In the wake of General Conference this weekend I found myself doing a bit of “ponderizing” about my choice to continue in my faith. In the course of this meditation I came to understand some of the key reasons that keep me active in my religious persuasion. Of course we all have our individual testimonies, but I wanted to look past those things for a moment. Why do I stay in the church despite the many forces in the world that aught to be pushing me away from it?
It’s no secret that being an active Latter-day Saint is no walk in the park. The requirement of Mormonism is an all-inclusive 10%. That’s 10% of your money, 10% of your time, 10% of your talents and 10% of your life. The only thing that’s not 10% is your dedication to it. That requires 100%.
But is 10% too much? Most active saints know of a family member or friends who has slowly or suddenly drifted away from the church at some point or another. Is it because the church too demanding? Leaving the church isn’t like leaving a book club. If becoming a Mormon is a big lifestyle change, then leaving it as just as big. So why do people decide to leave?
In my experience there are 3 main reasons people leave the church:
1. They can’t reconcile the past.
When people come to find out that the history of the church isn’t as stark white as they thought it was in primary it can really take a toll on their testimony. This breaks down into two common areas:
- Questionable History: Things like the Mountain Meadow Massacre, Joseph Smith’s wives, or early saints leaving the church.
- Controversial Doctrines: Things like polygamy, blacks and the Priesthood and multiple sealings.
2. They can’t reconcile the present.
The church has come a long way but to some they haven’t come far enough. People become at odds with the way the church operates currently, especially in relation to social issues. This also breaks down into two common areas:
- Political ideology: They have a particular political belief like the rights for gays to marry or the rights for women to hold the priesthood that supersedes the churches stance on those issues.
- Unsatisfactory conditions: They have a bad experience with a bishop or a ward and refuse to continue to be a part of any organization that could produce people as seemingly malicious or insensitive as they were.
3. They can’t reconcile the future
They don’t hate the church but they can’t see themselves continuing to live it. Priorities shift and views are altered that inhibit them from continuing forward. This breaks down into two common areas as well:
- Lifestyle conformity: They have a particular lifestyle that they want to live and they decide that it is more important to them to live that life than to live a lifestyle within the church.
- Demand of proof: In a world of instantly accessible data they begin to demand for evidence for things like Nephite DNA, Horses in the Americas or the manuscripts of the Golden Plates in order to stay a Mormon.
Of course these aren’t all of the reasons, but from my experience they cover a vast majority of them. Oftentimes these reasons will stack on top of each other as well. Someone might want a to live a certain lifestyle, so they slowly begin to question church history and eventually demand proof to continue their fellowship. Or maybe they had a bad experience at church which pushes them away from the churches stance and towards their own political beliefs, which makes them question all those controversial doctrines (and really the church as a whole.)
And I understand why. Being a member of the church is like treading water. It requires considerable work to stay afloat. At first it may not be too hard, but then you add in the weight of social pressure, anti-Mormon websites and literature, strange church history, strict commandments, lots of required dedication, and one or two bad experiences at church. Soon enough you can barely keep your head above the water. I can understand why people might want to get out of the pool altogether.
And if that wasn’t enough we live in a world now that is becoming more and more relative and subjective to the individual. Things aren’t as black and white as they once were. It’s not hard for people to ask “Do all all roads lead to the same place?” or “why can’t I interpret for myself what matters most to God?”
Again I ask myself, with all of these issues at hand, why do I stay? There are red flags in church history. There are potentially conflicting church stances with my personal beliefs. There are controversial church doctrines. On top of all that, if I left I could get 10% of my money and time back. Why wouldn’t I leave?
There are a thousand websites that will try and persuade you that the church is a hoax, a fraud and a lie. Not to mention the rest of the world who could tell you that you don’t need the gospel to be happy. But those reasons don’t compel me to follow suit and leave.
These are some of the reasons why I choose to stay:
It’s Supposed To Be Hard
One of my favorite quotes is a very obscure one. It’s by Adlai Stevenson during his 1952 presidential campaign speech. His simple words ring as true now as this they did back then:
“All I say is that nothing is easy, and the best things are the hardest”
Let’s Imagine that there was irrefutable archaeological evidence of the Book of Mormon. Imagine if the Lord had never instituted polygamy and blacks always had the Priesthood. Imagine if the Bible directly referenced Joseph Smith. At that point, how hard would it really be to be a member of the church? Not very hard at all. Do you think that’s what Heavenly Father wants? Look no further than the third chapter of Genesis where He “cursed is the ground for thy sake” and “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” These aren’t condemnations, these are blessings. The Lord understands that we must work for those things which are most important and that we will appreciate the sweet by experiencing the bitter. We know from the words of Abraham that this life is a test:
“And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them”
A test is difficult by nature. If it were not so, it wouldn’t be much of a test. In other words, God knows that we will appreciate the things we have to work for and “the best things are the hardest.”
I stay because I know that living the gospel is intentionally difficult.
Think of an accomplishment that you are very proud of in your life. Your career. Your kids. Your mission. Your marriage. Your service in the Army. It doesn’t matter what it is because they all have the same thing in common. In the midst of all of those things, it is extremely challenging. Ask a woman in the middle of childbirth or a man in the middle of a 10 hour shift of his start up company how much they love what they are doing. Odds are you won’t hear too many positives. But ask that person 5 years after the fact and they will tell you how great the entire process was and how happy they were that they did it. There’s a reason missionaries call it the best two years once they get home and not 6 months into it. The gospel is no different from anything else hard. Challenging in the moment. Worth it in hindsight.
I stay because I know I can find joy in the work.
History is Cloudy, Fruits are Clear
One of the more profound claims in the New Testament is in a letter to the Corinthians.
“For now we see through a glass, darkly…”
Put up a dark coke bottle to your eyes and describe what you see. You can make out vague shapes and a few items, but on the whole most things are unclear. The apostle tells us that this is how we will understand many elements of the gospel. In addition to the Gospel, we will almost always look at our own history through that same dark glass. Imagine right now if your neighbor took a fire hose to a group of black kids trying to enter a school. There would be universal outrage. It’s almost inconceivable to imagine. But 50 years ago, when our parents were kids, this act might have simply been viewed as mildly controversial and justified by many. And while 50 years ago, our parents might have been racist, they couldn’t have imagined actually owning a slave. But do you know who could? Their parents about 50 years before them. The point I’m illustrating is that what we find culturally acceptable or moral in our lifetime might be viewed completely differently 100, 50, 25 or even 10 years ago.
The church often gets an unfair microscope placed on it when their history is examined. Take something like marrying a girl under 18. Right now that’s illegal and universally looked down upon but 200 years ago it was viewed differently. We are slow to give people the benefit of the doubt during that era because we are comparing them to our standards, not theirs.
Historical issues become even more confusing when the historical accounts that we have are from subjective people with their own motivations and agendas. We have the convenience now of an abundant access to information and tools for accurately recording history, but those simply didn’t exist during the era of the restoration of the church. Remember that Joseph Smith lived long enough ago that we don’t even have a picture of him because camera film hadn’t been invented yet. Most of the historical records we have from his life are from letters and diaries, things that can be extremely subjective and misleading. I’m not saying to completely throw it out, but it should be taken with a grain of salt.
I stay a member of the church because even when I discover some parts of church history that I might find peculiar or even wrong, I understand that it was a different world back then. I believe that the fruits of the gospel carry more weight than the potentially distorted, cloudy histories of the church. Look no further than the bounteous life that Mormons statistically live. To me, that is a clear fruit of living the gospel. Does that prove the gospels truthfulness? No, but it’s easier from me to put stock into things I do know as opposed to things I don’t know. Even if Brigham Young said that people lived on the sun, that doesn’t change the fact that watching general conference uplifts me and serving my mission made me a better person.
And I stay because despite a cloudy past, the fruit of the gospel is still good.
My Life is Undeniably Enriched
Most of the decisions we make in this life boils down to three main intrinsic desires: joy, truth, and peace. For example, we educate ourselves to learn truth and to gain wisdom. We get in relationships and start families to find joy and happiness, and we work hard in our careers to afford ourselves some peace and tranquility in our lives. The medium in which we reach these intrinsic destinations is typically by understanding two key aspects about ourselves: our purpose and our identity. Knowing who we are and what we are meant to do propels each of us towards the joy, peace and truth that we desire.
I stay because I believe that the church uniquely provides me with purpose and identity which leads me to those desires.
Since the dawn of our species, we have asked questions like “Where did I come from?” “Why am I here?” and “What happens after death?” To me, the church provides answers to all of these questions, and knowing the path that I tread on gives me real a sense of purpose and a true grasp of identity. And with those things I find myself obtaining those intrinsic desires. I find truth in the scriptures. I find peace in the temple and find joy in serving in the Lord’s vineyard.
I stay because the church provides me with a true sense of fulfillment in my life.
I Don’t Fall Victim to Wordplay and Deception
One of my favorite apologist lectures is from Daniel C. Peterson called “Defending the Faith.” He talks at great length about how anti-Mormons will often use wordplay and deceptive tactics to plant seeds of doubt in people’s minds. He uses a brilliant metaphor to explain this. He describes an item and wants you to guess what it is based off his description. This thing is gnarled, twisted, gives off a deceptive scent, finds its nutrients in the muck; and if you grab it you will likely bleed. What is it? Our minds immediately gravitate towards something malicious, but in reality he is simply describing a red rose. Technically everything he said about the rose is true, but the way in which he said it compels us to assume it’s something sinister.
