Saturday, November 21, 2009

Born to make mistakes

What are some typical characteristics of people who fall for the Mormon scam? —Desiree

Born into a Mormon family or befriended by Mormons.

If you're trying to imply that there's something more to it, I think you're mistaken. If you feel confident that you personally would not have fallen for it under the same circumstances, I again think you're mistaken. Mormonism works for so many people not because *those* people are stupid but because people, in general, do not make decisions rationally based on impassive logic and critical thinking. And once that decision is made we tend to use most of our mental energy rationalizing and self-justifying rather than asking, "Was that the right choice?" Of course this applies to all people, believers and nonbelievers. Religions are an interesting view into the way humans think.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The evolution of greed

How is the LDS (Mormon) church "greedy" when the church leaders aren't even paid? —Alissa

Many people accuse the LDS church of being greedy, but the leaders aren't paid so how can this be?

First of all it's not all about getting paid. Anyone who's in charge of a budget is in a position to make decisions about how it gets allocated. Money is power, and the LDS church asks for a whole lot of money from its adherents.

But don't kid yourself, there are lots of church leaders who do get paid, just not on the local level. General authorities are paid, and mission presidents are paid. And the church employs a ton of people. I doubt the leaders are paid a lot, but then I guess we wouldn't know that, would we? Your church isn't comfortable opening its books like most other churches.

Anyway, the real answer to your question is more complicated than any of this, and I'm sure you're not really interested in hearing it. Ultimately the LDS church is greedy because it works. Because operating this way has allowed it to survive when other churches have failed. It asks everything from believers because it can, and because human nature is such that the more you voluntarily give to something the more blind you become to its flaws. Your church is greedy for the same reason a giraffe's neck is long. Ponder that one.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Joseph Smith, executive producer

What were the main issues Joseph Smith struggled with in the beginning of the mormon religion? —Wizard G

mainly that and also what do Mormons call people who don't follow their faith? i can't remember but it would be useful to know, thanks!

Gentiles maybe? That's a Book of Mormon term really. Mormons used to use it more; now you'd only hear people referred to as Gentiles if someone's joking around.

I'm not sure what you're looking for in terms of Joseph Smith's "issues." In his younger years Joseph Smith strikes me as a person who wanted out. He wanted to find his place in his own family, wanted financial freedom for his parents, wanted to be trusted and thought well of, probably a lot like most others. But he was also ambitious and apparently not held back by fear or self-doubt. And he had ideas.

Sometimes I wonder what sort of life Joseph Smith might have led were he born into the world today instead of being stuck in a little farming community with little hope of social mobility. Maybe he'd have been drawn to the clergy still, but oddly enough I've never seen Joseph Smith as a particularly religious man. I think it was just the train that happened to pass through town. No, when I try to picture a modern Joseph Smith, I somehow always see him as an actor or a performer of some kind. Makes you wonder how different the world would be today if young Joseph had had other opportunities to apply his talents.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All in a day's labor

What is the average number of converts Mormon Missionaries get on their mission? —HomoErectus

I was a Mormon missionary in Korea in 1992–1994. I and my various companions had one convert baptism in the time I was there. It was a guy who was dating a member and wanted to marry her. I had a Korean companion at the time, and he sort of flew through the six discussions we used to do before baptism. I worried that the guy wasn't ready for baptism, but he passed his interview. I wonder if my Korean companion is still participating in the Mormon church. Seems like he was sending most of his monthly stipend money home through the post office. I seriously doubt the guy we baptized considers himself Mormon today.