False Doctrine, the Neverending Story

I’ll get back to folk doctrines and unsubstantiated rumors in a little bit.  Right now I’m going to write about one of the most enduring of the false doctrines.

My most recent brush with this doctrine comes from someone telling me about a friend’s bishop in Portland, Oregon.  They were certain he needed to speak in General Conference.  He had taught that his ward members did not need to feel uncomfortable if they did not feel like they had time or money or inclination to help others.  Each person they encountered was in the state they had chosen before this life and was receiving what God wanted for them and what they had agreed to.  He taught that it was actually sin to thwart the will of God.

The more common expression of this false doctrine is that each of us has a specific measure of inherent virtue.  The truly virtuous are known by good fortune, wealth, and social prominence.  The wealthy and popular are, by definition, filled with grace and truly virtuous.  The widow and her mite are, of course sinful and depraved.

/Sigh.  The Calvinists are still with us.  Judging virtue by how close they and others are to the great and spacious building’s upper floors.  To them there is no choice between God and Mammon.  To their eyes, the two march hand in hand.

Spiritual References

March 4:17

Luke 16:9; Matthew 6:24

Mark 12:42

Comments

comments

117 comments for “False Doctrine, the Neverending Story

  1. Benjamin O
    January 26, 2009 at 8:37 am

    WOW! I had NO IDEA that anyone in the church actually believed this or (as an adult) would believe if it taught this from the pulpit!

    It seems so obviously false on the face of it. Haven’t they read (even passingly?) Mosiah? I mean this one is so blindingly simple. I may not be the world’s most insightful philosopher, but even I can connect the logical dots from the command ‘be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect’. Even if we accept that such perfection is unobtainable in this life, or that we cannot become literally in every respect to become perfect (which I do not necessarily accept without some serious discussions about what all that means, but that’s an entire post), the command to seek self-improvement is clear. Furthermore we have been assured in various scriptures (1 Nephi 3:7 being but one) that commandments come with a way of achieving them–that is that the Lord does not give commands that are literally impossible.

    The logical conclusion, then is that improvement is indeed possible, and that anyone who makes the attempt CAN improve (potentially only with the Lord’s help, but that is another discussion). This gives lie to the idea that a given amount of virtue is allotted to each person.

    In fact I was discussing this with my quorum in my lesson this Sunday (er, make that not the 25th, but the week prior), when I taught from the Joseph Smith manual regarding ‘Gaining Knowledge of Eternal Truths’ . I centered the discussion around the idea that no man may be saved in ignorance and that we must continually seek knowledge.

    I also used the final quote from the chapter as a focal idea, which I think is relevant here:
    “God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them, for the day must come when no man need say to his neighbor, Know ye the Lord; for all shall know Him … from the least to the greatest [see Jeremiah 31:34].”

    I once had a missionary companion (this is a story I shared with the quorum) with whom I argued on this subject (and it’s fair to say we argued, because we REALLY didn’t see eye to eye on the subject at the time). He asserted that most members simply couldn’t achieve the same level of blessings as the prophets. I vehemently disagreed, and I still do. His view was that the prophets were fore-ordained to become prophets and that ordinary members simply would never gain the same level of spirituality. He felt that his mission would be the most spiritual point of his life, and it would be downhill from there. I was rather shocked (and saddened) by this viewpoint. After all, a life lived right SHOULD see spirituality as at LEAST a constant linear growth with (hopefully) occasional minor drops due to life events as we stumble then regain our feet. An exceptional life’s spirituality line (I’m obsessed with graphs & charts) would likely be more exponential or at least curvilinear.

    Oh well, now that I’ve probably doubled the length of this discussion, I’m out for a bit.

  2. hawkgrrrl
    January 26, 2009 at 9:22 am

    This one is insidious in its inspiration toward complacency. Very Calvinist. The only bolstering I heard for this kind of wrong-headed thinking while I was growing up was the stuff on prophets being foreordained and Saturday’s Warrior. However, another potential link lies in the second anointing doctrine that degenerated into a free pass for the elderly once they had endured long enough (yet not quite to the end). Bad ideas tend to repeat, Calvinmism chief among them.

  3. Andrew
    January 26, 2009 at 9:44 am

    Hawkgrrl — what second anointing doctrine is that? maybe I’m too young (but not that young) to have hear of that one.

  4. Ray
    January 26, 2009 at 9:45 am

    This is a variation on the theme of mortality paralleling pre-mortality – that I hate more than most crappy theology. It’s so wacky that it’s hard to take seriously within our theology – totally a philosophy of man mutation, imo.

    Unfortunately, I’ve heard various versions of it from a few people in my life, so it’s not just one nutcase out there preaching it.

  5. Holden Caulfield
    January 26, 2009 at 10:09 am

    “Hawkgrrl — what second anointing doctrine is that?”

    Classic bloggernacle question. You go, Hawkgrrl.

  6. Andrew Ainsworth
    January 26, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Sadly, you will find this false doctrine in Doctrines of Savation, by Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie. It’s not an official Church publication, and for good reason. Here is one of the more damnable quotes supporting the idea that our station in life here is a reflection of our obedience/disobedience in the pre-existence, thereby making our present situation the deserved “will of God”:

    “There is a reason why one man is born black and with other disadvantages while another is born white with great advantages. The reason is that we once had an estate before we came here, and were obedient, more or less, to the laws that were given us there. Those who were faithful in all things there received greater blessings here, and those who were not faithful received less.” (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. I, p. 61.)

    Notably, there is no citation to scripture to support this view. As I said, this book is NOT published by the Church, my understanding is that it is not published by the Church precisely because of the types of statements quoted above. This book was published in 1954, but it is still sitting on a lot of Mormons’ bookshelves and it is still sold in its original form in LDS book stores. Twenty-four years after this book was published, Elder McConkie asked the Church to forget everything he or any other Church leader had ever said about this topic. It would be a lot easier for these statements to be forgotten if either (1) Bookcraft would stop selling this book, or (2) Bookcraft or a member of the McConkie family would thoroughly edit these types of statements before selling any additional copies of Doctrines of Salvation.

  7. Holden Caulfield
    January 26, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    Two related quotes by Joseph Fielding Smith:

    “Not only was Cain called upon to suffer, but because of his wickedness he became the father of an inferior race.”
    (The Way to Perfection, p 102)

    “The Latter-Day Saints, so commonly called “Mormons”, have no animosity towards the Negro. Neither have they described him as belonging to an “interior race.” (Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol. 4, p 168)

  8. DavidH
    January 26, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Sounds like Karma

  9. Terry Foraker
    January 26, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    The notion that we were born in the station we occupy due to our choices in this life seems distressingly similar to the thinking behind India’s caste system, which entraps millions of our Father’s children in a nationalized system of perpetual learned helplessness. (It also negates the doctrines–yes, doctrines–of eternal progression, repentance–where necessary–and charity, but that’s a whole topic in itself.)

    My aunt has a friend who was a crew member on a TV movie which Shirley MacLaine made about 20 years ago. At one point in the shoot they were filming someplace in Central America (I think)and broke for lunch, which of course was catered. While they were eating, several of the impoverished neighborhood children began to approach the cast and crew for a bit of their food. My aunt’s friend was about to give some to one of the children when MacLaine barked out, “Don’t you DARE give them anything! They CHOSE this way of life! It’s KARMA!!”

    Shortly after filming resumed, it began to rain. Everybody was walking down the hill on the wet cobblestone, with rain, mud, and manure blending into a soggy mess. Shirley slipped on the cobblestone and fell into the muck, only to hear a crew member shout, “Karma, Shirley, Karma!”

    The moral: What goes around, comes around. (In one way or another…)

  10. Benjamin O
    January 26, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Yeah, I’m pretty saddened that any significant group of LDS folks could ascribe to this nonsense. But I guess I’m not really all that surprised despite my earlier comments. Just really sad. I wish it wasn’t this way.

    Is it really that hard to accept that we are responsible for our actions here, but that where we start in this life is in all likelihood a matter of necessity in terms of the reproductive demands? There are a LOT of babies being born each day. Not all of them are born into LDS, wealthy, or even moderately comfortable homes. In fact, I’d say MOST of them are not. How is it even remotely reasonable to say that a loving God WANTS to send ANY of His children to those conditions, regardless of their behavior in the prior existence? Or that he would intentionally set them up for failure?

    No, I think it is much more likely that only a VERY few spirits are allowed any sort of privilege in terms of coming to this earth at any point when the gospel is available to them–and only then if they are judged likely to be key in making a contribution to the salvation of the world. But I’d say that even then, MOST are expected to come here and make do the best they can and will be judged by how well they did with the knowledge and resources available to them. I pray for mercy upon those who (if any beyond certain key players) are sent to the earth at a specific point should they do less than is possible with their lives, for they shall need much mercy.

  11. Russell
    January 26, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    I don’t think that “good behavior” in the premortal life necessarily lives to posh lives of “born-in-the-wool, child of Abraham” MOrmonism. Quite the opposite. Those who were heartiest in the premortal life, I might speculate, would be given the greatest chances for soul-refinement. Don’t be surprised if, in the afterlife, a victim of Darfur or the Armenian genocides makes a better Saint than me.

    That said, I think we should be careful of discarding *any* relationship between the premortal life (or this life) and our current circumstances. Doing so requires that we give up the concept of “receiving good for good” as taught in the scriptures. And this idea is *essential* if we are to continue believing that choices have consequences. If we were to give up the idea? We would be left with a “do what you want w/o consequences” religion. I’m all about the “do what you want” “receive the desires of your heart.” But we must believe that there our consequences for our actions if we want to lay *any* claim to having a better/truer way of life.

  12. Latter-day Guy
    January 26, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    Yep, that doctrine is a damnable heresy. I think burning the bishop would be a fitting response. Seriously.

  13. Ray
    January 26, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Russell, I understand what you are saying, and I even will posit that we don’t know well enough to throw out the broad idea generally, but it is just as easy to believe the following:

    Once we graduated from our first estate, we all started our second estate on equal spiritual footing – just like our conception of baptism, where all are born again and start in exactly the same spiritual state (clean and pure) REGARDLESS of our differing pasts. A widely practicing sinner (say, Paul or Alma) is no worse off after spiritual birth than the brightest, most spiritual 8-year-old or convert, adult minister who has dedicated his life to service. They all start out on equal spiritual ground after baptism.

    It’s just as easy to believe that all who are born in mortality start over on an equal spiritual footing as it is to believe that I “deserve” my life – while the girl who is raped repeatedly as a child of an atheist criminal crackhead “deserves” her life. Given the two options, I’ll pick the “equally spiritual” and reject the “get what we deserve” view.

