"Sort of" is such a harmless thing to say. "Sort of". It's just a filler: "sort of". It doesn't really mean anything. But after certain things, "sort of" means everything. Like after "I love you". Or "you're going to live".
Today I went to church (sort of). I mean, it wasn't actually at a church and I went in a supervisory role for work; but I went just the same. The service was supposed to be for troubled Mormon teens, but quickly became a proselytizing recruitment seminar for those who were not Mormon.
First of all, the majority of the teens attending the meeting were not Mormon, so I kind of understand why they took that approach. However, I was confused that the presiding Bishopric (local clergy members) were so willing and eager to have so many non-Mormons take the sacrament (communion). You see, according to Mormon scripture, partaking of the sacrament before you are worthy and baptized is a damnable offense. This is what Jesus (allegedly) said on this matter in the Book of Mormon:
"28 And now behold, this is the commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily, when ye shall minister it;
"29 For whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul; therefore if ye know that a man is unworthy to eat and drink of my flesh and blood ye shall forbid him.
"30 Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out from among you, but ye shall minister unto him and shall pray for him unto the Father, in my name; and if it so be that he repenteth and is baptized in my name, then shall ye receive him, and shall minister unto him of my flesh and blood." [emphasis added]
Now, the common practice in the Church is to ignore this bit of scripture since it is often off-putting to those sincerely looking into the Church. But it is there nonetheless, and I can recall several instances where this very passage was used to make my peers and myself fearful of violating this tenet lest we be damned. This is religious fear-mongering.
The second point I want to address is part of the lesson which began with a 10 minute video on Joseph Smith's vision of god and Jesus, anachronistically portraying Joseph and his father citing Mormon scripture at a time before the supposed discovery of the Book of Mormon--the source of the cited scripture. The discussion which followed evolved into how one can know that a given proposition is true. In this context they were discussing the truth of religious claims primarily.
However, the Bishop conducting the lesson emphasized a particular passage of the Book of Mormon which says: "And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things". That's right: "ALL things". I have discussed this passage before, but I usually gloss over the "ALL things" part--but not this Bishop. He stressed the word "ALL" as if to imply that the Holy Ghost really is the arbiter of all knowledge, through which one can know literally anything just by asking god.
Naturally, this got me thinking. With such a powerful source of useful knowledge eagerly awaiting requests from an infinite database, why hasn't anyone used this method to uncover the cure for AIDS? This would surely save the lives of millions of people around the world, in particular in southern Africa. And the scriptures say time and time again if you ask god in faith for a righteous thing, he will give liberally. What could be more righteous than sparing millions of people the insufferable pain and impending death caused by HIV and AIDS? Not to mention cancer.
As Christopher Hitchens inquired, if Jesus could heal a blind man, why not cure blindness? Why such callous non-responsiveness from a god who is said by his followers to want to help mankind, if we simply ask? Why such a condition in the first place, and has no one tried this? If prayer works, why hasn't this already occurred?
Why did it take scientists hundreds of years to develop an effective germ theory of disease in order to rid the world of small pox? What did prayer do for the discovery of the polio vaccine? Which scientific theories were brought about through prayerful consideration rather than methodological naturalism and the scientific method? Why the long silence from heaven?
Furthermore, the Bishop described in detail the "burning in the bosom" experience which is supposed to confirm the veracity and historicity of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith's story, as being either a "warm, joyful" sensation, or a confirming thought randomly popping in one's head. And this is his proposed method for knowing the truth of all things? Growing up in the Church I never realized how silly this proposition actually sounds. But hearing it from the mouth of a true believer was a stunning experience. If you feel good about it and you think to your self it is true, then it is a fact!
What reckless and fallacious reasoning to be telling already troubled teens. If such a concept as sin exists, I believe this Bishop's actions today would qualify.
This kind of manipulation of young minds reminds me of a documentary (available on Netflix, last I checked) called "Jesus Camp". Here is the trailer:
And here is a rather disturbing clip from the same film:
And here is the Atheist Experience talking with someone who was at Jesus Camp, part 1: