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TAL BACHMAN - SECTION 7
Tal Bachman is an internationally recognized singer-songwriter from Vancouver, Canada. Raised strictly in the Mormon church, Tal spent two years in South America performing missionary work and learning Spanish. Later, Tal resigned his membership in the LDS Corporation.
| What never seems to occur to us as Mormons is whether there might have been some contributing factor to Mormon persecution besides "Satan knows we're the only true religion and wants to destroy us".
It never occurs to us that the founder and leader of Mormonism might have been hounded because he jumped bail, broke laws virtually everywhere he went (including Ohio's banking laws), defaulted on loans, remorselessly demanded offerings and donations from his followers, used his position to secretly take sexual advantage of numerous women in an era when chastity was highly prized, was caught lying and changing "eternal" doctrine on the fly, bankrupted so many with his stupid banking scheme, double-crossed local politicians, publicly humiliated or slandered those who criticized him, announced that only he and his apostles had any legitimate authority to govern on earth, proclaimed that every other religious creed on earth was an "abomination" and that only he had the truth, announced his designs as a presidential candidate to bring all of North and South America under his dominion through military force if necessary, taught that monogamous marriage was a "superstition", engineered the taking over of local governments, evidently told his followers that "stealing from the Gentiles" was no crime, had himself appointed "Lieutenant General" of his own private army nearly one third the size of the US standing army of the time, and organized a secret band of vigilantes and had them swear an oath to obey him "whether right or wrong";
and it also never occurs to us that his completely deluded followers, who frequently enabled Smith's virtually sociopathic behavior and protected him whenever possible, might then also naturally have been targeted.
This was Jacksonian America, on the frontier, where "civilization" and "the economy" - the general prospects for survival - were a lot more fragile than they seem today. Attempts at abolishing private property, overthrowing democracy in favor of theocracy, completely reconfiguring social order including marriage, taking property which didn't belong to them, etc., wouldn't have seemed merely irksome, but incredibly alarming. This was a long time before the National Guard, or AFDC, or credit cards, or even full-time police forces, were around...
Indeed, what is perhaps most amazing about Americans in that era is just how tolerant they often were: the early and mid 1800s were a time of great religious innovation all throughout America. Sects and communes arose which practiced free love, nudity, communism, all sorts of esoteric things, and believed in even stranger things; and if there is any pattern at all, it is that if they didn't bother the community at large, the community didn't bother them, and they lived in peace with each other.
But presiding over a mere commune was never enough for Smith. No - he wanted to preside over - and change, disrupt, subvert - everything else, including American democratic structures and institutions themselves, at least wherever they were impediments to his own ambitions (which they almost always were). Perhaps most famously, this included the 600 year old right (originating in Magna Carta, English common law, and most recently in the US Bill of Rights) to freedom of speech and freedom of the press: Joseph Smith, like all dictators, was in favor of these rights just as long as their exercise was to his advantage. Once they weren't, and as soon as he was in a position to do so, as the virtual dictator of the city-state of Nauvoo he sought to abolish them by ordering the destruction of a printing press, the only crime of which was to have published not lies, but truths, about Smith's abuse of his position to secure sex. (Given that and his martial, imperial ambitions, one can only imagine what sorts of thingshe might have done if he'd won the presidency of the United States. He might have made the unprincipled Aaron Burr look like George Washington.)
Today, a team of state or federal prosecutors might take the time make an example of such a person; but in 1840's America, such teams didn't exist in the numbers they do today. For better or for worse, communities usually policed themselves. Sometimes they did it in violent ways - but it's not as if Joseph Smith didn't know that.
I would never say that I thought Joseph Smith deserved to be assassinated, or that his followers deserved to be driven away from their homes. But then, I would never say that a man who decided to leave his wallet on top of his car deserved to have it stolen. It's just that, if you do, it will be stolen; and if you do the sorts of things that Joseph Smith and his followers did in rural, frontier, Jacksonian America, what you'll get is just what they did get.
