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Trip Around the Sun

 

52 of 52 – The Mormons – with me as “Investigator.”

 

Have traveled 584,337,600 miles.

 

The distance around the Sun – if we use a radius halfway between perigee and apogee and assume a circular path, is about 584,000,000 miles. That’s how far we have all traveled this year. This is actually a small part of our total travel for the year. It assumes the Sun is standing still. Our “real” travel has been a thousand times further – as we travel through the galaxy with our Sun. And then too, we travel with our galaxy, the Milky Way in some path through the universe. And to think – an individual from the class mammalia of the great phylum cordata - made it all.

We’ll travel so far again next year, Allah willing.

Some do not enjoy the humorous tool of sarcasm. I can understand that. Others do enjoy that – and I have tried to distribute methods with some equality.

Here is a non-sarcastic equivalent:

“We have far too much confidence in our ability to know ultimate truths.”

 

 

Regarding Entrance to medical school:

So in the end, it accepted a small concession from Dini, who had agreed to drop his demand that students "affirm" their personal belief in evolution while continuing to insist that they be able to "explain" Darwin's theory.

Response:
That's good. We ought not to dictate beliefs - but we should expect understanding.

People who want to discuss evolution with me just have to name the five main classes of cordata - then we're on our way, and their opinions have some right to exist.

We have justification to resent it when people who know nothing about a subject still want their opinions given weight.

I had written with respect to Islam and Judaism:

Israel is much the same - no other religions are allowed to proselytize there, for example. They do not have the freedom of religion that we enjoy. You can have any religion personally - but not "spread" it - same as the USSR was also. The USSR constitution guaranteed the right to personal beliefs – but allowed no proselytizing.

Gathering together as "The Chosen People" is quite a non free-religion statement.

Neither side over there is objective. Both sides think they are the ones God has selected.

Now I also have a background, as you have come from Judaism - I come from the Mormons. They also think they are the only ones who can do God’s official work. They believe only their ordinances are honored by God. Nobody else has any "authority." By Mormon belief, even Jews do not have authority to perform religious ordinances and have them honored by God. For example, if a Baptist performs a baptism, the baptism does not count. No matter what promises the baptized person makes, God does not make His promises back – there is no covenant. The man can accept Jesus Christ with all his heart – but the baptism has no effectiveness until it is done over by a Mormon. The man has promised – but God will not.

Loving a non-provable God is one thing - not always bad – and can be a very good thing in people’s lives - but thinking one’s race or religion is chosen by Him - that's seriously sick. I don't care if it's a Muslim or a Jew or a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness or whatever.

My Jewish Friend has Responded:

Judaism will state that its law & strictures are only intended for Jews.  Non-Jews are "required" (according to Jews) only to observe seven of the 613 commandments that Jews derive from the Pentateuch via the traditional exegesis.  These seven are mostly pretty basic, anyway... don't murder, don't steal, don't be sexually immoral... you'll find this in any religion, clear evidence of the evolutionary origin of religion in the necessary code of conduct required for primitive societies
to function without flying apart.  The most interesting of these seven is that you must not eat a limb from a living animal.  In other words, if you're going to eat it, at least kill it first.  Don't be needlessly cruel to lesser species.

Not only do Jews not actively proselytize, they will actively discourage those who approach them to convert to Judaism.  As a potential convert, expect to be turned away a few times.  Persist, and expect a year-long course of study during which you will find yourself in a curious kind of limbo, not quite a Jew yet, but not free to go back and act like a non-Jew and observe only the strictures of those 7 commandments.

The above applies to Orthodox praxis.  With Conservative, your mileage may vary.  As for Reformed Jews or Reconstructionist Jews, well, they might as well be Unitarian.  ;)

Israelis restricting missionary activity in that country is understandable, considering the history of forceful proselytizing that was directed at the Jews in
Europe for many centuries.  Remember that the Jews who founded Israel 55 years ago primarily came from what little was left of the European Jewish community.

That said, the reality of how individual Jews internalize the nature of the non-Jew varies from one individual to another.  A few (VERY few) will evince by their actions the full humanity of non-Jews, simply having been born into a different culture.  But the vast majority will merely attempt to disguise (with varying degrees of success) their attitude that
Chosen = Superior.  Actually, the "chosen" aspect of being Jewish is supposed to imply greater RESPONSIBILITY but that never
seems to be how it works out "on the ground."

(He was an Orthodox Jew – 613 commandments! Now that sounds like Pharisees. But he has left that for more liberal pursuits.)

Friends have been debating the legitimacy of things that are not falsifiable:

Tests such as falsifiability and verifiability are required before something can be science.

