GenCon14: “The Living Church”

Our First Speaker at GenCon14, on “The Living Church”


NOTE: This is NOT the speaker’s official photo, but a photo of a person animated into existence by an authority.

Again and again, before our time, men have grown content with a diluted doctrine. And again and again there has followed on that dilution, coming as out of the darkness in a crimson cataract, the strength of the red original wine. -G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man


As I recall my Mormon Lore, there came a time in the early days of the church when the Saints ceased to drink the sacramental wine. Fearing that they would partake of a tainted bottle purchased from their enemies, they received a Voice saying, it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory.


Here is an interesting measure of a people: What they choose to do when it doesn’t matter. And what did the Saints therefore choose to do? Did they, by the labor of their own hands and their own feet, press a pure wine of the grape of the vine, of [their] own make? Apparently they did not. Instead, they began to drink water.


Turning wine into water–I suppose that is a sort of reversed miracle, if you like. I wonder if there were those who discerned anything portentous in that development, because it seems to me a sign of something.


What did it signify when Jesus changed water into wine? What was the wine in relation to the water? Water brought green to the fields and cholera to the belly, but filter it through the vine and it became living water, fit for sacraments. Maybe that is how the people of Jesus’ day saw it. I don’t know. Whatever it was, now we have water again, because–lacking the time to make wine and the stomach to contain it–our forebears chose to drink water instead of wine. Not only did they choose water, but they made it official so as to ensure that all would drink only water ever after.


When Chesterton reflected on the trajectory taken by Christendom, from its birth until his own time, he did not see apostasy. Instead, he saw death. Christianity, as a living body of constituent members, more than once had lost its inner vitality and died; but it had risen again as many times, for it had a god who knew the way out of the grave.


In Chesterton’s estimation, by the late nineteenth century the Church had already managed to die several times through persecution, disease, and even (oddly enough) from old age. Although the body–still a named thing and concrete–remained behind, its soul was gone. We know, Chesterton wrote, how completely a society can lose its fundamental religion without abolishing its official religion. In the dead church, there was never any want for official things.


But the church had found its way out of the grave, apparently, and how was this accomplished? As a Mormon full of Mormon traditions and ideas, I find it more curious and interesting to consider how, apparently, this return to life did not happen.


Chesterton seems to have recognized restoration as a kind of vandalism or violence. Life is not imposed from without, as is restoration, but it sparks and arises from within the body so long as the conditions of the body favor it and there exists a supply of fuel to sustain it. Life is an inherently autonomous phenomenon, an innate attribute of the living thing. The Christian god had an affinity for life and the power to take it up again of his own volition after it had been lost. He didn’t die and then get resuscitated by some external force which, finding the life that had been lost like some lost penny, returns it again to the previous owner. So it was also with the Church.


Even living things of the usual variety cannot ascribe their lives to external forces acting upon them. While it’s true that a dying body might receive a shock from outside of itself in order to remind it what it means to live, or the freshly expired body might be revived in a similar fashion; and while all living things require nourishment for the continuity of life, these restorations only serve to renew the body in that which it already does naturally. These external things may influence, but they do not prescribe the form or the function that a life will take.


Now consider the case of the mortician, who works all day in the presence of dead bodies. He is at best a restorer, imparting only the blush of life to a corpse. Imagine the madness that would ensue were the mortician to install animatronics and rigging too, so that one might shake the hand of the recently deceased at his own funeral. It would be restoration run amok (a mockery?), and yet it appears to me that we have a religious restoration even more preposterous than this, if such a thing can be conceived.


I can imagine the insane funeral director who, having grown bored of the usual stiffs, offers an entirely new product: full-service funerals for unknown corpses. We have tombs for them, why not viewings too? Better yet, let’s forget the funeral business altogether and break into a new market. Let us instead raise the unknown hero up, give him a name and a history, and make him sit among us, offering eulogies and fine recollections of things that might have been.


