My Story

I am deeply interested in religion, politics, current events, history, musical theater and books! I left the LDS church a couple years ago and have spent a lot of time since then thinking and considering various religious influences in my life and in the lives of those around me. For more information on why I left the LDS church, look here. I also love to sing, act, dance (tap preferably) and perform on stage whenever possible.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

What do Oscar Hammerstein and Carl Bloch have in common?

I recently attended a fairly professional version of the iconic South Pacific by Rodgers and Hammerstein in the very Mormon town of Centerville, Utah. The sets were gorgeous, the singers were excellent and the actors did a great job of making me care about their characters. However, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor when the sailors sang "Bloody Mary is the girl I love, now ain't that too darn bad?" Darn? Really? How am I supposed to believe these are really sailors when they say "Darn" instead of "Damn"?! Then that gem was followed with Bloody Mary calling Lieutenant Cable a "Stingy Bugger" instead of a "Stingy Bastard" when he refused to marry Liat because of her color and heritage. Unfortunately, the substituted words in no way carried the same weight as the original text. Not to mention, a sailor that won't say "Damn" is hardly a sailor at all. (add to that their missionary like stance when they said "Be thankful for the things they've [dames] got!" I was left wondering..."What things?" Their special personality?)

When art is censored through the changing of words the meaning is also changed. Most Mormons I know can handle "Damn" and they even realize that non-mormons say "Damn" all the damn time! Obviously the theater feels it is necessary to Sunday School every little offensive word (while leaving in themes of murder, fornication, hate and racism) for their audience. The audience must be demanding these changes (or threatening to never come back) and there MUST be enough of these people to actually force the theater to make these changes. What would cause a vastly Mormon population to insist on this seemingly extreme censorship?

Perhaps it's due to the example that is being set by their leaders. The "avoid the very appearance of evil" sentiment. The "change anything that you can that doesn't fit into our view of the world" sentiment. The "everyone should be like us" teachings. The articles and lessons expressing these sentiments in talks in church, FHE, primary, homemaking, priesthood meetings, neighborhood lunches, and church magazines like the Ensign.

Which brings me to the danish painter Carl Bloch (May 23, 1834 – February 22, 1890) who painted the fairly well known work The Resurrection. In the December 2011 Ensign a version of this piece was printed with the accompanying article The Condescension of Jesus Christ (pg. 54) and used with permission by the National Historic Museum of Fredericksborg. However, the piece used was not the original work. If you compare the two versions by downloading the PDF of the article, you see that the angel's wings have been clipped, their shoulders covered up and any "nakedness" shown under the arms filled in. The piece has been censored to fit into the church's view of doctrine and modesty and in the process the meaning and original intent of the painting has been changed.

Censoring art and presenting it as the "original" work is misleading at best and outright lying at worst. Regimes of the past have used censorship of art to control people and the sharing of ideas. Fictional works have used the idea of changing words, art and other forms of expression as a way of controlling people and forcing them to think a certain way.

If a religion (or any person or organization) has a problem with a certain piece of art in whatever form, they have the option to simply not use it (or view it). Changing it to fit their needs does a disservice to the original artist and to those who view the work as well as stymies the sharing of ideas through artistic expression.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Finding Truth in Religion

I pulled the following from the blog, (All footnotes/sources can be found on the original blog). Can you determine which quote describes your religion?
A Short Experiment – Comparing Descriptions of Spiritual Feelings from Different Religions

It is interesting to read people’s personal descriptions of religious experience. People from very different religions often use similar words to describe their spiritual experiences.

I’ve collected a sample of people’s descriptions of religious conversion or spiritual revelation. The following twenty quotes are from practicing Atheists, Buddhists, Catholics, Hindus, Muslims, Mormons, New Agers, Protestants, and Universal Unitarians. Try to guess which quote comes from which religion (some religions are used more than once). I have standardized the language (changes indicated by brackets ), so that differences in terminology between religions will not tip you off (thus, mosque, temple and church are all become a [church]; the Bible and all other religious texts become a [text] or [sacred text]).

