uchtdorf featured image

“My beloved brothers and sisters, my dear friends, it’s a joy to be with you today.”

When Elder Uchtdorf speaks, I have no doubt he truly loves those to whom he preaches. I love his humility, honesty, and humorous storytelling. He’s a charismatic man with a great accent and an incredible head of hair capable of making my grandma sit up straighter than she has since his last sermon.  While it is important to keep this key demographic interested, it is not as important as his warm and open heart. Despite my currently-held belief system, I see Dieter as a good man who is doing his best to live the doctrine he preaches.

I know that Dieter, like myself, can only speak from his own experience, and should not be held responsible for that which he does not know. It is in this attitude that I write a response to his remarks given this October morning. I wish to be kind and respectful towards him and towards each of you. I will, however, be unapologetic in my beliefs and critique of the things which he has spoken.

There are three main issues I have with his sermon. First, he minimizes a search for truth to a cheap one-liner. Second, he promotes a fearful approach to truth discovery, especially as it pertains to the internet. Finally, he diminishes the real and emotional experiences of those members who don’t find fulfillment within the church.

The Wet Paint Anecdote

President Uchtdorf began by misquoting George Carlin. “It went like this: ‘Tell a man there are trillions of stars in the universe, and he’ll believe you. Tell him there’s wet paint on the wall and he’ll touch it just to be sure.’”

Ha. Ha.

Not only does this joke devalue a search for truth, but it also unfairly shames those who  a hunger to experience it for themselves.

If God is omniscient, and members of the church are to become like God, shouldn’t they be encouraged to seek these experiences for themselves?

Oh, wait. Never mind. They have been!

Elder Hugh B. Brown said, “I admire men and women who have developed the questioning spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas and stepping stones to progress. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression. Neither fear of consequence nor any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought.

People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. We must preserve freedom of the mind and resist all efforts to suppress it.”

Here Elder Uchtdorf in 2013 says that seeking truth “is more than an opportunity; it is an obligation, my young friends. It is an obligation, and it is one of the reasons we were sent to this earth.”

Seeking for the truth is an obligation because it is supposedly designed to lead to a testimony. Testimonies about Joseph Smith, the Restoration, Jesus Christ, the Atonement, tithing, and even the Word of Wisdom are required to gain admittance to the temple. Let’s not forget that the temple is the only place where “sacred, essential ordinances” can be performed. An honest journey towards a testimony of these things could result in eternal salvation. It is not the same as sticking a hand to a wall.

According to Mormon doctrine, any man who asks for a testimony of the Book of Mormon in faith (which means working to find the answer), shall be given it. Thereby, he may also “come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is His revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the Second Coming of the Messiah.” (Introduction to the Book of Mormon)

Since these testimonies should be obtained so simply and have been deemed so necessary for eternal salvation, shouldn’t every member of the church want to find one? Don’t the scriptures recommend gaining knowledge even by faith, but also by study? Won’t the Spirit tell you in your heart and in your mind if something is right? Isn’t an honest inquiry of a young boy to know for himself the whole reason we ended up here?

Someone who investigates these “eternal truths” with sincerity to follow through on any answer he might find is not the same as a child touching his hand to a wall when his parents have warned against it.

Elder Uchtdorf should not have begun his talk with a joke that goes against the “find a testimony for yourself” perspective that is shouted from pulpits all over the world.

This metaphor is harmful for another reason. It also implies that those people who want to know for themselves are less intelligent or faithful than the members who don’t ask questions.

There are members of the church who are content to put their trust in the arm of the flesh and believe whatever the prophet says without personal investigation. According to this metaphor, that is to be celebrated. The people who seek to know for themselves, those who stick out their hand in faith and find an answer, come away with a paint-stained hand and a satisfied mind.

Personally, I’d rather be an experienced, rainbow-splotched inquirer than an inexperienced, white-washed conformist.

I’d rather be a rainbow-splotched inquirer than an inexperienced, white-washed conformist. Click to Tweet

Outlandish Internet Lore v. Reliable Truth

Immediately following Elder Uchtdorf’s troubling warning about the pursuit of truth, he jumps into an anecdote about looking for medical advice on the internet.

Let’s be real. It’s cancer, Dieter. Web MD says it’s always cancer.

In this portion of the talk, he says that in looking for “truth of which my doctors were unaware or had tried to keep from me,” he had come to forget about “Truth that he could rely on,” and instead found himself in realm of “Outlandish Claims of Internet Lore.”

Let’s be real. If you are reading this right now, you are probably pretty familiar with the internet. You know that a friend’s facebook status claiming that “Mark Zuckerberg is going to steal your puppy if you don’t copy and paste this into your status bar right now!!1!” is total garbage and that you can trust the thousands of online news sources that have debunked this claim.

