Working on it…

I’m working on the Doubt Talk, and hope to have something posted soon.  In the meantime, I give you the conclusion to the Talk:  Ezekiel 20, a nice bookend to Ezekiel 14.

King James Version: Ezekiel Chapter 20

1 And it came to pass in the seventh year, in the fifth month, the tenth day of the month, that certain of the elders of Israel came to enquire of the LORD, and sat before me.

2 Then came the word of the LORD unto me, saying,

3 Son of man, speak unto the elders of Israel, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Are ye come to enquire of me? As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will not be enquired of by you.

4 Wilt thou judge them, son of man, wilt thou judge them? cause them to know the abominations of their fathers:

5 And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day when I chose Israel, and lifted up mine hand unto the seed of the house of Jacob, and made myself known unto them in the land of Egypt, when I lifted up mine hand unto them, saying, I am the LORD your God;

6 In the day that I lifted up mine hand unto them, to bring them forth of the land of Egypt into a land that I had espied for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands:

7 Then said I unto them, Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

8 But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken unto me: they did not every man cast away the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt: then I said, I will pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.

9 But I wrought for my name’s sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen, among whom they were, in whose sight I made myself known unto them, in bringing them forth out of the land of Egypt.

10 Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness.

11 And I gave them my statutes, and shewed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them.

12 Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them.

13 But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; and my sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them.

14 But I wrought for my name’s sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen, in whose sight I brought them out.

15 Yet also I lifted up my hand unto them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands;

16 Because they despised my judgments, and walked not in my statutes, but polluted my sabbaths: for their heart went after their idols.

17 Nevertheless mine eye spared them from destroying them, neither did I make an end of them in the wilderness.

18 But I said unto their children in the wilderness, Walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers, neither observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols:

19 I am the LORD your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them;

20 And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the LORD your God.

21 Notwithstanding the children rebelled against me: they walked not in my statutes, neither kept my judgments to do them, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; they polluted my sabbaths: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the wilderness.

22 Nevertheless I withdrew mine hand, and wrought for my name’s sake, that it should not be polluted in the sight of the heathen, in whose sight I brought them forth.

23 I lifted up mine hand unto them also in the wilderness, that I would scatter them among the heathen, and disperse them through the countries;

24 Because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my statutes, and had polluted my sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers’ idols.

25 Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live;

26 And I polluted them in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass through the fire all that openeth the womb, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the LORD.

27 Therefore, son of man, speak unto the house of Israel, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Yet in this your fathers have blasphemed me, in that they have committed a trespass against me.

28 For when I had brought them into the land, for the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to them, then they saw every high hill, and all the thick trees, and they offered there their sacrifices, and there they presented the provocation of their offering: there also they made their sweet savour, and poured out there their drink offerings.

29 Then I said unto them, What is the high place whereunto ye go? And the name whereof is called Bamah unto this day.

30 Wherefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Are ye polluted after the manner of your fathers? and commit ye whoredom after their abominations?

31 For when ye offer your gifts, when ye make your sons to pass through the fire, ye pollute yourselves with all your idols, even unto this day: and shall I be enquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will not be enquired of by you.

32 And that which cometh into your mind shall not be at all, that ye say, We will be as the heathen, as the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone.

33 As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you:

34 And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out.

35 And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face.

36 Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord GOD.

37 And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant:

38 And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.

39 As for you, O house of Israel, thus saith the Lord GOD; Go ye, serve ye every one his idols, and hereafter also, if ye will not hearken unto me: but pollute ye my holy name no more with your gifts, and with your idols.

40 For in mine holy mountain, in the mountain of the height of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, there shall all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, serve me: there will I accept them, and there will I require your offerings, and the firstfruits of your oblations, with all your holy things.

41 I will accept you with your sweet savour, when I bring you out from the people, and gather you out of the countries wherein ye have been scattered; and I will be sanctified in you before the heathen.

42 And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall bring you into the land of Israel, into the country for the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to your fathers.

43 And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed.

44 And ye shall know that I am the LORD when I have wrought with you for my name’s sake, not according to your wicked ways, nor according to your corrupt doings, O ye house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.

45 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

46 Son of man, set thy face toward the south, and drop thy word toward the south, and prophesy against the forest of the south field;

47 And say to the forest of the south, Hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree: the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein.

48 And all flesh shall see that I the LORD have kindled it: it shall not be quenched.

49 Then said I, Ah Lord GOD! they say of me, Doth he not speak parables?

Follow up on Doubt ing

Picking up few threads from the comments on Doubt:

  1. What happens when Doubt is a Thing?  Like, I can assume everyone means the same thing when I read or hear that word?  And so, I can write a dictionary definition of “it” (and of its itness)…List its attributes, and contrast with another thingified word, like Faith, create flow charts, and so on…Am I really getting at thing I haven’t really created?  And then…
  2. What happens when Doubt is not only a Thing, but an Agentive Thing?  Like, it comes upon me (like a spirit!), and yet is also something I “have,” similar to, say, a disease?
  3. Do prescriptions for socially imagined, discursively created Agent-Things really work?  If not (and they don’t), then what?  Can we doubt everything said about doubts, faith, and so on, from a position that is other than “because I really feel it is so”?  Can we speak more than this?
  4. Step back from what you think Doubt and Faith “really mean,” stop looking for the heart of the matter; pause for a minute reciting some voice on their meaning, their goodness and wickedness, and look at how these words partially create You.  What do you mean to say, for instance, “I have faith” and “I have doubts”?  And don’t give me another voice as your reply.  I want to hear the voice of the being represented by these Big Words, reflecting upon actual, recalled usage.
  5. Now, please comment on how You see yourself, given the above questions that steer the discussion on Doubt toward the discourses on doubts, and their effects…Please.

Doubting

I am giving a FREE presentation at Utah Valley University in a few weeks, as part of an ongoing series of talks on Mormonism.  My talk will discuss Doubt.

What is it, anyway?  A state of mind?  Why then do we speak of it as something that comes upon us, that we fall into, that we have?  Or does doubt-as-mental-state reveal something about mind that is not like the ordinary sense of mind as something “in here,” and subject to me?

Why are there prescriptions given by authorities for alleviating it, for avoiding it, and so on?  How is it that one can do unto it, whatever it is?

Has doubt become essential to what is now called “faith,” so that I can “exercise faith” by participating in Mormon religion, despite having doubts?  Is this what a “mature” faith looks like?

If so, we can ask, “faith in what, exactly?”  Is Doubt here to stay, and so we ought to make a permanent habitation for it; or must we toss out traditions, histories, scriptures, rituals, and so on, which are now subject to doubting, in order to save The Church itself?

I probably won’t answer all these questions, and I’m not going to approach the topic of Doubt in a manner similar to discussions offered by any other Mormon.

I’m also soliciting honest reflections on doubt, provided by you guys.  I may use some or all of what you write in that talk, although no names will be attached to whatever you happen to write.  So, if you’d like to be subject potentially to anthropological analysis, please comment on Doubt below.

 

 

KeyJeeBoard Flip / Cloak

We added two really cool features to the KeyJeeBoard: Flip and Cloak

KJBflipcloak

Flip your text upside down, with the press of a button.  The “flip” button.

Why would you want to invert your text message?  Why not?  It also makes computer snooping a bit more difficult.

Snooping: we’ve also added a “cloaking” l33t speak conversion, also at the press of a key.  The “l33t” key.

Why would you want to cloak your t3>t m3$$@ge or e^^@il?  So computers cannot snoop it, sell your information to marketers or to the N$@, and so on.  And why not?

Parable of The Games

A certain man played basketball on Sunday, and many other games throughout the week.  So long as he played, he found himself improving at basketball, and got a little exercise as well.  On other days of the week, he played other games, and sometimes tried to bring skills, rules, and strategies learned elsewhere to the basketball games he played on Sunday.  And vice versa.  The court was at the center of an ancient ritual complex, for some reason, like you’d find among the ancient Maya.

Anyway, there were Sundays when this man would take his place on the bench, and allow others to play basketball.  Then he would hear teammates, and appointed coaches talking about basketball.  How strange!  Sometimes officials emerged, and blew their whistles, stopping the game, imposing penalties on players.  The more these spectators spoke about the game–how it should be played, who gets to play, how to measure victories, what scores and stats ought to be recorded, compensation, tales about the game’s history, and so on–the sorts of comments broadcasters often make, he found himself doubting.