How is such a thing to be done? The remains of some creature or other are first dug up or imagined among the rocks and roots. Surely these are the pieces of a bygone hero, a martyr who died in the service of a holy cause! Let a portrait be drawn to erase all uncertainty and the fossils assembled in like fashion, with servos and rods and a loudspeaker to proclaim noble things, as if this new monster were some old friend returning from a long absence.


Maybe that is a restoration service worth writing about on billboards, but it’s more suited to a freak-show economy of tourism than whatever economy it may have serviced before its descent into madness.


It would be a strange project to say the least, not to mention one that must inevitably fall to pieces whenever its author is not around. The precondition for this simulated, said to be restored, life is the presence of directors–commissioned handlers–to supply the required inputs to the dead system. When there is nobody around to speak through the corpse, or to program its motors, or to pull on its strings, it just sits there attracting none but the flies that pester it incessantly. Only a continuous stream of instruction–let us call it revelation–by one who stands at its head can make this dead thing dance.


The one who stands at the head of the church, be it man or god, is as the manipulator who operates a complex marionette, giving it a semblance of life without the essence of it. The will of the master is revealed at the ends of long cords, jerking and pulling on the compliant limbs of a dead body. There are no genuine, functioning organs here, only hinges and tools to answer the purposes and plans of another. What would it matter should the limbs become self-aware and feel happy and willing as they are being jerked around? Members of this body do not hear their own callings, nor do they operate and interact according to their own intrinsic natures and constitutions. Instead, they receive their predetermined programs by assignment–programs designed to accommodate the strange, unnatural workings of this new body. Members of this body become fungible components which–should any of them show signs of life in straining against the strings–can easily enough be swapped out for more pliable equivalents. Such a system can never die, because it was never alive in the first place. I suppose, however, that its members could eventually wear out and break down, and the body could find itself in a state of decay.


To say that there is one who stands at the head of a church, constantly revealing and regulating its necessary function, is as good a confession of dilution, death, and damnation as any I can think of. It is dilution because it has a levelling effect, endlessly repeating itself and producing sameness; death because any appearance of life is coterminous with and wholly dependent on its authority, without which nothing can be done; and damnation because we can’t see it for what it is. How could it not be alive? What dead thing could dance a jig like that? Like Jane Austen’s Wickham, this puppeteer simpers and smirks and makes love to us all.


If, as Chesterton claimed, Christendom could die–and had in fact died–then it was once a living thing whose members had the ability to self-organize and sustain the whole even as they were sustained by it. It must have had its own volition and the ability to wade upstream without being dragged there.


It may be that any genuine, living body is also sustained from one moment to the next by that which it cannot produce for itself. In other words, it must seek nourishment, and that nourishment acts as a constraint. Still, an endless variety of life may be sustained by the same source of energy; there is no universal requirement for all that must be expressed by living beings only because they have partaken of a particular thing. The nourishment is not the same thing as the life or the will, nor is it the source of life. Can nourishment be heaped upon a stone and cause the stone to live?


The agents responsible for life are free agents, that is to say, they have self-purpose. This is in contrast to bonded or commissioned agents that are given their purpose and direction from an outside authority. When a commissioned agent receives from the original authority, that agent expresses or embodies the authority as a vessel or a container. It displaces or conforms itself in order to channel something else. On the other hand, when the free agent receives from the original authority, it is as nourishment; but the free agent uses that substance to express itself rather than to lose itself. Free agents are therefore living things, and that is what our scripture means when it says to act for themselves and not to be acted upon. By definition, the free agent is free because it does not answer to an imposed authority.


To be a free agent, then, does not mean to choose for oneself between the imagined, enumerated, and finite choices offered by authoritative voices, but rather to act for oneself in expressing one’s being. Acting does not always entail consciously choosing between discrete possibilities; often it means creating new ones. When I hear Mormons talk about the importance of free agency, I scratch my head. Aren’t we sustaining commissioned agents who reveal universals and absolutes? Those aren’t free agents, and neither are the ones who submit to them for the sake of authority.