    After all, if we all get what we deserve, we all will be set on fire and cast into Hell.

  14. January 26, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    I hope this isn’t an urban legend about a friend of a friend of a friend’s bishop….

  15. Andrew Ainsworth
    January 26, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    I once saw a talk by Roger Keller, BYU Religion professor, in which he jokingly referred to his conversion from Presbyterianism to Mormonism as a result of his character flaws, rather than virtue. He said something along the lines of:

    “Those who excel in living lives of gentleness and thoughtfulness find Buddhism, and those who have a strong emphasis on ethics may gravitate toward humanism. But because I was obviously such a self-centered person in the pre-existence, I had to become a Mormon so that I could learn how to become a dutiful servant.”

    He almost had me rolling on the floor with that one.

  16. James
    January 26, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    “Each person they encountered was in the state they had chosen before this life and was receiving what God wanted for them and what they had agreed to. He taught that it was actually sin to thwart the will of God.”

    You wonder where this bishop got such foolish Ideas from:)

    LDS Apostle Mark E. Peterson on Poverty in this Life Being Based on Unrighteousness in the Previous Life

    “With that in mind, we can account in no other way for the birth of some of the children of God in darkest Africa, or in flood-ridden China, or among the starving hordes of India, while some of the rest of us are born in the United States? We cannot escape the conclusion that because of performance in our pre-existence some of us are born as Chinese, some as Japanese, some as Indians, some as Negroes, some as Americans, some as Latter-day Saints. There are rewards and punishments, fully in harmony with His established policy in dealing with sinners and saints, regarding all according to their deeds.”

  17. Ray
    January 26, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    James, I think we all understand how McConkie, JFS, Peterson and others viewed it back in the day. I don’t think there is any way to argue that they didn’t see through their racist glasses, darkly. I think the point is that these are false doctrines – and some of them actually were considered doctrines at one point, and we are dealing with the aftermath now.

    They couldn’t account for any other explanation; we can.

  18. James
    January 26, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Ray I think any one who has been around the bloggernacle realizes McConkie and Co were products of their time. But in less you live in a progressive ward but you would or maybe wouldn’t be surprised to how many still believe in his stance.

    Most people I know in our ward don’t know of FAIR or FARM I was highlighting some of this below to a Scottish Lady in my ward and she believes strongly in the Cane pre-existence Black thing and thought I was probably a heretic for suggesting anything else.

    IMO unless it’s stated by the prophet in the Ensign or a general conference to most people its just someone’s speculative thoughts that probably aren’t doctrine.

    http://www.blacklds.org/mauss

    Much of the conventional “explanation” for the priesthood restriction was simply borrowed from the racist heritage of nineteenth-century Europe and America, especially from the slavery justifications of the antebellum South.9 Understandable–even forgivable–as such a resort might have been for our LDS ancestors, it is neither understandable nor forgivable in the twenty-first century. It is an unnecessary burden of misplaced apologetics that has been imposed by our history upon the universal and global aspirations of the Church. Until we dispense with it once and for all, it will continue to encumber the efforts of today’s Church leaders and public affairs spokespersons to convince the world, and especially the black people of America, that the Church is for all God’s children, “black and white, bond and free, male and female.”

  19. January 26, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    One of the uses of religion is to try and make sense of the questions of life. The problem is that when a general authority makes a pronouncement as has been illustrated above it’s assumed by some that it’s the same as God speaking and I’m sure that in these brethren’s minds, that’s what they believed as well. My question, however, is why does the question of station in life have to have an explanation? Why wouldn’t it be easier to just say that it’s all random and that God has nothing to do with it. That way you don’t have to explain why Mark Hoffman could be born into a decent family, serve a mission, be married in the temple and then in spite of his privileged position dupe the church and murder two people. Or why someone can be born into a village in Africa in the middle of a drought and/or war suffer unbelievable hardships and then die without anyone lifting a finger to help her. How is it that a God that is seen as a loving parent who knows us as individuals, would make that specific determination for each of us? I would prefer no explanation than the ones that have been forwarded over the years.

  20. Russell Stevenson
    January 26, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Ray:

    Unfortunately, we have Saturday’s Warrior to thank for cartoonizing and caricaturizing the idea of premortal learning/relationships. Another reason not to like that show.

    I’m not suggesting inequality amongst those who are born on earth. And I certainly hope you don’t throw me in the “deserve” school. I have very good friends who fit the example you cited, and I would consider it a personal offense if someone described them in that way–deserving of a round rebuke (and, I would be tempted to say, a sock in the jaw) regardless of the social setting. In fact, I would say she was all the more stalwart…that someone pure enough and strong enough would be needed to absorb and redirect the evil of a family line.

    While I appreciate the explosiveness of the idea (I’m not entirely comfortable with the ramifications), if there is no real causal relationship between the premortal life and this life, then what were we doing there? Were we not “learning” in the premortal life, as we see in D&C 138? Or were we just walking around, playing harps? If God took the trouble to teach us something, are we to assume that this knowledge was not carried over at all? Even on some kind of level of spiritual subconsciousness that requires the spirit to access? After all, JS taught that when we say we are learning, we’re actually “remembering.”

    Yes, I have issues with going too far on this relationship. But I have a hard time accepting that premortal learning was moot in terms of how it affects our present life. It just seems to delegitimize D&C 138 and the very purpose of the premortal life.

  21. January 26, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    Well, they didn’t release the Bishop immediately, but he was sorely chastised, just FYI.

    I don’t think that “good behavior” in the premortal life necessarily lives to posh lives of … that goes to my comments that living the life of the Sun King in France was a lower standard of living than the average in the United States right now, other than the amount of pride that was engendered … as if pride were a good thing. We are all slathering on mud, eating grubs in comparison to heaven.

    I do think our premortal lives dramatically affect our lives and our relationships here, but I think we completely miss what is going on here.

  22. Andrew Ainsworth
    January 26, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Russell (20), I think most would agree pre-mortal life has a bearing on our lives now in the sense that it was a learning and developmental experience and that we carried our talents, interests, etc. with us. No controversy there.

    I think what gets under the skin of a lot of people is the attempt to explain peoples’ disadvantaged or unfortunate status here as being a deserved punishment for disobedience in the pre-existence. Worse still are those who try to explain the existence of different races by similarly tying them to different levels of obedience in the pre-existence.

    In short, citing the pre-existence to partially explain our talents, inclinations, etc. here in this Earth life?: Fine. But trying to say people’s differences in race or material wealth on Earth are either rewards or punishments imposed by God?: Not fine.

  23. Carlos
    January 26, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    “Each person they encountered was in the state they had chosen before this life and was receiving what God wanted for them and what they had agreed to. He taught that it was actually sin to thwart the will of God.”

    This could also be seen as close to the ‘predestination’ idea. Oddly they will decry predestination but not necessarily statements like this one.

    22 Andrew,

    One problem is that people think that the saying ‘for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap’ is reciprocal, that is that what we reap is due to what was sowed only. They neglect the fact that drought, hail and bugs will affect what the harvest looks like as the parable of the harvest teaches.

  24. CarlosJC
    January 26, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    Sorry, 23 was me. please replace it with this one:

    “Each person they encountered was in the state they had chosen before this life and was receiving what God wanted for them and what they had agreed to. He taught that it was actually sin to thwart the will of God.”

    This could also be seen as close to the ‘predestination’ idea. Oddly they will decry predestination but not necessarily statements like this one.

    22 Andrew,

    One problem is that people think that the saying ‘for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap’ is reciprocal, that is that what we reap is due to what was sowed only. They neglect the fact that drought, hail and bugs will affect what the harvest looks like as the parable of the harvest teaches.

  25. hawkgrrrl
    January 26, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Sorry, gang, for the late response. Just back on the radar again after a long day off the map. Re: second anointings, this refers to a temple ceremony in which members of an advanced age and who were considered long-standing in their righteousness were invited to be anointed to the celestial kingdom regardless of whatever they might do from there on out. That raised all kinds of questions like whether it was really possible – what if someone committed adultery, etc, even after that ordinance? Along those lines, there is an old belief that someone eligible for this type of ordinance will have the Savior come to personally visit them (the second comforter) and confirm that their calling and election is made sure.

    Some BYU religion professors have made a lot of this notion, probably bolstered by the historical second anointing ordinance. According to the book Mysteries of Godliness, this ordinance is no longer performed, but I have heard elsewhere that it is still done in very rare cases, only by invitation and secretly. Making it hard to confirm. But who knows? I suppose if I had received such an ordinance, I wouldn’t go around thinking I could kick dogs or do whatever else I wanted and still be righteous, but that’s just me.

  26. Sally
    January 26, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    Ray said “Once we graduated from our first estate, we all started our second estate on equal spiritual footing – just like our conception of baptism, where all are born again and start in exactly the same spiritual state (clean and pure) REGARDLESS of our differing pasts.”

    This does not seem to be an apt analogy because baptism requires repentence, which makes us clean and pure. That may not necessarily be true moving from the first to second estate.

    I don’t at all believe that being born in poverty is the result of unrighteousness in the pre-existence, but I have wondered what role our valiancy plays? I have always been taught that we made pre mortal covenants and are sent through the lineage of Ephraim to proclaim the gospel. So there must be some correlation, but I have no idea to what extent.

  27. Jen
    January 26, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    The Lord knows each of us individually and wants us all to return to be with Him. He knows that all of us will not choose to return to Him but He has given us the best possible chance to do so by placing us in the situation that is tailored specifically to our needs. The more light and knowledge we are given here, the more accountability we have to the Lord and it also opens the opportunity for us to condemn ourselves more fully as well. Of course what we did before this life has some bearing on this life. The Lord stepped forward and agreed to do what He did on earth and just as we are trying to follow His example here on earth, it can be assumed that we were trying to do so there as well. I can imagine that we stepped forward to do many different things on earth just as He stepped forward to do what He did. I am sure that just like on earth, we had personalities and desires there that differed greatly from one another. As we understand the role of the Savior and how that came about before this life, we can look at his life here and see that even the First Born of our Father was born into poverty and in a manger no less. It is a dangerous assumption to associate poverty or any oppressive circumstance to unrighteousness based on this example. That is why we are taught to only love and not judge. Only the One who was intimately involved in our placement on this earth can make the final judgment. Thanks heavens for that.:)

  28. Ray
    January 26, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    Let me clarify something that is important to me:

    I am NOT saying I believe firmly what I outlined in my previous comment. I tried to make that clear in how I phrased it, but I want to make it explicit here. I am saying that it is just as easy to believe that we all started out equal in the eyes of God at birth (beginning of our second estate) as it is to believe that we somehow were more righteous than others because we were born in America, or in the Church (or converted), or are rich, or any other number of possibilities.