Doubt

Now, does it make sense to say one doubts basketball?  Of course not.  One only doubts comments made about basketball.  Does it make sense to “know basketball is true”?  Not really.  Unless by “true” one means, “good,” and the sort of knowing really is a sort of “playing for a team I like and trust.”  Only when the man stops playing the game does he wonder about the game, and begin to doubt his place on the team and the wisdom of his teammates and coaches concerning their understanding of the game.   You might say that because of a multitude of tv timeouts, halftimes, and injury delays, the man came to be a spectator to a sport.

Yet he does not doubt the game itself, for that makes mischief of the meaning of the word “doubt.”  He may find, however, that he no longer enjoys playing according to regularly updated coaching methods, schedules, and often arbitrarily altered officiating.  Sometimes he finds the game being played merely as a form of exercise, as though conducted on behalf of some other unspoken purpose like losing weight; and yet it is played sluggishly nonetheless.  Should he rally his team to play harder, or to join another league, or to practice more often, more vigorously?  Maybe take the best players and start his own team?

What is this man to do?  Stop playing basketball entirely?  Take up the easy aphorisms of the broadcaster?  Join another sport, and insist that the coaches, teammates, league officials, and so on are running things in some manner that is better than the league or sport he plays on Sundays?  Only so long as he plays their games, does he feel this way, it seems.  He has become a skeptic of commentary, and sees games everywhere played.  Should he listen while on the sidelines, he may come to doubt many things about every game, and yet not doubt the games themselves.

Play

One day, the man agrees with a fuzzy, wise old mascot who tells him, “no one doubts games they play.  The play itself is beyond convincing or doubt, because it is play.  The play is the thing.”  So, he thought: just because someone does not doubt, does not make the claims made about that thing any more or less accurate or true.  And so we cannot rely on post-game or half-time interviews, either, to get the player’s point of view.  That view is not found in words, the man thinks; and understands why words uttered by spectators are seldom other than cheering and booing.

And yet, once a spectator, the man found it impossible to play basketball without also observing the game, even while on the court.  His perspective has split.  The man has introduced spectatorship onto the court, and that is not part of the game, he realizes.  So he stands on the sideline, literally on the line itself.  How long can he stand here?

Commentators

It is the talk about the game, by spectators not playing the game, which brings in awareness of the game itself, as a game (with rules, officials, coaches, marketers, ticket-takers, cheerleaders, and so on).  Only then–when it’s known as a game–can the game be paused so one might rest on the bench, taking part in the game as a spectator, rather than as a player of the game.

Spectating is a new form of play. It requires players.  Children don’t spectate, for instance.  Adults do.  And only then does one come to doubt the game: as a spectator.  But the man is not doubting the game itself.  He doubts what is said by spectators.  Those who play, whose hearts are fully in the game, do not doubt.  They know the game from the inside, as children.  And yet that cannot be said about spectators who are playing another sort of game: commenting, directing, instructing, coaching, and so on.  That game can be played upon every other sport; but we can all agree that broadcasters, cheerleaders, officials, marketers, and even coaches are different from players.

The man sees that the spectator’s game is far more widespread and lucrative than the game they claim to see and talk about.  He does not confuse their game for the basketball game itself, which must be played to be known.  The question that confronts the man, once he moves beyond the simple world of parables: how to tell who is playing basketball, and who is playing the other sort of game?

 

 

On Spencer’s Visions of Gory

The other night I read Visions of Glory, a collection of stories told to the late John Pontius by “spencer,” apparently still living and breathing as some sort of high-ranking authority in the corporation.  In the stories, Spencer relates a few NDEs, and some visionary would-be futures of the world.  If the sales data are to be believed, we are indeed in the End Times.  God help us.

Here’s what I think happened to Mr. Spencer, based on the stories told to Mr. Pontius (whose Accidental Satanism I’ve already written about).

First, Spencer reports dying on the operating table, and leaving his body.  Fine.  Common place, it seems.  If you want to write a near-death best seller, head to your local hospital.  While dead, his whole life passes before him, from conception (yeah!) onward.

