Thursday, December 17, 2009

I Yam What I Yam

Does belonging to the lds mormon religion make people happy? —Zeezrom

Now that's a good question. I think the short answer is that no one could ever really say definitively, because we don't get to live our lives out two different ways and compare the results. But anecdotally at least I can tell you that when I was Mormon I, like most believers, did attribute my happiness to my knowledge of gospel principles. Take that away, and I think in general I'm neither more nor less happy than I was before. Your mileage may vary.

The funny thing about that is I can see Mormons reading this and thinking I'm either lying or deceiving myself, because surely I must have been happier as a Mormon—unless I wasn't really living my religion, in other words unless I was sinning. I'll come back to that aspect of Mormonism, but on the flipside I can also see other ex-Mormons reading this and thinking, "What do you mean you're not happier now?!!"

It turns out for most of us that happiness is a pretty nebulous concept, and humans are not very good at either remembering past or predicting future happiness. What we are good at is justifying whatever decisions we happen to have made by telling ourselves it turned out for the best. So Mormons are inclined to say things in testimony meeting like, "I don't know where I'd be without the church," like they'd be awful people if it weren't for the three hours they sit in church every week. And ex-Mormons are probably just as likely to feel that their lives are immeasurably deeper and richer without the blinders on. I tend to agree with the ex-Mormons there, which probably just means I'm a normal self-justifying human.

My point is not to say that happiness is unrelated to religious beliefs. Clearly the idea of gaining joy and happiness is central to Mormon beliefs, even if a large part of it is in the form of future happiness, like some gigantic post-dated check. But Mormons are also taught that faithfulness brings blessings in the here and now, and once someone accepts that premise it works in two ways to keep them faithful. One, they naturally attribute all the happiness they do enjoy to God's blessings; but secondly, they have no one to blame but themselves when they don't feel happy. It's almost shameful to be unhappy in Mormonism (must be sinning!), which might explain why Utah leads the nation in antidrepressant usage.

The bottom line is when I try to imagine myself living again as a Mormon the thought turns my stomach, but when I actually believed it all it wasn't so bad. I guess what I'm getting at is that the decision of whether to be Mormon or not is not about weighing which will bring the most happiness for you and your loved ones. Beliefs just don't work that way. If you accept the church's truth claims you'll also accept what it teaches you about your own happiness; if you find the truth claims impossible to swallow then no utilitarian argument in its favor is likely to keep you in.

Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert
Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me), Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

Friday, December 11, 2009

Truth comes knocking

Why are Mormon Missionaries rejected when they usually have the persona of innocence and humility? —Unapologetic Apostate

Every single missionary I've come across smiles and is so friendly, so why are they rejected so much when they are so nice?
It's not just a persona. They're nineteen years old. Most were raised in predominantly Mormon communities with a rather skewed view of what life is like for people without the fulness of the gospel. So innocent, definitely yes. Humble, maybe not so much, but then even after their missions it's a rare Mormon who recognizes the arrogance of claiming knowledge that is mystically hidden from the rest of us through sin or being unprepared or whatever.

And really, that's the reason I think that the mishies' message is largely ignored. Most people in this day and age recognize that important, life-changing, reality-based truth is not going to come from two kids knocking on your door. Period. You can get your vacuum cleaner cheaper on Ebay, and you can get your facts straighter from Wikipedia.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Born to make mistakes

What are some typical characteristics of people who fall for the Mormon scam? —Desiree

Born into a Mormon family or befriended by Mormons.

If you're trying to imply that there's something more to it, I think you're mistaken. If you feel confident that you personally would not have fallen for it under the same circumstances, I again think you're mistaken. Mormonism works for so many people not because *those* people are stupid but because people, in general, do not make decisions rationally based on impassive logic and critical thinking. And once that decision is made we tend to use most of our mental energy rationalizing and self-justifying rather than asking, "Was that the right choice?" Of course this applies to all people, believers and nonbelievers. Religions are an interesting view into the way humans think.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The evolution of greed

How is the LDS (Mormon) church "greedy" when the church leaders aren't even paid? —Alissa

Many people accuse the LDS church of being greedy, but the leaders aren't paid so how can this be?

First of all it's not all about getting paid. Anyone who's in charge of a budget is in a position to make decisions about how it gets allocated. Money is power, and the LDS church asks for a whole lot of money from its adherents.

But don't kid yourself, there are lots of church leaders who do get paid, just not on the local level. General authorities are paid, and mission presidents are paid. And the church employs a ton of people. I doubt the leaders are paid a lot, but then I guess we wouldn't know that, would we? Your church isn't comfortable opening its books like most other churches.

