Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Where Did We Come From?


For most of my life (as a believing Mormon), I was under the impression that humans had spirits, and that those spirits came from some sort of sexual union between Heavenly Father and one of his innumerable polygamous wives, up where they lived, near a star called "Kolob".

How Kolobian reproduction exactly occurred was never really specified by Mormon leaders; the process was especially mysterious since Mormon doctrine states that God and his wives have "bodies of flesh and bone" - so one question always was, how do perfected human beings, with bodies of flesh and bone, sire children who don't have flesh and bone, and who are only some sort of barely material spirit? Hm...

Anyway, to make a long story short, I no longer find KSRT (Kolobian Spirit Reproduction Theory) plausible. I don't really find any religious answer to this question plausible. So the question is, where does human life - or life in general - really come from?

The answer is, no one has a clue. No one has ever come even remotely close to showing, let alone plausibly arguing, how life can emerge from non-life. The once-vaunted Stanley Miller experiments have long been recognized as pretty much useless...there are hazy suggestions about lightning striking a pond, or oceanic vents, or volcanoes, and even life showing up here on a comet from another planet (known as the "panspermia" theory). But no one can explain how the vital equivalent of a bunch of rocks could somehow become alive; and not just alive, but in that moment, posessing some kind of will to keep on living, and some desire to reproduce, and some ability to reproduce. And in fact, the very idea seems at least as absurd as the one I began this entry mentioning.

I don't like this. I'd like to know where we - where I - came from. Where, how, did it all begin?

56 comments:

Gretel Shuvzwichinstov said...

Haven't you read the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? It's all answered in there.

Seriously, while I think it would be very interesting to know where/how life started, I doubt it's anything we'll know any time soon, if ever, so I don't ponder about it much.

If life on Earth was seeded by an asteroid, that just pushes the question back a bit to, "Well, where did the life on the asteroid come from?" and back and back and back.

Tim said...

Come now, Dawkins has totally explained it. It happened on the back of crystals. "how?" I already told you, on the back of crystals. It's really simple to understand if you weren't so committed to your dogma.

/end sarcasm

smile said...

I could tell you, but then I would have to kill you.

ginamarie said...

"I don't like this. I'd like to know where we - where I - came from."

Amen, Brother Tal. I have had existential questions (which leads to an identity crisis of a sort) my entire life, imagine what a mess I am.

:)

Jen said...

"I don't like this. I'd like to know where we - where I - came from."

Why?

Draper Phil said...

I'm fascinated by the vastness of the observable (and unobserved theoretical) universe, and how the more we learn about it, and the laws that move it, and bend even the very definition of time and space; the more questions we end up with about it, like the issue of life on our planet. So far, it appears that this thing called life is EXTREMELY rare, so rare that it hasn't been found anywhere else to date. But, mathematically, there must be life elsewhere. Then I think about how the 3rd planet in our solar system is COVERED with living "green stuff" that takes light from its star and turns it into food. That's a remarkable thing right there. And then of course, there's also the homosapians. Of the vast abundance of life on this planet, they seem to be the one life-form that is self-aware, and that is a remarkable thing of itself. They figured out how to hurl themselves off the planet and onto the planet's satellite, and then hurled themselves off the satellite and came back to the planet. Alive. They've built impressive lenses and hurled them off into vast space, out of the solar system, and beyond; and figured out how to make the lens send information back to earth (that the homosapians can understand) about the light it receives from other stars in the universe (some of the light being billions of years old as it passes through the lens).

Hmm... I'm not helping you at all, Tal, am I. B-)

rachael said...

It truly is the ultimate question isn't it?

I'm with Gretel, I try not to worry about seemingly unanswerable questions. Though I do agree it would be fascinating to know.

Tal said...

Jen

"Because"

rachael said...

QUOTE:
"I'm fascinated by the vastness of the observable (and unobserved theoretical) universe"

I am as well Phil.

The relative size of everything can really challenge the imagination.

I would love to know how big the universe really is?

How do I hold it?

Does it have walls or is it infinite, does it look vastly different once you get past the point where we can see?



Maybe our Universe is tiny, just a little one celled organism, floating around in a raindrop that is falling towards the ocean on another planet which is spinning around another star at the center of one of millions of other solar stystems within hundreds of thousands of galaxies exploding outwards in yet another vast Universe......

Or, maybe we are just pets in some kids aquarium, like the little sea monkeys I used to want to order from my Betty & Veronica comics.

Perhaps there is something spiritual in nature which is so far out of our realm of human undestanding, that we can't even truly conceptualize it, and maybe that's why we make up stories about other worlds and Gods, just to help us try and comprehend ourselves.

The problem with those stories seems to be that we are getting smarter and we are no longer needing them, & we may be seeking something else now.

Seeing as we as a whole, are so aware, curious, and full of questions. It makes me hope that there actually is something powerful and pure and concious that we are collectively connected to.




What spunky little creatures we are really, that we have actually managed to get ourselves off of the planet and made it to the moon and back, Phil is quite right, its incredible.

ginamarie said...

"What spunky little creatures we are really, that we have actually managed to get ourselves off of the planet and made it to the moon and back"

IF NASA didn't fake the moon landing. lol :)

zalia said...

I'm with you Rachel...we really don't know and may never know, and perhaps we really do ceast to exist when we die...but I would like to think there is something "powerful, pure and conscious out there". It is hard to think you knew the answer and realize you know nothing.

Shannon Johnson said...

Tal,

First, in the name of full disclosure, I am a life-long Mormon (about 10 years of inactivity in there), a huge fan of your music for the last 10 years, and a distant observer of your departure out of the LDS faith.

I am simply amazed when I read your stuff. I can understand when and if someone feels like they don't believe anymore...a crisis of faith and identity. Absolutely, I understand. I have had my own bouts. I can understand that someone might want to leave the LDS faith and go in another direction.

