Five difficult words to contemplate

Brian Johnston doubt, faith, God, questioning, testimony 98 Comments

What if it isn’t true?

… [pause for a silent moment to let this reach the heart and mind] …

What if the Church really isn’t true? If you could somehow know for sure that it was all a mistake, a misunderstanding or delusion, and that God doesn’t exist, what would that mean? Would you change anything about your life? Would you have different priorities? What would be different?

I’ve meditated on this idea many times. It is disturbing and uncomfortable to consider. I have a pet theory that the height of our faith is limited by the depth of our doubt. I came to my own conclusions, but I’d like to wait a day to post them. I want to see what other people say first. I will post a response to my own question tomorrow.

What do you think about these five difficult words?

P.S. For simplicity, the assumption for this topic is that no other church is a true alternative.

Comments

comments

Comments 98

  1. Interesting phenomenon.A group of friends in South Africa were debating this. If it is not true, then we at least all strove to be good people. There is an African proverb that says “One should do good continually for their own and humanity’s sake; regardless of things such as heaven or hell.” That means that the people we are striving to be, ensures that our lives are not in vain. That brings some assurance.

    Also, if no other alternative exists, we all fade away into insignificance.That sucks, but at least we aren’t punished for living our lives.

    I personally wouldn’t change my life, or very little would change. The level we strive for when acquiring a testimony is that we live our standards based on us recognizing the truth AND sensibility of them, not because we have been forced, or have blind faith. We should feel that abstinence, honesty, love, etc. are sensible things, not only because God commands them, but IN and of THEMSELVES, they make sense. I hope I am making sense.

    Also, 21 December 2012 is just four and a bit years away! Satan is beginning his final offensive, placing doubt in your heart.

    Im a convert. Coffee sucks.Too bitter.

  2. Well, I’m perhaps not so noble, since I have to base my behavior not on the fact that these are good principles, but that they’re true principles. So if it were all false, I’d pretty much go down the tubes as far as I could without losing my family. Realistically.

    Good thing it’s true, then.

    Actually, most of my thought along these lines has had to do with death. My grandfather (convert, then inactive most of his life) had a ‘pathological fear of death’ in my father’s words and as I’ve thought over that and what he did because of it, I have to stare into the abyss a little bit. If there were really only non-existence, that would probably pretty much make me a secular humanist/existentialist. However, this isn’t a true/false scientific proposition. It’s metaphysical, so there’s no way to ‘prove’ it either way. Furthermore, I’m a fideist, so it’s all a faith-based initiative anyway, and must necessarily be so, in my mind.

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  4. I was reading that Dutcher article (link from the notes column) and he said he lost his faith when he asked himself that question. Frankly, I was surprised. I have asked it off and on for most of my life. It hasn’t been earth-shattering to me, but I have considered all the ramifications of the church not being true, and even though I haven’t lost my faith, I decided I would stay active anyway (for many reasons, which are probably too much to get into right at this moment).

  5. AdamF,

    I would say that Dutcher’s career ambitions might have had a play in his thinking. But also, given that he was trying to create a serious Mormon film genre and it turned out a bunch of junk movies in the end. Not his so much, but many of the Halestorm stuff is poor.

  6. I was just surprised that there was a person out there who had not seriously asked the question before… other than my mission president’s wife. 🙂 Even my mission president talked about it in Zone conference.

  7. I think you have to ask yourself that question. I’ve always used that question as a jumping off point to explore what I beleive, what I know and what I hope is true. i suppose some folks just don’t think about their beliefs in that way. Out of fear?

  8. President Hinckley was once asked “What if the Book of Mormon is not true?” and the Church released a statement or he released a statement or something. He gave some hectic answer so someone please find that.

  9. Also spawning off that, in your post, Valoel, you mentioned your pet theory. I refer you to the scripture in Ether that basically states that our weaknesses can become our strengths. Doubt or examination of our beliefs can lead to complete shattering of the faith we have, or more importantly, doubt and self-examination compel us to look harder and gain a stronger testimony once we find an answer.

    Conversely, says the evil angel on my shoulder, and The Secret, if you look for something hard enough you will find it, if you believe hard enough it becomes real.

  10. Some thoughts from MORMON THINK – Last 4 paragraphs I think is pretty fair!!

    What if we’re wrong?

    People wonder what if by some chance the Church is 100% true, and that there is some sort of fantastic explanation for all the historical problems – would God punish us in the next life?

    God gave us a brain and expects us to use it. We’re expected to use every means at our disposal to seek the truth and to live our lives in a desirable way. “The Glory of God is intelligence” is something we hear at church all the time.

    If the LDS Church is somehow 100% true, we’re not too worried about defending our beliefs on judgment day. If we end up ‘on trial’ for not believing what the LDS Church has taught, the information on this website alone would justify our actions.

    We would ask God to explain the following:

    – Why doesn’t Joseph Smith’s translation of the facsimiles in the Book of Abraham and the Egyptian papyri match what Egyptologists say they mean?

    – Why does the Book of Mormon mention so many things that did not exist in the Americas when the BOM took place such as horses, elephants, wheat, barley, silk, steel, etc.?

    – Why were we told the Book of Mormon was translated from gold plates that were never used, when Joseph put his face in a hat and looked at a common stone he found while digging a well?

    – Why did Joseph marry 11 men’s wives while they were still married to their husbands?

    The lists of questions would go on for several pages. If God does indeed exist, and he’s the fair judge that we all believe him to be, then how could He condemn anyone for not believing a story fraught with so many problems?

    Likewise if the church isn’t true, then I don’t think a just God would punish anyone for believing in it if they really believed it, although perhaps some people would be chided for IGNORING the red flags and continuing to believe a lie out of fear or willful ignorance. If the church isn’t true then it does not have the power to ‘save’ you anyway.

    LDS people would probably have the same response if, in the next life, they found out that Scientology was really God’s one, true church. They would bring up the absurd problems with that religion and expect absolution for not believing in that religion.

    According to LDS lore, Joseph Smith himself will have some role in the final judgment of our souls. Shortly before he died, Joseph said “no man knows my history; if I hadn’t lived it I wouldn’t have believed it myself.” Well, if even Joseph wouldn’t have believed it, then how can anyone blame us for not believing it either?

    http://www.mormonthink.com/endpage.htm

  11. Alright, Valoel and others,

    Isn’t someone going to be honest and admit they would barbecue children, seduce their neighbor’s wife, drink Jack Daniels, take up chaw, listen to Marilyn Manson, and vote Obama?

  12. James,

    “Shortly before he died, Joseph said “no man knows my history; if I hadn’t lived it I wouldn’t have believed it myself.” Well, if even Joseph wouldn’t have believed it, then how can anyone blame us for not believing it either?”

