Posted by: Jay | May 14, 2009

Being open-minded

Great video about what being open-minded means.  It really makes you think about the conversations we have with people.  I think we are all guilty of being close-minded on occasion, it takes some self examination to recognize when we are.

Posted by: Jay | February 24, 2009

It’s been awhile

After a rather long break I’m back.  For my own sanity I had to let Mormons talk go for a few months.  I’m interested in having more open conversations about tough topics.  It helps me to sort things out in my own mind and hopefully does the same for those that visit.

Sunday at the academy awards “MILK” won best original screenplay.  The screenwriter is openly gay and grew up Mormon.  He thanks his Mom for loving him even when it wasn’t popular and mentions how hard it was growing up in the LDS Church.  His speech is very moving, please take the time to watch it if you haven’t already.

 

So sad they took it down, hopefully you got to see it before it was lost.

Posted by: Jay | October 31, 2008

It feels good always being right

Christain and Muslim arguing

In some strange way we, as humans, crave being right. Knowing there is someone under us that needs our help, to whom we can impart our knowledge fills us with an enthusiasm that rivals little else. I have read numerous blogs of those belonging to various faiths and am amazed with the alacrity these authors possess for asserting their top position on the hill of religion. We in the Mormon faith are famous for this with our omniscient “I know” pronouncements, but we are far from the only ones engaged in this game.

Several years ago I was having lunch with liberal friend of mine. At the time I was as conservative as you find most LDS members to be. He made a comment that struck me as odd. He said that he didn’t like the religious right because they were so arrogant. They thought they were always right even when they were so obviously wrong (evolution being one example). In my mind I was thinking that conservatives feel the same way about liberals. Liberals are always so arrogant as to assume they alone think for themselves. That to them adhering to ancient doctrines seemed foolish rather than prudent. They are quick to disregard 1000’s of years of wisdom and assume they in their short lifetime are better positioned to compose a moral guide for humanity. In short, I couldn’t believe I was being accused of the very fault I saw in others far more liberal than I. Could it be true that conservatives can be just as arrogant as liberals? Of course the answer is yes!

This affliction does not come about by being liberal or conservative. It is the result of a fixed mind. Why consider other points of view if the answer is already before us? There is no need to consider the evidence of evolution when our spiritual leaders have pronounced that the idea of evolution springs from the master of lies. Likewise there is little incentive to explore the benefits of spirituality and adhering to a time tested code of conduct if one “knows” God does not exist.

It seems that many people lose the ability to converse and learn from one another because they begin to view their adversary as misguided with little important to say. Thus civil discourse becomes impossible because respect for one another is abandoned. It should not be so hard to discuss differences without being able to acknowledge when your rival has made a good argument. Not only does it show we are open-minded to accept new things from someone we may disagree with, but also it helps us to grow, understand and expand our circle of friends.

Unfortunately, this type of conversation does not come naturally to most people. We have to learn how to tolerate what superficially may seem offensive, as well as how to be humble when we are wrong. Too often I see people standing up for what they think is right just for the sake of defending it. When they have been proven to be wrong they continue insisting they are right. How much further our conversations would go if instead of defending the indefensible we simply admit our fault or at the very least admit that we don’t know the answer. This doesn’t hurt anything but possibly our ego. The side benefit is that it signals to your friend that you are, underneath your religious or liberal exterior, a reasonable person. Only once trust is gained can frank and candid conversations arise. If we are always afraid that at any sign of weakness we will be pounced on we will never open up and be honest with ourselves and others about reality.  Sadly, most of the dialog I’ve read on blogs is caustic, not really advancing the cause of the author, other than to those that hold similar views. To be truly persuasive you must converse with temperance and respect. For what good is being right if your unable to convince anyone of it?

Posted by: Jay | September 26, 2008

Misconceptions of what a prophet is

I’ve been told by several people and apologists that members of the LDS Church should not consider every word a prophet says as being from God. They insist that prophets are not perfect and will speak their opinion on occasion. I could not agree more. However, members do get the perception that a prophet always speaks for God when listening to leaders of the Mormon faith. I was reminded of why so many LDS members think the prophet is as close to perfection as a mortal can be when I read the following post (you can comment on the authors blog here.) I’ve added the bold to show emphasis.

I came across a beautiful talk last night written by President Ezra T. Benson. Its title is “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” and it was delivered in February of 1980 at BYU. I would highly recommend reading the full talk. It is not very long, and is concise and easy to read. Here’s a teaser to what he spoke about:

  1. The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.
  2. The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.
  3. The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.
  4. The prophet will never lead the church astray.
  5. The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.
  6. The prophet does not have to say “Thus Saith the Lord,” to give us scripture.
  7. The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.
  8. The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.
  9. The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.
  10. The prophet may advise on civic matters.
  11. The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.
  12. The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.
  13. The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency – the highest quorum in the church.
  14. The prophet and the presidency – the living prophet and the First Presidency – follow them and be blessed – reject them and suffer.

After reading that I would be very hesitant to ever disagree with anything the prophet has said. The problem is that the prophet is not perfect and does say things that are false on occasion because he is influenced by his own biases. It would be wise for every member of the LDS faith to decide for themselves if what has been said is from God, just good advise or not true. I don’t think the talk cited in the above post is an isolated one. It would not be hard to find several talks that would support what President Benson said. It is dangerous for members to have such a high standard for what a prophet is because when faced with the history of the LDS faith that view becomes severely challenged. This causes many to not only leave the Church, but also to engage in what most consider as anti-Mormon tactics to expose what they believe is untruth.

Posted by: Jay | September 9, 2008

Flagging Faith

I came across an article in the Church News last week that got my attention. Perhaps it is because it seemed so relevant to my situation. The title was “Helping those with flagging testimonies”. With more LDS members affected by anti-Mormon and secular views about LDS beliefs it is a worthwhile discussion. The article was a synopsis of several talks given at a recent FAIR conference (The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research) on the subject of disbelieving members.

The first talk in the article was by Mike Ash. The name immediately jumped out at me because I had received an email from a Mike Ash several months ago telling me of a book he was about to publish. He sent me a pdf copy of the book to read because he thought it might help (I haven’t read it yet). A short time later I began hearing of the book from various sources on the Internet. Needless to say, I was interested to hear his view on this subject. I was encouraged by a statement he made saying, “The Church umbrella, thankfully, is large enough to include those who struggle with sporadic or even chronic doubt”. With views like this being openly expressed, maybe there is room for serious doubt among LDS membership after all.

Then I kept reading. Though I agreed that there has to be room for unbelief and doubt in the Church, Mike Ash goes on to state the following:

“It seems that those who are prone to fundamentalist, dogmatic or closed-minded perspectives about the gospel or early LDS history are more likely to suffer from shaken-faith syndrome [disbelief] when they encounter challenging issues.”

Again I agreed, however, I was a little surprised at this statement because as a lifelong members I am well aware that the image the Church projects is “dogmatic” about doctrine and LDS history, so it comes as no surprise that most members would be prone to hold to the same dogmatic and closed-minded view. How then are members supposed to have a more enlightened view of the Church if all that is presented are faith-promoting stories about our history? If we are never or rarely taught about the troubling aspects of the historical record how would most members know they exist?

The Internet has made the more seedy side of church history accessible to lay members of the LDS faith. I’ve heard it said by apologists that all the Church has to do to hide something from its members is put it in a book. My question is, why would members bother reading “extracurricular material” when they trust that the Church would be providing them with accurate and complete information? I never dreamed that after taking nearly every institute class offered by the Church that I would not be aware of issues like Joseph’s polyandry, The Book of Abraham and Book of Mormon issues, the different versions of the first vision, ugly statements made by early leaders of the Church about blacks, and other less faith building facts. Considering I received well above passing grades in all my religion coursework (Averaged B+) and attended faithfully, I do not believe I somehow missed it.

In my opinion if the Church really wanted people to be informed of these issues they would be talked about openly and honestly, when appropriate, in weekly meetings at church. Until that happens the vast majority of members will be ignorant of the issues facing the Church. When a faithful member does discover the full history he/she wonders why the Church was not willing to trust them with the information. They also wonder why the Church doesn’t have at least some official explanation for the disconcerting points in our history. It is the lack of discussion among members that worries the questioner, not necessarily the fact that the problems exist.

Another sticking point I had with Mike Ash’s talk was when he says, “Unfortunately, we occasionally confuse peripheral teachings in the Church with rumors, traditions or personal opinions and think that they’re LDS doctrines, but they’re not. Sometimes we’re unaware of how to think outside the box of conventional LDS interpretations, even if those interpretations are based on tradition rather than revelation.”

Although I agree that many members take things as doctrine when they are not, I don’t blame them at all for doing it. Not when I still hear references over the pulpit at General Conference to an earth that is only a few thousand years old. Not when we have leaders that continue to insist that members DO NOT drink caffeinated soft drinks period. As members we trust our leaders to give us accurate information. When speaking as a leader of the one true Church we expect that when we are spoken to it is revelation from God that we are hearing. Surely, personal opinion should be eliminated from talks that carry such weight in the lives of the membership. If a leader does offer his opinion, which he is entitled to, he should state that is what he is doing so that everyone understands. Without stating this many lay members will be mislead into thinking statements are from God and not merely the opinion of a man.

Some may counter saying that the Spirit will allow members to know when a leader speaks for God. Regrettably, most members trust the Church so implicitly that spiritual confirmation in most matters is considered unnecessary. Not to mention the fact that confirmation on every point in just one talk alone would take an inordinate amount of time and lead to a paranoid state of mind. The hearer would have to question everything that is said to be sure it was of God. Leaders’ opinions mixed with truth complicates the message to such an extent that one is left wondering what to take as God’s word and what is the person’s own thoughts. Feeling the Spirit during a talk may signal to many members that the entire talk is true even if that may not be accurate. Later members mistakenly point to the words of their leaders to prove that something is doctrine. Sadly, because we are taught to never “speak ill” of our leaders there is little room to discuss what we believe to be opinion without crossing an unspoken line of forbidden criticism. Only when what was once said becomes socially unacceptable (e.g. Brigham Young’s comments on blacks) are we able to conclude it must have been their opinion. Even then members must tread lightly and some invent plausible excuses to justify the teachings and preserve the image of their prophet.

To count the comments as opinion also has the problem of explaining why the general membership accepted the teachings as doctrine at the time. Perhaps the prejudice of the people at the time was enough to allow them to unquestionably accept Brigham Young’s statements. They were simply blinded by their own bigotry. Alternatively, they may have reached the point of such obedience and trust that they took anything the prophet said as God’s word. Either way it leaves a query for us today. What current teachings are we accepting today because of our bigotry? Are we following blindly  the words of the prophet without seeking God’s will? In 100 years will future members say were bigoted and unthinking to have followed the Church in some matters? We must be willing to ask ourselves these questions if we have learned at all from the past.

The article moved next to an encouraging statement made by Brian Hauglid’s at the FAIR conference. He said, “We would do well to shy away from dogmatism and accusatory innuendo as this can engender misunderstanding and smacks of snobbery. Sometimes, we may even need to acknowledge with candor the reality of true facts critics bring up and also good arguments they might put forth”.

Amen to that! How can LDS members be taken seriously if they dismiss facts outright as anti-Mormon trickery? On the flip side, critics of the LDS Church should allow members the time to investigate for themselves, from multiple sources, the facts of controversial issues. It is unfair for critics to dump controversy on a member, much of which they may have heard for the first time and not allow them time to think, study, and form their own opinion without their influence.

The truth is there is good in the Mormon Church just as there is in all churches. Like many Christian traditions, the LDS faith is not perfect. As much as we wish it didn’t, it does have skeletons, flaws and error. I believe slowly we are improving. The Church is trying to be more open. Though critics and questioners may not think it is fast enough or correctly done, it is happening. In the past 5 years we have seen an article on the many versions of the first vision in the Church News, the Mountain Meadows Massacre addressed in the Ensign and the most comprehensive history of Joseph Smith by an active member to date. The author of the latter mentioned is currently involved a project funded by the Church to compile all of Joseph Smith’s writings, a seeming acknowledgement of the truthfulness in his book. Hopefully, we will continue to see the Church make more strides toward frankness and openly share the bad with the good. When members no longer expect near perfection from the Church or its leaders they will be more willing to absorb the humanity of leaders past and present. Hopefully, the dogmatism of the past can be laid aside and a spirit of welcoming and candidness can take its place within the LDS culture.

Posted by: Jay | August 20, 2008

Baptizing My Son: part 2

Well, I wish he could have waited until he was much older to be baptized, but the ordinance was nice and I understand the pressure our LDS culture puts on families to baptized eight year olds. The day came and went without many problems. I was pleasantly surprised that my conversation with the Bishop over a year ago seems to have had no affect on my ability to perform priesthood ordinances. It did feel a little strange exercising the priesthood when I’m only half sure I even have such power. According to the LDS Church I do, so I’ll take their word for it:). I do have to admit it was a good feeling to baptize my first son. We even invited some of our good non-member friends for the occasion (we went to their son’s first communion in the Catholic Church).

The morning of the baptism a member of the bishopric asked me if it was OK to announce the baptism of my daughter about 2 mins. before sacrament started (Yes he said daughter – Oh well). I was secretly hoping they would not announce it, but it came so close to the start of the meeting I didn’t have time to ask my wife what she wanted so to avoid an awkward moment I just gave the needed permission. I was hoping that we would not attract the perpetual baptism attenders or the missionaries. I really just wanted it to be friends and family and no one else. I was happy to see that it worked out fine. Those that knew us well came to witness the baptism. Sadly, we were missing some friends of ours that were delayed by a family emergency and couldn’t make it:(, but that really was the only major kink in our plans. My father did the confirmation for which I was glad. For some reason I felt fine doing the baptism but the thought of doing the confirmation bothered me. I was happy that my Dad accepted the invitation to perform it. I think my adversion has to do with the pressure of telling my son he would serve a mission or marry in the temple when it is hard for me to believe fully in the Church right now. Overall, I’m glad everything turned out as well as it did. My next son will be eight in 2 years. He’s informed me that he will be baptized when he is ten. We’ll see if he still feels the same way when the time comes.

Posted by: Jay | August 1, 2008

Expectations of Faith

Each of us has a certain level of faith that we are willing to exercise when it comes to religion. Some have a low threshold of faith (e.g. Atheist), while others have boundless faith (e.g. “True believers”). Nevertheless, everyone has a point at which their faith is tested. When our faith threshold is exceeded, many find relief in completely abandoning their old way of thinking. Some choose to shelve (a.k.a. ignore) those things that cause their faith threshold to be exceeded and yet others try to fit the pieces of their former faith together forming an amalgamation of personal beliefs which allow their expectation of faith to fall within acceptable boundaries once again. In my conversation with others from different faiths this seems to be a universal concept. Martin Luther’s expectation of faith was exceeded when he was asked to accept what he saw as corruption in the Catholic Church. Episcipalians expectation of faith is being tested by the acceptance of homosexuality in their Church. There seems to be some boundaries that when crossed are too much for the lay person to accept.

The LDS Church, by highlighting only faith promoting history, unintentionally lowers the faith threshold of its members. Presenting only the positive side has the negative effect of convincing members that their church has few flaws and is above the frailties of other Christian denominations. It is inconceivable to most LDS members that a prophet could be wrong on spiritual matters. His pronouncements whether in General Conference or on national television are considered scripture by the most faithful of saints. This misunderstanding of what a prophet is can become spiritually dangerous when a clearer view of LDS history is made available. It is compounded by the fact that the LDS Church places little emphasis on contextualizing its own history, allowing critics to paint past missteps in the worst possible light. With few resources available to the lay member from Church friendly sources, their faith in the LDS gospel is tried. Only those with the ability to reconcile seeming contradictions, bringing their expectation of faith back to previous levels, can make it through and still hope to retain their former testimony. For many the experience alters their testimony and understanding of the LDS Church to align better with the new knowledge they have received.

Once our faith threshold has been breeched it will lead to inevitable loss in confidence of our spiritual leaders and our own ability to discern truth, unless our expectations of faith are increased somehow. If we can accept faults in our spiritual leaders and their teachings and take more personal responsibility for our beliefs, we can continue in faith. The alternative is to continue to hold all men to the standard of Christ and watch as each falls by the wayside unable to measure up.

Prophets are people, they have no claim to immunity from the prejudices, understandings and influences of their generation. To think that they could escape unaffected by the world is more than should be hoped for by members of the Church. Our own history shows this to be the case. Good men do bad things, make wrong decisions and because of their standing before God those choices made by one individual at times affect negatively thousands, even millions of people.  The question for informed LDS members is, can we overlook the faults of our past prophets or were their faults so unlike our Savior that we loose faith in them?

