As promised, my little attempt at making Sunstone into something else. Hoping it is worth reading…
Sunday I happened upon a “sacrament meeting” in some quarter of Zion-Utah, and upon entering, was a bit confused. Was this a smart phone and tablet instructional seminar, designed to teach the fundamentals of using these new gadgets? No! It was a missionary homecoming? At least, at the podium was a recently returned missionary talking as they typically do, but, I’m not lying, one man in a folding chair in the basketball section of the chapel (near the three point line) was openly playing Solitaire on his tablet, and everyone from teens to moms and dads were flagrantly playing games, texting, or looking at people’s faces on their phones. The kiddies, of course, were all coloring and markering pre-printed drawings, and generally making a racket that nearly drowned out the speaker. This is a Mormon church in 2015? You’ve got to be kidding. Their batteries will need a re-charge, that is certain. Their lips are one place, and their hearts in quite another. The heads, of some, anyway, are generally indistinguishable from what they’ve put on their folding chairs.
Why do we build churches with chapels that will only seat half the congregation, and stretch it into a basketball court, where the others sit on folding chairs? This expansion across the foul line isn’t an accident, they are built this way. Someone at the COB actually decides, on a daily basis, to have his fellow Mormons violate the 3 seconds-in-the-key rule, while partaking of the Lord’s Supper! My batteries are re-charged, and I’ve worked out a new Triangle Defense for the Elder’s Quorum!
I can see an archaeologist in the future with a rather puzzled look, as she uncovers what appears to be a sports court leading into a classic Protestant chapel. What sort of cult was this? And what do these tiny cups mean? Were they especially small people, who worshipped basketball players for being tall? Is that painting of a bearded man in the flowing robes supposed to represent The Great Jimmer?
Can you imagine walking into the Temple at Real Zion, and forty feet from the throne of God is a bowling alley, because they just couldn’t be so prodigal as to design separate facilities or rooms for these two generally distinct activities? Pick up the spare, Jehovah, on that 7-10 split! Now that’s salvation! What if we didn’t have all these distractions, and had to actually sit in a room, and listen to what was said from the pulpit?
Imagine I set up a buffet restaurant, and nearly every patron who showed up and paid for dinner refused to eat what I provided, and instead pulled out cold cereal from their pockets for a snack. How long should I continue this enterprise? As long as it remains profitable, right? What hope do I have that my buffet will remain profitable? Not much. So, why not simply serve them rubbish? Why bother with the good stuff? And maybe I tell diners that by showing up and paying some fee (in time, labor, or cash) they are guaranteed a better dinner next week, or the week after, or after they die? At some point, my food is too poor and unnourishing even to keep diners believing in that hopeful lie. Probably the only folks who continue to show up will instead bring their own food. And that’s fine, as long as they pay up I can stay in business. The logic of the market place has taken over, at this point. And when my diners’ bodies are disassociated from their environments, that logic becomes all the more compelling.
So, a challenge to all Mormons: Avoid all distractions, and actually listen to what is said in chapels (or basketball courts) on Sunday. I did. How long can you continue, under those restrictions?
Maybe, you reply, it isn’t about what is said, it’s about how I feel. OK. Does that feeling have anything to do with what is said? If not, is it the building’s design, the hollow steeples, the pre-fab pews, the carpeted hallways, or the drinking fountains? It is built to appear like one thing, and to be from a cost perspective, something else. Chapels tell us about the image versus the reality, and a hollow steeple high above a satellite dish is all you need to know about our religion. I admit, church water is a pretty good reason to attend church, but if there isn’t light in the voices of those speaking, there is darkness. What you report as a feeling can be found anywhere you turn your mind to God, and away from Candy Crush, for a second or two.
