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This weekend is General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I am hurting. I am hurting because what I feel should be an opportunity for church leaders to encourage specific and actionable charity among members, as Pope Francis has done in the Catholic church, is used as a platform from which to provide misleading confirmation bias, fluffy platitudes, and totally off-the-mark statements about things I don’t believe LDS general authorities really understand.

 

A Twitter message from one of our readers today.

A Twitter message from one of our readers today.

 

Why do I care? 

I care about this not because I’m just a bitter apostate with nothing better to do with my time than rant about the LDS church, but because it’s hurting relationships in my life. When men who are perceived as more divine, more in-tune with God, and more aware of what “really matters in life” speak to millions of Latter-day Saints, those millions of Latter-day Saints (typically) listen, and adopt the same attitudes that are taught as inspired. (Hence why there was such incredible racism in the church for so long, and other such awful practices.)

Let me give you some examples of misguided statements I’ve heard were made at today’s sessions of conference. Know that I write none of this out of a desire for contention, but out of genuine concern and hurt for people in my life, not to mention worry about the perpetuation of false ideas.

 

“We can choose to believe.” 

If something is true, do you need to choose to believe it? Even in the face of contrary evidence?

While I don’t doubt President Uchtdorf has good intentions (he’s actually my favorite church leader to this day, on account of the love and compassion he shows), this is simply a false statement.

Could you believe in Santa again if people told you there were really, really good incentives to do so? If you cared enough about truth to surrender your belief in Santa at the expense of no longer receiving presents from him, do you think it would be easy to just believe again?

Church leaders telling Latter-day Saints in General Conference that we can all just “choose to believe” does two things. One, it makes church members who have ex-Mormon loved ones feel validated in their idea that it’s a choice to stop believing in the church. (Something that was certainly not true for me and many others I am close to.) This limits compassion and understanding between Mormons and ex-Mormons. Two, it makes said ex-Mormons, who have LDS loved ones, feel like crap, because it totally belittles their issues down to a simple statement that encompasses the following ideas:

  • Reject or minimize the importance of any negative information, however legitimate, that you’ve read about church leaders, the legitimacy of the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, and so on and so forth.
  • Forget or minimize into non-existence your questions about said things listed above, or anything else that might be a problem for you with the church.
  • Be skeptical of everything and everyone except the LDS church. (It’s no wonder Utah has such high rates of affiliation fraud and pyramid schemes—not to mention multi-level marketing companies.)

It’s not hard to see why “choose to believe” is a problematic and dangerous statement to make. It’s exactly what any false organization or religion can say to try and make people ignore their intellectual, moral, and personal consciences in favor of a regime laid out by other men.

President Uchtdorf, at what point do you think choosing to believe may be a negative thing? Do you think that attitude could lead people into deception or danger? 

 

“There’s always an answer.”

We have a similar problem here that we have with “choose to believe”. There are things that the church simply does not have answers for. These things make it impossible for many to continue believing, because the ONLY answer, the only one that is a legitimate answer, is that the church is not true. Examples include:

  • Why didn’t Joseph follow the rules of polygamy laid out in D&C 132? (Only marry virgins and always get your wife’s permission.)
  • Why are the Book of Abraham papyri nothing to do with anything Joseph wrote in the Book of Abraham when he claimed it was a translation?
  • Why didn’t Joseph Smith have the sealing power when he took his first plural wife?

 

“If we make no effort to believe, we are like the man who unplugs a spotlight and then blames the spotlight for not giving…light.”

I made every effort I was capable of to believe, and no “light” came. It is the same for countless ex-Mormons everywhere. Please stop telling us it’s our fault. Victim shaming is harmful.

 

“The Lord’s servants are inspired to know the Lord’s will.”

Except for blood atonement and blacks and the priesthood and calling interracial marriage an eternal sin and Adam-God theory and stuff. There seemed to be a few mentions of “giving prophets a break” or “prophets aren’t infallible” in conference today. These messages are in stark contrast to what is still contained in our manuals such as, “the prophet can’t lead you astray”. (Taken from a talk that was given then DISAVOWED BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE CHURCH AT THE TIME!)

 

“Skepticism is easy—anyone can do it.”

Can they? Not the exceptionally high number of people who fall victim to fraud in Utah every year, apparently.

Why is believing something in the absence of evidence considered noble? Why is ignoring contrary evidence to one’s belief noble? Surely the hardest thing of all is weighing things up without bias, and in a very thorough way.

 

“I plead with you to avoid anything in your life that will deplete from your happiness.”

I totally agree with this statement by President Monson, but I think it’s misleading. Given that almost every single LGBT youth in the LDS church is depressed, does that mean they should stay away from the church? Given how miserable I was trying to figure out how on EARTH the church could be true when there is an overwhelming amount of legitimate evidence to the contrary and it was requiring excruciating mental gymnastics to make it work, should I have just left it? Something tells me that’s not what President Monson is saying.

 

“There are things that we can only see with our spiritual eyes”

Like the gold plates. 

Mic drop.

(Sorry, Mormons.)



Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young
Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young
Zina Jacobs-Smith-Young would have been a millennial blogger, but she died in 1901. The wife of Brigham Young, and prior to that Joseph Smith, and prior to that Henry Jacobs, who was sent on a mission by Brigham before he married her, Zina loves writing, long walks on the beach, and playing the field.
  • Amy Condie

    Thank you for putting into words how I’m feeling tonight. I’m hurting so bad because statements like those above are what is damaging my relationships with my family members.

