Tag Archive: inner peace


Posted 08/13/2005

In 1985, three years after moving to Mesa, Arizona, I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was a popular church in the area. I had joined lots of churches over the years. Rather lightheartedly, I agreed to be baptized before my hospital shift. Little did I know, I just threw away the next 20 years of my life and sentenced myself to a world of hard work, sacrifice and self-abnegation.

This church kept me very, very busy. There was so much to do and so much to learn. I was the only convert in my family who lived far away. The ward became my family. Six months into it, the ward split. I got settled, then it split six months later, then the whole stake split. This church was always changing. Being an agreeable person, and friendly, I was able to adapt. I always accepted whatever callings they gave me. Pretty soon, my husband joined. Before we knew it, we were swept into a rush to get us into the temple and get our patriarchal blessings, and then babies.

I was serious about doing all my new religion asked. Callings, babies, meetings, ward activities, family history work, temple work, family home evenings, prayer and scripture reading [both individual and family, both morning and night], fasting, tithing, fast offerings, relief society work, visiting teaching, kept me pretty occupied.

Food became a huge all-consuming deal. Mormon women are supposed to keep everyone fed in a big way. Buying huge white containers of food, constructing food storage rooms, cooking and baking the food from scratch, then storing, freezing or re-using the food was a big task. It wasn’t just for your family either. Clipboards went around relief society every Sunday requiring me to sign up to feed the missionaries or other families. I took classes on how to do this food storage, but I never felt I was able to become confident at it. Food became like a large, looming mountain I could never overcome. It was constantly overwhelming and defeating me.

I was completely dedicated to the point of giving firesides [church talks] when asked. It was common to give three firesides a month. Firesides are like viruses. I’d give a talk in one ward, and the next week, a family member would call and ask me to do the same talk in their ward. Mormons have huge families. I did firesides for 15 years. I finally had to stop doing them when my second son got so sick.

I was still working as a nurse, a career I dearly loved and had worked and studied hard for. Eight years into being a mormon, I was beginning to get a little tired. In 1993 I quit my beloved nursing career due to obeying the prophet who commanded women to leave careers and become full-time homemakers. I cried for two years. The talk I gave about that experience they called, “Seeking the Will of God, Bit by Bit” and was published in Hearts Knit Together, 1995, Deseret Books. They liked it so much, they published it again in The Best of Women’s Conference, 2000 and then again in Sunshine for the Courageous Latter Day Saint Soul in 2001. That’s why I entitled this myself, “Losing My Mind, Bit by Bit”, because that’s exactly what happened. I always wondered why they kept publishing the same old talk. Didn’t they want to know how I was doing since then? I would love to have filled them in on how exhausted and depressed I was. I thought if I kept working hard, I’d earn God’s peace. I was so focused on having eternal perspective that I lost perspective; the perspective that this life was worth living. I was living just to get to die soon, and get admitted to the celestial kingdom where all those hardy, enduring souls got to go.

I lost my identity. I lost all sense of who I was as an individual with a right to sleep, pleasure, fun, joy. Being a mormon, de-humanized me. I was just a worker-bee, like in that beehive thing they use as their symbol. Rather than rest, I plodded on, just like a good pioneer woman. I worked hard, read lots of church history, like my patriarchal blessing advised. I was obedient to every rule, every commandment: no alcohol, tea, coffee, tobacco, be chaste, wear garments day and night no matter how hot it was in Arizona.

I’d sign up to do extra work on those clipboards that went around the room in Relief Society: feed the missionaries, work in the cannery, take a meal into the three sick sisters, put up the temple lights, take down the temple lights, clean the church building, sew something for the humanitarian project, donate used items for the Deseret Industries, etc. Of course, there was always some meal to prepare for the Elder’s Quorum function because Men are so busy acting for God they can’t cook. Temple attendance was encouraged once a month, at least, twice a month was even better. Those who were celestial material attended once a week. Yes, that’s right, I went every week for years. That took up most of my Thursdays. I dreaded Thursdays. I’d spend the whole day just getting one distant relative cleared for celestial glory.

Fridays were devoted to searching for my ancestors at Mesa’s Family History Center. I had filled volumes of my father’s mother’s people, then his father’s people. I worked hard to gather in my mother’s father’s people and then her mother’s, mother’s people. I saved money to send in to courthouses for birth records, marriage records and death records. Family after family, I began to see that you are born, you get married, and then you die. I worked on my husband’s families also.

We were converts so there were thousands and thousands of ancestors who never got taught this busy, busy gospel, and whose only hope of getting out of their spirit prison was me. I agonized every week that all I had to give them was one Friday a week. But faithfully, every Friday I worked down at the Family History Center from 9am until my kids came home from school at 3pm.

When the kids were too little for school, and they would nap, I’d spread family group sheets and pedigree sheets over their little beds as they slept. These sheets would spill over even to the floor space of their rooms. At night I’d use a flashlight and keep working. I got every new computer program the church recommended and entered these deceased families into my Personal Ancestral File. Over and over, year after year, I worked on my ancestors until I knew every one, every life. I was busy with the dead, the dying and the living. Each hour I turned the crank on the film machine, I agonized over all the work at home that wasn’t getting done. I resented Fridays.

On Saturdays I’d cut my husband’s and sons’ hair, lay out all those white shirts, ties, black pants, sox and shoes. I’d get all those zipped-up scriptures out for everyone, snacks, and bags. I raced through all the laundry, groceries, cooking and cleaning for the week. I spent time teaching my boys all the chores because we were taught in Relief Society over and over how important it was to teach our children everything. I spent time on Saturdays putting the finishing touches on the lessons my husband and I would teach the next day. I always planned my lessons a whole week in advance, just like the manual said, so I’d really have the spirit. My husband was too busy to do his own lesson, so I always worked on his as well.

I was always sure to be a good woman behind the men. In fact in one of our family portraits, I made sure I was actually standing behind all three of them, to illustrate that very point. I always got the feeling though, that I was dragging all three, like mules up a hill. It was exhausting to do all this work, but honor the men, as the real spiritual leaders. Saturdays were a lot of work.

Then there were Sundays. Oh, my god, the Sundays. Depending on what time my ward got assigned the building; I was up either at 5am or 7am. Forget sleeping late on Sundays, there’s just too much to do. There are meetings before and after the normal 3-hour stretch of mandated meetings of Sacrament, Sunday school and Relief Society, Primary or Young Women’s. Depending what callings I had, there were the meetings to plan what to do in the next meeting. I would have such a splitting headache on Sundays.

Usually I was fasting for my youngest son, Zack, who had quit breathing as a newborn 5 times and was Severely Learning Delayed-Developmentally Delayed- Bipolar, and, well, just never fit in. I had advocated for him successfully in school where he finally got Special Education, but there is no Special Education in the Primary or Scouts or Sunday School or the Aaronic Priesthood, so he never mastered the art of sitting still, and was always being abused by some priesthood holder, so there were those meetings as well. I thought if I just kept fasting and praying for Zack, God would intervene for him. Every Sunday would end by everyone yelling at each other, followed by Kevin giving Zack a blessing, and we’d close in a prayer. I hated Sundays.

On Mondays, I’d start preparing the evening’s important Family Home Evening. I’d re-clean the house so as not to offend the Holy Spirit. I’d cook an elaborate meal, so as to appease my masters. [I used to tell people I was working for my “Masters”, all 3 of them: Kevin, Mike and Zack!] After awhile that joke wasn’t even funny. I’d take special time to fix the dessert, because that was the one hope that all 3 males would sit through this “prayer-song-lesson-song-prayer-dessert-The End” of this holy family event. I dreaded Mondays.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays were the only days I had to work on doing my Visiting Teaching for the month, doing a member-missionary project, taking notes at my Institute class, and on helping my oldest son, Mike, progress toward getting his Eagle Scout Award. Every day of the week belongs to the church since it steals your individuality.

Scouting is very important if you happen to have male children in the church. Only Eagle Scouts get the first pick of future marriage partners and good jobs. I was a very dedicated Eagle mother. I was mentored by an Eagle father, in another ward, who guaranteed any boy the Eagle Scout award by age 14. There were certain badges to get at particular times. We had to work every week, without fail, very hard. I was warned if my son did not get this award by age 14, to just abandon all hope for it. After age 14, boys don’t follow through, these days, due to other interests.

In the old days, scouting was all there was. The church doesn’t keep up well with modern times. Mormon boys are to get this award whether they have interest in it or not. Mike was a joy to work with. He always had a big smile on his face and a willing spirit. He’d do whatever ridiculous thing I had planned. Some weeks we were cleaning yards together. Sometimes we’d grab some scouts and play cards with old ladies at the nearest rest home. Sure enough, by following the rigid formula for three years, Mike and I got our Eagle Scout award! I’m suspicious the Scouting program is some kind of crazy, leftover Nazi bullshit. The leaders, with all their goofy feathers, songs, and chants, really need to get a life.

I loved Mike. I wanted him to have every advantage in this very competitive LDS community. It wasn’t Mike’s fault he had old convert parents. Kevin and I were from Illinois. See, we had the misfortune of being cursed and didn’t know it then. We had gotten married too late, at 28. Then, we were having such a good time with our careers, and each other, we had completely forgotten to even have children! If we hadn’t moved to Mesa, and met the missionaries, we would never have come to our senses! Mike wasn’t born until I was an old hag at 35. I had his brother Zack at 37. I’ve always thought Mike got off on the wrong bus in the pre-existence. He was supposed to go to some huge LDS Utah family that goes back six generations. I’ve always thought he was disappointed at our small, defective, convert family. No matter how hard I tried to please him, to please them, I fell flat on my face, and was always behind, trying hard to catch up.

Bit, by bit, I began to lose my sanity. The bipolar illness I had all my life began to get worse. My conscientious and persistent visits to our LDS family psychologist [doesn’t every family have one?] and my psychiatrist didn’t seem to help much. I tried many different medicines. I had my lab work drawn. I was enduring to the end. I was hoping the end was soon because this pace was killing me. Literally. I thought about suicide and tried a few times. I was no longer able to keep up with this marching band of christian soldiers. I hated the song, “Put Your Shoulder To The Wheel”.

