Who are these Anti-Mormons?

guest Anti-Mormon, Mormon, Mormons 100 Comments

This post is by Heather B.  I’m not a member of the LDS church, although I was once. I’ve had many members ask me over the years, why we left. When I try to explain, I tend to get cut off mid sentence, with protests about how the sources or people I am quoting are Anti-Mormon (insert ominous music here).

I have been accused of being an Anti-Mormon myself more than once. Usually this happens in a conversation with a member of the church, when they feel backed against a wall, with nothing but a testimony to prove their point (Well you may say Joseph Smith had many wives, and that some were legally married to other men, but I KNOW that he just wouldn’t do something like that!). In my experience, the label seems to be used to summarily dismiss those who don’t agree with the more correlated version of Mormonism that many members have been taught.

The Ensign, General Conference talks, and other church publications members are warned not to look at or read anything Anti-Mormon, but it is very hard to pin down exactly what the church leaders feel falls under that banner

So what say ye? Where does the line fall?

Are you Anti-Mormon if you visit a DAMU site regularly?

What about the New Order Mormons?

What about Feminist Mormon Housewives?

What if you own a Micheal Quinn book?

How about one by Fawn Brodie?

What if you ask about Joseph Smith destroying a printing press in Sunday School?

What if the temple makes you uncomfortable?

What if you have your name removed?

What if you stay on the rolls, but you never attend any meetings?

What if you just really don’t agree with something that the Relief Society President said in Conference?

Or the prophet?

What if you won’t let the missionaries in your door?

What if you can’t stand Mitt Romney?

What if you support gay marriage?

What if you belong to a church that sincerely worries for LDS souls, and believe that your own church is One and True?

Where do we draw the line?

I ask these questions knowing that there ARE Anti-Mormons out there. There are people who truly hate and wish for the destruction of the church. But how big is that tent? How does this kind of labeling affect the church’s ability to build relationships with other denominations, or to reach out to current and former members who disagree with the church on various issues? When the church encourages it’s members to “hear no evil”, is it protecting it’s members or hurting itself, in the long term?

Comments

comments

Comments 100

  1. Justice Potter Stewart said it best: “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it…”

  2. I think it is important to be honest in our approach to history. Anti-mormon propaganda is the dialectic of pro-mormon propaganda. I like to use material somewhere in the middle as I find it more accurate. I think that the church will hurt its intellectual and curious members in the long run as the reality of mormon history comes out. But from the sounds of BKP on the PBS Mormon Special…perhaps the church doesnt want intellectuals. It will be their loss.

    I must say heather that I answer to the affirmative on many of the above questions but yet I still define myself to aquaintances and friends as an anarchist mormon. It is a big part of me. I enjoy the fact that I am able to answer in the affirmative without fearing retribution. If I were to be threatened with discipline then I think I would be upset, but as of yet I have been left alone even by priesthood brethren. I think they see that having a good husband, future father and future doctor in the borderlands of their church is better then pushing me out. I would agree with that.

    Take John Dehlin, John Hamer, and you Heather….Mormonism is a much better place when dialogue, honesty and openness are accepted.

    Thanks for that post. 🙂 Great one to get us thinking. I dislike the term “Anti-Mormon”…far too broad!

  3. dpc beat me to the Stewart quote, which is probably the best one can do. It is very difficult to actually define “anti-Mormon.” In my view, not being Mormon, being formerly Mormon, disagreeing with Mormons or Mormonism, rejecting the faith claims of the Church, etc. are not tantamount to being an anti-Mormon. I could count myself as having many, though not all, of the characteristics of the OP, so obviously I don’t see those things as being in and of themselves “anti-Mormon.” People who work professionally to destroy the Church and destroy Mormon faith in “countercult ministries” are anti-Mormon. (I admire the Tanners for being willing to own the label, which clearly applies to them. James White rejects the label, but I think it applies to him as well.) Between those two shores the sea can get murky.

    Scholarship and anti-Mormonism are different things. Scholars can approach historical and theological claims from a rational, critical perspective, but no true scholar’s aim is to destroy a person’s faith or to destroy a church.

    Anti-Mormonism tends to be tinged with irresponsible rhetorical trickery. It is usually geared not to actually witnessing to Mormons, which is fair, but to boundary maintenance (IE scaring the bejeezus out of their own people so that they won’t even talk to a Mormon). Tossing out that Jesus and Satan are brothers without actually examining what that means in the Mormon context is an attempt to inflame prejudice and is anti-Mormon.

    Not all anti-Mormonism is theistic and sectarian; there is also a secular brand as well.

    Visiting a DAMU site does not make one anti-Mormon. But actively participating in the extremely bitter, irrational ravings that sometimes go on there probably does.

    I don’t know you at all, Heather, but nothing you have said in the OP leads me to think you are an anti-Mormon. I agree that ordinary members of the Church who do not actually deal with anti-Mormonism tend to throw the term around much too loosely. I also don’t like it when Mormons won’t simply let people leave; if they’re going to demand an accounting for why someone has left, they have no one but themselves to blame when such an accounting is forthcoming.

    In short, disagreement is not anti-Mormon. Rejection is not anti-Mormon. Actively, affirmatively working to destroy the Church as an institution and to destroy individual testimonies, especially when employing irresponsible rhetorical trickery and with no intention to actually convert the Mormon(s) in question but for boundary maintenance purposes, is anti-Mormon.

  4. This question reminds me of the experience of a friend who worked in the LDS historical library in the mid-1990s. He was given the task of reclassifying books in the stacks. When he began the project, any book by a non-LDS writer had been automatically classified as “anti-Mormon.” Of course, his project changed that, but it’s surprising that such an unsophisticated, paranoid system had prevailed for so long.

    What if you have your name removed?

    In my experience, the majority of LDS don’t deal well with this. I’m actually on “moderated” status with one blog (which really means banned unless I happen to say something that agrees with and supports the administrator who initiated the thread) for making “critical” comments, but also specifically for having mentioned that I had my name removed from the records of the LDS church. The latter was described by the blog’s administrators as “encouraging apostacy.”

    More often, I find that having your name removed from the records of the LDS church results, in the mind of many LDS, in an immediate removal of at least half your brain. I was an active member of the LDS church for 26 years, and enjoyed a good reputation for doctrinal and historical expertise. Once I had my name removed, however, many LDS members immediately assumed that I (a) could never be trusted to accurately quote a source, and (b) had no understanding of even the most basic aspects of LDS practice and culture. I’ve received the most inane lectures imagineable from LDS bloggers who assumed I was entirely ignorant of the LDS church. Of course, this is largely a defense mechanism for those authors, enabling them to avoid the concept that sane, thinking individuals may choose not to embrace the LDS church.

  5. Kevin, its the spam-filter. Its been going crazy the last few days.

    Frankly, that Potter Stewart quote sounds to me like:
    “I reserve the right to discredit you with the label ‘anti-mormon’ if I have no other defense.”

    Its funny, Kevin, that you support the Stewart quote and go on to say “It is very difficult to actually define “anti-Mormon.””, but your last paragraph in comment #3 actually does a fair (no pun intended) job of defining the term. Why should it be so hard to define?

  6. Is it too easy to say that the key to Anti-Mormonism is intent? There certainly must be actions, but they must be coupled with the intent to deconvert Mormorns and/or ultimately harm the church. Under this standard, none of the things suggested in the post would, by themselves, count as Anti-Mormon.

    What church leaders feel may be a different story. But acts need not be considered Anti-Mormon to warrant church discipline, right?

  7. I’ve come across a wide range of opinions on what is anti-Mormon. My bishop’s wife, for example, loved Bushman’s JS bio (especially the section dealing with his magic activities) ; on the other hand, some of the comments on deseretbook.com have referred to the same book as hardcore anti. I thought The Mormons on PBS was generally balanced, though leaning a bit more toward the shadow side, while a fellow in our ward came right out and said it was inspired by Satan. I suppose there are some who would think I’m borderline anti because I read Sunstone and Dialogue along with the scriptures, the Ensign, BYU Studies, and FARMS. I call it broadening my scope so that I can better decide the issues for myself rather than being spoon-fed.

  8. Frankly, that Potter Stewart quote sounds to me like:
    “I reserve the right to discredit you with the label ‘anti-mormon’ if I have no other defense.”