Anti-Mormon websites love to use this method when describing church doctrines. Making practicing Mormons look silly or confused is their only intention. They’ll say things like “Did you know Mormons believe Jesus and Satan are brothers?” This sentence is intentionally crafted to shock its audience. Now when you stop and explain that of course they are brothers because we are all children of Heavenly Father, all of the sudden it doesn’t sound so weird. But if you don’t look past these crafted word plays, then you’re left with a distorted view of Mormon beliefs.
I stay because I refuse to fall victim to deceptive word plays and distorted truths.
I know that by letting those things into my mind, I create a wedge between myself and the church that slowly festers into doubt. In all reality I know there is a reasonable answer for any claim that might seem to question the church. It’s just easy to get tripped up in little thing.
I stay because I don’t believe there is any real reason to doubt in the first place.
I Follow a Faith-Based Religion
If there was one principle l could stress the most to any doubting saints, it would be how instrumental the concept of faith is to our mortal sojourn. In the 11th chapter of Hebrews, we read about how faith was so integral throughout biblical history. But the verse that stands out the most is the 3rd, where is says,
“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.”
Now, we already know from the first chapter of John that the worlds were framed by the word of God, but how were they framed ? Through Faith. God had so much faith that through his Word he could frame the world. The Lord gives us more insight in Matthew when he says,
“If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”
What does this tell us about faith? That it is absolutely integral to learn and understand in this life. Is it any coincidence that God always reveals himself through a Prophet instead of just coming down from heaven? A prophet gives us an opportunity to exercise faith. As do scriptures, and commandments and all other ordinances required of us. Faith is the muscle we came here to grow, and it’s the muscle that is so powerful that we can move mountains and frame worlds if we can master it. So when I read of controversial doctrines or questionable events in church history, do I panic? Absolutely not. I understand full well that it is yet another opportunity to break down and rebuild my faith muscles.
I stay because I recognize that the Mormon Church is a faith-based religion.
The Church does not say “Let me prove it to you so you can believe it” but rather “You’ll see the proof when you first have the faith that it’s true without any proof at all.” Or in other words when you have “a hope for things which are not seen, but which are true.”
I stay because I don’t demand the burden of proof from an organization that tells me from the get-go that it has no intention of providing it.
I Know That I Forget
Take a step back and look at some of God’s chosen people throughout the scriptures, and see if you notice a pattern:
- The decedents of Adam are blessed if they obey… they forget their commandments and the world is flooded.
- The Israelite’s are told to follow commandments… they forget their counsel and worship a calf.
- The Jews are promised protection if they obey… they forget their covenants and are overtaken all throughout the Old Testament.
- The Nephites witness Christ and have peace in the land… they forget his teachings and ultimately destroy themselves.
Is it any wonder why Christ says,
“How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”
“Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?”
I mean, the Book of Mormon uses some form of the word ‘remember’ over 200 times. We can see from the scriptures we will invariably forget the Lord at some point. What other reason would Christ institute a weekly Sacrament? So that we wouldn’t forget Him.
I recognize that I forget. I do it all the time. I forget how it felt when I received a confirmation of the Book of Mormon. I forget those powerful moments when I taught with the spirit on my mission. I forget those times when I stood on the podium and bore witness that I knew the church was true.
I stay because the way I feel now does not dictate the way I will feel in the future nor does it change the way I felt in the past.
Daniel C. Peterson makes a point about this concept as well, comparing our beliefs to relationship with a divorced spouse. All too often the divorcee will say things like “I never loved him.” The truth is they were in love, they just forgot what that felt like because they became so distant and that void has been replaced with disdain. It’s what happens when we distance ourselves from the gospel as well. We claim to have “never” believed, when in all reality we have likely just forgotten.
Leadership is Needed and Imperfection is Expected
Let’s now examine some spiritual leaders in the scriptures:
- Adam is told to do not something… he disobeys and is cast out of the garden.
- Moses is told to trust the Lord… he doesn’t and isn’t allowed to enter the Promised Land.
- Samson is mighty if he doesn’t cut his hair… he caves to his passions and lets his hair get cut.
- King David is given power to rule because of his obedience…he abandons it and lies with Bathsheba.
- Solomon is also given power to rule because of his obedience…he still turns away from God.
- Peter witnesses Christ perform miracle after miracle…he still denies him three times.
- Joseph Smith translates the Book of Mormon…he oversteps his boundaries and temporarily loses his power.
We can see that it doesn’t matter if you are a king, a warrior, a prophet, or an apostle; leaders are just as prone to making mistakes as the rest of us. And regardless of those mistakes the gospel will still proceed forward.
I stay because I don’t hold the mistakes of Joseph Smith or Brigham Young any higher than the mistakes of Moses or Paul.
Jesus Christ himself came down to earth, was tried and tested, was given help from an angel, and asked to have his burden removed from him. Only Christ was able to endure through the hardships of mortality and that’s what qualified him to be our savior. We claim the church to be the true church, but we don’t claim in any way that its leaders or its patrons are perfect.
But Christ was perfect and his gospel is perfect. Even though his stewards make mistakes, I stay because they were still called to be His stewards. And we need those stewards. God called prophets all throughout the Old Testament, set up prophets and apostles in the New Testament and continues to call prophets in these latter days. They needed priesthood leadership back then and we definitely need priesthood leadership now. Michael Jordan might have been the best basketball player in the world, but he still needed Phil Jackson to be as great as he was. He needed a leader to push him further than he would normally go. There is a reason that every sports teams has a coach. Coaches provide invaluable guidance, encouragement and motivation to the athletes on the team. In a similar way, we need leaders to push and guide us. Ohio State left to it’s own devices might be a fine team. But Ohio State with Urban Meyer is a great team. God wants us to be great, and so he reveals his word to his servants the prophets and they push us to greatness.
Without leaders I could start my own church and believe whatever I wanted to. That would be very convenient, but it’s not how the Lord operates. “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism.” was not just a suggestion. God gives us agency to follow our own moral compass but he still expects us to follow the rules he puts in place through the mouths of his Prophets.
Ultimately I believe God would rather me be obedient and loyal to His servants than impose my own beliefs and leave because His will didn’t agree with mine. In fact that’s exactly what Christ says in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Not my will, but thine be done.”
I Know the Church is True
This phrase is one of the most ubiquitous phrases uttered from the pulpit. “I know the church is true.” But what does it really mean? If you were to ask most saints why they stay in the church it would be something to the extent of “I have a testimony of the doctrines, and it’s a great place for my family.” What they are really saying when they say that ‘the church is true’ is that the organization and structure that comprises the church are innately good and that it is a good environment for them and their families.
We know we are naturally selfish creatures and the format of the church forces us to be unselfish. It makes is give up our time, our talents and our money for the betterment of others. It makes us care for the elderly and the youth. It makes us donate our surplus and do charity work. It makes us meditate and improve. What is so significant about these things? These are all things that Christ wants us to do. Just read His beatitudes. So when we say we know that church is true what we are saying is that we feel the church organization is divinely established and it brings us closer to the Lord.
I stay because the church has made me a better man. It has been a safe haven amidst a world of debauchery. It has provided me with relationships, connections, and lifelong friendships. It has given me responsibility and has cultivated within me the higher virtues of courage, humility and much, much more.
I’ve Made Promises
The Mormon Church gives a lot of leeway for your average Joe to make it into heaven, but when it comes to exaltation it demands quite a bit more. We are required to make several lifelong commitments or covenants in the church. These are all voluntary, but they are not to be taken lightly. When we are baptized, we make a covenant to keep a slew of commandments to the best of our ability. When we go through the Temple, we covenant our life to the church. And when we are sealed in the temple we continue that covenant with our spouses for all Eternity. In each of those cases, I didn’t make a promise to the prophet or the Mormon Church. I made a covenant to God. My covenant is my word.
I stay because I am true to my word.
I don’t believe I was pressured to go on a mission or pressured to go through the temple or pressured to get married in the temple. They were all choices I made. To leave the church would be to go back on my word, and at that point what is my word worth? I wasn’t tricked into the church and I don’t think I’m being tricked by staying in the church. I felt that church was such a positive influence in my life that I committed to its lifestyle, committed to proselyte to others of its goodness, committed to consecrate myself to its teachings and committed to spend my life with someone equally committed. I made those commitments off my own accord.
I stay because I said I would. It’s as simple as that.
To What End?
This final question might be the most important question to ask yourself if you are considering leaving the church: To what end?
Is the gospel lifestyle so terrible that leaving would provide some euphoric freedom? Are you willing to sacrifice the strong ties of your spouse, your friends and your family just because you don’t have enough evidence to believe in something? Is it worth giving up all of the great things that most saints testify of every Sunday just to appease your current lifestyle?
I stay because there aren’t enough reason to leave.
I have a great job, an amazing wife, connections all over the world, and a genuinely happy disposition all because of the church. Why would I leave that? Because I can’t understand why polygamy was instituted? Or because I think gay people should be married? Or because I read some damning quote from the internet? No, I can recognize both my lack of understanding and the fact that I might just be wrong about it.