    I have had this thought many times. I assume some people assume Joseph wasn’t serious and was simply speaking rhetorically. I tend to take him at his word most of the time.

  13. “What if the Church really isn’t true?”
    “I’ve meditated on this idea many times”

    The evidence that one is losing one’s faith.

    “It is disturbing and uncomfortable to consider.”

    The evidence that you are on the wrong road.

    Maybe doing more church stuff and less MM will help one recover their diminishing testimony.

  14. Fwiw, one of the reasons I try to cut people slack who can’t believe in Mormonism is that it takes real faith to believe much of it – much more than orthodox Christian beliefs. There’s not a whole lot of faith required to believe in some kind of spiritual existence in the hereafter, but a PHYSICAL existence in the presence of a TANGIBLE God? That takes some faith, even if it is taught in the Bible. I don’t blame others for not believing it, but I absolutely love the fruits and the joy I get from the Church, so I’d probably stay and continue to focus on growth and progression and becoming like Jesus – just like I do now.

  15. I faced this question awhile ago and came out the other side without belief. What I discovered is that I am the same person I was before. I still love my wife and kids and want the best for them. I still want to live in a world that is moral and just. I still want to raise my kids to be honest, respectful and kind.

    Dawkins raises a similar question in ‘The God Delusion’. ‘What if you could know that there is no God?’. I think most people recognize they would not live much different then the way they do now. Our goodness does not come from a belief, or fear of God, but rather from a desire to live in and be part of a just world.

    What is true? I don’t know, but once I think I have found it I will stop looking—that is the real danger.

  16. Imprefection,

    “Our goodness does not come from a belief, or fear of God, but rather from a desire to live in and be part of a just world.”

    This is where I disagree with those who say this type of thing. The fact is that the “just world” was created by those who BELIEVED in God and the teachings they derived from that belief. Those who historically have not had that belief, have, in fact, propagated the “unjust or cruel world.”

  17. I can recognize a huge difference in each moment between thinking about the question “Is this true?” vs. the question “Is this good?”. It is the difference between stress and peace. Although it would be fair to put me more on the unbelieving side, focusing on Good instead of Truth has actually made me a better person, I think. Each choice I make is based on the individual merit of the thing, as opposed to obedience, and yet I still end up living a pretty clean life by LDS standards. One big difference is that I am becoming much more motivated to be active in community service. In a way, when I was more TBM, I felt too satisfied with the service I did in the church and didn’t recognize the need that existed in the world around me. I think I figured that anything important would be addressed by the church in its own inspired programs.

    Moving beyond that scary question forces me to take complete responsibility for how I live and grow. I’m talking about a freedom that even goes beyond the most Christ-like faithful and loyal member, because one of the key points of liberation is the ability to choose to disobey the church, or to choose to give my time and talents to something I feel is more deserving than “building up the kingdom”, if those choices are appropriate. I think as a TBM, there were lines I was not willing to cross.

  18. RE: #15

    “Maybe doing more church stuff and less MM will help one recover their diminishing testimony.”

    I’m not sure that not thinking about stuff is the way to deal with these things. It’s like my son sticking his fingers in his ears when he didn’t want to hear what I had to say.

  19. The fact is that the “just world” was created by those who BELIEVED in God and the teachings they derived from that belief. Those who historically have not had that belief, have, in fact, propagated the “unjust or cruel world.”

    Jeff, I’ll give just a few examples of how this assertion is wrong:

    The Inquisition
    Salem Witch Trials
    The KKK
    9/11
    Nazis

    I am not making a point that its the opposite of what Jeff said, but just that no one is immune from cruelty and injustice. Evil is a talent that all humans can develop if they choose, and the desire for power is the strongest catalyst in that development. Wherever there is power, that is where you will find cruelty and injustice, even in religion.

  20. Clay Whipkey, you hit the nail on the head. I think deciphering the goodness of the thing is better than truth, because since God is undecipherable in the scientific sense. Read Mere Christianity. You need truth though.

  21. If the LDS church isn’t true it is difficult to comprehend the eternal consequences for its members.

    It is required by the bible to believe that Jesus is almighty God.
    John 8:24
    I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am [he], ye shall die in your sins.

    No offense to anyone… But, I personally believe that no earthbound “church” is true because they were all created by man. The message of Colossians Chapter 1 is that Christ is the head of the church. The members of the church are his bride. There is no “church” structure required. The answer according to my own interpretation of the bible is to simply trust in Jesus and follow him.

    2 Cor. 11:3-4 “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted– you may well put up with it.

    John 14:6 “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Jesus never said, “No man cometh unto the Father unless they follow the church”.

  22. I think everyone has to ask this at some point, but it also goes to the heart of what is the point of religion. Salvation? If salvation is off the table, I would say betterment and optimizing your life become the objective. For me, being LDS provides a great framework for my own self improvement, so I would stick with it.

  23. I think that you middle-way-er’s already have a good solution to this question. You already assume the church is “good” versus being “true”, so you already are comfortable in being in “just another christian faith” and it doesn’t bother you to be in it. Similarly, if I, in some weird twist of fate, were to determine that somehow the church isn’t true but just good, I wouldn’t just leave. I might re-evaluate some things, but I wouldn’t just leave. I have already a pre-determined conclusion that nothing in the world has anything better to offer regardless of Mormonism’s truth claims.

    But again, this is not a possibility, because I already know its true, and I have already had my faith crisis years back. Its not a question of true versus good to me. To me, it is now only a question of what false traditions will be abandoned next, and which principles will be adopted as a result of new revelation.

  24. “To me, it is now only a question of what false traditions will be abandoned next, and which principles will be adopted as a result of new revelation.”

    How will the tree be pruned and nurtured? That’s my perspective, as well.

    Joe, I wish it was that easy. You forget that those who made those statements were converting people into a church – and fighting the encroachment of “false doctrine” in that church. They certainly didn’t believe it just was about “trust in Jesus and follow Him”. They also had very clear ideas about what “follow Him” meant and didn’t mean.

  25. Clay,

    Of course there are horrendous examples of the failure of some to adhere to the rules they said they would abide by. I was referring to the construct in general versus the natural tendencies of humans toward bad behavior when left to our own devices. The moral construct of world’s great civilizations came from religion and their subsequent downfall were because they ignored the basic principles of their own beliefs. For all of your examples, that was also the case.

  26. Ray,

    I respect what you are saying, and your beliefs…

    However Jesus did say it was easy. “Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

    My thoughts go to the criminal that died on the cross next to Jesus. Jesus told him, “Surely you will be with me in paradise.” Obviously this criminal never attended church. He simply put his trust in Jesus.

