Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I have to 'Atmit'...

I'm not a particularly tech-savvy guy.  I use my cell phone to make phone calls and text a few people, my computer does not require the latest and greatest processors to allow for greater gaming abilities, and my email accounts (except one) generally are cleaned out once in a blue moon.  I hadn't given much thought to "blogging" until one of my best friends created one of his own.  I then noticed other blogs which spoke to me, blogs that stretched my mind, and some that resonate with my political leanings

I have to admit that at first, I was quite intimidated by the whole process.  These, seemingly, brilliant people present their ideas, philosophies, and (sometimes) facts in a such a concise manner and then other brilliant people would make comments for or against the original ideas posted.  The back and forth would then ensue.  But that's what it is on the surface. 

What intimidated me wasn't the process, per se, but that these authors had their thoughts so organized.  Yet, as I read blog post after blog post, my own thoughts, ideas, and philosophies began to define themselves.  So, after much thought, I've allowed myself to go through the hassle of "creating" a blog and I hope to be presenting a worthwhile addition to the "blogosphere".


As most of you have probably pointed out (to yourselves), the title of this entry contains a, seemingly, misspelled version of the word "admit". But come on, give me a little credit, it's an actual word!  Not an English word, but still a word.  "Atmit" is of Ethiopian origin and refers to a "thin, nourishing porridge" given to people who have been so starved of nutrients that their bodies cannot digest and process foods of a heavier nature, raw protein, solid foods, etc.  

It's meant to begin someone on the road to recovery after severe starvation and malnourishment with the goal being to reintroduce foods otherwise intolerable at the time.   There are many variations and recipes for this supplement and, to my knowledge, no one has licensed or patented any one of these concoctions.  It is an interesting tid-bit that the LDS Church has been credited with being one of the largest distributors.

I found this substance fascinating, something so inexpensive, easy to make, and extremely efficient at performing it's chief task, maintaining survival.  Atmit is half fine oatmeal flour, a fourth nonfat milk, a fifth sugar, and only a twentieth is the actual nutrients and minerals.  So this substance that, by design, brings people back from the brink of death is only one part out of twenty the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients.  The rest is filler, sugar, carbs and little bit of dairy sans the fat.  Good stuff!

Of course, what got me thinking of this "crazy, little thing" called Atmit was a segment on a national news show documenting the famine in Africa and one family in particular.  A grandmother had trekked 60 miles to a refugee camp with her two year-old granddaughter and by the time they reached this camp, the two year-old granddaughter resembled a six month old, a famished one at that.  Her entire life, this young girl had been malnourished and this segment of the news show showed her being given some Atmit.  A few minutes later, to end the segment, it showed this same young girl with a little more life in her eyes, nibbling from a packet of nutrient rich peanut butter.  She's better!

Alright!  Where am I going with this all this atmit?!  As the news segment finished the thought came to me that something of this nature could be used by those in power to keep people on some level of voluntary stasis at some lower sphere of living.  Atmit, supposedly, has the necessary supplements to maintain some semblance of life, so it won't let you die, but there is no way that one can thrive, grow or progress subsisting completely on this supplemental slop.  Furthermore, if this could possibly happen physically, could it happen...spiritually? Milk?

I, currently, am an active member in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I've been a faithful attendee of the LDS church my entire life.  Like most members, I made it through primary with flying colors, I excelled in Young Mens, got my "eagle scout", got my "Duty to God", I was Deacons' and Teachers' Quorum President, I was the Priests' Quorum first assistant, and all of that stuff.  By the time I was 19, I thought I knew something about Mormonism...I didn't know 'jack'. 

At 19, I was called on a mission to the Montana Billings Mission.  When I was preparing to leave, visions of helmet clad cyclists danced in my head, baptisms abound in my dreams, and I was going to spend 100% of my time seeking out those who wanted to hear, and hopefully adopt, the restored gospel.  To my surprise, as I began to serve my mission, all of the people that I wanted to 'convert' just didn't live in Montana, there's not too many people there!  My mission could have effectively been split into three subcategories; 1) Proselyting 2) Service 3) Research/Study. 

One of the first books that I read, that I had not already, was Jesus the Christ by James Talmage.  I fell in love with this masterpiece, more so with the notes at the conclusion of each chapter.  I studied it frontwards, backwards, and for weeks on end.  I could not get enough of it.  There was something to it that I had yet not gotten from any leader, lesson manual, or church publication that I had ever seen!  It was the beginning of my personal relationship with the Holy Ghost, not only was I able to feel the presence of the Spirit, but I was beginning to be able to learn eternal Truth on my own, independent of anyone else.  The rest, they say, is history.

It has been eight years since then and the insatiable hunger for knowledge has not begun to wane in the least degree.  But as I look around, talk to other members of the church, and, in some instances, have the opportunity to teach them, I have come to the sad realization that the overwhelming majority of them have, voluntarily, allowed themselves to subsist of the spiritual atmit proceeding forth from the 'Church'.  I read, not too long ago, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism.  I found it to be a great read and as I told those of my friends at church about this book and what I got out of it, many returned blank, glossed over stares and most changed the subject to another "Deseret Book" book of the week. 

