Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The cost of discipleship

How do I tell my mom I want to be Mormon? —linda

Ive already prayed about the book of mormon and i know it to be true, i have a great testimony of the church. My mom is convinced the church is weird and somewhat of a cult. But I know the truth and I dont kow how to tell her I love going to church and I love the truth in it? How do I tell her I want to take the missionary lessons? And what if she says no?
I'm sorry, but you can't make things true just by wishing it were so. It's your life so do what you like, but joining the Mormon church is not worth whatever social benefits you might expect to come from it. Your Mormon friends are not trying to lead you astray, but somehow they haven't got the message that the stuff you read in the Book of Mormon could not possibly be real ancient American history. It's a 180-year-old scam that only survives because people who've given their lives to it are afraid to check it out and admit they've been boondoggled.

"It is morally as bad not to care whether a thing is true or not, so long as it makes you feel good, as it is not to care how you got your money as long as you have got it." —Edmund Way Teale

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Deconstructing Mormonism

Can anybody tell me what they know about mormon history? —brew

im ex mormon only now digging into mormon history. particularly i am concerned with joseph smith i find him very interesting. you may find it interesting that only after losing interest in the church, do i find interest in its beginnings. let me tell you, there is great effort within the church to keep people ignorant of certain historical facts while emphasize certain others, and admonishing youth for exploring "the devils literature" ect .....

I agree that the church's history becomes more interesting once you take the blinders off. I don't think the typical church member or leader tries to keep people ignorant of its unfiltered history. They either believe Boyd K. Packer's idea that not all things that are true are useful, or in many cases they probably just don't know what they don't know. But the church institution itself certainly has developed a pattern of suppressing, cherry picking, or just plain rewriting its history. You'd have to have a pretty narrow definition of lying to say that the church is honest about its beginnings.

And maybe that's part of what makes Mormon history so interesting—the fact that for so long the church succeeded in controlling the message and marginalizing critics in the eyes of the faithful. I think what happens over a generation or two of faith-promoting storytelling is that the stories become entrenched, some people become heroic and legendary, while others become cautionary tales.

Then you get someone like Fawn Brodie who comes along and writes (pretty sympathetically actually) about Joseph Smith but without deference to the powers that be, and it's no wonder there was an uproar over her biography. Another biography that I think is of equal caliber is "Mormon Enigma" by Newell and Avery. That one's actually about Emma Smith, but at least the first half of the book up until Joseph's death is very relevant to your search I think.

Please add a comment if there are specific areas of church history you're interested in, and I'm sure I or others can make some good recommendations.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Credulity preparedness

Why are some people prepared to read the Book of Mormon and others not prepared? —John quill Quill

Why are some people prepared to learn about evolution? Prepared to fight for marriage equality even when it doesn't help them personally? The wording of your question betrays your ignorance. By the way I've read the book cover to cover. It's a joke.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Garden variety religion

So the Book of Mormon can't be true because we believe Adam was a real person? —Tom

Lots of people don't believe humans evolved from apes.

I fail to see the logic in saying that just because we believe the story of the Garden of Eden was a historical event, this automatically means Mormonism is false.

I wish you would say more about how you see the Garden of Eden story fitting in with what we know about the world today. It's a fable, Tom, written before people had discovered germs, or atoms, or of course DNA. And just to clarify, we haven't "evolved from" apes. We evolved from earlier versions of hominids, who would be classified as primates just like us.

Anyway, I take you to mean that belief in Adam and Eve must be rational because lots of people believe it. Lots of people also believe in UFOs. That's not evidence of anything except the credulity of the average person.

And finally, the Garden of Eden story could be absolutely true and it would still be ridiculously obvious that the Book of Mormon is contrived. Do you know anything about ancient Native Americans that you didn't learn in Sunday school? What did they eat? What animals did they have? What technology? What about their language and writing? Just pick one subject, ANY SUBJECT!, and see if what you learn looks remotely like the history you read in the Book of Mormon. I'm sure it doesn't seem like it now, and you probably think I'm just being a jerk, but the day you finally realize that Joseph Smith made the whole thing up will be the best day of your life. You're welcome. :)

@Adam: Don't keep us in suspense. What's the evidence you see that makes you think the BoM is literal history? So the more you learn about ancient Americans' agriculture, technology, language, etc., the more it looks like 3 Nephi 3:22? Have you contacted National Geographic to let them know?