Speaking of darkness…Following the missionary was an older man who read to the congregation from a children’s book, apparently following his boss’s insistence that he “keep it simple,” for we are stupid. Saturday, he explained, is the day before Sunday, making it a special day, a day to get ready for Sunday. Sunday is special because, well, it is called The Sabbath, and we don’t use strange words for things that aren’t special, right? And we are to keep the Sabbath Day Holy, meaning, well, special. You see? In any case, you will get blessings if you do keep the Sabbath Day Holy, and blessings are whatever you’d like to call blessings. The most blessed people are the most flexible in their usage of that term.
Again, being unable to explain anything about his own traditions, this man — specially assigned to preach, and not merely a passerby pulled up to wing it — turned to a children’s book designed wholly to instruct toddlers on the merits of Sunday. Those merits being, because Saturday is pretty awesome, and Sunday is sort of like Saturday, in coming immediately after it. When this vein no longer brought in the spiritual gold, he offered us the simple equation: Obedience => Blessings. The marketplace provides the substance of his speculations. How many parents have had good results by blatantly bribing their children to do unpleasant things, which they are asked to do only in order to get the reward? Stand on your head, and let that man pour apple sauce over you, and remain still while the flies crawl over your face, and I shall pay you many GoobledyGooks. What is that, you ask? It’s invisible, intangible, and comes in forms that we call Everyday Experience of Ordinary Things. Who does this?
We are leaving blessings on the table if we aren’t Sabbath Keeping the Holy Day, or whatever! You don’t want to waste blessings do you, young man? Look at all those blessings Jehovah has cranked out, and you want to sit there and not get all of them? There are kids in Hell who would kill for a few blessings, and you, shaaaaaame, would rather not show up and sit on folding chairs, playing solitaire near the three-point line, in a suit?! I must say, Inconceivable!!! Oh, Noah saw no such wickedness in his day!
But wait… if you show up within the next six days, we’ll double the offer!!! Imagine double the blessings!!! Double the, um, blessings, whatever you think that is. No more turning on your spiritual iPhone, and finding it out of charge. No more running out of spiritual battery when you’ve almost made your little pixel man jump over the final obstacle! Just pay additional shipping and fast offering.
What I think the entire meeting boils down to is: We Are Right. We Must Be Right. It doesn’t matter what anyone says, or that no one is listening because I’m not saying anything but what they can read in their toddler’s book, ironically designed to distract the child so I can listen to the informed man in the suit, who nonetheless is reading from that same toddler’s book. But I don’t care, because I just got a Jack of Spades, and that allows me to knock out another line in Solitaire, and when I go to show my spouse, I interrupt her texting to a friend about a new toxin designed to reduce evidence of having aged on planet earth, and it’s all good, because me and my family will serve the Lord as we scurry to our separate pens, being hand fed pellets of recycled Chinese newspapers, but in the end, we are Right, because we are Right. How else do you explain all my blessings?
God sends the rain on the just and the unjust, and blesses those that curse Him.
If you read a bit on what has been said by LDS authorities about Apostles, you’ll find many explanations and interpretations of what, exactly, they have witnessed and are to “witness” or testify of. Recently, a Correlation-driven phrase (publicly taught by Correlation managers in the 1990s) drawn from D&C 107 has been defined by Dallin Oaks in the Boise Rescue of Apostates Unnamed.
Apostles are witnesses of the “name of Christ,” he claims, rather than of the person sometimes called “Christ.” You can read what Oaks claims to mean by that phrase, apparently working backwards from what he sometimes does (manages things, talks about stuff) to what that phrase must mean, he being identified by himself as a person with that title.
With the recent passing of two apostles, the phrase has again popped up, being used by Deseret News as it copies press releases issued by the LDS Media room. “In addition to their primary responsibility to be special witnesses of the name of Christ throughout the world,” we are told, “the apostles have heavy administrative responsibilities as they oversee the orderly progress and development of the global Church.” Does that combination of phrases strike anyone as odd? “In addition to their primary responsibility,” they also “have heavy administrative responsibilities” concerned with “the global Church”? That reads, believe it or not, nearly like it does in D&C 107:
107:23 The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling….The Twelve are a Traveling Presiding High Council, to officiate in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Presidency of the Church, agreeable to the institution of heaven; to build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations, first unto the Gentiles and secondly unto the Jews.
