The Collapse of My Shelf
This is a story of an important part of my life. The decisions and feelings that follow could have eternal ramifications. While I am a fun loving person that enjoys joking around, this is possibly the most serious set of things I have ever gone through. I shed many tears, spent countless hours on my knees, I studied and read and pondered and prayed like my life depended on it, because to me my eternal life did depend on it. It is the story of my journey, my perceptions, my feelings and my final conclusion. I mean no disrespect to anyone in my explanations, there are many that have taken a similar journey and ended at a different conclusion. I wish them nothing but happiness.
* * *
The day had come to go through the temple. This time was different though, and not just because my oldest son is going through for his first time. I’m supposed to be happy about that and in a lot of ways I am, he is becoming a man, going out on his own. For me though, going through is a different story. You see I am really not sure I believe in my religion. I want to believe, but in many ways I feel I can’t. I wasn’t about to let my son go through alone though. I’m not about to make him bear the social stigma of parents waiting outside and besides; I still remembered how freaky the whole thing had been for me the first time. Thank God, I think, as we pass the doors that he doesn’t have to be naked in the flappy shield and make the death oaths I did my first time through. We go to the dressing room, my thoughts still churning. Part of me hoping there might be some great revelatory experience ahead that might bring me back from my disbelief. The other part worrying about my son:
Am I doing right by him?
He puts on the initiation attire; it had changed, no more open sides flapping in the breeze, whew! I think, at least this part will be easier for him. He makes it through the ordinance, even though he gets a little lost about where to go at first. We get lots of smiles from the workers; as usual they are all very helpful. For those of you who have not been in the temple, the older men and women, the temple workers, are some of the sweetest, most helpful people you will ever meet. Like a whole building full of grandparents who want to help you along. Going through the first time you have a whole entourage of these folks to help. It is however, the parents right to be there with their descendants and teach them as well. The temple is focused on ancestry and posterity, one reason I felt I had to be there for my son this day. After the initiatory, he comes out with a stunned look on his face, I ask, “How was it?” He replies, “It was … weird…” I grin. “Well you got lucky, it used to be a whole lot weirder!” I say and put my hand on his shoulder. “Kinda cool what they bless you with though, huh?” I whisper, still unsure if I mean it.
He just nods, still a little shell-shocked.
He changes garb; I answer questions over the wall about what goes where. Next we go to a room where the temple president meets with new initiates to answer questions and lecture for a few minutes. We wait in silence; then the president comes in, talks for a bit, and asks if there were any questions. I have several burning in me I want to ask. I had read so much history about these rites that I want to ask about. I decline though, it’s my son’s day and we are taught in the church that if you have questions that endanger a person’s testimony, it’s better to ask your leaders in private, not in a way you could destroy a budding young testimony, so I chicken out and don’t ask anything.
We go to the next room. Being a new initiate my son gets to be first, and as his escorts we get to be there every step of the way so we take seats of prominence. Then the rest of the family quietly enters the room. There is a subtle energy as grandparents, aunts and uncles enter and take seats. We get tons of loving smiles and nods from all of these people; they’d all been here before and did what my oldest is doing today. For me this is the best part of the experience, when it feels all about family. This doesn’t diminish my sense of trepidation though and I’m not sure what my son is thinking at this point. I know what is coming, and he has no idea. We aren’t allowed to tell the sacred things that are about to transpire. I personally had sworn oaths of death to not reveal them. I remember feeling pretty nervous at this point so I presume he is too. I put my hand on his knee and give a squeeze for reassurance. They start the ceremony. At the beginning you get a chance to back out. You can stand up and leave. Part of me is hoping my son will choose that and I am ready to follow him if he does, but walking out in front of all these relatives, how could you? I didn’t when I went through and neither did he. I am not going to describe the ceremony. There are many who hold this as sacred and I wouldn’t want to offend them. There is a point however where the mother, by tradition, participates with her son. My wife who I know is sharing similar doubts as me, albeit not near as deeply, does right by her son at this part and follows tradition. I feel happy that family is as important to her as it is to me.
The culmination of all this ritual is entrance into the temple’s celestial room. It is symbolic of our transition through life and returning to live with our Father in Heaven. You learn what is expected of you to attain the highest degree of glory and how to get there. Passing into that room is supposed to be a magical experience. The temple is consecrated so Satan cannot enter in there. Therefore it is a place you can ponder and pray without worry of being deceived, it’s supposed to be a beautiful room where you can dwell for a time and feel the presence of God on earth. As I pass into the room and take in all the beauty, I feel very conflicted. Do I really believe enough to be here? What is my son thinking of all this? I see him; I give him a hug and tell him I love him. I show him the opposing mirrors and how they represent infinity and posterity like my dad had taught me. Then grandparents and family flood into the room, giving hugs and quiet congratulations to my son. It is a time of joy for everyone, except me. I’m so torn, happy for him, all my life I’d been taught that this is the second to last ordinance to getting back to God, just a temple marriage to go. I feel happy because in my religion, this is definitely the most important personal commitment a person can make, I am torn because I don’t believe in it, at least not like I used to. I keep telling myself, just believe, and all will be well. I silently pray for that personal confirmation, that spiritual witness that I had gotten so often many years ago, but it didn’t come. I am conflicted because I still feel spiritual promptings, just not about the truth of the church anymore. I sit by my wife for a few minutes holding her hand; glad she’s with me when she knows how I feel inside. I think, man I really lucked out with her.
You are expected to not stay too long in the celestial room, but they don’t rush out the new ones too fast. After 20 minutes or so people start to file out. I hang back, and ask my son privately if he has any questions. You aren’t supposed to discuss details of the ceremony outside so like a good dad I want to see he had any. We have a pretty good level of communication, more so than many parents and teens I suppose. He even knew I had some reservations about being here today. (Not the whole long story or the depth of my belief issues, just that I was unsure.) So I ask him, “We have to leave now, do you have any questions?” He looked me square in the eye and said,
“Yeah, did I just join a cult?”
It hits me hard, devastates me. All the same angst I had felt my first time, the ‘freaked out’ feeling I had after making those oaths some 20+ years ago, the eerie feeling of being touched be a stranger under the shield, the fear about what I had just done like a bad memory flooded back all at once. I realize in that moment I had not been honest with myself for a very long time and that had led me to this point and to this question. I choke up with emotion. I can’t speak. I think about how I got to this point, how it started with a seemingly innocuous thing about 5 years ago.
* * *
I was raised LDS, by an incredibly amazing dad, and a mom with a hugely positive outlook on life. Being Mormon, family is important. It is also important to follow God’s will, and do what modern day prophets tell us to do. I did those things, I wasn’t a perfect kid, and I was always a bit of a daredevil. But I read my scriptures; I studied the Book of Mormon as well as the standard works of the church. One of my favorite pieces of LDS scripture is called the Book of Abraham. The concept of intelligences resonated with me. I enjoyed reading these books and did so often. Following council of parents and leaders I strove to get a testimony, to have a spiritual witness, to know for myself that the Book of Mormon was true, and by that reasoning Joseph Smith was a prophet. I got one. I felt the Book of Mormon was true, I felt the Pearl of great price was true as well as the other scriptures, my bosom had burned, I was confident that Joseph was a seer based on this testimony. I knew what God wanted from me, and it was to be part of the church. To spread the gospel and give the truth and light I had found to others so it would bless their lives. I served a mission, bore my testimony often and had many spiritual witnesses along the way. I got married in the temple, and started a family, I answered yes to every church calling I was given and did my best to magnify it, to use my talents to bless others as much as possible. Turns out I was a pretty good teacher, and not a bad leader either. I served in many callings, including Elders Quorum President, Sunday School President, and even executive secretary to a bishopric as well. My favorite calling though was Sunday school teacher. Especially teaching the teenagers. I’ve always been young at heart and felt a strong connection to youth. I loved to expound on the scriptures and lessons. My goal every lesson was to teach the gospel and help these kids gain their own testimony. For me it was very important that they get their own testimony, and that meant they needed to learn to think for themselves. My lessons’ often talked about agency and searching for truth, topics that meant a lot to me personally. I believed truth was essential to everything.
