Subject: It's not about intelligence.
Date: Aug 12, 2008
Author: Truman

The idea that "intelligence" is the key attribute possessed by those who question and leave the Mormon church is perhaps the most persistent and damaging myth among ex-Mormons and Mormons alike.

Mormons like the "intelligence" explanation because it feeds their persecution complex, and points to the puffed-up pride of those who leave. "Those ex-Mormons just think they're smarter than us".

Ex-Mormons may like thinking they're more intelligent because it validates their struggle to leave Mormonism, and serves as a marker of division between who they feel they are and what they left behind. "How can Mormons be so stupid as to believe that stuff?!?"

Whatever the justification, the intelligence explanation is simply not true. It is as false as it is lazy. And I for one would like to see it disappear for good.

As a dispassionate intellectual exercise, weighing the truth or falsehood of Mormonism is not a terribly difficult thing to do. Seemingly difficult - like solving the Rubik's Cube, but not at all impossible, given full access to facts, available arguments, all sides of the story, etc. In the final analysis, all the evidence points to the virtual certainty that the LDS church is not what it claims to be. A few hours of mental work, and to any objective mind, the conclusion is self evident.

For many of us who are no longer LDS, this makes it very easy to believe that those who figure it out (that's us) are the intelligent few, and those who choose to remain in the church are less-gifted masses. This is a simple but deceptive, self-serving and ultimately unhelpful position.

To illustrate, let me ask this: Were we beings of lesser intelligence when we were LDS? Was it a sudden boost of brain capacity that somehow gave you or me the mental wherewithal to begin asking the right questions and find our way out? I suspect not. IQ-wise, I'm probably more or less the same as I was when I was LDS. I feel smarter, but only because previously off-limits topics are now free-reign.

So if it's not intelligence, what is the difference between those who leave and those who stay?

It could be any number of things, but here's my assessment. The difference between us and them is that for all sorts of reasons that probably vary from person to person, we stopped being afraid. We somehow gathered the courage to face possible eternal annihilation in our quest for the truth. We decided to stop being afraid of what other people would think. We stopped being afraid of the consequences for following our conscience. We stopped fearing what the church or God or our spouses or our parents could "do to us" if we continued to pursue truth.

The difference between "us" and "them" is not intellect. The difference is fear and courage. The solution to dealing with our LDS others, then, is not to show them how wrong they are. It's to understand how scared they are to question. Having been there ourselves, how can we forget?

I prefer this analysis because it doesn't artificially (and self-servingly) inflate my intelligence over my LDS friends and family, and also because it helps me adopt a more compassionate stance towards them. In other words, when they're boorish, they don't act the way they do because they are stupid, they act the way they do because they're too afraid to question it, to examine alternatives, to look beyond the horizon of the church's boundaries, and therefore, to grow. It's a sad state, to be sure, but it's not permanent. Anybody can choose, at any moment, to begin to act courageously. You cannot choose to be smart, however, if you aren't smart already.

Using this model, I address my LDS acquaintances from a perspective that emphasizes my philosophy. Instead of promoting some myth of my superior intellect, I can approach them not with condescension, but with dignity. When/if the church comes up, instead of trying to demonstrate how stupid they are for believing it, I instead emphasize that I believe that THEY are better than their church. I think this is a more empowering approach.

After all, I think most of them ARE better than their church.

Just as we were.



Subject: Re: It's not about intelligence. - THANK YOU!!!!! I have made some similar points.
Date: Aug 12 14:21
Author: SusieQ#1

I particularly like this part of your comment below. It is the kind of approach that works, in my view.

We are people first. In my view it has nothing to do with who is better, the person or the church/belief/religion. It's our humanness that unites us. That is what is important. Not the beliefs.


Subject: Re: It's not about intelligence.
Date: Aug 12 14:25
Author: jcrs80

Might I also suggest that it has to do with the level of education (including school of hard knocks) one acquires?

It certainly seems like the more of the world you see, the more people you meet with different backgrounds, the more alternate world views you encounter, the less likely you are to assume that your way of life is the "one true?"

(Of course, I'm using the term "education" to mean "life experience", which has little or nothing to do with intelligence.)

Also, those of us who had a slightly off-centered upbringing in the mormon church are more likely to get out. For example, my parents, who are both TBM BIC, divorced when I and my siblings were very young. Even though in most other ways, our upbringing was very by-the-books, that one thing set us apart from most other people in our ward. Now, none of my siblings are or will ever be mormon. We were lucky to be different in that respect, because it really did give us an "out". Children from intact, strict, family-home-evening mormon families probably have a much harder time getting out (if the thought ever even crosses their minds).