So, it is just like the Lord explained, right?
Now what about this priesthood thing? Does that relate to their being “special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world,” and a duty to “officiate in the name of the Lord”? Notice first that they are witnesses of the name of Christ “in all the world,” rather than “to the world.” What if rather than be a group of guys apparently unique in being able to say, “I believe something about someone I call Jesus,” instead they were to be witnesses of the name of Christ? Doesn’t that mean the same thing? Depends on what you mean by “name of Christ.”
In the Cultural History, the final chapter of the fifth volume, I bring up the puzzle of the “name of Christ,” and don’t solve it. I don’t think we have the texts to explain what that phrase means, we need more material to work from. Yet, in the case of the apostles, we may have some clue to its meaning. Returning to D&C 107, we read about priesthood. I know D&C 107 has been cut up and stitched together, but if they can use it, so can I:
18 The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church—19 To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.
First, the power is not the priesthood, but the priesthood (as a group) holds keys…magic authority, right? Not so. What are the keys to spiritual blessings? “To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries,” and so on. Those are the keys, it seems: receiving mysteries, having heavens opened, communion with the firstborn, and God and Jesus, too. That would bless the church, right? That would witness of the name, maybe? Not that they would come back and say, “I am a witness of Jesus, or of his name, that he has a name, or something,” but instead, by their using the keys of power, they would be special witnesses–living evidences of his name–in all the world.
They would not merely address “the World” in a proclamation of beliefs. Big deal. Any twelve so-called Christians could say they believe in Jesus, or “know” something they don’t really “know,” but instead believe. Who cares. But imagine if they actually were in the Melchizedek Priesthood, and were witnesses of his name, having used the keys of power to receive mysteries and communion with the Firstborn, and so on? Man, you wouldn’t have a Great Apostasy due to some blogger revealing that Joseph Smith had a few wives, or that the Book of Mormon speaks of horses and dashed in Jaredite windows. We could say, I don’t care about that, because that guy is a witness, in his being and his doing. But we cannot say that, not honestly. They are not special witnesses; they say things. Say this or that in public, while doing whatever under cover of darkness.
Why are they not in the priesthood? First, they are not: if they were, they could and would do those things, which they don’t, and so they aren’t. And why are they not? Again, D&C 107:
39 It is the duty of the Twelve, in all large branches of the church, to ordain evangelical ministers, as they shall be designated unto them by revelation—40 The order of this priesthood was confirmed to be handed down from father to son, and rightly belongs to the literal descendants of the chosen seed, to whom the promises were made.41 This order was instituted in the days of Adam…
Now, some will suggest that “this priesthood” refers to the “evangelical ministers,” or patriarchs, and thus the matter of who rightly belongs to this order can be dismissed. But if “evangelical ministers” are to be ordained by the Twelve, clearly they cannot have also inherited a place in that order, by right of lineage. If it refers to any priesthood, I’d say it refers to the Melchizedek order, those folks who commune with the Firstborn and God and Jesus.
So what priesthood does the current Twelve Apostles of the Corporation really hold? None, for you cannot “hold” a priesthood, unless your hands are very broad indeed. What priesthood are they part of? None and none, at least, not any with actual powers like those mentioned in D&C 107. What powers do they possess? They claim to act in the name of Christ, and probably some good comes of this activity. But do they administrate a global church in the name of Christ? What a strange notion.
While I try to avoid any affiliation with any organization, including paying entities (it seems), I am briefly speaking at a facility temporarily occupied by the organization known as Sunstone.
“What, you are speaking at Sunstone?”
