Monday, 9 March 2009

Cross Posted at

This story of a mass e-mail written by a private member of a single LDS ward in Illinois urging fellow members to make calls to the legislature in opposition to  (Nauvoo, Illinois 3rd ward) ( Incidentally the most conservative of wards because of its high mixture of members from Utah) has been circulating for a few days now, but with a front page story on The Advocate's website, and an ABC news story it seems to have finally broken. Yet, it is important for us to differentiate fact from fiction and to realize that this is not the same as the official church policy taken in regard to proposition 8 and not an example of the church rearing up its propaganda campaign or anything of the sort suggested by others posting here.

Examples: LDS now wants to shut down civil unions in IL 
The Mormon Church is at it again!

Both of those posts contain many inaccuracies and outright lies about the scope or intention in this instance. The Advocate ( a publication I usually rely upon for solid journalism) is equally shoddy in its coverage.

Mormons Set Sights on Killing Civil Unions in Illinois

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently sent a private e-mail to its Illinois members urging them to contact state legislators and voice opposition to civil union legislation the state is currently considering. According to the Human Rights Campaign, the e-mail was sent to at least one LDS ward in Illinois and was authorized by a bishop named Chris Church.

The diaries on this site and this Advocate article make it sound like there is an official church policy disseminating these e-mails. Instead, the e-mail in question was written by a private member on the Ward webspace that is available to members and sent to all members of only that specific ward. It is true, that a Bishop has to approve of all messages that are sent not merely between a few members but to the whole ward, but this does not imply that support of this message is official ward policy. Ward e-mails tend to contain information about events or causes that may be of interest to the members of the ward and there is usually not a high level of top down control.

Moreover, it might be useful to point out exactly what a Bishop is in the LDS church. A bishop is merely a person called to a leadership position in a specific ward. He is not a paid individual or full time worker for the church. Instead, he is typically an individual who is also involved in the professional world. Bishops are individuals and just like anyone partake in political activity in their private lives; The bishop in my ward in Boston was actually involved in the Mitt Romney campaign, for instance. Thus, LDS bishops are private citizens and their actions have no say on the top down policy coming from Salt Lake City or anywhere else.

The bishop soon after allowing the e-mail to be sent out, put out another e-mail commenting on the fact that this e-mail was not meant to suggest any compulsion or official policy on the part of the church.

From: Chris Church 
Date: March 4, 2009 1:58:47 PM CST 
Subject: Church Position on Legislation

Members of the Church may take any action they wish concerning legislation but the Church does not take any position in relation to these issues.

Bishop Church

Update On That Mormon Email: LDS Backs Away

Moreover,  a statement was issued today by LDS public affairs ( an official church source) that made it clear that the LDS church has taken no position on the Illinois legislation and that this e-mail was not a sign of official policy.

As is widely known, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the sanctity of traditional marriage. The Church has not taken a position on any legislation currently being considered by the Illinois State Legislature. The Church did not send an e-mail to its members in regards to House Bill 2234, although a false report to the contrary has been circulated. An e-mail was sent from a local Illinois Church leader to his congregation - one of 129 congregations in the state -- who was free to express his own views.

No LDS campaign in Illinois

Because of all of this, the rhetoric of even illustrious and renowned organizations such as Human Rights Watch has been rather disturbing.

“It is irrefutably clear that the LDS Church is fighting an antigay crusade throughout the nation, targeting any form of equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community,” said Bruce Bastian, a member of HRC's board of directors and a former member of the LDS Church. “Church leaders want nothing more than to do their hateful work in secrecy, but the time has come to shine a light on their insidious efforts. If the LDS Church won't tell the truth, we will.”

(quoted from the advocate article cited earlier)

Truly, an organization like HRC should know better than to throw around words such as an antigay "crusade." In this case, such language is completely out of proportion and based on a distorted understanding of the position of a bishop as well as the perceived official nature of this e-mail.

