A group of wide-eyed young Mormons stopped by the other day. I couldn’t help but come into contact with them, for I was already outside, doing some writing and enjoying a good cigar. They seemed like nice enough guys and there was no way I was going to get away with not at least having to say hello to them. They come through our neighborhood at least once every few weeks. From the outside they seem like just about as normal and average American youth as you can get. Well-attired, clean cut, polite and friendly. Regardless of what I was doing, and no matter how much I really didn’t want to engage with these kids — for I was deeply immersed in what I was doing at the time, there was just no way I was going to get away with not at least saying hello to them. And so I did. Though I didn’t look up from my laptop, figuring that might be an easy fix to not having to engage fully with them for an extended period of time. I am well aware that the majority of people these pubescent traveling missionaries come into contact with on the streets and in the neighborhoods of modern America avoid them like the plague, and though I get that — no one invites them into their space; they are by all accounts unwelcomed invaders into our personal space in this very modern world — I also see the advantage of unplanned spontaneous person to person contact with strangers now and then. We just never know when the universe is going to drop some unexpected miracle into our lives. How else would we know of it unless we stay open enough to allow such occurrences to transpire occasionally?
So rather than shoo these short haired, short-sleeve starched-white shirt wearing boys away as most people tend to do, I felt the least I could do was be polite, say hello back to them & listen to what they had to say. I did warn them that if their intention was to stay committed to the faith of their upbringing that speaking to me would be the last thing in the world that they should probably do. But they laughed off my warning and came over to where I was sitting. Frankly once we were past the uncomfortable tension of me calling out how ridiculous the very foundation of the Mormon religion is, I enjoyed our ensuing conversation and their company. I was intrigued and impressed with their youthful vigor and their eager longing to proselytize what they take to be the “Word of God”. The whole time of course I was very very aware that in reality the beliefs and so called doctrines of the Church of the Latter Day Saints (it’s formal name) is nothing but the word of a shameless, ego-maniacal huckster pathologically addicted to not telling the truth, the infamous Joseph Smith.
If you aren’t familiar with this particular “religion”, do yourself a favor and check into it. At least enough to know what it is and what it’s about. It’s important. Even if you aren’t a religious or spiritual person, remember for a moment that former U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney is a Mormon. So too is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Mormonism, or LDS as it is called for short, is a surprisingly widespread and popular religion in the United States, especially in the West. If it were your average run of the mill Christian denomination, with a shade or two of different colors splashed here or there for texture, ala Methodists or Baptists, one might not feel that it would matter that much. America for better or worse is still largely a Christian nation (albeit with plenty of dissension and “texture” to be sure), and we assume that no matter what one calls it, it still falls under the Judeo-Christian-Muslim monotheistic God category. There’s a certain safety in that I suppose — (but from a larger perspective, considering how much pain and suffering Christianity has caused humanity through its history, I’m not so sure that this safety is implicitly warranted…) But there’s a certain safety even in finding out someone is a self-professed atheist or agnostic. At least we know where they stand. We know they’re intelligent and that they’ve got their head on straight and can think for themselves.
But here’s the rub: Mormonism is no average, run of the mill Christian denomination. In fact, it’s not even a Christian religion. I had always heard rumors. Attempted to read the Book of Mormon a few times. Found the basic premise of the first few pages ridiculous, so I always put it down rather quickly. But this time, I was so moved by my encounter with these young men and their sincerity, I promised them that I would look into it more. And look into I did. I easily spent 40 hours researching the Mormon faith, it’s history, it’s dogma and doctrines. They seemed so absolutely sold on it. Maybe there was something there I thought…. As always I left no stone unturned. But what I continued to find was shocking. A far more complicated and convoluted belief system than your average Hollywood SciFi movie frankly. All sorts of gods living on different planets with strange made up names roaming through space, each taking multiple wives. Real crackpot stuff. Similar to both Scientology and the Jehova’s Witness organizations. Fantasy stuff. But with one difference: it is said to be and purported to be “the word of God”.
