I just got back from, as my dad referred to it, a "Physics devotional" in Newbury Park titled "God, Man, and the Universe." I might have mentioned it before.
It was tamer and worse than I'd feared it would be, at the same time. The guy had a Ph.D. in theoretical physics, and his lecture seemed like a hurried, rushed, highly-condensed summary of a basic Astronomy class with the occasional "worlds without number" verse tossed in.
It was tamer than I'd feared because he did it wrong. His talk showed us the Earth, the Moon, Mars, etc., gradually bringing us out into the Milky Way galaxy, outside it, and out into the vastness of the universe, much like I did here. He ended with the Hubble Deep Field photo, explaining that every dot of light was a galaxy, which got a few people in the audience to (rightly) say, "I feel so small."
His talk aspired to make us feel so small and insignificant. His talk aspired to thrust its audience into the cold, indifferent face of nihilism. His talk aspired to do quite a bit, but he riled his audience up so poorly that even I, the Nephite apostate, wanted more.
So, as we stared at the Hubble Deep Field photo, with its profound significance flying of the heads of many in the audience, the point of his talk materialized above it: "God knows your name..."
It would've been a damn awesome talk, if he'd done it right. I wanted to go up there and redo it for him. "Look, sir," I'd have said, "you need to really work them up, so they respect the message you're trying to convey." Even as a nihilistic atheist, I recognize that the idea of a Creator whose handiwork includes the totality of the universe, yet still knows and loves each person individually, even knowing them by name, is pretty powerful.
Powerful, yes. Accurate? No.
It was like he took my favorite Monet painting and slapped a McDonald's logo on it, but slightly askew. If you're going to tack your God-product on something which elicits that much wonder, at least DO IT RIGHT!
It was worse than I'd feared for a few reasons. First, it turned out to actually be an Institute graduation, so I had to sit through that whole procession, along with a thoroughly uninteresting "Institute is good" talk. Second, I had to listen to John Bytheway the whole way there.
There was a time, long ago, when I'd listen to John Bytheway and find him uplifting and thought-provoking. But now, as I heard him say that "Lamanite isn't as much about lineage as it is about belief" and "the biggest enemy the Nephites had was apostate Nephites" while sitting in a car with three other people all nodding their heads in agreement, there was only one thought running through my mind:
"Holy SHIT! These guys really are a cult!"
I used to adore this guy. I used to respect him for being wise and insightful. But no! He's an absolute monster, making people all over the country feel guilty for being attracted to people, and encouraging them to lock themselves under a rock and hide from all that evil "knowledge" out there. Hide from the world! The world is evil! Only listen to church leaders and no one else!
CULT, CULT, CULT!!
... and I was part of it. Words can not describe how grateful I am to be free.