December 10, 2010
November 2, 2010
- In a class on American history, we never knew what to expect on the tests. We took copious notes during lectures, read and re-read the textbooks, and prayed in preparation. I specifically remember leaving the testing center after the first test completely confused. I had no recollection of hearing some of the terms used on the test, some of the answer options given were ambiguous or equally as valid as another, etc. After receiving our grades for the written sections, several of the students were upset that they were docked points for not answering unasked questions. What confused me most about the grading system in this class was that the goal did not appear to be simply challenging us, but it seemed as if all was being done to keep us from succeeding.
- About a year before that, I took an introductory statistics class. The professor's philosophy of teaching was quite different from that of the American History class's. He warned us that the assignments would be very strict, and that he did not allow even the slightest mistake. He explained that he would mark off points for bad handwriting, misplaced commas, extra decimal points, failure to use certain words, and so on. But he also told us that, although the standards were very strict, about 80% of his students ended up with A's. He said this was because he would make sure that we understood the material. As long as we came to class, paid attention, and asked questions about anything and everything we did not fully understand, he would use his vast experience and patience to be certain that the concepts he taught us were clear. The class was very challenging, but I came out with an A, and a very clear knowledge of basic statistical principles.
October 11, 2010
Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things (Section 6:22).
September 24, 2010
Christ did not usually defend righteousness in such aggressive ways, but it appears that He openly opposed society's more subtle wrongs as well. For example:
- John 4:7-9. The woman at the well was shocked that Christ, a Jew, would speak to her, a Samaritan. Christ did not shy away, did not avoid her because of her nationality, but instead engaged in very personal, loving conversation. His disciples were clearly disturbed that He would speak with her (John 4:27).
- Luke 7:37-48. A woman of low esteem washes Christ's feet in her tears, and dries them with her hair. The Pharisee observer clearly is troubled by Christ's allowing the woman to touch Him, yet he patiently allows her penance to proceed, then teaches all that their practice of shaming and chastising sinners is wrong.
- Luke 6:6-11. In opposition to the widely held social and religious norms, Christ heals a man on the Sabbath.
- John 9:1-3. He shattered the belief that physical disabilities were the consequence of sin.
- As a general rule, He held women in high regard - a radical practice in the region and time (e.g., 1 Corinthians 14:34-35). After His greatest miracle of all, the resurrection, the first to learn of it were women (Luke 24:1-8), but even His disciples would not believe women (Luke 24:11). The first person on Earth honored with direct witness of the miracle was Mary Magdalene, a woman (John 20:11-18). This was a strike against the male-dominated culture of the age.
Why, then, would this same Christ, who defied even the most deeply rooted practices whenever they were out of line with God, the same Christ, who is supposedly the head of the LDS church - why would He command, without reason, that persons of African descent be denied priesthood blessings and temple attendance? Even though racism was popular at the time, and even when it was becoming taboo to continue the policy, the LDS church clung to the racist practice, that they stated was revealed to them by Christ (source). Later, of course, it was re-revealed to have been wrong (source). To command leaders to do the wrong thing for more than a century is uncharacteristic of the Christ of the New Testament. It seems reasonable to conclude that either Christ is inconsistent, or the leaders who claimed that He made the former revelation were lying.
Similarly, what Christ apparently revealed to be divine commandment - polygamy - was phased out for the purpose of becoming a more mainstream church, and to fit society's expectations (source beginning with "The question is this:"). Rather than standing His ground and defending His commandment through tribulation and opposition, rather than insisting that His divine revelation be adhered to, He apparently buckled under the pressure from popular politics and social practices.
I find it odd that Christ, while in the flesh, would personally defy generally held beliefs for the sake of doing what was right, while easily relenting from the heavens - letting society and politics push His commandments around. It is an odd deity who is unchanging (e.g., Mormon 9:10) and yet appears to have made drastic changes in character.
Either that, or the LDS church was not and is not led by Christ.
September 17, 2010
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)God apparently tests out our threshold at times, pushing our limits. Take Job and Abraham for example; they were both pushed far beyond what any reasonable person should be expected to endure, yet all the while praised God. They both are held as heroes of the Old Testament. They set examples for believers - demonstrating that we should not question, should not doubt, should take whatever the Lord can throw at us.
What I find odd, however, is that the apparently same God has been inconsistent in His demands on the faith of His children. For example, when Joseph the Carpenter discovers that his betrothed, Mary, is pregnant, he is faced with a huge trial of faith. His future wife asks him to believe that not only is she a pregnant virgin, but that the child she carries is the literal son of God. As Joseph sorts all of this out in his mind, it appears that God decides He would rather not test the threshold of Joseph's faith, but instead reveals to him in a dream that Mary's explanation is correct (Matthew 1:18-24). Rather than push Joseph to the limit of his faith, God grants him a sure sign so that he may overcome his perfectly reasonable doubts.
Joseph, the man ordained to be the earthly guardian of the Son of God, was not left to anguishing soul searching, constantly wondering for the rest of his life if Mary had been unfaithful. Instead, he was reassured in a very loving and personal way.
I find this divine behavior odd in another LDS context, however. Just as Mary gave her fiance a fantastic story to explain why she was pregnant, Joseph Smith, Jr. gave his wife, Emma, a fantastic story about why he married several women without her consent. Both Joseph the Carpenter and Emma Hale were in extremely difficult positions. They were both faced with evidence of a fornicating partner, but also told that the purpose of the infidelity was by divine providence. Understandably, they both reacted in the same way initially - disbelief, disenchantment, likely anger, jealousy, etc.
Yet God's response to each differed greatly: He gave Joseph the Carpenter a comforting vision to help his faith, but He threatened Emma - through her seemingly adulterous husband - with destruction (D&C 132:54, 64), stated that if she continued to question her husband's actions he would be rewarded with even more wives (D&C 132:55), and is told that her forgiveness from sin depends upon her forgiving her husband of his sexual infidelity (D&C 132:56, 65).
In brief, when Joseph the Carpenter and Emma were presented with very similar trials of their faith, God provided Joseph with a clear sign that his betrothed acted according to His commandments, while it appears that He never once gave Emma a sign. On the contrary - He commanded her husband to chastise and threaten her!
It appears that God is either a respecter of persons, pushing the faith threshold to its limits for some of His servants while reassuring others, or one of the above acts of infidelity was not in accordance with divine commandment.
August 27, 2010
He has been credited with a quote that is usually stated as, "If you can't explain something to a six year old, you really don't understand it yourself." In terms more applicable to his field, one might say, "If you can't explain your theory to a layman, you don't understand it yourself."
Einstein's theories are quite complicated. The actual general relativity equation looks like this:
The contrast with the LDS method of teaching is striking to me. LDS doctrine contains several principles apparently so complex, that even a lifelong dedicated servant of the Master Teacher is unable to comprehend. For example, Gordon B. Hinckley admitted that he did not understand why God commanded that members with black skin be denied the blessings of the priesthood (source); the Church has not made clear why there is a discrepancy between DNA findings and the Book of Mormon, but have instead changed the official stance on the origins of Native Americans (2nd paragraph); leaders prefer to simply not talk about Joseph Smith's specific form of polygamy rather than attempt to explain it. The Doctrine and Covenants 19:22 even goes so far as to state that there are things we cannot know or we would "perish." We are assured that there are reasonable explanations for all of these (example), but that the answers are far too complicated for us to understand. Even the most spiritually advanced men on the planet do not have a grasp on the answers to some of these questions, or at least not enough that they will attempt to explain it.
Indulge me for a moment and compare Einstein with the LDS god. Imagine that Einstein wrote in his famous papers, "Something plus something else equals another thing when you calculate it with something else. I know what the somethings are, but the reader would not comprehend it, so just trust me on this." Suppose Einstein had not even attempted to explain the theory to his colleagues with whom he worked for years. Other scientists would say, "Well, the rest of the theory makes okay sense, but the problem is that it all depends on this original equation that you're not giving us! Can you be a little more specific? We're pretty bright and we've done everything we can to understand your theory." Einstein, if he were like the LDS god, would reply, "You are just not capable of understanding," or "If you knew, it would destroy you. In the meantime, just base all of your lives on the assumption that my theory is correct."
After a few years of this game, it would become pretty clear to a reasonable person that he didn't even understand what he was talking about, his theory wouldn't pan out, and he probably just made the whole thing up.
I do not hold a Ph.D. in physics, but I have a pretty good understanding of the theory of relativity. I don't hold a degree in biology, but I have a good grasp on evolutionary theory. Both seem like very solid theories to me. However, I was raised in the LDS church my whole life, served a 2 year mission, graduated from seminary, and served in several callings (including 2 Elders' Quorum Presidencies), and as hard as I have tried to understand polygamy, denial of priesthood to people of African descent, and the severe problems with the Book of Mormon, I am at a total loss.
If God cannot explain some of the most fundamental doctrines to even the highest ranking followers, then there's a good chance that He does not understand them either. That leaves me to believe that the entire LDS church is built upon a foundation of sand. And when the best way to make sense of God's doctrines is that they were made up by men, then there is apparently an enormous problem with God's one true church.
Call me faithless, but I will stick with things that make the slightest sense before accepting things no one understands.
August 8, 2010
- When I first presented the outline of my concerns (the largest of which is Joseph Smith's sexual infidelity) to a bishop, he asked me if I was having an affair.
- When I spoke with the Stake President about the same things, expressing my concern that Joseph Smith's actions appear to be motivated by sex more than spirituality, he wondered aloud if I had a pornography addiction.
- When I expressed my feeling that the Church has treated minority groups more like intolerant elitists would than like a people led by God Himself, an anonymous commenter openly suggested I am a closet homosexual.
- In almost every case where I express my suspicion that the Church is led by men, not Christ, I am accused of lacking spirituality.
July 21, 2010
Bishop: "Brother Johnson, do you have faith in and a testimony of God the Eternal Father, His son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost?"
J: "Yes sir."
Bishop [after more questions]: "Do you sustain the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the prophet, seer, and revelator; and do you recognize him as the only person on the earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys?"
Bishop: "Do you sustain the other General Authorities and the local authorities of the Church?"
J: "I do."
[answers more questions satisfactorily]
Bishop: "Are you a full-tithe payer? Do you keep the Word of Wisdom? Do you consider yourself worthy in every way to enter the temple and participate in temple ordinances?"
[Brother Johnson answers each question in the affirmative.]
Bishop: "Marvelous. Well everything seems in order." [the bishop begins to sign the recommend and makes some small talk] "So what did you think of Sister Young's talk today?"
J: "On genealogy? I thought it was perfect timing. I had just completed a big chunk of my genealogical record."
Bishop: "Really? That's wonderful. I hope you're finding some interesting things [hands recommend over]."
J: "Yes. As a matter of fact, I was surprised to find that I actually have a great great great great grandfather who was a freed slave! Imagine that!"
Bishop [suddenly serious]: "Wait a moment. You mean he was African?"
J: "Well yeah. He was born on a plantation in Georgia, but was given his freedom after rescuing his master's wife from a wolf! Amazing story really. After that he moved out West where he met my great great great great grandmother, a Swedish immigrant."
Bishop: "I see. Well I'm afraid this changes everything."
J: "I'm sorry?"
Bishop: "Brother Johnson, I'm afraid I'll have to ask for your recommend" [Bishop tears it up and discards it].
J: "I don't understand."
Bishop: "Well, it turns out that you're not temple worthy. In fact, you've never been temple worthy. That African blood flowing through your veins disqualifies you from entering the temple, and I'm afraid that this nullifies your sealing to your wife and children."
J: "But I answered all of the questions honestly! I've done nothing out of accordance with Church teachings!"
