What Does The Culture of Drinking In The Bible Suggest To Us About Similar American Indian History? – Part II, Noah

In my previous post, I shared information about comparing the culture of alcohol as it relates to comparing Biblical accounts with accounts in the Book of Mormon.

In this post, I will compare and contrast the drinking of intoxicating wine in the Bible with that in the Book of Mormon — focusing on drinking wine by men who were named “Noah”.  There was a Biblical Noah — AND there was a Book of Mormon Noah.  They had some things in common and a lot of differences.

Drinking by the Biblical Noah

The book of Genesis in the Old Testament gives a very interesting account of the first appearance of intoxication, wine-drinking, cultivating vineyards, drunkenness and the efforts of Noah to be “fruitful” in having children in his old age by drinking wine.

Noah depicted as drunken on fermented wine

In the Michaelangelo painting above (that is in the Vatican), Noah is depicted twice — one when he is wearing a colorful cloth and the other time, he is naked.  He is working at tilling the ground (presumably planting a vineyard) in the background.  A large wine vat is depicted behind him, while his sons are seen gathered around discussing what to do in finding their father naked.

[Much of what I obtained about the Biblical Noah came from the book:  The Drunkenness of Noah, by H. Hirsch Cohen, The University of Alabama Press]

Biblical Noah is generally considered to be a righteous man – even a prophet.

Genesis 6:8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.   Genesis 6:9 ……. Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.   Genesis 6:22 Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.

Before the Genesis account of Noah, no vineyards, wine, drinking, drunkenness were mentioned in the Bible.  Drinking, drunkenness and wine-making presumably began with Noah and his family.  It is worth noting that drunkenness was not mentioned as one of the vices that the children of men had that made God angry at them.  Drinking wine was started only AFTER the flood.  [note: I'm only going to deal with the Biblical accounts and will leave the history of wine in antiquity in Egypt, Greece and other places for another essay.]

The Zohar, the medieval source book of Jewish mysticism, perceived Noah as having planted the grape vine – which was believed to have come from the Garden of Eden – to better understand the sin of Adam so that he could forewarn the world of its effect.  It was a kind of “inventor saga”, in which Noah was completely overwhelmed in the process by wine’s unsuspected power.  In some accounts, the “fruit” that Adam partook of was not an apple, but a grape — after it had fermented.  It was in this way that grape juice became to be known for BOTH good and evil.

Allow me to review the Biblical account:

And Noah began to be an husbandman, and planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine” [Genesis 9:20-21]

According to the Biblical account, Noah was, at this point, over 600 years old and with his wife had three sons.  God had commanded Noah several times after the flood  ”And God blessed Noah and his sons, and God said unto them,Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.’” [Genesis 9:1]  He was OLD!  His wife was OLD!  How in the heck was he going to obey God’s commandment to have more children?  The commandment was clearly given to Noah AND his sons.

According to the Biblical account, he drank wine; lots of it.  We could assume that he believed that alcohol heightens the libido and enhances the sex drive.  Modern research corroborates this theory — to an extent.  Too much alcohol, will do just the opposite, however.  Then he took off his clothes.  [This sometimes happens when people get drunk.]   Noah must not have been successful in obeying this commandment, as no record is made of his fathering more children.

In summary, the Biblical Noah was the first man in the Bible to plant grape vines, used them to get drunk, but was STILL thought of as being a good man and a prophet, even.

Drinking by the Book Of Mormon Noah

There is no mention in the Book of Mormon of anyone who planted vineyards and making wine until a man named [by coincidence?] Noah!

1 And now it came to pass that Zeniff conferred the kingdom upon Noah, one of his sons; therefore Noah began to reign in his stead; and he did not walk in the ways of his father. 2 For behold, he did not keep the commandments of God, but he did walk after the desires of his own heart. And he had many wives and concubines. And he did cause his people to commit sin, and do that which was abominable in the sight of the Lord. Yea, and they did commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness.”  [Mosiah 11:1-2]

The Book of Mormon said some pretty bad things about King Noah.

14 And it came to pass that he placed his heart upon his riches, and he spent his time in riotous living with his wives and his concubines; and so did also his priests spend their time with harlots.

 15 And it came to pass that he planted vineyards round about in the land; and he built wine-presses, and made wine in abundance; and therefore he became a wine-bibber, and also his people.”  Mosiah 11:14-15

There is NO archaeological evidence that early Americans planted vineyards and/or built wine-presses like in the Bible.  But that did not stop Joseph Smith, Jr. from claiming that they did.  Notice that the painting shows King Noah as an obese monarch.  Early Americans had intoxicants that they used for religious visions, but instead of wine made from grapes, they primarily used tobacco, mushrooms and peyote.

Categories: Addictions, alcohol, alcoholism, drinking, Uncategorized, wine vine tree sampson nazarite forbidden intoxication, Word of Wisdom | Tags: | Leave a comment

What Does The Culture of Drinking In The Bible Suggest To Us About Similar American Indian History?

What is the “Culture of Drinking?”

Most of us have a set of understandings and knowledge about alcoholic beverages that we use automatically in our daily lives.  Beer bottles are instantly recognizable for their shape and color, if not for the taste of the liquid contents.  We assume that others have the same set of thoughts when applying this to drinking alcoholic beverages.  This is called the “Culture of Drinking.”

