Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Story Part III (The Exorcism of Young Kristophorus)

A Reason to Study
An account of how I was inspired to study the scriptures with a new sense of maturity.

September 11th, 2001.  Everyone talks about where they were the day the Twin Towers fell;  I remember that Tuesday morning when I woke up to get ready for school all the televisions in the house were tuned to Fox News Channel and the volume was blasting.  My parents did the same thing when ever something big had just happened so I knew something was up, but I never expected this.

I watched as the first tower smoldered from the first hit, billowing smoke into the sky.  The caption on screen read "Alert: Airliner Crashes Into World Trade Center."  I remember the commentators were discussing whether or not this had just been a terrible accident or if it was deliberate.

Their inquires were answered when the second plane rammed into the second tower confirming everyone's worst fears:  it was definitely on purpose.  My parents and I watched in horror as both towers burned on the television screen.

I wanted to stay and watch, but first period was going to start.  It was only the second week of my 9th grade school year and I didn't want to miss classes so early on.  I quickly got ready and hopped on my bike, racing to the school in hopes they would have the televisions on with a local news station broadcasting.

I quickly rushed into my first class, sat at my desk and asked my classmates, "Did you hear...?"

I didn't have a chance to finish,  the class was in utter confusion as we were anxious to find out what was going on.  It's all kind of blurry at that point, but I remember by the end of the class, which was about 9AM Mountain Time, we had the television on in our home room watching reruns being broadcast on local news of both towers collapsing.

Fast forward in the day to seminary which I remember was about 4th Period before lunch.  We gathered in the seminary building for the lesson and everyone was distraught.  The seminary teacher, who I will refer to as Brother F, calmed the class down.

I remember him saying something a long the lines of, "I know this is all a lot, but we need to pray."  The class joined in with Bro. F as he gave a prayer for the victims of the attacks as well as protection and solace for everyone else.  I remember I felt strangely numb to what had happened and nowhere near as emotional as a lot of my classmates did.  Not that I exactly felt safe or secure, I just wasn't nearly as afraid or worried as the others.

Over the next several days, even weeks, the atmosphere changed at school.  As President Bush's speech at ground zero aired, everyone became increasingly patriotic.  This mood was reflected in Seminary class as Bro. F gave lessons on the 'grand' purpose of America in the latter-days and why it was so important that we remain free even in the event of a violent attack like 9-11.

This was a nice segue into The Book of Mormon, which was what the class was to study throughout the year.

(It is important that I state this for the record-- There are many ways one can take The Book of Mormon.  Someone who is a member of the Church will usually take it as truth while someone who is non or ex-Mormon may take it as fiction (it really depends on the situation).  Since it is very easy to dismiss something like The Book of Mormon as a work of fiction with out little thought, I will not be addressing the book as such (that's a bit boring and unoriginal in the context of this blog, don't you think?).  I will not be debating details in the book as if we were determining whether or not it has validity (you can find a good job of that here or here or here.)  In fact, to the contrary, I will examine The Book of Mormon as if its contents are really as it is taught: that it is a record of the ancient Americans written for the modern inhabitants of the world.  We will continue on that note after we have established our new paradigm, but for now let's go back to the story-- where I experienced my first real dive into the book in my first year of seminary.)

According to the title page of the Book of Mormon:
"Wherefore, it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites—Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile—Written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation—Written and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed—To come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof—Sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile—The interpretation thereof by the gift of God.
"An abridgment taken from the Book of Ether also, which is a record of the people of Jared, who were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, when they were building a tower to get to heaven—Which is to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations—And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.
As the title page is supposed to be a translation of what the historian Moroni wrote when he compiled the books into one abridgment, the modern introduction page picks up where it leaves off and further explains:
"The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel."
The Book of Mormon doesn't just deal with the drama of ancient times, it also gives prophecy of modern times in modern day America.  After establishing the setting of the first book in The Book of Mormon, the main character Nephi, who is the narrator, receives revelation from God concerning our modern times in 1 Nephi 13:
  10 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld many waters; and they divided the Gentiles from the seed of my brethren.

  11 And it came to pass that the angel said unto me: Behold the wrath of God is upon the seed of thy brethren.

  12 And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.

  13 And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters.

  14 And it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise; and I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren; and they were scattered before the Gentiles and were smitten.

  15 And I beheld the Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles, and they did prosper and obtain the land for their inheritance; and I beheld that they were white, and exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto my people before they were slain.

  16 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them.

  17 And I beheld that their mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them.

  18 And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle.


  19 And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations
The summary of Chapter 13 explains this all, leaving no room for personal interpretation:
Nephi sees in vision:... the discovery and colonizing of America;...
The chapter ends prophesying of modern America's "religious confusion" and that the restored gospel would be spread throughout the continent and the world by means of what we now know as The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine & Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price:
  34 And it came to pass that the angel of the Lord spake unto me, saying: Behold, saith the Lamb of God, after I have visited the remnant of the house of Israel—and this remnant of whom I speak is the seed of thy father—wherefore, after I have visited them in judgment, and smitten them by the hand of the Gentiles, and after the Gentiles do stumble exceedingly, because of the most plain and precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church, which is the mother of harlots, saith the Lamb—I will be merciful unto the Gentiles in that day, insomuch that I will bring forth unto them, in mine own power, much of my gospel, which shall be plain and precious, saith the Lamb...


  39 And after it had come forth unto them I beheld other books, which came forth by the power of the Lamb, from the Gentiles unto them, unto the convincing of the Gentiles and the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the Jews who were scattered upon all the face of the earth, that the records of the prophets and of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are true.
Here is the key in understanding The Book of Mormon and the modern translated scriptures of the LDS Church, basically, that they would support The Holy Bible as the word of God:

  40 And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records, which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.

  41 And they must come according to the words which shall be established by the mouth of the Lamb; and the words of the Lamb shall be made known in the records of thy seed, as well as in the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; wherefore they both shall be established in one; for there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth.
  42 And the time cometh that he shall manifest himself unto all nations, both unto the Jews and also unto the Gentiles; and after he has manifested himself unto the Jews and also unto the Gentiles, then he shall manifest himself unto the Gentiles and also unto the Jews, and the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.
Even though I had casually read the Book of Mormon and referenced to it in church previous to my attendance of seminary, this really sunk into my mind.  I thought to myself, If the Book of Mormon is a record of ancient people that prophesied of something as huge as the colonization of America, this must truly be an important place.  Not only that, but the fact that this record survived all these years just for the inhabitants of this continent makes it even more special.

Bro. F concluded based on these versus that America needed to remain free so that the gospel could be spread among "Jew and Gentile".  (This was an apparent reference to one of the core tenants of Mormon theology, that of Free Agency.  Without freedom of religion, the restored gospel could not spread to Jew and Gentile.)

This was a catalyzing point in time for me as a young Mormon at the age of fourteen.  Just thirteen short chapters into the first book of The Book of Mormon and I found myself with a new interest in the religion I had been raised in with a new-found sense of maturity.  It also drew me into an attitude of urgency for missionary work.  Of course, at the time I continued to do what I had always done which was take things as a matter of fact.  It had not really crossed my mind whether or not I should question what I was being taught.
---

An Earnest Prayer
An account of my first prayer as to whether or not the Church and The Book of Mormon were true and the answer I received.