Bishop: "I know, and I appreciate your efforts and honesty, but if I'd have known about the grandfather, I never would have let you enter the temple in the first place. In fact, you should probably try to forget everything you learned there. I apologize for the misunderstanding. Oh, but before you go, the Lord would like to extend another calling to you..."
Fictional? Yes. Unrealistic? Not at all;
- Presidents and other authorities of the LDS church before 1978 stated that even one drop of African blood would make a person cursed concerning the priesthood (source).
- Jane Manning James, the first documented African American pioneer, repeatedly petitioned the First Presidency to be allowed to enter the temple and have her children sealed to her, but her requests were denied each time even though she was worthy by every other standard. The only reason she was not allowed in the temple was the color of her skin (Embry, 1994).
- Wilford Woodruff said, "I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty” (Official Declaration - 1).
- Harold B. Lee (1968) said, “God will never permit him [the president of the Church] to lead us astray. As has been said, God would remove us [the leaders] out of our place if we should attempt to do it. You have no concern.”
McConkie, M. L. (Ed., 1989). Doctrines of the restoration: Sermons & writings of Bruce R. McConkie. Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft.
Lee, H. B. (1968, July 8). The place of the living prophet, seer, and revelator. Address delivered to seminary and institute faculty, Brigham Young University, p. 13.
July 8, 2010
I often wonder what God might say to them upon their deaths if my criticisms are correct. I wonder if he would meet them at the pearly gates and say,
"You did pretty well down there, but you died a member of the LDS church?"
The believer would defend his or her actions, "Well, yeah! That's what I was taught you wanted!"
God might say, "No, that's what they told you I want. I tried to send you the real message."
The believer wonders, "What message?"
God responds, "I directed you to discover Joseph Smith's dozens of wives, on your mission I led you to speak to that Jehovah's Witness who mentioned Brigham Young's racism, and when you were researching for that talk I kept trying to get you to read all that evidence that Joseph Smith's translations were a bunch of nonsense! You kept ignoring all of my attempts to lead you to the truth!"
Believer: "Well, yeah, but all that contradicted what you have revealed."
God: "You mean what the LDS church says I revealed. Did it ever occur to you that all those things weren't a trial of faith for you, but a message from me?"
Believer: "No. But even so, I figured if I remained obedient, that was the most important thing."
God: "But you were obedient to a church. That is not the same as being obedient to me. I gave you conscience, intelligence, and curiosity. I never wanted you to drown those things out for the sake of obedience to a false message."
Believer: "But I ignored those things out of love for you!"
God: "I know that. But you also loved your church. If you really loved me more than your church, you would have done everything in your power to find out the truth, even if it meant that your church was wrong. Instead, you showed me that you loved your church more than the truth. You loved comfort more than honesty."
Believer: "Well, why didn't you give me something more obvious?"
God: "What more did you want? I gave you every opportunity to learn for yourself, and when that didn't work I sent people who had learned to tell you face to face. You called them 'deceived sinners'. You even knew about Joseph Smith's polygamy and you did nothing!"
Believer: "That's not true. I talked to my bishop about it."
God: "...And he gave you some vague answer that helped to quiet your conscience about it long enough for you to ignore it again. The fact remains that Smith had more than 30 wives with no justification, and you still thought he might be my prophet?!?"
Believer: "The bishop told me I would learn the reasons for it later."
God: "And instead, you're learning that you were wrong - misled by the cunning and craftiness of men for your whole life. Going so far as to ignore what I placed right in front of you. You spent all that time waiting to learn what I was trying to tell you right then."
Of course, I don't know what that conversation may look like, if it ever happens. But I feel that, if nothing else, I can honestly say that I have done all I can to know whether or not the LDS church is His church. In closing, I will end this post with a quote from the LDS god:
"It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance." D&C 131:6
June 13, 2010
May 11, 2010
- "Knowledge" in place of "Belief"/"Hope"/even "Want." Consider the statement, "I know the Church is true." As I have addressed before, no one really knows if the Church's doctrines are accurate. Every single time a general authority, bishop, nursery leader, or seminary teacher says, "I know it's true," he or she is using doublespeak. The accurate statement would be "I believe it's true," "I hope it's true," or even "I want it to be true." In reality, when LDS use "knowledge," they refer to anything short of knowledge. The Church practice propagates the distortion of reality with the misuse of the word.
