Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mormons Have Good Intentions, Right?

I don't talk about it much but I was a Mormon when I was a child or I think more accurately stated my mother was/is Mormon and she comes from a large Mormon family that is religious.  Many of her brothers have been in Mormon Church leadership at the individual Church level and what they would call a Stake level in which the Stake President is over several Churches in a geographic area.  Her brothers and sisters when they retire will often go serve Church missions and spend their golden years serving their Church.  My uncles and aunts on my mothers side are for the most part Mormons who are in good standing, well very good standing with the Mormon Church.

I have skirted the issue in past posts but I will just come out and say it, my mother is mentally ill and has been for as long as I can remember.  Like many illnesses she has good days and bad days or maybe better said has good years and bad years.  A lot people do not view mental illness like other illnesses.  I wish that was not the case but I do live in the real world most of the time so I know that is not how most people view it.  I think everyone would look for help if there had been more of an effort to cut through the stigma and treat it like Lupus or Rheumatoid Arthritis, a disease that has no cure but can be helped by treatment most of the time. 

The last few posts have been short on points and long on exposition and this post is headed that way...

My parents divorced when I was five or six years old and I lived with my mother after the divorce and my dad was not around until I was in my teen years and on to adulthood.  I know you can't tell from text on screen but that was not a bitter angry statement just one of facts.  Don't get me wrong I was bitter and angry but like everything else it has passed away as time has marched on.  Growing up my mother was only religious when she was around other Mormons.  Appearance was more important that substance, I did not realize this until years later.

I have never seen my mother pray, not in my entire life.  When I was young we went to Church pretty regularly but I do not remember much from those days so I guess more accurately I think I went to church regularly when I was young.  My earliest memory of church is I punched another kid and had to go sit next to my mother at a piano or organ she was playing for primary.  I have a couple of other memories about going to the Mormon Church but they probably deserve their own blog post but needless to say I did not attend Church with any regularity and I did not form much of an opinion about the Mormon Church or about religion in general.

If I have not mentioned it before I did grow up and still live in Salt Lake City, Utah

I was ostracized growing up not being Mormon in a Mormon community and most people are quick to blame the Mormon religion and I would argue it is a cultural phenomenon in Utah.  I have said this before that anytime you have one group dominate an area you are going to see that.  I remember being in Missouri at a vacation home on the lake of the Ozarks and Sunday morning I flipped on the TV and on the three broadcast stations we could get each one of them had a Baptist preacher.  If you were a non-Baptist Yankee there was some ostracization.  I will say I found the Missouri ostracization to be more polite than the Utah ostracization, that whole southern hospitality thing is no joke.

The point I am trying to make is that when everyone that surrounds you feels the same way as you when you do run into someone different you are less likely to be tolerant and I would submit that is human nature.  I am not saying it is a good when this happens, it sucked as a kid not being allowed over to some of my friends' houses because I was not Mormon but as an adult I understand it much more as a cultural thing than a religious thing.  If you lived in Ethiopia where there are not a lot of Mormons I doubt the Mormons there are not letting non-Mormon kids over to their house to play because then there kids would have no one to play with.

The previous paragraph might have been just a long of saying confirmation bias or some buzzword thing like that.

Salt Lake City where I live has become more and more religiously diverse as time has marched on and as of the last time I check it is only 50% Mormon which of course is still a majority over any one religion but the point is every other person is not a Mormon.  When I was growing up and you were a Mormon and only wanted to speak to Mormons throughout your day, I mean down to your 7-Eleven clerk, you could do that easily, now every other person is not a Mormon and you could not spend your day exclusively with Mormons, well maybe you could but it would not be easy.  There are still some towns that are still overwhelming Mormon but I think the whole state of Utah is only 60% Mormon now.

Here is a link to the religious demographics of Utah on Wikipedia and it looks on 2010 census Utah was 61.4% Mormon so my guess was pretty close.