As the school year went a long, I found myself surrounded by a diverse group of friends which yielded new and interesting social situations in my life.  'B' and 'L' were my two best friends, both member's of the church but from inactive or non-member families.  B was actually in my primary class when I was younger, but his family had moved out of the ward.  It was a welcome coincidence that we should be brought back together.  L and I had been friends for a few years by this time and we considered each other like brothers.

B, L and I were in the same gym class together where we met 'T', a 16-year old who had been held back a year and 'R', who was a very laid-back stoner.  T was a very outspoken Pentecostal and R was an ex-Jehovah's Witness.

As time went by, 'A' came into the picture.  A was a very attractive young lady who entered into our circle of friends by way of B and I where we were all in the same English class.  A, B and I would often socialize during class which, of course, later lead to socializing outside of class.  Feelings developed on both our parts for A, but I chose to yield to B as I was still pretty shy with girls.

As more time went by and A and her friends socialized with our group of friends, I was surprised to find that every single guy in our group also developed feelings for A, creating sort of a "love heptagon" if you would.  As you could imagine, a lot of tension and drama built up in the process.

Though I'm sure this is all profoundly interesting to you (sarcasm), I assure you this is only to introduce the social conditions which lead me to an event that would change my life forever.

To put it simply, I was the only active Mormon in my large ethnically and religiously diverse group of friends.

During this time, seminary had transformed me into a mini-missionary.  I was intent on converting every single one of my friends (or reconverting, for those who were just inactive).  I would often find myself in friendly, but intense debates with T, the Pentecostal, and also B and A, who were both inactive.  But the time came that one of these debates sent me over the edge.

I remember it was a Friday afternoon and we (B, L, T, A and myself) had just gotten out of school.  We would often walk to A's house to wait for our carpool to come pick us up.  On the way there we had gotten into a discussion concerning dating as at the time A, in complete disregard to all the guys who had feelings for her, hooked up with a new guy who had just moved into the school.  It had built up tension even worse, especially for me, since I was the one who was keeping the most silent about having feelings for her.

It was about this time that the Church released For The Strength of Youth, a pamphlet which "summarizes standards from scripture and from the writings and teachings of Church leaders."  There was a massive campaign being ran by the Church in the youth programs, especially in seminary, to promote this new pamphlet.  Part of my restraints concerning expressing my feelings for A (aside from the fact all my friends had a crush on her as well) was due to the section in this pamphlet simply titled, "Dating".

This section, which you can find in its entirety here, reads:
"Do not date until you are at least 16 years old. Dating
before then can lead to immorality, limit the number of
other young people you meet, and deprive you of experiences
that will help you choose an eternal partner."
This was disappointing to me since I was only fourteen and I wanted to date but I understood the reasoning behind it.  As an obedient young teacher I chose to live by this pamphlet's words.  However, I could not help but feel frustrated when I saw my friends and other acquaintances casually date at school.  Though it may be hard to believe, I was honestly concerned with A, who was an inactive member of the church, in a weird way: my feelings for her were so strong that I did not want her to date either because she was also under the age of 16 (as I mentioned before, I was intent on reconverting her.)

And so we walked and talked about dating.  Because we had just talked about what it said about dating in the Strength for Youth pamphlet in Seminary earlier that day, I felt compelled to bring up the Church's official stance on not dating until you are sixteen.  T and B were not to happy I had brought up the Church's official stance on anything again but A took the most offense.  I, of course, became defensive of the Church and we argued all the way to her house and while we waited for the carpool.  Finally our ride arrived and we went our separate ways.

It's almost humorous now that I think about it now as I'm sure she had gotten the impression that I was just jealous of her dating the new guy and that I didn't want her to date anyone if it wasn't me.  I swear to you, though, in my innocence I truly did not want her to date anyone until she was sixteen.

I got home and became very emotional about what had happened.  I didn't understand why they didn't think the way I did.  I remember telling myself something along the lines of, "I know the Church is true, I have the truth, my friends need the truth too!" As I have already stated, I was very innocent, but I was also very naive and had been indoctrinated by the Church very well.

Then doubt started to sink in.  It crept up on me and sank down into my stomach.  It was the first time I had ever truly started to doubt what I had been taught to believe and it was very frightening.

Then I recalled the Challenge of Moroni towards in the last chapter of The Book of Mormon, which is found in Moroni 10:4--
  4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
I also recalled the story of young Joseph Smith, who coincidentally also at the age of fourteen (according to the official account) went into the sacred grove and prayed for which church he should join--
  11 While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

12 Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.


   13 At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.
  14 So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.
Joseph Smith - History
So with all the emotions I had built up inside me, I decided to seclude myself in my room with my scriptures to pray if what I had been taught my whole life, even the religion I had been raised in was not true.

I knelt down at my bed with my scriptures in front of me, closing my eyes as I breathed deeply in preparation for my prayer.  I thought to myself, Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ when he did this.  What will happen to me?

I remember I opened the prayer expressing my frustrations, describing my feelings concerning my friends, 'A' and the doubt that had been instilled in me by the day's earlier argument with them.  I was shaking.  It felt like I might explode, but as I vented my thoughts through my prayer I began to calm down.  I finally swallowed hard and let out the question, "Are these things not true?" and ended the prayer in the name of Jesus Christ.

I opened my eyes and stared at my scriptures.  I waited for something or anything to happen; a feeling of confirmation, a vision, a disembodied voice-- nothing happened.

A few minutes passed and then I decided to try something:  I closed my eyes again, opened my quad scriptures up to a random page and put my finger down.  I looked to see where I had landed and this is what I found:
EXPLANATORY INTRODUCTION
Explanatory Introduction? It was a start, I had thought.  Before me lay the introduction page to The Doctrine & Covenants, a collection of revelations given to Joseph Smith, Jr. during his years presiding over the early Church.  At the time I had not read much from this book, only that which I had referenced to in Sunday school lessons.  I began to read the page and I was shocked at what I found:
"The Doctrine and Covenants is a collection of divine revelations and inspired declarations given for the establishment and regulation of the kingdom of God on the earth in the last days. Although most of the sections are directed to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the messages, warnings, and exhortations are for the benefit of all mankind, and contain an invitation to all people everywhere to hear the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ, speaking to them for their temporal well-being and their everlasting salvation."
Alright, I thought, I'm interested.  I continued to the second paragraph.
"The book of Doctrine and Covenants is one of the standard works of the Church in company with the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Pearl of Great Price. However, the Doctrine and Covenants is unique because it is not a translation of an ancient document, but is of modern origin and was given of God through his chosen prophets for the restoration of his holy work and the establishment of the kingdom of God on the earth in these days. In the revelations one hears the tender but firm voice of the Lord Jesus Christ, speaking anew in the dispensation of the fulness of times; and the work that is initiated herein is preparatory to his second coming, in fulfillment of and in concert with the words of all the holy prophets since the world began."
To me this meant that my answer may lie in this book somewhere.  I was surprised; having been studying the Book of Mormon I expected to get an answer from it instead, but this explanation made all the sense in the world to me in the context of the prayer I had just asked.  I continued to read through, reaching the end of the introduction.  After finishing, I flipped a couple pages past the Chronological Order of Contents and turned to Section 1.