If a well known group with a great reputation such as Human Rights Watch overreacted so strongly, some of the commons on blog posts were utterly disgusting and offensive. Some of the comments  attempted to suggest that the church should be kicked out of the state of illinois once again. For a member or anyone who knows the history of the Mormon church, nothing but slaughter and oppression, this suggestion is akin to suggesting to a Jew that maybe he should be kicked out of spain or forced out of their communities by pogroms . It is absolutely inappropriate and we should be better than that.

Sure, some members of the church are bigoted and oppose civil union legislation in Illinois. Yet, this does not equal official policy and such messaging is not supported by the leadership of the church. I am reminded of the attempts by conservatives to smear democrats and Obama because of the DailyKos diaries that unrelated members posted. This kind of thinking is absurd no matter what the cause or issue involved.There is no Mormon conspiracy against civil union in illinois or anything else of the sort. Those fighting for rights should get the facts straight before they become needlessly bigoted in response.


For Reference here's the full text of the e-mail that was sent out

From: Kristy Combs  
Date: March 3, 2009 12:27:59 PM CST 
Subject: Civil Union bill scheduled for a hearing Thursday - calls needed

This message has been authorized for sending by Bishop Church. 
The Civil Union Bill (HB 2234) has been scheduled for a hearing in the Youth and Family Committee this week on Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 9:00 a.m. in Springfield. If the bill is voted out of committee, it becomes eligible for a vote before the full Illinois House of Representatives. This bill will legalize civil unions in the state of Illinois, and will treat such civil unions with the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections and benefits as are afforded within marriage. In other words, civil unions will be different in name only from marriage. As has already been seen in Massachusetts, this will empower the public schools to begin teaching this lifestyle to our young children regardless of parental requests otherwise. It will also create grounds for rewriting all social mores; the current push in Massachusetts is to recognize and legalize all transgender rights (An individual in Massachusetts can now change their drivers license to the gender they believe themselves to be, regardless of actual gender, which means that confused men and women are now legally entering one another’s bathrooms and locker rooms. What kind of a safety issue is this for our children?). Furthermore, while the bill legalizes civil unions, it will be used in the courts to show discrimination and will ultimately lead to court mandated same-sex marriages.

To help defeat this bill, please call your state representative and state senator and ask that they support traditional marriage and vote against the civil unions bill. If you are unsure who your legislators are, please see the link at the end of this email.

Also, please take a moment and call the following members of the Youth and Family Committee to encourage them to vote no on this bill. We need 4 votes to keep it from passing out of the committee. And - as always, please pass this on to all who believe in protecting our families and our children. If you are interested in attending the hearing, it will be held on Thursday, March 5th at 9:00 a.m. in Springfield in Room 122B of the Capitol Building (I can give you directions to the Capitol Building if needed).

Members of the Youth and Family Committee: 
Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) (Greg Harris is also the sponsor of this bill, but he needs to hear your opposition to this bill) 

Rep. LaShawn K. Ford (D-Chicago) 

Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago) 
Republican Spokesperson 

Rep. William D. Burns (D-Chicago) 

Rep. Michael P. McAuliffe (R-Chicago) 

Rep. Al Riley (D-Matteson) 

Rep. Dave Winters (R-Rockford) 

Directions for identifying your legislators: 
You can use the following link to identify your state legislators and their contact information: DistrictLocator/ SelectSearchType.aspx? NavLink=1 (and enter your 9 digit zip code). If this link doesn’t work, you can use the general link and then click on ” legislator lookup” near the bottom of the page, then click on “by zip+4″. Type in your zip code, and you’ll see a list of your legislators. You want your state senator and state representative as they will be the ones voting on the bill. 
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Sister Combs.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

I am going to write a brief post on this topic because I am fuming right now and absolutely need to do so. I will follow up with a full post on gay marriage and proposition 8, but I was just irked on to write this immediately by this latest news story hitting the net and now front page on The Advocate’s website.

Lets look at the headline

Mormons Set Sights on Killing Civil Unions in Illinois

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently sent a private e-mail to its Illinois members urging them to contact state legislators and voice opposition to civil union legislation the state is currently considering. 

