Sayer versus the Said

Going back to the previous post, about voicing and authority…

First, in the spirit of this post, this blog is holding GENcon14, an annual semi-annual conference.  Speakers will be chosen from the General Authorities and Auxiliary leaders of Themselves.

Seriously, next week, new voices…

Second:

It would be interesting to have an entire month where the “source” of some statement was forbidden from being tied to what was said.  Maybe November could be, “I don’t care who said it month”?

How many quotes from General Conference would appear little different from daytime tv, or car commercial life-philosophy?  Moreover, what if rather than saying, “Denver Snuffer said…” or “Daymon Smith said…” (if ever that has been said to summon authority!), or “The Lord said…” or “The Book of Mormon said…” instead we were only allowed to say what was said?

How would we decide which to believe, or to disbelieve?

As folks believing in unnatural or extraordinary happenings, like the Book of Mormon being a translation of an actual, ancient record of a ruined people, we confront problems that, for instance, atheists no longer worry about: namely, what should I believe, when positivism is not sufficiently explanatory for what I’ve experienced?  Or, what should I disbelieve, given that I cannot set the limits on what is impossible (other than, say, scholastic theological conundrums like God making a boulder He cannot lift, or a married bachelor)?   If we don’t have the refuge of unbelief–proposed to be defined as: a positive believing against some belief we have no reason, logically or rationally, to decide against–how can we decide which track to follow?  A man in a white robe is to guide us?  Or an Iron Rod?  Or…

Voice and Author-ity

A man woke in the middle of the night, and had many thoughts.  Let’s call him Tim.  He returned to sleep and in the morning he told the neighbors, “Skeletor woke me last night, and told me to go about doing bad things.”  The neighbors wondered at this saying, but figured the man was telling a joke.

skele_01

The next night, the man again awoke, not of his own accord, and realized that again Skeletor had come and was giving much knowledge and instruction.  “Skeletor came again last night, woke me up and told me to start an Evil Horde,” he explained to his neighbors.  They went away wondering, did this Skeletor really come and wake him?  And if so, what might we do to enjoy his loud laughter and evil speaking of Eternia’s anointed?

We might ask some questions of this would-be disciple of Skeletor.

First, when you say, “Skeletor awoke me last night,” you mean you saw him, in the violet anger of his person, and looked upon his yellowed skull face?

So, he put his hand on you, shook you gently, and then roughly, whispering, “Man, wake up.  Hey, wake up.”  And you said, “Huh, wha?  who’s there…huh…mumblemumble…AHHH, Skeletor!!!”

And Skeletor said, “That’s right, fool!  Now I have awakened you, and I require you to do my evil bidding!”

he-man_and_the_masters_of_the_universe_1983_skeletor2

And you said, “Hey, that’s totally cool, but it’s like 3 am.  I mean, I can’t do a whole lot of evil bidding right now.  I’m in my underwear, ahem, non-magical, as you’ve now heard; my hair’s a mess, and like, I gotta thing I gotta do.  You know, maybe come back in the morning?”

And Skeletor answered, “Fool! I have chosen you to restore the Evil Horde.  Look upon my face.  It is yellow and skully, and although I don’t have lips, yet I can pronounce my words without impediment.  It’s because I possess the power of Skeletor.  Feel my skull face, and my purple muscles.”

And you said, “dude, why don’t you come back later?  It’s like 3 in the morning.  But if that’ll get you out my bed, I guess I can feel your skull face.  Yeah, it’s a skull face alright.”

“Hah hah hah hah hah!!!”

he-man_and_the_masters_of_the_universe_1983_skeletor

So, we ask, was it like that?

No, the man replies, I mean I conversed with him in my mind, as he is wont to do.  But he was in your room? we ask.  Yes.  And you saw him?  Not with my natural eyes.  With which eyes, then?  In my mind’s eye.  Not in your skull?  So, you woke up, had some thoughts, and attributed them to a cartoon villain pictured in your mind, who had specially chosen you to restore the Evil Horde?  Yes.

Of course, we would say this man is misusing ordinary language.

When he says, “the Lord of Evil came to me,” he means, “I had some thoughts or feelings I attributed to Skeletor.”  When he claims, “Skeltor woke me up,” he means, “I woke up, and since I am not conscious of myself waking myself, I attributed that as an effect of a cartoon villain who had wondered into my room from the world of Filmation.”  He is asking us to do the interpretive work, or not.

Why not just describe things as they happened, rather than as he repaints them?