I read the section summary and then read the entire section.  I took from it four things and made them personal:

1.  The rebellious will be sorry they were.  My friends were being rebellious, they'll be sorry!
 3 And the rebellious shall be pierced with much sorrow; for their iniquities shall be spoken upon the housetops, and their secret acts shall be revealed.
2.  Those who go forth and spread the Church will be given power.  I need to spread the truth!
  8 And verily I say unto you, that they who go forth, bearing these tidings unto the inhabitants of the earth, to them is power given to seal both on earth and in heaven, the unbelieving and rebellious;
3.  Those who don't hear the truth will be cut off.  I don't want my friends to be cut off.
  14 And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;



  15 For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant;

  16 They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.
4.  The restored gospel through Joseph Smith and the Church he established is the only true church on all of Earth.  Here was my answer.
 30 And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually—
Or was it my answer?  At the time I was sure of it; absolutely positively sure of it.  But what happened next I did not see coming as it only frustrated my purpose of my spiritual inquiry.  As I knelt there staring at what I had just read, a darkness crept up over me blurring my vision.  I slowly began to lose all feeling in my limbs.  I tried to speak out, but my voice had escaped me.  I fell to the floor and I blacked out.

The next thing I remember is I am down the hall in the kitchen/family room.  I am calling out, crying and screaming.  The blurs above me I know are my parents and they are asking me what is wrong.  I feel the hand of my grandfather, the patriarch of the house, lay his hands on me giving me a blessing.  He is asking for what is inside of me to be cast out.  I hear it again and again.  I finally feel relaxed as lay there on the carpeted floor, staring at the ceiling.  My eyes shut and I black out again, one last time.

I wake up and I am on the floor.  There is a pillow under my head and a blanket covering me.  The warm aroma of food cooking in the kitchen reaches my nostrils, bringing me further into consciousness.  The only thing I can remember seemed like a horrible nightmare.  Had I really experienced all of that pain?  Or was it just a really bad dream?  As I reached full consciousness, I sat up and looked over to my grandmother who was preparing dinner in the kitchen.  She looked pleased to see me awake.

"You've been asleep for hours, are you okay?  What happened?" she asked.

I really did not know had happened, but as my grandparents explained to me what they experienced I was in awe.  They told me how I had crawled down the hall, screaming "It's all true! All true!" as if I were yelling at someone.  My grandmother called for my grandfather and as he saw the sorry state I was in, he laid his hands on me and gave me a blessing.  The first time around did nothing as I continued to cry out and lay helpless on the floor, so my grandfather said the prayer again.  Then again.  It took him a total of three times before I calmed down and went unconscious.  Not understanding what had happened and not being able to help me to the couch or my bed, they made me comfortable there in the middle of the floor.

I did not know what to think.  Based on what they had described to me, my grandfather basically performed the Mormon equivalent of an exorcism. I tried to remember the last thing I had done when it had quickly hit me concerning the prayer I had asked earlier in the evening.  I suddenly realized the insane synchronicty between myself and Joseph Smith, Jr. just before he had the First Vision in the Sacred Grove.
15 After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.

  16 But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
Except there was no pillar of light to save me; I was left only to myself until my grandmother found me and my grandfather laid his hands on my head to give me a blessing.  And then, only after three attempts, was I able to rest.  I knew whatever had come over me was powerful and that I was not strong enough to overcome it, but I was unsure of what it was.  I was only able to relate it to Joseph Smith's experience, concluding that it must have been Satan trying to prevent me from learning the truth.
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Personal Prophecy
An account of my experience receiving a Patriarchal Blessing.

Though there are many documented discrepancies between the early versions of the First Vision and the "official" account I have quoted from that is found in the scriptures, I did not know about them at the time.  I had been left to interpret the event for myself in order to figure out what I was to do from there.  I only had the answers I had received in Section 1 of the Doctrine & Covenants and the synchronicity relative to Joseph Smith's experience.

It just wasn't enough.

I told the closest people in my ward, including the bishop.  My bishop was astounded at my experience but offered very little insight as to what the deeper meaning may have been, only talking up what I had already gotten from reading Section 1 of the D&C.  Some things about the experience just didn't sit right with me, especially the fact that it took my grandfather three times before I finally calmed down.  If it was really Satan that had take over my body, would it have not only taken one time to remove his grasp from my mind and body?  Why three?  I had always been taught that the Melchizedek Priesthood always trumped the power of the devil.  What was the exception here?

And then I realized what I needed was a Patriarchal Blessing.  Since it was a personal blessing given directly from God, I'm sure whatever direction I needed I could get from him in plain and simple words.  We had just had a lesson on it a few weeks before this event occurred in Sunday school, but I was hesitant to get one.  I then realized now was the time; we were taught how this once-in-a-lifetime blessing could shed light on things to come.  Some in the class who had already had gotten theirs told how the blessing described what type of work they would go into and also what their families would be like.  At the time I thought it a bit stunning that there was such a thing available to us in the Church, but I accepted it as fact.  I was hesitant to jump straight into it, though, cause they would often caution that one must be ready to accept the blessing.

After making arrangements with my bishop (entering into an interview and obtaining a recommend) and getting an appointment with the stake patriarch, I waited patiently for the time to come all while preparing my mind for what would be said unto me.  About a month passed from the time of the exorcism when finally the day I would receive the blessing, a Sunday, drew nigh.  The Saturday before I entered into a fast and studied my scriptures all day.  I contemplated the things I needed direction with, mostly concerning that day I fell victim to some unknown force.

As the time finally came, my grandparents escorted me to the house of the stake patriarch.  We entered into his office and we knelt on the floor in prayer, asking for the spirit to be with us as the patriarch gave the blessing.

The time finally came and I took my place in the chair set up for me in the middle of the room.  The patriarch laid his hands on me and began to give the blessing.

And now I will share with you the exact words he spoke.  To protect my family, I've blotted out personal information and names.  Here are the scans of the transcription that was later given to me. (Click to enlarge)



A few things initially stood out to me:

1.  The reference to Joseph of Egypt.  Joseph, if you recall in the end became the right-hand man of Pharaoh.  I was stunned at the thought of this.
"The same responsibilities that will be given to you throughout your life will be these same responsibilities..."
2.  "You have a teachable spirit."  This second paragraph confirmed my interest in knowledge and also that I will be able to use it to teach those who are "weak in the faith."