What is your expectation of faith? How far are you willing to go to believe in things for which there is no physical evidence? What if there is physical evidence which contradicts your belief?

What I believe:

  1. God, Christ and the Holy Spirit are three distinct beings but one God in purpose.
  2. Priesthood is necessary to perform ordinances like baptism.
  3. The priesthood is not necessary to heal the sick. The most important thing is faith.
  4. The Bible is not perfect but is the inspired writings of prophets and disciples of Christ.
  5. The Mormon Church is not perfect and in some areas has been and may continue to be mislead by the prejudices of its leaders, but on the whole continues to move in a positive direction.
  6. The Holy Ghost can lead us to truth through prayer and study.
  7. Polygamy is not a sin if sanctioned by God.
  8. The Christ of the New Testament is my Savior from sin and death.
  9. The Word of Wisdom is good advice but drinking beer, coffee or smoking is a personal choice and God isn’t really that preoccupied with it, if done in moderation.
  10. Abortion, if not murder, is close to it but is justified in very rare circumstances after careful thought and prayer.
  11. The Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine and Covenants (Mormon scriptures) contain many inspired words that can help people better themselves.
  12. The LDS Church is lead by men that sincerely seek guidance from God.
  13. As LDS members we should be knowledgeable and truthful about all parts of our history.
  14. God used evolution to create us.

What I don’t believe:

  1. Joseph Smith literally translated the Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price.
  2. Native Americans are Lamanites.
  3. The LDS priesthood ban was instituted by God.
  4. Blacks were ever or are inferior or more unworthy than other LDS members.
  5. Brigham Young ordered the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
  6. The Bible is perfect and should be read literally.
  7. The Ensign and talks of general authorities, even the prophet, are scripture.
  8. Drinking Coke is a sin.
  9. Tattoos and two sets of earrings (for guys or girls) will keep you out of heaven.
  10. Polygamy is required to enter the Celestial kingdom (a.k.a. Heaven).
  11. Christ’s atonement isn’t enough for some sins.
  12. The earth is 5,000 years old.
  13. The Holy Spirit can only be felt in Mormon meetings and other Christian denominations can’t have the Spirit of God present.
  14. That Mormons have any more access to the Holy Spirit than other Christians.

What I’m unsure of:

  1. The Book of Mormon is an actual historical account of Native Americans.
  2. A prophet can have major character flaws.
  3. The Pearl of Great Price contains the actual writings of Moses and Abraham.
  4. The manner in which Joseph and subsequent leaders practiced polygamy was appropriate.
  5. The current account of the first vision is accurate.
  6. LDS prophets have actual face to face communication with Christ.

I know there are probably many other things I could add to each of these lists. I’ve thought a lot about the wisdom of posting my personal beliefs, but I can say I’ve thought a lot about them and have come to my own conclusions based on my personal spiritual and life experiences. Some may think them crazy or naive, others may think they show a lack of faith. However, what really matters to me is that I can be honest with myself.

Posted by: Jay | May 9, 2008

Baptizing My Son

I love my son. He is an intelligent little guy with a lot of energy. So when he wanted me to baptize him of course I said I would. Since I think 8 years old is young to make such an important decision I made sure he understood that he didn’t have to be baptized if he didn’t want to. I also challenged him to read the Book of Mormon once before being baptized so he knew better what he was about to do. (He’s about a third way through Alma right now.)

I know that his desire to be baptized is probably brought on by the emphasis the LDS Church puts on being baptized by 8. He’s been taught in primary that when he’s eight he will “get” to be baptized almost like it is some kind of party. I’m not anti-baptism, but I do remember a little about my baptism and I know I was not ready to know what I was doing. Call me a late bloomer but I don’t think I really could have made that decision until I was a teenager. I think it would have meant much more to me then. As it is now I don’t remember much about what went on except for a vague memory of an interview with the Bishop. Anyway enough about me, I want this to be memorable for my son. I want him to feel a real change in his life a real commitment to God, not just something you do when your eight to get presents and cake. If I can make that happen then it will be a success.

I have wondered if I should baptize my son. If I’m “worthy” to do so or if my “weakened” testimony disqualifies me to perform the task. I don’t think it does but I know that some people may think so and one of those people may be my Bishop. I’m not sure if he will talk to me before the big day comes. I informed him of my struggling in a general way about a year ago and he hasn’t talk to me about it since. So chances are he will just assume everything is O.K., see that I have a temple recommend and give the baptism his blessing. That’s the scenario I’m hoping for. If he was to interview me before the baptism I am not sure what the outcome would be. I’m not anti-Mormon but I wouldn’t exactly call me a great believer in the Church either. In fact, many “standard” beliefs held by the majority of Mormons I no longer hold to or at least am in deep doubt about.

I know I am not unique in this dilemma. I have talked with several people facing the same issue (i.e. doubting with an eight year old child expecting baptism). It puts you in a difficult situation because you want to see your child mature a bit more before deciding to be baptized but realize that the Church does not allow that option (if you believe that your child’s sins will be on your head, something that contradicts scripture). In the end my son will be baptized. I am more than willing to do it for him even though it is not the exciting event I had always pictured it being in the past. It will be for him and that’s what matters. I just hope it actually helps him spiritually.

Posted by: Jay | May 8, 2008

Conversations on Controversial Mormon History

conversation

A conversation with my wife last night sparked this post. She asked me what my purpose was in wanting to tell people about controversial LDS Church history. By no means need you suppose that I am actively looking for people to share the information with, but when asked for my personal opinion on a topic I do not hesitate to share it. I believe my purpose is that I want to spark conversation and discussion about topics that are not often talked about. I want people to be fully informed about what they believe in.

Recently, at a friends house I was asked what I thought of Brigham Young taking away the priesthood from blacks. My response was that I believe he was motivated by racism and that it was not of God. In our conversation last night my wife brought this up and pointed out that using such incendiary words like “racist” only serves to push people away. I admitted that she made a good point. I have experienced the same from anti-Mormons I have talked to. Since I am aware of most of the criticisms of the LDS faith I recognize the truth in their accusations. However, I also spot the exaggerations, opinions stated as fact and the biases they bring to the discussion. This gives me little choice than to take what they say with a grain of salt and requires me to do more investigating into their sources, which often turn out to be biased and inaccurate. I don’t have much patience for these type of conversations anymore because I’m interested in learning truth not opinion. So, if my purpose is to make faithful members aware of the facts, even the disturbing ones, perhaps calling Brigham Young a racist is not the best approach, even if that’s how I really feel.

Toward the end of our conversation I could tell my wife’s ability to put up with me was wearing thin (I don’t blame her a bit). I realized that she was correct in saying that I should use softer adjectives to describe what I perceive as problems with LDS history. If I don’t I’ll be pushed aside by the faithful member as just another anti-Mormon (something I do not aspire to), ignored and my comments will help no one. Eventually, I want to begin to create a database of all the articles and information I have read, which I can recommend to people that have questions. Perhaps even write up a summary of the history to hand out to people. This would be something without any comments of my own, just the facts and events as they happened and with references. I firmly believe that it is everyones’ personal responsibility to learn these things on their own, through studying it out and making a decision independent of anyone else. So if I say that I believe Brigham Young and other leaders were racist, that is my personal belief and no one should base their opinion of them soly on my statement, which I freely admit may be harsh.

I have experienced many approaches to discussions of controversial LDS history. The faithful Mormon trying to defend troublesome aspects of their history, the angry Christian yelling at Mormons telling them they are going to hell, the condescending Mormon intellectual, the thoughtful Mormon with a desire to learn and still be faithful and the thoughtful Christian who approaches Mormons in love. In my experience the last two have always been the best approach to difficult subjects in religion or elsewhere. If your purpose is really to help someone you will communicate with them respectfully and with patience. If you are a hireling and care little about the people you are speaking with then you will not worry about offending them, but when you do this the risk is that they will not listen long enough to discover the truth for themselves

What do you think is the best approach when talking to faithful Mormons about their checkered Church history? Is it okay to recognize the good things that Brigham Young and other leaders did? What type of language you use? Is it important to be respectful when speaking to others that don’t believe as you do?

Posted by: Jay | April 4, 2008

Developing mature testimony

Several Mormon intellectuals (I know some find that term offensive) talk about how their testimony has “matured” with their increase of knowledge about the LDS Church. What does it mean to have a mature testimony? Is it something that you grow into as you get older? Does everyone experience it? I know many people that have become aware of the details of LDS Church history, as I have, and yet still maintain their child-like faith. They continue to hold fast to the testimony of their youth, strengthening their resolve to believe despite knowledge that seems to contradict in some ways what they were brought up to believe.

The most common explanation, I sympathize with, is that we just don’t have all the information. What looks like a great injustice could actually be a innocuous historical occurrence. Due to lack of the historical record we are left to interpret the events by our modern standards and personal preferences. This freedom of historical interpretation allows some to abandon their Mormon heritage and yet others continue to justify their beliefs. It gives the faithful just enough reason to “hold to the rod” when faced with the strong temptation to let go. Their testimony is saved by rejecting the negative interpretations of LDS history and accepting the faith promoting Church rendition. I offer no criticism of those that choose this path of faith.

However, there are others that are not satisfied with the every explanation offered by apologists. Instead they begin the long process of understanding and interpreting the past on their own, taking note of the discrepancies and biases on both sides of the issues. Evaluating where they feel one side has gone too far in justifying their claims. There is a danger to this approach (speaking from a faithful prospective). To evaluate history in an unprejudiced way the interpreter must be willing to accept the possibility of error regardless of religious affiliation or leadership status. Each historical event or doctrinal declaration is evaluated separately with the possibility of LDS leaders being wrong or right. Failure to apply this principle will distort reality and fall short of truth. Unfortunately, a side effect of this approach is that the questioner discovers just how wrong his leaders can be. This can cause disaffection and if not approached carefully can lead to abandonment of the LDS faith (or any faith).

At the risk of sounding arrogant it is my contention that most LDS members do not allow themselves to develop “mature” testimonies, accepting all things given to them from their leaders without question. They are content to believe, in a way, that their leaders are infallible. Holding tight to Wilford Woodruff’s statement that the Prophet will never lead the Church astray, they find confidence in their leaders’ words. I propose that a Prophet can be wrong, not only on pedestrian matters, but also in spiritual matters.

This is a difficult leap for many LDS to take because it requires them to take upon themselves personal responsibility for what they believe. No longer can they stand before God and say, “The Prophet told me so”. Members that take that frightening first step begin to realize that its okay to question leaders. It is alright to be troubled by certain parts of our history. Prophets can sometimes make major mistakes that may steer the Church in a wrong direction for awhile, but eventually through cultural or divine pressure, it will return to its predestined course.

Critics rightly point out the inconsistencies in some LDS “doctrine” and history, all the while ignoring the short comings of their own religious conviction and sadly, sometimes the honesty of their critics. The easily convinced are swept away with this tide of accusations leveled against the Church, without considering the validity of the religious claims of the accuser. Are their claims to the divine any more valid based on the empirical evidence? The honest must conclude that while they may have strong justification for their beliefs (As LDS do) in the end they are no more rational than those of the LDS faith. One could simply dismiss them all, denying God in the process, or try to live true to what they personally believe. When confidence is placed in our own relationship with God our testimony “matures”. Like a child growing to adulthood we no longer rely on the words of others, but instead find our own footing, the path to that eternal being (i.e. God) that you can honestly hold to without reservation.

What does it mean to have a mature testimony to you? Which type of testimony is more faithful? Is it possible to have a strong conviction of the “one true Church” and be aware of LDS history?

Posted by: Jay | March 7, 2008

Turning from pessimism

yes_im_cute_b.jpg

In doubting my LDS faith I’ve gone through many emotions and stages of anger, grief and lose. At times I have doubted that God even exists (though rare and infrequent). My previous image of the LDS Church has changed from one of admiration to one of skepticism and as a result has made me more pessimistic about the role this religious institution plays in my life. I tend to view leaders (both local and church-wide) as good people and perhaps even good leaders, but lack confidence in their ability to express God’s words consistently. This has led me, out of necessity, to be more questioning about statements made in church meetings, including General Conference. I notice the inconsistencies that before would have passed by me unnoticed. They now grate my ears like sandpaper.

The spiritual drain caused by this constant word watching (which I feel I must do) has caused me to be apathetic toward the LDS Church. I’ve been this way for about a year now and I’m not sure I like it. I don’t want to be the hopeless malcontent who is never happy and always finds a reason to be upset. It worries me that I don’t do my home teaching or put more effort into my calling as a teacher. Not because the Bishop or anyone else will think poorly of me, I worry that my attitude is not very Christian. I should be going home teaching and sharing an uplifting message with the families which I have been assigned to. I should want to lift them up and help them regardless of our differences and my struggles with the Church itself. I believe a true disciple of Christ would do that, yet I have fallen short.

This whole experience has caused me to “slacken my strength”. I know many of my critics would say that lack of the Spirit is the reason for my spiritual downfall and I don’t deny they could be right. Before I began learning about Church history I was not reading my scripture everyday or attending the temple every month. However, I think most members don’t do these things consistently either, which does not make my case much different than the average member. Nevertheless, I admit that since my doubts began I have neglected personal scripture study, which I believe to be a mistake. I can no longer remain in a constant pessimistic state toward the LDS faith, it is not the person I want to be, nor is it truly who I am. Looking for the good among the bad has always worked best for me. I have lost sight of that by letting the bad overtake me and my thoughts. I fear that if I continued on my present course of pessimism I would never be able to be fully happy again. Things in the Church still cause me to sorrow, but it is time for me to feel joyful again, to feel close to God and know the peace that brings.

Has doubting your faith made you pessimistic? How have you dealt with these negative feelings?

Posted by: Jay | March 4, 2008

Doubting and its effects on others

doubt.jpg

This post has been a long time in the making. I have thought about it a lot and wondered if I could even fairly represent what my wonderful wife and children must be thinking. I’ve even asked my wife to write something expressing how my doubting had affected her so that those of us that question can see how it influences our loved ones. She agreed to do it, but I think it is low on her to do list. So I guess I’ll take a stab at describing how it is affecting her and others around me.

I don’t have any illusion that my questioning only affects myself, for that I am truly sorry. It saddens me to see my wife on occasion feel overwhelmed with it all. She puts on a brave face most of the time, but I know that sometimes it hurts her, which is the last thing I ever want to do. Though on the whole she is supportive of my spiritual wanderings, there are moments (just like for all of us) when she is overwhelmed with life and my current spiritual condition troubles her.

I also worry about my children. At this moment they are unaware of anything I am going through. I still read scriptures, pray, and attend Church with them whenever I am home. They are also very young still and probably wouldn’t understand even if I explained to them what I am going through. Most of all, I fear that explaining it to them would only cause confusion and make them loose faith in religion altogether as they continued to grow. I would much rather they slowly learn and decide on their own than have me impose my opinion upon them. However, My wife and I do agree that they should be informed about Church history as it truly happened. The question is when do we expose them to it and how.

I realize that my extended family is also affected by my doubting. This includes my own siblings and parents as well as cousins, in-laws etc. Right now they know very little of my condition. This is on purpose.  My wife is afraid to her families reaction to me  if they knew my current state of unbelief and  if I expressed my true feelings to them and she is probably right to assume the worst. Eventually, I think it will come out that I’m not a “full” believer, but for now I am content with things the way they are and am not in any hurry to include more people in the drama of my life.

Another thing I struggle with is how this site is received by those that visit it. I have anywhere from 30 to 450 visits a day on this blog (depending on the post). Most of those people do not comment and I wonder what they are thinking. How has my blog affected them? Some of them are probably members that are finding out facts about the Church for the first time. Others are investigators that may wonder why the missionaries have not told them any of the information they find here. I’m sure that some are set against the LDS faith before they visit this blog and take my struggling as confirmation of what they already know, secure that their faith is true and right. What do all these people think?

Though I’ve thought about it a lot and felt some apprehensiveness about publicly posting my thoughts as I wrestle with Mormonism, I feel that it is important to be honest and open. Who are we, as LDS, to think that our faith is above such questioning? Why should we expect our history to be free from blemish when so many others are not? Shouldn’t we be troubled by such things as polyandry, racism, “lying for the Lord” and the like? I think we should. I don’t believe that ignoring these problems is a good thing. I don’t think that dismissing non-members that bring them up as “anti-Mormon” is good either. We should understand our own history and, if it is what we believe, be able to defend it. This doesn’t mean that we argue with non-LDS folk, it simply means we are able to explain “our side” to others not of our faith that may not understand.

So my doubts may be influencing or affecting others, but that may not be such a bad thing. I imagine that most of these people will be affected little by anything I have written. A few may begin to question and desire to study more to know for themselves what is true and what is not. I believe this is overall a good thing.