Likewise, you can know the difference between a statement issued by singer/dancer/actor/middle-aged heartthrob Donny Osmond (http://donny.com/my-beliefs/) and The Proclamation to the World.

I’ll admit, it’s pretty cool that one time, some guy on his mission in Peru met someone who had heard of a widow being cured of her arthritis by knitting a mantel for the sacrament table. Yet, a first-hand account written by a witness to the miracle would be much more credible.

You get the point: some sources are credible and others are not.

Non-Mormon/Ex-Mormon/Anti-Mormon/Never-Heard-of-Mormon internet is much the same.

There are the over-the-top, Matt Walsh-esque personal blogs. There are people who are angry, people who are uneducated, and there are people who believe that magenta comic sans is the best way to keep the attention of your readers.

That being said, there are also those who have spent countless hours doing research before raising their own voice. There are support groups for people who feel like they have been abandoned by God and by those who profess to follow him.  There are first-hand interviews with people like Tom Phillips, a stake president in England who received the secret second anointing, then later left the church. There are lists and lists of sermons where first-hand accounts can be found at http://journalofdiscourses.com/. There are well-presented arguments and thoughtful debate. (Like the http://cesletter.com/, the http://debunking-cesletter.com/, and the debunking of the debunking of the CES letter http://cesletter.com/debunking-fairmormon/).

Don’t allow a fear of finding a different answer than the one you’ve hoped for prevent you from searching. Also, let’s note that a doctor doesn’t tell you you’re healthy without first administering an examination just because it’s the nice thing to hear.

After all, Joseph Smith himself stated that “one of the Grand Fundamental Principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from where it may.

Which brings us back to President Uchtdorf’s talk from two years ago where he said (and this is the Church’s summary, not mine) “that when the opinions or “truths” of others contradict what an individual already knows, instead of considering the possibility that there could be information that might be helpful and would augment or complement knowledge, individuals often jump to conclusions or make assumptions that the other person is misinformed or trying to deceive.

President Uchtdorf also reminded listeners that just because something is printed on paper, appears on the Internet, is frequently repeated, or has a powerful group of followers does not make it true.

Interesting, right?

On a different occasion, Dieter quoted Michael Christon: If you don’t know history, you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.

And, according to J. Reuben Clark, “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.” (J. Reuben Clark, D. Michael Quinn (1983). The Church Years, p 24. Provo (UT): Brigham Young University Press)

Be ye therefore unafraid.

If the LDS church is true, then it can be investigated.

It has been done. There are scholars like Richard Bushman and Terryl Givens who have researched and studied and remain faithful members of the church.

Do you know the tree to which you are bound?

Do you really know the history of the church?

Do you know that there are four different accounts of the First Vision?

Do you know that Joseph told a 14 year old girl that he was commanded by an angel to marry her or die?

Do you know the real reason Joseph was incarcerated?

Do you know that Joseph asked his friends to sign an affidavit saying that polygamy wasn’t being practiced?

Do you know that Brigham Young taught the Doctrine of the Blood Atonement?

Do you know that mixed-race marriage was condemned by the church?

Have you really lived up to the obligation you have to find truth?

Are you only reading one-sided arguments?

Is the LDS church true?

It didn’t withstand my investigation or the investigation of many others.

But, please, don’t take my word for it.

Stick your hand to the wall.

The paint is wet.

Let’s move on from my “Outlandish Claims of Internet Lore”, and ask another question.

What counts as Reliable Truth?

Truth resonates. Truth is timeless. Truth is objective. Truth can be scrutinized from every angle. Truth ends arguments. Truth answers questions, not silences them. Truth is unafraid. Truth is unobjectionable.

A good feeling just doesn’t cut it for me.

Speaking of good feelings, let’s wrap this up.

Something Lacking

I am glad that Dieter addressed members who don’t feel happy about the church all the time. I would daresay that makes up nearly all of us.

Which is totally fine.

Do you feel great about work all of the time?

Does every interaction with your family radiate with fulfilment?

Is there anything that is really perfect every time for everyone

I can’t think of anything.

It’s not normal to feel happily fulfilled in every facet of your life every day of your life. It’s okay to feel like something is wrong. It’s okay to change course. It isn’t a problem to feel bad when you are in a situation that makes you feel bad.

Instead of validating and expressing his understanding for the way these members feel, he shares his solution for a higher level of satisfaction: simplification.

He recommends a recentering of the soul, towards Christ, and away from the frills and the fringe doctrines that don’t really matter anyway.

But the problem is, if these doctrines are to be taken the way that Joseph Smith and other leaders intended, they must be taken as literal doctrines from God.