There was a culture of drinking that has been handed down to us by ancient traditions.  I am most familiar with traditions that have come from Judao-Christianity.  These were recorded in the Old and New Testament in the Bible.

One of the famous paintings in the Sistene Chapel in the Vatican depicted  the drunkenness of Noah [above].   It was painted by Michaelangelo.   Prior to Noah’s getting drunk [and naked] there was no mention of wine or drunkenness in the Old Testament.   There are plenty of references to drinking in the Bible and over the years.   Many different words were used to depict drunkenness and drinking.  (for a list of these words, click HERE)

Drinking, getting drunk and topics related to wine abound in the Bible.  I will include a few examples here to set the stage for my main thesis.

Lot and Drinking

The Biblical account of Lot describes a man who is left with only his daughters after his wife has been turned into a pillar of salt by God.  Presumably, they thought that they were the only mortals left on earth after the destruction of the wicked city of Sodom and Gomorrah.  His daughters, desirous of having children to perpetuate Lot’s posterity decided that they needed to have sex with their Father.  Knowing that he would not willingly comply with their plan, the Biblical account says that his daughters got him so drunk on two consecutive nights that he had no recollection of having sex with them but still was able to accomplish the act of procreation with both daughters.  [See Genesis 19]

Lot is plied with wine by his daughters

Without wine, presumably, Lot would not have had grandchildren.  Modern thinking, however would cast doubt on the facts of the event, as a man who is so drunk as to not know that he is having sex with his own daughters is highly unlikely to be sexually able to perform physically.

Not all tribal culture of ancient Israel, however, were focused on wine drinking.  The vow of the Rechabites and the Nazirite were two examples of Israelite prohibition of wine and drunkenness.   The Biblical character of Samson had been raised from birth to abstain from all wine — or even of touching grape leaves (as well as cutting his hair or coming into contact with a corpse).  It was only after breaking this vow that he became weak enough to be made a slave.

Alcoholic beverages in the Bible almost always referred to grape wine.  The discovery of distillation did not come till about 1,000 AD and although beer was regularly in use, wine was preferred.  When you come across a reference to “strong drink” or “liquor” in the Bible, it referred to wine — although sometimes wine could have its alcoholic content enhanced in various ways.

The Birthright of Isaac

Would Isaac have given his birthright to Jacob instead of Esau were it not for the deception that was used through drinking wine and tricking him by wearing an animal skin (see Genesis 27)?  Would Jacob have married two women (Leah and Rachel)  instead of the one he wanted (Rachel) if he had not been tricked on his wedding day by getting him drunk and marrying the wrong woman?  (See Genesis 29)

Vinyard in Ancient Egypt

Wine as an Essential Part of God’s Covenant

By Jesus’ time, wine (at least in the Middle East) was used to seal covenants, bind marriages, and to honor guests.  It represented most of the important occasions of celebration from birth to death.  For example, four cups of wine were to be drunk during the Feast of the Passover.  (See Exodus 12)   Wine was even used as an intrinsic part of the circumcision ritual.  It’s appearance of reddish color reminded one of the blood of God or of Israel.

Throughout the Old Testament, wine is depicted as a sign of God’s blessing (Gen 27:8; Deut 7:13; Amos 9:14).  The “gladdening of the heart” that wine created was not only thought to be acceptable, but was positively recommended (2 Sam:13:28; Esther 1:10; Ps. 104:15; Eccl 9:7 and 10:9; Zech 9:15 and 10:7).

The fact that God, wine and drinking were all very important and interrelated is highlighted by the fact that — over thousands of years, monks owned, cultivated and presided over the wine-making process.  Profits from the sale of wine and liquor often kept the monasteries financially afloat.

The liquor-making cellar of the Ettal monastery in Bavaria, Germany. Large bottles of secret flavorings line the shelf.

Many of the fermentation and bottling processes were discovered (and kept secret) by experiments of the monks, including how wine could be forced to undergo a second fermentation that yielded sparkling wines and champagnes.

Monks traditionally made and secured the secrets of making and storing wine

The word, “pervasive” describes the importance and ever present role of wine to Israelites.  It was so important that even the cups, containers and bottles that contained wine gained elevated value.  (Remember, that it was the king’s drinking cup that was used to trick the sons of Israel in coming to Egypt)

Wine became an essential part of the ritual communion.  It represented the blood of Christ to Christians.

But within a relatively short distance geographically, wine came to represent an evil drink.   Wine was “haram” – forbidden.

Linguistically, khamr (خمر) Arabic for “wine”, is alcohol derived from grapes. This is what is prohibited by specific texts of the Quran (see 5:90). Therefore alcohol is categorically unlawful (haraam) and considered impure (najis). Consuming any amount is unlawful, even if it doesn’t create any drunken effects.

The Prophet Muhammad of Islam said, “Intoxicants are from these two trees,” while pointing to grapevines and date-palms. Alcohol derived from dates or raisins is also prohibited, again regardless of the amount consumed, as explained on Islamic site Seekers Guidance.

At first, a general warning was given to forbid Muslims from attending prayers while in a drunken state (Quran, 4:43). Then a later verse was revealed to Prophet Muhammad which said that while specifically alcohol had some medicinal benefits, the negative effects of it outweighed the good (Quran, 2:219).

