Hopefully you won't be able to tell if I am praising Mormonism or defaming it, speaking Good of Joseph Smith or speaking Evil of him. Hopefully you won't be able to tell if I am praising all religion or defaming all religion. Hopefully your mind will be blown beyond thought.
A few weeks ago some Mormon missionaries came to talk to me. Of course we talked about the Book of Mormon. I also spoke of the truth in all religions. So far we all agreed. Eventually they said that, despite truth in other religions, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the Only True Church. This is when I shooed ‘em away.
The late Joseph Campbell pointed out the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City as a prime example of how the place of worship used to be the central and highest point in most any town or city in the world. But in modern times, he points out that the financial institution has become the center of devotion, dwarfing the temple. MK Gandhi observed that you see no greater reverence & devotion than on the faces of people in banks.
People like to joke about the Brigham Young statue turning his back to the LDS Temple, outstretching his hand to the Zions Bank building. Yes, it was Brigham Young who founded Zion’s First National Bank in 1873.
Joseph Smith's Question
In the early 1800s in New England, an adolescent name Joseph Smith questioned why there were so many religions, each calling itself The Only True Church. So he asked God for wisdom. Eventually he saw visions telling him none of these churches were right. Then came the Book of Mormon. It caused a big stir. Mormonism was born. Later Mormonism split into sects, each calling itself The Only True Church. The largest sect of Mormonism is called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), the brand we get here in Utah. Now we have another Only True Church added to the pot, playing with more adolescent heads.
Organized religion is Ego. Collective Ego! Droves of Collective Egos the world over each call themselves The Only True Church. I grew up in a Collective Ego called Evangelical Christianity, again calling itself the Only True Church. The Only True Church I belonged to literally called the Mormon Church “the Synagogue of Satan.” The Only True Church hates the thousands of other Only True Churches.
People tell me that Buddhism is not bigoted like Christianity. It definitely has very little bigotry compared to Christianity. However, about 7 years ago I spent time in a Theravada Buddhist Monastery in northern Thailand. Here I heard a sermon by a prominent monk. He said the Way was taught by the Buddha and only the Buddha. This Way, he said, was passed down in direct lineage from the Buddha to monks like he himself. And only this Way could bring us salvation (Nirvana) and that all other religions missed the mark. I had flashbacks to being in a Christian church.
Then there is the ongoing war in Sri Lanka, where the right-wing Buddhist majority, with the wealth and political power, has been persecuting the Hindu minority for centuries.
And when I visited near Dharamsala, India and taught English to a Buddhist monk, he assured me that the Theravada Buddhist Way in Thailand, unlike Tibetan Buddhism, missed the mark. However, I did attend talks by the Dalai Lama near Dharamsala, in which he advised most us Westerners to stop grasping for truth in other religions, like Tibetan Buddhism, and find the truth in our own. This was the first religious leader I'd ever heard try to encourage folks to grow where they are planted.
Again, I spent time hanging out with Hari Krishna Devotees. Like the Mormons, they at first made themselves seem open-minded, saying that all religions teach truth. But their agenda eventually came out. They told me the Hari Krishna movement is the Only Pure Faith, that the Hindu scriptures, especially the Bhagavad Gita, are the only purely God-inspired scriptures. Prabhupad also says this in his comments in his translation of the Bhagavad Gita.
The Ego is a clever Snake, eh? Clever, but ridiculously not self-aware.The Snake Called Ego
Ah, the Grand Practical Joke! Each Collective Ego, Each Religion, ironically states that Ego (Pride) is the source of all evil. “Ego comes before fall,” the Bible says. Each Organized Religion in the world indicts itself. Ego’s manifestation is materialism, greed, love of money, attachment to Credit and Debt – all called idolatry. Could it be more obvious?
The Snake chomps its own tail - perpetually!
An ancient, common myth you've probably heard in some form is that of a Serpent who guards a treasure, coiling around it. This Dragon himself cannot enjoy the treasure, and he won’t let anybody else near it. Then some Hero, like Siegfried, Saint George, Heracles, or Baal slays this Dragon and everyone rejoices. Jesus alludes to this idea, talking to the Religious leaders of his
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against people; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” (Matthew 23:13)
Jesus said, "Woe to the Pharisees! They are like a dog sleeping in the cattle manger: the dog neither eats nor lets the cattle eat." (Gospel of Thomas 102. Here Jesus quotes Aesop’s Fable of the dog in the manger).
And It Came To Pass
Anyway, back to Mormonism. I once had a Jack-Mormon boyfriend who told me a great secret: "Joseph Smith was a Trickster." This intrigued me.