The member-agents of the living body are not all of the same character. I once had a year-long correspondence with a man who at last invited me to visit him at his shop in Minnesota. Upon discovering that I am a Mormon, he felt it necessary to warn me that he was a Jew… and an atheist! A Jewish atheist? At the time, I wondered if that was even possible. Wouldn’t one requirement for being a Jew be to believe what all Jews surely believe in?  Well, I travelled to his shop where we became better acquainted, and I found him to be apparently an active member of his synagogue.


The membership of my Jewish friend in the body of his community was not predicated on some conformance to a machine blueprint. It was not like membership in a Wholesale Shopping Club which might be rescinded should the member cease operating as the Director has laid out in the official Terms and Conditions. There was no central institution which, stealing the identity of the body, safeguards its imagined purity and purges it of organs it no longer agrees with, robbing them of their heritage. My friend somehow acted as a member of a body that still survived largely on religious traditions, all the while expressing himself as a Jewish atheist. The Jews were his people, and he couldn’t stop being one just because he happened to consume their traditions in a curious, contrary way. Maybe he and others that are like him are toxic agents, and the body will eventually die or cast them out, but I doubt it. I guess sometimes the body needs bile in order to perform its functions. I think, as Chesterton did, that it is more common for these bodies to die when their constituents grow slack.


In a machine or a robot, anything present that is not specified in the universal master plan must be rejected. The machine will break or malfunction if non-standard stuff is found in there. One will not find the usual organs, either. Certainly no bilious gallbladder or superfluous appendix will be present. There is not a lot of tolerance for those messy, misshapen, ill-understood things. The machine itself may prove superfluous in the end, but all of its pieces are explicitly called for in the manuals. It seems that just the opposite is true in living things, which organize around systems of organs ranging anywhere from the mundane to the outrageous.


All of the members of a dead machine must be catalogued and periodically inspected for soundness in order to enjoy full participation in the body. It is relatively easy to find oneself an “ex” member of such a thing, since membership in it is more a question of official standards than it is of volition and inner purpose. These centralized, managed memberships are yet another sign of systemic death.


The American social philosopher, Eric Hoffer, thought that humanity will only achieve its greatest potential when people of different interests, skills, and tastes know each other, commune daily with each other, emulate, antagonize, and spur each other. That is the sort of element from which living communities might emerge, and that is how I believe Chesterton’s dead Christendom was able to find its life again. The living church self-organizes and emerges from a community of converging, synthesizing free agents. It has never been engineered back into existence.


Again in Chesterton’s words, we have grown more and more used to seeing those vats and vineyards overwhelmed in the water floods and the last savour and suggestion of that special element fading like a stain of purple upon a sea of grey. We have grown used to dilution, to dissolution, to a watering down and went on forever. But Thou hast kept the good wine until now.


In the dead church, the good wine will be withheld until we have had our fill of dilution. Have we had our fill? We may still partake of the good wine yet, but we have allowed ourselves to be fashioned into the wispy limbs of a flailing scarecrow when we might have been rooted in deep soil, infusing the water with our own chemistry to make it live. We are the vines, and we should be growing the fruit for a vintage worthy of the blood of God.



  1. Bravo! I raise a glass of full-bodied wine (of my own making) to a literal resurrection. To limbs becoming self-aware and happy. To hearing our own callings. To operating and interacting according to our own intrinsic natures and constitutions. If Jesus’ salvation was contingent upon “his being precisely what he is and nothing else” (Lecture 7); so must our salvation be dependent on following the unique pattern in the heavens that is revealed to us and none other.

  2. Great article!

    I’m dying to know, did you at least invite the missionaries over to talk with your Jewish friend? Did he get baptized? I heard that if not for budget constraints there was suppose to be a seventh story-character on “Meet The Mormons” who use to be an Atheist Jewish, lived in Minnesota and was a Krav Maga specialist. Evidently in addition to budgetary concerns, he had issued a challenge to a certain Costa Rican female Kick Boxer over who was the best Mormon martial artist. This didn’t sit well with some focus group that thought it was to flamboyant and didn’t portray the proper Mormon “ideal.” So they cut it down to just six stories.