This is of course inaccurate on many levels. ABC has a much more balanced take on this story and The Advocate article does later put in place all of the necessary caveats

Now, the true story is that a single e-mail was sent to a single ward. The e-mail was written by a private member and only voiced her opinion. The e-mail was approved for sending by the ward Bishop. Yet, I have a feeling the bishop will approve anything for this kind of mass e-mail unless it is pornographic, or against the church message in some clear way. This was an e-mail that could be of valid interest to many member and there was not effort to declare it official ward policy.

The bishop and a church spokesperson have quickly backed off from the e-mail with the church spokesperson stating

As is widely known, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the sanctity of traditional marriage. The Church has not taken a position on any legislation currently being considered by the Illinois State Legislature. The Church did not send an e-mail to its members in regards to House Bill 2234, although a false report to the contrary has been circulated. An e-mail was sent from a local Illinois Church leader to his congregation – one of 129 congregations in the state — who was free to express his own views.”

-Scott Trotter, Church spokesman

Still, this e-mail exploding on the same day as the proposition 8 backlash is clearly bad timing of the worst sort and sure to taint the church.

“It is irrefutably clear that the LDS Church is fighting an antigay crusade throughout the nation, targeting any form of equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community,” said Bruce Bastian, a member of HRC’s board of directors and a former member of the LDS Church. “Church leaders want nothing more than to do their hateful work in secrecy, but the time has come to shine a light on their insidious efforts. If the LDS Church won’t tell the truth, we will.”

This is the opposite of the message we should be working on sending and yet we have totally lost control of the message over proposition 8. How can a church that is so brilliant at rallying its members to support proposition 8 in the first place and be so efficient at missionary work and so many other endeavors be utterly unable to control a media narrative?

It is my personal view, that the day after proposition 8 passed, the church should have begun to truly make an effort to live up to its words when it stated that its actions were pro-marriage and not anti-gay. The church should have taken up Equality Utah’s Common Ground proposal instead of leaving it unanswered for well over 100 days and allowing the basic rights bills to die an ignominious death in the Utah legislature

The church should be fighting to make it clear that it is a loving institution and should fight for the hearts and souls of those who will now be instead hardened and stiffened against the church because of its lack of compassion. 

This is a true disappointment.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Non-member tithing

Since I’ve been a non-member but no longer an investigator ( Perhaps I will begin to use the pop culturally savy term Dry Mormon ) I have been increasingly faced with the difficult moral question about whether or not I should be giving tithing. This is especially relevant for me since for the 2009 year while abroad I am not going to be working at all. This means that once I am baptized I will have no income for tithing. I also want to be careful to ensure that not a bit of my fathers money is spent on any church related activity because to do so would be to violate his desires and dictates. Thus, it has been an issue on my mind for a while.


After much prayer and though, I felt very strongly that I should be giving tithing but did not do so despite the promptings of the spirit quite clearly in favor of it. I kept latching onto rumors in anti-LDS websites that church tithing rolls were used as leverage to try to extract the maximum donations from California members in support of Proposition 8 ( I will certainly have to make many posts about my feelings on this matter). I brought this up with my Bishop and he denied such rumors very strongly, but I still demurred and did not give any tithing.


Over winter break, I had an experience where I had contributed to the breaking of something in a friends apartment ( I’d rather spare the details) for which she had to pay the landlord 50 percent of the repairs. I am sure you can guess that the amount these repairs cost was almost exactly the amount that I should have tithed! (Shows you that I don’t make very much with my 7 hour a week job.) I was pretty shocked by this reminder that our heavenly father is just and that he always demands the best from us. Instead of having my money go to the church where it would be truly helpful, it ended up contributing to some repair company in South Florida.


Today at church, I found out the Britannia ward is still doing tithing settlements for the 2008 year. I spoke to the bishop to get his feeling on the matter and he suggested I put the money aside to give once baptized. I decided that this was not quite as good of any idea as what I had originally considered which was giving to one of the charitable wings of the church. I chose the Clean Water foundation because a good friend of mine is really involved in water issues and spending the summer in China occasionally in rural areas I realized how big of a concern safe water truly is. Plus, I like to think that if more far east countries had clear water they would not necessarily serve tea with every meal as the only safe option thus removing an enduring problem of missionaries in the region :P. I actually accidentally entered in a much larger amount then my tithing amount onto the web site and so I ended up contributing more than I had planned. I feel really great about that actually, and I felt a wave of relief as soon as I saw the receipt in my inbox.  Giving is just so rewarding and I know I will be blessed for having done so.

