Subject: Finding the truth behind the symbols
Date: Dec 10 23:04 2002
Author: Stray Mutt

I read some Joseph Campbell over the weekend. Among other things, he writes about how some religions know their stories are just myths that help explain bigger, higher, purer ideas. They may pay homage to gods, but it's not really the gods they're worshiping, it's the transcendent truths those characters represent. The gods are just a name and a face, a sort of shorthand for things that can be experienced better than they can be explained. This sort of view of gods is more common in Eastern religions.

Meanwhile, we Westerners tend to take the myths too literally. That's certainly the case in Mormonism. A literal god, a literal heaven, a literal creation story... Even the temple ritual is supposed to be a dramatization of literal past and future events. On top of that, Mormonism becomes a system of checkpoints on the straight and narrow path. It becomes about adherence to rules rather than a quest for spiritual enlightenment. It clings to the iron rod, with eyes fixed on the finish line, instead of marveling in the beauty of the universe.

Mormons go on and on about their testimonies. But what is it they're actually testifying about? Mostly, it boils down to having a good feeling that they're on the right path and about the reassurances they've received in the form of blessings. But have you ever heard a supposed prophet of God say anything like this? "Let me help you see beyond the veil. Let me try to explain the sublime beauty that awaits beyond the law, beyond the atonement, beyond our very concept of God. Let me help you understand the why behind the what." I haven't.

LDS "prophets" don't really have a clue. They have nothing to tell because, first of all, they have no special access to whatever divine light there might be out there, and secondly, because they're mired in a literalist view of their own mythology. That's what makes Mormonism so shallow. That's what turns their leaders into taskmasters rather than spiritual guides. It would never occur to them to look beyond symbols because they don't believe they are symbols.

Subject: wonderful post. *YOURS that is*
Date: Dec 11 00:04
Author: RuthCA/t/a/problem

Maybe that's why I grew out of mormonism I couldn't take every item in scripture literally. Possibly I began to make analogies and see metaphors in phrases and through words which people surrounding me insisted on taking literally. Oh and see them stare when you expand on phrases and stories within scripture figuratively during gospel doctrine meeting. My poor man. LOL How EVER did he take it. :)

Which items or symbols anyone selects to take literally is of course their own business. And it may have more to do with what focuses their meditation or find strength in- than what someone else tells them to think! (Another reason, this being an internal dialog for authenticity- why proselyting leading persuading aright-to-my-way are ineffective and possibly damaging.)

It was with great joy I listened when a priest explained in a figurative not a literal way the creation stories.

Subject: Joseph Campbell also states
Date: Dec 11 00:12
Author: Saucie

that people have more spiritual experiences outside organized religion or church, than inside. I've found that to be true for me all my life. Thanks for the post.

Subject: That reminds me of some thoughts I had in the early stages
Date: Dec 11 03:17
Author: Perry Noid

of my disillusionment with Mormonism. I remember, as I sat on the pews or those folding chairs, wondering whether there was a God who really demanded or commanded that every Sunday I should be sitting within those particular "dedicated" walls, under that particular "dedicated" roof of the nearest Mormon ward house, where I was to listen to various recountings of statistics on home teaching visits, and other enlightening stuff.

At that point, I occasionally started experimenting. I would from time to time skip the Sunday meetings, thinking that if the Sunday meetings were really important to God, I would be that much worse off spiritually. It turned out that the days I skipped were infinitely better than the days I attended. Peace, time to reflect, solitude, time to feed myself what I needed spiritually rather than being force fed the standard gruel at church--all these things were mine outside of the "dedicated" walls and roof of the local Mormon chapel.


Subject: Good Stuff!
Date: Dec 11 02:52
Author: Shane

Thanks, Mutt! I'll be studying a bit of Joseph Campbell myself thanks to your post. Of all the junk used to build the superstructures of organized religion in general and Mormonism specifically, the literal interpretation of symbolism and myth baffles me the most.

I think the most fundamental idea I've retained from Mormonism is that "all truth is independent in that sphere in which it is placed." I've yet to find a Mormon who dares attempt to explain that to me. To me it means that the truth is the "why" you mentioned and not the "what" that is the allegory, myth, legend, etc. used to explain it. Truth is independent of that.

