Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Come Down From Those Crosses and Face The Music

"As man is now, God once was; as God is now, man may be."
Lorenzo Snow


God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret.


You ask the learned doctors why they say the world was made out of nothing, and they will answer, "Doesn't the Bible say He created the world?" And they infer, from the word create, that it must have been made out of nothing. Now, the word create came from the word baurau, which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos—chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existence from the time He had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning and can have no end.


The first principles of man are self-existent with God. God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with Himself, so that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in order to save them in the world of spirits.


A man is his own tormentor and his own condemner. Hence the saying, They shall go into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone. I say, so is the torment of man.

Joseph Smith (excerpts, King Follett Discourse, 7 April 1844)

THE OTHER EVENING I was chatting with an old friend who now lives in Mexico. Our exiles are thousands of miles apart, but one can stab at a few dozen numbers on a telephone and for a few pennies a minute we can converse, catch up, and remember aloud.

I happened to remark on the current difficulties the Roman Catholic Church is having as a result of claims that priests abused young (and not so young) boys and girls. Getting the authorities to be up front and honest about all this has been as difficult as getting blood from a stone. Indeed, stone statues have wept and oozed blood, as have painted icons, to bless the faithful, and we are yet to have people in authority take any blame for child molestation and other vile policies espoused by this Church. Forgiveness and convenient forgetfulness has been too easy. Apology and reparation has only come centuries down the line, if at all. Has the Catholic Church admitted yet that the Magdalene Laundries were the work of minds influenced by the Devil, or profoundly evil and misguided men? “Bridgette got that belly by her parish priest ...” sang Joni Mitchell, many years ago.

Has the Church faced up to its part in the slave trade? In the slaughter of entire nations in the New World while in search of gold? Does Incan and Mayan gold still glitter on altars in Europe, and in the threads of popes’ and priests’ garments? Has the Church admitted it was a crime against all humanity to destroy the cultures and recorded histories of the peoples it forced Christianity upon?

When the Spanish Armada of King Philip II attempted to invade England in 1588, some 180 priests came with the sailors and militia. They were not coming to gently convert the Protestant English back to Catholicism, but to force them back into the fold. Protestant heretics would be burned at the stake. Mary Tudor had done this to her own people. Admittedly, her half-sister, the Protestant Elizabeth I, slaughtered her unbelieving Catholic subjects. Oscar Wilde, centuries later, would remark that the only light Christians ever gave was when they were burnt at the stake. Oscar was a late convert to Catholicism. His last witticisms involved fashion.

Pope Benedict XVI is supposed to be visiting Britain this year. I wonder if he will come begging forgiveness for the terrible things Catholics did here both when they were in control, and after the Reformation when they fought to regain it. And how about the abused British women, men and children that his priests and bishops have tried to sweep under the fabulous rugs in their grand residences? There is to be an attempt to arrest the Pope when he arrives in Britain, and to charge him with crimes against humanity.

I cannot say that I’ve ever heard a Pope (or a Protestant leader like the Archbishop of Canterbury) say in so many words: “This is the word of God as revealed to me ...” For the Catholics and the mainstream Protestants, the heavens are closed, sealed, and God speaks to his Children no longer. There are no prophets in the land. The Pope, the Archbishop, they refer to old books written in dead languages hardly anyone can understand. The expression “Mea culpa ...” is missing in any tongue.

Back to my telephone chat with my friend in Mexico: I mentioned that a Mexican Archbishop had broadcast his opinion that the abuse of children was a direct result of pornography on the television and online that homosexuals were seeing and being tempted by. I can only read into this that he thinks his gay priests are watching pornography. Perhaps they reveal this on a Saturday night? How does he know this if not through the confessional?

I’m not sure how long porn has been readily available to your average priest on the television, and on the computer. Hotels, more recently, have channels that one can watch by pay-per-view that show porn. I stayed in a Marriott Hotel in Cardiff in 2006, and it had this dubious service for its guests. Charges would be shown on the hotel bill as something innocuous. The Marriott family is famously Mormon. Hello! I’ve heard that of all the states in the USA, Utah has the greatest number of hits on porn sites online per population. They take a lot of tranquilizers in Utah too. Utah is approximately 60% Mormon, 10% Catholic.

Of course, it is not your average homosexual or heterosexual who abuses children and young people. Paedophilia is its own thing. I don’t know if the Catholic Church has a large number of homosexual priests compared to the general population. Does it have an unusually high number of paedophiles? Has the Vatican been looking into this? As some of the cases being brought against the Catholic dioceses date back many, many decades (and God knows we’ve been hearing about priests fiddling with altar boys for generations) they certainly predate pornography on television, and personal computers and the Internet. Perhaps all those willies on the statues of cherubs, saints and church notables, and nudity in the pictures (masterpieces!) corrupted the priests all those years ago? “Forgive me, Father, for I’ve been having a wank by the Pieta ...”

Abuse is bad enough. Concealing the abuse and considering the Church above ordinary law is worse somehow. Instead of the offense involving one adult and one child, it is a conspiracy of any number of adults against a child. Remember, children are often threatened by their abusers.

My friend in Mexico extended our conversation by mentioning that I had been a member of “that church” for many years. He did not mean the Catholic Church, but the Mormons. And I was on their books nearly thirty years. I was active in the Mormon Church for about five years during that time. When I quit the Latter-day Saints about ten years ago, I did not switch my allegiance to another faith. I switched off. I belong to no church; I have no faith or belief. I suppose I could be said to be an Atheist. Or very nearly one.

When I joined the Mormons back in the early 1970s I converted to their family values, the simple religion they preached door to door. It was a pleasant sort of basic Christianity, a kind of more methodical Methodism. A few years in, I started reading about the more unusual aspects of the LDS religion, the things I expect most church members just never get to. How many have read the King Follett Discourse of Mormon Founder and Prophet Joseph Smith? It is very nearly a different sort of religion to that offered by those tracting Elders in the bus stations and then your living room. I’ve rejected Mormonism, but I actually think some of Joseph Smith’s ideas that they don’t like to talk about now are very interesting. I put a few at the top of this blog entry.

The Mormons do have an Open-Heavens policy. They believe God continues to speak directly to his prophets here on the Earth (and other gods in other worlds too). This is good. However, when some things change as a matter of convenience or when it is expedient (like allowing black members in 1978 when growing numbers of Brazilians were joining the Church, and many might have had a little Negro blood), one has to examine things. The Temple Ceremony was revised to exclude some bloodthirsty threats involving slashed throats and worse.

The Mormon temple experience is as peculiar and off-putting as a Sunday service might be simple and attractive. The Endowment Ceremony, which can be found online now, pictures included, is Joseph Smith’s take on Freemasonry. He joined the Freemasons back in Nauvoo and had a revelation about the Temple rites almost immediately. I managed to get myself a pass to the Temple back in, I think, 1993. I only used it twice, and stopped believing. I’d found myself doing the most ridiculous things, while dressed up in bizarre clothing.

I do not know why churches, most of them, involve weird outfits. Catholics and Anglicans, as well as Muslims, tend towards styles of religious dress that are, perhaps, meant to make the feminine less obviously female and the masculine a tad feminine, without being revealing. No tight trousers! You could hide a choirboy under some clerical garb. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Hats and headpieces are not only ridiculous (Mormons in the Temple wear what look like shower-caps tied by a string to the shoulder), but hardly practical. I once sat next to a Hasidic Jew, just a young fellow, on a flight to Chicago. I asked him about some of the odd things he was wearing. I enquired politely and he was most forthcoming. A Mormon would have blushed to the roots to be asked about his, or her, sacred, secret underwear.

I had a school friend, met him when we were six. He drank himself to death well before he turned fifty. As a child, my friend had a passionate interest in religious garb and ceremony, though I never heard him talk about religion. We took the same bland (Anglican) Religious Knowledge classes at school, chanted the same responses and sang the same hymns at morning assembly five days a week. I rather enjoyed the hymn singing as it was music, and I like nearly all music. My friend had his grandmother make clerical garments for him. Not choir robes (though he had them as a choirboy at the Anglican Cathedral), but replicas of the robes priests and bishops might wear at the most intimate and ornate ceremonies. I thought this peculiar, and still do. I wonder what my friend was buried in. Happens his last resting place was a Presbyterian churchyard, after an Anglican Requiem Mass at the Bermuda Cathedral.

I wonder if, when Mankind was new, men and women sat around of an evening and thought about someone who had passed away. One of the lads might wonder aloud: “Maybe we’ll see the likes of him again ... his son is so like him.” Which is mighty odd, but it could have started all this. The son becomes him. Religious texts, Bibles, are adventure stories. They became excuses. “Wasn’t it in Exodus that ...?” "Or was it the Hardy Boys?" "Hey! Let's dress up in silly clothes!"

So, an unbeliever, I do feel part of some sort of creation. Not from nothing, but something, as Joseph Smith said in his Discourse, organized from something already there, something eternal. I’m not sure that a God or gods, loving or otherwise, moulded me in their image. In fact, I rather doubt that. If I’m wrong, and I am a God in embryo, I have to wonder if all gods have their doubts.


Anonymous said...

What do your fellings tell you about who you are, and about what/who God is?

Anonymous said...

I dont believe you have no faith or belief, I think you simply have faith and belief in yourself which is a wonderful and empowering thing. I was drawn into your world by accident but have warmed to your simple observations and honesty and now find it all enthralling. Thank you.

Ross Eldridge said...

I used to pray every morning: "Give us this day our daily faith ... but preserve us, dear God, from belief." These days I just say "Heigh-ho! Bring on the day!" Some years ago I wrote a weekend newspaper column that my editor called "My World and Welcome To It". (I wanted to call it "Grey Matters"). Seeing that the second Anonymous is appreciating "My World" is most heartening. Bless!

Ross Eldridge said...

I'm pleased to note that in the last few days a number of Catholics Bishops and Priests (Ireland, Germany, Belgium) have "resigned" as a result of being involved in the abuse of children. I hope that charges will be laid against these men by their victims. An "I'm sorry" and then a retirement on a pension doesn't cut it. Those who covered up the abuse, or who enabled it to continue, need to go as well. Damaged children have had to live a lifetime with the pain.