Subject: TBMs often talk about the fear of "losing their testimony"...
Date: Jun 14 01:36
Author: Perry Noid

What does this tell us about the nature of a TBM testimony?

Despite their claims that they "know with every fiber of their being" that Joe Smith was a real live prophet, that Gordon B. Hinckley is a real live prophet, that the Mormon Church contains the fullness of God's truth, etc., they also fear losing their testimony. For example, they don't want to read certain things, or be disobedient to their leaders, because, among other things, they fear that they will "lose their testimony".

On the one hand their testimony consists of the most confident declarations of sure knowledge imaginable, while on the other hand they fear being exposed to information that could make them "lose their testimony". What is wrong with this picture?

Spencer W. Kimball said, "Do you think that you can go three, and six and nine and twelve months without bearing your testimony and still keep its full value?" TestimonySWK.pdf

So the Mormon testimony is a declaration of certain knowledge, and that certain knowledge must be declared as often as possible so that it won't wither and fade away to complete uncertainty and a loss of certain knowledge. Say what?

Does one have to declare confidently every morning that the sun will rise in the East in order to retain the knowledge that it does indeed rise in the east? Can you lose your knowledge that the sun moves from east to west, if you don't declare it confidently to others several times a year? Would a person lose their certain knowledge by reading a book that claims that the sun rises in the west, and that Californians who look at the sun setting in the west just don't know any better? Would people fret about such a book being a threat to their knowledge when all they have to do is wait for the next sunrise to reconfirm everything they already know?

Proposition: Mormons bear testimony BECAUSE they have no certain knowledge about the truthfulness of Mormon claims. Accordingly, in an institution that demands obedience and conformity to survive, they tacitly agree to be participants in a highly contrived and intense system of peer pressure, in which "testimony bearing" plays a major role. If everyone around you is boldly declaring in no uncertain terms that the Emperor is wearing the most wonderful and beautiful garments in the world and that seeing those garments is the most wonderful thing in their lives, but all you see is a stark-naked, flabby looking old man, you will feel pressured to deny your own eyes and will be afraid to speak frankly about the truth that you see. And that's the whole point of Mormon testimony bearing.

Subject: agree wholeheartedly. well said. n/t

Subject: Excellent PN - you hit the nail on the head!! n/t

Subject: They should admit that their testimony is based on faith...
Date: Jun 14 02:47
Author: Lara C saying, "I believe this to be true."

But no, they have to say, "I know." (sigh)

Subject: I love this statement.....
Date: Jun 14 12:45
Author: mckay
Mail Address:

...that someone on this board made two or three years ago.

"The only purpose for the bearing of testimonies is to reassure the faithful, the truthfulness of the doubtful."

Subject: LDS testimony = surrender.
Date: Jun 14 14:36
Author: Stray Mutt
Mail Address:

I was reading Steve Benson's conversations with Oaks and Maxwell. I don't remember the exact words, and I'm too lazy to look them up right now, but what Maxwell said about his own testimony made it clear to me that, for Maxwell at least, "gaining a testimony" was a type of surrender to those who claimed to see the emperor's new clothes. It wasn't gaining a sure knowledge, it was agreement to buy into the fantasy and participate in willful self delusion. "Yes, yes, I see the emperor's new clothes too!"

Subject: Re: TBMs often talk about the fear of "losing their testimony"...
Date: Jun 14 14:48
Author: Wag

The really telling thing about testimonies is that those who have them are totally afraid to test them out with a little homework. I mean really; if their beliefs are true, they have NOTHING to fear from a little reading and studying. And if it isn't true, why would they not want to know that?


Great post, Perry!


Subject: Gone are the days when 'couplets' such as this could be uttered with conviction
Date: Jun 14 15:06
Author: Søvnløsener - Insomniac
Mail Address:

"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.

Subject: That quote should be engraved in marble and
Date: Jun 16 07:06
Author: Perry Noid
Mail Address:

placed at the entrance of every LDS chapel in the world. Then maybe some TBMs would start to see honest investigation as a duty, rather than as a dangerous thing to be avoided. TBMs expect members of other faiths, as well as agnostics and atheists, to investigate and have an open mind about Mormonism, but they tend to think that TBMs are permanently excused from making the same effort with regard to non-Mormon beliefs.

Subject: Perry Noid, your contributions are always engaging and thought-provoking . . .
Date: Jun 14 15:08
Author: steve benson

Please hang around. We definitely could use your intelligence and wit, especially since some other big guns have jumped ship lately.

Subject: I agree, but with a caveat
Date: Jun 14 15:29
Author: Mojo Jojo
Mail Address:

I agree wholeheartedly that testimony bearing is an orchestrated act of peer pressure to shame those who "don't know" or those who only believe into conformity, to wit: "all these wonderful people know, so what is wrong with me that I only believe, so I'll tell myself that I really do know, and I'll proclaim it to others, that way, they'll think I know, and I'll win their praise, and I'll convince myself too."