It is a shame - one man's lunatic delusions of grandeur and lusts led many thousands to suffer - but...if you do what they did, when and where they did it...what would happen, is just what did happen.
And they did it anyway.
If Mormon Church defenders were properly educated by their seminary and church teachers, and honest and fair, they would mention this part of the story everytime they mentioned that "Mormons are the most persecuted religious group in American history" - which is why they never will.
| The good news is that in contrast to earlier eras, nothing is more believable for folks nowadays than a "scientific" claim. The bad news is that "scientific" claims can be very wrong.
When I was in junior high, for example, all scientists "knew" that eggs were very bad for you, stomach ulcers came from stress, and eating before swimming made it far more likely that you would drown. "The evidence was in!". Yet scientists now are united in saying that the fear about eggs was entirely without foundation, that stomach ulcers can be cured with a routine course of antibiotics, and swimming with food in your stomach is no more dangerous than swimming without it.
These examples, and so many others, raise the question of what "scientific consensus" might be wrong about now. The problem is in answering that question. After all, to broadcast one's suspicion that almost everyone is wrong about something - including our new caste of authorities, the scientists - is to commit a kind of heresy. But people only love heretics in retrospect - once they've been vindicated. Like four hundred years after they're dead. In the moment, no one but a few fellow heretics can stand them. Human nature dictates that we view contemporary heresy - heresy against what we think we know - as the result of either ignorance (the heretic doesn't understand the truth), or evil (he understands the truth, but fights against it out of ill motives). And who likes an ignoramus or an evildoer?
Even more...who likes a wet blanket? Everyone loves consensus...it feels so good having your beliefs validated by others...So conjuring up the spectre of doubt in a long-sought paradise of pleasing group certainty...well, that would be like someone from the Joint Chiefs of Staff telling the president of the United States that his war plan sucks, wouldn't it? We can't have that. It spoils the party...chases away all the self-congratulation and feelings of rightness and validity. Everyone loves consensus, even when the supporting evidence isn't really there.
Anyway, where I'm going with this is that my experience with Mormonism has left me insuperably suspicious of much of what "everyone knows", including what "the experts" know. One thing in particular I am skeptical of is the widely-believed claim that human activity has caused the one degree increase in global temperature over the past century. And the more I think about it, and read about the whole thing, try to dig deep beneath the surface and then try to step back and view it all...the more skeptical I become of it all. I don't buy it. That is my heresy. What's yours?
P.S. For anyone interested, click http://www.nationalpost.com/opinion/c... to read a recent National Post article on a possible coming ice age.
| Can Mormons believe in evolution?
The answer is: YES. They can believe that human life evolved from lower life forms in the same way that they can believe that gays should be able to marry, that it's okay to drink beer every once in a while, and that it's okay to look at pornography. Or, like Mormon "intellectuals", that Joseph Smith's stories, while not technically true, are "true in a broader, metaphorical sense". Or, like Van Hale, that the Book of Mormon isn't an actual record of things which once happened.
Strictly speaking, "Mormonism" doesn't exist; only individual versions of what people enjoy imagining is "Mormonism" exist. Hence the comment on another thread on this site by a (pitiable) man who enjoys imagining he's a devout Mormon, that Mormons can believe that humans evolved from lower life forms - notwithstanding an official First Presidency statement declaring that this is not true.
Does that matter? No, not at all. All that matters, when we are devout Mormons, or devout anythings, is the effectiveness of the mind games we can play on ourselves.
Here is the LDS First Presidency statement, republished in the Ensign in 2002, explaining church doctrine on the matter of human evolution:
Gospel Classics: The Origin of Man
It reads in part:
"It is held by some that Adam was not the first man upon this earth and that the original human being was a development from lower orders of the animal creation. These, however, are the theories of men. The word of the Lord declared that Adam was “the first man of all men” (Moses 1:34), and we are therefore in duty bound to regard him as the primal parent of our race."
The meaning of these words could not be clearer. Does it matter?