Thanks for your post.


Subject: Re: It's not about intelligence.
Date: Aug 12 14:39
Author: Truman

Yes, JCRS80, I think you're on to something.

Being blessed with a broader life experience, including - but not limited to - the school of hard knocks, is a confidence builder. That is, having exposure to a broader range of life experience and possibility illuminates the likelihood that the world won't come crashing down if you if you venture to the fringes of your comfort zone.

Sometimes I wonder, if one can glimpse the possibility of survival without the church - even on a subconscious level, perhaps that opens the door to asking the big, difficult questions with life-changing implications. We dared to glimpse the possibility that the church might not be true, which led us to ask the hard questions. But if you're not willing to consider the possibility, why start asking questions in the first place?



Subject: This is a brilliant post! We couldn't use our intelligence because we were dominated by fear.
Date: Aug 12 14:28
Author: Crystal Song

I think deep down we all know that it took something beyond our reasoning powers to move us. You are absolutely right! It took the courage to move beyond the fear.

Fear of dying without a place in heaven
Fear of removing our protective garments
Fear of losing the "spirit"
Fear of losing our families
Fear of the unfamiliar
Fear of all the things they said would happen to us if we doubted
...on and on and on.

As I look back I wonder. How in the heck did I find the courage?


Subject: 'Common Sense' is forbidden in Mormonism. Finding the exit is purely a matter of Common Sense, and.
Date: Aug 12 16:57
Author: dja


Intelligence rankings are still just 'intellectual witnesses' .......of the Insecure.


Subject: I loved this post.
Date: Aug 12 17:07
Author: anona

It is so true. Questioning the church is going into a scary, dark room and being afraid that the boogyman will get you.
I have thought back and asked myself, "how could I have been so stupid". I now have changed that to "I have finally overcome my fear".


Subject: "The Glory of God is Intelligence" is a major teaching of the LDS Church.
Date: Aug 12 17:29
Author: SusieQ#1

"The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:33-36).

It seems to be OK to use one's intelligence to believe and accept the teachings by a spiritual witness, and to study other subjects.

LDS Doctrine confines intelligence to a small box of do's and don'ts.

This statement is found at BYU on several buildings as I recall.


Subject: Correct. "Fear" is the primary stronghold of Mormon "Intelligence".
Date: Aug 12 17:56
Author: dja

Fear trumps Reason in most cases.


Subject: True, but there's more depth to it -- arrogance and ego!
Date: Aug 12 17:24
Author: Agree

Truman says:

"The difference between "us" and "them" is not intellect. The difference is fear and courage."

True, but I would also add the intense degree of EGO INVESTMENT that drives that "fear and courage".

A great deal of the Mormon mind winds itself around issues of human superiority:

"I am becoming a God." -- "I am of the chosen generation" -- "I have special spiritual powers." -- "I belong to a powerful and select group." -- "I am especially respected for my position before God." -- "God protects me as He does NOT protect others (garments etc..)" -- "I know the deepest secrets of the Universe" -- "I can enter sacred places that are denied to others." -- "I have assembled over time a great accumlation of 'brownie points' with God."

Yes Truman it IS FEAR -- but often it is fear for the loss of these notions of great SUPERIORITY!


Subject: This is a GREAT post
Date: Aug 12 17:29
Author: cascadiaexmo

Thanks, I hadn't thought of it that way.

I agree it is a better way to approach them. No one wants to be thought of as stupid, and besides, I know many TBMs who are smarter than I am in many ways.

I remember how scared I was when I finally drank my first cup of coffee at age 27. Although I had stopped being an active mormon for some time, and I knew it wasn't true, I still felt like I was doing something wrong when I drank that first cup. Brainwashing is a powerful thing.

In addition to fear, maybe those who stay are simply content with the social situation and don't feel any need to question.


Subject: What about ...
Date: Aug 12 17:36
Author: jacyn

... people who have the courage to leave TSCC [this so called church] but then latch on to an even weirder and more controlling cult-like belief system? I've seen this and I do not consider such people particularly intelligent or courageous.