Anyway, the real answer to your question is more complicated than any of this, and I'm sure you're not really interested in hearing it. Ultimately the LDS church is greedy because it works. Because operating this way has allowed it to survive when other churches have failed. It asks everything from believers because it can, and because human nature is such that the more you voluntarily give to something the more blind you become to its flaws. Your church is greedy for the same reason a giraffe's neck is long. Ponder that one.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Joseph Smith, executive producer

What were the main issues Joseph Smith struggled with in the beginning of the mormon religion? —Wizard G

mainly that and also what do Mormons call people who don't follow their faith? i can't remember but it would be useful to know, thanks!

Gentiles maybe? That's a Book of Mormon term really. Mormons used to use it more; now you'd only hear people referred to as Gentiles if someone's joking around.

I'm not sure what you're looking for in terms of Joseph Smith's "issues." In his younger years Joseph Smith strikes me as a person who wanted out. He wanted to find his place in his own family, wanted financial freedom for his parents, wanted to be trusted and thought well of, probably a lot like most others. But he was also ambitious and apparently not held back by fear or self-doubt. And he had ideas.

Sometimes I wonder what sort of life Joseph Smith might have led were he born into the world today instead of being stuck in a little farming community with little hope of social mobility. Maybe he'd have been drawn to the clergy still, but oddly enough I've never seen Joseph Smith as a particularly religious man. I think it was just the train that happened to pass through town. No, when I try to picture a modern Joseph Smith, I somehow always see him as an actor or a performer of some kind. Makes you wonder how different the world would be today if young Joseph had had other opportunities to apply his talents.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All in a day's labor

What is the average number of converts Mormon Missionaries get on their mission? —HomoErectus

I was a Mormon missionary in Korea in 1992–1994. I and my various companions had one convert baptism in the time I was there. It was a guy who was dating a member and wanted to marry her. I had a Korean companion at the time, and he sort of flew through the six discussions we used to do before baptism. I worried that the guy wasn't ready for baptism, but he passed his interview. I wonder if my Korean companion is still participating in the Mormon church. Seems like he was sending most of his monthly stipend money home through the post office. I seriously doubt the guy we baptized considers himself Mormon today.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mr. Holland's Onus

It's been a week now since LDS General Conference came and went. As luck would have it I heard only one talk, on the radio as we were returning from California. Turns out it was the one that seems to have created the most buzz among Mormons and non-Mormons alike. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke about his views on the Book of Mormon. You can read his talk here:,5232,23-1-1117-28,00.html although you may want to watch or listen instead to get a sense for how animated and emphatic he was in the delivery.

It was the sort of thing that felt like it ought to be responded to, but I just haven't had the energy before now. Fortunately many others have, though. So for any Mormon readers out there who were wowed by Elder Holland's performance and wonder how any ex-Mormon could not be impressed, here is a sampling of what ex-Mormons and outsiders have had to say about it.

Holland - Insulting those who leave
Jeffrey R. Holland Just Lost His Mind
An LDS Gem: Elder Holland's Opus
General Conference impressions

I don't know Jeffrey Holland. He seems like a genuine and thoughtful man, and he's certainly an articulate and engaging speaker. I think as much as any current LDS leader he has attempted to understand folks like me who have studied Mormonism and choose not to be a part of it. At least he does a good job of addressing the opposing view in many of the questions he answered for the PBS special The Mormons. You can read his interview here:

And that leaves me quite ambivalent in my feelings about this talk. Does he actually believe the things he's saying? Of course he must, and so I'm inclined to forgive a little evangelical zeal. But the talk is laden with unsupported claims and unsupported accusations and criticisms. Mr. Holland knows there is enough uncertainty about the veracity of some of his assertions to drive a Mack truck through, but you'd never get that from this talk. He's playing to the home crowd here, but I wonder if he gave any forethought to the impact on part-member families or member/non-member relations in general.

So I'll leave the textual criticism to the authors linked above, and just say this. Mr. Holland, in defending the indefensible and abusing the trust so many have in you, you've made the world I live in a worse place. There is by no means a general consensus among informed people that Joseph and Hyrum knew they were about to be killed, that the Book of Mormon is "teeming with literary and Semitic complexity," that other authorship theories have failed, nor that I or anyone else has had to crawl around your stupid book to come to the conclusion that Joseph Smith was not trustworthy, and that the truth claims your church makes are ridiculous and impossible to reconcile with what we know about the world today.