Posted by: Jay | February 26, 2008

A Mormon at Mass

orthodox.jpg

My wife and I have some friends that are Catholic. Occasionally, we talk about religion (though we have avoided so far talking about the specifics of our faiths). I casually asked if I could come to Church with them one Sunday and they enthusiastically said yes! I was excited because I had never gone to a Catholic Church before. What made it even more great was that my wife decided that she would like to have our boys experience a Catholic mass since they are studying Latin and had also read about the Catholic Church for home school. She also agreed with me that it would be a great opportunity for them to see how others worship God.

My sons were not as enthusiastic as my wife and I. To them it was just two more hours of church. They dreaded having to go to their friends’ Church that they were unfamiliar with. That all changed once we got there and they found out that there was food, specifically cookies and donuts. I almost laughed out loud when my youngest son leaned over and said, “Dad they don’t believe the same as us…” I was expecting some great childlike epiphany but then he continued, “they have toys in their classes”. So I knew then that both my sons were converted to the Catholic Church as long as they continued to supply toys and sweets.

Though I didn’t understand everything that was going on, I found the visit very enjoyable. I even met a few people I knew. My son’s soccer coach and a colleague of mine. Everyone was very, but not overly, friendly. The priest actually gave a very insightful sermon that I enjoyed a lot (I think I felt the Spirit:). My wife and I were invited to attend the confirmation of our friend’s son in May. We of course said yes. I think it will be fascinating to watch and we are happy to support him and his family.

The mass was not exactly what I expected. It had a lot of the same elements as the Episcopalian services I had been to before. I was surprised to see a band in the corner of the room (something I always associated with Evangelicals). I also noticed some other similarities to the Baptist services I have attended in the past. A collection basket was passed around (I’m not a huge fan of this, though I understand why they do it) and we “greeted” each other with a handshake and a friendly “peace be with you”. Both things I had experienced at my Baptist friend’s Church. Though I wasn’t surprised that the services were similar to the Episcopalian Church, the Baptist similarities did surprise me. Maybe they shouldn’t have, I just always thought of the two as very different from each other.

Now before you think that I’m going to join the Catholic Church I have to say there are a number of things that would take a miracle for me to accept. However, I chose not to dwell on those things and just enjoy the experience; as a result I had a great time. In fact, maybe I’ll go again some time. Next time I’ll go to Sunday school.

Posted by: Jay | January 31, 2008

Addicted to Mormon Doctrine

Last night I was talking to a non-LDS friend about the conflict I have been experiencing with the many oddments of Mormon history. When we had finished our conversation I started to wonder what keeps me Mormon? There is of course the family ties, the feelings of lose and betrayal that they would surely feel if I were to walk away. Still, I don’t think that is what keeps me hanging on to the faith of my youth. If I truly thought the LDS Church was false I honestly feel that I could walk away with a clean conscience and let the chips fall where they may. Family and true friends would accept it eventually and come around.

No, the reason I’m staying is simple, I’m addicted to Mormon doctrine! I just realized that fact last night. There is just so much that makes sense, even if there are some really unbelievable things that come along with it. I like the idea that people can repent and be baptized after this life if they have never heard of Christ and that priesthood is needed to perform ordinances. Families being together forever just seems natural and the non-Trinitarian beliefs of the LDS Church have much stronger Biblical support than most Christians care to admit. So if I still believe all of this why don’t I just accept all the rest. I don’t know, but something inside of me won’t let me do it.

Posted by: Jay | January 28, 2008

President Hinckley passes

15-253-1-1.gif

Last night I received a text message from my brother-in-law saying that President Hinckley had passed. I know he is in a better place with his wife. I will miss his jokes that made Priesthood session a little more bearable and the openness he showed by speaking on talk shows and with reporters. Farewell good man!

Posted by: Jay | January 28, 2008

Romney too perfect?

I have to admit, I didn’t think Romney would come so far. I thought, like the now fading Huckabee, he would have trailed off long ago. While he still remains a strong second choice for me, he has a better chance at grabbing the nomination than my first choice (Ron Paul).

A few days ago I was listening to the radio and one caller caught my attention when she exclaimed that she would not be voting for Romney. She was careful to mention that it was not his Mormonism that turned her off, it was that he was too perfect. A handsome man with a good looking wife and kids, never divorced, no scadalous background and an extremely successful businessman to boot. Wow! Someone that good just can’t be right for America, right?  While I acknowledge this persons right to set her own criteria for her vote, I have to admit that this one takes the cake.  At least anti-Mormons have something to complain about (even if it is base on bigotry). This person can find nothing wrong with Romney other than “he’s too perfect”. I bet a lot of politicians (or people) wish they had that problem.

If Romney can manage to take Florida he will be hard to stop. The latest Rasmuesen poll has Romney in first place above McCain (Romney 28% and McCain 26%), making Florida an important state to win. With the two neck and neck (each has about 30%) in the Florida polls it should be an interesting fight tomorrow.  It’s beginning to look like I may end up eating my words when I said that Romney had no chance at winning the nomination.  We’ll know come Super Tuesday!  What are your predictions?  Do you think that with Huckabee gone social conservatives will vote for Romney or do they still not trust him (a position with which I can sympathize).

Posted by: Jay | January 21, 2008

Worshiping Joseph Smith

js_portrait_green.jpg

Do LDS members really worship Joseph Smith? I’ve heard this claimed numerous times by critics of the LDS faith. The problem is I’m not sure what they are talking about. I have never felt that I am worshiping Joseph Smith, perhaps honoring him but not worshiping. Any thoughts.

Posted by: Jay | January 19, 2008

My talk with the Stake President

I just realized today that I haven’t given an update to my “denied a voice” post last fall. If you remember I talked to the Bishop about some, IMO, racist remarks during Sunday School. I was basically told not to talk about it and to let “sleeping dogs lie”.

About a month after my talk with a member of the bishopric I went to exchange my temple recommend for a new one with the bar code. I explained to the Stake President what happened. As I was explaining, I could see the patronizing look develop on his face. He was thinking something along the lines of, “You poor child, you just don’t understand what you’re talking about”. I could tell he wasn’t going to take me seriously.

After explaining to him what happened and that I didn’t feel that the bishopric was going to do anything to correct the false doctrine, he told me that it happened over a month ago and we should just let it go. Apparently, bringing it up would only open old wounds and not be instructive. I don’t really understand this mentality as these same people are likely to repeat the trash they did in Sunday school at a future date if they were not corrected. However, I was told that my ward did not show a pattern of teaching false doctrine and so it was nothing to worry about. As if I was attacking the ward or the Bishop! This guy clearly didn’t understand my concern. He then reassured me that if he was Bishop of my ward he would have handled it differently, but now the deed was done and we should just forget it ever happened. I really didn’t see the harm in him calling the Bishop and having a talk about it to make sure everything was OK. Somehow that was not something that crossed his mind.

It’s amazing to me that a simple statement could have been made in Sunday school to correct the falsities expressed that one week, yet nothing was done. No need to single anyone out, humiliate them or burn them at the stake, after all I realize where they got the ideas in the first place. It’s not like they were original thoughts. They were passed down by racist leaders of the LDS Church, but to allow them to continue to be vocalized when the Church has openly condemned such ideas is wrong. People need to realize that not giving the blacks the priesthood was never of God and all the excuses to justify it are wrong, period. But if people did that they would have to admit that a prophet can be racist and I understand that’s a hard pill to swallow.

Posted by: Jay | January 18, 2008

Send me some missionaries!

Why is it that other Christian Churches don’t send missionaries around?  I’m not talking about crazy street corner preachers, I mean clean cut, good mannered guys or gals, coming right to my door.  Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses are the only ones I have ever seen doing this.   Shouldn’t I be seeing a lot more Catholics and Protestants out sharing the good news; considering LDS and JWs are small in numbers compared to mainstream Christian churches?

The odd thing is, I actually enjoy discussing religion especially with people of different faiths.  I often don’t agree with them; however, I find it fascinating to learn about what they believe.  It helps me to change my thinking a bit, in a good way.  Unfortunately, people now days don’t like to talk about religion.  What a waste!  How is being part of a religion significant if it is so personal you can never express it to anyone?

I’m not saying that I’ve never had missionaries come to my door.  Occasionally, the JWs come by.  I also had a visit from two college age Christians.  When they came to my door one night and asked if they could pray for me and I invited them in.  I was ready to talk, but apparently all the really wanted to do was say a prayer and then leave.  I’m not sure if this is some non-LDS thing I’m not aware of or if they just saw the temple picture on the wall and decided to make a run for it.  They didn’t even tell me what church they go to or invite me to attend.  You’d think if someone let you in the door to pray you might want to at least invite them out to church.  Anyway, I welcome people of different faiths into my home, I wish I had more come to visit and explain their beliefs, maybe even stay for dinner.  Unfortunately, the only people that come consistently are the LDS missionaries and I already know what they believe.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not hurting for company I have a wife, children and plenty of friends.  I just find the subject matter engaging and having someone come by gives me the excuse I need to take a break, sit down and talk.  So next time your in town come by, I’ll save a spot on my couch and if your lucky we’ll have something to eat:).

Posted by: Jay | January 15, 2008

What is a New Order Mormon anyway?

This is a definition taken directly from newordermormon.org

New Order Mormons are those who no longer believe some (or much) of the dogma or doctrines of the LDS Church, but who want to maintain membership for cultural, social, or even spiritual reasons. New Order Mormons recognize both good and bad in the Church, and have determined that the Church does not have to be perfect in order to remain useful. New Order Mormons seek the middle way to be Mormon.

At the suggestion of a fellow blogger, I recently became a registered member of newordermormon.org.  I’ve only started posting there, but I’m already hooked.  I love the conversations and the open-mindedness of the other members.  It is heartening to meet others that are climbing the mountain of doubt and finding the foot holds to hang on (I know a little dramatic, sometimes I do that).  Seriously though if there is anyone that wants a place to talk openly about the Church and how to fit in without being a TBM  (other than this blog) this is the place for you, check it out!

Has anyone else had good experiences there?  Tell me about it.

Posted by: Jay | January 10, 2008

Mormon Temple ceremony

350px-slc_temple_east_side_night.jpg

There’s always been a hesitancy among LDS temple attendees to talk about the inside of the temple and what goes on there. While I agree that there are a few things we make promises to God not to discuss (i.e. specific signs and tokens) 99% of what goes on in the temple we make no promise to remain quite about.

I’ve heard many people say that they were very nervous about going into the temple the first time because of all the secrecy. I wonder why LDS members are so scared to share what goes on in the temple. I can certainly understand not sharing it with people that mock and ridicule simply because we hold it sacred, but what about Temple Preparation class? What about when someone even a non-member asks us a sincere question?

Before I got married my fiancee (now my wife) asked what went on in the temple. I told her everything (except the signs and tokens) that happened from the moment you enter till you leave. I told her that we watch a video about the creation of the world. That we make promises to God to keep His commandments. Really 99% of it is nothing that anyone wouldn’t learn just by going to regular church services. In fact a lot of what is taught is just repeated directly from the Bible and LDS Scripture. The only real difference is that you formally promise God that you will obey His commandments (the ones found in the Bible).

I know that some people would disagree with the theology that is taught, but its no different that the theology taught outside the temple. So why do you think we are so reluctant to share what goes on in the temple? Why are we afraid that we will say something we are not supposed to? All we have coveted not to share are the signs and tokens or am I missing something?

Posted by: Jay | January 6, 2008

Teaching 11 year olds

Today I started teaching a Valiant A 12 class. This is basically a class full of 11 year olds. My class has 7 kids and today there were only 4. The subject was the Book of Mormon and how it was a gift to us from God. I felt a little uncomfortable teaching it to them. I really don’t want to teach about the Book of Mormon since I’m unsure of its authenticity myself. However, here I am in the position to teach a bunch of kids about it (My wife is also teaching the class, but couldn’t be there today).

Anyway I decided to ask questions to find out what they really knew about the Book of Mormon and then teach them a little more about the facts surrounding the Book of Mormon to see how they would react. First question I asked was:

Who wrote the Book of Mormon?

One of the kids said jokily that it was Joseph Smith. Then they started repeating all the Books in the Book of Mormon. After that one of them said that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon. I then asked them how he translated it. They answered the Urim and Thummim. I told them that he didn’t just use the Urim and Thummim. He also used a stone. Surprisingly, there was no reaction to this. They kept on talking without it making any impact.

I then asked them if they could name the 3 and 8 witnesses. When they didn’t answer I told them to open their Book of Mormon to the “witness page”. I explained that the 3 witnesses were Oliver Cowdry who was Joseph’s scribe, David Whitmer, who funded the printing of the first Book of Mormon and Martin Harris a friend of Oliver Cowdry.  Next I asked one of them to read the names of the 8 witnesses.  I asked if there was anything that stuck out to them.  One of them said that they were all from the same family.  I then explained that all the witnesses with the last name of Whitmer were David Whitmer’s (one of the three witnesses) relatives, the one with the last name of Page was his son-in-law and the ones with the last name of Smith were Joseph’s dad and brothers. They didn’t seem to think this was a big deal.

The last thing I had time to cover was the quote from Joseph Smith that says the Book of Mormon is the most correct Book. I asked them if that meant the Bible. Without missing a beat they said yes. I asked them how they could know if the Book of Mormon was true. The lone girl in the class said she knew it was true. I asked if she had read the Book of Mormon, she said no. When I asked if she had prayed about it, she said I think so. I asked her how it went. She then admitted that maybe she hadn’t. I asked if they thought that was important, there was no consensus.

To end the class I asked what was the most interesting thing they had learned today. No one had an answer. I guess they are just too young and not inquisitive enough to take in the information. I can’t say that I blame them, I was the same way. However, it would be nice to know that the youth are thinking about these things and not just accepting what their parents tell them.

Posted by: Jay | January 5, 2008

LDS Blog increase

Recently, I’ve noticed an increase in the number of LDS blogs going up. This probably has something to do with the talk that Elder Ballard gave (I think it was him) telling students at BYU Hawaii they should get involved in “new media”. These blogs all seem to want to “spread the good news” by answering questions people have about the LDS faith. Many of them are put up by return missionaries that think they are capable of answering questions because of growing up in the Church and their two year stint as LDS representatives.

I ventured into some of these blogs to discuss a few of the things I’ve talked about here. I’m interested to know how many of them know about the issues and how much they know. Most seem vaguely aware of the issues that others outside their faith have with Mormonism. It appears that they have no interest in truly answering questions, but rather avoiding hard questions by giving vague answers, oft repeated in LDS lore and returning to their message. I even visited one site where all my comments are erased. The author chooses instead to post “answers” to my questions after deleting them and then deleting my further questions about the answer. This is no way to have a discussion. Mormons are not alone in using this tactic, other religious people do it too. They post something and either don’t allow comments or delete your comment if they don’t agree (so no one will know, shhhhhh).

I understand not wanting to get involved in a heated conversation, however, I think many Mormons (and other Christians) get defensive way too fast. Try to consider that maybe the person asking questions is struggling with the issues and is desperately trying to find answers or learn how others have come to grips with the issues. This is much better than assuming some evil intent and cutting off the conversation. If it distracts from the conversation then ask the person to email you and hold a dialogue that way. Otherwise what you are doing is only pushing them further away from you and your message.

Posted by: Jay | December 1, 2007

BYU has no entrance requirements for GA’s kids.

While this information comes from what I consider to be an excellent source, I have not heard it repeated anywhere else.  If you have any additional information on the topic please feel free to comment.

I was listening to John Dehlin’s podcast at Mormon Stories this week and learned something very interesting. He has just put out a series of interviews with Dr. Ted Lyon (Son of T. Edgar Lyon) who has been employed with BYU for some years. Dr. Lyon retired and is now in Chile serving as their temple president.

During his interview he revealed that general authorities of the church receive free tuition for their children. This didn’t bother me because it is a church school and I personally know of someone called to the 1st quorum of the seventy that gave up a very high paying career to fill the church position. So, I know that there are some GA’s that are wealthy people that sacrifice all for the Lord. What bothered me was the next revelation he announced. Which was this; GA’s kids are now accepted to BYU no matter what their grades were in high school. Yes, that’s right they could be the laziest kids in the world, but they will be admitted to a school that turns away bright kids every year because there is not enough room at the church sponsored school. I really don’t understand why this decision was made. I think if this became general knowledge amongst the members Church authorities would have to do some explaining. Hundreds if not 1000’s of parents have children that are refused admission to BYU every year. I wonder what they would say to this new rule. Giving children of general authorities a free ride is one thing (i.e. a perk of the “job”), but then not requiring any standards for their children to be admitted is ridiculous.

