Dear CES Guy,
Wow, I can't believe you responded. Thank you.
I apologize if I sounded abrasive. That wasn't my intention. I fully expected
no response and I honestly don't talk about it with anyone and so it may have
appeared like I was spewing a few years worth of frustrations. I've talked to
two separate bishops (because of boundary readjustments) and the only
reaction so far has been avoidance. I'm fairly certain that in talking with
them all I did was give them an assessment of my belief. I did not discuss
specifics. My intention isn't, nor has it ever been to attack or cause
someone else to lose faith. In one case, I was being called as a ward
missionary and I thought it was necessary to explain why I couldn't accept.
He was extremely surprised, yet grateful for my honesty. It was never brought
up again. That reaction feels odd to me given my knowledge of the gospel. As
a full believing member, I think I would have tried to fellowship a fellow
brother that brought that concern to me.
When I said I was a member in good standing, I meant that I've not had any
sort of church action taken against me and I've been honest about my
feelings. Can't any member who's worthy to take the sacrament call themselves
"in good standing?" I would think my bishop would make it clear otherwise
but he hasn't.
Even President Hinckley has said the following:
"As a Church, we encourage gospel scholarship and the search to
understand all truth. Fundamental to our theology is belief in individual
freedom of inquiry, thought, and expression. Constructive discussion is a
privilege of every Latter-day Saint." (Ensign, Sept. 1985, p.5.)
There's more I'd like to say, but I'm getting ready to travel out of town for
a week and I just don't have the time right now.
You mentioned that my questions weren't really questions so can I just ask a
If by some far chance of the imagination the church wasn't true, how would
you or me (or how could anyone) know it? Or phrased another way, how should
all those other people in other religions realize that their churches aren't
true and go searching for another? It has to be more than "the
spirit" because they report feeling the same things we feel and it
motivates many of them to extraordinary acts of faith - or do I have to
believe that they don't really feel what they say they feel or that it's not
as strong as what we feel?
Should the church be held up to the same standard that we hold other churches
up to when we say they have part of the truth but not all of it, or that they
are "apostate"? Changing doctrine, changing ordinances, loss of
priesthood authority, etc...
Does the church being true matter or can it stand on its own goodness?
I'll answer your question when I get more than 10 minutes to shoot an e-mail
out. I'm going to a conference and won't be back at my computer for a week.
Thanks for coming back after I pointedly challenged you. I wanted to see your
real side--I appreciate having a new friend and feel that your questions are
honest and good ones. I look forward to exploring them with you. While you
are gone it will give me a chance to ponder them and honestly answer them.
You should know I am an institute director for the Church Education System at
****** and sit on the area council. I am pretty well grounded in what I know
to be true, but I do absolutely understand where you are coming from now--I
appreciate you trusting me with this information. I look forward to a new
friendship and promise to be honest and yet respect your point of view as it
stands at this point in time.
Be safe, and I look forward to talking with you soon.
Dear CES Guy,
OK I'm back and I'll hopefully have some answers to your questions
I suspected you were a CES employee and I appreciate your honesty. In good faith,
I'll also tell you more about me so that you can know where I'm coming from.
While our discussion began with the DNA issue it really isn't THE concern I
have with the church.
It's hard to imagine from your point of view I'm sure, but I have really been
what is jokingly referred to in the church as "Peter Priesthood" my
entire life. I never doubted, really never rebelled much as a teenager and
believed the gospel wholeheartedly. I served a mission, taught in the MTC and
served as a Branch Counselor there. I've always been an active member and
have served consistently and willingly in various callings including Ward
Executive Secretary, EQ President & Counselor, Early AM Seminary Teacher
and various callings with the youth. I don't say any of that to claim any
light or knowledge but only so you can know I've always been trusted and
considered worthy for these callings and that I've haven't ever been on the
fringe or out of touch with the church (until recently).
I also need to clarify that I did not go searching in an attempt to find
fault. I believed there was a logical answer for everything and that in the
context of the truth being on the Lord's side, there was nothing to be afraid
of. The following quotes pretty much explain how I felt:
"The gospel of Jesus Christ clearly says to us as far as the world of
truth and fact is concerned, there's nothing out there to be afraid of. The
Latter- day Saint leans into learning with a gusto, or should."