But what I don't understand is why someone...anyone who was brought up a Mormon, taught all the things one is taught in our religion, would turn so bitter and hateful against it as to embellish and sensationalize it's teachings.

I want you to know that I am sincere. I am not looking to pick a fight...seriously. I would have years ago when I was younger, perhaps (in fact I fought the urge many times years ago when you left the faith).

You said...

For most of my life (as a believing Mormon), I was under the impression that...spirits came from some sort of sexual union between Heavenly Father and one of his innumerable polygamous wives.

C'mon...I was never taught that. And I don't believe you were either. The only time I have ever even discussed the subject of any "sexual union" of God and His "innumerable polygamous wives" was when I was addressing the critics of our faith.

Even if you had been made aware of a few old quotes from a few early Church leaders, I bet that didn't happen until you were 18-19 years old.

The way you put it, it is as if this is taught in Sunday School to the children. As you know, Tal, it is not taught at all. Nor would it be. I agree with you...we don't know and the Church has never made the claim as to "how" spirits are created. I really don't care. To know that an almight God has created my spirit is good enough for me.

Regardless, it is the way you wordsmith that gets me.

"Kolobian reproduction"? I've never even seen that word, Kolobian, outside of exMoromon blogs and forums. I ask you...when was first time you've ever heard or read this word? I know it wasn't in the church.

Kolobian Spirit Reproduction Theory or KSRT? Did you just come up with that? It is stuff like this that I just can't understand. The way you write this, others could only conclude that this KRST is a theory in the Mormon Church. I have never hears of it and a quick Google search seems to indicate that no one else has either...creative, but honest?

Your blog header says it is devoted to truth...is it?

Hey, this is your blog. I know you can write whaever you want to. But, i just want to know what makes someone go from believer to this?

Just wondering...

Coop

(Shannon's husband...using her computer/google account)

Anonymous said...

Wasn't it simply caricature?

ginamarie said...

^ that was me

Tal said...

Hi Shannon's Husband

You have a lot to say about not understanding. Here's one thing *I* don't understand: how someone who - most of the time anyway - thinks that Mormonism is actually God's only true religion, can't be bothered to get off his butt to attend Mormon church meetings. Or go to the temple. Or fast. Or pay tithing. Or read Mormon scriptures daily - but who still sits around nursing a victimization complex, is still ignorant of core Mormon theological ideas, and still thinks that *I'm* the guy who's gotten Mormonism all wrong.

Another thing I don't understand is how someone could regard as "bitter and hateful" an adjective - "Kolobian" - which is no different grammatically than adjectives like "American", "Shakespearean", or "Darwinian".

See, in English, when you have a noun, you can adjectivize in a few different ways. You can, for example, add "esque" on to the end, as in "Reaganesque", or add "ly", as in "heavenly". You can also "ian". It's not hate, Coop - it's called English.

Another thing I don't understand is how a grown man could think that the conclusion by many Mormons that spirits are formed by some sort of celestial sexual union has something to do with "anti-Mormonism" or caricature or "sensationalism". Totally bizarre. What else did you think the Mormon God would be doing - given D&C 132 and explicit church teachings for the first century of its existence about the nature of polygamy and heavenly reproduction - with all those polygamous wives, if not "populating his planets* with them? Is there something in Mormon theology which indicates that they're up there playing Parcheesi or something while all the women just magically, spontaneously conceive? You sound disturbingly unreflective. And apathetic.

For 150 years Mormon prophets and apostles taught that God physically impregnated Mary with Jesus; in the BOM (in Jacob), it says that plural marriage is for the purpose of reproduction. So why would Mormons (who, unlike you, actually read the church's books, scriptures, and sermons) then *not* think that God and his wives create their spirit children via some sort of (celestial/Kolobian) sexual union?

My guess is that the language I used to describe this tiny portion of Mormon doctrine upsets you because, unlike the vague, hazy, language Mormons (including my former self) instinctively use to keep themselves from thinking deeply about what it is exactly they believe, it makes plain just how silly Mormon claims are. Hearing them that way makes us upset, because it makes it that much harder for us to remain in default mode, which is, to try to not recognize insofar as possible their absurdity and implausibility.

Guess what, Coop? I didn't invent a cockamamie story about a star called Kolob. I didn't invent a cockamamie story about a God with innumberable polygamous wives up near a star siring spirits (in whatever fashion, sex, test tube, etc.). That was your man Joseph - the one who founded the church you don't attend. It's not my fault this stuff sounds absurd. It's his.

So, my sincere suggestion is that you give your head a large, painful, slap, and start really thinking deeply about what it is you believe; and more importantly, what you ought to believe.

summermonsoon said...

You go Tal!

It's your blog, your thoughts, your opinions and we are grateful for what you write.

Shari

Jen L. said...

"Because"

That's not an answer.

To Coop:

C'mon...I was never taught that. And I don't believe you were either. The only time I have ever even discussed the subject of any "sexual union" of God and His "innumerable polygamous wives" was when I was addressing the critics of our faith.

Ok, so what are you taught to believe by your faith regarding the origins of man and spirit and the universe, and so on? If he's wrong about what the Church believes, then what (in your estimation) is "right"?

What I don't understand is what or how it matters when or how it's taught. If what Tal said is "wrong", you didn't say that it was - what you did seem to say is its not widely known, or the kids aren't told, or its buried in a few quotes by founders. You also seem to imply there *is* no creation theory:

we don't know and the Church has never made the claim as to "how" spirits are created. I really don't care.

which I find really bizarre since I can't think of any religion that doesn't.

Tal said...