    So from which authorities was your Golem created?

    1. Hi Joe, Joe here. You must be thinking of some other Atheist Krav Maga whatsit. My Jewish friend had ample contact with Mormon missionaries, whom he found insufferable and whose doctrine he thought bizarre. He was, however, friends with a Catholic Priest, and he held an advanced degree in something called “religious studies,” which he told me he pursued in order to unlock the secret of why people are so horrible to each other.

    1. No doubt the brethren continue to pray for an end to prohibition, that our sacraments might be invigorated.

  3. A delightful piece, “Animated Speaker” (wink, wink)!

    The audience is presented with the image of a marionette show, one that’s been in production for many years so good it is. They marvel at how well the puppet master articulates and animates its subject, the marionette, a body of parts all perfectly scripted and manipulated, and animated in unison. And the strings are plainly visible during the performance–no attempt is made to hide them; they are part of the act. It’s a great show, as the puppet is made to appear to dance and sing, sometimes fly even.

    At the end of the show, the audience are told this performance and everything about it is evidence that the puppet master, the one prescribing the moves, is actually dead. This rattles the audience. They wonder how this can be, seeing that the marionette is plainly moving before them, with a visible connection to the fellow above the stage who is obviously controlling everything. The audience moves closer for a better look…wait, that marionette didn’t just blink did it? Is the damned thing breathing? [Yes, marionettes creep me out, and it appears one of my worst nightmares may be coming true before this audience’s eyes.] “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?” ask the audience. And with that, you pull the covers off revealing the secret. You tell the audience that they have been witness to an elaborate magic-trick-as-stage-act, and not to a marionette show, where parts are played by dead things made animate. Instead, they are told, they have observed a carefully crafted play, where live-actors skillfully play the part of a marionette, and that the guy above the stage, you know, the one connected to the other end of those “strings”…yeah, he’s the marionette; he’s the one who is made to appear to be controlling the marionette-actors below as the actors below perform their script-as-marionette. Shazayum!

    Some of the audience are scandalized at this revelation and storm off in a huff, others, still confused, scratch their heads as they try to figure out what is going on, but many are delighted at the revelation and the skill with which the marionette-actors, who have taken an ancient guild oath to never, ever break character, perform their roles. The audience erupts into applause, and bows at your genius.

    1. An interesting twist, Chuck. Thanks for the insight. What if the puppeteer had no soul of its own? Flesh and blood play-actors, thralls of some machine creation. Whose? But the performance is articulate, as you say, and above reproach. Millions and millions served. I’m Lovin’ It!

      1. That’s the point, I guess. The puppeteer has no soul, and does not exist except as part of the performance of the play-actor-marionettes, it being the thing created and brought to life by their jerks and snatches, and yet they would testify otherwise, if asked, and would respond in a way that would make it appear as if their words came from it.

    2. Chuck just blew my freakin’ mind! Touche’ Chuck, touche’!

      I still want to know from which authorities your animated authority was constructed.

      1. Same reaction I had in the shower yesterday when I realized what GA Joe had pulled off with this piece of writing, Golem. The marionette-actors construct him, apparently, as part of their performance.

  4. A facebook friend of mine has pointed out that there is a slight inaccuracy or possibly an oversimplification in this otherwise fabulous GenCon address. The speaker implies that church members never attempted to make their own wine. But that can’t be true, because it was several decades before the church switched to using only water. What say you?

    1. Thank you for this observation, Julie.

      When I was writing this piece, I wondered myself what the actual history was behind the change from wine to water. I have no idea. I wondered if I should do some research into the question, but then I decided that what I had was “lore” rather than history. It was the sort of oversimplified–and therefore inaccurate–history that one might inadvertently pick up from a Sunday school lesson.

      I knew that–whatever the real history of it was–we at some point ceased to drink the wine. Whether we never attempted to make our own, or just stopped doing it on account of some prohibition-era sensibilities, something was lost within us when we realized that “it mattereth not.”