My journey out of Mormonism began when I began to examine the myths of the creation, the exodus and others and realize exactly what your post says: these are symbolic representations of something more basic; more important.

I began to study the writings of other major world religions and see different symbols used to teach the same basic truths. Where I've arrived for now is that organized religion is the enemy of those truths.

Sorry to ramble, but your post was excellent and I simply wanted to say thanks.


Subject: The nail just got hit right on the head - Thanks Stray Mutt
Date: Dec 11 03:06
Author: Hai Kolob

Your post really hit home to me. I, as well have great respect for the writings of Joseph Campbell.

Your statement: "It becomes about adherence to rules rather than a quest for spiritual enlightenment. It clings to the iron rod, with eyes fixed on the finish line, instead of marveling in the beauty of the universe." really hit the nail on the head.

Lets enjoy the journey.


Subject: Re: Finding the truth behind the symbols
Date: Dec 11 03:35
Author: Mehina

I *love* Joseph Campbell. I took a mythology class last spring with a Campbell emphasis, and that really helped me be sure of my decision (then about half a year old) to leave, once he had explained the universality of most religious thought. How we all eventually come up with the same ideas, no matter where we live, and how it reflects our inner spirit.

I love most of all his dictate - "Follow your bliss." When did anyone in the Morg ever tell you "Do what makes you happy," rather than, "Do what we tell you, and happiness will come, and if it doesn't, it's your own fault so shape up."

Subject: Going along with your conclusions...
Date: Dec 11 08:53
Author: ExMoron

I seem to remember the temple endowment back in the 70s, saying something to the effect that the Adam and Eve part wasn't literal, but figurative. I also seem to remember hearing that they have removed that particular phrase in the revised endowment. Now it IS literal to the mobots, not figurative.

Yes, the morg really does take all that nonsense (like creationism) literally, even if Gordo won't admit to it on TV.

Subject: Campbell is superb
Date: Dec 11 10:53
Author: Suzanne

Have you read "The Hero with a Thousand Faces?" That'll change your life, even now.

Reading Biblical commentaries by mainstream theologians who interpreted the stories symbolically was one of the factors in my disillusionment with "the church." Campbell wasn't one of them, but I discovered him not too long after when he did the PBS series with Bill Moyers.

What particularly grabs me about the symbol interpretations is that they can be both emotionally and intellectually satisfying at the same time. The symbols represent human psychological truths and fulfill psychological and emotional needs, while at the same time, you don't have to believe six impossible things before breakfast, and can objectively study the symbols as symbols. The fact that they are universal and exist in different forms in different cultures actually strengthens their power and adds to their significance, rather than weakening your "faith."

Subject: Re: Finding the truth behind the symbols
Date: Dec 11 17:33
Author: Ana Joaquina Velarde

I loved your post, and I have been thinking along the same lines, not prompted by something as serious as Joseph Campbell, but by watching my favorite mexican telenovela.

The Virgen of Guadalupe figures strongly in the lives of the characters of my novela and I have developed an affection for her as I have seen the characters pray to her for help in the melodramatic situations in which they find themselves.

At first I kind of chuckled, my mormon gut-response: "look at those funny people praying to a satue!" but now I'm getting it:

She is a symbol, and the beatific expression on her face is an embodiment of unconditional love, of sublimity, looking down on her children and the things of this world from a place of complete understanding but also complete detachment that only a heavenly being could have.

So it's not that I beleive in the Virgen of Guadalupe because it's not about literal beliefs. I beleive in the values that she symbolizes... I'm kinda liking her.

I think I'm going to go out and get myself a little virgencita to watch over me like the mother we all wish we had.

I completely agree that literalism has stripped the real beauty out of religion.

In fact literalism like the mormon kind and the fundie kind is a dumbed down religion come to think of it.