You came much closer to the truth with your answer in the PBS interview when asked about the Book of Mormon: "The Book of Mormon," you said, "is a matter of faith." End of story. The onus is on you to show why this book deserves consideration in spite of the mountain of contradictory evidence and the echoing dearth of positive evidence for its claims. Pointing to millions of adherents doesn't work. Lots of faiths have their millions. Pointing to Joseph and Hyrum finding comfort in the book doesn't work. David Koresh and Jim Jones were equally convinced of their various causes. All I see in your words here is desperate name-calling and an adamant refusal to reconsider cherished beliefs. The faithful will love you for it, but meanwhile their worldview is pushed ever further away from an ability to understand and have meaningful relationships with people outside the tribe.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Faithful due diligence

What mormon statememts, found on the internet, are not true? —Jess *For Jesus*

I am considering join the church, and I am doing a final "review" before i go to baptism, and alothoug I feel it is right, some of the stuff on the internet scares me. So, can people tell me what is on the internet about mormons that is not true like beliefs,practices etc. And if possible please provide reference.

Jess, it might help if you break down the "information" online into categories. Not all Mormons are afraid of investigating things online, but it's common (as you've seen here) for people to say you should avoid online sources or only go to or whatever. And basically that's good advice, for the category that's foremost in Mormons' minds. What they care about—all they care about in many cases—is the doctrine. Mormons are interested in current Mormon beliefs and culture. They're interested in things like gaining a testimony, changing behaviors, being involved with callings and temple attendence, that sort of thing. The internet is not going to help you here.

So if that's all your "review" is about, I'd say you're already on your way to being a Mormon. But there are other categories of information that relate to Mormonism, even if most Mormons today don't care about them or aren't aware of them. Unfortunately for most of its existence the church has largely been able to tell its own story to its members, without the burden of scholarly review. And after decades of telling and retelling by the home team, you can imagine that what the typical Mormon understands today about Mormon origins and history can vary dramatically from the view of outsiders.

There's also a third area of study that comes to mind here, and that is the relationship between what is commonly taught in LDS churches about the world you live in versus what the rest of the world believes through scientific study. This is where things get messy for the LDS church in my opinion. Of course you could say the same about religions in general. There's literally zero chance, for instance, that the earth was washed clean in a worldwide flood four thousand years ago. That didn't happen. For that matter Adam and Eve didn't start the human race six thousand years ago either. And dead people don't revive on command, and you can't make wine from water, and so on. So really if there's a difference here between the LDS faith and any others it's a matter of degrees only. However, the LDS church's origins are recent, and it makes many testable claims, like Joseph translating Egyptian or ancient Hebrews populating the Americas. Certainly that kind of info can be found, with sources, all over the internet.

But again, if you're just talking LDS doctrine, don't waste your time with evangelical Christians who want to disparage Mormonism online because it contradicts their own view of the Bible or whatever. Those people never subject their own beliefs to the same scrutiny. If they did, we'd call them ex–evangelical Christians.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I know my church is true

What are good questions too ask mormon people? —shelia c
my bestfriend is talking to the missonaries and she needs good question too ask them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Seriously? I take it your friend would like to challenge their beliefs, but it's probably no use. If she wants to Bible bash with them it'll go nowhere. Mormon doctrine is no less sensible than any other church's, and in some ways it's probably more internally consistent. The worst you could say about Mormon doctrine is that it's unorthodox compared to mainstream Christianity. So what?

Of course your friend could ask for evidence for the church's claims, or point out any number of ways the church's view of the world is at odds with modern science. But this won't faze the missionaries either. It's the difference between God's perfect knowledge and man's limited knowledge. Or it's anti-Mormon lies trying to keep you from the truth.

If I were in your friend's shoes and wanted to get these missionaries really talking rather than presenting what they're trained to say, I'd focus on how they came to believe in their church versus all the other possible "truths." They'll explain how they "gained a testimony" through scripture reading and prayer, but that's probably where it ends. What other Christian churches did they study and pray about? How did the feeling compare when they studied Scientology and prayed about it? How about when they studied the Koran and prayed about that? Did answers come more readily when they prayed to Zeus or Thor?

Even if they just want to talk Mormonism, how did they decide to go with the Brighamites and not the FLDS church? Did they pray about both? If you can get them really thinking about their epistemology and the obvious fact that their current faith is mostly an accident of birth just like most other people's on earth, then at least you've opened their eyes. Don't expect to see any overnight changes in their beliefs though. That only happens on its own time, maybe years later, and maybe never.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The problem with golden plates

What happened to the Mormon Golden Plates? —Jack

Gone. Disappeared. Whisked away by an angel. It happens with golden plates you know. I see you doubting, but that's actually Satan trying to keep you from finding truth and happiness. And also if you don't believe you won't be with your family in the eternities. Sorry, dude. You couldn't muster a little faith? There were witnesses you know. They all signed the testimony Joseph wrote for them. That was good enough for Mark Twain.