    That’s not the meaning of the quote. I think it’s a lawyer thing. The Justice Stewart quote originally involved the definition of obscenity. I meant it in a way that ‘anti-mormon’ is a term that is difficult to define, but when you encounter it, you can tell what it is (much like the way you can tell what obscenity is should you encounter it).

    Perhaps, I should have put in a paraphrase of the rest of the quote which states, “and Heather Martin Brown is not one”.

  9. I have liked some of the responses which differentiates between an individual view of the church and an institutional design. In other words, it is very easy to look at the work of the Tanners, CRI, James White, Mormon Research Ministry, Dick Baer, Ed Decker, etc and classify them as clearly anti-mormon because of their effort to drive people away from the church. They use any methods available to them to do so.

    With individuals, it is more difficult. It all comes down in my mind to knowledge and intent.

    For example, there was a great deal of controversy over the remarks of Lawrence O’Donnell on the “The McLaughlin Group” about the church and Joseph Smith. I considered the remarks to be stupid, uninformed and mean, but not anti-mormon per se.

    I have also read comments on the RFM and ExMo blogs that I considered extremely anti-mormon because of the intent.

    But, for most of Heather’s list, many of us, including me, can answer yes. The fact remains that “anti-mormon is a loaded term and tends to be in “the eye of the beholder” right or wrong.

  10. Why draw a line? If we can’t precisely define what a Mormon is (TBM, DAMU, Jack, etc.) how can we define an Anti-Mormon? And why should we?

  11. Like the term “persecution,” “Anti-Mormon” is both emotionally charged and over-used. (Persecution is so mis-used that scholars probably should avoid using it at all in relation to the early Mormon experience.)

    As for “Anti-Mormon,” I personally only use the term to describe the actions of a small number of people who devote themselves to attacking Mormonism because they’ve decided (for who knows what reason) that Mormons are the #1 threat to their own fundamentalist Christian world-view.

  12. “I personally only use the term to describe the actions of a small number of people who devote themselves to attacking Mormonism because they’ve decided (for who knows what reason) that Mormons are the #1 threat to their own fundamentalist Christian world-view.”

    John, you don’t think that some former members of the church have the same goal in mind, even though their motive may be different? I heard and read just as offensive stuff coming from those folks as with so-called anti-mormons.

    There is certainly a way to be critical and disagree with the church without resorting to being nasty and disrespectful to others. That is also a difference.

  13. Good topic. Good discussion.

    I think we are all antis to certain doctrines. I try not to get off on some tangent like saying people in my community are anti-Baptists or anti-Fundamentalists, etc.

    John H., I don’t think God put me in Ammon, Idaho to ultimately defend the regime of my Baptist Church and fight all the cloaked misrepresentations and distortions about me or us.

    But in regards to Christian doctrine, yes, I do like to explore the motives behind anti-biblical inerrancy, or anti-Triune God, or anti-creation ex nihilo, etc.

    Make sense?

  14. “Why draw a line? If we can’t precisely define what a Mormon is (TBM, DAMU, Jack, etc.) how can we define an Anti-Mormon? And why should we?”

    I only argue for a definition because the term is used as a weapon. I suspect that the vast majority of the time that term is used, it is done with the intent to effectively “change the channel”. To stop listening and to tell others to stop listening, too. With faithful LDS folks, its extremely effective in that.

    So if the term is going to be that powerful, it should have some rules. A person should be able to know what qualifications to avoid.

  15. Re #14, Jeff: Angry non-practicing Mormons are still Mormons in my book. Even if they are no longer LDS, they are still a type of Mormon doing one of the typical things that Mormons do. Yes, they can be less or more polite (usually less) in their antagonism for the institution of the LDS church specifically (and possibly also for practicing Mormons generally).

    However, I still generally avoid this charged term in their case. Most likely they are just in a temporary antagonistic phase which will end when they’ve worked through their feelings.

    You’ll have to tell me if you think (for example) cultural Jews who argue with their practicing Jewish family members against traditional beliefs should fairly be called “anti-Semitic”?

  16. I consider myself a dyed-in-the-wool Mormon and would answer several of your questions thusly:
    I don’t frequent DAMU sites.
    I do frequent FMH.
    I own 5 books by Mike Quinn.
    I think FB’s bio of JS is the second best written to date.
    I have personally brought up the Expositor press in SS.
    I love the temple and attend with some regularity.
    I attend meetings weekly.
    I regularly disagree with things I hear from the GC pulpit, but still consider the men and women who say them to be God’s chosen servants.
    I can’t stand Mitt Romney.
    I support gay marriage.
    (for the record, I also watch R-rated movies, obey the word of wisdom, support ordaining women to the priesthood, and believe in evolution).
    I guess I’m trying to say that I assume there are very few if any who would provide either uniformly ortho or hetero answers to each question you listed. Anti-Mormons are largely a strawman (though, admittedly, they do exist in insignificant numbers). I think that head-in-the-sand Mormons who sheepishly incant testimony in the fact of revelations that JS had plural wives or hunted treasures or that BY was a racist are also mostly a strawman.

  17. Re #15, Todd: As a general rule of thumb, Mormons don’t even know what they don’t know about traditional Christianity. I often find when I talk to my cousins or siblings who self-identify as “ExMormon” about the Bible or Christian theology, they are surprised to learn that their understanding of some topic is entirely Mormon and is not what traditional Christians believe at all. If you’re helping explain your own traditions and beliefs to your Mormon neighbors, I’m sure that’s a wonderful thing to do that is not “anti-Mormon” by any stretch.

    I have to admit that as someone raised Mormon, I don’t understand the Trinity properly, even though I’ve studied the incredibly Byzantine Christological controversies of the first millennium AD in some depth. (I do know Pater est Deus, Filius est Deus, Spiritus est Deus; and Pater non est Filius non est Spiritus. And I know that the Spirit does/doesn’t make a double-procession from the Son, filioque. But that’s my intellect picturing what my inborn gut is unable to get.)

  18. I like Kevin’s definition. As of last week, I am no longer a member of the LDS church. I moderate a forum in the DAMU (Further Light and Knowledge). I have a blog that is often quite critical of the LDS church. But I do not consider myself an “anti-Mormon” at all. I have no desire to influence anyone to resign their membership or to not join the LDS church. My immediate family (wife and kids) are Mormon. To be anti-Mormon, in my mind, would mean I would have to be “anti” my wife and kids, which I decidedly am not. Nor do I wish harm on the institution or have any animosity toward church leaders or members.

    The problem with the Potter Stewart definition is that it is entirely subjective and makes an anti-Mormon our of anyone who might be considered such by the most sensitive member of the church. So, Bushman is an anti-Mormon because Joe TBM thinks RSR is “anti.” He knows it when he sees it, by gum. I don’t like that definition. Yes, there are anti-Mormons. Those who are anti-Mormon generally have no compunction about declaring themselves proudly such. An interesting question is why some members of the LDS church feel the need to go beyond that and apply the label to those who would not self-identify as anti-Mormon.

  19. “You’ll have to tell me if you think (for example) cultural Jews who argue with their practicing Jewish family members against traditional beliefs should fairly be called “anti-Semitic”?”

    Ironically, some of the same things apply. And, of course, it has been going on for many thousands of years rather than 180 years. Conserative and reformed Judaism is so democratic in its beliefs that the tent is very, very large in terms of remaining in the faith, so to speak. So, I don’t think that you would ever hear a Jew call another Jew anti-semitic for a certain belief. But, the ultra Orthodox clearly look down on anyone who does not fully embrace the faith as they see the essentials (keeping kosher, attending synagogue, praying morning, noon and night, studying Talmud, etc.) And they don’t really recognize the reformed branch.

    I watched a show about Judaism with orthodox, conservative and reformed rabbis (the reformed rabbi happened to be a woman). Not only wold the Orthodox rabbi not respond to the reformed rabbi directly, he would not even look at her the entire show.

  20. John Nilsson’s working definition of “I know it when I see it” Anti-Mormons:

    Those who shoot Mormon children at point-blank range in Haun’s Mill because “nits make lice”.

  21. I don’t mean to de-rail the thread, but this thought came to mind:

    In my experience, one of Mormons’ primary objections to “anti-Mormon” material (whatever it is) is that its alleged (and sometimes express) purpose is to destroy faith. Therefore, the reasoning goes, it is not objective but biased, and most likely inaccurate. As a recent New Era article puts it, “too many [critics] are . . . downright antagonistic toward it. [They are] often all too willing to rely on deception and dishonesty to achieve their goals. The literature they produce often uses lies or half-truths; it distorts, sensationalizes, or misinterprets Church teachings and history; its intent is to tear down the Church and scare people away from it.” For these reasons, the author of the article points out, “anti-Mormon literature” is not to be trusted. Mormons are socialized to approach such material with a high degree of skepticism.