Zack was also very suicidal. I caught him with ropes around his neck. He started fires. He jumped out of moving cars and off our roof. Once I grabbed him at the last moment as he tried to jump off the top floor of the mall. He wanted to fly over the treetops below, he said. He didn’t sleep through the night for eleven years. He was taking stimulants and anti-depressants, which only years later, we discovered made him worse. Zack was failing in school, in church, in scouts, in our family. There was never one single family function we enjoyed.

Zack dreaded going to Scouts on Wednesday nights. There would be a fight to get him there and then a fight once he got home. Zack couldn’t learn the scout oaths, codes or anything. His leaders couldn’t learn to just love him. I gave five workshops to the ward. No one cared or followed through. I read the Ensign faithfully every month. The General Authorities reminded mothers to get their sons to the Aaronic Priesthood activities, which was scouting, every Wednesday night. We battled. One night I was on my knees cleaning up dog pee in the carpet. I received a distinct feeling that Jesus Christ did not care one bit about those merit badges. A light went on for me at that moment. I decided to disobey. I stopped making Zack go to scouts.

The very next week, I unraveled some more. It was April 2003. I was taking notes in General Conference. There was a talk on “Raising the Bar”. It devastated me. The gist of the message was that the expectations were being raised for missionaries. The Stake and Bishopric leaders reinforced the “we’re raising the bar” message every other week or so. It grew to encompass the mothers. I was already stretched to the max trying to meet an unbelievably impossible high standard. The church leaders had now raised the bar so high I’d never be able to reach it, let alone get Zack up there. It was impossible.

I remember the exact moment I snapped. Just like a rubber band that gets stretched, especially when it’s old and stiff, maybe one that’s been weathered a little. I was listening to the Bishop, as I sat in the middle pew. He was talking again about this higher standard. I was alone. Kevin was out of town again. In my mind’s eye, I could see them all taking off, leaving Zack and I behind to fend for ourselves. Like in that movie, Open Water, where two scuba divers are left behind by their group. They bob around in the water for days until they give up, and are eaten by sharks. I began to think about all those pioneer mothers who died, under a bush, on the plains, with a dying child, so the dad and older, stronger son, could make it to the Salt Lake Valley. That week, an LDS family moved off our street, a few streets away in order to be in a different ward. Their boys were my boys’ best friends. We were being left alone.

The summer of 2003 I began to feel something big was around the corner but I didn’t know what it was. I began making all kinds of preparations as if I were going somewhere, somewhere for a very long time, somewhere I wasn’t coming back from. I felt real urgency to get my affairs in order. I called the Relief Society President and asked her to take care of my Visiting Teaching Sisters and other duties because I couldn’t do it anymore. I made all the preparations and appointments so that Zack got his Patriarchal blessing. I made sure Mike actually got handed that Eagle Scout Award and also his Deacon’s Duty to God Award.

I worked hard completing the group of ancestors I had been working on and got their names ready. The church encourages families to find their own deceased family names and have their own living family get the temple work done. baptisms for the dead, by the youth, are really encouraged. Mike had already been doing baptisms for the dead for two years now, as he was 14. Zack just turned 12, the exact age required to enter the temple baptistery. I made extraordinary efforts to get all four of us our temple recommends. I was determined to get our little family to the temple, and have one of those lovely family temple experiences I’d read about in the Ensign. The experience was a nightmare because Zack was being weaned off his psychiatric medications. He was irreverent in the temple and the men in white reprimanded us all. Mike was embarrassed one more time. I made a silent vow never to go through that again.

The next Sunday, Mike was doing his priesthood duties in the bread room when Zack barged in and ate the bread. Mike was mortified when a lady overheard the commotion and blamed Mike for his brother’s terrible behavior. I promised Mike he would never again have to be embarrassed because of his mentally ill brother. I promised to keep his brother home until he could obey.

I used to stay home from church sometimes, with Zack, so that Kevin and Mike could enjoy Church without the agony of trying to get Zack to fit in. Our bishop told me once, “Just keep Zack home. You can teach him the gospel at home.” I wrote to the church’s Special Curriculum Department and got materials and did just that. Over time, though, I got lonely. I guess I had gotten selfish, in thinking Zack could fit in just this one Sunday.

Zack was unstable all of September. His liver enzymes had spiked, making it necessary to wean him off his Tegretol medicine. I had just made sure his new school year would be a good one. He had a great IEP and teaching team in place. I had such high hopes. With this new instability, his school year unraveled within a few weeks. Teachers were threatening me not to keep him.

I was panic-stricken; I called his doctor, emailed her, and sent her the teacher’s pleas. I was in his psychiatrist’s office four times that month getting different medicines for him. His mania was scaring me. His doctor laughed at it though and said, “you’re going to have to learn to live with it.” I knew that was impossible. I called four hospitals to get him help. One hospital said we were on the wrong side of the county line. One hospital wouldn’t take him because he was under the age of 13. One hospital wouldn’t take him because he wasn’t also a substance abuser. The last hospital said they didn’t take children. I slid the white insurance book across the kitchen counter to my husband and begged him to get Zack another doctor. He said he wanted to keep the current doctor. I sank into a deep despair. I had failed. I was utterly exhausted. There was no way out. Our situation was hopeless.

The week leading up to Sunday, September 28, 2003, was especially taxing. We had gotten a frightening letter in the mail over some property we owned. I was very alarmed and wanted my husband’s support and kindness but he said it was nothing and he wasn’t concerned about it, and left on an errand. That month, I learned from another specialist that Zack was even more developmentally delayed than originally believed. He was going to need extensive orthodontic work to bring his jaw up to normal. In the doctor’s office, the assistant asked Zack which of all the knots in their nautical display he preferred. Zack said, “the noose. I’d like to hang myself.” I was used to this, but she wasn’t, she jumped up and got the doctor right away. He lectured Zack for quite awhile in how important it was that he continued his bipolar medications.

I felt like I was treading water in the deep end of a pool with Zack on my back. I had treaded water as long as I physically could, and we both began to drown. Zack was getting bigger and stronger and heavier, but I was weakening and couldn’t support us. I just couldn’t continue. It was too much for too long. Looking back now, I was going through menopause but so busy with Kevin’s needs, Mike’s needs, Zack’s needs, the church’s needs, the needs of the household, I lost sight of my needs. There’s a saying in Relief Society, “Don’t forget to fill your bucket”. I had lost my bucket years ago and had no idea where it was. I had a feeling if I were to ever find it, it would be full of holes and rust and be no good anyway.

The week of the 28th, I had gone to the temple that Thursday, as usual, and the Family History Center on Friday. That Saturday was the usual frantic blur of a race to get things done for Sunday. I think by Sunday my body and brain were already way passed the breaking point. There had been so little time over the years, for myself, I had forgotten that I was even there at all. I had died somewhere, along the mormon trail, with all the other weary, pioneer women, first in their family lines to join the gospel.

Looking back to that last Sunday, I got up early as usual, nothing out of the ordinary, except that I wore no makeup, and just let my hair fall in gray threads. I wore a black blouse, long black skirt, black stockings and black shoes. No color at all. Zack and I came home right after Sacrament, keeping my promise to Mike. We were changing into more comfortable clothes. Zack, very manic and animated, stepped out of my bathroom toward me. I was bending over slowly taking off my black stockings. “Mom, let’s kill ourselves!” He was smiling, asking, begging. I’ve never seen Zack so happy. He smiled from ear to ear. It was like he was going to Disneyland. We were like two weak ice skaters holding on to each other for support. When one falls he pulls the other with him. It never occurred to me to call anyone for help. Looking back, I think we de-stabilized simultaneously. I think he was in a manic state and I was in a depressed state.

There is no logical or reasonable explanation for what happened next. I felt like I was falling backward down a hole. The room got dark, somehow, even though it wasn’t quite 10:30 in the morning. Maybe it was a cloud covering the sun, I don’t know. My vision was going. I couldn’t focus. Everything was blurry. I was very slowed down and uncoordinated. The walls began to close in. I felt I was dying already. Talking was difficult, “ok” was all I could get out. It felt like some heavy weight was on my chest and I was smothering. I couldn’t breathe well, short of breath.

I felt it was my duty as a mother, since I had failed every which way here on earth to help Zack, to go with him to the other side. Neither Zack nor I would ever get better. If Zack was finally going to kill himself, I must somehow get over there, too. A few years earlier, my brother’s son, Charlie, had killed himself with a gun. I always felt so badly that he died alone. His death was something our family still hadn’t come to grips with. I didn’t want to kill Zack, or myself, but I wanted Zack to feel relief. I didn’t have the hand-eye coordination and thinking ability to effectively see my way to accomplish it. I didn’t have the ability, at the time, to get us to the other side. Maybe we could just sleep. I told him we could take our meds. We could take a little extra.

In the past, I had followed the advice of a therapist who told me when I was having a bad day, take my meds early, take extra, and take a nap. That had worked for me. I’d wake up the next day and feel ‘re-charged’, ready to go again. Her theory was a person didn’t really want to die, just black out. It had worked for me. About every three months I’d have a really bad day. I’d tell Kevin to take the boys and I would check out for the evening and the night. In the morning, I was myself again. I had never tried to help anyone else do this.

Zack was used to taking his medications four times a day. I didn’t have to help him. I wasn’t able to help him. At one point I remember him getting bread. I know he wanted to die. I was just exhausted. I was concentrating on swallowing as much Tegretol as I could. If Zack was going to the spirit world, I needed to be there for him. It was like I’d hold his hand as he crossed a busy street. I didn’t want him to be alone. I had stopped him so many times over the years from taking his life. This time, I was going with him, so he wouldn’t be alone. From the temple covenants I heard, “It’s time to sacrifice your own life if necessary.” From the New Testament I heard, “There is no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend.”

Because I was fasting, the meds worked quickly. I was getting sleepy as we wrote our love notes to Kevin and Mike in case we made it to the other side. I always wrote notes to say goodbye in case I never came back. When I did come back, I would just tear up the notes and throw them away. Kevin and Mike would be better off without us. Their whole lives revolved around our mental illness. Without us, they could live normal lives. Zack wrote a note and put it on the door saying we’re just taking a nap. We both pushed a heavy dresser in front of the bedroom door and locked it. We didn’t know if we were going to have enough time to get to the other side. We took a picture of Jesus off the wall and laid it between us and lay down on the bed and held hands. It was the picture of Jesus holding a little boy as he is helping an older girl up out of the river. We slept. I lost consciousness.