    Fwiw, I have a general rule when I consider multiple options that are just as likely as each other:

    If one of the options leads to charity and humility, while another option leads to arrogance and judging, I try to choose the first and reject the second. That’s my view on this in a nutshell: I just don’t like the fruits of one, so I lean toward the one whose fruits are more delicious to me.

  29. Ray
    January 26, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    #27 – “As we understand the role of the Savior and how that came about before this life, we can look at his life here and see that even the First Born of our Father was born into poverty and in a manger no less. It is a dangerous assumption to associate poverty or any oppressive circumstance to unrighteousness based on this example. That is why we are taught to only love and not judge.”

    Well said, Jen. Very well said.

  30. GBSmith
    January 26, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    RE: #27

    “The Lord knows each of us individually and wants us all to return to be with Him. He knows that all of us will not choose to return to Him but He has given us the best possible chance to do so by placing us in the situation that is tailored specifically to our needs.”

    All well and good for Orem but what about Darfur?

  31. hawkgrrrl
    January 26, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    Jen – “He knows that all of us will not choose to return to Him but He has given us the best possible chance to do so by placing us in the situation that is tailored specifically to our needs.” I don’t think I believe this. I think it’s a common notion in the church, but I would also like to see ANY doctrinal reference to support it (not from some secondary source). If you cite 1 Ne 3:7, I’ve got to suggest an alternate reading. It could mean that “the Lord giveth no commandments save He shall prepare a way . . .” in a general sense (what I believe) or in a specific sense (what you’ve described). The reason I don’t believe it is that IME, people are basically who they are (nature) and that is revealed regardless of their circumstances (nurture), not that the “test of life” requires the deck to be stacked in one’s favor to yield success. Just my opinion. I’m not saying I’m right and you’re wrong, just that I don’t believe that statement.

  32. Jen
    January 26, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    I do not claim to understand the depth of suffering that many have to go through in this life, but I do believe that the Lord does know us individually, He does want each of us to return to Him, and He is the one who sent us here. If those things are true, I can naturally assume that He did so with the heart of a loving and merciful Father. Are we to assume He had nothing to do with where we are now? Could it be possible that we chose for ourselves, without His input, where we wanted to go? We don’t know for sure how it happened but we do know that He is a personal and intimate God of love and cares deeply for every one of His children. With that knowledge I cannot imagine that He didn’t have any input in where we are today. The sufferings of those in Darfur are great, as they are and have been in many countries, and they are obvious and devastating. There are many who suffer in less obvious ways, silent suffering if you will, that could very well be in Orem. I am not one to judge whose suffering “counts” and whose doesn’t but every mortal suffers in this life and only God is fully aware of the depth of our wounds within us. If He truly is who He says He is, He is a just God, a merciful God and will make all right and good in the end. As we look at our lives and watch others suffer, many of us desire to relieve their suffering and are unable to do so. It is a deep strain to watch others deeply suffer and go without and not be able to bring instant relief. Why does God not instantly relieve those who suffer so greatly? It seems there is something to be learned by having to watch others suffer and not be able to intervene as well as suffer wounds in very personal ways as well. I believe our Father looks down upon us with a great desire to relieve us just as He wanted to relieve His son on the cross, but there is a process that must be gone through and then in the end all shall be made right. It is a choice to believe that He will do this for each and everyone of us.

  33. Russell Stevenson
    January 27, 2009 at 12:00 am

    hawkgrrrl:

    Honestly, hawk, I would suggest that if the deck is stacked in one’s favor, then you won’t see success of the most sterling kind. Not the kind that moves the soul. For example, Mitt Romney is remarkable in many ways. I admire the man in a lot of ways. But at the end of the day, he has no special claim to facing down life’s greatest afflictions. He doesn’t move me in the way that Nick Vujicic, the Australian fellow who has no limbs moves me–http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kD350_bFypY (if you can zone out the cheesy motivational speaking and music, then it’s more effective). As I said earlier, I will probably be sitting at the feet of an Armenian genocide victim in the afterlife.

    One need only take a few glances through Elder Maxwell’s works (if we accept him as an apostle, then I would call him a respectable doctrinal reference–maybe not *authoritative* but def. to the extent where the burden is on us to demonstrate that the quote might not be doctrinal).

    1. “The combined doctrine of God’s foreknowledge and of foreordination is one of the doctrinal roads least traveled by, yet these clearly underline how very long and how perfectly God has loved us and known us with our individual needs and capacities. Isolated from other doctrines or mishandled, though, these truths can stoke the fires of fatalism, impact adversely upon our agency, cause us to focus on status rather than service, and carry us over into predestination.” (“Meeting the Challenges of Today,” p. 151.)

    2. “A third category of “these things” consists of added tutorial trials and customized challenges. These might consist of health or economic problems, or the continuing insensitivity of a marriage partner, or a lack of appreciation from one’s children, etc. Embedded in the “tether and pang” of these “particular” situations may be some of life’s most defining moments.2 If endured well, each of these experiences can contain the clinical material needed for tutoring, which can be especially for our good (Promise of Discipleship)

    Just some thoughts.

  34. Jen
    January 27, 2009 at 12:12 am

    RE:31
    As I have thought about what I wrote,”He knows that all of us will not choose to return to Him but He has given us the best possible chance to do so by placing us in the situation that is tailored specifically to our needs” I want to clarify something. I do believe that He sent us here and had something to do with where we land. I also believe our lives have specific plans and purpose and that He was involved in that life plan. To say that it was tailored to our specific needs….well, did the Lord NEED to suffer? Did the Lord NEED to die on the cross? Did Joseph Smith NEED to go through all that he did? They could have done without any of it I am sure. In order to fulfill the Lord’s purposes they were willing, so it became a need. If you want to get down to what we each NEED or think we need then the statment can be misconstrued. We need food, we need shelter, etc. No one needs to suffer right? Or do they? Is that the main purpose of this mortal experience? Could it be that it is not about what we need here in this life but what we need to continue on to the next?

  35. Ray
    January 27, 2009 at 1:00 am

    I don’t really care WHY someone is born how and where and into what they are born. I care what we do to change it for those who suffer in ways we can see. I don’t spend any time outside of a forum like this wondering about the why; that is a conceit of luxury, imo. I try to spend time outside a forum like this dealing with the practical efforts to help.

  36. Latter-day Guy
    January 27, 2009 at 2:00 am

    RE 25: The author of Mysteries of Godliness also has an old Dialogue article that is quite interesting. While researching the subject, I hyperlinked my way over to an ex-mormon site (which I won’t direct you to). The upshot of all this is some guy, now not really a member, received the ordinance along with several others in 2002. Not very reputable as a source, but his descriptions match quite well with what one can find in old church diaries, so I think it’s legit. The ordinance seems to have suffered a major falling off with President Kimball, but GBH brought it back to some extent. In any case, pretty fascinating stuff.

  37. GBSmith
    January 27, 2009 at 8:58 am

    The comments in 27, 32 and 34 are illustrative of an image of God that has become popular over the years, the idealized, loving father who knows each of us by name, hears our prayers and is aware on an intimate and immediate basis all our needs and trials. He is a being that has taken pains to place us in a situation in mortality where we have the greatest opportunity for growth and progression to godhood. The problem is that there’s disappearing little in scripture to support that idea and the brethren that have taught some of these things are the same whose opinion about why we are where we are in this life have been decried in the comments offered. Seeing God in this way may be comforting to some but does almost nothing to explain the other side of the coin, why we suffer. Sorry if this is off thread but to me the only way to resolve the argument is to reconsider what has been a given for so long, that God is the idealization of a perfect father. We all see God as what we need Him to be and the pre and next lives of what makes sense or what we hope. But to me it all comes down to what we hope, not what we know.

  38. hawkgrrrl
    January 27, 2009 at 9:19 am

    For a child to become an adult s/he must stand alone and face life’s trials independently. S/he must be thrown in the deep end and learn to swim. S/he must experience distance from the parent to be able to become an adult, even questioning and rejecting aspects of the parent in a quest for selfhood. That’s the unpleasant truth of adolescence (and why they are so hard to live with), and a better analogy for our earth experience IMO than the parent hovering over a fragile toddler.

    Maybe I just crave more autonomy, but knowing that’s what it takes to grow from a child to an adult, why wouldn’t it be required to grow from a person to godhood? “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you” implies distance and responsibility. It’s not Footprints in the Sand, but it has the advantage of being scriptural.

  39. Russell
    January 27, 2009 at 9:31 am

    GBSmith:

    I would disagree mightily about your criticism re: the usefulness of viewing God as a father figure. Lewis noted something to the same effect, that we want a Heavenly Grandfather rather than a Father–and this he said in the context of how we need suffering. I, for one, have experienced a fair amount of pain in overcoming physical ailments. My father did not stop this pain; on some occasions, he *let it happen.* And to my young, 9-year old mind, I was taking the benefits of this pain on faith from someone who knew me and, frankly, knew better. The father symbol is helpful to me in understanding suffering.

    As far as how we should view “some of the same brethren who taught about the premortal life”…well, you could delegitimize every single GA, apostle, prophet, *or anyone* using that standard. Among this crowd, I don’t need to (nor do I want to) discuss the times when certain leaders have expressed heterodox views. But if one wrong view spoils the batch, what are we going to do? Stop listening to anyone because since we’ve all been wrong before? And furthermore, I would suggest that these views on the premortal life are nothing more than a colorful minority–most commentary speculated precious little in this vein.

  40. John M.
    January 27, 2009 at 10:10 am

    If this were really doctine, would the Church have created the Perpetual Education Fund?

  41. January 27, 2009 at 10:18 am

    Russell, it’s certainly not my intent to deligitimize any of the brethren. I just think we need to think carefully about what we accept. I know they’re sustained as prophets, seers and revelators but what they preached as truth then, may not be accepted today. That doesn’t call into question all that they preached but it means that I need to think and weigh those preachings against what seems reasonable to me. I will always take into account their postion but I don’t think I should grant them so much power that I stop thinking. A episcopal priest once said that God didn’t expect us to check our heads at the door. In Elder Petersen’s mind the idea of performance in the premortal extistence and it’s relationship to present cirumstances made perfect sense. If God loves us all but we’re born with different advantages then there had to be a reason. We don’t believe that today but it’s not because of anything new we’ve been taught or that’s been revealed. It’s because of a change in our world view. All Elder McConkie said was something to the effect that we had limited understanding but really added nothing more. Lastly, I have a different view of who and what God is. It makes sense to me but I don’t bear testimony of it. It just makes sense in view of the world as I see it.