Response:

Where does this stuff come from - physics appreciation classes? The
philosophy of physics?


I know what falsifiable means - but never heard the word in any physics
class I ever took - all the way to a degree in physics.

The Big Bang is essentially non falsifiable. That doesn’t make it not science. All the assumptions upon which we base our science are non falsifiable with current data. That's why they must be
"assumed."

Later - as new data comes in, some of the assumptions may be falsifiable -
then we can see if they appear false or not. When one is found false - all
hell breaks loose in science.
So many things that followed the assumption
must be altered, and it usually takes many years to do it.

The problem with most of religion is - that even if something becomes  falsifiable, and is found to be false, there is no action to begin the indicated changing of what followed the assumption.

That's why religion cannot accept a most grand miracle - evolution. A few do accept it - but it implicates so many other beliefs that the Bible, for example, has to be rejected almost in total. That's hard when there is so much “inertia.” So it tends to degrade to an acceptance of evolution as one of God's "tools." That helps to make the changes much smaller. Usually this “tool” group still rejects "human" evolution - in order to accept Adam as the first man, but become amazed at all the "other" evolution around them. Hey - it's a step. I’ve even met medical doctors who take this “middle” position. (I have no idea what they think of
DNA – or all the commonality among the cordata – including, of course, humans.) I think this is simply a way to keep both their “worlds” working. Investments starting in childhood can become very large. Einstein used to credit his “genius” with having never passed childhood. He found, as a child, he could operate his mind without all the prejudices. Children pretend so much – that’s like having a free hypothesis.

 

A friend asked:

Do you think he 'proved' the dot theory? and I don't mean as just
opposed to a creation theory.

Response:
If this is in reference to the "Big Bang" theory - the answer is no - not proven.

It appears to jibe with lots of other things we know - it works for the math, etc. That's the way much of physics is. If it works with all the other accepted knowledge, then it is accepted – but the acceptance is always known to be temporary in nature.

The powerful feature of science is that it changes and grows as data becomes available and understood. It is not "cast in concrete" and can be altered. Scientists work hard to prove each other wrong.

If I could work like that in the Church, boy would I have fun!

In science, when something else works better later, we will eventually laugh at the old idea. (That’s not literal – we don’t laugh at
Newton’s equations of motion, but we know they lack accuracy.)

You have read of my talking with Baptists and Buddhists and Catholics and Jews and Muslims and special Jews who believe in Jesus. My general feeling has been that almost all these people are good – in every single group. There have been a few I judged were non-believers taking advantage of a complex and powerful dynamic – to make money – or sometimes just to fill the needs of a big ego. But these have been few. Most of the ministers have been relatively simple men and women who serve. I love driving around Escondido now – as I see a church and feel a little connection. I see them everywhere. I can actually drive by at the right time on a Sunday – and get waves to the hotrod – people remember what cannot be forgotten. (That little Model T with a big motor was an audio/visual aid.)

I have contemplated at some length an option I have for the last visit. I have been to some degree ruthless in questioning at some of the churches – perhaps especially those who believe my Mom and Dad are now burning in Hell. I take that personally. Not only that God would do such a thing – but that people would love such a God. I challenged with that direct question – “Why would you love such a God? What in the world is wrong with you?”

I am going to visit a Mormon Church out of town – and ask tough questions. I don’t know how far I can get – nor do I know if I can get honest answers. Mormons have secrets. Many are aware of the secrets at the temple – but there are many more than that. I may decide not to broach the temple questions – as I would be putting any honest answerer in the way of having to feel guilty (or even afraid) afterward.

I will ask what they believe now about the great Negro race. Do they still believe that God put upon them a witches curse – that has now been lifted? Or do they believe the old doctrine was incorrect – and therefore Satanic? If so, why have they not apologized for the damage? (An example of repentance that would be well noticed.)

If the doctrine was incorrect, are there likely other incorrect doctrines as well – which need correction? Institutional repentance?

What about Holy Communion. Could they still use wine or grape juice – or is it now mandatory that they use water? If mandatory, when did it become mandatory? Is there scripture? Among dozens of churches I’ve attended this year – nobody uses water except the Mormons. A Mormon showed me a scripture about the water – but it said that it didn’t matter what was used – if he was correct, then water would not be mandatory.

What if a Bishop decided to use grape juice next Sunday – would he be given trouble? By any of you? By leaders above him? Does he need “permission”? If so, how does he know that this requires permission? Is it written somewhere that he needs permission for this? Doesn’t he make many decisions that do not require permission?