When I first tried to open my eyes, all I could see was white. Then I made out a metal U-track. In spite of the fog, I recognized the metal curtain track common to all I.C.U’s. “Shit”. I never got passed the ceiling. I couldn’t use my left hand. It was tied to the bed. I was so sick. The next three days I was in and out of consciousness. I remember Kevin’s strained face, telling me Zack was ok and would be fine. I remember Mike’s face. A nurse saying, “Let’s clean you up.” There was a guy sitting by my bed all the time. I’d see him through the rails. He’d just sit there. He said he was a sitter. I had no privacy. I slept constantly but was still so tired. Occasionally people would come to the bedrail and ask questions. I’d answer as best I could, doctors, social workers, a chaplain, nurses, and policemen reading me my rights. I remember a visit from a friend, Jeni. She’s very tall. One groggy day, her long arms were suddenly on either side of me. Her face was an inch from mine, and she growled, “Why didn’t you call me”. She was like one of those large silver back gorillas in the forest, warning off predators.

Actually I had called her. I told her many times Zack killed an animal, set fires, kicked in a door, threatened to kill us. Zack was not sleeping. Zack was suicidal. Zack cut himself with knives just to see the blood. Zack did not fit in at church. I told Kevin and his friends. I told church leaders and friends. I told the doctors. I told the ladies who drew blood. I told the secretaries and receptionists. I told the specialists. I had called family over the years. I never hid the fact that Zack and I were bipolar and unstable. Every day was a fight for sanity. Looking back now, I should never have continued with Zack’s psychiatrist so long. I should never have worked so hard for the church. I felt so badly for my husband. He looked warn and tired and sad.

One night Kevin came to my room and told me Zack and I would be transferred to the same psychiatric hospital. I was strapped to a gurney with just a hospital gown on, barefoot. I was taken by ambulance to St. Luke’s’ Behavioral Health Hospital. I was terrified. I had never gone to a psychiatric hospital before. I was so cold. I was alone. I had no sox, no shoes, no hairbrush, no make up, no clothes, no money, no family, and no friends. I sat in the lobby of the hospital for many hours before I was admitted. It was dark outside and I didn’t know where I was in downtown Phoenix or I would have run out of there. I overheard the staff laughing about other patients and funny ways they had tried to kill themselves. This frightened me and I called Kevin to come get me but he never answered the phone. I was increasingly nervous and anxious. I had been on psychiatric medications for twelve years. Now it was several days without them, having been totally purged of them in the ICU. My teeth were chattering, my skin was crawling, I was paranoid.

Early in the morning, I was admitted to an adult locked psychiatric ward. I was petrified as I was shown my room where another, very large patient was sleeping. There were crickets jumping, the bathroom fixtures all dripped, dripped, dripped all night long. There was a red light over my bed that never shut off. The mattress was only an inch of light plastic, as was the pillow. I got to where I dreaded the nights. My medicines were never right and I never slept. It was like a Chinese torture chamber, never being able to rest or sleep, being manic, without meds, the red light, the dripping, the crickets, the miserable plastic. I tried to believe I was in a rain forest, but it didn’t work.

I was absolutely frantic about Zack. He was in the same horrible place somewhere on a children’s unit. Was he sleeping? Was he eating? Was he drinking? Was he as scared and lonely as I was? I was hysterical to get to Zack until one of his therapists came to me and told me Zack was doing well. He was eating and sleeping and had friends. He was sleeping? Zack had had night terrors for years. He had never slept well. He had friends? That was new. Come to find out, the first thing the hospital psychiatrist did was take Zack off all the antidepressants and tranquilizers he had been on that made him so awful all those twelve long years! Kevin would visit me after seeing Zack. Kevin was amazed how much better Zack was. Zack was on a new medicine called Geodon, an antipsychotic. Oh, and his liver enzymes were fine, after all, so he got his Tegretol back! Something inside me let go a little, but I still obsessed about him and prayed for him incessantly. [oh, by the way, we decided to keep this new smarter psychiatrist and dump the old stupid one. Zack hasn’t been suicidal once in two years and he’s been stable now for two solid years. Ahhhhhhhh. The wrong meds are dangerous, like gasoline on a fire. The right medications are absolutely life changing.]

Because I couldn’t sleep at night I was tired during the day. There’s a big difference between being tired and being sleepy. Normal people don’t know that. I was extremely tired, but wired, jumpy, exhausted. I dreaded the nights. I stayed up writing all night. I was so worried I’d lose my mind without sleep about the 6th night without it. Someone told me that no one had ever died without sleep, and then someone said you could die without sleep. I wasn’t concerned about dying. During the day I went to all the groups, and read the reading material and learned I had become enmeshed with Zack and that I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as well as Bipolar 1 Disorder with panic and anxiety. I was encouraged to focus on myself and stop obsessing about Kevin, Mike, Zack and the Church’s standards. I learned I had compulsive religiosity.

I learned that all the hard working helpfulness I did was really controlling compulsiveness. I learned I had no boundaries with Zack. He had felt suicidal that day, not me. I was exhausted and yet acted with him to carry out his wish. My medications were changed every day. None of the medicine they tried me on for sleep worked. There was nothing strong enough. The last day there I was placed on Depakote1000mg twice a day with Restoril 45mg and Tegretol 600mg at night and Seroquel 300mg. I had an image of what had happened. I was a deep, ceramic bowl; a hard working bowl, holding several beautiful glass balls, among whom were Kevin, Mike and Zack. On 9-28-03 the bowl fell crashing to the ground, never to be repaired, the balls were ok, they just rolled across the floor. The bowl was in a hundred different shattered pieces and I had no idea how to fix myself.

After two weeks I was discharged into the custody of two police officers. I was arrested and handcuffed and taken to jail. I was charged with a 2nd degree Felony for Child Abuse which carried a mandatory 15 year prison sentence followed by 10 years of parole without seeing the children and faced a fine of $150,000 and many years of community service. Because my husband is a Lieutenant for Mesa Police Department, and a Commander of its Bomb Squad the Assistant Chief was concerned about liability. They prosecuted me fully so they could say there was no special treatment.

I did get special treatment though, because normally this case would have just disappeared. The original cop who investigated my case was taken off the case because she didn’t agree with prosecuting it. Two cops got reprimanded because they disagreed with the illegal search and seizure of our home. The arresting officer was having an affair with the unit’s doctor , who lied about facts to make the case stronger. Zack was awake and alert in the ambulance to the hospital. They sedated him in the ER in order to work with him. They interviewed Zack when he was still sedated and restrained in the ICU. Later, the toxicology report came back saying Zack had only taken four pills. I was arraigned before a judge. He let me stay at home, for now, but stipulated Zack and I could not be alone together. I had never had such a bleak future.

My head was spinning as Kevin took me home. I immediately tried to get back to normal, no matter how abnormal it was, and no matter how I was feeling inside. I went to work cleaning the messy house. It was obvious the unpaid domestic servant had been gone for two weeks. That day, Kevin sternly sat me down and told me I was going to have to get a job to pay for the expenses of this mess, maybe live somewhere else, and that he could never go though this again. He could never go through this again?

Those first days home, I was still reeling inside from everything. The Depakote sedated me and made me sick and made my hands shake. I wanted to please Kevin, the boys, and the Law. I felt lower than low for what I had done and the mess I had caused. The lawyer kept telling me I’d probably go to prison for years. I didn’t know how I could please Kevin; resume my nursing career, just yet, with this criminal problem, shaky hands, and sedation. The reality of mental illness is discrimination and blame. It’s the only illness we blame people for having. It doesn’t happen with a heart attack, just a brain attack.

I felt like I was in limbo. Shamed. I was a social reject, an outcast. Embarrassed, defeated. My life was beyond my control. My body was so sick on the heavy doses of depakote, tegretol, and seroquel. The fear and anxiety crushed me. I don’t think the police and courts understand how much worse they make life for the mentally ill. For the next year and a half, I went back and forth to the courts as a defendant. To help myself, I joined The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill [NAMI]. I took trainings and classes in mental illness. When I told the president of NAMI about my felony charge and indictment, he kindly said, “Eventually, everyone with mental illness ends up getting charged with something.” Associating with these very accepting people helped my feel there was hope for me.

The LDS psychiatrist, I had for twelve years, retired just when I got out of the hospital. It’s a good thing, because I got busy finding myself better psychiatric care. I mean, it’s pretty obvious I needed someone who would do a better job. I navigated the maze of Value Options and became a patient to continue some out- patient therapy. I got a new psychiatrist there and my own case manager. I took classes there as well. I was told to focus on myself. I had never done that before. I was so busy helping others. My confidence began to grow but my religious life began to fail.

For a year and a half I struggled to get back to normal. I cleaned, cooked and did laundry. I went to church. I obeyed all the rules. I took care of the boys and Kevin. But something was flat. Something was off. I hated church talks on sacrifice and service. When I went to the temple and heard, “sacrifice your own life if necessary” I never went back. Daily Scripture reading and prayer wasn’t fulfilling. The Relief Society president grabbed me twice, without even asking how I was, but asked me to resume Visiting Teaching and Family History work! I just looked at her in disbelief! It all seemed very strange. I called for two appointments with the Bishop who offered no advice other than “Go forward in faith.” He had no idea what to do. He acted nervous and afraid.

Something was wrong. The church and its people did not know what to do. The Bishop and the Stake President interviewed me for my temple recommend within a few months of my discharge and arrest. I was able to answer every question honestly and easily renewed it. Neither of them knew what to do for me. Here I was keeping all the commandments and was still uneasy and felt something was wrong.. Then I remembered that I was keeping all the commandments when I overdosed with my son!

The funny thing about that Sunday was no one had any revelation. The day came and went without revelation. Funny, huh? The whole time Zack and I were “napping” in the back bedroom, priesthood holders came and went. My priesthood holding husband and older son watched TV, made cookies, and worked on motorcycles, without checking on us in the back bedroom. The bishop even came by delivering an IEP the old bishop had in his desk and left without any revelation we had overdosed. September 28 was the last Sunday of the month so our home teachers came by that evening and gave the home teaching lesson. Here Zack and I were gorked out of our minds in the back bedroom during their visit and NONE of these men had a revelation that something was wrong? They all left after their pleasant visits! That’s odd.