  42. Jen
    January 27, 2009 at 10:30 am

    I understand the belief and feelings of others who see God as distant, uninvolved, and punitive. I felt this was the true nature of God for many years. Really we cannot ever truly know until the veil over our minds is removed and we move on to the next life. Personal experiences or spiritual manifestations don’t count in the hearts and minds of those who want hard core evidence and/or want it all to make sense. From my own personal experience with God and years of believing that “you get what you deserve”, or “I must have done something really wrong before I came here to have to be dealing with this”, I have come to understand through my anger that I had to create an image of a punitive and uncaring God to survive. If I believed or imagined God to be loving and merciful then I could conclude that there had to be something fundamentally wrong with me because I could see all around me that others were not dealing with what I was having to deal with and thus God was not just and could care less about me and many others. I wasn’t hoping for anything else and I just “knew” this was true. Just as the argument is made that God is loving and merciful, many argue that He is not and they feel there is much more evidence to support this idea. In my opinion, the only way we come to understand suffering and the meaning of it…is to suffer. When and if we are ever able to step out our suffering, whether our circumstances change or our perspective, (assuming we are not overwhelmed with bitterness and anger), we can find meaning in it. We cannot find that meaning for anyone else, only for ourselves. From my own experience some grow up with the so called “idealization” of God and through life’s hard knocks their ideal of God can be shaken up substantianlly. Others suffer greatly and believe that He is non-caring, favors only those He chooses to favor, and punitive at best and so this “ideal” God doesn’t even have a chance to exist for them. If you are taught the beliefs of the LDS faith concerning God it can be very difficult to accept depending on where you are at in your life. The only way I came to have some idea of the nature of God was by seeking after Him diligently. It was painful, it was hard work and it was what I needed to do. I don’t take the words of others and just assume they are right. Is the God who says, “Thou shalt not kill” the same God who says, “Thou shalt utterly destroy?” We could discuss this all day and night but to resolve this and many other questions about the nature of God you have to go to the source…and stay there until you are dead. That’s the reality, it is a painful and joyful process. I came to know that God was a God of great love and mercy, but it doesn’t matter to others what I have experienced because I could be delusional for all they know. He has healed my wounds and made known to me love that I cannot even express in words. These feelings from these experiences don’t stay, however, and the questioning forever comes back…why is this happening? Why are you doing this now? Why, why, why. If we didn’t have to ask why we have no reason to seek, no reason to grow, no reason to care. There will always be “evidence” to prove that God is loving and kind and to prove that God is uncaring and cruel. You can’t take anyone’s word for it…you have to do the work daily and keep doing it even when you think there is no one listening and they could care less. There is no other way but to pursue Him with all you have and expect to find what you are looking for. Anything else will spin you around and around in a circle and you will end up going nowhere fast. If you want to know God, tell Him and do the work…don’t take anyone else’s word for it. Don’t complain about not having any idea what He is like if you don’t actively take a role in seeking after Him everyday. If you want to get to know someone you have to talk to them and spend time working on the relationship. As we all know if you really want to get to know someone, all you have to do is live with them for awhile. Be willing to live with God….make Him a part of everything you do….you will get to know Him.

  43. John Nilsson
    January 27, 2009 at 10:53 am

    May I ask a simple question?

    What is the basis of LDS belief in a pre-mortal existence? Is it, as I suspect, mainly the statements in the Book of Abraham?

  44. Russell
    January 27, 2009 at 11:08 am

    John:

    See “The Idea of Preexistence in the development of Mormon thought” by Blake Ostler (Dialogue, vol. 15, no. 1) for a fascinating discussion of this.

    The Book of Abraham certainly provides a cornerstone in that belief. Joseph Smith also referred to “The Grand Council.” The Book of Moses also provides some key passages. D&C 93 (“Man was also in the beginning with God”) also indicates the same. Alma 13 has been used (with some reason) to support the premortal life, but that passage is not as clear. As far as Biblical passages, Jeremiah 1:5 is oft-used, but it is not nearly clear enough to use in typical conversation (unless you offer caveats about its clarity).

    To be sure, Christian orthodoxy also accepts a premortal existence, just that this existence was restricted to Christ.

  45. Holden Caulfield
    January 27, 2009 at 11:30 am

    #39–“Among this crowd, I don’t need to (nor do I want to) discuss the times when certain leaders have expressed heterodox views. ….And furthermore, I would suggest that these views on the premortal life are nothing more than a colorful minority–most commentary speculated precious little in this vein.”

    Alas, the voice of reason. But Russell, the colorful statements are so much fun. If I’m not laughing, I’m crying.

  46. Seldom
    January 27, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    I’ve seen more than one lesson on tithing get warped into false doctrine by this insideous reasoning:

    I am blessed when I pay tithing and keep the commandments.

    Paying tithing and keeping the commandments helped my family to move from other side of the tracks to my beautiful new home on the hill.

    I now live in a beautiful home on the hill, so I’m more righteous than those still living on the other side of the tracks.

  47. Ray
    January 27, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    #40 – John M. FTW!!

  48. January 27, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    I came to know that God was a God of great love and mercy now that is a truth worth repeating.

    And yes, I was struck by how the poor guy was basically giving the sermon in Mosiah from the flip side, so to speak.

  49. January 27, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    “Learn of me,” said the Lord, “and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.” (D&C 19:23.)

    This is the peace that “passeth all understanding” (Philip. 4:7), because it comes not of the mind, but of the Spirit, and “the things of God” are understood by “the Spirit of God.” (1 Cor. 2:11.)

    The answer is always the same. To know the things of God we need the Spirit of God. Without it, we are spiritually dead. The hardest hearts are always those who once enlightened allow the light to be turned to darkness. If such a one doesn’t repent then they usually grow in darkness and become enemies to that which they once loved.

  50. January 27, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    Once again, you all shake your heads in disgust that such an evil doctrine could possibly exist. I find it ironic that you choose to place this article under “False Doctrines” because it is anything but false. It has been preached from the pulpit since the time of Joseph Smith. The more white you are, the more valiant you were in the pre-existance. The darker the shade of your skin, the less valiant you were. Not only that, but those who were born white and into the LDS church were the most elite in heaven.

    I am amazed once again, that you all seem to think this doctrine somehow just showed up. It’s been a fundamental teaching of the church and it can be found in many different places.

    Naturally, the church today is embarrased by this doctrine as thus do their best to avoid bringing it up. They can’t dismiss the doctrine because that would make all their previous prophets look like the false prophets that they were. They can’t not dismiss it for the same reason. So the best they can do is just pretend that it was never taught and that is exactly what they do.

    I just laugh that you consider this a false doctrine. If it actually is a false doctrine, then every LDS prophet up to and including Spencer W. Kimball was a false prophet for teaching it. Remember, the lord will not allow the prophets to lead the people astray. So if they taught it, it must be doctrine.

    An embarrasing doctrine, yes. But a false doctrine, no.

  51. January 27, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    Mormon 411–On you blog it states:

    This blog is the point of view of a former LDS member turned agnostic and bordering on atheist. Free yourself from the Mormon lies and discover a whole new world! A little common sense tells you the real truth, Joseph’s Myth is nothing but a huge lie! There is hope at the end of your faith!

    Sorry, but I know you’re the one who has been deceived, not me. How can I be so sure? In my case, the Lord showed me in a manner that can not be denied. Remember, the Alma and the four sons of Mosiah? My experience was like unto theirs. And, like them, I was up to my neck in evil and the ways of the world. For a reason known to the Lord He showed me by power and irrefutable experience the truth. I’ve been practicing the truth for over forty years now and I can testify that the claims made by Joseph Smith and his successors are true.

  52. Ray
    January 27, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    #50 – Re-read the comments carefully before posting yours. It really helps to realize that your accusations for those commenting here aren’t accurate. I know it’s easier to paint everyone as naive rubes, but it’s instructive that you are more guilty in your comment of your own accusations than we are.

    Seriously, stop think about that. We know the racial aspect has been taught in the past and still is taught by some members; we know it was considered doctrine in the past. Our point is that it is FALSE doctrine – and that the Church no longer teaches it actively, even as some members continue to hang onto it. (Oh, and btw, it doesn’t reach back to Joseph Smith. He didn’t teach it.)

    The actual post doesn’t limit itself to that aspect, however – and the FULL applications of the false doctrine it details were NOT taught by “every prophet up to and including” Pres. Kimball. If you are going to comment on these posts, please try at least to comment on the actual posts and comments. Otherwise, you simply are acting like a troll.

    Oh, and we have discussed the “if every word isn’t Truth, a prophet is a false prophet” argument to death in other posts. By that standard, there have never been prophets at any time in the history of the world. If you make that claim, at least be prepared to deny the Bible as the word of God, since it is filled with prophetic statements that have been dropped and dismissed by every Christian denomination in existence. You do it; we do it; so, if you’re going to condemn us for doing it, at least be fair and condemn everyone else, as well.

  53. Russell Stevenson
    January 27, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    Mormon 411:

    I hate to be the jerk here, but someone has to say it. You’re talking to a number of people who have actually bothered to read the Journal of Discourses, who nitpick over words and phrases in History of the Church. Some people like to collect stamps, do scrapbooks. We talk about Joseph Smith’s journals and the historicity of the BOM. So I can guarantee you that I (and most here could likely say the same) have done a better job of rattling own testimonies than any critic ever could through a talking points memo of old tropes about what we “really” believe.

    In fact, if you want criticisms and “embarrassing” doctrines, don’t worry…I could give you anti- that would make the garden-variety critic start telling me that I should really have more charity for the departed. Just saying that you might want to try a different tack than just convincing us that we’ve duped ourselves. Chances are that they haven’t.

  54. CarlosJC
    January 28, 2009 at 9:07 am

    Mormon 411,

    blah, blah.”…….Not only that, but those who were born white and into the LDS church were the most elite in heaven.”

    Sure, in a mole(spy) type of way since so many are born LDS but then leave as adults! Like Benson’s grandson, butch cassidy, the Tanner’s and probably you….

  55. Ray
    January 28, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    There is a fascinating post on race over on BCC that I recommend highly:

    http://www.bycommonconsent.com/2009/01/there-is-an-end-to-race/

    Brad said he almost titled it, “Bruce R. McConkie Was a Descendant of Cain”.