During those years I studied scriptures deeply. I also devoured books from prophets, things like Lectures On Faith, Calling on the Powers of Heaven, Mormon doctrine, Jesus the christ and many more. My mom taught me to read and love reading as a young boy and for me reading books has been second nature my whole life. Not that it was all church related, I devoured science and science fiction as well. It is important to understand that I had a strong and powerful testimony of the gospel and the Mormon Church being the one true religion on the planet. That God had restored via Joseph Smith the first latter-day prophet of this dispensation of time. Of course I knew it wasn’t easy to prove, you needed faith, God wanted you to have faith. I had given some great lessons on faith. I also understood God was a God of knowledge and learning, that God might reveal things that we don’t understand now, but that later science would prove him out. In fact I believed, as many others did, that the guidelines in the Word of Wisdom were proven by science in my lifetime. In the late 80’s and early 90’s it seemed to me that science was saying coffee was bad, and I thought, duh, Joseph Smith said that a long time ago! I have no doubt in my mind that in the early 2000’s my testimony was as strong as any person’s I had met.
That sets the stage for the next turn of events in my life. Being an engineer, and a writer, I published a book, and later a novella. I had always wanted to write a book and I wanted to write science fiction because I loved it so much. Luckily I got to do both. Writing my first book required a lot of research, no problem, we have the Internet these days, I learned to Google search like a pro, how to find the original documents and figure out if someone was just spouting drivel or something real. It was extremely important that my engineering book was accurate, if not your peers would slaughter you when you publish. During this period I was continuing my spiritual growth as well. The Internet became a tremendous tool to find out information about gospel topics. I steered clear of the ‘anti’ sites out there. I had met anti-Mormons on my mission and they seemed hell-bent on proving the church false and I wanted none of that. I studied church-approved sites, like FAIR and FARMs, places set up by spiritual greats I admired, such as Neil A. Maxwell. I loved learning.
That love of learning initially lead to some research on the Book of Abraham. I discovered reading FARMs that we had the original papyri from which the Book of Abraham was translated. I remember thinking that is so dang cool! It turns out the LDS church has had it since the 70’s. I kind of wondered why this wasn’t more widespread knowledge but no biggie because we had it! For me, someone who believed that science eventually supports direct revelation of truth from God, this was amazing! Why you might ask? Well because this was a document that I knew from church history that Joseph Smith had translated by the gift of God. He was a seer! Seers could translate and they were even more important than prophets, it said so in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Abraham was verifiable proof that Joseph Smith was a seer! So I researched it, I couldn’t wait to see how science would back up what I already knew was true!
I soon discovered why current church leaders didn’t shout this about from the rooftops. There weren’t any Egyptologists that agreed with the translation. I had studied history and knew about the Rosetta Stone and how researchers had learned to translate Egyptian. The people who dedicated their lives to reading Egyptian, said the document was nothing more than a funerary text, commonly found with mummies. In fact there were several known papyri depicting full scenes like in the facsimiles in museums that you could compare to the ones in the Book of Abraham. To my untrained eye, the only place they differed was the missing parts on the papyri that Joseph used. The prophet had drawn in these parts to complete them; I had to wonder why the parts that were drawn in didn’t match the other dozens of images of similar documents I found.
I looked online for experts in Egyptology to ask them questions. No expert I found said they were a direct translation. In fact they all said he was way, way, way, off the mark. I figured I should go to the church itself, but the official church stuff is completely mum on the topic. The only place you could go for a church based opinion was FARMs and FAIR. However there is a clear disclaimer that these are opinions of men who’s intent is to defend the church, they are not sanctioned scripture or official doctrine. Since the church didn’t take a stance at all on it, I had no choice but to read up on the apologists’ opinion and do my own study. I even asked my bishop about it, but he didn’t even know the papyri existed. The apologetic opinion varied from ‘all the experts are wrong’ to ‘there are missing scrolls’ to ‘sure this was a funerary text, but that was just inspiring the prophet to write the words of Abraham, that it wasn’t really a translation of the papyri.’ How could you say it wasn’t a translation when Joseph Smith himself said he was translating it many times? Even the people whose goal it was to defend the church chased around in circles trying to make sense of it. I tried studying Egyptian, figured maybe all these experts missed something that I would see. I didn’t find anything new to add. The translation of Egyptian via the Rosetta stone had lead to reading Egyptian texts and following them to real world discoveries. These experts’ work had been validated with experimental results.
So I was faced with the fact that there was pretty clear proof that the Book of Abraham wasn’t what I had thought it was up to this point. I was definitely shaken in my testimony, but I still believed. I just couldn’t explain how Joseph Smith could be a seer and have such strong evidence that the Book of Abraham wasn’t a translation of the papyri. The church had to be true, I had my witness to rely on. I just couldn’t make sense of this.
So I put the whole topic on my ‘shelf’.
I have since come to realize that every believing Mormon has a mental ‘shelf,’ a place where they store stuff that doesn’t make sense, set aside as unanswered until the day we get to meet Heavenly Father and ask about it. I already had a pretty good shelf full of things I couldn’t explain. Like where did all the swords go from the millions of Book of Mormon soldiers? What is the deal with evolution? If there was no death before Adam why are there dinosaurs? That type of stuff was already on my shelf. So I added this. It was by far the biggest unknown I had put up there by this point in my life, and it landed with a pretty big metaphorical thunk, but I did put it aside and continued to believe.
One thing I was taught to do when faced with conundrums was to study ponder and pray more. So I read scriptures all the time, and prayed even more fervently. I saw a book advertised during general conference that spring. It was called Rough Stone Rolling, a biography of Joseph Smith written from a believer’s perspective by a respected historian. In my research I had run into church history topics about where the papyri had come from. I figured that it would be good to understand the history and culture of the times better, which might lead to light and truth to help me develop a stronger testimony. So I bought the book and read it, figuring it wasn’t anti-Mormon since I had seen reviews from church leaders about how good a book it was. I devoured this book and learned a lot of church history that I hadn’t heard before. Things like how the prophet had started a bank that failed in Kirtland, and how they had obtained and displayed the mummies and papyri, how the Prophet had ordered a printing press destroyed right before he was killed. Some of the same things I had seen pop up in my Internet searches that I thought was ‘anti Mormon’ propaganda.
This surprised me. I want to point out that this research and prayer and study was happening over months of time. As I researched into church history I realized I needed to go to the source. So every time I found a point, I checked the references. Many of them came from the books Journal of Discourses and History of the Church so I read from these books extensively. They are major source documents for much of the church’s history. I read and studied them but that only uncovered more questions.
Not all, but many of the things I had dismissed as ‘anti’ really were just facts of church history, often corroborated by multiple accounts. I found the prophet himself deceiving others around him about polygamy; I found many things that made me question even more of what I had learned in seminary. I put them on my ‘shelf’ and continued to believe, having faith that somehow, some day it would all make sense. It wasn’t getting any better though.
My shelf was getting heavier the more I researched.
For a while I stop studying all together, the facts were just too upsetting, I did nothing but read scriptures, ponder the things I knew and what I believed. I prayed with tremendous desire to know the truth and have understanding revealed to me. One night when I was particularly distraught about it all, I had the strongest spiritual experience of my life. My prayers were answered, I felt like I was communicating directly to God. I heard a voice in my head and I asked questions and got answers. I asked about things like the blood atonement and why Brigham Young would do what he did, the answer was that he was the guy to get the Saints out west and was needed at the time even if he was messed up later. Why did Joseph lie to followers about polygamy? He was in fear for his life and if he had told the truth the church may not have started. I asked about many things I had questions about. The most basic way to sum up the response was that the ends justified the means. Sometimes things that we don’t agree with, lying, deception, etc. are required to move the work forward, even Nephi killed Laban to get the brass plates after all.
After that experience I was able to stick lots of the questionable things on my shelf (like the 5 billion dollar mall) under the heading ‘the ends justify the means.’ I became even more devout. During this time I had talked to my bishop a lot about the things that I had read and experienced, he told me that God was preparing me to be a bishop and by knowing these things I would be able to council others that would have similar experiences. I could still bear my testimony and truly say I believed, but I did have a massive shelf full of lots of facts that couldn’t be explained.
One thing this journey had done for me so far was instilling a burning desire to find truth. I also came to the point that the truth was more important to me than anything else. I had found true things that are glossed over in Sunday school or not talked about at all. They were very faith-disturbing facts, I had looked at them and decided that they were true. I figured God must have a reason for it even if I couldn’t comprehend it.