-Elder Neal A. Maxwell (copied off of the Meridian web site)
"If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have
not the truth, it ought to be harmed."
-J. Reuben Clark, D. Michael Quinn, J. Reuben Clark: The Church Years. Provo,
Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1983, p. 24.
If faith will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors
are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak.
-George A. Smith, 1871, Journal of Discourses, Vol 14, pg 216
I think full, free talk is frequently of great use; we want nothing secret,
not underhanded, and I for one want no association with things that cannot be
talked about and will not bear investigation.
-Pres. John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, vol 20, pg 264
"This book [the Book of Mormon] is entitled to the most thorough and
impartial examination. Not only does the Book of Mormon merit such
consideration, its claims, even demand the same."
-Apostle James E. Talmage in 'Articles of Faith', page 273
"As a means of coming to truth, people in the Church are encouraged by
their leaders to think and find out for themselves. They are encouraged to
ponder, to search, to evaluate, and thereby to come to such knowledge of the
truth as their own consciences, assisted by the Spirit of God, lead them to
discover. Many years of experience in courtrooms have taught me that truth,
in the sense of obtaining justice, is arrived at only by questioning in a
searching way. Members of the Church are encouraged to seek learning from all
good books and from any helpful source..."
-James E. Faust, September 1998 Ensign
"The man who cannot listen to an argument which opposes his views either
has a weak position or is a weak defender of it. No opinion that cannot stand
discussion or criticism is worth holding. And it has been wisely said that
the man who knows only half of any question is worse off than the man who
knows nothing of it. He is not only one-sided but his partisanship soon turns
him into an intolerant and a fanatic. In general it is true that nothing
which cannot stand up under discussion or criticism is worth defending"
- James E. Talmage, Improvement Era, January, 1920, p 204.
I was always pretty knowledgeable about the church and took pride in the fact
that the gospel was true. I never criticized or doubted the Lord's anointed
but followed a path of obedience to church leaders. I made spiritual and
temporal decisions in my life based on the fact that I believed the church to
be true. Early on, any question or doubt was easily dismissed because I was
told the gospel was true and I deeply believed those who told me so. They
were people I loved and respected. Later, I had experiences which gave me the
burning in the bosom and warm feelings about the gospel. I was told and
believed that this meant it was true. I had my own testimony.
As I matured, however, I realized that not everyone felt as positive towards
the gospel as I did. They were anti-Mormons and in the context of a Sunday
School class or Seminary, I would hear some of their arguments refuted as
lies and triviality. I never searched them out for myself as I was warned
against reading anti-Mormon literature. Nevertheless their points of
contention seemed trivial as they were presented to me and I agreed with the
more logical LDS explanations.
One major thing I learned growing up in the church was to love the truth. I
loved the church because it was true, not just because there was a lot of
good in it. The truth was something I felt I possessed and truthfulness
carried a lot of weight in my intellectual and spiritual belief in the
church. On my mission to the Catholic country of Brazil, there was a rumor
among the missionaries that the Pope in Rome had historical evidence in a
Vatican vault that the LDS church was true. I remember being skeptical of the
rumor at the time, but I also felt indignant over how evil it would be for a
religious leader to hide such facts or to hide any truth from the world. I
was sure that my prophet, my faith, my leaders lived by a higher law. I
certainly believed I lived by a higher law while I taught the LDS gospel. In
other words, I believed in the truth as the highest of all values taught in
the church. I thought the church and the truth were one in the same until the
Once, while teaching seminary I was shown a video of a talk by Boyd K. Packer
instructing CES teachers. Here's a bit of that talk that bothered me at the
"I have a hard time with historians because they idolize the truth. The
truth is not uplifting it destroys. . . . Historians should tell only that part
of the truth that is inspiring and uplifting". -Boyd K. Packer (Faithful
History: Essays on Writing Mormon History, page 103)
This went against everything that I believed all my life. According to Elder
Packer, there was some truth to be afraid of. It just didn't sit right with
me. I had been taught otherwise my whole life. The scriptures I read still
point to the truth as being on God's side, not against Him.
Exodus 20:16 - Thou shalt not bear false witness...
Isn't part of bearing false witness telling only ˝ of the story?
