THE MORMON CURTAIN
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Ex-Mormon News, Stories And Recovery
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EX-MORMONISM SECTION 23
A very large selection of posts made by those in recovery from Mormonism. Culled from throughout the Ex-Mormon Communities.
| When I was a teenager, a favorite aunt told me a very personal story about her teenage years in the 60's. My aunt and her best friend were living pretty wild lives for Utah Mormon girls of their time. They were wearing skirts that were too short, and dating before the proper age of sixteen. They also thought church was boring even though they were attending faithfully. As you can tell, they were just living la vida loca and really needed to be controlled.
So, both my aunt and her friend started seminary at the appropriate age and everything in their lives changed. Their seminary teacher, a handsome RM with a young wife and several children was a gifted teacher and he had an ability to really connect with teenagers. He taught the girls about modesty and appropriate dating standards and soon enough he had a following of eager seminary students who were really enthusiastic about living the gospel.
When my aunt was 17, this seminary teacher approached her and told her that he had had a revelation that the institution of plural marriage was to be restored and that she would be one of his wives. My aunt was not overwhelmed by the spirit, absolutely refused, and was completely devastated. She didn't raise a stink about it though, because she didn't want to undo any of the 'good' this man had accomplished by energizing the youth of her seminary class.
Some time later, my aunt's best friend revealed to her that SHE (the friend) had become one of the seminary teacher's plural wives in secret. My aunt was completely appalled and asked how she could do such a thing. Her friend told her that she and the seminary teacher had prayed together about it and that an angel appeared to marry them as they were inquiring of the Lord whether it was the right thing. My aunt said "Did YOU see the angel?" and the friend said "No, but brother X (the seminary teacher) did, and he interpreted the angel's message for me. I was right there, I know it's true".
A few years later, their practice of plural marriage was discovered and they were all excommunicated.
My aunt told me this story as we were discussing people she knew (apparently several) who had been excommunicated for various 'inappropriate' religious activities. At the time I was horrified to know that so many well meaning individuals could be led astray.
Now I look back and I think, why did that story horrify me, while Brigham Young and Joseph Smith still seemed beyond reproach for pulling the same BS out of their asses? I can't help but laugh about it now.
| Yesterday in EQ the lesson was on temples. I listened to crazy stuff and sat on it. The lesson was done by the bishop and all the questions were leading questions that illicit only confirming answers. Questions like, “have any of you had any experiences in the temple where you felt the spirit strongly?” Well that only gets you one side of the story.
I heard leaps of logic like, “there is only one way that could have happened, it was the spirit of the lord at work” …or one of the other many ways that particular thing could have happened, but on one said so.
I heard about all the temples that have been built in this bishop’s lifetime. He said that no other church has done so much building in such a short time. Hmm, that made me wonder about the 16th century and the conquering of the new world and the spread of Catholicism?
When asked about the purpose of the temple he got a ton of answers about ordinances etc. I said that a lot of it was about an outward display of obedience. I said that from a sociological point of view, or cultural anthropology, mormons can be divided into two main groups. Temple going ones, and not. The temple going ones are obvious because they wear garments. I said even the mormon people themselves look for who is wearing garments and can go to weddings etc. to see who is in what group. That comment fell pretty flat and the bishop continued on as if I didn’t say a thing.
Later, after more leading questions that elicited tons of replies about how strong the spirit is in the temple and how much knowledge people get from going each time etc. I said that there is another point of view. I said that I admit that the “spirit” would have to use a stick of lumber to get my attention, so I might not be representative of everyone, but I went every month for years, and after getting the main story down, I wasn’t learning anything new.
I said that there may be others who have had experiences similar to mine, and if we only ask leading questions it will seem like there is only one experience, and that leaves people like me thinking there must be something wrong with them. I wanted those people to know it happens to others also.
That made the EQ Pres jump to the rescue and say that he gets new knowledge every time he goes. Then the counselor in the bishbrc asked if he could make a comment and went to the podium to make it. He went on and on about the new knowledge that is given when we attend the temple and that perhaps a person needs to prepare adequately to go to the temple to be in the right place to receive it. I interrupted and said that perhaps it wasn’t anything I was doing wrong, and that somewhere it says that for some it is given to know such and such, and for others it is not. Perhaps I’m not one that was given whatever it is, and it has nothing to do with anything I was doing wrong.
That gave him a perfect way out of dissing on me in a public way, but instead he said, “but we have been promised that…….will happen when we attend the temple.” Oh, I guess it was that I was doing something wrong then. I didn’t say that, but that’s what his final comment meant.
So, I went to church to please my wife and keep the peace. We only go a couple of times a month, and starting recently she goes alone on one of them. But I went and got a lesson that teaches that going to the temple is great, and things that could have 10 different explanations could only be explained by miraculous workings of the spirit. We build buildings faster than any church ever has. If you go to the temple and it isn’t amazing, there is something wrong with you.
The cult aspect was so strong. It was like the movie 1984. We only talk about things in one way. And if somebody has the guts to say otherwise, they tension is too great and somebody has to jump up and cover over the wrong reality that was spoken of.
So, church was never anything that I enjoyed. I went out of duty and obligation. I only sometimes made comments that showed some of what I really think. This time, some came out, and by the reaction it was much more obvious the cult like aspects of just sitting through a lesson.
Church is becoming excruciating. Soon they will probably sick the strengthening the members Nazis on me just to shush the wrong answers up. Perhaps the bishops lesson is the wrong one to point out the truth in.
| What Recovery from Mormonism means to me.
"Recovery from Mormonism" means different things to different people. It is very personal.
There are no rules, and no book of instructions. We all do it differently.
For myself, I understand it best as an Exit Process. A long one.
It is life altering.
It means--the emotional attachment has been replaced with love of all of life.
It means--a new World View of my own making.
It means--taking my personal power back and owning it.
It means: getting myself "Un-Mornmonized" - rewriting and deleting the automatic thinking scripts that determined my choices and behavior--that's another post.
My view is that "recovery" in my life needs to encompass the quality of love more than hate, positive more than negative.
It means--- acceptance of the freedom of everyone to choose their beliefs.
It means--- respect and honor for other people's rights to their beliefs the same as I want for mine.
It means ----letting go of negative energy spent on Mormonism.
It means -- there is no need to be vicious, vengeful, vulgar toward Mormons and their rights to their beliefs.
It means finding a way to understand the very personal, internal process of changing our mind about Mormonism and how that plays out in our lives.
It means learning how to make peace with it. The following is how I made peace with it--or how you know you are really out. This is my personal list for myself as it evolved.
You know you are really out when..... there are no more resentments, anger, regrets, or self recrimination, explosive responses, name calling, etc.
You know you are really out when.... you can live with and love Mormons and accept them like anyone else.
You know you are really out when..... you are kind to the missionaries and other members, and maintain a rational relationship and friendship like everyone else.
You know you are really out when... you understand that Mormonism is a religion like thousands of others and it's OK to change your mind, leave it, and know you are OK and were OK all along.
You know you are really out when ..... you respect all people's rights to choose their own religion (or none) as a valid choice and honor that right.
You know you are really out when.... you love your friends and family regardless of their religious choices.
You know you are really out when... you own your own power, set healthy boundaries when necessary, and take charge of your own life, living it today, not for some reward after death.
You know you are really out when... you choose your friends regardless of their religious choices.
You know you are really out when.... you can go to a church building, read their scriptures, articles, etc, attend functions associate with Mormons and remain respectful.
I didn't start out with those results as goals. They evolved naturally during my process - which is ongoing.
I will always live with and love Mormons. Every person teaches me something, and most often, enriches my life.
It means "paying it forward" and "giving back" to others in their personal process.
That's what it means to me.
[These are my observations and conclusions. They are subject to change as I receive "further light and knowledge"!-]
What does Recovery from Mormonism mean to you?
| I had been thinking of "taking a break" for a long time.
The thought of leaving, altogether, was too scary! "Who would be my friends? What would I do for "activities?"--and all kinds of other silly fears kept me from just doing it.
I finally decided I'd "take a break" when I was released from my calling; it seemed like a rational way to do it...so I slogged on, waiting for my time to come.
Finally, one of the bishop's counselors called me into one of the empty classrooms. To make a long story short, he released me--and immediately 'called' me to another position (one that I'd hate, for sure; mounds of paperwork...ugh!). He refused to take "no" for an answer, although I presented him with several very rational reasons: I was finishing a master's project; I was very busy at work; I hadn't been feeling very well (and was later diagnosed with leukemia!)---but he pressed on. I finally wished him a good day, and left. As I walked out the back door, I knew I'd never, ever be back. I felt more free than I had in YEARS!
It was still early--about 10 am--and it was a lovely, warm June morning. The sun glinted off the cars in the parking lot, and a slight breeze was blowing. There was the smell of freshly-mowed lawns in the air, and I felt as if the weight of the whole "gold plates" had just been lifted off my back!
Go and tell the bishop? No way! I knew he'd try to spoil that wonderful feeling with piles of guilt and "responsibility"--"responsibility" for things I didn't ask for, and was never "responsible" for, to begin with.
I later learned, from a friend, that they had "called" me to the position, anyway, the following Sunday. I figured as much, since the giant manila envelopes of paperwork kept showing up in my mailbox, phone messages kept appearing on my answering machine, and e-mails kept popping up in my inbox.
Not to worry. I ignored them all. I kept all the envelopes in a pile, ignoring them completely, until I finally threw them out, without ever even opening them.
I was done. Completely. Totally. D-O-N-E.
It was months before the mishies showed up at my door, but I politely--and firmly--told them that I knew where the church was, should I choose to attend, but please don't hold their breath waiting and looking for me...