  56. January 28, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    I’m pleased that my comment has generated so many responses. I’ll try to address as many of them as I can.

    Jared, in response to comment #51: I can’t deny that you had some type of experience. I’m not you. If the lord chooses to give me such an experience that there is no doubt whatsoever that the LDS religion is true then I’ll delete my entire blog and crawl back to church begging forgiveness. But until that happens, no such luck.

    Ray, #52: Yes I admit that I did not stick around long enough to read all the comments. I read maybe the first one or two, but my comment was not so much in reply to those as it was to the original post.

    I’m glad to see that you are not denying that those things were said and taught by early church leaders. What I do not understand is how you can justify this by calling it a false doctrine. If it was taught by a true prophet, and I assume you believe that Joseph Smith through Thomas S. Monson are/were true prophets, then how can it be a false doctrine? If it was a true doctrine then, why is it a false doctrine now? It’s one or the other but can’t be both and can’t be the one that is the most convenient at the time.

    If doctrine changes, isn’t that apostasy? The church proudly boasts that their doctrines do not change, especially by popular demand. But history tells a different story.

    So, if a true prophet taught a false doctrine, the most simple explanation is that the prophet was a false prophet. And yes, you’re correct. Racism in the church began with Brigham Young, not Joseph Smith. I stand corrected. I do, however, resent being compared to a “troll”. Is not the purpose of this website to discuss Mormon matters? I’m discussing the subject at hand and saying my two cents about it. If that makes me a “troll” then everyone here is a troll as well.

    If I don’t have a right to express my opinion, then I have mistaken the purpose of this site.

    As my blog states, I am an atheist. Therefore, I don’t believe in any of the Biblical prophets. On my blog, I not only discuss my non-belief in the LDS religion but the contradictions and shortcommings of the Bible and Christianity in general. So, yes, I deny the Bible, which means that I believe all Christian sects are false and that there have never been any prophets, ever.

    Russell, #53: I don’t think you’re a jerk. Do you need to eat the whole cake in order to know what it tastes like? No. Do you need to read the JoD, study an 1830 BoM, 1833 BoC, and 1835 DaC, 1851 PoGP, as well as several anti-Mormon books to prove that it’s not true? No. Okay, so you’ve seen some bad stuff. Does that make my argument weaker somehow? No. So if you’ve seen the bad, bad stuff and still believe, then apparently nothing is going to change your mind, no matter what tact is used.

    Carlos, #54: Thank you for pointing out just how ridiculous that doctrine is! Just remember, though, that even the most elect will be deceived, according to Mormon doctrine. So Steve Benson might have very well been the elect in heaven but was deceived. But you’re right, in the end its all just blah, blah, blah. It’s nasty enough that the church has to change and hide it’s own doctrine because they finally realized how stupid it really is.

    So my question to everyone is this: How could it have been a true doctrine then and a false doctrine now? Did god change his mind about what happened in the pre-existance? If so, then how can we really trust god since he can change his mind whenever he wants?

  57. Ray
    January 28, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    “The church proudly boasts that their doctrines do not change.”

    No, it doesn’t. It says the Gospel and the core principles never change, but I’m not aware of anyone who ever taught that what the Church leaders teach never changes – even Elder McConkie, to my knowledge, although it sounds like something he might have said about specific teachings (even ones that did change). 🙂 (Even he, however, admitted that what he had taught relative to the Priesthood ban had been wrong, so I don’t think he can be used to prove your claim.)

    There is a quote (by Elder Maxwell or President Benson, I’m pretty sure) that says something like, “the core (perhaps foundation or fundamental) doctrines of the Church are the Fall of Adam, the mission of Christ, the atonement of Christ, and the first principles and ordinances of the gospel: faith, repentance, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

    The entire point of correlation was to sort through everything that had been said previously and begin to establish what “doctrines” that members believed could be “correlated” as being understood and taught as the unified understanding of the leadership as a whole. It was to rein in crazy teachers from teaching their own interpretations of stuff, but it also was to rein in the material that could be used from crazy speculation by previous apostles and prophets. Correlation is a direct result of the Church’s admission that not all things taught as “doctrine” in the past actually were correct – and it also, I believe, was a result of the whole Priesthood ban fiasco.

    Please provide an instance where “The Church” proudly boasts that its doctrines never change. I’ll settle for a statement saying that “the doctrines of the Church never change” for now. The only such statement of which I am aware came from a talk by Elder Packer or Elder Perry, I think, years ago in some non-General Conference setting, but if I remember correctly it is clear from the context that he was using “doctrines” to mean “principles” – in a FAR more restrictive application than “generally accepted teachings”.

  58. January 28, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    “Mormon”411 — you’ve missed the point, and it seems intentionally. /Sigh.

  59. Ray
    January 28, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    Oh, and Mormon411, thanks for the clarification (again) about your perspective. I knew you are atheist, but I forgot. Sorry about that.

    You seem to be saying that true prophets would never be wrong about anything, and that simply isn’t and has never been the actual stance of the LDS Church – or almost any Christian denomination, when you get right down to practice. It’s a straw man of the highest order, since it’s not claimed by the Church.

  60. Jen
    January 28, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    Mormon411-

    I have to commend you for your passion in what you believe (or don’t believe). I am curious though…why spend so much time and energy talking about the Mormon religion when you have devoted yourself to being free from it? When I choose to get rid of something that is what I do, I take it out of my life and let it go. It is a part of your past, so why not devote yourself to the present and enjoy living in it?

  61. Ray
    January 28, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    Stephen, I think M411’s response in the quality control vs. quality assurance thread highlights the position being taken here – that anything that can be classified as supernatural is irrational. With that basic foundation, any such (irrational) statement seems to be considered doctrine – so changes to such (irrational) statements would be unacceptable, especially to those that are used to differentiate Mormonism from other Christian denominations. However, since all such statements are considered irrational to begin with, changing them isn’t the issue. M411 still would reject them even if they never changed.

    Is that fair, M411?

  62. January 28, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    Mormon411–It may be that you are an honest man. I’ll assume that for now. I don’t agree with your position. But I can understand honest people seeing things the way you do.

    I just hope you will remember that the Apostle Paul, Alma the older and younger, the four sons of Mosiah, a host of Lamanites, and many, many others believed as you do now but found their way back to God.

    For every question you have there are adequate answers. If this were not the case then their wouldn’t be any “knowledgeable” people left in the church. And of course, God always has people like me, who out of no worthiness of their own, can testify by sacred experience, that in spite of some difficult church history issues, it’s all true.

  63. January 28, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    First of all, everyone, I’d like to say that I realize that I state my opinions frankly and harshly, but that doesn’t mean that I dislike any of you. In fact, the opposite is true. I appreciate your replies to me because I am, believe it or not, open minded to new ideas.

    Ray, #57: As a Mormon, I was lead to believe that doctrines never change and that prophets could never lead us astray. Keep in mind that I was a chapel Mormon, meaning that I had absolutely no idea about the “issues” in Mormonism. There may not be a direct quote to this effect, but it certainly is what I was brought up to believe. I will look, however. One quote from Joseph Smith comes to mind and at the moment I forget exactly how it goes, but has something to do with never changing.

    Stephen, #58: Would you mind elaborating? I’d really like to know how I’ve intentionally missed the entire point. In my opinion, everyone else has missed it! LOL

    Ray, #59: No problem, we’re all just human, right? I understand that even as a prophet, one is not immune from making mistakes. The Bible is full of examples. But there is a difference, at least as I see it, from a major church doctrine and a personal opinion. You know what I mean? The story of the pre-existance and everything it implies is pretty strong to just suddenly dismiss as a “mistake”.

    Jen, #60: Thank you. Most of the time people criticize me for what I do, and I can’t say as I blame them because my opinions definitely go against the “norm”. So your commendation is truly appreciated.

    You ask a great question. I don’t know how to fully answer it other than I feel I have a sense of duty to do so. It’s not that I’m trying to “save” anyone, but rather just seeking out those who might be doubting and showing them that if your faith is rapidly disappearing, there are others who have been there. I don’t know if I’m having much success.

    Plus, I enjoy it. I get very little response on my blog, which is okay. It’s also for me. As an ex-Mormon, no one really wants to hear my opinion, so I blog my feelings just to get them out. Just so you know, my ex-Mormon crusade actually takes up very little of my time. I am most definitely living for the moment. In fact, I am in school pursuing a degree as a medical professional (RN) and am loving school and doing very well at it.

    There will probably come a time when I truly do put it all behind me, but that time is not yet. I suspect it will be after I finish school and move the hell out of Utah!

  64. January 28, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    Ray, #61: Fair enough, I would probably still reject the teachings, but if they didn’t change, the church and it’s leaders would be much more credible.

    Jared, #62: You could certainly classify me as being in the same position as Alma the Younger. Yes, I am an honest person. I don’t see my path ever leading me back to god, but if there is a god and he sees fit to give me such an experience, I guess it would be stupid of me not to take the hint. In fact, I have challenged people, on many occasions, to pray until an angel does just that. So far, no angel.

    I’m not trying to sound prideful, but until it actually happens, which I seriously doubt that it will, I’ve got to follow my own heart.

  65. Ray
    January 28, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    “I’ve got to follow my own heart.”

    and I respect that completely.

  66. Jen
    January 29, 2009 at 12:17 am

    Mormon411-
    Just a suggestion….if you truly want to help others who may be losing their faith, work through your own anger first and come to peace with it. I think until you are able to let go of all your negative feelings towards your past experience you really can’t help anyone. Members of the LDS faith will come to their own conclusions about God and where He fits in their life. If you speak negatively about it or say it is all lies, it is not believeable to most people. Truth can be found intermingled in many different things in life. Your influence would be much better felt by just living the life you have adopted and telling people why, not by telling people how it is so good now because it was so bad before. Does that make sense?

  67. Carlos
    January 29, 2009 at 8:23 am

    Mormon411,

    #56

    “How could it have been a true doctrine then and a false doctrine now?”

    Point is that it wasn’t ‘true doctrine’, it was just some guys talking with their buts, trying to find an excuse ie answer, for the injustices they saw around them. Kind of like what we do here in MM or you do over in your blog 🙂

  68. January 29, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Carlos, the “some guys” you’re referring to happen to be prophets of god. You’re telling me that a whole bunch of inspired prophets of god were all just blowing smoke out their ass? If that’s the case then why should I believe anything they teach? If they can change their story that easily and have millions of followers suddenly pass it off as false doctrine, then honestly, why should I believe a word they say if it could possibly all be passed off as false doctrine whenever it is convenient or embarrasing for them?