I remember applying to BYU hoping and stressing that my meager GPA, missionary service and other community service were enough to squeeze by the narrow entrance gates. I was somewhat surprised and relieved when I got my acceptance letter. General authority children should face the same acceptance standards that the lay members’ children face. Allowing them to get in regardless of bad grades and poor performance sounds a lot like nepotism.

Posted by: Jay | November 12, 2007

Significant Book of Mormon Introduction Change

book-of-mormon.jpg

I thought I’d just post this since it is (IMO) the biggest thing in the LDS Church since blacks received the priesthood. Last week it was reported that the LDS Church is going to change the introduction page of the Book of Mormon. It now says, “… all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.” In future editions the words “principal ancestors” will be changed to “among the ancestors”. This change is huge when you consider that for over 150 years the LDS Church has maintained, or at least not debated the general perception, that Native Americans are all descendants of Lamanites, even though archaeological and DNA evidence do not support such a view. This change seems to indicate that the Church is acknowledging the problems that are associated with such a belief. I wonder if this upcoming change will be made widely known among the membership and if it will affect the testimonies of lay members. I think this is a great step in a positive direction. It shows that the Church can step back from long held dogmatic views and take a different, more accurate stance. I applaud the LDS leadership for making the change.

Posted by: Jay | October 2, 2007

Down time

I’m shutting down the blog again for a while, maybe forever. Last time I did this it only lasted a month. Regrettably, I just don’t have the time needed to respond to the issues. It also appears that the discussion is becoming more one-sided than I had originally anticipated.

Thank you all for commenting. I have learned a lot from all of you.

As a personal note, I have decided to stay in the LDS faith despite the controversies that we have talked about. I am convinced that Mormonism cannot be disproved or proved using scripture or any other secular methods. As with all religion, faith must trump all reason. I am confident that if I am honest with myself I can be comfortable in any religion. I choose the LDS faith because that is what I know and it makes sense to me. While I will probably never again be a non-questioning LDS member, I will do my best to serve God in the LDS faith. I do not fault anyone for choosing a different path, as I am well aware of problems the LDS Church faces. I hope that wherever you go you will be happy and find peace.

-Jay
If you wish to correspond further feel free to email me at mormonstalk at gmail.com

Posted by: Jay | September 24, 2007

How God began to be

How did God become God? Has he always been God or did he have to “earn it” ? Many Latter-Day Saints believe that God was once a man like us on his own world and progressed like us. I don’t really blame them for thinking this because Joseph Smith’s King Follet discourse, as we currently have it, says it. I was recently listening to a podcast on Mormon Miscellaneous (see link on side bar of this blog) where Van Hale talks to Blake Ostler (A Mormon apologist) about this subject. Blake makes the point that Joseph Smith’s discourse may not be entirely accurate in the way it was written down (he cites his reasons in the podcast). In addition, he says that he does not believe that God had a god over him who is his father, but that God has always existed as God.

He also makes a point that I think is valid. He says that Jesus was a member of the Godhead before he came into mortality and the Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead despite his lack of a body. The implication being that the plan of salvation, as laid out by Mormon theology, is not the only way to become a god, as is commonly thought among LDS members. The Holy Ghost and Jesus were (The Holy Ghost still is) God without bodies or mortal experience. I think this is an interesting thought. What do you think?

Posted by: Jay | September 19, 2007

Speaking ill of the Lord’s anointed

gordon_b_hinckley_md.jpg

What does it mean to speak ill of the Lord’s anointed? As Latter-day Saints we are counseled against doing it. The implication is that we can never openly question our leaders. Is this truly what is meant by speaking evil of the Lord’s anointed?

The other day my wife and I were talking about what this meant. I had stated my negative opinion about some of Brigham Young’s views. I made statements about his motives that my wife found offensive. So when is it all right to question a Prophet, Apostle or other leaders? Can we ever believe they are wrong and not be an apostate? Should we speak out if our conscience moves us to do so? I’m really trying hard to understand this concept because I don’t want to be offensive, but I do have my own ideas about why things happened. I feel like it is my right to express those if someone asks me my opinion or broaches a controversial subject. I’d love to hear what anyone else has to add on this topic.

Posted by: Jay | September 17, 2007

Conversion Stories

I am always interested in how people came to have a testimony of the LDS Church (or any church for that matter). As I mentioned in a past post, when I was a ward mission leader I went around interviewing converts about how they came to be members. I asked stefielynn, who has made many recent comments, to share her conversion story with us. Feel free to ask her any questions about the experience.

P.S. If someone would like to share their conversion story to the LDS Church or any other church (Christian or non-Christian) send your story to mormonstalk@gmail.com. I will periodically post stories I receive.

My first interaction with the Mormon church was through by best friend in 2nd grade. She was Mormon and I was Lutheran. My parents did not seem to have much of an issue at this time with the Mormon religion. I spent a lot of time with my little friend and her family. I remember her family being so close, it was obvious that they loved each other very much and they always included me and made me feel loved as well. My family was extremely disfunctional. There was always a lot of yelling and not a whole lot of love.

For 2 years everything was fine and Dandy. Around the beginning of 4th grade I came home from school and my parents sat me down to have a talk. They informed me that a lady from our church had a son that was stolen by the Mormons. They told me it was a bad cult, and they didn’t want me to be stolen, so I was no longer allowed to be Sierra’s friend. This was totally confusing, scary and devastating. I pictured Sierra’s family throwing me in a van and stealing me away to some far off place and never seeing my family again. Of course at this age I did as my parents asked. They even sent me to school with a bible and a scripture in revelations. I was really sad that I couldn’t be her friend anymore. I asked my parents a lot of questions as to why. They told me that Mormons believed they Jesus and Satan were brothers and that Joseph Smith the founder was a liar and a cheater and they believe in magic underwear. They also explained to me that they believed in a different God and Jesus and that Mormons will go to hell when they die and burn for eternity. This did not sound like a good thing, so I stopped asking questions and stayed as far away from her as I could.

When I went to High school I met a few more of these Mormons, and even though I tried to stay away it was a little more difficult. I had a few on my cheerleading squad my senior year and one of them became my very good friend. I tried not to get too close to her, but she was so sweet and fun It became impossible. I never asked any questions about her church, but she would always invite me to her activities, and of course I didn’t want to burn in hell with her so I declined. During High School, I remember only two people who were there for me, and they both happened to be Mormon. I remember asking my mom why Mormons, who were such good people, would go to hell. She told me again that they believed in a false Jesus and that they were a cult.

So eight years later who knocks on the door, but 2 Mormon missionaries. I at this time decided to find out from an actual Mormon what exactly they believed. Our first lesson began with me asking a thousand questions. I told them that I believed in a different Jesus and that they believed in the wrong one and that they were going to burn in hell if they didn’t except the “real” one. I went over with them all the things my parents had taught me. They were kind and they listened. I asked them to tell me what they believed and back it up with scripture, which they did. Every time they would leave they asked if I would pray and ask if it was true for myself…which I did not do. I told my family I was having Mormon missionaries coming over and they FREAKED! They told me to stop having discussions because I would be brainwashed. They also started sending me info about the church. I went against the influence of my family and continued my discussions. But I read as much as I could on the LDS church. Most of it was against the church. The only positive stuff I read about the church was given to me by the missionaries. I read about Joseph Smith and polygamy, I read about the Mountain Meadows massacre, I read about their disbelief in the Trinity and how they believed they would become gods of their own planets. I became very conflicted. What the missionaries were teaching me made sense to me. I read and I read and I read. I became more and more confused. I wrestled with this issue for a long time. I did not want to join the LDS church, I most certainly did not want to burn in Hell. I was so confused and in need of an answer. I got on my knees and I started crying. I cried and poured my heart out to the Lord. I looked up and asked Him. He brought peace like I had never known into my soul. I called the missionaries and informed them that I wanted to be baptized.

The hardest thing for me to get over was the fear of burning in Hell for eternity. I would have thought it impossible to get over. But it was not me who took that fear away. The fear left me when I prayed. And even though I hear it all the time from both family and people I randomly encounter, I just smile inside and remember that I once, was just like them.

My family is extremely upset. They are worried about my soul. But I know that this Gospel is indeed true. I know that my Father in Heaven answered my prayers and healed my heart. There are many people out there who believe as I once did, and as my family still does. Many people (both members and nonmembers) cannot get over some of the history of the church and that is understandable. But I knew all these things when I joined. As weird as it may seem, all the history is frivolous, compared to the change that occurred in my heart. I know that throughout church history mistakes have been made. Joseph Smith was a man. I don’t worship Joseph Smith. I worship my Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ and I cannot imagine where I would be without the Gospel in my life.

Posted by: Jay | September 11, 2007

Is it really a different Jesus?

jesus_ws.jpg

Lately, I’ve been taken back by the tactic of some mainstream Christians that like to claim that Mormons worship a “different” Jesus than they do. When I first heard this I was shock to find out they didn’t believe in the bible. Now that I’ve heard this esoteric argument several times I have to admit I think, “Here we go again”.

The Jesus of the LDS faith is obviously the same person that mainstream Christians accept as their Savior. In most cases, this is merely a cleaver way of starting a discussion about the differences in how LDS and mainstream Christianity view the Trinity. However, instead of saying that, they choose to start the conversation by insulting LDS members by claiming their belief in the Savior is invalid. These chats are usually contentious, very circular and unproductive.

The Jesus I have come to admire is the one in the New Testament. I have read his teachings many times. They have touched my heart and changed my life. His words make me want to be better than I am and give me hope for the future. This is the Jesus I know. If there is some other Jesus they want me to know, I think I’d rather not meet him. If someone wants to believe in a different Jesus I say that is their right, as for me I believe and admire Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Posted by: Jay | September 6, 2007

Are the apologists right? Help me find out.

keybd2.jpg

Listening to some apologists of the LDS Church it is plain to see that a good percentage of them have no sympathy for those members that discover messy LDS history on their own and claim the Church lied to them. They claim that the Church has discussed these issues (i.e. stone in hat, kinderhook plates, polygamy, etc.) openly in Church publications such as the Ensign, New Era, Church News and other forums. Being a lifetime member this suprised me because I have never heard about controversial LDS issues being published by the Church until recently.

I am interested in testing the hypothesis proposed by the LDS apologists, that these articles are easily available to all members. This is a call to anyone that cares to join in collecting articles from any official LDS Church sources that discuss some of the hard topics we have talked about on this blog (e.g. polyandry, blacks/priesthood, first vision accounts, Book of Mormon problems). Please email references (not the entire article) to mormonstalk at gmail.com. When enough articles have been collected I will post all the references here on the blog. If nothing is found then the articles must not be as easily available as suggested by many LDS apologists. This should be a fun experiment. Thanks in advance!

Jay

250px-lds_church_office_building.jpg

Should the LDS Church really deal with the controversy surrounding its history? This is a question I have struggled with for many months. Should a Church that wants to promote faith introduce potentially faith-draining facts to its members, facts that could cause them to question authority? Would this be counterproductive to do?

It turns out that I’m not the only one thinking about this. At the latest Sunstone symposia there was a panel of LDS apologists talking about the idea of exposing members to hard facts in LDS history. Most stated that Sunday school would not be the appropriate place for such discussions. One suggested that an institute class be established for open discussion of difficult issues. Still another stated that we should slowly inform members when appropriate during lessons.

The Church seems to be taking a different view of how the problem should be approached. This year several publications in the Church News and Ensign have discussed issues that arise with LDS historical events. It appears that the LDS Church has decided to counter act the attention it has been getting with its own articles that explain the events and their interpretation of them. This is great! If Helen Whitney’s special “The Mormons” did nothing else it helped to spur interest in the general membership in some controversial subjects.

Members of the LDS Church should be able to defend their beliefs. If they are not aware of what was taught or practiced in the past, they may be taken off guard when confronted by anti-LDS information. I believe it is essential that members young and old be given the whole story. That they be allowed to wrestle with the facts. If they do not their expectations of the Church remain sky high. When they find out the Church is no different from others (i.e. it lead by imperfect men that make mistakes) their expectations fail to be met and their testimonies crash. A lifetime of trust between the Church and member will be compromised. If they are able to climb free of the wreckage, they must slowly rebuild their testimony from the ground up, reevaluating their expectations of what a Church led by God would look like.

The LDS Church needs to provide a place to facilitate discussion and to allow members struggling with their testimony the opportunity to work it out in a safe environment. If it fails to do this the only recourse of a questioning member is to go online where anti-Mormon sites out number apologetic sites 10 to 1 (not an actual figure, but I propose it is close). The information on many of these sites is faulty and biased, but without good alternatives members are left little other option.

Many will look to other Churches hoping that they will find one that is more in line with God’s teachings. Some will realize that this appears to be a futile search. Each individual theology requires an alternate interpretation of biblical text to prove its principles. It appears that the Holy Ghost really is the only way to know for sure. Study with the mind is not enough. Proof of this is shown by the fact that many religious traditions spring from such study. So what is to be done? How can one find the truth? How should the LDS Church introduce tough historical facts to its members without distracting from the most important of its missions, teaching about Christ?

Posted by: Jay | August 29, 2007

A Quiz for LDS members.

When I lived in Las Vegas I was the Ward Mission Leader. I had this great idea to go around to the members and do interview with them about why they joined the LDS Church. Since my introduction to a more complete history of the LDS Church I have wanted to do the same thing (although now I’m not in a position to do it), except this time I would like to know how much of the controversial aspects of LDS history members know. The quiz would include several of the questions below.

1.) Who was the first prophet to live polygamy?

2.) How many wives did he have?

3.) Have any prophets lived polyandry?

4.) Have any past prophets or leaders repeatedly made racist statements without being removed?

5.) Is it doctrine of the LDS Church that blacks today are descendents of Cain or Ham?

6.) Is it doctrine of the LDS Church that blacks were less valiant in the pre-existence?

7.) Why do some Christian Churches refer to Mormons as a cult?

8.) Is it doctrine of the LDS Church that evolution is wrong?

9.) Is the account of the first vision given in the Pearl of Great Price the first account Joseph Smith gave?

10.) What is the Mountain Meadows Massacre?

11.) Is caffeine the reason why Mormons don’t drink coffee and tea?

12.) Should LDS members always obey their leaders?

13.) How did Joseph Smith translate the Book of Mormon?

14.) Were all the papyri Joseph Smith translated destroyed in the Chicago fire?

15.) Do Egyptologists agree with Joseph Smith’s translations of the Egyptian papyri, that we know as the Pearl of Great Price?

16.) Is the history of the LDS Church that we learn in church and Institute classes a representative account of what happened?

17.) Have you ever heard of the Spalding manuscript?

18.) Did Joseph Smith ever get paid to look for treasure by using a peep stone?

19.) Do you think a Prophet is infallible? Can he make mistakes in what he states and in his personal life?

I’m sure there are other questions that I would like to ask. I would be very curious to see if LDS members knew the answers to these questions and if so what percentage. My guess is that a few will have heard of some of them, but will be unaware of any details. I tried to make the questions as non-leading as possible. Thus I asked, “Who was the first prophet to live polygamy?” instead of “Did Joseph Smith live polygamy?”. I think that as latter-day saints we should know more about our history than non-LDS Christians. What other questions should be added? Did you know the answers (answer this especially if you are an active LDS member)?

Answers:

1.) Joseph Smith
2.) Some where between 20-33
3.) Yes, Joseph Smith did.
4.) Yes, there are several Apostles and Prophets especially in the 19th century church. The most notable was Brigham Young.
5.) No, this was never doctrine of the Church. In my opinion it was based on racist ideology brought from other protestant traditions of the time and applied to the priesthood in the LDS Church.
6.) No, although many members still believe this. If you do some research you find it was never doctrine.
7.) LDS beliefs vary dramatically from orthodox Christian teachings. The LDS rejection of the Trinity is one of the main reasons some Christian churches refer to Mormons as a cult.
8.) See answer 6
9.) No, there are at least 7 different accounts of the first vision. The current account in the PofGP was dictated by Joseph Smith and is the last one he gives before his death, the earliest account that Joseph wrote in his own hand was in 1832, 12 years after the vision.
10.) A horrific event on Sept. 11, 1857 in which LDS members murdered a large number of defenseless people traveling through Southern Utah from Arkansas.
11.) No, if this were true anything with caffeine would be ban.
12.) No, read up on Mountain Meadow Massacre.
13.) At least two ways, he used a seer stone placed in a hat and the Urim and Thumim.
14.) No, the church owns some fragments that contain at least one of the facsimiles found in the PofGP.
15.) No, they don’t agree with his translation. There are several LDS defenses to this problem.
16.) No, it is a general and faith promoting overview of LDS history. There are many things that members might find troubling if they knew all the details of LDS history.
17.) This is a story that has some parallels with the Book of Mormon that some detractors say Joseph Smith copied or used parts of to write the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith may have had access to it.
18.) Yes, he did.
19.) No, only Jesus was perfect. Yes, very few prophets haven’t.

