Trying to Understand My Friends Who Didn’t Leave the Faith

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Here is a modified excerpt from a 60-page writing that I made for close friends and family members when I decided to leave the church a few months ago. It was my attempt at helping them understand my view. I think most of them didn’t bother reading it. I wasn’t looking forward to the conversations that I would be having with them, but I was surprised to find myself not having those conversations.

Today’s guest post is by Michael. In the spirit of Mormon Stories, he was invited to share his experience.

I thought the people that believed in the church and loved me most in the would have at least tried to “save my soul.” I would have done it for them, had the roles been reversed. Although, it would have led me to the place where I am now, which may be the underlying (perhaps subconscious) reason why they don’t wish to go there.

—————

If someone told me three years ago that I would be where I am now, I would have never believed them. And yet, here I am. A few years ago, I decided that I should probably learn more about church history. Not out of pure interest, but more out of duty. I heard that the book “Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling” was written by a member of the church, but didn’t give the usual sanitized version of history that is given in Sunday School. I was intrigued.

I read the book. It was slow going, but I finished it. More than any of the strange practices or weird events, the thing that bugged me the most was Joseph Smith himself. I couldn’t place it at first, but I soon realized that I didn’t really like Joseph as a person. I felt kind of guilty about that because we have been raised, and it has been ingrained in us, to love Joseph and the other men of the restoration. My feelings of guilt were lessened a bit when I found out that I was definitely not the only one that felt that way. There were many others in the church that felt the same way. In fact, my dad bought a video that features a question and answer session with the author and even he admits that, by the time he was done with his research and writing, he did not like Joseph Smith either.

When I finished with the book, it made me wonder: Maybe there was a reason why things were not sitting right with me and others. The Joseph we had been taught about growing up was not the real Joseph, so who was. Also, I wondered: If this book was written by a member, then how much of a positive slant is he putting on things? That’s when my journey really began. There are so many differing and conflicting accounts out there that I sometimes felt like a detective, trying to piece together what most made sense to me.

As I said above, I went searching into church history as a kind of church duty. I felt that I ought to take a look into it. I thought that I would search things out and find that history would vindicate the church and the prophet. I believed (and believe) that the truth does not fear investigation and the facts would be overwhelmingly in favor of the church. I found the opposite to be the case. This mostly surprised me because of my father.

He is well versed in church history, and I think I trusted heavily in his ability to interpret events. Sometimes, when I would find out something new, I would ask him, “Doesn’t this bother you?!?” He wouldn’t answer. At times I wondered why I was the only one who was bothered by some of the things I was finding. I wondered if I was the only crazy one or the only one who wasn’t. I couldn’t understand why, when I showed them a claim of the church or Joseph Smith and then showed them how that claim was in fact false, they didn’t seem to care. Well, I found out some interesting things related to that. Although most of the close people around me did not seem to want to face any of this stuff, I found out that I was not alone. Besides a number of people that I know that don’t believe, but are hanging on for various other reasons (family, friends, structure, etc.), there are many, many people leaving the church every year. It always helps a person fell less crazy when you know there are others making hard decisions like you.

The other thing that made me understand the situation better, was something told to me by a friend. I mentioned to him that I could not understand why these things bugged me and no one else seemed to care. He said, “Ok, tell me something that bugs you.” So for the 20th time or so, I mentioned that Joseph Smith claimed to translate the Book of Abraham from Egyptian papyri. A decade after Joseph died, the Egyptian language was deciphered from the Rosetta Stone. Reading the papyri, it does not say what Joseph claims it said. When I gave him that one example, he went on to say that most people don’t think as much as I do, so they don’t let it bother them. Adding to that, he said, “Plus, it’s the Book of Abraham. Who cares about the Book of Abraham?” And then he ended, mentioning that some people will stay in for the sake of loyalty–they are Mormon and will always be Mormon.

Those are ideas that had never really entered my mind. It had never really occurred to me that even if the facts were against the church, people would still remain in it. I was not sure which answer he gave me that bugged me the most. If he only knew how much the Book of Abraham feeds into his own belief system. How could he say, “Who cares about the Book of Abraham?” I mean, the teachings exclusive to Mormonism don’t come from the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon was written in such a way that it virtually does not stray from biblical teachings. There is little or nothing new in the doctrine from the Book of Mormon. It is the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price that set Mormon theology apart from “regular” Christian theology.

These words of indifference, of not caring if it is true in the literal sense are so foreign to me. I first heard them from my best friend a few years ago, before I had ever expressed any doubts. As we passed by the house of a neighbor that had left the church after studying church history, he said, “I don’t understand Bro. So-and-So. I mean, even if I didn’t think the church was true, I wouldn’t leave it.” At that point, I blurted out a very loud, “WHAT?!? Are you serious?” He was. My other best friend who was also there that night is the one I mentioned in the above paragraph, who also doesn’t care about the church being true in any literal sense. Another close friend, for whom I was the best man at his temple wedding, wrote me an email when he found out that I had left the church. It was not what I expected. He congratulated me on doing what he said he never had the courage to do.

Perhaps the most painful response was from my girlfriend. She told me she was proud of me and for what I was doing. She started calling me Winston (the main character from 1984, who rebels against Big Brother). It shocked me that she would say such a thing that seemed so telling to me, and it saddened me when she said she wouldn’t be joining me. In HER OWN ANALOGY she chose to love Big Brother.

These people that have been such a large part of my life (three of the four I have known since we were children) now feel like strangers to me. Their way of thinking on this matter has never been an option for me. I have always considered such choices to be wrong, even in the best-case scenario, and in a worst-case scenario, downright evil. Although I don’t consider this a worst-case scenario, I am still left baffled that such good people would choose such a path. It would bother me less if they hadn’t all served missions and didn’t plan on teaching the rising generation that these beliefs are true. If they stand where they do, why are they passing the information on as truth? I am still working on the answer to that one. In the mean time, for the sake of preserving respect for my loved ones, I am forced to concede that making the choice to believe in something that you don’t truly think is reality, may not be as evil as I thought…

Comments

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Comments 806

  1. Dear Guest,

    Thank you for your post. It is interesting. I am a convert myself so my personal journey was the opposite of yours. I found Rough Stone Rolling to be the best biography of the Prophet ever! It made him alive and real to me in ways that the Sunday School manual could never do. I relate more to him now than ever.

    You seem surprised that some of your friends would remain members even though their faith is limited due to cultural and family reasons. However, there are hundreds of millions of people that do the same thing around the world in the Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist, and other religions. I was raised in the Catholic religion and that is a normal pattern there.

    You ask why someone would pass along the teachings and traditions to their children when they did not fully believe it. I think the answer is because the teachings still provide the best moral foundation for their children. What else would you teach them? To be selfish and non-trusting in everything they do?

    There is an old bit of wisdom that states you don’t quit your current job until you have a new job lined up. I think the same applies with your life philosophy or religion. Now that you have discarded Mormonism, what are you going to replace it with? You still have to have some philosophy by which you live your life and raise your children. You are going to discover that there is no one philosophy or tradition that has a handle on every question about life.

    You have decided that Mormonism is not for you but that is the only tradition you have known. You are discarding it because it did not measure up to the expectations you have built up in your mind. The Prophet Joseph Smith was not the man you thought he was. And I am sure the Saviour will turn out to not be the way you think he is even though He is perfect. Part of the journey of life is learning to live in an imperfect world with imperfect people and still find truth within it.

    I don’t want to be disparaging or disrespectful but it seems by the way you presented your story that you are still young. I think you will discover that the alternatives you face in selecting a life philosophy are all going to be flawed and one day when you are older you will discover that the truths taught by Mormonism turn out to be eternal truths that will be revealed to you through your life experiences. Of course, that is dependent upon you maintaining the same enthusiasm and same hunger for truth you exhibit in your post above. If you allow that hunger for truth to diminish or if you weary of the searching, you will become just one of those lemmings that exist around the world that accept the traditions of their fathers solely because it is the easiest route to take in life.

  2. guest, i also am a convert and would support much of what is said by michael in #1. i was an active, practicing catholic until age 35, and i came to find that my priorities were not in line with church teachings. (they weren’t far off from what most american catholics practice, but that is another discussion.) i did not have, as you did, a profound break between what i believed and what i later found to be true. i do empathize with your shock and your sense of betrayal, however. in your case, something whole was broken. in my case, it was built from scratch with more information than you had.

    i was not raised believing, for example, that joseph was to be loved and revered. i heard more (not a lot really, but certainly more) about what a charlatan he was. so in my reading, i was pleasantly surprised, not so much by the man, really, but by his mission and what he left behind. he never had been a hero to me, and it isn’t necessary to me that he be one. he was an imperfect human, as we all are, and he was given a divine task.

    the mormon umbrella is very broad. there are overarching principles that are non-negotiable. however there is also room for people who continue faithfully to learn and question. i hope you can find a way to stay. very little in this world is black and white. humans are complex, institutions are complicated, relationships can be messy. i applaud your loyalty, i applaud your desire to be knowledgeable about the principles you embrace, i applaud your standing up for your convictions. actually, i have little doubt that you’ll land on your feet.

  3. The question of belief and unbelief has been strong in my life. The question of why I believe and why I don’t believe is one that I have often examined. I can’t really say that I know everything there is to know about church history, but I a good deal more that some people.

    To me Joseph Smith, Jr., along Brigham Young and all the other prophets are extremely human figures. Worthy of respect for the fact that they accomplished much despite their flaws. When I am tempted to censure others for being less than perfect, I look to two things in my own life: the things about myself that I hate the most (it’s a long list, even though I have a great number of talents as well), and the things that I really wish I could change about my children, even though I love them and would do anything to protect them and see them grow up happy, healthy and capable of dealing with the world.

    I don’t find anything testimony defying about Joseph’s character flaws–even though I know he had his share. Perhaps it is because I do not expect anything in particular from a prophet other than occasionally speaking with authority from God.

    In the final analysis, it boils down to this, however–it isn’t so much about church history, but about church currency and about events and experiences that I’ve had and cannot rationally deny. As a psychologist I know better than many just how tricky human experience is, but in so many ways that knowledge has made the experiences that I have had so much more enduring and powerful. I have never seen an angel, but I have had experiences that make it impossible for me to deny the reality of God, the Priesthood power, and so I don’t. I can’t say that this has always made it easy to be a good member of the church, nor have I always been particularly ardent in my testimony, but when push comes to shove, and I look back, there are some experiences that are undeniable for me.

    I respect everyone’s decision to follow the dictates of their conscience, and if that means that they truly feel that they must leave the church to feel most comfortable, then I will not argue. I ultimately cannot know the subjective experiences and inspirations that anyone else has had without divine intervention, and there is rarely a need for me to know these things, so I don’t.

    I will agree…if one is to leave the Church, where will you go? Do not wander aimlessly–have conviction in whatever you do, for conviction, I believe will do you more good in the next life than merely being in the ‘correct’ church. I strongly suspect that those who die as Islamic fundamentalists, firm in their belief that they serve Allah, will be counted as more righteous than those who do nothing of conviction at all to serve God or man. So find some faith that you can have, be it in this church or another, and let that conviction mean something to you. A life of complacency, I’m convinced, is one of the surest paths to barring oneself from heaven.

  4. Michael, I think a lot of it depends on the approach you take. On my mission we had the Hill Cumorah Pageant. Part of the materials had a long section on the human frailties of Joseph Smith, starting with a couple sermons of his where he talked about them, a number of stories, and of course references to the D&C where God rebukes him from time to time. The point made was that just as we have our own frailties and just as the Old Testament stories are human stories, so was Joseph Smith’s. Of course I’ve known people who dropped Christianity upon reading the Old Testament.

    As for the Book of Abraham, you are right. It is a temple text, and it is consistent with a number of similar texts. If you went to the Ramses II exhibit when it toured you were probably struck by many of the elements of the Egyptian endowment (though walking between rooms or having the lighting change is no where near as impressive as traveling by boat for transitions). But, the real question that you failed to ask is how does a temple text come out of a temple text?

    You can find what you are trying to look for, which can leave you mired. I have no doubts that there are mists of darkness and that if we do not hold to the iron rod we will end up wandering in strange paths and be lost. But I also believe in God and the Spirit, and that they work with us in spite of imperfections rather than requiring that we become perfect first.

  5. When you say you “left the church”, does that mean you simply stopped showing up or that you wrote a letter asking to be removed from the rolls? I have met many people that did the former but very few were really willing to actually leave the church.

    For myself, a convert at the age of 33, I find the inconsistencies much less dramatic than in any other faith I have looked into. I am happy with it, and that is what really counts. As Robert Duvall’s character in “Second Hand Lions” said, “find something to believe in, even if it isn’t true”.

  6. I really don’t understand why knowing the imperfections of Joseph Smith is such a deal breaker with faith. Reading about Joseph Smith is like reading the Old Testament prophets who themselves were no angels of perfection. With all his faults he is still my hero. When I read Joseph Smith’s history, especially like “Rough Stone Rolling,” I see him as passionate, resolute, kind, intelligent, searching, spiritual, brave, humble for his faults, self-conscious, life affirming, and altogether a whole human. He is a rough stone rolling that I can emulate in my own life if for no other reason than to try and overcome the faults he couldn’t (or at least that historians won’t let him get over).

    With that said, I will say that I find your leaving the LDS Church because you no longer believe in it much more moral than those who stay within. They are spiritual liars and wolves in sheep clothing, and I am not afraid to say that. That is because I DO believe in its theology, authority, scriptures, divinity and Truth! My problem isn’t for those who have some faith and some doubts and are seeking for greater faith. My problem is for those who don’t believe, aren’t seeking to believe, and simply go through the motions. They make me very angry and I feel are getting in the way of blessings and the mission of Mormonism. My fear has never been that the LDS Church will lose members, but that its members will lose faith. I lost the quote (and if anyone can find it for me I would be very thankful), but a Brigham Young quote influenced me greatly. He said, paraphrasing from memory, he would rather be the last or among a handful to believe than have a huge number of members who don’t believe.

  7. My battle has always been with my own desires to sin and a skeptical mind. I agree with those above who say if you leave one philosophy or religion, have something else prepared that’s better. I’m a lot more sure that Christ lived and was resurrected than I am that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and yet, the Mormon version of Christianity makes more sense to me than any other. Thus, I stay.

    I’m a lot more disappointed in my own sins than Joseph’s or anyone else’s.

  8. I pretty much agree with the comments that have been made. It’s true, and in my opinion unfortunate, that Joseph Smith is often portrayed in the church as some sort of holy figure. He wasn’t; he was very human. But when I read “Rough Stone Rolling” (and even Fawn Brodie’s book) I read about a man whom God was using for a purpose that went far beyond his weaknesses. Just as the Bible doesn’t flinch from the frailties of its prophets (Noah, David and Peter comes to mind first), so we shouldn’t hesitate to accept the fact that Joseph Smith was a human being.

    I’m reminded at the moment of the film “Gandhi.” In my opinion, it was one of the most overrated films of all time. It portrayed Gandhi as almost divine, more perfect than Jesus himself. I had a hard time relating to such a character. In reality, Gandhi was far from perfect; among other things, the way he treated women isn’t to be emulated. But he also left behind quite a legacy, one that has inspired millions to work for peace. (The same can be said of Martin Luther King.) I see Joseph Smith in much the same way. When he’s presented as close to perfect (as some church-approved materials do), I can’t relate to him. But when I read about his failures (and they were many), I am grateful for what he brought to humankind.

    For what it’s worth, like some of the others posting here I too am an adult convert to the church, so I wasn’t raised with the idea that if the church isn’t perfect it must not be true.

  9. Ellen #2–“the mormon umbrella is very broad.”

    Jettboy#6–“I will say that I find your leaving the LDS Church because you no longer believe in it much more moral than those who stay within. They are spiritual liars and wolves in sheep clothing, and I am not afraid to say that.”

    Maybe the umbrella isn’t so broad after all. For some, we must come for their right reasons or not at all.

    I can only echo the words of my college golf coach who, as a bishop, said he was glad to see the prostitute at church as well as the drug addict. I assume he also meant those who, at any moment in time, found themselves not believing.

  10. Faith is the prerequisite to membership, even if starting more or less with a grain of salt. Why that is so hard to understand by those who wish to remain a member, but not seek more faith and repentance, is a mystery to me. H.C., if you want to believe than that is fine. If you no longer believe and simply remain a member because of family devotion and tradition, then there is a problem. Mormonism isn’t just a culture, it is a Faith.

  11. I think it is unfair to expect prophets to be more than any of us who are trying to be good people. Who would ever want to be a prophet? The Lord did say that He will use the weak things of the world to thrash the nations, so why do we expect some superhero to emerge when the Lord said they will be weak?

    Religion is similar to marriage in that you get what you put into it. If you are deeply struggling with Joseph Smith then put the Lord to the test. Start focusing on the positive and ask the Lord to help you understand your struggles. Don’t just focus on the negative aspects or it will create a situation where you feel you cannot tolerate hardly anything. In a relationship if you focus on all the negatives, soon you will feel that it is not worth being in it and want to be out of it. You then end up missing all the happiness and joy that could have come by changing your focus. Life is messy and complicated. I believe part of this life involves feeling betrayed. I don’t know why, but I really think every single one of us will experience what feels like betrayal. Whether it is real or perceived doesn’t matter. I believe there has to be purpose in this, even though I don’t know exactly what it is.

    Don’t allow what is written about Joseph Smith to dictate your future. Expect God to answer your questions and your struggles. I don’t rely on people to tell me what to do about things that affect my life so deeply. Only God knows me, even better than I do, so He is the only one who can really give me what I need to know. I have never had an answer in relation to Joseph Smith telling me one way or another about him, BUT I have had answers about many other things and that does tell me that something is right about where I am and what I am doing. I think part of the plan is that it is supposed to be imperfect and we are supposed to have to deal with hypocrites in the church and with more questions than answers. Maybe that is WHY we are here, to deal with all the inconsistencies, the questions and the struggles. Remember that faith is in God, not in Joseph Smith. If the Lord had come down Himself and restored the church perfectly with no drama or anything to question then I bet people would be saying, that was too perfect, nothing can be that perfect so how can it be true? There must be something we aren’t being told, etc. If a human is involved, expect human behaviors and mistakes…..lots of them. I really think we are supposed to be focused on our own weaknessess, not others, and we should be grateful that we weren’t asked to live the life that Joseph Smith was asked to live. There is something to be said for not judging others and I think we should take it more to heart than we do.

  12. Jettboy:

    “If you no longer believe and simply remain a member because of family devotion and tradition, then there is a problem.”

    There are problems with all of us. You choose to believe that a lack of faith is a greater sin that other types of sin, a sin so great that the faithless should not be allowed entrance to church. I just have a hard time imagining God saying, “You don’t believe. Don’t come to church.” To me it is more likely that he would say, “You don’t believe. You need to come to church.”

  13. Jettboy, please read Elder Wirthlin’s “Concern for the One”.

    I am happy and find great joy in the LDS Church. I love the grand cosmology, and I love the focus on family and godliness. The culture and lay leadership cause many problems on a regular basis, but without it the kind of individual growth in this life that it can foster so well would be limited greatly.

    I personally have NO problem with anyone being part of our community – no matter what they are willing to live and not live, believe and not believe. “Enduring to the end” means little if it’s only possible for those who have the least to endure. Jesus spent most of his time among those the rest of society rejected, and I wish desperately that we could learn to separate the requirements for attendance with us in our meetings (almost NONE), for baptism into the Church (some, but not a whole lot), for temple attendance (quite a few more, but still not all that many – and mostly focused on effort and desire to believe) and for organizational leadership (the most strict of all, generally). Too many of our members expect all who walk through our doors to be willing to commit to leadership or temple standards, and that simply isn’t Christ-like, imo.

    As to Joseph, I sincerely, deeply, passionately hope that my life is never examined like his is. I don’t hold him up on any pedestal, even as I accept him as a Prophet and a great man. I think he was greatly flawed, as well, but I can’t think of a single person throughout history who had a massive impact on history who wasn’t greatly flawed – except Jesus, himself. I mean that; I have taught history, and it appears that it requires a deeply conflicted, complex, flawed personality and character for someone to have a far-reaching and long-lasting effect on history. A sanitized Joseph probably couldn’t have done what he did – and I really love the end result of what he did (even as I have to acknowledge the lingering fruits of the apostasy even within the Church). Since the Book of Mormon itself talks about that issue (the lingering effects of the apostasy within the Church itself in the last days), and since Joseph is the most chastised person in the entire D&C (and it’s not even close), I find it hard to condemn Joseph for being what I believe he had to be to have the effect he had.

  14. Guest: I have the same questions you do. It bothers me the way many members don’t want to know the details of Joseph’s life or the details of the true history of the church for fear that it will throw a monkey wrench in their belief systems, and so some bury their heads in the sand and choose to avoid the history of the church. I used to think it was wrong to read anything about church history that was not in a manual published by the church. But I decided that I did not believe that god would frown upon someone seeking greater knowledge about the history of the church. I also don’t understand the logic of those who know about the true history but are willing to dismiss it as the imperfections of men. JS and BY made mistakes that went beyond being merely human, but were great enough, in my opinion, to really question why god would call them and/or why god would not correct them more often or in a stronger fashion. So in response to your post I would say, despite the pain and loneliness of the path you are on (this seems like a fair assumption bc based on your post it seems a great deal of your social life involved members of the church), continue to think for yourself and I wish you luck in determining what direction you want to go in. If you decide that you want to go back to the church, I wish you the best. Whatever you do, I think it needs to be what you feel is right, not a decision based on what your family or friends think, and it sounds like you are doing just that.

    All who posted: I don’t think Guest wanted advice on how to regain his testimony, or comments that believing in mormonism is better than believing in nothing. Clearly, Guest wants to believe in something but believing in mormonism goes against what he feels is right. I don’t think it’s fair to say, well, it’s better than nothing. He is seeking truth, not the most convenient way to live. Whatever he finds, or whatever he decides is best for him, I hope it is based on more than the weak idea that mormonism has more to offer than any alternative. I hope wherever he lands it is based on a strong belief that it is best for him so he can be true to himself. I recognize that some posted similar views to what I am trying to say here.

    Michael, you said “You ask why someone would pass along the teachings and traditions to their children when they did not fully believe it. I think the answer is because the teachings still provide the best moral foundation for their children. What else would you teach them? To be selfish and non-trusting in everything they do?” I find your assumption insulting to Guest. Why do you couch the alternative to mormon moral foundations as “selfish and non-trusting”? Clearly, Guest is concerned with living his life in a morally honest way. I think it is ignorant and rude to categorize the alternative to the moral mormon foundation as selfish and non-trusting. There are plenty of non-selfish and trusting belief systems in the world outside of mormonism. And who says mormon teachings provide “the best” moral foundation? Clearly, Guest doesn’t agree or he wouldn’t be considering leaving.

  15. Dear Guest,
    Maybe the reason many of us stay with the Church is we can’t find any thing better. For me, the teachings of the Church explain the past, give meaning and purpose to the present and give hope for the future in a way that no other does. When my brother told me he was leaving the Church, I asked him what he was going to replace it with. He didn’t have an answer. I would be interested to know what you have replaced the Church with because if it’s better than what I’ve got now, I wouldn’t be afraid to switch. Until then, I’m sticking with what I’ve got, warts and all!
    Alan

  16. I disagree with the argument that one has to replace the LDS belief system before one can let it go. Perhaps the best way to discover one’s belief system is to dismiss what you don’t agree with, and start from scratch. I think to truly discover what works for each individual may require an attempt at a clean slate. I say attempt because it is impossible to truly wash away all experiences and former beliefs, in my opinion.

    By the way, I sent my previous post before seeing Ray’s. If I were a believer in JS and BY as prophets, I would definitely adopt the position Ray presented: it takes great men to lead and to change the world and great men seem to be tied to great flaws. That is a logical view and one history certainly supports and one I can respect, even if I disagree with respect to JS and BY.

  17. Hello everyone,

    I’m the guy who wrote the article for this week. Many of you have mentioned that you should not base your decisions on other peoples’ strengths and weaknesses and such. I agree. As I said at the beginning, this comes from a much larger body of writing, but I just chose a small section to share.

    Ever since I was a child, I have doubted the existence of God. I believed in Santa and I believed in God and Jesus Christ. They were figures that I had been taught about by my elders and I had no reason to doubt their existence. Santa’s influence was a bit more concrete for a little child, but I believed in both. One day, I realized the similarity between God and Santa. It was in the song that says the words: “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.” I realized at that moment that those were powers that God had, not man. Eventually, I decided that God must give Santa his magical powers. But, one day in primary, a kid asked the teacher about magic and our teacher said that we don’t believe in magic in this church. That was a shock to my system. I knew that Santa worked by magic. At that point, I realized that it was either Santa or God. It couldn’t be both. I delayed in asking my parents. I think I was scared of what the answer would be and scared of what my parents’ reaction would be (thinking that they believed in both). I finally asked about it and they told me Santa wasn’t real. My father tells me that I was devastated by the news. At that point, my greater concern was answered, but it left me wondering when they would tell me the same thing about God.

    I went on with my life, bearing little kid testimonies and getting baptized and such, but there was always room in the back of my mind that none of it was true. I moved on into my teen years and started to go to firesides. I usually agreed with the principles taught, but I was always stuck at the end of talks. Almost without fail, someone would end with these words, “Now I know we have all felt the spirit tonight…” At those moments, I would get a confused look on my face and literally look around the chapel to see if anyone else was confused by that statement. I never did. Was something wrong with me? Why did everyone else seem to feel these special things that I didn’t feel?

    Anyway, those are just a couple of examples of the difficulties that the church has caused in my life. I never believed because of special feelings that I have gotten. As Arthur said in his comment above, I stayed because it “made more sense to me than any other.” But that just meant to me that either this church is true, or none is.

    I never thought the church was a good influence in my life. A lot of the standards and beliefs I would keep without it, because they just made logical sense to me, but a few of them made no logical sense to me and I always felt guilty about them. I felt embarrassed that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin, but I was like, “Well, if God says it is, I guess it is.” I always felt embarrassed about how only men have the priesthood and how women pledge obedience to the men and such, but I would say, “Well, I guess that’s just the order of heaven.” I was always embarrassed about blacks and the priesthood, but as Brigham Young had said, it was the “Law of God” on the matter, so who was I to argue? etc. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy in the church, but I am happy out of the church. It was not the church that brought me happiness. And, in my experience, it had brought me more pain, alienation, embarrassment, and hours and hours and HOURS of crying and prayer than anything else in my life.

  18. In an effort to play second hand interlocuter for the non-believing crowd, there is a point I think I would like to clear up. While there are certain lines of conduct that even a Prophet cannot/should not pass to recieve our acceptance, I have no problem with the idea the Joseph Smith or any of his successors were imperfect. No one expects him to be perfect, but we do find him unbelievable for a variety of reasons. Generally when we are giving a pass to Joseph Smith or other leaders, as imperfect men, we are addressing polygamy or the Priesthood Ban, in some aspects. The first and stil major detail that caused me to disbelieve Joseph Smith was over a matter that I find completely unoffensive. It has to do with his superstitious employment of seer stones in searching for buried treasure, including the on record explanations for why the treasure was never obtained. To me, this practice needs no forgiveness from me, but causes me to distrust Joseph on his other claims. I don’t believe for a second that ancient spirits or visions were leading him to buried treasure. I don’t believe that said spirits were protecting/enchanting/cursing any alleged artifacts, and I don’t believe that the treasures were sinking into the earth. I think that this was a business venture for Joseph Smith, and he either believed that he possesed ability (a possibility which I find unlikely), or that he didn’t but claimed to for the sake of enterprise. The fact that this same seer stone played such a dominant role in most of the early founding events key to Mormonisms claims for legitimacy gives me pause. This stone by all accounts served to assist in translating the plates. It allegedly was used in Joseph’s experiences with Moroni (I realize that the exact details and circumstances are debatable, but I am comfortable believing that it played some role), and may have even been used in conjunction with the three witnesses. From here we can move into other circumstances such as; Zelph, the greek psalter incident (speculative, I know), The Book of Abraham, The Kinderhook plates, and so on. If you take the emotion out of the fact that Emma was treated so poorly, and that some women were taken advantage of (including marriages disrupted), even Polygamy represents some glaring doctrinal inconsistencies and questions. The same can be said for the Priesthood ban, aside from the fact that it was immoral, it really challenges the credibility of men who will unbashedly declare an eternal law in the name of God, from a position of power, which turns out to be just a relic of 18th century “folklore”. So, long story short, everybody is entitled and should develop their own position on their faith. Nevertheless, for those of us who don’t believe, it is not just because we are stubborn, or stuck in an immature tantrum where we take license to be offended at honest mistakes which occured 180 years ago. Often times we just don’t believe because frankly, the story isn’t all that believable. For those of you who feel that inspite of all this, you have had a spiritual manifestation from God, then I think I understand why you choose to believe – and I at least respect that, and occasionally even envy you.

  19. Michael–

    You’ve made your decision based on the study of church history. The Lord never told us to acquire a testimony that way. And like the majority of members who get side tracked by church history you don’t mention any experience seeking a testimony the way the Lord teaches we should.

    We’re given the Book of Mormon as a witness to the truthfulness of the restoration and the calling of Joseph Smith as the prophet of the last days. The Lord tells us to pray about the Book of Mormon (Moroni 10:4-5). From what you’ve written it appears you have little knowledge, let alone a testimony of the Book of Mormon. You said the Book of Mormon is a rip off of the Bible-that tells me a lot about your level of understanding.

    After reading your post I find it hard to respect the way you left the church and the way others stay in the church, they’re cultural Mormons and like you haven’t paid the price to acquire a testimony the way the Lord teaches. Very sad, and so unnecessary.

    Testimony doesn’t come by studying church history. Testimony comes by earnestly fasting and praying about the Book of Mormon as one studies it. I did, and I know church history well. I’ve been studying it for forty years and I am unaffected by the challenges it poses because of the manifestations of the Holy Ghost regarding the Book of Mormon. In addition, I have continued access to the Lord by prayer and have found the statement in the Book of Mormon to be true where it says:

    5 For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do. (Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 32:5).

    I hope you will reconsider your decision to leave the church until you have put in a sincere effort to acquire a testimony in the way the Lord has taught.

  20. oh boy at comments:

    re 1:

    Michael, you say:

    You ask why someone would pass along the teachings and traditions to their children when they did not fully believe it. I think the answer is because the teachings still provide the best moral foundation for their children. What else would you teach them? To be selfish and non-trusting in everything they do?

    There is an old bit of wisdom that states you don’t quit your current job until you have a new job lined up. I think the same applies with your life philosophy or religion. Now that you have discarded Mormonism, what are you going to replace it with? You still have to have some philosophy by which you live your life and raise your children. You are going to discover that there is no one philosophy or tradition that has a handle on every question about life.

    Why would someone who does not believe in the teachings/traditions still believe they are the best moral foundation for their children? Personally, if I don’t agree with the church’s stance on homosexuals, I most certainly will not agree that it is the best moral foundation for them.

    Now, let me caveat. It is possible to pick and choose things. You can still follow the Word of Wisdom and Law of Chastity, for example, and not be Mormon. How is this possible? That is because Mormonism, a religion, is dependent on something more. It is dependent on more than works, but on faith in the theology and in the gospel. So, even if you *act* in accordance to seemingly Mormon commandments, this does not mean you are Mormon unless you accept the Mormon theological underpinnings behind those commandments. For example, you set a dichotomy: if you aren’t mormon, then what are you teaching them? To be selfish and untrusting?

    This is a rather ridiculous false dichotomy. Just because you disaffiliate with the church doesn’t mean your only option has to be to teach selfishness and untrustworthiness. You could theoretically teach your kids every single thing the LDS church believes in, but since you justify it in different ways, it would be completely different. For example, the LDS church says, “Do x, y, z, because this is part of God’s plan.” This doesn’t make x, y, and z only LDS ideas…rather, anyone could come and say, “Do x, y, and z, but because of some different reason…I don’t believe in the LDS church’s reasons for it.”

    You continue your dichotomy with this idea that you need to “replace” Mormonism with something…when in fact, if Guest looks within himself, he already *knows* what philosophy he truly believes in…he has his job lined up. It is a philosophy that, for whatever reason, causes him to be seriously bothered with certain claims the church makes. So, it is EASILY conceivable that he could teach his children some philosophy such as, “If you’re going to practice a religion, believe in it. Study it out. Find truths that are comfortable to you,” and this would match his philosophy — guest just finds that Mormonism fails these tests because they don’t seem like comfortable truths to him.

