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Why Mormon General Conference is nothing like TED Talks

This blog post is being posted and re-posted.  I felt it needed some response.  (Don’t be easily offended when you read this mormon friends). 

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Did a friend invite you to watch Mormon General Conference this weekend? Did you feel a little confused or slightly awkward about it? Cool. Let’s break it down.

The only thing awkward/confusing about being invited to participate in another religion’s eight hour weekend is how excited you are to passively invite me and pretend like it’ll teach me everything I need to know about your church.  Because you think I care.  I don’t.

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Posted by on April 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Knowledge vs. Orthodoxy Sunstone Presentation

Welcome! If you’re here looking for more information on the Knowledge vs. Orthodoxy study and presentation from Sunstone it will be up in the next day or two.  Thanks for dropping by.

To listen: Knowledge vs. Orthodoxy Sunstone Presentation

Some links you may have heard me reference during the presentation:

John Dehlin’s study: Why Mormons Question (Study done with 3,000 people who left the LDS church and their reasons). Video Link

Haans Mattson and Swedish Rescue story:
New York Times Article
Mormon Stories interview
Transcript of meeting with doubters in Sweden

Another helpful link about questions that doubting members have.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Han Fei Story Two: Ruling the World

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I’ve been listening to a new podcast lately- Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History– and its fascinating.  It’s actually what reminded me of this story (and I’ll make this all relevant in a minute- I promise).  I’ve been listening to his five part series (at about 90 minutes a part) on Genghis Khan and he keeps reiterating that many people currently regard Genghis Khan as a great leader and hero for uniting China and many other things.  The millions that he killed and the raping and pillaging that he left behind everywhere he went is ignored and only the positives are remembered.  (Of course this varies by region).  Not only does the writing of history go to the winner- but then time makes the pain of the one (or many) dull in the minds of the people who only benefit from their pain in the long run.

Sidenote:  The Khan series is a pretty long commitment when you haven’t listened before- I highly recommend show 48- Prophets of Doom for a shorter listen that is equally fascinating.

Back to Han Fei:

There was a point early on in her visit when Han Fei was telling us about her husband and showing us pictures of their wedding.  She was sharing Chinese wedding traditions and the superstitions (her word) behind them.  It was all very interesting- but it’s not the point of this story (I’m trying to keep myself from getting too sidetracked there).

She told us about her honeymoon as well.  She and her husband for their honeymoon went to the birthplace of Chairman Mao. Chairman Mao was her husband’s hero- which sounds well and good when Han Fei tells stories about Chairman Mao.  He sounded like George Washington, or Abe Lincoln, a hero in the foundation of China who is the father of their nation. Without him there would be no modern China.  He was a great leader and a brilliant man…

Except that he killed millions, an estimated 40-70 million people, by starvation, forced labor and executions during his reign in his attempts to unify the country under communism.  He did help propel China into a world superpower- but at a horrific cost.  Han Fei and her husband were born about the same time that Mao died.  They grew up in a China that largely benefited from Mao’s atrocities and one that was changing.  One that was kinder and gentler to its people (especially those that lived in large cities like they did).  A China in which regarded the killer of millions as a hero worthy of worship for little boys- who eventually grew into men who still referred to him as their hero.

I asked Han Fei about these stories after clarifying that she was talking about the same person that I thought she was- things that there was a lot of evidence for online- that perhaps he wasn’t completely altruistic- but he also did some things that were pretty horrific.  She didn’t believe me.  I tried to show her multiple sources- information that she could read but wouldn’t.

She insisted that Americans weren’t aware of the whole story.  He wasn’t a monster but a hero- regardless of what any information said. She’d been taught differently her entire life in every Chinese history class she’d taken- so my information was clearly uninformed and incorrect.  There was nothing that I could say that would change her mind- or even open her mind to the possibility that maybe she’d been taught from an extremely biased source and there might be some differences in what she’d learned.  Not a single thing.   She knew the correct story and I didn’t.  She was Chinese and I was American- American history (and every other country’s history) was wrong and was anti-Chinese.  End of story.

It wasn’t as frustrating as it may come across in that paragraph.  It was really more of an amusement and a cause for me to think about it- maybe she was right.  It was entirely possible (and very likely) that the stories I was reading were biased against Mao and the Chinese way of governing and that it wasn’t like the history of the US was as pure as I was led to believe in my education.  But it didn’t seem likely that it was that black and white.  There seemed to be a preponderance of evidence for Mao’s atrocities from many, many sources, sources that had nothing to gain and no axes to grind.