Judge for yourself by the comments which will be posted below by self-styled devout Mormons, who will still insist that belief in Mormonism doesn't exclude belief that humans today evolved from lower life forms. No doubt we'll hear all about B.H. Roberts et al...yet nothing that will come close to the authority of an official First Presidency statement on the matter.
And it won't matter at all - because logic, fact...nothing matters to the true believer, but to continue being a true believer.
| Many intelligent people continue to believe that Joseph Smith translated something called "reformed Egyptian" using decoding spectacles, only had sex with his teenaged foster daughters because an angel would have killed him if he hadn't, and that there are three, two-thousand-year-old "American Israelites" wandering around performing anonymous good deeds, like plowing fields while farmers are asleep.
How can this be?
I think the answer is that posessing intelligence is not equivalent to critical thinking, any more than posessing a vast amount of wealth is equivalent to being an astute investor.
No matter what we tell ourselves as Mormons, belief in Mormonism ultimately requires the same sort of uncritical thinking that facilitates belief in Scientology, astrology, or iridiology. It is a kind of thinking that denies that empirically-discovered facts and the rules of logic impose constraints on what we may justifiably believe. It is one which claims that the content of things like "private intuitions", "privately heard voices" (see Son of Sam, Nephi, etc.), or "metaphysical inspiration", should be granted just as much credibility as a replicable test under controlled conditions, or one corroborated by facts discovered by a multitude of disciplines.
To put it baldly: the psychological state in which it makes sense to us to credit to a voice telling us that the sun is drawing its light from a star called Kolob, rather than creating it by internal nuclear processes, is the same one in which, potentially, it makes sense to credit a voice telling us to kill. Where we deny the validity of empirical or logical checks upon our privately heard voice, or privately felt intuitions, any belief or action becomes potentially possible.
Mormons like my former self might object that "the spirit" is the check; but that is a tautology. It is "the spirit" - however we choose to define it - itself which represents a rejection of the constraints on belief. It itself is no "check"; it is itself the symptom that we have given ourselves over to magical thinking (where 2+2 can equal whatever we wish it to equal).
| Former Mormons argue that the church should open its archives on grounds of justice. It is not just, they (we) say, that sincere members around the world should in good faith devote their lives to an organization which withholds facts relevant to its truth and authority claims. Well, yes - of course.
But there is another reason why the church should open its archives: it is in the best interests of the church, as a purely man-made organization bent on surviving and growing, to do so.
1.) An overwhelming avalanche of evidence from disciplines as diverse as linguistics, anthropology, geography, zoology, botany, metallurgy, ethnology, and most importantly, molecular biology, has exploded virtually every single BOM claim about the indigenous peoples of America. And...what? Most Mormons don't care. Like certain MD posters, they simply find mental "outs", privately re-define key words, retroactively change 160 years worth of LDS doctrine, and voila! - no problem;
2.) Same with the Book of Breathings scrolls. Does the fact that Smith's "translation" have no relationship to the source text matter to devout Mormons? No.
3.) Same with Smith's lying about polygamy. Does what that lying say about his credibility mean anything to devout Mormons? No.
4.) Same with doctrines like evolution. LDS doctrine could not be clearer on this. It has been announced in an official First Presidency statement which declares itself to reveal "eternal truth"; it is in LDS scriptures; it is reiterated in the LDS Bible dictionary. Yet a few mind games, a bit of selective blindness and amnesia, are all that's needed for this to be no problem whatsoever for devout Mormons.
5.) The list goes on forever - Smith didn't use any plates for the translation? No problem. He stared into a stone and dictated? No problem. He was charged with fraud ("disorderly conduct")? No problem. He tried to get rid of all those "Books of Commandments" and re-wrote some of his "prophecies" in the subsequent edition ("Dandamp;C")? No problem. The sun doesn't draw its light from a star called Kolob? No problem. DNA evidence refutes Smith's claims? No problem. He deflowered a bewildered 14 year old? No problem. He changed his "first vision" story fundamentally over the years? NO PROBLEM.
The truth is that NOTHING is, or ever could be, a problem for a huge segment of believing Mormons - nor should this be surprising.
