Talking To My Zelph

My quest for freedom from the LDS religion.

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Location: OA, Offworld

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Terrible Truth About Tithing

I used to work at a pretty cool laboratory.

It was a fairly small company that did extremely well in it's market and was a serious competitor to other, larger companies. One such competitor eventually bought out the small lab and welcomed [most of] us, the employees, into their corporate family and we retained our jobs. Not too long after that, an even larger competitor bought out the second company and decided it had too many laboratories in operation around the country and needed to shut some down.

My branch was one that was closed, thus leaving me and about 100 other people suddenly unemployed.

As referenced in my previous post: shit happens, eh?

Getting laid off is pretty big news and family members are undoubtedly going to catch wind of it. When I broke the news to my TBM father, one of the very first questions he asked me was "are you paying your tithing?"

At the time, I don't think I'd paid said tithing for several months. I'd already begun having doubts about the church and had just started my research. For me, one of the first stepping stones on the road to apostacy was to stop paying tithing. Things had always been tight anyway, and it didn't make sense to me that a loving god would demand my 10% when I really needed it to help provide necessities for my family.

I don't remember now if I gave my father a straight answer or not. I probably did my best to dodge the question. I wasn't ready then to come out of the doubter's closet and face the judgements of my TBM family members.

Looking back now though, I have to wonder what the hell is the actual point of tithing anyway? Mormons are promised (PROMISED!) by their leaders that if they are faithful in obeying the LAW of tithing, then "the windows of heaven will pour out blessings upon them".

Had I been forthcoming with dear old dad and admitted to ignoring the church-mandated "law", it would have been so easy for him to think that perhaps I was responsible for my own unemployment.

Nevermind the fact that a large number of employees affected by the lay off were temple-recommend holding, garment wearing, tithing paying LDS folks. They were doing everything they thought they needed to do to earn god's great and wonderful blessings, so why were they being punished in the same fashion as I?

I'm only speculating here, of course. I don't know for certain that my father would think such a thing, but it's not beyond the realm of possibility.

Now, fast forward a year and a half or so. I'm back to work for a new company (I was only unemployed for two weeks). My father tells me that the company he drives truck for is being forced to cut on of his runs. This directly affects his monthy income, cutting it almost in half.

As far as I know, my dad is still Mr. Gung-Ho Mormon Man. He's always talking about his trips to the temple, so I can only assume he's been a faithful tithe payer in order to qualify for the highly prestigous Temple recommend.

So where are his blessings? Where's his financial security? It should be very well safeguarded by the Lord who has promised to provide both spiritual and temporal blessings to those who abide by the law of tithing.

Let's cut through the many (oh, so many) layers of bullshit heaped upon us by the "inspired" LDS leadership and come to a much more likely conclusion: paying tithing to the Corporation of the President of TCOJCOLDS does absolutely nothing to ensure any kind of financial security or guarantee any kind of "blessings". Of course, some will argue that point, saying that something good happened because they paid tithing. There's simply no way to prove that such is the case.

If bad things can happen for no quantifiable reason, than so can good things.

"There But For The Grace Of God..."

I used to like the phrase "there but for the grace of God go you or I."

I don't know where it's originally from, but I always thought it had kind of a poetic quality to it and back when I had the mindset of an arrogant True Believing Mormon, I foolishly assumed that the phrase had a practical application in my life. If not for the "one true gospel" of the LDS church, after all, I could be just like that homeless guy in Pioneer Park, or I could be a drug addict or a criminal, or worse.

"There but for the grace of god..."

It served as some sort of validation for me that I was doing everything God wanted me to do. I was a member of His church, holding His priesthood authority (although it never seemed to have any actual power to do anything) and for awhile there, I was a card-carrying member with access to the International House of Handshakes (aka, the temple). Obviously, I was one of those valiant spirits in the pre-existence who had accepted Jesus' plan of salvation and was born into and raised as a member of the only church with the true and restored gospel.

"There but for the grace of god..."

I'm not sure when, but it was probably during my year of church history research, analytical process and personal reflection that I realized the true implication of the poetic phrase.

If "there but for the grace of god..." was true, then that meant that God plays favorites.

It suddenly didn't seem very fair that some people would be given preferential treatment over others. How arrogant it was for me to assume that god liked me better than some poor kid in Africa somewhere who lives in a mud hut and goes to bed hungry every night.

I don't like that god. He apparantly holds grudges and doesn't follow his own rules of kindness, compassion and forgiveness. More than likely, such a being that hands out blessings and cursing willy-nilly doesn't even exist.

The simpler - and more logical - explanation is that shit happens.

Bad things happen to good and bad people.

Good things happen to those exact same people.

And pure chance is the cause of it all...not the grace - or lack thereof - of some higher power.

Maybe I'll change the phrase to "there but for pure-dumb luck go your or I."

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A New Perspective

When I was a TBM, I never worried too much about death.

Why should I? I mean, I was a member of the one true church on earth and as long as I played my cards right and did everything that was asked of me, I was destined for glory in the afterlife. Life itself wasn't very valuable to me because there was always the promise of an eternal life after this one.

I used to tell my friends that when I die, I wanted a party instead of a funeral. Funerals are solemn, depressing things and a party would be much more fitting for someone who was now in "a better place".

But now, I've adjusted my thinking on this.

Since I no believe in those kinds of promises and have accepted the very real possibility that there is no glorious afterlife awaiting me, I've come to put much more value on human life. The worth of every moment of life has increased exponentially. Each moment I have with my family and children has become so much more precious.

Since I have no proof that I (or anyone else) will live forever, I must believe that my life is finite and will someday end (a sober revelation indeed!) so I must make the most of whatever amount of time I have left.

Life is just too short to be miserable or to do things you just don't want to do. Like sitting in church for 3 or 4 or even 5 hours on a Sunday. Or "home teaching" a neighbor when you'd rather be watching NBC on Thursday nights (I'm addicted to The Office!) or working in a "calling" that you really have no interest in fulfulling.

I realize that there are plenty of LDS folk who geniunely like doing everything TSCC asks of them. But there are plenty of others who are railroaded into church service and activites because to say no to the prophet, sp, or bishop is the equivalent of saying no to God or Jesus himself (at least, that's what I was told as a church member.) But not me. I came to resent every calling, every assignment - anything that took me away from my family - even for a moment.

It feels so good to be out of that overbearing and demanding organization. Freedom never tasted so good.

Denying the Priesthood

I just have to say that I'm extremely proud of my 6 year old daughter.

Before our weekly get-together at the in-laws house last Sunday, I pulled my oldest two children aside and explained to them that during the blessing on the food, they didn't have to fold their arms, close their eyes, or bow their head, but that they did have to be quiet.

After everyone sat at the table, my father-in-law called on my daughter to offer the blessing. She gave a nervous smile and looked at me, then at her mother, then back to me. I could tell she wasn't comfortable giving the blessing. Since we've abandoned the practice at my house, the only time my kids see anyone praying is at these weekly gatherings.

I said to her, "you don't have to if you don't want to honey. It's okay."

She seemed very relieved to hear this. FIL then called on another grandchild to give the blessing.

I know it seems like such a small, trivial thing, but it seemed like a major victory for me. I know how intimidating it can be to be surrounded by a TBM family who expects everyone to conform to their beliefs and expectations. My daughter is aware of my separation from those kinds of beliefs and undoubtedly needs an ally for situations such as these.

Fortunately, the in-laws haven't been too fanatical in pushing the church on my children.