Jen

Coop's just another dude who likes imagining he's a member of the Mormon church since he grew up in it, bit who doesn't really know jack squat about it. There are a million of these guys - they never go to church, they never go to stake conference, they never go to the temple, they never listen to General Conference, they never read Mormon scriptures, they don't pay tithing, they sit at home and watch football while guys like me go to church and then try to "hometeach" them back to activity...and then they sit around and play victim and cry persecution everytime someone who's actually done the hard research acknowledges that Mormonism is not what it claims to be. So pathetic.

Jen L. said...

Well, thanks for your answer, Tal - maybe he'll come back and give me his. [blinks]

ginamarie said...

"There are a million of these guys - they never go to church, they never go to stake conference, they never go to the temple, they never listen to General Conference, they never read Mormon scriptures, they don't pay tithing, they sit at home and watch football while guys like me go to church and then try to "hometeach" them back to activity."

Wow, when you put it that way, I realized what a passionate holy man you could be - I'm glad you're out of Mormonism if it ain't true (it isn't) but we really must start up some other inner sanction!

ginamarie said...

oops, inner sanctum.

Darren said...

I like your blog Tal. I am curious if there was much fallout with friends and family when you left TSCC.

Have you ever written anything here or elsewhere on the topic?

rachael said...

I've been meaning to ask the same question Darren.

And also I wonder, Is it frustrating to have invested an apparently great deal of time and energy into something that you eventually walked away from? Did you put it somewhere comfortably behind you, and move forward?

What do you DO with all that belief once you decide what you have been studying and teaching, is not plausible to you?

I can't imagine the internal stuggle.

Rummfor5 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Draper Phil said...

Rummfor5 said:

"Some of your extrapolations of the LDS faith are unfair at best.
Inferring things that aren't strictly taught. Or even loosely taught. Many of these are things we who live the LDS faith call myths or legends."

Rumm, this is an empty assertion unless you care to give examples. To my knowledge, any of the references made of Mormon doctrines/teachings, in this thread at least, are canonical. If it's in the Standard Works, it's hardcore Mormon doctrine. If it's taught by a sitting president of the Church, published in Church publications, or in Church Conference, it is, by definition, Church Doctrine. Now, try to imagine that some of us are post-mormons who once cared very much, as former believers, that these *doctrines* we were taught and believed were true. I get that this probably doesn't describe you very accurately. But can you understand why it was important to some of us?

rachael said...

Phil, you have had a similar experience?, would you also share how was this for you? Or is this too personal, I don't know. It is interesting though.

I am curious, you say you believed it was true. You highlighted that word.

It speaks volumes, but I don't know how it happens.

The question comes to me often here, How does an intelligent, curious child grow up to learn so very much about the world, yet still believe this story about a star named Kolob?

What is it that children/people are told or expected to believe? It must speak volumes to the love for parents and willingness to please them.

& I am curious at why there is so much hatred sometimes from people who claim to be religous, is it fear based?

Jen L. said...

Now, try to imagine that some of us are post-mormons who once cared very much, as former believers, that these *doctrines* we were taught and believed were true. I get that this probably doesn't describe you very accurately. But can you understand why it was important to some of us?

Oh, boy.

You know, I sat here for about 5 minutes trying to figure out how I was going to say the millions of things that are floating around, but I realize it's fairly futile in this conversation. I don't really have a horse in this particular race so in the end, its none of my business.

I'm not Mormon. I've never been Mormon, and I wouldn't be Mormon. Nothing particularly against it, its just not for me. I do have friends that are Mormon, and I have friends that have left the Mormon Church - each are fanatical to mild about their positions depending on who they are. Each had a variety of experiences leaving, from mildly turbulent to emotionally life-destroying. I care about, and respect, all of them.

One thing that strikes me as an outsider looking at is the deep level of hurt regarding dialog, and spurned dialog, on all sides of this divide. It's a amazing thing to see when its tipped over.

Phil said...

Hi Rachael,

By "similar experiences", if you're referring to being raised from birth a believing Mormon; yes, I was. I actually descend from Nauvoo Mormon polygamy. I don't know how to articulate "what it was like" in comparison to what it is like not to have been raised in a cult. I feel like asking someone like you the converse kinds of questions, what it was like to be able to think critically about things from a young age, what was it like to not believe that your life is a script, not to suppress your own intellect when logical contradictions about the system emerge from your sub-consciousness, etc. How does it happen, you ask? Not sure I have a great answer, other than, the thing is a bona fide cult, and you're programmed literally from the time you're learning how to talk (age 3), to believe in it, yield to it as absolute authority.

Anyway, I'm just really glad I somehow managed to figure it all out. The truth is worth it.

rachael said...

Thank you for sharing that Phil. :)
The truth is always worth it. So is the pain of the journey, it is usually there for a reason, and it brought you to where you are today.


Hopefully you hold onto whatever good you can find from the past, and are able leave the rest where it belongs.


This is what bothers me most about all this, that you say you don't know what its like "not to suppress your own intellect"

That any child must do this, for any reason.......makes me deeply sad & angry. Life is hard enough without having to process and come to terms with a bunch of mixed and mis-information, I applaud you for finding your way.

Tal said...

Nice try, Rummfor5.

Here are a few excerpts from that evil anti-Mormon book, "The Book of Abraham", from the canonized "Pearl of Great Price", part of the official scriptures of the LDS church:

"And thus there shall be the reckoning of the time of one planet above another, until thou come nigh unto Kolob, which Kolob is after the reckoning of the Lord’s time; ****which Kolob is set nigh unto the throne of God***, to govern all those planets which belong to the same border as that upon which thou standest"

And:

"Fig. 1. Kolob, signifying the first creation, ***nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God***. First in government, the last pertaining to the measurement of time. The measurement according to celestial time, which celestial time signifies one day to a cubit. One day in Kolob is equal to a thousand years according to the measurement of this earth, which is called by the Egyptians Jah-oh-eh."

