Meet the Mormons, Prequels

What with all the hubbub around the new epic “Meet the Mormons,” a fantasy thriller of extraordinary depth and intrigue, I present the Prequels.

Apparently, folks were still getting the hang of watching “moving” pictures, so these are barely qualifying as “moving.”  I mean, sloooooow.  And emotionally the equivalent of a cement injection straight into the hypothalamus.

Set aside about a week to watch these “films,” which are mostly about death, and how SLOW we move towards it, especially when watching old Mormon movies.

First, the grand myth, Search For Truth.  Less concerned with the search than with the conclusion, I’m afraid.

Still frame from: Search For Truth

The inspiration for a little known film, Star Wars, this brilliant postmodern undoing of the space fantasy genre stands alone in the firmament of Mormon film.  And for the first use of the “Agnostic Pirate” character, who would dominate YouTube satires in later years.  Tommy Monson plays Isaac Newton, in his first but certainly not last effort at acting.  Almost as slow and dull as a PBS documentary, or that dreadful Cosmos series.  But worth watching, and not insincere, nor stupid.

Still frame from: Of Heaven and Home

Of Heaven and Home

A classic tale of intrigue, deceit, revenge, and lust.  And Home Teachers.  The inspiration for Brokeback Mountain, believe it or not.   Explores how bad things happen to bad people, and by “bad people,” they mean, your kids.  You know who you are, fighting the Lord’s Home Teachers and their honest attempts at surveillance and inquisition, and maintaining a perpetual presence in one’s home, even during the holidays.  Notable for introducing “Jocko” in the Provo vernacular, an early term for a True Blue Mormon.  And for Mitt Romney’s film debut as the lecherous home teacher Dave.

Still frame from: Measure of a Man

Measure of a Man

Classic noir treatment of the seedy underbelly of Provo, Utah.  Acting is off da hook.  This one got me off the sauce permanently.  I mean Root Beer.  At the Drive-in.  With Hal and Blaine.  Gives me the jumps.  Dialects alone make this worth watching, along with the creepy internal monologues.

Still frame from: Welfare Another Perspective

Welfare: Another Perspective

Worth watching for the car chases, knife fights, and exploration into the darkness of humanity.  And for the closing monologue, too.  And watch out for the jogging family.  Yikes.

Still frame from: Up In Smoke

Up In Smoke

It’s Humbar Time: I’d Rather Have It Than Pie.  As honest a documentary as the later “Meet the Mormons.”  Which is to say, both brilliant satires, with many levels of interpretation.  Watch for the Bruce McConkie cameo.

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Time Pulls The Trigger

Another dramatic film with a complex, nuanced message about life and death, and all that makes us human.  Winner of the Academy Award for best educational animation in a motion picture, 1960.  Seriously, the animated sequence 10 minutes in is a trip.  Think Fantasia reimagined by J.Edgar Hoover.  Then Mickey Mouse gets poisoned by a remorseless dude in a suit.

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All the pdfs I’ve posted this year have been removed.  If you are missing some part of the cultural  history, let me know.  I’ll not entertain, “can you send me the whole thing?” sort of requests, but if you’ve been reading along, and missed one, I will send that.

Let me give just a few thoughts and responses to questions, drawing on a request quoted below:

“…would you please do YOUR version of the ‘articles of faith’ (kind of) to set the record straight as to the many BoM intricacies ie:
-actual geography?
-joseph a prophet/seer or not?
-d&c true or false, or which parts are specifically?
-d&c 76 bogus? Rigdon didnt really see the vision?
-sect 124 true?
-who the heck are the lamanites?
-all accounts of healings and angelic visits in e as rly lds history bogus?
– etc etc”

Good questions.  Answers?

I’m not going to explain why I believe what I write below to be true, because I’ve written nearly 2000 pages, and freely distributed them, giving in these writings what evidence I find reasonable.