3.  The divine dichotomy and my life's mission goal.  The third paragraph seemed to confirm what I thought had happened the day of my exorcism and then further stated what it meant for me.
"You must always remember that there are two forces here upon this earth, that of your Father in Heaven... and the influence that is exerted by the adversary who was cast out of Father in Heaven's presence for rebellion in this pre-existent estate.  He is very real.  He is here with the desire to destroy the testimonies of our Father in Heaven's children... You're responsibility will be to teach that gospel to our Father's children, and to thwart all the desires of the adversary."
4.  What lay ahead and what I must do now.  The fifth paragraph told me that I must continue to study and "become conversant with [the scriptures]." The sixth paragraph outlined what I should expect.
"There will be trials.  There will be temptations which will come to you.  There will be times when you will desire answers that will not be there for you.  You must live by faith."
5.  The Promise.  That I would see many embrace the gospel through my efforts and that if I stayed true to the covenants I had made that I would be able to enter the Celestial Kingdom.
"Through your faithfulness you will have the privilege of many joyous occasions here upon the earth as you see many embrace the gospel through your efforts, and as you are true and faithful to every covenant that you take, you will have the privilege of entering into the Celestial Kingdom, there being in the presence of your Father in Heaven and the Savior, Jesus Christ."
All the answers I desired were given to me, but later on I would be surprised that this blessing was so brief and to the point in comparison to the others in my life who eventually got theirs.  And also, unlike my peers' blessings, there was no mention of what sort of work I would enter into and not a thing concerning a future family.

I did not question what had been told to me through this blessing.  I knew that there was an adversary that wanted to keep me from learning and spreading the truth.  I understood that I had to continue studying the scriptures and the gospel and that I had to do all that I could to spread it to those among me who were "weak in the faith", and so I continued to debate my friends all through the rest of the school year and into the summer.

But as time continued on, the "trials" came as well.  I preached so much to my friends that I eventually lost a majority of them in the transition from middle school to high school, except those among my friends who were active members themselves.  At the time I didn't really realize it was happening as I whole-heartedly believed I was on a mission from God and that even though there was nothing more I could do for them, I was comforted in knowing I was on the right side and that I had the truth.

But what little sense of humility did I have.  I look back now and can't help but realize how much of a self-righteous douche-bag I must have appeared to be.

To Be Continued... 
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(Comments have been disabled for this series until the last post.  Please stay tuned.)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

My Story Part II (An Intuitive Child)

Growing Up in the World of Mormonism
An account of what it was like for me growing up in the Church.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:  unless you have experienced it, it may be difficult to understand.  Your family is LDS, your neighbors are LDS and usually your friends are as well.  There are more chapels per square mile along the Wasatch Front than there are Starbucks in Seattle and a temple no matter which way you look.  It is truly something that can only be experienced; so, step into my shoes as I recall from my earliest memories my experiences growing up in the Church.

From when you are born, you are shortly given a name and blessed in Church by your father or someone with priesthood authority.  The name you are given is entered into Church records.  You are not a member yet, but you are subject to your parents (nothing new there).  However, as you pass out of your toddler-years you are sent into the equivalent of "Sunday Elementary School" called Primary.

As stated on lds.org: "The purpose of Primary is to teach children the gospel of Jesus Christ and help them learn to live it."  From about the age of 5-6, you attend about 2 hours worth of Sunday school every Sunday where you are taught the basics of the Church, the Gospel and related topics.  You are also usually taught to pray and cite scriptures publicly in front of the other children.

My earliest memories only go back to about 4 years old.  As far as I am conscious of at the age of 22, my life began at that age as well.  Between my parents and the Church, my life's paradigm was already built up for me.  Of course, there is nothing different here than a child belonging to a Catholic family, or a Muslim family, but to set the scene you must understand exactly what I and every child raised in the Church has been subject to:

From lds.org:
The objectives of Primary are to:
  1. Teach children that they are children of God and that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love them.
  2. Help children learn to love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
  3. Help children prepare to be baptized, to receive the Holy Ghost, and to keep their baptismal covenants.
  4. Help children grow in their understanding of the gospel plan and provide opportunities for them to live gospel principles.
  5. Help boys prepare to receive the priesthood and be worthy to use this power to bless and serve others.
  6. Help girls prepare to be righteous young women, understand the blessings of the priesthood and the temple, and serve others.
(NOTE: I have hot-linked various resources that further explain the topics brought up in this list.  If you are limited in understanding of these topics and what they mean to the average member of the Church, please take the time to research these topics for yourself!  It will be difficult for you to understand my experiences and my thoughts concerning them if you do not understand these key topics.)

Of course, being a child I took these topics as a matter of fact and did not care too much about their validity.  I was more interested in playing outside and digging huge holes in my front yard in search of buried treasure or playing Nintendo.  Primary was a bore and the singing made it torturous.  One of the "teaching tools" used in primary is through song.  You've got hits like "I Am A Child of God", "Families Can Be Together Forever" and "I Love To See The Temple".  In complete opposition to the purpose of teaching through song, I absolutely could not stand singing primary songs.  If you were to ask my grandmother, who was my primary teacher for a while, she could vouch for that.  (I have some theories on why this may have been, but I will address that more thoroughly at a later time.)

Time comes at the age of eight you are to be baptised by immersion.  It is a special ceremony for LDS families when a child turns eight and they are to be baptised, but thinking back to my baptism I hardly remember a thing.  I remember getting dunked, changing, receiving the Holy Ghost and then going to a family feast in celebration where gifts of journals, scriptures and other Church-related gifts were given to me as a newly baptised member of the Church.

Supposedly eight years old is the age when you are able to decide for yourself whether or not you want to be a member of the Church and take upon your own sins.  I don't ever remember having a choice, I just remember doing what my parents expected me to do (as a good little boy should, right?).  I definitely look back now and think that eight years old to take on that much "spiritual responsibility" is absolutely absurd.  (Forget being baptised as an infant, you haven't even lived any real life at eight years old!)

So there I was, a very young and newly baptised member of the Church and still completely oblivious as to what I was really doing in the Church.  Years went by and I simply did what I had ritually done with my family every week.  Life was very simple, as it should have been for a child of my age.
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Knowledge from Beyond? Or Before? Or Both?
An account of how I became interested in alternative subjects and also of several early synchronistic events I experienced post-baptism.

To entertain myself between and after blocks while I waited for my ride to be ready to leave, I would sometimes wander around the old chapel we went to for Sunday services and explored every hidden crevice, closet, nook and cranny I could find.  Adventure was in my blood and I always thought I would be able to discover something that had been long hidden away; if not in my old chapel building then somewhere in my hilly neighborhood.

I have always been attracted to that which is mysterious.  During the week, I would spend my summer mornings on school break glued to the TV as I watched back to back episodes of Unsolved Mysteries.  Tales of UFO sightings, alien abductions, undiscovered creatures and hauntings of old houses sparked my imagination as I sat at the end of the week during sacrament meeting bored out of my youthful mind.  I would often take the program handed out at the beginning of the hour-long worship ceremony and draw on it with whatever writing utensil I could get a hold of.  The pictures I drew were no works of art, but I would often draw something full of action, sometimes even penning out comic strips that continued every week.

I recall one series of comics I drew involving aliens invading a frozen planet populated by snowmen/women and taking them hostage as the snow-folk would rebel with their own destructive technology. (I blame Calvin and Hobbes for this one.)

One week, the service program had a painting pictured of Joseph Smith, Jr.'s First Vision in the Sacred Grove on the front, kneeling down and staring up into blinding light (this painting did not have any drawn personages, it was just a bright light).  In the theme of the series of comic strips I had been composing every Sunday, my childish mind thought it humorous to draw a UFO with my comic-strip aliens descending down from it to where young Joseph Smith could be seen kneeling and looking up.