And sure, not everyone has my life, but everyone has the gospel. And the gospel promises that if you submit yourself fully to its precepts that you will find joy and peace therein. I don’t know of any person who is living the gospel to its fullest and does not find fulfillment in it. I’m sure those situations exist, but I don’t see them. What I see more than anything is people who have stopped praying, stopped reading the scriptures, stopped going to the temple, stopped watching conference, stopped meeting with their bishops, stopped serving in their callings and still demanding to feel the warmth and comfort of the gospel. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. You reap what you sow in the gospel.
In the End
Ultimately you are going to do what you are going to do. If you find yourself unsatisfied with the church then you will likely leave. There is no getting around that. However I believe that it’s easy to get tripped up on little things that take us down a path of denial.
Being a Mormon isn’t about being convinced that it’s true. It’s about choosing to believe that it is true. Our testimonies our like flowers. Unique and beautiful but requiring attention and nourishment to remain that way. To me, the reasons to leave don’t even come close to the reasons to stay. If I’m honest with myself and look past the shortcomings of others I can clearly see the positive impact the church has made in my life.
And that is why I stay.
93 thoughts on “Why I Stay.”
If I was your teacher and you were my student I would give you an A- but only because you are not yet ready to be translated. Very well written – loved it.
Wow. You are very, very invested in all things Mormon. If he made it all up would you want to know? The Bible warns of false prophets. Would you want to know if you are lead by a false prophet? If not, your justifications mean nothing.
I was excited to read your post, but seriously, it just feels like you are trying to convince yourself of why to stay.
Your post feels heavy and doesn’t seem to emulate any type of joy.
If you choose to stay then great, but Mormonism doesn’t resonate with everyone. Why force people onto believing what you do? Why not allow them to find the spiritual path that resonates best with them? It’s so presumptuous to think your religion has it all figured out, especially with such big doctrinal and and historical issues. If you bring you peace and joy, then stay on your path, but it’s not for everyone.
Well I’m sorry you interpreted that way. I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me and tell me it was exactly what they needed to hear.
This wasn’t an article about why the Mormons are right and everyone else is wrong. It’s a post about how it’s really easy to have doubts about the church when you are in it, and that many of those doubts don’t need to be doubts.
People will make whatever choice they want to make to make them happy. I’m just giving my take on what’s made me happy and what things I don’t worry myself with.
I thought it was well written and yes just what me and several people I know needed. Don’t listen to those negative comments clearly they needed it too or wouldn’t have read it. I mean I don’t read articles on a subject that does not interest me. So thank you. They don’t like it get off the feed. It’s that simple. Don’t click don’t comment. It’s 2015 people use your time for what is important to you.
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Naomi, based upon your response, I am going assume you didn’t even read the article. Because if you had, you would have noticed that he never once told anyone what to do nor did he remotely imply “force” as you suggest. He was telling us how he feels and the reasons why. Period.
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Aren’t you providing an “out” for yourself? The multiple responses in this article are a reply to the multiple arguments that people are using to convince themselves that the Church isn’t true, and thus feel themselves justified in debunking all Church teachings & practices. Try to find another Church that offers as much in spiritual & temporal wisdom.
I don’t believe the bible’s fables, and I don’t believe in the Book of Mormon, however there is historicity and AMPLE evidence to support the fact that the Jews wrote the bible and many of the events did occur, if embellished a bit. The Book of Mormon is completely different. Not the smallest shred of evidence has ever validated any of it. And there are mountains of evidence demonstrating it as a complete and utter fabrication. It’s the same kind of difference between Harry Potter, and any memoir you pick up and read.
Does it matter so much to you what someone else believes? Would you take away something beautiful like faith from someone? Check your motives. It seems you didn’t read the article, or perhaps you failed to understand it.
You seem to be getting a lot of negative feedback here, and I’m sorry for that. The more you feel you are being attacked, the more it shuts down any chance for open, honest examination of the issues you are discussing.
As a former member who used to have a rock-solid testimony, I am interested in why people stay because I can’t understand it. I was sure that it was the absolute truth and I wasn’t afraid to hear what anyone had to say about it, because the truth can withstand any scrutiny. The arguments from Christians only made my faith stronger, because they clearly didn’t understand that I had the same truth that they did, only with additional light and knowledge. What changed things for me was when I talked to former members who had left for doctrinal reasons, not personal ones. Things like the problems with the Book of Abraham, where I could see with my own eyes that Joseph Smith had drawn in the missing parts of the facsimile and that Abraham in the picture was originally Anubis, the Egyptian jackel-headed god; or the account of the first vision, written by Joseph Smith in his own handwriting, using the exact wording I memorized as a missionary, but with the word “angel” instead of “two personages”. The apologetics for these things seem to be very weak, and I honestly would like to understand how a person can keep their faith after discovering these issues. I couldn’t.
A few points that I picked up from you, and maybe you can clarify if I’m misunderstanding:
The more your faith is challenged, the stronger it becomes, because it’s meant to be hard. Psychologically, this makes sense. Your religion is your identity, and attacking it makes a person hold to it even more strongly. I felt the same way, so I think I can understand this. Logically, it doesn’t work quite as well. A Muslim living in the US would likely have an even harder time following their religion, but that fact in itself doesn’t make Islam more likely to be the one true religion.
You said, “I have a great job, an amazing wife, connections all over the world, and a genuinely happy disposition all because of the church.” While you acknowledge that not everyone has your life, I think that honestly, this is what it really comes down to. It’s clear that you are very invested in the gospel being true. You could probably admit, yourself, that you aren’t completely unbiased. It’s not easy to evaluate something objectively when your whole life is built around it.
The real question isn’t even whether it’s really true or not. The question is, are you actively searching for the truth and are you willing to follow the truth, whatever the cost? From what you have written here, it doesn’t really seem like it. You should be able to answer the question of “If it isn’t true, would you really want to know?” with a heartfelt, resounding “Yes!” Otherwise, if the gospel is true, how are you going to continue to progress if you’ve stopped searching?
I appreaciate your civil response. And I don’t mind a little criticism, that usually just means I’m ruffling some feathers by being too bold, which I’m fine with.
So to your point about doctrinal things I’ll reference a few of my own points. History is cloudy, especially around that time period. It’s not like there were historians and film crews writing down everything that was happening in upstate New York in the 1830’s. History is pieces together from memories, from letters, from diaries, and from some news clippings. How much stock am I willing to put into all of those things? I think what’s more important is that we don’t hide our history. We publish our history and evaluate it. Why would Joseph Smith say two different things? Was he being malicious or do we not know the whole story? Why do the facsimiles have so much in common with other Egyptian things? Do we really know that much about Egyptology (spoiler, it’s a fringe history and we really don’t know that much about it). How much subjectivity has played into Mormon history? Well I can think of at least 10 documents off the top of my head that were intentionally forged to try and make the church look stupid. Many were taken as factual for many years as well. So in many ways we know so little of what happened. It’s what makes the Book of Mormon so unique. It’s something that is a lot harder to scrutinize.
One other thing I’ll address is your point it being hard. I’m not trying to say that because the church is hard it is true, I’m saying that you shouldn’t think it isn’t true just because it’s hard. For all I know the Muslims have it right and I’m totally off based, but I respect that they don’t typically compromise their beliefs just because the rest of the world tells them that it would be too hard to live that lifestyle.
I’m rambling here so I’ll address one other point. “are you actively searching for the truth and are you willing to follow the truth, whatever the cost”
To me, it comes down to a chain of beliefs. My belief in God leads me to a belief in the Bible, which leads me into a belief of prophets, of the book of Mormon and the Mormon church. I think far too often we gleam past important patterns and truths in the scriptures to fit our own liking. Christ never said “Keep looking for truth” he said “Keep my commandments.” The spirit testifies within me that his commandments are found within the LDS church. Why would I challenge a member of the Godhead just because I don’t understand some church doctrines?
I readily admit that I have a biased view of the church, but I also think that people are quick to ditch so much of what they know because of so little of what they don’t know.
That does make sense, I suppose. History is open to interpretation, especially if you don’t look too closely at the details. The fact that Native Americans don’t have any traces of Israelite DNA is a little harder to overlook, and the apologetics on that issue mostly seem to be based on a lack of understanding of genetics. I’m actually looking for any explanation that doesn’t ignore the facts or dismiss everything by saying that we know all the answers and have to rely on faith. For a church that claims to be the restoration of all things, with additional light and knowledge and continuing revelation, it seems to me that there should be better answers. I’m not really trying to convince you that I’m right, I’m more trying to understand how members can see these things and still believe that this is God’s only true church.
While Christ never said those exact words, “Keep looking for truth”, there are so many scriptures which talk about this. “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” – John, “By the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” – Moroni. Those are just the scripture mastery ones I can still quote off the top of my head without even looking them up. Searching for truth is exactly what we ask investigators to do, as missionaries. The whole purpose of our existence, according to the gospel, is to learn and grow and become more like Heavenly Father – not just to blindly obey. That was why Christ taught that the Pharisees were wrong. We don’t exist to follow the commandments; the commandments exist to help us grow. Seeking the truth is an intrinsic part of the gospel plan. If you really don’t think that truth is important, then I don’t think you understand the doctrine of the church you claim to believe in.