We are not free  “to pick and choose a few cultural hors d’oeuvres from the smorgasbord of the Restoration and leave the rest of the feast”. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/10/the-first-great-commandment?lang=eng

It seems to me that to simplify to the degree that Elder Uchtdorf at least implies would be to set aside those parts of mormonism that are icky to the taste and not at all desirable.

If I can’t choose to adopt the “love thy neighbor”, “feed the hungry”, and “stand up for Truth, even when it’s unpopular” without also getting a large helping of racism, sexism, teenage brides, polyandry, deceit, murder, false translations, archaeology (or lack thereof), masonry, and mounds of contrary scientific evidence, then I don’t want to be a member of this church at all.

To simplify, It’s much easier and more fulfilling for me to live a Christ-like life without justifying the un-Christlike behaviors and doctrines rampant in Mormon history.

I have found fulfilment in proceeding to live the best life I know how to live. I have found fulfilment in serving my neighbors, in loving my friends, in bringing truth to light.

 

“Tolerance and truth demand that all be heard and that competing ideas be tested against each other so that the best, which might not always be our own, can prevail. Knowledge is the most complete and dependable when all points of view are heard.”

~Apostle Hugh B. Brown, An Abundant Life: The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown, p. 156



Emmeline
Emmeline
An early version endowment was written by a former Nauvoo Mormon signing herself "Emeline." Emeline left Mormonism apparently because she was revolted by polygamy and disillusioned by the endowment, which she did not find as spiritually meaningful as she had hoped she would.
  • Justin

    Excellent points. I just want to add some extra helpful resources. These include http://josephsmithpapers.org/ and http://mormonessays.com/ where people can find primary source material and the church’s recent essays on some of the tough topics.

    Despite what Uchtdorf said, always be skeptical, check footnotes/sources and research diligently. Don’t be afraid of the internet. It certainly didn’t lead me to the conclusion I wanted, but truth is more important. Hopefully it’s obvious that you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet, but by going back to primary source material you can do reliable research. If someone makes a claim, look for primary sources to see if it’s true. If you think something is “anti-Mormon” don’t just leave, see where it came from and find out what the truth is.

    I can’t emphasize the validity of this quote enough, “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”

  • Marlo

    Well put! Thank you.

  • fides quaerens intellectum

    “Truth resonates. Truth is timeless. Truth is objective. Truth can be scrutinized from every angle. Truth ends arguments. Truth answers questions, not silences them. Truth is unafraid. Truth is unobjectionable.” You need a serious reading of Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions, or maybe Popper on Falsification. Xenophanes’ “truth” on qualitative differences in objects was the objective, scientific truth in its day, Aristotle’s “truth” on the elements was ending arguments and unafraid in its day, Newton’s “truth” on physics was resonating and endless in its day, etc etc etc. “Truth” as discovered by scientists and philosophers lasts just long enough to set the paradigm in place, and then is broken by new “truth.” The fact that you rail on Mormonism for lacking “truth” and then proclaim you have found it is naive, if understandable. You are annoyed that your Mormon leaders didn’t walk you through its history, and when you learned this “truth,” you felt the psychological need for a new paradigm. Yours is no “truer” than theirs. So lets not claim “objective, resonating, timeless, argument ending truth” prematurely. If polygamy is unequivocally wrong, why didn’t you leave Mormonism when you were growing up and knew Brigham had more than one wife? Everyone in the church who has read a Sunday School manual knew that. The NEW (therefore somehow “truer”) information about Joseph made you shift paradigms. Again, I don’t criticize you for doing it. It’s understandable. I’m just critical that you think “truth” (in the sense you are using it) is timeless.

    • Derrick Clements

      Agree with this comment, but this is a lovely article. Very nicely expressed, Emmeline! Thanks.

    • Bob Smith

      I’ve always thought that Joseph Smith’s (or God’s depending on how you view the D&C) description of “truth” to be very compelling: “And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come.” The church put itself in the position of “it’s either God’s one true church on the earth or it is a fraud.”

      What you seem to be saying is basically what Socrates says: “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing”… i.e. that “truth” as we perceive it is always questionable. Also, you appear to be saying that truth depends on your perception of it (that’s what I get out of this thing you said: “Yours is no ‘truer’ than theirs”). You seem to be saying this to validate the church’s version of “truth”, though it’s not clear exactly where you stand from your comment (since that flies in the face of the dichotomy of the church as true or false).

      That our perception of “the way things are” — the truth — is questionable cannot be argued — it most certainly is true. But pretty much everything about it is also untestable. You cannot test the hypothesis that we are really in “the Matrix” and that everything around us is in fact a computer simulation. So why bother discussing it? I propose we keep the discussion in the realm of what we can and do actually experience.

