Have you seen Gene Wilder’s “Willy Wonka” since you’ve gone through the temple?

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Gene Wilder passed away today. I never knew him that well as an actor, but a few months ago my wife showed me his version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I read the book ages ago as a kid, but had forgotten particulars of the plot.

By the end I was blown away. It was as if Roald Dahl were the most faithful adherent of the gospel and had been through the endowment ordinance and was fully aware of the LDS theology on the plan of salvation and the purpose of life and had crafted a perfect allegorical replication a la C.S. Lewis.

If you haven’t seen that film since you’ve been through the temple, I suggest you do so, and watch with spiritual eyes, etc. Let Gene Wilder’s death be a good excuse to do that very soon. Your mind will be blown, especially at the very end with that final speech, where it all comes together.

TDKR’s Bane: Lucifer and Trump, and the Impulse to Destroy the Whole Rather than Reform It

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I read this the other day and was blown away by it. In his presentation to the FAIRMormon Convention, Patrick Mason reaches out to the disaffected, not just in a cliched “we love you and would love to see you at church” kind of way, but really, truly reaches out, recognizing genuine problems and flaws with church leadership, acknowledging the failures of the church culture to respond to legitimate grievances, and firmly agreeing that serious changes need to occur.

But the attitude of those he’s reaching out to reminds me of a similar dynamic in the villain of Chris Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises.”


Now, Bane in this scene is being disingenuous. He doesn’t believe in his own message. He knows the speech he’s delivering is not worthy of the revolution he inspires with it, but he does so anyway for ulterior reasons. He’s serving as a rabble-rouser, one who wants to stir up chaos and anarchy and hatred in the city so that when his terrorist organization ultimately nukes it, it will have been well and truly deserved.

Lucifer is very much like Bane in this situation. To parallel (and I mean this all figuratively), Satan loudly recites Jim Gordon’s speech / the famed “CES letter,” (a document consisting of quite a few questions an ex-Mormon infamously wrote up in a public letter that he believed poked serious holes in Mormon theology), both to the prisoners of Gotham and all those who are frustrated with the system as it is. Hearing that they are victims of a rigged or dishonest system, they, instead of trying to reform Gotham/church culture, instead of trying to build bridges where once were walls, they decide to tear the city/institution to pieces.

Bane also has a likeness in today’s political world that is all too relevant.

Bane is Donald Trump. Just as Bane read Gordon’s speech to the prisoners of Blackgate and the allegedly oppressed citizens of Gotham, so does Trump recite the failures of the so-called political establishment to his followers, the alleged silencing of voices of middle America. The people heed his voice and get angry, even when their misery is a delusion and their lives are in reality pretty darn good, especially compared to the rest of the world. So they heed his call to revolution and decide, instead of reforming the system, to burn it all down by electing Trump.

Anyway, the point is, instead of outreach, reformation, progress, and building up of the kingdom (a constant effort, by the way), the prime philosophy of the evangelical ex-Mormons is, let’s burn it all to the ground, because if one apple is rotten, the whole tree must be.

The sad part is, this perspective isn’t entirely unearned. In the address linked above, Patrick Mason writes that the church has some significant culpability in this attitude. This whole section—let alone the whole thing—is worth reading. And it can go a long way toward better understanding why our friends and family members are indeed leaving the church.

Part of our baptismal covenant to “mourn with those who mourn” is to try to understand, empathetically and charitably, what those with sincere doubts and questions are going through. Most people who become disaffected from the church—many of whom are returned missionaries, endowed in the temple, and have served faithfully in major callings—fall into one of two very broad and overlapping categories: what Richard Bushman refers to those who feel either “switched off” or “squeezed out.”[1]