Over the years I tried many times to read the Book of Mormon. But I couldn't help but see it as the silliest book I’d ever read. I couldn't get past the first few chapters. And I couldn't get past my view of the LDS Church as one big Financial Corporation posing as a religion. But I live amidst Mormon culture, and millions of devoted people feel deeply about the Book of Mormon. Just out of simple Golden-Rule respect, I must see through their eyes.
So just a year ago I picked up the Book of Mormon again. This time I resolved to take on the Zen mind, the mind of no judgement, the mind of the infant. Forget about everything I’d heard about the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith or the LDS Church! Read it with a soft heart, an open mind.
Lo & Behold, I heard the Eternal Laughter of the Universe burst forth!
The silliness of The Book of Mormon is its Divine Genius! The silliness is its Gargoyles, its Nagas, guarding the Temple, the Cherubim guarding the Tree of Life: only the ego-less mind can enter! The silliness is the Serpent coiled around the treasure, the blind Church of Greed sitting in the manger – you know, the one that calls itself The Only True Church!
A big point of ridicule of The Book of Mormon is that folks feel it is poorly written, in Old English, and it repeats whole tracts of scripture, usually word-for-word, from the King James Bible. It especially repeats the phrase “it came to pass” to the point of absurdity. “It came to pass” is the laughingstock of the Book of Mormon. It keeps respected scholars away.
Just a few weeks ago I found a new translation of the Book of Mormon into plain English, Modern Revelation, translated by Thomas Johnson, a non-Mormon pragmatist, actually published here in Moab. He simplified its verbose-ness and deleted “it came to pass”, condensing it to a very small book. Mormons don’t approve of it. Strange, but in my deepest core I agreed with them: I felt its strange mystery had been stripped away.
Then one day I got an epiphany:
“And it came to pass”
Could it be that “It came to pass” is the very theme, the Holy Mantra, of the Book of Mormon?
I followed my hunch. I picked up the Book of Mormon again, focusing on this most common phrase. By “chance” I stumbled upon the clue in 1 Nephi 20:3, which quotes Isaiah 48:3. After pages of “and it came to pass” ad-nauseam, why, all the sudden, would Nephi delete “and they came to pass” from Isaiah 48:3? Look:
I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of my mouth, and I shewed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass. (Isaiah 48:3)
Behold, I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of my mouth, and I showed them. I did show them suddenly. (1 Nephi 20:3)
The mystery deepens. Every sub-book in the Book of Mormon is saturated with “it came to pass” – but then it is mysteriously absent in the last sub-book, Moroni! Not a single instance of “it came to pass” in Moroni! Why? The mysterious answer is there, if you look.
The words of Zen Poet Ryokan came to mind:
If there is beauty, there must be ugliness;
If there is right, there must be wrong.
Wisdom and arrogance are complementary,
And illusion and enlightenment cannot be separated.
This is an old truth, don’t think that it was discovered recently.
“I want this, I want that”
Is nothing but foolishness.
I’ll tell you a secret:
All things are impermanent!
Then, the words of Zen Master Eihei Dogen:
Lack of firm aspiration is caused by being unaware of impermanence. Ultimately speaking, we die moment by moment, not residing even a little while. (From Shoboghenzo Zuimonki)
“I die daily” (Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:31)
"If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
Why does the universe exist?
Heaven and Earth shall pass away,
With our possessions, our possessiveness, we fool ourselves into thinking that it came to stay, that we came to stay. We trick ourselves into believing our petty edifice is the Only True Church Eternal -
One is the way that leads to Possessions,
"There Are Only Two Churches"
“But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.” (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 26:31)
Yes, the Book of Mormon states what the Christ and the Buddha state:
“One way leads to wealth. The other way leads to Nirvana.” (Gautama Buddha, Dhammapada v. 75)
“No one can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Jesus Christ, Matthew 6:24)
Yes, we have the answer to Joseph Smith’s question about which is The Only True Church:
Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth. And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the whore of all the earth, and she sat upon many waters; and she had dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people. And it came to pass that I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few, because of the wickedness and abominations of the whore who sat upon many waters; nevertheless, I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth; and their dominions upon the face of the earth were small, because of the wickedness of the great whore whom I saw. (1 Nephi 14:10)
This is a direct reference to the Whore of Babylon in the 17th and 18th chapters of Revelation in the Bible: the Whore who is the Religion of Commerce. The Book of Mormon states that the Whore Church is dominant, huge, & universal, not limited to any single culture or denomination. And we see that the One True Church is small, yet also universal, not limited to any single culture or denomination. If the Book of Mormon is true, the huge, wealthy, and powerful LDS institution simply cannot be the One True Church that it says it is!