I love your insightful post and it has given me much to think about, but I don't think you can lump everyone who leaves TSCC into the same category. I think people leave for a variety of reasons, some having nothing to do with courage. Here are some of the reasons I believe people leave based on my limited observations:

1. Lots of people leave because they don't like the strict moral code, or TSCC does not fit with their chosen lifestyle, but deep down, they still believe it's true. They don't care enough to do the research to learn whether it's true or not. They just know it doesn't work for them. I have a couple of siblings who have been inactive for years and they have been shocked during the past several months by some of the things I've shared with them re. TSCC history. (I was teaching gospel doctrine last fall). Both of them are intelligent and courageous, but just didn't give a sh** about TSCC. I've converted them to ex-Mormonism. :)

2. People who have trained themselves to think critically have a very difficult time accepting things strictly on faith, particularly when evidence does not support their faith-based beliefs. I would say the ability to think critically is one measure of a person's intelligence. It DOES take courage for an intelligent TBM to admit his/her religious beliefs do not accord with reality. As you so astutely pointed out, there are many intelligent TBMs, but when they start trying to explain away the huge contradictions, I think they arguably lose some of their intelligence. Think of Hugh Nibley ... he made himself look a complete moron when he kept contradicting himself while trying to explain away problems with the Book of Abraham.

3. As alluded to by a previous poster, exposure to cultural and social diversity does have a tendency to open one's eyes. Perhaps even more eye-opening and thought-provoking is the exposure to conflicting views about the world and life in general. This is where a broad-based education does play a role in the decision to abandon the teachings of one's youth. Scrutinizing one's own beliefs under the harsh light of philosophical diversity is illuminating has a way of encouraging a level self-introspection that one would not likely otherwise engage in.

Also, consider the courage intelligent TBM women have to have when faced with a lifetime of dutiful subservience to men and the looming prospect of Celestial polygamy. Believing TSCC is true does not mean one is unintelligent or lacks courage. Raising two kids by myself with no child support while working and going to school full time probably took some courage (and some insanity!). I'm sure there are many other posters here who, as TBMs, made my challenges look like a cakewalk ... Shannon, JackMormon's Wife comes to mind ...


Subject: one more thought
Date: Aug 12 17:46
Author: jacyn

Remember: "... when they are learned they think they are wise ..."

TSCC [this so called church] has a vested interest in teaching its members to not think too much.


Subject: Interesting!
Date: Aug 12 17:39
Author: Bella
Mail Address:  

That is fantastic, and really helps me because I have been told by other members of the family that "I think I'm smarter than them" which isn't at all how I feel.

I just feel FREE and it gives me more opportunities to discuss more and be more open with others and in everything I do.

I like how you put this concept into a framework that really rings true for me. I was less afraid because I have never married another Mormon as my siblings have. As such, in my marriage, I didn't have the boundaries of Mormonism to define myself.


Subject: DENIAL is one of the greatest evidences of FEAR.
Date: Aug 12 17:58
Author: Been There

The day after the PBS documentary aired, I was at a family party. NO ONE SAID A THING ABOUT THE SHOW! This was so even though they were all EXCITED about it the week before! I was told by a friend that nothing came up at his ward the next Sunday.

TBM's completely tuned it all out. Maybe they only watched the first hour, or didn't watch the next day. This big event became a non-event.

A study was done in which people were asked to listen to a radio station recording for a few hours and report what they heard latter in that day. Each person had their own radio set, but they were told there was a problem in the feed and that they would have to occasionally adjust a knob to get rid of static that would sometimes happen.

The scientists included a recurring news story about cigarette smoking in the radio material. Smokers DIDN'T reduce the (intentionally inserted) static buy using the knob - but non-smokers DID!

Mormon's can be like that. It's all fear and denial.


Subject: Sometimes the issue is integrity -- not intelligence.
Date: Aug 12 18:26
Author: Reader

The Mormon church leadership HIDES vital information - that's a fact!

You don't hide things by accident - you may lose them by accident - but you don't HIDE them by accident. Don't kid yourself, the church knows exactly WHAT it is hiding - and WHY.

Still, it is all due to the fear of loss of power and public position.


Subject: LDS Cult Brainwashing, Punishments, Criticism, Threats = FEAR
Date: Aug 12 19:12
Author: forestpal

Fear kept me in the cult for most of my life, until my life circumstances (not sin) led me in another direction.

Thanks, Truman for some interesting thoughts!

Some of the questions that led me out of Mormonism were the same questions I had at a very young age--and I certainly was not smarter in Jr. High than I am now, and not much dumber, either, but I was living in FEAR.

Definitely, it was the "glitches" in my supposed-to-be perfect life, that first caused me to see things differently, as jcrs80 pointed out. My children and I were living in a "broken home", when we left.

I had traveled all over the world, and we lived most our lives outside of Utah, in a big city, which gave us a more varied life experience. When the schools became substandard, my children attended a private Christian school, where they learned more about The Bible, than they did about JS and the BOM. Our world never did revolve around Mormonism.