"I could not feel more satisfied and at rest if the entire Whitmer family had testified." —Mark Twain, "Roughing It"

Thursday, August 6, 2009

To teach and preach and work

How do I tell my parents I don't want to go on an LDS mission.? —Red Shift
This is very hard for me. Both my parents are Mormon and expect me to go on a mission. For years I've been seen as the golden boy of my church and of my family and everyone expects me to go and set an example to those younger than me. My grandparents on both sides are absolutely staunch LDS members and also have these same expectations for me. However, I simply do not believe in my church enough that I could go about for two years trying to convince other people to join it. How do I tell my parents that I do not want to go? I think my mother will be more understanding than my father. If anyone who answers here went on a mission, LDS or otherwise, please tell me if I am missing anything.

A couple of thoughts here, and for background I was raised Mormon and served a mission in Korea, but am no longer LDS. The fact is, there's very little I like or admire about Mormonism now. I think it sucks for families like yours (and mine) where not everyone wants to participate, but the church causes believers to feel hurt when loved ones don't conform.

But, having said that, I have never regretted the time I spent as a missionary. Now granted, I was a total believer at that point, so it didn't cause me any grief to share what I "knew," and the Koreans never really took to Mormonism anyway. And while I was there I did a lot of growing up, made some lifelong friends, learned a language and culture and learned to survive on my own in a relatively safe and controlled environment. Kids can do a lot worse in their first years out of high school.

So I guess my point is you can still choose to go and make the best of it if you see no way out or don't want to make waves. You'll have some good experiences, and you'll be a lot better off mentally than most of the other "elders" who buy into the guilt and power trips that mission leaders lay on. Maybe submit your papers and see where you get called. If it's Bolivia or Cuba or some other dangerous third world country, say no! You can always back out and reapply later.

If, however, you feel you're ready to assert yourself and step off the Mormon assembly line, I think you can best do this by simply delaying. Tell the bishop you're not ready spiritually or whatever. Tell your parents the same thing. And your aunts. And anyone else who asks. Decline to speak about it further. Mormon culture does not teach people to respect personal boundaries, so you might have to get used to just saying no or walking away. You don't owe anyone an explanation. Best of luck to you.


Evangelical fail

Why didn't god include the book of mormon in the old and new testament? Why did he hide it for 1900 years? —I CURED MY YELLOW TEETH

He did. It's called a triple combination, and you can ask any Mormon to show you theirs. As for hiding it for 1900 years, turns out not all events happen concurrently. Sort of like God hid the New Testament from Moses. Fail.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


What should i do! My life is crumbling down on me!? —Shelly

Ive been having a hard time beliving in God and Jesus. I wonder how can i belive when my life has been horrible. No matter how hard i pray and pray nothing turns out right. About 3 or so years ago my mother was faced with a disease, one with even now the doctors cant figure out. But when i was younger my biological father ssexuallyabused me. Lucky im not able to see him anymore. But when my mother got married again, i get to wake up with my step father on my bed every morning touching me inappropriately. And my motther dosnt believe it. How can i belive in a God who only makes my life miserable? Any advice?

Shelly, none of this has anything to do with God. Please, talk to a counselor, call the police, let someone in an authority position know what's happening. Your life does not have to be like this, and people who do these things need to be held responsible for their actions. Wondering why God would choose this life for you is pointless, because God makes no sense in cases like yours.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Blasphemous rumors

Strange Mormon beliefs? —Karmen I am a mormon and i just heard a couple of the weirdest things that people think that Mormons believe. I was just wondering if you guys have heard things that were strange things about mormons and I was just wondering what they were.
Oh, and, if you have any questions about mormons, you should ask a mormon because most people don't know a lot about us and that is how things get made! Now...what strange things have you heard?

Yep, I've heard a few. Here are some, just for laughs. I once heard that Mormons believe that the sun gets its light from a star (or planet? I'm not sure) called Kolob, and not from nuclear reactions. I heard they believe that ancient inhabitants of the Americas were farmers with all the same animals and crops as we have here today. There was also a story about a floating white Indian zombie with a treasure map, and another about a talking sasquatch who claimed to be Cain from the Bible. Wasn't there also something about John Smith, Jr. telling young girls that a sword-wielding angel would decapitate him if he didn't "marry" them in a private ceremony that conveniently he was authorized to perform himself? That one kills me. Like people would really follow the dude if that one were true. What next, did he scam people out of their money in a banking scandal? I suppose people will next be inventing stories about Mormons thinking dinosaurs lived on other planets.