    My question then would be, is explicitly “pro-Mormon” substantially more trustworthy?

    “Pro-Mormon literature” seems equally susceptible to the pitfall of bias that apparently traps so many critics. Like anti-Mormons, pro-Mormon writers have an overarching purpose–in their case, to defend the Church and promote faith, rather than to attack the Church and destroy faith. Like their anti-Mormon counterparts, “pro-Mormons” (such as the Correlation Committee) subject their choice and treatment of facts to their goal, which necessarily creates a tension with the demands of objectivity.

    Unfortunately, although we treat criticisms with the utmost criticism, and even contempt, we tend to adopt an uncritical attitude toward anything that supports our beliefs, perceptions, and values. The objectivity of faith-promoting literature is apparently presumed, or just not thought about in the first place.

    I don’t deny the value in defending one’s faith or presenting a faithful interpretation of history. But until we are willing to approach our own representations with even a mustard seed of skepticism, we aren’t much better than the evangelical groups that subject Mormonism to the most stringent criticism and then turn around and advocate an inerrant Bible and 6,000-year-old earth.

  22. Sorry, my third paragraph should read, “My question then would be, is explicitly ‘pro-Mormon’ literature substantially more trustworthy?” The first sentence in my fifth paragraph should read, “Unfortunately, although we treat criticisms with the utmost skepticism…”

    (Note to self: Learn to proof-read before hitting “submit.”)

  23. Steve M,

    Excellent point.

    I have nothing against the New Era (it’s the most in tune with its readership of all the Church magazines) but it’s an official Church publication and can’t afford to undermine its own credibility by stating that pro-Mormon sources need to be taken with a grain of salt. Building faith is implicitly seen as equivalent to defending truth. Strange how we operate in the Church with all kinds of unacknowledged code words.

    The problem I have with the New Era editorial is not about balance and honest inquiry. Those were good responses from the editors. It’s rather a fundamental one about the effects of hearing the truth. I long ago discarded the idea that truth makes you feel good. Propagating the idea that it does is one of the few truly pernicious things in our Church culture today. The most elementary reflection shows that this is nonsense.

    Consider how receiving a cancer diagnosis makes you feel. Bad? Must not be true, then. Consider how you feel when you discover Joseph Smith lied about practicing polygamy. Bad? Must not be true then. Consider how you feel when told you will live again after you die with your loved ones. Good? Must be true then. Consider how you feel when a ward member tells you they have a business you can join and make more from home in a month than you do in a year at the office. Good? Must be true then.

    Sorry to be cynical, but this relying on your emotions as a barometer of truth has not served us well in Mormon culture. When did this start in our history? Joseph Smith relied on data sets of experience of a higher magnitude than feelings when he made his decisions about truth and he erred plenty of times.

  24. John,

    Interesting thoughts. You reminded me of a Brigham Young quote:

    “I will now say, not only to our delegate to Congress, but to the Elders who leave the body of the Church, that he thought that all the cats and kittens were let out of the bag when brother Pratt went back last fall, and published the Revelation concerning the plurality of wives: it was thought there was no other cat to let out. But allow me to tell you, Elders of Israel, and delegates to Congress, you may expect an eternity of cats, that have not yet escaped from the bag. Bless your souls, there is no end to them, for if there is not one thing, there will always be another.” Journal of Discourses, 1:188 (June 19, 1853).

    The idea seems to be that the truth challenges people–not necessarily that it makes them feel good.

    I suspect that the idea that truth makes you feel good is rooted in a combination of scriptures–Moroni 10:3-5, the scripture in Galatians about the fruits of the spirit (I’m too lazy to look it up), and possibly Alma 32.

    For what it’s worth, in Alma 32, Alma doesn’t seem too concerned about “truth” in the sense of objective, empirically verifiable fact. His method for testing “truth” isn’t particularly effective identifying that type of truth. He seems more concerned with “truth” in the sense of “goodness” (which is a very different thing). In fact, he only uses the word “true” three time, and then switches to “good” in verse 28. He proceeds to use the word “good” something like thirteen times.

  25. Sorry to be cynical, but this relying on your emotions as a barometer of truth has not served us well in Mormon culture.

    Relying solely on external sensory information as processed by human reason is not the end all or be all of truth either. Emotion is just one of several barometers for truth. Our emotions can tell us information about the world that no scientific study ever could. It seems to me that truth must feel good in your heart, as well as your mind.

  26. For what it’s worth, in Alma 32, Alma doesn’t seem too concerned about “truth” in the sense of objective, empirically verifiable fact.

    That’s because he’s discussing Christ and allowing him into our hearts. The seed is Christ.

  27. dictionary.com defines “anti” as: a person who is opposed to a particular practice, party, policy, action, etc.

    It think “anti” should be applied very specifically to those who would agree that they are “anti” or against/opposed to Mormonism.

    Of your list above, nothing on that list seems inherently “anti-Mormon” except this one: “What if you belong to a church that sincerely worries for LDS souls, and believe that your own church is One and True?” That one would be “anti-Mormon” if the serious worry resulted in opposition (however earnest and well-intentioned) to Mormonism or Mormon beliefs.

    The real issue is when “anti” sentiment tries to masquerade as concern through verbal trickery or insincere claims of friendship. I think this occurs mainly when the author is conflicted about the audience of the material: 1) misguided Mormons or 2) potential targets of Mormon evangelism who might be “duped” by Mormonism’s claims. It’s hard to use the same tone with both (Mormons as deceived and as deceivers) in the same document.

  28. To me, anti-Mormonism has nothing to do with fundamentalist beliefs, but everything to do with the presumption of some individuals (like me) who think they have all the answers.

    I struggle with trying to be more ‘zen’ with respect to those faithfully practicing Mormonism. I enjoy their company, enjoy the lifestyle and respect the fact that there are groups of people like LDS that will either stand up or stand out for their beliefs.

    I get so angry from my own experience of the church that I am blinded by my own conceit. I am trying to recover my ground among Mormons who are my friends and am continually reminded that as I swing in the psychological no-man’s land of post-Mormonism I am really a recovering anti-Mormon as much as I am a ‘recovering’ Mormon.

    I wish I could give my faithful wife half the unqualified love and support that she gives me.

  29. This is such a timely topic. PBS recently replayed “The Mormons”, and it reminded me that when it was first aired, the comments that upset those I know were said by Dan Peterson (Joseph Smith and the seerstone in the hat) and Darius Gray (John Taylor and blacks as satan’s rep through the flood). Hardly anti-mormons, to say the least. It seems that it still comes down to what is perceived as “faith-promoting”, and the brethren are the final say in that. The fact that a 20-something in the late 1820’s could stick his face in a hat for hours at a time and come up with the Book of Mormon is highly faith-promoting.

  30. The real issue is when “anti” sentiment tries to masquerade as concern through verbal trickery or insincere claims of friendship.

    Of course, this is when “pro” sentiment is also at its worst. There’s a reason that D&C 121 calls for “love unfeigned.” This is a lesson that every missionary, every elders quorum presidency, every home teacher–okay, every Mormon–needs to learn. False friendship is pretty transparent, whether it’s coming from a critic or defender of the faith.

  31. dpc,

    What you say is true. In addition to empiricism, we have reason and intuition. What I find interesting is that in the Church culture I was raised in, there was no attempt to distinguish between anything other than the tired heart/head dichotomy. I “intuited” that reality as I experienced it was more complicated, but didn’t have the vocabulary for it until high school and college.

    We are also using different definitions for truth, I suspect. Are you referring to theological truth only?

    I still don’t understand why truth must feel good. I have friends who firmly believe things to be true (judgment day, etc.) and are scared of them.

  32. Re: dpc,

    That’s because he’s discussing Christ and allowing him into our hearts. The seed is Christ.