    The more you argue your case, the deeper your hole gets.

    Prophet who teaches false doctrine = false prophet. It’s so simple. Why can’t you see it?

    Jen, thanks for the advice. I realize that truly the only person I can change is myself. So I write whatever comes to mind and let people react however they want to. I would like to make one clarification however. I am not angry. My passion sometimes comes across that way, and I can see how it does.

  69. Holden Caulfield
    January 29, 2009 at 11:28 am

    I understand why some ex-mormons don’t want to leave it alone. When they come to realize (feel) that it is all a hoax, they feel like they have been lied to by “special witnesses”. Kind of like being abused by Father Jones who used a position of authority.

    Ever had your home broken into? Same feeling only worse, I imagine. Revenge is hard to come by when it comes to religion. Internet venting is an attempt to get back.

    I know with prop 8 that is what happened to me.

  70. hawkgrrrl
    January 29, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Mormon 411 – It’s nice to have your contrarian POV here, so I’m glad you’ve been able to bring up your points without feeling too picked on. The simple fact of the matter is that many of us on this site have more heterodox views than your average Joe, whether (as Russell points out) that’s due to information we’ve read or just because of the kind of people we are, I think some of the things you point out feel very “straw man” to us because we never bought them in the first place, and we can support our so-called heterodox views through a variety of sources.

    One thing that JS said that I really like is that “I cannot believe in any of the creeds of the different denominations, because they all have some things in them I cannot subscribe to, though all of them have some truth. I want to come up into the presence of God, and learn all things; but the creeds set up stakes, and say, ‘Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further’; which I cannot subscribe to.” False doctrines are like the creeds of Mormonism. I think what most of us object to in these “false doctrines” is that they are (like creeds) an attempt to prevent contradiction, to stop our quest for truth at a point in time and not allow further exploration or new information. The nature of truth seeking is questioning and contradiction, ongoing revelation, and open-mindedness.

    So, in that regard, you are in good company based on your description. Welcome.

  71. Carlos
    January 29, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Mormon411,

    “Carlos, the “some guys” you’re referring to happen to be prophets of god” Yeap, agreed.

    “You’re telling me that a whole bunch of inspired prophets of god were all just blowing smoke out their ass?” Yeap, agree too. they do so sometimes because they aren’t ‘God’s’ -yet.

    “If that’s the case then why should I believe anything they teach?” Now this is important. Its suppose to be that the Spirit confirms that we understand the words said correctly, ie the Spirit takes the message “unto their hearts” to understand it fully and accept it fully. If it doesn’t then what they its irrelevant; although it could be use who misinterpret the message entirely, which happens a lot.

    “The more you argue your case, the deeper your hole gets” Nope, I’m not gay!!

    “Prophet who teaches false doctrine = false prophet. It’s so simple. Why can’t you see it?” Because it isn’t entirely true. He could be just blowing it out his….well you know. Or he could just be mistaken. Its the prophet who TESTIFIES that something is true, when he knows its not, the one who is a false prophet.

    By the way, I’m curious, why the name mormon411?

  72. Carlos
    January 29, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    oops,

    “If it doesn’t then what they its irrelevant; although it could be use who misinterpret the message entirely”

    If it doesn’t then what they say is irrelevant, although it could be us who misinterpret his message.

    I’d add that a prophet isn’t necessarily always right; to say they are Always is another false doctrine.

  73. January 29, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    I can’t believe what I’m reading, Carlos! First you tell me that a prophet can say ANYTHING he wants. Next you tell me that it is up to the member to sort through all the BS and extract the truth. Please tell me you are joking. Seriously. If anything should be chalked up under false doctrine, it should be that!

    Seriously, you guys are more anti-Mormon than I am! Where do you come up with all these absurd ideas?

  74. Ray
    January 29, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    You guys? Take it up with Carlos. 🙂

  75. January 29, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    Thank you, Ray.

    Hi Hawlgrrrl. I’ve never heard the term “heterodox” before, but judging by Carlos’ comments, I can take a guess as to what it means: “Coming up with ANY explanation whatsoever in order to keep the church true, no matter how absurd or downright blasphemous it may be.” Sorry, I couldn’t resist the urge to be sarcastic for a moment. Or was it?

    I don’t mind being the one who’s picked on. I have more than established my case and it’s actually amusing to me to watch everyone scramble around and try to make sense of it all.

    It seriously makes me wonder if any of you have ever even been to an actual LDS ward. Mormonism is about having a true prophet who can never lead you astray. His word is final. It is from god. It is scripture. Remember that primary song, “Follow the prophet”? That sums it all up. Everything you guys are trying to argue with me completely contradicts that.

  76. January 29, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    Mormon411–I would be interested in learning what the top three concerns you can ID that show the church at its worst?

    Just name them. I believe I’m familiar with just about all of them. Just curious.

  77. hawkgrrrl
    January 29, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    Mormon 411 – heterodox means holding views that are not the common frequently heard opinions at church. That’s all it means. I guess I would argue that everyone who has their own opinions about things is heterodox. But I suppose that if one doesn’t have his/her own opinions about anything, one is simply orthodox. As churches go, a creedless religion like Mormonism would tend to be more heterodox, like many non-denominational churches are. The point of living prophets is that they are alive, revelation is ongoing, the word of God is constantly in a state of being revealed and clarified. To make their words dead is to miss the point, IMO. Only something subject to change is alive.

  78. January 30, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Thanks for the clarification, Hawkgrrrl. A non-sarcastic guess would have been similar to that.

    Jared, I’ve got to leave here in just a sec so I’ll give you one thing now and the other two later… The Book of Abraham and the discovery of the origional scrolls which Joseph Smith had in his possession.

  79. CarlosJC
    January 30, 2009 at 9:14 am

    Mormon411,

    You just don’t get it!

    Problem here is that you equate every word a prophet says to ‘revelation’. But prophets also share opinions, frustrations, hypothesis and just open discussions from time to time, even talk about football! But you, obviously having lost all spiritual guidance, can’t seem to tell the difference! Plus I suspect your agenda is to show the world that Mormons are cultists, fanatically agreeing with every little thing our leaders say? If it is then the Mormon blogs is the wrong place for it -here the majority are anti prop8ers! But I’m done trying to help u out here; bye

  80. Jen
    January 30, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Ya’ll could debate about religion and who’s right and wrong until the cows come home. What’s the bottom line here? What are the reasons that someone would walk away from any church or give up on a certain set of religious beleifs? Does it really come down to what the scriptures say and how they are interpreted in their many different ways? Is it really about the fact that someone said something offensive to us that we just can’t get over? Or is the bottom line really centered on God and how we feel He has treated us? Have we felt betrayed by Him for allowing us to be led in one direction or another? Did He not protect us from something we feel He should have? Have we felt set up by Him in one way or another or greatly disappointed because we were expecting something much different? Isn’t the whole point of religion to come to know God, or a higher source of power (whatever our beliefs might be)? Is it possible that if it isn’t working out like we want or expect it to then we seek to find our “evidence” to support whatever will bring us relief and make us feel better? I often wonder if this is really what it comes down to for some people.

  81. January 30, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    One thing that happens is that we may find ourselves in a situation where the person or persons that represent God to us lets us down. And with that person gone there may not be enough faith in God present to keep us going. If I come to believe that Joseph Smith was not what he said he was then what does that say about the Truth he proclaimed and about God himself? People that leave mormonism from persons stories I’ve read on the different sites have little to do with being offended or the need to sin but but more feeling betrayed. It’s all well and good to say why can’t we just believe in God. That God went out with the bathwater. Then you have to decide if you can find another or if it’s even worth it to try. After all if you decide He didn’t give you the answers you needed before, why should you expect that the future will be any different. Losing faith in mormonism can be like realizing that your boat has come untied from the dock and the paddles are missing.

  82. January 30, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    Carlos,

    I’ve stated right here that I understand that prophets are not infallable and that they are, in fact, human. I’m sure that a prophet can have a dinner conversation without it being regarded as scripture. Yes, I give you all that. BUT If it is a doctrine that is preached by prophet after prophet from the pulpit and in official church literature, then it has a little more weight to it. You can’t just dismiss those teachings as false doctrine when they have been taught by prophets and accepted by the members. And the subject at hand is one of those doctrines. It wasn’t a dinner conversation; it was clearly taught as doctrine.

    Yes, even as a believing member it used to bother me how much people put all their trust in every ‘jot and tittle’ that came from downtown SLC. And they do, for the most part, fanatically agree with every little word. Think of the ear-ring commandment. That is absolutely absurd, and yet look around and see how many members are fanatically obeying it.

    The problem here is that there are two types of SLC Mormons. Chapel Mormons and Internet Mormons.

    I’m arguing with you from a ‘Chapel Mormon’ point of view and you are responding to me with an ‘Internet Mormon’ reply. Internet Mormonism is not accepted as the norm, whereas Chapel Mormonism is. That’s why we’re having trouble communicating.

    Jared, the second main issue I have with the LDS church is the fact that the leaders don’t really act like scriptural prophets. I see in the Bible and the Book of Mormon that prophets predict the future such as the destruction of cities and they give the people a change to repent to prevent the destruction of their city. When GBH failed to predict the destruction of New Orleans and the Tsunami, it really distrubed me. That was basically when I lost my confidence in the man.

    Jen, the bottom line is that it’s difficult for a believer to understand why anyone would walk away from god. And it’s different for everyone. Mine is complicated but it boils down to realizing that believing and going through all the motions never really made anything special happen.

  83. January 30, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    If you ask any Chapel Mormon if they believe that their priviledges in this life are based upon their preformance in the pre-existance, I’d bet that nearly all of them will say yes. In Chapel Mormonism, this doctrine is still very much accepted. Internet Mormons reject it because they realize that it is embarrasing to the church, but Chapel Mormons are completely ignorant to the fact that it’s even being debated.

  84. January 30, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    I don’t think any of the decisions we make should be based on what the “average person” does, especially theologically. The “average person” elected George W. Bush… twice. The “average person” listens to Dashboard Confessional… shudder. The “average person” in Mormonism might actually believe that a more valiant soul in the Pre-Existence might receive a higher “status” here on Earth. Are you really going to entrust your spiritual decisions based on what the “average person” believes? What y’all have been calling Heterodoxy is just the people that give an emphatic “NO!” to that question.

  85. January 30, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Good point, Arthur. My argument goes a little beyond that, in that it’s not what the average person believes, as much as it’s what the church teaches to most of the members. Most of the members believe in the pre-existance issue at hand, not because they were given any options but because it’s presented as
    ‘the way it is’. It’s kinda like having a presidental election where there is only one name to vote for. Remember, if the LDS church is the true church, then it’s teaching are true. Therfore, there is no need for the members to seek out any other beliefs.

