My post about Dilbert punchlines I didn't understand as a kid is about ready to go, but Halloween is almost upon us and it comes but once a year, so I'm going to acknowledge that first. And I don't have much to say about it except that I recently watched Nosferatu (1922) and the first couple episodes of Wednesday (2022) and I went to a little party last night. So I'm just going to share another cartoon. I discovered it on a cheap DVD of black-and-white cartoons that my mom probably picked up at a grocery store. It's very weird and doesn't have much of a plot. The best part is that it introduced me to the songs "The Cop on the Beat, the Man in the Moon, and Me" (sung here by the most openly gay cops that anyone in 1933 had ever seen) and "Sing (It's Good for You)" (sung here by Margie Hines, who preceded Mae Questel as the voice of Betty Boop and Olive Oyl). Also, though the protagonists are never identified, their names are Tom and Jerry and they starred in twenty-six cartoons before their franchise was canceled, they were forgotten by most of the world, and their names were usurped by a much funnier duo - that is, if you find animal abuse funny.
Lacking much in the way of motivation or energy to write about something important at this time, I was going to do a post about Dilbert punchlines that I didn't understand as a kid, but the text-searchable Dilbert archive has been taken down from dilbert.com as a result of Scott Adams getting canceled for being racist, so that will have to wait. So here's one of my favorite cartoons that I may or may not have shared before. I'm sure nobody has read my blog long or intently enough to remember either. I just like this cartoon because it's cute and happy and doesn't punish any carnivorous animals for being born as carnivorous animals. It does have a very brief racist part, but given historical context and relative severity, it's more forgivable than Scott Adams' recent remarks.
I could rehash my angst over the uneven distribution of suffering in the world and my powerlessness to do anything about it and how that challenges my conception of God as anything but an apathetic observer every time something awful like the current situation in the Middle East happens, but that would get old fast, wouldn't it? I'll just say I don't like it. That's inadequate, but so would be anything else I might say. Everyone needs to just get along. Nothing that either side has done justifies committing torture and rape and genocide against civilians on the other side. That, for some reason, is something that many people actually need to be reminded of. And that goes for anywhere. As much as most of the world would be better off right now without Russia in it, I wouldn't support Ukrainian crimes against humanity either. Fortunately, that's not their style. Russia, on the other hand, might have actually won by now if it focused on military targets instead of hospitals, schools, apartment buildings, and supermarkets.
But I've had some luck, or blessings depending on your perspective. I think of it as luck because I can't think why God should concern himself with these details of my life while doing nothing discernible to help the victims of torture and rape and genocide, but to each their own. I started therapy a few weeks ago and eventually I'll write a whole post about that. I get it the same way I get my haircuts; cheaply from an unlicensed student. I think she's doing a fine job, but at a bare minimum, she's a captive audience. It feels so good to have someone who listens to me so much and acts like she cares about me so much. I knew it would, and I assumed I would consequently develop unprofessional feelings for her, and I almost tried to get a different therapist because of that, but I realized that would basically be discrimination, so I decided it was my own problem that I'd just have to deal with, but it hasn't been an issue at all. It's just been great - dare I even say, therapeutic.
I also found an artist to illustrate my book cover, after my first five choices didn't work out. That's a big relief. A mutual friend recommended him to me, and he consequently gave me a discount. I hate spending money, but this is a very important investment since people will, after all, judge my book by its cover. I can't wait until I have some early designs to show.
And then, I guess this doesn't concern me directly, but it hits close to my heart. I feel a connection to him because I'm also neurodivergent and I've also been abused by dumbass cops, but I strongly suspect that my situation turned out different because I don't have the same skin color. I've had him as my Facebook picture for quite some time, with the intention to leave him up until his killers were brought to justice. This past week, the two cops who joined in the scuffle after the first cop assaulted him got their verdicts. Randy Roedema guilty, Jason Rosenblatt not. As much as I'd like to see them both hanging from lampposts, the different verdicts are a good sign that the jury did its due diligence. The one found not guilty was already the only one of the three cops who had been fired, not because of McClain's death, but because he responded "Ha ha" to a picture that three other cops, also fired or resigned, took at the sight of McClain's death to mock McClain's death. Yeah, cops freaking suck. Normally he could just go work at any other police department in the country, but hopefully he's gotten enough bad press that even they won't touch him.
