Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lemuel the Landlord

Where does the term "Mormon" come from? —?

It comes from the Book of Mormon, but I'm guessing you knew that. Joseph Smith once explained the etymology of the name, although some church leaders have attempted to discredit the quotation because, well, it's ridiculous. (See link below.)

If we assume the book is fictional, it's easy to find correlations between many Book of Mormon names and things that would have been familiar to Joseph Smith. More than a hundred BoM names are also in the Bible. Lemuel was his landlord's name. Sam was his brother. Moroni and Cumorah are generally assumed to come from the Comoro islands, whose capital is Moroni. (I believe there's some connection to treasure stories and Captain Kidd with these islands.) And then dozens of names in the book appear to be variations of other names, like Moroni and Moronihah. Not bad for a first novel I guess.

The May 15, 1843 issue of the official Mormon periodical Times and Seasons contains an article, purportedly written by Joseph Smith, Jr., deriving the etymology of the name "Mormon" from English "more" + Egyptian mon, "good", and extolling the meaning as follows (T&S 13:194):

It has been stated that this word [mormon] was derived from the Greek word "mormo." This is not the case. There was no Greek or Latin upon the plates from which I, through the grace of God, translated the Book of Mormon.... [The] Bible in its widest sense, means good; for the Savior says according to the gospel of John, "I am the good shepherd;" and it will not be beyond the common use of terms, to say that good is among the most important in use, and though known by various names in different languages, still its meaning is the same, and is ever in opposition to "bad." We say from the Saxon, "good"; the Dane, "god"; the Goth, "goda"; the German, "gut"; the Dutch, "goed"; the Latin, "bonus"; the Greek, "kalos"; the Hebrew, "tob"; and the Egyptian, "mon." Hence, with the addition of "more," or the contraction, "mor," we have the word "mor-mon"; which means, literally, "more good."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Living in Oblivion

How many of you do this??? —Burttito
I have a very hard time making up my mind about whether there is a god or not, I think that the biggest thing that keeps me believing in a god is I want there to be something after this, I can't bear the thought of being done. To me it is like reading part of a book and never knowing what happened in the end. Once I am gone I want to watch the rest of history act out. And yet I am completely resigned to the fact that mormonisn and essentially all religion is wrong and a farce. Does anyone else have this type of internal dilema?

I think everyone has to come to their own answers on this one. I'm through with believing things just because they're comforting, so I've spent (and probably always will) considerable time coming to terms with life being just what it seems: transitory.

I have two recurring thoughts that seem to help. One is just a realization that you can make yourself crazy thinking about *not* existing, because frankly that's something our human minds might just be incapable of comprehending. So I remind myself that for billions of years—heck, for all the years that have ever been—I did not exist, and I don't find this troubling in any way.

The second thing that helps me is redefining what "I" is. If my identity is inseparable from my corporeal self, then the oak tree in my backyard has more to look forward to than I do. But when I begin to see myself as part of those things I care about—a family, a community, a species, a world—now there's an indefinite (though not guaranteed) future to be concerned about. I've never studied Buddhism, but I think its basic ideas are along these same lines. And experiencing that kind of spiritual communion and peace with the world does not require you to believe in things without evidence, like an anthropomorphic god who gives kids cancer and hates gays, but really needs 10% of your income.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

You're not alone

Is the internet destroying the Mormon religion by revealing all their Masonic secret rituals? —GreatFull

No. It's hard to quantify what impact the internet is having on Mormonism at all, let alone a little thing like Masonry in their temple ceremonies. Even with real numbers about attendance and tithe-paying this would be a murky subject, but the LDS church seems very reluctant to reveal anything more than this increasingly meaningless number of "total people at one point baptized and not known to be deceased."

Anyway, I think most Mormons are already aware that there are similarities to Masonry in their ordinances, and they're generally unfazed by this. The fact is most people on either side don't do much serious research when deciding to join (or leave) the faith.

I think the single biggest impact the internet has had on questioning Mormons is not the availability of well-researched information, it's the visibility of an actual ex-Mormon community living in the midst of all the believing Mormons.

Online community with 3,800 registered former Mormons and as many "lurkers":

Another one:

Yet another:

And another:

That's a small sample, not to mention all the ex-Mormons who seem to frequent the comment section of the various local news sites, at the Trib, the DesNews, and Oh, and the exmo blogs ... for a fairly complete list you can go to . You truly are not alone.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Could it be ... SATAN?

Why does the Mormon Church have a Satanic inverted pentagram over the main entrance to their Temple? —James Joyce

Because secretly all the early Mormons were devil worshiping fiends. But good for you for seeing through their deception. Serves them right for using a known Satanic symbol!

OK, I'm kidding. Honestly, do you really think the temple pentagram was inspired by Satan himself? If you're that credulous you're in no position to be judging Mormonism.