[With Mormonism this is an oxymoron, because they don’t actually believe in ONE god, but many gods who at one point “created” the one god most of humanity is familiar with, Elohim. SO this is clearly not even a monotheistic religion number one and therefore they cannot purport that their texts are “the word of god”. We would constantly have to be asking them “which GOD is this the word of?” The other problem here is that we know academically, based on the etymology of the word “Elohim”, that it is a plural word and was originally meant to describe multiple gods, not just “one” god. Going all the way back to the Sumerian culture. This is THE basic problem with almost all things Mormon: the large majority of it’s doctrinal beliefs stem from supposed visions that their “prophet” Joseph Smith had back in the 1830s when there was no internet and well, you could possibly fool some of the people all of the time…. But in this day and age, scholars have discovered that nearly everything Smith claimed was just flat out wrong. He was either a really bad guesser or an unscrupulous liar. For example there’s a good chance that young Smith used this word “Elohim” to describe this “new god” that the other gods created and didn’t even know the real definition and origin of the word as we do today. This is just one of hundreds of examples of historical and scholarly facts that Smith got wrong and that prove without a shadow of a doubt that he was certainly no prophet.)]
Instead what we find is a man so wanton in ethics, morals and scruples that it is hard to believe that he even existed. History is challenged to find examples of people so overtly willing to make things up and pretend they’re true as this guy was. Yet an entire religion is based around his silly books. It’s astounding. He seems more the stuff of legend, rather than real life flesh and blood. Historically this is a man whose entire life from start to finish was a fraud, nearly everything he said or wrote was either plagiarized or just made up BUT passed off as (not only) his own works, but the “work of God translated through him”.
I spent about fifteen to twenty minutes in total with the young Mormon missionaries. I shared with them my own experiences with The Divine through the years and what a marvelous and miraculous experience it is indeed. I also encouraged them to continue to study and learn on their own and to not take anything related to God or the Spirit from the mouths of other men or from books, but instead realize and accept that God has the ability to and does communicate with us if our heart is longing for it (and sometimes even when it’s not) and that He/She/It will reveal themselves to us if we focus on that intention. I also shared with them my view that God, The Divine, is plenty large enough to encompass ALL of the various inventions of “God” that humankind has come up with through the millennia. This is something I wholeheartedly believe — that for the most part, human beings are safe in regards to how and where they were raised, that God’s love is infinite for us all — for are we not all but little pieces of Godness in the end (physically speaking)? As well that God would also be infinitely intelligent: He/She/It is smart enough to accept and encompass ALL the various incarnations of “God” that humanity has ever or can ever dream up — meaning that no one has to worry about there being “one true god” or “one true religion” in the end, for in the end God will sort it out and accept every soul with an equal amount of love and adoration.
But I must admit, this Mormon cult is one frighteningly crazy group. One of the strangest belief systems I have ever studied, period, or even heard of, (Scientology included). Just out of this world cuckoo stuff. I really don’t get how people are led this far astray out there into lala land. I found myself wondering just how open God truly is when it comes to Mormons… I suppose if we stick with the basic premise that God is unconditional love and forgiveness and truly understands the heart of all humankind (and even all conscious or sentient beings, human or not), with the same love and understanding that we tend to give unto ourselves, that he will even find compassion and understanding and acceptance of Mormons — especially if they’re heart is in the right place. (Not that I personally believe that is a prerequisite to receive God’s love. I don’t. But that’s another story.) But what of the LEADERS of the Mormon faith? The ones who KNOW and fully understand how full of shit it is? Does God afford them the same forgiving heart? Give them the same benefit of the doubt? I wonder.
The same thing happened to me when I researched the Jehovah’s Witness religion. Again, we are led to believe that they are “just another protestant denomination of the Christian faith”, but that is far from the truth; it’s utter rubbish. A scam perpetrated on the masses who just never bother to check it out. Jehovah’s Witnesses is another one of those non-christian cults disguised under the flag of Christendom just to easily gain followers who are familiar with or grew up with “Christian” values and ideas. When studying the beliefs and history of the Jehovah’s Witness organization I was so taken aback by the horrendous nature of their twisted views that I found it very hard to believe that such a thing even exists legally as a religion. A science fiction or horror film? Okay sure. But a legal religion? Not possible. Yet it is.
So repugnant and so skewed the Jehovah’s Witness ideology is that as I studied it I was overwhelmed by a treacherous feeling, something truly evil lurking in the room, or at least in consciousness. I don’t say this lightly. It was palpable, something dark, heavy and wicked. I decided that I had learned enough and put away the need to learn anymore. I felt very uncomfortable, as if I was slowly being absorbed by some kind of dark evil force. True story. Perhaps I was just tired and my imagination was getting the best of me. But so what? Something either is prone to make us feel good, or make us feel bad. In all matters we should attempt to set our sights and our attention on the things that make us feel good. In turn we will have that same effect on the world around us.