Finally, “intoxicants and gambling” were called “abominations of Satan’s handiwork,” which warned people with self-consciousness to not turn away from God and forget about prayer, and Muslims were ordered to abstain (Quran, 5:90-91).

The Prophet Muhammad also instructed his companions to avoid any intoxicating substances (paraphrased), “if it intoxicates in a large amount, it is forbidden even in a small amount.” For this reason, most observant Muslims avoid alcohol in any form, even small amounts that are sometimes used in cooking.  (http://www.greenprophet.com/2011/11/muslims-alcohol-haraam/)

The reason why wine was selected as a religious item is not difficult to conclude.  As Edward Hyams has written,

“[T]he strange power of intoxicants to release the human spirit from the control of the mind led to their being regarded with superstitious awe and, seized upon by shamans, witch doctors and priests, they became early and everywhere instruments of religious experience.  Their use became a religious rite, and this was the case of wine as of the others.”

Dionysus: A Social History of the Wine Vine (New York: Macmillan, 1965), 7

Whatever the reasons that wine was chosen in the ancient world as the beverage of the gods, it was generally associated with religious feasts, celebrations and ordinances.  Its use was intended to please the deities who control our lives and actions.

Wine’s Importance In Jesus’ Time

Notwithstanding the fact that Jesus’s cousin, John The Baptist, abstained from wine as part of his Nazirite vow, Jesus selected wine as  the substance to demonstrate his power and calling when his first “miracle” was at a wedding ceremony was to magically turn water into wine.  This wine was declared to be the “best” wine.

Marriage at Cana where Jesus magically turned water into fine wine

Wine was selected also by Jesus Christ represent his blood that was shed for their sins.

Wine and Alcohol Before European Contact in the Americas

Although one of the labels that applied to the Americas was “Vinland” – or land of vines, grape vines of the types found in Europe and the Middle East did not exist in North and South America until starts were brought from Europe.   (Most historians claim that it was not grapes that gave America that label, but cranberries)    Similarly, none of the culture of drinking wine existed in the Americas either.  When alcohol was initially given to American Indians, their reaction was often very negative – partly because of the effects that drinking had on them and partly because historically, their cultural intoxicant was not alcohol, but tobacco.

He called it [alcohol] urine of the chief of hell.

— Jean Bossu, Travels (1771)

The original American intoxicant – tobacco

The “culture of drinking” that was widely known in Europe and the Middle East simply did not exist in the Americas.

The reasons for this are many.

American Indians did not have the same kind of pottery technology that existed in Europe and the Middle East.  The nomadic lifestyle of American Indians did not allow the cultivation of numerous vineyards because of the amount of care that is required — often requiring several years of elaborate care before a proper harvest could be made.   Being a gardener of such responsibility when the family or tribe moved to follow the herds of game was basically impossible.   At the time of European discovery of the Americas, most American Indians were nomadic or semi-nomadic and rarely did groups or tribes have gardens or farms that they tended.  Grape vines required regular maintenance and care that American Indian cultures could not  maintain in any significant degree.  These tribal cultures had very limited knowledge of pottery-making except in certain areas.  Storage of fermented drinks was extremely difficult under their living conditions anyway.  If supplies of fermenting fruit changed into wine, the Indians simply did not have the technology to store and care for the wine that was produced.

This is not to say that American Indians did not occasionally drink fermented beverages.  All that it takes to make a fermented drink that contains alcohol (after fermentation) is water; sugar of some kind and yeast.  Yeast is in the air we breathe.  It covers most or all fruits as they ripen and will sometimes even cause fermentation accidentally if fruits, happen to fall in small pools of water and ferment in the sun.

Yeast grows on the skins of most berries as they ripen

Berries and other fruits grow all over the world — from arctic to tropical regions.  Although Eskimo cultures have not had the resources to have a wine tradition, even here, wine can easily be made.  All you have to do is pick the berries on the tundra, put them in a jar alone with water and keep it warm enough to allow fermentation — which will happen due to the yeast on the skin of the berries.  Fermentation can also happen if you use other substances that have sugars in them — like honey.

Transplanting The Middle East (Biblical) Culture Of Drinking Alcohol To The Book Of Mormon Lands

Joseph Smith wrote in the Book of Mormon that when the resurrected Jesus appeared in the American hemisphere, that he instituted the sharing of wine in remembrance of him in a manner similar to what is described in the New Testament.   There was a difference, however in the Book of Mormon account (3 Nephi 20: 1-9).   Where the first miracle of Jesus in the New Testament has him changing water into wine, the Book of Mormon account has him miraculously producing BOTH bread AND wine where none had been there before (kind of like doing one-upsmanship to the Bible’s account at the Marriage at Canaa where Jesus was claimed to have turned plain water into wine).

Since I have a tendency to question everything, I have been left with many questions about Joseph Smith’s account of Jesus instituting wine in the Book of Mormon:

Why would Jesus have instituted the drinking of wine at all as a spiritual experience among the Book of Mormon people?  Culturally, they had used tobacco as the means of having spiritual experiences, not wine or alcohol in any significant degree.

Why would it have been important to provide bread and wine supernaturally?  Would this have shown Christ’s power in a more convincing way than Native Shamans would have been able to do?

If Jesus had taught the American Natives about the emblems of the sacrament (as claimed in the Book of Mormon), why has there been absolutely no archaeological findings that show that such a sacred ceremony has endured among Native American folklore?

The entire idea of taking the culture of drinking from the Middle East and claiming that the native culture of the Americas used the same values  seems unconvincing and  unbelievable to me.

 

Categories: alcohol, alcoholism, beer, drinking | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

1985 in Sitka — Meeting a Personal Hero

During the winter of 1985, I had been working for nearly seven years in researching and writing a book about Alaska’s early alcohol history.  I had a lot of ideas floating through my head about writing this book.

I actually felt a little proud of myself for sitting down to write in sufficient detail and expertise to know that within a couple years I may get my book published.  (It actually WAS published three years later in 1988.)

I was living in Sitka, Alaska and heard through news reports that a famous writer would be staying in Sitka for a few months while researching his own book about Alaska history.

The writer was the famous James A. Michener.  He was using the library of the local Sheldon Jackson College as the base for his writing and stayed in a small cottage called “Adams Cottage”.  This cottage was less that a half mile from my house.   Sheldon Jackson College was founded at roughly the same time as Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.  It was operated by the United Presbyterian church.  The subject of his new book was Alaska.

I knew that Mr. Michener was internationally recognized as one of the great American writers.  He had written books about Hawaii, the South Pacific, Texas and many other books.  He was now seventy eight years old and was staying in Sitka right next to where I lived!  I resolved to meet Mr. Michener – who had written nearly 40 books and had received the Pulitzer Prize  for fiction in 1948 for “Tales of the South Pacific” when I was only five years old.  He was now 78 years old and was in good health.  (His book was made into a musical called “South Pacific” by Rogers and Hamerstein.)

I told a friend of mine (Mike Jefferies, a US Coast Guard pilot) to join me in walking over to the cottage that Mr. Michener was staying in with his wife, Mari.  He accepted my offer to accompany me — not fully realizing WHO it was that I planned to meet.

I knocked on the cottage door and was greeted by Mr. Michener himself.  Before I could sputter out  who we were and why we were standing in his doorway, he had invited us inside and sat us down on the living room sofa.

A more cordial host will never be found in my lifetime.  He was the epitome of graciousness and hospitality and asked me questions about my own research and writings.  I was awestruck.

I came away from that spontaneous interview with a great admiration of that man.

I learned a lesson that evening:  If I ever get the chance to meet a famous person, nothing will happen unless I get off my butt and go out and try to make it happen.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I was reminded about his event last week when Mike and his wife, Merrilyn came over for dinner.

Categories: alcohol | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Fish Chowder – Monkfish

This recipe will work well with virtually all kinds of fish.  I initially worked out this recipe because I had heard of a “monkfish” and had never tasted it.  I wanted to see what it tasted like, so I worked on a recipe that would go well with it.

My first problem was finding a store that stocked monkfish.  I finally found it at the “Whole Foods” store in Boise, Idaho.  It is not typically stocked in the neighborhood Fred Meyer or Costco or Albertsons.

A monkfish is an ugly fish with a delicious meat that has been referred to as a “poor man’s lobster” because of its taste and texture.  It still commands about $15 per pound, so it is not particularly the cheapest kind of fish to buy.  You can easily substitute sockeye salmon or halibut, but they are not particularly inexpensive fish either.  (NOTE: I am from Alaska and when I use salmon, it will be either sockeye salmon, silver salmon or king salmon – other species of salmon  are not nearly as flavorful or have good enough texture for my cooking.)

Here are the ingredients for my Monkfish Chowder:

3 TBS butter                                            1   1/2 cups chopped white onion

6 large mushrooms (I use portabello brown mushrooms)

2 stalks celery                                         6 cups chicken broth

4 cups peeled & diced red potatoes    1 tsp Old Spice seasoning

salt and pepper to taste                         1/2 cup flour

4 cups half & half                                    1/2 lb bacon

2 lbs monkfish

Start by melting 3 TBS butter in a saucepan over low-medium heat on the top of the stove.  Mix in 1 1/2 cups of minced onion and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Add sliced mushrooms and sliced celery stalks.  Simmer for another 5-10 minutes.

Add 5 cups chicken broth (hold out 1 cup for thickening).  Peal and dice red potatoes till you have four cups of diced potatoes.  You can use other kinds of potatoes, but the firmness suffers a little.

Bring the mixture to a low boil and add Old Spice seasoning, salt and pepper to taste.  Allow the mixture to boil or simmer till the potatoes are cooked.

While the mixture cooks, dice the monkfish into small pieces.  One of my pet peeves is to make a fish chowder that has more vegetables than fish.

Add the monkfish to the mixture and allow to cook for five minutes.

Take one cup of chicken broth and stir in 1/2 cup of flour till it is not lumpy.  This is the thickener.  Add the thickener to the entire mixture.

Last of all, stir in 4 cups of half & half.  Heat the chowder till it is about 180 degrees.  Don’t overcook or the chowder will burn on the bottom with the milk added to it.