It is indeed a charade of self-deception.

Nor should we ever underestimate how strong a motivator the fear of social censure is.

But, for those who "know" to not want to hear or read "anti-Mormon" messages does not necessarily mean that they are all insecure in their testimonies. Take an analogy (and I don't know if it's a good one, but it's the best I can think of on the spot), I know that I am heterosexual, I do not feel it necessary to have gay sex or to peruse gay literature to confirm that I prefer heterosexual sex to gay sex. I just know I prefer heterosexual sex.

Or take another example, I love my wife. I do not feel the need to seek relationships with other women to confirm that I love my wife and this I prefer to spend my time and life with her. More, I am satisfied with her, so I also don't feel the need to be with other women.

Or take a final analogy. I do not know too many people who are ardently left or right in their politics who actively seek out opinions, commentary, points of view, etc. of the opposite end of the political spectrum. It is not necessarily because they are insecure that they do not, it is again that they do not see the need. They know what "truth" is already, so why bother?

In like manner, I think that for many TBMs, their unwillingness to seek out contradictory viewpoints reflects the fact that in their minds, since they already know, there is no reason to seek other points of view, or that they are already highly satisfied with their beliefs, life, etc, and thus again do not feel the need to seek out contrary views.

What I think is reprehensible is that church leaders foster a culture that makes honest searching for truth among members akin to sin or character flaw and they guilt good people into staying in an organization and culture that does not bring them fulfillment or happiness.

In conclusion, I do agree, and as I've argued on this Board before, that the "typical" TBM is very insecure in his/her beliefs. I think that the degree to which they latch onto so-called "evidences" (e.g., the thread on the name Alma a day or so back) or on FPRs, or on to social proofs (e.g., the church must be true, look how fast it's growing) is good evidence of this, and probably also in many cases their unwillingness to listen to contrary points of view.

But, I do not think that it necessarily follows that because a true believer refuses to listen to or read "evidences" contrary to their LDS beliefs that he/she is insecure in his/her testimony.

Subject: My experience...(m)
Date: Jun 15 11:29
Author: twodeel
Mail Address:

I agree with your point that one's refusal to seek out alternative viewpoints or lifestyles does not necessarily indicate fear that one is wrong, but I don't think that's what this post was about -- it was about people who fear losing their testimony.

In terms of your analogies, I don't think people avoid any of the things you mentioned (straight people avoiding gay sex, married people not committing adultery, and people not seeking out opposing political viewpoints) because they are afraid of being lured away from their current viewpoint. They do it because they already HAVE investigated the contrary viewpoints/lifestyles and have already decided about them, or because they just have no interest in them in the first place in the case of straights contemplating a life of gay sex.

(Although come to think of it, my dad continues to insist, whenever we argue about issues of gay rights, that he made a conscious choice to be attracted to women, and that so does everybody, and that yes, he could indeed be lured into homosexuality if he associated with gay men and gave into temptation. But I'm pretty sure he's bluffing to try to win the arguments.)

Anyway, my point was that yes, there are lots of reasons why people might not seek out contradictory viewpoints, but when the specific reason "I'm afraid I'll be seduced into the opposing viewpoint" is used, it seems like a pretty good indication that A) the person hasn't done any other real investigation into the opposing viewpoint and so knows very little about it, and B) the person is not tremendously secure in their own beliefs either.

Personally, I always hated reading "anti-Mormon" literature or arguing with my "anti-Mormon" friends. I put quotes around "anti-Mormon" because, looking back, I can see that a lot of the sources and friends weren't anti-Mormon1, I just perceived them that way. There were even conservative temple-going Mormons who I thought of as anti-Mormon because they told me certain things about early Mormon history that I had never been taught and that were radically different from the church history I had been taught.

(As an example, when I was told that some witnesses to the translation of the Book of Mormon said that Joseph Smith put his "seer stone" into a hat and then put his face in the hat and began dictating, I thought it was the most ridiculous mockery of The Prophet that I'd ever heard, and that it must have been concocted by sinful apostate enemies of the early church and that anybody who now believed it must be an apostate in their heart. Imagine my surprise when I was teaching my eight-year-old class about the translation of the Book of Mormon and I came across the "he spent many hours with his face in his hat" quote right there in my church-published teaching manual. That was one of my first indications that perhaps there really was more to church history than the sanitized and approved version I knew. I still don't know how that quote managed to be included in the manual ...)

Anyway, the reason I hated reading or arguing with "anti-Mormons" was because of the absolutely wretched feelings it gave me -- my stomach would knot up, I would feel light-headed and nauseated, and if I kept it up too long I would get a migraine that would last for days. I would also feel like something was out of place or just wasn't quite right with me for days. At the time, of course, I interpreted that as evidence that the church was true and that all conflict about it came from Satan, since it created such internal tumult. Of course, the reason engaging anti-Mormon sources caused me such misery was that, despite what I was saying when I bore my testimony, I really didn't know anything for certain, and doubts would be set up with every argument or piece of evidence that I didn't have a quick answer for2.

