Han Fei Story Two: Ruling the World


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.


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.


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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Jeffery Holland: Lord I Believe

Remember- this is what I hear when I listen to conference.  It’s not roses and sunshine.  It’s not happy and uplifting.  It’s not at all what you were going for when you were “inspired” to send it to me.  If you want to know why I’m reviewing conference, or what conference is- go here.

Holland is a current crowd favorite.  His talk from this last conference, Lord I Believe, was posted and re-posted and praised over and over- when you count all the pins from Pinterest and status updates from Facebook I think it was the most popular talk from this conference.

(These excerpts from a BBC interview are my favorite Holland moments- they were not shown in conference though… yet.)

I think the reason why it was a crowd favorite is that Holland attempts to acknowledge that people are struggling to believe in the church.  Which is good.  People are losing faith- at an ever growing rate. Leaving in droves you might even say… or as Marlin Jensen said, “we are in a greater state of apostasy then since Kirtland.”

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Conference Review- A Preface and a Note to Believers

I was just going to jump into reviewing talks- but I decided I needed a brief explanation of what conference is for the people who aren’t LDS/Mormon and a brief “what is your problem?” for the Mormons.

A Preface:

A couple months ago was LDS General Conference.  For those uninitiated it’s five “sessions” that are two hours long each in two days. That’s 10 hours of speakers, songs and prayers.  One of those sessions is the ‘Priesthood Session’ so only men are supposed to watch that one (generally at a church building while wearing Sunday dress clothes).  There is a meeting the week before that is 90 minutes long for women.  In the spring it’s specifically geared to the Young Women (girls ages 12-18) and in the Fall it’s geared towards the women in the church (Relief Society Meeting- women ages 18+).  When I was active (and as a child) I listened to all of conference minus the priesthood session.  Now that I’m no longer active… I still listen to most of it- and reviews of all of it. (Reviews Here Here and Here)

General Conference weekend is a different experience from the apostate side of the fence- especially when you have many LDS friends on Facebook and other social media.  The LDS church is very PR savvy and encourages its members to use social media to share their thoughts on General Conference.  Conference weekends follows a stream of Facebook posts, Tweets (including an announced hashtag) and pinterest pins, about every talk, song, what the choir is wearing, and encouragement for people to “come listen to a prophets voice.”

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Podcast: Young Women’s General Session review

Now that my semester is nearly over and I no longer feel like I’m drowning I have more time to blog.  First I’m going to review a couple of parts of General Conference.  This first post is in verbal format.  My 14-year-old daughter and I were invited to watch the YW’s meeting and then discuss it with a couple of other fabulous women.  You can listen here. It was a great chat and really fun to do it with my daughter.  She’s a pretty incredible kid.  Super smart and observant.

Some important notes:  The Young Women’s Meeting is just that- a meeting. It’s not an actual session of conference.  Neither is the General Relief Society Meeting.  I wonder why the need to separate out the girls from the women. Why not combine the two into a “Women’s Session” of conference?  If 12-year-old deacons can listen to the same meeting as their father’s every six months then 12-year-old girls and their mothers can combine meetings too right?

Another note- I will be reviewing Sister Dalton’s talk from the regular session also- because I feel like it ties into the entire tone of this session so much.



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My thoughts on polygamy in podcast format

I was invited on the Mormon Expositor to talk about Polygamy last week. It was a lot of fun with some super smart ladies that I sort of adore. Good times.

Give it a listen


What have you replaced the church with?

I had a friend ask me this.  I guess it’s a similar question to “how will you know how to be good without the church?”

I thought I’d share my response because I felt like it described how I feel so well.

If you remove a tumor from your body do you need to replace it with something? Or does your body organically fill in the vacant spot with the goodness that was supposed to be there in the first place that the tumor had pushed out of the way to make space to grow?

By removing the church I’ve made space for love. For family. For real friendships. For honesty. For authenticity. For education without boundaries and limitations. For knowledge without fear. I’ve opened up the box that the LDS church has kept me locked in for my entire life and made space to be myself and it’s a glorious thing.

For my readers who have also quit believing in and attending the LDS church- what have you replaced it with?  How have you filled in the space that it left?


Posted by on June 26, 2013 in ex-mormons, LDS church, mormons