February 13, 2015

Formula for Faith

I came across this article a few days ago, and could not help but share it here. Reading the title, you might assume that it is the exit story of some disenchanted member of the LDS church who simply repeats all of the criticisms of Joseph Smith, Jr. Actually, it is a much more interesting story than that.

In sum, a young woman and her mother were convinced through the Holy Ghost that a charismatic man (who was not Joseph Smith, Jr.) was a prophet, and became willing to do anything he asked, even far beyond the point of it becoming uncomfortable and apparently immoral. He was able to gain their loyalty through a combination of confidence, flattery, and promises of certain rewards for their obedience to him.

Of course, I draw attention to the parallels of this story with that of the founder of the LDS church. All Joseph Smith, Jr. did was to confidently tell people that he had all sorts of supernatural powers, possessed ancient and sacred plates, and that he was the supreme authority of God on earth. He flattered his followers by claiming that they were the elect, chosen people. He promised them rewards of whatever they desired most - eternal families, mansions in heaven, eternity with their Heavenly Father, peace, and salvation.

Just as the man in the story, Smith eventually convinced many of his followers to do extremely uncomfortable and seemingly immoral things.

What I find disturbing is that so many people still cling to Smith for exactly the same reasons that the women in this story clung to "Adam". There is seemingly no difference between Smith and Adam. If my LDS friends and family members were in the position that these women were, it seems that they would still be following Adam, just as they are following Smith.

If I were to pray about Adam and get a sinking feeling, his followers would likely tell me that the devil is working hard to keep me from believing, that I lack the faith and confidence in God to receive the correct answer, that I don't know what the Holy Ghost feels like, that my heart is not prepared to receive the answer, that I am receiving the answer in other ways I do not recognize (source). They would tell me to read Adam's "translations", to sing songs that praise him, and then to kneel and pray aloud with "real intent" until I finally did believe in Adam (source).

In essence, there is no possible way of convincing an irrational human being that Adam was just a power hungry, manipulative, charismatic con artist. They have a hundred ways to explain away his deeds, most importantly their own conviction. There is similarly no way to convince some followers of Joseph Smith, Jr. that he was exactly the same thing.

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