I decided to read the Book of Mormon again that this point. One thing that I had heard over and over was that this book was the keystone of our religion. Elder Holland even issued a challenge that it could not be proven false over the pulpit at general conference. When he did that I figured I ought to take him at his word. So I poured myself into study of that book. This time was different than previous times I had read it though. So many more details stood out to me than ever before. There were many contradictions and issues that I just couldn’t explain and they kept filling up my shelf. I got really interested in the book of Mormon geography, probably because of my mission to Guatemala; there I believed was real Book of Mormon stuff! I served in a place my mission president said meant ‘narrow neck of land’ and I believed him. One doubt I had though was the whole ‘it took less than a couple days to walk from sea to sea’ description in the book. That just did not match the place I had been, there was no way possible to make that walk in a couple days. There was also the hill Cumorah question, are there two? Is there one? How did the plates end up at the hill by Joseph’s house? I was discussing this with a friend at work one day (a believer) and he mentioned something called the small geography model. He said he believed it all took place right there near where Joseph lived. I hadn’t heard about this theory before. I was from the ‘it was all the Mayans’ camp on that point. So I did some more digging. I looked at all the thoughts of FAIR on it, I had spent a ton of time on FAIRs website over the years, but I had started checking their sources just like any other. They played as loose with the facts as anyone I had ran into. I remember one time I found them slaughtering David Whitmer in one of his statements for being an apostate so you couldn’t trust what he said at that point in time. Then later using that very statement (just a few lines farther down from the original quote) to support a point they were making, so to them if you read the first couple lines he was a bald faced liar, but the next sentence, that was gospel truth. In short when I checked FAIRs sources, they weren’t playing very fair. Still though for a believer this was the place to go to make sure you didn’t get the ‘anti’ spin. That meant I was on the pro-mormon sites the majority of the time.
So to summarize my state of mind before this next discovery, I had found real problems with the Book of Abraham being an actual translation, I set that aside, I had found more unsettling things in church history, and set those aside, I had prayed and felt like I had an answer. My personal shelf of things I didn’t understand was loaded clear full.
Now here I was studying the keystone of the religion, the book of Mormon. I did a Google search one night on the small geography theory and in my digging found this map below. My first impression was wow! That fits perfectly, the narrow neck of land make sense, the lands and descriptions of the terrain fit! It also made sense that the plates made their way to hill Cumorah so close to where Joseph lived. The positions of the towns and places fit way, way better than any map I had ever seen about Central America. Maybe I had been wrong about the Mayan connection after all. In all my study I had learned that some times I had made presumptions, just because it was a ‘popular’ idea among the saints, I had learned to not to presume anything, instead you should research. This map fit really well, far better than anything I had studied before. Then I looked at the map below it.
ACTUAL PLACE NAMES
|BOOK OF MORMON NAMES
Alma, Valley of
Noah, Land of
Ripliancum, Waters of
Land of Midian
Copyright 1989, 1992 by Vernal Holley Used by permission.
The map below the first was a map of that part of the US and Canada circa 1819. I looked the names on that map. I saw the comparison of names, I need you to understand how hard this hit me. Pretend for a minute that you were a mom, and you had raised a child for 20 years, then by a random DNA test you found out you weren’t the parent of that child. All at once you would be full of questions! Your world would be turned upside down! That is how looking at this map hit me.
First, I am writer; I had published not only technical books, but also a little science fiction. I’m not saying I’m a great writer. There are many that are far better than I will ever be, but I do know something about writing fiction. With fiction, you don’t start with a blank sheet, you start with things you already know, then tweak them and change them and weave a story in and around them. It helps you put emotion into the writing. It is part of the process of creating a work of fiction. This is the way all writers of fiction I have ever known work, including myself.
I stared at the map.
Literally stared for minutes on end; I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There were the names lehi-(gh) and Onidah (Oneida) starting at me. Name after name slightly modified, geography that certainly fit. I knew I couldn’t put this on my ‘shelf’ it wouldn’t take it; mentally I could not ignore this. For the first time I actually thought it might be possible that Joseph had made it up. I had to be sure though, I didn’t trust this map, heck I didn’t know this Holley guy, maybe he was publishing out right lies to discredit the church. Long ago I had learned to check out things I read. I searched online and in libraries. I Found the USGS (united states geological services) had scanned and stored hand drawn maps going all the way back to the early 1800s. After a few hours of searching I found original maps from 1819. I studied them deeply, I found the names were there, not always towns, some times rivers and valleys, but the names were there. I was devastated to find that the map was legit, but I didn’t give up! My whole testimony was at stake! This book was the keystone! I thought, ‘so the names are there, but maybe they have been there since the Book of Mormon days?’ That would explain it! So I started searching out the history of the names of the towns and places, again I was devastated. Most of the names were clearly brought by the immigrants to the US, they had no connection whatsoever to the original Indians, the only one that had a clear connection was the name Tecumseh (Teancum) I read about that and found a story of the revolutionary war times that was very similar to the story of Teancum. So that connection didn’t help at all, it only made it more obvious that the Book of Mormon was fiction.
That was the night my ‘shelf’ collapsed.
I kept thinking about my spiritual witnesses and tried to prop it up. I could not. It was not only possible that the book had been made up; here was clear and definitive evidence that it was. I could not deny it. I also had many spiritual experiences that I could not deny as well. Needless to say my soul was in a lot of turmoil. That night I prayed as hard as I ever had. I had faith I would get another answer because I had before, but none came.
For the next few weeks, I moved through life in a daze. I prayed with no results, I couldn’t make the facts of my study agree with the religion of my youth, the one I had dedicated so much to. I realized if it were just a story, if it was made up and Joseph wasn’t a prophet all then the issues that were on my mental ‘shelf’ made sense. All the things that just didn’t fit didn’t have to. I had dug to the very beginnings of the religion I found dear and I hadn’t found any evidence to support what I believed. Not a single fact.
Except one, I had experienced a witness.
I had one just like I was told I would have if I prayed hard enough and wanted to know bad enough. I had even had more than one, some pretty amazing ones when I compared mine to others. If this was false, why would God tell me himself otherwise? Why did I have those feelings? More so why when I prayed now could I not get them about this topic? I noticed that I wasn’t broken spiritually; there were things that still moved me like before. There were flashes of inspiration, there were deep spiritual connections when talking to my wife about our kids. I could still look up at the night sky and get that feeling of wonderful expansiveness, a story with a great moral was still able to touch my heart.
So I had no physical evidence, in fact the physical evidence very much supported the idea that the foundation of the church was a hoax or a con. It might have been with good intentions, and even might have done good things, but the evidence simply was not there to support it as historically factual. All I had were the memories of my feelings and experiences. One evening I was thinking about these things, arguing with myself. My head would say, ‘you got to look at the facts!’ my heart would respond, ‘but I had these feelings!’
Back and forth I pondered this quandary.
That’s when I had a epiphany. I remembered as a youth that I loved to hear Paul H Dunn speak; I loved his stories of the way he fought in the war (my dad is a personal war hero to me) So I connected to Paul H Dunn’s lectures and talks. I remembered how often I felt the spirit when he spoke, I had often been deeply moved. Then as we all know he confessed that he had been lying about it. In that moment I had a flash of insight! It is possible to have spiritual witnesses from fictional stories. Logically that meant how you felt was not a reliable indicator that the story itself was true. There could be principles and ideas in any story that resonated with your spirit for sure, but that didn’t mean the story itself was true!
This realization was like a light shining down and clearing away the mists of my confusion. Suddenly I could see it all laid out in front of me. This is why other people in other religions have spiritual confirmations. This is why thought provoking uplifting emails get forwarded all over the planet claiming to be true stories, but when you research it they aren’t anything but fiction. It was all starting to come together in a cohesive picture. Even if the Book of Mormon was made up, it could still have stories and ideas and concepts that made you ‘feel the spirit.’ It just made sense and fit together in a way that had I had never realized before. Logically the book was not what it claimed to be, but spiritually reading it could make you feel good. I could trust my feelings to an extent, but realized I couldn’t rely on them to validate every truth.