It's been recorded and analyzed several other places, so I'll relieve myself of going over it again, that several apostate doctrines have made their way into the popular psyche of the church membership, J. Reuben Clark being one who certainly wasn't afraid to boldly warn the church of this.  One being that there are things that "we just don't need to know" or that "once the brethren have spoken...that's it".  There are far too many to list but all of these things lead to a dependence on someone or something else for their spiritual growth and deflect accountability away from ones' self.  And this is the common culture within the LDS population.  Anything outside a very small set of parameters is considered speculation and, in most cases, heresy. 

To make matters worse, the Church (TM) has not set an intellectually accepting precedent.  Mentioning "The September Six" insights responses resembling the hyenas in 'The Lion King' hearing the name "Mufasa".  Even today, one of the most misused clauses in the Church Handbook of Instructions deals with what to consider "Apostasy" and how to proceed once one has been accused of such.  The church has updated and curtailed former practices for many things, yet, intellectualism hasn't been so lucky.

Now, before anyone jumps to any conclusions, I'm not going to openly proclaim that the "powers that be" recognize this dependence and openly exploit it for whatever reason one would see fit.  I'm not that brazen nor do I wish to "stir up wrath".  However, my observation is that "the brethren" are quite aware of the climate surrounding the cumulative knowledge of the membership of the church and instead of "doing something" to increase the "Mormon IQ", the general membership of the Church(TM) has been handed, through the almighty "correlation" department, the Gospel Principles manual as a syllabus for both Sunday School and Relief Society/Priesthood. 

It has been interesting as I've had the opportunity to discuss the reasoning for such a decision.  No one seems "OK" to question it.  It's not until I'm able to establish somewhat of a timeline for the Sunday School and other adult manuals that things begin to be clear.  For Example, the individual chapters comprising Jesus the Christ were Sunday School lessons sanctioned by the "Deseret Sunday School Union".  The book A Rational Theology by John A. Widstoe, at one point, was also used as a Sunday School manual in the early twentieth century.  Even up to the recent history of Relief Society/Priesthood manuals, we had the Presidents of the Church series.  While not incredibly "deep" in their coverage of the individual ministries of the Presidents of the Church, I would consider it a drastic improvement over the current LDS sabbath day curriculum.  So, why the gradual decline in the "nutritional value" of the Sunday School and Adult materials?

For realz player?

I don't have a definitive answer to that question, but I might be able to point in the general vicinity.  In the Spring of 2005, I was serving in the little railroad town of Forsyth, MT, which put me on the outskirts of the Billings East zone of the mission.  In March of that year, instead of a traditional Zone Conference, we had a visiting General Authority visit our mission.  It happened to be Marlin K. Jensen, the Church Historian and Recorder. 

The morning session breezed by without incident, but it got interesting, at least for me, right after lunch.  I found myself in the restroom, and, low and behold, who was in the stall right next to me?  Elder Jensen.  (Apparently, we both enjoyed the drinks the local Relief Society provided with our lunch.)  The opportunist in me quickly realized this was a rare moment where I could ask any question I wanted (captive audience).  So I asked him what he enjoyed most about his job/calling.  He said that he enjoyed handling the source materials for some of the church's most prized records.  The hand written manuscripts of the Book of Mormon, the original journals, diaries, and so forth. 

At the time, I was fascinated with the Wilford Woodruff Journals, it held a certain mystique with me.  I then asked him why the church hadn't thought it beneficial to publish this record more than once?  His answer took me by surprise.  "Well...the membership of the church doesn't have the faith, as a whole, to accept the principles held within its' pages."  To be honest, at the time, I wasn't too concerned with this explanation.  Yet, as I've grown and experienced real and harsh spiritual trials in my own life, I have come to the understanding that faith and testimony grow only when they are challenged or experience resistance.  To borrow from the analogy of strengthening a muscle, it is difficult to do so if one has conceded the fact that the muscle is weak and makes no effort to provide resistance.  To me, it seems counter intuitive.

Passive Acceptance

I'll conclude with a cliche I believe to be akin to Eternal principle; "Knowledge is Power".  It was once said of knowledge (or revelation) that "God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what he will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them... " (TPJS 150-151)  The Prophet Joseph, himself, declared that "a man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world." (Ibid)  It is very clear that there is a correlation between Knowledge and Salvation.  After all "man cannot be saved in ignorance." 

It would seem, at least for now, that it's the "mind and will of the church" to withhold Truth from the masses based on the meager faith of the very least and has decided to disseminate a 'common denominator' of Truth.  Thereby, reducing the amount of "authorized" material and doctrine to a level and consistency that can be easily consumed by those with the smallest modicum of tolerance, essentially, placing a tourniquet around the infinite Truth that is Mormonism and limiting it to nothing more than "Spiritual Atmit".

Lord, be merciful when "sore trials (actually do) come upon" us.