2 Nephi 28:28 And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry
because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock
receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation
trembleth lest he shall fall.
So is the church on sandy foundation or built on a rock? If it's on a rock,
then there's nothing to be afraid of. If it has a sandy foundation, I can see
why the GA's might harbor ill feelings towards the truth.
If "truth" needs to be protected to the point of lying to cover it
up, it cannot be truth. If a doctrine cannot be mentioned because it will
look bad, there is something wrong with it. If it is cast in a bad light
because it is being taken out of context and/or is misunderstood, you don't
recommend covering it up. You correct the context and explain it. Far better
for "enemies" to misrepresent the truth and its defenders uphold it
in the light of day than for so-called defenders to bury it and lie.
Let's not forget D&C 93:24 stating that truth is knowledge of things as
they are, and as they were. Not just things as we wish they were, as they are
faith promoting, as approved by the First Presidency, or as it supports our
version of things.
In conflicting doctrinal and historical situations, we are taught in the
church that we should just revert back to our testimonies and put things on a
shelf to be answered sometime in the afterlife. Sometimes we're encouraged to
find out for ourselves although that advice is heavily coated with the
warning not to search out information contrary to what the church teaches.
The stress is definitely loyalty above inquiry.
"The Church will not dictate to any man, but it will counsel, it will
persuade, it will urge, and it will expect loyalty from those who profess
membership therein. The book of Revelation declares: I know thy works, that
thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because
thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my
mouth" (Revelation 3:15-16).
They who are not for me are against me (2 Nephi 10:16). Each of us has to
face the matter-either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no
middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.
- President Gordon B. Hinckley. "Loyalty," April Conference, 2003.
In other words, "search, ponder and pray but the answer you're going to
get is what we tell you it is so why bother. Just pray about it, get a good
feeling and don't worry about the rest."
You have to make up your mind before you are able to investigate because
investigating would put you on that "middle ground."
I did just that and went along for several years continuing my service and
belief in the church with gusto. My primary reason of doing so was love for
my family and fear for my family. My family and the church are so integrated
that anything that affects my feelings for one is bound to have ramifications
with the other. The church teaches us that they are so intertwined that love
for one cannot truly exist without a love of the other. I'm told that if I
love my family, I'll be active in the church. If I love the church, I'll have
more love for my family. I definitely love my family - my wife and kids are
my main reason for existing and so I reasoned that my love for the church had
to be as strong.
I can't really pinpoint why, but I know a few other events and thoughts may
have led me to wonder about what I had always been taught in the church.
Elder Packer's idea that the truth isn't uplifting certainly played a part. I
thought I knew just every dirty little secret that anti-Mormons tried to
throw at the church. I thought I knew all the responses as well. I couldn't
imagine what Elder Packer was so fearful of because I certainly didn't know
anything too harmful to the church. My problem was, however, that I was only
hearing those issues through the filter of the church.
Sometime after my Mom died some of the things I had been putting up on that
"testimony shelf " began to fall down and cause me to question the
church's truthfulness. Perhaps part of my testimony was strengthened by the
expectations and love my Mom always had for me and without her I felt free to
explore the gospel more deeply. If so, it was an unconscious connection.
Speaking of love for my family, I know I loved my Mom and upon her death I
thought (as I was always told) I would find comfort in the fact that we'd
been sealed as a family in the temple, but I didn't. Instead, I wondered
about the other good people I knew who would lose their loved ones. Would
THEY not have their loved ones with them again in the after life if they
disbelieved the gospel? I'm talking about GOOD people who just don't believe
in Mormonism even after being given the chance. Would God really make them
suffer (or make me think they would suffer) based on a simple ceremony? Their
familial love didn't include the element of the church. Was their love any
The stories of non-members who have gone through near death experiences
relate that they too get to bask in the love of their family members. What if
love were the only requirement? Isn't that a more comforting thought than
"I get to see my loved ones and you don't?" The weight of proof
whether it be spiritual or temporal would have to be extremely great and
clear for God to make such a grand judgment, I think. I also think it would
have to be extremely great to put up with some of the other things that were
falling off of that shelf of mine.
I wanted to confirm for myself that the evidence was as great as I had always
believed it was. So, I began reading.