Posted by: Jay | August 27, 2007

Denied a voice.

human.png

This week I called the Sunday school teacher and politely let him know that my wife and I were very uncomfortable with what was said in class the week before (i.e. blacks seed of Cain/Ham) by some of the class members. It was then that he told me he also was uncomfortable with the comment, but didn’t know what to say. I began to tell him about Elijah Abel, David O. McKay’s statement and other points about the history of the issue. He asked me if I would use 5-10 mins. of class time to let others in the class know the information. I of course agreed.

I decided to share three statements. President Hinckley’s most recent, Bruce R. McConkie’s (1978), David O. Mckay’s (as quoted in Greg Prince’s book) and perhaps share that there were black members that held the priesthood before and during the priesthood ban.

Sunday morning I received a call from the Sunday school teacher. Asking me to limit what I shared to just a few quotes and then he would tell anyone that had further comments or questions to go talk to the Bishop, at which point he would start the current lesson. I said that would be fine. I could tell he was having second thoughts about allowing me to share this information. After an hour passed I called him back to share with him exactly what I would say. I wanted him to know I wasn’t going to go overboard with it. He assured me that he was not afraid of what I might say and that everything was fine. Relieved, I went to church with my family.

When Sacrament was over, I went into the Sunday school class and sat down waiting for my opportunity to read the statements of past leaders. I decided to use only two; Bruce R. McConkie’s and David O. Mckay’s quote from Greg Prince’s book because I didn’t want to take up too much of class time and I thought these would be sufficient. Just as everyone was getting settled in, the Sunday school teacher came up to me visibly nervous. He placed his hand on my shoulder as I sat. I could feel a slight tremble as he told me that the bishopric did not want anything said further on the subject. He was very apologetic that I would not be able to share what I had with the class. I was saddened that I would not be given the chance to correct false doctrine that was shared before and didn’t understand why the bishopric would have a problem with it.

During the lesson my daughter began to cry, so I took her out into the hallway. It was there that I ran into a member of the bishopric. He said he had been looking for me because he wanted to extend a calling. We went into an empty room where he extended a calling to me. After I accepted, I asked him about why I was not allowed to share information that would have corrected the statements of the preceeding week. He said that the bishopric felt that it would just stir up more problems and they essentially decided to let “sleeping dogs lie”. I told him I was afraid that because those that said the comments were so emphatic about it being doctrine and that they had tried to prove their statements using the standard works, that some members may have walk away thinking that their views were in fact doctrine of the Church.

He then asked me if I knew anyone that was offended by the statements. I felt that if anyone wasn’t offended that would be more of a problem than if someone was. The only other people that I knew of were my wife and the teacher, but that was because I had spoken with them. He then asked me who said the comments. I told him that I didn’t know. It was at least two and possibly three people that made separate comments (my wife wouldn’t tell me who it was). We left the room with him saying that he’d talk about it with the bishopric again. I let him know that I didn’t have to be the one that corrected the problem. I would be perfectly happy if it was one of them or the teacher that addressed the issue, but that I felt someone should say something. I left not feeling very confident that anything else would be done to correct the problem.

It mystifies me why these comments would be left alone. I’m caught in the middle of doing what I feel is right and obeying my leaders. By letting it go the bishop is by default saying it’s ok to repeat false doctrine. I wonder if I started declaring doctrine that was false in church meetings if they would do anything about it. It is possible that they will say something next week about it, but I’m not holding my breath. If nothing is done I may go to the Stake President.

Posted by: Jay | August 25, 2007

ACLU backs a Mormon

ACLU, Justice support lawsuit by LDS student

Published: August 25, 2007

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The Justice Department is joining the American Civil Liberties Union in backing a student who lost his state-funded merit-based scholarship because he left college to serve a two-year church mission.The department’s Civil Rights Division filed a friend-of-the-court brief Friday in U.S. District Court in Charleston on behalf of David Haws, a student at West Virginia University.

Haws, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is suing a state scholarship board, alleging it violated his First Amendment right to freely exercise his religion. His attorney argues that by denying Haws’ request for a leave of absence, the board forced him to choose between his religion and his scholarship through a state program, known as PROMISE.

The Justice Department noted that the PROMISE Board grants deferments for military and community service., and that by denying a deferral for religious purposes, the board was placing a lower value on religious deferments.

Haws’ attorney, John Matthews of the West Virginia chapter of the ACLU, said he was surprised by the federal government’s support.

“Obviously you don’t always see or think of the ACLU and the Bush administration being on the same side,” he said.

An attorney for the state declined to comment.

The state’s request to dismiss Haws’ lawsuit notes that Mormon missions are encouraged, not required. Haws was “under no compulsion to choose between the tenets of his religion and continued receipt of the PROMISE scholarship,” the motion reads.

Haws, who has a 4.0 grade point average, returned to West Virginia this month after spending two years helping to improve conditions for Hispanic workers in Western states. He has re-enrolled at WVU, and the university has agreed to defer his tuition at least through November while the lawsuit is pending.

Haws’ lawsuit seeks the reinstatement of the scholarship and a change in the PROMISE Board’s scholarship policy.

Original article found here in the Deseret News

Should the ACLU have helped this return missionary?

Posted by: Jay | August 22, 2007

Should we Mormons apologize to blacks?

elijah_abel_drawing.jpg
Elijah Abel

Some significant quotes by past leaders denouncing the priesthood ban as doctrine.

“There is not now, and there never has been a doctrine in this Church that the Negroes are under a divine curse. There is no doctrine in the Church of any kind pertaining to the Negro. ‘We believe’ that we have a scriptural precedent for withholding the priesthood from the Negro. It is a practice, not a doctrine, and the practice someday will be changed. And that’s all there is to it.”
– President David O. McKay, 1954 (Sterling M. McMurrin affidavit, March 6, 1979. See David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism by Greg Prince and William Robert Wright.)

“There are statements in our literature by the early brethren which we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, “You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?” And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.”

“We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter any more.”

“It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year.”
– Bruce R. McConkie, 1978 (All Are Alike Unto God, A SYMPOSIUM ON THE BOOK OF MORMON, The Second Annual Church Educational System Religious Educator’s Symposium, August 17-19, 1978)

I’ve heard several faithful members of the LDS Church reject the notion that LDS leaders (i.e. Prophet and Apostles) should apologize to blacks for the priesthood ban that was enforced until 1978. The contention is that members have accepted blacks into the church; they have been given the priesthood and therefore the issue is dead. But what do you do about all the excuses leaders gave for the ban that are still floating around out there among LDS members?

This last Sunday in Gospel Doctrine the class was discussing why Christ did not preach to the gentiles. Somehow the blacks and the priesthood came up. This person compared the denial of priesthood to blacks to Christ not preaching to the gentiles. Implying that God instituted the ban against blacks having the priesthood. I was not there so my account is second hand from my wife. Unfortunately, I just happened to decide to go to Gospel Principles class last week instead of Gospel Doctrine class. My wife thinks there was a bit of divine intervention because she knows this is an issue in Mormon history I struggle to understand.

The Church has asked that EVERYTHING taught on this subject in the past should be discarded (Paraphrasing Bruce R. McConkie). However, members still hold on to the old ways of thinking even to this day. I understand why they do it. It is easier than admitting that a few leaders in your church said racist things time and time again. Perhaps that would destroy their testimonies.

Does the LDS prophet need to apologize for the Church? Well, I think he at least needs to make it clear that it was not doctrine from God. The members need to know in no uncertain terms that this policy was of man and that God allowed it to happen to test His church. This is the absolute best spin you can put on the situation.

It is obvious that denying black the priesthood was never doctrine of the Church. Joseph Smith himself ordained Elijah Abel to the priesthood (see drawing above), which he held until the day he died. He served as a Seventy and served three missions for the Church. I don’t think you could ever find a more faithful member, but Brigham Young, John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff refused to allow him to go through the temple.

Several more blacks were also ordained to the priesthood after Brigham Young put the ban in place. David O. McKay during his presidency stated that it was a practice not doctrine and because it was just a practice it could change in the future. There was also much debate among the Apostles in both the 19th and 20th century as to if the ban was legitimate or not. So blacks not receiving the priesthood because they are the decedents of Ham or Cain was never doctrine of the Church. There has been debate about it ever since the late 1800’s among Church leaders. It is not supportable by scripture and is the remnant of 18th century racist ideology.

The fact that members of the LDS Church are still confused about this means that Church leaders still have a lot of work to do. I think the underlining problem is that it is not in the average members ability to reconcile leaders of Christ’s church perpetuating racist ideas. Therefore, they lean on the old excuses for the ban as justification and ignore the statement given by Bruce R. McConkie to discard past statements on the subject and the recent statement of Gordon B. Hinckley in the priesthood session of general conference. I guess these statements are too arcane for the general membership of the Church. They need to be directly told what is being referred to before they will stop repeating offensive false doctrine.

I wonder if the member that brought the issue up as an example would have done so if the black members of our ward had been there. I highly doubt it. However, since the room was fully white they felt perfectly comfortable expounding on things that the Church had rejected 29 years ago. I don’t think you can come to any other conclusion than that the ban was wrong, motivated by racist feelings, and definitely not initiated by God.

Posted by: Jay | August 20, 2007

Temple recommends with barcodes

200px-dc-temple-1.jpg

The LDS Church has decided once again to change the temple recommend. In a dramatic move all temple recommend holders are being told to turn in their old recommends and get a new one with the added feature of a bar code. In one congregation I heard a member of the bishopric say that the brethren were doing this to increase safety and security of the members. I’m not sure how this move increases safety or security. I do see other applications for it though.

I’ve noticed on the Internet disgruntled members that scan their recommend and post it so that others can print off a copy and enter the temple (I’m not sure how many non-LDS are adventurous enough to actually do this). The move to add a bar code could be an attempt to stop these types of intrusions.

If a barcode is being scanned in at several temples simultaneously or in quick succession it would raise a red flag and that temple recommend could be tagged; refusing admittance to the owner until they go talk to their Bishop about the problem. I also think it could be a way for the LDS Church to keep tabs on who goes to the temple and how often.

Tell me what you think. Why is the LDS Church putting barcodes on the temple recommends?

bat_creek_stone.jpg

I was in the University of Tennessee’s McClung Museum today to check out an exhibit that my wife wants to take the kids to about dinosaur eggs. While there I decided to walk around the small museum and see what else they had on display. There was a “large” section of the museum set aside for Cherokee artifacts found in Tennessee.

I was watching a video on what archeology is and I started to get bored. Looking on the opposite wall, I noticed nearly rectangular stone no bigger than a dollar bill mounted in a Plexiglas case. Curious, I drew closer and read the small caption next to the display.

It was a small stone found in a burial mound 40 miles south of Knoxville, Tennessee that dated back to about 100 B.C. I continued to read and discovered that this little stone was the center of much controversy. It turns out that a Smithsonian archeologist (i.e. John W. Emmert) discovered the stone in 1889 and sent it to the Smithsonian where it stayed in storage for about 70 years.

The interesting thing about it was the letters carved into its surface. When Emmert found the stone he reported the letters to be Cherokee in origin. However, 60+ years later a professor of Mediterranean Studies named Cyrus Gordon claimed the characters were a form of paleo-Hebrew and that they translated into English as “for the Judeans”. At this point I was reading intently.

This new revelation lead to the theory that ancient Romans actually discovered America before Columbus. I seem to remember that it is widely accepted that Columbus was not the first to discover America, but nobody has proposed that it was the Romans that were first. Of course I immediately thought of the Book of Mormon and how odd it was that I had never heard of this stone before. The review ended by stating there continues to be controversy to this day as to the
authenticity of the stone.

After doing a little research (I got a bibliography of all the papers published on the subject at the museum) I found that there are many that believe it is a hoax and a few that believe it is real. Although the critiques are quite compelling, none of them really rule out that the stone is indeed authentic. Of course other than the stone and the circumstance of its discovery there is nothing that compels anyone to say that it is authentic either.

I have attached a drawing of the stone and can vouch that it is an accurate rendering of the stone I saw in the museum. It appears that generally this stone is considered suspect by many mainstream archeologist. This doesn’t surprise me because there is very little, if any, archeological evidence of Book of Mormon peoples in America. So the notion that the only thing left is this stone makes it highly suspect in the eyes of professional archeologist. Some say that Emmert fabricated it to get notoriety. This was my first thought too, but Emmert claimed it was Cherokee writing and never received or sought after any unusual recognition for the find. So if he was seeking for fame, he had a strange way of going about it. There are other valid critiques of the stone out there if you’re interested. None of them I’ve read so far conclusively rule out its authenticity. At the very least it make you wonder.

I was just surprised that there was something in this little museum that had a connection with the Book of Mormon (even though it was not presented as such). It’s weird some of the things you run into.

Posted by: Jay | August 13, 2007

Why be bitter?

meloncholy.jpg

Reading the blogs of other LDS members that have come to know various nuances of LDS history largely forgotten by the Mormon culture, I have noticed many that question the LDS Church become negative and hateful. I want to explore the reason for this in an attempt to understand my own frustrations and at times anger. I do not wish to become bitter.

From a Mormon perspective these feelings are the obvious result of allowing things into a mind that offend the Spirit of God. The feelings of darkness and destructive behavior are of Satan. I was told on my mission not to read any anti-Mormon literature. The idea being that it contained lies that would divert a missionary from their true purpose which was to bring souls to Christ.

Last year when I finally allowed myself to ask if the LDS Church was a hoax, I experienced this feeling of darkness. It came in on me like a weight. I carried it around everyday to work and home again. My life held no joy. The thing I loved had been utterly ruined and I was mourning. I wanted to believe that the information I had learned of was taken out of context or twisted in some way. I firmly believed that all I had to do was study more and all the controversy would disappear. That didn’t happen.

What did happen is that I became more depressed as the information I learned was confirmed by church friendly sources. I tried to understand what I was feeling from a new perspective. Was this a lack of the Spirit or was it something different? I began to realize that it was possible the negative feelings were a default defensive mode my mind kicked into because my beliefs were being challenged and not necessarily a lack of the Spirit. This didn’t help to improve my mood, but it did give me a different perspective on why I felt the way I did.

As the end of the year approached I sank deeper into frustration and sadness. I began to think about leaving the LDS Church. I was desperately looking for someone from the LDS Church to show me how foolish I had been, someone that could offer an explanation of why so many things seemed askew. To many questions I found answers; explanations that while plausible seemed for some reason to lack ability to bring peace of mind.

I began to feel the need to talk with people about the issues I encountered. I had of course been talking to my spouse. Unfortunately, she was getting frustrated with my seeming lack of faith. Ideally, I would of liked to talk with other members of my ward to see what they thought. While I had the desire to do this, I refrained. I knew how hard it was for me to deal with and didn’t want to hurt anyone else. A few months later I started this blog.

It was very liberating to talk openly and receive input from others that felt the same as me. The conversations involved non-LDS as well as LDS. I was beginning to understand how those outside the LDS Church viewed us and how members in the Church view the controversies raised by critics. I could feel some of my frustration begin to be lifted.

What do I do now? I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface in my study of Mormon history. I cannot reject the Church based on my present knowledge of past events because I still know so little. My first impulse was to write an angry letter to Salt Lake and leave the Church never looking back, but my true self knows that impulsive reactions are rarely the right ones. I now believe that I must have patience and temper my frustrations for a while. When I am satisfied that I have done my part I will know how to act. It is my hope that when I am satisfied I have honestly considered all the relevant information I will be able to look back and see how wrong I was to be frustrated and how glad I am to not have lashed out.

Why do so many people become bitter? Does the LDS Church really lie or are they just presenting an idealized picture of LDS history much like the version of American history taught in today’s school system?

Posted by: Jay | August 7, 2007

Lazy faith

blind.jpg

I’ve been lazy! I recognize how pitifully lazy I have been. Growing up in the LDS faith I accepted everything that was told to me as accurate, whole truth. It didn’t occur to me that it was my job to search out facts and decide for myself. I just assumed (yes I know ass-u-me) that those I trusted (i.e. teachers, GA’s, parents, friends) would present me with unbiased information. I now know it is wrong to assume you are getting an unbiased view when talking to anyone about anything, even at church. As the cliché goes, there are always two sides to a story. Find the two extremes of an issue and the truth will usually fall somewhere between.

Most people call lazy faith by its common name, blind faith. Blind faith is the act of believing what you are told without knowing why or perhaps believing even though there may be evidence, which contradicts the belief. Believers of this type hold hard to their belief even when faced with abundant evidence to the contrary. They may not even have a logical argument to support the belief, but by gosh someone told them it was true so they will hold onto it or die trying.