The first answer I give, as I see it:

Yes, Joseph was a prophet/seer, as I understand the term.  How do I decide in his favor?  The Book of Mormon is evidence enough for me…add to that his other sermons and generally ridiculous way of living and dying, and he comes out more than a prophet and seer.  If you have questions about the Book of Mormon, (“what about this or that, steel, or Indian DNA?”), I say, read what I’ve written, and then we’ll talk.

Does that mean everything someone says Joseph said, is really true and inspired?  No.  Aside the problem of accuracy in reporting, infallibility is not something we can attribute to him.  Moreover, Joseph prefaced his entire career as the on-going prophet of the Church of Christ with his reading of Ezekiel 14.

It seems to me the question about Joseph, this question is asking something like, “Do you believe there are still puzzles, or has mankind discovered and explained everything already, (i.e., the universe will suck in on itself and nothingness alone will be, just as it is after death, if nothingness can be)?”

Do the atheists have it right, or, Should we believe in Gods, this late in the history of the world?

They are old, and tired, but still around.  The Gods, I mean.

Not the atheists, who more often than not are young, energetic and ambitious.

I think the spirit lives after the body dies, and that darkmatter is bullshit.

Re: Science.  If you want to see what scientists are really firm on, in terms of the nature of things, read some scientific journals.  Try it.  You’ll learn quickly that very little is as definite and settled as it is portrayed in popular science writings, or worse when it comes to simplification, in PBS or FOX specials.  This is true for physics, biology, genetics, archaeology, food science, medicine, and so on.

If you come away in despair from your reading of the ongoing and ever present disputes in science journals —  how it seems no one really “knows” anything, at least, not without facing equally reasonable doubts among most of their peers — if this discourages you, it may be because you are looking for religion in the wrong place.  If you come away pleased that the world is not so narrow as you’d been told, you have the right to wonder about it.

The universe wasn’t created, and it isn’t going away, I’m guessing.  If we are condemned to exist always, we might as well start doing what we really want to do, and that might as well be good, rather than evil.  No one can kill me, and I am not my body of flesh.  We are, that we might have joy.  Whatever we are, it is “ontologically” found in what we sometimes call “joy.”  Or light.

Now, if something being created will be destroyed, what do we make of our resurrected bodies?  Apparently, either temporary things; or they are “made” from what is eternal about us, “restored” in the image of the body’s primordial creation in the Beginning.  Just another puzzle to wonder about.

That takes us, I suppose, to D&C.

I would say anything purporting to be “revelation” received or given before 1832 should be treated as an apple from an old, long nosed, wrinkly hag.  Maybe it’s just an apple, maybe a magic one, and maybe that magic is good.  Or it will put you into spiritual sleep, to be looked after, and over, by seven homely dwarves (or is it twelve, plus three)?

If we look into D&C 76, we can begin to discern more reliable from less reliable “revelations,” on principles having nothing to do with “what is said.”

First, if written from someone’s perspective, a vision, for example, such a writing must be read as being written from someone’s perspective.  In the case of D&C 76, it is clearly Rigdon’s, and clearly run through Campbellite restorationist dogma.  Does that mean he didn’t see anything?  Not at all.  I think D&C 138, for instance, reports a real vision, but that Joseph F. Smith saw it through a cracked lens.  It seems rare that we do as Joseph Smith, the Original (junior), taught: if we receive a vision, ask for the interpretation, as well.  And then write it down, without interpretation by you, or in an attempt to prove some notion or belief is really correct.

Second, if one hears the Voice, and feels that light which comes with it, and the Voice speaks in clear English (maybe even complete sentences), I would say the report of that Voice’s saying is probably accurate.  The interpretation?  Well…

Second-and-a-half: No, the strange visions and miracles of the early church of Christ weren’t all bogus, but they weren’t all legitimate, either.  There were liars then, as there are liars today, from top to bottom and to the side.  And people then, as today, used their words in ways that allowed for others to interpret what they said as saying something miraculous happened, when maybe it wasn’t really quite so concretely miraculous.