Dice the bacon into small pieces.  Saute the  bacon in a frying pan.  Drain the bacon grease and scatter the bacon on top of your chowder as you serve it.

I added the bacon, because my son Kyle likes virtually anything with bacon on or in it, so maybe he will try to make this recipe.

Enjoy!

Categories: Cooking | Tags: | 2 Comments

Lies, Lies and More Lies

A recurring frustration that people often have with politics, corporate and religious organizations is the feeling of anger that you (I)  have when they have been lied to.

Government Officials Lying

I recall the feeling of betrayal that I felt against the former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, when I found out that his testimony before the United Nations about the presence of chemical weapons in Iraq as a  justification for war against Iraq was fundamentally a lie and misstatement.  (A summary of the issues in this event is located on the internet at the Institute For Public Accuracy.)

Powell up till that realization was one of the government officials that I trusted and admired.

I knew from years of my own government service that it was the DUTY of public officials (at least in the military) to support the leaders of the country — no matter what.  I am reading a new book by Robert Gates about his service as Secretary of Defense (“Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War“) and in it he relates how angry Pres George Bush II was at Admiral Mike Mullen when Admiral Mullen gave his honest (negative) appraisal of the situation of the war in Afghanistan.  His appraisal went against what Pres Bush had been saying about the progress in the war and came close to getting him fired as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Honesty can get you into trouble as a government employee — or politician.

Industry officials Lying

Similarly, business corporations are fundamentally opposed to being candid and forthright about dangers that their products and techniques present to our citizens.  The dangers of pesticides were not admitted by pesticide businesses until long after the book, “Silent Spring“, by Rachel Carson exposed the dangers she documented.  The safety of automobiles was not questioned until after the book “Unsafe At Any Speed“, by Ralph Nader showed the dangers of automobiles.  Many changes that have been mandated by US laws included safety belts, safer door latches and impact inflatable bags that protect occupants.

The car wreck above happened within about five miles of my home last month.  The man driving the car survived because the car crumbled as it was designed to do while shielding him inside.  He owes his life to changes in car manufacturing that have come about due to automobiles that are better designed to withstand impacts such as this.

I remember the protestations made by the car industry of the need to make safer cars many years ago.  I also remember the contempt that the industry displayed toward the whistle blower, Mr. Nader and his allegations of the industry deliberately ignoring small and relatively inexpensive changes that they could have taken on their own initiative.

I also remember the pretended anger of the tobacco companies when they were accused of marketing products that cause many health problems in those who smoke.  They even produced “scientific” studies that they funded and designed that purported to show that smoking was safe and not in need of any new governmental regulations.  We know the results now of the negative aspects of the use of tobacco products.

 Religious Leaders Lying

I occasionally read exit stories of people who have become extremely dissatisfied with their religious leaders.  One common thread is that they have felt betrayed by either the organizational church through doctrine, indoctrination or teachings of one kind or another — or they feel that a church leader lied or grossly misrepresented the truth.  It makes little difference if the “Prophet” really believed his own predictions or if if he/she was only out to hood-wink the church’s followers.

The most obvious might include prophecies and predictions of Christ’s coming on a certain date — or the end of the world as we know it.   If the calculated date comes and goes without the event happening, we can be fairly confident that the prediction was either a hoax or a lie.  With the advantage of the internet and looking in retrospect, we can decide if the Church or the prophecy was accurate.

A religious organization called “Heaven’s Gate” and led by a self-proclaimed prophet, Marshall Applewhite is one example of a prophecy gone wrong.  He predicted that a space ship would visit earth at the time a comet (Halle-Bopp) was visible in the sky and the faithful would be taken up into eternal life.  Applewhite and his believers committed mass suicide as the comet approached and we now see that his predictions were false.

In the early 1840′s, a preacher named William Miller predicted the end of the world would happen soon and gathered many followers.  When the world did not end in 1844, as predicted, his followers became disillusioned and scattered to other religions.  The event became known as Great Disappointment.

The specific date of Christ’s return was to be on October 22, 1844, was preached by Samuel S. Snow. Thousands of followers, some of whom had given away all of their possessions, waited expectantly.   One of his followers (called Millerites), wrote of his expectant waiting:

I waited all Tuesday [October 22] and dear Jesus did not come;– I waited all the forenoon of Wednesday, and was well in body as I ever was, but after 12 o’clock I began to feel faint, and before dark I needed someone to help me up to my chamber, as my natural strength was leaving me very fast, and I lay prostrate for 2 days without any pain– sick with disappointment.

It is difficult for me to put myself in the place of people who were so immersed in following their religious leaders as to sell or give away  all they had and then sit on the porch waiting expectantly for Jesus to return only to be hood-winked at the scam.  Yet, I was brought up in the “Mormon” church where I was often taught in meetings about the “wonderful” discussion by Joseph Smith Jr. about how I should follow church leaders without question.  Joseph Smith taught that “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.”

So, as a member of the “Mormon”  church, I should believe and follow church leaders without questioning, complaining or asking for changes.  How easy is it for any religious leader to lie to church members when they only follow like lemmings?

When a number of Catholic priests were accused of child sexual abuse, the church leaders minimized the problems and being inconsequential.  But only as incontrovertible evidence became common knowledge,  was anything significant done to stop or minimize the problem.  There was evidence that the church only moved the accused priests to other parishes where they could often continue to abuse children.