I have wanted to be a Dad ever since I was a teenager and place a high value
on my family. So, a few years ago I spent considerable time studying the
biographies of several latter-day prophets such as Gordon B. Hinckley, Ezra
Taft Benson, Howard W. Hunter, Spencer W. Kimball, etc. to see how to be a
better father. I wanted to find out more about these men and what made them
tick. Hopefully, so I could become a better man of God, more like them. What
I found, however, was very little of what I wanted to emulate. Here were men
I am supposed to admire but who spent very little time with their families.
Most of them fully admit, almost in a bragging way, that their wives
single-handedly raised their children as they were constantly away on church
assignments. Basically I was shocked that I was letting men who were lousy
parents counsel me on good parenting practices. They offer excellent lip
service to families in talks and meetings but in actual practice they don't
measure up in my opinion.
In the August 2001 Ensign, Russell M. Nelson proudly echoed this sentiment
that in the church fathers are dispensable:
"I remember when I was a resident in a large hospital in Boston. I was
off duty every other night and every other weekend. On nights off, I arrived
home to my wife and our four children after the babies' bedtime. I departed
in the morning before they were all awake. In order for me to attend
sacrament meeting, I had to trade hours of duty with some of my Jewish or
Seventh-day Adventist colleagues. They were willing to cover for me
temporarily on my Sabbath as I covered for them on theirs. Incidentally, I
enjoyed some of my very most successful home teaching experiences on those
highly prized nights off."
"I pay tribute to Sister Nelson, this magnificent wife and mother who
has always been supportive. When people have asked her how she managed with
10 children with so little time available from her husband, she has responded
with a twinkle in her eye, saying, "When I married him, I didn't expect
much, so I was never disappointed."
You young women can learn much from Sister Nelson's example. Sustain your
husbands in their important work, and don't be selfish in your
expectations." (Russell M. Nelson, "Identity, Priority, and
Blessings," Ensign, Aug. 2001, 6)
Frankly I don't see his familial neglect as anything admirable. And why
wasn't he with his wife on his "highly prized nights off" rather
than off home teaching? It is true that in the church wives shouldn't expect
much from their husbands but is it really "selfish" for the wives
to want it? As I look around at local leaders I see the same practices. Time
spent in church service is time away from their families and I don't think it
is a stretch of the imagination to see that their families suffer. They would
consider their family blessed, I know, but the horror for me was that I could
see the writing on the wall. I was headed in that direction and I didn't want
to go there. I love my family too much.
When I say I could see the writing on the wall, I mean I was already spending
a couple of nights away from home or on the phone for my church calling. As a
Seminary Teacher I spent every night preparing a lesson. Later as an
Executive Secretary to the bishop I was spending about two nights a week and
all day Sunday on the calling. One of my patriarchal blessings (yeah, I've
had two, but that's another story) promises I'll have even more leadership
callings. This is all time that I would rather be spending with my family. I
find it interesting that the church criticizes mothers who work outside the
home, but praises and requires fathers and mothers to work outside the home
on church callings to such a great extent and claims it actually blesses their
families when they do. At one time my wife was Relief Society President while
I was Executive Secretary. We were rarely at home with our kids at the same
time. Yet in the church, positions like these are badges of honor, callings
from God and we're counseled heavily not to refuse them. I didn't like my
callings and I didn't like the time they took away from my family.
The irony is that I know many other people also secretly resent the huge time
demands church callings place on their families. They plain and simple don't
like their callings. They know they're supposed to be grateful for them but
the time burden is taxing. Back when I was teaching Seminary, I was too
afraid to stop teaching for fear of what calling I'd get next. I know others
have expressed the same feelings. I shelved those thoughts but I remained
determined that the church would not swallow up my family away from me as I
have seen happen.
I shelved all those thoughts even though I longed to spend more time with my
wife and kids. I longed to spend time in creating memorable times together as
a family. It's just not possible when your entire weekend and weeknights are
consumed by church callings. Saturdays become a time to get things done
rather than a time for family recreation. Sunday is out of the question for
that sort of thing. I think when you compare loving non-LDS families to
loving LDS families, it's no question that the non-LDS spend more quality
time with their kids both in recreation and working together. I long to have
that level of activity with my wife and kids.