So a  couple of months later when I started reading history about the foundation of the LDS church that was different than I’d learned I remembered my conversation about Chairman Mao with Han Fei.  It was possible that I’d only heard one side of the story and if I opened my mind and read some information from sources other than the ‘biased victor’ then maybe I’d learn something.  That I was capable of reading multiple sources and deciding for myself who had an axe to grind, something to gain, or was simply being academic in their writing.

I opened my mind to the possibility that maybe Joseph Smith wasn’t a perfect man who communed with God.  But maybe he was a little more human than that.  Maybe polygamy wasn’t inspired- but human desires. Maybe the hero worship of pioneer stories weren’t all glorious and faithful. Maybe the visions and miracles and such… weren’t.

It turned out that I was right.

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Mao Zedong

Statue of young Mao in Changsha, the capital of Hunan

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Han Fei: Story One

Part of my story that I’d be crazy not to mention is the influence of Han Fei in warming up my critical thinking skills before my dive into the specifics of LDS history and doctrine.

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Han Fei came to stay with us at the beginning of the school year in 2010 from Dahlin, China to teach English at our local high school and to help out with the Chinese Immersion program at the local elementary school that my youngest two children were a part of.  We hosted her from late July until the following June- and she was a part of our family.  She lived with us through my initial faith transition- but she was also a catalyst for several different points of critical thinking.

Disclaimer- these stories- like all other stories are purely from my point of view.  Other people involved may remember things differently.  But as far as my memory goes they are as best I remember them.

Story One: A View from the outside

We invited Han Fei to come to church with us her first Sunday in our home.  We made it very clear that it wasn’t expected and that we wouldn’t be offended if she didn’t come.  She declined, saying she was Buddhist and uninterested.  I offered to help her find a Buddhist temple to attend- she declined that as well.

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It was too hard…

While I’m busy dispelling myths about why I left the LDS church this is one that comes up often.  ”Living and LDS life is just too difficult for a lot of people, it’s just easier to not try so they quit.”

Are you actively LDS?  Take two minutes and think what would happen in your life if you were to declare yourself no longer a believer.  Remember that I was in the heart of mormon-dom and as such fully surrounded by active believing members.  I had also devoted my life to this church and at the time had a husband who was fully active and believing along with my entire immediate family.

Then I just stopped.  (Well- after extensive research and study).

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Posted by on June 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Being Offended, Sinning and Satan


When people do ask why you no longer go to church if they are a believer often it’s in a whisper- and prefaced with a hushed, ‘”can I ask you a personal question?”  Faith is always personal, but is rarely treated as such within the LDS church when you are assumed to be a believer. When you’re coming to church you’re expected to discuss your faith, testify of it as often as possible, talk to whatever “non-members” (non LDS people) you can about your faith (and theirs) to try and convince them to join the LDS church, and it’s assumed that your faith and beliefs are the same as every other person in the congregation.

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Posted by on June 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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I keep meaning to tell this story…

It’s a frequent question that I’m asked, “why did you leave the church Amber?” (the church being the LDS church)   It’s been almost two years since I stopped attending, and about two years minus a week since I stopped believing that the LDS church was “True.”  In that time I’ve learned that most people when they ask that question don’t really want to know the answer, that they’re really asking the wrong question. The question they should have asked is, “what is the one ‘problem’ you have with the church so that I can tell you why you’re wrong, or ‘offended’ and ‘fix’ you and you will come back and be active (fully attending and believing) again.”  That is what most people mean when they ask that question.

But then there are the others.  The people who ask, “why did you leave the church?” People who want to know because they are hoping they’re not alone.  They come seeking comfort and help in the darkest time of their lives when they don’t know where it is safe to turn.  When uttering the words, “I don’t think the church is what it says it is” could mean divorce, loss of employment, disowning from parents or kids, loss of friendships and everything they’ve ever known.  When they know they can’t trust their ecclesiastical leaders without repercussions for doubt and the safest place to turn is the friendly apostate neighbor, the high school friend they’re reconnected with through Facebook, or friend of a friend of a friend that they’ve been hearing stories about (and looked up on Facebook to have someone to talk to- hey it’s happened).  I’m grateful to be that person.  For those people my answer is usually, “I didn’t leave the church for one reason, it was hundreds of reasons added together.”  Then our very long conversation begins.

For them, and for myself I’m going to attempt to discuss my reasons, my story and some experiences so I have a place to point people when I get asked that favorite question.  But it’s not going to be short and it’s not going to pretty, hopefully I can at least make it interesting.

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2013 in Uncategorized