That was it. I've gotten a few cards and "visiting teaching" or "home teaching" messages in the mail--nothing personal; just photocopied conference talks with "this is the (name of month) HT (or VT) message" scrawled in the margin. I toss them.
None of the bishops has ever seriously sought me out. One came to my house, while my dad was very ill (right before he died), and I was recovering from a bone marrow transplant. I was picking up some stuff to take to my dad, and when I told the "bishop" how things were in my family... He asked what he could do to help, so I told him I could sure use some help with the yardwork. (What the heck; I'd put in enough hours, helping other people at church, right?) He said, "Oh yes; sure; we can help you with that..."---and I never heard from him again!
In my experience, that's typical with the church and single people.
BTW, no one from church visited me, when I was in the hospital---although I got a nice bunch of messages from the folks here at RfM! No one from church sent a card or came to the funeral home when my dad passed away, either.
So, IMHO, walking away works just fine. At least, it did for me. (I'm sure things are different if you have a mormon family. I do not; in fact, my family was thrilled when I left!)
Whatever you decide to do--good luck. Remember, you are in charge of your own life. You ultimately do not owe the bishop, or any other church "authority," any explanation for what you do or do not do. They only have authority if you give it to them.
Your family may be another matter...
If you leave the Church and someone else is miserable because of it then this is simply the natural consequence of what they chose to believe. They invested in Mormonism. Mormonism taught them that if you leave the Church a number of unsavory things will occur here and in the hereafter. They are simply getting what they paid for. They were told they would be sad and the Church delivered.
Now that they are sad they want someone to fix it. They can pray to God for you to come back so they can feel good again. They can also try and hand their problem off to you.
They don't want the problem. They want you to do the heavy lifting. They want you to come back so they don't have to feel bad anymore. They would like to avoid the discomfort of having to learn to accept you in the unconditional way that they have heard about but have no clue in how to apply.
They believe, by years of training at Church, that guilt has bargaining power. Their sadness is a voucher they present to you as a contract you need to honor. You made me feel bad so now you need to do something about it.
You need to perform so I feel good again. I really don't want to embrace ALL of Mormonism, just the happy stuff. I don't want to be the one at Church with the imperfect family. I don't want to endorse your bad behavior by loving you anyway.
I want you the way I want you. It is easier that way.
I say the above in light of all of the common themes seen here. Many carry burdens that they do not deserve and did not earn. Even when a spouse says, "You betrayed me! I thought I was marrying a faithful Saint. You broke your covenants, now get right with the Lord or we're through!!"
Who's problem is it after all? The problem for the Exmo spouse is if the threat is backed up by action.
The problem for the believing spouse is to get the Exmo spouse to accept her burden and change so she can be safe again.
The believing spouse really does not want the problem placed back in her lap, which is exactly where it belongs. Anything short of this perpetuates the underlying assumption that one person is on the hook for someone else's happiness.
We can be empathetic to the pain the believer feels. What we cannot be is the receptacle.
Quite literally, they asked for it. The Exmo must have the courage to let them suffer. In the long run it may be the only thing that will lead to better communication.
| Ok, I've got to vent.
I've been out of the church for over 14 years. In that time I've written letters, I've been forgiving, I've overlooked, I've been patient, I've been a doormat (not happy about that one, not happy that I even felt like I had no choice to do it), and I've sat in their kitchen's (not often as I don't live anywhere near them and only visit the area about once a year if that) and listened to them demean gays/lesbians/women who work/women who dare question their husbands etc. I've spoken up, I've defended my positions, I've remained silent. In short I've done EVERYTHING!
So, I am prepared to issue my my final assessment on this "eternal family" issue.
1. Your family you were born into are people playing a role. You are expected to play the role as well. Should you choose to live an authentic life instead of playing your role, the costumes of your family will change from white angels, to dark cruel creatures who will do nothing but hurt, cause pain, reject, assassinate your character until they die. This is not like a Disney movie where in the end the people in the wrong suddenly discover they've been wrong and run back to their kids and hug them and ask for forgiveness, no, this is real, this is for life.
2. Your family will become your enemy and will become toxic. Trying to write them, even with the most mundane information (the sky is still blue, the grass is still green) will be used against you. Everything you do and don't do will be used against you. You are now public enemy number one.
3. You must unlearn what you learned about trust. You must guard your most prized possessions and thoughts/plans with your life. If you let them out to these people, they will attempt to sabotage you.
4. Mourn their loss as if they were dead. They may as well be because they will not come to your need, show you love or compassion again.
This is just a partial list. I've lived this now, I no what I'm talking about and I'm done waiting for change.
Acceptance only lives when you follow the Mormon church to the letter. Should you buck the system, you are on your own to the fullest extent of that phrase.
I realize some of you have parents who have left, but for those of us who have very TBM famlies, this is who I am talking to and about. The ones were they are multi generational born in the church people. To leave that culture is to be skinned alive and left to painfully grow new skin alone in the desert.
Should you survive this, then you can survive anything, should you not, well then...they have won, haven't they?
| They frightened me into believing that I could never be happy away from the mormon version of the gospel. In various callings, I too have taught this. But in truth, despite months and months of personal anguish, once we stopped going there, we started having less stress, more money and more freedom. Free time to do things as a family that was previously unavailable.
As for my self, I have become less judgemental of my family. You see, while I was turning ultra committed, these changes were unwelcome in the rest of the clan. They were unaccustomed to church every Sunday, and wearing the perfect persona. We fought over stupid things and went to church angry sometimes. We came home after a long day just thankful to be home finally.
Now that we don't go there, we don't have to put on a show, we don't have to hold up supper while someone is off to some meeting or other church function. Precious time together is no longer meted out in ever smaller increments. And, instead of giving all our resources to the church, we sit down and decide which worthy services, foodbanks or USO, Red Cross etc. we can support this month or week.
To those who are afraid of the consequences of leaving the church, I would say it's worth it. After all, isn't that what the church says, Family-it's about time.
| In all my year in the Church, I was never, ever asked by my PARENTS (in all those personal priesthood interviews my Dad held with me and my siblings), my BISHOP, my PREISTHOOD LEADERS, my STAKE PRESIDENT, my MISSION PRESIDENT (even though I was supposedly engaged in the "best two years of my life"), TEACHERS or ADVISORS:
ARE YOU HAPPY?
If a fundamental tenet of the church is the "men are that they might have joy", does that not denote that somewhere that you should be happy.
The point is that no one is particularly interested in my happiness. They want to know if I am morally clean, do I spank the monkey, do I pay my tithing, do I have a testimony, do I associate with those that have thoughts contrary to the MORG.
In short; TSCC has NO INTERST in wether I am a happy human. The do care if they have their hooks in me deep enough to manipulate my thoughts, actions and emotions. Once they can do all of these things, they couldn't care less if I was happy.
By the way. I am very, very happy.
| It hasn't been long that I've been super critical of TSCC. Maybe a month, despite being on the way out for a year or so more than that. But the more I read (from personal stories here, reputable sources on church history, etc) the happier I become. An almost inexplicable form of happiness that I never knew existed despite my so-called "blessed" life as a TBM.
Growing up, I was always in defense of the church. A lot of that came with the territory - a very devout family in a midwestern town where I was the only member of my upper-middle class high school. Eventually we all got old enough that my friends or even acquaintances would question me or, at times, ridicule me for being Mormon, and with valid arguments.
And I liked standing in defense for TSCC. For my age, I knew "quite a lot" about church history and church doctrine (I emphasize that because it turns out I didn't know shit about the real church), was beyond familiar with FARMS and FAIR and considered anti-mo internet efforts to be purely satanic. Yeah, I was kinda hardcore. It was as if I had to personally validate my being in the church, and consequently being so different from everyone, by knowing the defenses or reasons for belonging.
Long story short, I read a post just now from Kirsching, "I'm still surprised by some of the things I find concerning Mormon Doctrine. I think "How can someone defend this?" then I read FAIR. It's amazing how some apologists can talk so much and say so little. I hated justifying polygamy when I believed and I'm so glad I no longer have to."
How did I believe in some of those things? I remember specifically defending TSCC against polygamy, and even a little bit on blacks and the priesthood. Deep down I think I know I had issues with these practices, as they didn't make sense to me, but it still didn't matter.
| 1. True friends will stick with you after you leave the church. The "friends" who shun you were never really your friends.
2. There are actually 7 days in a week, not 6.
3. Mormon marriage involves three entities: husband, wife, and church (not necessarily in that order). For an apostate to have any chance of salvaging the marriage to a faithful spouse, the church has to stop being the center of the marriage.
4. Good people in the church would probably still be good people outside of the church. After all, there are lots of people whom the church hasn't helped become good people.
5. The comfort waistband is a must.
6. To believe or not to believe in Mormonism isn't the all-important, soul-saving matter it's cracked up to be.
7. A lot of ex-Mormons I know demonstrate an integrity that I've seldom seen among Mormons.
8. More people than I realized are "in the church but not of it."
9. Truth actually does matter.
10. Leaving the church involves far less rationalization than staying.
| Five weeks ago my wife and I picked up a new hobby of hiking on beautiful trails in the Central Coastal California where we live and we have hiked faithfully every Saturday ever since. We hiked scenic trails like Sobranes Canyon and Rocky Ridge trail in the Garapata Stake Park and Point Lobos trail, both of which give you a breathtaking pristine view.
Yesterday we hiked on Skinner Ridge trail which is several miles off the coast. Due to its being relatively difficult to access, there were few hikers even though it was Saturday. We encountered a few hikers in our four-hour hiking trip and we were able to enjoy the serenity and scenic view that the pristine nature provides.
Whenever we stopped to take a break or view, we couldn't help but express our genuine genuine happiness and at the same time our regret of not having left the cult much earlier.