Paraphrasing Frank Kermode, for the "true believer" there can be no such thing as "disconfirming evidence", simply because his "true belief" was never based on evidence in the first place. Mormon belief, like all fanatical, false beliefs, only maintains a veneer of rational justification; underneath, it is virtually content-free. It is, in fact, merely a psychological state, distinguishable only by the particular totems it anchors itself with (the Book of Mormon itself, a man-as-true-prophet itself, etc.).
Consider - what would the flaming Mormons on here say, if Monson announced in General Conference that "the Book of Mormon should be regarded as an inspiring allegory, rather than as strictly literal history"? Would that drive the Englunds or Schryvers or BCSpaces away? Hinckley's denial of doctrinal status to eternal progression - the actual engine of all Mormon theology - didn't phase them...why would anything else? It wouldn't.
Mormon prophets can say or do anything; LDS archives could yield anything; it will not disrupt the hardened psychological state of most Mormons. Nothing, for the most part, will happen.
Therefore, Mormon leaders have little or nothing to fear from throwing open the archives to any who wish to peruse them - even the big bad anti-Mormons. But best of all for church leaders is that throwing them open would remove a huge club from the hands of church critics.
Consider one of the most devastating books to Mormonism's image of the past fifty years (and maybe ever): Jon Krakauer's "Under the Banner of Heaven". One of Krakauer's primary motivations in writing that book was his irritation at the Mormon church's obfuscation and deception about its origins. Throw open the archives and that's one less club for Krakauer, with virtually no cost in number of followers.
More obvious is that throwing them open would lessen the suspicion some members do end up feeling as they start out investigating their own church's origins.
Opening up the archives, then, would not only be the right thing to do, but would also be in the church's best interests.
| For many ex-Mormons, the name of Dan Peterson elicits contempt. Maybe this is unfair. Maybe Dan, in person, is a great guy. But Dan has created, and then nursed, a very off-putting public persona for many years. Mormon head-counters will never know how many people struggling with their faith might have returned to church if, instead of being sarcastically berated by this so-called "defender of the church" for merely raising a concern in an online forum, they were heard out, patiently, or sensitively engaged. But, that was not Dan's style, at least in public. His own need to fuel his vanity by belittling others was always far more important to him than, say, a Christian duty to lovingly regather the lost sheep. For Dan, no matter what he enjoyed telling himself, it was only ever about him, and his own desperate need to feel smart, important, and powerful, at the expense of others.
Maybe this is why, also, so many members viewed him, and his colleagues, with shock and embarrassment: there just didn't seem to be anything there reminiscent of the spirit of Christianity which Mormonism pretends to represent. Peterson may have been entirely genial in person. Online and in print, he came across as self-absorbed, vainglorious, rancorous, mean, obsessed with even trivial score-settling, and in some palpable, but kind of inexplicable way, sociopathic. If, by some chance, his recent career troubles have resulted from his superiors finally realizing how bad he has made their beloved church look for the last thirty years, all I can say is, what took them so long?
This public persona was off-putting enough for those wondering about their Mormon faith; but making it even worse was Peterson's tendency, like that of many other congenital bullies, to veer quickly, in bi-polar-like fashion, from verbal stomping (with a kind of cold, remorseless glee), on those he decided were his "enemies" (often, honest people sincerely wondering about the truth of their beliefs), to blubbering like a third grade drama queen about how someone or other was victimizing him, every time someone finally got sick of his bullying or his nonsense, and called him out. It was always a freakshow with Peterson.
Another issue, for thoughtful Mormons and former Mormons alike, was simply the sheer spectacle of a man who - for reasons it is difficult to fathom - spoke of himself as a legitimate intellectual, but who regularly constructed or published defenses of Mormonism so utterly ludicrous, that bright eighth-graders could have seen them for what they were: circular, or fundamentally dishonest (since clearly there was no desire to get to the truth, but only to "defend the paradigm"), or reliant on thought-terminating cliches or obfuscatory language, or full of deliberate distraction tricks, like any two-bit magician might employ. And often, the pieces were all of those things combined.