When religious bodies are sued in courts, the results of the settlements are often secret and unavailable to authorities and the general public.

Church leaders will sometimes hide information — just like governments or corporations do to make them appear to be totally devoid of problems.  I consider this as dishonest as lying.  They hide financial documents.  They claim exemption from scrutiny.  They claim to be correct — even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

I am gratified that the “Mormon” church started in 2013 to publish more complete historical essays about sensitive topics of their history.  Till then, reliable information about polygamy, Book of Mormon changes, different First Vision accounts and other topics seemed to be only shoved under the carpet.  Joseph Smith’s prophecies are well documented, but not fully discussed — even by members in the church.

One topic that irritates me — maybe more than it should — is the implied acceptance of Old Testament accounts of reality.  This flies in the face of science and historical information that is ignored by fundamentalist Christian religions.  While the official line of the church leaders is essentially, “We don’t exactly know HOW God created the earth”, it subtly, but constantly takes the side of ancient Christianity in historical information.  For example, science gives NO credibility of the 7,000 year Creationist version of mankind and earthly history — or to the reality of a 900-year-old man who saved human-kind by building a ship in which he put all living animals.  Yet in February 2014′s Ensign magazine there is an article about Noah as though he actually lived and accomplished all that is recorded in the Old Testament.  I consider this kind of information to be deceitful as much as an outright lie.

The official statements glorify education and knowledge, but the application still relies on inaccurate Biblical records and the elevation of tradition over science.

How can members of these churches feel that they share “TRUTH” when they disavow the reality of science knowledge as much as the Catholic church denied the celestial findings of Copernicus?

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Goin’ Home – Our Reunion Mentality of Heaven

Before he died two weeks ago (executed by lethal injection for murder), Dennis McGuire thanked the family of the woman he raped and murdered in 1989 for their “kind words” in a letter he apparently received from them.

I’m going to heaven, I’ll see you there when you come,” he said.

While there is some disagreement as to whether Mr. McGuire’s spirit or soul will be “going to heaven”, by all accounts, he should be headed the opposite direction for the bad things he did in his life.

What is commonly thought by relatives and friends of recently deceased individuals is that the recently departed is headed for a reunion “in heaven” that will be wonderful and joyous.  It will be a emotional and happy reunion of friends and will be attended to by Jesus (“Heavenly Father”, or other God).

One obituary in the local newspaper is typical when it stated confidently: “XXXX passed away into the loving arms of our Lord on Friday, January 24, 2014.”

I have yet to see an obituary that said anything close to the following: “XXXX ceased living last Friday.  His soul returned to the stars from whence it came 55 years ago.”

It is not unusual for an obituary in Idaho to include language that indicates that the deceased was reunited with his/her loving parents/children/relatives/friends in heaven.  Some include reunions with loved pets of all kinds and descriptions.  Typically, these reunions will NOT include reunions with people we once loved, but who they were divorced from many years ago.

Yes, I know that there are many different ideas about what happens at the time our mortal life on earth ends.   Generally, the answers to such questions is left up to religion.  Some ideas of what it might be like defy intelligent consideration.  It is not unusual to believe that heaven will have streets paved with gold (as if gold has any value there) and we will have mansions of glorious size to dwell in forever.

When I finally realized that I was not afraid of death; that death is no more or less than a part of life, I was able to relax and enjoy life.  It no longer troubled me to not know more about where I came from or where I am going.   I had no fear that I had to please a judgmental God.

Categories: being good, family, fear, hell death | Tags: | 2 Comments

A Letter to A CES Director

A friend of mine posted to his blog some issues that he had to face as he made up his own mind about religion.

 

I am sharing this as a fairly good summary of issues that I have also found and that may help you in your sear for truth and happiness,

 

Letter-to-a-CES-Director

 

 

Categories: blacks, christ, Credo | Tags: | Leave a comment

Praying For Rain – The Intersection of Weather and Religion

I went to church with my wife last Sunday.  During the sacrament meeting, the Bishop gave some special remarks to the congregation about praying and fasting for rain.

We live now in Nampa, Idaho, where rainfall is traditionally scarce.  On occasion, the rainfall is lower than hoped for and residents are beseeched to fast and pray for rain.  This is not unusual in a desert area like ours.  From one year to the next, it can rain all that is needed or it can cease raining for so long that priests and ministers of all descriptions admonish believers to fast and pray for rain. American Indians are known for several different rain dances that they have used for millennium to summon the Gods to activate weather patterns that allow for rain.

The motivation can be for farmers and their crops  — or for recreational pursuits.  At times, rainfall over several years can cause problems of many different kinds.

The Bible has references that indicate that prayer can change weather patterns — as well as move mountains.

James 5:17-18

17 Elias was a man subject to like apassions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it brained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.

 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.

Prayers directed toward Gods of all kinds have been been used to try to change weather patterns that we don’t understand.  It is not just a Christian kind of activity.   All religions as far as I know have activities that are thought to be effective in causing rain.  Here is a list of some of the rain Gods that have special responsibilities to control rain on the earth:

There are many different gods of rain in different religions:

Aztec god Tlaloc, Millan Primary School in Mexico City

Keeping It Simple

When we see times of drought, we can easily conclude that all  we need is more rainfall.  But a more balanced approach to a solution probably could be to do more to conserve the water we have, practice farming methods that help retain water in the ground and use practices that more effectively retain water that we need.  We probably could do more to improve the quality of rain (avoid acid rain, etc.) and do reasonable actions that foster a spirit of “Stewardship” of our land and water resources.