    That’s one interpretation, but I don’t think the text compels such a narrow definition. Alma’s test is explicitly designed to test the goodness of “words”–not necessarily or exclusively the “Word.” In popular LDS discourse, Alma 32 is often interpreted broadly as a means of identifying “truth” in general. And my objection to that interpretation (as well as yours), is that, as I mentioned earlier, Alma defines “truth” in terms of “goodness” rather than empirical fact. Something can be “good” and enrich our lives (thereby satisfying Alma’s criteria) without necessarily being empirically true. I’ve read lots of “good” literature that was entirely fictional, for instance. One might contend that following Christ’s teachings and believing in Him is “good,” in the sense that it benefits the believer and those around her, even if Christ was not literally the Son of God. Likewise, I don’t think it’s appropriate to assert knowledge of the Book of Mormon’s historical truthfulness on the ground that its message enlarges one’s soul, enlightens one’s understanding, or is “delicious” to the reader (Alma 32:28).

    It seems to me that truth must feel good in your heart, as well as your mind.

    I agree with John Nilsson on this one–I don’t see why truth “must feel good.” I learned lots of truth in Biology 100 at BYU, but I didn’t have any strong emotional feelings about it. Truth may feel good, but I don’t think that those feelings are a requirement. As John’s earlier examples (for instance, learning that you have cancer) illustrate, in practice truth may feel really bad.

    Okay, I’ve said too much on this thread. Back to work…

  33. John:

    Maybe we need to agree on a definition of ‘feeling good’ Maybe a better term would be something feels ‘right’, ‘complete’ or ‘whole’. It need not necessarily be a positive emotion. Even when I’ve done math equations wrongly, I can still sense that something doesn’t seem ‘right’, even if it looks fine on a cursory glance.

    I have friends who firmly believe things to be true (judgment day, etc.) and are scared of them.

    You just need to reassure them that Arnold Schwartznegger dissolved himself in the molten steel at the end of Terminator 2, Sarah O’Conner made it clear that Judgment Day wasn’t going to happen. 😉

  34. “I struggle with trying to be more ‘zen’ with respect to those faithfully practicing Mormonism. […] I get so angry from my own experience of the church that I am blinded by my own conceit.”

    I feel you on these points. Look for a post here on Thursday afternoon that might be helpful for that. Maybe. It was for me.

  35. Steve M

    And my objection to that interpretation (as well as yours), is that, as I mentioned earlier, Alma defines “truth” in terms of “goodness” rather than empirical fact.

    Who says that truth has to be defined as empirical fact? The statement “Something is true if it corresponds to an empirical fact” fails its own test. What empirical fact could possibly make the foregoing statement true? Metaphysical statements can be true even if they can’t be empirically verified. By what means are we able to determine if they are true or not?

    What Alma describes is not a test designed to inform us if what our physical sensory experiences about the world happen to be true or false; rather, they are designed to give a test whereby revelatory truths can be confirmed. You might think it’s a bad test, but what would you propose as a better way to receive revelatory truth?

  36. Growing up Catholic in Utah, I considered myself an anti-Mormon. After I joined the Church I stopped, of course, but gradually became anti-Mormons— intolerant of certain types of Mormons I have to put up with: The pontificators, the academic contrarians and the ones staring back at you every week with the fish eye when you ask them to do the least little thing beyond the Sunday block.

    My Mom, an ex-Mormon is happily anti, just so long as she can keep her home teacher.

  37. dpc,

    Maybe I should use the term “literal” truth as opposed to “empirical” truth. What I’m getting at is that something that is “good” is not necessarily “true” in a literal or metaphysical sense. Christ may have been “good” without having been the Son of God. The Book of Mormon might inspire me and give me good feelings without being historical.

    What Alma describes is not a test designed to inform us if what our physical sensory experiences about the world happen to be true or false; rather, they are designed to give a test whereby revelatory truths can be confirmed. You might think it’s a bad test, but what would you propose as a better way to receive revelatory truth?

    I’m not sure I agree that Alma is describing a “test whereby revelatory truths can be confirmed,” but I don’t think this is the proper thread to debate the meaning of that chapter. In response to your question, I would go back to the issue John raised–whether feelings are a proper measure of truth. I think a proper test for revelatory truth would involve more than feelings, or even the “feelings + thoughts” or “heart and mind” test described in the D&C. I have had lots of feelings, “promptings,” etc., many of which made sense in my mind as well, that I interpreted as coming from God but which turned out to be mistaken. I’ll refer to something John said in comment #26: “Joseph Smith relied on data sets of experience of a higher magnitude than feelings when he made his decisions about truth and he erred plenty of times.” If Joseph Smith knew something, it had to do with more than feelings. In D&C 76, for example, he said that he knew Christ lived because he saw Him. For these reasons, I’m reluctant to accept the idea that, in the absence of such spectacular experiences (and perhaps even with such experiences, as hallucinations may be mistaken for actual visions or visitations), we can really “know” whether God exists, whether Jesus was the Son of God, and so on. I (usually) believe that God, or some Higher Power, exists, but I don’t claim to “know” it.

    Okay, I’ve really got to leave this thread alone now…

  38. I find it ironic that Justice Stewart’s quote is being used in a way that suggests it is usable. The test was never part of the court’s jurisprudence. The quote comes from a Stewart concurrence; and it’s not used in law. If anything, it’s typically pointed to as an example of an unworkable and entirely subjective approach.

  39. Various comments have noted that one especially troubling form of anti-mormonism is the type that masquerades as an attempt to save people from mormonism, but that is actually concerned with saving themselves (like a church that teaches ‘ant-mormon’ with a goal of not losing membership/funds/superiority of numbers). There also exists a distaste for anti-mormonism that may be motivated by a more pure desire for good, but which uses irresponsible tactics (usually incomplete information and misrepresentation). The deception seems to me to be the common offending element. These anti-mormons are either being untrue about their motivations, or untrue about how they present mormonism to begin with.

    I personally have much less of a problem with those people who fairly and accurately describe mormonism, but who argue then against it. In this case I think it is more accurate to describe these folks not as ‘anti-mormon’, but as ‘pro-(insert preferred ideology here)’.

    What I am less clear about is how to categorize those who are anti-some current form of mormonism or some particular aspect of mormonism, but who accept another major idea that is unique to mormonism. This gets to the sometimes uttered belief that a ‘true’ mormon accepts all current doctrine/practices, or at least does not preach against them. I’m curious how you’all deal with this last issue. If you disagree with only a part of the current mormon church how do you define your actions and beliefs? Are you anti-mormon?

  40. Question…

    If “Anti-Mormon” is defined by the intent of “trying to de-convert someone from the LDS Church”, is the LDS Church “Anti-Historic-Christianity” because the church uses missionaries to “de-convert” people from it?

    Darrell

  41. “What I’m getting at is that something that is “good” is not necessarily “true” in a literal or metaphysical sense. Christ may have been “good” without having been the Son of God. The Book of Mormon might inspire me and give me good feelings without being historical.”

    This is quite a thread jack and I don’t want to extend it, but just want to offer a completion to this thought. Perhaps its true that metaphysical truth doesn’t necessarily portend literal truth in an idea, but it also doesn’t NOT portend it either (sorry for the double negative.) It would be best if we left literalness alone until granted further light and knowledge (empirical, intuitive, mystical etc.) comes upon us individually or collectively.

  42. Darrell, you ask “is the LDS Church “Historic-Christianity”” and I have to answer “of course.”

    Err, that isn’t what you ask, but your question is so loaded with presuppositions, it pretty much doesn’t get out of the box.

  43. Actually, one thing that really seems to characterize the classic “anti-mormon” is that the approach they use if mapped to their own beliefs refutes them as well.

    Ever since some well-meaning Jewish friends gave us some anti-Christian literature, I’ve been struck that I wasn’t the only one who read the citations in the New Testament, flipped back to the original prophecies (easier to do before the “new” scriptures as they had fewer generic cites to the laundry lists on topics) and realized that the application and reading wasn’t as specific as one might expect.

    To narrow things down as most professional anti-mormons do pretty much puts you in a tight box, analysis wise, that has no pretty end.

    Of course that leads to the natural result of all the atheists I’ve encountered on-line who were once LDS. A completely different group, though with better logic in some ways.

  44. Stephen,

    What I am getting at is that if we apply the logic that we define someone as “Anti-Mormon” by their intent to de-convert someone from the LDS church, than as a church we are “Anti-Historic” Christianity.

    I personally have never liked the term Anti-Mormon because it is a silly attempt to label something as evil in order to scre people away from it. I’ll admit it has been an effective tool of the church, but still silly.