I do ramble, concise is not my middle name.  Anyway all of that is to say that my childhood has left me intolerant towards people that are intolerant and don't get me wrong if you move into a new place in Salt Lake City and go out on your front porch to have a beer one neighbor may see the beer and never speak to you again but the other will invite you over for dinner, this really happened to me and they were both Mormon so things change slowly but they do change.  I wish that story was a long time ago but it was a little while ago so hey.

Wait for it, it is all coming together now, well may not right now but soonish.  I think after all that it would be fair to say I was raised by a crazy mom without religion.  I was baptized a Mormon but it was not part of my life and I was never Mormon.  I did not know much about Mormon theology until much later in life and unlike many people that had left Mormonism I did not feel the need to explain what was wrong with the Mormon Church and their doctrine to everyone I met.  I refer to this as the Ex-Mormon syndrome.  When you have Ex-Mormon syndrome your life is consumed with the Mormon Church, hating it but still consumed with it.

As an adult I never considered myself an ex-Mormon, I did not like being ostracized as a child but I thought that was cultural and not directly related to Joseph Smith finding gold plates in Pennsylvania.  It is Pennsylvania right?  That shows you how little I know about the Mormon Church or maybe more accurately how little I remember, I think I knew at one point where the plates were found, I am thinking upon further reflection New York, I am remembering Palmyra, I am not sure in what context but I know Palmyra is in New York.

Anywho the rambling is coming to a point that is probably gonna fit in one paragraph, is that good writing or bad writing?

The impetus of this post was twofold.  A couple of weeks before my wife and I came into full communion with the Catholic Church my wife started receiving texts from some Mormon missionaries.  They were not directed specifically at her, she had been added to a mass missionary text list.  After a few days of receiving text messages it was pretty clear it was not some random miss type but that she was officially on the list.  My wife asked nicely (because she is nice) to be removed from the list that was end of that or so we thought.

After my wife and I came into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church (baptized, confirmed and first communion) we get a letter from the local Mormon stake addressed to the Southwells.  After these events I have a question occurred to me, if you are concerned about my religious choices or in other words if I am going to Hell (I don't think Mormons have a Hell but it is an overarching metaphor) why wouldn't you talk to me?

If you are scared of me, which I am not going to say is unreasonable.  If you knew me in my youth or ever saw me angry even ten years ago I could be a scary dude, not like the dude abides but like dude that is scary kind of dude, but if you are scared of me write me a letter, send me an email, message me on Facebook, or maybe a Google Plus message (I am not really sure how that last one works, does it come through as Gmail or what?).  I cannot legally drive because of the brain damage from the old sarcoidosis so what do you think is going to happen?  I am going to call one of my forty something year old friends and say hey would you like to be complicit in a felony assault because I need to go beat a relative for indicating they are concerned with my religious choices?

I am not saying I would not think about beating you but my friends are normal people and normal people are not going to be an accessory to an assault.  That was a lot of the word 'an' in close proximity to each other.  What I am confused about is not really a Mormon or a Catholic thing it is a person thing, why did you care enough to notify the Mormon Church but not talk to me?  Unless of course this has some significance in the Mormon Church that I am not aware of and that I should know if I had been more involved?  It does not make any sense to me.

In the group of people that were baptized as adults with me at the Easter Vigil there were several Ex-Mormons.  As Easter quickly approached there was more and more discussion of sending the Mormon Church their letters indicating they wished to have their names removed from the Mormon Church records, which struck me as odd but it probably has religious significance because I was thinking my letter would have said take me off the membership rolls I am no longer a member.

When it came to it I did not care enough to write a letter to the Mormon Church.  I am not sure why I should care whether my name is represented by a series of ones and zeros in a Mormon computer somewhere (I am hoping they have gone paperless for the planet)?  I do know that it was important to some of my classmates, very important like they went to a Mormon Church disciplinary meeting (just a note a Church disciplinary meeting sounds scary regardless of the Church) and that just seemed like a lot of effort and the Catholic Church I was joining was happy with the affirmations I made during the rites that entered me into full communion with the Catholic Church so why should I care?