Try to match these 8 religions to the following 20 quotes. The answer key is below:

New Age
Universal Unitarian

1. “I felt a burning in my heart, and a great burden seemed to have left me.”8

2. “But what can I say? How can I describe an experience so profound and so beautiful? Shall I say that it was the most blessed experience of my life? Shall I say that [God] touched my heart and gave me a feeling of peace I had not known before? Shall I describe the tears that flowed freely from my eyes, affirming my . . . faith, as I . . . beg[ed] [God's] blessings for myself and for those I love?”9

3. “The sense I had of divine things, would often of a sudden kindle up, as it were, a sweet burning in my heart; an ardor of soul, that I know not how to express.”10

4. “As I read these books in a . . . bookstore, . . . I felt a burning in my heart that I should come and investigate.”11

5. “[Even as a child], [w]ithout understanding much about the complex [doctrine] . . . he was attracted to [church]. There he often felt a strong feeling of peace flowing through his body.”12

6. “I was praying . . . when I felt a burning shaft of . . . love come through my head and into my heart.”13

7. “I truly [sic] wanted to know [the truth]. After a few weeks, I stumbled onto [texts] which . . . answered my questions in a way that I had not heard of before. I read everything . . .and I even tried the experiment of asking [God] for . . . his divine love. After about 6 weeks, I felt a burning in my chest and a sensation that was unlike anything I had ever felt. It was pure happiness and peace. I knew then that [God] had sent His love to me.”14

8. “A feeling of peace and certitude would tell me when I had found the answers and often after people would help me by pointing in the right direction.”15

9. “We gave up a lot of things. What did I get in return? I received a feeling of peace, hope and security. I no longer lay awake at night worrying. I stopped cussing. I became much more honest in all aspects of my life. [God] has changed my heart and my life. My husband’s heart is changing also. We pray all the time and really feel [God’s] presence in our marriage. My perspective has changed. My view of life has changed about what is truly important.”16

10. “Many women described a feeling of euphoria after they committed to following [God] . . . . One woman described a feeling of peace; she said: ‘It is like you are born again and you can start all over again, free from sin.’”17

11. “A feeling of peace seemed to flow into me with a sense of togetherness . . . . . I felt very peaceful from inside and also felt [warmth] . . . .”18

12. “I felt a burning sensation in my heart.”19

13. “That inner light, that we all have or had at some time in our existence, was nearly burnt out for me. But in the [church] . . . I found a feeling of peace, inner solitude and quietness that I’d also found in reading the [text] and pondering over its meaning and trying to practice what it tells us.”20

14. “For the first time I not only felt accountable for my past sins but I had to fight back tears. I knew that I had let down [God] [and] my family . . . . However, I also knew I was forgiven! [It] gave me a feeling of peace that I have never felt it in my whole life. I felt like I had a huge weight lifted off of me and that I was finally home and free . . . . I felt like a new person.”21

15. “Every time I am there [at the church building], a feeling of peace overcomes me.”22

16. “Every time I was with the [church members], I felt this warm feeling, a feeling of peace and for the first time in my life since my church-going days, I wanted to follow [God] . . . .”23

17. “About 10 years ago, when Jenny and I decided to start a family, we began looking for a spiritual community for our kids. During my first service at [the church]. . . I was hooked. I recall the feeling of peace that I felt when I was attending [services].”24

18. “The power of [God] came into me then. I had this warm and overwhelming feeling of peace and security. It’s hard to explain. I had to . . . stop myself from falling backward.”25

19. “[The religious leader] looked into my eyes deeply for a moment, and I experienced a feeling of peace and love unlike anything I had ever experienced before.”26

20. “[After praying,] [i]mmediately I was flooded with a deep feeling of peace, comfort, and hope.”27

21. “I recently spent an afternoon on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, atop the mount where Jesus is believed to have preached his most famous sermon. . . . As I sat and gazed upon the surrounding hills gently sloping to an inland sea, a feeling of peace came over me. It soon grew to a blissful stillness that silenced my thoughts. In an instant, the sense of being a separate self—an “I” or a “me”—vanished. . . . The experience lasted just a few moments, but returned many times as I gazed out over the land where Jesus is believed to have walked, gathered his apostles, and worked many of his miracles.”28

The answers are in the next paragraph. My point here is not to say that any of these people’s experiences are invalid or that they are not valuable, or that religion is bad (I am an active church-goer myself). Nor am I trying to say that this proves any certain religion to be true or false – just that spiritual experiences are a universal human emotion, and that, just like any emotional experience, they are not enough by themselves to be reliable indicators of absolute truth. This is easy to demonstrate using religious experiences, since the claims of most of these religions are contradictory. Thus, if one of the above religions were true in the absolute sense, many or most of the others would be false. Many or most of the above people’s religious experiences, therefore, could not have been reliable indicators of the truth.