    Darrell

  45. Anti Mormon to me is self explanatory. It is a term meaning you are against something. It means you are trying to destroy something. It means that you are trying to destroy someone else’s faith in something. If someone has left the LDS church, then you could ask the question, do they fit the description?

    On the other hand, we may ask, what is apostate? Apostate would seem to be not necessarily someone who has left, but rather someone who has ideas that are considered “false doctrine” that they are promoting. I would think that “heresy” or “false doctrine” that is held as private beliefs doesn’t mean apostate, but that apostate means heresy that is openly promoted contrary to the wishes of Church authorities.

  46. Darrell — “Anti-Historic” Christianity — What do you consider historic Christianity? The Orthodox Church alone? (My mother would have felt that way as a child). The pre-orthodox Church (i.e. early Christianity, which was a huge grab bag of things)?

    Some of the “newer” off-shoots?

    The term is loaded and terribly inaccurate in its connotations, without a true denotation.

  47. Stephen,

    Ok… I see your point. Let me clarify… Instead of “Anti-Historic Christianity”, I will use the broader term “Anti-anything other than Mormon Christianity”.

    I use the term Historic Christianity to mean the classic view of Christianity in JS and our day… Monotheistic belief and in particular the belief in the Trinity being the defining aspect.

    Darrell

  48. Stephen,

    To further clarify… you are asking by Historic Christianity do I mean the Orthodox “Church” or Pre-Orthodox “Church”. I am not talking about any “Church”. I am talking about Classic Christianity (“Mere” Christianity as CS Lewis defined it)… the church and Christian “Faith” are two different things.

    Darrell

  49. Heather,

    I think all are biased. Mormons find the best excuse -by saying that Smith was only sealed to those women who were married- but anti-Mormons find everything possible to show Smith a fraud and the church not true -such as pointing to those married women sealed to Smith; and using the printing press but with 1930’s judgments.

    If anything it proves Joseph’s own prophesy that his name would be spoken of both favourably and unfavourably throughout the world, and this is happening today …almost, since some areas don’t know him yet.

    But each person has to decide for themselves what to do. I liked the Quinn books since he backs things up and places events in its rightful perspective, things that could happen even today with corrupt leaders and murders here and there. But Fawn Brodie’s book was poor for me, she relied on a lot of hearsay and testimony from Smith’s enemies, which I think is unreliable.

    But neither of these really comes into play when I pray or go to church.

    Honestly, since salvation is an individual thing and based on sins you omit, then all these matters don’t really matter in the end.

  50. If I suggest that members of the church who are not actively seeking, and experiencing the Holy Ghost are anti-gospel, anti-mormon, and anti-christ–would that be acceptable?

    I don’t think so.

    Elder Oaks taught:

    “There are two kinds of judging: final judgments, which we are forbidden to make, and intermediate judgments, which we are directed to make, but upon righteous principles.”

    “Judging”, is an interesting study in the scriptures. I’ve never read a better discussion on this subject than what Elder Oaks wrote. If you’re interested see Dallin H. Oaks, ” ‘Judge Not’ and Judging,” Ensign, Aug. 1999, 7.

  51. There also exists a distaste for anti-mormonism that may be motivated by a more pure desire for good, but which uses irresponsible tactics (usually incomplete information and misrepresentation). The deception seems to me to be the common offending element. These anti-mormons are either being untrue about their motivations, or untrue about how they present mormonism to begin with.

    I actually see church PR and some apologists as doing the same thing, but on the opposite side. Good intentions, but supporting arguments with incomplete information, misrepresentation (perhaps accidentally), and another more overt problem which is isolating individual concerns as if they are not related to each other. I just end up getting stuck in the middle. Neither side seems really credible. Its kind of like Rush Limbaugh and Bill Mahr debating.

  52. There seems to be a pervasive notion that, even if Mormonism was a religion fundamentally based on lies, people who know about it should simply sit back, kick up their feet, turn on the TV, and take up wine-tasting. To quote Kevin Barney:

    “I like to think that were I ever to leave, I would simply walk away. This has been the case with those of my family who are no longer involved in the Church, and I hope that I would be able to follow their example should it ever come to that.

    “But I may be deluding myself. I have a huge intellectual investment in Mormonism (much, much more than any of my family members who have disengaged), and I can see how it would be hard not to remain engaged in thinking and writing and talking about Mormonism, albeit from a different perspective. Still, I like to think that I would indeed just walk away, take up wine drinking and focus my scholarly sensibilities on something else. Even if I came no longer to believe, I think I would still see the value in the Church for others and would not want to interfere with anyone else’s beliefs.”(>>)

    I do not find this to be very loving. I want to live my life in such a way that I treat people the way I would want to be treated if I were in their shoes, especially considering what I know now. It is hard for to think, “If I was a worshiper of Baal and Yahweh was the one true God, I would hope that people would help me stay in ignorance or delusion or hardheartedness.” If I was a Mormon, and if Mormonism was based on a con-man, and if the Bible were still trustworthy in what it says God and salvation and false prophets, I would want someone to “interfere” with my beliefs. Letting me go my merry way in a delusion isn’t loving. No offense, but that kind of “tolerance” is for the lazy and cowardly who lack the moral integrity to step up and be gutsy, iconoclastic whistleblowers.

    If Mormonism isn’t true, it would be incredibly loving and pro-Mormon to help destroy the religious system which enslaves the Mormon people with false promises.

    Sincerely,

    Aaron

  53. “If Mormonism isn’t true, it would be incredibly loving and pro-Mormon to help destroy the religious system which enslaves the Mormon people with false promises.”

    Before you go about trying to destroy a religion, you might want to first consider both sides of the same coin. I know I and hundreds of Mormons I know are thankful for the goodness and service opportunities the Church brings into our lives.

  54. Andrew, that reminds of something John Dehlin said. To roughly quote him from an online presentation (I think this one), “Forget truth, focus on good.”

    Or as he says here, we should “move past the ‘true/false’ binary world view”. I’m note sure how to do that and still be faithful to the worldview of Jesus Christ. He speaks in a binary fashion of those who are “of the truth” and those who aren’t. Pilate’s (prophetic?) response to this was, “What is truth?” I am wary of Pilate’s attitude. I think everyone should be.

  55. Clay #56… thank you for that post. You were better able to put into words what I was trying to say in #44 and 48. I could not agree with your statement more.

    Darrell

  56. I’ll say this: I don’t care what people write about the Church, or about Joseph Smith or about what Mormons believe as long as they stick to the facts. I only consider something ‘Anti-Mormon’ if it does one of two things: present lies about the church or church history OR if they deal with the sacred (I’m thinking Temple) in a mocking or irreverent way that masks the truth or is intended to be derogatory.

    Likewise, I think pro-Mormon literature should be given the same standard: all topics should be handled in an even, intellectually honest and as unbiased manner as possible, without tearing down the beliefs of others unnecessarily (by which I mean that we do not attack them, we simply state our own beliefs on the matter).

    In many ways I think that this is somewhat the orthogonal approach of what certain apologists are doing. Instead of trying to build bridges to be closer to other religions, I think we benefit more by simply standing and saying ‘we acknowledge the good in your beliefs, here is what we also offer’. I think President Hinkley was trying to do that in some regards at times, while at other times was trying to work more closely with other churches on certain things.

    Regarding using the ‘does it feel good’ approach to determining ‘truth’, I’ve heard that description, but I’ve always personally interpreted that to mean ‘does it feel *right*’, which is somewhat different. The trouble is, I think, that most of the time we don’t stop to separate out the two, nor do we differentiate enough between feelings of the spirit and feelings of the body. Take the example of being told that your dad has cancer. Bad news. It’s it is empirically true, yes. I would argue that while you are an emotional wreck, you could at the same time have the spiritual experience of a confirmation that yes, there is cancer. Furthermore, I would argue that you could even have the spiritual experience that despite this things will work out. I’m using a very specific example here because I’ve been through this (I mention this so that nobody thinks I don’t know what I’m talking about here–I very much do). I would argue that feelings occur on three levels, although psychologists will probably only typically recognize two of them: you have a body response–that is the physiological response, you have the brain response (cognitive), and you have the spiritual response. When it comes to recognizing eternal truth, only the third one is reliable. The other two are easily deceived. They are co-dependent, and psychologists argue about which one causes the other. Unfortunately, I think that if one is not careful, they can cause enough feedback to interfere with our ability to understand our spiritual feelings, which are somewhat different from our other feelings.