In Priesthood last Sunday I shared a comment that blind faith (i.e. lazy faith) can actually be a bad thing. Another brother in the quorum refuted my statement. If I were itching for an argument I would have brought up the Mountain Meadows Massacre (MMM). If you adhere to the LDS interpretation of this event in Mormon history, as I mostly do, you are forced to admit that sometimes you should not listen to your leaders. You should not always do what they say, but should question them when something doesn’t seem right. The way the LDS Church portrays the MMM, the members blindly followed their local leaders and obeyed their order to kill innocent people. Are those that did what they were told blessed for murdering innocent people or condemned for not following Christ’s admonition of love your neighbor?

It is ironic after such a horrific event 150 years ago that I would still be taught to follow my leaders no matter what they said. If they were wrong the Lord would bless me anyway for my obedience. This is the mantra I received growing up and particularly from my mission president. I couldn’t disagree more. I believe that when you sustain a leader in the LDS or any Christian Church it is to support him in building up God’s kingdom and bringing souls to Christ. Anything contrary to that does not require our obedience.

If a leader asks us to do something we view as wrong, how can God expect us to participate in it? Now most of what our current LDS leaders say is thankfully good, but we should feel free to object when our conscious dictates that we do so. Unfortunately, in today’s Christian community (i.e. All Christian denominations and LDS) we want our leaders to tell us what is wrong and right. We hang on every word as if it were spoke by God himself and do little to think, reason, and know for ourselves if what has been taught is true.

When we do this, aren’t we giving up our freedom to choose? Someone pushes our buttons and we obey. We are encouraged to seek after truth to find confirmation of that truth and obey it. Why do we so often give up the right to know for ourselves by just following blindly? I think it is because we are lazy.

Posted by: Jay | August 4, 2007

Caffeine anyone?

caffeine_graph1.jpg

In the LDS Church I have continually been taught the Word of Wisdom (D&C 89). The basic premise is that we should only take into our body things that are healthy and non-addicting. The section mentions hot drinks, which have been interpreted to mean tea and coffee. Here is where the controversy begins.

Without fail when D&C 89 is taught in Church the subject of caffeinated beverages (i.e. Coke, Mountain Dew) comes up. There are two schools of thought about this within the Church. Adherents of the first argue that caffeine is an addictive drug and though not mentioned specifically in the Word of Wisdom drinking caffeinated beverages breaks the “spirit” of the law. They also point to statements by a few General Authorities condemning its consumption. It is also noted that on the campus of BYU Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper, Coke and many other normally caffeinated beverages are sold without caffeine (I think UT is one of the rare places where you can find Decaff Mountain Dew).

When President Hinckley was on Larry King a few years ago he was asked many probing questions. One of them was if Church members drink caffeinated soda. President Hinckley replied that we do not. I am not one to advocate drinking caffeine (I do occasionally do so), but this statement was not very accurate. Drinking caffeinated sodas is very common among LDS members. I have yet to attend a ward where I didn’t know several people that drink Coke or Pepsi.

Members of the other school of thought reason that caffeine is not highly addictive. An occasional Coke or Mountain Dew will not turn into a life long addiction. Caffeinated drinks used to help keep awake on long trips or during and all night study session are an instance when these may be used properly. Most members that drink caffeinated soda will admit that it is bad to indulge in it all the time, but not if taken infrequently.

They also argue that if drinking caffeine doesn’t keep them from getting a temple recommend it must be okay. A few weeks after the prophets statement, I went for my temple recommend interview and when asked about the Word of Wisdom I expressly stated that I drink Coke and other caffeinated sodas. The Bishop balked at the idea that this would constitute breaking the Word of Wisdom. I walked out 10 mins. later with my recommend.

Now if caffeine is strictly prohibited then all the many things that contain even a hint of caffeine are also taboo. This includes the inoccuous cup of hot chocolate. No more chocolate candy bars either they contain 6 mg of caffeine. And what about those caffeine free cola drinks. Pepsi free boasts that it is 99% caffeine free. That’s right 1% of the caffeine remains making these “caffiene free” drinks off limits to strict adherents of the spirit of the law.

It is also argued that many members concerned with caffeine consumption ignore other admonitions that are expressly stated in the Word of Wisdom, such as reducing consumption of meat and increasing intake of whole grains. Thus their attitude seems to be one of don’t break the spirit of the law, just go and outright break the law.

In the end this topic is peripheral, but the fact that it comes up so often means it merits more discussion. If you are a Mormon what do you think about caffeinated beverages? If you are a non-Mormon what do think of the ban on Tea and coffee? Do you think that LDS members that drink caffeinated sodas are hypocrites?

Posted by: Jay | July 25, 2007

The One True Church

Pope Benedict XVI

LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy – Pope Benedict XVI has reasserted the universal primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released Tuesday that says Orthodox churches were defective and that other Christian denominations were not true churches.

Benedict approved a document from his old offices at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that restates church teaching on relations with other Christians. It was the second time in a week the pope has corrected what he says are erroneous interpretations of the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 meetings that modernized the church.

Read the whole article here.

It is interesting that this is similar to the language the LDS Church uses. Strangely this does not offend me in the slightest. I have had many people justify their staunchly anti-Mormon rhetoric based solely on the account of the first vision that says that the creeds of other Christian Churches are an abomination. When press for examples of where the LDS Church has “persecuted” them, they fail to produce anything other than this account.

The statement by Pope Benedict XVI is basically a euphemism of the first vision condemnation of other Christian creeds. I can’t be offended because Catholics have the right to believe what they want. It doesn’t offend me that they say my particular religion is not true. Does what the Pope said offend any LDS or non-LDS Christians out there? If so why?

By Paul Foy
Associated Press

The remains of seven American Indians unearthed by a homebuilder show several were shot point-blank in the head by Mormon settlers seeking revenge during a period of pitched violence in 1853, say scientists who plan to release their findings today.

The bones were discovered by contractors digging in Nephi, about 70 miles south of Salt Lake City, last summer for a house that now stands over the site. The victims, all males about 13 to 35 years old, are believed to have been Goshute Indians who were unwitting casualties of the Walker War, a nearly yearlong clash between Mormons and other Indian tribes under the leadership of Ute Chief Wakara. “These Indians just happened to be in the wrong place,” said Ron Rood, an assistant state archaeologist who retrieved the bones, scraps of clothing, copper ornaments and a lead bullet from inside a skull.
     
By one account, the Oct. 2, 1853, killings were in retaliation for the ambush a day before of four Manti farmers hauling wheat to Salt Lake City by oxen. That attack occurred at Fountain Green, about halfway between Manti and Nephi. Manti is about 30 miles southeast of Nephi, a gateway to the Wasatch Front.
     
The massacre occurred during a summer and fall of bloody conflict between Mormon settlers fanning out from the Salt Lake Valley and raiding tribes. “There were a whole series of tit-for-tat killings,” he said.
Rood said his findings refute an account by a Mormon militia regiment that the Indians approached Nephi refusing to drop their weapons and attacked first, hitting a settler with an arrow.

“A discovery like this allows the victims to tell their story,” Utah state archaeologist Kevin Jones said. Four of the victims were shot in the head. All of the victims showed defensive wounds. The hands of one Indian were tied behind his back. Several showed evidence of blunt-force trauma. Their bodies were heaped into a shallow grave about 3 feet wide, Rood said.

The grave was covered by a cedar plank and several feet of sediment from flash floods over the years. By last August, it yielded to heavy equipment digging a hole for a foundation. Contractors stopped the excavation to call police and a medical examiner.
     
The event had been recorded in historical accounts as involving Isaac Morley, a leader of 225 settlers sent to Nephi by Brigham Young, the second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “We have the personal journals of two women who witnessed this event and described it as a heinous act of murder,” said Rood. “This is a great example of archaeology and history coming together.” Rood teamed up with Derinna Kopp, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Utah. Their investigation will be the topic of a lecture tonight at a conference of the Utah Statewide Archaeological Society at Utah Valley State College in Orem. The lecture will be at 8 p.m. at the McKay Events Center. Springville, Utah, historian D. Robert Carter plans to set the stage for Rood with an overview of settler and Indian conflict in Utah Valley.

You can find the original article here

Posted by: Jay | July 19, 2007

September Dawn Trailer

I think this movie is going to start some great discusion with non-LDS and LDS alike. I can’t wait! What do you think?

Posted by: Jay | July 16, 2007

Mormonism worse than child molestation?

alw261.jpg

Wow, when I saw this I had to put it up on my blog. I think it is pretty bad when non-LDS critics of the Mormon faith have to sink this low. Not only is it unchristian, but very saddening to see what bigotry will lead people to say.

The sign in no way makes me want to be a part of the authors religion or viewpoint. If they can say something as outrageous as this about Mormons, what other outrageous views do they hold?

Posted by: Jay | July 16, 2007

15 minutes with the Bishop

Yesterday I went to the appointment I had made with the Bishop to let him know about the struggles I’m having with my testimony. I will recount the best I can our conversation. I’m sure that many details will be left out so don’t take this as a word for word dictation of our conversation, as it only represents a general overview of it.

We began the interview with a prayer given by the Bishop. He had no idea why I was there (other than to seek counsel or confess something). He started the conversation.

Bishop: What would you like to discuss?

Me: Well, I’m a little uncomfortable doing this, because I’ve never done it before, but I would like to be released from my calling in the Elders Quorum Presidency.

Bishop: Ok, I can call the Stake President today but it will take a couple of weeks before you are officially released.

Bishop: Are there any worthiness issues that are leading you to this decision?

Me: No

Bishop: I know you are in school. Are the time demands of the calling too great?

Me: No, the time is not an issue.

It was my intention to be as vague as possible and still honestly answer his questions. He began to probe more.

Bishop: Did someone offend you?

Me: No, not at all. No one has offended me. Last week the 1st counselor in the EQ said something to me that made me realize it was time to be released.

Bishop: What did he say?

Me: Nothing really. He just asked me for the Home teaching stats because they were due on Monday. I didn’t have them. I knew that if I were really doing my calling I would have had them. I guess it just woke me up to the absolute apathy I had for my position. I didn’t think it was fair to the ward or the EQ to have me serve in the EQ any longer.

Bishop: What made you decide to be released?

Me: I have been struggling with my testimony for a little over a year now. Last summer when I was asked to take the calling, I did. I now see that I made a mistake in doing so. At that time I was convinced that my concerns would clear up with more study into Church history and with prayer. While many of my concerns have dissipated, there are still a few things that trouble me. Most of what I am struggling with are statements of pasts leaders and events in Church history.

The first time I thought I shouldn’t be in this calling was when I was out with the missionaries. I used to go out several times a month with them. On this last occasion they asked me to bear my testimony to an investigator about the Book of Mormon. I did it, but I wasn’t sure anymore if I really believed what I was saying. It was after that I stopped going out with the missionaries altogether.

If you related my feeling to politics, I would say it is kind of like when Nixon did what he did. After that people distrusted politicians. I think I have the same feeling about the Church now. I had a very painful time the end of last year, which was probably my lowest point.

I don’t want to leave the Church. There are many things only taught in this Church that I believe are true and wonderful. I want to find answers to the questions I have.

The Bishop look slightly relieved when I told him I wasn’t looking to leave the LDS Church.

Bishop: As long as you are working on your testimony, that is what is important.
What did you mean by mistrust?

Me: [Unfortunately, I don’t remember my response to this question]

Bishop: How is your relationship with your wife?

Me: Good.

Bishop: Does she know about your struggles?

Me: Yes, She knows about everything I am struggling with.

Bishop: Are you able to talk to her about it?

Me: For the most part. She gets frustrated, so I don’t talk with her about it much anymore. She feels like we just spin our wheels talking about the same things over and over. She has learned to tolerate the conversation for a while but ultimately it gets her upset. I don’t blame her I would have been the same way a year ago.

Bishop: Do you have someone to talk to?

Me: Yes

Bishop: Do you talk with your family about it?

Me: No, My family and my wife’s don’t know anything about it. We’ve decided to leave them out of it for now.

Bishop: Who do you talk to then?

Me: Just other people

Bishop: Have you told the Elders Quorum President?

Me: No

Bishop: I’ll let him know you are going to be released so you don’t have to.

Me: OK

Bishop: Would you be willing to accept another calling in the ward?

Me: Yes

Bishop: How about a teaching calling?

Me: I’m not sure. I mean I’m ok with it if you are.

Bishop: How about a primary teacher, scouts or something with the young men?

Me: I really don’t feel comfortable decided what calling I am asked to do. I’d rather leave that up to the Lord.

Bishop: Of course, I’m just trying to get a feel for what you would like. My counselors and I would all have to agree after thinking and praying about it.

Me: I understand.

Bishop: Would a call that only required Sunday service be good?

Me: Yes that would be good.

Bishop: Thank you for coming and telling me this. I think I understand where you are coming from now. I’ll call the Stake President today and I’ll talk the EQ president to let him know you will be released. I think it will take a couple of weeks before you will be released though. Thank you for coming and being so candid.

Me: I understand, thank you Bishop.

Bishop: Will you give a prayer before we go?

Me: Yes

The tone of our conversation was always pleasant. I did not feel judged by the Bishop. I left feeling a little sad that I was being released, but mostly happy that I would not have the calling anymore. I was relieved that the Bishop acted in such a positive way.

I’m still not sure if this will have any future implications (i.e. temple attendance, baptizing my son, passing the sacrament, giving blessings etc.) That is probably something I should have brought up. I can only assume that I can do all those things because he didn’t say I could not. Overall I’m happy that my questioning is not a huge problem with the Bishop. I think if it had been I would have been pushed away from the Church and had a much harder time reconciling my feelings. I pray that this experience will ultimately strengthen my testimony of Jesus Christ and draw me closer to God.

Posted by: Jay | July 9, 2007

A call for advise.

I have decided to go talk to my Bishop about the difficulties I’m having with my testimony of the LDS faith. I’m not sure how this will turn out, but I need to do it anyway. I am the 2nd counselor in the Elders Quorum for my ward and have been largely ineffective because of my weakened testimony. This week I finally decided that it is not fair to the EQ to have someone in a leadership calling wrestling with his testimony. That is what made me call and make an appointment with the Bishop yesterday.

This is a little scary for several reasons. I don’t know if the Bishop will try to answer my concerns or just tell me to pray and fast. I don’t even know if he has struggled with the same issues or not and therefore I worry that I may be introducing doubt into his mind. Of course there is always the possibility he will remove me from my calling (I’m not opposed to that). I have considered just asking to be released from my calling instead of going into the fact that my testimony has taken a severe blow, but I know that will come up anyway. Finally, my son turned 7 this month and I would like to baptize him when he turns 8 next year, but I’m not sure the Bishop will let me do that if he knows exactly how I feel.

I have not rejected Mormonism. My testimony has just changed. Some of the things I used to consider doctrine have now become only rumors to me. My view of what a prophet is has changed dramatically from what I used to think. I question things that are spoken by local leaders and even current and past prophets. On some issues I am critical of what has been said or done.

I hold on to Mormonism because I do believe I received answer to prayer that it is true. I also have had other confirming experiences during my lifetime. Some say that this should be enough, but somehow it is not. Most of the problems I’m having with the LDS Church are problems of logic, not spirit. Although admittedly, my attempt to understand the illogical has affected the spiritual aspect of my faith. It is much harder for me to feel the spirit when I am constantly evaluating what my leaders have said and are saying. However, I don’t feel like I have a choice.

It appears that past prophets have given declarations that have been taken by LDS members in general as doctrine from God. Later it is revealed that it was in fact not doctrine, but one man’s opinion. Such ambiguity has lead me to believe I have the duty to evaluate statements on my own and then choose to accept or reject them base on my judgment and comparison to scripture. I feel inadequate to do this and I think this is where my frustrations come from.

So this Sunday I will enter into the office of the Bishop and explain my concerns to him. I do not do this lightly or without much thought. As I prepare myself for this meeting I would like to ask for advise from others that may be going through the same thing or have already experienced this. I am also open to advise from those that are not member of the LDS faith. Next week I will write a post about my meeting with the Bishop for those interested in the outcome.

Posted by: Jay | June 21, 2007

Good-bye for now

I’m sorry to say that I’m laying down my blog for a while. My search for understanding is taking a toll on my beautiful wife and myself. I’ve become so cloaked in the wave of criticism against the LDS Church that I have let it take me away from my family. I love my wife dearly and do not wish to cause her pain. Both of our lives are extremely busy at present. I sadly do not have the time to do the study into these topics that would satisfy my desire to get at the truth. I thank you all for your comments. It truly has been a great experience to see how others view the LDS Church and its doctrine and to know that there are other members that struggle with the same problems I do.