      Now, entering that realm of what we actually experience: Your examples of the never-ending march of disproved “truths” leaves out a critical fact: the march of discovery, while indeed disproving many previous theories as utter boloney, also appears to be arriving better and better at describing “the way things are” — i.e. truth… so while it is correct that we don’t understand everything and that what we currently understand of certain things might be wrong, to therefore conclude (as you seem to) that it is all very suspect and simply can’t be trusted ignores the compelling mountain of evidence of the verity of those things… evidence that many fought hard to bring to light. This knowledge of truth has led to marvellous modern inventions (which would be “miracles” if perceived by those only 150 years ago): computers, refrigerators, airplanes, to name but a few. Science has brought us here. The other irony (in all the religion vs. science stuff) is that “good” science / history is by far the most humble position. A true scientist, for example, would never say “I know there is no God”… they would only say that the evidence does not support God as described by [insert pretty much any interpretation of the Bible / Koran, etc.]. The existence of God is not testable, but certain claims made in the Bible certainly are. And a “good” historian presents the facts as unbiased as possible, and is always willing to change their position based on new informatino that comes to light.

      Here’s the catch with truth: if something is true and it states specifically “do A and you will get B” then if you do A, you will get B. If it is false, then you won’t get B, even if you did A thousands of times. Now if you tried A and got a negative result over and over, the evidence mounts that the claim is false, does it not? Furthermore, if you know somebody else who tried A thousands of times and never got B then you also have evidence that the claim is false, do you not (or perhaps that person is lying, which might be the case)?

      Of course, it’s not uncommon that a person might do “A” many times and not get “B”… but then try “A” again and get “B” in that one instance! This is where confirmation bas comes in. I work in the medical field. Blood letting is a great example of a practice that health professionals thought was “true”… and they even saw “B” (people get better) after doing “A” (blood letting). It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad how there are so many people today who buy into things as “true” as blood-letting, e.g. health supplements; and even more funny (if it wasn’t so sad) that dietary supplements are Utah’s #1 industry (in fact the main reason they are unregulated by the FDA is a direct result of Utah congressmen). I hypothesize based on the evidence that people with a disposition to “just believe”, especially a fellow Mormon (and especially one as “smart” as _____) might be especially vulnerable to a confirmation bias for particular “positive” results.

      A spiritual example of this: praying to find a wallet. I lost my wallet once and prayed and prayed and didn’t find it. I was in college and really needed it. After cancelling all my credit cards, getting a new license, etc., and weeks later, I discovered it. The idea that A (prayer) led to B (getting my wallet) is certainly questionable… and untestable. Bob Carlin, at least, claims that between praying to God or Joe Pesci, he has received approximately equal answers. That is part of a comedy routine, of course, but my guess is its probably pretty accurate. The truth, of course, would hold the answer, and whether I believed it or not, that answer would not change.

      Ultimately the validity of any claim from a personal perspective in this imperfect realm of human perception rests on the evidence that you see that supports it (confirmation bias, of course, gets in the way of the evidence you actually “see”, but in the end what you believe is derived from the evidence you perceive). I grew up LDS and the correlated message I learned growing up and taught as a missionary really made sense to me. There seemed to be evidence that it was true from the Bible and other sources. I saw the church as the “purveyor of truth”. It was credible to me, and I felt like I had a strong testimony of it. The history seemed consistent. Joseph Smith’s story was believable and compelling and I saw him even “next to Jesus Christ” in terms of influence for good. I felt what I thought was the “spirit” tell me the Book of Mormon is true. Joseph was someone who could read ancient languages by the power of God. He was martyred “for his testimony of the Book of Mormon” (at least according to Elder Holland), etc.

      But after looking into things, cracks began to appear in the foundational of “truth” as I understood it. What are these Kinderhook plates? Why did Joseph say he translated a part of them (as an ancient record) and yet they were exposed to be a 19th century fabrication? The united voice of the first presidency sent a letter to all stake presidents that “oral sex is interpreted by the first presidency as a unholy and impure practice” even in marriage… why haven’t I ever heard of this before if the united voice of the first presidency is “the truth”? What’s up with the Book of Abraham — How come the translations don’t match up? Why did Brigham Young teach unequivocally Adam was God (even in the temple endowment)? These and many other issues were at odds with the correlated claims strongly advocated by the church, what I thought was the “purveyor of truth”.