    So if you want a reliable indicator of what’s true, then learn to ignore physical responses (heart beat, indigestion, and sex drive), emotional wrenches (hate, pleasure response, jealousy, and similar things) and go for the spiritual level. I think that’s what Alma is talking about.

    Oh, and as far as intellectual honesty is concerned, I think both sides do make mistakes, and it is unfortunate. The church PR department is a bit over-zealous perhaps, and as a good friend of mine puts it, they seem to be the ‘chicken-soup for the soul’ types. Which we both hate. I think those types of stories appeal to a certain segment of people which inherently see themselves as unworthy or incapable of deep meaningful experience spiritually, so they seek to live it vicariously through others. Which is why I think faith-promoting stories are so sought after by so many. Instead, however, they should be seeking to have their own meaningful experiences with the scriptures and prayers, which I think can and should happen.

    Of course, this is all just another long ramble on the part of another struggling soul.

  57. Kaimi said:

    I find it ironic that Justice Stewart’s quote is being used in a way that suggests it is usable. The test was never part of the court’s jurisprudence. The quote comes from a Stewart concurrence; and it’s not used in law. If anything, it’s typically pointed to as an example of an unworkable and entirely subjective approach.

    The quote was not used as the basis for adopting a legal rule that would determine with pinpoint accuracy what is considered ‘anti-Mormon’. Any determination of what is anti-Mormon necessarily includes a subjective component. Objective definitions can only get you so far because there are a lot of gray areas.

  58. Yes, it’s true that Joseph Smith had many wives, and that some were legally married to other men. And it’s true that it may come as quite a shock to many people. But is that really the reason you left the Church?

  59. Clean Cut, not at all, and I don’t believe that I implied so? It’s just a very generic example of the types of conversations where the term ‘anti-mormon’ is used to try to end a conversation.

  60. I liked Aaron’s comment – #57. It makes no sense that Mormons feel free to send out missionaries and constantly work at fellowshipping and converting others, yet also expect any attempting to change the religion sensibilities of a Mormon is an anti. I have no interest in destroying the LDS church – I can see the good it does for some people. However, it doesn’t work for me. I would definitely like my immediate family to come around to my POV one day, so we could all leave. If that makes me an anti-mormon, I accept the label with a smile, and hope that I can be a successful anti-mormon one day. Once I deconvert the five people I care most about, my interest in the LDS church will be nil.

  61. I am an anti-Mormon, not by choice but by reputation. A few years ago a good friend left the Mormon Church (I never call it “the church” because it isn’t) and insisted that she was going to do things differently. She was going to be conciliatory (“Done that”, I said), she was going to give the full name of the Mormon church (“Done that”, I said), she was going to ask honest questions and not meddle with side issues and heresay(“Done that too” I said). All-in-all she was going to be sweetness and light in her witnessing.

    “It won’t make any difference”, I said.

    “Why not?” she asked.

    “Because no matter how you wrap it up, couch it in nice terms or make it smell nice you will be an anti-Mormon unless you agree 100% with the Mormons.”

    Nonsense!” she replied.

    Some time later I got a phone call and a plaintive voice at the other end said, “They called me an anti-Mormon. I don’t understand it.”

    I allowed my silence to speak for me. Eventually she asked, “What’s the matter with these people?”

    Their Mormons”, I replied. “Its all they know how to be.”

    I became a Christian 21 years ago and left the Mormon Church. I love them, that is why I witness to them. They call me anti-Mormon because I love them enough to tell them the truth.

    “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Mt.5:11)

    I am not an anti-Mormon in truth. Someone asked me once, “Why did you turn your back on the church?” I replied, “I didn’t turn my back on the church. I turned my face to Christ and found the church behind me.” I am a Christian.

  62. Heather, you’re right, you didn’t imply that. I was sincerely searching for understanding as to what the real reason(s) was/were that perhaps led you to leave the Church. I guess I was hoping to give you another chance to “try to explain”, but without getting “cut off mid sentence”. Maybe it’s not my place to ask at all. However, I respect you as a person and apologize for all those times that members are quick to cut you off and label you. Certainly that is not a very christian way of acting. I’m willing to venture into conversation with someone like you who doesn’t necessarily share my faith, and do so without jumping to conclusions, cutting you off, or labeling. I already understand that there are some issues that are not that well known that can be jarring to peoples’ faith. There are things that I’m not that proud of nor can I pretend to explain away. I feel confident enough in my own faith that I don’t fear hearing you out. We might not ultimately come to an agreement, but that (despite what some members might think) shouldn’t be the reason for keeping us from having a respectful conversation.

  63. No problem 🙂 I’ve toyed with the idea of writing about why I left, and may do so at some point, but it would get pretty long and involved, and I’m not sure that this is the right forum for it. And I always hesitate because I don’t want to speak for anyone myself, because we all have our reasons. I’ll just say for now that the reasons are many and complicated and leave it at that.

  64. I think there is an invisible, impenetrable membrane between believing Mormons and NOM/ex-Mormons. Its not quite a wall. We can talk through it and mostly understand each other, and see each other but not with complete clarity. For a believer, the interest in the story of the non-believer will always hold some element of looking for the hole in it. Where did you go wrong, and how can I show you so you’ll see it and come back?

    That’s not meant to be a slight on the believer. Its just inherent in the gospel as the believer sees it. EVERYONE needs to accept the gospel, and its out of love that they try to fix you. The only way you can really listen completely to an exit story is if you going into it genuinely believing that leaving might possibly be the “right” choice for that person, even in God’s eyes. In the Mormon tradition, believing that kind of makes you no longer a believer. Thus, to understand the non-believer, you have to change what you believe in. Its kind of a contrast to the idea that confidence in your own faith makes you more capable of listening completely to another.

  65. Clay,

    This works both way, I think. The ex-mormon is thinking “How can I make you see that the church is not all it claims?”

    Everyone suspects this, and so there is a lack of trust between the groups. I know my wife and I have a tough time communicating about religious issues because she’s afraid that I’m trying to make her see the church the way I do. Sometimes I am.

  66. Great conversation here. As an-ex/anti Mormon, it is nice to see civil debate. I liked Heather’s posts… I can certainly relate to the discomfort that members feel around me… my family all still practice. In Utah, the only thing worse than being anti-Mormon was being an ex. It is a lot easier now that I live in the liberal bastion of America… I don’t know Heather’s reasons for leaving, but mine were pretty simple… I could never believe it… any of it. I tried… read everything multiple times, did the Moroni ch? verses 3-5 more times than I care to remember… weekly told my mission president that I didn’t believe it, and was told to pray harder… finally realized that it wasn’t me. I call my self a born-again atheist. I find religion to be the easy way out. It is much easier to believe than to think. Read Brody… read “Under the Banner of Heaven.” I don’t actively try to get people out of Mormonism… I just try to get religion out of society, period. For those of you in “recovery”… it takes time. Took me a few years to get over the “what ifs”… Life is good, I have an extra day off and that 10% raise…

  67. “The ex-mormon is thinking “How can I make you see that the church is not all it claims?””

    Chris, that might be true a lot of the time, but it is not inherent in the ex-mo belief system as it is in the believer. I say that because there is no one belief system for NOM or ex-mos. Some may leave because they feel its bad for everyone, and they’d probably feel like you describe. But outside the absoluteness of a faithful LDS worldview, it actually becomes possible to allow other people to choose something different than you and accept that it could be “true” or “right” for them. I’m not saying that is easy, or likely, but at least it can happen. Inside the believing framework, it can’t happen without beginning to break the framework down.

    And frankly, IS the church all it describes? Even if you take Mormonism’s favorite thinking apologists, like Blake Ostler or Dan Petersen, is their view of things what the church would want the members to have? I think not, otherwise our lesson materials would be much deeper and stimulating. (Petersen was called an anti-Mormon y some folks for talking about peepstones on PBS.)

  68. Clay –

    I’m not very active around here, so I shouldn’t expect you to know that I’m one of your biggest fans. I’m in very nearly the same place you are (at least as I interpret your posts and comments).

    I’m just trying to point out that the membrane you described above blocks information from both directions. In order for the communication to improve (especially in our close personal relationships), we need to understand each other.

    I really do think that many ex-mormon/post-mormon types feel the need to convince active members that the church isn’t all that it claims. It’s hard to get over those missionary impulses!