I would never have admitted it at the time but I think I was getting to the
point where I no longer enjoyed church. Looking around, I can see a lot of
people in the same boat although they would never admit it. Many people joke
about not liking their callings. Many people long for fewer or shorter
meetings. Many people even make life decisions like moving to escape a
If I was happy, why didn't I, or most of my fellow members have the slightest
desire to do missionary work? We know we're supposed to want to but we really
don't. Most members don't convert a single soul. Aside from my mission, I've
never shared the gospel with anyone. If it really was something that gave us
the joy the church says it gives us, why don't more members share it
passionately? They don't. It wouldn't have to be harped on every other month
in Sacrament Meeting and in ward council meeting. Yet, in all honesty, most
of us are embarrassed to bring friends to church. I put those thoughts on the
Likewise, why do so many of us outside of Utah dislike living in areas that
are "too Mormon?" Why don't the fruits of the church create a
people that are enjoyable to live around? Instead, Mormons tend to be
gullible, depressing, and difficult to spend too much time with. The
extremely high bankruptcy, fraud and anti-depressant usage rates in Utah
support those assumptions. It is much more fulfilling to interact in a
community with non-Mormons. I put those thoughts on the shelf.
It seems that I was only putting up with the church because of the rewards in
the afterlife. This eternal perspective really wasn't making me happy but
only making me endure endless meetings, talks and testimonies unquestioningly
and away from my family.
I shelved those thoughts because if you are unhappy it must be your fault.
We're never allowed to discuss how the church fails us occasionally but we're
only permitted to see the times that prayers, priesthood blessings and
prophecies are in our favor or the few times that a talk or meeting is
uplifting instead of an evaluation of our duties and our failure to live up
Additionally, I've had struggles in my life for which I've failed to find any
comfort let alone answers within the gospel. If God runs the church, am I so
worthless that he can't reveal simple answers about life and human behavior
that would help me?
Why was I being told what color of shirt to wear, what I could and couldn't
drink, how many earrings my wife could wear, what movies to watch, and who I
needed to visit, become friends with and when, but I was left out in the cold
when it came to substantial things that would help me in my spiritual life?
It seemed that the church is "straining at gnats." I shelved those
I've also had the chance to travel in my life and actually live abroad both
on my mission and later. I often felt like the gospel was an odd fit and not
really easily compatible with the cultures I encountered. In essence, it was
a great find for some people but it just didn't mesh culturally, spiritually
or logically with the vast majority of people. In other words, it wasn't
Many of the instructions and guidelines in the Church Handbook of
Instructions are rules that serve the institution of the church rather than
the individual and are clearly created by aged, white North American men. For
example, is it really true that the piano, organ and occasionally the violin
and flute are the only instruments in the world capable of conveying God's
spirit? Yet, those are the only instruments allowed in any LDS sacrament
meeting in any part of the world. Additionally, the North American white
man's suit, white shirt and tie are the expectation and sometimes the
requirement whether you're in Brazil, Japan or Nigeria. It isn't appropriate
everywhere. Is the God of the Chinese, the Russians and Peruvians an old man
with North American tastes and preferences?
Even in the U.S., the church's standardized use of the Scouting program as
the vehicle with which to teach young boys character and prepare them for
manhood is rigid and inflexible. It's much easier to create a standardized
program and require compliance than it is to mold programs to meet individual
needs. Molding, however, isn't allowed in the church. If a young boy's interests
lie elsewhere or the scouting program isn't serving his needs, he and his
parents are guilt-tripped into compliance both socially and institutionally.
It's part of the "follow the prophet" mantra. The prophet said this
is the "inspired" program for young boys and so it is, regardless
of that one boy's needs. The implication is that something must be wrong with
the boy if he has no desire or inclination towards scouting. Clearly,
scouting isn't the only way available to teach values. The fact that there's
an institutionalized program isn't even the problem. The problem is that
individual adaptation is not allowed.
This "one size fits all" mentality permeates the church and it has
always bothered me. Women often feel guilty, depressed or just unworthy when
they don't fit the mold of LDS womanhood. Perhaps she doesn't like cooking or
sewing. Perhaps she can't sing or play the piano. Perhaps she can't have
children or is only able to have one or two. God forbid she should only want
one or two! I've been in several bishopric meetings in different wards where
a woman in the ward was ridiculed behind her back for daring to express an
opinion. The church certainly talks the talk when it comes to women but in my
opinion, it fails to walk the walk. I shelved those thoughts.