So now what? That was my next thought. Now what do I do? I realized I could not believe that Joseph Smith was literally the prophet he claimed to be simply because the book was not the history of the Indians that he claimed it to be. Two things happened; first my ‘shelf’ disappeared. I didn’t have to stick things away to hope to understand them some day. You have no idea how liberating that felt! Second I thought, ‘what about my family?’ Do I tell them? Do I keep going to church?
What should I do?
I talked to my wife about it. We had been through a rough time when I first dealt with these issues. As a believing LDS woman she feared the loss of her eternal family, but after a while we had figured out how to communicate and she stuck with me through it all; I dearly love her for that! She knew where I was and why, ultimately she came to a similar conclusion. So far as church goes, her story is her own to tell not mine (so you won’t get anymore of her details here).
We talked about whether or not we should tell our kids how we felt. Way back at the beginning of this experience the bishop had warned me about telling my kids my true feelings about things, didn’t want us to damage any budding testimonies. So up till this point our kids had no idea of the struggles I had went through. Even at the time the bishops council didn’t seem quite right to me, it was as if I were being asked to mislead my family for the good of the church. Now with my testimony shattered I could not in good conscious hide from my kids the things I knew. We told the boys. The oldest ones first, we made sure that they understood that they had every right in our house to believe and go to church and we would support them. I told our oldest that even though I now didn’t believe in the veracity of my religion that I had learned good things on my mission and if he still wanted to go and serve we would support him. We were open and honest with our kids and allowed them to choose their direction in life. I will always believe in the sanctity of human choice. That doesn’t mean though that you can’t council and have healthy debate. If you think a person is making a choice they will later regret you should be willing and able to voice it. But it is still their choice. The older boys chose to still attend church. Sometimes we went with them, sometimes not. Our oldest was stronger in his beliefs and decided to serve a mission, I’m not sure how strong because of some of our conversations but I did get the feeling that he felt like it would be a good experience for him. I told him I would support that decision. Life was starting to present quandaries however. If our son were to serve a mission that meant going through the temple. How could I support him and be honest with myself? There were some good things in the church, you are taught to help each other, to be good people and so and so on. I wasn’t ready to toss the church completely out of my life yet; it seemed like a good way to raise a family. I wondered if there were others like me, searching online I found out about NOM, or New Order Mormons, people that had done much of the same research as me and had drawn similar conclusions and found a ‘middle road.’ To various degrees they believed some of the doctrine and some not, they recognized the deficiencies in history and lived with it, some had no testimony at all but went along with the flow. Some focused their belief on the good things and good people in the church and just ignored the other stuff.
I decided to try the NOM route.
I tried to fit in for the good of family and friends and community. When I bore testimony I would avoid the clinchers, not talking about Joseph Smith, but instead about love of family. I skipped the stuff I couldn’t believe anymore and focused on what I could. I definitely believed in family, I had come from a great family, and I was doing my best to raise a great one. That was when my son decided to serve a mission, the date rapidly approached that he would go through the temple. I worried about that, what should I do? I knew how important family was, and how important me being there would be to him, also I remember how odd, strange and uncomfortable I felt the day I took out my own endowments and so didn’t what him to have to experience that on his own. I needed to believe for my son; somehow I had to answer the temple questions so that I could be there for him.
Most of the temple questions are not that big a deal, any decent human being tries to be honest with their fellow man and so on, but there are a couple that were going to be hard. For example; Do you believe in the restoration of the church? Now that implies a whole slew of things, that Joseph was a prophet, that God talked to him and gave us the church today. I couldn’t answer that without reservation, not now. When asked this I said yes, I wanted so much to believe that I tried to just do it and hope for the conformation after the fact. (Kind of like how the apostles council that you get a testimony by bearing it.) I answered all the tough questions that way. I wanted to believe for family, I wanted to be there for my son. I lied to myself to answer those questions in the affirmative. I’m not proud of that fact, but I did it. Now you know all the things that were on my mind when my son asked that question.
* * *
There I was, my son had just asked me “did I just join a cult?” I couldn’t speak; I realized that in my heart of hearts if I were totally honest with myself the answer to that question is yes. I had thought I was being brave, doing the right thing finding the middle road to be there for family and that lead me to this point. I still had trouble facing the fact, so I said “kinda feels that way doesn’t it” put my arm around him and we left the room.
* * *
Shortly after he left on his mission. We corresponded every week. He became known in the MTC as the kid that knew tons about church history and thought more deeply than anyone else. I was proud of him for going and knowing how tough it was, especially when he knew so much more about the more questionable history of the church than most. It wasn’t easy for him but he stuck to it. His goal was to make it into the field and he did. I kept telling him it would get easier once he got out of the MTC, but it didn’t get any easier. In fact it got worse for him. The letters started to scare me. He was clearly getting depressed, and then he was hit by a car! For me that was really hard, I had supported my kid; he went out on a mission and was hit by a car! I really wondered about my choice to believe in spite of the evidence, especially if it leads to these things. My son was struggling with his mission, getting more and more depressed, we stayed as positive as possible in all our emails, told him to hang in there. At home my wife and I were getting worried sick about him. Personally I kept thinking why didn’t I tell him more about what I knew was coming, I still to this day regretted not telling him in advance what he was in for in the temple. That question ‘did I just join a cult?’ still rang in my ears. I felt like I had gone along with the flow and now after all this my son was in the worst depression of his life.
Why couldn’t I be honest with me?
Why couldn’t I just say what I believed?
I think I was scared, after a lifetime of suppressing what you think for what you are supposed to think, I needed time to get the courage to be me. We got a letter; our son was so depressed that he was contemplating suicide. On Christmas Eve the mission president called us and relayed what we had already read in the letter. I realized then and there, I had to stand up for what I believe or didn’t believe. If there was any truth that was being shoved under the rug, I should not remain quiet! I could be right or wrong, but I could not live with myself anymore if I kept pretending to be someone I am not. If anything happened to my son and I had “gone with the flow” when in my heart I didn’t want to… Well I just couldn’t live with that.
I resolved to be honest with myself first and foremost, and then from that point to be honest with others. I realized that for years and years by putting things on my mental ‘shelf’ I had only been deceiving myself about facts I knew.
Coming clean about how I really saw the history of the church was not an easy decision. It was the hardest one of my life. It meant I needed to tell my parents, it meant that I couldn’t be part of the ceremonies, baptisms, priesthood blessings etc that all our families participated in. An open declaration of disbelief is apostasy. Leaders don’t care if you have doubts so long as you just shut up about them. If I were to be honest I couldn’t just shut up anymore, I knew it would break my mom and dads heart. I thought I might get cast out of the family. I realized that my children might one day get married and I wouldn’t be able to be there with them. It worried me sick to open up about it.
It terrified me.
However I had resolved to be honest with what I knew and no longer hide or shirk away from it. It was the scariest thing I have ever done, and a lot of you know I do some crazy scary things! I did it though; I openly expressed my disbelief in the religion of my youth and most of my life. I was lucky, my wife was with me on this, I was lucky my parents took it pretty well and still loved me. My siblings still treated me right. Many LDS families are torn apart when one member doesn’t believe. I was lucky that mine stayed in pretty good shape. There are many that are far worse off. There is one thing I am sure of. Being honest with myself and being open about it to others as scary as it was…
It was the right thing to do.
* * *
So that is my story, how I went from 100% belief to somewhere in the middle to adamant unbelief today. Some have walked the path I have and landed in the middle ground and made it work for them. I could not, that is not in my nature, learning to be honest with myself helped me understand my nature. Some will never even care to look under the rocks and can go on blissfully believing being none the wiser. That is also not who I am. Call it God or my genes, but I am blessed with an insatiable desire to learn. I believe that now I am more mentally stable now than I ever was, I recognize that every day I might learn new facts or have experiences that could change my future outlook on life and I am ok with that. It used to scare me to not know, or at least think I knew what was ahead in life. Being honest, completely honest with myself, clearing off that mental shelf was the most liberating soul fulfilling experience of my life. I realized I could be fine with not being 100% sure I knew the end game.