    The need to seek out new beliefs comes if and when the member is presented with strong evidence that their belief is incorrect. I would guess that is the main purpose this website provides. All of you have been exposed to the issues against the church and have restructured your beliefs to fit the new evidence and still have the church be true.

    I am in the same position as you except that I didn’t rearrange my beliefs. I simply abandoned them because the evidence dictated that I should.

  86. hawkgrrrl
    January 30, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    “If you ask any Chapel Mormon if they believe that their privileges in this life are based upon their performance in the pre-existence, I’d bet that nearly all of them will say yes.” Many of them also think that Cream of Mushroom soup is a perfectly acceptable substitute for white sauce.

  87. Jen
    January 30, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    GBSmith-

    A question…if a person loses faith in a person, thus leading to loss of faith in God, was it not the wrong place to put your faith in the first place? Anytime you put faith in a human you WILL be let down. If that is enough to destroy your faith in God was it possible that maybe you never really had any faith in God?

    We have to remember just how human all of us really are and for those of us who are married or in a serious relationship, you know that if you are with a person long enough there will be a time when they let you down. Does that mean the person isn’t what you thought or what you hoped to be or is it that they are just human and are doing the best that they can? We don’t just give up on them altogether but recognize and give them space to be imperfect. I cannot imagine the type of pressure a prophet of God would feel on a daily basis to be everything that everyone expects them to be. Can you imagine watching everything you say and having it recorded at any given time? What if you were just having a bad day? I am not sure what Joseph Smith’s purpose would be in lying to everyone. What was in it for him? We know that he wasn’t rich. We know that he was sought after, thrown in jail and eventually killed. I see no appeal to the life he led. If someone lies to you it is usually to get gain for themselves. Assuming he was lying what did he gain?

  88. Jen
    January 30, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Mormon411-

    “All of you have been exposed to the issues against the church and have restructured your beliefs to fit the new evidence and still have the church be true.”

    I don’t agree that our beliefs have to be restructured to continue to see the truthfulness in the LDS church. For me, it was just having additional understanding come after pondering over things with which I struggled.

  89. January 30, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    “A question…if a person loses faith in a person, thus leading to loss of faith in God, was it not the wrong place to put your faith in the first place? Anytime you put faith in a human you WILL be let down. If that is enough to destroy your faith in God was it possible that maybe you never really had any faith in God?”

    Jen, no argument from me there. I agree with everything stated. It’s just that in churches where truth is proclaimed with a capital “T” what’s proclaimed is directly linked to the proclaimer. As to Joseph Smith’s motives and truthfullness, I have no clue. My references were hypothetical given what I’ve read from those who’ve become unbelievers. As far as your final question about “what did he gain” my sense is he got what he wanted right up to the part where he was murdered.

  90. Holden Caulfield
    January 30, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    “I am not sure what Joseph Smith’s purpose would be in lying to everyone. What was in it for him?”

    Growing up, James Jesse Strang wanted to be royalty. In Mormonism, he saw the opportunity after Joseph Smith, Jr. died. For some people, power and a following are enough. People revered the prophet. Whether his difficulties were worth the price, only he would know that.

    Certainly, Joseph Smith was not the only person to suffer greatly for a religious cause he led.

    To me, when we keep a global reference when it comes to religion, “I know” gets to be a cloudy issue. Mormons are not the only ones in the world to have firm religious convictions, and yet to us our “I know” is the real “I know”.

    Whether our religion is “Windows” compared to “DOS”, as Hawkgrrl alluded to in this thread or another, is really a question to be considered rather than a statement of fact. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Based on how our church is accepted worldwide, most people think our church is DOS or worse.

  91. Ray
    January 30, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    “Based on how our church is accepted worldwide, most people think our church is DOS or worse.”

    I’d think so too if I had grown up with the perspective that influences that perception. Frankly, that’s true of nearly ALL religions and denominations as viewed from the outside. It’s not unique to us by any stretch.

  92. Jen
    January 30, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    “As far as your final question about “what did he gain” my sense is he got what he wanted right up to the part where he was murdered.”

    Will you expound on what you mean here?

  93. hawkgrrrl
    January 30, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Jen – I would assume GBSmith means he got additional wives, power and glory, followers, and praise. At the same time, he got difficulty in his marriage with Emma, criticism, persecution, jail time, depression, and deserters. Was it worth it? I think the more important question to understand his character was whether he thought he was iDmmortal and immune to the consequences of his actions. It doesn’t look that way to me. Or he was just playing the martyr card to fish for compliments (in statements like “If my life is of no worth to my friends, it is of no worth to me.”) JS was also the most castigated person in the D&C. Since he wrote it, that’s a bit like carrying your own cross. I just see him believing what he said at every turn. It’s up to others whether they believe it.

  94. January 30, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    “The need to seek out new beliefs comes if and when the member is presented with strong evidence that their belief is incorrect. I would guess that is the main purpose this website provides. All of you have been exposed to the issues against the church and have restructured your beliefs to fit the new evidence and still have the church be true.”

    Well, sort of. For me it wasn’t this website in particular, or even blogs, but finding other questioning people on the internet was a revelation. I found out that other people were asking the same questions, and they were finding answers other than “None of it is true.” In some cases, I literally didn’t know LDS were “allowed” to believe what some of these people believed. Many LDS accept what biology, geology, and astronomy tell us about the world and don’t believe that it’s 6,000 years old? I didn’t know that. The prophet can make mistakes? Didn’t know that either. That alone erased probably over 90 percent of my “concerns.” Talking to those people, hearing those ideas, and developing my own did far more for my faith than any amount of the sort of sometimes tortured apologetics one can find at sites like FARM and FAIR.

  95. January 30, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    “I am in the same position as you except that I didn’t rearrange my beliefs. I simply abandoned them because the evidence dictated that I should.”

    That’s a perfectly reasonable response IMO. But in my case, much like Jared, I had experiences I considered spiritual, and that “evidence” did not seem to accord with the idea that “None of it is true.” So the choices I saw at the time were a) ignore what reason told me, b) ignore my spiritual experiences, or c) find some way to reconcile reason and spirituality. “Heterodoxy,” becoming an “internet Mormon” as you put it, was my c).

  96. January 30, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    “If you ask any Chapel Mormon if they believe that their priviledges in this life are based upon their preformance in the pre-existance, I’d bet that nearly all of them will say yes. In Chapel Mormonism, this doctrine is still very much accepted. Internet Mormons reject it because they realize that it is embarrasing to the church, but Chapel Mormons are completely ignorant to the fact that it’s even being debated.”

    I agree that the belief is widespread, but I saw a Gospel Doctrine teacher shoot it down with “That’s an interesting idea. Next question” when somebody tried to bring it up in Sunday School before. I don’t think it’s quite as common anymore as you suggest.

  97. hawkgrrrl
    January 30, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    “Chapel Mormons” seem to be a caricature as used above. I know many in my ward who are not the uneducated rubes described here, nor do they frequent the b’nacle. Are there any people like that? Maybe on a given day. Are they the main types encountered in the chapel? Not IME.

  98. January 30, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Hawkgrrrl #93 What you said says it.

  99. January 30, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    Perhaps I have been wrong. I was under the impression that it was widely taught and believed. Maybe not so much as I had thought. It could be that either 1) it was never really that popluar as a teaching, or 2) the church has quietly put the hush on it until hardly anyone remembers it anymore. I would guess the latter, but I could be mistaken. It was a concept that I was definitely aware of, but maybe my experience is unique.

    Kuri, #94: Very well said. I struggled myself for about a year. It was the discovery of the Book of Abraham issue that forever shattered whatever belief was left.

  100. January 30, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    I adore the Book of Abraham. Go figure.

  101. January 30, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    Having read many blogs and comments for the last year and a half, I wonder if the message that comes from the prophets (living and dead) regarding trials, opposition in all things, and that this life is a place of testing, is understood and believed.

    I think well meaning church leaders, mostly in the past (but not all), have tried to tidy up church history, doctrine and image, and in the process have left some members with unrealistic expectations of how things really are in a fallen world. And when some of these members encounter clutter they are unprepared to deal with it.

    I’ve found that those members who have applied themselves to diligent prayer and scripture study are more likely to make the necessary adjustments. One of the reasons for this is that the scriptures show things the way they are–cluttered.

    For example, the first few chapter of the Book of Mormon introduces the reader to a family who have goodly parents, but all the children are not like their parents. It turns out that they fight and quarrel and even attempt murder. To make things even more interesting the Lord has arranged it this way. If He would have wanted, all of the children could have been like Nephi. This would have made for a neat and tidy journey to the promised land.

    Of course, Nephi would not have turned into the prophet we know because he wouldn’t have been able to acquire the faith he did without his brothers supplying opposition nearly every step of the way.

    The clutter in each of our lives can be valuable to the man or woman of faith if they turn to the Lord for solutions and are willing to endure and wait on the Lord. This message is repeated over and over again in the scriptures.

  102. January 30, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    #99 Mormon411

    The Book of Abraham is an interesting example of clutter (see prior comment). Its origins are cluttered, but its message and content are powerful. Many who study ancient documents tell us the message is authentic in spite of the cluttered connection to the Chandler text. So we have clutter, but no hard evidence to lose faith in the prophet Joseph Smith. This is evident from the fact that the members of the church who have expertise in ancient documents remain faithful members of the church.

  103. January 31, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Sorry folks, I didn’t mean to change the subject. Maybe we can ask one of the authors here to write an article about the BoA. In my poor mind, a cluttered origin means a cluttered message. How can I trust the message or the messenger if the origin is so questionable? I’m a little confused. How can the experts authenticate the message with such cluttered origins? Can you please provide a reference?

  104. January 31, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Again, I’m coming from a Chapel Mormon point of view, where the messenger, when being directed by revelation from heaven, (such as the translation process of the the scrolls) is pretty much infallable. For such a heavenly event, I would expect the origin and the text to be easily justifiable. The very fact that we have any ‘clutter’ at all, casts serious doubt on the whole story.

  105. Holden Caulfield
    January 31, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Mormon411-no need to apologize for your common sense approach to the Book of Abraham. Whenever I read an apologetic piece on the Book of Abraham I am reminded of Richard Gere in “Chicago” when he is doing his legal-speak explaining and tap dancing at the same time, the tap dancing representing the dance his words are performing–and I like the contents of the BoA.