No. I was invited to talk about a subject, and will talk about it. It just happens to be during the Sunstone meetings at the U of U, in a week or two. On a Saturday, I think. Maybe in the afternoon. I’m not really sure, at this point.
More importantly, others will be presenting / talking about stuff as well. So there you have it.
Recently, if we are to believe LDS Church (TM of the corporation sole) Official Voice, Dallin Oaks and Richard Turley had a free weekend, and road-tripped up to Boise (Why Not? I mean, Boise? Yeah!) to answer a few potential questions, which come up from time to time. So they called a “fireside,” which my son is still confused about the meaning of. Why is it called a “fireside,” for example? What happens at a Fireside? Who’s side is in the Fire, or is on, at maybe at the fire’s side?
In said spontaneous combustion of fire at someone’s side, Oaks and Turley explained how they interpret various texts said to speak on “apostasy.” The recording of their words can be found in various places on the Interweb.
Not surprisingly, we learn from the Boise Rescue that it is the Other Guy who is “in apostasy,” or is “an apostate.” They don’t name names, of course, but we know who they mean: that guy! In fact, these terms only have meaning when pointing at the Other Guys, from our state of Being Correct. Perhaps Oaks and Turley would be surprised to learn that every passage of text or scripture they quoted has been used to point at them and their non-church church as “being in apostasy,” and as them as being “apostate”?
What use is a term that has no definition, except in usage, and by using, cuts up the world so that those we don’t understand or cannot agree with are now, not merely wrong or confusing, but instead Opposed To God? Well, it’s pretty obvious what the use is. That’s why I don’t use it.
Now, after an hour of spontaneous reading of scripture by Oaks and Turley, and plenty of interpretation, the congregation was assigned to sing, “Who’s On The Lord’s Side?”
It may surprise those singers, that apostle, and church historian, that the song’s most repeated line is a question (so ends the National Anthem, as well: with a question).
Who’s on the Lord’s side, who?
I give you the lyrics, from the Official Hummbook:
1. Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who? Now is the time to show.
We ask it fearlessly: Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
We wage no common war, Cope with no common foe.
The enemy’s awake; Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who? Now is the time to show.
We ask it fearlessly: Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
And now, rather than seek out an honest answer, the singers merely assert, They really know, and have known all along: We Are! Of course, only those on the Lord’s Side could actually sing this song! The Lord would stop up the mouths of those Not On His Side, for sure, for it is impossible to sing a lie in the presence of the Lord’s Servants. Who are his servants? Whosoever we can sing in the presence of, of course!
2. We serve the living God, And want his foes to know
That, if but few, we’re great; Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
We’re going on to win; No fear must blanch the brow.
The Lord of Hosts is ours; Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
Apparently, the answer is: Anyone who can say, “We Are!” Notice how a question, a pretty good question, I’d say, about sides, has suddenly been replaced by a metaphor that comes from two sides, one winning, and the other losing.
3. The stone cut without hands To fill the earth must grow.
Who’ll help to roll it on? Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
Our ensign to the world Is floating proudly now.
No coward bears our flag; Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
So, they who sing, and who wave flags, too, are on the Lord’s Side. He is leading a pep rally, it seems. Yet listen to the spoils taken by the victors of this “We’ve Got Spirit Yes We Do” Battle:
4. The pow’rs of earth and hell In rage direct the blow
That’s aimed to crush the work; Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
Truth, life, and liberty, Freedom from death and woe,
Are stakes we’re fighting for; Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
Now, if those are the stakes, and maybe they are, are they won in a fight over who can wave and sing most vigorously, or by finding an answer? Have we turned it into a fight, because we have received “the blow that’s aimed to crush the work”? Suddenly a question has become a fight, won in a pep rally. Who’s on the Lord’s Side, really? Probably not those guys.
Oaks and Turley cannot answer the question in any manner, other than “We Are! We Really Are. Really!” And that means they are NOT.