Spencer sees and comprehends his mother, her plans to abort or adopt him, and yet, “there was no judgment from God.  I felt no emotion about it, except increased compassion for my mother.”  He sees his mother from God’s Point-of-View, apparently, and “experienced the love I had for her before I was born,” a sense that softened his heart.  He observes his birth, some family dramas, and so on, all from this compassionate, comprehending, perspective.  The father who abandoned his mother before his birth he understands with the same perspective, without anger, resentment or malice, for “I saw Christ’s love and Heavenly Father’s love for him, no matter what mistakes he had made.”  An internal conflict follows, by his own admission; where his old self wrestles the new man, love amid score-settling and pain.

He should have ended the story there.  That’s the high point of the tale told by Spencer.  Yet he persists beyond the first chapter to report commonplace feelings of spiritual presences, dreams and visions, and so on.

Let’s say, everything he said really happened in a manner like unto his description in the book.

Can he still be completely wrong about what he saw in Visions of Glory?  Yeah, even on his own terms.

He writes of evil spirits loitering in the hospital, “evil spirits were not readable to me.  I knew some things about them, but not their identity or history….They seemed to be able to change their shape to morph into some other shape if they desired…[Spirits] who never receive a physical body had the ability to appear any way they choose….[I]n the image of a grandfather, a dead prophet, or someone’s wife if it helped in their deception.”  Well, that pretty much throws the rest of the book into suspicion.

He actually describes seeing “his wife,” a “dead prophet,” angels, and so on.  How can we or he say the dead prophet he saw in a later dream-vision wasn’t a demon?  Or his wife in dream wasn’t a phantom?  And so on?  Well, apparently we cannot rely on images, or even on feelings (if these can be caused to proceed from an image we love or desire).  We mortals are easy to fool, especially if at the end of the vision we are shown with a crown and scepter, having dominion over spirits (as Spencer foresees his own, albeit petty, rule in Zion).

He says the evils were there to do “great harm,” “trying to create fear, confusion, and distress, anything that kept the mortal they were assigned to from hearing the messages from the angels of light who were also there.”  Let’s say those effects can be signs of the work of evil.  His subsequent visions seem to create fear, confusion and distress; for him, and for his readers.  And then comes the crowning at The End, which doesn’t explain anything.  But when you are crowned, maybe you don’t worry so much about how you got there?

Specifics?

Before returning to his body on the operating room table, Spencer decided to satisfy his curiosity, “with this keen ability to perceive everyone’s thoughts, even their history and future, and with a naturally curious mind, I thought I might as well enjoy the few minutes I might have until my body called for me to try [to enter it] again.”  Here Spencer has stepped away from the light of God, and is seeking after his own desires.  It is wicked to enter another’s thoughts, without their permission.  Yet that knowing is just what he desires.

Not surprisingly, then, he goes about weighing and judging even the purity and worthiness of office furniture, “the desk felt pure and worthy because it had never been used in anything that offended God.”  This comes only moments after his own mother and father were comprehended as eternal beings, full of light, despite the pain and evil they had done.  Walk away from that light, and suddenly desks and sofas are measured for purity.

He senses, from nowhere in particular, that “All things on the earth are placed here for the purpose of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”  Some for food, some for comfort, beauty, shelter, and even some, strangely enough, “to bring opposition, pain, and discomfort….Even mosquitos and viruses are part of the plan.”  Hmmm, scripture and philosophies of men?  Can we decide what is true, and what untrue?

Well, over the next two hundred pages, he describes a life of physical torment and illness, and rather than embrace such planning, he seeks, reasonably enough, to escape from these evils.  God’s plan?  Maybe not originally.  Maybe on the pages of His Plan someone else has been designing, scribbling, conspiring, and yet God (within circumscribed range) leaves these designs space to unravel on their own.  Indeed, I would say that letting-be and waiting-to-unravel is evident in Spencer’s own visionary tales.

Spencer is being fooled as he wonders about, beyond the light.  Even though all things are created free (and to be good for something, he adds), it really is decreed by someone, in this vision, that we must “return body and soul…back to the presence of God to be judged–to report back.”  Always he tells two sides, often opposed, in every vision or dream.  Unknowingly.  It isn’t difficult to see where the light and darkness fall in his visions, if we look (for something other than our own victory, that is).