- "Volunteer" in place of "Submit." The most obvious example of this form of doublespeak is in the Church's claim that full-time missionary work is voluntary. In reality, male members are all but forced to go (see some interviews here; a talk by Hinckley). While no one holds a gun to a young man's head, and many are excited at the chance to go, to call it "voluntary" ignores the negative consequences one may suffer by not going. One fears he will never be desirable to young LDS women, will suffer humiliation, will be socially ostracized, members will question what horrible things he must have done to not have "volunteered." Although the word may apply to some young men and women, it is neither fair nor accurate to apply it to all missionaries.
- "Truth" in place of "Church's teachings." Similar to "knowledge," when leaders speak of "the truth," they usually refer simply to the doctrine taught by the LDS church (example). Of course, if they were to refer to it accurately, it would not have the powerful but deceptive emotional impact on those who hear. Contrast the statement, "If you follow these truths, you will know they are of God," with "If you follow the Church's teachings, you will come to believe they are of God." The latter statement corresponds with reality more than the former, but if one's goal is to create an anchor based on emotion, the first statement is the better choice.
- "Donations" in place of "Membership fees." Again, while no one holds a gun to members' heads, Church doctrine and policy contain several threats against its members should they fail to pay the required funds. For example, members who pay tithing are guaranteed not to be burned at the last day (D&C 64:23). Of course, the other side of this is that not "donating" carries the threat of being burned alive. Additionally, if one cannot or will not pay the full 10% of his or her income, that person cannot have full membership (i.e., hold a temple recommend). Thus, tithing is absolutely required to be a full member of the LDS church. To require a donation is contradictory at its essence, and thus another use of doublespeak to mislead and distort reality. Members believe they are willingly writing their checks, when they are actually just paying their dues so that they may attend sealings, be involved in ward temple day, etc (examples and discussion).
- "Faith" in place of "Gullibility"/"Ignorance"/"Vulnerability"/"Rejecting Conscience." Although not misused every time, the word "faith" is often wrongfully applied. Whenever I have spoken to members about my concerns with Church history and doctrine, they inevitably say that they take it on "faith" that these disturbing things have explanations that they are incapable of knowing now. In other words, they are leaving themselves endlessly vulnerable to the deceptions of men (Eph. 4:14) by not paying attention to the warning signs. When one has natural moral objections to the actions of Joseph Smith, but rejects his or her conscience to overcome the cognitive or spiritual dissonance, one becomes the definition of gullible, ignorant, and vulnerable (more discussion). The Church suggests that if one objects to something horrible that Smith did, the task is to become more vulnerable and reject the objections (i.e., have more faith), rather than for the leaders to give an explanation. While faith should refer to the hope and belief in something we cannot know, I argue that it should not discount what we can and do know. Yet that is precisely how the Church uses it.
- "Service" in place of "Required labor." Again, "service" is required in the Church. To not accept a "calling" is to reject the will of God (source). No one holds a gun to members' heads, but would one dare to question the being who grants him or her breath (Isaiah 42:5)? Thus, to call it "service" is another distortion of reality.
- "The Holy Ghost" in place of "A good feeling." The majority of missionary work is accomplished by attributing good feelings to a supernatural being called "the Holy Ghost" (source). If one feels good about joining the LDS church, that feeling is called a manifestation of this supernatural being. If one has similar feelings about selling the copyright of the Book of Mormon, then it is from another supernatural being called "Satan" (source). If one has a similar feeling about chocolate ice cream, then it is just a good feeling. In other words, the Church calls a good feeling by several other terms according to how it serves the purposes of its alleged divinity. The feeling is what it is, but the Church uses doublespeak to present it as whatever else it likes.