      Suddenly the prophet and the apostles became very much less credible — when they say “we cannot lead you astray” as they so frequently do without equivocation, and yet they “disavow” past “theories” of previous prophets (theories that were harmful at best)… how am I supposed to come to grips with that? Seriously, THEY CLEARLY ADMIT FALLABILITY WHILE CLAIMING INFALLABILITY — “the truth” is right there in your face, ironically provided directly by the church! What else do you need? … Even something SO foundational as Joseph receiving the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood under the hands of Peter, James, and John — which I thought was so very compelling — indeed, the very foundation of the LDS church’s claim to authority turns out to have never been mentioned until after 1835 (yes, that’s 5 years after the church was organized). These are simple facts. How can the credibility of the church’s coorelated message not take a serious, serious blow as these facts are discovered? You might say “How do you know these discrediting [anti-mormon] facts are true?” I don’t, but even if a fraction of them are, then the evidence is such that I feel almost compelled to come to the conclusion that the church is AT BEST a pious fraud.

      And as I’ve examined “their truth”, meaning their RESPONSES to the claims above (if they have any), it becomes clear that (1) even pro-Mormon sources admit to most of the issues and (2) the responses to them I have found to be unconvincing at best, and often even disturbing or disingenuous.

      You say “if polygamy is unequivocally wrong…”… well, truth regarding right and wrong is something that is difficult to come to agreement. It is, perhaps, the least concrete in terms of verifiable claims. Truth regarding the issues I described above (and many more — the CES Letter is the best outline I’ve found regarding the concerns… The fact that “The Book of Napolean” and “The Great War” has parts that mirror so closely the language of the Book of Mormon (and published before)… how can these “truths” be denied? They cannot. They can only be explained away. And those explanations are pretty awful in my opinion. Regarding polygamy, though, what struck me the most was not so much whether it was right or wrong, but rather the inconsistencies. Marrying women already married? How does that jive with anything resembling our doctrine of eternal families? Being threatened with death by an angel to make Joseph marry a young woman? How does that jive with our concept of free agency? The believer might suggest various nuance — “oh, Joseph was learning line upon line, etc.”… Jesus Christ, why would God be so straight forward about so much else and yet let him “poke around” to find the answer to this particular polygamy question? Holy $#!^… yes, that’s what that appears to be…holy $#!^.

      And perhaps the most painful truth I have ever faced in my life: The alleged “purveyor of truth”, the LDS church, who I came to trust and to whom I promised everything I am and have because I honestly believed it WAS the purveyor of truth and could be trusted, has intentionally and consistently taught things and misled people like me to believe things that are simply not true, as well as hidden things that are true. If you don’t believe me look here http://rationalfaiths.com/the-mormon-history-conspiracy/ . How could you possibly say “their [whitewashed, half-truth] truth is as valid as your truth” in the light of such facts?

      And frankly, now that the cracks in the foundational truth claims have appeared to me, it’s hard for me to even look at the modern church without seeing THE CHURCH ITSELF as being evidence of the fact that it is NOT God’s “one true church”. Hell, even as a true-believing (very obedient and orthodox) missionary, it occurred to me that “you know what, if I shared this super compelling message about modern prophets and how important they are and somebody were to then ask me ‘what has the prophet said lately’?” The best I could come up with is very basic platitudes you would find in almost any Christian church — love one another, love your family, love God, etc. Oh and a heavy dose of follow the prophet and pay your tithing. And now I see so clearly the lack of transparency in tithing money, prevarications by Gordon B. Hinckley on TV, a multi-billion dollar mall. Is this really the church of Jesus Christ??? Well, it either is or it isn’t. Hmmm… perhaps a “sudden death” challenge is in order — oh wait, one was already issued by Jeffrey R. Holland about the Book of Mormon. How does “their truth is as true as your truth” fit into such a sudden death challenge? It doesn’t. If it does then the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ truth is as true as the LDS church’s truth… and that’s ridiculous… wait a minute… whoa, I think you might be on to something there!

      I must say that I once thought my spiritual experiences would save my faith. Believers (like me not that long ago) cite spiritual experiences (almost always feelings) as the “trump card” in terms of evidence for the claims they believe in. Well, when I saw the video of Marshall Applewhite using a pattern almost precisely matching Moroni’s promise to convince people to believe what he says, as well as the “testimonies” those people got from trying “Marshall’s promise” (all of which ultimately culminated in a mass suicide of 39 people), my trust in my spiritual “confirmations” was completely obliterated. As my bishop asked me after telling him I was having doubts – “what is your yardstick of truth”? Well, it sure as hell isn’t the burning in the bosom… not anymore at least.