Others eager to hear from Skeletor might decide that perhaps this man has been chosen to bring back the Evil Horde, for it is possible, isn’t it?  What might I do, they inquire, in order to enjoy Skeletor’s nighttime wake-up call and special invitation?

Perhaps you must be X, Y, and Z.  Surely Skeletor doesn’t just visit anyone, as he pleases.  He is a busy villain, and wouldn’t waste his time hanging out with just anyone.  There must be something special about his chosen.

What seems be the deciding moment is when one decides to describe events in terms not entirely faithful to the reality experienced.  There is dishonesty in requiring others to unlock one’s words, and to show they mean something rather less definite than the picture they conjure up.  What would we call a man who says, “I saw an alien ship in the sky!”  Yet, after questioning, we learn he means, “I saw a cloud that looked like what I figure alien ships look like”?  If we must ask further questions to find out his words mean other than what we might call their “literal” meaning, we might say he is deceiving us.

Ah, the poet’s license: William Blake often said he spied angels here and there, but he was a poet, and did not credit these angels with having specific names and giving him practical instruction about how to act in this world, except in a general way he’d call “good.”  In cases like Blake’s we can leave unresolved whether he “really” saw angels or not.  Whatever he saw, he called them angels.

Tim’s case in the parable is different in an important way.

We could say to Tim, “You may attribute any author to your thoughts, to your unconscious actions, to pictures in your head.  But why not attribute them to a lesser being, rather than the greater?  Why must the Lord of Darkness be their author, rather than, say, Modulok or Chad?  Did he say something only Skeletor would say?”

Modulokplayed by Lou Scheimer  Chadplayed by Linda Gary

Surely, there are other beings in Eternia eager to converse with us, and why must every thought and waking up be credited to Skeletor?

In fact, why bother assigning an author to the voices in our head?  Except that by an author we hope to give our words authority?  The, “I heard from so-and-so” turn that presents some face as a mask to cover investigation into the merit our words?

But doesn’t the truth come whatever its source, and carry its own influence?  Do these voices really have an author?  Or is it more like a drawing using another being’s words, and those words are read from a script written by a team of writers, drawing on their own experiences with other voices, and so on?  Who, then, is the author?  A drawing named Chad?

Why say “Skeletor,” except that one can now begin an assault on Castle Greyskull, seeking for its power and throne?  Leaving aside obvious obligations to cite published authors in order to give credit, and avoid charges of plagiarism, Why can’t we just report something, a notion, a thought, an inspiration, and not assign an author when we don’t really have an author’s name or face to reference?

Of course, I am aware that some readers will instead be asking, “Is Daymon talking about X, Y, or Z?”  I am talking about this way of talking, regardless of who does it.

 

Note: Also, I am not denying the possibility of supernatural visitors.  In my own Cultural History I describe some invasions of my personal space by powerful thoughts, let’s call them; which I attributed to various named individuals.  Yet in no case did they instruct me to do such and such, except as it related to something I had written.  Mostly correcting me. There the invasion seemingly concluded.  Had I simply said, B.H. Roberts came to me, and told me what to write, I’d be, I think, less than truthful.  He didn’t tell me what to write, but some thoughts I’d describe as “not my own” suggested what I’d written was not quite right.

The question, of course, is: How do we decide which thoughts are “ours” and which to attribute to some other mind-invading entity?  Or, maybe the better question: Why bother assigning names and sources to thoughts?

Isn’t it enough we have good ones, and bad ones?  If a thought or sentence persuades us to do good, we can say it came from Christ.  Does that mean I can say, “Christ told me to do, say, feel, such-and-such”?  I don’t think so.  If I read C.S. Peirce, and his writings inform my thoughts, it would clearly be untruthful to say, “Peirce is telling me what to think,” except as I make it clear I mean, “The writings of Peirce, not the actual man.”

By talking as our Tim has in the parable, moreover, we make it more likely others will doubt someone else’s claims about really being visited by Skeletor, leaving them always in doubt that maybe this someone too was speaking metaphorically, or adding interpretation to description.  Adding an author does not dissolve our unbelief, rather it promotes it, and builds on the power of their name.  It would be more honest to not designate an author where we don’t have a face or a name.  Instead, we could speak of what was said, thought, felt, heard, and so on, and decide the merits of their meaning without worry of offending Skeletor or Chad.  This is an Article of Faith, perhaps.

 

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.

item image

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.

still alive

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…

VPB

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.