My wife and I officially resigned from the TSCC four years ago. Both of us had been TBM for about sixty years combined--twenty five for me and thirty-five years for my wife. My wife had worked for the Temple Square as lead floralist for three years before we quit and I had served various callings in Korea and the US including bishiporic, HC, HP group leader, secretary of regional representative, and interpretor for GAs visiting Korea and Korean translator for numerous General Conferences.
Looking back I spent almost every Saturday and Sunday tending some sort of church work and found little time for my wife and children and even for me. Even when I went to School at BYU in the 90s, I was occupied with school work as well as church work and found little time for my family on Saturdays and Sundays.
Then we resigned from Mormonism in August 2005 when we were in mid-40's. Our children had left us and we were so-called empty nesters. At first we were overwhelmed with our newly found freedom and didn't know what to do with it.
Then gradually we began to taste our freedom as if it were something we shouldn't indulge ourselves into. One year after our resignation we found ourselves enjoying "wordly things" like drinking coffee and watching R-rated movies without any quilt associated to them.
We also found ourselves less judgmental about what other people do and more genuine to ourselves and our conscience. I believe I have been a compassionate person throughout my life but when I reach my hand to someone in need, I do so without associating it with "rewards" that I used to believe I would get in the next life.
When asked if we are happy, we don't hesitate to tell them how happy we are and interestingly enough people around me tell us that we look happy.
My wife and I are genuinely happy not because people around me tell us that we look happy but because we feel joy and excitement of living. We look forward to every day as if it would bring me some joy to us.
I know I feel a bit guilty about us telling that we are happy because some of us here are still experiencing agony, pain and sorrow as they are trying to break away from the bondage or to stay true to themselves. I admire their courage and I hope that every effort of theirs will pay off someday and they will be able to be as happy as they deserve to be.
Anyhow, I want the board memebers that we enjoy every bit of our life and and want every one of you to enjoy your life as well.
| It's perfectly normal for you to feel those feelings, because they are the result of subconscious conditioning that happened while you were in the church.
It's really not that different from the story of Pavlov and his dog. Pavlov conditioned the dog to associate a sound (a ringing bell) with good things (food). Eventually, the dog learned to salivate at the sound of a bell, even without food being present.
Children and even adults in the church are conditioned to associate certain good feelings with church stuff. When church doctrines are taught to children in an atmosphere of comfort and love, they learn to associate those doctrines with feelings of comfort and love. Later, they are told that what they are feeling is "the spirit." It's very difficult to break that emotional connection, and it's perfectly understandable that you might experience those feelings again, or a longing for them, when you encounter one of your emotional triggers (the temple) years later. This is a subconscious, emotional reaction, and it doesn't go away just because we stop believing on an intellectual level.
Have you ever noticed how music is used during a movie? Next time you watch a movie, notice what happens in the soundtrack during scenes of violence, calm, love, excitement, etc. We are conditioned to associate certain sounds and styles of music with certain feelings. This goes back centuries, and is subconsciously learned when we are children. Composers who write soundtracks for movies exploit these triggers to invoke feelings of fear, happiness, sadness, love, etc. Music adds to the emotion of what is happening onscreen, whether it is a happy moment with loved ones, or an intensely violent fight to the death.
Religious music is no different. When people "feel the spirit" during a hymn or praise song, that is largely the result of a particular style of music that they have been conditioned to associate with religious feeling. That's why many religions use music to reinforce feelings of devotion.
There's nothing wrong with you- you just got your "warm fuzzy" button pushed without realizing it.
| I feel like I need to tell my parents that I have left the church. They are in denial. My kid is almost one year old and my parents are still asking me when I am going to bless the baby. I guess what I am most frustrated with is that they can't take a hint. They don't know how to read between the lines, so I feel like I might have to take the direct approach.
They don't even know that I already resigned my membership. They probably assume that I still go to church occasionally, even thought I haven't gone to church since Christmas. I don't plan on ever going back, especially since I am no longer a member.
Tonight, DW and I were at their house having a good time playing card games and eating dessert, and my dad had to blurt out right in front of everyone "So are you going to bless the baby or what?"
I am no longer a child that can easily fall victim to these transparent power-plays. I simply told him "no" and that "I do not want to talk about the reasons at this time." DW tried to lighten the mood with some jokes, but it was annoying to me that this is the second time my parents did this. The last time, my mom asked the same question in front of my siblings, and I gave them the same response. This was a few months ago.
I guess the next thing is going to be "the talk". As you can imagine, no matter how I put it, my parents are not going to take the news well. So I feel stuck. I can either just try to avoid religious topics with them, or I can just let them know that I no longer believe in their myths. How do I say it to them without hurting their feelings?
That's right, mom and dad, the lifetime of indoctrination, all those years of primary, all those FHEs, baptism, all those scripture readings, missionary splits, all those church videos, all those SS classes, youth conferences, sacrament meetings, mutual activities, church functions, EQ, temple attendance and rituals, mission, fast sundays and family prayers, that was all in vain. After a lifetime of being fully involved and actively engaged in all of that, I wash my hands of all of it. Even though you believe it so fervently, I reject your version of reality, even after being immersed in the doctrine from just a few years of serious honest study.
That is not an easy pill for them to swallow and I don't know how they would take it. What is most frustrating for me is just how predictable their response will be. They will blame me for either not having enough faith, or they will tell people I left because I read "anti-Mormon literature".
I don't care if my family chooses to stay in Mormonism. I just wish there was an "opt-out" button I could press and be done with it.
| This was the question that really got me to leave the Church. Frankly, it wasn't an easy decision for me here in the heart of the cult. I knew my kids would lose friends, they would be singled out as non-mormons, we would all be looked at by family and friends as conversion projects, and the list goes on and on.
It really wasn't easy for me. It would have been soooo much easier to just bow my head and say yes and go along with the lies like so many other people do.
But as I get older I am seeing the real, lifelong benefits of being out of the cult:
My kids are learning to reason, and to have confidence in their reasoning, especially when they have doubts about something.
My 15 year old is learning the tremendously valuable skill of disagreeing with someone, sometimes a whole crowd of people, without offending or taking offense. I didn't learn that until I was 45.
We have so much more time to relax and do things as a family.
We HAVE to think for ourselves and come to our own conclusions on life. No longer, when someone asks me what I believe, do I have to run it through my mormon filter and vomit back out whatever bs the Church ladled down my throat for 42 years.
The doubts I first had about leaving are long gone.
Freedom for me and my family to think our own thoughts and do what we feel is right more than outweighs any benefits a lifetime in the Church could have provided.
| Are you struggling? bewildered? overwhelmed? confused? befuddled? racked with fear and guilt? confused and abused by how your gut instincts about what is true and right conflicts with what your loved ones do and believe?
I just want to reassure you. You're NOT crazy. You are NOT alone. All this Mormonism is all total bullshit and I could prove it to any reasonable person in 10 minutes flat. You don't have to take it anymore. It's ok to not feel guilty about stupid Mormon rules. You can reclaim your own life and make a better life for yourself.
There is help. That's what this board is for. Ask away, any question at all (as long as it is not "political" I guess).
Also, I have met some great people at both the ExMormon Foundation, at the ExMormon yahoo group, and through post-mormon.org. I still talk, email, and meet the friends I have met through these routes and they have been a "godsend", and really really helped me to keep my head clear, not be afraid, and helped me sort out the really scary, daunting emotional issues that befell me as I was trying to work this all out.
So I just say, don't be scared, be fiercely tenacious at thinking for yourself and doing what you want to do and believe, and get the help you need.
Oh and one more thing-- there are literally mental health experts out there that are highly skilled at helping people like us. I have sought help from one and it has been a very positive experience. How to find one is not a simple matter, but I just wanna say, get that help if you need it.
| For me, as a person who loved the church and believed it all, discovering the facts was very frightening and confusing. Many times the immovable object of testimony ground against the unstoppable force of truth and it was extremely difficult to deal with. As the facts began to solidify into an undeniable truth, the biggest obstacle became fear. Fear of losing my family, and my honor.
For the last couple years before this whole thing started there have been constant talks and lessons on Integrity. Integrity to hold firm despite outside or inside influence. Integrity to believe despite whatever the "adversary" might use as a stumbling block. Loss of integrity means loss of honor, loss of self respect and personal failure.
The church saved my life a long time ago, and then it made me feel important. It gave me purpose, personal value and gave me leadership. It truly was one of the most important and personally rewarding phases of my life.
The church equates Pride as being unable to see, accept and act upon truth when it is presented. The church equates integrity as holding fast to the message they have given us.
The sin of pride was keeping me bound to the self-defeating arguments, and was causing me to lose my personal value by refusing to accept reality. I was reminded of the movie 'A Few Good Men' where the two soldiers were finally aquitted and the Lawyer says "you don't have to have a patch on your arm to have honor".
Likewise, you don't need to have the approval of your family/friends or a temple recommend to have honor. If you cannot prove it to be true, and it causes you pain, your personal integrity is at stake if you allow pride to keep you in bondage.
| I live each day where I find myself and carry my solace with me. I do not feel a need to control my environment nor have it control me. There is no prewritten script that we ignore to our detriment.
I also do not look at life as a quest dictated by arcane and ancient mythologies. There is no grand, mysterious prize hidden from view that we must find through much hand wringing and reading of the tealeaves. There is knowledge to be gained and progress to be made. However, the vast majority of real progress made by our species has occurred at the likes of Pasteur's workbench, Edison Labs, MIT, and Johns Hopkins. Clinging too tightly to the past, listening only to one's emotions, and living in the future tends to result in events such as the trial of Galileo, rejection of medical advances, and refusing to look at mountains of scientific research.