      Given the evidence that is in front of me (and you, if you actually look into it), the only ways I could possibly make the pieces fit for Mormonism would be one of the following options:
      1) believe in a weak God, one who has very little influence over his children, one who has little or no control over all the confusion and suffering in the world, one who cannot provide anything remotely resembling a clear path to any of his children, who yet nonetheless did his very best by speaking to a young prophet named Joseph Smith (and a handful of other prophets very rarely in the course of human history), himself a weak human being who sometimes got false revelations and prophecies but got some true ones from this weak God, and that God continues to guide the church Joseph established to make it into something resembling a corporation… and also the revelations he give cast him as a powerful God who really actually is super amazing.
      2) believe in an all-powerful God who really likes to screw with us by revealing, only rarely, his will to his prophets, and make everything surrounding that prophet appear like such a fraud so as to be the perfect test of blind faith… for example, making his prophet THINK he was translating ancient records when he was actually receiving God’s true revelations…

      Hmmm… yea I don’t think I want to believe in either of those kinds of Gods, thank you very much.

      And to end this wall of text I want to bear my testimony that I know nothing for certain. And that feels fine after coming to grips with it. I can say this, though. I wanted to believe so badly. This all was a terrible thing for me to experience. But I simply can’t bring myself to believe anymore. I can’t make the square peg go in the circle hole anymore, no matter how hard I try. In fact, the peg has grown so big that I cant even see the circle anymore. I tried so hard to mash the peg into the hole, but it just won’t go. This analogy is starting to have a phallic ring to it, so let me stop there and simply conclude my testimony with this: The evidence that the LDS church is not what it claims to be is far too compelling to me to keep believing in its claims.

      Amen.

      • fides quaerens intellectum

        I took time to read what you wrote, and thought it was lovely. I’m afraid your wall of text was infinitely too daunting for me to try and respond to it point by point. So perhaps I can leave you with: If one believes in both rational and extra-rational sensory experiences, “truth” looks extraordinarily different. Thanks for taking time to think about all of this!

        • Bob Smith

          Thank you for reading my wall of text.

          Perhaps you can clarify for me exactly what you mean by “If one believes in both rational and extra-rational sensory experiences, ‘truth’ looks extraordinarily different”.

          I did once believe in extra-rational sensory experiences as having truth-related meaning. Even now, I would not say they have no meaning, but rather that they can’t be relied on as a reliable guide into “truth”, I think this video explains why far better than I can: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycUvC9s4VYA … based on the content of that video (and a lot of personal experience), I would agree with you that “if one believes in both rational and extra-rational sensory experiences, ‘truth’ looks extraordinarily different,” but only in the sense that in one’s OWN PERCEPTION things may appear differently (and even in spite of strong evidence to the contrary). However, I hope you will agree that just because somebody perceives something as truth does not make it “true” in the Joseph Smith-style “the way things are” sense of the word. And whether believing in extra-rational experiences is “better” and/or actually leads you to into real “the way things are” kind of truth is doubtful from what I can tell. If you have a reason to believe otherwise, please share it with me!

          And let us not forget that believing things that are not true can have serious consequences… blood letting, for example, does harm and probably aided in many many deaths over a span of hundreds of years… or just read some of Marshall Applewhite’s ideas https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_Applewhite and what happens to those poor folks who tried out “Marshall’s promise” and had an extra-rational sensory experience confirm to them that his message was true… Just because those people saw truth differently doesn’t mean that by killing themselves that they did in fact rendezvous with a spaceship trailing the Hale-Bopp comet.

    • k_space

      I don’t have the patience or time to read the wall of text in the other comment, so let me start a new reply thread.

      I think your criticism of the author’s use of “Truth” is correct, but I don’t think we should let that detract from the overall message of the article: Dieter has presented a mixed message about searching for truth, and he has, like many other general authorities, vilified and blamed those who come to a different conclusion about the church than him.

      “Yours is no “truer” than theirs”

      I disagree. Accepting that the church is NOT true allows you to follow the scientific evidence to its natural conclusion. Its never 100% certain, but we are allowed to change our mind as new information is made available. Believing in the church requires that you ignore or rationalize a large amount of contrary evidence. It also requires that you make decisions about scientific issues, like for example Native American ancestry or whether or not Adam was a real person, based on a “spiritual witness.” Neither view can be proved beyond any doubt – sure – but saying that they are equivalently “true” is absolutely false.

      “You are annoyed that your Mormon leaders didn’t walk you through its history”

      Nice. You are also blaming the doubter. If Mormon history is faith promoting, then why don’t they talk more about it? Many events from church history are used as example of great faith, or another positive attribute, so why isn’t Joseph’s polygamy and polyandry? Or maybe the story of Henry Jacobs? Joseph and then Brigham stole his wife, and yet he stayed faithful. Mormons are very well educated about their religion compared to other Christians, and yet there are these issues that don’t seem to ever come up. Why shouldn’t we be annoyed if we go outside the official church sources and find significant important information that was, shall we say, never openly mentioned?