Now the trial for Nathan Woodyard, the cop who stopped and assaulted Elijah McClain for "looking sketchy" in the first place, is underway. And there's no way in hell he won't be found guilty, because it's an established fact that he had no legal basis for the stop. I hope these convictions will send a message to cops everywhere to fuck off the next time they're thinking of harassing someone with no legal basis. And then there's the almost-unprecedented trial for the paramedics who, without making any attempt to communicate with McClain or evaluate his health, overestimated his weight by eighty pounds and injected him with a fatal overdose of ketamine. I honestly hope they get the stiffest sentences of all, and that it sends a message to healthcare workers everywhere that a. they are not law enforcement agents and b. Black people do not have a completely different physiology from white people. I had a negative experience with healthcare workers too, and I don't have much respect for them either. It blows my mind how people whose literal job is to care about people's health and safety can be so callous and apathetic. Anyway, these trials are off to a good start. And it only took over four years. I wonder how long it would take me to go to court if I killed someone.
In the week since posting just a couple of things about the LDS Church's General Conference, I've become aware of church president Russell Nelson's closing talk, and like those other things, it pissed me off, and I didn't have much else in mind to write about this week. I'm not criticizing his remarks just for the sake of being negative or disrepecting my friends and family members who believe he's a prophet, but because I sincerely believe that these remarks and others like them are toxic and manipulative, and that's a lot easier to recognize from the outside and I wish I had been able to recognize it a lot sooner. So without further ado:
"Here is the great news of God’s plan: the very things that will make your mortal life the best it can be are exactly the same things that will make your life throughout all eternity the best it can be!...
"The Lord has clearly taught that only men and women who are sealed as husband and wife in the temple, and who keep their covenants, will be together throughout the eternities."
These quotes are a few paragraphs apart, but I juxtaposed them to highlight the absurdity of the first one. According to the church's teachings, in order to qualify for the eternities, gay people need to either marry someone of the opposite sex whom they aren't attracted to or remain alone and celibate until they die, at which time God will presumably fix them and let them marry someone of the opposite sex. Both of these options demonstrably make most gay people miserable, even suicidal. They do not make mortal life the best it can be. But I don't think Nelson is being disingenuous here, just thoughtless.
"Thus, if we unwisely choose to live telestial laws now, we are choosing to be resurrected with a telestial body. We are choosing not to live with our families forever."
The mention of telestial bodies reminded those who are familiar with obscure historical Mormon weirdness of Joseph Fielding Smith's assertion in the January 1962 Improvement Era that men and women who go to the telestial kingdom will probably lose their genitals to prevent them from having sex in defiance of God's eternal marriage requirement. "Is not the sectarian world justified in their doctrine generally proclaimed, that after the resurrection there will be neither male nor female sex? It is a logical conclusion for them to reach and apparently is in full harmony with what the Lord has revealed regarding the kingdoms into which evidently the vast majority of mankind is likely to go." Because of this hypothesis, the phrase "TK Smoothie" has entered the ex-Mormon lexicon.
"So, my dear brothers and sisters, how and where and with whom do you want to live forever? You get to choose."
I certainly don't want to live with the LDS version of God for any length of time.
"As you think celestial, you will find yourself avoiding anything that robs you of your agency. Any addiction - be it gaming, gambling, debt, drugs, alcohol, anger, pornography, sex, or even food - offends God. Why? Because your obsession becomes your god. You look to it rather than to Him for solace."
I wonder how many eating disorders this quote exacerbated. I wonder how many addicts now hate themselves even more. I wonder why God is offended by so many things. Maybe he should have listened to David A. Bednar, who taught, "To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else."
"When someone you love attacks truth, think celestial, and don’t question your testimony. The Apostle Paul prophesied that 'in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.'