And:

"Facsimile No. 2; Kolob, signifying the first creation, ***nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God***".

And:

"And the Lord said unto me, by the Urim and Thummim, that Kolob was after the manner of the Lord, according to its times and seasons in the revolutions thereof; that one revolution was a day unto the Lord, after his manner of reckoning, it being one thousand years according to the time appointed unto that whereon thou standest. ***This is the reckoning of the Lord’s time, according to the reckoning of Kolob***."

And:

"Now I, Abraham, saw that it was after the Lord’s time, which was after the time of Kolob; for as yet the Gods had not appointed unto Adam his reckoning."

And:

"If two things exist, and there be one above the other, there shall be greater things above them; therefore Kolob is the greatest of all the Kokaubeam that thou hast seen, ***because it is nearest unto me***."

And:

"And the Lord said unto me: These are the governing ones; and the name of the great one is Kolob, ***because it is near unto me***, for I am the Lord thy God: I have set this one to govern all those which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest."

You can also find out about Kolob on page 284 of that other evil anti-Mormon book, the official LDS Hymnal. That's where the hymn, "If You Could Hie to Kolob" is:

"If you could hie to Kolob
In the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward
With that same speed to fly,
Do you think that you could ever,
Through all eternity,
Find out the generation
Where Gods began to be?"

You can read about God siring our spirits in the writings of that evil anti-Mormon, President Gordon B. Hinckley. He's the one who says evil, embellished things like, quote, "God is the Father of our spirits" (see May 2005 Liahona). Other evil anti-Mormon tracts saying such things include the LDS-published "Gospel Essentials" Sunday School manual, which states:

"Before we were born on this earth, we lived in heaven. Our home in heaven was more wonderful and beautiful than anything we know on earth. We belonged to a family there. We loved each other and were happy. ***Our Father in Heaven was the Father of our spirits, and for this reason we often call Him Heavenly Father...Since our Father in Heaven is the Father of our spirits, He knew us very well.***". (See Chapter 2, "Our Life in Heaven").

Another rotten anti-Mormon tract, "The Proclamation on the Family", composed by the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles, states that:

"All human beings — male and female — are created in the image of God. ***EACH IS A BELOVED SPIRIT SON OR DAUGHTER OF HEAVENLY PARENTS, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny."

My suggestion, Rummfor5, is that you spend less time on the "anti-Mormon" sites you claim are so rotten, and start reading things like LDS scriptures, LDS conference talks, LDS magazines, and LDS hymnals.

Rummfor5 said...

Tal, you once again extrapolated from *my* comments.
I didn't refute Kolob.
I didn't refute that God is a Father of us all.
I believe that God, The Father, created my spirit. And yours.

Specifically that kolob is some kind of ginormous orgy with Heavenly Father making spirit babies with loads of wives. . .that is not doctrine that is taught or supported.
No doubt such ideas exist, but writing about "what if" is not the same thing as the milk and meat of the gospel.
It isn't an idea that is taught. It does *not* exist in our canonized scripture. It is not taught from our pulpits, from our Prophet. It is not something I've ever had to covenant to abide, believe, support or condone. It's something that can be extrapolated and inferred. And often is, especially by "ex-mormons".

I am sorry for you. Not perhaps for the reasons you may conclude.
You seem to be seething with bitterness and hate. If this life is "It", then I would suggest earnestly that you look at ways to increase your personal peace and happiness. I don't mean that with any condescension. I think that happiness can be fleeting, for us all. Life isn't easy, not for anyone. I would suggest, as I would to any friend or person I engage with, that even if there isn't an after life, there are things that bring more happiness to us. Things that bring more internal peace and contentment.
If we're really just living for now, wouldn't it make sense to make our now as positive and happy and contented as we are able, while we are living *it*?
I can't understand what you've been through, obviously. I have no war with you about differences in faith. I'm never about trying to convince others. I've never tried to tear someone elese's beliefs from them. I am content with the idea that it is up to each individual. And, it is.
I'm well aware that many think my faith (LDS in the case that I've not been clear) is one of fraud, or lies, or a cult, or any number of things. I've had my own crises, my own periods of great suffering and questioning.
Living the way I have decided to live brings me more contentment and happiness. I'm more peaceful because of the things I believe in and the way I choose to live. Is "My way" the only way to live? No.

No matter what faith any of us adheres to, even if it is a moral code or a code of ethics or honor (one void of religious content)--
there are things all lives that are happy and good have in common.
Doing good to others is a pretty world-wide idea. The golden rule is a basic idea that most humans will acknowledge to be a good one. A sound way to live. Improving the world, leaving others better than you find them. . . a good turn. Perhaps taking literally the task to make the world better, increasing peace wherever you are able to do so. It may sound cheesy and become fodder for sarcasm, but most humans, no matter their faith or belief system-- agree that these are at least admirable ways to live. Things that we all might aspire to in our own lives. You have a great ability to use words and with that maybe you could do something beneficial, positive, building, edifying.
If we are all wrong after death,
and it's all a different ending-- then wouldn't it be nice to have made this life a bit of heaven, if there really isn't a better place to aspire to and hope for?
These are rhetorical questions (since so much is lost in translation on-line).
I wish you well. In your life.

ginamarie said...

"I am sorry for you. Not perhaps for the reasons you may conclude.
You seem to be seething with bitterness and hate. If this life is "It", then I would suggest earnestly that you look at ways to increase your personal peace and happiness."

What the fuck do you know about Tal Bachman's life? Tal seems happy and at peace personally to me. Who's perception is correct, yours or mine?

Exactly.

ginamarie said...

