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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mormon Dot Org Sees You

An interesting little insight came about through messing around with missionaries on Mormon.org.

visitus-chat

I was pretending to be a missionary, using the script they rely on to speak with folks who come to their chat box and ask questions.  The conversation was intentionally confusing, as you see below.  I adopted the name “Courtney” from a missionary I had just conversed with on an earlier chat thread.

Courtney (that’s me): Hi!

–Now Chatting with Joseph– (This is the real missionary)

Joseph: Hi! This is Joseph and Thomas.  How are you?

C: Hi Joseph!  We have a prophet named Joseph.  Would you like to learn more about him and the Restored Church? [Again, I’m pretending to be one of them, talking to an investigator named Joseph / Thomas]

Thomas: Sounds great!

C: So what is your question Joseph?

Joseph: What can we help you with?

C: That’s what I was wondering.  How can I help you today?

[after some delay…]

C: Wait, are you a missionary too?  This is so funny!  I thought you were an investigator!

Thomas: You know it 🙂

C: I’m totally confused now.  I’m a missionary.  I think the system has been hacked or something.

Thomas: What mission are you in?

C: Honolulu.  You?

Thomas: What is your last name?

C: Sorensen.  You?  This is sooooo weird!  I’m checking with the office elders.

Thomas: Are you an online missionary?

————————————-

Here is where the little game exposed something.  Apparently, I convinced Thomas/Joseph that I was possibly a real LDS missionary, so much so that they began to ask rather unscripted questions, while checking their databases.  These questions are the sort an officer of the state would ask strange persons who are found where they shouldn’t be.  Papers!  What is your name?  What mission are you in? 

Now I’m inside, right?  I start typing “I’m a full time missionary” but delete it, and instead typed, “I’m doing an online split for two hours.”  Then I hit /send/.  I never hit /send/ until I had deleted the “full time missionary” text, and replaced it with “doing an online split.”

So?  Thomas responds, aggressively now (using the wrong ‘your’):

Thomas: Your a full time Elder or your doing an online split for two hours?  Your story changed.

 

I never sent the “full time” text.  He was reading my screen while I typed.  Not merely seeing what I typed after I hit “send”. I was stunned, obviously a sign of how naïve I am about internet communication.

I checked this pre-send surveillance by typing, “are you full time?” while not actually sending it.  And he replied, “No, I am not full time.”  So I typed, and didn’t send, “Are you reading my screen, before I hit ‘enter’?  Creepy!”  And I didn’t hit /send/ this time, either.   Here’s what Thomas wrote, in response to what I hadn’t actually sent:

Thomas: You would know wouldn’t you?

Courtney: [typing…not yet hitting /send/] You would know, wouldn’t you?

Thomas: Yes, I would know.

He jumped out of the chat quickly, with a “Yup 🙂 Its no secret” and “God bless!”

—————————-

Now, he seems like a nice enough kid, just doin’ his job, as they say.  And a secret it may not be, but there’s nothing alerting the incoming chatter on Mormon.org that their keystrokes inside the chat box are being recorded and read by an online missionary, whether you hit “send” or not.  So, to whom is it NOT a secret?  Apparently to online missionaries.  And now it’s not a secret to a few others, as well…

I just wish Jesus had a Mormon.org profileHi!  I’m the Creator of Heaven and Earth, I like redeeming, donkey rides, walks on the beach and on the water, and I’m a Mormon! 

 

 

KeeJeeBoard Now Available at Google Play Store.

KeyJeeBoard2