      • fides quaerens intellectum

        “… ignore a large amount of contrary evidence.” I think you have a good (and important) point here. BUT: in LDS church member’s defense, perhaps they are weighing evidence. All it takes is 51% pro for me to stay in. I’m not one to argue Mormonism is 100% without error, and quite frankly, 49% won’t do it for me. I mean, we have the choice of throwing out ALL eye witness testimonies from the Kirtland and Nauvoo era of incredible visions, healings, and miracles, and chalking up hundreds of otherwise sane individuals as jointly and uniformly crazy. But to me, those eye witness testimonies count just as much as an eyewitness testimony that Joseph destroyed the printing press out of spite…. Hopefully that helps explain my perspective.

        • k_space

          That is an interesting perspective. I think we agree about weighing evidence, but disagree about what evidence should be thrown out.

          As an example, you bring up miracles. I can’t accept those as evidence for a few reasons:

          1. LDS doctrine says you shouldn’t build your faith on miracles, instead focusing on obedience to the gospel, with miracles serving only as a confirmation. Balancing miracles against physical evidence seems a lot like building your faith on them.

          2. Eyewitness testimony is perhaps the least reliable form of evidence. It can be influenced by a lot of things. This is important for the courts to understand, so a lot of research has been done on the subject.

          3. If I accept miracles from your religion as evidence, why should I disregard the miracles of another religion that they would use as evidence for theirs? You could probably find a reason to dismiss the miracles of others as evidence, and I probably dismiss yours for the same reason.

          4. Humans are bad at understanding probabilities, but good at finding patterns. Many unlikely events are seen are miracles in retrospect because the human mind prefers to assign meaning to events rather than accept them as purely random.

          From my perspective, I was very disturbed that so many arguments in favor of Mormonism relied on faulty logic, and when that is made clear, the best a TBM can do is appeal to a “spiritual witness” or “testimony” – another common feature of various religions.

          So for me, after considering a lot of evidence, I would put the probability of the church being true somewhere around 10^-4%.

          I just couldn’t stay a TBM and keep my evidence based view of the world.

    • Shem

      >>The fact that you rail on Mormonism for lacking “truth” and then
      proclaim you have found it is naive, if understandable. You are annoyed
      that your Mormon leaders didn’t walk you through its history, and when
      you learned this “truth,” you felt the psychological need for a new
      paradigm.<<

      Now Mr. fides quaerens intellectum, the problem is the LDS Church lied about its history on top of neglecting to tell other truths. The internet have forced the LDS church to admit things they tried to pretend didn't happen or situations where they changed the history.

      For example, in no official church video or painting do you ever see Joseph Smith ever stick his head in a hat to translate the Book of Mormon with a seer stone. That's deliberate. That's lying. They were creating an illusion of how something happened that didn't. With the LDS church, it's all about faith promoting stories, not the truth. The internet has forced the LDS church's hand in changing the story back to the real one as much as possible with some faith promoting type remarks. That's why the essays exist now.

      The problem is they already lied about its past. Why should I trust them now? It's the LDS church's job to be truthful about their claims and tell the stories as they really happened, especially if they're going to claim their claims to be true and then preach us to be honest.

      The head in the hat with the seer stone is minor compare to the rest of its messing history. Again, this is on them, not on its members to look on the internet to find the truth. Be honest in the first place and this church wouldn't be facing the crisis it's having with so many 1000's of people leaving.

      Guess what, nobody likes being lied to!!! And the LDS Church has been lying to its members. Plain and simple!

      • fides quaerens intellectum

        Now, Mr Shem,

        First of all, I’m a Ms., not a Mr. How dare you.

        Naw, just messing. I’m a dude.

        Look, just cause you don’t find prolific amounts of Christian art depicting Levi and Simeon circumcising several hundred Philistines doesn’t mean the Catholic Church (or the Protestants) lied about the story. The scholars knew it. Anyone who cared to read knew it. People who simply relied on others to tell them the history of the bible might have missed this one interesting tid bit. But you know what? I don’t know they were any worse off…

        Either the Book of Mormon is true, or its false. If its true, I don’t care if Joseph bought it at a thrift shop in Japanese, and if its false, I don’t care if he thought he translated it word for word from ancient records. To me, the Book of Mormon stands independent of its translation method. NOT independent of its translator, (I think Joseph and the Book are inextricably tied) but independent of the method. I believe its true, because I have more rational and extra rational evidence in that direction.

        • Shem

          >>Either the Book of Mormon is true, or its false. If its true, I don’t
          care if Joseph bought it at a thrift shop in Japanese, and if its false,
          I don’t care if he thought he translated it word for word from ancient
          records. To me, the Book of Mormon stands independent of its translation
          method.<<

          The Book of Mormon was plagiarized. Let's compare it to the book "The Late War". Keep in mind that the Late War was published in 1816. The Book of Mormon was published in 1830.