I am happy for you. Perhaps for the reasons you may conclude.
You seem to be bubbling with enlightenment and learning. If this life is "It", then I would suggest earnestly that you look at ways to increase your personal autonomy and individualization. I don't mean that as a suggestion, it's an high-handed order! I think that identity can be fleeting, for us all. Gnosis isn't easy, not for anyone. I would say with certainty, as I would to any friend or person I engage with, that there is always other lives after our life is done. There are things that bring about the betterment of humanity. In quiet and loud ways, many will be instruments to that. But when and where..know one knows. You have strengths, they will be applied. Don't worry about weaknesses. That's what teamwork is for! Do not worry about appearances, all is well. "God" is the great alchemist...forming-dissolving, dissolving-forming...

Tal said...

Rummfor5

It is a popular pastime for internet-inclined members of the Mormon church to accuse me of "distorting", "embellishing", "caricaturing" Mormon beliefs. I might use blunter or different language in my descriptions, but as far as I know, I can cite chapter and verse in support of every one of my characterizations.

My experience is that it is members of the Mormon church who are the most egregious and consistent misrepresenters of Mormon doctrine. You may recall Gordon Hinckley's interviews from the '90's, in which he denied that eternal progression (specifically, that God was once a man) was official church doctrine. Like that. I'm going to say that's not fair. That's dishonest.

And I do dislike being accused of embellishing something I'm not embellishing, and I think it is fair for me to cite textual support for my characterizations.

Now, on the matter of pre-mortal spirit production.

Mormon leaders have stated repeatedly that

1.) "God is the father of our spirits";

2.) That the process of spirit production requires both a male (God) and a female (a heavenly mother);

3.) God has a perfected body of "flesh and bone";

Beyond this, for many decades, Mormon prophets and apostles taught (in accordance with Section 132) that plural marriage was the order of heaven, and the type of marriage that righteous men engaged in (as you may know, early Mormon apostles even claimed that Jesus Christ was a polygamist). That plural marriage was the marriage of the celestial kingdom was part of the rationale for Joseph Smith's many wives, Brigham Young's many wives, John Taylor's many wives, and the many wives had by many hundreds of Mormon men all throughout the 19th century, and truth be told, into the 20th. That God was a polygamist, and more - *needed* to be a polygamist - was taught openly by Mormon prophets (who, according to Doctrine and Covenants, will not be permitted by God to lead the church astray).

So where is the flaw in my account here?

The fact that the church now has tried to back away from this plank in its theology doesn't mean it was never there, or even, isn't still there. I mean, Rummfor5 - think about it: why else does the Mormon church seal one man to more than one wife in the temple? Howard W. Hunter, if I remember right, had three different wives sealed to him before he died.

Yet Mormon women cannot be sealed to more than one man. What does that tell you? That savvy leaders don't point this out specifically from the pulpit because they don't want to upset sensitive sisters doesn't mean it's not before our very eyes. Mormon practice with its temple marriages shows that in Mormon theology, one man having numerous wives is compatible with life in heaven. And according to an earlier generation of Mormon prophets and apostles, and perhaps according to the still canonical Section 132, it is *necessary*.

I do have some sympathy for you on this, because Mormon leaders are now trying to quietly obscure this. One can be a member nowadays without ever really considering celestial polygamy. Consider that for the past decade, Sunday School manuals ostensibly devoted to presenting the life and teachings of Mormon prophets like Brigham Young and John Taylor have deliberately omitted the fact (in the bio timelines) the fact that these men were devout polygamists. They present them as MONOGAMISTS, when in fact, the necessity of polygamy was crucial to their lives and teachings. The church also censored out of existence in the quotes presented in the manuals many references to polygamy. I'll never forget, myself, taking my family on a tour of Brigham Young's Lion House in Salt Lake City as a devout Mormon, and to my amazement, hearing the guide describe Brigham Young as a MONOGAMIST. Examples of this are too numerous to begin citing...

What I am saying is, the fact that the church now wishes to obscure this feature of its theology in public discourse (a feature that was acknowledged until not so long ago), doesn't mean it ain't there, or wasn't there until the recent past. Does it?

I never said anything about "orgies", although given Mormon teachings on spirit production, I can see how one might wonder about this. That is, if orgies are implied, it wasn't me who implied them, but Mormon teachings for the past 120 years.

You mention that you enjoy being a Mormon. That is great; I am happy for you. But the point here is what I might have gotten wrong in my post.

What did I misrepresent? Not Kolob, not the flesh and bone business, not the celestial polygamy business, not the male and female both needed for spirit production business...

What?

I await your answer.

smile said...

fyi-A woman can be sealed to all of her husbands after she and they are all dead.

Jazz said...

Frogs with bodies of flesh and bone lay spawn that becomes tadpoles that becomes frogs with bodies of flesh and bone.

Because we don't remember/know how things are done,it doesn't mean that they are done...even if they seem unfeasible at first glance.

Heavenly parents making spirit children might make all the sense in the world if we knew the ins and outs of it...no pun intended.

Katy said...

Well, I can tell you there is life after death as I "died" recently from a ruptured stomach abscess and septicemia that set in.
I know its there as I experienced it.I'm not talking about the brain being starved of oxygen and hallucinating.I went through that part and past it.I was asked if I wanted to go or return and when I thought how much I would miss my family,I chose to stay.From that decision on,I came back and ,after a week of intense treatment and three weeks of no energy at all,I am now well.I didn't ask any questions as I wasn't given much time so I can't tell you more than that after life exists.Dying is so easy, I learned from this experience.Treasure every minute and do good as it can all end in a split second.

Tal said...

Katy

Who asked you whether you wanted to stay or not?

Katy said...

A man with a north American accent.I felt he was rather matter of fact about it all and a little too gruff,though that probably is harsh.I would have preferred a sweet ,kindly woman to ask me.I just felt that he had done this many times before and I was just another one to ask the question of.I am probably being too critical of him.