I agree that we don’t exist to follow commandments, but there are some commandments that we have to follow.
Look at everything that Christ said and did. “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God”
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven”
“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”
The entire sermon on the mound is a bunch of rules or ways to live our life.
I’m not saying the gospel is following rules, but Christ is very specific on things we need to be doing. We need to be baptized, we need to keep his commandments, not everyone will find the truth (in fact few will find it).
But despite all all of that, I think you’re missing on of the biggest points. Why are you putting so much trust in the Bible? There is no evidence that the Son of God performed miracles or was raised from the dead. There’s no evidence that what was transcribed was exactly what was said. You have complete and utter faith that what the Bible is saying is accurate. In fact, there is no DNA evidence that Jesus Christ ever existed and its scientifically impossible for him to change the atomic properties of wine, walk on water and cure leprosy. I see no different in putting that same kind of faith in Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon.
And by the way you should look up Ron Meldrum, he has some interesting theories on Nephite DNA (with DNA evidence).
Ultimately, I believe all need to exercise faith constantly and there is no amount of evidence that will put us at ease, and that is done intentionally.
Where did you get the idea that I have any faith in the Bible?
I’ve seen some of the apologetic theories on Nephite DNA. Like I said, they mostly boil down to a lack of understanding of DNA and genetics.
I have a hard time accepting that God would devise a test where your brain tells you that the wrong answers are right and the right answers are wrong, just to see if you will blindly trust the religion you were born into instead of using your own logic and common sense.
Mostly I’m disturbed that you don’t seem to think that truth is very important. I don’t think you really believe that you belong to the one true church. I think you’re just staying because it works for you. I have a hard time respecting that.
Well if you don’t have any Faith in the Bible then the premise of the discussion is changed. Christians believe on blind faith that a 5th hand account of a man who taught a certain way to live was actually God’s son and that he absolved the sins of the world if they followed him. There is nothing scientific about that or anything he taught. Dip yourself in water to be saved. Give up your well earned money just because someone else couldn’t. Say good things even when you don’t want to. Commit to one person even though your body doesn’t want you to. Abstain from a list of things that otherwise have no apparent consequence if you don’t.
To me, I think this life is absolutely a test. Can I control myself when I naturally want to indulge. Can I be compassionate when I naturally want to be cruel. Can I have faith when I naturally want proof.
I know my Faith is the truth, but my knowledge is based on an external witness that I personally received from God, not from enough data to make a scientific approximation.
You have a hard time respecting what I believe, I have a hard time with people who create their own religion because it’s easier for them to be a “truth seeker” then it is to follow rules they find inconvenient.
If you are able to stand up for what you believe, regardless of what it is you believe, then I respect that. It’s when you say that Christ never said, “Keep looking for the truth”, that I lose respect for you. If you really believed that you had the truth, you wouldn’t have any reason to argue that the truth is not important. That’s why I think that you don’t truly believe what you claim to believe.
I’m saying that there is line between continually searching for the truth and finding the truth and sticking with it. I think it’s really easy for a lot of people to become dissatisfied or disinterested in their beliefs and then just pawn it off on “them looking for the truth.” I’m not suggesting that you should keep growing or keep gaining knowledge – I just realize that we can be awfully quick to discount something because it doesn’t qualify with our own definition of truth.
I think you’re missing the point of my post entirely. And you’re claiming that I don’t truly believe what I claim to believe, which makes you either confused or ignorant.
Really enjoyed this. Thanks for posting it.
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I thank you, deeply, for your thoughts. My sentiments exactly, only I didn’t know how to express them.
I don’t pretend to know or understand everything in the past, present, or future. I have faith in what was, was is, and what is yet to come, trusting in my Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, knowing that some day I will have greater knowledge and a greater understanding of all things.
I CHOOSE faith over doubt. Faith brings me a indescribable sense of peace while doubt consumes and riddles me with fear. That’s no way to live ones life.
As my wise mother once said (paraphrasing), If it’s not true than it doesn’t really mean anything (Its teachings have helped me live a good life in the service of others, taught me to be a good, contributing citizen, love others, etc.) But, if it is true, it means EVERYTHING!
This is “Why I Stay”!
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Thanks for posting this! I really enjoyed reading it. Many of your reasons for staying mirror my own. A couple of points about the above discussion:
1. Statements such as “Joseph Smith is a fraud” and “Your faith exists in spite of the evidence, not because of the evidence” are typical of black and white thinking. I’ll bet I am familiar with every piece of “evidence” that has been bandied about and yet I have reached a different conclusion. My conclusion is that the evidence is not indisputable in either direction. We do indeed look through a glass darkly and must rely upon faith, prayer, and observation of the fruits of the work (as you have said). I still marvel that a book of such great spiritual depth could have come from an uneducated farm boy dictating what he saw or felt while peering into a seer stone in a hat. The Book of Mormon is thoroughly Christ-centered; hardly the stuff of someone setting out to deceive.
2. If you want real evidence, how about looking at evidence that does not rely upon some 150 year old letter or diary but can be seen right now? I challenge anyone to — with a prayerful attitude and an open heart — spend a weekend listening to the wonderful talks and beautiful, spiritual music presented in LDS General Conference and then tell me that this is not a work of God. That is not to say that God does not also work elsewhere, but it does make ridiculous the assertion that the destiny of Mormons is to live out an eternity separated from Him. One of the most beautiful teachings of Mormonism is that all will have the opportunity to hear and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ whether in this world or the next. I can appreciate Key’s passionate belief, but have no fear of his or her condemnation. And I can feel God’s love as I write this.
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Thank you for this! It helps articulate what I’ve been feelling and experiencing. I’ve realized It’s not enough to just believe, I also need to be able to defend as the attacks are increasing.
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“Joseph Smith was a low life who did illegal and immoral things as a matter of routine.”
If, years after he had left, you had sent people to Nazareth to ask what they thought of Jesus, I wonder what they would have said? Oh, wait. We already know. “Is this the carpenter’s son?” And we know what the Pharisees and Sadducees had to say about him. Do you take their testimony as unassailable truth?
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Now you lose all credibility. There’s no mystery about how Joseph Smith died. We all know the facts. But let’s call firing a couple of shots from a smuggled gun to defend oneself against a storming mob a “gun fight.” Don’t you think if he were a “lowlife” he’d have used the gun to shoot his way out of the jail and been long gone before the mob arrived?
Key is doing his very best Nicolas Fehn impression. I’m confused as to why he thinks this is even a conversations, since all I’ve seen are atrociously biased statements followed by vague “research it!” refrain. And all while curiously avoiding or not understanding the idea that having faith in the Book of Mormon is the same thing as having faith in the Bible. If you believe in the latter because of your faith, you can’t say that the former has to be proven.
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I decided to remove our little spat, I think it takes away from the spirit of the post. Sometimes I get too defensive
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Et tu 🐓🐓?
P.S. Don’t remove the chickens, though. Somehow that is a fitting epitaph to the spirit of Key’s arguments.
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Just like your task masters. Selective inquiry, Only use what makes you look good. Hide the rest. And then deny you hid it!
I feel bad for Key. He tried to hard to make his points. Or at least he trolled so hard to try and get a reaction. Sometimes I wonder what people like that are looking for in life.
Dear outrageously 🐔 chicken:
Do not feel bad. I am good. I wish you the best.
You have not been paying attention. Whatever.
I guess it is true after all. You cannot teach a chicken to sing. It is a waste of your time and it annoys the chicken!!! Bye bye 🐓🐓.
Well written. I can appreciate your dedication and respect your choice to stay, even while you acknowledge some embarrassing historical facts, political missteps and holes in the religious narrative like horses and chariots in the BoM. I left when I decided that the church couldn’t be what it claimed to be: that is the one and only true church on her face of the earth. For me, God would have a higher standard for his one true vehicle. And I have to say I feel exactly the same way about leaving that you feel about staying. Not being LDS has made be a better person. I experience less guilt, manipulation, judgement and stress and I enjoy more beauty and truth in my life. I feel closer to God now than I ever did in sacrament meeting or reading Nephi 2 or enduring visits from the home teachers. I spend more time with my family and I enjoy them more. And I recognize the very real good the Church does in the world, and can appreciate that more on the outside than I ever did when I was inside going through giant leaps of faith and contorted logic to lessen the cognitive dissonance I so often struggled with. But my truth doesn’t have to be your truth and I wish you well on your journey. Sincerely.
As much as I appreciate your intent, I cannot subscribe to your thinking of “it has to be hard”. I’m hopeful that you have pondered or perhaps even spent time with someone that has gone down the extremely difficult path of leaving the church. Honestly, this path is way harder than staying. Losing family and friends, being alienated in your community and in some cases losing the love of your life due to divorce are real issues. Really hard issues. Much harder than paying 10%, or attempting to reconcile historicity issues. Until you have had to face losing your spouse and being separated from your kids you will NEVER understand how hard being authentic to your own beliefs really is. Most members that choose to leave do not do it without going through years of pondering, studying, praying, serving, and pleading for answers. The bottom line is most of these members have finally been willing to admit that they have NEVER received any kind of spiritual witness as promised by Moroni. Despite the fact that they have done everything required of them in faith and with a broken heart and contrite spirit. Finally, I agree with you, that if this was a test, and if God really existed, that there would be components of that test that would be hard. However, I cannot accept that a God would also practice trickery. If one of his prophets tells me that a papyrus literally came from the hand of Abraham, I should be able to trust that truly is the case. In the end if Joseph, Brigham, and others didn’t know when they were prophesying as a man vs as a prophet, how am I supposed to know? (Fallibility, blood oath, Adam God theory, blacks and priesthood etc.)
