April 16, 2009

Check and Re-Check

It quickly became clear to me after announcing my decision that there was absolutely nothing on Earth I could say to defend my reasons that would sit well with believers. As a consequence, the things I write potentially offend a lot of people. This is not my intention, however. The purpose of this blog is not to take from others what they love, but to offer some relief to those who feel smothered. It is also to explain my position to believers who insist that I have erred. Tell me of my errors, that I might correct them.

Therefore, I do not see myself as trying to bring down the Church. I don't feel like or want to be an enemy to the LDS church. I'd like to see myself as an advocate for reason. If common sense and reason cast some doubt on the things people believe, maybe that's healthy. If all of my reasons convince them only more that they are correct in their belief, I think that's fine (although I fail to understand how). But I do feel it is important for each of us to reflect on these very core things now and then. I think it is wise to take a look at a building's foundation now and then and see if it really is able to hold up the rest of the structure.

If you find yourself back on the same path you were, I think that's fine. But I believe whatever choice a person makes ought to have good, sound reasons behind it, and not just justifications later. Or, to use an analogy, if a building is falling apart, you can paint all the walls, and replace all the floors and replace the wiring and plumbing, but the building still might not be the safest place to live. Perhaps the reason it is falling apart is because the foundation is cracked.

One can tear down the house for a while, closely inspect the foundation, and then rebuild the house exactly as it was, but this time it's got fresh wood, copper wiring, etc. But in that process, one may also see that the foundation has some cracks in it, and at that point it's probably time to pour a new one. In any case, there is no harm in inspecting the foundation; one will either see that it is fine, or see that there are significant concerns.

No matter what the reader decides to do with his or her spirituality, and whatever path he or she chooses to take, I hope that this blog will either help to deepen roots, or help to think it might be time to reinspect that foundation. In any case, I hope that the reader can somehow understand why a person might feel it necessary to do what I have done.


Anonymous said...

My Dearest Friend,

It was so good to see you earlier this year. You look good! I'm so glad that school is going well. Avey is so beautiful and smart too. I'm so happy to hear that Kira is doing well also.

When I heard that you denounced your membership to the church, I was so sad. I guess, I felt that I knew you well enough that these concerns of would have come up.

You are a very intelligent man. Your evidence and explanations are compelling. Indeed, you have dedicated much time to research and posting your findings for the whole world to see.

Uniike the others, I won't chastize you on your decision. It is what it is. I just wanted to tell you that I love you. You're like a brother to me. May God continue to watch over you and your little family.

Eli said...

Response to Anonymous: Thank you for your love and support. While I don't know who you are, I appreciate your understanding.

Anonymous said...

This doesn't really apply to the issues you've personally expressed concerning the church, but I'm curious about your point of view on a couple topics upon which the church stands firmly. The first is abortion, and the second is homosexuality/same-sex marriage.

Eli said...

Response to Anonymous: Those are great questions. I see only very limited reasons that would justify some abortions. I feel very strongly that people should be responsible for their actions. Abortion is not a choice; once a person chose to have sex when unprepared for a child it was out of their hands. If they want to avoid responsibility, give the baby up for adoption. Hundreds of parents want to adopt a baby.
Regarding same-sex marriage, although the choice of lifestyle is not something I easily accept, and it is anything but natural in the evolutionary sense, homosexuals are no less human than heterosexuals and have just as much a right to pursue happiness as anyone. There's a lot of very convincing evidence that sexuality is just as biological as left-or-right-handedness. While I admit that I have some homophobic feelings, I can't help but think that sexuality is essentially the same as skin color. Homosexuals are no more sinners than were people of African descent. I think that they should have the same rights as married couples, although I still hesitate to call it "marriage". I feel that marriage has been under attack and to broaden the definition may open up unintended consequences. I hope that answers your questions, but if not, I'll be happy to elaborate.

Kevin and Camille Jensen said...

You probably don't remember me but my name is Kevin Jensen and I was in your ward in Utah while we were at BYU. I stumbled onto your family blog and was surprised to hear of your resignation. I have been fascinated by the whole process and have found all your posts, the comments, and your links very interesting. While I don't agree with the decision, I still respect and admire you for the decision. It couldn't have been easy and it looks like you have really done your homework. It would be unfair to pretend to be something you are not.

But, I do have a few questions (it seems you are very good at answering people's questions). These questions are not meant to judge you or criticize you, but are out of genuine curiosity. Again this whole thing is fascinating to me and I have unanswered questions.

1. Usually people who apply such history, reason, logic, archeology, science, etc. to religion end up as atheists. That is just where the evidence points. It looks like you still believe in God, but not Jesus Christ (as a Savior) or the Old Testament and, obviously, the Book of Mormon. My question is why do you still believe in God? And are those feelings justified by reason, logic and science or by hope and faith?

