August 20, 2009

A Burning Question

For years, as I've been wrestling with what I was raised to believe and my own conscience, I've had a question I wished I could ask every member of the Church:
If you somehow knew with absolute certainty that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was not true, would you leave it?
First of all, I think a great deal of members could not even answer the question. They would not even be able to wrap their heads around the concept. Even entertaining the possibility of the Church being anything other than God's one, true church would be beyond comprehension.
Of the rest, I would predict that about half of the members would stay with the Church and the other half would leave. The reasons behind the decision would vary. Some would leave because they felt betrayed and lied to, some would leave because the Church demands absolute faith. Some would stay for pure social reasons, some would stay because they feel that the Church is an organization through which they can do some good.

I chose to leave for many reasons, some of which I have outlined in previous posts. Among these, however, is that I concluded that the world in which I was raised, which I had served and defended, was built upon a lie.

I am no movie critic (and I have no intention of becoming one on this blog), yet I can't help but be reminded of a film that parallels this feeling very well for me. If the reader is unfamiliar with The Truman Show, the storyline goes like this:

Truman's entire reality has been fabricated since shortly after birth. The island upon which he lives is actually the world's largest TV set. His family, friends, and wife are all actors. Everything he has believed, and worked and cared for is a carefully structured lie. One day, Truman begins to find that something isn't quite right. He finds it puzzling, but pays little attention to it. He blows it off and then hears an explanation for it later, which he gladly accepts. But then he notices more things that are incompatible with his perception of reality. Everyone he has loved does all within his or her power to keep Truman in the dark: to keep him from questioning the world they fabricated. Eventually, Truman discovers for certain that the world he had known was built upon a lie. He literally stands at the exit, when the man responsible for the chain of lies begins to speak with him. Truman asks, "Was nothing real?" He tells Truman that, although his world is built upon a lie, leaving it will only cause him pain: that even though his world is man-made, it is a good, decent world. He explains how he was always mindful of Truman: how he took care of him for his entire life. He tells Truman that he can't really leave. But still, it isn't real.

Truman finally does make the hard decision and leaves the world that was based upon lie after lie after lie. He had no idea what he was stepping into, but he knew that what he was stepping out of wasn't real, wasn't authentic.

While it is only a movie, the parallels with my experience with the Church are astounding to me.
I wonder how many people in the Church would want something real, no matter how frightening or uncomfortable, and how many people would insist that ignorance is bliss: that comfort and reassurance are more important than reality and authenticity.

As for me, I've been promised several times that leaving the Church would cause me only pain. I've been accused of being ungrateful for the morals I've learned from it. I've been asked, "Wouldn't you want to believe it, though?".

In the end, I am compelled to respond, "But it isn't real."


Richard Packham said...

Many Mormons who have left the church have compared their experience with "The Truman Show." One former missionary even published a book about his experience leaving the church and called it "The Mormon Show," specifically saying that the title was a take-off on that movie. (Unfortunately, his publisher changed the title before it went to press to "The Mormon Cult".)

Another movie that has resonated with many former Mormons is "Pleasantville." And still another: "The Stepford Wives" (I prefer the original film over the recent remake).

Perhaps an easier version of the question for Mormons to deal with would be: "If the church were not true, would you want to know?" Look up "truth" in the D&C index, and recall the great old hymn, "O say, what is truth? 'Tis the fairest gem..."

Anonymous said...

I love your blog

Elder Joseph said...

It's nice to read about the reality of Mormonsim in such a well, thought out and reasoned manner. For me, the reaction was and still is anger and each time I want to write about Mormonism its still difficult to do so without being angry. I'm going to go off topic a bit too, so sorry about that.

I came to investigate the church being told to have an open mind and not to be afraid to ask any questions. As time went on however it was clear to me that asking questions was frowned upon unless they were questions like 'How soon can I get baptised' or 'How would you like my tithing, cash or direct bank debit' or ' how can I know the church is true and the Book Of Mormon true' etc etc

If I asked what is the polygamy stuff all about? I would get the response 'oh we don't know much about that' or 'its in the past, Abraham did it too' or 'we don't do that anymore' or 'it was just to get the church going' or 'to look after widows'.

I bought it for a time while the manipulation and conditioning went on.

What makes it worse is that some of the fudged answers came from those 'in the know'. I still can't belive they didn't just say

'We believe in polygamy, God is a polygamist and Jesus too and its only temporarily halted because of the Law. We don't think Monogomy is normal, we are stuck with it for now' etc etc.

That more honest and direct answer would have saved me alot of time as I would have run for the exit alot earlier, instead friendships were being made and bonding with members (only to effectively have to be severed later on when I get looked upon as being led away by Satan or whatever).

The church is going to have to learn that deceiving people into a religion which potentially will consume their life and money is not on.

What saddened me most was all the 'good' people I met in church who didn't know Smith had more than one wife? What would they think if they then found out he was asking for and marrying other mens wives, their 14 year old daughters too? How would that sit with their high moral standards.

Suddenly they would be forced to lower these moral standards in thought at least to give Joseph Smith an exemption for his ludicrous and destructive behaviour.

I don't want to be in a religion where I have to later justify obvious dubious and immoral behavior from the cult leader.

Mormonism and its claims rest on trusting that man. I don not trust such a character and would be stupid in my opinion and lifes experiences to do so now I know the facts.

And the morals? They were no different from what I was brought up with.

I went on a home teach one evening (yes I was allowed as an investigator/dry mormon), the Sister we visited had been a member for around 35 years(Temple Recommend Holder and did the throat slitting re-enactment pre 1990). I mentioned casually I was a bit puzzled by Smiths polygamous wives. Her response was ' Whaaaaaat, he only had ONE wife Emma' and my home teach companion of 30 years BIC said 'yes he only had one wife where are you getting that from?' It was then that I first felt something wasn't quite right about the church.

A classic similar problem was when I was reading The Book Of Abraham and noticed the female Goddesses in Facsimile no3 which Joseph Smith claimed were a King and his Prince? I thought 'ehh'???

So not knowing anything at all about it, I decided to ask a Bishopric member when he called with the missionaries. He looked at it and closed my quad and changed the subject! lol

So I googled later that evening.

Another time, The Stake Patriarch came with the missionaries and told me about his good friend Paul Dunn and how I would have felt the spirit listening to him or something. So when I asked about some kind of 'misdemeanor' involving Paul Dunn he suddenly stopped talking and lost his train of thought. I didn't know about Paul Dunn at the time but remembered something I saw once on the internet being discussed about him. The Stake Patriarch decided not to tell me about Paul Dunn.

So I googled him later on instead.

Elder Joseph said...


This pattern of duck and dive and avoidance from members who should have known better continued throughout all the subjects related to the church.

Google won in the end.

Thank goodness for church members (or exmembers) who thought to put things out onto the internet and write books.

Grant Palmers ' An Insiders View Of Mormon Origins' is a good brief summary of the issues.

I even purchased LDS approved Bushmans Book 'Rough Stone Rolling' in the event that anything or something might be salvaged.It just confirmed to me that the issues really were there and that they were not so called antimormon lies.

Joel W. said...

The Truman show is a perfect example! A man whose life is a fake. The place he lives is in fact a big studio with hidden cameras everywhere. All his friends and people around him are actors. He lives a happy life, but its a lie! His whole life! But he finds out he's actually a slave when he finds out he can't leave his little town! Religion is slavery! telling you what to do and how to act and just flat out control your life!