In Judaism, giving tzcedackah/charity is the only action for which a human being is allowed to ask for a direct named blessing from God. For all other actions, one can request God’s blessing but not directly name a specific goal or desire. When one gives charity however, one can literally say…” For this act of giving I want X.” Of course, Jews believe as do all people of faith that God answers in his own way and time but the request is permitted wheras usually it is viewed as negative or presumptious.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Letter to Foyles about the lack of LDS related books they cary

To those in charge of ordering books for the Humanities section at Foyles

I went to your store today to browse your religious and philosophical selection and found it quite through and comprehensive in regard to most major world faiths. The shelves of Islam and Judaism related books were impressively stacked with interesting and worthwhile readings and great works of the faith. I could find five or six different translations of the Qu'ran, Mishnah torah and other major works. Your Christian theology section was even more impressive. Indeed, you even had substantial content and literature on Buddism, Hinduism, Gnosticism and New World Faiths. Yet, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ( Mormons) were almost completely excluded.

The LDS church is fast emerging as the first Global Faith since the beginning of Islam with over 12 million members. Its global network and reach allow it to be involved with both missionary and Charity work throughout the world including prominently in Great Britain and the United Kingdom. Yet, what I found at your shop was clearly inadequate. All writing on the church was lumped under Christian theology and the selection that I found was inadequate for any looking for more about this faith. There were two translations of the Book of Mormon though both were jumbo sized readers editions out of the price range of most with fledgling interest. There were no copies of the church's other essential scriptures ( Doctrine and Covenants or Pearl of Great Price). In fact, the only other books about the church were copies of Richard Bushman's very wonderful introduction to Mormonism and one very critical and anti-Mormon book that is exceptionally outdated. It should be clear from my descriptions that this is not an adequate selection for such a major world religion.

I am a student studying at Queen Mary College in London and had planned to become a frequent shopper at Foyles ( I am here from the United States) as well as becoming a store member but I can no longer do so in good conscious. If and when your selection of LDS books increased, you can certainly expect my renewed patronage.


Daniel Ortner
Queen Mary College

A president for Hindus and non-believers as well!

The Inaugural speech was quite well done. Solidly constructed and very beautifully delivered if not quite transcendent. At times, it dropped into pedestrian terminology such as the cringe worthy mentions of GDP or data and statistics. At times, Obama’s speech felt lacking theme and direction. Yet, what emerged was something pretty moving and a great peon to America and its potential for greatness.


I want to look at a few of the remarkable segments of the speech that I found truly memorable


“For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.”


This piece is remarkable for the mere mention of Hindus and non-believers. As opposed to Rick Warrens clunky, and poorly conceived prayer which excluded such a large portion of the population by specific and repeat mention of Christ, Obama truly intellectually looked to include all in his speech. His mentions of God were much more of the traditional ceremonial deism sort, and even his citation from scripture was really a pretty secure and grounded portion. Yet, the mention of Hindu’s and of non-believers in particular was controversial. As a former member of the most despised and mistrusted group in America (That you be the Atheists though my current Mormon affiliation does not land me much higher up on the list), just the mere acknowledgement made me cheer with joy. My friend Lisa who was watching the speech with me is currently a non-believer and I could just see her elevated and brought into the joy of the moment by the mere mention. It is vital and so beautiful to have a president that realized that the right to believe must also include and protect the right not to believer. Of course, Obama included the “So help me God” in his oath of office and is in favor of greater use of faith based charity and outreach, but fundamentally Obama seems to understand that all are protected under the laws of this land and all deserve to be treated as dutiful citizens. For too long, we have allowed those without faith to be bullied, harassed and even threatened.