  27. I have to base my behavior not on the fact that these are good principles, but that they’re true principles. So if it were all false, I’d pretty much go down the tubes as far as I could without losing my family. Realistically.

    Good thing it’s true, then.

    This is a very common sentiment, yet it still surprises me. So you recognize that some things the church gets you to do are good for you in the long run, but you don’t think that your own will — your capacity to choose to do things that are good for you — is sufficient motivation…? Why? So many people think that their fear of eternal punishment is the only thing making them responsible, productive members of society. Then they lose their faith and discover it isn’t true.

    Losing ones faith usually does lead to a change in values and priorities, though. In particular, you get a new perspecitve on what it means to be responsible for the Earth. There’s no more sense of “sure, it’s nice to be a good steward of God’s creation, but if all the rainforests, etc., are destroyed, God will be forgiving about it and we won’t need them in heaven anyway, or else we can create new ones.” Without God, if the petroleum is used up, then it’s gone. If society depends on it, then we’d better start thinking about it now. Without God, if the rainforests are destroyed and then we discover that, in fact, our species needed those trees for the oxygen they were producing, then that’s it for us, no more future for humans. Realizing that God won’t bail us out and fix all humanity’s mistakes in the end dramatically affects one’s sense of responsibility to humanity. Please see my posts on building a sustainable society.

    Oh, and it’s true that thinking too hard about this question can lead to apostasy as it apparently did for Dutcher. It’s also the climactic line in the center of the novel Exmormon.

  28. I cannot answer this question because the question is implausible. I asked God in prayer if Joseph Smith was his prophet and he answered with his Holy Spirit. I trust the Holy Spirit to tell me the truth. It is impossible for that to change now. It IS true. There is no more question of “if.” There is no purpose to this life if it isn’t true.

  29. #29 – I have no argument with the yoke and burden verse. It’s one of my favorites, and probably the subject of a post in the future. The thief on the cross, however, is covered well within Mormon theology, so we don’t need to worry about any distinction there. 🙂

  30. When decided that the church was not ‘true’, we were encouraged by a stake president not to have our names removed or become active because it was a good way to live. We decided against that plan of action.

    On the other side of the coin, the church being true or untrue doesn’t have to change who a person is fundamentally. I still love my family. I still have kids, and stay at home with them. I don’t really drink that often, and I have never smoked or used drugs. I’m active in charities and my community and children’s schools. I still love my husband, and my marriage is still intact.

    I think it comes down to internal motivation. If you are living your life a certain way because of an external force (the church) then you are going to have a lot more issues than if you are living your life in a way that you feel is inherently good no matter what.

  31. So maybe the question is more what does it say about me if it isn’t true given the spiritual witness I received? Does that make me delusional?
    Or maybe the question is not what if it’s true, but what does “true” mean (can’t mean perfect) or what elements are implied by “it” (can’t be every possible element, statement, leader, member, etc as there are inherent contradictions.

    So, I’ll also settle for “am I true?”

  32. One more thought. Believing the church is true doesn’t yield either salvation or self improvement. Becoming trumps believing.

    The parable of the two sons who were asked to do something comes to mind. One said, “I go” and didn’t. The other said, “I go not” yet then did go do it. So which was better? Are there complacent believers who (like the first son) are worse off than motivated and committed non-believers?

    We seem to allow for a lot of variation among believers, but we like to assume all non-believers are the same. There is difference between a “hoper” who doubts and a rabid anti, but at times both are viewed as having crossed the line and therefore lumped into one category (kind of like “non-members” vs members).

  33. The Church being true can mean many things, including (but not limited to):

    1. The Church is the correct organization to belong to and to become nearer to God.

    2. The Church is the organization that correctly follows the model of what a church should be.

    3. The Church encompasses all correct principles (truth)

    4. The Church is authority on Earth with respect to what is acceptable to God and what is not.

    I think the ‘truth’ of the organization could be deconstructed greatly; however, I believe that these points cover the basics.

    When I served my mission it became apparent that #3 was not entirely accurate, although not entirely false either.

    When I returned home, I found some issues that made me qualify the criteria in #4. This inspired my disaffection with the church and the struggle with identifying doctrine and culture. The line was arbitrary and ex post facto. I began to ask myself what I should do when face with the potential uncomfortable answers to the dangerous question.

    While I struggled with these factors I struggled with the reality that #2 may not be entirely true either and that God has dealt effectively with diverse peoples in diverse ways.

    The only answer to the dangerous question was found by contemplating the definition in #1 – what would God want me to do and how could I move closer to God. I think that given the imperfection in any church, most people who have been brought up in the church would do just as well staying put in the Church with the realization that it a flawed but wonderful organization full of people doing their best.

    That being said, the fact that the Church does not allow for the attitude I suggest (notwithstanding the efforts of the Ann Porters and John Dehlins (Happy Birthday!) of the world) I left and work out my salvation.

    My life style is not much different. I don’t drink cola everyday anymore, but I do have coffee from time to time. I find some satisfaction from my choices, I think it is a good choice, but I won’t make any claims that it is the one true choice either.

  34. Is it possible for a demon to take the form of the Holy Spirit? Do you think Satan or his demons are capable of providing people a false testimony that the church is true?

    Is it possible that Satan could set up worldly churches claiming the name of Jesus Christ, and actually be leading people away from the real Jesus by occupying their time with “church”?

    If church keeps you busy enough, what time do you have left to spend with Jesus? I believe Satan can use just about anything to distract people. What do you guys/gals think?

  35. This is a powerful question that has shaped my life. I can’t say anything about it without being a little raw and personal.

    I now seek to find Truth in God, not church-ness (or churchiness). My asking this question of Truth and pursuing it seriously for over a decade led me step by step on a path toward gradual numbness. I didn’t really start to see a strong, hopeful light until I began to seek God at the center of it, learning to listen and submit to His will for me, my marriage and my family. After that I began making healthy progress in finding peace, a forgiving heart, and identity apart from (LDS) churchness.

    My outward behavior, of course, is still influenced by my relationships and Chrisian faith community. That’s not bad. But I see my behavior more shaped and governed by my willingness to seek what I perceive God wants for me. I don’t follow this perfectly, of course, nor has uncertainty been replaced with certainty. But my heart, hope and faith is standing on a foundation that now feels more trustworthy because I’ve lived an alternative.

