se, the only way you could reach the highest degree of heaven, and truly fulfill your eternal potential was if you happened to find one small religion that was started in upstate New York, got married, and went through some rituals that rather resemble Masonry.  You see, you had to learn good from evil on your own.  You had to experience bad and good in order to truly reach your potential.  Oh and by the way, the Glory would go to the Father, God. Jesus, you see, has no need for high fives.

For some reason the perfect creator, the all loving father, decided that we would go with Jesus’ plan.
Then Satan and 1/3 the host of heaven were cast out for a small disagreement over this plan.
And so Satan began his career of trying to entice people into evil, to foil the plans of Celestial Daddy and Big Brother Jesus.  Thus, the stories of Satan’s appearances.

It was only when I got much older that I realized that in every story, in every example, the appearance of the devil had the same effect on the protagonist of the story.  It drove them straight to church or to God to repent of their wicked ways.  It occurred to me that Satan is not working up to his potential.  If he is trying to foil the plans of God, he needs to try some different tactics, use some brains, work smarter not harder.  The way to defeat any enemy is to look at what they are trying to accomplish and defeat their goals.  I have an idea for Satan, just to start him out.

Because you must know good from evil to pass this mortal test, stop people from knowing evil.
If Satan really wanted to foil the plans of God, he would tempt people to do good, not evil.  If every person in the world were to constantly be tempted to do good to each other as hard as we are tempted to masturbate, view pornography, and kill hookers in dark alleys, most people would go through life without ever having to experience evil.  God would be left with emotionally and ethically stunted candidates for Godhood.  Heaven would be like BYU.

If Satan were to follow the above idea, he’d just need to make sure they know it’s him who is helping them out. 

While it might be fine for Jesus to give the thanks to God (even though he did all the work) it would be dishonest for anyone whom Satan helped save to give the glory to God.  I mean, God kicked him out and he still is trying to help?  That would be no thanks to God, but in spite of him.  Everyone one who was brought before the judgment seat of God would be forced to admit that that they couldn’t have done it without Satan.  They would have no need of atonement from Christ and so would have no need to thank him.  Christ would then have no thanks to pass on to Papa.  Satan would get the Glory.

The only way for God to teach these people to know good from evil would be if he tempted them to do evil, and really, is that the kind of God you want to worship?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

If any of you lack wisdom, let him eat of the fruit of that tree.

In the grand scope of things, I think we humans really are quite inquisitive.  We have gotten where we are in modern times by asking a lot of questions and exploring and researching until we get the answers.  We have traveled 250 thousand miles through space and have walked on the Moon.  We have cured diseases that killed thousands just a century ago and have made progress towards many advancements which will improve our life even more.  We have really come a long way in a relatively short period of time which has only increased exponentially in the past century or so.  However, one of the biggest questions which leads many people to religion is the question of "why are we here?"

The Mormons have an interesting answer to this question, which in many ways is similar to that of other Christian philosophies.  It's to be tested.  Not only that, but the Mormons believe that we are here to learn the difference between Good and Evil.  Many a time while I was a member of the Church (anytime a Mormon refers to "the Church" he is referring to the Mormon Church, as for a Mormon there is only one, true church) I would give a talk during a baptism and would explain that this Earth is a great laboratory, where we can learn to distinguish Good from Evil.  For, since there was no Evil in the preexistence where we lived with God, how could we know the difference.  (As an aside, I will not go into the ability of humans to learn abstract things without having to experience them ourselves.  For instance, I don't have to be eaten, or partially eaten by a lion to understand that I really have no desire to experience such an outcome.)  So, no Evil where we were, so we had to come to a place where we could get a little Evil on us so we would know the difference.

Of course, like many things in my life, this led me to a new conundrum.  (Yes, it is possible that I think too much, but that will be addressed in a future blog.)  What about the tree of knowledge?  God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and gave them some commandments.  First, take care of the garden.  God did not take all that time and energy making a fantastic paradise to live in for Adam and Eve to wreck the place.  I mean, who wants the Master of the Universe to complain about how he has never seen a more disgusting pig sty in his whole life, and why are your clothes all over the floor?  Oh, wait, sorry, no clothes yet, but you get the picture.  They were supposed to keep the place nice, so the neighbors wouldn't complain about the property values going down.  (This was most probably a gated community, as there were dinosaurs and cavemen outside the Garden, so you'd want the Covenants to be pretty strict.)  They were also supposed to be fruitful and multiply.  Now, there is a lot of argument about the ability for Adam and Eve to be able to do this.  I don't see what the problem is.  You put two naked adults together, without any television or other electronics to distract the guy, and sooner or later stuff will happen.  I mean, it's not rocket science.  Tab A, Slot B, and viola.  Lastly, they were told not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

So, pretty simple.  But the question is, do you mean to tell me that there is a fruit out there that will give me the knowledge of Good and Evil?  Just eat some fruit and one of the main reasons for being here is done?  And why would God then forbid them to eat of it?  And more importantly, if they can't have it, why put the damn tree in the garden anyway?  I mean, I don't put a bowl of rat poison on the table at dinner time and then tell my kids not to eat it, for in the day that they do they will surely die.  What's the point of that?  Here's my plan with the fruit.  You need people to have the knowledge, so you start feeding them the fruit of that tree as soon as they start eating solids.  Then all your creations have what they need to succeed and then you can test them when they know the answers.  When have you taken a test in school without learning the material first?

It was pointed out to me that the whole tree thing may be a metaphor.  The fruit wasn't what gave them knowledge of Good and Evil, it was the act of disobeying God.  Huh.  Interesting.  So, God could have just picked out a random fruit tree, say apple, and then told them that the apple tree was forbidden because it was the Tree of Knowledge and presto, it is because that is now the forbidden tree.  I like to think that the kumquat is the forbidden fruit.  I just like to say Kumquat.  Kumquat.  It has a certain ring to it, doesn't it?  The kumquat was forbidden and the serpent (probably a carryover of dinojesus.  You mess with my stuff, I mess with yours.  See the February blog for more details.) talks Eve into eating some.  It was delicious to the taste and very desirable.  That is the reason why all females from then on out had no power in the church or ability to gainsay the men.  It was obvious from the first that they couldn't be trusted and would pay too much attention to serpents and other snake like things.

Still.  Sounds like a pretty messed up plan from the get go.  I just can't see why you would start your whole creation out in such a shoddy manner.  I mean, you're God.  Make kumquats have the ability to give knowledge and let people decide for themselves.  Why does everything have to be so obscure?  Its bad enough that your gospel was taken from the earth for 1700 years or so and had to be restored.  And now, even after the fact, there are 13 million members of the "true church" out of over 7 billion people on the earth, and your baptism rate isn't even coming close to keeping up with population growth.  You also have the problem that the majority of people on the earth aren't even Christian.  And that is after 2000 years of trying to convert everybody.  The whole plan needs a major project manager.  Or, knowledge giving kumquats.