- "Satan" in place of "Bad luck"/"Second thoughts"/"Reason." When I began to logically sort out my concerns, I was told by members that "Satan" had a hold on me. Satan was apparently working very hard to help me in the process of finding reasonable answers to my questions. Members often speak of how hard "Satan" works just before someone gets baptized. In reality, the potential convert is having natural concerns (i.e., "second thoughts") about making a life commitment to an organization about which he or she knows relatively little. But missionaries call those reasonable concerns the work of Satan.
April 25, 2010
- If the Book of Mormon gives one a lot of strength in life, then it is reasonable to conclude it is a book that can lift one up.
- If the Book of Mormon teaches one to have more faith, then it is a wonderful book on faith.
- If it helps a mother to love her children, then it is an excellent guide on parenting.
- If Joseph Smith inspired millions, then he was a charismatic leader.
- If he converted thousands with his words, then he was a powerful orator.
- If he stood up against threats against his life and suffered through prison, then he was a very brave (or at least motivated) man.
- But it is problematic to use any of the above evidences to go beyond their corresponding conclusions and decide that they point to Joseph Smith as a prophet of God. Every chance that might have supported the latter claim has proven damaging to it; his purported translations, his private life, inaccurate prophecies, his unChristlike actions, etc.
April 4, 2010
March 16, 2010
For example, I spoke with one individual recently who told me some about his family history and his experiences in life. For a while the conversation appeared fairly typical. But after a few statements, it became clear that the inmate experiences the world in very different ways than I. He began to tell me about his special abilities to heal people simply by being in the room with them, no matter how severe (e.g., blindness, terminal cancer, etc.). I learned about his abilities to read people's minds, and how he had raised his sister from the dead before. He reported receiving messages from the television set or radio on a regular basis, explaining his earthly mission to him. At one point he stated that he not only has a special relationship with God, but that he actually is a god with divine powers.
The interesting and sad part of the conversation was that this man was absolutely convinced that all of these things were true. He even told me that he had doubted his abilities at several points in his life only to have them "clearly" proven again. He was passionate and gracious about his "powers," and in another setting he might have piqued my interest. But of course, my prior knowledge about the man colored my judgment about what he was saying. To name a few things that discredited his abilities, (a) he was in prison, (b) he had poor hygiene, (c) I had seen his very low IQ scores, (d) I knew he was on several psychotropic medications, and (e) I have been nearsighted since the 4th grade and my eyesight did not noticeably improve when I entered his presence.
While I did not leave convinced that the inmate had divine powers, here is part of what I took from our conversation: It seems that strength of conviction does not necessarily correlate with reality. This man knew, by his definition of the word, that he was capable of supernatural things. But nobody outside of him had ever seen evidence of that.
I do not wish to suggest that true believers are delusional or otherwise psychotic, but I do suggest that if all of the evidence supporting one's convictions is internal (i.e., is found inside the mind or spirit), and the majority of external evidence, where available, suggests different conclusions, then it would be wise to question the internal evidence. That is, if everything inside of you and other believers confirms that Joseph Smith, Jr. was a prophet, but pretty much everything outside of you supports the suspicion that he was a fraud (e.g., significant problems with the Book of Mormon, unfulfilled prophecies, evidence of fabricating his translations, etc.), then it may be time to reconsider how accurate the internal evidence is.
In other areas of life, most individuals shift the focus when original convictions are continually contradicted, so why not in religion as well? If a man told me he had been divorced twice through no fault of his own, I might wonder what were his wives' problems. If he told me he had been divorced six times, I would probably shift the focus to him and ask myself what it is about him that keeps ending in divorce? Similarly, it strikes me as odd that the mountain of significant problems with the LDS church is disregarded. If there were two or three minor concerns about it, I could understand overlooking them. But after countless issues have been raised over hundreds of years about the legitimacy of the Church, and essentially nothing significant and tangible supporting it as God's one true and living church has emerged, is the locus of the dissonance with the skeptics who have been overcome by "the adversary", or are there real sincere problems with the Church?