And all the permission that is needed for so many things – is it permission from God? Or from men? Is it the same?

If one of you believes a man is wrong, should you consult God directly before following? Could you expect an answer?

A Mormon friend once told me that all the important doctrine – all we needed to know in order to return to God – was contained in what you call “The Standard Works.” Is that true? And do they consist of only the Bible (Old and New Testaments), the Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price? If there is more – what are they?

If it is true – my next question is whether or not the ordinances of your temples are in these books?

If they are not – then does it give us to know that these temple ordinances are not required to return to God?

If this changes the answer – and now we know that there are things not in the standard works – required for a return to God – then are there other things, perhaps unknown but to a few, that also are required – and that cannot be read by anyone who wants?

Are there other secrets in the temple that ordinary Mormons will never know? Things that only apostles know?

How many secrets are there? A Mormon friend told me there used to be nine in the temple – and now only six.

 

The three secrets no longer mentioned – do new Mormons learn what they were?

 

 

The Visit: Mormons:

 

I went to Chula Vista to visit. When I entered, Sacrament meeting was almost over. I talked with a man in the hall, and told him I was visiting and would like to learn what I could of their beliefs.

 

He immediately thought of the poor little missionaries. I explained that my questions were going to be tough – and that I didn’t think I would like to do that to these young folks.

 

He was not convinced – and thought surely that the missionaries would be the right match.

 

So I offered to fire just one question to him for a sample.

 

He said, “Ok.”

 

I told him how I had torn into Southern Baptists for believing that my Mom and Dad are burning in Hell forever, and he told me that Mormons don’t believe in a burning Hell.

 

I said, “That’s good – I like that – so instead I’ll ask you another question.”

 

When I was young, they taught us that it would be very wrong to ask a girl to do something wrong to “prove that she loved us.” He nodded. So do you Mormons believe that God told Abraham, “Prove you love me – kill your boy” ?

 

Yes – they do believe that.

 

Isn’t that asking for an evil to prove one’s love – even worse than the evil we were not supposed to do with the girl on a date?

 

And then he thought maybe the missionaries were not the right target. After Sacrament was ended, he took me to meet the Bishop. (Still just a youngster at 45.)

 

I told the Bishop that I understood he was probably busy – but that maybe he could put me in touch with one or two other senior members with whom I could have a discussion. He was ready to do that – but in talking for a few minutes, he decided he wanted this thing for himself. That was fine, but I knew the time would be limited.

 

We talked some before he decided to go to his office for “The Rest of the story.”

 

First I told him I was aware that the Mormons used to deny the leadership roles to anyone with Negro blood.

 

(Since this will all be from memory – I took no notes – I am not going to use any quote marks – it will be as accurate as memory will serve.)

 

He said that they were not denied leadership roles.

 

I had to push it a little, by asking what they had been denied, and then he said it was the priesthood.

 

(I did wonder what leadership roles he was referring to – perhaps Boy Scout leader or something.)

 

I know the Mormons do no longer teach this – but I’m interested to know what the current belief regarding the situation is. Do Mormons continue to believe that God put a curse on the race – including a marking that included a darkened skin?

 

He said that he had never seen any scripture that said that.

 

(Now that’s interesting – because I’ve been saying that for years – no scripture – and being told that it did not matter – we do what the prophet tells us to do. If it does not matter – why am I now being told that this could not be found in scripture? He could not know by now – that I had heard the curse thing thousands of times over thirty or so years.)

 

I had asked nothing about the scriptures – I had asked what Mormons believe, and he wasn’t ready to tell me. He was very nice about it – just non-committal and pretended not to know what we all know.

 

So now we went to his office.

 

He explained that he could not speak for the Church.

 

I said that I did not want that anyway – I want to know what you – standing on your own two feet – believe. That will have been affected by the Church – but it is the beliefs of the actual Mormons that I’m interested in – not some written beliefs that may or may not be followed. Since this curse thing is not in the scriptures, why did so many Mormons believe it for so long – without being corrected on it? And do Mormons believe it still – that there was a curse from God?

 

He really didn’t want to answer – so we went on – I could not get to the questions I really wanted to ask. Like whether this was a false doctrine changed – or a true doctrine that has taken on a new phase. If a false doctrine, I would want to know if it was his opinion that there probably were also other false doctrines adopted by the Church – that needed changing through the diligence of leaders and membership.

 

So I then asked about Holy Communion.

 

I told him that I had been attending many different churches and religions this year – and that Holy Communion was done in several different ways. I told him that the Mormons are the only ones I’ve seen who use water instead of wine or grape juice. Is that important? To use water?