  106. Jen
    January 31, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Mormon411-

    “I struggled myself for about a year. It was the discovery of the Book of Abraham issue that forever shattered whatever belief was left.”

    When I have had major struggles with issues relating to my faith (and there have been plenty) I have taken them to the Lord and over time I have been able to either receive greater understanding about an issue or peace concerning it. When you did believe in God, did He tend to be the source you went to for your answers or was it in books, other people, etc.? I want to understand your approach to your struggles and what led to your complete loss of belief in God.

  107. January 31, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    Many who study ancient documents tell us the message is authentic in spite of the cluttered connection — indeed. It is interesting how for some people the Book of Abraham is a major witness to the truth of the gospel and how others find such problems as a result.

    If I’d known this thread was going to have so many comments I could have claimed some inspiration to the “neverending” part of the post title 😉

  108. January 31, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    Stephen–It appears to be the same across the board. Opposition in all things. Faith is required, but as faith grows then so do the witnesses to our faith. Eventually we can arrive at a point where our faith allows us to experience the kind of things that get written up in scripture. The Book of Mormon is a witness to this process.

    It is as though we are being tested, imagine that.

  109. February 1, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Jen, #106: What lead to my complete loss in the belief in god?

    It really happened in stages. I remember sitting in Sunday school one day and suddenly having the thought that it all just sounded like a fairy tale. Jesus walking on water, commanding the elements, etc. I just realized that those are stories that don’t really happen.

    At about the same time, I was starting school and taking several science classes. Biology, anatomy, chemistry, etc. I began to see the very strong evidence for the Evolutionary Theory.

    Bottom line, religion started sounding really silly. Science started more and more like reality.

    Once I was at that point, then I started to realize that praying and going through the motions had never really done anything. I began to realize that “god” was surprisingly absent in my life.

    Then common sense kicked in. Death and taxes, right? I realized that we accept, as a fact, that all things die. Even planets and stars, and eventually the universe. Since that is the case, there is no such thing as an immortal being. So even if there is some intelligent dude creating planets, then he is doomed to die just like everything else.

    The idea that one person can create an entire world is impossible as well. The non-belief in god is not really atheism, but more like just pure rationalism. I’m not really atheist; I’m just a very rationally minded person. I don’t believe in the supernatural. I’ve never seen a miracle that was so amazing it could only be from god.

    We don’t really believe in superheroes, but we love to hear stories about them. Religion is simply that. Jesus is a superhero. Therefore, Jesus is just a story.

  110. February 1, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    For anyone who might want more details, please visit my blog. On the right side bar I have put a link to an article I wrote entitled, “Why I Don’t Believe In God” located under “Posts of Interest”. Click on that link. Feel free to leave comments there if you so wish.

  111. Jen
    February 1, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Mormon411-

    Thanks for answering my question. I am always curious to know why people are who they are and what led them to the place they are now.

    I still have a hard time understanding why you spend the time you do trying to discredit the Mormon faith. I wouldn’t find any happiness in tearing down others beliefs but would find it in living what I believe to be true and real….in other words….live and let live. I guess I will just have to be stumped on that point.

  112. February 1, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    Jen, just think about it this way. The LDS church sends out thousands of missionaries to tell everyone that their religion is wrong. Lots of people finds this to be offensive. I know I hate it when they knock on my door. I figured that as long as they are flooding the world with their version of things, I’m just leveling the playing field a little bit by telling the other side of the story. Plus, I just write a blog online. Anyone who is offended is free to leave any time they want and I never force anyone to read or participate. The LDS church doesn’t live and let live. So someone has to keep them in check.

  113. Ray
    February 1, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    “Anyone who is offended is free to leave any time they want and I never force anyone to read or participate. The LDS church doesn’t live and let live. So someone has to keep them in check.”

    M411, I generally have respected what you’ve written here (I mean that sincerely.), but that has to be one of the most contradictory statements I’ve ever read from anyone here.

    You are doing **exactly** what the Mormon Church is doing, but you’re right to do it and they are wrong? I’m sorry, but that’s ludicrous.

  114. Jen
    February 1, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    I understand your point of view, but you don’t have to answer the knock at the door anymore than a person doesn’t have to read your blog…right?

    I am not trying to argue with you, I honestly just wonder how you can find happiness hanging onto the past, that’s all. That is what stumps me. I can use this analogy to help you understand better what I am trying to say. If I break up with a boyfriend and get a new one, it is not going to make me happy to keep focusing on the old boyfriend by talking about him and complaining about him. He is going to go on with his life without me, so it is just affecting me negatively in the long run. Focusing on the the old boyfriend leaves me very little time to enjoy my new boyfriend and makes it impossible for me to really move forward with that new relationship. It seems to me if you don’t fully embrace your new way of thinking then you will never really get to enjoy the full benefits that you say it brings…the freedom so to speak.

    In relation to missionaries, from the experience that I have with those who have been on missions, their purpose wasn’t to tell others that their religion was wrong (assuming they were part of one) but to see if they wanted to learn about the LDS faith. Plenty of people said no and others wanted to learn about it. I was under the impression that you served a mission for the LDS church so I think you already know this.

    I truly have an interest in learning about others and their life experiences. I am sincere when I say I don’t understand why you are doing what you are doing because it seems to breed unhappiness for you personally. I just have to accept that this isn’t the case and that you find purpose in what you are doing just as I do in what I try to do in my life.

    I seek only understanding, not contention or negative feelings. Best of luck to you in your life.

  115. February 1, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    Ray, that’s not what I said even though I can see how it looked that way. What I meant to say was that as long as they are going to do it, then someone should tell the part of the story that they won’t.

    It’s like this. If a sweet talking con man came into your neighborhood knocking on doors and conning people out of their money, wouldn’t you place a few phone calls to stop the guy? Or at least warn people not to give him their money? Assuming that you know for a fact that the guy is a con artist, even though you’re not obligated to do anything, you feel morally that you should do something.

    If the Mormons want to send out thousands of missionaries, then so be it. They are just doing what they believe is the right thing to do. But they shouldn’t be offended or surprised when someone simply wants to make sure that the whole story is told, not just their version of it.

    So I basically consider myself the good neighbor who is trying to warn my neighbors about the dangerous con man. If they don’t want to listen, fine. At least I tried.

    Jen, I see your point and understand your confusion. And I don’t even know what to say other than to assure you that I have moved on. But remember that even though I don’t believe, I still live right in the middle of LDS territory. So even if I wanted it to be completely out of my life, it would be impossible. I see Mormon culture every single day, whether I want to or not. It’s still very much a part of my life. Once I get the beep out of here, I’m sure things will be different for me.

  116. Ray
    February 2, 2009 at 2:06 am

    Once I get the beep out of here, I’m sure things will be different for me.

    I am going to be much more blunt and personally direct than I normally am on a public forum like this, M411. I hope that’s ok, and I also hope that you realize I really am saying what I’m about to say purely because I truly do want you to be happy. Take it as totally unsolicited advice, and do with it whatever you will. Chalk it up to anything you desire, but I am sincere in my desire for your happiness.

    I have said over and over again that those who are miserable in the Church shouldn’t stay in it – that God will judge all of us by our efforts to become like Him, and those who are able to pursue that effort better outside the Church should do so. I just don’t like it when someone who is not happy tries to shatter other people’s happiness – and I would say that about someone who is totally miserable in the Church and tries to convince happy “outsiders” to join the Church.

    I understand your anaology, but I think your last sentence is the most enlightening of all – and you might want to consider the following if you are looking for self-understanding:

    First, a change of location RARELY changes the person someone has become prior to the change, especially when that person has gone out of their way to pursue a course of action. (Parents who move from one state to another in order to get their kids out of gangs and off of drugs generally see those kids join gangs and do drugs wherever they move, even Utah.) Participating in any internet community requires a conscious choice, and you chose to come here. Nobody forced it on you or coerced you in any way; you came here of your own volition. This forum is not something you have to experience “whether (you) want to or not”. It’s part of your life because you made it a past of your life. Again, you chose it freely, without constraint. It’s not something that was thrust on you as a result of where you live; it’s a neighborhood into which you chose to move.

    Second, this is a site frequented primarily by those who know every bit as much about “the rest of the story” as you do. Nothing you say here is going to shock or surprise anyone. Those who don’t agree with you aren’t going to agree with you becuase of your efforts, and those who do agree with you aren’t going to disagree with you because of your efforts. You’ve picked a forum here where, as far as your stated intent of “education” is concerned, your chances of influencing others to change their beliefs is minimal. It’s a safe place for you to vent, since we restrict very little, but it’s also a rather “neutered” place to change minds. Yet, you remain. As jen has stated in her questions to you, but using your own words, you could “get the beep out of here” any time you want – but you choose to stay.

    Third, we also, generally, aren’t living in the middle of “LDS territory”. I know nothing about what you do in your own LDS territory (if those around you are aware of your feelings and efforts on the web), but here you are stepping outside of that territory and choosing not to “get the beep out of here”. Given that fact, I’m not sure anything will change for you “once (you) get the beep out of” the physical area where you live.

    I hope you can move on and focus on your own happiness, but my experience over the years says the chances that will happen are lower than you think – and they decrease the longer you stay the beep where you are.

    Again, take that for what it’s worth. If I am wrong, I am wrong – and I apologize sincerely. I’m just sharing with you the results of my decades of studying history and observing people. I really, truly hope I am wrong, but that ultimately is up to you.

  117. February 2, 2009 at 8:39 am

    Ray,

    I appreciate your concern and comments. And you’re right. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that because I am what I am and I do what I do is because I’m full of hate and anger and it just consumes me. That’s not the case. I spend very little of my spare time here or on my blog.

    And my agenda here has not been to try and change anyones mind. But when I saw the title of this article and read it, I just had to say something. The reason is because I know for a fact that it is not a false doctrine and it actually rather upsets me when I see the church trying to brush off embarrasing doctrine and pretend it never happened until even the members start believing it never happened. It did happen and it was a doctrine. But the problem for the church is that if they just come out and say it was a false doctrine and they are sorry for teaching it, then that discredits those who originally taught it, and they just can’t have that. So they just pretend it was never said and that is what upsets me. They are actively deceiving people.

    All I’ve tried to do is add another perspective to the discussion and sincerely answer sincere questions. You all seem to think that I have this huge problem, when, in fact, I am very happy with my life. I’m doing awesome in school and I have a great future ahead of me.

    So I guess I’ve had my say. I’ll retreat back to my blog where any of you are free to come and disagree with me on the topics I bring up there. If you don’t want to, just know that we’re not so different. We’re all just searching for truth. It’s been my pleasure.

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