    When faith was placed more in “church” and “wife/marriage” and “family” then I ended up living a ‘righteous’ external life, while my inner world was governed by doubt in God, intellectual pride, unrepented little sins and deep alienation to religion. Even what I thought I was keeping as my highest priority — my marriage — I can see after it almost failed wasn’t rooted as well as I thought. It was shocking to find what seemed so reliable to me wasn’t. There had been a price of creating weakness and distance in the quality of my relationships because I had built walls and defenses around my heart and inner self. I couldn’t see how dead I already was until I contemplated worse options.

    So salvation means something real and different to me now. I don’t say this to say my path is the one everyone must walk. I wanted to reply in this way because I’ve chosen to live a good part of my life shaped by this question, and, for far too long, I chose to try to answer it by myself.

  36. I remember on Mormon Stories a long time back, there was a podcast where some people were claiming that they got revelation from God that the Mormon Church was where he wanted them to be, whether or not it was true. That’s another angle. Perhaps people should be trying to get a “testimony” of whether God wants them to be Mormon rather than if the church is true, if they don’t believe it is true.

  37. Joe – I’m just not convinced by those types of arguments. I’d be more persuaded by the idea of being self-deluded than the idea that living a life of personal sacrifice, service to others, personal prayer, and contemplation of the word of God is Satan’s nefarious plan to lead me away from the “true Christ” through a “false testimony.”

  38. Hawkgrrrl:
    I respect your opinion. I’m not attempting to win any particular argument, or cause any bickering. Out of respect I’m not going to say too much (I have a tendancy to be overly direct). At least take a moment to consider the original question, “What if it isn’t true?” What if the LDS faith is man-made? What if you do have a false testimony?

    Even the apostle Paul asked that he be tested to see if what he said was true. “These [the Bereans] were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”, Acts 17:11

  39. Joe, I’m not trying to pick a fight either; I just find the delusion argument a more convincing alternative than occultish arguments. Perhaps that puts me in the group excoriated in the BOM for believing there is no devil (and thus the devil flattereth them). I will concede this. But it still seems ridiculous to me.

  40. Joe,

    let me refer you back to my post on the same subject where I discuss the consequences “if the Church were not True.” However, I posed it for me as a hypothetical since I am convinced beyond a doubt that it is the True Church of Jesus Christ. The fence riders and naysayers may have a different opinion and perspective on the question. I do not.

    http://mormonmatters.org/2008/06/05/ok-so-what-if-it-isnt-true/

    I also did a post on prooftexting that you might want to review as well since it appears you are engaging in that practice.

    I can’t tell where Santa Claus is coming from other than the North Pole! 🙂

  41. Joe, I have considered that possibility (even here in the comments); I just find the delusion argument a more convincing alternative than occultish arguments. Perhaps that puts me in the group excoriated in the BOM for believing there is no devil (and thus the devil flattereth them). I will concede this. But it still seems ridiculous to me to imagine the church isn’t true and Satan wants me to be in it. I would be a much more formidable heathen than Mormon. And remember Brian’s post posited that there is no better church alternative.

  42. Jeff…

    I’m curious how would you interpret the following verse?

    John 8:24
    I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am [he], ye shall die in your sins.

    Hypothetically. If you are wrong, and Jesus is the “I AM”. Meaning he is God in the flesh. Would you die in your sins?

  43. Isn’t someone going to be honest and admit they would barbecue children,

    Nope.

    seduce their neighbor’s wife,

    Me? Um…HELL no! 🙂

    drink Jack Daniels

    Check, though I much prefer Canadian Club. I like a smooth whiskey.

    take up chaw

    EWWWWwwwww….

    listen to Marilyn Manson

    Only his terrific cover of “Personal Jesus.”

    and vote Obama?

    Well DUH… 😉

  44. #17:
    Fwiw, one of the reasons I try to cut people slack who can’t believe in Mormonism is that it takes real faith to believe much of it – much more than orthodox Christian beliefs.

    I beg to differ, Ray. The only reason “orthodox christianity” is easier for some to believe is cultural familiarity. An “outsider” is expected to believe that an ancient carpenter-turned-rabbi performed various miracles (almost all of which were oddly related to food and/or health), and was then required by an omniscient, omnific, allegedly-loving deity to suffer personally for the misdeeds of the entire human race. If that’s not enough to shock an “outsider’s” normal sense of right and wrong, s/he is then expected to believe that said carpenter-turned-rabbi was subsequently executed, only to spring back to life three days later, with the **only** claimed evidence being the claim (in documents of otherwise highly questionable historical reliability) that “upwards of 500 men” and one woman actually saw him after he “resurrected.”

    Aside from cultural familiarity, that story is no more believeable than Scientology or Santa Clause.

  45. #31:
    I asked God in prayer if Joseph Smith was his prophet and he answered with his Holy Spirit. I trust the Holy Spirit to tell me the truth. It is impossible for that to change now. It IS true. There is no more question of “if.”

    Dan, if you have never misinterpreted an answer to prayer, then I’d suggest that you are entirely unique in the history of the world. There was a time when I thought the way you do. Later, I received more information, which led me to reevaluate my own interpretation of my experiences, feelings and perceived “answers.”

    There is no purpose to this life if it isn’t true.

    That is just so dramatically false, Dan. In fact, I honestly pity anyone who truly believes this to be a factual statement.

  46. From my current perspective, the purpose of the church is to teach people how to return to the presence of God. If the church is teaching correct principles, then it will fulfill this purpose. In 3rd Nephi, chapter 27, Christ sets the criteria for it to be called His church.

    1. Called by His Name (verse 7)
    2. Built upon His Gospel (verse 8)
    3. Shows forth the works of the Father (verse 10)

    As defined in the same chapter, the gospel is:

    “And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.
    Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.
    Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel…”

    Since no unclean thing can enter into the kingdom of God, the purpose of the gospel is to sanctify/purify us such that we can again reside in the presence of God.

    I would equate the truthfulness of the church with whether it qualifies as His church. If the church is teaching the correct gospel principles, then it would be true. If it is teaching another gospel, then the church is not true.

    Based on my study of the scriptures, the Gentiles (us) are destined to reject the fulness of the gospel. If we indeed fulfill this prophecy found in 3 Nephi 16, then by Christ’s own definition, we are not His church.

  47. Joe #45,

    not sure exactly what you are getting at, but I’ll bite here. Firstly, where did I say that Jesus is the “I AM” The Alpha and Omega? I think what He is telling those Pharisees is that if they did not recognize that He is the Messiah, they will die in their sins, having not repented and received a remission of them and not gain Eternal Life. BTW, Jesus is God in the flesh, but not the Father as you are insinuating.

  48. The only difference I would make is not going to church on Sunday and redirect my tithing to some charity. Instead of playing the piano for church every Sunday, I’d probably figure out how I could play at a hospital or senior center. Really not much difference.