Subject: terrific analysis, Mutt!! lucky's testimony enclosed.
Date: Dec 11 17:48
Author: luckyman

I think one reason TBMs feel threatened by our collective exmo presence, is that on this board we also bear our testimonies to each other, in the same way that they do.

we talk about feelings of being on the right life path (i.e., leaving the morg). we share strength and solidarity with each other and affirm our newfound spiritual ideas. it must be confusing/disturbing for a TBM to see us exmos using good-feelings-speak, just like they use, in support of our rejection of their symbols.

you know, speaking of testimonies--i feel moved by the "Spirt of the Lard" to bear mine to you all right now!

brothers and sisters, i testify that there is a way to live a higher life!! there are transcendant truths, and i am looking for them every day. i thank all of you for helping me on my journey :)

Subject: The Temple as a sign of Mormon spiritual bankruptcy
Date: Dec 11 16:23
Author: Deconstructor

Stray Mutt said: I read some Joseph Campbell over the weekend. Among other things, he writes about how some religions know their stories are just myths that help explain bigger, higher, purer ideas. They may pay homage to gods, but it's not really the gods they're worshiping, it's the transcendent truths those characters represent. The gods are just a name and a face, a sort of shorthand for things that can be experienced better than they can be explained. This sort of view of gods is more common in Eastern religions. Meanwhile, we Westerners tend to take the myths too literally. That's certainly the case in Mormonism.

I think Stray Mutt points out the fact that Mormonism is spiritually bankrupt. The greatest example of that is the Mormon temple ceremonies.

Questions for your TBM friends and family:

1. Is the temple endowment literall history or allegory?
- Ask them this honestly and openly and allow them to ponder the quesiton and respond fully.

2. If the endowment is history, then there are a whole host of questions that deserve answers, like:
- How did Peter, James and John get bodies?
- Why are the days of creation different than those in mormon scripture?
- Church Prophets teach the Earth was created orbiting Kolob and Adam and Eve on that Earth orbiting Kolob until the fall, when the Earth was thrust to this Solar System. Why isn't that in the endowment historical account?
- What was Satan doing with a preacher? Where did the preacher come from?
- Do dead people really have to know the secret words and handshakes to enter heaven?
- Jesus hadn't lived, resurrected or been perfected yet, so why does he have a body and is in perfect glory with Elohiem?
- etc.. There's a bunch of stuff like that in the endowment that doesn't make sense if it is literall history.

3. If the endowment is allegory, then it's not literall history. That means it doesn't portray the actual events. So, that opens up a whole bunch of questions:
- Did Adam and Eve actually exist?
- What was the real creation process?
- What are we to make of the appearance of Peter, James and John?
- Are the covenants also allegory and not to be taken literally?
- So there isn't a literall veil like exists in the temple?
- So dead people don't literally need to know the secret words and handshakes to enter heaven?

If your TBM friends says it's both allegory and history, then ask them which parts are which. Mixing history and allegory doesn't fit the endowment and all, makes it completely confusing and doesn't achieve any practical spiritual objective.

The Masons got it right by making it clear that their ceremonies are 100% allegory. Mormon plagarists Joseph Smith and Brigham Young messed up by adding stuff to the Mason ceremonies to make it seem like literall history. It appears JS and BY intended for the endowment to be taken as literall history to make is seem more "real." But this defeats the purpose of spiritual enlightenment which is transmitted sybolically. The endowment as history doesn't make sense and gets worse with age as the endowment has been made into a movie.

All ceremonies and ordinances, including sacrament, baptism etc.. are allegories - symbols only of a higher spiritual meaning. Your BS tetector should go off when a religion claims their spiritual ceremonies are literall history.

Who else thinks the Mormon Church has the spiritual depth of a bird bath because they take things literally?

Subject: I know whay my girlfriend would say
Date: Dec 11 16:26
Author: MMI

I dont know the answer to that but I know that the Church of Jesus Christ is true.

Subject: same answer from all of them...
Date: Dec 11 19:29
Author: kristinela

That is exactly the same answer we got when called into our bishop's office to answer the rumour we had some doubts. It seems to be the same answer the Bensons got when they asked 2 apostles questions. So I guess they can say I lack "faith" because it's beyond me to accept an answer like that when my "spiritual" life hangs in the balance!