Consider for a moment that the whole Jackson family were and are Jehovah’s Witnesses…. Poor Michael, if he were raised with those kinds of ideas, didn’t stand a chance at feeling the joy of God’s love, which is a very sad thing; considering what a beautiful soul he seemed to be at times (despite his alleged various weaknesses…). I wonder what life might have been like for him had he known the kind of love and support that I myself have experienced through the years from the Christian faith…
Being The Ambassador carries with it a natural inclination to feel very open minded when it comes to people of all cultures and faith traditions. I must admit that I am not often turned off or offended by, nor critical or judgmental of people who don’t have the same beliefs that I do. If anything I find this interesting, intriguing and life affirming. But I just can’t help but feel critical of the founders and present day “leaders” of the Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness faith traditions now that I have sat down and learned about what they actually believe in and teach; for not only are they flat out crazy and ridiculous and fantastical, but they are also blatantly false, fallacious, erroneous and fraudulent. Worst of all, this practice of spreading these kinds of rigid rules and laws that govern the whole of a person’s life based on the destiny of their very soul is flat out dangerous. Instead of being helpful and life affirming it seems downright harmful and often times life-denying. This is not what we commonly associate with Christianity. Nor with any religious belief system usually. Think of Judaism, one of the most life affirming religions we know of. But with Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses there is a lot of suffering, heavy indoctrination and brainwashing, a strong intimidating corporate hierarchy in place to frighten and control. These systems are not in place to love heal and protect. But rather to frighten people into submission. We just don’t realize it if we’re on the outside of them, because they are trained to NOT tell people what they believe and to try to “act as normal as possible” when in the company of non-Mormons or non-believers. I’d submit that if you have to act in any way that is different when in the company of strangers than you would act when with your own kind that something is wrong from the get-go.
I have no problem if people choose to believe crazy myths and outrageous legends — think of all the lunatics there are out in the world, with their Matrix-like lifestyles or their Renaissance Fair get-ups, etc etc… even if it’s just for fun or the experience of it. But not if they start acting as if it’s “truth” as in “the word of God”, knowingly doing so in a belief system that has already proved to be made up, or stolen from other works, fraudulent or downright dangerous; especially to the good folks they most likely know are being taken advantage of through the perpetuation of these myths and this system. That’s no longer for “fun or a good laugh or a cool experience”. It’s just plan evil. This Church of Later Day Saints as well as the Watchtower organization that controls the JWs seem a very wicked thing. It makes me wonder how the people in it’s leadership are able to continue to defend it or practice it or promote it in good conscience.
I would say that I am flabbergasted that the government allows such things to exist given how dangerous they are, flat out life controlling cults… but I understand that we are very lucky to have a constitutional right to freedom of religion in the United States; think about that for a moment…. In the United States a person can create ANYTHING they want to and call it a religion. One could turn the work of J.R. Tolkein or Game of Thrones into a religion if they wanted to and open up a church and worship a pretend God or anything else they came up with; they could have followers and a congregation and raise as much money as they want to under the pretense of being a “religion” — no matter WHAT they believe. It’s insanely liberal when you think about it. So it’s no wonder that crazy-assed cults like Jehovahs Witnesses and Mormons exist here. And all of this is perfectly legal and protected by law. So the government can’t really do anything about people passing off fantastical science fiction stories as religion and becoming rich beyond measure by doing so. It’s too bad in a way. It feels like we are giving up one thing — protection from being duped, to keep another — protection from religious persecution.
Perhaps it balances itself out in the end. For those of us who have a level head enough to not fall prey to these dangerous ideologies, it probably does balance out. But for those poor folks who do fall prey to them, it’s concerning. Any compassionate person would be greatly concerned about the health and welfare of those who are raised under the chains of these strict and insane belief systems, or even those who come to them later in life, perhaps out of a momentary vulnerability or a sincere longing to have a closer relationship with the Divine. One ponders if we might not be a better society by having some sort of protection mechanism in place. A one stop shop for religious shoppers where they can compare beliefs, ideas, doctrines of faith, testimonials from others, legal records. A health.gov or an Angie’s List for religions. Perhaps that might help people not get sucked into these things so easily and at the same time protect the religious freedom that we enjoy here in the States. The thing is that no matter how good of an idea this is, the religious powers that be in the US would never allow it. They’re so damn rich that they will continue to contribute as much money as is necessary to prevent such a thing from ever becoming even possible, let alone the law. For better or worse, religions still have a huge influence in America. Can’t say I believe that to be a healthy thing.
There is more of course. There is always is. But for now this is enough. If you’re like me, you’ll want to learn more. I’ve embedded a few videos below that will make that easy. Fair warning: frightening stuff. You may never look at these religions the same way again. But that’s a good thing. Consider yourself lucky.