    As far as my testimony it goes something like this: I know that the LDS church is where I’m supposed to be right now. I believe that Christ is my Savior. I believe that the LDS church is the truest church available (but not perfect).

  49. Joe,

    With all due respect, it does not profit us well to contend on a scripture by scripture basis over a fundamental difference in belief. I fully accept the LDS Doctrine of the nature of the Godhead, while it appears, you seem to adhere to the traditional Trinitrian view.

    Answering your questions will not draw either of us to one another’s position. But, I will end this by asking you the question: Does Jesus pray to Himself?”

  50. Also, can Jesus stand on the right hand of Himself, in reference to Stephen’s vision in front of the Jewish council that stoned Stephen.

  51. Jeff,

    I do respect your position, and will not continue the discussion if you choose to stop. Noone has ever answered those fundemental questions for me, so I didn’t expect you do to so. Both the BOM and the Bible clearly indicates a Trinitrian view, which is contrary to the teachings of LDS Doctrine. This is a major issue dealing directly with LDS people’s eternal salvation. One of my biggest fears is that my LDS friends will die in their sins because they missed out on the nature of Jesus. Thank God it is not my position to judge. The last thing I would ever want is for my friends to be cast into the lake of fire.

    Going back to the original post… What if the Church isn’t true? What if the head of the church is Jesus Christ as stated in Colossians Chapter 1. It is hard for me to fathom why anyone would choose to follow a church, rather than directly following Jesus Christ.

    Jesus was not praying to himself he was praying to God the father. God is a trinity of persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father is not the same person as the Son; the Son is not the same person as the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit is not the same person as Father. They are not three gods and not three beings. They are three distinct persons; yet, they are all the one God. Each has a will, can speak, can love, etc., and these are demonstrations of personhood. They are in absolute perfect harmony consisting of one substance. They are coeternal, coequal, and copowerful. If any one of the three were removed, there would be no God.

    I would suggest reading a book called, The Shack (http://www.theshackbook.com/). You can pick it up at Wal-Mart right now for about $11. It is fiction, and it is not anti-mormon. It has a way of explaining the Trinity in an easier to understand language. Its also an excellent book that talks about developing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and how organized religion (i.e. Church) might not be the answer.

    God bless…

  52. I mostly agree with Joe’s premise, that organized religion is probably unnecessary for salvation, but I still see some value in it. I see the church like a bus. Sure, I could walk to my destination, but if I ride the bus I move along the path more efficiently and I have a lot of nice people there with me. It makes the time pass during the boring featureless stretches, and helps me avoid getting too tired to keep going.

    I intentionally use a bus for the analogy, because like a public transit bus, we are at the mercy of the driver and the scheduled route. Sometimes the bus route goes somewhere we don’t want to go. Sometimes you might need to change buses, or get out and walk, and sometimes you just need to get off the bus for a breather when it makes a scheduled stop. You can’t drive it, but unlike a train the bus route could be changed with the right effort, and it wouldn’t be that expensive to do so.

  53. Joe,

    let me make one more set of comments and then we can be done with this.

    1. First of all, Jesus Christ is the head of the Church. period, end of discussion. Just like with Peter, he has earthly leader to guide His Church while He is not here.

    2. I accept the fact that the Godhead is a trinity in purpose ,but not in substance. The bible does not support hat view if read in it’s entirety, however, it can be easily prooftexted to support that view if desired. I never understood that bizarre concept of one-in-three and three-in-one. I have said before if not for the LDS view, I would have stayed practicing Judaism.

    3. As I have also stated on numerous occasion and in the post I referenced for you, I am saved. I did exactly as you in declaring that Jesus is my Savior and that I am a sinner. Worst case scenario, I would have done more than I needed to to gain salvation.

    4. I do follow Jesus Christ, try to pattern my life as His, abide by His teachings and try to help others as He did. I also happen to know that the LDS Church is His Church on the earth today.

    If I receive a forgiveness of my sin from the Savior, how is it that YOU think I will die in my sins if I don’t accept the trinitrian doctrine of the nature of God? Who made you the judge of that/

  54. Post
    Author

    I said I would wait a day to post the answer to my own question. I appreciate everyone else’s contributions.

    I would not change much. It changes my perspectives, but not so much my goals and values. I have been blessed in that I do not question the existence of God much. I have a hard time saying “I know.” I feel very comfortable with God though. I’ve had many experiences with God. I suppose I could be deluded. I’ve considered that. If I suffer from a mental defect that makes me think I am interacting with God, then it’s a valuable and beneficial defect. It makes me a better, happier and more divine person.

    That brings me to my overall conclusion. My faith produces something of value. My participation in the LDS Church is valuable to me. I am not doing it out of fear of eternal punishment, or in LDS term, some fear of not getting the biggest, shiniest trophy. There’s an intrinsic value to my practice of the LDS faith.

    It is good; therefore, it is true.

    The Church is true. I don’t know what that means exactly. It seems to slip out of my fingers when I grab hold and look close. I don’t know why in my mind it sometimes can’t be true, but in my heart it must be true. I didn’t make it that way, so don’t blame me 🙂 The proof to me is the value. I am a physical being. I am a mental being. I am a spiritual being. To ignore one (the spiritual) and only listen to the other (the mental) denies 1/3 of who I am. That can not be wholesome.

    I know it brings me value, so at some level there must be truth in it. It works, so it’s true. The Gospel makes me a better person (not that I am great, just better than before). It helps me feel that my life has value. I am important in my own way, and I have a place in the grand scheme of the universe. This requires a community. For better or worse, my community is the LDS Church.

  55. Once again, to restate myself before my message was so rudely deleted. Let’s see if this one gets deleted too. Are you afraid of more than your point of view?

    If Enviro wackjobs were truly wanting us to get off oil, they would put pressure on congress and the auto industry to mandate flex fuel and electric alternatives. Using public transportation only works if you are in an urban setting. Enviro wackjobs, if they truly weren’t hypocrites, would stop trying to kill production and stop us from drilling and would stop trying to kill new refineries from being constructed. They truly want to reduce us to “habitat areas” in urban sprawl and make us all make $2 a month.

  56. Jeff said: If I receive a forgiveness of my sin from the Savior, how is it that YOU think I will die in my sins if I don’t accept the trinitrian doctrine of the nature of God? Who made you the judge of that/

    I fear that John 8:24 says most LDS people will die in their sins. This consequence is much greater than simply getting on the wrong bus to the same destination.

    I pray that I’m wrong.

    I said above, “Thank God it is not my position to judge. The last thing I would ever want is for my friends to be cast into the lake of fire.” You are right I am not the judge.