    As for your final quoted claim…you’re trying to suggest that Guest has unrealistic expectations…and that these will be disproven eventually…he’ll realize that even as the church is imperfect, all churches are. All philosophies are.

    Well, I’d say that this is ok. The problem is that some things presume to be more than they are. The church (and most churches) presume to be more than imperfect. Now, the LDS church gets around this by saying, “The gospel is perfect; the people are not.” But obviously, we have to look and see if this is a convincing truth for an individual. For guest, it is not. It only raises more questions.

    Things will make sense if, however, you cease to look at it in terms of truth. If you abandon a claim that the LDS church is “true,” then you won’t have unrealistic expectations. Then, you can look at it in terms of “the LDS church works for me” or “doesn’t work for me,” or “the LDS church is good” or whatever else.

    But when you divorce truth from the church, you have strange things that happen. The LDS church begins to command less respect. For example…let’s take businesses. I may be enamored of Google and love Google, so I support Google. If I find Google to be imperfect, this is no problem, because Google doesn’t pretend to be perfect. I can easily stay with Google or go to another company (Apple, whatever)…and even though they all are imperfect, none of them *pretends* to be perfect. If you apply the same model to religion, you get rather strange results, I think you’ll find.

  21. re 2:

    Ellen,

    With conversion…you’ve got an interesting conundrum. Why didn’t you stay Catholic, if you are trying to justify a cultural Catholicism? You kind of defeat your argument (but with cause) by your conversion to the church. I’m not saying this is a bad thing…in fact, I commend you on doing what you think felt right. But in the same instance, it justifies Guest’s move. He’s doing what feels right. If cultural religion feels right to others, then they are doing what feels right (so I would caution Guest to become frustrated with his friends who still are in the church, who aren’t bothered by certain issues, etc.,)

    re 3:

    Benjamin,

    I will agree…if one is to leave the Church, where will you go? Do not wander aimlessly–have conviction in whatever you do, for conviction, I believe will do you more good in the next life than merely being in the ‘correct’ church. I strongly suspect that those who die as Islamic fundamentalists, firm in their belief that they serve Allah, will be counted as more righteous than those who do nothing of conviction at all to serve God or man. So find some faith that you can have, be it in this church or another, and let that conviction mean something to you. A life of complacency, I’m convinced, is one of the surest paths to barring oneself from heaven.

    I actually kinda hope you don’t *really* believe this, but then again, at another level, I know you do and I don’t care that you do. I would personally say though that I would hope more people would value those who are searching — even if it appears aimless — rather than those who are quick to assert things as absolutely correct without enough consideration (but even this will be wasted — because everyone will disagree on what is enough consideration, etc.,)

    Personally, I just disagree. I think it’s a false dichotomy to call it a “life of complacency,” but I think a life of cautiousness and reservation is noble in its own way.

  22. @ Jared: I agree that that is not how the church teaches to get a testimony, but I assure you, I have done plenty of prayer and fasting. See my comment #17 for further details.

    @ Cowboy: Exactly! The treasure hunting and the 1826 trial combined with the Book of Abraham alone are by far enough for me to not trust his word. The hundreds of things on top of that are just filler.

    @ Andrew S: Beautifully said.

  23. Jared:

    Please do not forget that the counsel given by Moroni, preceeding his injunction that you “…ask God the Eternal Father in the name of Christ, if these things are not true…”, is that we are to “read these things, if it be wisdom in God that we should read these things,that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts”

    In other words, yes thinking, pondering, studying, all those things you seem to imply as almost innesential, are pre-requisites to prayer and faith. You have been leading the charge with this line of rhetoric for some time, to the point where you are basically critical of any critical evaluation of the Church. Despite the fact that your entire logical schema is often based on circular reasoning, such as in the case of your last post, you often come across as highly self righteous, and to be honest – I have a hard time respecting that.

  24. Btw, I support totally and completely the idea that “we allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, when or what they may”. I believe, at the most fundamental core, integrity to one’s beliefs is the single most important aspect of future judgment – since we are clear that exaltation is not limited to those who are Mormon (or any other part of Christianity) in this life. We are judged by our works, and I interpret that to mean by how consistently we live what we believe and claim to believe.

    As I’ve said previously, I’d rather someone find joy and wonder and edification somewhere else than live a miserable, internally hypocritical life in the Church. I’ll do their temple work for them, just to cover all the bases, and let God make the final decision. 🙂

  25. For me it comes down to this: We all find what we are looking for. One of the overarching life lessons we hopefully learn is to understand what you’re actually looking for and how to know when you have or have not found it.

    Regardless of whether the LDS Church is true or not, regardless of the situation, I think the first thing to do is be completely open and honest with yourself about what you’re really expecting to find. A lot of people have complaints about the Church who just want something to complain about it. My point is that, whatever the true church may be, I won’t just stumble onto a strong relationship with God and Jesus Christ without looking for it. Similarly, I won’t just stumble onto a reason to leave the church without looking for it. What I open my eyes to is what I will eventually find.

  26. re 22 and 17:

    since I’ve been in your shoes before (with some variations…I was simply never convinced…so I never had a kind of “wow, the history is a lot worse than I once thought.” Indeed, a lot of those comments about people who don’t believe but stay in the church really apply to me, because I thought that’s just how it was)…I would say a few things.

    I would say…go where you feel comfortable. I think everyone should do this, and if it leads people to the church, fine. If it leads people away, fine.

    Two, don’t think that you’re starting from scratch or that you have started from scratch. One of the questions I asked was, “What if I believe in all of the practical aspects of the church, but not the spiritual?” And that told me a lot of things. 1) Then I’m not really getting the point of a church, which *is* about the spiritual. 2) I am still ok. Without the spiritual aspects, I am still ok. I’m not getting in trouble with my life. 3) The practical and spiritual aspects can and are divorced. You can be a good person and live a good life without believing. 4) When the practical and spiritual aspects *are* divorced, you can grow more fully. For example, you don’t have to feel guilt because you like x thing about the church but not y thing…because you don’t have to look at the church as a full package deal, like would be expected.

    I would say that to understand your friends who didn’t leave the faith, you have to reevaluate what your view of faith is. Is it something chosen, or is it something that chooses us…that, if all the go well, we keep, or if something happens we can lose (or simply not have). I think faith is an inclination…faith is an inclination to believe. So, for someone who has faith, it’ll make most sense to stay in their churches (keep in mind: people have faith in different churches, of course). It’ll make most sense to believe in a particular solution. But if you don’t have this inclination, you can’t force it. You can’t force the so-called “desire to believe.” As you’ve learned, you’ll just be hurting yourself, because you’ll have questions and doubts and you won’t have that desire or inclination that others have to somehow make it all inconsequential.

    From here, it’s easy to see what makes different people stay. Some have the inclination to believe…and so they do. Others do not, so instead, what seems more readily apparent are the questions, the holes, the doubts. We don’t have a reliable way to force a belief regardless of what the church might say, and in fact, trying to force it will bring chaos and unhappiness to our lives. We’ve got to move on, move past, move forward, move away.

  27. #1 – “What else would you teach them? To be selfish and non-trusting in everything they do?”

    I know this has been addressed already, but this statement is ignorant and unbelievably condescending. How about you teach them to believe in their fellow uman beings? Is that really such a bad alternative to teaching them to believe in a god that supposedly intercedes in our lives if we’re righteous enough to summon him, but lets millions of children suffer horrific atrocities every day, because – what – they’re not righteous enough? My point isn’t to ridicule or demean anyone’s beliefs. I respect the fact that people believe what they believe, but I think it’s only fair to be granted the same respect in return. The absence of mormon or religious belief and teaching is not despair and debauchery. In fact, from a logical standpoint, it makes FAR more sense to teach your children to believe in good things they can measure and experience, as opposed to rely on something written by someone who lived 2000 or 200 years ago. There are unlimited wonderful, uplifting and constructive things one can teach his or her children without ever invoking god or religion.

  28. #23 Cowboy–

    Are you saying, I’m not on your hit parade of favorite Bloggernacle personalities? If so, I accept it and will just say, I hope we can be better friends. Until then I hope we can disagree without being disagreeable.

    Your point about “if it be wisdom in God” is something I’ve thought about but haven’t come up with a solid answer yet.

    I’ve experienced the promise given by Moroni and it seems to me that most if not all will receive an answer, at some level, if sincerely sought for.

    To understand my point about “respect” consider the arrangement God has made with us as though it were a busy deal. He says he will reveal something to us if we will do so and so. If we decide to go about the arrangement in another way and then claim we didn’t get what was owed to us–do we really have a valid complaint? I don’t think so. I don’t think any business person would respect someones claim if they didn’t follow the previsions of the contact. Quid pro quo…

  29. Guest, thanks for this thoughtful post. Concerning JS and the Book of Abraham. I am convinced that JS is both a great deal more and a great deal less than official church history makes him out to be. Same for the BOA and the JS translation. You don’t have to be a great scholar to see that there are times when JS “corrects mistakes” that are not actually mistakes at all, his corrections are based on his own miss-reading of the KJV text. So there is a long list of quirks, oddities, and mistakes in JS textual work. But there are also many moments of delight in his work as well. A personal favorite of mine is how closely he read the psalms and adopted them to the lives and struggles of the early Saints. D&C 121 is a perfect example of a psalm of community lament. Obviously he drew heavily from Ps. 13 & 35 to create this prayer, yet I appreciate how thoughtful and passionate a reader and user of scriptures JS was. He had a vision of a community dedicated to God and willing to do what ever was necessary to serve God. In todays context there are important reasons to not restrict ourselves to his brand of theodicy but his voice and his faith beckon to us from the 19th century, “what form will our faith in God take?” “What will we do to try to understand the will of God?” “How will our faith find action?” these remains an essential questions that JS life exemplified.

    I think the people who have the hardest time with Church history are those who truly believe the white washed history produced by the Church and then come into contact with more complete information. But I think this should lead to institutional questions. That is, we should be asking why the institutional church advances the kind of history it does and why the Church USES history they way it does. For me the second question is the more important of the two.

    As for the people who say they know about Church history and then basically shrug it off, I suspect they are working to avoid cognitive and spiritual dissonance. If they are not ready for it, or do not have productive ways of handling it, then I think we need to let them be.

    you write “These words of indifference, of not caring if it is true in the literal sense are so foreign to me.” To which I respond that religion is not journalism. The most important truths present in ANY religion are the poetic truths that can’t really be captured or understood by literalism in any of its forms.

  30. First of all… great post. I may print this and keep in my journal along with my thoughts on the matter, as I continue to study Joseph Smith and church history.

    I think what strikes me is that you agree the Book of Mormon is not controversial. It is Joseph Smith and the D&C and Pearl of Great Price that are confusing.

    I think that I can have a testimony in the church despite the failings of Joseph because the gospel of Jesus Christ is greater than Joseph. The Church is just the earthly kingdom ran by imperfect people trying to implement the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So the church does not die with Joseph. It does not die with Brigham or with GB Hinckley. It is a living church. However miracle the revelations come about, they stand on their own in context as having a positive impact on me, or not of consequence. Just like the book of Psalms of Solomon in the bible has no impact on me, so I can move on and shrug it off, like it sounds some of your friends around you do about tenets of the gospel you have raised (which are valid points, just tenets, IMO).

    To go back in church history and try to frame everything by today’s standards is dangerous because things change. Despite what Joseph failed at, he accomplished so much. Like him, I think I will be judged by God not by all my failings, but by my accomplishments despite my weaknesses and failings. That is why I need the Atonement, that is why I need the Gospel of Christ, that is why I need the Church, and I will never leave, despite the factual inconsistencies anyone will point out to me.

    It becomes a matter of faith in what is good, not an intellectual exercise of proving accuracy.

    Doctrine and Covenants 19:31
    And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost.

    Of course, this website wouldn’t exist if we weren’t talking of tenets, right? Just gotta keep it in perspective.

  31. Jared, in order for your case analogy of business contracts to stand, we have to first accept as fact that this is a legitimate contract – meaning both are parties are for real. Second, I don’t know that you have made a case that the theoretical contract has been broken, except that you assume it must have given your claims of having personal experiences to the contrary. Guest Writer responded to you claiming that they had followed the very specific measures you outlined. Your failure to acknowledge that in your response to me is questionable. Third, again your contract analogy is premised on circular logic.

    A final point Jared, regarding your comment directed at me requesting that we “disagree without being disagreeable”. I think you’re running out of chips for this type of request. I have had numerous exhchanges with individuals on this board where that outcome was/is achieved without someone having to request it. I can disagree with Ray, or Hawkgrrrl, or Mormon Heretic, and never have these types of exchanges where the comments are akin to insults. You on the other hand are becoming notorious for the following types of comments:

    “After reading your post I find it hard to respect the way you left the church and the way others stay in the church, they’re cultural Mormons and like you haven’t paid the price to acquire a testimony the way the Lord teaches. Very sad, and so unnecessary.”

    This is not an intellectual observation, or a polite disagreement. It is self righteous and denigrating, and on occasion forgivable, but when it becomes routine and people begin to call check on your comments, quippy responses like “lets not be disagreeable” (which also comes across as though you are talking down to me) comes across as a generic attempt at being the “better man” in the argument. Suffice it to say, over time your attempts at putting out fires are losing their efficacy, and I’m not inclined to have a better impression of you at this time, instead I suggest you take some tips on tact from Ray/MH/Hawkgrrrl, etc, and put these types comments behind you.

  32. @ Jared: Also, when did I say it was a rip off? I implied that it coincides with Biblical beliefs when I said, “The Book of Mormon was written in such a way that it virtually does not stray from biblical teachings.” I didn’t realize that was a very controversial statement. Also, when I was in the church, I made the study of the Book of Mormon a daily thing, I was told to study it every day, so I did. I would like to think that I was very proficient in my understanding of the Book of Mormon, more than most, in fact.

    I don’t know how many hundreds of hours of crying and prayers that I have gone through to get an answer like is promised in Moroni, but I have not received one. At some point, I had to choose between what all the facts seemed to point towards and a mental breakdown.

  33. #29–“I think the people who have the hardest time with Church history are those who truly believe the white washed history produced by the Church and then come into contact with more complete information.”

    As a convert to the church, I felt it was so cool for years that I could sit and read all the volumes of the History of the Church written by Joseph Smith. Reading page by page the words that he wrote himself, only to find out years later that he didn’t write it, that it was compiled years later by scribes, historians, etc. using his words as a basis. I understand that the main content was his. I just thought reading a history written by Joseph Smith was a history written by Joseph Smith.

    #19–“Testimony doesn’t come by studying church history.”

    I guess that has more than one meaning, doesn’t it?

    As we read of things in Joseph’s life, I wonder if President Monson did today the “odd” things that Joseph did, would our opinion of him be changed. Why or why not? If he had a Fanny Alger in his life what would our thoughts be? If he brought forth the Book of Abraham today and made all of the assertions the prophet did, who would continue faithful. Would the level of scrutiny (and no doubt ridicule) it would receive today change our feelings? I think one of the reasons we cut the old prophets so much slack is because we did not live through it.

    Maybe not. Mark Hoffman deceived the church leaders and that didn’t seem to have a lasting affect.

  34. re 30:

    KG McB, I’d be careful. We don’t really know the Guest Writer Michael’s opinion on the BoM. When we say “it is not controversial,” that is not to say that it is necessarily accepted as true, but rather, that it is not very controversial with respect to the Bible. From the Book of Mormon, you don’t get the breadth of unique Mormon beliefs. Rather, without the Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine and Covenants, and continuing revelation from prophets, you have a rather ho-hum, indistinct Christian denomination. With these things, you have a rather dynamic and different, rather distinct Christian denomination.

  35. Guest: “At some point, I had to choose between what all the facts seemed to point towards and a mental breakdown.”

    I have to say I agree with this, and if there is a God (and I believe there is) I don’t think he wants anyone psychologically collapsing due to this process.

    Thanks again, guest, for agreeing to share this here, and thanks to everyone else for the conversation. I am glad this is a place where there can be quite a diversity of experiences and opinions. May we all find happiness and be free from suffering in whatever path our lives may take.

  36. While I welcome all the comments on my initial first comment, I never expected it to be interpreted so wildly. In reading through everyone’s opinions (and trying to understand their offenses) I noticed that the comments could be classified as spiritual approaches to the topic and secular approaches to the topic. If you approach the “challenge” of helping guest understand from a secular standpoint then any reference to spiritual solutions will come across as offensive and condescending. If you approach it from a spiritual standpoint then you can misunderstand why a cultural mormon would find a reason to remain in the Church if they are not getting spiritual nourishment.

    As was mentioned, I think that as the Church grows and as the umbrellas expands, you will see a variety of mormons under the umbrella just as you find in the Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist and other traditions.

    If you feel at all religions are useless at providing guidance during your life journey then you can just go with the generic “belief in humanity” stuff. Personally, I have never found it appealing because it seems a cop-out to me and history has shown it to be a misplaced faith (sorry if that is offensive – it is just my feelings).

  37. Michael, the only thing offensive is your taking of guest’s name! 😉 – It was kind of confusing at first, but now that he’s going under “guest writer” it sorts it out I guess.

  38. #32 Guest Writer–

    If I didn’t have a testimony from the Holy Ghost regarding the Book of Mormon, I think I would be hard pressed to find a reason to stay in the church. I’ve never been in that situation so I can only guess how I would feel. Leaving the church, as you are doing, is a huge decision. Akin to a divorce, I would think.

    I wish you the best either way you decide to go. I agree with Ray’s sentiment #24. I have close relatives–loved ones, who have left the church, not over church history, the church didn’t mean anything to them–not important to them. We love them and it doesn’t make any difference to us. They’ve made their decision and we accepted it. I hope your family will do the same.

    I do think it is important for your own self concept that you do everything in your power to insure you’re making the best decision for yourself. You have to live with it.

    #33 Holden Caulfield–the Lord told us there must needs be opposition in all things. I would imagine to be real opposition, it would have to be worthy opposition, meaning as strong in con as in the pro. Therefore, I’m not surprised by the opposition found in church history. But for every con there is a pro. The real decision however, needs to come as explained in Moroni 10:4.

  39. #34 I need to make a correction–Instead of saying “I’ve never been in that situation…” I should have said, I’m not in that situation.

    There was a time when I was completely inactive in the church and followed the ways of the world, but had a change of heart when the Lord gave been a manifestation that changed my life.

  40. re 36:

    Michael, to clarify, the reason so-called spiritual solutions are offensive and condescending is because they invalidate any other kind of perspective. I mean, your comments aren’t being perceived as offensive and condescending because it’s a disagreement between secular and spiritual (although there is that), but because you take a high position as being more mature or more correct. You say, “Well, it seems to me that you’re young, and eventually you’ll come to realize everything will be flawed, and then you’ll discover that we were right and Mormonism was correct.” This is intensely condescending…and it doesn’t mesh with the experiences of many, in fact.

    See…I recognize fully that humanism or any other philosophy is not going to work for everyone, so I don’t pretend it to be a one-size-fits-all. I recognize that there are those who, like you, will think it is a copout, a misplaced faith. Yet, you don’t see me saying, “oh ho ho, you’ll come around soon, and then you’ll realize that there are eternal truths here.” Rather, I have been saying, “If you believe it is a misplaced faith, if it doesn’t work for you, if it doesn’t mesh for you, don’t try to force it.” That’s true whether it is humanism, existentialism, Mormonism, Islam, Buddhism, or whatever else.

  41. For the record, no one is offended at spiritual solutions, or spiritual perspectives, at least I’m not – and I don’t think others are either generally. What is offensive is when answers, spiritual or secular, are presented in such a way that they attempt to qualify a commenters (or group in general, aka “cultural mormons”) efforts as being either inferior or insincere, or otherwise without merit. I don’t know how many of the participants on this board are acquainted with one another outside of virtual Mormon blogging societies, but I don’t get the impression that there is a tremendous level of that going on, rather I imagine most participants are soley acquainted on these boards. With that understanding, it is poor taste for anyone to assume to know exactly what another’s experiences are, so qualifying statements that aren’t HEAVILY reinforced, are really just ad hominem. I have no objection to statements where participants express their positions based on spiritual experiences, or even when they inquire into spiritual experiences of another. We should obviously just avoid inferences along the same lines. My two cents…

  42. Adamf,

    It was never my intention to present myself as guest. I don’t know how that happened. I apologize if I did anything to create that impression.

  43. I only got confused when Jared addressed Michael (guest writer) in 19…

    and then I reread the original post and saw “Today’s guest post is by Michael,” and felt silly because it was in bold AND italics.

  44. Ding! Ding! Ding!

    Cowboy wins by TKO!

    (Okay, that was overly dramatic, just trying to lend a little support.)

    As someone who has been, and currently is, really struggling with a lot of these issues, the assumptions made by others about my motivations, worthiness, dilligence, obedience, or sincerity really have been offensive. When I come accross other people’s stories, it seems that they’ve run into a lot of people who also make these assumptions. It really is insulting. “You didn’t try hard enough”, “obviously there’s something in your life that isn’t allowing the spirit to guide you”, “you’re studying the wrong things”.

    I come from a position of EXTREME activity in the church and not just the facade of activity that Jeff posted about a little while ago. The intimate spiritual aspects of mormonism have been central to my life for the past three decades. I haven’t just been going through the motions. I haven’t been on the fringes. I’ve read and prayed nearly every day for the past 2 decades. A few times, seeking greater knowledge or clarification or simply closer communion, I’ve fasted for days at a time. Jared, I’ve certainly “paid the price”.

    And for the past few years, I’ve put this same effort and MORE into trying to maintain a testimony that has been eroding in the face of continually mounting evidence to the contrary. I’ve agonized over possible consequences within both my immediate and extended families. I have at certain points been quite desperate to regain the certainty I once had, and have pursued it with all of the spiritual dilligence and sincerity that you can imagine. But as I’m sure the folks at FARMS can tell you, it takes an awful lot of work to defend the indefensible.

    While I am sure that some and even many may casually cast off their faith and simply rejoice in new-found freedom, that is not me. I don’t believe that describes the guest poster, either. I think that anyone who bothers to put the thought and effort it takes to post their story in this kind of forum at least deserves the benefit of the doubt as to their intentions and the fact that they have already “done their homework.”

  45. jjackson, I agree with much of what you said. While I have not been in your shoes, I agree it would be quite insulting. I can also see it from the other side, however, in the sense that I think some believers may not have room in their religion/mormon schema for the idea that some people just don’t receive answers despite due diligence. They will always come back with “well, you didn’t pray enough. The question I have here is, what is threatening to a believer about considering that some people just don’t get answers, despite nearly having a breakdown, as guest described? Perhaps it is too jarring with the “ask and ye shall receive” teaching. I don’t know, and don’t have a good answer, other than I think it is important to approach everyone from “where they are” (i.e. their life and experience) rather than from where I am, or where I think God is.

  46. I am grateful for all of the respectful opinions given regarding this post. I am grateful for those with whom I agree as they remind me why I believe what I believe. I am grateful for those with whom I disagree as they challenge my views. I am grateful for people who try to understand and empathize with others regardless of religion. Most of all I am grateful for those who don’t want to kick out of the church those of us who find reasons to stay while not believing in the literalness of various doctrines.

    I think many of us in this string of comments would benefit from Richard D. Poll’s article found here: http://staylds.com/docs/WhatTheChurchMeans.pdf

    To the Guest: Thank you for sharing yo ur story. I am always uplifted when I hear people tell their own story. We have much in common!

  47. Thanks, jjackson, that was very kind of you to say.

    When you mention “defending the indefensible,” I think some of the stuff that bothered me the most was seeing how the defense of Mormonism has changed through the years. I will often hear people say, “Believing and following the prophets has never led people astray.” I just sit there thinking, “Tell that to poor, old B.H. Roberts whose defense of Joseph’s belief in the Kinderhook plates found in the History of the Church is, in my opinion, now one of the most damning evidences against his claims of divine inspiration. Tell that to the numerous apologists that now look like fools for saying that the papyrus, if ever found, would obviously vindicate Joseph’s language translating abilities. Tell that to Nibley and others who said that if any evidence came out showing that Joseph was ever actually on trial in 1826 that THAT would be the most damning evidence against him.” It’s just frustrating because I see a hundred and fifty years of people being wrong and looking the fool because they took Joseph at his word.

    I now realize that some people find this type of stuff secondary to what they call “the gospel,” but I have a feeling that I still follow what they call “the gospel” even without any religious affiliation.

  48. jjackson-

    I don’t doubt that you have done the work and been sincere in seeking the Lord. You mentioned that you have “at certain points been quite desperate to regain the certainty you once had.” You are not alone, many of us want to feel certainty, but I don’t think being certain is a part of the plan otherwise we wouldn’t have any reason to exert faith. I think that dealing with doubts are a part of belief for everyone and we all deal differently with it. From my own personal experience, I remember receiving an answer that was clear and undeniable in relation to something very important to me in my life, but since that time and after years have passed it has been a deep struggle to hold onto what I felt was so clear then. I think that answer is still true, but I feel like the Lord has given me every reason to believe it is not and it is hard to keep plugging along without feeling like He has forgotten about me. Deep down I feel like there is purpose in this, only because I can look at others before me who have felt abandoned by Him as well.

    I wouldn’t become offended or insulted by what other people think or say, just focus on what God thinks and you will find a new-found freedom just in that alone. If you have peace within yourself about your efforts and sincerity, it will become easier to let go of what others think or say. Only you and God truly know the time you have spent seeking for truth and answers and that is all the really matters. I have had to learn to let go of others opinions of me and it is truly liberating.

  49. This goes to the root of why mormonism offends people. Before anyone attacks me for saying this, let me explain. This is not an attack on mormonism. Any belief that says “we are the only way” is necessarily saying any other way is not the right way. If I say, my son is the greatest child in the world, I may be thinking I am simply boasting about my son, but indirectly, I am putting down every other child on earth. You simply cannot claim to be “the only true church” without rubbing people the wrong way, because there are so many implications of that belief that affect everyone. The fact is, if you believe that the church is true, then you believe that god will answer anyone and everyone who sincerely takes moroni’s challenge. Thus, for anyone who didn’t get an answer, it’s not god’s fault, it’s the individual’s insincerity or lack of faith or lack of obedience or lack of discernment or on and on an on. What other choice does a believer have? He can’t lay the blame at the feet of the lord for not answering, so it has to be placed upon the seeker. At most, god can be held to blame for simply waiting for a more opportune moment to reveal the truth to the seeker. But undoubtedly, at some point, those who don’t get an answer are to blame, if you believe the church to be true. I do not fault anyone who believes this. But naturally, this belief leads to opinions and comments that can be viewed as condescending. But really, I don’t think that is the intention of the believer. It is simply choosing the alternative that does not threaten his current view. If presented with an anecdote of someone praying and not receiving any answer, he can think the seeker didn’t do it right or God didn’t answer this person. The latter would cause stress in the belief system, so it is dismissed. But just because it is a comforting thought, doesn’t mean it’s true, and more importantly, it should not be imposed upon others as evidence that god will answer them. If someone “knows” they received an answer to a prayer, I don’t think it is fair to extrapolate that to “I know you will receive an answer too.” That type of thinking leads to many of the comments here, for example, try harder, pray harder, fast more, you haven’t paid the price, etc. Those can be very offensive.

    In short, I don’t have a problem with someone believing the church is true and believing that god answered his prayer and that therefore god answers all sincere seekers’ prayers. It is a natural secondary belief based on a belief in the gospel. But I do have a problem with a believer saying to a seeker, “I got an answer, you will too if you do it right” or any variation thereof.

  50. jjackson–

    I’m still learning. But what I’ve learned so far is that the majority of the people I’ve encountered having trouble with church history have put more work in studying the opposition to their faith than sincerely trying to acquire a testimony from the Lord.

    Then there are those who say they’ve paid the price to acquire a testimony, but found none. Do I have trouble with that explanation? Yes and No. Do I call them a liar and try to degrade them? No. Do I think they need to be ready to deal with rigorous questions and feelings from those who have a different point of view? Yes. If not, what is the purpose of posting?

  51. Dexter, I agree with some of your points, but it seems you are painting believers into a corner with the “undoubtedly, at some point, those who don’t get an answer are to blame, if you believe the church to be true” line. I don’t buy this, and I am okay with not going to either extreme. I can believe and still allow that some people just don’t get answers. Why, I don’t know, as I addressed in a previous comment, and everyone may have an opinion as to why or why not. Point being, while I respect you and agree with you in part, your putting believers like me into this dichotomous position can be a little offensive as well, now that we’re on that topic. 😉 – I mean that in all sincerity.

  52. Guest said, I now realize that some people find this type of stuff secondary to what they call “the gospel,” but I have a feeling that I still follow what they call “the gospel” even without any religious affiliation.

    Touché!

  53. Adam, I would hope there are members with strong beliefs in the church who are able to say, “maybe god didn’t answer that person despite efforts that were good enough.”

    But I have never heard one say that. Are you saying that is how you feel? I just don’t see how that jives with a loving god and how that jives with the scriptures? God is no respecter of persons, giveth to all men liberally, ask and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened. I would gladly concede on this point if there are believers who believe this but if you believe god doesn’t answer certain people’s sincere prayers for a testimony, then doesn’t that make the house of cards fall over?

  54. #36 – Yes, Michael, I’m sure all the victims of the Crusades, the Inquisition and every other holy war and other form of religious persecution throughout human history found faith in god to be much more well placed, not to mention every person who has ever prayed that a child be healed from a terminal disease or lifelong victim of child abuse, and on and on. I’m perfectly open to the possibility that god exists, but I think at least there can be a FACTUAL case made either way (separate and apart from personal experience). You, however, seem to be implying that all the evidence in human history flies in the face of any belief that excludes god. Such a position completely ignores the mountain of evidence throughout human history that suggests that faith in god is misplaced, and that is to say nothing of many good people’s individual experiences in their search for truth. Maybe god exists and maybe he doesn’t. Many people in history have been enriched and led better lives because of their beliefs in him. But many people have had the opposite experience, and I think your argument not only ignores this fact, but marginalizes those who take this position.

  55. Dexter-

    When reading your comment(#50)the thought came to my mind that there may be times when we do receive answers but don’t recognize them or accept them as such. I am not saying that it is not true that people aren’t receiving answers, but what about the possibiliy that answers are given and possibly not accepted or dismissed as such? I know that I can look back at a time when I received an answer about something and didn’t recognize it as such, but later it became clear to me that it had been an answer.

    I think we have to consider that God doesn’t answer prayers the same for everyone and it is a process in learning how God speaks to us individually. If we are seeking for our prayers to be answered in a specific way, it is likely we will be disappointed. Right now in my life I have been seeking for assurance in something specific that is very important to me and I have felt completely ignored by the Lord. I recently had a friend mention several things to me though that I hadn’t noticed before because I have been so busy looking for answers in a specific way. I have started to realize that maybe the Lord hasn’t been ignoring me, but that He is just waiting for me to notice what He is saying in a way I wasn’t expecting. Just a thought.

  56. #51 – Jared, I think you provide a great perspective and I’m glad you continue to be part of this site. That said:

    “Do I call them a liar and try to degrade them?”

    I know you don’t intend to, but Jared, you come awfully close to this when you tell everyone who is claiming to not have received confirmation that everyone who TRULY tries will receive an answer. How else is this to be interpreted? “I tried with all my heart and received nothing.” “No you didn’t, because everyone who tries with all their heart will receive an answer.” This is dicey territory, and I think you need to be more careful. I know you think you’re being helpful, but the fact that you continue to receive numerous rebukes about this issue is evidence of something.

  57. Jen, I definitely agree. But I already spoke to your point when I said the seeker is at fault for lack of faith or lack of discernment, etc., etc. In other words, I already conceded the type of scenario you mentioned, the seeker failing to discern an answer of the lord, but still, that blame falls at the seeker’s feet. It is simply another way the seeker can fail, which supports my argument that one way or another, for a believer, if a seeker does not get an answer, it’s not god’s fault.

  58. #50

    “But I do have a problem with a believer saying to a seeker, “I got an answer, you will too if you do it right” or any variation thereof.”

    Its how common this paradigm is that is so troubling. Any lack of an answer being automatically interpreted as the fault of the seeker “revealing” their lack of true intent, or what ever. That’s a kind of thinking we can do without.