Spiritually, I still feel inspiration; I still feel the insights and feelings that I used to attribute to my beliefs and religion. These feelings could come from God, or they might be the product of evolution, I realize that I simply do not know for sure, (if you have to define me, that makes me agnostic). Since they happen in any religion and outside of religion, I do not believe that we need any organized religion at all to get back to God if there is one. It doesn’t make sense to me that he would be so tricky to his kids to require faith in something so easily proven wrong to be the one true way back to him. I no longer try to make things fit in my head that do not make sense. Like I said, Inspiration still comes to me, as strongly and deeply as ever. I feel moved simply sharing this story of what went on in my life, a deep and profound spiritual connection to any whom might read it. I have found living a life authentic to who you are is what works for me. What works for you isn’t for me to say. All we can really do is share our thoughts, logic, experiences and emotions, compare notes and do our best to get along. I think the most important thing we can do is be nice to each other.
* * *
Some may wonder about how my wife and kids handled this. It’s really not my place to say in detail, they each have their own story. My wife accepts me for who I am. She no longer attends church either after working this all out for herself. Our relationship is better than it ever has been. We no longer judge each other based on what the church thinks is right or wrong. Personally from my perspective she is far happier and more self-confident now than she has been since we got married. Our kids are all doing great now! Turns out you don’t have to be religious to have good kids. You just need to be a good parent.
Families can survive a crisis of faith!
Update, March 2014
Turns out that I’m not the only one that the temple disturbed, even General Authorities are aware of this fact as can be seen here:
Maybe that is why they changed the ceremonies to remove the blood oaths, I think it would do the leaders of the church some good to read up on how cults are formed. Because just removing the blood oaths isn’t enough to remove the creepy feeling some people get as evidenced by my sons experience.
I really loved your essay and can relate in so many ways. When I read your story it was almost as if I was reading about myself!
I’m glad it could help
Such an uplifting story for someone going through a “faith crisis” like myself. Thank you for sharing and putting into words how it all feels! I hope your son is doing well and wish you and your family the best.
Thanks I appreciate your concern.
A great read! I was also raised in a “cultish” church and leaving is necessary to be a free agent in this life! I enjoyed your story; thanks for sharing!
You have been fooled and mislead. You are fooling and misleading others. I have read about four of your entries, and for being a writer and an engineer you leave much to be desired. I understand engineer does not equate to scientist. You fail to understand some basic premises of science. Your writing is all over the place, conflating ideas that shouldn’t be. Have you thought of rereading a post before posting it? You cannot rely upon spell and grammar check to make your ideas clear and coherent. Instead of focusing your animus, masked in civility, on a religion you no longer believe; why not focus that same “intensity” on self- reflection and maybe you’d notice the double standards you hold. If you cannot get these basics right, why would one want to follow your “analysis”. Your voice is one among a thousand similar. You are not waking sleeping dogs– you are the lost dog in a pound barking it’s head off. I could help you though. I could point you in the direction to some good reads on science. I might even be able to help with some counseling on dealing with the bubble syndrome you obviously have incurred. Let me know, you seem desperate.
Are you serious? I mean really? Do you think that a completely ad hominem attack carries any weight at all?
Listen mr American, point out where my science is wrong. Since you claim it is so poor. Let’s examine it. 🙂 I will happily defend my position or admit I am wrong if you just provide some evidence. Because in reading your comment you are the dog just wildly barking without providing a shred of evidence for your claims.
Do you have the link to the USGS map you described?
There are multiple links. And you have scan them with your old fashioned eyeballs (because names aren’t always towns, sometimes they were near by rivers and valleys.
I dug up links I’d saved on this several years ago. One still goes right to the image the others look Link the site has been reformatted and you will need to look for the map scans again. Best of luck in your search for truth!
Oneida = Onidah
AM: how many ad-hominem attacks can one make in a post without actually addressing the problems in the original article?
You can start helping us by showing us peer-reviewed evidence outside of the LDS church or BYU faculty which has any shred of evidence supporting any historical claim made by the BoM. J. Smith stated multiple times that the BoM is the history of the Laminates and other cultures, documentation of their rise and fall on this continent, a historical record of Jesus being in North America, and that this history and message is to be used as witness to their descendants, the modern native americans. you cannot remove the title of it being a history document without also stripping away any claim of authenticity that Jesus appeared, or maintain validity of any religious message also supposedly contained within.
Fantastical claims, such as those in the BoM and D&C chapters 1-6 in regards to the historical accuracy of the BoM require Fantastic evidence.
Lack of evidence IS evidence of lack, especially when the void of BoM artifacts in the strata are simultaneously filled by those of Indian cultures with zero relevance or mention in the BoM.
The burden of proof is on the LDS church to supply evidence of their claims, not the contrary, even though museums around the world are full of the very artifacts from North and South America from the very time period on question.
Thank you so much for sharing. I would have wept if I had any more tears to cry. In many ways, this was like reading my own story. You have given me courage to speak the truth. I’ve only read a few of your articles and I look forward to reading more. Thank you.
You are welcome. Peace be with you as you find the courage to speak up!
PS I think we work for the same company. If that’s true, I’d like to thank you in person some day. This article was the thing that finally broke the shelf of my best friend who lives in town. She and her husband are both out now. Shoot me an email if you’d like.
The Fridge works in mysterious ways. New friends soon you will have…..
Loved this post, will be sharing to help others realize the difficult road it is to have that shelf collapse. My self collapsed with the Book of Abraham, and listening to the coercion Joseph used to get his plural wives. I love your sense of humor in your other blogs. Keep up the good work!
Have you ever studied languages and struggled with the transitioning of names (both people and place names) from one language to another? I can understand why Joseph resorted to using the place names that he knew to help him work out the strangeness of the names he was encountering. A similar thing could have happened with working out the geography. I believe that Joseph had quite a struggle with what he was finding on that seerstone.
I am not a TBM, by the way. I have a cracking shelf that I am temporarily holding up with a brace. But I think I am related to Joseph (I am from New England, New Hampshire/Vermont) and I honestly feel that I can understand how Joseph’s brain worked. Mine works in a similar way. I do love the Book of Mormon, but I have deep issues with other aspects of Church History. I believe that Joseph was suffering from serious PTSD after his stay in Liberty Jail and escape from Missouri, and therefore got things really messed up in Nauvoo. Thus I believe that real Mormonism happened pre-Nauvoo.
That is an interesting approach, for a while as I propped up my shelf after deep study of the Book of Abraham I still felt Joseph was possibly just a little crazy and that led to some issues as well (after all his son was put in a hospital for being mentally ill, something that tends to be hereditary) for me though that sat more strongly on my shelf as to how a person could be deluded in their thinking.
As for you specific question, I think it isn’t rational to make that assumption because this bit that I found in B H Roberts book
In his Comprehensive History of the Church (CHC), LDS historian and Seventy Brigham H. Roberts quotes Martin Harris, one of the three witnesses whose name is found in every edition of the Book of Mormon since its original edition. Harris said that Smith possessed a seer stone, described by Roberts as a “chocolate-colored, somewhat egg-shaped stone which the Prophet found while digging a well in company with his brother Hyrum.” Roberts goes on to state that it was by using this stone that “Joseph was able to translate the characters engraven on the plates” (CHC 1:129).
Martin Harris was one of the scribes Joseph Smith used to record the writing on the plates. This enabled him to give a first-hand account of how Smith performed this translation. Harris noted,
“By aid of the Seer Stone, sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin, and when finished he would say ‘written;’ and if correctly written, the sentence would disappear and another appear in its place; but if not written correctly it remained until corrected, so that the translation was just as it was engraven on the plates, precisely in the language then used” (CHC 1:29).
It says basically God was in charge of how the stone worked, that is how we know it was so accurate and leads to the later comments by JS and all those early guys about how it was the most perfect book ever. If that is the case though; Then why did God let it go to the printing press with so many errors that had to be later corrected? Even if we dismiss a bunch of them by saying God just didn’t care about punctuation. Then what about things like the nature of the Godhead? That seems like a huge doctrinal error to slip by divine review via the seer stone.
Ultimately it just doesn’t make sense in so many ways except one. It was made up fiction. The last possibility is the hardest to accept due to human nature and tricks of psychology. We don’t want the shelf to collapse because it means the end of something dear to us. The day though that we try to fit all the data honestly to that possibility, it comes down overnight.
Even the data that tells us it must be true, such as our own feelings and the fact it attracts followers can be seen in other religions. Muhammed ended up with billions of followers that deeply feel it is true. They are confused about their confirmation, right? Just because there are billions following doesn’t prove truth either, right? Why isn’t it possible we could be in the same boat that we are as confident as they are? The cold hard shelf breaking truth is… it is just as possible.