I find enjoying each day, contributing, and being engaged is where life really is. Once upon a time, I lived my life in some nebulous future state but found that I was not living at all. Invariably when the future finally arrived with each passing second, if I bothered to notice at all, it was often not the existence my imagination had conjured. At that point, in my life I assumed that this meant I was somehow unworthy or had not acted according to the rules of the game. If only I had spent two more minutes a day in silent mediation, or read one more verse the outcome would have been so much different. What a painfully legalistic existence that. What omniscient deity would be so petty and punitive?
Attempting to control in minute detail the course of one's own life and those around us is similar to trying to grasp a wave as it crashes on the sand. We can adjust our position as the waves continue to arrive but arrive they will and in the way the local environment directs. We can hope for a different shape to the waves and grasp at them with our tiny hands. However, we will find that the water merely slips through our fingers as the waves hurry on to their destination.
I choose to walk through the waves when it is fitting and enjoy the constant rhythm of life's ocean that it has followed for billions of years. There is no imperative to stand in the way of the ocean and attempt in vain to bend it to my will. The ocean and I are fellow travelers in a complex walk sculpted by our milieu. I will live today and share the gift of each fleeting moment with my sojourning companions.
| I just got home from driving over the river for the Portland, Oregon, screening of the movie
"IN THE SHADOW OF THE TEMPLE".
In this movie there is a women who makes the statement, "I am so much more than a Mormon".
Those simple words, had a profound effect on me, sitting in that theater this afternoon.
The husband of the woman who said these words has left her because she stopped believing that the LDS church was true.
He did not understand that she is, as a person, so much more than a Mormon.
For me, her statement neatly sums up the Mormon mind-set.
It doesn't matter how kind, how talented, how generous, well read, or hard working you
are......if you aren't Mormon, you just aren't as valid.
It doesn't matter how happy, well balanced, interesting, or contributing to the good of the world you are......if you aren't Mormon, you just aren't as valid.
This evening when one of the producers asked to see a show of hands from members of the audience who were ex-mormon, I was pleased that I could raise my hand with the others who raised theirs.
WE ARE SO MUCH MORE THAN A MORMON!
| Ex-Mormons are often accused of "playing the victim" and wallowing in "victimology," and it's always struck me as weird that many church members simply cannot imagine that anyone might have been hurt or damaged by their association with Mormonism. People do get hurt, and often the hurt goes quite deep. Acknowledging that pain is not an indictment of Mormonism but simply acceptance of other people's experience.
I've written before about how Mormonism compounded my innate issues of self-worth, guilt, and shame (I don't think I need to explain in detail how Mormonism contributed to my feeling that I didn't measure up and never would). In the LDS church there is a major focus on "worthiness," meaning that one must meet a certain level of obedience before being eligible for certain ordinances, blessings, and church assignments. We could not have the influence and companionship of the Holy Spirit, we were told, unless we were worthy. Although I regularly and honestly passed my worthiness interviews, I always had nagging guilt and wondered if I really was worthy. I would beat myself up for little things, sure that I was deficient in some way. In talking with current and former members, I realize that I engaged in far less sinful behavior than most, but I was sure that God was disappointed in me for not measuring up.
Although I don't think I've expressed this before, I have often felt like the damage done to my soul was permanent, that Mormonism had helped break me in ways that could never be repaired. So, yes, those feelings contributed to deep resentment toward the church; it's natural to have bad feelings toward people and institutions that have hurt you. Many church members, particularly those I met on message boards, told me those feelings were irrational and obvious signs of a bitter apostate. One person told me that I should treat leaving the church like divorcing an abusive spouse: rather than dwelling on the ways the ex-spouse (the church, by analogy) had hurt me, I should just move on and forget about it.
Of course, that's easier said than done, particularly when the ex-spouse makes constant efforts to get you back and your friends and family constantly tell you how wonderful the abusive spouse is and how you really should give him or her another chance. And of course, we get the constant refrain that the breakup of the relationship is our fault, not the abuser's: we were too proud, wanted to sin, were spiritually lazy, and so on.
In one sense they are right: there's a difference between acknowledging pain and wallowing in it. And I am sure I did my share of wallowing. But a strange thing has happened since I finally got past most of the raw emotion. Without really trying, I have reached a point at which I don't feel like I'm permanently broken anymore. I used to feel like the guilt, the inadequacy, the shame were all just part of me that I would forever have to fight.
I really don't know what's changed, but I feel like I can finally put that baggage down and walk on without such a heavy load. I'm not naive enough to believe that these old and well-ingrained attitudes will just vanish, but somehow I feel hopeful, as if I am somebody worthy of self-approval. It's one thing to have a bishop or stake president pronounce you worthy, but it's an entirely different thing to really feel worthy. I'm not sure I've ever experienced that before in my life.
| I'll admit when I first found out about the church, I was very happy not to be special any more. I was glad I didn't have to be an example, happy to feel connected to everyone else for a change and just enjoyed having a cup of coffee like a normal person. But now, I'm starting to feel more like I'm floundering.
I miss the feeling I was part of something special. One of the chosen, with an important mission in life - to establish the kingdom of God and bring happiness to those lost and lonely souls who didn't know God. Preparing the world for the return of the Savior is heady stuff.
I miss the feeling of being on God's team. I believed he answered prayers but secretly believed I had an inside line - after all, I was working for him and had access to that mighty priesthood power. God would surely answer my prayers, even though it looked like some people didn't get theirs answered.
I miss the feeling of having "secret, inside knowledge" that other people didn't have. I knew, after all, what happened when you die and why people are on earth in the first place. I felt sorry for the lost souls who didn't know that. And all that end-of-the-world prophecy stuff was fascinating. I knew what was coming - pretty special, huh?
I miss the feeling of being part of a group. Anywhere I went, I just had to hitch up with the local Mormons, roll up my sleeves and get to work and I had a group of instant friends. A place where I belong.
And now I find out it's all just a hoax. I was never part of anything special any more that an corporate office drone is really going to do anything to save the world. I was building up a corporate empire - not the kingdom of God. And I while I still believe in God, I realize I have no more claim to his help or favor than literally billions of other people. And the secret knowledge was just a fairy tale. I actually know nothing. As for my friends, they were no more my real friends than the majority of your work friends are. Once you quit the job, you often don't see a lot of your co-workers again.
I know I could find something else to work for. I could volunteer at the food bank tomorrow, do more real good in one day than in a year as a Mormon. I'd be part of something and probably make a few real friends. I know this in my head but in my heart I just feel sad. I even contemplated going to a UFO convention, just to hang out again with people who believed crazy, but fascinating things once again and to be part of something. But then I realized that if I was looking for meaning in a UFO convention, I needed to get a grip on myself. Until I do get a grip on myself, I feel sad to not be part of something any more. Does anyone else feel this way?
| I've had sort of an epiphany today. For the longest time, it has been really frustrating that some church members refuse to take my word for the reasons why I left the church. We've all heard the same thing: "Tell us the real reason you left." And that real reason, of course, is that we wanted to sin, we never had a testimony, we were too proud, we were spiritually lazy, whatever. So, I could explain why for the rest of my life, and they still would tell me I wasn't being honest about the real reason.
Often there is a lot of mind-reading going on. I remember one LDS guy telling me that I was obviously one of those people who resented keeping the commandments and was relieved to be free of them. My wife read that and laughed. I'm sure most of us wretched unbelievers have experienced this kind of mental projection.
It finally occurred to me today that these people really do not care in the least why I or anyone else left. Our decision process, our struggle with family and friends, our sense of loss--none of that matters at all.
What matters is that we left. Obviously, some folks are more than happy to show us the door (or promise to roast marshmallows as we burn in the fires of hell), but for many more, that we left is all there is. Because the decision to leave is always illegitimate, the reasons are irrelevant. They simply don't care.
That's why no one ever really engages the issues we have with the church. No one ever said to me, "Please tell me what you're struggling with, and maybe I can understand and help." Dan Peterson once offered to help, but that was long after it was too late.
In short, if there were a real effort to understand and help, there wouldn't be the rush to dismiss the concerns of the struggling.
| A biology class at BYU was where I first learned that evolution was more than just an atheist plot to deceive believers. I, along with a thousand other students, sat in the Joseph F. Smith auditorium and listened in amazement while two card-carrying LDS professors explained that evolution is real and observable. Critically, they avoided much discussion of macro-evolution or the fossil record, focusing instead on fruit flies, moths, and bacteria.
At that time, I was aware of statements from church authorities, including a First Presidency statement, strongly and unambiguously condemning evolution as a false and devilish teaching. I understood that regardless of what anyone else might believe, I could never reconcile evolution with the church's literal interpretation of the creation story. Over the next few months, the house of cards nearly collapsed. To this day I wish it had. Unfortunately, I still had my emotional testimony, and I shoved evolution into a dusty closet at the back of my mind.
This was a pivotal time in my life. While writing this, I realized how close I came to realizing the truth back then. Even though I still had an emotional testimony of the church, just one more critical piece of information, a little more research, slightly better critical thinking skills, even just a little more trust in my own ability to evaluate information might have brought down the house of cards. Just one more tiny nudge might have been sufficient.
It took me four more years to figure out the truth. Four years during which I continued to make decisions based on what the fucking Cult taught rather than on what I really wanted.
I deeply regret those decisions. Certain aspects of my life would be very different today had I made even slightly different decisions. Funny how seemingly insignificant decisions during insignificant moments can turn out to be pivotal in hindsight.
I was so goddamn close, and I let myself get sucked back into the fucking Cult!
My anger at the fucking Cult has flared anew:
1) For stunting my ability to think critically and make intelligent decisions.
2) For teaching me that I couldn't trust my own desires, instincts, or ability to evaluate information.
3) For teaching me to suppress and despise my own sexual thoughts and urges, and for teaching me that some old man in the sky cares what consenting adults do in private.
4) For teaching me that I could never be good enough.