Of course, Peterson was not the only one to do this sort of thing. The "let's just say *anything* we need to, to keep this thing going, to all keep ourselves believing" culture is pervasive in Mormonism. You see it once a month at testimony meeting, and you certainly saw it with other high-profile apologists. But at least testimonies are pretty straightforward: "God answered my prayer, this strengthened by faith in the Gospel, the end".
Peterson and his crew, by contrast, took this sort of thing into the stratosphere. If testimony meeting was a cup of tea, your average high profile Mormon apologetic piece, starting with Nibley, was like a Timothy Leary acid trip washed down with a bottle of mescaline-laced tequila and a hit of nitrous oxide. For all the (almost sad) academic pretenses, there was clearly no depth of absurdity to which Peterson and his goon squad would not stoop in order to try to keep themselves, and others, believing in what is just...not true.
These depths included, but were by no means limited to, postmodern (radical skeptic) defenses of "one true historical truth" claims; "cannibalistic" Book of Mormon defenses which blatantly relied on *contradicting* the text in order to try to protect the integrity of the text, as with the two Cumorahs theory; false claims (also known as "lies") that Mormon doctrine never taught that the American natives descended from Lehi; claims that Nephite "horses" were actually tapirs, or that Joseph didn't *really* mean he "translated" the Breathing Permit of Hor, or that everyone should disregard every datum noted in "An Insider's View of Mormon Origins" on grounds that Grant Palmer didn't really qualify as an "insider", despite being a lifetime Mormon, 34 year CES veteran, three time LDS Institute president, and member of the Mormon History Association, or a hundred other things.
No - there was no argument too ludicrous to make, no mindgame too crazy to play, no low too low to stoop to, as long as it seemed to hold out even a tiny chance that it would enable Peterson, or his colleagues, any member reading it, to just...keep on believing. That was all that mattered in the end: keep on believing. Not whether it was true or not - just, keeping the thing going. Just because. Just because it would hurt too much to recognize it for what it is.
And...that, too, is off-putting for people who care about the truth, Mormon or not. That IS what Mormonism is *supposed* to be about, after all - The Truth. It's *not* suppposed to be about merely "defending a paradigm", like Midgley and so many of the others would say. It is *not* supposed to be about BYU profs who literally could not get hired at a community college, running around getting money from rich, but naive Mormon donors, to support them financially while they sit around in brainstorming sessions trying to come up with yet another way of spinning away the latest damning evidence that the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction, or planning more useless conferences (no matter how many conferences they had, the church still wasn't true), or sitting around combing through RFM threads looking for mentions of themselves. If the church had any sense, they would have shut these guys down long ago.
But...that is where the story of Dan Peterson, Arch-Defender of God's Only True Religion! shows a different aspect. Sure, it's the story of an off-putting, deluded fanatic and crank who alternately stomps on people, and then starts blubbering whenever someone calls him out on his nonsense. It is also the story of a deeply pitiable character who is simply incapable of the cognitive feat of seeing what we all saw a long time ago.
I don't mean seeing that Joseph Smith invented his stories, though there is that; I mean, seeing how off-putting his schtick was; and seeing that it was in the best interests of the church to shut him and FARMS down many years ago; and especially, seeing the nature of the church as an entirely man-made institution. He could not see, though we could all see, that in the moment the church perceived him as no longer useful, it would drop him in a heartbeat, unceremoniously. His thirty years of, um, "apologetic service" wouldn't matter anymore. There is no way a man as singularly incapable of detached, critical thought about Mormon truth claims as Peterson is, could ever have seen that. And now, from what I gather, it has happened.
And, he probably still can't see the nature of the church as an institution. My guess is that his hurt and resentment is directed toward a few individuals, who he now regards as "enemies" - not *the church*. That the church is an insitution which, in the end, does not care about any individual, or him, *except insofar as those individuals help it to survive and grow*, has probably entirely escaped him. He no doubt just keeps reminding himself that "the church is perfect; the people aren't".