I contrast the use of this starkly with a speech on faith Mitt Romney made during the primary campaign. When pressed to explain his Mormonism, Romney went to great pains to explain his Christianity and religiosity and to emphasize that “reedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.” In other words, he tried to reconcile his identity within the conservative community by othering those of no faith. He basically said: My faith is different, but at least I am not an immoral non-believer who cannot possibly share in the freedom and liberty of this nation.

Obama’s speech in this point most embodies what makes it different from administrations and candidates past. It is clear that he is serious about the sort of change he speaks of.

 “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.”

The return to speak about the Muslim faith is especially gutsy. I have heard speculation that Obama will either make a major speech on Islam within his first months in office or attend a conference on the faith and its outgrowth. It is so important to have a president that can work with the moderates and strengthen rather than weaken their resolve. It is great to have a president that does not launch “ crusades” but instead realizes that we are dealing with a battle for the minds of individuals.

“This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.”

The return to the notion of every faith is beautiful and symbolic here. He is tying the concept of diversity of faith to our most basic feelings of racial justice. He is linking the two in a way that promotes plurality and true equality. By talking about racial struggles in the same breath as faith, he has made a powerful linkage.


“This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.”


This is the one God reference that perhaps unsettled me most at first. It seems to have that sort of American destiny vibe that Bush so fully imbibed. Yet, there this quote shows a refreshing amount of uncertainty and agency. Our destiny is ours to create. We have a calling from our Heavenly Father to achieve greatness. He has blessed us with opportunity and now it is our choices that reveal whether we live up to those high expectations of falter. Our destiny is in our hands and we will be judged more harshly for our failures because we had so much room for growth.


Heavenly Mother

One of the LDS concepts I think I most strongly value is the notion of a Heavenly Mother. I have spent the day pretty intensely enraptured by the idea reading articles and just contemplating the utter complexity of the idea. It is strange to remove myself from the very abstract notion of god’s gender and to begin to place components of gender to my view of God. It is even stranger for me to imagine another personage of comfort beside him. Yet, this feels natural in a way.



What follows is pretty purely speculation on my part and involves outlandish ideas such divine embodiment. For those not interest in theology, this post is probably worth bypassing


It makes sense, of course, that if men and woman were made in the image of the godhead, that the feminine would come from a personage as well. Of course, the Jewish idea that man and woman are sort of literally split into two works for this point as well, but is not as satisfying as the idea that male and female together form a template that has at the very least worked for our heavenly father and mother ( there is no guarantee that same gendered god pairings could not exist only that such is not a pairing included in the plan of salvation created for us). I have been reading about links to the old testament notion of Aserath and also to the greek and judeo wisdom tradition as Sophia. I am also looking into the imagery associated with the Sabbath as a bride which I feel might have some connection. It also makes me think about the cult of Maryhood developed by the catholic church, Perhaps, there is some merit to the idea that heavenly mother embodied as Mary in a twist on what Catholics believe. Thus, there was a literal act of conception between the Heavenly Father and Mother to produce Christ. Yet, this may not work because the question arises of whether Joseph then could be said to have had intercourse with a Goddess. These ideas are mere speculation of course. There is also the kabbalistic idea of Shekhinah or the feminine spirit of god on the earth which holds may of the nutritive qualities we would associate with a mother.  Yet, the Shekhinah is also described quite like the  holy spirit in other places. It’s presence is conditional on an absence of sin and is a revealer of truth (Linking it back to the wisdom tradition). I know that General Authorities have spoken the Holy Spirit as masculine, but I wonder if it is not possible that this is an example of mistaken pronouns and that perhaps the Holy Spirit and our heavenly mother are one in the same. This would also explain the notion of the Holy Spirit impregnating Mary as is commonly understood. The Heavenly Mother was associated traditionally with pregnancy and fertility. Thus, it is she that might fill a virgin with a child in violation of standard order of things. It would also fit some of the more paternalistic comments made by authorities about protection of the holy mother as she is only granted to members of the church of the lord and recoils at the sight of sin.  I rather like the idea of the three personages being mother father and son as it fills our natural sense of family and links back to the ideas of eternal progression, which are so important to the church. Obviously, this is pure speculation but I find it pretty fascinating. I long for and pray for continued revelation on the part of the general authorities of this church in order to give members a fuller conception of our mother in heaven. I predict that whatever is discovered will conceptually fit the ancient Israeli ideas and templates which so many LDS ideas hearken back to a complete.