5) For teaching me that my deceased mother was watching me from heaven and reading my mind, and that she was frequently disappointed with my thoughts and behavior.
6) For teaching me that my needs and desires were somehow less important than those of the cult, and, like a vampire, sucking away my time, my money, my opportunities, and even my personality.
7) For teaching me that nearly everything I found funny was light-minded and inappropriate; for teaching me to replace my authentic personality with that of a solemn and stern drone.
8) For socially isolating me from normal people such that for most of my life I have found it difficult to assimilate and make friends.
9) For teaching me to obey authority figures without question.
I'm not going to share any more detail, and I'm not looking for advice. I just needed to vent. Thanks for listening.
| I've been reflecting on why the church was so hard to quit. It seems odd that when I found out it was all a lie, I still held on and fought so hard to try to figure it out. The reason? It made me feel important. Before my stint as a faithful member I was a druggie. Before that I was a nobody in my parents house. I went to church and got beat up. I was the oldest but there were always more kids being born who took my importance away. There- I said it.
One time I had a psych test done and the person pointed out that I chose speed over accuracy and was puzzled because of my obsession over order. Well, it was because I learned over the years that if I wanted to say anything it was necessary to hurry up because otherwise people would never hear it- they were too busy ignoring me.
So being in the church, I was not only free of my addictions, but I had a lot of renewed energy. People acted like they liked me. My parents acted like they liked me and showered me with praise, spend huge sums of money to visit me when I baptized my wife.
In the church I was given leadership positions which meant that for the first time in my life I was worth something. I could actually say something and somebody would pay attention. I was also careful not to let that go to my head and appear in actions, but deep inside it was immensely gratifying.
When the church became untrue, all of that was in jeopardy. It was too painful to let slip away. Never again would I ever be worth anything, not only that, but my integrity, honor, and salvation would be lost. The relationship with my parents, and the supposed friendship of people at church would become strained and lost-and indeed it was.
I am no longer important to any of those people. The praise is gone, and to them my value is nil.
And that's okay. They are still bound, and I am free.
| Recovery, is defined for my own situation as The Exit Process from Mormonism.
It's a Do It Yourself Project with no manual and no rules. We all make our own decisions about how to do it. We each post about how we do it.
This is how I do it. It works for me, but may not work for others.
There is no right or wrong way to deal with the process. It's not black and white. What is right for one won't work for another person as their situations are often quite different. Our backgrounds are very different also: BIC and convert most often, in my observation, will naturally approach the Exit Process differently. When members leave the LDS Church, (as in stop believing) it varies from a very young age to a much older age, sometimes in our senior years, like I did.
Part of that process is a variety of stages. We all go through stages that are a direct result of changing our mind about our religious, cultural belief system. Those stages may be similar to others or very different.
A few things helped me immensely.
First of all, it was important to understand that we are human beings; we put our pants on one leg at a time, we experience the same emotions that all humans experience. We are more alike than different. Religion is only one defining part of our human experience. For some, it's more globally encompassing than others. Mormonism tends to be more globally encompassing because of it's strong generational traditions and rituals.
It's comforting to know we are not alone. When we leave our "tribe" and become an outsider, it's a very similar process no matter what group or religion is involved. Some can leave very easily. For others, it's extremely difficult and has far reaching dynamic results. Sometimes loosing almost everything.
The animal kingdom, in general, doesn't look kindly on those that leave their "tribe." Often they are left to fend for themselves, which can be disastrous.
Along the way I have concluded there are a few basics: we all get the same thing: we live, we die, we do stuff in between. There are no wouldas, shouldas, couldas, or what if's. What is -- is. We play the cards we are dealt. We make the best decisions we know how with the information we have at the time. It's OK to change our mind when we find/receive new, better information. Don't let the past mess up my present.
There are no fantasy parents, fantasy siblings, fantasy marriages, etc.
My mind tends to see the Big Picture. After reading The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell (a textbook for a local college religion course), it became easy to see Mormonism in the Big Picture as one of many God Myths through out the history of humanity that humans naturally gravitate to through their generational, familial, cultural, societal background. The geography of our birth plays a large role in our beliefs. Where we are born in the world very often determines our religious traditions and rituals for our entire life.
I found that it takes a long time to give ourselves permission to create a personalized, evolving new World View and be confident about it. It's natural, to have doubts and concerns along the way.
I realized I needed to take my power back and own it, early on. I needed to be in the drivers seat and trust myself!
Everyone is different: for some anger, resentment, distaste, disgust, etc. can last for years. For others, those kinds of emotions are quickly replaced by others that lead to making peace with all of it. Humor is very healing! I fall in the latter group.
The end result of this very personalized, Do It Yourself, Exit Process from Mormonism based on the dynamics of our individual lives and families is that former members will very often develop very different World Views and different opinions.
It's natural for human beings to see the world only through their eyes. Changing from a concrete World View with little to no deviation, to one that is open and evolving can be jarring and upsetting when confronted with different opinions. Learning the skills of a skeptic, using logic and reason in a new way can be difficult. It can all: feel wrong at first. Eventually, we each find our niche, usually through experimentation. We find what works for us as a former Mormon.
It's an exhilarating experience! Scary at times! Taking off the Mormon filter from our eyes and ears takes some getting used to. We often completely change our hair styles, and our wardrobe, discarding the regulation garments. The world looks much different. There are new ways of looking at everything. All of our thoughts and actions take on a new perspective.
For me, it was necessary to use humor (daily), write satire and parody, write about the process regularly, and not take it all too seriously. It was also necessary for my sense of well being to know I was OK, to keep my self confidence, self respect, self esteem cooking on high! I was going to change my mind and do it my way! And I could do that. I didn't need to be fixed by anyone or anything. I was not defective. I'd figure it out. I could do that. I also needed to learn how to set boundaries and how to protect myself. That is on-going.
This is my list of how I know I'm out -- or recovered as some say, or the Exit Process is about as done as it's going to get. Like many, I live with and love Mormons and always will. They are some of my relatives and dear friends.
It's important, for me, in my situation to maintain as many positive relationships as possible. (Not always possible, however.)
This is my check list. I read it from time to time to see how I'm doing.
You know you're really out when........ You're made peace with it.
The emotional attachment has been replaced with love of all of life.
The following is how I made peace with it. The short version.
You know you are really out when.....
there are no more resentments, anger, regrets, or self recrimination, explosive responses, name calling, etc.
You know you are really out when....
you can live with and love Mormons and accept them like anyone else.
You know you are really out when.....
you are kind to the missionaries and other members, and maintain a rational relationship and friendship like everyone else.
You know you are really out when...
you understand that Mormonism is a religion like thousands of others and it's OK to change your mind, leave it, and know you are OK and were OK all along.
You know you are really out when .....
you respect all people's rights to choose their own religion (or none) as a valid choice and honor that right.
You know you are really out when....
you love your friends and family regardless of their religious choices.
You know you are really out when...
you own your own power, set healthy boundaries when necessary, and take charge of your own life, living it today, not for some reward after death.
You know you are really out when...
you choose your friends regardless of their religious choices.
You know you are really out when....
you can go to a church building, read their scriptures, articles, etc, attend functions associate with Mormons and remain respectful.
I didn't start out with those goals, but they evolved naturally during my process.
I will always live with and love Mormons. Every person teaches me something, and most often, enriches my life.
What does Recovery mean to you?
| Part 1
This post, and the two that follow, is directed to those Mormons who are reluctant to finally reject Mormonism because of the testimony of “scholars” within the Church who apparently have managed to maintain their faith primarily because of spiritual experiences notwithstanding the abundance of adverse facts about Mormon doctrine and history. In a way, these posts are a consolidation, and perhaps fine-tuning, of points made by many others on this Board over the years, since most of us had a similar struggle before our own rejection of Mormonism. I hope that some of you will find these thoughts useful. I apologize in advance for the length of these posts.
Several weeks ago, while browsing on the Recovery Board, I became aware of the website, “Mormon Scholars Testify.” (“MST”) My first reaction was perplexity because I realized, as many of you have noted on this Board, that the “testimony” of Mormon scholars is logically no different from the testimony of Mormon non-scholars–unless such testimony includes a direct relationship between their scholarly pursuits and their commitment to Mormonism. If such testimonies are based upon subjective, spiritual experiences, i.e. “revelation,” as emphasized in Mormon doctrine and culture, it was unclear just how the testimonies of these scholars added anything to the garden-variety testimonies of Mormons who were not scholars.
Later, I became aware of another website, “Exmormon Scholars Testify,” apparently founded to combat, or deflate, the MST website. Here, not surprisingly, “testimonies” are offered describing how some former Mormon scholars found their way out of Mormonism. Presumably, these accounts are no different from the stories offered by former Mormons who are not professional scholars but who nonetheless discovered facts about Mormonism that led to their disbelief. Thus, this whole “scholars testify” business just seemed to me to be totally irrelevant to the debate. Arguments are good or bad, and statements or beliefs are true or false, regardless of one’s scholarly attainments. For these reasons, I gave no more thought to either of these websites.
Then, more recently, I saw the post by “Deciding Whether To Leave” who seemed genuinely confused by the numerous testimonies found on the MST website. Since then, at least one other post surfaced inquiring about the site. It is painfully obvious that many lay Church members, and a good number of leaders, rely upon the faith of Mormon intellectuals to support their own faith, notwithstanding the questionable logic of such reliance. Upon further reflection, the MST website finally made me realize that in the interest of assisting people out of Mormonism, the logical status of these testimonies needed to be more systematically addressed.
