Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"What do you believe?"

I get asked this question on occasion. Not very often, because most of my immediate family and former friends seem to think I don't believe in anything, but on occasion. The question is usually preceded by some sort of statement about how important faith is. So far, I've been brushing this question off; my beliefs are my business, not anyone else's. But after thinking about it, I'm going to try to express a few of my beliefs.

I believe in Led Zeppelin, white sand beaches, the wind in the trees, thunderstorms, inside straights, and the Fire Zone Blitz.

I believe in laughter, and snowflakes, and good-night kisses that last until sunrise.

These are some of the things I believe in. Now tell me...what the hell do I need faith for?

Friday, October 30, 2009

You Tube video: "Why Atheists Care About YOUR Religion"

While I consider myself an agnostic, I'm going to pass this one on. This young lady seems very passionate and surprisingly sincere, and I think this makes for good food for thought. (It probably doesn't hurt that she has really pretty eyes, but I seriously digress:P)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Facebook has informed me that this is General Conference weekend.

Repeatedly. Overwhelmingly. Ad nauseum, in fact. So far I've managed to keep my mouth shut, but it's wearing thin. There is no way I used to go on and on about conference like that.

And as a quiet warning in case somebody I know is actually reading this: so far I've taken a "Live and Let Live" approach to my friends/family in the mormon church. I have my beliefs, they have their beliefs. But if anyone decides to "courageously confront" me and bring me "back to the fold," it works both ways. If you try to convert me to your beliefs, I am entitled to try to convert you to mine. And I know for a fact that mormons really HATE when historical facts are brought into a religious discussion. That's understandable, since the facts firmly contradict what they believe.

So anyone who's willing to learn something: go ahead and ask. I'll be happy to oblige. But for the ones who are only trying to follow that "wonderful counsel" (WTF!?) that was given, don't. It is SO MUCH safer not to poke the bear.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Truly excellent documentary on the Book of Abraham.

Nearly an hour long; but well-done, informative, easy to understand and generally very objective.

Here's to my first YouTube link:P

Or a URL if that's what you prefer. (And if so...what is wrong with you, dude!? :P)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The entire process.

To make this simpler for others who want to avoid being necro-dunked by the mormon church, I'm going to post the entire text of all the letters I sent/received during the process; as well as the address I ended up sending the final letter to. This way I can just link to this post when people ask me for details:)

*NOTE* I'm removing my name, birthdate, address, etc as that isn't important to the process. I suggest that anyone writing their own letter include all of that--the same info as in a resignation letter. For the sake of streamlining the process, I would probably mention that you know this has ALREADY BEEN DONE, otherwise they'll try to stall...and they may still. This is new territory, and I'm not 100% sure how SLC is going to handle this from now on.

On May 19th, addressed to the 1st Prez:

Dear Sirs,

I resigned from the LDS church in July of 2008, though the removal of my name from your records is only now being completed. I was informed by the Membership and Statistical Records Division that there is no administrative office for a request such as this one, so in the absence of existing official channels I am presenting it to you personally.

I know that when my name is removed from the membership rolls, it is simply put into a different file away from the standard records. This is, ostensibly, in case I change my mind and wish to return to the LDS church. I also know that no temple ordinances can be performed on my behalf without First Presidency approval. I am as of this moment withdrawing my consent to these ordinances, and directing you to place either a brief instructional note or a copy of this letter into my former membership file. The note should make it clear that my name is not to be used in any proxy ordinances, and that any violation will result in legal action by my estate.

By way of brief explanation, and to head off inevitable argument, I resent the implication that after the long and furiously annoying process of “name removal,” the LDS church believes it can simply baptize someone on my behalf and that process is undone. I find that kind of willful and flagrant disregard for my personal wishes deeply offensive, and I will not live the rest of my life with that hanging over my head. While I can understand the LDS practice of proxy-baptizing someone who did not have the “opportunity” to learn about your church, I think it is an entirely different matter for someone’s name to be used in the ritual despite their express objections.

Please do not attempt to stall or make me change my mind. I am quite certain that this is what I want, and will not be dissuaded by arguments that I can “choose not to accept” the ordinances. I was a member for over twenty years. I have already chosen. It is my name, and my responsibility. I find it absolutely disgusting that the LDS church reluctantly honors official resignations and proceeds with the process of name removal, only to rebaptize former members once they are no longer able to object. This does not bespeak of integrity in an organization, and I will not stand for it in my case.

I expect this matter to be dealt with promptly and efficiently. I also expect a single letter from you or your office, informing me that my instructions have been followed and containing your personal written assurance that my wishes will be honored. Refusal on your part would leave me with no other recourse than to pursue legal action.


They forwarded my letter to the Family History Dept, which sent me a standard PR letter shifting responsibility:

Dear Mr. [iBear]

You recently wrote to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to request that the Church ensure that vicarious temple work is not performed on your behalf upon your death. Your letter was forwarded to the Family History Department. I have been asked to respond on behalf of the department.