In the talk in Church last Sunday, no mention at all was made of solutions other than to fast and pray for rain.  Both Idaho governments and corporations now are actively involved in cloud seeding — particularly to maximize the mountain snowpack to help farming in the spring.  Cloud seeding refers to using airplanes, ground based spray applications and chemicals to increase snowfall.  Divine Godly intervention is not  involved, but the effort has shown to be effective and useful as well as cost effective.

Does Prayer, Rain Dances and Other Religious Appeals To Diety Increase Rainfall?

Certainly a lot of people of all religions have some kind of faith that their meditations and prayer activities have some kind of positive result in getting God to listen and do something that He/She otherwise would not do.

As I understand, God knows what we need, loves us and has our best interests in mind.  He would not simply inflict drought on His children to force then to get on their knees, would He?  The positive actions of God in sending rain benefit BOTH the prayerful and the rebellious.  Rain falls on the just and the unjust in equal amounts.  Do God-fearing groups take the pressure off the god-less and Mother Nature through their prayers?

Even some politicians get involved — whether for the political benefits or the water, no one knows.

Even in present-day America, there are recent examples of legislators asking citizens to request precipitation from the deity of his or her choice. Former Alabama Governor Bob Riley signed a proclamation in June 2007 asking Alabamians to pray for rain to help break the drought that gripped a large swath of the country.

A few months later and following in Riley’s footsteps, former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue held a controversial public prayer rally on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol in an attempt to break the drought through divine intervention.

More recently, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed a proclamation declaring April 22-24, 2011 the “Days of Prayer for Rain in Texas” in order to end the devastating drought of 2011 that crippled much of the southern and central United States, but hit Texas especially hard. The worst of the dry spell, which cost the state economy many billions of dollars in damages and lost crops, lasted for over half a year (and still lingers to this day) before conditions finally allowed for more reliable rainfall to penetrate the heat dome and rejuvenate the parched landscape.

I have to also remark, that if we spend our prayer and meditation energy to change the will of God, shouldn’t we be asking for something more worthy of the followers of God instead of making a bit more local rain — like:

  • Solutions to world hunger
  • Ways to stop war
  • Ways to heal the sick and poor

I’m writing this today because it seems to me that it is always better to actually DO SOMETHING than to simply pray that God makes our lives easier and more comfortable?

Now, don’t misunderstand me!  I have nothing at all against prayer to focus our consciousness on problems that need to be addressed.  My problem is with shirking the responsibility for change to others, God or such entities in favor of just closing our eyes (literally) to the changes that will not be made without our doing MORE than just praying.

Categories: Prayer | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Removing myself from Religion — and the LDS Church in Particular.

It has been about five years since I resigned from the LDS church.  I had been a member from birth, through high school and seminary, through a mission to the Eastern Atlantic States in 1963-65. through forty years of marriage in the Salt Lake LDS Temple, through callings and activities from boy scout leader to Branch President (twice), counselor to bishops.

I notified my siblings and my children of my decision to resign from the church by emailing this letter (attached in its fullness).

I feel that it is time to share this very private correspondence on my blog.  I hope that it will help you in understanding what I went through.

——————–

I have some information to share with all of you. I have decided to give each of you the authorization to share it with your spouses, children, or other relatives, but not with non-relatives.
Ever since the horrible events of September 11, 2001, I have thought long and hard about people who use religion to kill, hurt, humiliate and otherwise act in hateful ways toward other humans. I have noted those who would try to get others to ‘follow’ people they consider to be prophets — and act in ways that would take people’s money, freedom, curiosity, common sense, and try to suppress those who ask ‘WHY?’
I have tried with every fiber of my being to follow the counsel of church leaders — even when Joseph Fielding Smith addressed me personally to proclaim [at a temple priesthood meeting] that Noah’s ark was a literal event that followed in every way the Biblical account. I tried to accept the unbelievable — that Noah put penguins and polar bears and every species on earth into a boat together, etc. etc.
I have seen the [LDS] church and others take all their donations and tell us not to ask questions about what they do with it.
I have seen the church tie donations to worthiness for priesthood blessings and temple attendance.
I have seen the church leaders change doctrine in the blink of an eye [cursed skin of blacks, polygamy, etc]
while telling us that they do not need to explain since their consensus demonstrates that God has spoken.
I have seen the explanations for the lack of Book of Mormon archaeology vary over the years — even to claiming that God hid all the evidence of B of M people so that we could use faith instead of evidence to believe.
I have finally decided that THERE SIMPLY IS NOT ENOUGH EVIDENCE FOR ME TO CONTINUE TO BELIEVE IN THE LDS CHURCH — OR ANY OTHER CHURCH FOR THAT MATTER.
Please note that I am not trying to convince you or anyone else that I am right and everyone else is wrong in this matter. I am only saying that I can simply no longer try to believe or teach others what is obviously unsupportable by common sense. I don’t know what to think of God. Maybe this is atheism. maybe it is agnostic. Maybe it is just being myself for a change and saying that it simply doesn’t make sense to me.
As of January 2, 2009, I resigned from the LDS church. I have felt not only good since then about this decision, but I feel that a weight has been lifted from me that bound me to lie and misrepresent my thoughts in hopes that others knew more about such things than I did.
I was NOT excommunicated. I resigned. If you doubt this, you can double check this fact with Ann. There was NO pending court action. There was no one that hurt my tender feelings. I did this by simply coming out of a figurative closet into the light of honesty.
Thayne Andersen
Categories: family, fear, mission | Tags: | 3 Comments