In preparing for this post, I selected 24 “testimonies” from the MST website, which appeared to me to be authored by the most academically impressive Mormon scholars, whose areas of expertise were in some way related to religious studies, or the science vs. religion debate. I also considered those scholars who also are prominent apologists. My interest in reviewing these testimonies was to determine: (1) why generally these scholars believed in Mormonism; (2) any facts or evidence offered in support of such beliefs, particularly facts related to their particular area of expertise; and (3) any rational arguments, offered in support of their faith. I was NOT interested in any personal bravado or rhetoric about their particular academic background or accomplishments, viewing such as completely irrelevant. The scholars I selected were the following: (1) David H. Bailey; (2) Duane Boyce; (3) Richard Bushman; (4) Davis Bitton; (5) D. Morgan Davis; (6) James E. Faulconer; (7) Stephen Fleming; (8) John Gee; (9) Ron Hellings; (10) Kent P. Jackson; (11) Hollis R. Johnson; (12) Grant Hardy; (13) B. Kent Harrison; (14) Robert L. Millet; (15) James M. McLachlan; (16) Adam S. Miller; (17) Kerry Muhlestein; (18) Ryan L. Parr; (19) Ugo A. Perego; (20) Daniel C. Peterson; (21) Richard Sherlock; (22) Lawrence L. Poulsen; (23) Douglass F. Taber; and (24) John L. Sorensen. These persons were selected from the biographies alone, before reading any of their testimonies.
As expected, the academic credentials of some of the above named scholars are impressive. As also expected, few of these “testimonies,” addressed any specific Mormon issues, or even offered specific apologetic arguments. (Note, however, Gee, Muhlestein and Sorenson) Moreover, a large number seemed to invoke family tradition, community, personal development, moral guidance, and/or general convenience, either individually or in some combination, as in some part the justification for their faith. (See Bushman, Hardy, Millet, McLachen, Miller, and Peterson) Some spoke of the compatibility of science and religion (or God) generally, without saying much about Mormonism in particular. (e.g. Bailey, Johnson, Harrison)
Notwithstanding, nearly all the testimonies were based, in whole or in part, on standard claims of spiritual experiences, interpreted as “revelation” confirming their Mormon faith. Several expressed “certainty” with respect to their conclusions, others were more tentative. As a whole, the overwhelming message of the testimonies is exactly as one would expect; that personal revelation and/or spiritual experiences were the foundation of their faith, notwithstanding any intellectual challenges arising from either within or without their particular area of expertise.
To address the MST website as a whole, and its emphasis on spiritual experiences, we first must ask a basic question: What is the intended logic behind the MST website itself? What is this website supposed to convey to the reader? It appears to be simply the following: (1) Some Mormon scholars are highly educated, smart, and accomplished; (2) Some Mormon scholars have maintained their faith and testimony; therefore, (3) YOU (THE WAVERING MORMON) CAN TOO! Implicit in this argument is the further claim: (4) Faith in Mormonism is compatible with logic, reason, and evidence (since presumably such basic academic principles are embraced by these Mormon scholars). The first and second premises of this “argument” are, of course, true. However, as we shall see, the substantive conclusion (4) does not follow, and is, in fact, false. The mere fact that Mormon scholars believe in Mormonism does NOT logically entail that such belief is rationally based. Moreover, by the mere invocation of their scholarly status as a relevant factor in assessing the validity of their testimony, each of the participants acknowledges their own commitment to rationality, and thereby certain rational principles. Therefore, if it can be shown that such common principles of rationality are violated, then the testimonies are shown to be irrational, and thus inconsistent with their scholarly commitments. In this way, rather than being a support for Mormon faith, these testimonies have the unintended effect of undermining the scholarly status and credibility of the participants.
Perhaps more charitably, the message of the MST website might be, “When coupled with spiritual experiences, Mormonism is compatible with logic, reason and evidence.” Thus, given such experiences, faith is rationally justified–regardless of a few unresolved issues. Note that there is no claim of proof here. It is the rather simple affirmation that subjective spiritual experiences confirm Mormonism, and that this confirmation is not sufficiently undermined by logic, reason, and contrary empirical evidence, such as to warrant a reconsideration of one’s Mormon faith.
The above position of Mormon scholars, if correctly stated, involves first and foremost some meaningful commitment to “rationality,” i.e. logic reason and evidence, notwithstanding a claimed role for spiritual experiences in the search for truth. The question is what does this commitment to rationality entail for Mormon scholars in grounding his or her religious beliefs? We might begin by considering a few quotes from Robert Nozick’s book, The Nature of Rationality (Princeton University Press, 1993):
“Two themes permeate the philosophical literature. First, that rationality is a matter of reasons. A belief’s rationality depends upon the reasons for holding that belief. These will be reasons for thinking the belief is true . . . Second, that rationality is a matter of reliability. Does the process or procedure that produces (and maintains) the belief lead to a high percentage of true beliefs? A rational belief is one that arises through some process that reliably produces beliefs that are true (or that have some other desirable cognitive virtue.” (Nozick, page 64)
. . . .
“A rational belief, then, would be one that was arrived at by a process that reliably yields true beliefs. This process includes not simply the acquisition of a new belief but also the way in which an existing belief is maintained, dropped, or revised.” (Nozick, page 65)
Thus, according to Nozick, and most other scholars considering “rationality,” rational belief depends both upon the evidence (reasons) for holding such belief, and the reliability of the process that produces such belief. From this, we can conclude at minimum that any claim to rationality must involve a commitment to an evaluation of evidence through some reliable process. This is rather basic, of course, and should not be controversial, even for our Mormon scholars.
Of course, the tension in the present context is the relationship between subjective spiritual experiences as “evidence” for Mormon faith, weighed against the contrary empirical evidence as related to specific Mormon issues. There is a temptation here to dismiss Mormon “testimonies” out of hand as coming from a generally unreliable process, i.e. revelation. Much could be said, and has been said, about the reliability of spiritual experiences as a process for determining truth, but we cannot be hasty here. As I have said many times on this Board over the years, notwithstanding its unpopularity for some, subjective spiritual experiences do count as evidence in considering the propriety of religious faith in one’s worldview. First, whether spiritual experiences are a reliable source for truth is controversial, and discounting such experiences per se is difficult to justify philosophically. Second, arguably, all experiences are ultimately subjective, and spiritual experiences are part of one’s total experience. As such, they demand evaluation and interpretation just like any other experiences. In short, to summarily conclude that spiritual experiences are per se unreliable, or require a materialist or psychological interpretation, and thus are an unacceptable component of rationality, is to beg the question in the current context, and will get us nowhere.
Thus, we will admit for the sake of argument that Mormon scholars–or Mormons generally–have every right to invoke spiritual experiences as support for their faith–but only to a point. Taking this position suggests two consequences: First, any argument against the rationality of Mormonism must encompass an acknowledgment that subjective spiritual experiences have a legitimate role to play when considering the rationality of religious faith . Otherwise, any criticism of such belief based upon a claim of irrationality is a non-starter. (Think of your own “spiritual experiences” as a Mormon, and how difficult it would have been for someone to convince you that such experiences don’t matter!) However, second, given a commitment to rationality (logic, reason and evidence), Mormon scholars cannot simply hide behind such experiences as a safe haven against claims of irrationality. Why? Because as evidence, spiritual experiences, and their factual interpretations, demand the same kind of scrutiny as physical evidence,subject to rejection if alternative facts weigh strongly against them. If Mormon scholars are truly committed to rationality, they cannot take the stance–as many do, by the way, including many of the Mormon scholars on the MST website–that their spiritual confirmations make any consideration of contrary evidence unnecessary. When this stance is taken, rationality is lost. Thus, Nozick suggests:
“The belief or action must not merely be caused (in the right way) by reasons for and against; it must be responsive to these reasons. Over some range of variation in the nature or force or balance of these reasons, if the reasons were different, then the action or belief would be different.” (Nozick, page 72)
“What the rational person cares about, though, is the truth. He uses the net balance among the reasons he has or knows of to estimate or predict this truth.” (Nozick, page 73)
“[T]he rational person will try to be aware of whether the reasons she has are a biased indicator of the truth and will accordingly shape her estimate of the truth from the reasons she has. If she judges her reasons to be unrepresentative in some particular direction, she will correct for this. When rationality evaluates reasons, it is concerned not only with the force of the reasons but also with their representativeness.” (Nozick, page 74)
“We have said that a rational person will not simply extrapolate from the net balance among all the reasons she has to a conclusion about the truth. She will consider the possibility that the reasons she is aware of are not a representative sample of all the reasons there are. A rational person, then, will be self-conscious about possible biases in her own intellectual functioning and in the information she receives.” (Nozick, page 100)
“[T]here will be a tendency to overestimate how likely or well supported a hypothesis is, in the absence of procedures designed specifically to call up and consider countervailing evidence. . . Hence, it is especially important in assessing a possible belief not merely to consider the evidence for and against that we have thought of but to make particular and systematic efforts to call up all the relevant evidence, for and against, that we have.” (Nozick, page 101)
Several Mormon scholars openly adopted the extreme irrational position noted above, allowing their spiritual experiences to automatically trump ANY conflicting data. Robert L. Millet, for example, adopts and expounds upon the idea that “Faith [in Mormonism] is not only a feeling; it is a decision,” such that once this decision is made, everything else, including contrary evidence, can be and should be ignored. Many other MST “testimonies” implicitly adopt this same attitude; i.e. given their spiritual experiences, all other evidence can be safely discounted. There is no arguing with such a position. It is blatantly irrational, and should be embarrassing to anyone claiming to be a “scholar.” To repeat, rationality requires a systematic consideration and weighing of evidence, even if spiritual experiences are considered in this process. Otherwise, the commitment to “rationality” or “rational belief” makes no sense.