  • Sheila Strassburg

    Thank you for this article. I posted it on my FB home page. I do most of my business through FB, so I am not sure of the ramifications of the post, I do deal with some TBM’s. However, I am so tired of being silenced and told I have it all wrong. Thank you for this article, it resonated with me so much I shared it publicly with all of my 2202 FB frienda nd family.

  • Arwen Undomiel

    Uchtdorf used to be one of my favorite apostles too. I always thought he was so inspired and genuine. Until that terrible day he uttered some of the most uninspired words of all times:” doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.” That did it for me.

    I realized that if he ever was a sincere person, that was in the past. The new Uchtdorf is more concerned with being a church ” team player” than with doing what is right, which is of course, to tell the truth even if it makes the church look bad. Obviously, he was not inspired when he said these words. Any other person with a little,inspiration or even some common sense, would have rationalized that if you have doubts, then you should look for answers. But no, he had to suggest that the solution to your doubts is to continue doubting. Isn’t that great! It’s just so stupid! I had it with these people and no, I am not giving them a break. Not even a high school teacher would ever think to give that kind of answer to his/her students when they have questions. They just do,it because they know that no matter what they say, mormons are going to follow their advice.

    This is a sad day when we have to hear and see all the nonsense coming from these uninspired/business men/mormon leaders. It is us who need the break from them.

  • fides quaerens intellectum

    “Why is believing something in the absence of evidence considered noble? Why is ignoring contrary evidence to one’s belief noble?” It is not at all noble, but it is altogether logical, IF (note: critical and important IF.) you believe in the God of Christianity. By the scriptural definition, “his ways are not our ways, and his thoughts are not our thoughts.” Therefore, if you think you have logically and intellectually “figured out” any branch of Christianity (including Mormonism) you have automatically disqualified that sect from being of God. The very fact that you CANNOT understand it gives credence to the idea that it is divine.

    Now… If you don’t believe in God or you think you are more logical/intellectual/intelligent than God, I get that this is not persuasive in the slightest.

    My oh my, circles within circles…

    • ozfan2013

      So ….. you’re saying it’s “logical” to believe in God IF you believe in God? That’s not logical. It’s just circular and nonsensical. That scriptural quote is not a “definition”. It’s just a comment from someone 2,000 years ago, one in a sea of comments about the metaphysical from many faith traditions, all across the world.

      Again, by your own logic, you should not have commented on this board, for by defining in specific terms the parameters for authentic belief, you have taken your thoughts from the realm of the divine to the corporeal mess that is our existence, and in so doing, have extinguished the essential truth you hoped to communicate. Q.E.D.

      • fides quaerens intellectum

        Nooooo…. I said it was logical to believe in a CHURCH that you can’t logic through if you believe in God.

        AND I was specifically stating there are no logical parameters for specific belief. To condemn my own argument would be absurd!

        My oh my…. circles within circles…

        • ozfan2013

          My apologies, but I cannot find the word “CHURCH” in your previous comment. The idea in question according to your statement was “believing something”. I inserted God as the “something” and bang! Didn’t work.

          Yes, of course you won’t condemn your own argument. I just suggested that maybe commenting on these boards violates your own principles. Just tryin’ to help a brother out! 😉

          I tell ya, it didn’t take much reduction to reach absurdity 😉

          • fides quaerens intellectum

            Yeah, sorry, the quote came from a portion of the blog where it was much clearer that the “something” was the church, not a belief in God. I should have captured a bigger piece….

            +10 pts for the parting shot. Brilliance. I won’t sully it by commenting further.

  • ozfan2013

    I think President Uchtdorf has received far more credit from the prog/post Mormon community that he has deserved. Yes, he is likeable. Yes, he has said some encouraging things. But, even in those “encouraging” talks, there is still much of the orthodox view, and, if asked to choose sides in a debate, I’m sure he would argue the TBM perspective all day every day.

    Some might say it’s a good start, but it is worrying to me that the good start is coming from the foreign (non-US) apostle, and, with three more new apostles from (the Lord’s pantry) Utah up and ready to go, I don’t think he’ll have much backup.

  • Arwen Undomiel

    I had to read this article again because it is so good.,I realliy liked it. Thank you for writing it. It made me feel better to know someone else understands. I hate general conference. There is nothing inspiring for me anymore in those speeches. It’s because false statements they use, like the ones you mention.

    These leaders speak with no regard of th consequences of their words. I can’t tell ypu how many times I argue with my mother that believes every single word these people say. Just two days ago my mother called me to remind me of the words of some talk in general conference. She told me some leader told the story about this young man that went to the mission and discovered he was gay. Then he went back home and left the church. But later on he prayed so much that he stopped being gay, went back to church. And the leader mentioned everything is possible with God or something like that. Then my mother was convinced that gay people and lesbians just have to pray and decide to change and that’s all. They will stop being gay or lesbian if they follow this counsel. My mother said this is true because this mormon leaders taught them this in general conference. You can imagine the argument that followed after that.

    The mormon church has turned my mother into a zombie! She just lost the capacity to reason and see reality. When a show her facts she says that is just my opinion. Good grief! Where is that strong, intelligent, smart woman that was my mother? This church has robbed my mother of her personality and wits. I regret the day we converted to this church. General Conference has become this event to propagate false teachings and to subjugate the intellect of people.

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