March 10, 2010
This is a change for which I have longed over the years. For far too long, I was torn between the fear of being wrongfully judged by those who would not or could not listen, and my own increasingly potent conscience. What a horrible battle it was! But now, finally, I can wake up knowing that if nothing else, and even if I have to stand alone at times, I am standing tall. The battle for me has ended the only way it could; I know that I am speaking and living authentically.
I find it a tragedy that the LDS church does not allow for difference of opinion in such matters. The members are taught that if an individual knows little of the Church and does not accept it, he or she "is not ready." And if a person knows of the Church and yet still cannot accept it, he or she must be deceived, must not love God, must be unwilling to show a little faith, or must be selfish and worldly. As near as I can tell, according to LDS doctrine, it is not possible for a person to be of sound mind, of reasonable spirituality, and of an honest nature and yet also disagree with the Church's claim to absolute divinity. It is impossible for one to simultaneously "know" he or she is right and also allow for someone else to dissent without attempting to cut down his or her capacity for seeking and finding unfiltered truth. The few active, believing members who do not look at me with condescending eyes are those who realize that they have chosen to believe what they do, but that they could also ultimately be wrong. Isn't that the more accepting stance? Isn't inclusion closer to Christlike charity than exclusion? Is it possible that I am not possessed by demons, that I have not been deceived, but that there might actually be some substance to my concerns?
Walking off the beaten path for the last year has not been easy, but I've gained new perspective on my surroundings, and seen things from angles that many LDS will never see. My biggest regret is that I did not step away sooner to find the path that I fit best, or to pave my own.
March 2, 2010
February 17, 2010
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?
February 9, 2010
January 27, 2010
January 14, 2010
Social psychologists have studied a theory called “cognitive dissonance” for decades. One of the more interesting facets of this theory is a phenomenon they have come to call “effort justification.” In brief, the theory states that people tend to like things more as the cost to them increases (see study). For example, the theory essentially states that if you were to fill up a theater with 100 people who came to see a sneak peek of some movie, and were to randomly charge some $50 and allow some in for free, that the people who paid the most would enjoy it significantly more than the people who got in for free. Or if you charged them all the same amount, the people who drove the farthest to get to the theater would like the movie more than those who came from a few minutes away.
The explanation is that we keep the effort and cost in our minds and build up what we experience in order for our efforts to be worth the cost. We say subconsciously, “Well of course I love what I’m doing. I wouldn’t have paid all that money and made all that effort if I wasn’t going to love the consequences!”
While the theory applies to dozens of areas of everyday life, I have noticed it also applies to the LDS church as well. If one considers all the effort being a member of the Church requires, one can see why, according to effort justification, the believers are so terrified to think they might be wrong about the Church.
- Think of the countless hours given to the Church, in callings, preparation for callings, talks, attendance of several meetings per week, beginning seminary at 5:45am (as I did for 3.5 years), cleaning the building, sometimes driving for hours to attend the temples, etc.
- Consider the thousands of dollars in tithing money the Church requires to be “donated” from average members.
- Remember the two years of 60+ hours weekly spent being rejected in the name of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, Jr. while being denied phone calls to family, relationships with the opposite sex, television, casual dress, a decent haircut, etc., and also paying for the experience out of own and family’s own pockets.
After all of this, it is only natural that members of the Church would insist that they do not want to know if it is a lie. One of the greatest ways to create a testimony of the Church is to instill the deepest fear of learning that it is a fraud. After all of the cost to be a believer, members insist to themselves (and others) that they do it all because they know they are right. In reality, these are all just another reason to want so badly to believe. The alternative is that all of that time, money, and heartache were for much less than eternal salvation. And they say to themselves, "I wouldn't pay it if I wasn't absolutely sure."
And so, it appears that the crippling fear of having wasted time, money, and effort is often the foundation for loving a bad movie, or having an unquestioning testimony in the LDS faith.