Notwithstanding the above, let’s give the MST scholars the benefit of the doubt, and assume that they are committed to rationality within the context of their Mormon faith. In short, let’s assume that they agree that given their claim to rationality, they have a responsibility to weigh evidence, both spiritual and physical, when considering their Mormon faith. In Parts 2 and 3, I will attempt to show that such a commitment alone requires a rejection of Mormonism, demonstrating that the “testimonies” provided by the MST website (and elsewhere) are either irrational, or based upon some motive other than the search for truth.
In Part 1 I hopefully established that the Mormon scholars on the MST website, who presumably claim rationality in adhering to and maintaining their Mormon faith, must acknowledge a commitment to certain principles of rationality, including a process that encompasses an evaluation of evidence, including for the sake of argument the evidence provided by spiritual experiences. They cannot claim rationality while at the same time burying their heads in the sand of faith and assuming, like Robert Millet, that the proper stance is to simply make a decision of faith, closing the door to contrary evidence.
In his book, The Nature of Rationality, quoted at length in Part 1, Robert Nozick discusses in some detail the more technical aspects of “rationality,” as addressed in the academic literature, for example, Decision Theory and Bayesian probability theory. I am not interested in discussing these theories here. A technical discussion of rationality can quickly get one up to their neck in controversial science and philosophy, including specifically issues related to the philosophy of language, ontology, epistemology (knowledge and justified belief), cognitive science, and neuroscience, all of which usually ends in debate over epistemic foundations and underlying theories. None of this would serve us well here, but would only confuse matters.
Instead, the point here is to identify intuitive principles of rationality, principles that scholars generally, and Mormon scholars in particular, would be compelled to agree with. Then, we can hope to show, or at least to suggest, that such a commitment is inconsistent with their epistemic methodology, i.e. their actual practice in attempting to determine religious truth, and/or their conclusions, i.e. the truth of Mormonism. In short, once a Mormon scholar, or anyone else, sets his or her beliefs up as supported by rationality, including a rational methodology, it is obligatory for such person to explain just what experiences and empirical data led to the beliefs in question. Otherwise, they are offering only the rhetoric of their academic standing, and the claim of rationality as to their faith in Mormonism is empty.
So, let’s consider a few general principles of rationality that we would expect our rational Mormon scholars to accept:
PRINCIPLE 1: Rationality requires a commitment to pursue and accept truth, as established by the evidence, and alter one’s beliefs accordingly to such evidence. (See the Nozick quotes in Part One) This should be uncontroversial. How can one claim to be committed to rationality (and rationally justified beliefs) without such a commitment? Thus, rationality does not allow belief closure based simply upon the evidence of spiritual experiences. It requires an openness, and willingness to sift through alternative explanations and interpretations.
PRINCIPLE 2: Rationality requires a respect for empirical, scientific evidence, as well as logical inference. Even assuming a role for spiritual experiences, all Mormon scholars must agree that ordinary empirical evidence plays a significant role in the rational assessment of one’s religious commitments, and the formation of religious beliefs.
PRINCIPLE 3: If spiritual experiences are deemed to play a role, rationality requires at least a weighing of spiritual experiences against a backdrop of established scientific facts and evidence.
The point here is that any claims to knowledge by spiritual experience must be made within the context of established facts and evidence. I do not think Mormon scholars would dispute this. The question then becomes what is the appropriate, rational relationship between established scientific and empirical facts and factual determinations based upon interpretations of spiritual experiences. When, if ever, is it appropriate for established facts to trump spiritual experience, and when, if ever, is it appropriate for spiritual experiences to trump established facts? Establishing this demarcation is the key in establishing or refuting the rationality of religious faith. Since Mormon scholars are presumably committed to rationality, they must be committed to the rational determination of where this line is to be drawn. Otherwise, there is no rational assessment being made; there is no weighing of evidence; there is no commitment to truth. The claim to rationality becomes a farce.
PRINCIPLE 4: Established scientific and empirical facts can completely trump knowledge claims derived from spiritual experiences, whereas, spiritual experiences can never trump established scientific and empirical facts. Thus, scientific and empirical facts have an epistemic priority over knowledge claims based upon spiritual experiences.
This principle, although perhaps more controversial, is demonstrated by examples: Any spiritual experience that purports to support a claim that the world is flat, that the earth is the center of the universe, or that the earth was created 6,000 years ago, is trumped by the scientific facts establishing the falsity of such claims. It follows from this principle that any spiritual experience confirming a given Mormon doctrine can, at least in principle, be trumped by scientific evidence. (It is worth observing that “testimonies” of historical religious dogma that have been falsified by science, including, for example, Mormonism’s initial rejection of biological evolution, and its traditional broad geographic interpretation of the Book of Mormon, begin to fade away in the face of scientific fact. Moreover, in the face of such facts, religious dogma is put on the defensive, creating an environment for apologetics, before the false dogma finally succumbs to the weight of scientific fact.) Any Mormon scholar committed to rationality must admit that a factual interpretation of a spiritual experience, such as that the Book of Mormon is true, is at the mercy of established scientific fact. (However, at present we must acknowledge that as long as such “facts” are reasonably tentative, arguably the door is left open to allow contrary conclusions based upon spiritual experiences.)
We can pause at this point and note that the very existence of the MST website, and other such “Keep the Faith” websites, is an acknowledgment that there are difficult factual and evidentiary issues associated with belief in Mormonism. As indicated above, the site is essentially apologetic in its purpose, suggesting that notwithstanding such contrary facts, belief in Mormonism is still rational, as supported by the testimonies of the Mormon scholars. Yet, a review of the MST website shows there is not a single instance (that I found) where any Mormon scholar testifies to engaging in any rational process that includes a systematic weighing of evidence. No such scholar showed a command of the facts about Mormonism, and “testified” that notwithstanding such facts, their spiritual experiences, as specifically described, were so strong and compelling that Mormon belief was justified. As a “rational” argument, such a “testimony” would require an account of such spiritual experiences, and a rational basis for theirspecific factual interpretation, perhaps based upon context. Presumably, such “evidence” would be sufficiently powerful and compelling, and logically directed to a specific belief, to warrant continued belief in Mormonism. Absent such an account, any “testimony” of Mormonism cannot be based upon a rational assessment or argument. What about apologetics? Apologetics is by definition defensive. There is no honest weighing of evidence, and certainly no consideration of specific types of spiritual experiences, and the value of such experiences as evidence in the context of contrary empirical data. In short, given the above standards of rationality, I personally have never seen any rational argument for Mormonism by any scholar, even one that encompasses spiritual experiences as evidence. (I have seen such arguments in other, non-Mormon, religious contexts) The problem for Mormonism is that it has a rich, modern history, chuck full of empirical claims that are subject to falsification. This fact puts great strain on rational belief in Mormonism that is not as evident in other contexts of religious faith.
PRINCIPLE 5: Any belief based upon spiritual experience must be consistent (or compatible) with established scientific facts. Any religious interpretation that is inconsistent with established facts and evidence places the believer on dangerous intellectual ground, certainly beyond any claim to rationality. All of the testimonies found on the MST website assume that their spiritual experiences confirming Mormonism are compatible and consistent with Mormon doctrine and history, taken as an objective consideration of facts and evidence. In other words, such testimonies fundamentally assume that the evidence against Mormonism is at worst inconclusive, such that their subjective spiritual experiences can intellectually sway the balance in favor of Mormon faith and commitment. But we can ask, and expect, fairness in making such a compatibility claim, whether explicit or implicit. We can ask, for example, whether belief in the Book of Abraham as scripture is compatible with a “translation” claim that is demonstrably false, or whether a belief in the Book of Mormon, and its claims, is combatable with the facts established by modern population genetics. We can go on and on with such questions. If the proposed answers to such questions require alteration of traditional doctrines or historical foundations, or non-standard, apologetic “spins” on the scientific evidence, the Mormon scholar must begin to seriously question the compatibility of his or her religious beliefs with scientific facts.
PRINCIPLE 6: Rationality is lost if one repeatedly and systematically responds to contrary empirical evidence by changing pre-established background facts, or adopting fringe interpretations of scientific evidence, for the sole purpose of preserving one’s belief system.
Principle 6 is perhaps more difficult to defend, but clearly is correct. As established above, rationality requires sincere investigation. It is the antithesis of apologetics, which starts with predispositions that must be defended at all costs. When a Mormon scholar sees his or her “testimony” slipping into defensive apologetics, a warning voice should sound that rationality is in danger of annihilation. Introspectively, such a scholar must accept the fact that this posture would be rationally unacceptable for someone attempting to justify another faith. Thus, a similar allegiance to this principle would be rationally required when a commitment to Mormonism is at issue.
Notice that it would seem that all of the above six principles are principles that Mormon scholars would have to agree with in order to preserve any commitment to rationality, and specifically any claim that their belief in Mormonism is rational. They should not be controversial simply because they are intimately tied to our intuitive understanding of what rationality requires. If the MST website is intended to persuade lay members that belief in Mormonism is rational based upon the evidence, in whole or in part, that Mormon scholars have “testimonies,” the substance of such testimonies needs to be linked to principles of rationality that have some universal, albeit intuitive, acceptance. Otherwise, there is no logical connection between the notion of “scholar” and “rationality.”
I hope that I established in Parts 1 and 2 that in order to preserve any claim to rationality with respect to their Mormon faith, Mormon scholars, and other Mormons, must acknowledge that both empirical scientific evidence and any relevant spiritual experiences, must be weighed and fairly considered within the context of well-established principles of rationality. We have also noted the priority of established scientific facts over spiritual experiences, acknowledging, however, that to the extent such facts are inconclusive, spiritual experiences might be invoked to weigh the balance in favor of belief. How, then do we respond to the Mormon, scholar, or other Mormon, who claims that however strong the evidence against Mormonism, it remains ultimately inconclusive, and therefore they can appropriately, and rationally, allow spiritual experiences, which they deem to be quite strong, to weigh in favor of belief?