  57. Valoel – I really appreciate your perspective on this.

    Joe – thanks for your perspective, but I’m in Jeff’s camp on this. If LDS weren’t true/useful to me, I’d probably become Jewish (or maybe UU/agnostic/atheist).

  58. Valoel,

    Thanks for such an insightful comment. I am someone who is pained by the dis-approval and sometimes rejection by persons in the Church and that makes it difficult for me to avoid bitterness and ‘pre-emptive’ rejection of all Mormons / ism.

    I know in my head there is value to the Church, even if it isn’t value for me right now. You comments help salve the knee – jerk reaction that effects my life regularly. Thanks again, seriously, it has made my day.

  59. Nick, I didn’t mean to imply that orthodox Christianity is easy for outsiders to believe – only that Mormonism is harder for Christians to believe. Once you accept the basics of Christianity, the “extra” stuff of Mormonism really is VERY hard to digest.

  60. Joe, as someone who tries very hard to understand and respect others’ perspectives, may I ask as kindly as possible for you to drop it? This is not a post meant for doctrinal arguments of who is right and who is wrong – and that appears to be the only motivation in your comments. On a different thread that addressed your doctrinal disagreements, I would address them openly and fully; I respect Valoel too much as the author of a wonderfully thoughtful post to assist in derailing it, so I will not address your comments here.

    If I am wrong about the motivation, please forgive me. I mean that sincerely. All I have to go on are the comments themselves, since I don’t know you personally.

    For everyone, there is a slightly different slant on this core question:

    Can we accept the general idea that “to some is given to know and to others is given to believe on those who know” (maybe not exact quote) – AND perhaps that “to some is NOT given either of these gifts”? Perhaps that is why we need such a universal reach for the Atonement – that some people, perhaps as a result of the Fall, really won’t be able to know OR believe in this life. Perhaps it really isn’t TRUE “for them” (in their own minds and experiences) *in this life* – even if it IS true “for us” in this life.

    I think that possibility is worth considering, at least.

  61. If you wonder if it’s true or not, go to the source. Take a serious scripture study plan, and pray to be gided and iluminated. You will find out, if you truly want an answer.

    End of argument.

  62. Ray, while I find your idea comforting for those of us with family members who have left the church, I don’t think it fits my worldview. Nor does its didactic opposite.

  63. #57
    Clay,
    I have used a similar analogy to what you used regarding the bus but with a difference. We can ride the bus to get close to our destination. We can enjoy the fellowship of others on the bus. But, as I see it, the bus can only take us so far up the mountain. We then must get off the bus, put on our hiking shoes and finish the journey on our own. The shoes, as was the bus, are a representation of our faith. To complete the journey, we must ‘walk’ on our own faith to reach the final destination.

  64. Ray I’ll gladly drop it, if you will kindly allow me one more brief response.

    I believe the bible says there is *one life* and *one judgement*. This is why I care so deeply, and am anxious to speak to all that will listen.

    I genuinely love LDS people and hope they consider me their friend.

    Carlos U: I would only add that all scripture should also be analyzed to determine whether it is true.

  65. Who is the Father? Who is the Son? I thought I had it reasonably well understood until I read Abinadi’s sermon (along with a few other related items) With the information I have at hand, this is the way I see it:

    What makes the most sense to me is that the Father, the Savior, and perhaps others are more offices than individuals. In John 5:19-21, it talks of the Father showing the Son the things that He is to do. What if the Father, in a previous creation, filled the role of the Savior/Son. Upon successfully completing that assignment, he was elevated to the role of the Father for this creation. Thus, an opportunity for the Father to SHOW His Son what is to be done through His own work. This approach does help me to find internal consistancy in the scriptures as they relate to the trinity and the role of Father and Son.

    This approach may blow the hole in the side of some peoples worldview. Sorry….

  66. Hawk, what if I phrase it slightly differently and say:

    Perhaps some will never have the Gospel explained to them in such a way that they will be able to know it – or even believe those who do know it.

    I don’t think any Mormon would argue with that phraseology, but the practical implications are no different than the first phrasing, imo.

    At the most extreme end of the emotional / spiritual spectrum, there are the psychopaths who essentially don’t feel emotions – who, for example, can kill in even vile and horrible ways without remorse. At the other extreme are those who are very sensitive to spiritual and emotional things – so much so that they can’t differentiate at all between the spiritual and the emotional and are easily manipulated. Most of us live somewhere in the middle.

    At the most extreme end of the intellectual spectrum, there are those who lack any brain activity of measurable level – truly vegetative in that regard. At the other extreme are the individuals whose IQ’s are off the charts, who also sometimes cannot live in the real world since everything is theoretical and complex to them. Most of us live somewhere in the middle.

    Perhaps there are more people who cannot understand and believe than we realize. Perhaps part of the darkness of our glasses is that we can’t comprehend the judgment and what it will entail. Perhaps we are commanded not to judge for that very reason. We need to believe WE can know (or at least believe those who know), **and in most cases I think we truly can to an acceptable degree**, but perhaps there are those who simply can’t believe others – for any number of reasons, including terrible abuse at the hands of others. Just as our own ability to believe and/or know motivate our own pursuit of perfection (completeness and wholeness), our uncertainty about others’ ability to believe and/or know can drive our compassion and forgiveness and mercy and meekness.

    This isn’t doctrine in the strict sense, but I think the general idea is symptomatic of the principle embodied in, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

  67. Joe,

    “I genuinely love LDS people and hope they consider me their friend.”

    Friends don’t tell others friends or insinuate they are going to hell simply because they do not accept a certain version of doctrine. And friends also listen to what the other person says and turly seeks to understadn rather than just to make a counterpoint.

    BTW, that line is a standard line from most of the anti-mormons out there.

  68. “That line is a standard line from most of the anti-mormons out there.”

    Jeff, that is true, but we don’t now enough about Joe to know whether or not it is true in his case. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and see where it takes us. If he really is friendly and can follow the rules of common decency and etiquette, we will have gained the friend he wants to be; if not, we’ll ban his butt. *HUGE GRIN*

    Now, let’s all drop this, OK?

  69. #64, #66

    If Ray’s correct that people really can’t know, then how can “we” judge them? And if we can’t judge them then how can “we” feel good about ourselves?

    -ps Ray I agree with you. I don’t think I can know as you know, as you probably can’t know as I know. But that’s ok.

    People are not to be conquered, they’re to be loved and understood.

  70. RE: #65

    “If you wonder if it’s true or not, go to the source. Take a serious scripture study plan, and pray to be gided and iluminated. You will find out, if you truly want an answer.