 

Oh no, he said, it does not matter, but water is fine.

 

Now I know you can’t tell me the doctrine of the Church – but you can tell me what you know from your own experience.

 

My question is – if you as the Bishop decided to use grape juice next Sunday – could you do that without getting permission from some higher person? I’m trying to get at what it means when you say it does not “matter.”

 

No – I would have to get permission – but why – what purpose for this?

 

Well – perhaps to have a particularly strong symbol – the red color – certainly your congregation would be more likely than ever to think about things on that Sunday. If you were to do this on your own – would you be in trouble from people in the congregation – as well as from leaders above you?

 

He laughed – and said he thought he would.

 

So it does matter – it must be water?

 

No – no – it does not matter.

 

The bread you use – I noticed it was white bread. Could you use wheat bread or some other – without permission?

 

Yes.

 

Interesting – you can change the bread – but not the water – without permission – why? Why is it different for the bread from what it is for the liquid?

 

(Now at about this point – I was pretty sure he knew I was a Mormon – but I let it go for a while.)

 

(We can’t go much further with this line – but I think that Joseph having put in the change from grape juice to water – even though he clearly stated that it did not matter – and was being done only because they had come not to trust the grape juice they could purchase – had said the word “water,” and we are not going to change it no matter how little it “matters.” He didn’t say anything about the bread, so that can have some variability. I’m sure that even perfectly clear but carbonated water would give trouble also – or sweetened – or with color - or whatever – no change allowed.

 

This is trivial by itself – but there are many of them. No applause allowed. Ties required by 12 year olds. Only certain musical instruments allowed in Sacrament meetings. It goes on and on – with no scriptural clarity – just traditions. I felt sorry for a woman once – who was ready to play her Alto Saxophone – and stopped for having an unacceptable instrument. I spoke at her funeral – and indicated that I was curious whether she could play it in the Spirit World. She had intended to play “Love at Home.”

 

I know plenty of wonderful people who play in orchestras – and I love to hear them play those stringed instruments in our meetings, but I always thought it a little Haughty that  the kids who select band instruments are relegated spiritually inferior. Some have gone so far as to outlaw all wind instruments – but I have noticed an interesting compromise. The wind instruments included in the orchestra tend to be allowed – clarinet – flute – oboe, but those of the band that are not also in the orchestra – trombone – saxophone – usually even trumpet – are not allowed. I have it on good authority that we may have a little exception soon – with trumpets – but only for a fanfare called for specifically in a particular hymn.

 

(Note: I have learned since that this use of trumpets for the fanfares in “God of Our Fathers” will not be allowed in our meeting. Permission to use an organ simulated trumpet was given – but not for actual trumpets. The Music director is understandably disappointed. I have suggested that three violins be used for the fanfare – and that three trumpets be held up, but not played, for effect. The three violins being heard for the fanfares - along with the silent trumpets held high - would clearly be noticed by many – and probably bring about some critical thought about the relative “sacredness” of the various instruments that God’s children have invented.)

 

I asked – All the permission that is needed for so many things – is it permission from God – or from a man?

 

It is the same.   (Wo.)

 

(I tested this once in my youth – I had been accepted to go to BYU, and the Branch President gave me a calling. I accepted. Shortly after, he was talking with my Mom – and found out I was supposed to leave for BYU in two days. He came to me and asked why I had not told him. “Well,” I said, “evidently God wanted me to stay back to teach this class.” “No – no,” he said, “If I had known that you were going to BYU, I would not have called you.” So you see, the calling was made by a good man – and not by God, for God already knew that I was going to BYU.)

 

(Sometimes I think this is what the scripture refers to when it says, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Does it mean men call many – but only occasionally it is the one God wanted for the job? We have so many man-filters now – that it is highly unlikely there will ever again be a Saul who becomes a Paul. Imagine – a Christian killer helper – to an Apostle in very little time. And he was possibly the most important Apostle of them all. Certainly is for the Catholics.)

 

Because of limited time, I would not get to all the questions – but I did have time for one more.

 

So finally – if we have time for one more – (yes) – The Mormons have the standard works – and believe that all that is needed to return to God is found in just those few volumes? Yes.

 

Are the temple ordinances contained there?

 

I don’t think I want to talk about temple ordinances.

 

Are you not supposed to answer questions about the temple?

 

That’s correct.

 

Bishop – I can tell you have a suspicion – is that correct?

 

Yes.

 

I’m LDS on a one-year trek visiting many religions – and this is the Mormon’s turn – my last of 52 visits. He smiled – and I’m sure he already suspected – the questions were too much knowledge.