To everyone that struggles with LDS Church history and doctrine I say don’t give up! Keep searching keep trying to understand. Don’t take anyone else’s word for truth. Evaluate things critically, search for the other point of view. There have been a number of scholarly papers and books done for and against the LDS Church on almost every conceivable issue. Before you leave the LDS Church you should give both sides several chances to defend themselves. When I have done this I have found many accusations against the LDS Church to be baseless and trite. However, honesty compels me to admit that some criticisms have firm ground to stand on and the replies of defense I’ve read to this point do not satisfy me fully. These are very few issues that cause me to be troubled but until I have the time to resolve them I must lean on the Lord and pray for patience.

I realize that we are all at different levels of belief and disbelief. I will continue my belief in the LDS Church. It is what I know and how I have come to accept Christ as my Savior. Many things I took for granted as true have been challenged, which has caused me to reevaluate my faith. This has been mistaken by some, including my wife, as a rejection of the LDS Church. This is not so. I love the LDS Church. My testimony has changed but my commitment to Christ has not. I will continue to serve Him the best I can as an LDS member.

The LDS Church is great in so many ways. There are so many unique truths that I hold close to my heart. I will not just abandon them on a whim. I thank everyone for your comments here. They have helped me increase in understanding. I’ll still be around commenting from time to time on other blogs, but my main focus now must be my family and my research. When I come back I hope to find you all again.

Best wishes,

Jay

Posted by: Jay | June 15, 2007

Do we really need the Old Testament?

For all the criticism LDS members endure for saying the Bible is an inspired but corrupt document, you’d think they were the only ones that believed it. In fact I have found that many non-LDS Christians believe this too. They just don’t express it in the same way the LDS Church does. For some reason they are afraid to say directly that the Bible contains errors in doctrine. As if saying this is akin to denying the existence of God.

An illustration of this is polygamy. Universally, non-LDS critics condemn early LDS leaders for teaching and practicing the principle. When confronted with the fact that it was practiced by many revered prophets of the Old Testament and not condemned by God they baulk and say something to the affect that the Old Testament also says God told people to kill women and children so we can’t possibly trust everything in the OT. Yet they do use the OT as a credible source if it appears to support their theology. This inconsistent application of the OT makes me wonder, why do we need it? If non-LDS Christians threw it out could they still make the case for Christianity?
If so why is it still so widely used? Who gets to decide what doctrine is from God and what doctrine is of man? There has to be an ultimate authority on these issues otherwise everyone is left to decide what church they will believe. Who is this ultimate authority? Should they get rid of the OT?

Posted by: Jay | June 13, 2007

How to talk to a doubter

In my search for truth in my LDS faith I have come up against some pretty stout opposition from those that are believing LDS and non-LDS that don’t believe. It seems that I am caught in the middle of the two extremes. I had a discussion with my wife a while ago about how to talk to someone that doubts their faith. I think it can be applied to other religions as well.

It appears that the first inclination a “true believer” and “Anti-Mormon” have is to jump on the doubter and correct them, sometimes rather harshly. I can say from personal experience this approach will fail every time. In fact, it will have the opposite affect on the doubter. They will feel further alienated from the messenger and eventually their comments become background noise. What they are truly searching for are the facts that generate the doubt in the first place. They want to decide for themselves how to interpret history and doctrine. If you come across as interpreting it for them they may reject your conclusions. How should the doubter be approached? Is there just one way? Can a doubter be brought back to the faith with a renewed testimony?

Posted by: Jay | June 8, 2007

Should missionaries be more prepared?

When I think about missionaries I think about my own experience being called to serve in a foreign country (I went to Ecuador!). It took dedication, faith, an adventuresome spirit and preparation? The very first time I read the Book of Mormon through start to finish was three days before I entered the MTC in Orem, UT (I’d been reading it my whole life, just not all the way through). I thought that the Laminites were anyone with black skin (I was taught this was not the case in the MTC, a very humbling experience), didn’t know that Joseph Smith had polygamous wives and knew virtually nothing about other religions and their theology. I didn’t even know how to speak Spanish, even though I was going to a Spanish speaking country (That made it even more exciting).

My reasons for going were: I thought it must be true, I had a desire to serve God, I wanted to give back to the church I grew up in, it was expected of me by the LDS culture (my parents didn’t pressure me), and it was exciting to think I could go somewhere else in the world for two years. Not once did I think about if I was prepared with the knowledge I needed to answer peoples’ questions.

When I talk to missionaries in my ward, I find that they are much like I was. Occasionally there is one that is knowledgeable about the church history or other faiths, but that is rare. Most of that learning comes while you are on your mission and afterward. So what should missionaries know before leaving for 18 -24 months to serve God? Is spiritual knowledge enough? Would missionaries be more successful if they were trained to assist those that are kept from the LDS Church because of misconceptions about LDS doctrine?

FYI, I loved my mission. It truly was the best two years of my life. It made me see the world in a totally new way. I appreciated family and country more. I grew enormously from the experience spiritually, physically, and mentally. I don’t regret going. Yes, I continue to learn, but my mission was a time of “accelerated”, real world learning.

Posted by: Jay | June 5, 2007

Is eight years old too young?

In the LDS faith the youngest age that someone can qualify for baptism is eight. In fact, LDS members are commanded to baptize their children by this age or the child’s sins will be on their head (D&C 68:25). The reason given is that is the age (in LDS theology), which a child can distinguish right from wrong (i.e. they can sin).

I was baptized at the age of eight. While I barely remember the event, I do know it was not defining moment in my life. That came much later when I obtained a testimony for myself. Baptism was something I did because it was expected and because the anticipation was something like waiting for your birthday to arrive. I sometimes wish that I could have waited until later in life, when I had gained a testimony of Christ as my Savior. I think it would have meant much more to me then.

That said I have to admit that the age is arbitrary because different people will come to this understanding at different ages. Maybe someone who’s eight can have a deep appreciation for Christ. Surely this is a better approach than some religions that baptize infants who have no idea what is going on, but perhaps others who require that the convert be conversant in their doctrine and active for some time, would be the best. I think there are pluses and minuses to all these approaches. The Bible gives little enlightenment on the subject of age when it comes to baptism. If we believe that the Savior was the supreme example to be followed I suppose we should at least acknowledge that persons being baptized should at least be aware of what they are doing and why. What do you think?

I am convinced that the LDS Church could prevent a lot of people from leaving if it would do one thing, create a realistic expectation of what a prophet is in the minds of converts. When we sit down and think about it it’s obvious, the only perfect person was Christ. Why do we expect perfection from a prophet (e.g. Biblical or modern day)? Growing up in the LDS faith I had a movie star image of Joseph Smith and other LDS leaders. No one ever told me they were perfect, but that’s what I came to expect. Most of this image was formed by the polished LDS Church literature and movies that I was taught from growing up. Leaders were always put in the best light creating the illusion of perfection.

Now I know that some LDS members would say that sounds like an attack on the church, but that’s not what it is. I understand that the LDS Church wants to promote a certain image and that’s why they do what they do. I’m not faulting them for that. I don’t believe they are intentionally deceiving as anti-LDS claim (the information is out there).

They want to promote a certain idea and image of LDS history. They downplay or ignore the controversy so that the focus will be on Christ and his teachings, not on how many wives early leaders had. But in doing this, I believe the Church is setting up members to be picked off by “anti-Mormons” and others that expose naive members (I include myself in this group) to parts of church history that were previously unknown to them. A simple reminder that even a prophet can put his foot in his mouth would help members realize what they already know and prevent them from leaving because of human weaknesses that even prophets are subjected to.

Posted by: Jay | May 30, 2007

A new kind of Sunday school?

What if we had a new Sunday school class? In it LDS members could openly discuss controversial topics in Mormonism. They would be free to share the difficulty they have with accepting certain parts of Mormonism.  I see a great need for a class like this.  It would help those that are struggling to understand a variety of difficult topics right in their own ward. Currently the only outlets are a few organizations (F.A.R.M.S., F.A.I.R., Sunstone, Dialog, etc.) which have little or no stamp of approval from the LDS Church (F.A.R.M.S. is probably the closest to the LDS Church).  A manual for this class would be a valued treasure for every Mormon household.  Do you think the Church can do it? 

Posted by: Jay | May 25, 2007

Many accounts of the first vision

Detractors of the LDS Church have long pointed out that the official first vision account is not the version recorded in many of the historical records. They point to the fact that the earliest account Joseph Smith gives in his own hand states only that he saw Jesus Christ. They also point out that early converts to the Church probably never heard about the first vision at all, let alone as currently published by LDS sources. It wasn’t until later that Joseph claimed God the Father appeared to him at the same time as Christ. In total, there are 7-9 different accounts of the first vision. Many of these are second hand accounts written by members of the LDS faith after hearing it from Joseph Smith. However, even the first hand accounts of Joseph himself differ in the details offered or lack there of.

Critics of the LDS Church claim that there is no possible way that Joseph could have neglected to mention God the Father appearing to him. They also say that Joseph’s account of the vision “evolved” or became grander over time. In addition, detractors claim that if Joseph had really seen God he would have written down and publicized it widely among early converts (the first account was written nearly 12 years after the actual event). Supporters say that Joseph gave different accounts to different audiences and, while some are abbreviated or leave things out, none of them conflict with the standard version now accepted by the Church.

If you are LDS, did you know about the different accounts? How many members of the Church do you think are aware of this? What do you think about this? If non-LDS please give your perspective and explain why you think this is proof that Joseph’s vision did not occur as the LDS Church now presents it.

Posted by: Jay | May 24, 2007

Any advise?

I’ve had this blog for a little over a month now and just recently thought it would be a good idea to get critiques of my site. What are some things that you think could be better? Is it easy to navigate, post responses? Is there anything you would like me to continue, start or stop doing. What do you do to get more people coming to your blog? What are some cool things you have done on your blog? Any topics you would like to see addressed? Is this helping anyone else?

Posted by: Jay | May 21, 2007

Joseph Smith video

I watched the Joseph Smith movie last week. I was given the DVD on a recent trip I took to Navuoo, IL. This is the same movie released in Utah around the time of the LDS Church general conference. Overall I was disappointed in its content. I was going to post the notes I took while watching it, but I quickly discovered that would make a very long post. Instead I’ll list a few critiques of the film.

In the beginning, and throughout the film, it is stated that a belief in Jesus and a belief in Joseph are mutually exclusive. This is silly. Do we have to choose between Moses and Christ? LDS followers claim that Joseph is nothing more (or less) than a prophet. They do not and never will claim him to be equal to Christ. Since Joseph himself wanted LDS members to follow Christ’s teachings it doesn’t make sense to say, “It’s him or Christ”. This is not one of my major problems with the film, it is just repeated so often that I felt I should mention it.

The second problem with the film is that they repeatedly take scripture out of context. They use the … to dissect LDS and Biblical scripture, remove what they like and then place it in a context that suits them. This really hurts their credibility with the very audience they claim to be reaching out to. Several times I was shocked at the scriptures they quoted and the interpretation they gave. I thought, “Wow, 30 years in the LDS Church, five years of institute classes and I missed that?”. When I opened my LDS scriptures and looked up the reference I was surprised to see what they had done. I hadn’t missed anything; it was just taken out of context. What I don’t understand is why they would even bother to try this trick. It is too easy for LDS members to check and creates distrust of your whole message.

The third problem is that they use several faulty historical “facts” to show what a corrupt person Joseph Smith was. An example of this is the Jupiter talisman supposedly found on Joseph Smith’s body when he was murdered. The historical evidence for this is so thin that only the most bias commentator would use it to show Smith’s corrupt character. I suppose if someone had never heard of the Jupiter talisman and did not bother to do any fact checking then they might be swayed by it. However, once again this made me question how much of what I was watching was truthful.

Fourth, they hold LDS scripture to a standard they are not willing to hold the Bible to. The film talks about the lack of archeological evidence. This is despite the fact that there is no archeological proof that there was ever an exodus from Egypt as the Bible tells (For the record, I do believe there was an exodus). How can you feel comfortable arguing on such grounds when your own professed beliefs don’t hold up under such scrutiny? Especially if you believe that the events in Exodus happened only 3500 years before the Book of Mormon. I have heard non-LDS Christians say that given enough time there will be proof. Well, that’s what LDS members say about the Book of Mormon.

Lastly, the music was placed to manipulate. It’s curious that in the video they say we should not trust our feelings to find truth, but throughout the whole film music is used to create feelings of fear, suspicion, and paranoia. Whenever there was someone favorable to their point of view the music was light and spiritual. Contrasting this was the eerie horror film music played in the background whenever the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith was talked about. This was a clear attempt to manipulate the audience.

They do make some relevant arguments against the Book of Mormon. One of these is the current lack of DNA evidence. This has defenses that are logical and possible, but still too weak (in my limited view) to be convincing. Another is the Book of Abraham, the fact that the original papyri were found and the translation does not correlate with the LDS scriptures. This too has defenses that are logical, but again too weak to be fully convincing. There were a few other references made to statements by Joseph Smith that were troubling, but given the above I remain skeptical and will need to look them up for myself.

If I recommend this video at all it would be so those that view it can see how non-LDS Christians, hostile to LDS doctrine, can misrepresent, twist and distort fact for their own gain. I know that sounds harsh, I just don’t know how else to say it. Surely LDS and non-LDS Christians can differ in how we view Christ’s gospel without resorting to the above tactics. As a person that is struggling with some aspects of history and doctrine in the LDS Church I found this video only made me a defender of the LDS Church rather than an ally of non-believers. I think it will have the same effect on many others that view it.

I know this is a very short post and probably doesn’t address many of the details I bring up. If you have an interest to know exactly what scriptures I believe were taken out of context, what historical facts were skewed etc. just ask and I can address those in a post.

Posted by: Jay | May 18, 2007

What constitues Mormon doctrine?

This month the LDS Church released a statement about what constitutes Mormon doctrine. You can read it here in full. My favorite quote from this release is:

“Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church.”

I’ve visited many sites where people quote Brigham Young saying some outrageous thing and state that it is what Mormons believe (i.e. blood atonement, God had sex with Mary). These audacious statements that were “hidden” from them shock some members. The truth of the matter is that many of these things are unknown to Mormons simply because they are not doctrine and for that reason are not taught in LDS meetings. If they were doctrine members would be taught to accept and believe them. They would also be widely known among members. However, this is just simply not the case.

Frequently someone will ask, “If you believe Brigham Young (or any other LDS prophet) is a prophet of God, why don’t you believe everything he preached?” The simple answer is that no human on this earth is perfect. Everyone is subject to their own bias and reasoning. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. Many times prophets and members apply their own earthly experiences to doctrinal concepts in an attempt to reason with themselves. A common example of this are the cornucopia of excuses for polygamy spread around the church like idol gossip.

I think it is significant that the LDS Church continues to say that not every statement of a Church leader is doctrine. This places the responsibility of a person’s salvation squarely on their shoulders. It is up to you to decide what is from God and what is not. There are LDS members and non-LDS Christians that are perfectly content to take every word from each interview Gordon B. Hinckley has done on prime time television as the word of God. This is a mistake. Doctrine of the LDS Church must be based on the canonized scriptures. If it is not, then it is just opinion and should be understood as such.

What do you think? Do we hold prophets (Bible or LDS) to an impossible standard?
Do you think members are bound by past statments made by Brigham Young and others?

Posted by: Jay | May 14, 2007

Families forever a Mormon doctrine?

This weekend I attended my Grandmother’s funeral. She was not LDS. This got me thinking about the LDS teaching that families can be together forever. Some say that they believe they will be together again after this life and they don’t need to be Mormon to make it happen. Others say this is a false teaching and that the Bible clearly states you can only be married for this life and that when you die you are merely an angel without any right to family ties. Is an eternal family a Christian teaching? Are there scriptures that back it up? What do non-LDS Christians think will happen to their family unit after this life is over? What happens to us? I’m not clear what the afterlife holds in the view of non-LDS Christians.

I have heard a lot of talk about Fred Thompson running for president. Many social conservatives have championed him as the “best choice”. However, in a 1994 he filled out a survey that said he supported legal abortions in the first trimester. You can read about it here. This presents an interesting dilemma for conservative Christians, will they vote for Fred Thompson who in 1994 (maybe he’s changed his mind) wanted legal abortions in the first trimester or do they vote for Mitt Romney the once pro-choice now pro-life Mormon? If Fred Thompson has changed his mind would that make him a “flip floper”? (This post is not an endorsement of Mitt Romney.)

Posted by: Jay | May 4, 2007

Did “The Mormons” give Mormons a pass?

I have to say as an active member of the LDS Church I loved “The Mormons” on PBS. I’d say it was 90% accurate and for the most part fair (If you want to know the few problems I had with it ask). I love the dialog it started among the LDS faithful. I can’t wait to go to church this Sunday and hear what people say. This gave me the chance to openly talk to people about things that are normally not discussed (people don’t know or feel uncomfortable with it). I have heard and read comments from some members that view the program as widely positive and many that view it negatively.