But thanks for this new speculation I hadn’t considered this excuse before and will give it a bit more thought. Also I have found putting information into a time like is very helpful. I helped a friend of mine put this one together. Maybe it will help you on your path to understanding and truth.
When you mentioned Paul H. Dunn I was like, shazam! I’ve struggled with that “feeling the spirit” thing too. If it isn’t true, why do I feel this way? When one of my sons was 11 he said to me, “Dad, I feel the spirit when I watch (the movie) “Rudy.” What’s up with that?” That was a toughy.
But I joined the Church when Paul H. Dunn was in his prime as a speaker and had put out the book, “I Challenge You, I Promise You.” I felt the spirit when he spoke then and I felt it later when he spoke during my mission and told us the same stories. Then, years later, I find out the stories were made up. And unlike a lot or arguments about the authenticity of the Book of Mormon or the Book of Abraham, etc, Paul H. Dunn admitted that he lied. There’s no way to apologist your way out of that. Why would the spirit testify to me of something that isn’t true? The answer is that it’s just a feeling that people get all the time, about their religion, about an inspiring book or movie. Heck, I got it when I watched Stephen Colbert sing “Friday” on the Jimmy Fallon Show. When the Knicks City Dancers come out, I felt really moved, for no apparent reason. (so did my son, now an adult).
But I’m glad you used Paul H. Dunn because that stuff was verifiable as false and yet everyone felt the spirit when he told those stories.
I really appreciate you taking the time to write this. I am in the transitional phase of no longer being Mormon. I never liked going to church. It was always forced on me, but never asked questions because that was what I was supposed to be doing. We just had our 1st baby a year and a half ago. About the same time the doubts started surfacing. Having to add kids in all this makes it so much harder! My husband had started down this path after a Psychology class he took and it just flooded in from there. Everything he was saying made sense, but I tried to fight it since we live in a very prominent LDS community in Utah and both our families are very religious. Both our Dad’s are High Councilmen and his Dad was a Bishop. We also have our kid to think about. I listened the to RadioWest about NOM’s and thought that is about where I was at, but the more I read or the more podcasts I listen to, the more I’m pushed away. We have now made his parents aware of where we are and I told my parents, but I don’t think they get the depth. My Mom acted as if I had never said anything. I knew it would be hard, but the anticipation of the disappointment or letting people down is overwhelming at times. I do, however, get peace in the fact that I am becoming the person I have always wanted to be. I am more honest in my life and enjoy learning from people like you. Thank you for your insight!
Thank you. I have been a “Mormon feminist” with no home for my doubts since I was 7 years old. I have struggled with my place as a woman within the church my entire life. I have prayed for my own acceptance of church doctrine. I have pleaded with god to take away my doubts. I have allowed my doubts to be reason to blame myself for years of patriarchal abuse. I thought maybe I could believe if Kate Kelly and the Ordain women movement could change many of the horrible wrongs I have known to be false within the church since I was a young girl. I thought maybe if things could change, my doubts would subside and I could finally find a spot within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. With Kate Kelly’s excommunication I have been lost. I was certain giving women equal footing in this would give me the peace I have so desperately been searching for. But you, sir, have given me more than that. I felt the “spirit” more when reading this post than I have ever felt through my desperate prayers, pleading for confirmation. I have been reading everything I could find on Mormonism lately… Pro and Anti. I have so disliked the tone of so many “anti” articles I haven’t been able to comfortably agree with the hatred that spews from them, no matter the truth that resonates.
But this. In this I have found comfort. Thank you.
You are welcome, losing ones faith can be really difficult, but it is the precursor to finding oneself. The authentic you is about to blossom and I dare suspect it will be amazing! 🙂
Best article I have read! The points of historical and logical clarity that you found were exactly what happened to me. I am the happiest and truest to myself I’ve ever been now that I’ve left mormonism. The only thing I still struggle with is how to deal with the illogically thinking ingrained into my mormon friends and family. I know you can’t reason with an unreasonable person, but it’s so frustrating because they are rationale with other things, just not their religion. Any suggestions? Thanks!
I constantly remind myself when I feel like I am talking to a brick that I used to be that brick.
My only other advice is to remember that you can’t logically find your way out of a hole that you got into emotionally. That means it is as important that your friends and family understand not only the logic but also how it made you feel. You need to have a lot of patience and also realize that they may never see the clarity you do and simply move on and let it go if you can.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!
Today, March 27, 2014 is the day of the collapse of my shelf. And all I can wonder now is what’s up with Jesus and the Bible? Any hints?
Imagine the story of Joe Smith 2000 years later and not a lot of documentation to prove it now one way or the other…. what is the most likely conclusion?
Thank you for replying. I really don’t know why this is all so difficult. It’s like we’re all in mental prison. 🙁
Yes it is, the very way you formulate thoughts has been ingrained into you and waking up to that is not fun. Here is a good article to share http://lifehacker.com/how-to-train-your-mind-to-think-critically-and-form-you-1516998286
If I can help in anyway, feel free to email me email@example.com I will do what I can. I also can point you to several online communities of people that are going through much the same thing and can hopefully help you out.
I would love to hear the rest of the story….did your son come home and after talking with you feel better? Was he angry you hadn’t said anything before he left? We are in the same closeted boat and have a son about to leave on a mission. I am subtly trying to talk him out of it but there is so much social pressure that he feels he must go even though he hates the idea. I dont’ know if I’m brave enough just to say, “Look, it’s all made up. But I just figured that out this year and now your whole world is the church and I didn’t know what to do.” Anything you can share about how your older kids took the news would be really great.
My suggestion, talk it out now, far easier to deal with now than later. Get Brave enough if you can.
Overall our older kids thought about things for a while on their own, we told them what we really thought and told them we wouldn’t expect them to do anything but figure things out for themselves. But if you aren’t willing to speak up, you are by definition willingly complicit in the deception. I wish you the best of luck in all this it can be a very rough road to go down. Email me anytime you need to talk!
He did come home, and he thought we would be disappointed in him. Know this, the mission fields first goal is to indoctrinate the missionaries into the system and it is done with tenacious inculcation. RMs are worth a lot of money to church coffers http://mormondisclosures.blogspot.com/2014/02/mid-level-corporate-theocrat-spills.html
We told him we were proud of the strength of character it took. He wasn’t angry but for a long while he struggled with this own beliefs but now has found solid mental footing and is about creating a future for himself and his family one day.
Thank you so dearly for this post. My husband, myself, and 6 children resigned from the church 11 days ago. SO MUCH of what you wrote resignated with me. The similarities are uncanny. I, too, put questions and concerns on my shelf for 19 1/2 years, only to finally have my shelf come crashing down around me on the night of January 10th when I researched the Book of Abraham. That was my final straw. I held on for YEARS while filled with depression and confusion. “The church may not be true, but it’s good” was my lifeline for the past 6 1/2 years as I continued taking my children to church each Sunday, even though I couldn’t bring myself to attend Sunday School myself, and rarely attended Relief Society. It actually became my practice and habit to sit in the back row of relief society and “see” how many minutes into the lesson I could stand before leaving to go sit in the foyer and read. I had concluded there was something wrong with me, as I did not have the testimony I knew I should’ve had.
Posts like yours are helping me in this very difficult transition. I, too, have broken my parents’ hearts. My world is 99.9% LDS. I live in Utah. But through posts like these, I can know that my husband and I are not alone.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
There are several groups in Utah that have dealt with this issue that meet regularly. If you like I can put you in touch with the one closest to you.
Thank you for sharing!! I came to the same conclusions, if by a different path, but you have said it all so much more clearly and eloquently. I’m definitely sharing this! <3
I loved reading this, and seeing this journey through your thoughtful eyes. I relate to so many of your feelings, to your shelf breaking. I called my experience critical mass. I can related to the eventual strengthening of your marriage. I relate to the pain and the fear. I appreciate the respectful tone of the temple ordinances, particularly since I know how much confusion many of them caused. It all speaks of your sincerity and good heart.
Thank you for your comments!
The feelings you describe at the various stages of the temple ceremony really brought back the confusion and anxiety I felt my first time through. Ugly stuff. What’s uglier is how I feel about my parents sending me through without any explanation of what would be required of me and no explanation of what it was supposed to mean. All I got from my dad was a “the temple is the Lord’s real university” on the car ride over. I’d love to have a real conversation with them one day.