 

Now Bishop – I do know about the temple ordinances – and do not wish to put you on the spot to answer questions you do not want to answer. But I’m not asking about the ordinances – only asking if they are included in the “Standard Works”?

 

No – they are not.

 

Ok – but are they required in order to return to God?

 

Yes.

 

Then it is not true that everything we need is found in those scriptures?

 

Well – there are more than just the books – there are magazines – and other proclamations, etc.

 

I understand – so what I’m asking is – among everything that may be read by any member freely – are these ordinances included.

 

I see. I guess they are not.

 

You guess?

 

They are not.

 

So only a Mormon can go to heaven?

 

Oh – I wouldn’t put it in those words.

 

I understand – the Southern Baptists didn’t want to say certain words either – like my Mom and Dad are burning in Hell. Nonetheless, they believe that they are burning that way – and forever and ever without ending. They just don’t like to use the word “Hell.” I don’t think I would want to either – if I believed that.

 

Yes – but we don’t believe that at all – a burning Hell, I mean.

 

Of course – I know we don’t – but may only Mormons return to God?

 

We believe people are taught even after this life.

 

Yes – but they must either now or then become Mormons?

 

Not Mormons.

 

Well – members of the Church that we now call the Mormons?

 

Yes.

 

I know you’re out of time, Bishop – Thank you - None of this is intended to be an affront to anyone personally. I wanted to know how well a stranger might be able to fare in getting answers, but there is no interest in publishing who gave the answers – just a general report of findings.

 

(I think he appreciated that.)

 

I promise you, Bishop – I have been a lot tougher on some than I have been here. When people believe God is burning my Mom and Dad – they get my ire for loving such an evil God. “Why,” I ask them, “Why would you love a God like that?”

 

It doesn’t matter how powerful He is – nor how much He knows – We ought not to worship either power or knowledge – but only goodness. I would take a God who knew half as much and had half the power and was deeply good, any day, over a God who knows all – is all-powerful – and kills babies to get at his enemy.

 

 

After talking with the good Bishop – I attended with the High Priests. They had a lesson titled, “Be of Good Cheer.”

 

This was a good group – lively and game.

 

I asked a couple questions – but just fun ones in normal participation. I was worn out essentially on the serious ones.

 

They were talking about “The Prince of Peace,” comparing that with Cheer.

 

I said that I thought ants had pretty good “Peace” in their colonies – but no “Freedom.”

 

Isn’t Peace different from Cheer – Could we reasonably call Him the Prince of Cheer?

 

There was some interesting discussion – some interesting personalities, as we have at home also.

 

They kind of ended up with Jesus as the Prince of Happiness. Happiness sounded better to me than cheer.

 

The teacher read some lines he got on the net – about the chicken crossing the road – what different general authorities think it means.

 

There were quite a few – some pretty funny – see if I can remember one or two.

 

Brigham Young – Because it was the place.

 

President Kimball – He just wanted to do it.

 

Etc.

 

So I added:

 

J. Golden Kimball – Hell, she just wanted to get over to the other side. (I thought – where her good rooster was, but I stifled.)

 

After the class – I talked for a few minutes with a kind and very bright gentleman. He was a representative for an interfaith counsel down that way – he had a very wide view. I asked him some of the same questions as I had asked of the Bishop – and got much more liberal answers. I told him I thought the reason he was selected to be that representative was because of his wide view. He said that was probably true – as the Church keeps wanting him in that job year after year. He was a convert. He believes as I do – that the atrocities ascribed to God in the Old Testament were really things done by men – and then in scripture writing – God is given the “credit.”

 

I asked him if he found he needed to remain silent a good part of the time. “Yes,” he said.

 

He believed in evolution. Including humans. He was a geochemist – would be very aware of the animal and human life on this very miraculous planet – including, for example – great numbers of the great Negro race with societies and full languages – long before Adam (Or Cain).

 

 

 

Trip Around the Sun – 52 (!) of 52. The Mormons

 

Glad to be home. It was not an easy trip – but it was most rewarding. Next trip, I’m considering coasting. (I may still take the hotrod.) I love all of you – and now I find I love a bunch of new people too – all over Escondido and a bit more.

 

I’ve known and cared about a few Jews in my life – and a few Buddhists – many different styles of Christians – being a scientist, I have also known quite a few good atheists - but not until this Trip Around the Sun, have I known a Muslim to love – or a Hindu – or a Serbian Orthodox Christian.

 

What a half billion miles !

 

 

52 of 52 – The Mormons – with me as “Investigator.”

 

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