Mormons do have horns though. That one is true.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Jury of your feelings

Arguments against Mormon religion? —Marie

Is there any clear contradictions or known arguments against the Mormon faith?

Yes. All religions make claims without evidence. In Mormonism believers are encouraged to "find out for themselves," but not by any sort of rational process of examination. Rather, they're supposed to read from the Book of Mormon and pray for a good feeling about what they read. You know, sort of like you would do if you were on a jury. ... Er, I guess that's a bad example.

If you really need to see a "clear contradiction" to the claims of Mormonism, you can skip right past all the wacky anachronisms and plagiarisms in the Book of Mormon and go straight to Joseph Smith's "Book of Abraham." Despite what others here have said, it doesn't take any distorting of the truth to see that what Joseph claimed to have translated from Egyptian papyrus is now known to be a complete and total fraud. Look it up yourself, you be the judge.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ask Gramps

Can the dead hear our thoughts? —Sarah B

Can dead people really hear our thoughts?
I read somewhere they could, but only if they are listening.
Man i thought the only privacy we had was in our head

Sort of. There's an interesting line of thinking that says mysticism has its roots in our need to get help with decision-making. The idea is that being decisive gave some groups an evolutionary advantage, but only if they weren't always knocking off the tribal leader for making a poor choice. So this need, combined with our natural human tendency to continue to feel an association with people after their death, led to *asking* the dead for help and "divining" their answers. Because hey, if grandpa leads us astray, we can't do him any harm—he's already dead!

So yeah, in the minds of the living at least, you could say the dead hear us and help us decide how to act. If you're asking whether the deceased people themselves continue to "hear," though, that's a no. They are dead.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The road less traveled

The book of mormon...? —drewman818

I have been reading the book of mormon lately just to check it out and haven't been able to find any bad things or contradictory doctrine to the bible... where do i go from here?

Straight to the baptismal font.

Unless of course you have a fully functioning mind and some basic critical thinking skills. In which case you may want to examine some of your assumptions—like the assumption that the Bible is infallible or not self-contradictory in a hundred different ways. Or the assumption that if someone were going to start a church by writing new scripture they would fill it with "bad things" rather than good.

Here's some free advice. You're considering joining a group that most Americans view rather negatively. In a way that's admirable, because you're not just following the crowd. And you're doing some firsthand study to figure things out, also very admirable. So as long as you're feeling courageous, finish reading the Book of Mormon and then pick up a very small book called "Letter to a Christian Nation" by Sam Harris. Want to follow the truth wherever it leads? Even if it means standing alone? Try this: drop your religious notions altogether and be a rationalist.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pascal's remorse

What Good Can Come From Being Athiest? —ROD

Im a christian. and I see no reason why someone would be atheist. Of course everyone has the right to believe what they want but why would someone want to jeopardize their life.

It's funny how when believers are confronted with contradictory evidence, the argument always shifts to utilitarian reasons for believing. "OK, maybe my beliefs don't really make rational sense, but being a Christian makes me a better person!" Well does it? I think people who feel this way need to give themselves more credit. Take it from someone who once was a believer and now is not, God is not the only thing keeping you from being immoral.

As to your comment about "jeopardizing your life," I can only guess what you mean by that. Are we talking about the afterlife? Because if so that logic makes no sense at all unless you first believe that (a) there is an afterlife, and (b) the particular religion you're a part of is the one that can lead you there. When you consider the utter lack of evidence for (a) and the sheer improbability of (b), I'd say there's a much better chance that you're jeopardizing your life now by turning over your time, energy, and means to a cause that is based on false premises.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rational theology

How would I witness to Mormons? —Jonathan

Ok, I was almost sucked into the Mormon religion, and I now see how false and polytheistic it is. I am sad that there are people having their eternities ruined by this. I really want to try my hardest to get people out of this. I have a friend that is a Mormon. and a bunch of people I know. I really want to witness to them of the power of Jesus Christ, and get their focus off of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. But I don't know how to go about this. I really
want to get people out of the religion. I need your help.

I think I can help you out here. See, your Mormon friends believe some things that are demonstrably false. All you have to do is show them the evidence, and then they'll evaluate it rationally just as you have done.

Start with the story of Adam and Eve. Mormons actually believe that the entire human race came from these two individuals. Their creation myth is entirely silent on the evolution of Cro-Magnons or their cousins the Neanderthals. Funny, you'd think they'd have heard about this by now.