  59. I see your point Dexter, but again (from my view) you are giving me only two options again, i.e. if I believe that some people aren’t at fault for not receiving answers, than the whole “house of cards” falls over. Maybe it’s just a different way of approaching it, but I just have to sit with it. I don’t know why some don’t get an answer. In some cases I certainly would say it was their own problem, but in many other cases (guest’s included) I would say it seems like they did everything they could. I don’t know why that is. I just refrain from deciding. Maybe I’m a little too Zen on that. You don’t need to concede though, as this is my personal experience and view.

  60. “I would hope there are members with strong beliefs in the church who are able to say, “maybe god didn’t answer that person despite efforts that were good enough.”

    But I have never heard one say that.”

    I’ve said that dozens of time in this forum and probably a hundred or more times across the Bloggernacle – and Adam said it quite clearly in the comment to which you responded.

    Dexter, as gently as I can say this, you can’t blame believers for never saying something that some of us say quite regularly here and then turn around and claim you’d “concede the point” if only real believers believe it. That’s EXACTLY what you get bent out of shape about when Jared says it only takes more effort – that you are right and believers are wrong and there’s no alternative to those extremes – that any believer who says that simply is deluded and irrational.

    Can you understand that? (That question is a sincere one – not meant in ANY way to be sarcastic or derogatory)

  61. I know I don’t need to concede, and I concede nothing. Adam, I only give 2 options because there only seem to be two options. If you are a true believer, then you believe god answers sincere prayers. If you don’t believe god answers sincere prayers, you are not a believer. I don’t think I’m making any wild assumptions here. But I would be shocked to hear a true believer in the church say that sometimes prayers aren’t answered bc despite the seeker’s sincere and best efforts, god just didnt answer that person. At best, god might wait for a more appropriate time, but I already pointed that out. But we have all heard a million times that the seekers heart was hard, or he read some history, or some point alluding to the seeker being at blame in some way or another.

  62. “I would be shocked to hear a true believer in the church say that sometimes prayers aren’t answered bc despite the seeker’s sincere and best efforts, god just didnt answer that person.”

    Sometimes prayers aren’t answered because despite the seeker’s sincere and best efforts, God just didn’t answer that person.

  63. Consider yourself shocked – unless you don’t consider adam and I to be true believers.

    If that is the case, then, as I said in my previous comment, please don’t bristle when Jared writes that he doesn’t think someone else has tried hard enough. You are taking the exact same position on the other extreme.

  64. The key here is, however, I don’t know why God wouldn’t answer someone, or what an answer even is to someone else. So perhaps I don’t know if I can truly say it like you put it down. I don’t think we will come to an agreement on this, because you have a black and white view, i.e. either God answers or he doesn’t (which is fine with me), and I have a “I don’t know, and some things I can’t explain, but I will do my best to meet people where they’re at” view.

  65. Ray, you are twisting my words. I never stated believers are deluded and irrational. I never stated that I am right and believers are wrong and there’s no alternative to those extremes.

    I said I have no problem with a believer believing that a seeker who didn’t get an answer must be at fault somehow. I said I DO have a problem with a believer announcing that belief to a seeker. I don’t believe my nephew will make the NBA. But I am not going to say that to his face. It’s as simple as that.

    When did you say you believe that god doesn’t answer sincere prayers, and what did you say?

  66. Well I am glad to see believers are willing to not assume the seeker is at fault. But can we agree most members don’t see it that way? Can we agree that is inconsistent with teachings of prophets and the scriptures? I mean, isn’t a huge part of a believer’s faith a belief that god will answer sincere prayers? Isn’t that taught in every GC?

  67. Dexter, you didn’t say that (re: Ray’s comments), but sometimes your comments come across that way to some. Another thing, starting questions with “Isn’t it” or the like can feel manipulative. That is all. *hug*

  68. Dexter-

    There are people who see God’s hand in their life everyday, and some who claim He doesn’t even exist because of their daily life. Is that God’s fault? What makes one person grateful even under the harshest of circumstances and others in the same circumstances bitter and hateful? Can we blame God for that? I think you are wanting to place blame on God and therefore make a way for people to say “I tried, but failed and God is to blame.” I don’t think a believer will be likely to say that God hasn’t answered someone’s prayer because He answers prayers in many different ways. Do you have shelter, food, a good relationship with a spouse, etc.? Are those not answers to prayers? It seems when we are stripped of things that bring us comfort we begin to see that God was blessing us and answering our prayers after all. When we ask for specific things and don’t get specific answers we want, it doesn’t mean He isn’t answering. You say the seeker is lacking discernment or this and that, but what if someone points out things to them and they choose to not see it as an answer? Is that God’s fault? I believe many answers are given through others and we have to take accountability when our eyes and minds are opened to other possibilities as well and not assume that God just isn’t paying attention.

  69. I don’t intend them to. I clearly said it makes sense to me. If one believes, it seems to me, the rational choice is to believe that God answers sincere prayers. I do not feel my tone is properly represented here. I have loved the church for 99% of my life and I would not want people to see my name and simply assume that I am being antagonistic.

    How does believing god doesn’t answer sincere payers (sometimes) not make you hurt? Does it affect how you feel about god? Is it something you figure god has a reason for but you just don’t understand? I mean, how do you teach your son or loved one to gain a testimony if you feel that god might answer and he might not? Is that a lack of faith to believe that god doesn’t answer sincere prayers sometimes?

  70. I thought the point of the promise in Moroni is that he WILL answer. Like Dexter sited, “Ask and ye shall receive.” Otherwise, it is a broken promise. Obviously, God never breaks a promise, otherwise he would no longer be God, which is why Jared and others (including me when I still believed in the teachings and scriptures) naturally assume, at that point, that the asker came up short in some respect.

  71. Turning the tables on myself and now being the asker that came up short in this respect and not knowing how much more he could have done, I’m inclined to believe that the system set up is what is flawed, not the person following the system.

  72. Jen, I don’t blame god. I am saying that many members (not ray and not adam) assume that god will never be at fault, so the seeker must be doing something wrong or missing something. I’m saying that seekers who don’t feel they receive an answer should not be told they are to blame.

  73. Dexter, I’m not going to get in a fight over this, but I NEVER intentionally twist words. I am a hardcore parser. Here are your own words:

    #64 – “If you don’t believe god answers sincere prayers, you are not a believer.”

    #50 – “But undoubtedly, at some point, those who don’t get an answer are to blame, if you believe the church to be true.”

    #55 – “I would gladly concede on this point if there are believers who believe this but if you believe god doesn’t answer certain people’s sincere prayers for a testimony, then doesn’t that make the house of cards fall over?”

    #59 – “for a believer, if a seeker does not get an answer, it’s not god’s fault.”

  74. “I’m inclined to believe that the system set up is what is flawed, not the person following the system.”

    I can see why. How would ANYONE in your shoes still think they were flawed? That smacks of being spiritually abused, imo.

  75. #75 – “I’m saying that seekers who don’t feel they receive an answer should not be told they are to blame.”

    AMEN, Dexter. We agree totally on that point. It’s the whole “Judge not . . . with what measure you mete . . .” concept.

  76. Yes, I said that.

    But you said I said believers are deluded and irrational. You said I said that I am right and believers are wrong and there’s no alternative to those extremes.

    I never said those things. Don’t twist my words again.

  77. Dexter, is it possible that neither God nor the “seeker” are at fault? Is it possible to not know one way or the other?

    Also, Ray was not twisting your words (well, he can answer that), but as I said it is how you come across sometimes. A little humility and patience can do us all some good, believer, secular humanist, or whomever.

  78. Ray, I’m glad we agree on something.

    Adam, I just would point to the scriptures I already mentioned. It doesn’t say seek and ye shall sometimes find. It doesn’t say knock and it shall sometimes be opened. The promises in countless scriptures and GC talks are that He WILL.

  79. Dexter, I’m not trying to twist anything. You and others have (correctly, imo) chastised Jared for the tone of his comments – that the tone comes through the words and reveals an attitude that can be read as highly offensive. What I said is perfectly reflective of the tone of some of your comments in this thread – although you have moderated that tone considerably in the last few comments.

    Again, can you understand what I mean?

  80. You are correct, Ray. I wrote that before 75 had posted. I just want to clarify that I would never label members in that way. The people I love the MOST in this world, by far, are faithful members of the church.

  81. Again, thanks.

    I think this illustrates why we all have to be VERY careful with the words we choose and worry less about posting “fast” and keeping up perfectly with the conversation.

  82. Dexter-

    I am not a believer that can agree that God just doesn’t answer sincere prayers. It just may not be in a way that is recognizable….at first or maybe not for years or decades or even in this life. He does answer and does not just ignore us. Above all, He does keep His promises. If you look at the Father’s willingness to allow His firstborn to be sacrificed and treated as He was, you must realize that He does love each and everyone of us or He would have spared the Savior that experience. That alone is evidence of His love for us and implies a listening heart and one that is willing to answer His children as well. Again I will say that just because answers don’t come in a way we recognize does not mean we are not receiving them. I think it is when we become angry and cloud our minds and hearts with this anger that it becomes harder and harder to see God in our lives, even though I truly believe He is still there depite our struggles.

  83. I feel my overarching point in all of my posts is that belief is one thing, but what you say to the seeker is a separate issue. I don’t feel I have been offensive in this thread. I still am having trouble seeing why it is wrong of me to assume that a believer believes god answers all sincere prayers. I realize that may have been an incorrect assumption, but I don’t see how it was an offensive assumption bc in my initial post I clearly stated “I have no problem with someone believing” that the seeker is at fault. I used to think that way. I only said I had a problem with someone saying to the seeker that they are at fault. And that is what we agreed on. If you go back to my first post, you’ll see that was my conclusion.

  84. Re: 82 – I can see that. I just refrain from assuming that others haven’t really sought. Not only can I not know if someone received an answer or not, judging their efforts is none of my business.

    Re: 87 – The only thing that was offensive (and I meant that KIND of jokingly because it gets tossed around so much) was putting people into categories that they don’t feel like they belong in. Both sides do it.

  85. Jen, your post is what I would expect of a believing member of the church, that god keeps his promises. I agree with you that he may answer in mysterious ways, or at later times. But the point I am making is that if we assume god will always answer a sincere prayer, it can lead to members unfairly judging those who don’t get an answer, and it can lead to the seeker himself feeling tremendous heartache bc he blames himself for not getting an answer. So my point is, if a believer says to a seeker or implies to a seeker that if he had more patience or tried harder he would get an answer, this can sometimes cause more pain to the seeker, so we should all use prudence with how we address this sensitive issue.

  86. We agree completely with each other, Dexter, about your last comment – and the last phrases are the point I was making. 🙂

  87. Adam, your attitude is exactly what I would hope for from a believer. I think it would be hard, as a believer, to think god isn’t answering, but it can cause pain to label the seeker as somehow unworthy. All I was trying to say is that members should take use your attitude. But I don’t think it’s offensive for me to say that when push comes to shove, if forced to opine about what went wrong, I would think most members would say the seeker must have fouled up bc it would be hard to say god did. The best explanation, and one I gave in my original post, for a believer, is probably that god will answer in his own time and to assume the seeker did not fail. I didn’t think putting believers into the category of people who believes god answers all sincere prayers was an offensive categorization. But I will try and be more clear in the future. I appreciate that you responded and we were able to come to an agreement.

  88. “I didn’t think putting believers into the category of people who believes god answers all sincere prayers was an offensive categorization.”

    It’s not. If anyone was offended by that, the problem is in them! 😉

  89. It’s nice to come to an accord!!!

    As I’ve said before, tone can be difficult to properly express in this atmosphere, for me, anyway. And I know I sometimes skim posts and perhaps due to my long posts some of them were skimmed as well.

    Kumbayah!!!!

    Is that how you spell it?

  90. Guest Writer,

    Your story struck me as very similar to that of Bob McCue’s. He has a website that you can google wherein he posts a letter he wrote to his family explaining his reasons for leaving the church. I corresponded with him briefly and he said the letter was a waste of time because he felt that no matter what he said, most people simply assumed he lost the faith or was influenced by satan. Were you glad you spelled out your reasons in a long letter? Did you find it worthwhile?

  91. Dexter-

    I agree with you and I think that is why the Lord has made it clear that we shouldn’t judge others and that we leave that to Him. Having said that, I don’t think most members of the church intentionally try to make another person feel that they are to blame if they feel they haven’t received answers from the Lord. A person can bear their testimony and one person may feel the Spirit and be renewed and another may feel deep pain and heartache because they haven’t had the same experience or they desire something that person has that they don’t (i.e. a spouse, children, good job, etc.). I truly believe though that the pain and heartache that come from all of these things is not in vain and it has a purpose. If we look at the Savior and the fact that He suffered for everyone of us, what was the point of suffering for everyone if not all would accept Him? I truly believe suffering has purpose in and of itself when we are truly seeking God. If that suffering involves feeling like the Lord is not answering, even when we have done all that we can to seek Him, then we can understand in some small way how the Savior felt when He felt abandoned by the Father on the cross. I truly believe being able to understand how that feels will benefit us or those around us somehow, someday, and we will be better because of it, if we allow it.

    I think we will have to deal with being unfairly judged by members and non-members alike throughout our life. The best way we can deal with this is to make what God thinks our priority and remember to not judge others no matter how well we think we know their situation. I truly believe God is merciful to those who choose to be merciful to others. I take great comfort in knowing that He knows my heart and that He will be my judge.

  92. DANG IT, I HATE THIS SITE SO MUCH BECAUSE I LEAVE FOR 20 MINUTES AND ANOTHER 40 COMMENTS SPRING UP.

    re 55 and 64:

    Dexter, despite what I have just said about the speed of the site, I’ll tell you and anyone else this: there’s a reason why I love this site; it’s my favorite of the big Mormon blogs, I regularly read and comment here, etc., It’s because here is a place where members *are* willing to say exactly what you have not heard. And these are members who can keep faith despite and through it. That’s more powerful, to me, than someone who only keeps faith because they wish away tough exceptions or tough counterpoints away. As Adamf said, that’s how he believes. As Ray said, that’s how he believes, and I’ve been here for a while — both posters, as well as many others, have great track records (I’d call them out if they didn’t :D).

    But I understand what you mean, in that I know that MM is a special place. I might not get that in my home ward (or, if so, it would be with particular people, who I already know would understand and appreciate me regardless of where I was). I might not get that at another blog. But from what I’ve experienced, I know enough to say that you can find good, accepting people in all places.

    And I mean, let’s take a look at Jared. We disagree on several issues, and yes, as brjones wrote in #58, regardless of intention, he sure comes off sometimes as trying to get as close to a line as he can…but you know what…I know it’s because he cares. He’s strong-willed, principled, has his beliefs and believes them to be true, but as he wrote in 51, he’s trying. Sure, rigorous questions may be assuming the worst of someone, but I think I can handle rigorous questions, if someone is willing to listen to the answers and learn something, however small from it. So, indeed, Jared is a valuable part of this site. And so are all the regulars, and some of the less regulars. I know there are some trolls here, but I just haven’t been on while they’ve been on (I leave for 15 minutes, after all, and topics EXPLODE with comments)…so personally, I can’t say there’s anyone here I put on auto-ignore. I can’t say the same for certain other places.

    I understand your point, though. Will it ever seem to be like this with the church in general? Maybe not. Because in the end, for a church that advertises itself as the true church, the most correct, (or whatever other traits one would describe to be ecumenical), it has to stand its guns and work past evidence that might weaken its position. And yet, DEMONSTRABLY, you can know that there is more to a believing position than just this all-or-nothing ultimatum.

    Some answers don’t really appeal to me and don’t really satisfy me (as you point, blame-victim mentality…or another one, “God works on his own time, so just endure to the end”) but you cannot deny that there are answers like these and even more answers that could allow for someone to believe and yet not have a one-size-fits-all complex, whereby if the church doesn’t fit, you need to go on spiritual diet and exercise scheme until it does.

    In the end, all I’m asking is have charity. Have charity for Ray and adamf who have tried to stake out a way for one to be a believer *and* for one to be compassionate to the voices of nonbelievers. Have charity that they make it work out with belief in the prophets and belief in the doctrine and that they are not any less believers (or any less compassionate). Have charity for the concept that there is more than one way to believe, as there is more than one way not to believe.

    keep in mind i haven’t paid attention to the last 20 comments (or any comments that have sprung up in the 20 minutes or so I’ve spent writing this one)

  93. I’ve been out on business–just returned. This post has caught fire.

    I feel the Lord is not only my Father, but my friend. Those of you with children will understand this.

    When my prayers appear to go unanswered, that is an answer. It causes me to rethink what I’m asking, review if this has already been answered. Do I need to fast and pray or take some other action, or just drop my request for now.

    I prayed for a number of months about a book I read and asked if the author was being honest. I received a prompting not to pray about it any longer. I initially put off by this, then quickly realized who I was dealing with–a perfect being. I will not counsel the Lord–even though I am tempted at times to do so.

    In regards to those who say they there not getting answers about fundamental questions. I look to the scriptures for answers to this question. There are many scriptures that touch on this. Here are a few that come to mind: Alma 10:4-7, D&C 46:13-14, 3 Nephi 1:30, Mosiah 26;1-4 (please add to this list)

  94. #98 – This is a great comment, Andrew. I think it’s significant that there are a number of people who have left the church entirely but who still frequent this site, and I don’t think it’s generally to bash or argue. I think many of us will always have a connection to the church through our heritage or our social construct, and this is the only outlet we’ve found where we can connect with that in a way that lets us represent ourselves fully. That’s an incredibly powerful compliment to this forum and the people here.

    “but you know what…I know it’s because he cares.”

    I also believe this to be 100% true. I think this is why, despite the many comments to Jared regarding this issue, there has never been any real incident of animosity. I think his concern comes through in his comments.

  95. Davis Bitton gave a wonderful talk at a FAIR convention called, “I do not have a Testimony of the History of the Church.” I liked the talk because it put those things in the proper perspective. There always seems to be two major mistakes that a lot of folks make when analyzing Church History.

    1. They do not consider the time period – Folks though a lot different than we do today and they have a lot less information and knowledge than we do today, thus their interpretation of things may not square without our own experience. It takes a real expert of the times to properly assess the writings of those who wrote things a hundred or more years ago. At the very least, you simply cannot judge anything by today’s standards.

    2. You can’t really know all the facts – In spite of the well documented Church History, you just can’t know all the facts and what people were really thinking. Taking the Book of Abraham for example, I have no idea why it does not line up with texts that Joseph said he used to translate from. No idea whatsoever. On the other hand, the Book of Moses was given solely by revelation. So perhaps the Book of Abraham came in the same manner. Don’t know about that. I just have faith I will know at some point. I wouldn’t be as dismissive as some of Michael’s friends seem to be. But also recognize that some things are not really known or understood well by us at this point.

    Couple of other things. I am sure Brother Richard Bushman would be very disappointed to know that his book on Joseph Smith would serve as a catalyst for someone to leave the Church. The other thing is what has been said, This is the Church of Jesus Christ, not the “Church of Joseph Smith” or the “Church of History.” We are told to be valiant in our “Testimony of Jesus.” Everything else is sort of a distraction. I am not a huge believer in the over-influence of Satan, but this would certainly be one way to derail someone from a testimony of Jesus.

  96. #00 – Jared, it can be hard to interpret tone in this forum, but I genuinely hope you don’t think I was just being critical. I do appreciate your perspective.

  97. Andrew S. and Ray–

    Thanks for watching my back–military jargon.

    I am trying to be more like Ray and a few others, without becoming his clone. 🙂

  98. brjones–

    I’ve been called to do the dishes. Be back later

    Tone–my wife tells me I’m tone deaf. It’s true. I love music, but I can sum it by saying what my music teacher once said: Jared can carry a tune, he just can’t unload it.

    You’re right. Tone is a skill in blogging. Working on it.

  99. @ Dexter: Yes, I would say that it was worthwhile writing what I wrote, even if no one cares to read it. It was therapeutic for me. It also was a fantastically painstaking way of organizing my thoughts and seeing even better why I was doing what I was doing.

  100. #107 Guest Writer–

    Reading your post makes me want to start a support group or something that would allow you to have your questions addressed by the best their is so that you could be exposed to their thoughts and how they deal with the issues you’re facing.

    Have you read Shaken Faith Syndrom by Michael Ash?

    Have you visited FAIR website?

    Visited with a GA or some other person you have respect for?

    I’m not trying to suggest anything other than being completely sure of your next move.

    Wish you the best.

  101. Jared, from my other correspondences with Guest (Michael), he did the FAIR and FAMRS stuff for a year or something, I think he said (not on this post, but elsewhere).

    Re: support group – I think that is a fantastic idea, as long as there are no agendas for the ultimate decision people make, to stay OR leave. There must be absolute respect and fostering of individual autonomy.

    Ray 110 – hahahaha, thanks for the laugh. 🙂 I think this smiley works too: 😛

  102. I am curious when I hear people talk of contemplating leaving the church if this (for some) can be compared to threatening to commit suicide….is it a cry for help, a last ditch effort in hoping that someone or something (God) will not “allow” it, but will intervene in some miraculous way and relieve them or give them a reason to stay?

    Does anyone feel this to be the case for them personally? In talking about leaving the church, do you feel talking about it to others is so that God can “know” you are serious?

  103. There certainly have been a variety of answers here for why deity doesn’t answer someone’s prayers in the way some of you have been taught to expect. Maybe deity is just really smart, so he knows it’s better to wait. Maybe the asked wasn’t sincere enough. Maybe the asked sinned too much. Maybe the asked wasn’t very bright, and deity thought it would be fun to “hide the ball” by answering in some vague, indirect way, just for the amusement of watching the asked miss it.

    Some here seem quite facile with these “faith-protecting” answers, even at the cost of lacking basic respect for anyone whose experience doesn’t reinforce religious teachings. Of course, a few of you will go through the motions to disclaim such an attitude, if you’re called on it.

    News flash–Guest may be the sincere one, the righteous one, and the smart one. Just maybe, others may have WANTED to believe so badly that they manufactured and/or interpreted their experience to fit the answer they wanted. Maybe deity doesn’t even exist. Such a reality is every bit as possible as the “faithful” answers some are handing out so easily.

  104. @ Jeff Spector: I would say that Bushman’s book was a catalyst for my own search into church history. His book alone was by no means the reason for my leaving. I feel that he left out the things that were the true deal breakers for me, the stuff that looks the worst. As I said, the thing that bugged me most after his book was just the fact that I no longer liked Joseph as a person. At that point, I felt that I would have liked hanging out with Hyrum, but Joseph would have been a person that I would have kept my distance from. But, that was not enough for me to lose my testimony. At that point, I said to myself, “Well, I guess God did not have to choose a person that I like for that person to be a prophet.”

    Yes, there are many things that may just be misunderstood since we did not live in the 1800s, but how much of a blanket excuse is that? I believe that a person making claims to divine inspiration should be held accountable for those claims. As a sentiment that I agree with and have heard recently states, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”(Carl Sagan). This is why, when I studied the Egyptian and read some of the hieroglyphs myself (I did my own translation to some extent, on the off-chance that the Egyptologists were anti-Mormon sources), I was so shocked to find that they were not what Joseph claimed they were. Not only that, but they were very obviously not. I would have an easier time dismissing this as a misunderstanding of the word “translate” if there weren’t so many quotes from Joseph, his scribes, his friends, visitors to Nauvoo, etc. all stating very clearly that the papyrus was literally written in Abraham’s handwriting. These numerous accounts combined with Joseph’s assertion that he was working on a book of Alphabet and Grammar along with his scribes that also contains a very detailed and very inaccurate translation of Egyptian characters, leaves me less trusting of his words. That, combined with numerous similar accounts and equally revealing quotes add to the mistrust. I am not talking about differences in personality and culture, unless you are saying that hyperbole and tall-tales were just part of the culture. If you said this, you would not be the first, I have heard one apologist say that because of this propensity for hyperbole in Joseph’s time we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. At least that individual is closer to where I now stand on the issue. However, I would argue that it is all hyperbole and tall-tale and that there is no baby IN the bath water.

    I will end with this comment as well. You mention that this is the Church of Jesus Christ not the Church of Joseph Smith, but the problem is, I never had an independent belief in Jesus Christ or even God (see comment #17 for more detail). I had a testimony built like is taught to people on the mission. People are told to read the BOM, pray and if they feel God is telling them it is true, then they are told that it logically follows that Joseph must have been a prophet and if Joseph was a prophet then, he really did see God and Jesus like he claimed and, therefore, through them he really did restore Christ’s church, in which case there must have actually been a being named Jesus that existed and he really must be the son of God, and since Jesus is the son of God, there must actually be a God. *phew* For me, as long as I could believe in Joseph’s testimony, I could believe in the Book of Mormon and, if the BOM was true, then it followed that the Bible must be true, and if the Bible is true then Jesus must have not only been a person that actually lived, but he must be the Christ because both books say so and God must exist as well. My belief structure was built in such a manner. That is why, when I lost my testimony in the BOM and Joseph Smith I started praying like mad (not about them) but about God and asking if he/she/it was there.

  105. Nick-

    Sometimes answers may come that we aren’t asking for and don’t really want to hear, not because we wanted to believe so badly or because we were manufacturing an experience. I have received answers that were diffcult to hear, so I am not sure how that fits with what you are saying.

    Also, this blog is called Mormon Matters, so naturally you can expect “faith-protecting” answers and comments from some people. I don’t think this post is about who is sincere and who isn’t, obviously guest seems sincere, but so do those who are posting comments in relation to his story. If guest didn’t want comments from different perspectives then he shouldn’t put his personal story online on a blog that will naturally get just that.

    Lastly, you are handing out the idea that deity doesn’t even exist just as easily as others are handing out “faithful” answers. To each his own. Just because a someone writes a “faithful” answer doesn’t mean anyone that reads it has to believe it. That’s what is so great about living in this country……we can speak our mind (or write it) and it is ok. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  106. Guest,

    I am late in posting so please forgive me. A few comments;

    Regarding the Book of Mormon, it was not until I stopped internalizing the platitudes that I really came to understand what is in the book. When I started really reading from the beginning, it took me several weeks to get past the first verse of First Nephi. Why? Because I had to understand what the mysteries of God were. There is so much more in the BOM than I ever realized. For example, the Bible alludes to being born again. The Book of Mormon dedicates multiple chapters to the topic. There are other similar topics that are incredibly satisfying to the soul in the book. Great stuff once you drop your TBM pat answers.

    Secondly, I have learned by sad experience that pretending the Easter Bunny and Santa are real is a great disservice to our children. I know where you are coming from relative to the existence of God. My only comment is that life is way to complex and beautiful to be the result of millions of years of accidents.

    Ask Ray and he will tell you I come off as anti-LDS Church. Probably because I am. In my opinion, the church is doing its best to play intermediary between man and his maker, and it isn’t working. Instead of trying to assist people in coming to Christ, the church seems bent on defining what it means to be accepted of God . Activity in the LDS church can be a detriment to building a real relationship with God.

    Finally, I wish you luck on your journey. My best advice is to keep an open mind and explore the possibilities.

    Spek.

  107. @ Jared: In response to your questions

    -No, I have not read “Shaken Faith Syndrome.”

    -Yes, I practically lived and breathed Farms and FAIRLDS for about a year after reading “Rough Stone Rolling,” but I just became frustrated with their arguments. Their apologetics drove me crazy, because they would zoom so far into any critics argument and show that it held no sway, but in doing so, they wouldn’t realize that they had zoomed in too far. Most of their arguments fall apart if you just zoom out a little bit and take in all the evidence, not just the little bit the writer is focusing on. Also, I had heard that “anti-Mormon” people will often take things out of context, but I have found it to be far more common by the apologetic sites. Putting things in context hurt the churches cause more than helped it, I felt.

    -Unfortunately, I have not spoken with any GAs. I did not have access to them. But, since the moment I lost my testimony, I have spoken with at least 40 friends and family members, 3 bishops and 2 institute instructors. I did not really go into much of the history with them. I knew it would just make them uncomfortable. The only thing I discussed was Bruce R. McConkie’s letter to Prof. Eugene England where he explains that Brigham Young taught false doctrine in teaching the Adam-God Theory. Reading that was the breaking point for me. I even tried to believe that it was a fake letter put out by “anti-Mormon” sources, so I had my dad ask McConkie’s son to check his archives to see if it was really written by his father. Unfortunately, it was. For 6 months, I asked all of those people the same thing. I would say, “Brigham Young taught for 20 years and even included in temple ceremonies the concept that Adam is God the Father. This is thoroughly rejected by modern teachings in and out of the temple and even proclaimed False Doctrine. If a man who is supposed to be a mouthpiece for God, does not even know who God is, does not even know the very nature of God, why should I believe any of his teachings that are supposed to come from God? If we are all in agreement that prophets can be wrong on even fundamental beliefs (seeing as the nature of God was supposed to be one of the most profound things we learned from Joseph’s first vision) and teachings, then why believe any of it? If we are in agreement that I should disbelieve some of the teachings of the prophets, where should I stop? It is a slippery slope. Now that I have started to disbelieve some of their teachings, I don’t see why I should believe any of them.” I never received a response to that inquiry that made any sense to me.

  108. I am going to take an extreme position here, but the only one which I consider tenable.

    1. I believe God answers all prayers, sincere or insincere. I believe that very few people like the answer they receive. That is how you can tell it is from God: not just wishful thinking on your part.

    2. I believe the Savior calls some people into his Church, with strong or weak or absent testimonies, for whatever reason. (And if you know some members of his Church, you wonder about the reason.)

    3. I believe that others are not called into his Church, but have a different calling in this world, for whatever reason. (And if you know certain people outside the Church, you must confess that this is a Mystery.)

    4. I believe that there is a spiritual gift of Knowing That Jesus Is The Christ, a spiritual gift of Believing On The Testimony Of Others, and a spiritual gift of Stupor Of Thought.

    5. I believe that one can have a testimony without seeing an angel, without seeing a light or hearing a voice, without experiencing a personal visitation of the Father and the Son, without even having a “burning in the bosom” experience, without any knock-your-socks-off spiritual confirmation at all.

    6. I think that too many members of the Church, having received a lesser witness, cease to strive for the knock-your-socks-off spiritual confirmation. Because it comes.

    7. I believe that ultimately, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ. Therefore, any present judgement of others– or self– is premature on the order of millenia, at least.

    Taking Guest at his word, he has sincerely followed the exhortation of Moroni to the best of his ability, and has not yet received a personal witness of the truth of the restored gospel. I therefore believe that he has placed himself in a position in which the Lord will ultimately guide him- in ways obvious or subtle- to that calling which he needs to fulfill in this life, whether within or without the Church.

  109. @ Spektator: As far as the Book of Mormon. I can agree with a lot of its teachings, but that doesn’t make me believe it comes from God. The same goes for any book or teaching. I will accept what I think is right and reject what I don’t think is right.

    As far as the existence of God, I am agnostic/athiest. Not atheist in the sense of: There is no God! Atheist in the sense of: There very well may be a God, but I don’t see any reason to believe in one (or many). I agree that the universe is amazing and fantastic. I have always been fascinated by the world around me. Nature is amazing to me. I have a true sense of wonder about the world around me. However it does not bother me to say, “I have no idea how all of this came to be” and it often makes me uncomfortable when others DO claim to know. I get frustrated because I then ask them why they believe such a thing and they will give me all sorts of answers that don’t seem like good reasons to me. Like when I ask my oldest sister who believes in astrology and some shaman spiritualism stuff, her answers for believing in that sound like the same answers for why some people believe in Christianity, others in Islam, others in Greek mythology (when it was a living religion) etc. I get frustrated, because their reasons for believing their way are just as valid or invalid as someonelse’s in another belief system.

  110. I don’t believe they are all right, so I guess I believe that they are all wrong.

    So, in other words, there may be some sort of Higher Power that made all this happen, but I don’t make any claims about that and become uncomfortable when others do.

  111. #118:
    Jen, I think you fundamentally miss my point, so let me be more clear.

    I have received answers that were diffcult to hear, so I am not sure how that fits with what you are saying.

    One could interpret that experience as one where you ultimately knew the “right” answer, but didn’t want to accept it, so you interpreted your current circumstances/experiences in such a way that the unwanted answer became “from deity,” so you could swallow it as you knew you should. This is at least equally plausible with your “I didn’t like the answer, so it must have come from god” explanation. Neither your interpretation, nor the one I suggest, can be demonstrated to be objectively true, so the honest thing is to admit that your situation is subject to multiple interpretations, just as anyone else’s is.