The Church on its own will not submit your name for temple work once you are deceased. The names of deceased persons that are submitted to temples for ordinances to be performed are contributed by individual members of the Church.

The Church counsels its members to identify their ancestral family members and provide temple ordinances for those who need them. Members also are counseled to be considerate of the feelings of close family members when submitting names of deceased relatives. It further counsels that for deceased persons born within the last 95 years, members should obtain the approval of the person's closest living relative before temple work is performed.

To help ensure that ordinances are not performed on your behalf after your death, please inform your family and relatives of your wishes.

We wish you well and pray that the Lord will bless you with peace and happiness.


Fred Graham
Family History Department

My second letter was mailed off on Aug. 4th, directly to Mr. Fred Graham at this address:

Family History Department
50 E. North Temple St. Rm. 599
Salt Lake City, UT 84150

Dear Mr. Graham,

I recently received your letter advising me to attempt to convince my family not to submit my name for temple work. You either grossly misunderstood me, or else you were deliberately trying to shift responsibility from the Mormon church. I will try to be very clear this time, so as to prevent any further slip-ups. I am well aware that stopping my name from ever being submitted is quite literally impossible, but that was not what I instructed in my last letter. Those names are being submitted to an organization--your organization--and the only reasonable way to ensure my name isn’t used in a proxy ordinance is to take it up with the organization directly.

As I am a former member, First Presidency approval is required before my name can be used in the temple.

2006 Church Handbook of Instructions, page 88:
First Presidency approval is required to perform temple ordinances for deceased persons who, at the time of their death, were excommunicated or had their names removed from Church membership records.

So my family (and anyone else) can submit my name as many times as they like, but the ultimate responsibility lies with the Mormon church. My name cannot be used in the administrative ordinance without deliberate action being taken by the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City. I am instructing you, and therefore them, not to take that action. No instructions could be simpler, or easier to follow.

My letter specifically requested that no attempt be made to stall this process. Further “misunderstandings” on the Mormon church’s part would be unfortunate, as that would force me to involve both the media and an attorney. I remind you that I have withdrawn my consent for any temple ordinances to be performed on my behalf. I consider them a violation of my First Amendment right to Freedom of Religion, and will respond accordingly. Place a note in my former membership file to that effect.

Now that things have been clarified, I expect one of the following from you or your offices: either a single letter of confirmation, informing me that my instructions have been followed and my wishes will be honored; or a single letter of refusal, informing me that my instructions have not been followed and the LDS church intends to use my name in its rituals despite my clear and repeated objections. I wish to reiterate that this second letter would leave me with no other recourse than to pursue legal action, and notify the media. I anxiously await your response.


A few days letter I received this short, utilitarian reply:

Dear Mr. [iBear],

On August 13 I gave your letters dated May 19, 2009, and August 4, 2009, to the Member and Statistical Records Division to be placed in your file.


Fred Graham
Family History Department

So that's everything you need to know. They did precisely what I told them to do, and I'm satisfied that my instructions have been followed.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

No necro-dunking for iBear!

Received a letter from Salt Lake City today, assuring me that my instructions had been followed: they have officially added my "Do Not Dunk" letters to my former membership file, essentially red-flagging it "DO NOT BAPTIZE"

Feels good:D

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Been thinking about this for a few weeks now.

And I think I've decided to put it on both my Political Blog AND my Ex-Mormon Blog. Either one seemed appropriate, so I'll double up.

I'm talking, of course, about the recent shooting of Dr. George Tiller, famous performer of late-term abortions. He was fatally shot while attending his church services on Sunday, May 31st.

His death--or rather the CIRCUMSTANCES of his death--once again forced me to consider my own views on this topic. And once again, I find myself arriving at the very same quandary.

Dr. Tiller's death was, without doubt or qualification, a cold-blooded murder. No matter how much "good" the shooter believed he was about to accomplish, there is NO justification for gunning down an unarmed man as he passes out programs at his church services.

But that isn't the topic I mentioned. I was referring to abortion.

I am more than familiar with the standard arguments: "No one has the right to take away a woman's control over her own body!" vs. "No one has the right to kill a healthy, viable unborn baby just because it's an INCONVENIENCE!"

Both arguments have some merit. The libertarian in me believes that an individual's rights can only be curtailed in cases where another individual's rights are being violated. So women DO and SHOULD have control over their own bodies. However, the other side of that argument is that a fetus IS potentially another individual, and therefore an abortion IS violating someone's rights: specifically the right to life.

This is certainly a subject that deserves consideration. But consideration has never been something that iBear shies away from, and with my experience in/around the medical field and my own areas of specialized study, I believe myself more capable than the average layperson of rendering that consideration.