I have also been filled with interest as I’ve been reading blogs by Pagan Mormons believing in the dispensation but also in notions of  a divine mother earth deserving our worship. I find it appealing that my faith can actually be extended to be accommodating and to fill others lives. I’ve found in my conversations with those of all backgrounds and beliefs that the LDS church has some major theological idea that can inspire and connect. Be it the notion of premortality, heavenly mother, divine progression etc. All of these concepts can be found in part through other faiths and idea structures. I feel that the LDS church puts them together theologically into a coherent package which is inspiring. Thus, it allows me to believe in the precept upon precept revelation of truth in the sense that these ideas came unto others before being restored. It is a beautiful idea because it allows me to believe that those of other faiths in other places could have been and can continue to be prophets and visionaries of God. Thus, I have no problem believing that the Muslim prophet Muhammad was a prophet of god, nor that other even more modern faiths such as Ba’hai can have some divine truth in them. I can only believe that the impact of other faiths and practices will continue to impress revelations onto all mankind and onto the leaders of the church.


Here are the relevant links I mention


Article in Dialogue by Kevin Barney- How to Worship Our Mother in Heaven ( Without getting excommunicated)

Nephi and his Asherah by Daniel Peterson

Some Pagan Mormon Blogs that I’ve taken a fancy to


New and growing faith

The story of my religious transformation and conversion.

Only a few years ago when I started my wordpress blog I was a very hardcore and intense atheist. My views were quite steadfast and I believe bred in part of a desire to strongly believe in my own reasoning as the most powerful force in the world. I held my own ability to think and understand as capable of solving all of the problems in the world in and of itself. I had a couple of very humbling experiences over the past year that truly made me realize that by myself I am stuck. I am continually stuck in relationships that can not improve, social roles that are insipid and fail to excite and lacking growth. For all of my appeal to reason, I felt stagnant without faith and unable to advance myself.

Additionally, I was resentful after the death of my mother and didn’t want to even consider a higher power that could allow something to befall such a good and kind person. Just last week, I read C.S Lewis’s A Grief Observed and some of his profound observations about grief have truly stuck with me since. It is so easy to in theory speak of the higher purpose of death and the afterlife, but when someone you know and love is stripped away from this earth it is excruciating and very difficult to calmly rationalize away. I realize, however, that without faith even the memory of my mother had grown more distant. As a mere body in the dirt, her legacy had decayed to a place of mere ceremonial importance. Faith was vital in maintaining an enduring and more eternal place for her in my life.

Over the last summer in China, I had some incredibly conversations about religion and faith with my Chinese instructor Charles. He is a convert to christianity and spoke with much sense and passion despite my stubborn arrogance. These conversations made a deep impression on me. I have actually yet to speak to him since the summer and truly mean to let him know how much those conversations meant to me. They didn’t persuade me in any particular direction but I do think that seeing his faith and its positive impact truly made me desire faith in a way that I had not before.

While in China I looked for a more general form of panspirituality and really found so much beauty in the power of buddism, taoism and other faiths. Visiting holy shrines throughout, however, these religions felt incomplete, jumbled and theologically unorganized. I did not feel that I could truly satisfy my thirst for knowledge through these faith structures.

At the same time, I was in a relationship with my friend Tatiana throughout the summer and though it was truly a complex series of events leading me to do so, began to investigate her church ( Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints). I can’t say, that I didn’t at first go more out of a desire to find out more about her faith and to try to salvage a souring relationship, but I quickly became interested. After the first time I went to church with her, she had a job interview at the Apple Store on Boylston Street in Boston and I went to the Barnes and Noble in the Prudential Center and began to read books such as Mormonism for dummies and beginners guide to Mormonism.