Tal said...

Katy

What did he look like?

Katy said...

Short hair,dressed in white.Not the bright, bright white but a more subdued white
His eyes were blue.I don't remember the colour of his hair as it all happened so fast and I was so annoyed at his matter of fact tone.I wanted to mention it to him but as soon as I made the decision to return,I was back,as I said.It looked like a robe he had on but I couldn't see from the mid thigh down to where his feet would be.It was obscured by something.

Tal said...

Katy

It sounds like your official greeter needs to have his ass kicked by whoever his immediate superior is...!

Katy said...

Yes.I guess he deals with so many people that the job gets mundane ,or perhaps he was just having a bad day!I hope Natasha Richardson didn't get him.

Jaron said...

I feel like the universe is a result of consciousness. I think we're all a part of the consciousness. When we fill a physical form, we are drops. When we die, our drop falls back into the sea. As we think about things, and focus on things, and bring them about in our lives, we're creating an experience out of our thoughts. I think our individual and collective thoughts are pushing the expansion of the universe, in that they are a creating force. When we fall back into the sea, we desire for another physical experience for the opportunity to create from thought. There is no god. There is we.

Haha... I used to laugh at people who thought about stuff like this. I used to think they were completely wacko.

Phil said...

God is life, revealing itself, to itself.

-shrug-

Kathryn said...

Have you seen "Expelled - No Intelligence Allowed" (Ben Stein)?

Anonymous said...
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Smitty said...

Tal:
Sorry, I’m a late comer to the discussion - just found your blog for the first time. Cutting back through all the personal banter, I’m intrigued by the original question you wrote about regarding our origins as humans, as well as your most recent posting about what we humans do when life‘s circumstances put our back up against the wall morally.
Full disclosure: I’m a true-believer Mormon, one who was born in the church and remained active all my life. I’ve had lots of discussions with people of every opinion about Mormon beliefs. I‘ve been told that I have at least average intelligence. So why do I still believe all this crazy Mormon stuff?
Ultimately, the truth cannot, by design, be known except through spiritual means. The fact is, if you start from scratch, trying to find the truth through empirical means, you will never find it (witness at least 6,000 years of recorded human history: how much agreement do you see out there – even among scientists - when it comes to our origins?). This life is simply an artificial construct - a mouse/cheese maze - in which we have to learn to live by faith and prove we’re capable of being entrusted with infinite power. So by design, the only way you’ll ever be able to come to a real knowledge of the truth is to surrender to the fact that faith has to come before, not after, knowledge. Even those of us born in “the Church” have to go through the same process, and have to gain our own testimony through the same means as everyone else. It’s because of the spiritual witnesses I’ve received that I know the “fairytales” are true. That being said, my experience has been that if one accepts as truth the gospel of Jesus Christ, as taught by the Mormon Church, all other empirical information only tends to support it (Alma 30:44).
As for your question on our origins, your blog posting hinted at part of what I think is the answer: “But no one can explain how the vital equivalent of a bunch of rocks could somehow become alive; and not just alive, but in that moment, possessing some kind of will to keep on living, and some desire to reproduce, and some ability to reproduce. And in fact, the very idea seems at least as absurd as the one I began this entry mentioning.” If the scientific answer is just as absurd as the religious one, and it is, how can you be so quick to dismiss the religious answer? However it happened, it did happen, so there has to be an explanation. And the fact that anything exists means that something has to always have existed. Science might explain that it all “started” from a big bang, from a singularity. It might explain how the enormous energy coagulated into the various subatomic particles, then atoms, etc. But even science has to confront the fact that something had to have been there before all that. Whether it was an enormous field of latent energy precipitated by some sort of disturbance, or an equal and opposite universe collapsing into a black hole, or whatever, something was always there. This means science ultimately has to grapple with the fact of eternity, just like us crazy religionists. If it all came from a disturbance in a vast energy field, then something has to have caused the disturbance. If it was an imploding universe, then it must have been undulating back and forth for - eternity. Eternity means, literally, there was no beginning - it has simply always been.
(Continued…)

Smitty said...

(Continued…)
If enough monkeys type on typewriters long enough, eventually they’ll compose “War and Peace” (and if long enough, every other book ever written). Eternity is that long. Given eternity, everything that can occur, eventually has to occur, somewhere, sometime. One thing science relies on is that things that happen, happen because they tend to, given constant universal principles. So, if life evolved once, it would be illogical to assume it doesn’t tend to happen as a matter of natural fact. On the other hand, if life only evolved once, then we’re confronted with the fact that human intelligence truly is unique (awfully human-centric, no?). So, if intelligent life has evolved, and tends to evolve, and has had an eternity to do it, it must have happened an infinite number of times.
Now look to the other end of the spectrum: what’s the destiny of the human race? Will we kill each other off? Will we find a way to escape the earth before it’s destroyed by a dying sun? If we manage that, will we ultimately escape the eventual implosion or complete entropy of the universe? We would have to evolve into yet higher beings in order to do so, with power to control the fundamental forces of the universe. But again, if it can happen, it tends to happen, and given eternity, it will happen sometime, somewhere. If it doesn’t happen, then ultimately, the human race served no lasting purpose, right? No one will be around to know we existed. If it does happen, then haven’t we just described GOD?
As expressed by some of your respondents, and your most recent blog posting, most people in affluent western society are too “fat and happy” to worry themselves about questions too deep to answer while they’re busy entertaining themselves. For them, life is about having fun and enjoying it while you can. But tell that to the vast majority of the human race throughout history who have lived in abject poverty and servitude. We’re faced with two options: either the randomness and unfairness of life prove there is no ultimate meaning, or it all has to be explained within the meaning itself. For me, the only thing that explains that meaning sufficiently is the crazy notion, as taught by the Mormons, that God is real and eternal, that we are literally His children (through what physical means is ultimately irrelevant to me: KSRT, creationism, evolution, whatever), of His own species, who are here to learn by good and bad experience to exercise faith in Him, so that He can entrust us with what He has. But better than any logic that supports this idea is the fact that you really can know, through spiritual means, if you’re simply willing to humbly and sincerely ask.
Thanks for the blog.