While I agree that in many cases, leaving is also hard I don’t think that it’s fair to say that ‘most’ people who leave the church do so after they were so desperately seeking the answers that weren’t coming to them. I’m sure this happens, but I’m not inclined to think its the majority. From my experience the majority start down the path that you touch on at the end of your post (giving weight to all those issues).
Historically I there is only one perfect thing and that is Christ. Everything else is fallible and is chaotic. You could just as easily ask, Did God trick judas into betraying him so that he could be killed and then resurrected?
In the end, you’re going to follow whatever path you want. In your case it sounds like you didn’t find fulfillment when you were a member so you sought for that elsewhere. At some point you were unable to reconcile elements of the church and you decided the best course of action was to leave. To me, after doing extensive research on church history, especially those things you’ve touched on, They don’t compel me to question. Largely for many of the reasons I posted. So which of us has come upon the right conclusion? It’s not really fair to place one opinion over another because we both view the world differently. In the end only God knows. He understands our true intent. And as long as we truly feel we are following his will then we will be judged accordingly.
Let me clarify. I am a part of several support groups for those that are leaving the church, well over 95% in this group have left after doing exactly what I described. This group has over 20,000 people in it. In my opinion this number certainly deserves the term, most.
As far as your Judas/Christ example. This example seems really odd as it was not the way it happened at all. My example did happen. Joseph Smith clearly stated that the papyrus came from the hand of Abraham. You cannot disputes this. This has been proven that it is not the case. I am also told that a prophet will never lead me astray. So either Joseph got it wrong or God is asking me to have faith in something that clearly is not the case (trickery). I cannot subscribe to a God that practices trickery, therefore Joseph clearly got it wrong. Hence my question, if a prophet doesn’t know when he is prophesying as a man or a prophet, how am I supposed to know?
You state that I didn’t find fulfillment. This is wrong. I certainly found fulfillment. But this ultimately wasn’t what I was looking for. I was seeking truth, and NO I did not find truth. I found apologetics and cover up. Your OP referred to anti-Mormon literature. Perhaps you should clarify what this is, because all the literature I read was confirmed as true by the church in their essays. Blanket statements such as anti- Mormon are red flags of ignorance in my mind. Please define. Perhaps it will surprise you that in order for me to save my marriage I have made the choice to participate in the church. So I go, I serve, I participate, and I quietly suffer through some the hurtful comments that get blurted out by members every single week at church. I do it to save my marriage and for my kids. I refuse to let the church take away the most important thing in my life, my kids wife, and my spouses life. Our marriage.
You are making too much sense. You had better be careful or the amazing one will delete your posts (except for those that do not address matters of substance). It happened to me.
You can clearly see how much Key likes to troll. It should come to no surprise that I erased our conversation (both sides mind you). I sure hope he keeps it up.
I was not a troll. Very convenient for you to label me one though, just as you label anything that points out Mormon deceptions as anti Mormon . Just because something does not fit your agenda does not make it anti Mormon. Maybe it is just the truth. Deal with it chicken man. 🐓
Are you trying to be ironic? You call me chicken man, compare a bishopric to North Korea, admit that there is actual evidence to the resurrection of Jesus Christ found in a Christian book store, mock my name, hop in on other conversations to jibe at me…and say you’re not trolling me? Do you know what a troll is? You typify a troll. You’re almost a cliche at this point.
You were a coward for deleting my posts. Hence the chicken. Good thing I had a computer and not a printing press or you might have pulled a Joseph Smith on me. Good grief.
I deleted our conversation because it was ridiculous, not because you were making any valid points. And I’ll likely delete this conversation too because it serves no purpose.
I’m not saying the Judas thing happened, I’m just pointing out that it can be easy to paint scriptural events in a challenging light.
As for the Abraham thing, in my research I’ve found ample amounts of evidence that, while not proving that what he is saying was true, proves that we probably don’t have enough information to really know with certainty that he was lying or was wrong.
You say you cannot subscribe to a God that practices trickery. Trickery is in the eye of the beholder. In your eyes, the only explanation for instances like this are either A. Smith was wrong or B. God was wrong. I just don’t think it’s as simple as you’re making it. Examine how God has interacted with his children over the course of history. He’s kicked them out of his presence, he’s confounded their language, flooded their world, allowed some of his most loyal servants to be kidnapped, guided his people through a desert for half a century, saved and let be destroyed for thousands of years only to vaguely reference himself coming in the Meridian of time where he commanded the wealthy to give up their wealth, commanded us to be perfect, to follow rules to be baptized to not doubt him, and that even if we do much of what’s right, the path to heaven is narrow and there will be few that find it.
I look at all these things and I don’t see a God of trickery, I see a maestro conducting a symphony. I see an eternal being that is trying to save his children and does so in a way that mortals simply cannot understand in this life.
You say you had fulfillment but we’re looking for truth and it wasn’t there. To me those things are synonymous when it comes to spiritual matters. You are fulfilled by the truth or not. I commend you for staying to save your marriage and your family. That would be hard for anyone to do. I’d love to say that I could convince you that if only you changed your paradigm that you wouldn’t have to suffer at all, but I’m sure that I couldn’t convince you of that. At least not in this medium.
And when I speak of anti-Mormon literature I speak of things that are intentionally disingenuous in regards to church history. From my experience that is a vast majority of what is found on the Internet. It’s not all bad, but so much of it has an agenda that it makes it tarnished in my view. It’s not like the church is so shy with its own history. Deseret book and BYU house plenty of essays and analysis of our rocky history. But in the end you are dealing with a time period where you simply can’t verify things like we can right now. It’s just not possible. And for that I don’t let so many of the arguments against church history hold much water because we simply don’t have all the facts and we never will. And by the way, I think that was intentional.
You’ve obviously put a lot of thought into this, but I think you’re forgetting one important thing:
Why *I* stay: Because I believe in Christ, and I believe that this is Christ’s church.
It’s easy to overthink some of the “problems” of the church, but in the end, I stay because I believe it is what my savior would want me to do. Christ is why I came to and embraced this church, and unless He tells me to do otherwise, I will stay and live by its teachings for the rest of my life. Christ should be the foundation of your faith, everything else is just parts of a building. Tithing, profits, faith, ordinances, priesthood, etc., all of that should be built on a firm foundation of a faith in Christ.
I hate to argue, because I know that isn’t the intent of your blog post, but I do have to say that I don’t think the Lord intended life to be more difficult because we believe. Yes, it’s hard, but the blessings that come from following his commandments should offset that. The Book of Mormon is full of examples where Christ would lift the burdens of the faithful. It might be hard to give up 10% of your salary and your Sundays and, sometimes, years of your life… but the blessings of following the gospel far exceed those sacrifices. We are healthier. We are lead by a spirit and open to its promptings, and people outside the faith can’t even comprehend it. Faithful families are happier. Every study shows that religious people are more happy than unreligious people, and I think Mormons take that to a slightly higher step.
In other words, don’t focus so much on what we are required to sacrifice, but focus on “counting your blessings, naming them one by one” and seeing that life is actually easier because we choose to believe.
I think you’re right on with a lot of what you’re saying, but I intentionally didn’t want to make this about why I have a testimony. That is personal, that is different for everyone. This article is more to help neutralize some of the reasons people begin to deny their testimony and leave the church.
I agree that the blessings are there and it’s not supposed to be grueling, but Christ says he will yolk with us where we pull together, not pull for us. Like I said, many hard things we do in the moment seem daunting but later we understand how important and great they were. I think the gospel is the same.
I see. I just can’t separate testimony from church membership. When I read this, I just kept thinking of the parable of the sower. Do people with strong/solid testimonies leave? Don’t get me wrong, I’m no expert, it just seems that when people leave it was because they’ve forgotten their testimonies, or their testimonies were rooted in the wrong part of the church (e.g., the social aspect).
Ugh, why am I arguing with you? I’m glad you’re sticking around. Stay strong, Brother!
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Haha no worries man. I think that even with a strong testimony we all have the ability to loose it (i.e. David). But I think the Bathsheba’s of our days far more subtle and slowly creep into our minds.
Your strong testimony is awesome though. Keep it up!
I was making valid points regarding the fact that your supposed prophet was disreputable and untrustworthy. He had the ethics and morality of a common criminal. He was known to be untrustworthy in his day, and the word is getting out now, notwithstanding decades of denials by your church. The man was convicted of fraud and lied repeatedly and influenced others to lie. There was a reason he was arrested shortly before his death. Anyone would have been arrested for what he did.
Thank you for giving me insight into how one someone like you can still consider him a man of God. The obfuscation and mental gymnastics you must do daily are astounding. As for me I prefer to live a more authentic life, ONE BASED ON TRUTH. Maybe one day you will have the courage to face the facts.