I started thinking about this and I started putting two and two together, they were concerned about being on the mailing list!  No wait that does not seem like them at all and for the record these now former Mormons are good decent rational folk.  There is something missing here and rather than have some insight I am hoping for some insight from you my readers and I know you come here for insight and if I make a habit of not having insight you will not return but this is just a one off, probably.

Anywho it leaves me wondering what goes on in the Mormon Church that when people leave they have a visceral need to leave the Mormon Church officially and why does the Mormon Church remove you from their records?  If you are baptized a Catholic they will keep that record for as long as humanly possible, my dad saw some Catholic baptismal records in England that were still stored at the local Church from six hundred plus years ago and I assuming that not everyone that becomes Catholic stays Catholic and it is it just me or is it weird to remove someone from the records?  That last thing about knowing about removing people from records is not really important I just find it weird.

So it comes to ending this post and I am at a loss.  When I do not have some insight to bring to a subject apparently my rambling feels no need to stop but I will do my best to reign it in.  In the end I don't want a theological answer or discussion about the differences between Mormons and Catholics because there is a history of the religions not getting along in the US going back quite a ways.  More of what I am looking for is some cultural insight as to why my relatives are concerned with my soul but not enough to talk to me and why are people who leave the Mormon Church still so invested in something they have left?  I used to be a born again Christian and when I left under not the best of terms I did not have the same level of animus.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I Had To Go To Confession Because I Do Not Call My Mother And Other Sins

Before I go any further, the title is hyperbolic but only in the sense that I had committed other sins.

I have memory problems and not in the I can't remember my wife's birthday kind of way but more of the I can't read anymore because I can't remember words I have read from paragraph to paragraph kind of way.  My short term memory has left the building with Elvis.  For the record before I was sick I would forget my wife's birthday and I could not remember peoples name but I could remember conversations verbatim for years and I used to be able to bring pages back up in my mind and read them again.

This was particularly useful in college, it would have been more useful had I prioritized reading text books above drinking and pursuing the fairer sex, it is good to know that baptism has wiped that slate clean.  I would like to apologize to any roommates that had to see me passed out in my own vomit, also if I ever dated or married you and you are reading this I am sorry (also you should probably move on and how did you find my blog?).

I am also quite fond of technology and now that my memory has gone it has become a crutch to handle my day to day mental tasks.  For instance I start receiving text messages a week before my wedding anniversary and in my experience fellas the wedding anniversary is much more important than the birthday which is why I only get text messages for my wife's birthday the day before her birthday.  In fairness I rarely forget my wife's birthday because it happens to be one of mine and my ex-wives wedding anniversaries.

Not to belabor the point but I am going to belabor the point.  When I wake up in the morning I can't remember what day it is, I can't remember what I am supposed to do that day, I forget to take my meds and it just on a side note if I were not married to the kind and loving woman that I am, I would be dead and that is not hyperbole.  It is not so much that if I forgot to take my pills I would be dead it is that I would be dead if I forgot I had taken my pills and then I took them again.  I take some nasty shit (the drugs for sarcoidosis) and double doses of some of those would be bad and mixing certain of them would be fatal, in other words there are some drugs that need to be taken eight or sixteen hours apart or I would stop breathing.

Looking back I see a lot of exposition, necessary?  I will let you be the judge.

With a bad memory and technology for a crutch it was only natural for me to use an app to prepare for and use during confession.  Before you go to confession you are supposed to take an inventory of sins and that sounds clinical, it is more like a meditation on your actions or in-actions.  Going to confession is not like it is in the movies, most of being Catholic is not like it is in the movies and that is a good thing, at least in so far as the last year has shown me.  I would also like to note that I can not speak to the Catholic Church of the past or in other locations for that matter, my only experience is with Catholics in Utah and the Catholics I hear on the nationally syndicated radio show Catholic Answers Live.

For me confession is not an unpleasant task that needs to be completed in so much as it is a gift from God and the Church that allows me to be absolved of sins and there are a lot of reasons that is a good thing but I am not a theologian and I don't play one on TV so I will just hit number one on the list.  It frees from mortal sin and allows me to take the Eucharist at Mass because Jesus can not be in the presence of mortal sin.  Below is a little exert from Catholic Answers website

"The Holy Eucharist is the most important of the seven sacraments because, in this and in no other sacrament, we receive the very body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. Innumerable, precious graces come to us through the reception of Holy Communion."