If the church were true, where had been my revelation that day? I was wearing my garments. I had said my prayers. I had read my scriptures. I had gone to church. I had gone to the temple. I had gone to the family history library. We had paid our tithing and fast offerings and more. We read the Book of Mormon as a family. We held our family home evenings. And on and on and on! I had kept all the commandments, and yet look at the plight I was in. What had happened to me was way outside the ability of the church, that’s why they didn’t know what to say or do. Elder Morrison calls mental illness “a tsunami of suffering.” It’s just too much for the church to deal with.

January 2005, I zipped up my scriptures for the last time. I put them up on a shelf. I went through all my mormon books and threw them away. I stopped wearing those long hot garments, put them in a big bag on a high closet shelf. I bought regular underwear for the first time in twenty years. I bought myself a box of tea. I used to love hot tea and iced tea. I began talking to my husband and sons about what I wanted.

I began reading books: Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood

Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck

Breaking Point: Why Women Fall Apart and How They Can Re-Create Their Lives also by Martha Beck

Revolution From Within by Gloria Steinem

The Price of Motherhood by Ann Crittenden

The Meaning of Wife by Anne Kingston

The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner

He’s Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt

Women and Madness by Chesler

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

The Joy Diet by Martha Beck

America’s Women by Gail Collins

Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem

The Woman’s Book of Courage by Sue Patton Thoele

Comfort Secrets for Busy Women by Jennifer Louden

No Man Knows My History by Fawn Brodie

Leaving the Saints by Martha Beck

With each encouraging word from these new female friends of mine, I began to piece together a happy life. I became selfish for the first time in my life. I collected bits of turquoise glass. It spoke to my soul. I got rid of the old heavy antique furniture in my bedroom that Kevin loved and replaced them with modern. I did the exercises in the books to discover what meant something to me.

I wanted to work with the mentally ill. I got a fabulous job as a Rehabilitative Associate for Triple R. Behavioral Health’s East Valley Clubhouse in Mesa, doing just that! I have two sweet women bosses who adore me. Within six months I got a raise! All those years of not working were not good for me. The hours are great. They know about my felony indictment. I was completely honest. I love my work. My co-workers are great. The atmosphere is very nurturing and feminine. Everyone is immersed in compassion, acceptance, kindness, going at your own pace, no competition. Religion is not allowed because so many mentally ill people have been harmed by religions. Yet, privately, most of my co-workers see their work as their ministry, an outcropping of their many and varied religious denominations. I know if Jesus came to Mesa, he’d definitely stop in the East Valley Clubhouse. He’d feel at home there.

Because my husband refused the expense of a trial, I pled guilty to child abuse. I’m serving ten years of probation now. It’s hard. I try to keep my head above the waters of the low self-esteem. I hate sitting on the dirty plastic chairs with the other criminals. I feel so badly for all of us in that disgusting room. I feel small, insignificant, and inhuman. I try to do things that help me feel better. I got my own banking account. I went shopping for clothes. I bought exercise equipment and use it every day. I stretch out in the sun, nude. I got my hair cut and professionally colored and highlighted. I stopped cooking all those meals! I’ve lost twenty pounds! I stopped doing all the laundry. I put a laundry basket by each male’s bed. They do their own now. I declared my freedom from the need to cook, clean and sew, laundry and iron their clothes. I am a freed slave!

It’s amazing how much time is available by just not going to church anymore and doing all that work! I still meet often with our family psychologist who has encouraged my leaving the church. I’ve kept my husband and sons posted on my new life and why I must take each step. I love having a female psychiatrist and female case manager. Even my probation officer is a female. It feels so good to be free of male domination. I’ve decided being under a male, authoritarian, patriarchal church was oppressive and depressing. It kept me from growing and expressing myself. Yesterday I mailed my resignation letter to the Bishop. It felt good. Mormonism was an interesting period of my life. I’m glad my service is over and I can move on with my new life.

The issue for me is not whether the mormon church is true or not. I don’t care one way or the other. It’s just too hard on me to live it. It’s just too exhausting. All that work and sacrifice and dedication is unhealthy for me. For me, the issue is living a healthy life. For the first time in many years I want to live! I’m happy waking up in the morning and having a job to go to. I’m not lonely anymore. I have a place to go, people to see, things to do. I have a paycheck again. There is something so satisfying about doing a job well and having people appreciate it enough to pay for it.

My husband is stepping in and being a parent. Imagine that. My boys are doing their own laundry and cleaning their own rooms. They cook for themselves or buy pizza. They are becoming more independent It’s good for them to see a happy mother. It’s good for them to rely on their father. Our family was out of balance. It’s better now.

We have more money. We laugh more. We like Sundays. We play cards and watch movies. We don’t freak out if someone is relaxing. We spend more time together. We talk about the church some. I make it clear I will not get sucked back into that vortex again. The church is harder on women than on men. I actually think it’s set up for men. They like having the women do all that hard work for them.

We still have family prayer and family home evening. But it’s different. We do an activity Zack and I learned at the psychiatric hospital. Everyone gets to choose a goal for the week and state how he/she feels. We listen and support each family member. The next week we check in with each other and see how the goal went and add the new feeling. We talk more and we respect boundaries.

Whether you are lds or not, I wish you all the very best in your life. Thanks for hanging in there with me and reading my journey.

Love, Pam Kazmaier August 7,2005

August 6. 2005

 

 

Bishop Stephen Thomas
2339 East Enrose
Mesa, Arizona 85213

Re: Resignation from church membership Pamela Ann Kazmaier

Dear Bishop,

This is my formal letter of resignation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, effective immediately, severing all relationship to the church. I hereby terminate my consent to be treated as a member of said church and I withdraw my consent to submit to the church beliefs and ecclesiastical disciplinary procedures. Please make the confidential changes in the church records, without delay, according to the Church Handbook of Instruction, page 130.

You must now treat me as a former member in all your dealings with me. Please forward this voluntary resignation to the stake president, within the week, as I waive the thirty-day waiting period, having considered this for six months. Due to health reasons, I can no longer sacrifice, and consecrate all my time, talents and everything to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I understand by doing this I cancel forever all hope of exaltation in the celestial kingdom.

I am not leaving due to some personal offense or doctrinal issue. I am grateful for all I gained over the course of twenty years of membership. I was able to break the cycle of alcoholism in my family line. I treasure the relationships developed with my husband of twenty-four years and two children. Over the past seven months of inactivity, we’ve gotten even closer. I gained leadership and public speaking skills in all the tasks I was asked to do. Though it got exhausting, I magnified every calling. I poured all my energy into each assignment. This excess use of human energy took a toll.

The sudden crisis and tragedy of September 28, 2003 caused me to wake up. Overdosing with my suicidal son was a wake up call. Stepping out of the LDS mindset has taken a full two years now. This week, August 10, 2005, marks 20 years of church membership. September 28, 2005 marks two years since my breakdown.

Waking up tied to a hospital bed, locked up in a psychiatric ward, and being arrested in handcuffs and taken to jail was quite a shock. I got all the way to age 50 without even a traffic ticket. Being a criminal, charged and indicted on a felony, and now serving the next ten years in probation is almost more than I can endure.

I wish there had been a warning when I joined the church: “This church will require you to meet more than you can humanly do. It is not recommended for those of you who have inherited mental illness, especially obsessive-compulsive disorder. You will work yourself into exhaustion and breakdown.”

All of 2004 I struggled to “get back to normal” in the church. Church talks on striving and dedication sickened me. All the hard work is too exhausting now. By not attending church, I am beginning to relax, and feel peace and happiness. I am beginning to heal. I wish you all the best and thank you for your time.

Respectfully,

Pam Kazmaier

Cc: Members and Statistical Records Division
50 East North Temple Street
SLC, 84150


I resigned my membership in the LDS church just a little over 3 years ago. Although life did not magically change into a worry-free fairyland, it became considerably less complicated, less burdensome, and brighter. Although I have encountered losses along the way, such as several, close, family relationships, I have never known greater personal peace. I truly know and love myself. Life is better than ever!

True Happiness

True happiness comes from within. Its origins cannot be found in others. Try as we might, lasting happiness will never be found in anything outside ourselves. Fleeting happiness may be found in external sources, but can be nothing more than a temporary fix, a metaphorical band-aid on our soul. I have discovered so much about myself since I left the LDS church three years ago, and the greatest gem I’ve uncovered is my path to true and lasting happiness. Of all the searching for truth that I’ve done, the one universal truth that I stand by unequivocally is that true happiness only comes when:

  1. we genuinely know ourselves
  2. we are true to ourselves (no matter what opposition we face)
  3. we let go of any hope of an outside force (person, place or thing) providing happiness/peace for us

It may sound simple, but the more my eyes are opened to the world and the people in it, the more I see just how elusive this truth can be. I can only speak from my own experience, so I will share how my journey has brought me to this knowledge. Every one’s journey is different, but I believe that all journeys to true and lasting happiness will end in similar wisdom.

1- Genuinely Knowing Ourselves

My journey to know myself, like all humans, began at birth. And like all humans, I was immediately effected by the culture and society into which I was born. Most of the societal influences were harmless upon my emerging self and did little to hamper my growth. But, over time, certain pressures, teachings and influences (many of which came from my parents and the LDS church) came to distance me from my own self. For example, I was taught the extreme importance of unquestioning obedience by both the church and my parents. I was taught that adherence to a rigid code of conduct and checklist of works were necessary to win God’s love and eternal salvation. To some personalities, these influences might not be so rough, but for me, a questioner, a thinker, and a highly intelligent being, they were stifling. As I tried to shut down my own personality in order to comply with the expectations of my family and church, I became increasingly estranged from my own self. As an adult, this felt like a vague sense of dissatisfaction in my life, underlying frustration and a noticeable split between my private self and my public self. I found myself giving more and more energy to word choice and self-censoring.

A disassociation with oneself begins with a misfit between one’s true self and the expectations from others whom we see as meaningful in our lives. For some it may stem from a feeling of not living up to career expectations from parents or issues with being born homosexual into a family who is less than understanding.