Whatever you need to tell yourself Key.
I stay because I care about the team, despite the coaches. Our team is FAR from having an undefeated record, but we can still bond together.
You blog is misnamed. It shouldn’t be called “Why I Stay” but “Why I Think People Leave.” Not only that, the tone is arrogant and judgmental. I think the biggest reason you SHOULD stay is to try to learn some remedial Christian lessons about empathy, compassion, and love. So far, your Mormon education has failed you.
I find it so interesting that I can get overwhelingly positive feedback from people saying “this is exactly how I feel” or “this touched my heart” and then someone reads its completely differently as if I were trying to be arrogant. I’m sorry you read it that way, but I felt like I went out of my way to say things like “I beleive” “In my experience” “This isn’t every reason” “I don’t know everything”
There are lots of reasons to stay, many of them very Christian in nature. I intentionally didn’t want to talk about those things because I feel there are an ample amount of articles that discuss those things.
But thanks for reading.
I think if you are going to put yourself out there by writing, you have to be prepared to receive feedback. Both positive and negative. I firmly believe that feedback is a gift regardless of whether the feedback is positive, negative, or constructive. If another person is willing to take the time to give me feedback, I am grateful, regardless of whether they agree with me or not. Even if the feedback includes accusations, much can be learned.. I personally see all of the feedback you have received as a wonderful gift and should be celebrated.
Oh I welcome constructive feedback. But emotionally charged feedback doesn’t do a lot for me. It’s like running over your neighbors dog and asking him if your hair looks good. I mean there is obviously something to it, because it causes such emotions, but there is a right way to give feedback and a wrong way. I celebrate it when it’s respectful and constructive. Not when it’s sarcastic, insensitive, dismissive or blatantly emotionally charged.
Well written, well thought out. There will always be vandals out there anxious to work mischief on one’s testimony.
You have a great testimony and a great way of expressing it.
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Thanks Owen. I’m glad you enjoyed it.
I really am happy for you that you have found a pathway of thinking that works for you. I sincerely think that is great.
As far as The Book of Abraham is concerned I would love to see the ample amount of actual evidence that you are referring to. At this point the only evidence that exists proves definitively that JS translation of the papyrus was/is absolutely incorrect. At this point the only rebuttal that I have seen doesn’t include any evidence as you state, the only thing I have found (including the essays) is a theory or a narrative. In fact, the essays (which means the church and the brethren) has created two possible theories. 1 – there are portions of scrolls missing and this where JS translated from. The problem with this theory is that the portions that we do have and that JS translated he got absolutely wrong. 2 – that the papyrus was a vehicle or an inspiration for Joseph’s translation. But that it wasn’t a literal translation. Which goes against many testimonies that it was a literal translation, even Abrahams and Joseph’s .
Theories or narratives are not evidence. Again, I would love to see the actual evidence you are referring to because the evidence that does exist proves that Joseph got it dead wrong.
I’m inclined to go paste a bunch of books and links, but I’m not sure how much good it will do. It seems like you’ve made your mind up on the issue. I would hope the basis of your belief (or lack of belief) doesn’t hinge upon this one thing. A thing that deals with ancient manuscripts, fringe histories (Egyptology) and otherwise incomplete information. I mean you seem to speak definitely on something that is a contested issue. But even if I were to put this issue to rest, would it really change your view on the church? I’m no so sure that it would.
By all means, provide your evidence. I have to admit though, my confidence comes from very thorough research, so if you found something that I didn’t, I would love to see it. This one is plain and simple, he got it wrong. However, I would love to see what you got.
Ok but let’s just say I had this evidence. Would anything change? Is this the one thing holding you back from starting up your home teaching again, or is this just one of many things you are at odds with. Because it’s not really worth it for me to try and prove that the evidence against the book of Abraham is weak if it won’t have any baring on your outlook of the church either way.
My belief certainly doesn’t hinge on this one thing. My shelf just got to heavy with the mounds of things that I had to stick on it and just trust in faith. Eventually my shelf broke. You seem like a good dude. I appreciate the discussions.
Trust me, I appreciate you. I’ve been warding off over zealous born agains for about a week now. It’s nice to talk reasonably with someone.
Your comment – “From my experience that is a vast majority of what is found on the Internet. It’s not all bad, but so much of it has an agenda that it makes it tarnished in my view. ”
My response – Vast majority? I would love to hear what Internet sites you are referring to as well as the amount of time you have spent verifying the credibility of this site. The sites that I have visited are extremely concerned with siting credible and original sources. I have meticulously checked these sources and I personally can say that they are credible. If you have done the same then I applaud you. If you haven’t then I would challenge you to do so or if you do not want to then I would challenge you to say you don’t know because you haven’t taken the time to research the sources and credibility of the site. You also state that they have an agenda. I think a better term is bias and I would also ask you to look inwardly and answer the question honestly as to whether you are looking at these sites with a bias as well. Perhaps your article was written with bias, it seemed that way to me.
Your comment – “It’s not like the church is so shy with its own history. ”
My response – it’s not like the church has been forthcoming either. I would certainly welcome a forthcoming discussion with you as there is ample evidence throughout church material where it wasn’t forthcoming. The correlation department has certainly clamped down on the flow of information for over 30 years.
Your comment – “Deseret book and BYU house plenty of essays and analysis of our rocky history.”
My response – I don’t disagree. Bushmans “Rough Stone Rolling” was a big reason my shelf broke. I have heard the same thing from hundreds of members that have left the church.
You comment – “But in the end you are dealing with a time period where you simply can’t verify things like we can right now. It’s just not possible. And for that I don’t let so many of the arguments against church history hold much water because we simply don’t have all the facts and we never will. And by the way, I think that was intentional.”
My response – I have always found this argument odd. Members believe in the bible and believe in things like the flood, or the exodus etc. and many others and they have no problem believing in the word being preserved for thousands of years. But then we talk about things that happened only 150 years ago they use the argument that you just used that you can’t verify them. It sure is nice to have it both ways. I’m reminded of the GA that said, “when the prophet speaks the debate is over”, and many members believe and quote this. The these same members turn around and say things like “the prophet is human and is fallible”. Perplexing!
See but you’re comparing two incomparable things. I don’t believe that Jesus performed miracles because of all the evidence, I have faith that the words of the bible give an accurate account. It’s the same for the Old Testament, I have faith that the stories (at least to some degree) and genuine in nature.
Now when you are dealing with things 150 years ago, that’s where I don’t have as much faith. Especially when you have “official signed documents” from Oliver Cowdrey or JS that say it was a fraud but then are eventually debunked. Or letters from unverifiable patrons that defame or make ugly the Joseph Smith and his dealings. When I read RSR it didn’t shock me, it relieved me. Joseph Smith was no less immune to mistakes than I am. But do I have faith in contemporary historians? Maybe to a certain extent, but I also know they can be wrong too. We dump in so much stock in historians and trust that they are unbiased. Why?
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a vessel. It began with the early apostles, was temporarily quenched and then has been restored again in our days. God can’t control us. Not even his Prophets. But His gospel ushers forth regardless of the mistakes we make. The moment I removed my own view of how I thought God should run the world and just let his Spirit guide me, the more enriched with truth and happiness I became. I see nothing wrong with a prophet being a fallible messenger of God. I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
I would respect you a lot more if you simply stated that you don’t have any evidence for the BoA. Dude, other that the two narratives I presented, nothing else exists. You don’t have anything significant and that’s okay. You can win them all. Btw, I’ve spent numerous hours in discussion with my former bishop. He used his GA brother as a sounding board for some of his rebuttals. I loved my bishop. He was willing to read the entire CES letter, and the whole debunking to debunking to debunkings. I really respected him for this. In turn I read his books from Clayton, ash, and many others. Often times my bishop would laugh and say that he really backed himself into the corner on that topic. In the end my bishop chooses to believe. It’s that plain and simple for him, he makes the choice to believe. That works for him and I’m happy for him. Unfortunately it doesn’t work for me, however I choose to participate for my family. Thanks for the discussion.
I guess when I read articles like this Im reminded why this has never been much of an issue for me in the first place.
I wish you the best. I’m sorry you’re in such a bind right now but I respect that you’re willing to be in a bind for the greater good. I appreciate your analytical mind, and I think you use it well. I hope you’ll someday come to look past some of these hang ups and maybe ‘fix’ your shelf.
But cheers either way. Best of luck J.
I don’t like the way you deride people for empiricism and valuing their individuality.
Scientific thinking has brought us much. It has a value that is not to be dismissed lightly just because it suggests something inconvenient to the narrative you were taught growing up.
On one hand, it sounds like you are trying to understand and reach out to those experiencing faith crises, but on the other, you invalidate any and all arguments against the church and the gospel, even if it comes to completely dismissing the sciences as well as our natural critical faculties. It’s not just an invitation, it’s an exhortation: you expect us to stay and keep believing. You certainly don’t leave us any legitimate reason to leave.
In the end, I left because I wanted to, because empirically I sensed the church is different from what I was taught, different enough for me to make up my own mind about whether to continue following it. I value my individuality and won’t offer it up to an unknowable God. Your musings on faith are far out in left field from how I understood faith. Faith is not blind, or, should I say, I would not reach for the blind faith ever, not without some sort of certainty that if I did A, B, and C, I could expect certain blessings, gifts and witnesses to manifest themselves to me at appropriate times.