The switched-off group includes those who encounter troubling information online or somewhere else, usually regarding our history or doctrine. This new knowledge doesn’t square with what they had previously learned in all their years in the church—sometimes by way of direct contradiction, but usually by revealing parts of the story that we don’t typically share in our three-hour block on Sunday. There is a standard list of problematic subjects, most of which are now discussed at some length in the church’s excellent Gospel Topics essays on lds.org, and which for a half century have been the subject of intelligent analysis in print sources like Dialogue, the Journal of Mormon History, and numerous academic books. But most people are not consulting the peer-reviewed scholarship, and far too many church members are still unaware that the Gospel Topics essays even exist. In recent years many thousands have found their way to the previously mentioned “Letter to a CES Director,” a slick but in my opinion intellectually amateurish document that has midwifed countless people out of the church. Unfortunately, for many who land there, the “Letter” is the culmination of their quest for knowledge rather than being just one data point among many.

In any case, once they discover these new facts and realize they are not just the inventions of malicious anti-Mormon propaganda, many people start to wonder what else they haven’t been told. They begin to see duplicity rather than sincerity in the church’s presentation of its doctrine and history. Skepticism and doubt begin to overcome trust and faith. One of the ironies we haven’t fully appreciated in our discussions of doubt is that to some degree our church culture is responsible for many people’s reactions to troubling information. Whether consciously or not, they are simply applying what they learned in well-intentioned but ultimately damaging Primary and youth lessons, such as when the teacher offers the class a bowl of ice cream, then dumps a small amount of dirt on it and asks if anyone wants it now. Of course they say no, and the teacher points out that this is what just a little bit of sin does—it ruins everything. So those who see a little bit of dirt in church history are acting in ways that seem entirely commensurate with what they have been taught their whole lives—God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance, so we turn away from sin and touch not the unclean thing. Unable to manage the cognitive dissonance, these people’s relationship to the church becomes tenuous, and often breaks. Many feel that they cannot participate with integrity in church meetings where certain details are either neglected, covered up, or denied. In short, they have become switched off. Some of these people not only leave the church, but also abandon Christianity and even theism, since God, Jesus, and Mormonism had always come as a package deal in their minds.

One Eternal Round

His course is one eternal round. (D&C 3:2)

Do watch this. The universe—with its innumerable stars and planets, and even the idea of the multiverse—is beautiful, and only testifies to the truth of the gospel, especially its particular cosmological frame, and to the truth of the Creator—as well as His plan for us, as gods-in-training to inherit worlds of our own one day.

It’s all there. In the scriptures, in the skies, and even in astronomy textbooks.

“Other universes? With different laws of nature?” the video asks towards the end.

D&C 93:30:

All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence. (emphasis added)

Have fun thinking.

Alma the Younger vs. Donald J. Trump

The recent words of Roger Stone, Donald Trump’s friend and adviser, in an interview with Breitbart:

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Consider the story of Amlici in Alma chapter 2:

And it came to pass in the commencement of the fifth year of their reign there began to be a contention among the people; for a certain man, being called Amlici, he being a very cunning man, yea, a wise man as to the wisdom of the world, he being after the order of the man that slew Gideon by the sword, who was executed according to the law—

Now this Amlici had, by his cunning, drawn away much people after him; even so much that they began to be very powerful; and they began to endeavor to establish Amlici to be a king over the people.

Now this was alarming to the people of the church, and also to all those who had not been drawn away after the persuasions of Amlici; for they knew that according to their law that such things must be established by the voice of the people.

Therefore, if it were possible that Amlici should gain the voice of the people, he, being a wicked man, would deprive them of their rights and privileges of the church; for it was his intent to destroy the church of God.

And it came to pass that the people assembled themselves together throughout all the land, every man according to his mind, whether it were for or against Amlici, in separate bodies, having much dispute and wonderful contentions one with another.

And thus they did assemble themselves together to cast in their voices concerning the matter; and they were laid before the judges.

And it came to pass that the voice of the people came against Amlici, that he was not made king over the people.

Now this did cause much joy in the hearts of those who were against him; but Amlici did stir up those who were in his favor to anger against those who were not in his favor.

And it came to pass that they gathered themselves together, and did consecrate Amlici to be their king.