Three years ago, I did not fully understand my dissatisfaction with life. The key to beginning the path to knowing oneself is to recognize the symptoms of living a life that is out of harmony with our innate selves. The symptoms can be depression, anxiety, dread, or anger. In extreme cases, symptoms can also look like acting-out behavior such as drug abuse, self-harm, and other risky behavior. Sometimes this disassociation can manifest as lying, bragging, or exaggerating.

Once we recognize the symptoms within, we can begin to take steps toward being true to ourselves. Even if we feel blind in the beginning, with every step of throwing off the chains which bind us, we will come closer to knowing ourselves. With this knowledge, we can cultivate a loyalty to ourselves that will result in true and lasting happiness.

2. Being True to Ourselves (no matter what opposition we face)

The first step in my journey involved throwing off one chain that had kept me in bondage for decades. That chain was a belief taught to me by the LDS church and strongly reinforced by my LDS family and friends. It was the belief that questioning church doctrine was evil.

I’d always been taught that God would not allow our prophets or other church leaders to lead us astray.  I was taught that Joseph Smith, and all the church leaders which came after him, were God’s mouthpieces. In other words, even the desire to question doctrine, could only derive from one source: the devil. This belief caused me guilt and agnst when I felt doubts about Joseph Smith, the book of Mormon, and other issues with the church surface. I’d prayed, studied, and even faked my way along for many years. I just didn’t feel that burning in my bosom that so many Mormons in my life talked about. I just couldn’t bring myself to publicly declare a testimony of these things. As my activity in the church became more active and broad in scope, I found myself increasingly dancing around certain doctrinal points, many of which were central to the church.

Hand in hand with the cultural norm of infallibility of church leaders, was the strict admonition to avoid any non-church sanctioned publication or source for information. Yes, it is taught and widely accepted in the church that it is only appropriate to seek information regarding church doctrine and history from the church, itself.

One day, I threw off this chain and began my process of questioning church doctrine. It began with buying a book (which was NOT a church sanctioned publication), and quickly exploded into a full-on investigation involving many books and internet sources. My journey brought my  doubts into the light. Since that time, I have learned not to stifle my doubts. I enjoy operating on all cylinders, so to speak. I no longer conform to any cultural norm which requires me to curtail my thinking or put on any type of mask (be fake, in other words).

I have faced opposition in the form of scorn and judgement from LDS family and friends. I have paid a price, but it is one I’d gladly pay again and again for the deep and gratifying peace that has come from being true to myself. There is much to be said, too, for learning to limit ones vulnerability to attempts to inflict pain, guilt or manipulation by those who disagree with our chosen path to peace. I’m still in the process of mastering this area of my life.

3- Letting Go of Any Hope of an Outside Force (person, place or thing) Providing Happiness/Peace

The only person I can control is me. Efforts to control another only end in frustration and in destruction of healthy relations. No matter how deep a love, peace and happiness can only come from within. When we know ourselves and are true to ourselves, then we are in a position of being ready for a healthy relationship with another. Only then, can our happiness stand on it’s own, independent of any outside influence. When we are true to ourselves, we will naturally gravitate to healthy relationships.

Happiness has to come from within to be of any real or lasting value. Listen to yourself. Know yourself and be true to yourself. When you do this, letting go of outside influences on your happiness will come naturally.

Why I Left the Mormon Church

By TylerYoung


Introduction

 My motives for writing this are as follows:

  1. I wish to completely describe to my friends and family all of my reasons for leaving the Church. I don’t want anyone to think that I left the Church for anything but what I believe to be unprecedented evidence showing that the Church is not what it claims to be. It has nothing to do with my desire to sin, or being offended, or anything of the like.
  2. I also wish to help members who have been given filtered information on the origins of the LDS Church a true account of what really happened. I know that the Church encourages us to avoid studying the real history of the Church, and prefer us to read their filtered version. I don’t believe this is ethical. If the Church is true as it claims, a full account of its history will support such a claim.

I realize that there is a strong chance that those who read this will have their testimony weakened greatly, which in turn might make their life difficult if they choose to stay in the Church. My personal belief is that it’s important to pursue truth in all its forms, even if it doesn’t line up with what I want to be true. Before beginning my study I had to ask myself, “Knowing the truth might make me unhappy. Am I okay with this?” I ultimately decided that truth, to me, is more important than being happy. I hoped that the truth would make me happy, but I couldn’t tell beforehand whether or not that would be the case. My dedication to the truth compels me to be honest with myself, no matter how much pain and unhappiness that might cause me. To me it in more important to believe in an uncomfortable truth than a comfortable fantasy.

At the time of writing this, I am pleased to report that I have never been happier.

A warning

Before reading any further, I would like to pose a few questions.

Have you decided in your mind that you are 100% sure that Church is true and that nothing will ever change that belief for you?

If you just answered “Yes” then I kindly invite you stop reading. With all due respect, this will just be a waste of your time.

Are you a thinker, or do you simply believe everything that is told to you by your church leaders?

This paper is for people who are willing to think about things and analyze the situation with great care, consider evidence, rationally weighing both sides of the argument in their mind. If you’re more of a believer than a thinker, I really don’t think there’s anything in this document that will impress you.

Finally, If the Church wasn’t true, would you want to know it?

If you don’t even want to know if the Church might be false, your own preconceptions will probably keep you from knowing that any way. You most likely won’t believe anything written here.

Sources

All of the sources I include in this document are provided as links to Internet sites. This so you can quickly check sources as you read. In doing this, I realize that sources from books would be considered more scholarly. Let me make something clear: this is not a scholarly paper, and is not to be intended as such. Many of the points I make in this document have come from my reading of many different books, some of which are as follows:

*Active members of the Church

I would never expect anyone to read just this document and then decide to leave the Church. That’s irresponsible and don’t you dare do it! To get a full feeling of what this Church is all about to be able to make an educated and well-informed decision on whether or not to stay, I strongly recommend doing hundreds of hours of research and reading as many books as you can, as I have. Leaving Mormonism, as all Mormons would agree, is serious business.

This document is meant to be read online since it is full of Internet links. If you are reading a print out, you will miss out on being able easily to check sources. I recommend reading it online. The link to do so is http://bit.ly/whytylerleft.

Making comments

While you are reading, if there is something you would like to comment about, please go to mycommentspage. You don’t have to leave your name, and I’ll try to respond to anything written there.

Sharing this essay with others

You are absolutely free to share this essay with anyone you’d like! My only request is that you share it using the shortened link http://bit.ly/whytylerleft. This is easier to remember, and it also gives me statistics as to how often people read it (but I am never alerted of who is reading it. Confidentiality is strictly maintained here).

Blank sections

As you read, you might see sections with titles but little to no content. This is because this essay is still in progress. My research is ongoing, and as I find new information, I add it to this essay. Sometimes I add a title just to remind myself to research that section later.

Why the Church discourages studying its true history

The short answer: it’s not faith-promoting. A cold, hard fact I have come to realize while studying these things is that the Church really doesn’t care if something opposed to the Church is true or not. What’s most important is whether or not it helps build a testimony of the gospel. If it doesn’t – no matter how true it is – Church leaders will discourage its members from looking into it. (I cannot express with enough vigor how opposed I am to handling the situation in this way.)

A good example of Church leaders expressing how they stress studying faith-promoting material over true material was given by Boyd. K Packer in a 1981 talk to LDS Church Educators at a CES conference:

“There is a temptation for the writer or teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful.”

The way I and just about every non-Mormon reads this quote is that the Church is keeping their members ignorant for their own good. If it’s true that Joseph Smith was a convicted impostor before he became a prophet, it isn’t “useful” to the progress of the Church, so Church teachers shouldn’t teach it. I believe this is wrong.

I have seen both sides

As you read, remember that I am not just some anti-Mormon who has focused entirely on the bad history, and now I am sharing it with you. I was a Mormon for 28 years and believed all of it. I have served an honorable full-time mission in Brazil. I have been through the temple many times. I have read tons of Church books and have spent thousands of hours of my life strongly defending the Church’s stance.

I have seen many arguments both arguing for and and against the Church, and this is the stance I have ultimately decided to take: the Church isn’t true.

I am not closed-minded, however. Although my current conclusion is that the Church isn’t true, I am open-minded to arguments for the contrary. I feel as if I have heard most of those arguments, but if a new one comes along that strongly supports the Church, I am happy to hear it and truly consider it.

Truth

I want to discuss what I believe truth to be. A lot of the wording here I get from ChrisJohnson, who quoted it in hisYouTubevideo on why he left the Church.

Some facts about truth

If you think about it, it’s really odd that the Church tells us to avoid studying non-Church approved materials about their history. The real truth has nothing to hide. Truth is not afraid of being discovered and examined thoroughly, rather it is darkness and deception that hides behind the shadows in hopes of never being “found out”. You can examine truth from any angle and it will always remain true. Falsehood on the other hand can only be examined a few different ways before it becomes increasingly obvious that it is false. Truth tends to fit all the facts, while falsehood only fits a portion of all the facts. Falsehoods that persist for long periods of time (generation after generation) tend to have a propagation mechanism that takes advantage of human purposes, fears and desires. Everyone around you believes, so it’s very easy to just keep on believing it.

Truth cannot contradict itself or reality. When your beliefs start contradicting reality, in any other arena besides religion, people will tell you why it’s silly to believe in such a thing, and a sensible person will indeed stop. For some reason, though, religion takes a different approach by using a simple yet highly powerful principle: faith. Religions use faith as a method to get people to believe in things in spite of contradictory evidence. Richard Dawkins wordedit very eloquently when he said:

“Faith (belief without evidence) is a virtue. The more your beliefs defy the evidence, the more virtuous you are. Virtuoso believers who can manage to believe something really weird, unsupported and insupportable, in the teeth of evidence and reason, are especially highly rewarded.”

In this way, religions actually try and make it seem like it’s the weak-minded that believe in evidence over faith and the heroes that are able to still believe in something even though there is no logical reason to.