I also left because I took it about as seriously as a young man could take it. I stressed out my anxiety over sins that were relatively minor, and it had a profound impact on me. even too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. There are people who put the requisite thinking, study, faith, prayer, etc. and still conclude the church is not what they had hoped.
People leave for, what seems to them, legitamate reasons. Who are you to say their reasons are invalid because they go against a religious system that refuses any accountability for the burden of proof? You may ask, who are they to… but people have different experiences and they come to value different things for reasons justified by their own joint subjective and objective experiences. I value reason, logic, and empirical evidence. I will not say your subjective experiences are invalid. They are obviously very valid and powerful to you, but they are not binding on me, neither do you have to feel threatened by that. You appeal to my reason when you say you don’t perceive a good reason to leave, but I don’t perceive enough good reasons to stay and subjugate myself to a religion I believe a man made up just like all the other religions.
If I take your meaning accurately though, you’re saying, historical issues aside, the fallibility of the leaders aside, is modern Mormonism all that bad? Does it have to be bad for a person to leave? What if they just don’t find it to be true as it was advertised to them? I think Joseph Smith had some profound takes on Christianity (as well as a few that were less so and others that were just crazy), but he is not a prophet to me. You admit that even if this were true, it’s impossible to verify it, God will not allow it, because that would be too easy. It’s these mind games and contortion of logical thought that turn me off from the whole thing in and of themselves, and I and others like me have ecery right to think the way we do.
Thanks for reading and for a leaving respectful feedback.
I appreciate your logical mind, and in no way did I mean for the tone of this piece to be interpreted as “This is why I stay and so should everyone else” but rather these are some reasons I’ve chosen to stay , and if you see the world through a similar lens then maybe those reasons will help you.
I think scientific thinking isn’t bad or useless, but I think the when you enter the religious field you can’t use it the same way. Logically you can never prove God. Neither can you logically prove Jesus Christ or the Bible. So if you believe in those things for reasons beyond logic, meaning you have faith in them, then it’s only logical to continue that line of belief to the Mormon doctrines. I know that I can’t scientifically prove that paying tithing or reading scriptures makes me a better person but I find that it does despite em the evidence. Think of it like scientifically trying to calculate Love. While you can measure the chemicals in your brain, love is one of those transcendent qualities that we have come to accept that it needs to logical basis.
I don’t mean to say that you can’t leave, of course we all walk our own paths, but I can only encourage people to work through their struggles and hope that they experience what I feel like I do, which is fulfillment, peace, direction and joy. But we have to decide to walk through that path, through our doubts and through our struggles. For many it’s not worth it, I’m simply claiming that at least for me, it is worth it.
I think people get attached to Mormonism for the community. Paying tithing for instance. I can’t believe it when a believer stands up in sacrament meeting and says they love being absent 10% of their income. I doubt if they would if they didn’t have friends in the venture. I’m not saying the reason they do it is to be seen of men; I’m saying the reason I think they are converted it to it the way they are is because their friends and family are converted the same way. Being converted with your family and friends does make the Moe on experience rich, but some of us can’t stay converted forever and we we have to move on.
Oh I absolutely agree. And I think for many, that lifestyle and community is perfectly adequate for them. But I don’t think that it’s 100% of the reason that they stay. I think that most believers receive a witness of the truthfulness of the church in some form or another. A kind of inexplainable confidence that assures them that they are doing the Lords will. Some find it after reading the BoM, others find it in their wards and communities, and some even find it in tithing. It as all very unique to the individual.
And unfortunately some don’t get that confidence and they move on. Though I personally believe everyone can achieve that confidence through some means, but it’s likely you’d disagree with me on that point.
I agree with you that they could, I just don’t agree that everyone should, because a witness from God is not what I believe that feeling to be, though some will disagree.
IT’S EASIER TO FOOL A PERSON THAN IT IS TO CONVINCE HIM THAT HE HAS BEEN FOOLED.
Sums it up for me!
I’m glad you felt to write that in all Caps. I think it really emphasizes your point.
Interesting blog post! I thought the article and comments to it were an interesting read. (I could almost go as far as saying it is amazing!)
I myself was raised in Utah in a hardcore Mormon family, but went inactive soon after I completed my mission because of doctrinal issues and problems with the Book of Mormon.
While I disagree with your ultimate conclusions, I’ll give you credit for at least considering issues about the church’s credibility and acknowledging some of the reasons why people leave the church. I seriously don’t think any of my TBM family members have ever thought about these issues. My family members are way into the church but they seem to focus on the day-to-day stuff (the social, cultural, and lifestyle parts, FHE, meetings, church callings, personal prayer, etc) and not on the more academic or theological aspects. To me it seems like they pretty much don’t know about, and activity don’t want to hear about problematic church issues (they have got to protect that testimony!). In their mind the only reason someone would leave the church is because they are a sinner, or to put it in a more modern way, “they left the church because of ‘lifestyle’ issues.”
You at least seem to concede that the truth of the church doesn’t matter to you (I apologize if I’m mischaracterizing your argument, but that is the impression I got when I read your post). Toward the end you state that,”Being a Mormon isn’t about being convinced that it’s true. It’s about choosing to believe that it is true.”
It’s also interesting that one of reasons you stay a member is because you have, “a great job, an amazing wife, connections all over the world, and a genuinely happy disposition all because of the church.” And you also point out that leaving the church can be hard and ask, “Are you willing to sacrifice the strong ties of your spouse, your friends and your family just because you don’t have enough evidence to believe in something? Is it worth giving up all of the great things that most saints testify of every Sunday just to appease your current lifestyle?”
I definitely agree with you that it’s tough to leave the church you were raised in and one that has such a strong social component to it! I’m only inactive but trust me it’s tough to leave because of family relationships. But sometimes the truth does matter! And for me, once I realized it wasn’t true, spending my time attending church meetings, paying tithing, and doing all the other stuff were not just “hard” things to do, but now seemed completely meaningless!
In the end though, except for the problems with my TBM family (mom, dad, and siblings), I have a pretty happy life with my wife and kids since I stopped being active. I just wish other TBM’s thought more like you, or at the very least, were a little less judgemental about somebody leaving the church. (It’s not because I wanted to sin!)
Thanks for the read and the response. The only thing I’d disagree with on your assessment is that The truth of the church doesn’t matter to me. While I admit that the church can’t be proven I think the the church equally can’t be disproven. I think not so much that to join to church is to ignore blatant evidence that it’s a farce, but rather choosing how much credence you give to the arguments that are for or against the church. There are plenty of arguments that compel people to leave, but those same arguments reinforce others to stay. In the end you choose which side to believe.
From my experience on being on both sides of the active fence, what I gained from leaving was convenience and time, what I gained from returning was fulfillment and direction.
But the choice is always up to us.
You list 3 reasons why you think most leave. But they aren’t the biggest. The biggest is that genetics have shown the the Book of Mormon is fiction, and Egyptologist have shown that the Book of Abraham isn’t anything that it is claimed to be. Mormon leaders have had to change the teachings on how these two works of fiction came to be.
Science, the ability to reason and use critical thinking skills is why many leave.
Well I think I cover those things in the ‘Demand for Proof’ section, but more importantly what you’re claiming simply isn’t true. Examine the DNA research of Ron Meldrum or articles like this Egyptian Papyri and the Book of Abraham: A Faithful, Egyptological Point of View | Religious Studies Center
You’ll see that these are contested issues. There isn’t enough evidence on either side to prove or disprove anything. I’m not sure that talking something at face value and not researching both sides would be considered science or critical thinking.
One issue I have with faith is that it thinks it gets to act like it knows wherever there is a gap or two in our knowledge.
In any kind of analytical system derived from Socratic philosophy, the burden of proof is never on the skeptic, but on the claimant.
It is near impossible to prove a negative, and faith gleefully plays on this fact.
Imagine a tyrant who had tricked the people into believing he was a god. Would he be more easily overthrown by convincing the people that he couldn’t be a god or by convincing the best people that they should never believe anything drastic without the evidence to back it up?
While the burden of proof is on you and the people fall for the premise that they HAVE to believe unless it can be proven 100% impossible for the thing they believe to be true, you’ll never remove that tyrant from power. You have to teach the people to think socratically. If not, they will continue to be in bondage and never allow themselves to express their wishes that life could have been better, or they will just fall for the next tyrant who claims divine warrant upon the same principle.
In similar fashion, the Brethren get to take the titles of “prophets, seers, and revelators” unto themselves, as well as “special witnesses of Christ,” without ever having to demonstrate once that they can prophesy, see, or revelate, or even confirm or deny whether they are “special witnesses of Christ” in any sense that they would like you to think.
So, under this burden of evidence, the Book of Mormon IS challenged by DNA. There is certainly no DNA to compel us to think that it IS true that there were Millions of Semites in the New World whose genetic relationship to the Middle East was as recent as 2,600 years ago.
Under this burden of evidence, the Book of Abraham IS challenged by all the recovered papyri from the Chicago museum. Apologists have had to twist history and suggest that Joseph Smith was under a misapprehension that he was doing a literal translation when, in fact, he was translating in the sense of the JST, pure relevalation indistinguishable from fiction except that you believe that it isn’t fiction.