2. The only thing on this whole blog that rubbed me the wrong way is the presumption that believers are those who just don't know all the facts about Joseph Smith and the history of the church. That we believers just ignore the facts and go on with our lives in ignorant bliss. But, there are thousands of active LDS people who know just as much if not more of the history of this church (in fact some of your sources of this damning evidence are active members aren't they?). How do you reconcile the fact that those people, knowing what they know, still believe JS is a prophet and the Book of Mormon is actual scripture?

3. As for the whole church cover up thing. What do the leaders of the church today stand to gain by hiding the truth of the history of the church from its members and the world?

4. Never in the history of anything (that I know of - and I am no expert) has there been a cult with such corrupt beginnings that has thrived like the LDS church has. If JS is truly the pervert, liar, swindler that these sources seem to indicate, why did people stick with him? How has the church expanded to what it is today (besides the fact that the church doesn't talk about the dark part of history)?

5. Lastly, I didn't see too much criticism of current LDS leaders (the 1978 issue being the most recent). Besides having phony authority, what is your criticism, if any, of the current leaders? And are there any Mormon beliefs that you believe in your moral compass to be correct? In other words, did JS get anything right?

Sorry to take up so much time and space. Again, I am just so stinking curious that I couldn't take it any longer. Again, if these questions seem pointed, I am sorry. That is not my intention. I know you have thought of these things and have answers. I just want to know what they are. Again, while I disagree fundamentally with the decision to resign, I must say that I respect what you have done and I respect the way you have gone about it. And, unlike others that I have read, I hope the best for you and your family. If you have a moment, I would love to read your answers to these questions. Thanks. Have a good day.

Eli said...

Response to Kevin: Hi Kevin. Yes I do remember you. I hope you guys are well. I'll answer in order:
1. I think there is better evidence for God than not. There is a lot that the theory of evolution asks us to take on faith so-to-speak, when what it leaves unanswered suggests to me at least that there is something much larger to life. And maybe in the end, I believe because the alternative to me is all but unbearable. I certainly don't claim to know God better than anyone else, but from everything I've seen and experienced in my brief existence on this planet, I have to conclude that there is something greater to this life. There is too much that science cannot adequately explain.
2. That's a loaded question, but I think the final one sums it up. I've sort of addressed this before on this blog, but I'll say it very clearly here. I think that many members - not just those who have researched - feel at some level that the Church is an answer, but not really the ultimate and only answer. I think that's why members still watch rated R movies, don't do their home teaching, decline callings, etc. They are small things, but it says a lot about how much they really believe that those things are direction from God Himself. The reason they and those who have researched stay in the Church is because it's comfortable. Essentially, they don't want to face all the hatred and judgment that those who leave the Church face. They are in positions of respect and high status they would lose. Their wives and children and colleagues might shun them. In brief, they have a whole lot to lose, and like I've addressed on this blog, they really don't consider the possibility that Joseph Smith could have mislead them.
3. Similar to #2, the leaders would suffer incredibly embarrassment over the unedited Church history. What investigator would even think to fall in love with Joseph Smith if he already knew that he had sexual relations with other men's wives? In a practical sense, the Church is a business, and they can't afford to lose customers. Not to mention they have a whole lot of face to save.
4. "Why did people stick with him?" For the same reason that people stuck with Jim Jones, for the same reason people become suicide bombers, and for the same reason people offered their own children as sacrifices to their gods; they were threatened with eternal damnation if they didn't follow, and promised eternal salvation and exaltation if they did follow. That's why over 900 people drank poison for Jim Jones, that's why men agreed to let Joseph Smith marry their teenage daughters. 2nd part of your question: The Church has expanded by encouraging people to follow emotional evidence rather than factual and logical evidence or reason.
5. I think current Church leaders are, for the very most part, very good, pious men and women who are trying to do God's work in this world to the best of their understanding. I've addressed a few things Joseph Smith and I agree on, but some others are: I beleive marriage for eternity makes sense, but I don't believe that it is based on a ceremony more than a relationship. I believe that we are here to come to know the reason for it, or at least try as hard as we can and use every resource to help us with that. I believe that people should be responsible for their actions and work to be independent of others to a healthy degree. I believe the family is the most important institution we have. I could go on, but the brief answer to your question is "yes".
Thanks for asking, and I appreciate your agreeing to disagree with me. As I've stated, I answer your questions not to try to convince you of my position, but simply to help you understand my position.

Kevin and Camille Jensen said...


Anonymous said...