I was free, in my case, and was left alone to fly under the radar. I lived away from my TBM immediate family, and had no husband to bully me into going to church and to force my children to go. The children and I quietly kept our questions to ourselves, and looked up the answers in the scriptures, in church history, and in diaries of our own ancestors. Those were the days before we had the internet.

I am not very courageous, so maybe I was motivated by a greater fear. Maybe the fear of the heaven that was planned for me by the LDS was greater than the fear that there was no heaven at all. Being in an eternal polygamous marriage to a horrible brute who tried to kill me and having my (ex-mormon) children pass by me as strangers--now that was fear! The LDS cult scares the snot out of me! Ever since that first day in the temple, I've wanted to run.

All of the above situations made it easier for me to leave the LDS cult. I feel safer now.

Mormon scare tactics and threats, mean gossip, and either shunning or harrassment, do make ex-mormons feel frightened, depressed, isolated, lost, with a void in their life. I've felt all those things, but briefly. Mostly, I feel joy and tremendous relief upon breaking free. (Oh, and a little anger.)


Subject: No, it is about intelligence
Date: Aug 13 22:57
Author: Don Bagley

I have to respectfully disagree. The Mormons themselves say that the proof of Mormonism is a "feeling in the breast", not factual evidence. The facts show that America was populated by people from Mongolia and Siberia. The cultural artifacts are extant on the western coast of Alaska.

No decent intellect could accept the fraud of Mormonism. Why do you think I broke away from the church at twelve years of age and at great personal cost? My intellect was awakening, and I could see that these people were lying to me. My father was furious, not least because he could see that I, a mere deacon, had outsmarted him. Nevertheless, I still have low self esteem, because childhood wounds cut very deeply.

But I will not be denied my reason. There is no first vision. Not only because Joe Smith is a liar, but because things don't work that way according to the laws of physics. I am not the smartest man around, but there is no believing Mormon with a superior intellect to mine. Oh, there are liars in the leadership, but they know which side of the bread is buttered.

When you say that it is not a matter of intellect, you are wrong. I think perhaps you should read Sam Clemens and Isaac Asimov's thoughts on the matter. Albert Einstein said that religion has many childish conceits and that immmortality is a manifestation of egoism.

You know that character in the Star Trek series named Spock? He represents pure, unemotional intellect. Can you imagine someone like him accepting a missionary lesson? Of course not. It is, and always has been, about intellect.

No smart person will ever accept the book of Mormon. They might lie about it, if it is profitable. But no good mind will really believe it. We've all been bamboozled at some point. I joined Amway when I was young and foolish. I believed them when they told me they had a "system." They ripped me off for a while, and I learned. I believed Mormonism for the first twelve years of my life--I was naive.

Intellect and Mormonism are incompatible. That's a fact.


Subject: The true bottom line....
Date: Aug 13 23:34
Author: birdie2

is maybe that

a. TBMs who have enough intellect to know Mormonism is false but who stay in Mormonism have too much fear and are afraid to leave for reasons of money, family shunning, possible job loss, etc.

b. TBMs who have enough intellect to know Mormonism is false and who leave it are perhaps not afraid of losing family ties, or if they are afraid of being shunned or being taken out of the family will, are less afraid of having those things happen than they are bothered by the cult mindset. Hence, they quit, regardless of what others will say about them--because to them, the consequences of remaining Mormon (not having full freedom of thought and expression) are far greater than the consequences of staying (being stuck paying money to a cult, not having freedom to choose their own thoughts and lifestyle).


Subject: Re: No, it is about intelligence
Date: Aug 14 01:44
Author: on the fringe

I can assure you there was one thing greater than my former TBM FIL's intelligence (Stanford PHD) and that was his huge ass ego.....I guess that explains why he never ventured outside of his little mormon cocoon out in Silicon Valley. How many successful venture capitalists would have paid attention, much less believed in all that silly church talk. Whew- got that off my chest!


Subject: Its a combination... ...
Date: Aug 14 00:11
Author: Em

Intelligence, critical thinking skills, common sense, and an understanding of the World and history.

Studying history (just general-- not mo history) was one of the biggest eye openers for me. There is no way there is just one true religion. They have all been borrowing ideas and teachings from each other since the beginning of time—how can one claim to have the only truth.


Subject: Re: It's not about intelligence.
Date: Aug 14 04:05
Author: XMA

I've always thought the difference between "us" and "them" is the ability to be honest with yourself about yourself.


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