    Also, this blog is called Mormon Matters, so naturally you can expect “faith-protecting” answers and comments from some people.

    As one of the original blogger/members here, I think I understand that, Jen. In no way did I suggest that your interpretation was inappropriate to be posted here.

    I don’t think this post is about who is sincere and who isn’t, obviously guest seems sincere, but so do those who are posting comments in relation to his story.

    Are you prepared to acknowledge that anyone in this discussion, no matter what perspective they approach from, can be “sincerely” wrong? If you really are open to such a possibility, Jen, you appear to be in the minority of those who’ve tried to “advise” Guest for his salvation, rather than discuss his thoughts.

    Lastly, you are handing out the idea that deity doesn’t even exist just as easily as others are handing out “faithful” answers.

    Of course! I never said otherwise. Rather, I said that the “cognitive dissonance reducing” answers given by several here are no more valid than the idea that deity doesn’t answer prayers because he/she/it doesn’t exist. Your eager rejoinder is actually my point.

  112. Nick, it sounds like you feel some on this thread have said that others’ views are invalid. Am I incorrect on this? I may have missed it, but is there a specific comment where someone invalidates someone else? I think everyone has done a pretty good job on this one. I agree, btw, when it comes to subjective experience, it’s all valid.

  113. #214-

    But if they don’t believe what are they really giving up anyway? Either they did believe and have to go through the process of UN-believing or they never believed and therefore nothing is changing within them. Isn’t giving up belief a process, not an event? That’s why I asked the question, because I assumed that they once believed and are going through the process of giving up that belief.

  114. Guest Writer,

    Thanks for taking something so personal and sharing it in a format like this. Some of my good friends from my teenage years decided to end participation in church and they disappeared from my life. That was a very painful thing, and I wished they could have shared with me something of an explanation like you have, but perhaps their reasons were so personal, they couldn’t even share it with a good friend.

    I grew up in the church and had a pretty sterling view of Joseph Smith which adjusted little by little. I still like him. (Although I don’t care for the portrayal in the latest church movie). I have journals from ancestors that met him and described their feelings. I know of my ancestor’s character. I have a desire to believe. Some people may call that being naive, as I have been called in other posts.

    I choose to not get offended by the following comment that was made, but if I was the type to get offended, this one would get me:

    “As for the people who say they know about Church history and then basically shrug it off, I suspect they are working to avoid cognitive and spiritual dissonance. If they are not ready for it, or do not have productive ways of handling it”

    There are only so many heartbeats in a lifetime and I could choose to spend my life researching every bit of history until I possibly find the bit that breaks the camels back, or at some point I could say I’ve learned enough to become comfortable with continuation of testimony in spite of what I know and “shrug it off”. If someone calls identifies this as not being ready for the next X-file of church history or not having productive ways of handling it, then so be it. I need to spend more time reading “Concern for the One” and accept the possibility that some undiscovered deal breaker could be out there for me in Fawn Brodie or another unread work. All of my studying so far points to the same conclusion for me that there isn’t a deal breaker.

  115. Nick-
    “One could interpret that experience as one where you ultimately knew the “right” answer, but didn’t want to accept it, so you interpreted your current circumstances/experiences in such a way that the unwanted answer became “from deity,” so you could swallow it as you knew you should. This is at least equally plausible with your “I didn’t like the answer, so it must have come from god” explanation. Neither your interpretation, nor the one I suggest, can be demonstrated to be objectively true, so the honest thing is to admit that your situation is subject to multiple interpretations, just as anyone else’s is.”

    What you are suggesting doesn’t correlate with what I was talking about. My answer from the Lord was Him giving me a knowledge of something to come and it ended up happening sometime later. I didn’t want to hear it or deal with it and it did happen eventually. It was not something I could control or change or make happen either, in fact it was not something I ever would have considered or thought of. You can call that what you want, but it was pretty straightforward for me and it was clear that God was the only one that would have known about it and been able to prepare me beforehand for it.

  116. re 112, 114, 127,

    The thing is, as a result of growing up in the church, we have a culturally learned reaction of thinking that it is somehow taboo to leave. Some members *will* go so far as to say to us that leaving is the equivalent of spiritual or eternal suicide, blasphemy of the Holy Ghost, the one big sin of apostasy, etc.,

    So, we ourselves may have to deal with these kinds of attitude, because that is our culture too. Even if not, we have to deal with family members and friends who may certainly reject us or view us in a lesser light if we were to reveal ourselves. So, it could be a social suicide.

    There is a lot to give up in this process.

    I’ll tell it from my perspective. I never had any spiritual confirmations, or anything like that, so for me it wasn’t a matter of losing belief. Rather, it was a matter of me coming to grips with the idea that it is ok to not believe, and realize what kinds of consequences this could have on my relationships with others. Even now, it is a matter of me coming to grips with cultural effects of Mormonism that are a part of me.

    Really, I think the losing the belief comes from instances like realizing that the BoM/D+C/PoGP/Bible/words of the prophets don’t work for you, don’t ring true for you, etc., Losing the belief comes from troubling instances in history or theology. So, in many cases, the damage is done based on the books, on the theology, etc.,

    But whether to leave or to stay…this deals with more cultural matters…more social matters…matters of upbringing, etc.,

    does that make sense?

  117. Many of the comments here have criticized believers who tell non-believers that 1) God always answers prayers and 2) the Church is true – therefore if a person doesn’t get an answer to a sincere prayer that the church is true then the person asking the prayer is at fault. Especially when the believer implies that the reason answers don’t come is because of some sin, lack of faith, or not enough effort on the part of the person asking the prayer. Many have commented that this is insensitive/offensive/inappropriate, that we should not judge others experiences. I agree, but a couple other thoughts come to mind.

    1)I believe that the reasons given above for not getting an answer to a prayer are true in some cases, certainly not all and probably not even most. I think most would agree that there are some conditions to getting an answer to a prayer and I don’t think it’s inappropriate (especially for a Bishop) to ask questions to see if certain conditions are being met. I think we can do a better job of being sensitive and understanding but I don’t this those who are struggling should be surprised when these types of questions are asked.

    2)The original post essentially implies the reverse – the evidence shows that the church is not what it claims to be and those who continue to believe only so because they haven’t looked at the real history of the church, haven’t studied, are ignoring the evidence, or aren’t ready to deal with it. I have heard/read these types of comments many times and it often seems hypocritical. There are many here who seem to accept the premise of the original post – that it’s a person’s fault for not reaching the correct conclusion – but then criticize others for using the same tactic for to support a position they don’t agree with.

  118. Andrew S, you are right that there is a big difference between not believing everything, not believing very much, not believing anything and leaving. Someone can leave at any point on that continuum, and someone can stay at any point, as well.

    I know good people who have done one or the other (stay or leave) at all stages. As Dexter was saying about talking with those who are “non-believers”, I think it’s just as important for the non-believers to be just as careful how they talk with “believers”. It really does boil down to respect, and that really is a two way street.

    This is going to be a general statement and NOT directed at any one person or any one “type” of person. Learning to let go of the idea that you know what’s best for someone else and everyone else is one of the hardest things in this life, imo. Organizations of all kinds simply must teach a “way” – a “truth” – a “principle” – a “reality” – etc. in order to reach and motivate people; organizations of all kinds simply much be convinced that what they have to offer is important – and, with the exception of commodities, better than the alternatives; organizations of all kinds simply must, in one way or another, denigrate or demean competing organizations in order to survive and thrive. That’s too bad overall, but it really can’t be any other way.

    The key that fascinates me is the idea that, while that outlook must exist, Mormonism at the meta level is incredibly paradoxical – particularly when it comes to the ultimate outcome of those who don’t accept its exclusivity claim. All other Christian religions of which I am aware limit salvation FAR more than Mormonism does and most limit their “highest believed reward” much more than Mormonism does. That balance dictates a degree of tension within the Church, since it incorporates an incredibly liberal theology (now, even with issues like homosexuality) with a quite conservative practical structure.

    That doesn’t mean anything, perhaps, to those who leave, but I think it is important to point out that, individual interpretations of ANY member at ANY level notwithstanding, the official position of the Church at least leaves open the possibility that someone who leaves but lives absolutely committed to the principles they understand will be rewarded greatly (perhaps even ultimately) for that effort. I understand that this is not the default belief setting for most members, but I also believe it is the logical conclusion of the “big picture” we teach now. I just think relatively few members see that picture – but that might be nothing more than hubris on my part.

  119. AndrewS-

    I think I understand what you mean. If you don’t mind me asking, what kind of consequences did leaving end up having on your relationships? Was it as bad as you imagined or better than you expected?

  120. Guest Writer–

    Here are a few of my thoughts on this post that I hope will be useful to you and any others who may read them.

    We live in a fallen world. I don’t think many of us realize just how big of a challenges that is. This world can be hell!

    The Lord gave me a vision years ago that gave me perspective on this. In my vision I was coming to earth with someone. We were moving very fast. I knew I was coming to earth to be born. We began to slow down, we were in a canyon and at the bottom of the canyon was a city. Near the canyon was the hospital where I was going to be born. I stopped look out over the city. It was early morning just before dawn. I stopped by some rocks and remember reaching my hand out to touch the rocks. I was very concerned about being born into the family I was sent to. I knew I was in for some difficult times and was very humble about what I had been asked to do. I thought to myself, as I turned to go to the hospital, and once again looked out over the city, what is going to become of me?

    I know from this experience and others I’ve had that this life is designed to be difficult. Out of all the earths created by Heavenly Father this is the lowest and most wicked. It is the darkest of them all. This is the place Christ came to descend below all things. Because of this we have the opportunity to ascend to a higher status than if we had gone to another earth with less challenges.

    Satan is our adversary, but the most difficult trials we face don’t come from him. The most difficult trials come from Heavenly Father. He will have a tried people. Consider the trials that Abraham went through. Who was the source of his trial? How about Job? How about Joseph sold into Egypt? How about Moses?

    I personally believe the Lord has allowed the challenges posed by church history to come into being to try the souls of those who live in this day. The pioneers had their trials, the early Christian had theirs, and we have ours.

    Our trials will do one of two things: 1) cause us to call on God until we have a spiritual awakening or, 2)defeat us.

    The solution to our trials according to the vision of the tree of life is found in the word of God (the iron rod). The only way to be successful is to move through the mist of darkness using the scriptures and the words of the living prophets.

    Studying in detail the elements that make up the mist of darkness, as you appear to have done, can only have one result.

    Just as a man can’t survive under water without some source of air, we can’t survive the mist of darkness without clinging to the iron rod. It just isn’t possible.

    I hope you will lay aside your study of church history and read the word of God with an intensity you may not have done before. When I had my miracle of conversion the trial was so encompassing I couldn’t bear it. I had been in some tough situation prior to my conversion trial: military combat, broken home, alcohol, drugs, problems with the police, sins of the world, but my conversion trial was much more intense because I was active in the church and done all the things the Lord expected, yet the one thing I wanted most was being ruined and I couldn’t do anything about it. I cried mightily to the Lord. I was angry with Him, swore at Him, and couldn’t understand how he could have allowed this totally useless situation to come on me. It didn’t make any sense!

    However, this crisis turned into the best thing that ever happened to me, but I had to go through an early hell to obtain it.

    I hope you won’t abandon your faith without a battle. Don’t let it happen. When things are at there very worst is when you can have a break through.

    It isn’t supposed to be easy or make sense. I hope you will recognize this fact and seek a Spiritual healing that can only come from the atoning blood of Christ.

    This is a plea from me to you. I am saying to you what I would tell my best friend.

    There are others who have traveled the same path your on who have successfully negotiated it with God’s help. I hope you can find such a person to hear their testimony. Please seek one out. You’re not the only one in this situation.

    God’s blessings be upon you!

  121. re 135,

    Jen, not to sound terrible, but the people who took my leaving badly, I didn’t really care about being the best of friends with them. My family took it better than imagined, but then again, my family is idiosyncratic, you could say.

    If I had thought that my parents would throw me out — which is not unlike what I have heard from certain others who have had struggles with their nonbelief — then I would have probably made very different choices regarding staying in the church. Similarly, if I were married to a devout believer — which is not unlike other stories I’ve heard — then I’d evaluate what that would do to my marriage. So, I recognize that I’ve been rather fortunate indeed.

  122. MeMyself:

    in reference to your two points

    1) We can surmise any number of explanations as to why one person/groups religious claims and experiences do not square with our own. That is perfectly acceptable. I think it is acceptable in blog such as this, to pose the question if it is handled delicately and respectfully. There are statements throughout this post which (in one case imparticular) where a question is not raised, but rather a damning allegation is levied. There is the first difference. We can say what we want, but the person who has levied the allegation in this case has laid claim to some pretty spectacular experiences regarding themselves, but the manner in which they are so cavalier in laying charge against Guest Writer causes me to question how much stock I should place in their claims. After all, if they can with such confidence declare that, as matter of fact, Guest Writer has not truly and sincerely sought to understand God and the Gospel, a position to which only those with intimate first hand experience with Guest Writer could have any perspective on, how liberal is he being with his other claims. Can he still post comments here? Of course he can, but they will be percieved in light of the way he represents himself here. The same can be said of anyone here, is it reasonable to speculate that those who lack faith are in such a position because of errors on their part? Yes it is, but if you lay the charge without reinforcement you will offend people and lose their respect. And just to quote some sentiments offered earlier, what is the point of posting on this blog if all you’re going to do is tick people off to the point where they disregard your comments because of you?

    2) I didn’t get this point from the post at all. What I understood was that Guest Writer was actually surprised to learn how many people actually where familiar with all of the nitty gritty in Church history, who yet stay involved anyway. The point was his dilemma is such that he is not able to do that while remaining true to himself. I didn’t really follow that he pushed any of the old, members are just uninformed rhetoric.

  123. #143- That’s funny!

    Seriously Andrew, I don’t remember really having a testimony when I was 17. I grew up in a “crazy house” and I was trying to survive it. It wasn’t until after I got married and away from my family of origin that I discovered my belief system fully. That is my personal experience from what I recall at that age. As for my 17 year old I truly hope he still has some years of maturity coming his way! haha 🙂 I do wish you the best of luck in all you do and hope you find what you are looking for in life.

  124. “Anyone else want to chime in here?”

    *crickets chirping* (I’m not going to chime in, even though I’m closer to 3×17 than 2×17.)

  125. #117 Guest Writer –

    Thanks for your note back to me and your explanation.

    “I will end with this comment as well. You mention that this is the Church of Jesus Christ not the Church of Joseph Smith, but the problem is, I never had an independent belief in Jesus Christ or even God (see comment #17 for more detail).”

    I went back and re-read your #17. I wonder if the genesis of your issues begins here. Without a belief in God and Jesus Christ, the whole church thing falls apart. At least for me. Without a testimony of the divinity of the Savior, it wold be hard to comprehend why a restoration was even required, let alone a Prophet like Joseph.

    I now recognize the issue you are having with the Book of Abraham. but I am really curious about this:

    “Brigham Young taught for 20 years and even included in temple ceremonies the concept that Adam is God the Father. This is thoroughly rejected by modern teachings in and out of the temple and even proclaimed False Doctrine.”

    Where do you get the information that this was taught in the Temple? While I would acknowledge that Brigham spoke of these ideas for some time, there is no evidence that he expected or compelled the members of the Church to accept is as doctrine. As it was not accept by the members, it is not doctrine of the Church.

    It seems the others are engrossed with their own conversations now, so I am happy to dialog with you. As an adult convert, I was pretty impressed with Joseph Smith and what he accomplished in his relatively short life. I can also understand your frustrations as it seemed that he could not handle his personal business very well, take care of his family and that he seemed to do things that were contrary to his own teachings. I tend to look at the whole life and realize the accomplishments of re-establishing the Church on the earth.

    There are very few people that could have their lives as scrutinized as Joseph’s was and is and come out looking much better.

  126. AndrewS-

    “I’ll tell it from my perspective. I never had any spiritual confirmations, or anything like that, so for me it wasn’t a matter of losing belief.”

    FWIW-I didn’t have any spiritual confirmations that I can remember until I was 20 years old. I am going to go out on a limb and say that maybe you didn’t have enough opportunity to experience any spiritual confirmations. I am sure you could see that coming so hopefully the popcorn makes it easier to swallow. 😀

  127. Sure just a quick response to Jen. Let’s bare in mind that the Church sends missionaries out when they are 19, and from my experience there is rarely much difference in the maturity level of 19 year olds from 17 year olds. A large of them haven’t been to college. A larger share of them have only lived at home. They have never been married, and only rarely have experienced the weight an burden of self sufficiency and responsibility that we usually sum up with the word “Experience”. There are exceptions no doubt, but suffice to say if your mature enough to be taken serious as a Missionary and embassador for Jesus Christ, then you ought to be considered mature enough to begin forming rational belief systems for personal spirituality.

    For what it is worth, I think I’m just debating this point, because honestly I don’t think very many seventeen year olds are in a position to finalize issues such as beliefs and attitudes towards God. To sum up, I don’t think that is what Andrew is saying, but I am just positing we can’t discount his age at the time of his religious “awakening” for lack of a better word, if we are not going to question the sanity behind sending nineteen year olds out as ordained ministers by virtue of a right of passage standard to Mormonism.

  128. re 144:

    That was one possible foresight.

    I will open you up to the possibility that hey, I could go 20 years and then have some kind of epiphany, a spiritual message, and then say, “Yup. I’ve got to get back to the church.” I recognize that could happen potentially with any church.

    The question is…if we give me a hypothetical 20 years…what do I do in these hypothetical 20 years? This is the question. So, the answer, I think, is I search for what works for me now and in these 20 years…and I experience that demonstrably, what can work for me and what can work for you can be different. And in this instance, if we’re hoping for 20 years of maturity (or any other amount of time), then we might want to reconsider holding our breaths for it. Because it could be that it never happens, and we live a long, happy, productive, and full life of growth and progress outside of the church.

    Succinctly, I recognize anything is possible, but I’m not holding my breath. I am merely arguing that others shouldn’t either.

    re 146:

    The goal, Jeff, is not for someone to have his life to be as scrutinized as Joseph was and then come out looking much better, because I agree with you that everyone seems to fall on that level. Rather, the goal is to realize that we don’t give *any* such person such deference, so when we do give it to people like Joseph Smith, and scrutiny doesn’t seem to justify it, then there are problems.

    The analogy I have often made is…if we recognize the church is composed of humans, can be flawed because humans are flawed, etc., then why wouldn’t we treat it like another human organization, like a business? I mean, I might looooove Google and everything Google is doing, but I wouldn’t blindly follow Google (although some people do, -_-). I follow Google very tenuously — so far as it is providing good products and services in my life. Faith in Google extends so far as I might give them a bad year or so and hope that they’ll get back to their feet…but if there is no confirmation, it doesn’t make sense to “endure to the end” with a company I know is a human company like Google, no matter how wonderful I found their product to be.

  129. Jeff:

    I’m going to blame it on Wilford Woodruff, but I believe his journals actually mention Adam-God doctrine being incorporated into the St. George Temple endowment ceremonies. Also, there was never a time when the Adam-God doctrine was formally adopted in the same manner as the The Family, a Proclomation to the World, however there is an interesting bit in early Utah history where this matter became a public point of tension between Brigham Young, and Orson Pratt. The outcome appears that, many of the General Authorities of the day seemed undecided but the general consensus was “don’t argue with the Prophet”.

    I will try and get more specific references for this.

  130. Cowboy-

    I think it definitely depends on the young man and their own personal maturity, but I think two years does make a difference when your talking about teen years. I hear what you are saying, but let’s face it, for all of us who have been through this age and moved through our twenties, there is a big difference between what we were thinking then and what we think now (at least for most of us) 🙂

    We can definitely question the age we send missionaries out, but what age would you recommend honestly? The older they get the more likely they will meet someone and get married and then the missionary opportunity will be gone, or they will move through school, get a job and not be able to leave it.

  131. re 148, 151: AGEISM FROM THE LOT OF YOU! 😀

    People can know themselves. This is silly. It isn’t like you don’t know yourself when you’re 15 or 17, but you know yourself when you’re are 25 or 27. Rather, what *could* be true is that you’re still forming and settling into your beliefs when you’re younger, and so it’s possible that by the time you’re “settled,” you could have a much different outlook than when you were younger.

    But that is no reason to discount the experiences from 17. Wasn’t Joseph only 14 and ready for visions?

  132. AndrewS-

    I am not discounting your experiences, just talking from my own experience. I surely did not know myself at age 15, 16 or 17. I liked guys, dancing and having fun. I don’t consider myself shallow then, but I wasn’t seeking for the deeper things in life either and the teenagers I deal with on a daily basis are generally focused on when the next available time is for them to have a good time with their friends, not whether God exists or not. I am sure there are exceptions, but I have a lot of exposure to teens 15-18 and I haven’t seen a lot of spiritual focus in most of them. Maybe you are just one of those exceptions, I mean hey you are blogging instead of out on a hot date! 🙂 haha

    In relation to JS, I think he was ready for visions, but the Lord took years to prepare Him for the work he was to do. He didn’t drop it on him right away and gave him time to mature and grow up some.

  133. Jen:

    Overall I agree with you on all of your points. I guess what I am trying to say is that you can’t really invalidate Andrew’s age when missionaries are sent out at the age of nineteen to consult with people across the world on spiritual matters. If a missionary is old enough to bare testimony of the restored gospel at 19 years, then it is not too much of a stretch for a 17 year old to begin forming religious beliefs. As for the problems that would prevent older members from missionary work, there is an old quote from Joseph Smith, speaking about this very issue, and his take was to not send boys out to do a mans job, ie, missionary work.

  134. re 153:

    I’m pretty exceptional in more ways than one B)

    See…here’s my idea…even looking at my peers, I can see a marked difference in them. Yes, some of them may not have spiritual focus, but they certainly believe in God, the church, etc., They do not have these kinds of struggles, questions and doubts of the veracity of these claims…they accept these things to be true. So, this is rather different than my experiences.

    Rather, their problem, and where they might need to change in the future, is that many of them are not motivated by their belief. Basically, since they *do* believe in God, anyone else, or even I will ask, “So, why aren’t you reading your scriptures? Why are you doing x, y, z, when you know these are sins by your own belief system? Why aren’t you repenting? Why aren’t you straightening up and flying right and preparing for a mission?” The problem with them is that they believe, but their actions don’t show it. They may be believers, but they are apathetic.

    So I’m not going to toot my own horn or say that I’m a patron saint or anything, but I do not think those are where my problems are, or those are where Guest’s problems are (we don’t even know how old he is, haha)

  135. #155-

    Oh go ahead…toot your own horn, we don’t mind. 😀 I consider a believer a doer as well, so maybe our definition of a believer is a bit different. I think it is not that hard to tell when someone truly believes in what they profess. If you spend enough time with them in different circumstances you will be able to see what is important to them and what is not.

    Keep on your friends about what they believe and what they are not doing about it. I respect the fact that you are following your heart and living in alignment with what you believe.

    I have to run but it has been good talking with you. Some kettle corn is sounding really good right now……

  136. # 149 AndrewS

    “The goal, Jeff, is not for someone to have his life to be as scrutinized as Joseph was and then come out looking much better, because I agree with you that everyone seems to fall on that level. Rather, the goal is to realize that we don’t give *any* such person such deference, so when we do give it to people like Joseph Smith, and scrutiny doesn’t seem to justify it, then there are problems.”

    Well, I kind of agree with you on your point. No one deserves “deference” just “because.” They deserve it for their body of work and their positive effect on the world, a group of people or whatever. If we isolate their foibles, then no one except Christ deserves any credit for anything because they are, in fact, flawed human beings. Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, David Ben-Gurion, Mother Teresa, as examples, could not pass the test. I think Joseph falls into the category that his life on balance was of far greater worth than not and his accomplishments warrant our respect.

    “The analogy I have often made is…if we recognize the church is composed of humans, can be flawed because humans are flawed, etc., then why wouldn’t we treat it like another human organization, like a business? I mean, I might looooove Google and everything Google is doing, but I wouldn’t blindly follow Google (although some people do, -_-).”

    It all boils down to nothing more than faith. That may seem like a simpleton answer, but it is true. You can have faith in Google, as far as it goes, but there is a limit. Faith in Jesus Christ has no limit.

  137. #150 – Cowboy,

    I am definitely up for seeing the prove from WW journals.

    “The outcome appears that, many of the General Authorities of the day seemed undecided but the general consensus was “don’t argue with the Prophet”.

    Nevertheless, it was not Church doctrine then and it is not now. It is pretty clear that BY never forced it on the Church. You can say he forced a lot of things, but that is not one of them.

  138. Jeff:

    That is still a debatable point, but from where I stand it is besides the point in the first place. If he tried to incorporate it into the Temple Ceremony, I find it hard to make a case that he didn’t try and force it on the Church. You could debate as to whether this doctrine/error (whichever it may be) was ever properly approved (whatever that means), but from what I have read it is clear that this was a belief that Brigham Young, the guy on top, held. I find it hard to believe that a man who once held the station of Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, can espouse a belief about the very nature and identity of God that is this abhorrent to the entire LDS premise, and still be considered an oracle. This issue makes him seem really disconnected, so I have a hard time reconciling this as just simple speculation. I could accept it as human error, but that’s the problem, it’s not the kind of human error that still tolerates the human to be “in the know” on God.

    FYI – The Wilford Woodruff journals are referenced in the article I linked, but from reading the statement on the page it sounds like WW is either unclear or silent on the matter. Obviously you can see this as evidence against the allegation. Unless there is sufficient reason to discount Nuttall’s diary I won’t be likely persuaded. For what it is worth, the FAIR group seems convinced that his (Nuttals) record was legitimate.

  139. #150-Cowboy “I’m going to blame it on Wilford Woodruff, but I believe his journals actually mention Adam-God doctrine being incorporated into the St. George Temple endowment ceremonies.”

    From “The Mysteries of Godliness” p 112-113 by Gary Buerger:

    “The St George endowment included a revised thirty-minute “lecture at the veil” first delivered by Young. This summarized important theological concepts taught in the endowment and contained references to Young’s Adam-God doctrine….The veil lecture continued to the turn of the twentieth century, though it is uncertain whether the St George lecture with its Adam-God teaching was included in all temples”

    Footnotes in the book reference source material. I’m too lazy to list them……..

  140. re 156: Our definitions are probably most definitely different, but that probably wouldn’t be the first or last time that’s ever happened :). I think we can separate belief from activity, but of course, I think a better believer will strive to act in accordance with his beliefs. But I certainly think it is possible for someone to believe something, but be apathetic about that belief, in which case his belief won’t propel him to any change. And I think this is distinct from someone who simply does not believe (because a nonbeliever could be more “active” than a believer who is apathetic, potentially). We had this go around in Jeff’s last post about the Facade of activity…

    re 157: I was looking for people like MLK and others to be raised. My point is exactly that we don’t give deference to Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, David Ben-Gurion, or Mother Teresa, and we shouldn’t. Precisely because when under scrutiny, we do find out they each have their own issues. will avoid commenting on Christ because this could open a big can of worms here.

    Basically, if we appreciate anything from any of these figures, we might comment on these these things and we might even adopt them for our lives. But we wouldn’t put these ideas on such a pedestal as “Truth.” We don’t say that these guys have done more for humanity, save Christ.

    As for your comments on faith, most certainly it is. But then I’d argue this is not a choice (and I know you’ve got an entire argument to try to convince me otherwise coming up in the works; I’ll cook some popcorn for everyone) and in fact, people have faith for any number of concepts that cause them to be willing to go forward with no limit (even to Google, if you are a drinker of Googlaid.) These things say more about individuals than they do about the concepts that faith is had in.

  141. Cowboy #141
    I don’t post often and I’m not very adept at putting my thoughts into words. I must have rewritten my post 15+ times and don’t think it came across the way I intended.

    1) I agree with your comments. We should not make damning allegations. However, it seemed to me that many of the criticisms weren’t limited to the comments on this post but included any question about the faithfulness/effort. The point I was trying to make is that if someone makes a statement that their prayers have not been answered then questions (not accusations) about faithfulness or possible barriers to receiving that answer are legitimate. These questions should be asked carefully and respectfully and with the purpose of seeking understanding.

    2) Again, this probably didn’t come across the way I intended. The Guest Writer makes several statements that the church is not what it claims to be and then gives examples of believers who don’t want to know the hard truth or if they do then they ignore the stuff they don’t like and continue in belief anyway.

    “it would have led me to the place where I am now, which may be the underlying (perhaps subconscious) reason why they don’t wish to go there”
    “Sometimes, when I would find out something new, I would ask him, “Doesn’t this bother you?!?” He wouldn’t answer.”
    “Although most of the close people around me did not seem to want to face any of this stuff”
    “he went on to say that most people don’t think as much as I do, so they don’t let it bother them. Adding to that, he said, “Plus, it’s the Book of Abraham. Who cares about the Book of Abraham?”
    “In HER OWN ANALOGY she chose to love Big Brother”

    The implication is that anyone who looks at the evidence will reach the conclusion that the church is false. If someone does not reach that conclusion it’s because they’re doing something wrong (avoiding the evidence or ignoring stuff they don’t like). The point I was trying to make is that the logic is the same – if you don’t get an answer to your prayer it’s because you didn’t try hard enough, if you don’t reach the conclusion that the church is false it’s because you are ignoring the evidence.

    I’ve official spent way too much time trying to articulate this point and there have been another 20-30 posts since I left my first comment. Time for bed.

  142. #131:
    My answer from the Lord was Him giving me a knowledge of something to come and it ended up happening sometime later. I didn’t want to hear it or deal with it and it did happen eventually. It was not something I could control or change or make happen either, in fact it was not something I ever would have considered or thought of. You can call that what you want, but it was pretty straightforward for me and it was clear that God was the only one that would have known about it and been able to prepare me beforehand for it.

    What matters, Jen, is what you call it, for your own experience. Of course, the situation could also have been a mere coincidence, which you, in your desire for continued affirmation of your faith, interpreted as divine intervention. It happens all the time.

    #146:
    Brigham Young dictated the original “lecture at the veil” to Wilford Woodruff and L. John Nuttal, in connection with their asssignment in 1877 (immediately before the opening of the St. George Temple) to commit the endowment ceremony to writing. That dictation was copied into the diary of L. John Nuttall (secretary to several presidents of the LDS church), and is abundantly filled with the Adam-God doctrine.

    Of course, Brigham also went on to say that the men had now established the endowment ceremony as it would be until the Second Coming, so…..

  143. There are few people (if any) who would emerge unscathed from a biography written by an experienced and balanced historian such as Bushman. I don’t think anyone would ever say Joseph was perfect, but it’s been a surprise to some just how un-perfect he was. Observers and believers can interpret the evidence as they wish. Some choose to leave a religious tradition that contained surprises – at least for them. Others accept on faith or because of personal spiritual experiences that Joseph was what he (and his successors) claimed to be – prophets leading a church comprising the restored Gospel of Christ. While there are things I don’t understand (and things that have surprised me) about the Church and its leaders, particularly its early leaders, I see absolutely no alternative for someone of a Christian persuasion who desires to believe as the early Saints believed. The LDS Church is the Restoration church and it is one I believe is divinely inspired. The imperfections of its leaders and its members have absolutely no bearing on my testimony. That exit path is too easy. Eventually all come to the cliff overlooking the bottomless pit and have to make a choice which has eternal consequences (see Fredrick Lee – http://tr.im/nZt2). Do we take the leap of faith or do we back away? Ultimately it’s a matter of faith in the unseeable. No criticism from me for anyone who leaves the Church. But I ask, is your life better now?

  144. re 163:

    MeMyself, To try to defend the Guest, let me try to interpret…you write:

    2) Again, this probably didn’t come across the way I intended. The Guest Writer makes several statements that the church is not what it claims to be and then gives examples of believers who don’t want to know the hard truth or if they do then they ignore the stuff they don’t like and continue in belief anyway.
    (several direct quotes from The Guest Writer)

    The implication is that anyone who looks at the evidence will reach the conclusion that the church is false. If someone does not reach that conclusion it’s because they’re doing something wrong (avoiding the evidence or ignoring stuff they don’t like). The point I was trying to make is that the logic is the same – if you don’t get an answer to your prayer it’s because you didn’t try hard enough, if you don’t reach the conclusion that the church is false it’s because you are ignoring the evidence.