Phil said...

Hi Smitty,

I'd like to make a brief comment on Infinity. Infinity is not the same as "everything". i.e., just because you have infinity doesn't mean that everything that can happen, will (as you've asserted). Allow me an easy math abstract to illustrate. Given the number line (real numbers), you have an infinite number of points you could plot between, say, integers 3 and 4. You can plot the rational and irrational fractions between 3 and 4 literally forever. For infinity. And yet, you will never plot the number 5. Nor 6. Nor 7. Nor any of the points inbetween those, nor any of the other infinite points on the number line not between 3 and 4. So even though you have infinity, by no means do you have everything. See what I mean? Given Infinity, not everything that can happen will.

Tal said...
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Tal said...

Okay, Smitty...It must have taken you a long time to type all that out. Let me just make a few points.

There is really no coherent argument that I can find in your post - no marshalling of facts or logical relationships to show that anything I've written is wrong, or anything you've written, or believe, is right. Simply announcing that you think that, in some inexplicable way, "not knowing" (having faith) is equivalent to knowing - what is what your comments boil down to - is not an argument. It actually makes no sense, except as yet another trick that we employ to keep ourselves in that pleasing psychological state of devout belief.

One specific point I'd like to reply to is your query about why, given the constant revision by scientists of their understandings of nature, I am so quick to dismiss religion.

This is a straw man. In my post, I did not "dismiss religion". I dismissed Joseph Smith's stories about polygamist spirit reproduction on some star called Kolob. Why? Because there is absolutely no reason to believe them.

Another, more sensible, religion may claim that some power beyond our comprehension first created life. I would never dismiss that claim, thought it is religious.

To dismiss my neighbour's claim that he has a purple, winged unicorn in his basement, is not to dismiss the proposition that we may one day discover an unknown type of horse. The first claim merits no belief; the second does to some degree. It's the same with JS's self-serving fairy tales versus the intuition that some intelligent power may have bequeathed life to us, or that life has just always existed, etc.

By the way, Smitty - you don't know "the church is true". A feeling is not knowledge. It is a feeling. Faith is not knowledge either, but by definition, the absence of knowledge. And our certainty, spiritual or not, about how things are, bears no necessary relationship to how things are. If you *really* believed that, you would accept the perfect certainty that the devout Muslim, Catholic, and Jew have in their religions, as as indicative of *knowledge that Islam/Catholicism/Judaism is the one true religion* as your own certainty. But you don't. So I suggest that you are deceiving yourself.

Last point - your experience that everything supports the tenets you adopt in an initial leap of faith is absolute ordinary; it is not unique to Mormons at all. It is not even unique to religious believers. It is called confirmation bias, and is a completely common psychological phenomenon. Once we accept certain tenets as true, our minds filter out disconfirming evidence, and without us even consciously wanting to, we start attributing more credibility to anything which reinforces our beliefs.

In any case, if the day comes when you'd want to know if Mormonism were a fraud, if by some chance it were, let me know, and we can discuss it on here.

Elvis said...

Tal:

Great blog. I've enjoyed whiling away a few hours here instead of working. I admire your earnest seeking of truth. Which is to say, what you've written resonates with me.

I'd like to make a roundabout reply to your blogpost's title: Where Did We Come From?

For starters, I probably ought to make clear that I categorically reject any sort of definitive answer to this question. That is, I guess I take the epistemological stance that in order for someone to have certain knowledge of higher-order events -- and I maintain that the very origin of consciousness is a higher-order event -- that same someone would necessarily have to be on that same higher-order's intellectual level. I'm not putting this well.

Another way of approaching the question (i.e., Whence life? Chin stroke, chin stroke) is to take a sort of deconstructive approach to the issue. 'Deconstruction,' at least as I'm using the term -- caveat here: I'm largely self-taught -- deals with the structure of knowledge systems. All knowledge systems are based or centered on something held to be empirically true; it is the work of Deconstruction to prove or show the empirical to be false. That is, every aspect of knowledge has as its basis some foundational or fundamental or 'central' tenet upon which everything else is based. That 'center' is immovable. It is axiomatic. It is taken for granted as true in all cases. If any given knowledge system loses its center -- i.e., if the axiomatic is shown to be false -- the entire system falls apart. (N.B.: the system only falls apart if it loses its center; i.e., if aspects or branches of the system are found to be false, they can be cut away, dropped without consequence, etc.) It then follows that the center -- any given center of any given system -- cannot be a constituent part of the system it centers. Does this make sense?

For e.g., it was explained to me like this: picture a kindergarten classroom. The children are the system, and the teacher is the center. When the teacher is present, the system holds together. There is order (or there is at least as much order as can be imposed on 5-year-olds). When the teacher leaves, chaos descends. The system falls apart.

Which all is a long-winded explanation of why I just can't take perfectly seriously -- i.e., hold as my center -- any definitive explanation of consciousness's genesis. That is, the only explanation I am willing or would be willing to accept would have to come from someone or -thing outside of humanity (i.e., outside of or higher than my, our 'system').

And the standard move here is to say that only in divine revelation can humanity find empirical answers to axiomatic questions. And, given my Mormon upbringing, what follows then is the Joseph Smith story, etc., etc., will you commit to be baptized? Yes. Ka-dunk. Ka-ching. End of story. Do your home-teaching.