    2. Yeah, I think I read that Utah Mormons back in the day had set up vintners here and there before their self-inflicted prohibition…it was either in the Cultural History (vol 3?)…or maybe I read it in one of Denver’s books. I don’t recall. As I understand it, many today make their own sacramental wine, but on the sly, of course. Thanks, again, GA Joe!

  5. Here’s some great history on this topic: Super interesting. I’ll paste some of it here if you don’t feel like reading the whole thing:

    Section 27:2 was given because the Prophet Joseph was on his way to procure wine from an enemy who wished him harm. The possibility of the wine being adulterated was significant. Since an angel met Joseph on his way and revealed that a substitute could be used, it is likely if wine had been procured it would have been poisoned. The revelation gives precautions to be taken in preparing wine for the sacrament. (D&C 27: 3-4.) The Saints were to prepare their own wine, and know it is safe for use in the sacrament.

    To conform to this revelation, when the Saints moved west there was a “Wine Mission” established in Southern Utah. ….The Saints made their own wine because of D&C 27: 3-4. If the Saints did not make the wine themselves, they were to use water….

    Master vintner John C. Naegle was called by Brigham Young to establish and operate a winery in Toquerville and to instruct people in the wine making process. … The wine was shipped in smaller 40-gallon casks. It was distributed through ZCMI. Wine making became an important Southern Utah industry.

    As President Grant elevated the Word of Wisdom from wise advice to a strict commandment, the practice of using wine in the sacrament came to an end. Since that time Latter-day Saints have taken a dim view of using wine in the sacrament.

    …Have we replaced a powerful symbol with a fanatical rule? Is there such a risk of adulterated or poisoned wine by anti-Mormon suppliers that we are justified in not using wine in the sacrament? …

    From the symbol of the crushed grape, its blood spilled and then allowed to ferment, comes a symbol of the great work of the Lord. The grape juice changes through fermentation from something which affects the senses. As the Psalmist puts it wine gladdens the heart. (Psalms 104: 15.) His blood was spilled and then grew into a new power intended to gladden the heart of all those who will receive it.

    The Prophet was overshadowed with foreboding on the day of his death. The reason Stephen Markham was not with them in the jail at the time the final assault took place was because he had been sent to purchase wine by the Prophet. The jailer allowed the wine to return to Joseph, Hyrum, John and Willard, but Steven Markham was excluded. There were only four in the jail when the killings occurred. The reason they sent for wine was to gladden their hearts and lift their spirits from the oppression which hung over them. It was a day of triumph for evil and the spirit of that day was heavy. The wine and John Taylor’s singing were to console them in the terrible moments preceding the attack by 200 conspirators intent on killing Joseph and his brother.

    1. and yet we also have as a traditional gift of the spirit the ability to drink poison and not be harmed…but who’s gonna test that one?

  6. I am leaving this author unnamed in the spirit of “I don’t care who said it month.”

    “And so they fill the six huge stone jars with water, Jesus changes the water into wine, and this shows his glory (John 2.1-11). This was a sign that he was a priest of the order of Melchizedek, who represented the old royal priesthood. The kings of Judah before the exile in Babylon were priests of the order of Melchizedek (Ps.110.4). Melchizedek priests were an eternal priesthood, based on the belief that each one was already resurrected and so could not die, as opposed to the Aaron priests who were temporal and changed as each son inherited from his father. In the Genesis story (Gen.14.17-24), Melchizedek offered wine to Abraham when he was expecting water, and so the miracle at Cana was a sign of Melchizedek.”

    In keeping with the spirit (not the letter) of the month, let me just say that this non-mormon author always seems to out-mormon the Mormons in her writings. And in saying such, I know I sin.

    Maybe we’ll need another water-into-wine miracle to resurrect a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Is it idolatry to be looking or listening for such a priest? What would GA Joe do or say if he was “after this order?” Maybe it is just one of those things where it takes one to know one.