Wouldn’t you expect an actual prophet to prophesy, and to reveal, say, things which are not known, and which may be known? Consider Nephi or other prophets from the Book of Mormon. Would they hold a fireside, and rant and rage (sighingly), and then sing their way to the Lord’s Side? Or would they prophecy, know the minds of their enemies, point their accusers to hidden events, and show by their works (prophecy, for example) that they are prophets, on the Lord’s Side?
Scribes and Pharisees, they speak as. What better evidence does anyone need who understands the word “prophet” than that Boise Fireside, that Oaks is no prophet? And by his own admission, no more a “special witness” of Jesus than anyone else who has heard that word and believes something about what it means?
Perhaps we have forgotten what prophecy is, because we accept its counterfeit so often, being desperate to hear that some magic remains from the Old World? Or worse, we use these words as titles for one’s place in a hierarchy of our invention? Well, should we be surprised that such men as use these titles in that corrupted manner, in the fashion of men who get a little authority as they suppose, would also be willing to spend a free weekend using another word that has no meaning other than, “We are Right, He is wrong”? There is no fire on this side.
Now, if again I said, “I’m writing another blog post on __________” it would probably not generate the sort of playful comments the first did. It would get old, fast. And die. That is strange, to me.
And yet, if I wrote another blog post on Whatever, it would somehow generate laughter, consternation, frustration (“What is he saying?”), insight, and so on.
What is the text for, then, in today’s blogified-commenty world? Are we so desperate for conversation? Can we even bound off the noise, and create space for silence?
How far can we reduce the text (to a blank line?) and still generate metatext? It would seem like whatever people call “The Church” is indeed currently engaged in this sort of experiment: reducing text down to minimal phrases to be posted on “Social media” and then allowing others to generate metatext in these and other spaces. But we don’t get silence from this.
What emerges, other than conflict, smug satisfaction, and all the evil that characterizes so much of our mean, lowly blog conversation? Light?
How far can someone reduce the phrases? Down to nouns: The Prophet(s), The Apostles, Obedience, Faith… They aren’t saying anything, no matter how sincerely breathed out. They are creating darkness, where there is not the Light. In these cases, they aren’t using language, but a corrupted facsimile of language. Their minds are darkened, and I have not the means to bring to it any Light.
Those whose minds are darkened have done something to turn away from the Light. A conscious choice to unbelieve, perhaps, which could be just as reasonably believed. Or doubting their own senses, and relying on the voices of the (dubiously) Powerful.
Yet, they are able to generate endless metatext (most of it not Language), despite seldom creating text consisting of Language. Strange, how a blank line can generate language, and then hierarchies, good-and-bad guys, misunderstanding, further explanation, forgiveness, and so on. See the comments from the last post, if you doubt.
I really don’t have anything else to say, I suppose, for now.
I don’t have answers to questions about the Book of Mormon or The Corporation, at least that I’ve not already published. I hear questions whose answers are already and readily available. I’m not interested in guessing why such-and-such is the case, or shaming or honoring so-and-so. Generally I would say: Keep reading. Or enter deeper into another’s darkness.
It is just here, at this point in my life. And blogs are not conducive to sharing that “it is here.” So I’m taking a break, until I have something to say to someone reading this blog, something other a prayer for unborrowed light. In the heart of the Living is a fire of pure Light, and bounds are set to this light, lest it destroy as a flood all that is not Light. Through the fire, through the flame, you won’t even say your name. You say I am that I am. In our remaining Darkness we might shape the images of things, and set about worshipping these images, as though they might illuminate our darkness, or give us eternal life. But the Darkness is more than an absence of the Light where we might be free of its truth. It is an Unlight, a perversion of the Light which nonetheless (and because of its nature) will receive Light, and will give it back to us as an image, or an Idol. These Idols bound up the Light, as in a stone with a secret name, or flesh that survives on borrowed light, say, from a strawberry. I can’t write it, in other words. It is just here.
I am currently writing a blog post. The subject is ____________. Please comment.