I am just fine with Mormons bringing me their beliefs that they take on faith and having a discussion about them, but you don’t get to put the world under the burden of proof of proving a negative and claiming you are right if they can’t. Daniel C. Peterson and his like do this all the time. They often refer to an unofficial tally of all the times critics have tried to clamp the realm of plausibility shut tight on Mormonism only for Daniel to come up with some quip — llike “Tapiers! It was Tapiers!” — and act as if they have “proven the critics wrong” as if this accomplishes the same thing as providing positive evidence for a positive claim.
It is backwards thinking.
Ok well first of “In any kind of analytical system derived from Socratic philosophy”- which is a great way to understand a lot of things, but isn’t the end all be all of human thought.
As far as your Tyrant analogy, it’s not exactly fair because the Tyrant offers no real reason for people to believe he is God. But people have many reasons to believe in God. They feel that he actually had an impact in their life and have, in a way, a reason to believe that he exists. There is a reason that the vast majority of the human race has believed in something like a God.
I feel like a broken record when it comes to this, but I’m sorry – there isn’t enough DNA evidence to disprove the Book of Mormon. This is a contested space with many different postulations and theories. Ron Meldrum’s DNA research I find particularly compelling.
The same goes with the Book of Abraham. It’s a contested space with many different theories. This article shines some light on it.
What Daniel C Peterson does is point out how all over the map many of the claims against the church are. Some say JS made it up, others say he stole it, others say he conspired with people, others say some other combinations of things. The point being that they don’t all disprove the church, but rather offer different theories to how those things came to pass other than an act of God. None of them prove anything, they just offer theories.
I understand that you think that the gospel should be handles analytically, but I don’t think you’ll ever be satisfied if those are your requirements. Scientifically and analytically there is no reason that Peter should have gotten out of the boat to walk on water. But he had faith and he did so. Scientifically and analytically there is no reason for Abraham to have to sacrifice his only son, but he sought to anyway and was blessed. God’s ways are not our ways and there isn’t a philosophy of thought that will reconcile believing that a supreme being sent a son to earth to atone for the sins of man.
I don’t know if you’re seeing eye to eye with me the angle I’m taking.
In the absence of evidence to think something, should we?
We’ve seen what happens when humanity thinks this way: it’s not conducive to freedom of thought of freedom in general.
Freedom in America is not a product of religion so much as it is a truce struck between warring sects that no man would force his religion on another through the law or other means of compulsion, only through speech and persuasion.
I’m not saying he Book of Mormon is proven implausible under every condo able scenario and stretch of the imagination. I think it has been proven highly improbable, but hats not my point. My point is that there is no positive evidence to suggest the Book of Mormon is true. There’s no ruins, no DNA, no Hebrew, or any other tell-take trace of Semites anywhere in Precolumbian America. Apologists have accumulated a vast amount of cherry-picked maybes, but have failed to produce anything positively compelling that a Nephites are the most likely answer for such-and-such evidence. Nephites remain implausible in the extreme and this is the reason no archeologist reaches for them as an explanation for anything, because there is no peculiar evidence lying around that demands an explanation like Nephites to explain it.
I’m placing the burden of proof on the advocates of the Book of Mormon. You may believe it, and you may persuade people to suspend their critical faculties, if you can get them to, but there is no warrant to treat people as if they should have believed the Book of Mormon was a fact. I could be mistaken about him, but I really don’t think I am: Dan Peterson treats people like this all the time.
And again, you’re missing the point that you’re being selective on what things are okay to have faith in and what thugs aren’t. Unless you’re an atheist, in which case I might as well be debating with a wall. There is no evidence that Jesus Christ performed the atonement or resurrected from death. Why doesn’t that warrant the burden of proof? If it doesn’t then neither should the Book of Mormon because they both are religious concepts that demand faith, which by definition means believing in something without proof.
If faith is impossible then you’ll never be okay with any religious idea. And again if you’re an atheist then you’ll never see eye to eye with a Mormon.
Ron Meldrum is an expert on genetics is he?
Try Jamie Hanis Handy , Simon Southerton, Eric Fairfield has a Ph.D. in moleular biology from State University of New York at Stony Brook and other who are experts in DNA.
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Ah, and we arrive at the crux of the issue. I present you with something DNA findings, who corroborates with experts and it’s not good enough for your arbitrary bar of who is a good enough DNA expert. Do you think there are zero scientists who would assert that there is DNA evidence?
You’ve made up your mind and therefore refuse to see that it’s a contested field.
“Outrageously Simple?” “Rationality is my Agenda?” Faith is not rational. Faith is not logical. Faith is not sensible.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
As you eloquently put it, keeping one’s faith is not “outrageously simple.” Letting go of one’s faith is not “outrageously simple”, either. My takeaway from your blog is that you have a great deal of conviction. However, I can no more question your conviction as you can question those who do not share it. You posit three simple and contrite reasons why folks leave the church. Your religious posturing disguised as “pondering” hints to self-righteous indignation. If your goal was to convince me that people who stay in the church are strong and those who leave are weak then I encourage you to title your blog with similar terminology.
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I think you are misinterpreting much of what I was saying. First off, the title and tag line of my blog is just a kitchy title, not really meant to be taken too seriously. Nor do I say that anything is outrageously “simple” but rather outrageously “sensible”
My intent from this post wasn’t to say I’m strong for staying and you’re weak for leaving. But rather, I understand for some you might feel like leaving for some of these reasons, hopefully this will help expunge some of the doubts that you might have.
Also I feel like I go out of my way to make sure people understand that these things are from my experience and subjective, so I’m not sure where all the animosity comes from.
So, I did read your entire article because it was sent to me by a family member who is concerned about me since I left the church two years ago. I’ve read many articles like these, and I see where you are coming from. Hell, I could have written this article when I was a member and accepted many of the church’s explanations for it’s own discrepancies.
But the problem is that it seems like you’re trying to present this as if you know all the reasons why people leave, and then just dismiss them with your assumptions. I’m not a huge fan of everything John Dehlin has said/done, but he’s one of the only people that tried to look at the question of “why people leave” objectively, admitting that we can’t answer that question ourselves because we have our own biases: https://youtu.be/uZQJc5SxnVs
Yes, we all leave (or don’t) for slightly different reasons, but the whole wanting to live a different lifestyle argument is weak at best, as is the being offended argument. There are very little fact-based arguments in your article, and when you take the facts out, you are left with opinion. While I understand this is your opinion, trying to characterize other people you obviously don’t understand is offensive, and serves to amplify the misunderstandings between those who leave and those who stay.
The main two things I believe you should reconsider are these:
How you characterize whatever is “anti-mormon” seems to be terribly misinformed. Ex-Mormons talking amongst themselves or publicly on the internet about their frustrations with what they have discovered may be considered anti-mormon I realize. But the fact of the matter is, much of what brings people away are church-based and science-based evidence-backed sources. How some individual describes said sources may include opinion or “shock value” as you call it, but that doesn’t dismiss the actual evidence behind what is being discussed. Apologists like yourself are just as guilty of word-smithing an argument to your own world view, and your article hardly touches on the evidence.
How is what you’ve argued here any different than making a case for any other religion? You could use most of what you’ve said here and apply it to another sect of Christianity, Islam, even Paganism. It’s great that you feel this way about your particular religion and that you feel it’s the right place to be. But so does everyone else.
Honestly, I believe your sentiment here is a dangerous one:
“I stay because I don’t demand the burden of proof from an organization that tells me from the get-go that it has no intention of providing it.”
I’m sure that you strongly feel that your religion doesn’t need to provide evidence to be true – that it is somehow the exception to any other organization that asks it’s membership to take it’s word for it. Mormonism is a relatively peaceful organization fortunately (with some exceptions), but this mindset can be applied to very disturbing causes.
See but I think you’re missing the point of what I’m getting at. Of course people leave for many other reasons from the ones I listed, those were just the ones I’ve had the most experience with. And to your point, one of the main reasons I put in there is that people begin to demand proof for things, which you would describe as “science-bases evidence-backed sources.”
Secondly, of course you could apply this to other religions. This isn’t an article about why Mormons are right and everyone else is wrong. It’s an article that addresses some of the common reasons people leave and gives a different light to some of those issues, with the hope that they won’t be as big of issues for some people if they saw it another way.
For all I know, Muslims could be right, or any other religion. But one of the foundations of Mormonism is that you believe in it because you received a witness from God. My purpose of the article is to help people not second guess that initial witness if at all possible.
And I’ll say this to you as I’ve said to many others, the problem with trying to take an overly scientific approach to anything gospel related it all falls apart because you’d have to apply that same logic to Jesus Christ and his resurrection (something that is unprovable, unlikely and scientifically impossible). So unless you’re an atheist, you will always run into problems combining the scientific method with a faith driven one.
When we ask why we should stay IN the Church, we have to ask what IS “the Church”? Is there room for us? This link is a comprehensive study of what the Book of Mormon teaches about the identity of the Church, its head in Jesus Christ, and the ultimate goals and strivings of the Church. This approach may be hope for people wrestling with difficult questions. What are your thoughts?
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I appreciate your civil response to my post. Though we disagree on some points I appreciate that you can do so respectfully.