To be honest, I had not really known much about the church theology only its history. I had come to believe that its prophet Joseph Smith was a fraud and a manipulator of men and that the church was hierarchal and overly strict in controlling the behavior of individuals such as banning the consumption of alcohol. I hated how Dogminded Tatiana seemed on so many issues and how she viewed them as black and white and I felt that these stemmed from her faith.

Yet, I was absolutely blown away by the elegance and logic of the theology I was reading. Instantly, I began to feel the logic in so many of the church ideas such as the pre-existence of the spirit ( coinciding so well with our experience of meeting someone for the first time and feeling that we have known each other for an eternity) as well as the notion of an eternal family. I also felt that theodicy was better addressed in the LDS faith as we were able to grow much as spirits and came to earth for the supplemental growth we required. Additionally, we are able to grow after we die and thus those with short lives will not be unable to reach full potential as individuals. Thus, a lot of the problems I held with the idea of small children being born merely into a life of suffering were at least in part answered. Moreover, I do feel that LDS theology very efficiently does answer the christian problem of what happens to those who never had a chance to hear of christ and his existence. Viewing heaven in the sense of degrees of glory allows for individuals to grow in purity while not of the christian faith and then to ultimately come to god after death. Their living experiences of good will essentially set them up for a powerful faith when it arrises. Yet, we can grow faster and more full in this life through the right faith. We can live the most rewarding life and improve ourselves through faith in christ. This does seem like at least the resemblance of a solution to the biggest of Christian problems.

Thus, I was intellectually take by the church and I began to attend excitedly. Yet, so many things still bothered me and I lacked a true sort of faith beyond curiosity. I found out a lot of things that truly upset me such as the fact that only LDS can attend weddings inside temples. The church involvement in the political campaign over proposition 8 also seriously tarnished my view of it And I realize that this was never a faith I could choose on my own without already having belief.

Yet, faith is not about preference or what one wants but about truth. In the past, as I crafted my own ideal liberal faith with a truly non-judgmental deity, I drifted further towards atheism because the deity was my own and nothing resembling a truth. Thus, I soon replaced the deity with my own reasoning and understanding. Fortunately, I was now able to establish a degree of faith I never had been able to before. One evening at around 10pm after a few weeks of investigating the church I got this incredibly strong desire to go to the outside of the Mormon Temple near boston and to see it. As I drove ther with Tatiana, I felt a powerful spiritual energy beyond anything I had felt before. I felt literally spoken to as my whole body filled with power. It was moving and incredible. Being the sceptic that I am, I wanted to go to other nearby churches to see if they would replicate the feeling. There was a nearby catholic church and protestant church of some denomination ( I am not sure). The Catholic church gave me the creepiest and most draining vibe, while the protestant church left me feeling not much at all. As I went back to the Temple I walked of to the side and knelt facing one of the brightly illuminated lights and prayed to God to fill be with that same warmth and energy. To be with me and to guide me in my life and to help improve me and build me into the person he wanted me to be. There was a pretty drastic instant change as I went back to walk to the car with Tatiana. I felt like a different person and it felt with her that I was speaking for the first time despite having known her for years. I felt an equal or even a better on many levels whereas before she had often made me feel inferior and not up to her level. My exalted feeling wore off over the next few days and has remained a less perceptible shift.

A lot of other aspects of the faith. Especially believe in Christ took longer to grow. In many ways, they are still growing. As I engage in conversation with missionaries as well as LDS members and friends of other faiths I grow in my testament and understand of Christ and his sacrifice. Yet, the process has been a truly incredible one and I have enjoyed it on a deep level.

I have yet to be baptized as my father has voiced very intense opposition as one would expect from a Jewish father hearing of his son’s interest in conversion. He views this as an attack on him and his ancestry, not realizing that my faith has brought me closer to Judaism and actually grown my Jewish identity in a way it could not while I was an Atheist. I am currently in London as I said before and going to wait till a bit later in the program after attending services here for a while to convert officially.

If anyone reading this would like to talk about faith or has any other questions for me about my transformation or process I would be very glad to speak about it. I relish conversation on the topic and look to grow from your views and perspectives.