  69. “Or as he says here, we should “move past the ‘true/false’ binary world view”. I’m note sure how to do that and still be faithful to the worldview of Jesus Christ. He speaks in a binary fashion of those who are “of the truth” and those who aren’t. Pilate’s (prophetic?) response to this was, “What is truth?” I am wary of Pilate’s attitude. I think everyone should be.”

    Aaron, while I see where you’re coming from, in my experience any so-called “truth” that is based on the notion that there exists some objective reality ultimately falls short when you start to pull at its seams. As we learn more about it, we learn that our original understanding served for certain conditions but did not allow us to fully take advantage of other possibilities that were opened by a deeper understanding. Furthermore, insistence on objective reality has caused countless wars, persecutions, strife etc. against those who do not share our version of reality.

    I am willing to admit that “truth” exists in a more pragmatic sense, as shared subjectivity, or as principles or values that are shared by communities. Those truths that seem to us most iron-clad are simply those that are shared most widely by most communities in most cases.

    It doesn’t mean that one is betraying Christ’s admonition by moving past the binary true/false point of view. Christ, through his atonement, sought to reconciling divergent views and opinions and create circumstances in which different belief systems could coexist in peace, kingdoms where each might receive his true desire. He used as examples infidels (Samaritans) who were more faithful than the Orthodox. He was more concerned about men being faithful to their own conscience. He despised hypocrisy, but not diversity.

    I think this kind of understanding would lead someone to the conclusion that some Mormons shouldn’t be (i.e. they aren’t necessarily participating for good reasons) and some non/anti-Mormons should (i.e. their grievances against the church may not be entirely fair), or any other host of reasons, and that it is not necessarily a cut and dried issue. For this reason, I, as an active Mormon have no problem interacting with other friends, family and acquaintances who show varying levels of support for/antagonism against the Church. Everybody is at a different phase of development and what may be best for some is not always right for others. Fortunately God seems to work with us where ever we’re at.

  70. Let’s face it. The majority of the world is not Mormon. Most people in the world never even heard of the church, Jesus or the ten commandments. Most people who know about the church are not members. Most people who encounter the missionaries do not join the church nor do actively campaign or speak/ write against it. Even if they have the most negative feeling possible about he church.

    I can understand the members desire to promote the church. It is a tenet of the faith to be missionaries. I can also understand those that think they are on a mission from God to convert every mormon away from the church. The so-called Anti-Mormons.

    It the other folks, who were members of the church and have left or are in process of leaving ( many on this blog) that seem to be inclined to proselyte for their point of view. I like good debate, reasonable discussion. But the tone of some folks who are no longer in the church is not very nice toward members who believe. Maybe it is as one person said above, the missionary spirit, but in reverse. Maybe it is just plain hostility. I don’t know. No one really says what motivates them to be here after the split from the church.

  71. Jeff,

    I think there is a lot of pure hostility. I struggle with it daily. I don’t like the church, I like the people in the church so I am caught in a bind. I can’t stay with the church because I don’t believe it / like it. I can’t leave behind my wife, friends and family. I visualize it as grasping my loved ones tight as I try to walk away from an organization they hold dear. Having lost respect for the organization, I seem to have lost respect for the beliefs of others. It is not what I want.

    It is painful for everyone. I come here hoping to find a way to let go of my bitterness of the church so that my feelings for the organization (once so overwhelmingly important to me) will not injure the relationships that are so important to me now and in the future.

    Sorry for episodes of hostility. I think most people here are striving for some healing / peace with the world and the antiseptic is painful.

  72. Green Man,

    I appreciate your candor with me. I hope things improve for you. I’d kind of like to know what things have driven you away. Not in an effort to convince you otherwise, but to understand better. Thanks

  73. Jeff,

    I am not entirely convinced that I was driven away by anything but a failure to obtain anything of value from the organization that I could get from a variety of other sources. My behaviour / attitudes haven’t changed in a substantive way.

    I figured I could stay and be honest about what I understand the history of the church doctrinally and as an institution, I could be honest about I believe, and I could seek inspiration where I wish. This course of action, like it or not, bears tremendous social stigma and uncertainty. The fact would then remain that the church as an organization didn’t uplift me, I didn’t believe the historical story of the BOM / BOA, I don’t buy into the story as told by JS and there is nothing that sets the church apart from any other church.

    With beliefs like that and a mouth like mine, it is a matter of time before you jump, or you are pushed. There were complaint about the fact that I would speak freely with

    I have kids. I figured the best example was to be honest and follow my conscience, clearly and unequivocally.

    Walking away means acknowledging that all the time, effort and sacrifice devoted in good faith to the church was essentially lost time.

    Nothing unusual here, just straight lines and sentences.

  74. #69:
    For a believer, the interest in the story of the non-believer will always hold some element of looking for the hole in it. Where did you go wrong, and how can I show you so you’ll see it and come back?

    Clay, brilliant observation. I would only say that it honestly doesn’t always appear to include the “how can I show you so you’ll see it and come back” part. I can’t begin to count the times that individual LDS members have tried to “diagnose” me, and declared their opinion of the “real reason” I left the LDS church. They seem to have a strong need to decide in their own minds where I “went wrong,” for their own comfort.

    #70:
    This works both way, I think. The ex-mormon is thinking “How can I make you see that the church is not all it claims?”

    Chris, I think this is more an illustration of what the believing LDS often assumes that the ex-LDS is thinking. Not all ex-LDS are out to “deconvert” all LDS members. Speaking for myself, I fully support others’ right to believe what they will with regard to spiritual claims. At the same time, I will challenge what I see as faulty reasoning and faulty history.

  75. OK, I understand better. There is a problem in the church that honest questioning is difficult in the structure of Sunday School. Or, that somehow, a difficult question is a threat to another’s testimony. I don’t find that so much within Priesthood where all sorts of things are said, some of which is actually doctrinal. 🙂

    I know because I got in trouble recently for a Gospel Doctrine lesson I was teaching where we debated whether Lehi was a businessman as a profession.

  76. The term “Anti-Mormon” is not so much dissimilar to anti-Christ with respects to individuals such as Korihor from the BOM. He was “anti” Christ as in against Christ. If you active preach against the church in any way, such as passing conversation, deceptions and half-truths in a theology class, or even in the blogosphere, it would be anti-Mormon whether you like the term or not.

    Rich

  77. Do you think that our attempts to convert each other to our way of thinking (whether to or from “mormonism”) have to do with the basic desire we have to be one? Or is it more that we are just uncomfortable with differences? Generally it seems people are most comfortable with those who are “like” them – in whatever way. Of course Christ to me really seems to like diversity and seems to want us to be able to be “one” without necessarily being “like”.

    I do think that active Mormons frequently are uncomfortable with ex-Mormons because it challenges their supposition that they have the truth, and no decent person could possibly have had the truth and then given it up. It makes them very uncomfortable to see that decent people can reject the truth as they see it. I am active, but have lots of questions and doubts – when I bring them up with my Bishop, he says things like “it says even the very elect shall be deceived.” My response to this is just to continue to patiently explain my issues, continue to live the best kind of life I can manage, and keep searching and questioning. I really think God doesn’t have such words as “anti-Mormon” in his vocabulary. He does have words like “honest”, “charitable”, etc.

    Susan

  78. Richard,

    I want to make sure I understand your position. If I disgree with the church in anyway and discuss this with an individual while being critical of the church, I am anti-mormon?

    Is this your position or am I interpreting it incorrectly?

    Darrell

  79. WM,

    “I bring them up with my Bishop, he says things like “it says even the very elect shall be deceived.”

    The correct part of that quote is: “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”

    I have always taken that to mean that the very elect cannot be deceived but that things will be very bad, that many people will be.

    Many of us feel the need to justify our thinking no matter what side of the fence we fall on. The conversations on the blog are a lot about that and “oneupmanship.” But as I said previously, some have quite a lot of hostility toward the church and its believing members. And some believing members have little or no tolerance for those that question anything.

  80. “If you active preach against the church in any way, such as passing conversation, deceptions and half-truths in a theology class, or even in the blogosphere, it would be anti-Mormon whether you like the term or not.”

    So, it’s using “deceptions and half-truths” that makes a person anti-Mormon? Are you saying the writers of the LDS church’s correlated curriculum are anti-Mormon?

  81. Equality,

    I think it was already established by Dud in the post on Millet that “Half-Truths” are ok as long as they are used to further God’s work. They are not ok otherwise.