Teaching Seminary was probably what made me put more things up on that
"testimony shelf" than any other. I taught the Old Testament one
year and Church History (D&C) the next. I read those scriptures daily to
prepare for lessons. Often the lessons in the manual required mental
gymnastics to convey the message the church wanted rather than the one
actually in the book of scripture.
The Old Testament is full of examples of prophets who lie, cheat, fornicate
and yet still maintain God's approval. God orders the killing of (or actually
kills them himself) hundreds of thousands of people, which is hard to
rationalize under any scenario but especially in light of 9/11. The 9/11
terrorists were religious men who mistakenly thought they were doing God's
will. How is that any different than Deuteronomy13: 6-10 where God commands
the killing of someone who chooses a different religion? If God is the same
yesterday and today, how could these biblical characters maintain the spirit
of God with them and do these horrible things in the name of God? (See also
Exodus 22:20, Exodus 32:27-28, Numbers 31:14-18, Leviticus 27:28-29, 2 Kings:
2:23-24, 2 Samuel 6: 6-7, Deuteronomy 3:3-6, Deuteronomy 22:20-21). How could
I be unworthy for temple attendance by drinking a cup of tea, when the men
who received the Old Testament and modern temple ordinances from God did all
these atrocious things in the name of God?
In similar fashion, I found that the Church uses scriptures and science only
when it benefits the organization's claims. As an illustration, word-print
studies that show several authors contributed to the Book of Mormon are held
up as evidence to the LDS faithful, while similar studies that attribute
Genesis and other Old Testament books to multiple authors are ignored (LDS
believe it was Moses only). Science is applauded when it seems to coincide
with an LDS claim and ignored when it doesn't. I shelved those thoughts.
Just like the study of the Old Testament, the study of the Doctrine and
Covenants raised a lot of questions. For example, the D&C relates
instances where the Lord says he'll destroy someone if they don't obey the
advice relayed through Joseph Smith. In the Old Testament,
"destroy" meant destroy - death and destruction. But Emma Smith,
for example is warned in D&C 132 that she'll be destroyed if she doesn't
accept plural marriage. She clearly never fully accepted it, but she wasn't
"destroyed." She lived decades longer than her husband.
The LDS interpretation gets messy especially when inspired books of scripture
contradict each other as they do in the case of Polygamy. The Book of Mormon
clearly preaches against polygamy and describes David's wives (of the Old
Testament) an "abomination" (Jacob 2:24-27). Compare that with
D&C 132:39 and the Lord is suddenly praising David's practice of polygamy
and saying He gave David his extra wives. So which is it?
Likewise, the Word of Wisdom isn't taken literally. If it were, LDS wouldn't
be eating very much meat at July 24th picnics and hot chocolate would be
forbidden while iced coffee would be OK. The Word of Wisdom speaks against
"hot drinks," so why are iced tea and iced coffee not OK? They're
not hot but they contain caffeine. Hot chocolate contains caffeine. Why is
that OK? Recent medical studies touting the benefits of tea, wine and coffee
in moderation are ignored, of course. I have always found it odd that someone
who drinks tea is excluded from temple attendance while an obese, food
addicted bishop is likely doing the excluding based on "the Lord's law
of health." The whole thing is nonsensical if you actually read it.
While scriptures such as these aren't taken literally when it's inconvenient
to do so, much more significant biblical teachings are interpreted literally
hard-line when a metaphorical interpretation would make more sense. The story
of the flood, the tower of Babel, not to mention other fantastic Biblical and
Book of Mormon stories that contradict solid scientific information and
common sense are accepted at face value. I put those thoughts on a shelf and
trusted in LDS leaders.
For the trump card is always "follow the prophet." I can have
issues with these things but it's always safer to "follow the
prophet." If that's true, however, it also merits investigation. Every
prophet from Joseph Smith on and even back to ancient prophets should pass
the test of leadership. Would it have been better to follow them or dissent?
Do their teachings and doctrine pass the test of time?
I remembered back on the Packer talk and wondered what he was afraid of.