    End of argument.”

    I remember going round and round with the “pray if you want to know it’s true and if you don’t get an answer you didn’t want to know”. I don’t do that anymore. I decided to say no thanks to guilt, the gift that keeps on giving.

  71. #71 Friends don’t tell others friends or insinuate they are going to hell simply because they do not accept a certain version of doctrine.

    #61 Joe – thanks for your perspective, but I’m in Jeff’s camp on this. If LDS weren’t true/useful to me, I’d probably become Jewish (or maybe UU/agnostic/atheist).

    Believers and non-believers truly are alike. If you remove the technicality of what you are being asked to believe we’re just people, with the same reactions, same feelings.

    It’s un-comfortable to be the “non-believer” when surrounded by assertive believers “who know” they’re right.

    It must be challenging for non-believers who live in areas where assertive believers are the vast majority. Neighborhoods, schools, work, cities, even states.

    We should try to understand and accept. A little less pride and a bit more compassion.

  72. A final thought.

    Many good responses but I didn’t hear anyone say “If it really isn’t true…” I might look at others with different beliefs in a new light. Maybe with less contempt, maybe with more love and sense of equality.

    After all “If it really isn’t true….” then I’m not going to be any more exalted than they.

    -ps Time to get to work, be good to each other.

  73. TJM, that has been implied in some of the comments. See #14, #17 (explicitly stated), #35, #38, #64 (again explicit), #70 (most explicit of all), etc.

    Also, I think you will get fewer people “looking at others with different beliefs in a new light” on this site than most religiously themed blogs, simply because there are very few (if any) people who comment here who look at others with different beliefs as evil or bad or whatever.

  74. TJM – I fully agree with Ray’s response. In fact, the reason I said if it weren’t true I would probably gravitate toward Judaism, UU, agnostic or atheist is due to their non-judgmental nature.

    Now, I realize there are exceptions among any religion’s members, but I have never here nor anywhere else advocated a judgmental perspective toward other faiths. They do much good, and we have much to learn from one another. The LDS I have found who are judgmental are generally pretty provincial. They are not the rule among my acquaintance. OTOH, coming on a Mormon-themed blog to tell your LDS “friends” you (politely) think they are probably going to hell (as Joe said) may be judgmental or kindly meant. Either way, it is not my view and doesn’t have any sway on me. I wish all well who follow the dictates of their conscience.

    I seldom encounter the sort of people to whom you refer on MM. Those people dismissed this site as heretical long ago.

  75. I know many who have changed from believing it is true to “discovering” that it isn’t true. They virtually ALL claim they are happier with their “discovery” that it isn’t true. I haven’t known of any who then decided to become immoral people who did as Neal suggested he would “pretty much go down the tubes as far as I could without losing my family”.

    I suspect that Neal may have been speaking tongue-in-cheek.
    If either fear of punishment, or desire for reward are really what motivates members to “believe” and correspondingly behave like decent people, and without the fear of punishment or possiblity of reward they would truly change their behavior to become dispicable people, that is truly frightening.

    If we as a people are so wicked in our nature that our religion has to coerce and manipulate us (by threats or promises of reward) to treat behave decently, then that doesn’t speak well of us at all.

    If the Church isn’t true, then I’ll still be fat. I’ll still love my wife, I’ll still love my children. I’ll still work. I’ll still reach out and help others when I can. If the church isn’t true, I would hope it wouldn’t change very much of anything for anyone.

  76. Hawk,

    If you think that Judiasm is non-judgemental, you’ve never had a Jewish Mother or a Jewish family.

    Imagine this dialogue:

    Sadie: My son, the lawyer works for one of the most famous law firms in the country. Tell me, Elsie, about your son?
    Elsie: My Son is a Doctor.
    Sadie: Oh, is he????
    Elsie: Yes, he works in an inner city hospital and volunteers at the free clinic each week.
    Sadie: Oh, (with a look of concern) I am so sorry to hear that. But, as long as he’s happy……

    Jewish Mothers expect their sons (especially) to do well. They expect their daugthers to marry well. Remember, I can say this, I am Jewish. No flames, pelase.

  77. #71 Jeff wrote: “Friends don’t tell others friends or insinuate they are going to hell simply because they do not accept a certain version of doctrine”

    Sure they do. We do it as Mormons, we just don’t use the word “hell”. We send missionaries out and invite them to join us on our trip to the Celestial Kingdom, which is the highest heaven, and the only way to get there is to accept our version of doctrine. If you don’t, accept this, get baptized by someoone with authority, etc. . . . you won’t get this degree of glory.

    That isn’t really a very different message to the non-LDS folks than confining them to hell. In their minds there is one “celestial” place, and if we say they can’t get there, then the option is “non-celestial.” We may feel we are saying something different than that, but that is often “What They Hear”. Just like you obviously “Heard” a different message than Joe thought he was delivering.

    This is similar to Ray’s cafeteria mormon thread. Joe was warning you not to eat the poison. You didn’t see it as poison, but as delicious and nutritious, while you see what he is eating as poison. It might just be that the two of you survive by very different diets, and have very different needs. What is satisfying and useful to one of you, might be useless and unsatisfying to others.

    My daughter, for example loves salads and can make a lovely meal of a salad. I, on the other hand, consider a salad to be only a “teaser” served before the food comes, and utterly useless on its own. Salad isn’t so much food as it is the promise that food will be coming later. Yet my daughter eats a salad, feels satisfied and goes to work out in the gym. I eat a salad and walk away hungry, desperately needing food. It just doesn’t work the same for the two of us. We’ve come to accept that, and get along just fine, but there were times when I would insist she eat a little more meat and she would scold me for not eating my rabbit food. We were both trying to show love, but it was frustrating to both of us at times.

  78. Remember, I can say this, I am Jewish. No flames, pelase.

    Haha. So Jeff, are you now giving license to all Mormons, from Packer to Toscano, to make whatever generalizations about Mormons, however negative, and you will not get up in a tizzy over it, because they can say “I am Mormon”? Just wondering how those rules work for you. 😉

  79. “You didn’t see it as poison, but as delicious and nutritious, while you see what he is eating as poison.”

    Andrew, this is where you went wrong. I don’t see what Joe is eating as poison at all. To follow the analogy, he can live off of what eats and be perfectly fine. We invite people to feast at the Lord’s table and have a balanced diet from all the food groups. If folks are not interested, we tell them thanks and move on. I’ve never heard or said to anyone that they will go to this place or not go to the other place.

    You can have a partial meal or a full meal, it is all up to that person. We do not condemn those who eat less.