I think back to that sacrilegious graffiti I made when I was only 11 years old now and I can't help but wonder if my imagination was intuitively tapping into something from beyond. (To the left you will see another example of my modifications to the program art.  Unfortunately I no longer have the first vision program I had described above, but I did find this in my collection of youthful creations.  I still feel the same impact I do from this as I do from thinking about the first vision program.)
  
Is there an extra-terrestrial/alien connection to the LDS Church and its origins?  This is definitely a question that is not generally posed or asked within the Church, but it is something I and many others outside of it have often asked ourselves and each other.  We will be exploring this subject further at a later time, but if this is something you are finding difficult to give any credence to consider the official stance of the LDS Church concerning extra-terrestrial life.

It is generally interpreted in Sunday school from the infamous Book of Abraham in The Pearl of Great Price that God lives near the star or planet "Kolob":
 9 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 order as that upon which thou standest.
Abraham 3:9
Interestingly, Hymn 284 from the LDS Hymnal, entitled "If You Could Hie To Kolob" is based on this scriptural excerpt.  It speaks with brilliant lyrical prose and musical composition about seeking out God and his mysterious origins.  The question is: Did the lyricist mean to pose this as a metaphor? Or literally?
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?
Or see the grand beginning
Where space did not extend?
Or view the last creation
Where Gods and matter end
Methinks the spirits whispers,
“No man has found 'pure space'
Nor seen the outside curtains
Where nothing has a place."
(Also note:  'Gods' is actually plural in the original lyrics, though some modern versions may have changed this.  Keep this in mind for later.)

Still not convinced this is something worth exploring?  Please consider the fact that the Vatican recently held a conference discussing the "philosophical and theological implications" of extra-terrestrial life.  (Addendum 5/21/2010:  You'll notice this link is broken.  The original press release was removed on Google.  See the article here.)  Many in the world who believe extra-terrestrials are already here and among us have been suggesting that the powers-that-be may be preparing the public world-wide for disclosure of this truth.

Realize that Joseph Smith, Jr's First Vision experience in the Sacred Grove can be classified as a Close Encounter of the Third Kind.

I have long believed this extra-terrestrial connection to the Church (even to religion in general) should definitely be explored and I plan on doing that here on Mormon Roots, but first let me tell you how I came to have an interest in these subjects and also how I've constantly been guided by synchronicity to more and more information throughout the years.

Between regularly watching Unsolved Mysteries and The X-Files on the television, my hunger for knowledge within these subjects increased.  Having just barely gotten our first dial-up internet connection, I scoured the internet for everything I could find concerning UFOs, extra-terrestrials and government cover ups.  (This was also when I got my first exposure to the idea of the "Shadow Government" and the "New World Order".  We will be exploring these topics later on.)  I printed blacked-out reports of the Roswell Incident from the FBI's official website and pinned them to my bulletin board in my room as if they were works of art.

It was also about this time I was introduced to the late-night syndicated talk-radio program Coast-to-Coast AM which at the time was hosted by founder Art Bell.  A local talk-radio station broadcast the program nightly and though I could not stay up late enough to listen to it on school nights, I sure would on the weekends.  I recall begging my grandparents to take me and one of my friends up into the Wasatch Mountains past dark so we could hunt for UFOs while we listened to the show on the car radio.  (I even made an audio log of this adventure with a mini-recorder and if I can find it and upload it to the blog I will.)

A couple years later when I had graduated from primary and entered into the young men Aaronic Priesthood classes in Sunday school, word had a chance to get around my family's friends of my keen interest in the paranormal and supernatural.  A friend of my mother gifted me with a copy of Reader's Digest's UFO: The Continuing Enigma, something I still have with me to this day.  I was in paradise; the large book, measuring at 8 1/2 by 11 inches, was filled with articles and stories of UFO sightings, abductions, hoaxes and other related topics.  My youthful self was mostly attracted to the large full-color pictures that were presented along with the articles.  'Digesting' does not completely describe what I did with that book, I consumed every square-inch of it.  But, it was the first chapter that was the very first thing to nudge the paradigm that had been built up for me by my parents and the Church.

Entitled: "UFO's Through The Ages", the introductory paragraph reads:
"People have been seeing strange objects in the sky since the beginning of recorded history.  The fiery clouds and burning globes of biblical times gave way in the 20th century to airships, futuristic planes, and 'ghost rockets.'" (Page 18, UFO: The Continuing Enigma published by The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. 1991)
Turning the page you will find a two page-wide illustrated chart of how UFOs are described through-out the ages, from 15th Century B.C. Ancient Egypt with bright fiery circles in the sky to 1897 AD Le Roy, Kansas with an airship dragging a heifer attatched to a long red rope.

But what stood out the most to me was the section describing, "The prophet Ezekiel saw four beings of human appearance emerge from a vessel of bronze."  I turned to page 25 which is titled "UFO's In The Bible" and there I saw the excerpt from Ezekiel 1:4-7.  I remember thinking something along the lines of, "Where are my scriptures??? I need to read this for myself!"

I grabbed my quad and flipped open to the first chapter of Ezekiel, sure enough this is what I found:
4 And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire. 
5 Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living acreatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man.
6 And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.
7 And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass.
(It must be pointed out that there are footnotes in the LDS King James Version for many different words used in versus to perhaps shed light on the definition of the word based on its context or to cross reference to a smiliar verse elsewhere in another book. Please be sure to check out this chapter sourced at scriptures.lds.org)

I was amazed at this information and I was eager to bring it up in Sunday school later that week.  Time came and I showed the teacher of my class the excerpt from Ezekiel.  I was expecting some new truth that maybe was being with held from me in primary.  I figured that since I had gotten the priesthood I would be able to finally find something new out about the Church.

Unfortunately the reaction of the teacher was not what I was hoping for.  I remember him saying something along the lines of, "Ezekiel didn't see UFOs, he had a vision of angels and of God on his throne.  He was a prophet, so he wrote down what he saw."

"Well," I remember asking, "why all the weird descriptions?"

"Its true meaning is probably lost in translation," he said. "Remember we only believe the Bible to be true as far as it is translated correctly." (This is a reference to the 8th Article of Faith, one of 13 mentioned briefly in Part 1.  This also seemed to be the answer for anything that doesn't make sense in the Bible, something I could not stand.)

I remember sitting down reading the chapter over and over again, and this excerpt would just not leave me alone:
13 As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. 
14 And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning.

15 Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces.

16 The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel.
 

17 When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went.
 

18 As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four.
 

19 And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up.
 

20 Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went, thither was their spirit to go; and the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.
 

21 When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.
I read that chapter over and over again, wondering why the prophet Ezekiel thought it necessary to repeat the phrase, "for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels."  To tell you the truth, I am still wondering that to this day.

This wasn't the only UFO-esque incident in the Bible that sparked my attention.  There was also the Nephilim in Genesis 6:1-4, the pillar of fire that guarded the Jews from the Egyptians in Exodus 14:19-20; 24,25, and also the "translation" of Elijah in 2 Kings 2:9-12.  I read these verses with awe at what their true meanings might be.  However, every time I inquired an elder in my ward, I was told something a long the lines of, "This has nothing to do with your salvation. You need not question the mysteries of God. These are things you do not need to know in this life, all your answers will be given in the next life if you live righteously."