While I was never really overly concerned about it, I always believed that
the evidence in favor the church was strong and that more was being
discovered by LDS scientists to support LDS claims. For there are several
claims the church makes that are provable or disprovable given enough
evidence - whether or not Native Americans emigrated from Jerusalem, or
whether or not a prophesy is fulfilled, for example. The church has been bold
enough in its past to make claims that can be measured and studied.
While a belief in God will always remain an subjective, faith based
conviction, a belief in the LDS church can be measured further based on
historical assertions, truth of its unique doctrines or prophesies, and the
reliability of its leaders especially when those things clash with reality.
I don't think it's unreasonable to clarify if the evidence is as strong as I
always believed it was. If so, I was more than willing to tolerate everything
I've mentioned and store them up on my testimony shelf. I still know of the
importance of having faith. Faith was always taught as "the belief in
things not seen, which are true." That qualifier "which are
true" indicates that there is some smattering of supporting evidence on
which to base faith or at least there needs to be a lack of disqualifying
evidence. It's one thing to believe in the improvable and another thing
entirely to continue to believe in things that can be proven false. That's
called delusion rather than faith.
I thought after serving a mission that I knew every argument there was to
make against the church so I really anticipated finding nothing new or very
substantial. I just wanted to know the secrets I shouldn't be teaching to
gospel students. I couldn't imagine there really being anything substantial.
I had complete confidence that putting all these thoughts on a shelf to be
answered later was the wise choice and that it was supported by the
overwhelming weight of truth. Was I ever surprised!
I think any time someone tries to tell you not to get both sides of the
story, that person has something to hide. From what I've learned in the last
couple of years, things are no different in spiritual matters. I remember
when I was young I invited a Catholic friend of mine to church. She was truly
frightened to come because she had been taught about the dangerous lure of
other churches having been told they're of the devil. I recall discussing
with my sister how odd this was, this fear of perhaps finding out something
is actually different than we'd been taught. I can see now how my own church
has performed the same fear-induced instruction with its members making them
fearful of "anti-Mormon" literature.
In trying to explain that logic, some in the church would say that if you
want to buy a Ford you wouldn't go to a Chevy dealer. I'd respond that no I
wouldn't go to a Chevy dealer, but I would go to Consumer Reports before
believing everything the Ford dealer told me. The Ford dealer won't tell the
full story and neither apparently does the church. If there are lies out
there, it seems that the mountain of evidence would speak against it and the
goodness of the church would be more attractive. On the other hand, if it's
true, the church, not the individual has good reason to be fearful.
One brief comment about "anti-Mormon" literature - while I did see
some things in my study that could be classified as such, I don't think the
sweeping generalization that I grew up with is accurate: namely, that
anything that questions or criticizes the church is anti-Mormon. What is
"anti-Mormon? As a former missionary in Brazil, I could question and
critique the doctrine and history of the Catholic Church with a certain
degree of conviction. Does that mean I'm "anti-Catholic"? I don't
think so. I think it takes a certain disregard for truth and penchant for
destruction at any cost, with whatever means to be classified as
"anti-Mormon." The claim that Mormons have sex on the altars of the
temple is one example.
But is a disregard for the truth in favor of Mormonism any better?
Those facts that can be independently verified and that move readers towards
a greater understanding of the truth do not qualify as anti-Mormon in my
opinion. The scriptures themselves are full of people who felt a calling from
God outside the hierarchy of the church organization to clarify and point out
the errors of the leaders. We all need a certain access to truth in order to
properly utilize our free-agency. Still, most of what I've found is from
church published sources or can be verified independently of any anti-Mormon
I had no clue about these things - yet I think they are substantial facts,
which anyone should be told before and during church membership. The
discussion of these topics on church web sites and in LDS scholarly circles
makes it clear that the church leadership knows about them and has for a long
time. I believe their suppression of these issues for "faith
promoting" purposes is a violation and disrespect of my free-agency no
different than the oft repeated ploy Satan tried to promote in the war in
heaven according to LDS teachings. His end (salvation of mankind) justified
his means (not providing any other option). He was wrong and so is the church
that their ends (salvation of mankind) justify their means (not providing the
I feel that by not knowing several facts, my free agency was limited in being
able to search, ponder, pray and decide for myself what is true. The church
itself has made it clear that if we are to "choose the right," we
need to have the opportunity to make a choice. Limiting information and
warning members not to look elsewhere to understand the big picture is an
affront to that agency. A testimony based on false or misleading information
is a false testimony.