Dan might be able to see that institutions, and especially, ideological institutions, develop a kind of will and mind of their own; and that all they care about in the end is their own survival and growth. But I doubt he would ever have been able to see that this includes the institution of the Mormon church, which, like the others, can make no legitimate claim to being anything other than completely man-made. And like those others, it unhesitatingly sacrifices any individual which impedes its ability to survive and grow. That the church might very well dump Dan Peterson with ease one day was something we even discussed on here, six or seven years ago. If Peterson had read it, he probably thought our vision was clouded by "ex-Mormon rage" or whatever. And yet, it was nothing but the truth.
Here is one excerpt from a post of mine on here, from six or seven years ago, that RFM poster 3X just sent me:
"And this is why the specter of DCP kind of being used appears in the backs of our minds...How long would he last, if the church for one nanosecond thought he wasn't useful anymore?... Would anyone at HQ think twice about leaving Dan Peterson there holding the bag, once they decide that the position he's been defending just isn't working anymore...?"
This was not exactly a remarkable insight. Virtually everyone on here knew that was true. It was completely obvious. The point is that, Dan Peterson couldn't see it, and that is pitiable indeed.
| || So John Dehlin Returns And "Fully Submits" To Church Leaders Despite Claiming To Not Have Any Idea Whether Mormonism Is True? |
Thursday, Jan 31, 2013, at 08:06 AM
Original Author(s): Tal Bachman
Topic: TAL BACHMAN - SECTION 7 -Link To MC Article-
| ↑ |
| I wonder if, for his next trick, he'll enter into a gay marriage, despite "not having any idea whether he's gay or not".
In any case, maybe John and the LDS church are a good match: neither of them seem to care about the truth, and both seem to think that "appearing nice and gentle" is the highest attribute that any human could ever aspire to, at all times.
Just my two (offensive) cents,
| Long-time RFM readers might remember back ten years ago, when I first began to post here.
At that time, I was the Gospel Doctrine teacher in my growing branch, as well as the second counselor. Contrary to many of the malicious and untrue online claims made since (always anonymously) by members who claim to have known me, I was, I believe, as devout a Mormon as I was capable of being, and I always had been. Yarns about me living a rock star life were completely untrue; I'd toured the world as a pop star (albeit fairly low level), and never had a sip of alcohol, a drag on a ciggie, or so much as held hands with another girl - nor had I had any desire to. I had an angelic wife and seven (soon eight) children, and I was as certain as I think it is possible to be that Mormonism was God's only true religion.
No sooner did I begin to research my Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lessons, however, than I began to notice anomalies that - despite all the Mormon history and doctrine books I'd read - I had never known of before. First up was Joseph Smith's "Book of Moses"; my research into the original text of the first five books of the Bible showed that there was simply no way that "The Book of Moses" could be what Joseph Smith claimed. Rather than being a "corrected" version of a text written solely by Moses, as Smith claimed, it was clearly a composite put together of various Israelite histories (for more info on this, see the research of Dr. Richard Elliott Friedman).
That led into the Book of Abraham, which I realized was also a smoking gun; and that led to the discovery of more and more problems.
I sought faith-promoting explanations for these devastating problems from the church apologists at the now-defunct FARMS. I even wrote to Dallin Oaks. To my surprise, there were no answers. Oaks batted away my query by telling me to write to the First Presidency, and they responded by sending a copy of my sincere letter to my Branch President (though I had labeled it "personal and confidential"), as well as sending me a non-answer. I felt frustrated, bewildered, horrified, unsure of whether I was coming to my senses for the first time or being misled by Satan himself; and the cognitive dissonance I felt trying to find ways to stay in my pleasing "belief-state", holding on to the rock that my whole life and family relied on, while knowing that some of Joseph Smith's claims just could not be true, was terrible. I felt caught in some panicked state, with no way out, and I had no idea mentally what to do.
Around that time, I had promised my then-wife I'd make her a yard worthy of a "Better Homes and Gardens" feature; and it was while I was out one day laying and tamping down sod I'd ordered that I finally had a moment of clarity.