"There is no end to the adversary’s deceptions. Please be prepared. Never take counsel from those who do not believe. Seek guidance from voices you can trust - from prophets, seers, and revelators and from the whisperings of the Holy Ghost, who 'will show unto you all things what ye should do.' Please do the spiritual work to increase your capacity to receive personal revelation."
So this is the part that I really and truly hate. For the sake of civility and precision, I've tried to refrain from calling the LDS Church a "cult," but quotes like this make it really hard. Anyone not already indoctrinated into the church would see it as a massive red flag. If you went to buy some kind of expensive product, and the company told you to disregard all the negative reviews and lawsuits because those people are deceived by Satan, you would run the other way. If you knew that the directors of the company had made several grievious errors of judgment that called their competence into question and been caught in multiple lies and scandals, and instead of apologizing or making restitution of any kind they just acted like that didn't happen and told you to trust them anyway, you would run even faster. Russell Nelson, with the rest of the First Presidency, knew about and approved the church's dishonest and illegal behavior that got it in trouble with the Securities Exchange Commission earlier this year. He's also misrepresented or stretched the truth a few times in his public utterances.
Reducing arguments against the LDS Church's truth claims to "the adversary's deceptions" is especially ludicrous to me because the most damning ones are literally just quotes from its own "prophets, seers, and revelators" that we're supposed to trust. Is the adversary the one who inspires them to say those things then? Is the adversary the one who inspired Brigham Young to say on multiple occasions that Black people were cursed by God and unfit to hold political or eclessiastical power, that mixed race couples and their children should be put to death, that Adam was God, and that polygamy was the true order of marriage and a requirement for the celestial kingdom? If God's prophet can't tell the difference between God's voice and Satan's, he's not very trustworthy, even if he's honest. And I want to give Russell Nelson and the other LDS Church leaders the benefit of the doubt that they really believe in it, but now it sure seems like he's aware that it can't hold up under scrutiny. If it could, it would welcome criticism from all sides. This quote is a far cry from J. Reuben Clark saying, "If we have truth truth, [it] cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not truth, it ought to be harmed." (Though that quote was actually a bluff, because before he made it, Clark had abandoned his intellectual pursuits after they almost turned him into an atheist.)
As far as the Holy Ghost, the jury's still out on that as far as I'm concerned. I want to believe that God will direct my life. There have been times when I believed that God directed my life. I now know, however, that people in every religion, including suicide cults, receive "spiritual witnesses" of the correctness of their religion that, to an outside observer, look essentially the same. And I've learned for myself that feelings are not a reliable guide to truth. Russell Nelson isn't a prophet just because some people get powerful emotions when he speaks. He would be a prophet if he ever did anything prophetic.
"As you think celestial, your faith will increase. When I was a young intern, my income was $15 a month. One night, my wife Dantzel asked if I was paying tithing on that meager stipend. I was not. I quickly repented and began paying the additional $1.50 in monthly tithing.
"Was the Church any different because we increased our tithing? Of course not. However, becoming a full-tithe payer changed me. That is when I learned that paying tithing is all about faith, not money. As I became a full-tithe payer, the windows of heaven began to open for me. I attribute several subsequent professional opportunities to our faithful payment of tithes."
I was taught that the church needed money from American tithepayers to finances its operations in the developing world. That was woefully misinformed at best. I can't imagine why God would prefer, as a matter of principle, that people give a set percentage of their income to one specific organization that doesn't need it and won't use it ethically as opposed to, you know, actually doing good things with their money. And to paraphrase what I said last week, there's a vast disparity in the amount of faith being demanded here. It takes little faith for a millionaire to pay ten percent of their income. In order to really be changed, they should pay at least ninety percent. (I have nothing against millionaires, really. I hope most or all billionaires rot in hell, though.) The best part is this footnote to the quote that most members will never read: "This is not to imply a cause-and-effect relationship. Some who never pay tithing attain professional opportunities, while some who pay tithing do not. The promise is that the windows of heaven will be opened to the tithe payer. The nature of the blessings will vary." So again, the promise is so vague as to be unfalsifiable, and if you can't see the blessings, that's your fault. Just keep giving the church your money, no matter what.
Of course Nelson ended his talk by announcing twenty more temples that the church won't be able to fill or staff. At this point I really think he's just showing off and solidifying his legacy over Gordon Hinckley's like he did by turning "Mormon" from a badge of honor into a slur. On the other hand, I am glad that members in developing countries who already sacrifice ten percent of their income to be able to attend the temple won't have to make as many additional sacrifices in travel. So I'll end on that positive note. And you can forget everything else I said because it was just the adversary's deceptions.
Six months ago, I didn't watch the LDS Church's semi-annual General Conference for the first time in my life, and I experienced some anxiety over the disruption of routine and loss of comfort. This time I just enjoyed doing other things with those ten hours and almost forgot it was going on. Progress! A friend who had to watch bits and pieces because she hasn't yet told her parents she's an atheist filled me in on what I missed. Pay your tithing, wear your temple garments, use the full name of the church, stay on the covenant path. You know, fresh new revelation to address the real issues that people are facing.
The tithing part really pisses me off. My friend sent me this.
I testify that this promise, at least the way the LDS Church takes it out of context, is bogus. I received no blessings for paying tithing and I lost no blessings when I stopped. Notice, however, the caveats that Andersen adds to make it unfalsifiable and set up the church's ever-popular blame reversal game: spiritual, subtle, easy to overlook, Lord's timing. In other words, when I paid tithing and nothing happened, the problem was with me for either failing to notice or being impatient. I was supposed to just keep giving my money to the church indefinitely regardless of whether God ever got around to keeping his end of the bargain. That kind of defeats the purpose of the promise in the first place. "[P]rove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it." What part of that sounds subtle or easy to overlook? How am I supposed to "prove" God if he's too sneaky for me to notice?
But as I said, the LDS Church takes this verse out of context anyway. The preceding chapter begins thus: "And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you." Lacking any indications to the contrary, it would seem that the rest of the book of Malachi is addressed to these priests, and that the verses about tithing are actually a rebuke of religious leaders who hoard wealth. Hmmm. The LDS Church has hundreds of billions of dollars, and was fined by the Securities Exchange Commission earlier this year for breaking the law to hide that obscene wealth so its members would keep paying tithing, and of course it hasn't apologized or so much as acknowledged that incident in General Conference. Andersen has a lot of gall to exhort anyone to "be honest in their tithes" when he knows damn well that church leaders up to and including the First Presidency have not. He has a lot of gall to pretend the church still needs any donations when it could fund its operations indefinitely off the interest generated by its obscene wealth. And if tithing was really about personal consecration and putting the Lord first and whatever, it wouldn't be a flat rate for all members. Ten percent of my income was a sacrifice. Ten percent of Jon Huntsman's income is not.
This is the other thing I read about that pissed me off. Ex-Mormons on Twitter are not happy about it.
I really hope my parents are too smart to buy into this manipulative, emotionally abusive garbage. I left the LDS Church because it's not true and it's not good. I never questioned their faithfulness or their commitment to the principles that it teaches but doesn't live up to. For example, they taught me to be honest. The LDS Church is not honest. I have a problem with that. The problem is not with me or my parents. I don't see eye to eye with them on a lot of things, but they don't deserve to be guilt-tripped over their son making a choice that he has no reason to be sorry for. I won't likely have "a whole chain of descendants," but I kind of want to just so I can not raise them in the LDS Church, especially if they're female and/or LGBTQ. The "covenant path" is hardly worth staying on when the covenants and the supposed authority behind them are based on lies. I'm not interested in perpetuating "a legacy of faith" in a system based on lies. And I'm not interested in living with the monstrous LDS God for five minutes, let alone eternity. I guess my dad's going to be really lonely in the Celestial Kingdom. His dad and his five siblings and another of his kids were already "lost" long before I was. He did everything right to have an eternal family, but as usual, the LDS Church can't and won't keep its end of the bargain.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.