You said,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not built upon
the Bible or the Book of Mormon. It is built upon what the Bible and Book of
Mormon are built upon--revelation from God to Apostles and Prophets."
But how does that measure with the following quote from Elder Holland?
"Let me quote a very powerful comment from President Ezra Taft Benson,
who said, "The Book of Mormon is the keystone of [our] testimony. Just
as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand
or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon...everything in the
Church - everything - rises or falls on the truthfulness of the Book of
"Either Joseph Smith was the prophet he said he was, who,  after
seeing the Father and the Son,  later beheld the angel Moroni, 
repeatedly heard counsel from his lips, eventually  receiving at his hands
a set of ancient gold plates which  he then translated according to the
gift and power of God-or else he did not. And if he did not, in the spirit of
President Benson's comment, he is not entitled to retain even the reputation
of New England folk hero or well-meaning young man or writer of remarkable
fiction. No, and he is not entitled to be considered a great teacher or a
quintessential American prophet or the creator of great wisdom literature. If
he lied about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, he is certainly none of
those." Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland, "True or False," New Era,
June 1995, Page 64
I mention that mainly because even considering "revelation from God to
Apostles and Prophets" there are a host of contradictions that one runs
into when sincerely deciding upon what to base a testimony. To believe as you
say that it's "revelation from God to Apostles and Prophets" requires
circular logic. How do I know I should base my belief on revelation to
prophets? The prophets tell us. And how do I know they're true prophets? The
witness of the spirit. Well, how do I know that that's really an indicator of
truth? Because it's been revealed to prophets that it is. And round it goes.
It also leads to the obvious question...why should I believe the prophets
when it's pretty clear that they don't believe the truth is in my best
interest? When I hear Elder Packer say the truth is destructive - and he's specifically
talking about church history and doctrine - why shouldn't I then question
everything he and his colleagues have ever told me?
I've given just a little background so you know how I even arrived at the
point of questioning. What I found then was not just the DNA issue but a
myriad of issues in the church that are both historical and current that lead
me to believe that the church isn't what it claims to be, Joseph Smith wasn't
what he claimed to be, the Book of Mormon isn't what he claimed it was and
President Hinckley isn't what others claim he is. I haven't discussed all
those issues here but they're not insignificant and telling me to just
"not worry" about them is patronizing and insincere (I'm not saying
you've done that but that's the common response in the church)
If I now follow your advice of seeking faith in revelation to the prophets, I
feel it's about as unreliable as the advice given to followers of any sect or
religion. "You just gotta have faith that they're truly God's
representatives" leads Catholics to remain Catholics, Protestants to
remain Protestants, followers of Jim Jones to drink the Kool-Aid and of David
Koresh to die in the fire. Using "revelation from God to Apostles and
Prophets" as the core of one's belief leaves you susceptible to whatever
belief system got you first. That's why I asked you least week how followers
of these religions are supposed to be able to know they're in a religion that
isn't all it claims to be. Their leaders encourage followers to just have
faith in their revelations and teachings, their followers then feel the
spirit and the only difference is that some are more destructive than others.
Still, I can't think of anything in LDS teachings that would prevent us all
from drinking the Kool-Aid. In fact, I know quite a few brothers and sisters
that I'm fairly confident would drink the Kool-Aid with testimony smiles on
their faces if our church weren't led by men who for the most part believe it
themselves and are sincere in trying. I think that we're fortunate along with
Catholics and others that we're led by men who want to do good. Others
haven't always been so lucky. So, faith has to be based on truth otherwise
we're just like everyone else.
In considering the apostate nature of other churches, it's the facts that
always matter. The facts and evidence lead you to believe that it's
spiritually lacking. But I'm supposed to ignore facts and only rely on the
spirit with my religion? And isn't a witness of the spirit still evidence
If it's not true, I don't want to have faith in it.
Hopefully, I eliminated the abrasiveness and sarcasm without diluting my
honest assessment things. I feel my questions are sincere and real questions
- not just critical outbursts.
Thanks again for listening.