This comment is regarding your answer to question #2 above. It is made with sincerity, not animosity. I have to agree that the most frustrating thing about your blog is your assumption that members join and remain active in the LDS church because they are naive followers-that they either lack the ability, or choose to ignore the history of the gospel so that they can maintain the level of stability or comfort they experience within the church. You made that point clear when you said this, "The reason they and those who have researched stay in the Church is because it's comfortable. Essentially, they don't want to face all the hatred and judgment that those who leave the Church face. They are in positions of respect and high status they would lose. Their wives and children and colleagues might shun them." I am positive this is true for many, sadly, but you do leave out a large group of people when you make statements like this. What about those that have faced hated, embarrassment, judgment, and the risk of being shunned by those that love them most when deciding to become a member? Those that must leave the comfort you speak of to become baptized. You insult the intelligence of these members, but also the pain, and hardship these individuals went through to do what they know to be true.
You have stated many times on this blog that this has been the hardest thing you have done- and you have not taken it lightly. You have done your research, had your discussions, and prayed for answers, only to find that you must do what you believe to be true. Why do you assume that those who are members have not gone down the same rigorous path or research, understanding, and prayer? Is it simply because you can't understand why they would believe? Because there are thousands who don't understand why you believe what you do based on evidence they too have collected. You are obviously a smart person, but you don't seem to understand that the only person you are responsible for, and in turn can answer and speak for, is yourself. You can not possibly know why anyone, other than yourself, does anything-especially when it comes to something so personal as religion. Please try to be more sensitive when it comes to your explanation of why people choose to be baptized and remain members in the LDS church. Even though you may have many personal examples to back up your opinion on why LDS members do what they do, there are just as many, if not more examples that can prove you wrong.

Eli said...

Response to Anonymous: I think you make some valid points. I have to admit, however, that I have never known anyone who was not born into the Church who joined the Church after doing a very extensive amount of research into its history from sources other than those published by the Church. It seems that those who investigate the Church before becoming a member either read only Church publications for their "research" or don't end up getting baptised. I know of no exceptions, but if you are such an individual or know some, I would love to hear more about how you/they reconcile the obvious concerns with what you/they consciously chose to be a part of.
I apologize if it appeared I claimed to know why others do what they do. I should have presented it in the context of "my best understanding". I was asked what I thought, so I gave my best understanding and that is all that was intended.

Timmy said...


I just stumbled upon your blog. I had no idea that you had decided to leave the Church. It is sad to hear, but everyone is free to make their own choices. I have no doubt in my mind that you will still be the best father that Avey could ever have. I have many friends that have no interest in the Church and others that have left it. I know that it must have been a hard decision for you to make. In response to your question about someone actually being baptized after reading materials that are not published by the Church I have a response.
My dad went through a rigorous process before joining the Church. He was in college and had met with the missionaries, but not because they contacted him. He had a very personal, spiritual experience that made him want to approach them. After talking to them he realized that he had a testimony of the Church. Upon telling his parents about his decision to be baptized (over a year later) they told him that he would no longer be welcome in the house. They also told him that he would have to come home that weekend to "talk". Upon going home my dad met with pastors, bishops and leaders of several denominations and went through almost every doctrine they could possibly throw at him that was which they deemed "Satanical" or wrong. He read their publications and went through some classes with them. After the weekend was over my dad was informed that an anonymous friend who had given him a scholarship would revoke it if he was baptized. My dad had all the reason in the world to say no to baptism and just leave the church behind. After a few more months and after having weighed the evidence he still felt like it was the right thing to do. He was baptized and his roommate, who was in a similar situation decided that we would not be baptized. My dad was kicked out of his house and not welcome for many years because of his decision.
I hope that you are Kira are doing well in Colorado. You had moved before we ever had our little one, Mya. She is getting so big. Avey is adorable. I hope all is well.

Eli said...

Response to Tim: Hey Tim, I'm glad to hear from you. Thanks for sharing the story about your dad. That was obviously a very difficult thing for him to do. I mean in no way to diminish that experience, but my point was that he had already decided that the Church was true before hearing all sides. I do admire the faith he exercised in doing so, but as I've stated on this blog, I feel that it can be very dangerous to do so. I don't suppose that when he heard about polygamy he jumped for joy and felt a burning in his bosom. Maybe it's a matter of which clues we want to listen to.
That's my take on it, anyway. Your father followed the parts he liked to overcome the difficult ones that probably didn't sit well with him. Whereas I have taken those negative parts as clues that it isn't all it's cracked up to be. It doesn't mean I still can't believe what's good, it just means I don't have to try to make sense of the contradictory feelings.
Thanks for your well-wishing. Congratulations on a beautiful daughter!