Where does a “vision” start, where the “voice of the Lord” begin, as something distinct from ordinary vision and hearing?  Maybe there’s a big neon sign that says, “You are having a vision, starting now!” Or, “Hey Daymon, it’s Jesus here, can we talk for a minute?”  But it seems that one can call anything a “vision,” or a “revelation,” and just (silently) redefine what one means by these terms.

Until we have clear boundaries, of what we mean by terms like “vision” or “revelation” or “second comforter,” we might as well wander into minefields, meadows, or minds without concerning ourselves with the practical differences.

Perhaps our language has built into us a measure of unbelief?  Where did we learn to speak of visions distinct from vision, of some feelings being “special,” or some voices not being our own?  This is the sort of question that in answering, would require greater knowledge than I can even begin to outline.

Third, if one says, “I was told to say, ‘such and such,’ and now I have,” one can treat this as either a true message or not; reported accurately or not.  Moreover, if the messenger fails to distinguish between his/her message or interpretation of the message, and the message he or she was to give, I would say, that is not a reliable messenger.  If they don’t draw clear open-and-close-quotes, I mean.  Not evil; but like a mailman or postman who takes your letters home and adds his own content, without clearly marking it as such. Maybe he did so with good intent.  In the case of material published in D&C, we don’t have too many passages clearly reporting the Voice’s message, as signed off by Joseph Smith, falling outside the warning of Ezekiel 14.

What about D&C 124?  I think this is one of the rare, reliable ones.  But the traditional interpretation of what is being said is not correct.  How to avoid the plain facts: Mormons were driven from their place, did not receive the priesthood removed anciently? (By “priesthood” I mean, a group of priests; as a neighborhood is a group of neighbors.)  Again, we cannot think without being aware of our words.

We stumble around the darkness when we talk of “priesthood” as a sort of mojo one has or does not have.  The mojo, such as it is, seems to consist in one’s trust among other priests.  If there is a power one might “have,” we can call that, “faith.”  And by “Faith,” I don’t mean, “belief plus action.”  These other priests may have power, because they have faith.  Nobody “has” or “holds” the priesthood.  Faith comes by hearing the Word; I’d say, that Word is something like the story of the world.  And knowing how that story is to play out, would indeed give one a measure of “power,” if only because one could be patient, not mislead or be misled, nor be drifting about at every wind of doctrine.

This brings us to the “Lamanites.”  Recall that no one left alive in the Book of Mormon after Christ has descended is really, “ethnically” Lamanite.  After a few generations, some folks call themselves “Lamanites,” but apparently the lines of Nephi and Laman were mingled during Zion’s brief golden age.  So, who did all the killing in the fourth century?  People calling themselves “Lamanites.”  Do they have a promise?  No.  They did not dwindle in unbelief, but willfully rebelled against the light, and are sons and daughters of perdition, I’m afraid.

Who are the Remnant, then?  That piece of carpet, as it were, given the land as an inheritance by Jesus, when he came and taught them.  I don’t mean their descendants…whatever Indian tribe you have in mind.  I mean, them: the people at Bountiful.  You do the math, and go back and read Third Nephi.  And Helaman.  And Alma.  Not all of them remained alive, of course, but some few did, and this land is their land, collectively.  Which land?

Well, I don’t know how the boundaries are drawn on the maps in Heaven.  But, I would say, since I can guess and there’s no harm in being wrong here, that the events of the Book of Mormon took place in what we’d call California.  Southern, mostly.  Some parts have since been swept into the sea, or buried, or whatever, but I’d say that’s where I’d like to live, assuming they get rain at some point in the future.  I don’t understand how millions of Mormon can talk of the Yucatan, or Peru, or Michigan as being the Promised Land, and not have any desire whatsoever to move there.  Seriously, imagine California as just land and sea…who wouldn’t want to live there, at some point in their lives?

What evidence there may be for my fantasy, I give in the Cultural History, mostly Volume Five.

Finally, as concerns current events: It is this Remnant alone I would listen to, if anyone comes around talking about “Restoring Zion.”  At least three are reportedly still around, and probably a few more, as well, from that “second generation from Christ.”

