Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Utah Lighthouse Ministry: An Example of Strength, Courage and Perseverance.

How many of us would speak the truth when it would open ourselves up to ridicule and threats?

Not many.  Most of us are too scared to make any waves in society.  Most of us will go along with the status quo despite either knowing it is wrong or having severe doubts about it.  It is much easier to just accept what authorities say than to question the facts behind it.  It is outright terrifying to question authority.

It is terrifying to oppose authorities in schools and in government but it is absolutely petrifying to question religious doctrine and practices.  People get defensive immediately when asked uncomfortable questions about their beliefs in God or why they believe a certain thing.  I have a great deal of difficulty discussing religion openly and honestly in my town.  I live in an area of the country that is predominantly fundamentalist Christian.  I am about as far from a fundamentalist as you can get and not be agnostic or atheist.  I question everything.

Jerald Tanner seems to have been a kindred spirit.  He questioned facts about his Mormon faith not to discredit it but to understand it better.  He did not stop questioning when the answering were troubling.  Instead he questioned further.  He and his wife Sandra Tanner felt compelled to share their findings with the world.

It would have been easier for them to simply quietly leave the LDS and forget all about it.  They could have spent their time enjoying their lives and spending time with their family.  They could have lived a comfortable "normal" life.   I thank God that they didn't.  Instead, they poured their resources, time and money, into further researching the history of Mormonism and sharing what they found.

I am a knowledge geek and love learning.  I am a trained anthropologist and scientist.  I read scientific journals and original sources whenever possible.  I have found the Tanners' works to be coherent, unbiased and thoroughly referenced.   I can check for myself to see if I agree with their conclusions.  

This morning I was on the Utah Lighthouse Ministry website.  I am writing a piece on the early events and wanted to check a few facts.  I can find the information I need in one of their papers and check their sources to confirm I had it right.  I have read so much that I forget where I read it.  I didn't realize I would be writing anything when I initially started researching Mormonism and didn't take notes.  I just flew through the material appalled at what I read.

As I read a piece, I scrolled to the bottom of the page.  UTHM had included many comments from readers.  Some of the comments were encouraging and thanking them for their work.  Others were downright mean.  I wondered if these people were reading the same articles as I was.  I found their work to be objective and non-judgmental.  I found lists of where the Tanners and the Utah Lighthouse Ministry had been threatened and sued.  

To me, a non-Mormon with no emotional involvement, the Tanners' work appears to be a wonderful source for early Mormon documents and articles explaining the LDS.  To a Mormon, the very suggestion that Joseph Smith could have lied is blasphemy.  When I began researching Mormonism, I assumed the early followers didn't know many of the facts surrounding the origins of the Book of Mormon.  I was wrong.  People have turned a blind eye to cold, hard facts from the very beginning of the LDS.

Many comments on the UTLM.org website asked why they felt it necessary to destroy other people's religion and why they are so hateful.  I don't think it is hateful to question religion's doctrine, origin, practices, or leaders.  We have every right to ask questions.  If the leaders don't want to be questioned, it should raise even more questions.  

No faith that can't stand examination is worth having.

God is the sum of all truths. 

The God of the universe can not be destroyed by facts.  

My questioning of Mormonism and why people followed Joseph Smith has led me to examine my own faith in a different way.  I am subjecting my own Anglican beliefs to the same scrutiny I would ask of a fundamentalist Christian and a Mormon.  It is not easy.  Questioning everything is scary but necessary.  Publishing and being public about findings takes a great deal of courage.  

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Autism: Early Intervention & Diagnosis to Early Admission to College of Business!

Fifteen years ago, this man was a little boy who could not communicate his most basic thoughts.  He was so non-responsive that at one point we thought he might have a hearing loss.  For a while I actually hoped that was the cause.  At least I can understand hearing and hearing loss.  The alternative was the great unknown called autism.

His hearing was fine.  Better than fine.  Just shy of his 3rd birthday, he was evaluated by a team of specialists at a major Children's Hospital.  The decision was unanimous and undeniable.  Autism.

His future was a giant unknown.  Last month he asked me if the specialists gave us any information about how far he would progress or what the future held.  No.  Nothing.  The range of developmental issues are so vast that the experts can give no indication of how far he might progress.  We didn't know if he would ever be able to function independently.

The list of things he couldn't do that he should be able to do was lengthy.  It still makes me cry when I think about that time.  The fear for his future was overwhelming.  If he never became independent, who would take care of him when I'm gone?  This fear drove me to action.  He would become as independent as possible.

My son had a major advantage over most kids in his situation.  Many people say that advantage was having me as his mother but that is wrong.  His real advantage stemmed from his grandparents, my parents.  They both spent their careers educating special needs children.  They both understood the challenges he would face and provided guidance.  Without them, we would have floundered.  Without them, we would not have known what questions to ask or where to look for answers.  Without them, we would have listened to the naysayers and not have pushed as hard.

People in our small town marvel at his progress.  Some have called it a miracle.  We moved here when he was in 2nd grade and couldn't read or count.  Now he is a senior in high school.  He plays football, wrestles and runs track.  He completed five college classes during his junior yer and is taking twice that number this year.  We once wondered if he would need to take the alternative assessments to graduate from high school.  Now, he has been accepted to two universities and even got directly admitted into the College of Business.

This may look like a miracle.  It may seem like it is just because I pushed him so hard.  It may seem like he must be especially gifted to have achieved this level of success.  It isn't

Some have commented that he achieved all this because of his unique drive.  That is true.  What most don't realize is that he was not born with that drive,  None of us are.  He developed that internal drive to succeed as he grew.  His drive developed because he was challenged and because we believed he could overcome his challenges.

Others can learn from him.  I finally convinced him to share his story in the hopes that others will also achieve higher levels of independence.  I no longer worry about what will happen when I am gone.  That is the gift that I wish to share with other parents.

Oh....notice in the top picture that he is sitting behind the wheel of the car.  Yes.  He did get his driver's license which is something else that was never a certainty.  It took more practice than most but he did it.  And he is a good driver.

Amazon.com: Striving for Independence: Ways to Help Children with Disabilities Learn to Function More Indepedently eBook: Kristan Payne: Kindle Store