Answers: 1. Protestant; 2. Islam; 3. Protestant; 4. Catholic; 5. Hindu; 6. Catholic; 7. New Age; 8. Islam; 9. Protestant; 10. Islam; 11. Hindu; 12. Protestant; 13. Islam; 14. Catholic; 15. Buddhist; 16. Mormon; 17. Universal Unitarian; 18. Catholic; 19. Hindu; 20. Protestant; 21. Atheist

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Complex Animosities

This afternoon I was able to visit the site of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. I was quite familiar with the events of that fateful day after reading "Massacre at Mountain Meadows" by Ronald W. Walker, Richard E. Turley, and Glen M. Leonard. Upon completion of the book, I blogged about it here.

Being familiar with the suffering endured by the Baker/Fancher party, visiting the monument was an emotional experience for me. It was heartbreaking to read the names of ages of the adults and children who were murdered on that Sept 11th day. Children as young as 7 were killed in hopes that the youngest children (those under 7) would not remember the events of that day and would not be able to place blame on the Mormon settlers who were responsible for this horrendous act. In 1999 the LDS church erected the monument below to remember the settlers that perished on that day.

As I stood in the peaceful valley I couldn't help but think of their party and how they must have felt safe and protected there. The cruel turn of events was almost unimaginable and yet, the monument is there, reminding all visitors of what can happen when "complex animosities and political issues intertwine with religious beliefs". (a quote from the overlook plaque displayed below)

As we drove away from the monument, we couldn't help but begin to draw parallels to present day "complex animosities and political issues intertwined with religious beliefs". We reflected on the hurt and damage inflicted on many of our dear friends due to Boyd K Packer's recent conference talk in which he said
“Some suppose that they were pre-set and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember he is our father.” (The censored printed text reads: “Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn temptations toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Remember, God is our Heavenly Father.”)
Due to these kinds of statements, our homosexual friends are made to feel as if they are sinners, evil, weak and wrong. Many members of the church take such statements and use them as fodder to perpetuate the animosity towards our LGBT friends...Saying that they love them on one hand, but refusing to allow them love in this life on the other.

Instead of nurturing the animosity between "us" and "them" we need to put our differences aside and truly love one another, not just in name but, more importantly, in practice. Love that allows everyone the same rights and privileges and recognizes the value that loving relationships (no matter how they are constructed) can give to our society as a whole. Instead of following leaders who tell us how we should think an feel, we need to instead follow what our own hearts & souls are telling us. Only then can we all put the "complex animosities" aside and truly say we have learned from the horrible mistakes of the past.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

NOT the Messiah

I recently saw this trailer and knew I HAD to see this! It is an oratorio version of Monty Python's "The Life of Brian". I hadn't seen "Life of Brian" before so I promptly ordered the original on netflix. It was pretty funny and gave me the background I needed to fully appreciate "Not the Messiah (a very naughty boy)" which came in the mail a week later.

I just watched it over the weekend and was literally crying I was laughing so hard. Absolutely brilliant! If you like Monty Python, this is a MUST SEE!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I Like to Cook!

So that's a sentence I never expected to say (or in this case, type). I have pretty much claimed total ignorance my entire life when it comes to cooking. Sure I can whip up a mean Noodle Roni, but that doesn't exactly count as "cooking". But it now seems, that after 10 years having been married to my ex (who loved to cook and was fantastic at it), and serving that time as his Sous-Chef, that apparently, I may have, well, just happened to learn a thing or two about cooking. In fact, I would even go so far as to say I enjoy it (in moderation of once a month, maybe.)

So today was that one time a month and I went all out. Invited some family over and made an awesome black-bean pumpkin chili in the crock pot, complete with fresh...err, well fresh frozen anyway...tomatoes and a bunch of other ingredients that I actually had to chop, dice, stir and measure. My cookery did not end there, however, I also whipped up a mean foccacia bread, a homemade vanilla cake with white chocolate frosting and homemade, fresh, Ben & Jerry's recipe, raspberry ice cream. I know, you're jealous. It was amazing and it all turned out exactly as I imagined.

I've even found that in addition to eating the result (which of course is always the best part), I really enjoy the planning that goes into a meal. The "What do I need to get the night before? What can I make ahead? If I put this in at this time then I can do this other thing while its cooking and everything will be ready at 5!" Yeah, there is something very satisfying about the process. Like a mini project plan that you can create, execute and complete all over the course of a couple days.

So, anyway, who knew? I like to cook. Seriously. Wow.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

God is Great?

So, after milling around the San Diego seaside bookstore, we found this little gem. Both books placed side by side. Both New York Times Bestsellers...although, interesting to note which one is the #1 bestseller.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hot Pocket!

You have to sing the title in a Jim Gaffigan kind of way to really appreciate this.

This is most likely the best contest ever!

Mmmm, what could I do with a year's supply of Hot Pockets? Well I certainly wouldn't eat them , if that is what you are thinking...I'm not that crazy!