Really finally: Do I need to explain why the recent, semi-annual ass-kissing WrinkleCon 2014 is our Mormon dark-matter?   Restoration, priesthood, Ezekiel 14…

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Cult.Hist.5.3

Third installment of the fifth volume of the cultural history of the Book of Mormon.  One more to go!

BoMCH5_West

I don’t have any words of wisdom concerning or specific to recent moves by you-know-who, but can only draw on what I’ve written already.  Just a few notions I happen to subscribe to, generally:

It often is not as clear as false-true, fake-authentic.  It seems God will speak to us through our idols, as he did in the past.  Joseph Smith opens his church with this talk-about-talk.  But the True Speaker will often appear reluctant, should the audience worship the idol, rather than the voice and its stories.  When the idol’s voice no longer draws from living waters, as it were, it will spout out re-circulated waters, and attempt to impress by its synchronicity to popular tunes, its colorful lighting, grandeur of architecture, or other spectacles turned to during certain semi-annual conferences.  By re-circulated, we can also understand many things falling under the term “Restoration.”

There have been eager groups in times past, sincere and so on, seeking for Restorations (of powers of Godliness, of miracles, of…).  I would be reluctant to participate in a Restoration of Anything I wasn’t previously familiar with, or could verify by some independent means (a text, a map, a reliable, explicit supernatural being, etc.).  Something or someone must be really connected to that lost thing needing restoration, and I would prefer the more public evidence over the private and personal, when it comes to restoring houses, electricity, or life.  Dr. Frankenstein was a restorationist.  Private definitions are often the cause of trouble, particularly so when we are looking for something with a name, in the future, while hoping to understand it as we go along encountering it.  Anything potentially could be regarded as a Restoration, so long as we don’t really have definitions or specific notions for what is being restored, and what it ought to look like.  This takes us to the criteria of fruits…

What are the expected fruits, specifically, of some future-oriented cause or gathering?  And be careful that you don’t use a name as the fruit (e.g., Zion), when you can apply that name to whatever happens to come about (e.g., living in Utah, corporate bank-churches, etc.).  Also, private fruits should be linked to public ones, at least, that is what I consider my experience of “reality.”  This is not to say hopes, dreams, wishes, and so on are not “real,” only not quite as alive-real as other things, because they are not independent of our minds, and cannot be shared with or built by other interested persons.

Just because something extraordinary happens, this doesn’t necessarily mean what one might like it to mean.  Obviously.  I’m glad someone is willing to start up something new, and hopefully good, as well.  But, one of the commonest mistakes made is assuming one’s movement, church, community, non-church, or whatever, is the only sprout in the whole vineyard, the single last scion and great hope of Zion.  Perhaps this leads us to taking it too seriously, resulting in hard standards of behavior, growing lists of rules, pride, and a neglecting of other important matters.

Probably gods are busy planting many gardens.  Not every planting may be designed to bring about the One Fruit.  Sometimes gardeners plant flowers near other crops, like tomatoes, in order to keep pests distracted by their pleasing pheromones, vibrant colors, and so on.  But even in that case, the pests are nearer the tomato, I suppose, than they would be crawling about elsewhere.

V5: Cult.Hist of the BoM

The fifth volume, finally!  Book Fantasia

This volume departs from the history describing how readers of the BoM have instituted an interpretive layering upon the text.  Rather than the woeful tale of binding to the Bible, accursedness and deep sleepery, instead this book revisits the text and sees what now can be read and imagined, having gone to great trouble to dissolve so much tradition.  I think you’ll be surprised at what the old book might be saying!

BoMCH5_North

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Cult.Hist. 4B.4

Fourth and final installment of Book B of the Fourth Volume of the Cultural History of the Book of Mormon.  Like I said, this book is quite different from the others…although this section includes some material I’ve revised from the dissertation, for instance, the history of “intelligences” as imagined by Orson Pratt and others.

BoMChVol4B_South

Next month: Volume 5!

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