    I do not think that Guest Michael is supposing what you think he is. Rather, I think what has happened is he has had several big questions…questions that really bother him. He would have liked for someone, anyone, to give him an answer that can resolve these questions in a way that can make him comfortable believing. So, he asks his friends about these same issues. They respond to him by saying, “this issue doesn’t matter,” or “Who cares about this issue?” or “Ah, isn’t it cute that you’re doing this investigation; you’re like a Winston Smith!” This is how his friends have reacted.

    So, he would’ve liked for them to dispel his fears. But instead, no one he talked to was able to give him any satisfactory answer, and in fact, most demonstrably did seem not to care. The guest writer is not implying that anyone who will look at the evidence will reach the conclusion the church is false. In fact, the guest writer has had incredible faith in assuming that there must be great cause and reason for people to believe despite the evidence…that maybe there’s an explanation to the evidence, or some evidence unseen. Regardless, his faith was not rewarded. Instead, he did not receive anything that dispelled his doubts, but only that which made the doubts stronger.

  145. re 166:

    I’d argue that the exit path is not as easy as you suppose, because as I have tried to impress in comments in this thread, it involves a walking away from the community one has been born into and raised into…and walking away from everything one has learned about how things are or should be.

    That being said, I think for some, it is the right decision…and their lives are demonstrably improved for it. They can move past the baggage of their past and work to healthy attitudes about themselves or about others. It is an immensely tough growing experience, but in the end, it is more worth it to have that comfort than to live in doubt, chaos, guilt, and self-dislike

  146. #164-
    “What matters, Jen, is what you call it, for your own experience. Of course, the situation could also have been a mere coincidence, which you, in your desire for continued affirmation of your faith, interpreted as divine intervention. It happens all the time.”

    You mentioned earlier about a lack of respect from others, yet I wonder if you see it in yourself. This is one of the reasons that is is better to keep spiritual, sacred experiences to oneself. You know nothing of the experience and what took place but talk of it as though you do. The good news is your desire to explain God and His intervention in our lives away doesn’t really make it happen and is only that….your desire.

  147. Just a slightly tangential analogy to consider:

    Most classroom teachers teach by using the same modality with which they learn best. Those who learn by hearing tend to lecture; those who are visual learners tend to do PowerPoint presentations or use lots of pictures; those who are kinesthetic learners tend to assign hands-on projects; etc. Generally, this holds true even if the majority of their students learn best through different modalities than the teacher.

    Those who are the best teachers (who can reach the most students in a way that those students will understand) are those who understand the dominant modality of each student and find a way to present the instructional material in ways that allow all the dominant modalities to be employed. That’s a very difficult thing to do, so there are students who end up in most classrooms not understanding what the teacher is trying to teach.

    I personally think this happens in religion just as much as in the academic classroom, if not more so – since people tend to imbue their religious learning modalities with divine approbation and assume all will experience God (or not experience God) in the same way they do.

    I think I might write a post about that at some point in the future.

  148. re 166

    I may indeed be reading the post wrong. However, the title is “trying to understand my friends who didn’t leave” not “I had questions and nobody could answer them or didn’t care”. I read it as though the writer found things that caused him to question and ultimately leave but others did not. His conclusion as to why they did not is that they are ignoring the evidence.

    re 176

    Didn’t intend to say that leaving is easy, i know that it is often a difficult, painful, heart wrenching experience and I feel much sorrow for those who go thru it.

    To change the subject slightly – This post is barely a day old and there are different understandings about what the author meant. We are fortunate that the writer is still around and can attempt to clarify his intention. We are not so lucky when it comes to documents that were written 100+ years ago. I think it’s easy to read something, even something that is fairly simple, and come away with a different understanding than what was intended. This is something we should consider when ever reading about events that happened long ago and how they should impact how we live today.

  149. #160/161 – Cowboy/Holden

    Thanks for the reference to the Buerger material. I went and read it as well as the FAIR stuff and a few other things. While it is not the subjecto this post per se, it appears that that recorded lecture was a singular event, never repeated and certainly not adopted by the Church. Clearly BY was pretty alone in his thinking on the matter and after his death, the ideas were pretty much put to bed.

    The fact that BY as Prophet, Seer and Revelator of the Church did not demand the adoption of his Adam-God ideas is a comforting thing to me not a situation where we should be dismayed. It once again demonstrates to me that a Prophet can have his own ideas that are his own opinions and does not force them on the Church. Now, if that could have only happened with the Black/Priesthood situation we might be in a very different place with that. But, then again, the feelings on blacks were much more widely held than BY and John Taylor.

  150. #172 – “The fact that BY as Prophet, Seer and Revelator of the Church did not demand the adoption of his Adam-God ideas is a comforting thing to me not a situation where we should be dismayed.”

    He tried, but he had too much opposition. He preached it for 20 years in sermons that he claimed were scripture, said “How much unbelief exists in the minds of the Latter-day Saints in regard to one particular doctrine which I revealed to them, and which God revealed to me—namely that Adam is our Father and God”. According to him it was a revelation from God.

  151. #173 – Not sure what your POV is, but we are talking about 20 sermons out of more than 1500 sermons that BY gave. What is that a little more than 1% of his sermons focused on that subject?

  152. The greater our island of knowledge the greater our beach of wonder.

    Brigham Young knew a lot and talked about a few doctrines that later church leaders knew would be obstacles to the churches missionary program. In addition, these doctrines were not contained in the scriptures. The decision was made to distance the church from these doctrines.

  153. Jared, I really don’t want to derail this post and turn it into just another argument over a long-discarded idea, but just to quibble a bit:

    I would say “teachings” rather than “doctrines” – since it really wasn’t ever adopted and believed by the Church at large.

    Interestingly, however, this really does highlight a difference in perspective between some who stay and some who leave. Some who leave just can’t accept that a Prophet of God believed something that we now don’t accept, while some who stay have no problem with that idea. As a fwiw, leaving Mormonism over that particular issue and remaining Christian (and a believer in the Bible, especially) is inconsistent, imo. After all, there are teachings and practices in the Bible that even the Fundamentalist Assembly of God doesn’t believe and follow.

  154. #174, #175 – I don’t think these comments go to the issue that Guest raised at all. The fact that this issue only represented a small portion of his teachings is irrelevant. the point is, this was the supposed one and only prophet of god on the earth. We’re meant to believe that for decades he walked and talked with the lord face to face on a daily basis, and that he received revelations for the church and the world directly from god’s mouth. The fact that the church in later years completely disavowed this teaching in later years either says something about the modern church or about brigham young or both. Jeff, you seem to be saying “well it’s only 1%, he’s batting 99%, that’s a great track record.” Well in my opinion, although I wouldn’t argue that a prophet needs to be perfect, I would argue that a prophet should at least be familiar with WHO the god is that he’s purporting to represent. Even the mormon church acknowledges that BY didn’t know that – he got it wrong. I realize that that doesn’t bother some people, but it bothers other people a lot. That seems like a pretty big one to get wrong, even if it is just one thing.

    #175 – I think it’s unfair to characterize the church’s position on Adam-God as simply “distancing” itself from teachings it knew would be an obstacle in later years. That teaching has been characterized as flat out false doctrine. So again, either the teaching is true, in which case there’s an issue with the church that disavowed it for political purposes, or the teaching is false, in which case, to me, it clearly says something about BY’s claims to have had an intimate relationship with god.

    I think it’s pretty clear that there isn’t going to be a meeting of the minds between most believers and non-believers on this issue, so we’ll probably have to agree to disagree.

  155. brjones, I am curious about why you believe the following – seriously curious, since I have never heard either of the following claims in any of the Church publications I have read:

    “We’re meant to believe that for decades he walked and talked with the lord face to face on a daily basis, and that he received revelations for the church and the world directly from god’s mouth.”

    Brigham Young himself said more than once that he was NOT a visionary man like Joseph – which is why most leaders and members during his own lifetime didn’t take the Adam-God theory as revelation from God but rather as his own idiosyncratic opinion.

  156. re 171:

    Yeah, mayhaps you read the title but didn’t read the post.

    Summary: The Guest writer had read some material. He had questions. He asked friends about it NOT because he believed they would have unsatisfactory answer. No, he asked friends because he thought they WOULD have satisfactory answers: after all, they believe and they don’t seem to have problems. However, in fact, none of his friends had satisfactory answers, and in fact, they suggested to him that the issues don’t even matter for them. He did not presuppose that they are ignoring evidence. Rather, the friends answered to that extent. He quotes what his friends ACTUALLY have said.

    The Guest left. That is the decision that made most sense to him. But now, he is wondering…since his friends did not have satisfactory answers, why do they stay? Why do they not even have issues over these concerns? Why don’t they care for answers? Does no one care? What drives them? He is…as you could say, trying to understand his friends who didn’t leave the faith.

    With your regard with the slight change of subjects…I agree to an extent. Obviously, I think our feelings on the matter are critical. See, our feelings act as a beacon…when we are happy or satisfied, we pursue. When we are unhappy or doubtful, we want to change something to get ourselves back to satisfaction.

    So, dissatisfaction with how you perceived the Guest’s tone has motivated you to speak up about it. This is not wrong; this is natural and what you or anyone should be doing. But there are people like me or others who are trying to provide you answers. In the end, the answers may or may not be convincing to you, and in the end, you should go in the direction your heart says. This is exactly what The Guest has done, and when he did so, he did not receive convincing answers. In fact, he received what was unexpectedly unconvincing. And he acted on that. This isn’t to suppose that that’s how history actually went, but until someone can give him a better answer on that, he has no reason to be convinced otherwise.

  157. Coming to this late but I hope Guest Writer and all the ex-Mormons and all the present day saints find what they need.

    I no longer believe that needs to be the same thing. But I do believe the world needs more people who can think and evaluate and stand up for themselves and have their own relationships directly with Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother.

  158. Before anyone responds, let me clarify that I am exaggerating and kidding when I use the word hate. It’s all good. 🙂

  159. #169:
    You mentioned earlier about a lack of respect from others, yet I wonder if you see it in yourself. This is one of the reasons that is is better to keep spiritual, sacred experiences to oneself. You know nothing of the experience and what took place but talk of it as though you do. The good news is your desire to explain God and His intervention in our lives away doesn’t really make it happen and is only that….your desire.

    Jen, once again, you’re misunderstanding me. You reported your interpretation of your experiences, and that’s a valid interpretation for you. Frankly, it’s the only interpretation that matters for you. I did not say that your interpretation was right or wrong, nor did I ridicule or disrespect you for sharing it.

    All I did, Jen, was point out that these things are subject to multiple interpretations. Suppose, for example, I were to tell you that an angel visited me in January of 2006, delivering the message that (1) I should leave the LDS church, and (2) deity approved of me being an openly gay man. (No, I’m not actually saying this happened, btw.) You, because of your different worldview, may have a very different interpretation of my experience. In fact, you may even be likely to interpret such a report as an absolutely clear case of satan appearing as an angel in order to deceive me.

    In the end, neither of us could prove who had correctly interpreted the experience as it really was. It wouldn’t matter how sure either of us were that we were right.

    Even Joseph Smith acknowledged that he could misinterpret an experience in this regard. Joseph believed he had received a revelation to send brethren to Canada, in order to raise money for their church by selling the Canadian copyright. The men were sent, and the venture failed. When Joseph was confronted, he said “some revelations are from god, some are from the devil, and some are from men.” In other words, Joseph fully understood that human beings are capable of believing they were inspired by deity, when it was really their own mind at work, or even active deception by satan.

  160. #174:
    Not sure what your POV is, but we are talking about 20 sermons out of more than 1500 sermons that BY gave. What is that a little more than 1% of his sermons focused on that subject?

    First, Jeff, you could eliminate many of Joseph Smith’s teachings in the same way, pointing out that we have only one or two sermons mentioning a particular idea.

    Second, did you get this “20 sermons out of more than 1500 sermons” trick from FAIR? It may sound fancy, but it’s not very meaningful. I could provide you with literally hundreds of statements positively referencing the Adam-God doctrine, from a variety of early Mormon leaders.

  161. #171 Ray– I agree

    #178 Ray– This is a good question. I’ve never felt that any of the prophets walked and talked with the Savior face to face on a daily basis. I can’t think of of any scripture that says or infers this idea.

    The more I think about it, the more I feel that a person who is troubled by church history should take each issue that troubles them and list them on one side of a page, then begin to list those things that are faith promoting on the other side of the page. I’ve never done this but I think the list would produce greater faith than the other way around.

    Take Brigham Young for example. It seems to me that we hardly ever address his accomplishments and contributions. His list of accomplishments is breath taking, and in my opinion, a rather small list of questionable issues. Many people appear to throw the baby out with the bath water when it comes to the problems in church history.

  162. Further, one sermon in which he taught that adam was god would be enough to bother me.

    The BY quote about interracial marriage is also too easily swept under the rug by members. I don’t think it’s fair to simply say BY was wrong there, and that that was his personal opinion. “Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol.10, p.109). He prefaced it by saying it was God’s words, not his. Then he concluded with “this will always be so.” Therefore, it makes no sense to say BY was giving his own opinion. It also makes no sense to say, but that was back in the crazy 1800s when all sorts of strange stuff was going on that we can’t even begin to understand. (By the way, if the times were so crazy back then why did the rest of society find mormon ways so reprehensible?) It also makes no sense to say that BY’s teachings were right then but are wrong now. “Always be so.”

    For me, this issue is similar to the adam-god theory. How can we on the one hand believe prophets are inspired of god and on the other hand accept such glaring mistakes so easily?

    To clarify, I know what the answer is for a believer: some variance of god lets his prophets be human and they do make mistakes but that doesn’t change the truth. I understand that, and I am not trying to convince anyone that BY was not a prophet. The purpose of this post is to simply say that I can relate to Guest’s issue because I think it is a serious and difficult one to overcome.

    Ray’s view that the lord needed great men and great men have flaws is acceptable to me. I can respect that view. But I also respect the view of Guest in that it doesn’t make sense that a prophet of god would teach the incorrect doctrine or teaching that adam was/is god.

  163. Jared, but what about great men who did great things? Doing great things or being a great leader doesn’t make you a prophet.

    BY could have done all those great things, and I will readily admit he was an amazing leader and certainly did accomplish tremendous feats in the face of serious calamity, but accomplishments don’t make him a prophet.

    Gutenberg changed the world more than BY. No one claims he is a prophet because of it.

  164. Let me clarify # 187.

    I said: The BY quote about interracial marriage is also too easily swept under the rug by members.

    I want to say: It appears to me that the BY quote about interracial marriage is at times too easily swept under the rug by some members.

  165. Dexter-

    Just as Nick has pointed out to me that it is all about interpretation, when BY said “death on the spot” what did he mean by death? Physical death, spiritual death, emotional death? Could he have meant this will always be so….in his lifetime only? Only BY could answer exactly he meant when he spoke those things and so we will never really know. The point is, when things are written and there is no ability to ask questions of have follow up they can EASILY be misinterpreted by others.

  166. Dexter (#187) – I have often wondered if many people who advocate the “personal opinion” theories as defenses to the outrageous statements of Brigham Young, really pay attention to his comments. Whether or not BY felt that he was as “visionary” as Joseph Smith, often times when he spoke he made no pretenses that his words were the will of God, period. That’s the problem, if he was so wrong about his own convictions, then we each are forced to acknowledge that there is a reasonable possibility that our own spiritual convictions are nothing more than our best opinions. If we can’t accept that, then we have to surmise as to why Brigham Young couldn’t figure it all out, and that frankly is a sketchier path than the first alternative. For those who care, that is why the Adam God Theory is such a big deal. I find the theory itself less problematic for the Church than the issues the debate raises.

  167. #188 Dexter–

    But BY did all these things you refer to and was a prophet.

    I don’t think there is any way around the point that all of the LDS prophets have been men who lived lives that are exemplary and also were prophets.

    In modern times an example of their well lived lives can be found in how they individually, and the church as a whole, has handled finances. These men-prophets have shown their sterling character in many ways, finances is one that tells much about them. As family me, what can be said about them? In their private live, what can be said about them. The accomplishments of the LDS church, it’s growth, and missionary system, welfare program, and etc show phenomenal leadership.

    In comparison, the issues of church history that have been discussed in this post, lose much of there luster.

    Our scripture teach there must needs be opposition in all things. I find there is a balance, and like I’ve said before, the Lord never told us we would find a testimony by studying church history, the warts or the diamonds. A testimony is found by following the Lord’s admonition and that is to find it through the power of the Holy Ghost.

    Ultimately this is what sets the LDS a part from all other churches, just as JS told the president of the United States when he was in Washington DC.

  168. RE: #178 (“. . . most leaders and members during his [Brigham Young’s] own lifetime didn’t take the Adam-God theory as revelation from God but rather as his own idiosyncratic opinion.”)

    A prayer to Adam-God by Eliza R. Snow: “CHANT, Delivered by ELIZA R. SNOW, February 6th, 1855, before an Assembly of the Polysophical Institution, in L. Snow’s Hall.”

    I will praise thee, O my God.

    In the midst of the daughters of Zion—in the presence of the Honorable Judges in Israel, I will exalt thy name.

    The first fruits of all the nations of the earth are here—thou hast associated me with choice spirits, even those who have conducted nobly from the beginning.
    . . . . .
    Thou has committed to thy servants the key of knowledge with which they have unlock’d the treasures of wisdom and understanding, and have open’d the fountains of light to this generation.

    Thou hast delivered thy people: . . .
    . . . . .
    As thy Son Ahman stood by the three Hebrews, who anciently were cast into the flames . . . ; so thou Ahman went in the midst of thy people, the Latter Day Saints—they have come forth unhurt and the smell of fire is not on their garments.
    . . . . .
    Thou hast plac’d the scepter of Government in the hand of thine anointed, even thy servant Brigham, on whom has fallen the mantle of Joseph— . . .

    Well may thy praises resound throughout all the rich valleys of Ephraim: and let the lofty snow-crown’d mountains reverberate with shouts of hosanna to thy name.

    I rejoice in thy Statutes and in the holy ordinances of thy House—my lips shall praise thee in the social assemblies of thy Saints.

    In the silent meditations of the night, when my thoughts reach after thee, and when the vision of my mind seems to penetrate the dark curtain of mortality; I am swallowed up in the contemplations of thy greatness and majesty, and the condescensions of thy love for thy degenerate children.

    Then I feel to say in my heart; altho’ it might be thro’ the furnace of affliction—tho’ it should be by draining the cup of bitterness to the dregs, if, that, in thy wisdom, is deem’d necessary to purify and prepare me: let me be prepar’d; that I may behold thy face—that I may come up and dwell in thy presence.

    Then, and not till then, will my soul be fully satisfied, O, my God, Adam, Ahman, the King, the Lord of Hosts.

    Deseret News volume 5, issue 7 (April 25, 1855), page 53, column 2. Eliza Roxcy (her preferred spelling) SNOW (1804-87), plural widow of Joseph Smith, and plural wife of Brigham Young, recited this psalm in the home of her brother, the apostle Lorenzo Snow, at the inaugural meeting of his Polysophical Association. Three months after reciting her elaborate prayer to Adam-God, Eliza was called to preside over all women’s ordinances in the Endowment House. She later served as general president of the Relief Society, 1866-87.

  169. “Ultimately this is what sets the LDS a part from all other churches”

    Jared, the issue with that statement is that EVERYONE who adheres passionately to ANY religion or denomination will say the exact same thing – and I personally am not going to deny their statements, since I do believe God speaks to people regardless of religious affiliation. (just not ALL people – *grin*)

    Perhaps the HG speaks to others; perhaps he doesn’t. From a strictly practical standpoint, it really doesn’t matter one way or another **to those people** – since they believe their witness came from God. Personally, I know lots of really good, sincere people of various faith traditions of whom I can say with confidence, “God communicates with them” – and your comment seems to split hairs that don’t make any difference strictly from a practical standpoint.

    It becomes kind of a “by dad can beat up your dad” argument in practical terms.

  170. #190:
    Just as Nick has pointed out to me that it is all about interpretation, when BY said “death on the spot” what did he mean by death? Physical death, spiritual death, emotional death? Could he have meant this will always be so….in his lifetime only? Only BY could answer exactly he meant when he spoke those things and so we will never really know. The point is, when things are written and there is no ability to ask questions of have follow up they can EASILY be misinterpreted by others.

    So, when Brigham Young said that if he ever caught one of his wives in the act of sex with another man, he would thrust a javelin through their hearts on the spot, we should be confused about his meaning?

  171. Rick, so?

    It never gained church-wide doctrine, because most people didn’t accept it. That’s all I said.

    Jen,

    Nick is right. He was being literal. He saw most things very much in black and white. Elder McConkie might be the best parallel in our more modern history.

  172. #178 – Ok, that’s a fair point; I’ll concede that I exaggerated. But I don’t think it changes the analysis much. He was, and still is, considered by the church to be god’s one and only true prophet on the earth for that time period, and he received revelations directly from god for the church and the earth, whether from his mouth or otherwise. I still maintain that, as Guest pointed out, the nature and character of god is a pretty big issue to get wrong when he is supposed to be his mouthpiece for the earth.

  173. Jen,

    While I don’t normally come to the defense of Dexter, he is right on this one. Death on the spot means capital punishment, here and now, and that’s exactly what Brigham Young meant.

  174. I understand and respect that, brjones, and I think it goes to the heart of what each person thinks it means to be a prophet – and The Prophet. I’m sure there is an old post about that somewhere, but it might be good to have a new one directly about it again.

  175. #194 Ray–

    I noticed you’ve said this in other post.

    I think it boils down to authority. What was restored in the restoration? Authority. Authority to do what? In short, to do the will of God through the authority of the priesthood and the associated ordinances (D&C 84).

    Do other churches have the same authority? No. If they did then why have a restoration?

    Baptism is a fundamental ordinance for salvation. What does it bestow? The gift of the Holy Ghost.

    I agree other churches are not left with nothing. They do have the Spirit and gifts, but not to the extent they would have if they had the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    Your thoughts.

  176. While we all have to be aware of the reality that some details can be lost in translation, we should also not get carried away by straining at a gnat over what is meant by BY comment that the punishment for interracial intercourse/marriage was “death on the spot”.

    Jared:

    While the Church appears to have managed it’s finances remarkably, this isn’t at all an explanation for the mistakes made by prior leaders, the logic doesn’t even follow. I am always troubled by the appeal to the Church’s financial position as a mark of it’s divinity, given that Jesus pretty much turned his back on mortal wealth on the numerous occassions the matter was addressed in the scriptures. I’ll spare reiterating familiar scriptures, except to say that given the oppurtunity Jesus couldn’t care less about money, and even declared to a royal officer that his (higher) kindom was not of this world. You will recall that he even counselled his apostles not to worry about where their clothes, food, or lodgings will come from, because the same God who watches the sparrows will look after them.

    I am not personally persuaded that the Church cannot be involved in financial enterprises, or at least that is not a real big issue for me, but I certainly question rhetoric that suggests that the Church is possessed of divine power, and yet points to it’s financial position as demonstration of it’s strength.

  177. “In modern times an example of their well lived lives can be found in how they individually, and the church as a whole, has handled finances. These men-prophets have shown their sterling character in many ways, finances is one that tells much about them. As family me, what can be said about them? In their private live, what can be said about them. ”

    Jared, don’t you think it’s fair, since you have used these things as a barometer of the prophetic nature of these men, to perform the same analysis of the man who founded the church and was the first prophet of this dispensation, and the man from whom all these other men ultimately derived their authority? And how does he come out in such an objective analysis? I think an analysis of how he handled the finances of the church would be particularly interesting, considering the weight you seem to be giving that issue.

  178. RE: 196

    Ray, I think the fact that your brief answer to me, there, is good enough to satisfy you, goes to show why some of us have blue eyes and some of us have brown eyes. In other words, the surprisingly different approaches to religion displayed in the many comments in this post are quite a revelation. We should all love one another, but we are headed to many different destinations, and we can only touch tentatively along the way.

  179. I’m coming in late on this one but have really enjoyed reading the thread. I hope my own comment isn’t too far off base.

    As a convert of twleve years, coming off the buzz that LDS prophets were shining knights in white, godly armor has been difficult, to say the least. I think that’s mostly because the idyllic images painted of them by “faithful members”, by and large, seems to continue. It’s maddening to know that they were fallen, imperfect men, who because of their positions maybe made bigger mistakes than I will ever have the opportunity of committing. But then, that’s the point of faith in the LDS Church for me…I’m permitted to believe in whatever, however I may.

    For me, that particular Article of Faith has little to do with “humoring” the “outside” world of faiths and everything to do with exercising tolerance and patience with members of my own religion who do not share the exact same beliefs as myself. We are all in process and none of us have nor will arrive for eternities to come.

    BY and JS were not perfect men, by any stretch of the imagination, and learning of their faults has taught me a greater patience with my own. That doesn’t mean what they have said doesn’t hurt, it just means that I can write it off if it doesn’t “taste good” or feel quite right on a spiritual level initially or following a period of prayer and fasting. If I relied on them to be perfect and proclaim all-perfect teachings, I’m not really relying on the Savior or my right to personal revelation, am I? Maybe we LDS, generally speaking (I know, I dislike generalities too….sorry!) rely too much on getting inspiration via our leaders and forget to secure it for ourselves. As my husband puts it, “we’re all on equal footing in God’s eyes…only some men and women are called to fill positions as a ‘job’ and maybe less as an ecclesiastical conduit.” It’s easy, what with all of the supposed “doctrines” practiced to lose sight of the fact that my relationship to Diety is the only thing of real importance. I reckon we don’t really have a clue about the rest of the chatter no matter our church position or esteem with which we are held and hold for ourselves, imho.

  180. I have not had internet access for awhile, sorry.

    @ Andrew S: Are you my doppleganger? You seem to understand me perfectly.

    @ Jared comment #186: This may reveal how nerdy and methodical I am, but I actually DID sit down and write out a list of reasons to doubt and another list of reasons to believe. I even sat down with my parents who are believers and made the lists with them. In the end, my list of reasons for doubting was at least 5 times longer than the one for believing.

  181. re 205

    after reading about your response to Jared’s #186, only one conclusion makes sense: we must indeed be doppelgangers. My decision matrix ultimately probably wasn’t/isn’t as thorough as yours probably is, and I don’t have a 60 page treatise to go along with it, but I remember going through the same process.

  182. #201 & 202 Cowboy & Brjones–

    I’m not trying to say this proves they’re prophets. But I do think it tells a lot about their integrity, wisdom, and ability. It makes me think of the idea that by their fruits you shall know them.

    The church is built on the concept of that our leaders are inspired (prophets) and that the Book of Mormon is a witness to the reality of Jesus Christ and came by the gift of God.

    What they do with the tithing members pay is an indication of who they are. Do they have huge incomes with real estate holdings, topped off with yachts, extravagant art collections, and the like. No bimpo eruptions either.

    So what’s my point? They pass the smell test with flying colors. Where are their equals?

    Now whether or not they’re prophets, that point needs to be assessed in other ways. How is the Book of Mormon, D&C, Pearl of Great Price holding up? Very well, in fact I’ve been in the presence of scholars who made no bones about the fact the Book of Mormon has all the features of an ancient document.

    The Pearl of Great Price is a remarkable document as well (I agree the translation questions are valid, but the contents of the PoGP stand up well).

    But, again the Lord is not going to allow a sure witness to the truthfulness of the church’s claims and thereby negate agency, this comes by the power of the HG.

  183. “In short, to do the will of God through the authority of the priesthood and the associated ordinances.”

    Jared, I can agree with that statement – but I also think that statement doesn’t exclude all kinds of other godly and God-directed activity “to do the will of God” elsewhere. I think too many members conflate Priesthood authority with exclusive conduit of God’s voice – and that’s never been the claim of “the Church” or its top leadership, collectively.

    Fwiw, the Article of Faith says that the Priesthood is necessary to “preach the Gospel” and to “administer the ordinances thereof.” Pretty much everything else, imo, can be accomplished all over the place. Yeah, there’s a practical benefit, imo, of church membership in the here and now – but the only exclusivity I can pin down as absolute in the comprehensive theology is the performance of eternal ordinances for every soul who has ever lived upon the earth so they can become like their Heavenly Father (the core “Good News” of the Atonement) and preaching the Gospel that includes that universal reach of the Atonement. Iow, it’s pretty much all about building the temples and preaching the theological justifications for and implications of the work performed there. Everything else is subordinate and can be accomplished by people not holding the Priesthood authority.

  184. #205 Guest Writer–

    Thanks for sharing that. I’d suggest sitting down with someone who knows the history of the church and can help with your list.

    For example, I can point you to two books, for starters, that are outstanding contributions to understanding how the the Lord’s servants are recipients of the the promised blessings of being led by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost.

    Harold B. Lee Prophet & Seer, by L Brent Goates
    Yearning for the Living God, by F. Enzio Busche

    I really enjoyed Elder Busche’s book because he was a convert in Germany and then become a GA.

    Both of these men worked by the gift and power of God. Where did they get it if the church isn’t true?

    I hope you read, and will consider my #136 to you.

  185. There is little to no accountability on tithing, so I don’t who is in authority to suggest whether it is handled well or not. Many of the Brethren are independentally very wealthy, so I’m not sure I get the point. Lastly yes, generally the Church and it leaders these days bear good fruit. But, not the independent variety. In other words, they don’t seem to bear they kind of fruit that can’t be purchased at any reasonable source.

  186. #209 Ray–

    What does Iow stand for:

    Acronym Definition
    IOW Isle Of Wight
    IOW In Other Words
    IOW I/O Write
    IOW International Office for Water
    IOW Intelligence Operations Workstation (USMC)
    IOW Integrated Optical Waveguide
    IOW Information Operations Warfare
    IOW Innovators of Wrestling
    IOW Idiots on Wheels

    LOL

  187. Jared, that’s perfect for a game of Balderdash. Good thing this thread is post-200 comments so we can have comments like this. 🙂

    Carry on.

  188. #209 Ray–

    On a more serious note–

    A short answer, in my opinion, we do 98% of the lifting and they the rest.

    Just a wild estimate, but I guess what I am saying is the Lord restored authority so that at the 2nd coming the earth would have a prepared people, otherwise…3 Nep 25:6

  189. AdamF–

    Good to hear from ya–

    Question: when I make a comment I often need to fill in the Name, Email, Website info. Is there a way to avoid repeating this?

    [admin] Copy and paste? You should not need to if you’re logged in to WordPress. Or, your computer should remember. Anyone have any other ideas?

  190. #211 Cowboy–

    In the final analysis, it is what is in the eye of the beholder, as to what we see.

    I don’t think anyone will argue that LDS church leaders use the church funds for anything else than building the Kingdom of God on earth as outlined in the LDS scriptures.

  191. #218:
    I don’t think anyone will argue that LDS church leaders use the church funds for anything else than building the Kingdom of God on earth as outlined in the LDS scriptures.

    Whew! Jared finally reveals that he’s been JOKING in his comments, all through this thread!

  192. #195 “So, when Brigham Young said that if he ever caught one of his wives in the act of sex with another man, he would thrust a javelin through their hearts on the spot, we should be confused about his meaning?”

    Depends on how you look at it. Haven’t you ever heard parents say to their children “I’m going to wring your neck if you do that again, or “I brought you into this world and I can take you out?” People say things in emotion, or even when they are just considering what they would do if someone did something they wouldn’t like, yet it doesn’t mean they really would do it literally. So yes, BY’s meaning could be more about how it would make him feel to catch one of his wives in the act of sex with another man, then what he would truly do if it came down to it. Not to mention if he really did catch one of his wives in the act, would he really have a javelin handy? 🙂

    BTW..I would love to see the reference on this BY quote and the one prior relating to JS.

    I admit, my example wasn’t the best in referring to BY’s comment about “death on the spot” but I was trying to make a point more than anything. BY is dead and long gone and cannot be questioned about what he said and did so long ago. It doesn’t really matter to me if a person is a BY “expert” and has read everything about him. He really is the only one who can clarify or explain what he meant literally or not. I look forward to asking him questions about what he said about many things, but until then, I won’t worry about it because it really doesn’t pertain to how I relate to God or Him to me.

  193. To be honest Jared, this really isn’t a an area of complaint from me personally, but I am aware that there are individuals out there who hold this complaint. Many of them often delve into the realm of Mormon Conspiracy Theory, which I am not all that fond of. However (you knew that was coming, right), I am confused as to why the Church seems to busy itself so much and, presumably the leaders in commercial endeavors. Banks, retail shopping, publishing, public relations, life insurance, cattle ranching, and that doesn’t even scratch the surface. On any account, none of this is a silver bullett either way. Suffice it to say, the financial management of the Church appears generally commendable – but, so what. I don’t think that Church finances is exactly what Jesus had in mind when he stated that “by their fruits ye shall know them” when using parable to issue his famous warning that we should “beware of false Prophets, who come to you in sheeps clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves”.