    1. You say you have a source that has out-mormoned the Mormons? I suppose that is some kind of plausibility structure–a suggestion of source over content, as it has been said. I am not inclined to pay attention when I hear that someone has out-mormoned anybody; I am more inclined to worry that the sickness has jumped species and is now spreading.

      Let us set aside your source for a moment and–not caring at all bout her relationship to things said to be Mormon–how will we measure the content?

      “This was a sign that he was a priest of the order of Melchizedek, who represented the old royal priesthood… Melchizedek offered wine to Abraham when he was expecting water, and so the miracle at Cana was a sign of Melchizedek.”

      For whom is this a sign? For everyone? Is this a sign to all that Jesus was a priest after the order of Melchizedek? Must we now form ranks and bear this sign? What does it mean?

      By attaching an authoritative voice to the sign, you have destroyed its potency. It can mean nothing else. I am not saying the content of your source is not interesting or untrue. I am only saying that you appear to have settled the matter. I sojourn in the wilderness; I am not to be settled. I ask only, “What if?” To be settled is to cease to develop, to be damned, to die. When one becomes certain about the signs, one dies; or at least one’s life becomes hollow. The certain are finished already.

      I know what I am about. I belong to no order save one, and in it we are all alike unto God. I am here to replace priesthood with brotherhood. If you are looking for a high priest, I fear you may very well find him. You may discover the old orders, and the laws, and bind yourself to them. Then you will be accountable to justice, and heaven help you. But those without the law will find mercy. Do not give your allegiance lightly!

      Why do you look for priests? Is it not enough for God to tell you himself? Must priests speak as God to you?

      Is this idolatry?

      Only by definition.

      1. Believe me, I am anything but settled. The rug has been pulled out from under me, and I am still trying to find solid ground. I am very much struggling with whether or not I need a priest. But even “priest” is a loaded word which I don’t think you and I are using similarly. If by “priest” you mean a man or men, then we are in agreement that I am an idolator ripened for hell. But I am a person who believes that Gods walk among us (I’m not sure whether or not Gods should be plural–I am leaning towards the plural). I guess that is why I still look for priests.

        For whom is this a sign? Answer: To those who are looking for it. To everybody else, it is just a miracle. A self-fulfilling prophecy? Maybe, but we are beings of faith and such is the nature of our existence.

        Is it a sign that Jesus was a priest after the order of Melchizedek? Answer: I think there are better signs, but the water-into-wine miracle was used to illustrate the point. The point being: are their signs available for us to determine whether a “priest” is after the order of His Son?

        Must we now form ranks and bear this sign? I think that is what the scriptures ask of us. “And now, my brethern, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest. Yea, humble yourselves even as the people in the days of Melchizedek, who was also a high priest after this same order which I have spoken, who also took upon him the high priesthood forever.” Alma 13:13-14 (you’ll need to read v. 10-14 to get the whole effect).

        I think our dispositions are not as far away from each other as they seem. Priesthood and priests as we typically understand them ARE death. Only the Good Samaritan can heal us. The levite and the priest do not, indeed cannot, offer us salvation. Brotherhood is what matters, and to the extent our terminology fails us maybe this brotherhood of which you speak IS a sign of one who is after the order of Melchizedek?

        I believe God can tell me himself, but I am open to the fact that he might send one who is ordained after the order of Melchizedek to give me the needed awareness–giving me the sight to see and ears to hear the acts and voice of God. Without the efforts of such a priest I would be forever wandering in darkness.

        Do the priest I am looking for speak as a God to me? This is difficult for me to answer, and maybe a conviction of my idolatry. However, I want to believe that His spirit dwells in sanctified temples–that His spirit is animating tabernacles once again. Stone me for blasphemy, but I hope for and sometimes view, Him in the flesh walking among us.

        I would be a fool not to seek for the association of these types of priests who might be able to offer me a breadcrum on my path to his presence.