In that moment, it felt like all the hundreds of swirling concerns and questions stopped, and two questions came to my mind.
The first was:
"If, by some chance, Mormonism were not what it claimed to be, would I *really* want to know?"
And the second was:
"If it weren't, how would I know?"
Those questions, I thought, should be my starting point; and once I began to mull over that first question, everything else started to fall into place in my head.
Why? Because it wasn't a question about any particular Mormon or non-Mormon claim, but rather, a question about who I was, or wanted to be, as a person. Was I the kind of person who would prefer a pleasing fiction over a displeasing truth? If belief in a myth gave me things I valued, would I prefer to keep that going, versus seeing the myth for what it was, and losing everything?
I mulled the question over in my head for the next couple of days. If I remember right, by the third day, I had come - I admit with a lot of reluctance - to feel clear that *yes, I would want to know*, come what may.
That left the second question: "if Mormonism were not true...how would I know?"
This question again bypassed any particular Mormon controversy, and instead, forced me to consider some basic, a priori, ground rules about assessing ANY claim about the world (which would of course include the religion that meant so much to me).
That question again clarified, even stilled, a lot of the stuff running through my head at the time, and led to a few different insights, which to me seemed rock-solid. Now, they seem very common-sense; but in that addled state, when we have been essentially brainwashed so that we cannot think critically about Mormonism, they seemed earthshattering.
One insight was that, regardless of how any claim fared when compared to reality, if a witness asking to be believed contradicted himself in significant ways, he should be regarded as an unreliable source of information. That is, he should not be believed. Since Joseph Smith did contradict himself in many notable instances (for example, in claiming that he only had "one wife" even though he had secretly polygamously married many others, or changing the who, what, where, when, and why of his mutating First Vision story), that eliminated Joseph Smith as a credible witness.
Another insight was that epistemic rules, to be valid, had to remain the same when evaluating different claims. They could not be changed, in ad hoc fashion, so as to lead someone to a predetermined conclusion (this is known as the "Fallacy of Special Pleading"). I had noticed this many times in the writings of the apologists: no series of steps was too illogical for them, as long as they got back to "The church is true!". But this could only be a red flag).
I could go on, but these are just two examples of what I began to come up with, once I had determined that I really would want to know if Mormonism weren't true, and asked myself how I would know, if it weren't.
I described these two questions in many different posts online, most of them on this very board, never imagining that they might be as earthshattering to others, as they were to me.
Then, a couple of years later, I attended an ex-Mormon conference, and heard Mike Norton give a few remarks. During his talk, I was very surprised to hear him mention that an important moment for him had been considering the question, "If Mormonism were not true, would I really want to know?", and he added, "wherever that question came from".
I admit, the vain part of me at that moment wanted to stand up and shout, "HEY! Wow! Ha ha! I made that up! Yay me!". But modesty forbid it (obviously, that's worn off now :p).
And since then, I have heard a number of people - in podcasts, or in posts online - mention these two questions, and I have wondered how far they have floated through the ex-Mormon miasma (thanks to this very site), and how many people my two little questions might have helped gain clarity on what Mormonism is, and what it isn't.
I thought of this today, because I was shocked to see this morning, reading the letter English biship Steve Bloor sent to his ward members, that he also mentioned the "if Mormonism weren't true, would I want to know?" question. And I wondered again if these two little questions had far more power, and far more applicability, than I had ever imagined they would, ten years ago, when I first went through the painful process that so many others have gone through since. Certainly, in the many conversations I've had with members over the past few years, asking them those questions seems to have liberated them from years of brainwashing, sometimes in a matter of minutes. It is almost like, sometimes, they are emerging from a hypnotic state.
In any case, I just want to put out there that, if by chance you find yourself in conversation with a believing or wondering church member, rather than getting into a debate about some question of Mormon history or doctrine, try taking a step back, and asking your member friend these two simple, but powerful, questions:
1.) If, by some chance, Mormonism were not true, would you *really* want to know?;
2.) If it were not true...how would you know?