So, I retreated to my imagination to play out these events in my own mind.  The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to know, but every time I would ask my curiosity was quelled as though it were a pester.  I didn't understand why these things were in our holy scripture, yet there was an attitude of avoidance concerning these subjects.  I finally gave up and kept my questions to myself.

However, the universe would keep nudging me with inspiration in this subject matter.  It was about this time I had entered middle school (in Utah, grades 7-9 are in middle school, unlike the normal 6-8 of Junior High).  I had found a talent in creative writing which I discovered through online chat room role-playing where fellow role-players from all over the country would act out characters through text in a chat room.  I was interested in creating my own story line for one of these chat room role playing events and so I had gotten out a fresh notebook to brainstorm ideas.

Since Star Wars: Episode I had just came out on top of all this subject matter I had been studying, I was intent on creating a science fiction world I could maybe play out a drama of an Earthling-like race against that of an extra-terrestrial race.  I titled it "Subspace" at the time, but I wanted something more meaningful.  It was just a brainstorm, after all.  I had figured I would come up with something at a later time.

I remember it was toward the end of the day.  As I look at the notebook right now, I first jotted down a question to figure out the basics of this new story line:  Location?

I went to work, scribing what I had on my mind:
Now, it is said there are countless worlds with inhabbitents known as Earth. I got thinking, is every solar system w/ life the same as ours? I this is so, this is what it might be like.
(This is obviously in reference to what I was taught in Church, but as far as this idea that all planets in the universe that have human life are called Earth?  I don't think that's what is really taught.  However, this is what I did write, so I am assuming someone told me this at some point.)

I continued on, just streaming my thoughts onto paper.  This fictional "Earth" of mine I name Ereht.  I gave it a moon just like ours named Lunec as well as a neighboring planet named Resma similar to our Mars.  The time eventually came that I needed to draw out a map of my fictional world.  (Pictured right.)

Time came for me to go home.  When I arrived I sat at the kitchen counter with my notebook and wrote for hours at least 13 wide-ruled pages back and front.  I weaved an elaborate outline of a story where this Earthling race created a genetically modified slave race that eventually turned on their masters and took to the skies (I swear to you I had not even heard of Battlestar Galactica at the time.  Only Star Wars, Star Trek and Stargate.)

I even created an original alphabet for my world decoded to the latin alphabet (as you can see below "Ereht" in the scan).  I based it mostly off of glyphs I was familiar with from the Star Wars universe and the Stargate constellation glyphs, but looking at it now it looks a lot like cuneiform. (Keep this in mind for later).

I went to bed that night, thinking about the title.  The whole idea was that the technology used to travel long distances through space was to travel through "subspace", so I used the word as the title.  But as I slept that night, something downloaded through my subconscious in the form of a dream a term I had never heard before.  When I woke up the next morning I wrote it in my note book with two boxes surrounding it:

Terra Firma

I didn't know what it meant, so I looked it up on the internet.  To my amazement, this is what I found:
Terra firma is a Latin phrase meaning "solid earth" (from terra "earth" and firma "solid"). -from Wikipedia.
I was amazed that I had 'dreamt' up something as deep as this.  It was the perfect title for my story line.  I continued brainstorming, but unfortunately everything I had written was never fully realized, just ideas jotted down in a notebook.  One day, maybe?

As I grew older into my teen years, UFO's and extra-terrestrials slowly drifted to the back-burner as I coped with puberty and building social skills at school.  My child-like wonder of the supernatural and the unknown relinquished to my subconscious.

I entered my Freshman year of High School as an active musician, athlete and boy scout.  Time came for me to enter into the Church Education System's seminary program which was done concurrently with all four years of High School.  (Here in Utah, there are Seminary buildings built adjacent to schools so students can register for "release time" to attend Seminary during the school day.)

I let my childhood memories slip from consciousness as I found myself comfortable in the same paradigm that, I believe now, I had subconsciously and intuitively tried to avoid as a child, that which my parents and the Church had built up for me in my youth.  I look back on these events and I can't help but wonder if my eternal soul was being directed by synchronistic elements of higher dimensional time and space, trying to point me towards the truth of reality, or if it were information encoded into my genetic memory or knowledge brought up through the ages embedded into my spiritual being from innumerable incarnations.  Well, whatever it was the universe still wasn't done with me-- what happened next only pushed the envelope of my perspective of reality even further.

To Be Continued...
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Recommended:
This happened about the same time my interest in UFOs peaked.  I did not know about it at the time, but it came around to bite me where I least expected it to later on in life.  Have a listen.



(Commenting will not be available for this series until the last post. Please stay tuned.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Story Part I (Searching for The Truth)

Linking Yesterday to Today
It's current events like this that have to make you wonder.

Local television station, KUTV Channel 2, recently aired an 'expose' of the link between "Mormons and Masons" on their 10 O'Clock News Program.

What it turned out to be was nothing but a five minute advertisement for the local lodge and a 'how-to' guide of what you had to do to join.  The Masonic temple enjoyed massive tour traffic last Saturday, the 14th, as locals who saw this on the nightly news took the open tour of the Masonic temple in downtown SLC.

Interviewed was Glen Cook (pictured here to the left), the Grand Master of the Salt Lake Lodge who is also the first member of the Church to attain the title (and he is adamant there is nothing wrong with this).

But did you know at one point in the Church's history there was a mutual membership prohibition between the Utah Grand Lodge and the Church, creating a dichotomy between the men in these groups?  In fact, only up until the mid-1980s were Mormons not accepted into the lodge and masons were not to hold the priesthood in the Church. (More on this here).

Author, Ex-Mormon, Born Again Christian Ed Decker recounted his first runnings-in with his local Scottish Rite Lodge--

"When I began to study the Lodge with a critical eye, it meant that I had to look back at my own father, grandfather and their fathers before them for almost two hundred years. They were honest men, church men who took our faith, our family and our country seriously, fighting in its many wars. Generation after generation, each son followed after his father and entered into membership in the Lodge. That line ended when I stepped out of the DeMoLay to join the Mormon Church.
"The Mormon Church told me that Masonry was a society of "secret combinations" and "works of darkness." I was forbidden to continue membership in the DeMoLay and later, as an active Mormon, I would not seek to follow my father into the Lodge.
"Years later, after I became a born again Christian, while I was at a service in a Baptist church teaching on the LDS Temple ritual, I discovered from an angry church Deacon that the ritual of the Masonic Lodge was the actual foundation of the LDS temple ritual. I knew that if what he said was true, I would have to expose the roots of Masonry to the same light of truth that I was bringing to bear on Mormonism. That was easier said than done."
from An Observation on Freemasonry, Ed Decker -- Saints Alive Ministry Newsletter April 2000

The reason for the recent media attention can only be attributed to the recently published book Mormons and Masons by Matthew B. Brown, a graduate of Brigham Young University and popular apologetic in the FARMS (Foundation of Ancient Research and Mormon Studies) and FAIR (Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research) circles.  I have the book sitting on my desk and I've only had a chance to thumb through it.  It will be the very first thing I review after I get the introductory phase of this blog wrapped up.  Any immediate commentary on this would be meaningless if I do not first establish for you the paradigm I have found myself in (and have a chance to thoroughly read the book).