In that same wondering about the hospital, he also senses by touching wood and rock, in contrast to his earlier tests of purity, “that everything that had been created by God had its story and was pleased that I had been able to hear them.  I only heard contentment and praise of God from these things.”  But wait…Spencer as Spirit then wonders into the doctor’s office, and reads the man’s private letters, “promoting an affair” between the good doctor and his nurse.  Being in the stream of “torrid details,” he realizes even “the couch…it likewise testified of the same affair…and events that had occurred here, some recently,” he adds.  Accusation and titillation often come to us as one shape in his visions.

Spencer finally returns to his body, from the underside.  Apparently, we enter through the bung, and exit through the mouth hole.  Fine.  If that’s how it is, I can handle being a reverse burp-fart spirit.  Pythagoras was right, apparently.

Further Into Darkness

Later, on a family vacation in Tahiti he has a vision of the sordid sexual, cannibalistic, religion the Natives engaged in, in some unknown past.  Right.  The vision pains him, and he pleads to be released from seeing it.  Yet he is forced to witness all of it.  Not as a witness against them (as Alma explains), but for…well…to see how bad they were?  God’s work, to compel you to Look! at evil, for no purpose you can understand?  Probably not.

He then flies over to Salt Lake City, and sees “the prophet” in whose image, even he admits, evil spirits can appear.  He sees a bunch of stuff, whatever, the important thing is he is told “by God” that what he sees is a “metaphor” or “type” of things to come.  Here is become subject to the deceits of spirits.

Further from the Present Creating of God he moves into future metaphors; and as he strays, his visions become increasingly filled with blood, voyeuristic thrills (of watching a dude and his onanism, and some hip-gyrating scene of orgiastic dance halls reminiscent of that scene from the Ten Commandments when Moses comes down from the mountain), and piles of Death.  It’s like a The Ghost of Christmas Voyeuristic Quakerism Future has come to show Scrooge, not his own follies, but those of others under condemnation.

Death to nearly everyone.  Visions of Glory?  of Gore?  Of Glory holes?  From God?  Yet for some, including Spencer, he is shown crowns of glory, received in a world that looks like a Fox News “America: The Amusement Park.”  It’s all white suburbs and clean streets for Spencer and the Gods, and for, frighteningly enough, a great many thousand readers.

All sorts of absurd scenes are sure to follow “soon”: flu-pocalypse, nukes, floods, and so on; with Jesus being presented at General Conference (in a suit, no less), Mega-SUVs escaping from foreign armies, landing in Zion to find an eternity of sprawling office complexes and endless temple work (like I said, vision of hell).  There are, I think, little gems perverted here and there in his visions, but I won’t elaborate on them here.

I think he was given briefly, on that operating table long ago, a vision of God’s love.  And yet being unsatisfied by this vision, he wandered into darkness, and has been over many decades, (by his own standards, I’d say) frequently been taken in by demons.  They can deceive, right?  Know them by their spirit of accusation, of confusion, of fear, of spying.

That they tell him a story not unlike the tales told by other visionaries easily deceived, Christian and Mormon alike, should not be a sign of truth; but rather, is evidence that demons are not only unoriginal in their conceptions, but also widespread, it seems.

Love, not “Glory” seeking

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, is not proud, nor does it dishonor enemies.  Love seeketh not after her own, is not easily provoked to anger, and keeps no record of wrongs.  A future where love is found flooding the earth is not one of Spencer’s Visions of Glory.  The love in Zion is found only after violence sent from God has flooded the earth, in punishment.  This Red God Treading up and down the earth, bodies as grapes in his winepress of wrath, this God in Spencer’s Glory has given up, is out of patience, and has ceased creating.  The vineyard is burned, and only the good olives are preserved.  Not all the good that every tree and olive has done, but only the good olives.  And there is a difference.  You are not your fruits, after all.

Well, if God can only bring about a good place, a fine vineyard, by killing everyone who doesn’t fit into that place, then he’s little different from any other genocidal dictator-reformer.  And if God sends away those he does not love, to simulated places that comfort them in wickedness (as Spencer’s cosmic vision reports), then God has deceived us all.  Wickedness never was Happiness, that surely is a law, and not a prescription for behavior.  Spencer, maybe God has another way, not seen (or published) by Man, nor shown in vision by demons…because it hasn’t happened yet.