Let them ponder and stew; bring the conversation back to those fundamental questions if they veer back into rote apologetic sloganeering; and you just might see, as I have seen so many times now, their strange hypnotic state begin to dissipate, and them begin to think clearly, for the very first time, about Joseph Smith's invented religion.
Just thought I'd share. Hope this approach helps many more who would value truth over life, authenticity over pretense, and light over darkness.
Best wishes to all,
| I propose a new entry to the DSM Guide: "Dehlinosis":
"Dehlinosis" is a psychological state in which a male adherent of Mormonism has been so emotionally broken by the Mormon church, that he can no longer emotionally or psychologically function outside of the church, and so remains loyal to it *even when the adherent knows it to be fraudulent, abusive, or in some important way, morally repugnant*. (For more information on the female corollary to "Dehlinosis", see my forthcoming piece on "Maxinosis").
Several clear symptoms indicate Dehlinosis:
1.) The most telling is the sufferer's creation of a delusional, self-flattering explanation for his continued adherence, so that the sufferer can avoid the horror of realizing what he has become.
For example, Dehlinotics may portray themselves as courageous "reformers", trying to improve the church from within. Or they may describe themselves as "nuanced thinkers", who see beyond "the old binary notions of 'true or false'", or mystical, poetic types, who see "the deeper truths" behind the stories. Some imply that while they recognize that Joseph Smith's stories were "probably invented", they are also smart enough to recognize the "irreplaceable" value of things like the church youth program. Different rationales may be offered by the Dehlinotic; what they all have in common is that they are delusional attempts to portray a pathetic and powerless state as a state of intellectual or moral superiority.
2.) Another symptom of Dehlinosis is what we might call "dogmatic niceness". For the Dehlinotic, there is no value higher than "being nice". Not courage, not telling the truth - nothing. Dehlinotics regard anyone who might disagree as a moral inferior.
So, for example, in the face of any "not niceness" in a conversation about Mormonism, Dehlinotics typically try to keep up their "niceness" bona fides by immediately talking about how "sad" all the "not niceness" makes them. Just as quickly, they work behind the scenes to neutralize or silence the voices of these "not nice" people, all the while congratulating themselves on how "nicely" they have maintained "niceness".
Anti-Dehlinotics typically object that sometimes, not nice truths need to be expressed in service to some higher moral imperative. For example, if a young Mormon woman feels suicidal over a sexual transgression, some people might think that morality requires them to enable the suicidal girl to see that Mormonism is not what it claims to be.
But this is all wrong for the Dehlinotic. After all, simply stating, or showing, that Mormonism cannot possibly be what it claims to be, is "not nice". Dehlinotics (after expressing their sadness over the "not niceness") instead begin talking about how Mormon teachings should be nicer, Mormon bishops should be nicer, Mormon parents should be nicer, Mormon scriptures should be nicer, Mormon history should be nicer, and everything should be nicer. That is, they completely bypass the question of the organization's legitimacy in the first place, because...addressing that question is not "nice". What's "nice" is "niceness" - not discussing the legitimacy of a cult which has broken them emotionally, and which they themselves cannot live away from.
Critics have argued that in rejecting the foundational question of legitimacy in order to focus on "niceness reform", the Dehlinotic approach effectively grants the Mormon church a legitimacy it does not have. In doing so, critics claim, the Dehlinotic approach unavoidably helps enable the very abuse it complains about. (Dehlinotics have yet to respond to this criticism - presumably because despite being true, it's "not nice").
3.) In their writings and speeches, Dehlinotics display a loss of being able to reason clearly on Mormonism. As a result, their speeches and writings redound with child-like fantasies, ambiguities, hidden and blatant contradictions, and confusion (for a few examples, see http://www.progressivemormons.org/abo...).
There is no known cure for fully-advanced Dehlinosis. Once the Mormon church has completely broken an adherent psychologically and emotionally, arguments based on appeals to logic, emotion, or empirical evidence have no effect on him. Full-blown Dehlinotics appear irredeemably lost in a cloud of their own confusion, brokenness, dependence, and delusional moral superiority.
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