It is likely the hardest thing you will have to do, there is so much culture in the church that gives right for those still inside to judge the apostate as a sinner or somehow wrong for honest inquiry.
Good luck to you when you find that courage!
Thank you so much for telling your story! I have had a very similar story and can identify with putting things on the shelf until it collapses under the weight. I too had worried about how my family might react to my disbelief but they have been very patient with me. I think that I might share this with some of them because of how eloquently you have told your story.
Good luck! I hope people can come to realize it is an effort to honestly seek out truth that causes most members to leave.
Due to human psychology it is very difficult to apply the same critical thinking we typically do in other parts of our lives to the belief we have held for so long.
The simplest way to say it is an old adage my dad often repeats… if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.
I’m sorry but I just don’t have a shelf. As an attorney, I’ve come to understand that “truth”, when it comes to history, is just almost impossible to ascertain. As a child I was obsessed with history, only to see the story of history change a thousand times. In fact, the absurdity of putting your trust in history and basing your eternal salvation on it is only compounded the more distant the event and the more personal the claim.
If I’m “oblivious” or “ignorant” because I choose to not to put my faith in some person’s belief in history, then so be it. You must realize that it is not evidence that you are taking about; they’re arguments. While some arguments are very persuasive about the authenticity of the Book of Mormon or God, they are just arguments.
History is not a science. It never has been considered a science because history can not apply the scientific process to determine truth.
Most historians do not believe the Book of Mormon to be true. The reason is not because of actual evidence to the contrary; but based on a believe that God does not appear to man and Angels don’t deliver golden plate.
The Book of Mormon has a better way to attack its truthfulness. If critics were to come up with more persuasive arguments against its text, then they would be standing on more solid ground. But, critics refuse to address the ARGUMENTS of Hebraisms, Stylometry, Chiasmus, Hebrew Egyptian and Greek names, literary complexities, and ancient Semitic words. The method of translation as documented by Royal Skousen. The fact that 11 people other than Joseph Smith saw the Gold Plates and never denied their testimony.
If you truly were seeking “truth”, then your shelf should be full of these arguments. How could an unschooled boy create a document that much more intelligent men than you and I could gain a testimony of its truthfulness. You’re an author and struggle to find a few hundred to read your works. Joseph Smith not only has had more people read his work than any other author but he has had more authors write about his work than any other author.
Isn’t it fascinating that your reading my words right now thinking of how your going to argue back about something you don’t even believe is true. Right now, this Book that you believe is a myth has consumed you so much that you would create a blog to prove that it is not true. This book has done more to affect your life and existence than any other book and you believe it was made up by some liar almost 200 years ago. I propose something for you to considered.
Maybe the reason you can’t leave this book alone is because deep down when you sat in someone’s hut on your mission the Spirit did testify to you of its truthfulness and your spirit is trying to scream at your brain to step aside and allow God back in. God does live. I know he does. The book of Mormon is true because it changed my life. Someday you’ll know it again.
Interesting comment you start by saying you don’t trust history, but in fact if it weren’t for the history of the church you have been taught how would you have ever come to the conclusion that JS was a prophet?
Do people rewrite history to suit their purposes as you suggest? sure they do. that is why true historians look for corroboration of evidence. They don’t just pick and choose the ones that support their point.
As for all the evidence that you are claiming shows the BoM to be true I checked all the things out you have listed personally, they don’t hold water as arguments for its authenticity, the critics as you call them have gone through all those issues and in about 20 minutes of google searching you can find them. They simply don’t hold up to examination, not if you are honestly searching for truth. Once you realize that you were wrong it becomes so obvious that you wonder how you were ever fooled for so long.
Then you say I am an author and get so few people to read my blog as that is somehow prove you are right. Here is a bit of a hint, I am an author and this blog is a spare time venture. The book I have published, well it outsells the book of mormon on amazon, plus many other books by apostles and prophets. Using your logic I must actually be more right than those guys! The church of the fridge has a few hundred followers after only a few weeks of being online! Those are some impressive growth rates, way higher that the growth rates of the LDS church. If I were to follow your logic this must be a more true religion right?
As for why I create the blog? It is a common reasoning taught to members that the apostates can’t just leave well enough alone and somehow that means it is true. As a lawyer I hope you understand the fallacy of that argument. In case you would like to hear my reason for doing what I do and not your own presumption here is my answer to that.
In closing, you are right this book affected my life, I am 5th generation mormon, and for me to publicly declare my disbelief, in short it was scary and hard to do. The easier path would have been to pretend to believe, if I had taken that path I wouldn’t have had to deal with some pretty rough consequences to me and my family. So yes this book affected my life as it has of 15 million other people. If that is all that it takes to prove it is true the consider why isn’t the Koran a true book and Muhammad the real prophet? After all he has a couple billion followers.
Yep this book affected my life, either it is true or its a con. If its a con then it has been the cause by which billions of dollars have been stolen from unsuspecting individuals. I helped convert over 100 people while on my mission, something that I now regret. The reason I regret it was because I didn’t give due diligence to the efforts of checking the veracity of the church, I trusted what the leaders told me without checking things out myself. I feel bad for doing that and misleading people, maybe this little blog will help correct that error.
The last observation I would like to make, you assert you have no shelf. I honestly think you wouldn’t be here commenting on my blog if that were true. Holding up the shelf requires constant reaffirmation. The more things you store on it the harder it is to keep up and you feel a need to seek out people that disagree so you can bear your testimony that your are right and get that affirmation needed to hold up the shelf a little longer.
BTW, the book of mormon changed my life too, so did stranger in a strange land and 7 habits of highly effective people. Should they be scripture as well?
to support my point on the ‘there are no critics dealing with the 11 witnesses’ comment, here is a link that I dug up in about 10 seconds
10 more seconds and I found this on chiasums
20 seconds, here is well documented reason for the stylometric changes in the book of mormon, and no they don’t support its authenticity.
40 seconds of searching on could JS have written it
I suggest you look for the critiques you claim don’t exist before asserting that fact, after all isn’t that what a good lawyer does? research the case?
Compare mormonthink to FAIR and FARMs for yourself on all the issues, draw your own conclusions to the facts. If you start with mormonthink you will get links right to the fair articles that the apologists make for the church, if you start with FAIR though you will soon find that it is against their policy to link to the opposing argument. They would rather argue a court case without giving the opposition a chance to speak. Seems fair right?
Lawyers have a bad reputation when it comes to honesty. But it’s false. Lawyers (at least in their professional life) are extremely honest. Why? Because there are severe repercussions for not being honest. Getting business as a lawyer typically involves networking, and a lawyer with a dishonest reputation will find work hard to come by. Additionally dishonesty can result in sanctions up to and including disbarment.
All that said I have found in my 20 plus years in the legal profession a subset of lawyers I’ve learned not to trust. Mormon lawyers. Maybe 1-2 percent of the lawyers I know well enough to know whether they are honest or not are dishonest or not are dishonest. But with mormon lawyers it’s like a 50 percent chance.
Exmormon lawyers, I have not found a single one that was dishonest, but my sample size there is less than ten.
My point? To get through law school and pass the bar you need a certain set of analytical thinking skills that you either possess or learn in law school. If you apply those skills to mormonism you will realize it is a fraud. IF YOU ARE HONEST.
Thus, we find so many dishonest mormon lawyers, most of the honest ones become exmormons.
It’s interesting that you say:
1) Evidence of Greek names in the BoM when J Smith said:
“The error I speak of is the definition of the word “Mormon.” It has been stated that this word was derived from the Greek word mormo. This is not the case. There was NO GREEK or Latin upon the plates from which I, through the grace of the Lord, translated the Book of Mormon. Let the language of the book speak for itself. …” (Times and Seasons, Vol.4, No.13, May 15, 1843, p.194)
2) Chiasmus – James Strang’s Voree Plates (unearthed metal plates which he translated into scripture) also had chiasmi in them.
3) The Shakers had a large number of witnesses who claimed they saw angels and the Roll and Book. There are over a hundred pages of testimony from “Living Witnesses.”
The late war is loaded with chiasmus too, go figure
“Hebraisms, Stylometry, Chiasmus, Hebrew Egyptian and Greek names, literary complexities, and ancient Semitic words.”