Faith is applied generously and desperately as the “cure all” solution to the world’s failing belief systems. It can be fun for a while, but again, it is not a great tool in helping us determine the truth. In fact, faith is only required where the facts are unknown. When solid independent data contradicts a personal or religious belief, the belief should be tossed, not held on to with an ever tighter grip for the sake of “faith” alone. Wise people drop their falsehoods when confronted with solid indisputable data. But being wrong is the most difficult thing to admit, and herein lies the biggest hurdle in finding the truth.

When seeking truth, physical data is better than faith or personal testimony. Why? People make assumptions. People can be biased. People make mistakes. People can give in to societal pressures. People can hallucinate. People can unintentionally forget important facts. People can unintentionally fabricate false memories. People can lie. People can persuade each other. People can have fragile emotional conditions that affect their perception or judgment. Physical data on the other hand can be gathered by independent sources, repeatably scrutinized and rigorously tested, measured, checked, peer reviewed, experimentally replicated and analyzed independent of biases. In other words, if someone says there was no tsunami in Japan “because they were there and experienced it first hand”, the overwhelming physical evidence will trump and invalidate his testimony.

When determining whether something is true or false we must remove ourselves as far away as possible from known human biases, prejudices, logical fallacies and other phenomenon that are commonly used to deceive people. This even means possibly sheltering ourselves from all of the “noise” around us in our organization and instead facing it on our own. We must remove ourselves from subjectivity, and even understand human nature as best we can if we are to gain any real understanding of truth. For example, it is a common fallacy to believe that “other people hallucinate, but I do not” or “Other people are stupid, but I am not” or “My spiritual experiences are real but other people’s spiritual experiences of other faiths are not real”. In essence, we must always consider when we might be wrong about something while others might be right. We must be open-minded.

When determining whether or not an organization is true or false, we must first understand what true and false organizations look like. Organizations that have truth and integrity do not need to tell their members to avoid or fear information that is critical of the organization. True organizations have nothing to fear, while those organizations that are fraudulent have a tendency to persuade their members to avoid, label, fear or cause them to feel negatively towards critical people or anti-literature. This is how a fraudulent organization survives in a world where information is increasingly more available.

How do we find truth? If we assume we have the truth, and we shield ourselves from outside opinion and outside influence by repeating to ourselves “Nothing can persuade me to believe otherwise….” then we have closed off a valuable portion of our brain that could help us in the case we are wrong. We have become closed-minded.

If our brains get flooded with endorphins or other “feel good hormones” while reading a particular spiritual book, or praying, it is a natural consequence that we humans interpret that to mean that the book or experience is significant in a divine way. It is not until we find people having these very same spiritual experiences all over the world while reading books and ideas that completely contradict one another that we realize that our brain is a delicate beast to handle indeed. An atheist can read “The God Delusion” and feel an amazing spiritual experience, while a Muslim can receive a powerful spiritual experience from the Koran. Both books plainly contradict the truths found in the Book of Mormon, so what are we to conclude?

To find truth we must look at all the data and see which theory fits all the facts, then toss all the theories that don’t fit. False religions generally do the opposite by assuming their theory is correct and then seek after facts that fit their theory and toss all the facts that do not fit their theory. Picking facts that fit your theory is a good way to persuade people, but not a good way to determine the truth.

It is quite a mind labyrinth to figure all of this out, I know. This is by design; the LDS Church in particular makes the puzzle seem much too daunting. “The history is full of much too many details”, they say, “and you can’t know which of it is true and which is a lie, so just trust the Church and avoid all of it”. And if we start to look at it anyway, everyone we know tells us over and over “Stop looking into this! Focus on church approved material only. This other stuff is only laden with deception.” We get scared because doing this goes against everything we’ve been taught. The Church strongly implies that we should remain in ignorance and only trust the materials our leaders authorize as it’s for our own good. They also try to put us in a sense of security, that all is well and there’s not even a reason to look any further beyond what they want us to see. They want us to just continue bearing strong testimony because it helps us convince ourselves that the entire thing is solid truth.

There have actually done studies on this and the most efficient way to get someone to believe in something is to get them to tell others about it while they are unsure, and the more they tell it, the more they convince themselves of it. We will come to a point when we will swear up and down that we “know” something, even if we actually don’t know it. When applying this principle to a religion, it’s extremely powerful because besides convincing ourselves as we bear testimony, it also creates strong emotions within us, which is why a lot of people cry. It doesn’t matter if what we are saying is true or false, the strong emotions combined with telling others we know it’s true (even if we don’t), will slowly but surely get us to convince ourselves that it definitely is true.

Despite the apparent goodness of the Church, in my opinion it sadly fits the resume of a false organization as I’ve outlined. What it does do properly, however, is teach true principles about morality that help people live better lives. It creates strong family bonds (as long as everyone is a member). It is run (I think) by honest people. The apostles aren’t trying to deceive. They are simply deceived themselves, are passionately convinced of it, and use their wisdom to guide the Church. In their wisdom, they can observe that when people study Church history, they fall away. The apostles aren’t trying to trick people into staying in an organization they secretly know is false; they simply strongly believe the Church is true, observe people leave the Church when researching the history, and consequently tell us not to do that.

I want the Church to be true

Even though I don’t believe the Church is true, please understand: I absolutely want it to be true. And I haven’t just written it off in my mind as “no possible way this Church can ever be true.” Quite the contrary. If there’s anything I’ve learned from this experience, it’s to never be sure of things. Although the current evidence strongly shows that the Church is a fraud, I am open to new evidence refuting my current beliefs.

What’s important to remember is that it doesn’t matter what you or I want to be true. If the Church were true, it’d be awesome. Becoming Gods and having spirit children in our own worlds? What could be better than that? I want that to be true! But, like I said, it doesn’t matter what you or I want to be true; what matters is what is true. Whether it instills happiness within us or not is irrelevant. (And as the common phrase goes: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.)

My method for determining truth

This report is the result, as I stated earlier, of hundreds of hours of research. I have scoured the Internet, emailed BYU history professors, read thousands of pages in books (written by both Mormons, ex-Mormons, and non-Mormons), as well as compared a large portion of my research against official Church positions and publications, along with the apologetic sites mentioned above. I like to believe that my research was as unbiased as humanly possible.

Remember, I started this research fully believing the Church to be true. I thought that the more I researched, the more apparent it would be that the Church was still true. This turned out to not be the case at all. The evidence against the Church I found to be more and more damning. And when I looked for a pro-Mormon response to each issue, I found them to almost always be very weak in comparison.

 

Things aren’t always as they seem

Mormonism has become the ingrained way of life for millions of people around the world. Good, hard-working, honest people at that. The LDS Church boasts some of the most honest people I have ever met. For teaching me such moral principles, I am grateful and will carry on that character for the rest of my days.

Being ingrained in Mormonism does create a lot of cognitive problems for its members, however. Here are some common thought patterns among Mormons:

  • What the general authorities tell me is true. I therefore do not need to doubt it for even a second.
  • The Spirit has testified that the church is true. I don’t need to consider any other possible ways of living my life.
  • When the prophet speaks, the thinking has been done for me. I must accept what he says and believe it with all of my heart.

Most Mormons who think like this become so convinced that they are in the true religion, when presented with staggering evidence that the Church is in fact not true, they just can’t see it. Instead of accepting the evidence, they make several assumptions:

  1. This evidence was created by the Devil.
  2. This evidence was created by dishonest people who are out to destroy the Church.
  3. This evidence is nothing compared to the evidence for the Church.

Let me now explain why I believe those are incorrect ways to think about it:

  1. Believing this evidence was created by the Devil is equal to thinking your own history books in school were created by the Devil. All it is is history, supported by massive amounts of evidence. Real historians don’t report information with a hidden agenda based on their religious beliefs (contrary to a lot of Church historians). Real historians just report the facts, and let others consider the implications.
  2. I’m sure some of the evidence was in fact created by people that are out to destroy the Church. There are always dishonest people out there. That’s why when you look at evidence, you always need to consider the source and what their motives might have been. The evidence becomes very believable, however, when many different people from different locations, backgrounds, and beliefs all provide evidence that leads to the same conclusion.
  3. The evidence for the Church versus evidence against the Church can, in my opinion, be compared to comparing an ant hill to Mount Everest. You can choose to believe in the evidence for the Church if you want. If you’re looking to live your life modeled after the whole truth and not the partial truth, however, it’s pretty irresponsible. Do not based your life off of extremely biased opinions.

Mormonism is a personal narrative in our brain

I’d like to describe Mormonism as a “personal narrative” inscribed in a Mormon’s brain. Their entire thought patterns are modeled after what the LDS Church has taught them. As I said before, when a believing member is presented with an astounding amount of evidence against the Church, they just can’t see it. This is really interesting to me. I know I was guilty of it for many years.

Craig Criddle, Ph.D, is a former Mormon who also had trouble “seeing it” for many years, and gave agreatexample describing why this is so:

The classic example is a woman with a cheating husband. Presented with evidence of her husband’s infidelity, she is forced to decide between a personal narrative built on past expressions of her love from her husband and their shared interdependence and a narrative consistent with new and painful information indicating that her husband has been sexually unfaithful to her. The conflict between these narratives results in what psychologists call “cognitive dissonance.” When this occurs, the stronger narrative suppresses the weaker. The more that the woman with a cheating husband fears the consequences of his infidelity, the more likely she is to deny evidence pointing to it. Her irrationality is obvious to her friends. If the situation were reversed — and it was one of her friends faced with the same evidence, she could easily perceive it and draw the correct conclusion. But her brain does not function rationally when the evidence threatens to destroy a relationship so central to her personal narrative. She cannot “see” the evidence because her unconscious mind fears it.