    Ha Ha!

    Darrell

  82. I know I’m way late on this one, but I’d like to chime in on the discussion of the New Era Q&A about anti-Mormon literature. First of all, I agree with John Nilsson’s defense of the general point of the article. However, the particular criticism of the “good feelings” test for truth is a bit odd. It has been taught in some form or other since Joseph Smith. You’ll hear President Packer say it quite frequently (for instance, here). The New Era simply restated it as part of a general argument about anti-Mormon literature. Here’s the actual quote: “Think of how you feel when you read the Book of Mormon, pray, or bear your testimony. How do those feelings compare with the feelings that come from reading anti-Mormon literature? Which is guiding you to the truth?”

    In other words, search your own experience, whatever that may be, in your quest for the truth. Perhaps these are not apples-to-apples comparisons, but that’s the point. We do not find ultimate truths through the deliberately deceptive methods employed by anti-Mormon literature. Now, the idea that all pro-Mormon literature should also be taken with a grain of salt is a point well taken. But even the Church magazines are discriminating on this point. Not every kind of story that supports the Church’s position on doctrine or history would appear in a Church publication. I’m quite certain that the magazines reject many submissions containing specious reasoning, poor argumentation, proof-texting, and bad scholarship.

    Now, by the same token, John is correct in saying that the magazines would not print an article critical of the Church, even if it used sound reasoning, good argumentation, and good scholarship. Such an article would fall outside of their mission of building faith and testimony. That’s why we have scholarly journals. The Church magazines do not pretend to be in that market, particularly when it comes to publications for children and teens.

    Lastly (hurray), I would like to point out that even the New Era made a distinction between two kinds of authors who are critical of the Church: those who are sincerely doing what they believe to be right and those who are simply trying to tear down the Church. It’s the latter group that will deliberately and knowingly distort facts, use scare tactics, and seek to deceive. Also, you’ll notice that those in this category never do any primary research. They may cite primary sources, but they more frequently cite them as quoted in other anti-Mormon publications (certain errors in quotation have actually been propagated in this way). When people say, “I know it when I see it,” they are usually right. Even if you can’t elucidate the tell-tale signs, you can see that there’s a world of difference between a truly objective, scholarly work (which may include Fawn Brodie, though I’m skeptical) and a hit piece.

  83. I believe the psychological term for this issue is ‘confirmation bias’ or selective listening. Believeing Mormons will screen information for data that supports their perceptions. Non-believers (in Mormonism) will only ‘see’ things that support their pre-existing perspectives. Both groups literally can’t understand why the other side sees things the way they do because they have become purposely blinded to information that doesn’t support their beliefs.

    As a Mormon, it is liberating to know that:
    * the Bible is true
    * life (and history) is ‘messy’ because people are ‘messy’
    * God performs miracles in the lives of all people in all cultures
    * God inspires ministers of other Christian churches to the ministry
    * My main responsiblities are to repent and forgive (per Hugh Nibley)
    * God calls imperfect people like me to serve – it seems like a pattern from the beginning.

  84. RE #86
    I want to make sure I understand your position. If I disgree with the church in anyway and discuss this with an individual while being critical of the church, I am anti-mormon?

    Is this your position or am I interpreting it incorrectly?

    Darrell
    —–

    You can disagree with the Church but as I see it, to preach against it or contrary to those teachings IS anti. Critical thinking is not forbidden. It helps with understanding. Denying precepts and telling others that the Church leadership is wrong about those things IS anti in the same sense that Korihor was anti-Christ. Comments such as the following:

    “I think it was already established by Dud(e) in the post on Millet that “Half-Truths” are ok as long as they are used to further God’s work. They are not ok otherwise.”

    …are anti. They are deceptive.

    People do not like to be labeled in a negative way whether it’s true or not.

    Richard M

  85. Richard,

    Just to make sure you understand my comment about Dude… I was referring to what HE was saying in the post on Millet. I was NOT saying that the church leadership said it. In fact, if you read the post on Millet you will find that I said the exact opposite.

    I do have to say that what you said in the above post is very telling…

    “Critical thinking is not forbidden.” and “…to preach against it or contrary to those teachings IS anti.”

    Basically you are saying you can think for yourself but if you disagree with ANYTHING the church says you better not share it with anyone.

    To me, a faithful LDS individual, it is sayings like these that make people outside the church think we are a cult.

    Darrell

  86. Darrell,

    Sarcasm doesn’t do well in this medium, if that was your intent with regards to the Millet comment.

    What I’m saying is doctrine is to be adhered to but if it’s opinion then it is not for teaching. If you have a matter that is affected by opinion and not given specific attention as doctrine, then to discuss it AS doctrine is not right. Items that are subject to opinion and speculation should be prayed about and pondered. To look at them from an earthly perspective, as very limited as it is, will more than likely do you more harm than good.

    …and as a faithful LDS individual, I cannot smooth over those truths for fear of offending someone. If they are ready for the gospel and the Spirit is with them, they will know.

    Richard M

  87. Anti-mormons, in my book, are the folks who believe Mormons have gotten God wrong and are going to hell but they’ve got God right.

    Cuz, ya know… a 6 day creation, testing a father by seeing if he’ll sacrifice his own son, herding 2 of every animal known to man in a boat, and God appearing as man and supernaturally atoning for all mankinds sins, now that is completely logical. But God appearing to a teenager in relatively modern times? No dice. That’s too crazy.

  88. At first I was only going to read the numerous comments; however, by the time I got to the end I felt I could no longer simply just sit here. I’ve said in a couple of other posts (other topics) that I wasn’t LDS. The truth is, I was a member for a while. I met a man when I was 16. When I found out he was LDS it really freaked me out. I started doing some research. Even reading all the “anti-mormon” literature I could get my hands on. By the time I was 22, I decided to get baptized. A few years later, however, I had my name removed. (My husband at that time had NO desire for the LDS church). I really can’t say what finally led to my decision. Was it the church that I ended up attending? Was it the influence of my, then, husband? Was it the influence of my family?

    Anyway…after leaving the church, I became what I would classify as an anti-mormon. I was headstrong in MY opinion that there was NOTHING right in the LDS church. I got all the “anti-mormon” books I could get. I got all the LDS publications that I could get. All were gotten in my quest to “prove” that the mormon church wasn’t “the true church” (note: I still don’t agree that it’s “the true church” or even restored). Though I still don’t agree with alot of LDS theology, there are some things about which I can agree. In the end, the ONLY thing that will truly matter is this: whether or not we have faith in Jesus’ shed blood and what that did for us. I don’t know whether or not Heaven will be filled from those of all religious faiths. NONE of us are God Almighty.

    Whether or not someone is “anti” anything shouldn’t be important to us (though I know it is the topic of this discussion). What should be important to us is whether or not someone is ready to meet his/her Maker at the time of death. Though I have no plans on becoming LDS once again, I do think that open dialogue is needed. That’s the ONLY way we can truly learn from each other.

  89. I was raised in the Mormon church in Salt Lake City until I was 14 and all my friends were Mormon. In fact I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t Mormon. I was feed one diet of belief and I was a blind-faith beleiver. Then my family moved to Arizona and I began to meet other people of other faiths and beleifs and philosophies and began to wake up. By the time I was 17 I was having serious doubts about the Mormon Religion and by 19 I was walking away. I refused to accept the little box of beliefs, morals, values, and explainations of life and eternity that I was being given and told follow this and your life will be happy. In stead I wanted to live my own life, discover my own morals, values and truths myself. In short I began to walk the “Good Red-Road” as Native Americans call it. It’s not a path of following or leading anyone or anything except your own heart, and every idea, belief and decision is laid on the alter of your own heart and if it feels good, right, and resonates within then you know instantly that it is true for you. The opposite is also true: if it make you feel anxious, nervous, uneasy or afraid you know it’s not right for you. This is a mechanism that God or the Creator has given to each human being for our own servival and expansion. It’s a lot harder to believe in and follow your own heart because first you have to believe in yourself and trust yourself and follow your own guidance. Not everyone wants to do that.

    To be “anti” anything is to give attention to and focus on and fight against something and when we do that we only give that which we fight against more energy. It doesn’t go away it only gets bigger in our consciousness. Don’t be anti-Mormon, let it go. The less I think about Mormonism the happier I am and that’s what God intented.

  90. Pingback: My Nacle Notebook 2008: Interesting Comments | Zelophehad’s Daughters

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