First: in my considered opinion, a fetus at 8.5 months of pregnancy IS a human being, and is therefore entitled to basic human rights. Therefore, terminating the pregnancy at this point is effectively killing another human being, and therefore qualifies as a form of homicide. Of course there ARE sometimes extenuating circumstances--for example when the mother's life is in danger--and in those circumstances it is certainly acceptable to abort a pregnancy.

But on the other hand, a zygote at 8.5 DAYS of pregnancy is NOT a human being. It is simply a cluster of cells, and a cluster of cells is NOT entitled to human rights. Indeed, at 8.5 days the vast majority of women would have no idea that they were pregnant yet. Terminating the pregnancy at THIS point is NOT a form of homicide, as no human being has been injured. Life DOES NOT begin at conception.

So this is the formation of the quandary. A late-term fetus IS a human being, and DOES have rights. A cluster of stem cells is NOT a human being, and does NOT have rights. So at some point between conception and birth, the embryo becomes a person. Before this point, it has no rights. After this point, it does. But no one knows where this point is.

Currently, there are two controversial rules-of-thumb for locating the point when a zygote becomes a "person."

The first is the common pro-life suggestion that life begins at conception. They claim that a zygote itself fits the basic definition of biological life and therefore human rights attach from the moment of conception. But I've already addressed this point, and in my considered opinion this is simply not the case. My STOMACH LINING fits the basic definition of biological life. But no one in their right mind would suggest that the rapidly-reproducing cells in the epithelial wall of my digestive tract constitute their own legal individual. So simply meeting the biological requirements of "life" is not enough.

The second is the equally-common pro-choice suggestion that life doesn't start until birth. But this strikes me as black-and-white thinking in a gray world, and once again I'm forced to disagree. At 9 months, even an unborn fetus is alive. It has a heartbeat, brain activity, and all other medical requirements to meet that standard. The differences between a fetus one hour before birth and a baby one hour after birth are negligible. There is no miraculous transformation that suddenly makes this one a human being and that one NOT a human being.

So I don't know. And unlike the first 20 years of my life, that doesn't really bother me anymore. As a Mormon, I would have been informed by priesthood leaders what I was to believe. Now I get to figure it out on my own. It's a very freeing sensation, and yet a difficult dilemma. I look forward to trying to get a handle on it.

Tune in later:)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Answering the big question.

Now that I've heard back from a couple of people and know that I've got readers now, I guess it's time to outline the answer to the big question that seems to be floating around.

"Why did you leave?"

I left because the Mormon Church is not true. That's really the only answer I can give. I can break it down and be more specific, but talking about specific points of doctine isn't going to accomplish anything except making people angry. So instead, let me try to explain a little bit of my exit process.

Several years ago, I realized I was feeling...uncomfortable with the church. Things that had never bothered me before were popping up and demanding answers. Things that I had always assumed fit together were starting to look different. Around 3 or 4 years ago, I came to the realization that the LDS church had been telling me what I believed for my entire life; and finally I decided that I wasn't comfortable with that. So I "took a step back" to try to figure out exactly what *I* believed. And taking that step back made me look at the church and its teachings from the point of view of an outsider, rather than from the inside as I had always done. And that's when I had my now-famous-in-certain-circles moment of "WTF!? I live in a SHOE!!!"

The pieces didn't fit together the way I thought they did. Things that I had NEVER seen or heard about became glaringly obvious. (I'm not going into specifics right now because I don't want to start an argument.) It was like a proverbial house of cards: one "truth" had been supporting another. None of them were able to stand alone. And if you know "A" is true because "B" is true, then the discovery that "B" is NOT true can absolutely shatter everything you once believed. And that's what happened to me. I discovered that NEITHER is true.

Contrary to popular belief, this was not an easy decision. Realizing that everything that I'd believed for my ENTIRE LIFE is false, and then sweeping up the pieces and starting over, was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

I appreciate that this is difficult for many of my family and friends to wrap their minds around, so I am perfectly willing to answer questions. But I am NOT Mormon now, and any doctrinal discussion on history will be treated as a historical discussion--including pertinent facts from historical sources, whether they be "church-approved" or not.

Thank you for tuning in, and there will be updates as they become available.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Do Not Necro-Dunk!

Sent a letter to the 1st presidency of the mormon church last week. I officially withdrew my consent for my name to be used in any proxy ordinances, and instructed them to place a note in my former member file to this effect.

Now I have few illusions about the effectiveness of this letter, so I was sure to include that refusal would result in legal action.

Updates as they develop.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

1st post here, so to start things off...

After 10 LOOOOONG months, my name has finally been removed from the rolls of the LDS church. According to the local leaders, there was some kind of hiccup in the process, which then had to be completely restarted again last Monday. My final letter of confirmation arrived Friday, proving that the process can be very quick when those involved are properly motivated.

But while that process is now completely done with, there's another one that's just beginning. Prudence demands I say no more at this point, but everyone tune in for further details...