Like all thoughts and cognitions, our personal narratives are encoded within webs of neurons with their dendrites, axons, and synapses. The organization and structure of these webs affects our ability to perceive and interpret the world around us. Cats raised in an environment with no vertical components lacked cortical detectors for vertical shapes — they could not see anything in the vertical plane. So they walked into table legs. Pygmies walking out of the forest for the first time were incapable of grasping the significance of animals grazing on a plain hundreds of yards away. Their brains had not developed the capacity to process perspectives of vast distance. So they saw miniature animals. […]

The way in which stories control our perception of reality has helped me to understand my inability for many years to “see” things that now seem obvious. […T]he effects of cognitive dissonance are like an old fashioned set of scales. I had a treasured personal narrative sitting on one side of the scales. On the other was disconfirming evidence that steadily accumulated. Eventually, the scales tipped. For me, the final push seems to have also required an emotionally jarring family crisis. In any case, about ten years ago, I passed the “tipping point.” When that happened, a new set of foundation narratives — previously held at bay by my unconscious mind — slid into place. Unlike the previous foundation narrative, these were consensus scientific narratives based on evidence and reasoning. I could finally understand the history of the earth, the relatedness of living things, the origin of the human species, and the origins of races. It seemed like a revelation, a kind of enlightenment. Facts that before had seemed so disconnected or conflicting and had to be suppressed by cognitive dissonance suddenly made sense. But the new narratives did not explain the foundation narrative of my Tribe — where did it come from? It has taken years to understand that to my own satisfaction.

The argument in favor of the Church being true is based on almost no evidence, but rather the stories of Joseph Smith and whether or not you believe them. The argument against the Church calls into question Joseph Smith’s stories based on a massive amount of evidence that his stories were likely made up. There are many in and out of the Church, however, that find themselves somewhere in the middle of both arguments, and are uncertain. Criddle continues:

Uncertainties force us to deal in probabilities in assessing past and present reality. The challenge comes in assigning values to those probabilities. For example, how likely is it that Joseph Smith spoke with God and translated The Book of Mormon from plates of gold? Devoted and thoughtful Mormons will feel that they have adequately reviewed the evidence and are justified in believing to a probability of near 100% that these events occurred. Virtually all non-Mormons who have reviewed the same evidence conclude that the probability is close to 0%. We can learn a lot from a careful examination of the reasoning processes that different groups use to answer the same question.

The popular TV show CSI illustrates the probability assignment process. Forensic researchers gather testimony, bits of cloth, blood and DNA samples, insects, notes, and other evidentiary fragments — all with the aim of assembling the best possible narrative. They may begin with no suspects, but the evidence eventually leads to the formulation of a narrative, and the narrative points to a suspect. A probability can be assigned. The narrative guides the search for further evidence and the search leads to modifications in the narrative. So the process has a feedback loop. With each additional clue, probabilities change, and the narrative may also change. But in the TV show at least — if not always in real life — evidence piles upon evidence, until a pattern becomes clear, and the probability of one narrative becomes much larger than the competing alternatives.

What are you able to see? Are you like the woman with a cheating husband who knew all evidence pointed to him being unfaithful, but couldn’t see it because of your “personal narrative” of his love for you? Are you like the cats who couldn’t see vertical objects (like table legs) because your brain wasn’t developed to see such things? Are you like the pygmies whose brains hadn’t developed a depth perception, so they interpreted far away objects as “miniature”?

Could it be that so many Mormons can’t “see” the strong evidence against the Church because their brains have been trained not to? I know I was for many years. I’m totally guilty of this.

After many months of constant research, I feel I have gathered sufficient evidence to change my own personal narrative that was indoctrinated into my brain for 28 years that I “knew” the Church was definitely true. And let me tell you, once I was able to shake off the “Church is true” trance I was in, my rational brain took over, and the evidence against the Church was so much stronger than the evidence for it. I hope this paper helps you to see that, but it might take a lot of thinking.

Starting over

 

A great philosopher named Rene Descartes once gave hisopinion on the best way to determine truth: discard all preconceptions and personal beliefs and look at the world with fresh eyes.

If you are a true-believing Mormon reading this, you are most likely heavily biased to supporting the Church no matter what since you’ve been raised that way for probably many years, and possibly since a young child. The information the Church has taught you has been filtered to make it seem like the Church must be true; they have carefully avoided telling you anything that might hurt your “testimony”. Your view of the world is, thus, heavily skewed in favor of how you’ve been raised and with a strong bias. It is therefore near impossible for you to approach the possibly of the Church not being true because of that bias. This is unfortunately just the nature of Mormon psychology – it doesn’t allow for questioning or uncertainty.

I really believe in Descartes’ advice. To really decide if something is true, you need to start over in your mind. Pretend, if only temporarily, that you were not converted to Mormonism. Examine all of the evidence with as little bias as possible. You were not well-informed when you were taught the Church was true. Change that for yourself. Go back to the beginning, except this time, become well-informed on what Mormonism is all about by studying both sides of the story, and then make the decision again as to whether you really want to follow it.

 

The Spirit

 While on my LDS mission, I wanted to know if the Church was true. It was described to me by the Church that to know this, I needed to pray and ask God with real intent and faith in Christ. I decided to do this.

I specifically asked God in three separate prayers the following three questions:

  1. Is the Book of Mormon true?
  2. Was Joseph Smith a prophet?
  3. Is Jesus Christ the Savior?

After asking these questions, I had an identical response each time. It was exactly how it was described to me in LDS scripture, that is, a burning in the bosom. I concluded that since I had followed the Church’s methods for discovering truth, I had, in fact, learned for myself that the Church was true.

For many years following I proclaimed to others that I “knew” the Church was true. This made me happy. Even in writing this, the strong feelings I felt come back to my remembrance.

The Spirit led me astray when I really needed it

My younger sibling Casey got married before me, which can be pretty embarrassing in LDS culture. Shortly after, she became pregnant and the whole family was excited to take on their new roles as parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

One day she called me in tears and told me to come to her house to talk to her. She had just had a check-up in which the doctor was unable to find a heartbeat for the baby when listening with a stethoscope. He informed her that he was almost positive the baby had died. He also explained that the only way to be absolutely sure would be to get an ultrasound, something her and her husband’s insurance wouldn’t completely cover and would cost over $400.

Casey had received enough testimonies from other doctors and nurses that she was comfortable (yet mortified) with the conclusion that the baby was gone and was hesitant to pay for the ultrasound.

Disturbed by the terrible situation, I decided to pray about it. I specifically asked God if the baby was okay. To my great joy, I received a strong burning that the baby was in fact okay and an ultrasound would prove that. I left my apartment that day beaming with happiness as I felt like I “knew” everything was going to be alright.

After informing Casey and her husband Lukas about this, they agreed to get the ultrasound to prove to the doctors that the baby was in fact still there.

It wasn’t.

This might have been one of the most shocking moments of my life. The Spirit had strongly informed me that the baby was okay, and I felt like I knew that that was the case. Why did the Spirit trick me?

After talking to friends and church authorities, I was given several possible scenarios as to why I was misinterpreting the situation:

  1. It was in fact the Spirit, but it isn’t God’s plan at that time to let me know why he made me feel that way.
  2. I had been tricked by the Devil, who can mimic feelings of the Spirit.
  3. I simply wanted the baby to be there, so I let my emotions convince me it was still alive, when it really wasn’t.

These answers didn’t sit well with me, for these reasons:

  1. If it was the Spirit, God should have been able to see the future that sending me false feelings would lead me to doubt the Spirit as a reliable source for probably the rest of my life. Why would he do that?
  2. If it was the Devil, and his feelings can exactly mimic feelings from the Spirit, then what good is the Spirit anyway?
  3. If it was my emotions, why did God design the Spirit to feel exactly like my emotions? That’s not a reliable system for determining truth!

Once I realized that feelings of the Spirit had led me astray in this case, I wondered if the Spirit had led me astray in knowing the Church was true back on my mission when I prayed about it. While praying, I of course wanted it to be true very badly since I was about to serve a two year mission preaching it to be true. I realized that my desires for it to be true may have played a role in making me feel like it was true.

Despite what the Church had taught me, I had learned an importable principle: my feelings don’t make something true.

Using the Spirit to know the Church is true is circular reasoning

Look at this description of “circular reasoning” from Wikipedia:

Circular reasoning is a formal logical fallacy in which the proposition to be proved is assumed implicitly or explicitly in one of the premises. For example:

“Only an untrustworthy person would run for office. The fact that politicians are untrustworthy is proof of this.”

Such an argument is fallacious, because it relies upon its own proposition — “politicians are untrustworthy” — in order to support its central premise. Essentially, the argument assumes that its central point is already proven, and uses this in support of itself.

It is circular reasoning to use the Church’s instructions on finding out if the Church is true, since you need to already assume the Church is true before learning from the Church how to know it’s true. Here is a statement, parallel to the one above, to show how praying to know the Church is true is circular reasoning:

“The Spirit will manifest to you that the Church is true. The fact that the Church teaches to do it this way is proof that it works.”

This argument is fallacious, because it relies upon it’s own proposition – that the Church is true – in order to support its central premise – that the Spirit testifies that the Church is true. Essentially, the Church already assumes that itself true, and then uses its own instructions as a way to prove that it’s true.

This concept might be a little bit difficult to understand. Let me rephrase it.

Here are the steps the Church gives you to find out if the Church is true:

  1. Study out the doctrine of the Church in your mind and in your heart.
  2. Pray and ask God if the Church is true. If it’s true, you’ll feel a strong feeling in your heart.
  3. You now know the Church is true.

This sounds reasonable at first glance, but let’s reanalyze these steps.

  1. Study out the doctrine of the Church in your mind and in your heart.

○      This step makes sense. You should always study out everything you learn in your mind to decide if the data is valid.

  1. Pray and ask God if the Church is true. If it’s true, you’ll feel a strong feeling in your heart.

○      There is a big problem with this step, because for this to be a valid method for learning truth, you must already assume the Church is true since it’s the Church itself that teaches it. Since the only reason you’re doing this step is to learn if the Church is true, but the only way to trust this method is to already assume the Church is true as you’re doing it, the logic is faulty. It doesn’t make any sense! It’s circular reasoning.

  1. You now know the Church is true.

○      You feel like you know, but as described above, you can’t know it using this method. You really haven’t gained any knowledge at all.

Since next to no members notice this fallacy, Church leaders can come up with their own agenda to “prove” the Church is true based on what they know will already happen: people will pray and feel good about the Church since it teaches good principles. Whether Church leaders are aware of the fallacy or not, it is a trick.

Here’s a final example:

I know Joseph Smith is a prophet because the Spirit testifies.

I know it’s the Spirit testifying because of Moroni’s promise.

I know Moroni’s promise works because it’s in the Book of Mormon.

I know the Book of Mormon is true because the prophet Joseph Smith translated it.