Theologians work for and the information on Confession and Holy Communion goes on and on and is quite extensive and if you have an interest in details I would encourage you to go to and read there (no more ands).  I do not know how many of my readers are Catholic, Google Analytics does not keep those stats.  I do know there were readers before the whole Catholic conversion and now there are many more. Did my blog shoot up the Google ranks for sarcoidosis?  Did I get all new Catholic readers?  Do my old atheist friends still read the blog?  I have no idea.

What do I have ideas about?

I know I had a point when I started writing and I have yet to make it but I believe I will make it now.  I almost made the point earlier when I started talking about confession.  With my memory being in a lackluster state and my fondness for tech it is only natural that I would use an app to examine my conscience before confession.  Examine your conscience is the name usually given for that whole examining your actions and in-actions thing I was alluding to earlier.  After you examine you need to be sorry for your sins and want to repent because of your love for God.  There are some further details and for you Catholic curious out there refer back to  You can also go over the whole venial and mortal sin distinction while you are there as well because it is not particularly relevant to the point I am trying to make.  

You may now be asking yourself was most of what I have written here relevant to the point I was trying to make?  Probably not but it is the ramblings that seemed relevant at the time.

I use the app and it helps me examine my conscious and then keeps it stored for me so I have it when I go to confession.  It also gives me a reminder about what I am going to say and what the priest is going to say and the words of the prayer because it turns out I get stage fright in front of priests during confession.  I know I would not have thought that either but it was surprisingly nerve racking and not for the reasons you would think either.  I was not frightful about saying my sins but I was frightened that I was using an app.  I do not think the priest is fond of people using there phones in confession but in fairness he could have just been tired, a lot of sinners showed up for confession the same day I did, but I think it might be my sin of pride that I think it is about me and my use of a phone.

This now ends the two hours traffic of our stage and just an FYI I will not have to confess that whole pride thing because it is not a mortal sin but it could have been, extra credit if anyone can tell me why!

Love to all,

             Fat Rasputin


Thursday, April 16, 2015

I write a lot but don't seem to publish often (I also don't bring you flowers anymore)

I am turning into the Emily Dickinson of the blogosphere.  There are reams and reams of meandering streams of thoughts put down into drafts, there are almost fifty drafts that stare at me each time I go to write.  Just an FYI for you young folk out there, a ream is a package of paper and paper is something we used to put words on before computers and the internet.

When I write, when anyone writes your mind works in a different way.  I know for myself this leads to self discovery and sometimes churns things up that I am often not ready to see.  English fails me and makes me wish I stuck with Spanish or any of the romance languages or even Latin.  It is not that I am not ready to see, it is that I see it and I know it is meal that I am not ready to digest.  Every time I write a little bit of loose Id finds its way home to the barn and sometimes they even find a stall in the barn and things are almost orderly up there.

Of course then there are other times when I can see the green water coming over the bow and I know I must go no further and these words on the page have escaped to early and they are a deluge of ocean water, an angry ocean that will capsize the boat and send me to the depths.  The sky opens and the wrath of Heaven comes down in a wind the churns the ocean into moving walls of destruction.  In my youth I would dive into the ocean and let it swallow me in the chaos.  I am older now and a little wiser.  My wisdom has not grown in proportion to my age but it has grown and I do not dive into storms, at least not often.

The theory is that I will come back to these hidden gems of literature after the sea calms down but the problem is I really don't like remembering the storm and I have a suspicion that everything I write might not be a hidden gems.  I have forty four drafts (gems) awaiting revision or closer examination or insert your own poetic phrase for fixing bad writing here.

I will attempt to wade into the sea of the past that I will admit is now calm and start churning out on schedule like I have agreed to, can I throw out the old I have sarcoidosis excuse?  Here I say again I will try and post every Tuesday and by that I will try and get a few posts ahead of myself so when things are bad there is still something new and exciting to read?