Marriage Experiments in the 19th Century in the US

The 19th century was an interesting one to study for sociologists.  Many different kinds of family and marriage structures made their appearance during this century.  The idea that there is only one kind of marriage was challenged on nearly every level.

I think that most people today are fairly unaware that the concept of “traditional marriage” (one man and one woman making promises) had many variations.   Sure, they know about polygamy, but what other kinds of marriage could there be?

Well, to start with, even the word, “polygamy” is misunderstood.  The marriage of one man to more than one woman is more accurately named polygyny.   The word, “polygamy” is actually the taking of multiple marriage partners of whatever sex.  Having one woman take more than one husband is polyandry.  In the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the “Mormons”), BOTH polygyny and polyandry was practiced and documented by some LDS leaders – particularly Joseph Smith, Jr., the first leader and prophet of the church.

But polygamy was by far not the only kind of experiment in challenging marriage in the 19th century.

The Shaking Quakers

Quakers had a significant influence in early US history.  Their simple, sturdy and functional furniture was one aspect of early Quaker life.  They also had firm ideas about healthy eating and sexual ethics.  They were among the earliest religious groups, for example, to accept homosexuality as normal (if not ideal) behavior.  William Penn was noted for his role in the early history of Pennsylvania.

Officially called “The Society of Friends“, the Quakers generally married in a traditional way.  But one small group of Quakers were called the “Shaking Quakers“.  These religious people believed that sexual abstinence — even in marriage — was preferable to a more intimate way of life.  They did not believe in marriage at all, but kept sexual abstinence as the highest way of life.  As the Apostle Paul declared in I Corinthians 7:8-10  I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.  But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.  And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:

The Shaking Quakers basically did not marry or have children or engage in marital sex, but maintained their membership only through missionary work.

Both Brigham Young and Joseph Smith, Jr. were exposed to members who were Quakers and their thoughts about marriage, family and sex.  Many early converts to Joseph Smith’s new religion came from Quaker backgrounds.  But LDS leaders always believed that the Old Testament teaching of Genesis 2:18 that “It is not good for man to be alone” was more correct than sexual abstinence.

The Oneida Experiment

Only about 15 years after Joseph Smith started the LDS church in New York, another religious leader, John Humphrey Noyes, started another special religion in New York: the Oneida Community.    Noyes had a system that we could refer to as “Complex Marriage”.  It was a form of “Free Love” — where any member of the community could have sex with any other member of the community — so long as it was done by free consent and not coercion.  Possessiveness and exclusive relationships were frowned upon.


John Humphrey Noyes quickly got into trouble with the law by being charged with adultery and statutory rape.  He had to flee to avoid jail — much like LDS leaders who were charged with inappropriate relationships with women.

Perhaps the reader has heard on Oneida silverware.  This was one of the items that was manufactured in this religious community that earned a reputation for quality and good workmanship.

Brook Farm

Ten years after Joseph Smith started his restored religion in New York, a group of religious people founded a transcendentalist colony in Massachusetts.  It encouraged industrious work in a farming setting.  It tested the principles of socialist labor in a collective environment.  It was called “Brook Farm“.  Nathaniel Hawthorn was a founding member of this communal experiment that was a kind of “United Order” that was soon to be tried in the LDS communities under the title of the Law of Consecration.  While not a genuine marriage experiment, it was another attempt at trying to put into practice an economic concept under which religious families (sometimes polygamous) could share all things without possessiveness.

Commentary

My effort in this blog post is to suggest a setting for early Mormon thought regarding the restoration as it pertained to Mormon history.  Joseph Smith Jr., I think, saw himself as a leader in restoring things that others hadn’t thought about for centuries.  He started polygamy and even had “spiritual marriages” that were unlikely to be much more than that — devoid of very much physical affection due to the need to keep the religious marriage ceremony secret — from even Joseph Smith’s first wife, Emma.  He had no documented children other than those from his first wife.

Mormon polygamy was thought to be a concept that taught both the men and the women who practiced it to be non-possessive.  This lack of possessiveness was most probably one of the primary aspects of LDS polygamy.  It is also a trait of modern-day polygamy as presented on TV reality shows.  The participants have a sense of belonging and “family” without trying to be very possessive of individual affections.  They are still dominated by patriarchal men, but not in the same way as monogamous marriages.

LDS polygamy may have been a “mistake”, but it did accomplish a modern-day experience of what some Old Testament marriages might have faced in regard to sexuality, communal living and sharing.

Categories: Marriage, polygamy, sex, temple SLC mormon creation adam, Uncategorized | Tags: | Leave a comment