    “If you don’t, accept this, get baptized by someone with authority, etc. . . . you won’t get this degree of glory.’

    It might be true, but I’ve never heard it thrown up in someone’s face like that.

  80. Clay,

    “Haha. So Jeff, are you now giving license to all Mormons, from Packer to Toscano, to make whatever generalizations about Mormons, however negative, and you will not get up in a tizzy over it, because they can say “I am Mormon”?’

    And, I would stop them???? 🙂

  81. I suppose I should have qualified. Jewish folks are not that judgmental of Mormons. Plus, I love yiddish. And I’ve got the nose for it.

  82. I tend to agree with Joe’s perspective here. We have all been taught that our church is “The One True Church” so, even if you don’t say, “So You Are Wrong” that is the message others hear.

    We have probably all heard the story of the mirror on the wall that was suspended by multple nails holding it up, but when the last nail came out, it crashed to the floor and broke. Christ’s church was the mirror. When His apostles died the church fell apart. Various people came in picking up one piece here or there, but it was not until Joseph Smith’s time that the Lord restored the fullness of the gospel, and we have the complete picture now. Others are left with only the individual pieces. We proudly tell this story (or a similar one about a glass table with multple legs, etc.) and feel good about ourselves for being in the one true restored church. But for us to take the position that we are the ONE TRUE church means that the others either aren’t true or are less true. That is not a message of acceptance and love. It is perceived as exclusionary and even hateful by some.

    And, it doesn’t have to be “thrown in someone’s face” overtly for the message received to be exactly the same. We all know many examples when people say one thing, but mean something MORE than what they said. An example of this would be:

    “The Prophet might not be right on this issue . . . ” will set off alarm bells in the heads of most members. The person isn’t saying the Prophet ISN’T right, the person isn’t even saying he thinks the Prophet isn’t right. He is saying he MIGHT not be right (which isn’t necessarily even saying that his is WRONG), but few members of the Church would take it that way. They would assume the person is anti-Mormon or “has an issue” or whatever, even though that clearly cannot be inferred from those few words.

    We ALL hear more or less than other people say. We ALL try to figure out what the “meaning” is behind someone else’s statement.

    And, Jeff, your statement in #71:
    “Friends don’t tell others friends or insinuate they are going to hell simply because they do not accept a certain version of doctrine. And friends also listen to what the other person says and turly seeks to understadn rather than just to make a counterpoint.” “BTW, that line is a standard line from most of the anti-mormons out there.”

    Particularly with the “BTW…” statement you could certainly be taken as someone attempting to “make a counterpoint” rahter than seeking to truly understand.

    Communication is an extremely difficult process. My favorite statement about communication came from a former Relief Society President friend of mine when she said: “The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it took place.”

  83. Joe, I am truly sorry you experienced that. It is not what I’ve seen so it’s not typical of my experience. I have sibs who have left the church, and they have always been treated with respect and care. Half my current ward are converts or reactivates. I am sorry if those individuals are judgmental or unwelcoming. Hopefully, they will mature in their ability to live the gospel. Hopefully we all will.

  84. Joe, You are 100% correct that leaving the Church can be traumatic, and members can have a hard time not judging those who do. It is natural, but it is wrong, nonetheless. I sincerely hope your family situation can heal with time.

    I also am appalled that someone would use “hateful looks” if someone else does not take the sacrament. I have never seen such a reaction by anyone, ever, in all my years in the Church, so I have a hard time envisioning it. That is true particularly in wards or branches where someone is not known – is a visitor. Someone not taking the sacrament wouldn’t cause a batted eye 99.9% of the time. Generally, everyone simply would assume you either were fasting or were not a member.

    I have to assume you were attending a ward where people knew you – where there were hard feelings that pre-dated the sacrament situation. If so, shame on them for not being forgiving. There is little that festers and embitters more than the inability to forgive.

  85. Joe,

    “He said members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are ready to welcome “the less active, the offended, the critical, the transgressor” into fellowship.” Do you think this might indicate there is a problem with Mormons being overly critical of people that have left? I do.”

    I think president Monson said “we welcome them,” not we crucify them. I really don’t see how that indicates a problem being overly critical. Can you explain that to me?

    Andrew, #91, “Particularly with the “BTW…” statement you could certainly be taken as someone attempting to “make a counterpoint” rather than seeking to truly understand.”

    I was simply stating a fact that that is an oft used phrase by that group. I think I understand where Joe is coming from completely. I wasn’t saying he, personally, is an Anti-mormon, but I was addressing that statement.

  86. It is a silly question.

    By this I do not denigrate those who have thought it. Who hasn’t? I know I have sometimes thought about it.

    What happens for me though is after thinking about it for awhile I realize that I am asking the wrong question.

    The real question is: “Is it true?”

    The answer to that question establishes a course of action in response.

    The question: “What if it isn’t true?” only generates meaningless angst and speculation.

  87. Joe, I would tell you two things;

    1. The church has been welcoming of all members, past and present back to fellowship since Joseph Smith organized the Church. If you examine General Conference talk, you will read a common theme of welcoming back throughout our history.

    Second, if I base your attitude to the members on some of the things you’ve written here, a little introspection is in order. Not just about how you think the members view you, but on how you view them. Just some friendly advice. 🙂

  88. Joe,

    “It seems whenever someone leaves the church and begins speaking out against some of its teachings the members take it as a personal attack.”

    Joe, People, former members and never members are free to express their opinions about our doctrines, what we teach, how we treat others, etc. What people like me take as a personal attack is where we are told we are wrong, going to hell or where our beliefs are misrepresented. In fact, it is really the 3rd point that I have an issue with. I have had many people insist that LDS teach a certain thing when we do not.

    “I just attended an LDS funeral of a family friend and you can’t imagine how hard it was for me.”

    I have always thought that LDS funerals were the most uplifting and positive events associated with death. I wish all funerals could be so positive. If you really understand our doctrine well, I don’t know what you would be surprised at, those quotes were pretty standard. You know our doctrine of eternal marriage, I would hope that any LDS couple not married in the Temple would work toward receiving that blessing.

    “The bible teaches that its not about what “you” do, but what Christ “already did”. None of us are worthy, nor will we ever be. That is what the *Gift of Grace* is all about.”

    You will get no argument on these points from any of us. We cannot “work our way to heaven.” However, the Savior also said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” I, like most Latter-day Saints, am trying to do that so I may live with Him again because no unclean thing can enter the presence of God. We must receive forgiven for our sins because we commit them on a regular basis.

    Again, your Ephesian quote, which is a great one, is still a proof text to your point. The scriptures do not represent that viewpoint when viewed in their totality. of course, that is my opinion.

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