First, as previously indicated, the Mormon scholar who claims his testimony is rational owes us an account of the spiritual experiences that are deemed to trump strong, but otherwise arguably inconclusive evidence. The content of such experiences, and the basis for their specific interpretation, are important. If the Mormon deems such accounts “too scared” to reveal, then he or she should back off from any rationality claim. In the context of rational argument, this is no different from someone claiming that they have empirical data to support a scientific theory that they simply do not wish to share. The appropriate rational conclusion in response to a position is that such data does not exist, and similarly, that such spiritual experiences do not exist.
Moreover, we can assess the strength of the contrary empirical evidence in an attempt to determine, on balance, whether a belief in Mormonism, given such empirical evidence, could in fact be rationally justified. Sometimes evidence might be technically inconclusive, but nonetheless so strong and compelling that continued rational belief in a contrary religious doctrine would require a spiritual experience of a corresponding magnitude, which in fact is not being claimed. By any account, mere spiritual feelings are certainly not sufficient to rationally sustain a belief that evolution is false, even if one were to conclude that evolution is still tentative.
But there is a third factor that is highly relevant and often overlooked. One can turn the argument to a consideration of the rationality of God. We might ask whether it is reasonable and consistent to believe that God would allow a high level of contradictory evidence, presumably knowing that such evidence would work against the establishment of faith.
We can conclude from fundamental Mormon doctrine that God is interested in bringing about “the immortality and eternal life of man,” through individual acceptance of gospel “truths.” After all, we are told, “this is [his] work and [his] glory.” Arguably, this purpose might be served in some way through a testing of faith in the wake of some conflicting evidence. However, there comes a point, even when the contrary evidence, although perhaps technically inconclusive, becomes so overwhelming that God’s purpose becomes frustrated. Thus, we can expect, perhaps, that God would sanction some contrary evidence, but not so much as to preclude the exercise of faith sufficient to investigate Mormonism and seek the confirming spiritual experiences so prized as the foundation of faith. In other words, there is a law of diminishing returns, here. And if we are to take God’s work seriously, we can legitimately assume that his testing will not cross a certain line of credibility. To put it in another way, after so much contrary evidence on a given point of doctrine, God would have no right to expect the exercise of faith sufficient to warrant spiritual investigation. As an extreme example, no one would feel inclined to pray for a spiritual experience regarding the truth of the geocentric theory of the universe, simply because the evidence against such a belief has placed the matter outside of the domain of what God might reasonably expect someone to believe. Moreover, for the same reason, there is thus little chance that anyone would seek spiritual confirmation of young-earth creationism. As scientific and other empirical evidence mounts against a religious doctrine, the inclination to seek spiritual confirmation of such document wanes, leaving the issue entirely irrelevant.
In law, there are legal principles of “proof,” that are entirely intuitive. They are as follows: (1) proof by “a preponderance of the evidence,” (2) proof by “clear and convincing evidence,” and (3) proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.” We can agree that scientific proof against the idea of young-earth creationism is at least “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If God required belief in such creationism as a fundamental doctrine (at one time he apparently did), then his purposes, as stated above, would be undermined, if not entirely thwarted, by allowing such overwhelming contrary evidence. One might argue that God could sanction contrary scientific evidence that weighed slightly against a gospel principle or precept. Thus, the preponderance of the evidence might weigh against the gospel principle, leaving enough doubt to secure spiritual confirmation. But, when the contrary scientific evidence rises to the level of what we would intuitively call “clear and convincing,” God’s divine purposes are in serious trouble.
Many believe, as I do, that evolution–for our purposes that man evolved from lower forms of life–is an established scientific fact. Notwithstanding, it remains controversial. Yet, if such evidence is not “beyond a reasonable doubt,” it is certainly “clear and convincing” to everyone that understands the basic evidence. If we assume, for the sake of argument that evolution is false, and contrary to God’s plan of salvation,” one cannot help but wonder why God allowed such evidence in the first place; evidence that significantly undermined his purposes, leaving scores of people to abandon religious belief. Moreover, if such evidence is a test, we can ask whether this is a fair test. Is it fair and moral for God to expect a rejection of evolution in view of the evidence? Is it even fair at this point to expect someone to pray about it? Clearly not!
Let’s describe a typical spiritual experience, giving Mormonism the benefit of the doubt. In all fairness, it is NOT just a feeling or sensation. First, there is a context, either as a response to prayer, reflection, a testimony of someone else, or just out of the blue. Second, it involves a proposition, or idea, which is believed to be the object or design of the experience and which comes to the recipient as “pure knowledge.” Third, it is often accompanied by a physical sensation, for example, a tingling sensation, or euphoria. Finally, it is interpreted as a message or communication from God. One may have many such experiences, or just a few, or a single conversion experience. The conclusion is that the associated idea, for example, Mormonism, the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, Jesus, whatever, is true. This is what a garden-variety spiritual experience is, and this is what is meant by the vast majority of Mormons, scholars and others, who claim such experiences.
We can acknowledge that such experiences can be psychologically very powerful and convincing. We can also acknowledge, perhaps reluctantly, that it may be exactly what it claims to be, depending upon its ideological content. But, if we are rational, we must also admit that it may be entirely false, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s the result of physiological or psychological factors, or maybe the interpretation is just wrong. If there is no, or little, contradictory evidence, perhaps the person having the experience is justified in believing it. But the rational Mormon cannot stop with such an experience. It is simply one piece of the puzzle, and rationality demands reflection as to how such experience weighs against scientific facts. It is not a matter of simply throwing out the experience as irrelevant, silly, ludicrous, or even meaningless. If the experience is directed against facts established by science, the rational Mormon revisits the interpretation of the experience, possibly broadening such interpretation to make it compatible with known facts. Note, however, that when such process leaves Mormonism empty of its foundational doctrines, rationality demands rejection.
When one takes inventory of the facts related to Mormonism in a serious and objective way, setting aside for the moment one’s spiritual experiences, one finds that the facts and evidence undermining the truth of Mormonism are objectively overwhelming. Such facts and evidence have been well documented on this Board, and there is no need to rehearse them again here. These established facts are incompatible with, or otherwise call into serious question, fundamental Mormon doctrinal and historical precepts in almost every area of Mormon faith. Mormonism is thereby forced into defensive, apologetic modes that require alteration of long established Mormon doctrine and history, and/or spinning scientific facts away from mainstream interpretations. All of this maneuvering is done in an attempt to preserve belief while maintaining some semblance of rationality. The battle to preserve faith may in some instances be won, but the battle to preserve rationality is clearly lost.
The evidence, even considering garden-variety subjective spiritual experiences, is quite conclusive, at the very least “clear and convincing;” Mormonism, as a religious doctrine centered on the idea of a restoration of the ancient gospel of Jesus Christ, priesthood and all, with the Book of Mormon as its testament, is simply false. It is not just a matter of there being insufficient evidence to establish Mormonism. The facts and evidence point directly to this conclusion. Thus, any rational faith in Mormonism, if it can be sustained at all, must be based upon subjective spiritual experiences of overwhelming empirical power, well beyond the ordinary sort described above. Even then, we are left seriously questioning God’s own morality and motives.
Mormon scholars, and others, who testify as to their faith are in the same general category as those who claim by revelation that young-earth creationism is true. They are either ignorant of the science or evidentiary facts, or they have chosen irrationality over reason, a stance contrary to their own commitment as scholars, and making their “testimony” a farce. I am startled, for example, when confronted with Mormon scholars, particularly Egyptologists, who still cling to the belief that the Book of Abraham is based upon an ancient Egyptian text. Such a belief cannot possibly be based upon evidence and rational evaluation, even if one factors in spiritual experiences. To borrow from the words of distinguished philosopher, John Searle, in another context, such people do not need a refutation, they need help!
One often hears the advice “Let it Be.” God will work it all out and you will understand some day. We have all heard it. But what this advice assumes is that God has allowed and sanctioned an evidentiary environment that rationally calls for rejection of Mormonism, with the simultaneous expectation that this rational conclusion should be rejected simply because of personal, and usually somewhat vague, “revelation.” This necessary conclusion as to the mind and will of God not only calls into question God’ own morality and sense of fairness, as pointed out above, it results in wide scale religious relativism, and is precisely what leads to irrational, and sometimes disastrous, societal behavior. No rational person, Mormon or otherwise, can accept such a view. Mormonism, to the extent it allows spiritual experiences to trump established scientific facts, reduces to a hope that rationality is essentially irrelevant to faith. On such a view, logic and reason are human capacities that in the broad context of religious faith God cares nothing about. No doubt because of such an unacceptable characterization of God, Neal Maxwell once said, to paraphrase: “God would never allow the evidence against the Church to outweigh the evidence in favor of the Church.” Maxwell realized that such a state of affairs undermines everything that Mormonism stands for, and makes God far removed from any moral standing worthy of worship. However, a simple investigation will demonstrate to any serious investigator that this is exactly what has happened with Mormonism. The evidence against Mormonism far outweighs any evidence supporting it, which is precisely why Mormon apologists have come to dominate the discussion of Mormon doctrine and history, and why the MST website exists.
Some Mormon scholars are aware of such evidence, others obviously are not. The vast majority of them are simply going with the flow, following their spiritual inclinations without any thought, much less investigation, as to the facts of the matter. Thus, like other Mormons, they simply are not interested in the details of their faith, and their academic pursuits, whatever they are, are far removed from such details. Others, have monetary motives, or are concerned with family and tradition. Still others seem to take Mormon apologetics to be a kind of game, and enjoy their standing as “players.” Whatever the background or motive, Mormon scholars are NOT rational in their faith–regardless of their impressive academic credentials–and should not be taken seriously in this context.
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