  194. #221 Cowboy–

    Finances and related subjects do not prove the Spiritual claims of the church. But they do act as indicators-fruit, in my opinion.

    Indicators, as in stock market indicators, will not guarantee a success stock trade, but can give a trader an idea whether or not a trade as potential.

  195. Financial indicators in the stock market help benchmark performance and standards of expectations of a stock. The only thing that matters about stock is that the price rises above that which you bought it for, since generally the only thing you are trying to accomplish is increasing your net worth. Again, I’m missing the correlation on this one. If you see the Church’s financial management as a plus, I guess I can understand that. But, I’m confused by your comments because you seem to be suggesting that the financial strength of the Church is indicative of a divine influence. If that is so, what do we therefore infer about the Playboy corporation? Secondly, are you suggesting that these financial indicators verify to you that you made a good choice about the Mormon Church? Am I missing some contemporary analogy on spiritual ROI? I would certainly be pleased that my religion is fiscally responsible, but I can’t say it would serve as any type of divine corroboration, especially not to the degree that it nullifies some major doctrinal fouls.

  196. Jen:

    The source you are looking for is Journal of Discourses, Volume 3 – Pages 246-247. I will link it below, but what Brigham Young states in a nutshell is that if a man is going to spill the blood of his brother and wife who are engaged in sex, that man must have clean hands – otherwise he should leave it alone. He then qualifies himself as such a one with both hands clean enough a will strong enough to put a javelin between the two of them while they are having sex. Though, as you cleverly point out, he makes no mention of how to obtain the javelin needed in this case.

    http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/JournalOfDiscourses3&CISOPTR=9595&REC=3

  197. Jared, if I argued that pornography rates, depression rates, bankruptcy rates, and divorce rates in Utah were the “fruits” of the church you would disagree, I imagine.

    So give us the same respect in not labeling the finances of the church as “fruits” of the church, especially when you consider the failures of the bank JS created. If the church’s financial record is an indicator of whether the church is true then where does it end? I think the church does a great job of diversifying and I love the perpetual education fund, but it’s not an indication of being the lord’s work, in my opinion. I don’t hear anyone arguing that the assets of the catholic church indicate anything at all.

  198. I think being debt-free as an organization shows incredible foresight and amazing restraint, but I’m not sure I could label it prophetic foresight. Overall, I would never use financial management as an indication of divine authority – especially, as others have mentioned, given the financial condition of the Church prior to the last few decades.

  199. I believe the quest for understanding this issue boils down to a desire to believe. We humans believe many bizarre and absurd things, from world wide floods, to Kolob being the source of light for the Sun, to the supposed first man and woman eating some mystical fruit causing evil and sin to enter the world, to spiritual protection from blessed underwear. Once we accept and believe these things, then our minds go to work to keep those beliefs real, even when clear evidence shows us that such is absurd and nonsensical. This is why people fly planes into buildings, this is why innocents were slaughtered on the meadows of southern Utah, or why young zealots spend two years of their lives selling a particular flavor of the Christian gospel, or why outright lies and absurdities are ignored or defended despite the costs to personal integrity and honesty itself. This is why the Book of Mormon is taken seriously by a tiny fragment of our species, and the Bible for a larger segment. It is nothing more than a desire to believe which keeps one focused, believing and convinced when everything else around us from evidence, reason and reality itself tells us such is absurd.

    The Brahman Monk rubbing cow urine on his head for blessings, the Catholic wearing the cross to ward off evil, the Mormon placing olive oil on someone’s head and then pronouncing magical words in order to heal the sick. All magical, yet for our human minds very comforting in a world lacking order and rife with chaos. It is comforting to be in the tribe with all of the answers and a sense of purpose, especially one which claims over and over to be the one grand truth in the Universe. We humans are strange creatures, believing that each has the true religion, (several of them) all while doing their damnedest at spreading their own version of the supposed eternal truth despite cost to self, family, community and even life itself. And sadly, most folks never stop, never pause, and never think about just what it is they are being asked to believe, wear, eat and do; the call of the tribe, the desire to belong and the feeling of being the one with all of the answers is just too powerful in boosting the feeling of self importance and specialness. Nature has no idea we exist, the world does not spin for us, nor do we see the stars and galaxies because some deity placed them in the right place for our evening enjoyment, yet embracing such does not give us comfort, so we huddle together in our fear, with our talismans and our scriptures warding off the evil unknown which lurks just beyond our view. What does truth have to do with any of this? Nothing. Belief, belonging and the very human desire of being special, unique and chosen feeds the vanity of faith and human ego.

    Michael wanted to know the truth. He did not want to pretend or hide what he found, he was prepared for truth to take him on his path wherever it led him. When lies, and I mean outright, in your face, skin scorching lies are told and then discovered, the only real alternative is to see it for what it is and move on, or we can continue to pretend that truth and reality have no meaning, especially if accepting such will cause us to be uncomfortable, grow, change and realize that maybe we don’t really know anything after all, something which is almost impossible for human beings to do. Many here have expressed the many ways in which they desire to eat the feces filled brownie all while exclaiming that they just can’t taste the poop, so why not keep on eating? Michael and I and tens of thousands of others have decided our fecal intake has reached its limit, and so off we go, to live, discover and accept truth and reality wherever it takes us while the rest of you remain behind debating how to make the fecal brownie taste better.Good luck with that, perhaps a little frosting might help?

    Here’s raising a glass of Scotland’s finest to Michael and all those on the path of truth and understanding, to the rest, enjoy the brownies.

  200. While I do not wish to offend any, so I do not necessarily adopt all of Swedeboy’s terms, I agree 100% with the point of his post.

    I can tell you from experience, it is painful to go from feeling like you have all the answers and a good understanding of the purpose of life to believing that life is simply the breaths that we take, and that no one is watching, and no one form the heavens cares. However, I would rather face what I believe to be the truth, despite it’s haunting loneliness, than believe some comforting hocus pocus. I believe cognitive dissonance is very powerful. I believe it is very hard to accept defeat, like I did. What I mean is, it was very painful to realize that a) I had been wrong all these years and b) I had taught many others these wrongs.

    I believe many consider themselves to be too intelligent to have been duped all their lives, and the prospect of being wrong all their lives is too painful, so they continue to believe no matter what evidence is placed in front of them.

    But that is just my opinion. As I’ve said before, the people I love the most in this world are faithful mormons, so I would never wish to offend any faithful mormon. But in my opinion, at some point one must call a spade a spade. It’s possible that god exists. It’s possible that the church is true. But it’s also possible, and in my opinion probable, that the mormon church is led by many well-intentioned people who are simply people, not inspired men called by deity.

  201. Cowboy, Dexter, Ray

    I guess I didn’t do a very good job explaining myself. Let me try again.

    Do I think the church’s wealth is a reason someone should join the church. No

    Do I think someone should join the church because of the financial programs (welfare, PEF, cattle ranges, and etc) No

    Do I think it strong evidence of the wisdom, honestly, and integrity of the church leaders. Yes

    Question: if church leaders made some bad decisions that caused a big loss of money that made headlines would critics be justified in saying this is evidence church leaders are not inspired?

    Question: if church leaders were found to be using tithing to buy yachts, planes, numerous expensive homes for their private use, and etc would that be reason to question their honesty, integrity and wisdom?

    If you answered yes to either of these questions then is it fair to say the absence of these kinds of dealings is evidence that church leaders are men of honesty, integrity and wisdom?

    Is honesty, integrity and wisdom a “fruit” (evidence) as described by the Savior where he says:

    Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
    16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
    17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
    18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
    19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
    20 Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them.

    (Book of Mormon | 3 Nephi 14:15 – 20)

  202. Jared, I expect any fiduciary to be very honest and to have integrity in the safeguarding of funds be it for a church, or a trust, or a corporation. The law requires proper handling of monies and integrity. So why, if the church hires fantastic managers to manage the funds of the church and those managers do a good job, should I think that is a fruit or indication that the church is of the lord?

    Swiss banks are the most trusted in the world? Are they run by the lord?

  203. Jared, we all know you strongly believe the church to be true. For you, a million things point to the church being true. The problem is, the same could be said of anyone about anything. For many, a cow walking is a sign of god’s love. If one chooses to constantly look for indicators to support whatever their belief is, they will find it. This is true for atheists and believers. But it reflects the attitude of the person more than any objective truth, in my opinion. People see what they want to see.

  204. #235 Dexter–

    I talking about a church who claims to have inspired leaders, not a bank. The Lord in the verse of scripture I quoted is talking about true vs false prophets. Banks don’t teach the gospel so I don’t think the Savior was referring to them as prophets.

    As one looks at the various “churches” what kinds of fruit does one see. Some of the churches that have been in news stories in recent years have been found to be run by leaders who use church money–tax exempt money, and spending it on lavish life styles involving multiple homes, yachts, and real estate holding, art work, jewelry and etc.

    How would you classify them based on the Lord’s definition of “fruits”?

  205. Swedeboy, you are entitled to your opinion – and I truly respect that. However, please moderate the tone of your comments a bit if you continue to post comments here. Disagreeing is perfectly acceptable; phrasing things in a blatantly mocking way is not – especially when using the images you did.

    It’s amazing how many people mirror the exact attitudes and actions they condemn harshly in others. Please don’t do so here.

  206. Jared, the Catholic church claims to be the one true source of authority of god on earth. For decades they were led by Pope John Paul II, who was a man of very high integrity. He was more accomplished in many ways than many of the brethren who have served as apostles in the mormon church. He was highly educated, he spoke 11 languages, he did a great deal of charity work and spent much of his life helping the poor and afflicted. To my knowledge he was never accused of pilphering church money to buy yachts or homes or accused of having mistresses, etc. Clearly many of his fruits are those of which the savior spoke. Do you think there is ANY chance that Pope John Paul was the representative of god on earth?

  207. Dexter, one of my favorite statements has been said in various iterations over time:

    “We don’t believe what we see; we see what we believe.”

    I only would add,

    “and we tend to think everyone who sees differently is wrong.”

  208. “Do you think there is ANY chance that Pope John Paul was the representative of god on earth?”

    Personally, I think he was “a” representative – and a very good one. His successor, not so much of a good one. I’m sure that’s how those who are charitable outside Mormonism view our Prophets – some good ones and some not so much.

  209. Dexter, Brjones, Ray–

    I’m just exploring and trying to learn your perspective on the Lord’s definition of “fruits”. I used finances as topic to talk on. There on others, but I just selected that because it is kind of a neutral topic.

    I don’t mind if there are other churches brought into the discussion.

  210. #243 – Ray, I completely agree with you. Jared, however, seems to be indicating that the fruits he mentioned are indicative of the brethren of the church being true prophets. My point was just that many religious figures of other churches who profess to be right possess the same qualities, but I don’t expect that you would see that as evidence of their claims being true. I’m not saying the brethren aren’t true prophets, but I think the criteria you outlined are not good indicia of that.

  211. #246, I agree, brjones – and I think the last comment primarily was addressed to Jared, not me – since I didn’t outline criteria for prophetic status. Am I correct?

  212. Brjones et al,

    Sometime I think the critics of the church make mountains out of mole hills. I am just trying to find common ground among those on this post who have brought up many things about the church they don’t like. Is there anything we can agree on? Or is it like Ray says above #240.

    I think the church and many other churches show forth fruit like the Savior defined in the beatitudes. But there are also many churches who cannot fit that definition.

    The LDS church has a record of honesty, wisdom, and integrity in handling their finances. Is that so hard to admit? That says something about the leaders. If there was evidence LDS church leaders were using church funds to feed the apetites of the flesh then the critics would be all over them. Why not compliment them for using the churches resources wisely?

    Could this be and indication of being so one sided on the facts that it is unreasonable in the extreme?

    This is a fair question, asked with a real desire to understand. 🙂

  213. Jared, nobody here is disputing that basic assertion, but it sounded like you were tying that to evidence of actual prophetic authority. That’s all. No big deal, really.

  214. Jared, I just want to say, it is clear you are trying hard with your tone, and are doing quite well! I think that is something everyone can agree on! 😉

  215. Michael,

    Thank you for sharing your personal journey with us. You are not alone. I have had many of the same experiences.

    When I studied Joseph Smith’s life through books such as Rough Stone Rolling I grew to love him more. He was not the glossy, touched up Prophet I was taught in Church. He was a real man, like you and I, who was simply brilliant. He had a ton of flaws, but was still able to organize a Church and convince thousands to follow him. He helped his followers let go of the creeds and fallacies of 19th century Christianity. My feelings for Joseph Smith went from worship to holy envy.

  216. #250 – Jared, I happen to completely agree with you about the leaders of the modern church. In my lifetime, including up to this very day, I have always felt that the leaders of the LDS church are of high integrity and morals. And yes, I would agree with you that these are examples of fruits as defined in the scripture you quoted. I would also agree that if they possessed character traits opposite to those mentioned, it would cut against them being prophets.

    I have two main issues with this standard. 1) While I think that the lack of these characteristics would make it more difficult to argue that these men are true prophets, I don’t think the converse is necessarily true; i.e. that the existence of these characteristics indicates that they ARE prophets. The reason I say this is that there are millions of people in the world (if not billions) who are extremely ethical and moral people with the highest integrity, who would never steal, cheat, etc. I think these are baseline requirements that anyone claiming to be a representative of god would have to possess. The fact that so many other religious figures have the same characteristics makes the possession of such characteristics of limited use in determining whether or not one’s claims to divine authority are authentic.

    The second problem I have is that many members of the church are unwilling to apply similar criteria to the earlier brethren of the church. Joseph Smith fails similar tests on a massive scale. He was at BEST an incompetent manager of money, and at worst he was guilty of fraud. That he took other women to his bed without his wife’s knowledge is unquestioned. The only question is whether god told him to do it or not. He commanded that members give ALL their possessions to the church, and he used a portion of that money to procure the finest land and homes for himself and his family, and when the experiment with the law of consecration ended, did he return the land to those who had donated it? No, he kept it in his own name. My point is not to disparage JS. I will admit, as I have done many times, that if god commanded him to do these things, then he was justified and that’s the end of the conversation. But when you use the criteria of frugality, money management, honesty, chastity, etc. as barometers of whether the leaders of the church are worthy to claim the prophetic mantle, I think it’s only fair to include JS and other brethren of the early church in this analysis, and as I said before, I think any such objective analysis will have a much different result.

  217. 254. Brjones

    In your opinion can Joseph Smith be guilty of the things you mention, without direction from God to do them, and still be a Prophet?

  218. Jared:

    Everyone has pretty much nailed it, but I would just remind you that you initially raised this issue of the Church’s recent financial conduct as a means of cancelling out Brigham Youngs rather emphatic assertion that Adam was God the Father, ie, literal Father of The Savior. I acknowledged in my initial responses to you that the Brethren have demonstrated good money management, and that it is commendable. I just fail to see this as evidence in favor of their Prophetic calling. I think BrJones mentioned that financial integrity is not a fruit, but rather a minimum benchmark for anyone proclaiming divine authority. It is alot like a bachelors degree, having one really doesn’t mean anything anymore, but not having one means the world.

    A final note, I was reluctant to mention the Kirtland banking fiasco because BrJones started that one, but I think it must be considered if we are going to consider the current financial position as a metric indicative of Prophetic legitimacy.

  219. #255 – Yes, if god indeed exists, he could call anyone he wants as prophet and he could place any parameters on that calling that he chose. I make no qualms about the fact that JS’s many shortcomings (in my opinion) do not disqualify him as prophet.

    I would point out, however, that Jared is the one who raised the issue of fiscal and personal integrity and a spotless record as being indicative that the brethren’s claims to divine authority are genuine. Again, I think it is only fair that JS be held to the same standard, or else all we’re doing is pointing out such attributes in those who have them and saying they don’t matter in those who didn’t. I happen to agree with Jared that those things are important. The difference, I suspect, is that a) I believe that JS did not possess, or at least display them (in large part) and b) it is significant that he didn’t possess or display them. I suspect that many believers either think that JS’s actions don’t indicate anything about his character one way or another (except his good actions, of course) or they just can’t be understood because we didn’t live 200 years ago (although again I find it interesting that we’re perfectly capable of interpreting all the good things JS and BY did, despite the paucity of facts available to us). Either way, I think there is a major double standard being employed here. The fact is, by their fruits we’re supposed to know them, but apparently only the good fruits. All the good they did proves they were prophets, but none of the bad proves anything. I realize this is an oversimplification, but it generally encapsulates my feelings about this issue.

    In short, do I believe he COULD have been a prophet despite all his actions? Absolutely. In light of his actions do I believe it is LIKELY that he was a prophet? No.

  220. #256 Cowboy–

    I’m interested in seeing all of the prophets in perspective. Joseph Smith for example, in the history of the world has their been another man like him?

    Does history show an individual who was born in like circumstances (poor and uneducated) who brought forth a scripture like the Book of Mormon (before age 25) and told the world it was from God, started a church that has flourished as the LDS church has, and has attracted the best of people as its members (requirements to join are very high). The church he started, as many of its critics admit, is amazing in many ways. Lay clergy, 19 year old missionary force, financed by tithing and donations, was run out of the united states, built an empire in the west, over come extreme prejudice, developed a unique and innovative welfare system, lead by men who are very old, experienced unusual growth and kept up with it, the list goes on and on. Please add to it.

    I repeat is there a parallel in history? What about the many other religions that started in Joseph’s day. Where are they today?

    I’m just pointing a few of the things that seldom get mentioned in the “shoot outs” we have in this blog and the others that comprise the bloggernacle.

    Sometimes we forget what an amazing church we have in the LDS church. There are warts, but there are diamonds too, they need to be mentioned and respected to be fair and just in our discussions.

  221. #250:
    The LDS church has a record of honesty, wisdom, and integrity in handling their finances.

    Says who? The allegedly “independent” accounting firm that’s called upon to stand up in general conference each year, reading their little script of ringing endorsement?

    Since Monson’s ascendancy, the LDS church has conveniently built one temple in the midst of a wealthy donor’s new housing development, and has conveniently announced another temple in the middle of a church-owned real estate development in the Kansas City area, which happens to be lagging in property sales. To me, these actions smack of financial motive, rather than divine revelation.

    Let’s be honest though, Jared. It doesn’t matter to you what the leaders of the LDS church spend on or invest in. No matter what it is, you’ll consider it honest, wise, and full of integrity, because you’re highly motivated to interpret the GAs actions in that manner. If Monson shot the president of the United States in the face, you’re one of those guys who will insist that it was directed and fully approved by deity.

  222. #257 Bjones said –In short, do I believe he COULD have been a prophet despite all his actions? Absolutely. In light of his actions do I believe it is LIKELY that he was a prophet? No.

    That seems like a fair assessment to me. Thanks

    I don’t want to beat this perspective to death, but I did want to bring it out so all could see and comment about it.

    I won’t add anymore to this perspective unless others keep it going. 🙂

  223. #259 Wow Nick–

    Your words leave me without words. Your words say it all but leave you…well,

    I wish you would modify them. I think you would feel better if you did. Especially later.

    I know its easy to get worked up and over state things.

  224. #261 – Jared, I think this is absolutely true, and I appreciate you pointing it out. As Dexter has said a number of times, virtually every person in my life that I care deeply about is an active, believing member of the LDS church, and I have no question about the personal integrity of any of them. I think the LDS church as an organization is amazing, and it has done much good in the world.

  225. God has defined the differences between good and evil, and He is our Maker, Creator and Lawgiver, so doesn’t that automatically give Him the right to say (in whatever situation He sees fit) what will be considered good and evil before Him? We have clear cut guidelines, but let’s say a prophet is told by the Lord to do something that seems blantantly wrong. I am sure this prophet will struggle within himself, but I have no doubt that if it is truly coming from the Lord this prophet can and will find peace in obeying and will find sorrow and sadness in not obeying. What would you do if you were this prophet? Would you put everything on the line and disobey the Lord? Who can ever win going against the Lord? (assuming you believe in Him and seek to obey Him).

    I am sure my opinion will not be a popular one, but I believe it is very likely the Lord told Joseph to do some of the things he did that have made him look bad to us. I have no idea why, but I have no problem believing it. Some people receive an answer to prayer that JS was a prophet, but then later study his life and come to the conclusion that this can’t be the case because of some of the things he did. Why not? If God justified him, who are we to say what he did was out of line or even wrong? If the Lord tells us through the Spirit that JS was a prophet, then we can question God, but it takes us down a path of questions that CANNOT be answered unless you were to walk in JS’s shoes (boots, whatever). It is impossible to understand why he did what he did, so we can trust that God is telling us the truth when he answers our prayers concerning JS (and I already hear those of you saying you have never received an answer about JS so you can ignore this post).

    My point is that even if a prophet doesn’t have a perfect life history, it doesn’t mean he wasn’t a prophet. To me there is plenty of evidence in the scriptures that the Lord does ask difficult things of those He has chosen and at times, things that seem completely wrong. He’s in charge and running the show, so we can get over it and believe He knows what He is doing or we can chose to not believe He exists at all. Who knows what any of us will do is we ever get the chance to be in charge of an entire human population….scary thought!! 🙂

  226. 258. Jared

    “I’m interested in seeing all of the prophets in perspective. Joseph Smith for example, in the history of the world has their been another man like him?”

    Yes, David Koresh. I am not saying this to be offensive. If you compare their teachings, how they conducted themselves, and there ability to convince followers to do anything for them the similarities are many.

  227. #265–DrewE–

    Is this David Koresh of the branch davidians? He and his group were unfairly burned out by the govt. Janet Reno’s biggest error.

    Maybe we can take a vote to see how others feel about your comparison. Where is his equivalent to the Book of Mormon?

  228. #259-

    Nick-

    That’s totally uncalled for. It is obvious to the majority of people who have some exposure to Jared that he is a good person. He is sincere and even if some of the things he says aren’t taken in that way, it is obvious he cares about other people and is making an effort to show that.

    You, on the other hand, aren’t even trying. Time to show some respect.

    Oh…please don’t tell me I’ve misinterpreted you AGAIN.

  229. Ok, its time for a story.

    A couple of sister missionaries tract out a minster. In the conversation the minister refers to the Bible passage about poison not hurting the Lord’s servants. He tells the sister he happens to have some poison.

    One of the sister missionaries says, well if you take the poison to prove you’re a servant and it doesn’t work as you hope, we’ll see if we have faith enough to raise you from the dead.

  230. 266. Jared

    I didn’t say Koresh was a carbon-copy of Joseph Smith. I said he was similar to Joseph Smith.

    For example, both Joseph Smith and David Koresh solicited men in the Church to give their wives to them. In fact, people looked at Joseph Smith in his time as we look at David Koresh in ours. Why do you think we were referred to (and still our at times) as a cult?

  231. Jared-

    Your exhaustive list of accomplishments achieved by the Mormon Church are unfairly credited to Joseph Smith. His activities ended in Nauvoo in 1844. While he put the ship in motion, he cannot get the credit for a vast missionary force of 19 years olds, for example. While I cannot think of another immediate example in history of someone who did all the things Joseph Smith did (which isn’t an entirely reasonable request, but instead smacks of the ridiculous old Hughe Nibley challenge to rewrite The Book of Mormon), I can think of examples where men have accomplished equally impressive feats. Martin Luther King was quite remarkable in his ability to break down social barriers. Martin Luther was instrumental beyond measure for his willingness to challenge Rome and the authority of the pope. Was it impressive that Joseph was able to inspire so many, I guess we shouldn’t overlook the Prophet Mohammed if inspiration is the criteria, sure.

    So just to clarify Jared, yeah I think everybody realizes that not every aspect of the Church is “bad”, but overall I feel the cons outway the pros. So when we get into these conversations about why some believe and others don’t, just as you expressed earlier, expect those who disagree with you to focus on the “bad”. That is acceptable so long as nobody is twisting the evidence, or only addressing issues in such a way that they serve the bias rather than honesty.

  232. #264 – Jen, your position is consistent, but it is completely circular. To even engage in the logic you are employing, you have to begin with the assumption that god exists, he is our creator and anything he commands someone to do is righteous. Those are hardly givens. Engaging in this type of exercise requires an almost complete removal of objective criteria from the discussion. Well if I don’t choose to simply accept the premise, then this equation is completely useless to me. It is unprovable and unknowable. So while I appreciate that you and many others believe this to be the case, it’s hardly common ground upon which we can have a reasoned and logical discussion about the existence of god, let alone whether JS was his prophet.

  233. #271-

    I know all that, but I am assuming God exists and that He is our creator. They are givens to me. It is ok if the equation is completely useless to you, obviously you can completely ignore what I have written. I am stating what I believe for those who are interested in what I have to say and if there are none that are I am fine with that. The reality is there is no logical discussion that you can have about the existence of God either way. I see no reason to argue that point. But I do see a reason to express my belief just as you see a reason to express your disbelief. I think we can respect each other in that at least.

  234. My husband had a similar journey as you did after reading that book. His dad has also read a lot about the church and is well versed, he even has read Rough Stone Rolling. My husband also wonders how he could have read all of these books yet still remain completely faithful in the church. I haven’t read the book yet but after my husband has told me what is in it, I feel the same way about the church. We are lucky because both of us have similar understandings and that has saved our marriage.

  235. Jared,

    Your emphasis on the Book of Mormon as evidence of Joseph Smith’s calling is quite understandable. Joseph Smith had some unique ideas, and of course there is no other Book of Mormon. No two human beings are identical, so if every person who ever lived had at least one original thought, then I believe it is worthwhile to search for an ever more expansive assessment of presumed Mormon uniqueness within an ever more responsible context. Such analysis requires careful balance, but here are three interesting examples, for anyone who wishes to brave some .pdf downloads (the first of which is 5 megabytes, the others shorter) . . .

    For example, there was James Macpherson, whose fabrications of ancient Scottish lore fooled leading literary figures in two hemispheres for decades.

    Or the British “prophet” Richard Brothers who exerted considerable influence in England and America by the beginning of the 1800s.

    And Daniel Hawley who, a few years before Joseph Smith, claimed fervently to have seen deity and other celestial beings a number of times. He recorded the very words spoken to him by both the Father and the Son and published a book of original revelations which he claimed had been foreseen by ancient prophets for the latter days, presented as forthrightly and literally as any which would later be offered by Joseph Smith.

    Naturally, some readers may protest that these writings were not exactly like the Book of Mormon. Sometimes Joseph Smith seemed to mix what he found in his pantry, transcending the normal fare to offer unusual recipes. But a new dish is not necessarily a miracle, except to those who find it delicious. Just because it’s different, doesn’t mean it’s right. Or as Grant Underwood has observed, “. . . religious devotees are sometimes skittish about comparative analysis because it seems to rob their particular religion of its uniqueness. They assume that uniqueness is prime evidence of their faith’s divine origin. Such thinking, however, confuses a religion’s character with its source. Similarity and difference are descriptive categories; they say nothing necessarily about origin.” (Grant Underwood, “Attempting to Situate Joseph Smith,” in Brigham Young University Studies 44:4 [2005; “Special Issue—The Worlds of Joseph Smith”], 47.)

  236. I can’t possibly read all the comments tonight — sorry if this has been addressed already.

    Dexter: “It bothers me the way many members don’t want to know the details of Joseph’s life or the details of the true history of the church for fear that it will throw a monkey wrench in their belief system…”

    There are many members who do know the “true” history of the church and shout “praise to the man!” louder than ever.

  237. #272 – Jen, I am interested in what you have to say and I do respect both your right to your beliefs and your beliefs themselves. I disagree with you, however, that there is no logical discussion you can have about the existence of god. I think this statement is both incorrect and somewhat self serving, because it allows one to make blanket generalizations like “god exists and anything he commands is righteous.” I think it’s fine that you believe that, but to intimate that there is no discussion to be had before we get to a point that we throw up our hands and declare an end to the conversation and say “some of us just believe and some of us just don’t believe and that’s it” is short sighted. There are many facts and experiences we can discuss that can provide evidence as to the existence or absence of god and to the identities of his servants. Obviously not everyone will accept those and there will be much disagreement, but there is definitely a conversation to be had. Secondly, the discussion we were having was regarding tangible, measurable attributes possessed by men who claim to have been prophets of god, and what the existence or lack of such attributes said about those men’s respective claims. Specifically, what are the fruits that a prophet should bring forth, and whether certain people, specifically JS, brought forth such fruits. With all due respect, I don’t think it advances that discussion to simply say “everything JS did was right because god commanded it.” I respect that you believe that, but a statement like that basically nullifies the entire purpose for the discussion that was taking place. Some of us think there is use in discussing the specific events and attributes of JS’s life and analyzing, in a logical manner, their import. I appreciate that you’re not interested in that, and again, I respect your opinion. But I disagree that there is no discussion to be had.

  238. #267:
    I never suggested that Jared wasn’t sincere. Rather, I indicated that his comments suggest that he will defend the LDS church and its leaders, regardless of the circumstances. Thus far, I see nothing to suggest otherwise. That’s his choice, of course, but it’s the very definition of extremism.

  239. Nick, the “shooting the President in the face” statement really was over the top. If jon miranda had said it about homosexuals, you would have (properly) ripped him for it. Think about it, and I’m sure you will agree.

    If we are going to ask jon and Jared to work on their tones, we have to point out something like this – right?

  240. #279 Nick

    A quick thought–yes, I defend the church leaders, there are plenty of those who are as one sided on the negative, as I have been, in this post, on the positive. I acknowledge that both warts and diamonds exist.

    From a point of view of faith, the Lord wouldn’t and couldn’t have it any other way, according the scriptures, there must needs be opposition in all things.

    From my perspective, there appears to be two to three times as many negative, as positive comments in most post in MM. Maybe someone should make a count for each post and then we’d know for sure.

    I am not blind to the warts, but I know by scared experience the church and its leaders are what they claim to be. I not speaking as an apologist, I am speaking as one who has put the Book of Mormon to the test and found it to be absolutely, and unequivocally what it claims to be. It is not possible for me to deny what I’ve experienced and be honest. I used to think everyone who was active in the church had similar experiences, but I know now that the bell curve holds true for sacred experiences. Lots of variety in the kingdom.

  241. Most unfortunately, our most intense discussions come down to this kind of back and forth. It’s sad. And I do agree with Jared, that those who are critical of the Church are consistently so and not at all accepting of criticism themselves. As far as they are concerned there is little to no redeeming value in the Church for them anymore.

    It is the equivalent of a dam bursting. Starting with a small hole, the water leaks our bit by bit until the whole dam collapses. I often wonder if these folks family’s must endure the same barrage and criticism of the Church that we often read. I sure hope not.

    Maybe in some bizarre Chiasmus way, we can get back to the original point of the post.

  242. “#250:The LDS church has a record of honesty, wisdom, and integrity in handling their finances.”

    I personally believe that to be the case but there is no record of how money is spent that the members ever see. We see how a lot of money is spent but financial records are not made public. I am very interested to see how the California investigation of prop 8 expenses turns out.

    Monies have historically been paid to some general authorities (still?) for their service. Many (most?) members would insist that is not true. We don’t know because we don’t get told.

  243. Jared,

    From my perspective, there appears to be two to three times as many negative, as positive comments in most post in MM. Maybe someone should make a count for each post and then we’d know for sure.

    I think that depends entirely on the post. It seems to me you post more frequently on controversial posts (where more negative comments happen), and you don’t post on positive posts. For example, you didn’t post a single comment on the Oz post, where all the comments have been positive.

  244. I’m claiming the +200 comment rule. I find these discussions very helpful, even if they do only appear as tit for tat. Every Sunday for my entire life I have/do go to Church and hear more talks, lessons, songs, testimonies, which basically rehash all thing’s you could get out of one year of Church participation. Rarely is anything new discovered or addressed in terms of material or topics of conversation. Yet, many experiences had in Church discussions or lessons, or the various talks, still engage members into new perspectives on old topics. I think this site represents an extension of that experience. Yes, the believing crowd rarely introduces any new topics or doctrines, the non-believing crowd generally just recycles the same tired list of complaints, and yet I find the discussions often times very engaging as we each try to approach the subjects from fresh perspectives. In other words, even though I would agree that yes these threads can be almost routine, I still find value out of talking with friends about spiritual matters. The fact that each of us, many non-related individuals, sought out the conversation says quite a lot in and of itself.