Anyway, once you've cleared up that bit of nonsense, point them to the story of Noah's ark. It's a fundamental belief in Mormonism that the earth was deluged in water and a guy named Noah survived with his family by floating it out in a boat. Just point out to them what a worldwide flood would have done to all the plant and animal life on the planet. All gone, right? So what, did Noah then float from continent to continent replacing all the indigenous plants and animals in their natural habitats? And just exactly how many species of beetle did he pack on the ark? (Because God knows they haven't evolved since!)

That ought to be enough to help your friends see they've been wrong all along. They'll be all ears to hear about your church.

Mormon or ninja?

Could knowing the difference between a Mormon and a ninja actually save your life? —tjsgigante

No words.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bachelor of nonsense

Has an ex-Mormon ever returned their BYU degree? —Davidson

or would that be too inconvenient, losing the benefits of being seen as a BYU alum.

since they hate the church so much, has anybody torn it up or returned it?

Huh? They might wish it was another school's name on the diploma, but that's not a reason to give back a college degree. You haven't thought this through. The sad reality is there are lots of students at BYU who no longer believe in Mormonism. (Maybe they went off campus and searched "book of abraham" on YouTube.) But these students are forced to keep a low profile and hide their disaffection for fear of expulsion and inability to get transcripts. You can read their stories at and other places. BYU treats a loss of faith in Mormonism as an honor code violation, and the only way to be reinstated is to be rebaptized a Mormon. Sort of turns that whole persecution thing upside down, doesn't it?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Speaking Gentile

What are some Book of Mormon study aids in English for people with English as a second language? —Dan

I am an LDS member and I need to know of good ways to study the Book of Mormon in English. I have been called to be a missionary in an English speaking country and English is my second language. Are there any study aids or methods out there that would help me? Thank you for your help.

The best one I could suggest is called "An Insider's View of Mormon Origins" by Grant Palmer. Since you'll be telling the story of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon over and over on your mission, this will give you enough background to ensure you don't unintentionally lie to people.

As far as language goes, I served in Korea and found there was no shortage of gospel-related study materials in Korean. What I wish I'd done more of is study the culture and politics and current events so that I could converse about things that matter in people's everyday lives. My biggest regret is that I spent two years in Korea thinking I had something important to tell the people, and not really learning anything in return.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Live, laugh, love ... or else!

Why is the Mormon religion so.. Stern? —Reed

I could not find another way to convey the word I was meaning to say..
So I have a a couple friends that are of the Mormon, and I have noticed that all of them are much less careless about thing as a lot of other people. And then one day I asked one of them why it was like that. They replied "Well, God advises us to live our lives to the fullest and these are the ways he chose." I proceeded to ask why have to they listen to God and they replied "We don't HAVE to, its our choice to"

I know what you're talking about, Reed. Mormons emphasize general goodness just like every other faith, but they take certain surface behaviors to the extreme. It's a proselyting faith, so I think that's one reason. Mormons are encouraged to be a light to the world, and the way that usually comes across is through things like not smoking or drinking, not swearing, not wearing sleeveless tops, that kind of thing.

I think there's more to this whole "stern" thing, though. Mormonism is unfortunately a very guilt-based religion. From their youth members are given all these expectations for conforming to a certain mold, they're asked to take on all kinds of church responsibilities, and to remember a whole laundry list of to-do items to keep them "close to the Spirit." All of this is supposed to make them deliriously happy of course, and for some personality types I'm sure it really works. The rest take their Prozac and put on a happy face, because to do otherwise is to admit you're not living as you should.

So why don't they just quit if it's making them miserable? Simple, they really believe what the church has told them all their lives. I think it's the guilt that actually keeps people in, keeps them needing the redemption the church promises, and keeps them so focused on their own perceived inadequacies that they never stop to question it all.

Mormons have a saying that the church is perfect even if the members aren't. I think that's pretty much backwards. Honestly I think what every Mormon needs more than anything else is just to be told they're OK, really and truly OK, just the way they are. But they're not going to hear that at church.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

His image in their countenance

My name comes from the Mormon religion, and I'm not Mormon anymore? —Ammon V

My name Ammon comes from the Book of Mormon which is a spiritual book that comes from the Mormon religion. I have recently converted away from being a Mormon but with this name that I feel now is completely fake for what it used to stand for. Also Mormons constantly just assume that I am Mormon also by recognizing my name. Opinions?

I think Ammon is a cool name, you should keep it. Yes, it'll throw Mormons off, but even if you changed it there are probably other aspects of your upbringing that will also trigger their "spiritual eye" and make them think you're Mormon. Just get accustomed when asked to saying, "I was raised Mormon." You don't have to be embarrassed about it and you don't have to explain any more than that unless you choose.