          The Late War 26:1

          the fourth day of the seventh month, which is the birth day of Columbian Liberty and Independence,

          Alma 10:6

          the fourth day of this seventh month, which is in the tenth year of the reign of the judges.

          The Late War 27-28:

          … near Moravian Town … And it came to pass … the army … were under … a chief warrior, whom they called Tecumseh […] smote their chief warrior [Tecumseh], and slew him … he fell to the earth.

          Alma 50:33,35, Alma 62:36-37

          …people of Morianton …And it came to pass …the army …was led by a man whose name was Teancum […] they did pursue Teancum, and slew him … he was dead, and had gone the way of all the earth.

          The Late War 35:5-6

          two thousand hardy men, who … fought freely for their country … Now the men of war … were … men of dauntless courage.

          Alma 53:18-20

          two thousand of those young men … to defend their country. … they took their weapons of war, … were all young men, and they were exceeding valiant for courage,

          The Late War 20:11-16

          … the land … most plentiful … yielding gold and silver, and … all manner of creatures which are used for food, And … the huge mammoth that once moved on the borders … It is more wonderful than the elephant;

          Ether 9:17-19

          … the land, … exceeding rich, … of gold, and of silver, and … all manner of … animals which were useful for the food of man. And … cureloms and cumoms; … and more especially the elephants …

          The Late War 29:20-23

          [men] were prepared … and they let loose their weapons of war … and smote … with great slaughter. And the deep ditch that surrounded the fort was strewed with their slain and their wounded.

          Alma 49:20-25

          [men] were prepared, with their swords and their slings, to smite … with an immense slaughter … ditches …filled up in a measure with their dead and wounded.

          The Late War 51

          it came to pass … on the tenth day of the eighth month … the people began to fortify … and entrench the high places round about the city. And … build their strong holds …

          Alma 49,52

          it came to pass … on the tenth day of the month … the Nephites had dug a ridge of earth … so high […] round about … the city … And … built a strong hold …

          The Late War 23:24

          … fought … and there were many slain and wounded on both sides

          Alma 52:35

          … fought … and there were many slain on both sides

          The Late War 6-7

          sent forth a Proclamation, … abroad … And it came to pass, that a great multitude flocked to the … standard of Columbia…they came in battle array against the …

          Alma 61-62

          sent a proclamation throughout … the land; … And it came to pass that thousands did flock unto his standard [of liberty] … they … went down with their armies … against the …

          Here's a website that gives a good breakdown of what I have posted:

          https://wordtreefoundation.github.io/thelatewar/

          I could go on-and-on with the comparisons on how the Book of Mormon was plagiarized. This is just a small fraction from that book alone. I could use The First Book of Napoleon (published in 1809) and show you how the Book of Mormon was plagiarized like with The Late War. I could also do comparisons with the book View of the Hebrews (published in 1823).

  • Diojji

    Someone on Reddit was quick to point out that the quote was probably not from George Carlin, though it has been attributed to him for for years. Great article though!

  • Jaxon Peterson

    The problem that everyone has is appeal to authority fallacy. “This source is from Joseph, so it trumps Monson” — actually, that is probably true, but beside the point — we should be willing to accept truth where ever it comes from. If it comes from FAIR, FARMS, FIRM or Light House Ministries, if it is true then accept it.

    The other problem is the definition of truth. What is truth? Is there such a thing as capital-T truth? Or is it just a bunch of more-or-less-truth woven together to make a strong case that it is as close to capital T-truth as you can get?

    It is all messy; life is messy.

    • Justin

      I just want to add to what you’ve stated.

      There is such a thing as objective truth. It does not qualify as absolute and beyond question since nothing can ever meet that threshold, but it can get pretty close. Objective truth is true whether it conforms to our worldview and biases or not. It has everything to do with probability and weight of evidence. If an experiment is designed to test a hypothesis such that the conclusion logically follows from the data collected, and then it is published, peer reviewed and reproduced independently by other scientists then that is objectively true.

      The other thing I wanted to mention is that it seems most people don’t know how to consume information and evaluate whether it is true. It requires checking actual primary sources to see if a claim actually logically follows based upon those sources, as well as evaluating the credibility of sources including factors such as biases, chronological proximity to reported events, general credibility and authority of the source, and probability of the actual reported data.

      All that is just to say that it’s not easy, but it’s also not such a hopeless situation that nothing can be known. Most of what we suffer from is not a lack of objective or empirical knowledge, but a lack of understanding about how to obtain or consume that knowledge to find truth.

  • magenta comic sans! Very funny. 🙂

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