Personally, I think it could have been much worse. I’m inclined to say that Helen went too easy on us. I would have loved to hear interviews on the subject of blacks and the priesthood. Yes, I know it was mentioned, but it was so short that if you blinked you missed it five times over. I was waiting to see a more extended interview with Darius Gray (A Church member-checkout the podcast he did with John Dehlin here. It’s podcast #26). I thought it was odd that they didn’t put him up on the website that contains all the interview transcripts here. And what about the history of blacks in the LDS Church. Joseph Smith and Elijah Able, etc. I was very disappointed that this was not brought up. Joseph Smith was extremely progressive about blacks in his day and I think this topic would have helped and not hurt the church.

I also think the LDS Church got a major pass because Helen Whitney didn’t interview Thomas Murphy about mDNA and the Book of Mormon. I don’t think the evidence is as damning as most people think (If they know about it at all), and it would have been nice to hear what the Church thought about it.

Helen also didn’t go into anachronisms in the Book or Mormon or any of the other problems with the Book of Mormon text. The Book of Mormon has some intellectual gems (as well as spiritual ones) in it that cannot be explained away, but it also has some problems that must be discussed. It would have been nice to see interviews just about the Book of Mormon, good and bad.

I was glad to see that the temple ceremony was respected. I think this was only right given the fact that the LDS Church leadership was cooperative in participating and those ceremonies are held sacred to us. Tell me what you think. Was it a hatchet job or PR piece for the LDS Church?

Posted by: Jay | May 3, 2007

“We have sinned against you”

I came across this article today. It appears to be couple of years old, but I was impress at the attitude with which the speaker approaches the LDS members. I hope that everyone Mormon and non-Mormon can follow his example. You can read the whole article here. Here are a few quotes from the talk that I enjoyed.

“I know that I have learned much in this continuing dialogue, and I am now convinced that we evangelicals have often seriously misrepresented the beliefs and practices of the Mormon community. Indeed, let me state it bluntly to the LDS folks here this evening: we have sinned against you. The God of the Scriptures makes it clear that it is a terrible thing to bear false witness against our neighbors, and we have been guilty of that sort of transgression in things we have said about you. We have told you what you believe without making a sincere effort first of all to ask you what you believe.”

“We have not been afraid to argue strenuously with each other, but our arguments have been conducted in a sincere desire genuinely to understand each other-and in the process we have formed some deep bonds of friendship.”

Wow! Now there is a brave man! He actually said, “We have sinned against you” and admitted to misrepresenting Mormon theology. I really like the second quote above because I think that this is how we should all try to approach religious conversations. Walk away with a greater understanding of each other and with a bond of friendship between you. What do you think of these quotes?

Posted by: Jay | May 3, 2007

Preexistence of our spirits?

I don’t know how many churches support the idea of preexistence, but the idea is pretty important in the LDS Church. I’m curious to know what other think about the biblical references to a pre-mortal existence. Here are a few scriptures to ponder. (I have quoted the verses in whole for convenience. They are taken from the KJV.)

“These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,
And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.” – Genesis 2:4-5

“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” – Ecclesiastes 12:7

How do you return to somewhere you have never been? If we never lived with God before wouldn’t it be more correct to say, “go unto God who gave it.”

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” – Jeremiah 1:5

Doesn’t this imply that God knew each of us before we were born?

“For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.” – Acts 17:28-29

This scripture clearly states that we, you and I, are literal offspring of God. We are the offspring of mortal parents. God is the father of our spirit, right?

“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” – Revelations 12:7-9

Now this is very interesting because it talks about angels fighting each other. Some of the angels followed Satan and fought against Michael. Surely, this is proof of preexistence. This event obviously happened before the earth was formed because Satan was cast down to earth with his angels.

“And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” – Jude 1:6

What is the meaning of “first estate”? LDS scholars interpret it as a reference to the preexistence. The preexistence was our first estate those that kept it came to earth to receive bodies. Those that didn’t came to earth without bodies (i.e. Satan and his angels).

“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:” – Ephesians 1:4-5

Also if there is not a belief in orthodox Christianity of life before mortal birth, then why are Christians generally opposed to abortion? Is it strictly a matter of ethics for them?

Posted by: Jay | April 30, 2007

Finding the truth through the Spirit?

How do you find truth? Does the Holy Spirit play a role? Where do the good feelings come from that you feel when listening to the words of Christ? I’ve heard many people argue that the “conversions” of LDS people are based at least partially on feelings, not facts from the Bible. I am one of those Mormons that have had spiritual confirmation of my faith (the Mormon faith). I know that some of you may be rolling your eyes when you read that, but I really do believe it.

This is one of the most compelling reasons why I stay in the Mormon Church, despite some negative views people have. I sincerely prayed to God that he would confirm to me the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. I did not receive an answer the first few times I prayed and decided to give it one last chance before I left the Church (I couldn’t stay any longer if it was false and we are promised by the church that God will answer us). Well, I will just say that the answer I received by way of what I believe was the Holy Spirit was so different than any other feeling I had felt before that I am convinced that it was from God. No, I didn’t see an angel or a vision. I’m just a normal person not prone to imagine things that aren’t there.

Although I have had this experience, in the last year I have learned of some events and quotes from past Mormon leaders that have challenged my faith. I continue to try to sift through the hateful, bigoted propaganda and truthful, accurate information on the Internet and in books. My belief that the Holy Ghost answered my prayer many years ago has also been challenged (Though I am still inclined to believe that God did answer me).

My question to you is how do you know if something is true or false? You may want to appeal to the Bible. That is fair enough, but what if you want to know if the Bible is true? Think about you most basic core beliefs. Why do you believe it? Was it what your parents taught you or did you have something happen that convinced you of it? The idea (taught by Mormonism) of the Holy Ghost teaching us truth makes sense to me. We are told what the fruits of the Spirit are in Galatians:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23)

So it is biblical that we actually FEEL something good when the Spirit of God is with us. It is also biblical that the role of the Holy Spirit is to teach us. Some of the more powerful scriptures that illustrate this point are below:

20 Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them… (Neh. 9:20)

11 But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost. (Mark 13:11)

Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour. (Luke 12:12)

Holy Ghost also is a witness to us. (Heb. 10:15)

Holy Ghost . . . shall teach you ALL things, and bring all things to your remembrance. (John 14:26)

Acts 2:37 they were pricked in their heart.

So why is that people discount feelings? Is it because they don’t believe that the Spirit functions through feelings (see Gal. 5:22-23 above) or is it because they are convinced that the feelings they feel are from God, but if someone from another faith describes similar feelings they are not? I’m not quite clear on this because I talk to people from other Christian faiths that say they “feel” the Spirit. I don’t doubt that they do, but some how they discount my experience. Help clarify this for me.

Posted by: Jay | April 27, 2007

Why are there so many Christian religions?

If you have ever heard of Mormons and what they teach you know that the Mormon Church claims to be a restoration of Christ’s church which was lost after the apostles all died. One of the “proofs” (besides scriptures pointing to an apostasy) presented to investigators is the fact that there are so many Christian religions. Most of the major Christian religions all claim to be the true church. Almost all of them have broken away from the Catholic Church for one reason or another. Why do you believe there are so many Christian Churches? What do you believe will happen to those that don’t subscribe to the same version of Christianity as you?

Posted by: Jay | April 25, 2007

Evolution friend or foe?

All of us know who Charles Darwin is. Some choose to demonize him and other praise him. In Christian circles his ideas on evolution are usually condemned, but does it have to be this way? Some claim that a belief in evolution and a belief in God are mutually exclusive. Though I believe that God created man, I don’t see how it is logical for us to say we know how it was acomplished. The Bible tells us that God created man from “the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Gen. 2:7) The theory of evolution is compatible with this statement. Is it not possible that God understands how evolution works and guided the process along to form us in his image? I’m not saying this is how it happened, but it is possible. No one can know for sure how it happened. However, logic can take us to certain conclusions based on the evidence we have accumulated so far.

Evolution may have weak points, but I submit that they are very few. To understand modern science there must be at least a casual acceptance of the idea of evolution. Indeed, if you understand science you know that science changes. It is always changing, inching closer to universal truth. It is quite possible that in the future our understanding of evolution will change, perhaps it will then coincide with the idea of a supreme creator. Why not be patient? Wait for science to catch up. Truth is not going anywhere. If that is what we really want as Christians we should not be afraid to let scientists wrestle to understand God’s creations. Eventually, we’ll all end up where we want to be, the truth.

Posted by: Jay | April 24, 2007

Tell me your church history

I am very interested to know about other faiths. Particularly, I would like to know how your church came to be. Who was the founder (other than Jesus Christ)? Why did they feel it necessary to start a “new” church? I ask these questions because Mormons are very aware of their history, who started it and his reasons, but when I ask my Christian friends these same questions they just flat out don’t know. Perhaps it is because their church has a much longer history than that of the LDS Church. I don’t really know why people don’t find it important to know the roots of their church’s past, maybe you could comment on that as well. This doesn’t have to be limited to Christian religions, please share if you are Muslim, Buddhist, etc.

Posted by: Jay | April 24, 2007

Is the Bible really perfect?

Is the Bible perfect? Now this is a very interesting question that comes up quite frequently among not only LDS, but other faiths as well. There are those that claim the Bible is perfect and nothing should be changed. There are also those that claim the Bible has serious flaws and has been corrupted (not intentionally). I will have to admit to you I tend to side with the latter. There are so many inconsistencies in the Bible that it makes me wonder. I’m not just talking about how Judas died or if the men with Paul heard a voice. I think when the New Testament is taken as a whole those things are of little importance. However, there are things that do matter because they point out that something is missing. For example, is there a prophecy that Christ was to be born in Bethlehem or not? Can man see God or not? Did we live before we were born or not? Does God have a body like us or not? These are all questions that the Bible brings up, but doesn’t answer. In some cases the Bible contradicts itself.

During my mission I learned how to read, write, and speak fluently in Spanish (Though my Spanish was certainly far from perfect). I began to read the Bible and Book of Mormon in Spanish. It was then that I realized something. When translating from one language to another there is not always an equivalent word. Due to this problem, translators must talk around the word trying to convey the original meaning in the new language. In doing so the original text can become corrupted, especially if the “copy” is continually translated instead of the original. I see this going on all around the Christian world. In an attempt to reach different audiences the Bible is “translated” into a language that they can more easily understand. Every time someone decides to do this it corrupts the word again, no matter how well intended.

I am aware that the gospels agree for the most part and this is proof that they must be close to the original text. I am also aware that people painstakingly made sure that every word was copied exactly from the Bible through time. I am also aware that humans are humans and no matter what kind of precautions you take we will always mess up, thus the inconsistencies of the Bible.

The purpose of this post is not to say how wrong the Bible is. I love the Bible. I wouldn’t want to be without it. Truthfully, this is just an extension of what I have been taught growing up and what I have found to be the case in my study of the Bible. What I want to know is, have you had the same experience or do you accept the Bible as a perfect book without error? Is it only LDS (and a few other religions) that acknowledge biblical errors?

Posted by: Jay | April 24, 2007

Mormonism a cult?

Perhaps someone could comment on where they first heard that Mormons were a cult. I’ve also heard the same people say this about Jehovah’s witnesses. It’s not clear to me what the reason of this label is. Obviously it is not to foster dialog between followers of Christ, but rather to drive a wedge between them. When I think of the word cult it brings up images of satanic worship, people drinking blood or dancing naked around a campfire. I think most people have similar imagery when they think of the word cult. So why is this term so freely used among some Christian faiths to describe Mormonism? The only possible reason can be to “scare” people. Who would want to associate with someone that is so evil as to belong to a cult? It wasn’t until I moved down to the southern U.S. that I realized how this label was affecting peoples’ view of Mormons. Two examples. I have had someone refuse to pray with me because he said I belonged to a “cult” and he doesn’t pray with cult members. Note: he was the one that was going to pray, not me. Second, my wife is standing in line and the lady behind her starts up a conversation. She asks my wife what church she goes to. My wife says the local LDS church. The lady’s eyes immediately fall to the floor and her conversation stops. My wife sensing the discomfort changes the subject. These are the two blatant experiences I have had since I moved to the south. Do you think Mormons are part of a cult? Why? Do you think this label helps them to find Christ the way you believe in him? Is this just a tactic used by some Christian ministers to “frighten” people away from the Mormon Church? Tell me what you think.

Posted by: Jay | April 23, 2007

What is the Trinity?

Have you had difficulty understanding the concept of the Trinity? I sure have. Reading from different sources and talking to Trinitarians, unfortunately, has not lead to a clear understanding of the concept either. Are God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost one? Do they have a body? Why does Jesus talk of the Father and Holy Spirit like they are totally separate from him? I know of many scriptures that support the idea of three separate beings united in purpose. However, I know of very few that support the concept of the Trinity (as I understand it). In fact, I’ve never seen the word Trinity in the bible. As far as I can figure it is a product of the Council of Nicene. If you are one of the few that understands the doctrine, please cite any scriptures that might help me know where this belief comes from. This is one of the issues that keep me in the Mormon Church.

Posted by: Jay | April 21, 2007

Challenging what you believe

During this past year I have slowly allowed myself to be exposed to critical thinking about my beliefs. I actually have allowed myself to say, “What if it’s all a fabrication?” Though I’m not thoroughly convinced that some conspirator made up LDS doctrine, I do have lingering doubts about certain things. It almost feels like I am caught in the middle of two extremes, those that would tell me I’m becoming an apostate and those that tell me I’m going to hell for staying. Finding someone to have a moderate conversation with becomes a problem because no one wants to struggle, but everyone wants to be right. I suppose some have already wrestled with the issues I now face and have little patience for my questioning attitude, but it is precisely these people that should be able to give the best advise. This blog is in some ways an outlet for the frustration I’m feeling in this void of understanding. If you have had an experience challenging your own beliefs or would like to give advise, please comment.

Posted by: Jay | April 21, 2007

Ask me a question?

I have been Mormon my whole life. My parents both converted to the church in college. My Dad was Episcopalian and my Mom attended mostly Baptist meetings. I went to Ricks College and BYU for my undergraduate training. I went on a 2-year mission. I am currently an active Mormon with a leadership calling in my ward (not so sure I should have said yes). My experience has been that of a typical Mormon. I have probably heard every Mormon folktale out there. This post is to ask if anyone has a question they would like me to answer as a non-official, normal, even-headed Mormon. I make only one stipulation. I will not discuss details of ordinances held sacred by the LDS church. It is not because I think they would be shocking to the uninitiated (I really think they are quite ordinary), but I did make a commitment not to share them, so I will honor my word.

Posted by: Jay | April 21, 2007

Homosexuality and Christians

Is homosexuality compatible with Christian teachings? As more pressure is exerted in our society to accept homosexuals, I have personally struggled with this question. As I have read the scriptures, the only thing I’ve been able to conclude that it is not. I have met some openly homosexual people and have listen to others explain their experiences. These have always been positive encounters. Though my experiences with homosexuals have not been able to convince me that it is a healthy lifestyle sanctioned by God, it has led me to believe that there may be several reasons why someone identifies themselves as having same sex attraction. What are some of your thoughts on same sex attraction? What are the causes? Is it really a choice? I would especially like to hear from those that deal with this issue on a personal basis.

Posted by: Jay | April 21, 2007

Spiritual experiences

Throughout the religious spectrum millions of people claim to have spiritual experiences that change their lives. I claim to be one of those people. It is what I base my belief in God on and what motivates me to seek after him. I want to hear what spiritual experiences you have had that drive you. What keeps you believing in God? Have you felt a specific feeling, been led to a certain place, seen a vision? This is not limited to any particular religion. I would like to hear from anyone of any religion (Buddhism, Islam, Mormon, Catholic, Evangelist, Baptist, Episcopal, you get the idea). Feel free to share your true experiences without being judged (any mocking comments will be deleted).

Posted by: Jay | April 20, 2007

Blacks and the priesthood

Before 1978 the LDS church denied blacks the priesthood. They went so far as to research the geneology of some investigators that were suspected of having black roots. Why? I would like to hear thoughts from LDS members that have struggled with this issue. I would particularly like see comments from black LDS members about how they have come to terms with this sensitive issue. Non-LDS are welcome to give their view of the issue as well.

Posted by: Jay | April 20, 2007

Polygamy in the early LDS church

Polygamy never bothered me before. Didn’t Abraham and Jacob practice it! It only started to bother me when I learned that Joseph Smith was married to women previously married to another man. Their husbands may not have always known about it and even if they did we don’t really know how they felt about it. It has been hard to reconcile what looks like adultery. Has anyone else struggled with this? Have you found peace with this issue? How?

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.