To be clear: I am still a Mormon. Here is my Mormon c.v.: I served a mission from '91 to '93. I was excommunicated in 1996 and was re-baptized in 2005. I am "active." I do my home-teaching. I am, in fact, a gospel doctrine teacher.

That was my preamble, and I will continue in the next post with my point.

Elvis said...

My point: is really difficult to articulate concisely. I almost don't even know where to begin. How about: I guess I don't care that Mormon doctrine can be shown to posit some rather ridiculous claims. Because it can be so shown, and to argue otherwise is to keep one's head firmly in the fundament.

Yet the question remains: Where did we come from? And it's an important question, for obvious reasons. And I really hate to see the question occluded by arguments from what are essentially two separate belief systems with correspondingly separate centers. (I.e., Camp One, Mormon True- Believers, versus Camp Two, Calm-and-Beetle-browed Rationalists.)

So, with all that said (and I apologize for the length), I'd like to frame my own personal answer to Tal's question (i.e., "Where Did We Come From?") from a slightly different angle. (And in the interest of concision, I'm simply going to assume from here out that anyone still reading is familiar enough with Mormon doctrine, etc., to not need rudimentary explanations.)

As I see it, Mormonism's only center is the Book of Mormon. That is, the Mormonism I've cobbled together (Wiki-see: "bricolage": to "...make creative and resourceful use of whatever materials are to hand (regardless of their original purpose)....") has only one real center: the Book of Mormon. There are undoubtedly many really good arguments against what I here baldly assert, but I'd like to just charge ahead, if no minds very much.

The Book of Mormon, as I see it, is simply a ridiculous miracle.

That is, on the one hand, it is simply ridiculous, by rational lights, that a 23- or 24-year-old American kid was in 1820-something approached by a resurrected personage and given that r.p.'s manuscript, in the form of a collection of golden plates written in a wholly unknown tongue, and told to translate these into American English. No-one or -thing one shows the ridiculousness of this better than the creators of South Park do in their famous "dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb" episode.

And on the other hand, it is simply ridiculous, by rational lights, that a 23- or 24-y.o. American created out of thin air a more-or-less perfectly coherent book in the space of three months. (Again, I'm well aware of many of the arguments against the BoM as coherent book, and I'm willing to address them as necessary, but thankyouverymuch I'm just going to state baldly and charge.) Hell, give him five years and it's still ridiculous to assign Smith sole-authorship. For e.g., the King James Bible was "authored" by 30 or so Cambridge and Oxford scholars working mainly from Martin Luther's German Old and New Testament manuscripts, and it still took them three whole years to finish the thing.

So: the simply ridiculous miracle, the BoM. If the book has one primary message, I think it's this: the God who created us, however he created us, cares deeply about us. He loves us. To wit: the good old Moroni 10:4 challenge that asks the reader to "pray about the truth of these things." See, I don't think Moroni is asking here for the reader to verify the "truth" of the Mormon church; rather, I think he's asking the reader to ask God if it's true that God is willing to do just about anything to "save" or "redeem" or claim each and every one of us. And it turns out that God is indeed so willing (if, indeed, one beliefs in the historicity of the Book of Mormon, and also interprets Moroni 10:4 as I just did). Put another way, if God is willing to bring forth the Book of Mormon partly in an attempt to save a people (or the descendants of a people) as wicked as the Lamanites (see BoM title page), then how much more willing is God to save someone as human and flawed as you and me? That's pretty much the whole of my argument.

(Good Lord: I still haven't said what I've wanted to say. To Be Continued.)

Elvis said...

(OK: This is totally it. I'm done after this last little bit.)

So what does a ridiculous miracle have to do with Where Did We Come From? (1) The ridiculous miracle is extra-human communication. I.e., its very miraculousness defines it as a piece of the knowledge about consciousness's "center." That is, the book's very existence is itself a kind of proof of a benign guiding force outside of human life. (2) The Book of Mormon proves that Jesus Christ is the resurrected Son of God. And whatever this means to whomever reads this, I'm willing only to assert this: God exists and his son exists. I really meant what I said in the beginning of my prior post when I said that I see religion as a system of abstraction, similar to, say, mathematics or philosophy, and that to mistake its tenets for the reality those tenets map is to make the similar mistake of, say, digging around Ecuador for an actual, metallic equator. (And maybe I didn't explicitly assert that, but this was the principle of my claim not to believe any manmade description of extra-human realities.) Which may seem to contradict my #2 assertion here of God's and Christ's reality, but which is actually meant only to contradict any given religion's assertion to speak for God or Christ in any but the most broad terms.

I could keep going on, here, but I really need to get back to work. I guess I'm trying to say only this: don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, Tal. However misguided much of the Mormon Church may be -- and I take serious exception to the doctrine of polygamy and much of what's attached to it, among many other things I take serious exception to, including the recent quote/unquote unofficial opposition to gay marriage -- I believe that there exists in the pattern of its growth by revelation (i.e., not in the specifics of each revelation, but in the pattern as a whole, in the overall direction of movement that each revelation heralded), I think that in this pattern is part of the answer to Where Did We Come From?

That is, we come from a kind and loving parents in heaven. They love us enough to essentially participate (in the form of Christ) in the agony and pain of life right alongside us. Whatever follows this life -- and I have a lot of ideas -- I'm pretty sure it won't really conform to anything like most religions (including LDS) claim it will be like. I.e., I feel like heaven and hell are pretty much already present here on Earth, and whatever follows this life will be extra-temporal, and so how does God explain that to us and how do we understand it except by means of metaphor and analogy?

God, what a mess. I hope somewhere in all of this is something worth commenting on. Or not. At the very least, I've had fun trying to articulate in writing what is for me something pretty much only intuitive.

E.G.

Steve said...

Theological explanations pass the time and control the weak. My opinion? Life just finds a way.