Being an ex-Mormon myself, I understand a bit of what you're feeling. People assume I'm Mormon all the time. A guy at the Fidelity Investments office last week asked me what ward I lived in. No biggie. I may no longer subscribe to the church's truth claims, but it's still my "tribe," know what I mean? It no doubt affects the way I talk, dress, and act and always will. Some ex-Mormons are bothered by this and feel they need to do something to signal their separation from the group. I get that. To each their own I guess.

What I find humorous about the whole thing is the way members of the faith sometimes misinterpret these Mormon cultural norms as being something more. They see a stranger at the grocery store and feel it's the spiritual glow about the person that tipped them off that this person is Mormon, when actually it was the sugary sweet voice and the knee-length shorts. :)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I am Sam, Sam I am

Have you ever read the entire Book of Mormon? —MaidservantX
If yes, what were your impressions or observations or any comment you'd like to make regarding your experience of reading the Book of Mormon?

I used to keep track of the number of times I read it cover to cover. I think the total was six, not that many considering I was a believing Mormon for over thirty years. I think if people believed Green Eggs and Ham was scripture, they'd find all sorts of inspiration in it, along with mounting evidence that it is true. It even has chiasmus!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Help, I'm being love bombed!

Inactive mormons, help me please!? —jjadee

i'm an inactive mormon now and i want to know how to get the other members to quit bothering me to come to church!!! this is not meant to be funny it is a serious question.

As you know, if you've been baptized into the Mormon church they will literally keep you on their records for life (or longer if they don't know you've passed away). And church leaders are always being pressured to do something about those "inactive" names on their ward lists. So there are really two problems here: the people who know you now and want to reactivate you, and the people who will seek you out over and over again every time there's a new leader put in place who feels responsible for you because your name's on their list.

Basically that means the solution will require two parts as well. The second part is the easy one: resign your membership. Just send a letter to church headquarters telling them you're not Mormon anymore. Legally they can't subject you to church discipline and have to honor your request. The link below is the best online resource for doing this part.

But dealing with your current Mormon neighbors and friends and family is much more difficult, especially if that's a large number of people where you live. You should probably join an online support group to get help on handling each individual situation.

The Mormons who are pushing you to come to church are doing so because they're fully convinced their church is "true" and therefore good for all people. So my general advice would be to deal with that underlying cause directly. What are the reasons you choose to be inactive? Whether it's issues with the culture or beliefs or whatever, the Mormons you're talking to have probably never heard anyone oppose their view, so it's easy for them to feel morally superior. Put them on the defensive and they'll learn to respect your boundaries.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The unwritten order of things

Who picks the Mormon prophets and gives them power to speak for God? —Sophie Tucker

Whoever's been in the longest gets it. Here's the quorum listed by tenure, with current age.

Boyd K. Packer, 84
L. Tom Perry, 86
Russell M. Nelson, 84
Dallin H. Oaks, 76
M. Russell Ballard, 80
Richard G. Scott, 80
Robert D. Hales, 76
Jeffrey R. Holland, 68
Henry B. Eyring, 75
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, 68
David A. Bednar, 56
Quentin L. Cook, 68
D. Todd Christofferson, 64
Neil L. Andersen, 57

Just looking at the numbers, those most likely to spend time as prophet are Oaks, Holland, and Bednar. But that's just speculation. In actuality God will pick the next prophet, Sopranos style.

Ensign article on succession in the church:

Monday, May 4, 2009

Survival of the richest

Letter to a female friend. —NoLongerASheeple

I'm posting this up in hopes that it will be helpful to those of you who are new to Postmormon. None of this is new information but I hope it will give those of you who are considering leaving the church a view that may help you in your journey.

XXXXX, there is no need to apologize, I'm not in the slightest upset. I'd be more concerned if you didn't challenge the things I'm telling you. I have nothing to hide here, no reason to try to sway you regarding the church (other than wanting to see you reclaim your own personal power and shed a belief system that I think is personally very harmful.) The Church really doesn't want you to examine the factual evidence critically because as soon as you do, it becomes very evident that it is entirely made up.

The Church has a vested interest in keeping you in, and involved, in terms of tithing receipts. Ten percent of your (and everyone else) income adds up to a tidy chunk of income for the church, especially when it is tax free. The Church is totally unwilling to let the general membership know what it is doing with the money. That indicates to me, that the church couldn't withstand the backlash if the members truly knew where they were spending the money, (For example, 2 billion dollar malls and million dollar condos.) If they were truly using the money for humanitarian purposes, there wouldn't be any problem.