  245. #258 – “I’m interested in seeing all of the prophets in perspective. Joseph Smith for example, in the history of the world has their been another man like him?”

    Muhammad’s accomplishments were just as miraculous and, so far, farther reaching. He produced the Quran and the second largest religion in the world, with over a billion followers.

  246. “And I do agree with Jared, that those who are critical of the Church are consistently so and not at all accepting of criticism themselves.”

    This is a fantastically unfair and insulting statement, Jeff. I consider myself one who is on the far end of the spectrum, and I have been critical of the church and religion pretty regularly, and I think I am as open to criticism as anyone. Yesterday in this very post I was criticized by Ray and immediately conceded that Ray’s criticism was correct. I also went out of my way yesterday to agree with Jard and make a complimentary comment about the church. Obviously everyone has beliefs that they hold strongly, and most people are not going to budge from those beliefs, even in the face of fervent arguments that disagree with them. That is human nature, whatever one’s beliefs are. To single out critics of the church as those who just can’t take criticism is not only unfair, it’s completely innacurate.

    I would also point out that I, and many other non-believers, have been consistently complimentary of people like Jared and honestly appreciate his perspective, even though we might not share it.

    And to your heartfelt concern that members of our families don’t have to endure the criticism of the church that you endure, I would respond in two ways. First, there is obviously a huge difference between normal everyday interaction and that found on a blog that is devoted ENTIRELY to issues of the mormon church, and explicitly and actively seeks perspectives from ALL sides. So I can speak for myself when I say you can sleep easy knowing I don’t torment my family with the same constant criticism that you have to endure here. Second, I find it fascinating that you are so quick to point out how non-believers constantly criticize the church, while apparently failing to recognize that believers praise the church in EXACTLY the same proportion. Somehow it’s unfortunate that non-believers express their opinions consistently, but when believers express themselves consistently it’s just fine? That’s a complete double standard. I’ll even go you one further, Jeff. I don’t remember the last time I read a comment from Andrew S, Dexter, myself or any other non-believer on this site where they used the phrase “I know….” I’ve never seen anyone say “I KNOW there is no god” or “I KNOW JS wasn’t a prophet.” In fact I think non-believers here generally try to be very conscious that others don’t feel the same and comment accordingly. Conversely, such statements are the stock in trade of believers. “I know god lives” “I know god loves us” “I know JS was a prophet” “I know if you pray hard enough you’ll be answered.” Honestly I don’t have a problem with these statements, and I understand the perspective that prompts them. But for you to turn around and point at those critical of the church and act like we’re the ones who are overbearing and disrespectful of others’ beliefs with our “consistent criticism” is insulting.

    I understand the criticism of Nick for his comments in this thread and I think it’s appropriate, but honestly, Jeff, in the past week you have been NOTHING but critical, strident and self-righteous in your condescending comments to anyone who has criticized the church or your recent post. In my mind you have revealed yourself to be one of the more intolerant regulars on this board. You clearly have no tolerance for anyone who is critical of the church, as made clear by the fact that you have, on several instances, attacked people individually for being critical of the church. I may be wrong but I thought it was made pretty clear that this site seeks all perspectives. I’m not sure why this is such a problem for you.

  247. #286 I think Muhammad is a good choice in some respects. Of course, it isn’t a Christian religion so the comparison is quite different from the get go (I know I didn’t make that a qualification).

    It would be interesting to see how the various writers on this morphed post view the fruits of the two religions. Of course, you have to be careful what you say or you could be risking…

  248. #278-

    brjones-

    I understand what you are saying and respect it. I am a person who has always asked a lot more questions than those around me and I have had friends who say “who really cares?!” Over the past several years I had some questions that I really needed to be answered so I pursued the Lord relentlessly for answers. I got answers to some of my questions, but to be honest it opened up a whole lot of new questions. Since that time I have found myself letting go of things that used to bother me (JS’s history, etc.) and I have focused on what applies to me and my life here and now. I agree that there is discussion to be had for those who need that right now and I need to remember I was there not so long ago. For me, some topics being hashed over and over again feels like leaving an old relationship and then talking to everyone about it over and over instead of moving on with life. That’s just me though, and I understand that others find purpose and meaning in discussing things that I don’t. I think we all go through times in our life where we want to discuss things and hash through them, but eventually it just becomes old and decisions have to be made and life has to lived.

    When I was talking about the existence of God and discussing it, it is not worth my time to hash through it because of my experiences with Him. But to others, it is something they need and want to discuss and work through. I respect that and look forward to joining in posts that I feel I can contribute something worthwhile or even something that is not so worthwhile. 🙂

  249. Cowboy-

    “The fact that each of us, many non-related individuals, sought out the conversation says quite a lot in and of itself.”

    Probably more than we would like to admit…..like those who ARE related to us would like us to just shutup! haha 😀

  250. 1) ANY thread that goes past about 150 comments generally starts going off track and becomes vulnerable to chippiness. That is why some group blogs commonly close the thread after 100 comments.

    2) Jared, the “fruits” of Islam are very comparable to the “fruits” of Mormonism. Each has a large majority of very dedicated, peace-loving, good, sincere believers; each has “splinter groups” (no condemnation there, FireTag, John Hamer, Nick, et al) that vary radically in size, beliefs and practices; each has had high profile extremists and whackos who bring embarrassment to the vast majority of members; each has active, less active and inactive adherents; members of each tend to be passionate about their beliefs; each has a strict health code; each emphasizes prayer and intensive, full-life-focused community; etc.

  251. #289 – Jen, I understand what you’re saying. Thanks for sharing that. I think for me, and it seems like some others here, I am in the relative infancy of that period in my life, and a lot of the things I am thinking about are still pretty fresh and new. It’s easy to overlook the fact that there are others who have already spent a lot of time hashing this stuff out for themselves and have sort of moved on. To the extent that an individual feels like he or she doesn’t really have an interest in delving into certain things, I copletely respect that. I guess I interpreted your comment as implying that there’s no point in anyone talking about those things, so I apologize for the misunderstanding. Thanks for clarifying.

  252. Jared, first I’d like to apologize for the “shooting the president” portion of my earlier comment. It was intentional hyperbole to make a point, but clearly several here found it offensive. Mea culpa.

    #281:
    It is not possible for me to deny what I’ve experienced and be honest. I used to think everyone who was active in the church had similar experiences, but I know now that the bell curve holds true for sacred experiences. Lots of variety in the kingdom.

    Believe it or not, Jared, I was once one who insisted that it was “not possible” for me to deny what I had experienced and what I “knew” in regard to the truthfulness of Mormonism. I learned, however, that our understanding of our own experience and “knowledge” can change over time.

    I think it’s fair to say that the vast number of LDS, as believers in personal revelation, have at times made abundantly clear mistakes in regard to what they believed to have been inspiration, revelation, etc. When this happens, some believers will “force” an interpretation of events that preserves the initial idea that they received divine instruction. Other believers will re-evaluate the situation, determine that they were mistaken, and try to learn how better to identify divine answers/experiences.

    This process of continual re-evaluation can also take place on a broader scale, Jared. I truly believed in the veracity of Mormonism, to the point of being an extremist. In fact, I was such a true believer in Mormonism, that I had some serious concerns about the LDS church, which in my observation was steadily dumping the religion taught by Joseph Smith. That wasn’t enough, in itself, to get me to leave the LDS church, however, since I believed that (1) they had the most valid claim to the authority restored through Joseph Smith, and (2) deity would one day “set his house in order.” Eventually, however, additional factors came to my attention. Like Guest, I saw some serious issues in Mormon history–issues which I was long content to “set on my shelf,” confident that more information would resolve them at some future time. That “shelf” was made up of my perceived spiritual experiences and knowledge, and for a while, it was enough to hold up the weight of other issues.

    After a while, I noticed that my shelf was getting dangerously overloaded. When that happened, I naturally started to closely examine how the shelf was built, and what was supporting that shelf. I found that the wood I once thought was solid, was actually full of termite damage and dry-rot. I found that the bolts I once thought could never fail were drilled into sheetrock, rather than solid studs.

    I tried to reinforce my shelf with better materials, and get rid of unnecessary weight. Many (including FARMS and FAIR) offered to take care of the items weighing my shelf down, but instead they tried stacking rolls of tissue paper underneath the shelf to prevent it from collapsing. Some even advised me to simply ignore the items on the shelf, until they went away or became weightless. In the end, Jared, the things on the shelf didn’t go away, and there simply weren’t enough quality materials to help that shelf bear the load. It became increasingly clear that the shelf was badly designed from the start, and inevitably, it came crashing down.

  253. #288:
    It would be interesting to see how the various writers on this morphed post view the fruits of the two religions. Of course, you have to be careful what you say or you could be risking…

    DANITES! 😉

  254. FWIW (homage to Ray) I think this thread is still very much on-topic relative to the original post. As Ray said, any thread that goes on this long is prone to tangents and asides, but I think the current conversation between Jared and Nick, for example, is very fitting with respect to the topic of the original post. Thanks for keeping us on track, Jared.

  255. I was talking with one of our “sons” recently (friends of our children whom we have helped raise in one way or another, in this case living with us after being kicked out of his own home by his father) about this general topic (his agnosticism and general unwillingness to attend any church services), and he said something that I liked for its simplicity. He said, in summary:

    “You guys are really big picture people. I respect that greatly, but I just don’t see that big picture. God can do whatever he wants to do, ’cause he’s got this whole ‘God’ thing going on.”

    I like that perspective – that we see what we see, and he sees what he sees, and we can respect each other because, in the end, “He’s got this whole ‘God’ thing going on.”

  256. sidestepping the actual topic at hand (or the topics that have come in comments), I like more comments on a post. I wish my posts were pushing close to 300 comments. Yes, sometimes, things get off topic, and yes, sometimes, things get chippy (although i’m not even quite sure what that means)…but this is the flow of conversation. Conversation is organic. riiiight?

  257. #296-

    Ray

    I like that perspective as well. I also like what I heard on the radio while I was working out at the gym last night. He sang “God is great, beer is good and people are crazy.” Personally I don’t know about the beer part, but I have to fully agree with the other two! 🙂

    Back to topic Jared…….

  258. #288 – This is an interesting question, Jared. I think both make claims to greatness in different ways. In terms of sheer scope, obviously Muhammad’s religion has been far more prolific, to date. On a deeper level, though, and with full acknowledgement that my knowledge of Islam is limited, I think there is a peace and tranquility to JS’s teachings that are not as apparent in Islam. Although there is an aspect of militancy to JS’s life and some of his teachings, there are few vestiges of that remaining in the religion he produced, whereas enmity towards other religions, even if you accept that this doesn’t necessarily include violence, is ingrained in the Muslim faith, I think. To greatly oversimiplify, JS was an eternal optomist while Muhammad was an eternal pessimist. Obviously such things are difficult to measure, but I guess I would argue that there is a profundity and depth to mormonism that exceeds that of Islam.

  259. Reading through so many comments has been a challenge, and it makes me wonder what all the rest of you do for a living! But this has been one of the most provocative and interesting posts in a while on MM. Thanks, Guest, and the permas who made it happen.

    I don’t have much to add to the discussion, but I will say that I empathize with Guest Writer quite a bit, although I haven’t decided to leave the church. Indeed, there are a number of factors that would prevent me from doing so, even if I wanted to. THAT’s an interesting predicament to find oneself in, I must say.

  260. Regarding Jeff Spector’s # 282

    If anyone here said “I often wonder if these folks family’s must endure the same barrage of self-righteousness, narrow-mindedness, and constant praise of the Church that we often read. I sure hope not,” you and many others would be very offended and would make comments like, “hey, I’m an author on this site, you need to tone it down.”

    But you can make such a rude and ignorant statement? How does being critical of the church on a website that is devoted to discussing controversial topics of the church equate to the way one treats his family? I guess you often wonder if the families of sports talk radio hosts have to endure a constant barrage of criticism about steroid use in baseball. Poor Jim Rome’s kids!!!!! If he criticizes steroid users during the day, I can only imagine what he does in his free time!!! Or maybe people like to discuss church issues with others who share an interest, like the people on this site, and the time they spend with their family is about enjoying themselves, not criticizing a church they don’t believe in. Why would someone as critical as you label them to be, want to talk to their families about a church they don’t believe in? If someone is critical to the church, some would be critical of it in all settings I imagine, but I bet some would probably prefer the church isn’t constantly discussed at home.

    And how can you make such a blanket statement in saying “that those who are critical of the Church are consistently so and not at all accepting of criticism themselves.”

    Where did you get this gem? Newsflash: some people don’t accept criticism well. Some people do. Many of each are subsets of believers as well as non-believers.

    And I find your final point hilarious. You wrote a comment that had nothing to do with the original point of the post. Much worse, your comment was simply to unfairly and inaccurately label people that are critical of the church as universally unable to accept criticism and to state that you worry about their families. Wow. Yet, you conclude by asking if we can get back to the original point of the thread. In case it’s not clear, you wrote an insulting post that had nothing to do with the point of the thread, and then you asked that we return to the point of the thread. I guess you can’t take your own advice.

    Let me state my views on these topics.

    I believe some critics of the church (“critics”) are good to their families. I believe some critics are bad to their families. I believe some critics aren’t accepting of criticism. I believe some critics are accepting of criticism. I believe some faithful believers (“believers”) are good to their families. I believe some believers are bad to their families. I believe some believers aren’t accepting of criticism. I believe some believers are accepting of criticism.

    Can you accept criticism, Jeff? Because if you cannot, then you have something in common with a person who is critical of the church (gasp!).

  261. *raises hand* I’ll take the credit here, thanks. 😉 Really though, after some discussion about Michael’s (guest) experience, I asked him to share some of it here. I am glad it has worked out well, and grateful to Michael for being willing to share here.

    Don’t feel too bad Andrew! 🙂 My biggest post was 250, but half of those were either my own replies or comments about mayo.

  262. It took over 300 comments, but we have a Jim Rome reference! I’ll be smiling all day. Thanks, Dexter.

    Oh, and in the spirit of equality that abounds so well here, that really was an overly broad statement, Jeff. If I’m going to say it to Nick, I need to say it to you – although I hope doing so doesn’t convince Carlos even more that I am offended by conservative views. 🙂 (I’d blow you a kiss, Carlos, but that would be more appropriate on the other thread.) 😉

  263. O.J. Mayo – That would make a fascinating case study of the psychology of naming kids. 🙂

    (Since this thread has over 300 comments, I’m not going to say one word about staying on topic. If we end up passing the 997 – I think – comments BCC had on their “let’s try to see how many irrelevant comments we can write” thread, fine by me.)

  264. Having said that, my life is about to get very hectic, since I leave on Saturday to start my new job on Monday. If this is to hit 1000 comments, you’re going to have to do it without me.

    Thanks, everyone. Keep it real, but keep it civil. (my new mantra)

  265. Jack (#277)

    You said, “There are many members who do know the “true” history of the church and shout “praise to the man!” louder than ever.”

    I don’t see how we are in disagreement. I said, “It bothers me the way many members don’t want to know the details of Joseph’s life or the details of the true history of the church for fear that it will throw a monkey wrench in their belief system.”

    Clearly, my comment did not say “all members.” Thus, I understood and appreciated that some members who know the history of the church still strongly support JS. Many are on this site, and I respect that view. My point was that many choose to avoid learning about the history of the church out of fear of learning something upsetting. I simply don’t like this “head in the sand” approach. I respect members who seek truth and knowledge, but I don’t like the idea of protecting one’s self from the potential discovery of truth for fear it won’t sit well.

  266. @ Nick comment #293:

    The analogy of the shelf that you used is the exact on used by one of my coworkers in explaining his journey in leaving the church. When he was still in the church, he would say, “Well, I’ll put that question/paradox/reason-to-doubt on the shelf.” Eventually, he said the amount of stuff he had put on the shelf became too heavy and the shelf collapsed. He would be able to agree with your comments about having an experience that he once would not have been able to doubt. He was one that, after praying extremely fervently, he heard a voice. He accepted hearing the voice as an answer and continued on with his life. It wasn’t until much later in his life that he realized that the voice he heard said something that really didn’t even make sense or answer the question he had answered and he now feels that he had worked himself up to a state where he left himself believing he had heard a voice.

    I sometimes wonder about these supernatural experiences, perhaps similar to the many thousands of otherwise honest and normal (if any of us can be considered normal) people that claim to have been abducted by aliens, I find myself questioning the reality of such experiences.

  267. Dexter, in all fairness (before I shut down the computer for the day), many members just don’t care about the things that interest us. For many, it’s not a defense mechanism; they really, truly, profoundly don’t care. They are not “tinkerers”; they would rather buy prepared meals than create meals on their own. We need to accept that without condescension, especially if we want them to accept our tinkering.

  268. re 312 re 309:

    not to mention, everyone has some kind of issue that they don’t care about, so it’s not as if we can just say “some people care” and “some people don’t.” Rather, there are different issues that people don’t care about…and different issues that people will tinker on. We can’t blame people for their differences in preferences.

  269. Ray, I understand that and I respect that. I’m speaking about members, and I’ve heard many say this or something to this effect, “I don’t want to know about the details of polygamy or JS or BY’s livs because it will make me mad, or make me confused, or …..”.

    If someone isn’t interested in the history of the church and loves the church and wants to live it that is fine. I am only speaking to those who go out of their way to avoid learning things out of fear, not out of lack of interest. That’s all I’m driving at.

  270. In my own case, I had an experience in the MTC that I was able to use to get me to go out into the field instead of going home. I held on to that experience for a long time. When I read RSR and started doubting again, I did what I had been told in church- to go back to the moments when you KNEW it was true. I thought back to my experience in the MTC. To further give me comfort, I pulled out my extremely thorough volumes of missionary journals in order to reread my profound experience. To my surprise, I found that the experience that I had been touting for years had, in fact, grown with time. I had turned my experience in the MTC into something much grander than it really was. I was telling people of a very profound spiritual experience that had forever changed my life. My journal explained an experience much less dramatic, to the point of me writing that I was choosing to believe.

    I now wonder how many others are doing the same thing. A friend of mine tells me of an experience he had when he was nine that makes him not doubt. I wonder, if he had been keeping a thorough journal at that age, if he went back and read it, would he feel the same way about the experience as he does now?

  271. @ Ray comment #312:

    I think you may be getting to the heart of this very post- My difficulty understanding how some people can just not care about this stuff.

  272. Guest,

    From what I can tell, we have somewhat similar paths, except that as a child I readily ate up what my parents taught me and you said even as a child you were able to state that you wondered if it was true. I really wasn’t able to even consider that it might not be true until much more recently. But I must say, as far as spiritual experiences go, I am at a loss with what to do with them. I can understand that they may have been somehow produced by me to satisfy my serious quests for an answer. But maybe not. I am at the stage of being willing to say I don’t know what they mean or where they came from. How confident are you able to be when you say you believe it was not divine? More than 90%? I think these issues are extremely interesting and difficult, for me, to get a complete grasp on.

  273. @ Dexter #318:

    That is a good question. As far as my experience in the MTC, thanks to my journal, I am willing to say with 99.99% certainty (I have a hard time with absolutes) that it was not even a spiritual experience at all, it just grew into one due to faulty memory.

    As far as my coworker is concerned, I am actually a bit surprised by his story. If I had heard a voice in the way he describes it, I quite possibly could be in a situation more like yours.

  274. #316

    Guest Writer- I have found that spiritual experiences are VERY difficult to put on paper. In my own experience, you cannot transfer those types of experiences to written word. I think writing them down (as you did in the MTC) is important, but what is even more important is what you were taught at that moment and what you came to know as truth that you didn’t know before. That truth is what your focus needs to be and not how dramatic or simple the experience was that conveyed that truth to you. When doubts and questions come up (and they always do), trusting in the Lord comes into play. This can be a turning point for some, especially those who have struggled to learn to trust. Everyone is brought to a point like this in their life at some time. I think people can feel like God is playing games with them or enjoying watching them suffer. I really believe though that if you hang as long as the Lord expects you to (thinking of the quote by NMaxwell “Faith in the Lord includes faith in his timing”) then healing will come and it will have been worth it (IMO of course).

    I just want to make the point that just because your journal explained an experience much less dramatic than you remember, it doesn’t mean that what you experienced wasn’t real and based on truth. I don’t think spiritual confirmations are supposed to be dramatic, just clear. To answer your question about your friend’s experience, I think the feelings fade away after time, but the truth which is taught stays and that is the whole point. It is only when we go back and fight it over and over that we can lose that which we were originally given and start to question if it really happened at all. That is always a choice, and I am sure it all part of the process of agency, but that is one of the main reasons we are here…to choose what we want (IMO once again 🙂 )

  275. #320

    Perhaps.

    For me, it has been more of an indication how memories can change and become faulty over time. For me, it helps me better understand Joseph’s evolving first vision story and how memories and impressions can alter. As the story of my experience grew, I took the story further and further from the reality of the events. I wonder if the same is true of what may or may not have happened to Joseph in 1820 and the way he described those events 18 years later.

  276. Dexter-

    I know that you did not ask my opinion and were directing your questions to Guest Writer so I hope you don’t mind me throwing in my two cents. I grew up with a father who was a retired military man. He was difficult to live with (to say the least). He decided to join the LDS church during his time in the military and that meant giving up drinking and a lot of his buddies, which was not easy for him to do. My point in telling you this is that I was able to become familiar with the LDS teachings because we went to church every week, but I lived with great hypocrisy in my home, so I learned to feel stark differences between things. The difference between how I felt when God answered me was like night and day compared to what I felt at home and much different than anything I had ever felt before. It wasn’t something I could have created because I didn’t even know that it was possible to feel loved in that way or to feel peace like that either.

    Having said that, I would tell you to take the spiritual experiences you have had (and are now questioning) and make a choice to believe them. Make the choice to believe that there is someone who deeply loves you and cares for you beyond this life and is watching out for you. Having experienced an abusive situation for many years of my life, I can tell you with assurance that you are heard and watched out for and someone is listening to you when you pray and answering you. I am sorry if this feels like I am bearing my testimony, but hey since I got the ball rolling, anyone want to take the mike next? JK

  277. I just returned and this topic continues to flourish. Thanks again to guest writer and AdamF and others.

    #293 Nick–your apology is welcome and whole heartily accepted.

    I appreciate the fact that testimonies can be fluid. I just want to make it has clear as I can, without coming across in the wrong way, that the experiences the Lord has given me don’t leave wiggle room.

    Sure I could turn against my testimony, I’m free to do that. But I can’t leave the impression that when the veil has parted, or was so thin, that unmistakable communication has been given, are of the variety that allows for reevaluation of what I experienced.

    I’m stuck, and when I share my testimony, I’m required to do it so that there is no doubt on my hearers part of the dept and breathe of what I have been given. At the same time, I won’t overstate it either.

    When I say I know, I am not using the term loosely. Can my testimony grow? Yes. Is my testimony equivalent to the three witness. No

    I don’t like putting my testimony out this way, but I feel I must. I’m accountable for what I’ve been given.

  278. Guest/Jen/Jared – I agree with all of you on this, if that is possible. There is a danger in re-interpreting events or deciding NOT to believe or interpret in a way that supports belief, just as there is in relying on our memories which often are unreliable, and can certainly get changed over time.

    Also, the number of comments on this thread seems to be a “fruit” of the importance of this topic, and how close it hits to home for so many of us.

  279. #317-

    Guest Writer-

    I don’t know how old you are, but I have found that as more responsibility comes our way (spouse, children, work, college, etc.) it can come down to not having TIME to care. By the end of the day, people are tired and are just trying to get what has to be done accomplished. Thinking about all the other stuff just doesn’t come up because there isn’t time to even consider it. Ask someone who is married with a new baby and working and/or going to school. If they do care at all about it, it will tend to drop off their list first because everything else is right in their face, especially the lack of sleep. Once married, there are a lot more considerations to take into account as well. It is not a choice that will only affect you anymore, but a spouse and possibly children. You have to then decide what is worth it and what isn’t. If your family is number one to you and you don’t want to create tension, then it is best to avoid these issues. If you are not married or don’t have children this can be difficult to understand, but it is a reality for many.

  280. 223-Jared:

    When some believe you can “know” and others believe you can’t “know”, it makes for interesting discussions. The fact that the discussion continues is a positive sign for all those involved. Me, I try to stay out of those types of discussions.

  281. Holden C – agreed. I’ve been away this week, but I’ll be surprised if this hasn’t been our most commented post to date. The first place previously (IIRC) was AdamF’s “What is the Church?”

    It’s a fascinating discussion all around. It’s difficult and sometimes disingenuous for a believer to allow for the possibility that a non-believer is not to blame in some way. But there are different levels and types of belief and different types of believers. I am skeptical of others’ spiritual experiences in general because they seem so often misunderstood and such a fallible guide for behavior. Clearly not all have the same “gifts of the spirit” as it were. Some instructions one how to gain a testimony sound a lot like a guide to confirmation bias. And yet I trust in my own experiences, and I do consider myself a believer. So, if I allow for my own belief, I have to allow for others’ disbelief and assume their equal sincerity, too. Not all people are the same. One size does not fit all.

  282. Jared:

    I have serious question regarding your last remarks, having to do with the famous Mormon analogy that a testimony can “grow”. I have always had a hard time wrapping my mind around this concept, but I would be really interested in your perspective given how emphatic you are that you have had certain experiences which provide the basis for your belief. My question is, how does a testimony grow? That concept seems counterintuitive to the whole premise of what a Mormon testimony is supposed to be.

  283. #327 hawkgrrrl–

    Its taken me some time to realize what you’ve said. I believe that the bell curve tells the story about testimonies has it does other kinds of distribution.

  284. #328 Cowboy–

    Good question. Some people are born with a testimony. They just believe. Then others are the exact opposite. They just disbelieve. But neither of them “know”.

    When a person reads the Book of Mormon and prays about it they can acquire a testimony it is true by having a experience where they “know” in their minds and hearts–in their feelings that it is true. It can also be described as a strong confidence. It is strong enough that they will become involved in the covenant making and change their life.

    In addition, whenever a testimony is given satan will try to diminish or destroy it. Also, the Lord will try it. Some lose their testimony in the process.

    If one remains faithful and is diligent in pursuing further light and knowledge by repenting, fasting and praying, serving others– they can experience growth in their testimony has the Lord adds to their Spiritual experiences. Things like having prayers answered, seeing people who are sick, and recover due to priesthood blessing, and etc.

    This is a brief answer to your question. There is much more to it, however.

    Others, please add to my thoughts.

  285. Jared,Cowboy-

    I received some very clear and undeniable answers in relation to my testimony. Not long after several very sacred experiences, things became VERY difficult in my life and they haven’t changed since that time (except for becoming even more difficult). That was almost 5 years ago. You aren’t kidding Jared when you say the Lord will try our testimony. I have been through all the feelings and challenges that many are talking about in this post, but I have reached a point of being able to work past them. I understand how JS felt when he asked the Lord where He was in D & C 121. I have felt that to my very core and it is a lonely feeling. The problem I have is that I cannot deny what I was given from the Lord, or in other words, what I KNOW, even if I would like to. I know that doesn’t fly with some people, but I don’t know how else to say it without making it less that it really is.

    My take on how a testimony grows is you are given enough to sustain you and to help you continue learning. The Lord will try and test you in what you are given and you make choices about what you want to do with it. If you hold to it, you receive more. If you let it go, you don’t receive more and that which you had is taken away, even if it is just by your own unbelief. Trials and challenges come and test you to your very core and may last for years on end. The time comes though that you are given assurance “after the trial of your faith” and you cannot deny what you know. Of course there is a lot more to this process, but that is what I feel occurs in a nutshell.

  286. Let me try and put a point on it. A person can measurably grow in knowledge. I can learn things that I didn’t know, I can learn it deeper. For example, I can lear the properties of addition and enhance that insight by pushing the boundaries of this property by pursuing some of the higher disciplines in math, such as calculus, trigonometry, etc. A person can also grow in belief. I can have minor feelings or inclinations towards an ideal, religion, or philosophy. Over time I can become more determined in my orientation to the subject. I can have strong feelings on an issue, only to find that later the issue matters less than it did at one time. On the contrary, I can’t grow in my knowledge of static facts. I can’t gain a stronger knowledge of 2 + 2, to use the old analogy. I can begin applying the properties of addition in more complex ways to seek higher truth, but I can’t get a stronger understanding of that principle beyond the idea that if I have two of something, and then I add two more of that something, I now have four units of that thing.

    To the point. I can learn more about God’s ways, his gospel, doctrine, scriptures, the eternities, whatever. But if God in a truly undeniable way manifests himself to me, logic doesn’t bare out that that I can either grow in that experience or lose it (for the sake of this comment I am not calling into question matters such as sanity, or perception, nor am getting into the complex theories of solopsism including mind games surrounding primary and secondary qualities). In other words I find the juxtaposition of notions within given testimonies that 1)a testimony is certain and undeniable, 2)One can grow in the veracity of things said to be certain; as ideals that ultimately work against each other.

    If we take as a given that the First Vision actually occured in the manner the Church teaches, could we rationalize that Joseph Smith could have “lost” his testimony of that experience. I find the notion doubtful without first questioning his sanity. If it is not then what is meant by a “growing” testimony. I find the usage of the term testimony quite problematic as well, but I’ll save that matter for another time. If by testimony we really mean belief, and that on occassion experiences had, serve to reinforce that belief (a notion which implies orientation, but also uncertainty) then are we being disingenuous by stating certain knowledge and fact of things which we only believe. When I hear about growing testimonies it often causes me to wonder if the person making such a claim has seriously considered the implications of what message that sends.

    In short Jared/Jen, I am not trying to qualify your experiences, on the contrary I am hoping you can do so – and in the process demonstrate where my logic fails to square on this matter.

  287. @ Dexter #318

    I would like to add one more thing along the lines of your questions.

    I do not doubt the sincerity of the majority of those that testify to being abducted by aliens. I also do not doubt the profundity at which it has affected their lives, for better or for worse. I DO doubt the reality of such an experience. What I am saying is, those thousands of people may be able to testify with 100% conviction that they have had some extraordinary experience, but that does not necessarily mean that such a thing is the reality.

    I am not saying that I would not be testifying along with them if I had had the experiences that they did, but I AM saying that as an outside observer, I would definitely not encourage them to believe that their experience was reality, no matter how convinced they were.

  288. Cowboy-

    “But if God in a truly undeniable way manifests himself to me, logic doesn’t bare out that that I can either grow in that experience or lose it” That is true. I think we can both agree, however, that you can DENY that manifestation and with that denial I think it is possible to forget it. I think forget is a better word to use than lose. I know that if I choose to ignore or deny something I will eventually forget about it (or at the very least it will be somewhere in the back of my mind) because it is human nature to do so.

    Let’s say you are told you are worthless everyday for years. You come to believe that, but one day as you are praying you receive an undeniable manifestation that you are actually a child of God and deeply loved. After that manifestation, you have a choice to make. Even though you know it was undeniable you still have to fight against all the other feelings that still exist within you. You can deny what God has told you and go back to believing you are worthless, and it will probably be much easier to do that at first. But if you choose to believe that God loves you and you are full of worth, it will “grow” within you and become easier and easier for you to accept and understand. My point is, even if you have an undeniable experience with the Lord, there are many other factors that work against you, wanting you to believe otherwise once that experience is over.

  289. Jen:

    I guess a follow up to that would be:

    1) What constitutes an undeniable manifestation from God. Somewhere between literal physical manifestation (such as in the First Vision) to the more obscure tingling in your spine? I can see your rational if the manifestation was interpreted through an event such as feelings, or an idea, or comfort. It would be very easy to second guess the origin of these less intellegence based and direct experiences. If I were to see an angel, or have a First “Visionesque” experience then I am confused as to how someone could just forget that. What would it take?

    2) If someone where to have a truly undeniable experience, what motive would they have for denying that. You would literally have to hate God and yourself to purposefully place yourself at variance with God in this way. I can fathom that perhaps there are a very marginal group of individuals who have ever lived that would fall into that category. I think blaming it on pride in this instance is going to be the temptation, but I have a hard time understanding this. I can accept the faith/pride conflict such as in the case of Namaan. I can’t see why someone who had experienced a situation such as Joseph Smith or Paul, would be o prideful as to reject the blatantly obvious at their Eternal detriment.