      2. The sign is not that Jesus can change water into wine. Sure, it is a miracle, but greater still is His ability to take me, an empty stone cistern (i.e., dust from the earth) and fill me with His life-blood, His Spirit. This, I think, is a sign of a priest who is after the order of Melchizedek.

      3. I think GA Joe is saying the exact opposite to what you believe. You must have life yourself, in order to be added upon in any manner, or you are just another automaton/puppet. Also, these priests you speak of seem to not perform many miracles, aside from what is claimed in that quote (from no one in particular). Without “Barker, Margaret” attached to it, what evidence is there that the water-to-wine miracle was anything other than, say, a rumor, a tale, folklore? Or, let’s say it really did happen, at a wedding feast…it is a “sign” of whatever anyone wants it to be. Are there the chosen who’ll really “know” what it “really means,” and so the miracle draws out the sheep from the goats? Perhaps, but if they aren’t drawn to God Himself In The Flesh, what is the point of a little trick put into some secret priestly code? I thought it was the party didn’t have wine, and this was a convenient way in the narrative of bookending the start and finish, with the Last Supper.

      4. @awaketozion,

        I’ll say this: If your sign–this measure you have for discerning a true priest–is an indicator of the presence of something vital, then free agents will naturally converge on it. It will help to spark life into their community. They will need *nobody* to draw the connection for them or to point at some uncanny coincidence in the stochastic resonance.

        The fact that somebody has to point it out, and that this pointing-out requires a good deal of a-priori Mormonness to even make it intelligible (Priests? Melchizedek? Orders of Priesthood?), is an indicator to me that we are dealing with the money of fools. No living thing will grow from that. You could make a club, though.

        Machines are *given* eyes to see and ears to hear. Those machines only ever see or hear what the giver of such gifts wants them to see and hear. Living things grow their own eyes and ears. They do not need rules for discerning what is true and what is not. Oh dear, are these living things coming to different conclusions about what is good and what is true? Good. I imagine God can only judge so many slates, blanked out by the same program, before getting sick of it. That is my opinion.

      5. Entirely agree with this comment, GA Joe. We are so accustomed to dealing with arbitrary signs of power and authority, managed through convention and assumed into being, that we seem often to neglect the order of nature created by this Jesus; presumably he would’ve not required a secondary sign of authority, without realizing that sign would also need a sign of power, and so on. Trust carries its own influence. I suppose if one believes in an infinite, nested hierarchy of Gods this endless certification of certificates could seem plausible. But that is another reason for rejecting Brigham Young’s endless hierarchy, I’d say.

    2. Barker seems like another writer of Bible fan-fiction, rather than a scholar who presents evidence. But given we don’t care who is talking, let’s say the argument itself is based on tertiary level imaginary worlds, and so, why not also say the miracle was a beacon sent to Uranus as a signal for the Annunaki to return and run for the House of Representatives? Because it seems absurd and implausible? Precisely why one needs to write according to what a huge market already sort of beliefs, or finds plausible, (e.g., FAIR fools); or one must marshal evidence independent of one’s mind, in order to grow in knowledge, thereby learning new things and possibly reflecting on what one already believes (but perhaps should not believe).

  7. With respect to a Jewish atheist… I guess I am one.

    Today I was speaking with a really close friend. I passively mentioned that I was a mormon.

    HER: You’re not a mormon.

    ME: Yeah, I’m a mormon. What makes you think I’m not a mormon?

    HER: You don’t believe in the Church. You don’t believe So-And-So has seen Christ.

    ME: Since when did you get to decide who was and who wasn’t mormon?

    HER: What do you think a mormon is?

    ME: –Some response that made it abundantly clear that I was a mormon.– Followed by: “I’m more mormon than all the other mormons.”

    The ironic thing about this conversation is that this “friend” knew better than anyone else how “mormon,” I really was. This friend was my wife. I guess this makes me a Mormon non-mormon.

  8. Sometimes I think the writing on this blog, and more pertinently the comments- are derived from some enclave of Al-Qaeda writing coded messages through some algorithm to tertiary beings living in Uranus!

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