The Church has controlled so many things in our lives that even as aged adults we really are still the emotional age of children. We are told what our schedule is, what we can eat, what we can wear, what kind of recreation is okay, whom we can have sex with, what is acceptable sex, even what words we are allowed to say, and told who we can and cannot criticize. That is pretty damned invasive control!

Women are treated as second class citizens only good for having and raising children. The Church, as an organization, is homophobic, racist, misogynistic, controlling, psychologically damaging, and dishonest. It sucks you in with the promise of eternal families and then holds your family hostage when you see through the lies. Your time is no longer your own, hundreds of hours each year are spent serving the church teaching and spreading it's propaganda, indoctrinating your children, missionary work, temple work, etc. You are set an impossible standard (perfection) and then made to feel guilty for not achieving it. You don't even get to define what "perfection" is. Instead, someone tells you what perfection means, and then you are expected to fit yourself into that mold. You are expected to do this regardless of your own nature and whether or not you are even capable of doing it. (You aren't, and nobody is. It is simply a control technique.) Even the social organization of the church is designed to control members with home teachers and visiting teachers expected to visit and report (tattle) on you as assigned "friends." If you do leave the church, you are labeled as "Sinner", "Apostate", "Offended" or some other negative pejorative, and shunned, not only by members but by family as well.

Leaving the Church requires a few essential abilities, 1) the ability to critically analyze factual information, 2) the ability to accept criticism and condemnation from others, including family, 3) The ability to rationally and without heat discuss the obviously false doctrines and whitewashed history of the church and 4) the ability to stand alone for a period of time until you are able to develop new friends.

It is not an easy path, but it is a rewarding one.


Just a thought I'd add to this. As I try to look at these types of issues from the eyes of a believer, I think it's easy to dismiss statements like the above because the believer knows that there are good people at the head of the church who would not perpetuate a fraud just to scam people out of 10% of their income. And yet that's exactly what's happening, whether those at the top recognize it or not.

The point that I think is not so obvious is that the church operates the way it does because those are the traits that survived. We don't necessarily have to impugn sinister motives to the church's present-day leaders to accept that the institution itself is ultimately self-serving. It—the church, and not necessarily those who lead it—really does have "a vested interest in keeping you in, and involved, in terms of tithing receipts."

By the way I'm not saying all church leaders are naive nor that they should all be given a free pass, just pointing out that the institution is the engine behind it all and like a living organism all the parts have an intricate symbiotic relationship that keeps things working. Or to make a long story short, it's more complicated than the church being led by a bunch of scammers, but the end result is the same.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Persecution may rage

You seldom hear about anti-Baptists or anti-Lutherans, so why are Mormons always going on about "anti-Mormons"? —Lamplighter
So then, why does Anti-Mormonism exist to the extent that some here say it does?
Great question, and one that Mormons themselves point to at times to show that there must be something special about their faith. First, I think it's important to point out that in the Mormon church's history, anti-Mormons were very real. Of course when you hear about these anti-Mormons in the church's version of its history, they're always menacing and violent for no apparent reason. The unstated assumption is that these people are fighting against Mormonism because it's True™ and Satan has stirred them up to stop it. I think one of the most mind-broadening things a lifelong Mormon can do is to find out more about those people who persecuted the early Saints. I'm not saying you'll come to agree with them, but you'll at least have a more nuanced view of what it was that angered them, and what it was that they feared.

Fast forward to today. To hear some people talk, anti-Mormons are as rampant today as ever. I don't entirely disagree, but what needs to be pointed out is that the usage of the word has changed, dramatically in fact. See, in its infancy Mormonism was not just an ideology. It was an organization, a town, a city. It was a political force, and even a military presence. All of that gradually changed when the "gathering" phase ended and Mormons became a part of mainstream culture.

Most people today do not hate, or fear, their Mormon neighbors. They're not anti-Mormons in the historical sense. They may, however, think that Mormon doctrine is nuts, and they may even say so openly. I'm one of those, and I'm sure many people on this forum consider me an anti-Mormon because of it. I think today the label is mostly useful for giving Mormons a reason to ignore people who say things contradictory to their faith. But it's not a very accurate representation of me or any of the hundreds of ex-Mormons I know, frankly. I don't hate Mormons, I just think they're wrong about Mormonism.

It remains to be seen whether we'll come full circle on this "anti-Mormon" thing. The church does seem to be making its political presence and organization felt lately with the same-sex marriage issue. I think the more the LDS church is seen as a political force, the more resurgence we'll see of real anti-Mormons whose distaste for Mormons goes beyond simple disagreements about how people are saved.