10 Now when Amlici was made king over them he commanded them that they should take up arms against their brethren; and this he did that he might subject them to him.

11 Now the people of Amlici were distinguished by the name of Amlici, being called Amlicites; and the remainder were called Nephites, or the people of God.

12 Therefore the people of the Nephites were aware of the intent of the Amlicites, and therefore they did prepare to meet them; yea, they did arm themselves with swords, and with cimeters, and with bows, and with arrows, and with stones, and with slings, and with all manner of weapons of war, of every kind.

13 And thus they were prepared to meet the Amlicites at the time of their coming. And there were appointedcaptains, and higher captains, and chief captains, according to their numbers.

14 And it came to pass that Amlici did arm his men with all manner of weapons of war of every kind; and he also appointed rulers and leaders over his people, to lead them to war against their brethren.

15 And it came to pass that the Amlicites came upon the hill Amnihu, which was east of the river Sidon, which ran by the land of Zarahemla, and there they began to make war with the Nephites.

16 Now Alma, being the chief judge and the governor of the people of Nephi, therefore he went up with his people, yea, with his captains, and chief captains, yea, at the head of his armies, against the Amlicites to battle.

17 And they began to slay the Amlicites upon the hill east of Sidon. And the Amlicites did contend with the Nephites with great strength, insomuch that many of the Nephites did fall before the Amlicites.

18 Nevertheless the Lord did strengthen the hand of the Nephites, that they slew the Amlicites with great slaughter, that they began to flee before them.

19 And it came to pass that the Nephites did pursue the Amlicites all that day, and did slay them with much slaughter, insomuch that there were slain of the Amlicites twelve thousand five hundred thirty and two souls; and there were slain of the Nephites six thousand five hundred sixty and two souls.

20 And it came to pass that when Alma could pursue the Amlicites no longer he caused that his people should pitch their tents in the valley of Gideon, the valley being called after that Gideon who was slain by the hand of Nehor with the sword; and in this valley the Nephites did pitch their tents for the night.

21 And Alma sent spies to follow the remnant of the Amlicites, that he might know of their plans and their plots, whereby he might guard himself against them, that he might preserve his people from being destroyed.

22 Now those whom he had sent out to watch the camp of the Amlicites were called Zeram, and Amnor, and Manti, and Limher; these were they who went out with their men to watch the camp of the Amlicites.

23 And it came to pass that on the morrow they returned into the camp of the Nephites in great haste, being greatly astonished, and struck with much fear, saying:

24 Behold, we followed the camp of the Amlicites, and to our great astonishment, in the land of Minon, above the land of Zarahemla, in the course of the land of Nephi, we saw a numerous host of the Lamanites; and behold, the Amlicites have joined them;

25 And they are upon our brethren in that land; and they are fleeing before them with their flocks, and their wives, and their children, towards our city; and except we make haste they obtain possession of our city, and our fathers, and our wives, and our children be slain.

26 And it came to pass that the people of Nephi took their tents, and departed out of the valley of Gideon towards their city, which was the city of Zarahemla.

27 And behold, as they were crossing the river Sidon, the Lamanites and the Amlicites, being as numerous almost, as it were, as the sands of the sea, came upon them to destroy them.

28 Nevertheless, the Nephites being strengthened by the hand of the Lord, having prayed mightily to him that he would deliver them out of the hands of their enemies, therefore the Lord did hear their cries, and did strengthen them, and the Lamanites and the Amlicites did fall before them.

29 And it came to pass that Alma fought with Amlici with the sword, face to face; and they did contend mightily, one with another.

30 And it came to pass that Alma, being a man of God, being exercised with much faith, cried, saying: O Lord, have mercy and spare my life, that I may be an instrument in thy hands to save and preserve this people.

31 Now when Alma had said these words he contended again with Amlici; and he was strengthened, insomuch that he slew Amlici with the sword.

“Woe unto the generation that understands this book.” – Hugh Nibley