If you look up the words whore and whoredoms throughout the book of Mormon, you see that whore always refers to greed mentality. Throughout the Bible, too, greed is spiritual adultery, called whoredom. Yes, Joseph Smith’s question is answered in the Book of Mormon. One is the Church of Greed and the other is the The One True Church. The church that loves to call itself the One True Church cannot be the One True Church:
For it shall come to pass in that day that the churches which are built up, and not unto the Lord, when the one shall say unto the other: Behold, I, I am the Lord’s; and the others shall say: I, I am the Lord’s; and thus shall every one say that hath built up churches, and not unto the Lord . . . . They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up. They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone stray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men. O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell! . . . . But behold, that great and abominable church, the whore of all the earth, must tumble to the earth, and great must be the fall thereof. (2 Nephi 28:3-18)
This Whore Church is characterized by greed, by deleting the teachings of its own Jesus from its doctrines:
…the Gentiles do stumble exceedingly, because of the most plain and precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church, which is the mother of harlots…” (1Nephi 13:34)
You Can't Get Around It:
Because the LDS Church is The Bastion of Capitalism, it blew me away when I read passages like this:
And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift . . . . There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God. . . . And now I, Mormon, would that ye should know that the people had multiplied, insomuch that they were spread upon all the face of the land, and that they had become exceedingly rich, because of their prosperity in Christ. And now, in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world. And from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more common among them. And they began to be divided into classes; and they began to build up churches unto themselves to get gain, and began to deny the true church of Christ. And it came to pass that when two hundred and ten years had passed away there were many churches in the land; yea, there were many churches which professed to know the Christ, and yet they did deny the more parts of his gospel… (4 Nephi 1:3-27)
The above passage is a direct reference to these two verses in the New Testament, ingeniously showing them as One Single Concept:
Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. (Acts 4:32)
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28)
Yes, Nephi speaks the Profound Message: there can be no unity, no one-ness, with possession. With possessiveness comes duality and divisions, the separation of male and female, the birth of “isms” and “ites”.
But it came to pass in the twenty and ninth year there began to be some disputings among the people; and some were lifted up unto pride and boastings because of their exceedingly great riches, yea, even unto great persecutions; For there were many merchants in the land, and also many lawyers, and many officers. And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning; yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches. Some were lifted up in pride, and others were exceedingly humble; some did return railing for railing, while others would receive railing and persecution and all manner of afflictions, and would not turn and revile again, but were humble and penitent before God. And thus there became a great inequality in all the land, insomuch that the church began to be broken up; yea, insomuch that in the thirtieth year the church was broken up (3 Nephi 6:10-14)
Notice how eerily similar the the above words are to the words of the Lakota Sage Lame Deer:
“Before our white brothers came to civilise us we had no jails. Therefore we had no criminals. You can’t have criminals without a jail. We had no locks or keys, and so we had no thieves. If a man was so poor that he had no horse, tipi or blanket, someone gave him these things. We were too uncivilised to set much value on personal belongings. We wanted to have things only in order to give them away. We had no money, and therefore a man’s worth couldn’t be measured by it. We had no written law, no attorney or politicians, therefore we couldn’t cheat. We were in a really bad way before the white man came, and I don’t know how we managed to get along without the basic things which, we are told, are absolutely necessary to make a civilised society." (Lame Deer, from John Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions)
The Book of Mormon, like the Bible, like the Quran, promises that wealth and blessings come to the spiritual seeker. Seek first the Buddha Way, Zen Master Dogen says, and all that you need comes to you. Seek first the Kingdom of God, Jesus says, and all you need shall be added to you. "Yippee" say the John Osteens, Gordon B. Hinkleys, Pat Robertsons, Jerry Falwells, and George Bushes as they build their own coffins. Religion, which denounces greed, is twisted to justify greed.
3 Ne. 22: 16 “Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.” (quoting Isaiah 54:16)
In the prologue of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith states in his testimony:
…that my name should be had for good and evil among nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.
Simple observation shows that it is the Organized Religion (whether called Catholic, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Mormon, Evangelical, Muslim, whatever) that promotes greed, war, hypocrisy, genocide, bigotry, environmental destruction, extortion, nationalism.
Yes, there are only two religions in the world: One is the Church of Reality, the other the Church of Illusion, servant of Mammon. The Church of Illusion is so good at illusion it can disguise itself as thousands of religions, each calling itself The Only True Church. Each seems in conflict with the next; but don't be fooled - they all work together pefectly as one single destroying machine.