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.)