Subject: Me, Me, Me !!!
Date: Dec 11 16:28
Author: Saucie

I can't tell you how dissapointed I was with the temple ceremony...sort of like the feeling of the door knob comming off in your hand.. It is so touted as the epitomy of spirituality.. ???? I've had more spiritual experiences
working in my garden in the early morning and just contemplating the beauty of it all..Thanks for your always interesting posts.

Subject: I could never figure out what folks were talking about when
Date: Dec 11 17:02
Author: MoNoMo

they got up in fast and testimony meeting and professed to have learned soooooo much in the temple.

The only thing I learned while attending the temple was to empty my bladder and bowels before watching the most boring movie.

Subject: Signs, signs, everywhere signs. Do this, don't do that.
Date: Dec 11 17:13
Author: Rocannon

Nice points, Deconstructor. The temple is full of signs, signs, everywhere signs and symbols. The point on the Masons taking all their symbols as purely figurative or symbolic is really interesting. There were plenty of Masons in the group of early Mormons that received the endowment and perpetuated it in Utah--you would think they would have passed on that symbolic understanding. Or maybe they did and the Church just erased it from history--they're good at that. And it's typical of Joseph's style that not only did he "borrow" all the symbols, but he didn't even understand what he was borrowing!

Here's my take on how TBMs view the temple. I don't think they have ever bothered to reflect on whether all the temple stuff is literal or figurative. It's part of the secrecy thing--to talk about the temple or even think about the temple is viewed to be wrong. To even ask a TBM to reflect on the temple ritual makes them uncomfortable.

The whole literal interpretation bias in the Church, shared with fundamentalist and evangelical Christians, goes back to the 19th century split with mainline Protestant denominations, whose educated ministers became "liberal," meaning they accepted science and evolution and promoted a symbolic or spiritual interpretation of the scriptures.

The fundamentalist reaction to that movement stressed literal interpretation, and was led largely by lay clergy without any knowledge of the original languages (Greek or Hebrew). They insisted on a literal, plain language interpretation of the English Bible (and of course every interpretation was different). Joseph Smith fits squarely in this anti-intellectual, anti-science, literal fundamentalist tradition.

It continues to dominate the Mormon approach to the Bible, epitomized in this century by Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie--again, laymen (no theological training) relying on the English Bible (no knowledge of the original language of scripture) to promote fundamentalist doctrines (anti-evolution, pro-Flood, anthropomorphic God, literal intepretation).

It carries over to the temple as well as the scriptures. Here's a speculation--I'll bet the fancy video presentation in the temple, only about 25 years old, really strengthened the literal interpretation camp (which is the only camp as far as I can tell). "I know it really happened--I saw it on the screen." Perception becomes reality.

Subject: That is the beauty of the endowment--so complex....
Date: Dec 11 17:19
Author: JT

That we will have to study it for life yet so simple a child could understand. What the Hell does this mean? I attended the temple for 20 years and still do not understand what it is about. Oh, yes, I did feel good while in the celestial room, but during the endowment all I would think is "how many times do I have to stand and sit and stand an sit". Morgs will not admit they do not understand the endowment. To do so would be close to heresy, but they still go.

My TBM wife still goes, but I have not attended for over a year. Based on the new temple recommend rules I will have a recommend for another year without doing anything. I don't know how much the church spends on Temple, but I imagine it is a huge sum. That money should could be used in the communities to help communities like other churches do. The Morg does not care about local community problems just temples and missionaries.

Date: Dec 11 20:27
Author: estebanito

These topics are so great. They challenge me as a weak minded, duped, former member! I never thought about this kind of stuff, but my BS sensor was sure going nuts when I was a TBM! I love how the posts are always so engaging. This is so great.

Thank heavens Al Gore created the internet. Oh wait, God allowed and really created ALL this technology to further the building up of the kingdom of god. PUKE!

Subject: The temple is very simple--it is just a play. There is obviously
Date: Dec 11 20:48
Author: SusieQ#1

nothing complicated about it. No secret, esoteric meaning. Just a goofy play done in costume.

All those promises, and covenants are made on fraud and are not binding either.

What a total misuse of a beautiful building.
The temples could be used for open weddings and receptions and lots of other events.

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