At Church, I recall Freemasonry had mostly been the subject of off-topic discussions usually started in Aaronic Priesthood/Young Men Sunday school classes.  Not once did I ever get a straight answer when I had inquired who or what the freemasons were and what they had to do with the Church.  All I was told is that both the Church and Freemasons had similar ceremonies that dated back to King Solomon's time and even back to Moses when he and the Jews had the Arc of the Covenant.  These discussions were usually quickly dissolved as the official lesson of the day was given on why the temple is so important, or why paying tithe gives you more blessings.

The truth is that there is no official/formal study or lessons, aside from the book mentioned above, readily available for members of the Church studying Church history discussing the dramatic effect Freemasonry had on the Church in its infancy, especially in Nauvoo.  (Curiously, a simple search of Freemason on lds.org results only in an article from the Church's magazine publication, Ensign, from 1978 entitled "Why Did People Act That Way?-- Some observations on religious intolerance and persecution in the American past"Mason only results in a mostly fictional last name used for story lessons.)

This is one of many cases where the Church has hidden its true origins from its own members.  It is one case that we will definitely be exploring further. 
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My Story
The following is 100 % a true story.

All my life I've sought after that which seemed impossible to understand.  My earliest memories are of waking up from a dream where I was flying in my backyard; it seemed so real, yet, I did not understand how what was in the dreamworld didn't apply in the real world.  Why were these places so different, yet felt so much alike?  Later on, I remember asking one of my parents, "What if there was nothing?", only to be told by the adults in my life that for there to be "nothing" was impossible.  I didn't understand, though, because my young mind thought that if "something" was able to exist, there had to be a "nothing" on the opposite side, just as there is a darkness in contrast to light.

As a child everything was miraculous in my world-- I think just as much as it is for any other child growing up at that age .  I had a wild imagination that fueled my activities with endless creativity.  I remember going to school on a windy day and I would run down the playing field as I waved my arms and imagined myself controlling the wind and the weather.  I remember learning about molecules and then staring out into the sky and as I lay there I would imagine seeing the air-molecules bouncing off each other.  I felt a strong connection to the natural world during that time and I spent most of it playing outdoors surrounded by nature.

From my youngest memorable age I have been amazed at the world we live in.  The more I learned, the more I wanted to know about what I learned.  I thought I could get the answers to the universe by going to Church; being born and raised in the Church, my entire paradigm was centered on everything I had learned there.  I was fully convinced in "God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost..." and the rest of the Articles of Faith. (Articles of Faith 1:1–13)

But the universe had different plans for me.

You could say I was blessed with an open-mind, a big heart and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, but more so, I have been continually blessed by many synchronistic miracles which have guided me to where I am today.  You could call it fate or even destiny, but I see it as more of a fruition of my connection to that which is eternal.  My parents always told me, "You came here for a reason," but I never really understood what they meant until I journeyed through my mind's shadow and discovered what I really am.

That journey took me to the edge of insanity.

This is my story of how I realized life was an illusion and that this world is not as it seems.  This is how I broke my bonds, turned to discover the puppet-masters and made for the light at the end of the tunnel.  This is how I adjusted my eyes to the ever increasing light of reality.  Now, here I am, learning about the world around me, and I am earnest in helping those who are in a sense "behind" me, tracing my footsteps.

As I recount key events in my life so far, I will share with you the things life shared with me in order to bring me to true consciousness.  What I have written at the beginning of this post is an example of how I will submit to you the people, places and things I've ran into through-out my life that started a thought process that lead me to more information, more people, places and things.  I may or may not conclude based on what I have presented.  It is very possible that I may simply ask you to make your own conclusions.  Either way, it is an absolute honor to be able to do this for you and I hope it will serve to poke and prod your mind in ways you may not have thought before.

We are all here on a spiritual journey for the truth.  I know that not everyone is looking for the same truth and not everyone has a desire for knowledge at the same time.  I am not here to give you the ultimate truth as I believe such a thing is meaningless, but I am here to put out questions, thoughts and ideas that will nudge your paradigm.  Only you can find your own truth because the truth is not "out there".  The truth is in YOU.

To Be Continued...
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I may occasionally post recommended reading/viewing/listening at the end of a post.  I urge you to check it out!

For later:
Republic by Plato, Book VII aka "The Allegory of the Cave"


(Commenting will not be available for this series until the last post. Please stay tuned.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Introduction and Overview

Classifying Relationships to the Church
If you live on this planet, you are in one of these categories.

Thank you for your interest in "The Esoteric Roots of Mormonism". My name is Kristophorus H. Salarium, you can call me Kris. I will be your narrator on this adventure into the hidden roots of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or what is commonly referred to as "Mormonism" after the organisation's sacred "keystone" text, The Book of Mormon. (This is in reference to the largest and most popularly known church based in Salt Lake City, Utah.)

If you are reading this, I am assuming you are in one of three categories of people.

You are:
1. Mormon
2. Non-Mormon
3. Ex-Mormon

(Technically, Ex-Mormons are Non-Mormons, but they are those who have experienced what I will simply refer to as "The Church" first-hand.  This experience is life changing and the fact that they have disassociated from The Church is enough to separate them from those who are simply Non-Mormon.  So, for the purposes of this blog, we will consider them a separate category of people.)

There are also a few sub-categories of the above that need to be addressed--

If you are (1)Mormon, you are:

A. Active with a testimony. 
--You most likely go to Church regularly, pay your tithing, serve a calling, read your scriptures every night and watch all 10 (8 for women) sessions of conference every year.  You could either be born and raised in the church or a convert.  You believe the Church to "be true."  You're "Peter Priesthood", or "Molly Mormon."

B. Active without a testimony.
--You go to Church (maybe not even necessarily all the time) mostly just to see friends, family and to take part in ward activities.  You've probably been raised in the Church and are still trying to figure out what you believe.  You're Agnostic in formal clothing.

C. Inactive with a testimony.
--You used to go to Church but then stopped because you got bored of the ritual and the boring hymns.  You still read the scriptures and you still believe the Church "is true", you're just not exactly sure how, though, and you're still looking for answers which seem to be coming more and more from outside the Church rather within.  Your home/visiting teachers bug you more than the usual once-a-month visit because you know you're on the "prayer list", but you just don't feel comfortable going to Church for some reason.  You are an Agnostic in casual clothing.

D. Inactive without a testimony.
--You've most likely been raised in the Church, did everything your parents wanted you to do and time came you decided you had had enough.  You're a rebel now and nobody is going to stop you, but you still go to Church for the occasional baby-blessing in the family.  You still think you can repent later, or work it out in "Spirit Prison".  You're a "Jack-Mormon".

If you are (2)Non-Mormon, you are:

A. Oblivious
--You know nothing about Mormons maybe other than they have horns, practice polygamy and they wear magic underwear.  And they spawn in Utah.  (You will quickly find that the first two are not true, but the latter is up for debate.)