Friday, June 11, 2010

The numbers game

What would be the total membership of the lds mormon church if no-one had ever removed their name or been exed? —jacarre

The reported numbers would probably be the same. For starters, I don't think there are nearly the number of resignations that some ex-Mormon sites estimate. There's a commonly cited source that puts the number of resignations at around 100,000 annually, but my hunch is it's far fewer, maybe a few thousand. Just anecdotally, I personally know dozens of people who were baptized Mormon but no longer believe, practice, or self-identify as Mormon. Of all those, how many have actually formally resigned? I think two, including myself.

Again, it's just a hunch and only the church really knows, but I think the resignation thing is mostly a web phenomenon. People who participate in ex-Mormon communities online are far more likely to send a letter to the church, for one thing because they know they can. Most people just move on or "go inactive." And yes, I agree that there are a ton of inactive Mormons who actually do still believe, so I could care less if the church continues counting these people to make their numbers look better. But the bottom line is the church's bottom line cannot be reconciled. The number of people that drop off the totals each year isn't nearly enough even to account for the death rate in a population that size.

In summary, they may or may not be removing ex-members like me from their numbers. They're certainly removing members who are known to be deceased. But there's a huge number of once-baptized "Mormons" out there who the church is not in contact with, and these folks are assumed (if online sources can be believed) to be alive until age 110. Hence the inflated total membership numbers. And of course if they were to report actual weekly meeting attendance, or number of full tithe payers, then the remaining active members out there would really know how large a crowd they're part of.

gintzer wrote: "They don't hide the #s, they announce them at General Conference and print them in the Ensign magazine every year."

The numbers they share in General Conference are almost completely meaningless, and are irreconcilable with reality. You know, sort of like the story of the Jaredite barges.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Will the real Nephi please stand up?

Was there really a person named Nephi who actually lived in the Book of Mormon? —LIFE

Yes, there's a Nephi in the Book of Mormon. More than one actually. Are you asking whether the book itself is historical and not something cobbled together by Joseph Smith and perhaps others? That's an obvious no. None of the purported history from the Book of Mormon looks remotely like what we know about ancient America today. It fails every test one could throw at it—agricultural, linguistic, technological, metallurgical, cultural, you name it. Every test, that is, except the one the Mormon responders here keep pushing: that you should ignore all contradictory evidence and pray for a good feeling about the book. Feeling is knowing. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

Anyway, the name you asked about, Nephi, is not in the King James Bible like many of the other Book of Mormon names. It is, however, in the Apocrypha, which was part of the Smith family Bible. If it were the name of an ancient Hebrew, being translated into English in 1830, you'd think the spelling would be phonetic, like Nefi. Then again, you'd think all of the thees and thous and thus sayeths would have no place in a modern translation either. Seriously, how obvious does it have to be?

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nephi#cite_…

"The book seems to be merely a prosy detail of imaginary history, with the Old Testament for a model; followed by a tedious plagiarism of the New Testament. The author labored to give his words and phrases the quaint, old-fashioned sound and structure of our King James's translation of the Scriptures; and the result is a mongrel—half modern glibness, and half ancient simplicity and gravity. The latter is awkward and constrained; the former natural, but grotesque by the contrast. Whenever he found his speech growing too modern—which was about every sentence or two—he ladled in a few such Scriptural phrases as 'exceeding sore,' 'and it came to pass,' etc., and made things satisfactory again. 'And it came to pass' was his pet. If he had left that out, his Bible would have been only a pamphlet." —Mark Twain, Roughing It

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Doubting, No Greater Sin

When Mormons mention the outer darkness, what does that mean? —Dandaman
Sort of like Hell? Is there Hell in your beliefs?
There's not really a hell in Mormon doctrine. Everyone gets saved, except the sons of perdition. The closest Mormon equivalent to hell is a temporary place called "spirit prison." That's where bad people go when they die, until they've adequately suffered for all their unrepented misdeeds. Thieves, abusers, violent criminals, they'll all find their way to Mormon paradise eventually.

Not so for the real bad guys, though—the ones who used to know the church was true, who had a testimony, went through the temple, served in callings, and then denied the faith. No redemption for those guys. That's right, that guy who broke into a house and tried to kill a little girl with a hammer: saved. Ex-Mormons like me: not so lucky.

So beware all you faithful Mormons, you could be one questioning thought away from outer darkness. It's not a cult, just the way God rolls. He's mysterious like that.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Blinded by the subtle craftiness of email

Mormon question about the website? —Artisticat

Every time I go there to request a bible, or request someone come visit me, they say something about an incorrect e-mail. Anyone else have this problem? I'd like to go back to church, but it's hard with our sleeping schedule, so I might ask for bible study visits or something. I was baptized at 14.