And ... uh ... it seems like there was one other thing I was going to say, but now I forget. Blast! What an anti-climactic ending. ;)

1And then, of course, lots of them were anti-Mormon, but had good reasons, and lots of them were anti-Mormon and didn't have good reasons.

2I realized even at the time that the misery I experienced was because I was having doubts, but back then I thought that doubts were the work of Satan. Which is why, after reading or arguing with an anti-Mormon source that I didn't have an immediate answer for, I would only start feeling better once I had figured out some way to rectify the question with my understanding of the gospel. Some of the convoluted logic leaps and bizarre rationalizations I went to were so obviously weak that I now can't believe they ever reassured me at all.

Like when I found the phrase "curious workmanship" early-on in View of the Hebrews, I went through a bunch of mental gymnastics: A) It's probably just a coincidence that it appears here and in the Book of Mormon. But the phrase is pretty distinctive, so if it's not a coincidence, then B) It was probably just a common phrase back in the 1820's. And if I can't find any evidence of that, or am presented with evidence to the contrary, then C) Maybe Joseph Smith heard it from somebody who read View of the Hebrews! Or even if D) Joseph Smith read View of the Hebrews himself, he was probably inspired to do so, since it probably inspired him in turn to start asking God about the history of the Indians, from whence came the Book of Mormon! Or E) Maybe he did read it without being inspired to do so, and maybe it did influence his writing in the Book of Mormon, but that's probably just because he wasn't doing a word-for-word translation, he was just getting concepts and then filtering it through his brain's own language center to come up with that particular phrase.

Yeah, that's the ticket.

Subject: We don't disagree
Date: Jun 15 12:36
Author: Mojo Jojo
Mail Address:

I don't disagree with anything you've written. Admittedly, my analogy about heterosexual vs. homosexual is probably not the best. I think the much better analogy I used was the one about political beliefs. That is, you rarely find ideological conservatives listening to liberal talk radio (e.g., Jim Hightower) or subscribing to the American Prospect, just like you rarely find ideological liberals subscribing to the American Spectator or listening to conservative talk radio (e.g., Rush Limbaugh). Why?

Well, it seems to me that if we argue that THE reason TBMs don't read "anti-Mormon" lit is that they are afraid of losing their testimonies, then if we apply the same reasoning to political ideologues, then we conclude that the reason they don't listen to or read literature from the other end of the political spectrum is that they are afraid of being persuaded by the other side.

The analogy works for me, because to me political ideology is much like religion, it is a reductionism philosophy that takes complex systems and reduces them to simple axioms and relationships that are assumed to circumscribe all human, spiritual, and natural phenomena. In my experience, political ideologues are really no different than hard core true religious believers.

My analogies were not intended to disprove the argument you advance, but merely to offer an alternative explanation. Specifically, it is reasonable to argue that some or many people do not feel the need to investigate other religious or political views or sexual lifestyles because they are happy with what they have already, or because they already believe that what they have is "true" such that any further investigation is superfluous.

This is but one reason, there are others, including fear of losing one's testimony, in the case of TBMs.

So, I think that we agree with each other, at least on the points you're offering. I'm simply adding another explanation to the one you and Perry Noid have offered.

Subject: Agreed (m)
Date: Jun 15 16:45
Author: twodeel
Mail Address:

I agree that your political analogy is closest to the issue at hand. I only have one other small point to make that I don't think I was clear on in my previous post: the difference between your political analogy and the issue at hand, testimony loss, is that I can't recall a single instance where a (liberal/conservative) has told me they refuse to read or argue with (conservatives/liberals) because they're afraid of losing their current political convictions, whereas I've had many Mormons, including myself, say that they won't read anti-Mormon literature or investigate their religion from non-approved sources because they might lose their testimony, or because "Satan will work extra hard to deceive me because I'm one of the very elect," and that sort of thing.

So, my one small clarification is that I think it is probably a lot more common for people to avoid detailed investigation into their religion because they're afraid of testimony loss, than it is for people to be afraid of investigating opposing viewpoints in other areas, politics included.

It may be a trivial point that didn't need clarification, but I thought I'd try anyway. ;)

Subject: Mormons know a lot about social psychology...
Date: Jun 14 16:27
Author: micaiah
Mail Address:

...They know that it's hard to change your mind about something when you've publicly stated, again and again, that you believe in it wholeheartedly.

LDS have a tough time with questions like the following:

"When I find out that I am wrong I change my mind...what do you do?"
--John Maynard Keynes

Subject: "I do believe, I do believe, I do, I do, I do believe" Cowardly Lion.

Subject: Say it enough, and soon you'll believe it yourself??

Subject: To me it is
Date: Jun 15 13:46
Author: Tom

an obvious subconscious admission that it is all inflated.
Were it not for social/emotional pressure the building would be empty.

Mormons that think are Mormons that leave. Testimony = no thinking.


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