B. Aware and Indifferent
--You've seen and heard the television and radio PSA's, passed over the article on Wikipedia and heard friends and family tell you their experiences with them.  All good anecdotes, until they started inviting them to Church.  You're all for freedom of religion and charitable institutions, but proselyting "the truth" bugs.

C. Aware and Completely Against
--You're probably an Evangelical or Catholic.  You've read how Mormon's believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers and you think they are completely bonkers, so you spread anti-Mormon literature and propaganda everywhere without really caring about the facts.  (Hopefully this is not true and that's why you are reading this blog.)

D. Investigating
--You got a visit from two sharply-dressed young men with name tags at your door and they had a message they wanted to share with you.  How could you resist?  You're investigating the Church and possibly considering joining, but you need a second opinion.  (You are definitely in the right place).

If you are (3)Ex-Mormon, you are:

A. Convert and Indifferent
--You found another faith or philosophy (not necessarily a religion) that made more sense to you than the Church, so you converted and left the Church.  You don't have any bad feelings about the Church, it just wasn't what you were looking for on your spiritual journey.  The Church brought you a basic understanding of western religion and added a twist, but it was very restricting in information.  "God's mysteries should not be questioned" is what you were told, so you went elsewhere for answers.

B. Convert and Completely Against
--You're probably a "Born Again Christian" because you read all the anti-Mormon literature put out about how Joseph Smith drank the blood of babies.  Now you worship the REAL Jesus, not the phony twin brother of the devil.  You've probably started your own anti-Mormon propaganda operation to make sure everyone knows how evil Mormons are (I hope you are checking your facts!)

C. Voluntary Apostate
--You are closely related to 3A, but you didn't convert to any other faith or philosophy.  You just left.  Your reasons could be wide and various, but really all you care about is living life to the fullest and you knew you couldn't do that in the Church so you handed in your letter of resignation.  You may have been falsely accused of "transgressions" in the process, but since law overrules the Church's handbook of instructions, you threatened lawsuit and they left you alone and removed your name from membership rosters.  Your name is most likely still on Santa's naughty list, or the Church's equivalent of it, anyway.

D. Excommunicated Apostate
--You did something bad and you confessed to your Bishop (or you were caught by your Bishop "making out" with his daughter).  You went under review and eventually the disciplinary council ruled for your excommunication.  You got thrown out and most likely you couldn't give more of a damn if you tried.
---

An Introduction and Overview 
The purposes this blog will serve and what it will cover.

I happen to be among those who are labeled "Ex-Mormon" and I consider myself a member of Class 3A: "Convert and Indifferent".  I have started this blog as a means of recording my research into The Church.  My research started four years ago when I had barely graduated high-school here in the capital of Mormonism, Salt Lake City, Utah.  I was forced to determine whether or not I was going to serve a proselyting mission for the Church (as every young man in the Church is encouraged to do at the age of 19).  I had also graduated the CES Seminary courses which covered all the core texts of the Church:  The New and Old Testament of The Holy Bible (King James Version), The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine & Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price (which is purported to be the lost records of Moses and the English translations of the infamous Abrahamic Egyptian Papyri by Joseph Smith Jr.  It also contains the "Official" recount of Joseph Smith's First Vision and the founding of The Church and is purported to be written by Joseph Smith himself.  We shall address all of these in due time.)

To the point, I was missionary material and everyone in my local ward was surely expecting me to go.  I just had one thing to work out: Why should I devote two years of my life to proselyting the gospel of the Church? I was sure I had a testimony, but things didn't seem right.  I had questions, lots of questions, and unfortunately I was not finding any answers through the Church.  As I prayed for answers, I curiously found that the answers, or things that eventually lead me to answers were coming from outside sources and not from the Church.

BE YE WARNED!  You are entering "The Twilight Zone".

My research over the past four years has taken me down the allegorical "rabbit hole".  I've encountered strange historical theses by scholars from around the world and have read commentary of events that may have taken place from the beginning of mankind.  My research includes, but is not limited to, ancient civilizations, ancient history, anthropology, archaeology, current events, politics, government, conspiracy (sometimes theory, sometimes fact), symbolism, synchro-mysticism, extra-terrestrials(dimensionals?) and exopolitics, occult black magic, cabala and freemasonry, supernatural phenomena, personal spiritual experiences and a lot of headaches!


That being said, some, if not many of you may be having second thoughts about continuing on this adventure.  Aliens? Black Magic?  That's all science fiction and fairy tale stuff, right?  Well, one could make the counter-argument a great mind once made to a public audience concerning religion in general, which is the one thing that has brought us all together here on this blog:
Religion has convinced the world that there's an invisible man in the sky who watches everything you do. And there's 10 things he doesn't want you to do or else you'll go to a burning place with a lake of fire until the end of eternity. But he loves you! ...And he needs money! He's all powerful, all knowing, all wise... but he can't handle money!
-George Carlin (RIP 2008)

Religion, Politics, History... The world we live in is not as it seems, nor is it what we've been raised to believe--

I will be writing the articles on this blog so that the Non-Mormon will be able to understand with limited understanding of the Church while using terms familiar to both Mormons and Ex-Mormons as well. Though I am personally using this blog as a means to record my reactions and thoughts in my research, The Primary Goal of this blog is to serve as a point of discussion for those who wish to examine and discuss the troublesome facts of The Church's uprising in contrast to the Official History of The Church as taught in Church Sunday school, the Church Education System (CES) and by The Church's General Authorities' talks, lectures and discourses. 

THIS IS NOT AN ANTI-MORMON AREA.  It is not my intention to invalidate the Church but rather to simply ask questions that nobody asks or if they do they don't get a straight answer.  You will not find anything here stated as fact that is not backed up with information and sources.  Any theories or personal opinion I put out will be clearly marked as such.  There will be no hate here, only candid thoughts, theories and discussion.

This study is open to all that have an open mind and I promise you that if you are here because you are researching the origins of the Church you will find information that I will cite for your own review that will amaze and astound you as it did to me.  I will make sure I cite every piece of information I state as fact as well as every quote I use from every person along with their respective website, book, or audio file.  If I slip somewhere, please leave a comment and I will quickly rectify the post.

I will start by writing my story and what I've encountered over the past four years.  I feel the best way for me to start this blog is to start from the beginning.  This may take a few parts to do, but once I have established my educational and spiritual background we'll get straight into it.  I plan on overviewing related topics such as religion in general, the history and evolution of religion in the western world, the synchronistic connections of current events with those of the past and how they tie into Mormon culture.  Though there is a wide array of topics that can be brought to light here, it's my first priority to tie it into the main subject this blog has been created for, that of examining and discussing The Esoteric Roots of Mormonism.

RULES FOR COMMENTING:
 1. Be Mature.
 2. Be Open-minded
 3. Please use questionable language in context and not out of immaturity. (See 1)
 4. PLEASE POST YOUR CLASS AS DESCRIBED ABOVE. (i.e. Hi my name is Anna (2B) and this is what I think...)  This is so I and other readers can understand where you're coming from and what your history is with the Church.


All comments will be approved by me if they follow these rules.  I am not into censoring, this is to keep comments cordial and to the point.  I look forward to your thoughts. :)

-Kris