Others will answer you better, but I just have to say I love this question. What you didn't know is that when you were 14 you were one of the 200,000 or so converts that year that made all the other active, tithe-paying Mormons feel better about their church. The stone clunks forth. Well at least you solved their retention problem. Somebody needs to look into this email glitch so the 10 million lost Mormons out there can reconnect with their faith.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Frequently Avoided Questions

JW's and Mormons, What do you believe about evolution? —Chris the 4th

There's no consensus view on evolution in Mormonism. The faith's leaders have grown increasingly reluctant over the decades to make statements that may later be shown false where faith and science intersect. In my experience I've found most Mormons are antagonistic toward evolutionary theory in general, but aren't quite willing to repudiate it. It's something that—like molecular genetics, homosexuality, and the Book of Abraham—they wish would just go away.

Sunnyrains96 wrote: "Personally, as an LDS member, I keep an open mind. I believe that I was created in the image of my Father, but I also know that there's a lot of history of the world that wasn't recorded. I think that there probably was some evolution involved somewhere, but I wouldn't dare say where or how. I like to think that science and religion often are arguing two sides to the same story and if people on both sides could drop their defenses for just a moment they would see that both sides can be right at the same time."

I'd say the above response is pretty indicative of what most Mormons believe. And something tells me she's not very interested in learning more about evolution, unless it's a Mormon source offering reassurance that somehow it all works out in the end and that most importantly, "the church is still true."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Following Satan's trail to the truth

Why do people hate the LDS church? I see people picketing the Mormon temples? —Ethan M
but rarely if ever any other church. Why is that?

Most people don't go looking for a fight with a church. If you've been raised Mormon then you've probably been told all your life about the "enemies of the Church" and how Satan works through these people to try to stop Mormonism somehow. I totally get the idea that this persecution means Mormonism must be all it claims to be (or else why is Satan fighting so hard to stop it, right?). But you might do well to consider something for a moment.

What if Mormonism wasn't all it claims to be? What if people go to such efforts to stand up to it because it is somehow impacting them negatively? If that were so, wouldn't the church still claim it was being persecuted because it is True™? In other words, once you accept the proposition that the more people say we're wrong the more it proves we're right, you're caught in a positive feedback loop. That's fine if you're only interested in protecting your belief from contradictions, but don't kid yourself that it's evidence of anything. I'm sure the Flat Earth Society and the Holocaust deniers use similar logic to defend their views.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mormonism product review

What are pros and cons of the mormon religion? —Ricky M.

NO HATE. I just want both sides of the story.

It's like this. If everyone you care about is Mormon; if the pre-scripted life that Mormonism advocates suits you; and if you have no reason to doubt the veracity of its truth claims—then Mormonism is absolutely wonderful. Really, I think it is. Mormonism takes a big, inscrutable world and makes it small and understandable. There's a purpose, and a plan. And you're loved. And those you love are never lost. You have a foolproof method for making optimum decisions. You have a community and solidarity. You are needed. And best of all, you never even have to consider your own mortality. Because of course death isn't really death. You, yourself, this individual with your DNA, lived before and will go on living after mortal life ends. How cool is that?

As for the cons, see above. If anyone you care about is not Mormon, or heaven forbid has rejected it for any reason, you're left feeling wounded. What if they don't make it? What if your eternal family is broken up? What if you didn't do enough to help them? What if you don't have anything to talk about that isn't wrapped up in church happenings?

I'm being a little facecious there, but there's a sinister side to this too. What if it's a spouse who leaves the faith? Do you divorce? There's a story like this every day on the ex-Mormon boards. What if it's a child who strays? Do you welcome them to family gatherings? Do you trust them? Do you still pay for their college? What if they're gay? Will your child be one of Utah's male teen suicides? Now that's sobering. (A little Mormon joke there.)

And speaking of being gay, that's one of many traits that might make the Mormon lifestyle unsuitable for some. Me, I liked scouts, church, being a missionary. I wanted to get married and have kids. Enjoyed teaching lessons, didn't hate being a priesthood leader. But it's not for everyone. Maybe it works for you, and maybe that's all that matters.

Finally, the whole thing can only work if you really truly believe in it. Not such a difficult proposition forty years ago, like say when the Joseph Smith papyri were rediscovered and translated. We didn't have google then, or discussion boards full of informed people outside the faith community. If you like the idea of the world I described above and want to be a Mormon, I wish you the best. But you should probably tread carefully here on the worldwide web, because for some reason all that ridiculous anti-Mormon literature seems to convince some people that Joseph Smith just made things up as he went along. Like polygamy, and temple rituals, and the Kirtland Safety Society. Or the Book of Abraham.