Of course, Joseph copied almost verbatim over a dozen chapters straight out of Isaiah of the KJV, (1611 is a long time after Moroni buried the plates), and other verses from the Bible.
And then there are all the anachronisms. http://snowfar4.wix.com/mormonconfusion#!book-of-mormon/c22sl
I wish you the best on your journey in life. However, I’ll stay in the kiddie pool. My journeys in the deep end only brought be sorrow. Maybe you’re deep end is a lot better than mine.
I had a totally different experience. I grew up with an atheist mother and a Mormon father. I grew up on a hefty dose of arguments against the Church and studied it all.
I know there are compelling arguments against the Church and Joseph Smith. However, I can say that I believe the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that I believe the Church contains the gospel of Jesus Christ. I absolutely KNOW that God lives and that he loves all his children. Even those who choose a different path than Mormonism.
For some Mormonism is not happiness, for me it really brings me happiness, peace, and helps me excel my life.
I liked the maps. That was the first time I saw those.
I served a mission in Guatemala and after being there I really wanted all the ruins and stuff to match the BoM geography so I studied it really extensively. Vern Holley’s maps fit the geography like a glove. At first I loved these maps for that purpose. For a while I was really excited until I started investigating the evidence or lack there of for the historicity of the book.
Having your shelf collapse is a rough thing. I can understand the desire to remain oblivious and stay in the kiddie pool. Ignorance is bliss for a lot of people. I harbor no ill will to those that want to believe in spite of the evidence. I still have many friends and pretty much all of my family in that category. For me though I need to face those hard questions. To me it’s about being truly honest with myself, even if that honesty is initially heart breaking. Best of luck in your confidence of being absolutely right, it can be a very comforting place to be. If it works for you that is great. From my perspective now I think all myths/religions have a value in that they can help a person strive to excel. Personally I think even a fake religion can do it. Thus the reason this site was born. Thanks for your comments
Ironically the recent refrain is to Doubt your Doubts before you doubt your faith. In other words you are counseled to force your belief. Members even take what Elder Uchtdorf said a step further. I hear this quoted as ‘doubt your doubts not your faith’ and the complete closes the door on any personal thought on the topic.
I haven’t yet met a person that left the church because of the history that didn’t repeatedly doubt their doubts. Some like me did it for years, others months, but with every person I have met I haven’t once see a person go, polyandry? bank fraud? well I’m outta here! It was more like you said, that can’t be real information, there must be and explanation and then a long search for an answer. Thing is there are no good answers when you doubt your doubts, in that case the church comes up short.
When my husband came to me with doubts over 4 years ago, it was a scary thing. He gave me a FAIR article to read about JS polyandry. I swallowed it and thought, “well, we believe some weird stuff already, so I guess I can deal with this. After all, THEY say they were non-sexual unions (polyandry), only for salvation.” Then he had me read a different article proving that they were sexual unions. It was so easy to see who was telling the truth. So my first experience with FAIR and FARMS were that basically they were lying for their cause. Great job! ha ha.
Congrats on doing the right thing. Hope your family is doing well. Ours is. 🙂
[…] In life journeys, Jen described how her approach to planning has changed, and Dad’s Primal Scream explained how he found truth. Plus I found a cool blog I wasn’t aware of (through his wife’s blog), which includes a fascinating deconversion story: […]
Thank you for your “un-testimony”. It was very well thought out and very well written.
It helps to know that others, like me, tried to force belief. This caused me to ignore what, in retrospect, seems painfully obvious. At some point I will have to stop beating myself up for being “willfully ignorant”.
Wow. Thank you for being brave & thank you for sharing your story.
Interesting story. I’m sure it’s been a tough journey and while I’m sorry for the pain I’m sure you have endured, I’m aware that much growth comes through suffering. I’m sad that you’re agnostic now but truth be told, I’m not much bothered by simply saying, “I don’t know”. I’ve also been on a journey of faith that has taken me to many places far from the church, though I enjoy church fellowship at this point in my life as more or less a believer. I’d also like to say that for many people, even if the church is “true”, whatever that means, an eventual awakening has to take place. The awakening is simply another way of saying that we take responsibility for finding our own truth, by looking for it everywhere, not just in one place. Ideally, we find God at (though not necessarily “as”) the ultimate source of that truth, but that requires a shedding of incorrect ideas about who God is and what it means to be God. Not everyone is able to sincerely search for truth, and then embrace it once they find it… but it’s not a religion, rather, it’s a way of life. It can exist within anyone’s heart no matter if religious or agnostic. The only requirement is that they seek and accept truth. I wish you well OP, it sounds like your road is just getting interesting!
I could just copy & paste what ashley wrote! (I live in the Mormon Corridor, outside of Utah, is the only difference.)
Thanks Fridge Master for this and your many other well written posts.
Fantastic story. I hope it is widely read and shared.
You said everything that has been in my heart for months. I too started with apologists and tried to make sense of it all. My husband and I have been out since march and we have never been closer. I do worry for my kids choosing Mormonism just because it’s the socially acceptable thing to do (we live in Utah) but then I realize that reason is on my side and I’m teaching them to love learning and asking questions…something I was taught to not do. And really it’s been such a relief to not have to constantly worry that my kids won’t live life as I wanted them to. They can be whoever they want and it truly won’t hurt my heart. That is so liberating.
Thank you so much for sharing your story in a non aggressive way. Sometimes it’s hard to not shout it from the rooftops similar to how I had that feeling in the church but some people just are not ready to hear. You and only you can make that decision. No one can force you.
Saving this blog on my favorites for when I decide to “come out” on the cyber world.
There are lots of good things in the church things to strive for, help your fellow man, be nice, enjoy service and so on. But it can be the greatest club in the world and still not have a true foundation. That part makes you sad. It tore my heart out the first time I realized it was just as made up as every other religion in the world. I had so much counting on it. Eventually you come to grips with the facts and as you say you simply love learning and truth and reason also there is no need to leave behind the spiritual. good morals are good morals regardless of the story begin true. In fact the only time things really get nasty in religion in general are when the belief yours is the one true one comes in conflict with another person thinking theirs is the only true one.
My whole point of this blog is to take the best and leave the rest of what religion/mythology has to offer. The humorus bent is to remind you to not take is so seriously that you ever think it could be the only true religion on the planet. All the things that are used to prove the truth of any religion works just as well for the fridge. Plus you get more ice 🙂 and remember ice is just part of the one and only commandment of the fridge “be nICE”
Very interesting read…….. I myself, after having been an ardent apologist for 20 years have realized that all is just not well in Zion, nor in my approach to defending faith. So, suppress the doubts all you want to, they surface, and if you don’t face them and work through them, you go insane, not the brightest nor best way to go. Though I suspect Terryl Givens is a very clever rhetoritician for the church, I whole heartedly agree with one thing he has said, “Embrace your doubts.” Granted his context is, of course, then put them back onto the shelf and get back into the car of faith and whiz through life blindly. I can’t do that. My doubts are leading me to learning things I never before imagined even existed! It’s a fascinating journey…… At this point, I have finally gotten enough courage to be truthful…..FINALLY…..I just honestly really don’t know. I am an agnostic on so many things…..I’m learning a lot though, and if God thinks it is as important for me to know the truth as his theological hirelings think, then I have no doubt eventually when he gets around to it, he might actually tell me so. Until then, I live here, now, and learn as much as possible, love everyone I can, and enjoy life.
It’s the Backyard Professor!!, Love the ‘come reason with me’ video blogs you have been posting. I have followed you on both sides of the debate. I’m glad you stopped by to comment!.
Thanks for this great story. It is amazing how so many of us go through similar things.
Well-written. Thanks for sharing what is a very personal journey — that based on my own experiences — ended up in the right place.
I just wanted you to know how touching your story was. I’m in the same place as you. It’s nice to hear more stories about loss of faith from research, since the general consensus in the church is we left for more sinister reasons. Thank you for your story. I tried to tell mine a while back, and was hit pretty hard. I just wanted someone to listen to me, and at that point, tell me I was wrong. I desperately wanted the church to be true. I was supported by people who I never would have expected support from, and had many who I really cared about turn my back on me. I’ve found my place now. Thanks again for sharing.
As a person in similar ground, this was heartening to read.