  290. Cowboy-

    “What constitutes an undeniable manifestation from God” I cannot say because the Lord speaks to each of us indiviudally in His own way. I think you already know that I will not give you an answer that will satisfy you. From my own personal experience, I received an answer that also brought with it an absolute sureness that I was not being deceived. How do you explain that unless you have experienced it? I have friends who have experienced it and know what I mean and then there are others who haven’t had that and don’t know what I mean. If you were to see an angel or God the Father, you wouldn’t forget that, but I wasn’t referring to those types of experiences in that way. I am talking about experiences on a “smaller scale” that are not outside of you (i.e. angels, seeing the Savior, etc.) I do know very well that you do forget these type of experiences over time unless you write them down and go back to them. I also know that some of the life changing experiences I have had, I am unable to forget and will always have them in my mind and heart.

    “If someone where to have a truly undeniable experience, what motive would they have for denying that” Let’s see, take a look at JS’s life after he told people about the First Vision. He wouldn’t deny it, but don’t you think he ever would have liked to? His life got quite uncomfortable after he told people about the FV and he didn’t understand why. Now bring that down to a smaller scale and think about how much easier it would be to deny something if your life became more uncomfortable because of something you knew. My life has been much more difficult than it was before I had some spiritual experiences and I have had days where I have wanted to deny what I know, but I am not able to do that. I don’t hate God, but it can be easy to become angry with Him and ask why. After having an undeniable experience with God (based on your definition of what that is of course) life usually gets harder, not easier and therefore it can make you want to turn away from it because it can be exhausting. It brings new meaning to the term long suffering.

    I think most of us do not understand how wanting to deny what we know would feel because we haven’t been placed in a fire that hot. Look at Peter when he denied Christ. I would say fear or great discomfort would be reasons to deny something we absolutely know, not necessarily pride.

  291. #334 Cowboy–

    I just returned to my computer.

    You’ve brought up many topics, and your questions indicate a keen insight.

    Once a person has a testimony at the level of feeling like they have had their prayer(s) answered by the “whisperings of the spirit”. The have a certain degree of faith (alma 32).

    Enos is an example of a person who took a certain degree of faith and pressed forward in prayer until he received a remission of his sins. When a person receives this they are “born again” having fulfilled their baptism covenant.

    They are now in a different position before the Lord than they were before. They have advanced to a closer association with God. The Lord is now able to give them more of the “things of the Spirit” than He was before because they have fulfilled the law (D&C 130:20-21).

    Nephi, in Helaman 10:6-12 arrived at a point in his relationship with the Lord where the Lord knew he could trust him and so he receive “power” to do God’s work.

    This “power” is made available to those who are progressing in things of the Spirit. In the church today there are those who have power to heal, to be healed, power to see visions, and to receive dreams, and prophecy, and etc (D&C 46, Moroni 10).

    Once a person has been born again they then will look to making their calling and election sure. This, as you know, is where a person has proven themselves faithful to the extent that God will promise them a place in the highest degree of glory while still in mortality.

    I would like to know how you and others feel about what has been expressed so far.

  292. Regarding Ray’s Post 196

    Ray, I find your comment that BY was very literal to be very interesting. In one of the first posts I commented on, “More Open Mormon History”, comments 116-130, I quoted BY and his views on the evil romans for instituting the evil monogamous system. You and/or someone else said members thought he was using hyperbole. I disagreed and said BY meant what he said, like you say here. And I don’t see how members would think he isn’t literal. No big deal, just thought it was interesting, and I wanted to show off my memory. 🙂

    Specifically post 126 of More Open Mormon History, you said, “I think most members see his statements as hyperbolic.”

  293. Peter may have caved under social pressure, the type that can actually kill you, but I don’t know that he ever denied Christ in the the way that is being implied here. He certainly did not rebel against him in a refusal to believe, he just chickened out a little when the heat was on.

    Jen, it is probably obvious, but I feel the need to lay all of the cards on the table anyway. Based on my experience, including my best attempts to try and understand the claims of others in the context of my experiences with natural world, I am inclined to believe that there is a fair level of hyperbole in what many people claims to know, as opposed to believe. In an effort to be fair and honest, I try and give the benefit of the doubt to many people, with the understanding that I have not experienced all that there is to experience, and that just because I can’t say for certain, that does not immediately preclude others from having benefited from that blessing. Even still, I become discouraged when the responses become “unexplainable”. This is excaserbated when I hear refrences to the “strengthening” or “growing” of testimonies from those who claim to “know”. While continued communion with the divine following a an “undeniable” experience would obviously be a plus, I’m not sure such an experience could really “grow”. If I were to see God, I’m not sure that such an experience could be enhanced by hearing a good talk where I “feel” the spirit, for example. I think what makes Joseph Smith’s testimony as powerful as it is/was, is the fact that he communicated having had an experience that we can all identify with. Where this breaks down for me is that an underlying promise in Mormonism is that at some point we should all be able to indentify with this at a similar level. It becomes discouraging when the emphasis is then shifted to an undefinable experience. Epistemologically speaking, knowledge of this kind would need to be explainable and referencable, even if not provable.

    Jen, I hope to be understood here. My point is not to tell that I think I know, or that I think I have you figured out. What I am trying to suggest in the spirit of thoughtful persuasion, is that it is impossible for me take claims with confidence that cannot clearly explain themselves. I speculate that when someone declares that their testimony has grown, that is just the Mormon way of saying that they had a faith building experience, but not that they have further affirmed unequivocally that they possess the certainty of an Eternal truth.

  294. In regards to the “growing of testimonies”.

    Dedicating yourself to the church’s lifestyle, and seeing/feeling positive results, be they feelings of peace or successes in life (promotion, closer relationship with spouse/children, health, less stress) would naturally lead someone to feel more strongly about the church. Positive reinforcement. But that doesn’t make it more likely to be true.

    Anyone who dedicates their life to any lifestyle would feel the same way if they see/feel positive results, be it a dedication to living a life or integrity, or committing to the honor of a military lifestyle or honor code of westpoint, or committing to a vegan lifestyle or to simply commit to do something and then actually do it. If someone commits to meditate and exercise and eat right and sleep well and get straight a’s and then they do it, they will feel a lot of satisfaction. But that doesn’t mean that way to live is best for everyone. Many have found happiness in training and completing a marathon but they don’t tell others it is the ONLY WAY to find true happiness. Yet, some members, live the gospel, have positive events/feelings occur, and therefore conclude that it is the ONLY WAY to find true happiness. My response would simply be: maybe I don’t like running.

  295. Cowboy-

    I think because we think and process things differently it is harder to clearly communicate to one another. You said that you become discouraged when responses become unexplainable and I can understand why you would you feel that way. Try and think of it this way. I remember after graduating from college I thought I would be a great parent because my education specialized in child development (any parent can read that and have a good laugh!). Seven kids later and neck deep in parenting, I realize how little I really knew then, yet I could not explain that to a graduating college student now who has no experience in parenting. You just can’t explain what it is like to be a parent until you are one and even if you try, people don’t necessarily believe you. Even within the parenting world, some parents may have one or two children who turn out wonderful and think it had everything to do with their fabulous parenting. The reality is great kids are a combination of good parenting and luck. Some kids are just a lot harder to raise than others. With that in mind, I could try and explain my spiritual experiences to you in detail, but until you experience something similar, it is like explaining parenting, it just isn’t that explainable.

    Having said that, you are very deep and analytical thinker. I am a deep thinker and a truth seeker, but I don’t break things down like you do. I have noticed a lot of people think more like you and want to have things explained in a manner that I don’t feel is explainable. Being a believer, I think my answers are quite unsatisfactory to you and I won’t be able to give you the answers you are looking to find. The most important thing to me is my relationship with the Lord. If you are not a believer this will make no sense to you. I have watched things happen in my life that have been nothing short of a miracle and others would just explain them as luck or coincidence. My heart and mind have always been more apt to believe than not to believe, even when things have been very difficult in my life. I hope that I understand you correctly. I don’t expect you in anyway to believe what I am telling you. I am the type of person who believes because I feel something is true, not because anyone else agrees. I stand firm in who I am and it sounds like you do too. I hope you find what you are looking for, I know that I have.

  296. Re: #193

    Thanks for posting the poem by Eliza R Snow. I’ve enjoyed studying that. It’s interesting that she uses Ahman in two different senses. The prayer is to God the Father and she alternatively refers to God the Father as “thou Ahman”, specifically when she said He is in the midst of the Latter-day Saints. This sense fits the traditional interpretations of Adam-Ondi-Ahman that connect Adam to God. One interpretation is “Adam with God.”

    She also uses “thy son Ahman” to talk about Jehovah, referring to the God of the Old Testament. The term “son Ahman” is scriptural from D&C 78:20 where the Lord is speaking and refers to Himself as your Redeemer, even the son Ahman. So she uses Ahman in two different senses, Father Ahman, so to speak, and Son Ahman.

    That she would use the name Ahman dually gives some credence to the theory that Brigham Young’s contemporaneous teachings on nomenclature, specifically “Adam” emphasized duality. Abraham 1:3 uses the following describing Adam and his name: “the first man, who is Adam, or first father,” which could be interpreted that “Adam” is also a title meaning “first father”.

    Thus when she closes “O, my God, Adam, Ahman”, she could be expressing poetically the title of Adam as “First Father” to God or Ahman or “Father Adam”, not “Son Adam” who partook of the fruit in the garden. Joseph Smith also used this duality with the term “father of all living”. He used the term in reference to Noah when he taught, “he stands next in authority to Adam in the Priesthood; he was called of God to this office, and was the father of all living in his day” (TPJS 157) and in reference to God when he taught, “exercise faith in him, the Father of all living” (Lectures on Faith, lecture 3 p. 33).

    This seems to me to be the only way that you read Brigham Young’s teachings pertaining to Adam and God that make any doctrinal sense.

  297. Unfortunately, Rigel, you’re reading 20th century LDS thought into Eliza R. Snow’s 19th century Mormonism. Orson Pratt reported that Joseph Smith received a revelation as follows:

    There is one revelation that this people are not generally acquainted with. I think it has never been published, but probably it will be in the Church History. It is given in questions and answers. The first question is, “What is the name of God in the pure language?” The answer says, “Ahman.” “What is the name of the Son of God?” Answer, “Son Ahman, the greatest of all the parts of God, excepting Ahman.” “What is the name of men?” “Sons Ahman,” is the answer. (Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 2:342)

    Further, you need to realize that the present LDS teachings of “Father = Elohim,” and “Jesus = Jehovah” were by no means standard prior to 1890.

    It’s one thing for modern LDS to simply claim that Brigham Young was wrong about the identity of “our god, and the only god with whom we have to do.” It is quite another–and sad, really–for modern LDS to engage in all sorts of mental gymnastics, torturing Brigham Young’s teachings to make them sound more appealing to modern LDS who’ve become increasingly desperate to bury the things that separate Mormonism from so-called “mainstream” christianity.

  298. It may be that this post has run it course.

    I was hoping there would be more interest in the subject of growing in the things of the Spirit. We were just getting started. Jen is doing a great job.

  299. Jared:

    If you have any ideas here that you would like to add, I’d be happy to listen. Just to clarify though, I can take a lot of meaning out of the phrase “growing in the things of the spirit”. That could imply growing in ones ability to interact with, discern, access, etc, the Holy Ghost, or be a reference otherwise to spiritual maturity. I have no objection to that concept if that is what you are implying by the phrase, infact I would see this as an often time overlooked concept in Mormon beliefs on spirituality.

    What I am referring to in my question is specifically the notion of growing or strengthening/enlarging a testimony. By “testimony” I am referring to any manner of Mormon conviction. The question is, how can a testimony grow if someone already possess an “undeniable” witness? Where exactly can you go from certainty? How can you lose a testimony of something you already “know” to be fact from firsthand experience?

  300. #348 Cowboy asked:

    1. The question is, how can a testimony grow if someone already possess an “undeniable” witness?

    2. How can you lose a testimony of something you already “know” to be fact from firsthand experience?

    First question–the brother of Jared was very close to the Lord (Ether 1:34). At this point he had never seen the Lord, but he was at a point where he had an undeniable testimony. Yet, he grew in his testimony when he saw the Savior (Ether 3:13).

    Second question–next

  301. Ray,

    “Oh, and in the spirit of equality that abounds so well here, that really was an overly broad statement, Jeff. ”

    Of course, it was intended to be broad, general and not pointing out anyone in particular for a reason. What is more interesting to be, is that a couple of people, Brjones and Dexter, decided I was talking about them individually, which I was not. For example,

    in #287, brjones say this, “You clearly have no tolerance for anyone who is critical of the church, as made clear by the fact that you have, on several instances, attacked people individually for being critical of the church.”

    Which is kind of funny because anyone who has been around here long enough knows that I have been critical of the church and have wrote about it for time to time. I try to attack ideas, rather than people themselves. What is even more interesting is that I’ve never had a personal exchange with brjones on his comments. I have with Dexter, who was also offended by my last comment, over the somewhat sarcastic, critical posts he wrote in my last blog.Bbut, since this is a free exchange of ideas and thoughts, I thought that was OK.

    At least as OK as being critical of the Church in every post regardless of the topic? So, let me offer an apology to those who I might have offended. And we can move on from here.

  302. #348 Cowboy Contd

    Second question–Samuel the Lamanite gave the Nephites the sign that the Savior would be born (Helaman 14:1-6). When the signs were fulfilled a few years later (3 Nephi 1:12-21) the record says that the more part of the people believed and were converted (3 Nephi 1:22). Soon they began to deny the incredible miracles they saw with there own eyes because their hearts were hardened by satan (3 Nephi 2:1-4).

  303. Those who will read the chapters at the end of the book of Helaman and the beginning of 3 Nephi will see how powerful the influence of satan can be on those who once believed then fell away.

    This cycle of belief to unbelief, even among those who have undeniable testimonies, is one of the main themes of the Book of Mormon. It is a reminder to those who believe the power that satan can have if they allow themselves to forget the Lord.

  304. #352-

    Jared-

    That is why we pray and read scriptures everyday. We need those daily reminders to help us remember the Lord and that He comes first in all we do. It is too easy to forget Him otherwise due to our fallen natures.

  305. This life is a battle for the souls of men and women. I have as firm a testimony of the powers of satan as I do the Savior. Early on, the Lord taught me about satan in a very powerful manner. He, and those who follow him are as real as the Savior, and have power to blind our minds and harded our hearts to the truths of God. 3 Nephi 7:16

  306. # 353 Jen–

    I agree.

    Mortality is a period of testing, a time to prove ourselves worthy to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father. In order for us to be tested, we must face challenges and difficulties. These can break us, and the surface of our souls may crack and crumble—that is, if our foundations of faith, our testimonies of truth are not deeply embedded within us.
    We can rely on the faith and testimony of others only so long. Eventually we must have our own strong and deeply placed foundation, or we will be unable to withstand the storms of life, which will come. Such storms come in a variety of forms. We may be faced with the sorrow and heartbreak of a wayward child who chooses to turn from the pathway leading to eternal truth and rather travel the slippery slopes of error and disillusionment. Sickness may strike us or a loved one, bringing suffering and sometimes death. Accidents may leave their cruel marks of remembrance or may snuff out life. Death comes to the aged as they walk on faltering feet. Its summons is heard by those who have scarcely reached midway in life’s journey, and often it hushes the laughter of little children.
    Thomas S. Monson, “How Firm a Foundation,” Ensign, Nov 2006, 62, 67–68

  307. I have a few minutes, so:

    Dexter, in #196 when I said Brigham Young was being literal, I meant for that quote. He was very much into black and white, absolutist imagery and used hyperbole often to emphasize his opinions and beliefs.

    Guest Writer, I have mentioned this before, but I have had at least three experiences that simply defy rational explanation other than either revelation or seeing into the future – specifically because they were situations where I literally had NO way of knowing things I was prompted to say. (and I understand all about pieces of stored information resurfacing after being forgotten) I also have had at least one instance of a “vision” of some sort – NOT a visitation or anything like that, but something more than just a flash of insight. Finally, I personally know at least two people I trust without hesitation or reservation who have had experiences much more vivid and undeniable than mine – one who told me only recently about one of the most remarkable experiences I have ever heard.

    I’m not going to share any details here, for a couple of reasons – primarily because the details simply aren’t relevant to the point of this excellent thread. My point in sharing the outline is NOT to try to convince you of the veracity of anything someone other than I or my friends claims to have experienced, but rather simply to share that one of the things I feel comfortable saying I personally know is that there is something outside our control and ability to understand that occasionally opens a window for some people and allows them to glimpse things that can blow the minds of those who get the glimpse.

    Again, I understand all of the psychological, neurological, biological, whateverological explanations that can be advanced to try to explain these experiences – but I personally feel fine saying I know there are some things that simply defy those types of explanations. Without accepting some kind of contributing factor totally outside the “rational world”, they simply don’t make sense.

    I attribute them to God; others can attribute them to anything else they choose; I am fine with that. What I can’t accept is that there is a “logical explanation” for them. There simply isn’t.

    Finally, it is called “The First Vision” and not “The First Visitation” for a reason, imo. Members of the Church generally have read WAY more into it than the description itself warrants.

  308. Nick, cool quote. You could be the Bela Karoli for my mental gymnastics.

    So, does that mean that the revealed meaning of Ahman was generally not known before that discourse was delivered? Wiki says volume 2 of Pratt’s discourses were delivered between 1852 and 1855. The date given for publishing of Eliza’s poem was 1855.

  309. Rigel, there are a few D&C references to “Ahman,” so I’m sure it was known to some degree among early Mormons. None of those scriptural passages are as explicit as the Joseph Smith revelation reported by Pratt, however.

    Given that “Adam-ondi-Ahman” was interpreted by Joseph Smith as “the land of god where Adam dwelt,” there must have been some level of understanding of “Ahman” by 1838.

  310. Jeff #350,

    That is not true. I did not decide you were talking about me individually. I was annoyed that you made a broad, offensive, and unfair generalization, which you just admitted was broad and general on purpose. I find sweeping and inaccurate accusations more offensive than anything you could say to me personally. I am surprised that you appear to either fail to realize the offensive and inaccurate nature of your statement or refuse to admit it was inappropriate. If you don’t agree with Ray, Brjones, and myself, in that your comment was an unfair generalization than your apology means nothing because that is what we all found to be disagreeable. I was never looking for an apology. I was hoping you would back off your statement. In other words, I was hoping you really didn’t feel that way. This is not a big deal, but I guess I’m surprised you really believe that those who are critical of the church cannot take criticism and that you worry about their families out of fear that they have to suffer being around someone who is constantly critical of the church. You said it once, and when we called you on it, you blamed us for taking it individually but you never backed off that belief, so naturally, I assume you still believe that. If you really believe that, I find that surprising.

    And in your most recent comment you also accused me of being critical of the church in every post regardless of the topic. This is also not true.

  311. Ray #356,

    I definitely agree that there are things that are difficult to comprehend, even if a neurological or psychological explanation is provided. I respect someone like you, who attributes these special and perhaps difficult to explain experiences to God. I also respect someone who attributes them to an explanation given by a neurologist or expert in some other field of science. But one issue that troubles me is hearing similar experiences from people of many different faiths. If I only heard of these types of experiences from mormons, the claim that it is the only true church would make more sense to me. But when people across many faiths feel the same things, it makes me think that one of two things is more likely: 1) these experiences are somehow created by the self in some form or another to provide comfort or provide an answer to the seeker (the scientific explanation, whatever that might be), or 2) that God perhaps answers prayers with comforting answers that are meant to comfort and perhaps congratulate the seeker for working so hard at trying to do what’s right but that perhaps do not mean that that particular seeker’s religion is THE only religion. Does that make sense? A mormon and a muslim and a catholic could all pray and pray and receive a feeling wherein God intends to say something along the lines of, “I love you and I am proud of your efforts to seek truth and to seek My will.” But perhaps that is interpreted by each as confirmation that their particular style of worship, their religion, is the only true religion.

    I will readily admit that I don’t know but those are just some of my thoughts on the matter.

  312. #361 – Running between tasks, so pardon the brevity:

    Yes, Dexter, I think your #2 is a perfectly reasonable explanation. I have NO problem whatsoever with the idea that God speaks to many in different faith traditions.

  313. Then my follow up would be, how does one conclude that the church is THE only true church as opposed to feeling that God loves me and speaks to me but perhaps mormonism is one of many acceptable ways to worship?

  314. Dear Guest,

    I appreciated your post and wish to thank you for being honest and transparent. Leaving the LDS faith is no easy endeavor, and for many who chose to leave, that choice is met with much prayer, study and thought.

    After much study and prayer I made the choice to leave as well. It’s been almost 2 yrs, and although at times it has been painful for friends and loved ones to understand, I have yet to regret my choice. There is peace in knowing one is living true to one self.

    I admire you’re courage to share your expierence here with us all in this public forum and wish you God’s best as you move forward.

    God bless,
    Gloria

  315. Haha Jared I totally didn’t get it the first time. I can be dense sometimes. Like after I finished watching “The Sixth Sense” – at the end I was like “wow that was totally lame! What happened?” (not realizing he was dead the whole time, SPOILER!)

  316. # 369 – This is a reasonable and consistent answer, but I don’t think it totally answers Dexter’s question. If there is ONE true church, it seems reasonable that god would give a special witness to those who are praying to know of the truthfulness of that church. Why is it that god seems to speak to those of other faiths just as strongly and gives a seemingly equal confirmation of other faiths as that of mormonism? I think it’s fair to say that there is no experience in the history of mormonism that has not also been claimed in other faiths. It’s possible that those of other faiths are misinterpreting their spiritual communications, but again, it seems logical that god would make it abundantly clear when he is confirming a true religion, to facilitate people finding the true church.

  317. I don’t think anyone has ever had an “abundantly clear” or “undeniable” experience. If you had such an experience faith would no longer be necessary. I’m sure even JS and the prophets of old doubted some of their marvelous experiences in their darkest times. Even the most faithful can explain away marvelous miracles like angelic visitations as the product of temporary insanity, mental illness, medicinal effects, etc.

    I don’t think an “undeniable” or “abundantly clear” response is part of Moroni’s promise. While the faithful are promised guidance from the Spirit, I don’t think that guidance would ever be so clear as to render faith unnecessary. We can never have “knowledge,” and when we speak of “knowledge” or “testimony” in the Church what we really mean is belief or conviction, not actual knowledge. To have actual knowledge would render faith unnecessary.

    Thus, I think it’s unreasonable to expect the Lord to answer the prayers of latter-day saints with alarm bells and red lights. In my view he answers the prayers of members and nonmembers alike in different ways and in different forms of intensity and clarity. As members we have additional knowledge, gifts and tools that we can use to better discern and apply this divine guidance but it does not bother me that people of other faiths have had and will continue to have similar spiritual experiences.

  318. Good points brjones, and that was also a simplistic answer I gave (my son was having some pre-nap crankiness so I had to go). Personally, my best answer is addressed in a post I wrote a while back about how we approach faith, i.e. exlusivist/pluralist/constructionist. There is a 4th category (rejectionist) but now I think that exclusivists and rejectionists are basically the same in their approach, one group just believes in one less God. 😉 )

    “again, it seems logical that god would make it abundantly clear when he is confirming a true religion, to facilitate people finding the true church.
    Just speculation, but I wonder if other churches and people have different roles in this life. It seems obvious (to me) that not everyone who lives is meant to find or even join the church in this life. So maybe God wants or expects some people to be buddhist, some muslim, some atheists (OH NO!), some democrats. etc, and it is (to quote the Joker) “All part of the plan.” Again, speculation.

  319. “I don’t think an “undeniable” or “abundantly clear” response is part of Moroni’s promise.”

    “We can never have “knowledge,” and when we speak of “knowledge” or “testimony” in the Church what we really mean is belief or conviction, not actual knowledge.”

    This is simply not an accurate statement of mormon doctrine. As moroni himself promised:

    “And by the power of the Holy Ghost, you may KNOW the truth of ALL things.”

    It’s pretty clear that knowledge is exactly what Moroni promised. So I would pose my question again.

  320. @ Brjones, 373. I would contend that there are many different interpretations and variations of “knowledge,” but I don’t think scriptural references to “knowledge” mean actual knowledge, for the reasons I’ve discussed above.

  321. #372 – AdamF, I agree that it is just speculation, and I don’t know that that answer would be endorsed by the church, but I think that is a wonderful answer. In fact, I don’t think there is a better answer out there, for me, within the context of a belief in god.

  322. #374 – Paco, I actually think that is a reasonable interpretation of those scriptures, but as with AdamF’s comment, I don’t think that is a position that would be endorsed or accepted by the church. We are explicitly taught that we may know the things of god. I would agree that that doesn’t necessarily entitle anyone to angelic visitations or burning bushes, but I think it means what it says. I would also point out that there are people on this board, the most prominent of those being Jared, who would argue that they do have a sure, actual knowledge of those things. He may agree that it is relatively uncommon or difficult to acheive in this life, but I think he would disagree with your contention that we can’t really KNOW in this life.

  323. Sorry, Jared, I didn’t mean to speak for you. I was just giving my opinion based on the things you’ve posted in the past. But I would be very interested in getting your perspective on this issue.

  324. re 376 re paco’s comments:

    I’m going to have to agree with paco…to suggest that knowledge is overblown and conflated…if only because of the way the community has abused it. I think many people, when they get up every Sunday to testify and say “I know…”…they use “know” in a sense that is shared communally to mean something VERY different than what we would use in a lay context…the hope is that every other member in the room will understand that (weakened) context, and perhaps that nonmembers or investigators will *not*, and so they’ll think, “Gee whiz, all of these people know!”

    Our goal is to sift through the nuances of connotation. Because “I know” for Jared or Jen probably means something different than “I know” for most of the members I see bearing testimony (not to put words in anyone’s mouth)…I still think it’s a *subjective* difference and not an objective difference (like knowledge would suggest to laypeople)…but still.

  325. #383 – Andrew, I totally agree that the term is overused and watered down within the church and in religion in general. That doesn’t mean that moroni didn’t mean what he said when he said we can know for a surety that the BoM or the church are true, and I don’t think it means JS was being hyperbolic when he said that it is given to all men to know the nature and character of god. I don’t think there’s any room to infer that they didn’t really mean that in a literal sense. I agree that there is room for interpretation within that framework, and that there is an element of subjectivity involved, but I think Paco’s statement that we just can’t ever really know in this life is ultimately untrue. I realize that we’re all putting words into Jared’s mouth now, but he has stated several times and in no uncertain terms on this site, that he has an absolute and objective knowledge that god lives and that the church is true. Even if Jared is one of the rare few who ever gain that level of knowledge in this life, I still think it demonstrates that Paco’s generalization is inaccurate, at least as a rule. I think to say otherwise would be to, in essence, tell those like Jared that they don’t know what they claim to know, and I don’t think that’s fair.

  326. I ultimately and independently agree with Paco’s perspective, however I agree with BrJones that this concept is at odds with what the Church, including The Book of Mormon teach. First, Moroni’s promise mentions nothing of knowledge, but rather states concerning those who have read The Book of Mormon and pondered in their hearts the message it contains, including remembering how merciful God has been, that:

    “…you would ask God the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these THINGS are not true. And if ye will ask with a sincere heart and real intent, having faith in Christ, God will manifest the TRUTH of IT unto you by the power of The Holy Ghost. And by the power of The Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all THINGS”.

    This is a very clear promise that we can KNOW truth of all things. Alma 32 teaches that acquiring this knowledge is achieved through a progression of faith, but that ultimately that faith has end, or resolves into a state of dormancy as our knowledge of that thing becomes perfect. Modern Church leaders, and early leaders as well have all advocated this idea that we don’t believe the Church, rather members come to KNOW each for themselves by the power of The Holy Ghost. Lastly, our testimony culture is such that institutionally we each reinforce the notion that we Know the Church is true, JS was a Prophet, etc, even if such claims are only wishful thinking/believing. In other words, I agree with paco regarding the idea the when many members claim to Know, they are really communicating a belief. Nevertheless, this employment of absolute language stresses to me the idea that in the Church KNOWING is desirable, to which faith would be in some way or another condisidered as inferior. Hence, the propensity of the membership to claim knowledge, compared to those who claim only to believe.

  327. Paco said, “I don’t think anyone has ever had an ‘abundantly clear or ‘undeniable’ experience” because then faith would be unnecessary.

    I disagree. Joseph Smith certainly would argue his experience was ‘abundantly clear’ and ‘undeniable’ and perhaps he no longer needed faith that god exists bc he had a sure knowledge. But in the depths of misery in carthage he still would need faith, not necessarily that god exists, but that god would help him and his people.

    I agree that knowledge removes the need for faith but only for that particular item known. If Jared “knows” that god exists, he might not have or need faith that god exists. But I bet Jared would still say he needs faith that god will continue to answer his prayers, or that god will bless his children for their righteous choices. One can have knowledge of certain things but still need faith in other things. Thus, Paco, one could have an undeniable experience and gain true knowledge but still need faith in other components of the gospel.

    Just another example, of MANY, wherein I was not critical of the church, despite allegations to the contrary. 🙂

  328. “Lastly, our testimony culture is such that institutionally we each reinforce the notion that we Know the Church is true, JS was a Prophet, etc, even if such claims are only wishful thinking/believing. ”

    This is probably the subject for another post, but we can get into this if you want.

  329. We are 12 post’s away from 400, which is probably a near record. I think I am safe in saying that it is fair game at this point.

  330. None of us can have actual knowledge of the of truthfulness of the events described in scriptures (and other things requiring faith) because none of us were there to witness them. But we can achieve a different (less than actual) sort of knowledge and understanding (that still requires faith) of the truthfulness of those things.

    I think substituting “understand” (and similar words) for “know” in those scriptures might be helpful.

  331. re 388:

    the worst part is it’s all for naught. All of these comments are assigned to a guest’s post, so no one can even brag about them!

    …unless…guest becomes a permablogger on MM.

    Guest Writer, you know what you must do.

  332. Very few members are capable of committing the “unpardonable” sin of denying the HG. That’s evidence that very few truly KNOW.

  333. #391 – I agree fully with this, but Paco is using absolute terms like “none of us” and “no one” and I can’t agree with that. The doctrine of the second comforter is an actual mormon doctrine, if I’m not mistaken. It is absolutely a doctrine of the church to have an actual knowledge of the doctrines, although I would agree that it is rare. I guess we’re not far off, and are probably splitting hairs at this point. It doesn’t seem like any of us disagree that in practical application for most of us, Paco is correct.

  334. I do not oppose the LDS notion that absolute knowledge, ie the principles of revelation, can be obtained. This includes the idea that one does not have to have been an eye witness to scripture events to know them. If a person were to see God, an Angel, experience a real vision (I realize that this could be subjective, but I still accept the possibility), or in other words have a “meaningful” revelation that amounts to more than inclinations, ideas, emotions, or sensations, that these experiences could serve as vehicles for God conveying absolute truth. The idea behind strict agnosticism is not only are men unsure about God and the Eternities, but that such things are ultimately unknowable. I reject the premise that binds God by saying he cannot reveal himself, or that I can be absolutely certain he is beyond mortal communion. So, I disagree with Paco, who appears to be advocating a unique form of a believers agnosticism, in that revelation can’t confirm the truth of the Church. I am saying that I have not experienced this myself, I find the claims of the Church in light of it’s history doubtful, and I rarely hear tale from members who can relay meaningful personal revelations. Ultimately if I were to have a revelation, you may all be certain, Cowboy will change his tune – and fight like Paul to set things right.

  335. Off to a movie in a few minutes.

    Regarding the point about having a undeniable testimony. The Book of Mormon gives a number of examples of men-prophets who arrived to this level of testimony. And yet they still had to exercise faith. That seems like a paradoxical statement but it is true. Joseph Smith for example, he saw God and therefore had a undeniable testimony but he had to exercise faith all his life.

  336. #394 – I agree with this, Jared. I think this speaks to Dexters point that you can have absolute knowledge, but that doesn’t mean you will cease to need faith. I don’t think there is any argument to be made that JS’s knowledge of the existence of god or the savior wavered or waned. But as Jared said, that doesn’t mean his faith wasn’t tried in other ways. I think this is perfectly consistent with gospel principles.

  337. re 396: lol, not to chide Paco, but believing agnostics are no big deal. But then again, I happen to agree with Paco’s position, so I think *most* believers are agnostic theist…whereas your gnostic theists are probably more like the Jareds.

  338. #390 – I only accept cash, with random serial numbers, in individual bill amounts not larger than $100.