And I know Joseph Smith is a prophet because the Spirit testifies.

Do you see how this type of logic doesn’t work?

The Spirit wreaks havoc on the world of religions

Why do other churches have members that feel the Spirit? As the LDS Church claims, all churches have some truth, so they will all feel the Spirit in some way. But is that really what’s going on here?

As I understand it, this is the situation of the religious world:

  • There are thousands of religions, of all sorts and sizes, all with conflicting doctrines.
  • Each one of them has many members in it who claim to know that their Church is the right one.
  • They “know” they’re right based on spiritual promptings in prayer.

All my life I thought I had had a special and unique experience that other people in other religions don’t experience. But that’s just not true. Mormonism isn’t special in its use of spiritual promptings as “proof” that the Church is true. That’s the method everyone uses in every religion.

Putting myself in a Muslim’s shoes

Coming to this realization was quite a shock to me: If I had been born in Saudi Arabia instead of Provo, Utah, I would have been raised a Muslim instead of a Mormon. Every night I would read the Quran instead of the Book of Mormon. I would follow the teachings of Mohammed instead of Joseph Smith. And I would believe it with the same exact same surety and conviction, using the Spirit and faith as my guide.

Likewise if a Muslim had been born into the Mormon Church, he would be a devout Mormon, read the Book of Mormon, worship Jesus Christ, and use the Spirit and faith as his reasoning.

Wow, following the religion you were raised in is really quite arbitrary. A person’s personal convictions to that religion don’t help their case either.

Testimonies from people in other religions

I don’t know why Mormons think that just because they feel the Spirit telling them that they’re in the right religion that that means it must be true. Look at these testimonies made by people of other faiths:

AMuslim:

“But what can I say? How can I describe an experience so profound and so beautiful? Shall I say that it was the most blessed experience of my life? Shall I say that [God] touched my heart and gave me a feeling of peace I had not known before? Shall I describe the tears that flowed freely from my eyes, affirming my […] faith, as I […] beg[ged] [God’s] blessings for myself and for those I love?”

ACatholic:

“As I read these books in a Roman bookstore, I felt a burning in my heart that I should come and investigate. My wife and I at that time had two children, and we made a decision that we should pray and fast for the four days that I would be gone […] I am reading now the writings of the Pope Benedict XVI regarding prophecy and private revelation. You find a beautiful bond between a proper caution regarding a reported message, and also openness to the Holy Spirit, and to prophecy and miraculous intervention. […] That tells us that the true position of the Church is caution, yes, but also openness to the Holy Spirit.”

AHindu:

“Young Shiva got his first revelation at age six. Without understanding much about the complex multitude of gods that make up the Hindu religion, he was attracted to temples. There he often felt a strong feeling of peace flowing through his body.”

NewAge:

“While on my journey, I was asking God what the truth was. I mean I was angry and I truly wanted to know. After a few weeks, I stumbled onto a web site that talked about the very things I was curious about. It answered my questions in a way that I had not heard of before. I read everything on the web site and I even tried the experiment of asking God for His love, His Divine Love. After about 6 weeks, I felt a burning in my chest and a sensation that was unlike anything I had ever felt.”

AMormon:

“The first time the missionaries gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon, it was like a jolt of electricity went though my body. From that moment, I knew that the Book of Mormon was the word of God. However, it was through study, prayer, and a confirmation from the Holy Ghost that I knew for certain this was true.”

All of these members of different religions are all feeling spiritual promptings that they’re in the right religion. How could they all be right, when all of these religions teach very different doctrines?

What is the Spirit then?

I, of course, don’t know. But as far as I can tell it’s one of two things:

  • It’s external: It really does come from God, but for some reason God is telling every last religion on earth that it’s the right one and they should stay in it. If Mormonism is the Church God wants everyone to join, this isn’t helping that goal in the slightest. I can’t believe God to be so wreckless and inconsistent.
  • It’s internal: It’s a biological function that our body creates. Nearly all active Mormons would definitely disagree with this. They will swear up and down that they “know” it’s coming from God because, well, they “just know”.

All I can say is, if God exists, I don’t believe he is using the Spirit to direct people. If I were to believe that, I would also have to believe in a God who doesn’t care about using his Spirit to lead people to the right Church. He’s leading everyone every which way into believing in many conflicting doctrines in many different religions.

Even if it made sense that God is simply sending his Spirit to testify of truth, wherever it may be, then how can Mormons be sure that it isn’t Mormonism that only has “partial truth” and that’s why we’re all feeling the Spirit about it, and really the “full truth” is in some other religion? Also, how can Mormons “know” that it isn’t internal?

The First Vision

I’d now like to begin the most lengthy part of this essay, and that is outlining evidence against the Church. Before I begin this first section on the First Vision, I’d like to share someimportantquotes by Gordon B. Hinckley, the late President of the LDS Church:

“Our entire case as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rests on the validity of this glorious First Vision. … Nothing on which we base our doctrine, nothing we teach, nothing we live by is of greater importance than this initial declaration. I submit that if Joseph Smith talked with God the Father and His Beloved Son, then all else of which he spoke is true. This is the hinge on which turns the gate that leads to the path of salvation and eternal life.” (Ensign Mag., Nov. 1998, pp.70-71)

“You and I are faced with the stark question of accepting the truth of the First Vision and that which followed it. On the question of its reality lies the very validity of this Church. If it is the truth, and I testify that it is, then the work in which we are engaged is the most important work on the earth.” (Fall Conference Address, 2007)

“Well, it’s either true or false. If it’s false, we’re engaged in a great fraud. If it’s true, it’s the most important thing in the world. Now, that’s the whole picture. It is either right or wrong, true or false, fraudulent or true. And that’s exactly where we stand, with a conviction in our hearts that it is true: that Joseph went into the Grove; that he saw the Father and the Son; that he talked with them; […] That’s our claim. That’s where we stand, and that’s where we fall, if we fall. But we don’t. We just stand secure in that faith.” (Interview “The Mormons”; PBS Documentary, April 2007)

Here is one final quote, this time from Joseph Fielding Smith:

“Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground. If Joseph Smith was a deceiver, who wilfully attempted to mislead the people, then he should be exposed; his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false, for the doctrines of an impostor cannot be made to harmonize in all particulars with divine truth. If his claims and declarations were built upon fraud and deceit, there would appear many errors and contradictions, which would be easy to detect.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1954, vol. 1, p. 188)

I believe that I have found many errors and contradictions in Joseph Smith’s amazing stories. I also found them easy to detect – it just took a lot of research. The only difficulty in detecting these contradictions I think would be when a true believer is unable to “see” it, as I described above. If you fear you may fall into that category, I invite you to open your eyes and read what everything here with an open mind and heart.

Problems with dates

During my research I have been able to closely study many details surrounding the story of the First Vision and try and put all the details together into a sensible timeline. What I came across was very troubling to me, as it seems all but sure that Joseph Smith’s First Vision story could not have happened in 1820 as he states, but must have happened (if at all) much later in at least 1824. The implications of this are not supportive of Joseph Smith’s honesty, as I explain later.

The following is a table comparing certain verses from his story of the events included in the Pearl of Great Price with actual historical data of his circumstances during that time.

Contradictions

Quote from “Joseph Smith – History” in the Pearl of Great Price

Actual circumstances

On when his family moved to Manchester

Verse 3: “In about four years after my father’s arrival in Palmyra, he moved with his family into Manchester in the same county of Ontario.”This is said to have happened prior to his First Vision, which means he is indicating that it happened during or before 1820. Joseph’s family wasn’t living in Manchester in 1820. They moved there in 1822.

On members of his family at the time

Verse 4: “[My] family consisting of eleven souls, namely, my father, Joseph Smith; my mother, Lucy Smith […]; my brothers, Alvin […], Hyrum, myself, Samuel Harrison, William, Don Carlos; and my sisters, Sophronia, Catherine, and Lucy. (Emphasis added.) He lists his sister Lucy here, yet she wasn’t born until 1821.

On a religious revival near his home

Verse 5: “Some time in the second year after our removal to Manchester*, there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country. Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties […].” (Emphasis added.)*Although Joseph indicates this happened in 1820, “[s]ome time in the second year after [their] removal to Manchester” would have been in or after 1824. There was no religious revival in 1820 in Manchester or Palmyra. There was, however, a very strong religious revival in from 1824to 1825 when Reverend George Lane came to Palmyra, which is near Manchester. Joseph Smith frequently mentioned how much Reverend Lane influenced him. Membership data for this area:In 1820:Baptist: Gained 8 membersPresbyterian: Gained 14 members

Methodist: Lost 6 members

In 1824:

Baptist: Gained 94 members

Presbyterian: Gained 99 members

Methodist: Gained 208 members

On when members his family joined Presbyterianism

Verse 7: “I was at this time in my fifteenth year. My father’s family was proselyted to the Presbyterian faith, and four of them joined that church, namely, my mother, Lucy; my brothers Hyrum and Samuel Harrison; and my sister Sophronia.”Joseph Smith’s “fifteenth year” would have been in 1820. Lucy, Hyrum, Samuel, and Sophronia had not yet joined Presbyterianism in 1820. They did, however, jointhereligion sometime in or after 1824. This is when Alvin died and they were looking for solace through religion.

More on when his mother joined Presbyterianism

Verse 20: “And as I leaned up to the fireplace, mother inquired what the matter was. I replied, […] “I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.” Telling his mother that Presbyterianism is not true would not have made sense in 1820 since she wasn’t a member of that church until 1824.

On religious persecution against him

Verse 22: “[…] I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, […] yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sectsall united to persecute me.”Joseph Smith being fourteen or fifteen years of age would have been in 1820 or 1821. There is no record of Joseph having told his First Vision to anyone before 1835 – a full 15 years after 1820. There are no accounts in the newspapers, by neighbors, preachers or even by the members of Joseph’s own family. He received no persecution from any religious sect in 1820. He was receiving persecution in 1824, however, but this was from professing to have found gold plates.

His own mother Lucyconfirms that there was not a religious revival until after 1823 when Alvin died:

“[…W]e all wept with one accord our irretrievable loss and it seemed as though we could not be comforted because he was not. About that time there was a great revival in religion and the whole neighborhood was very much aroused to the subject and we among the rest flocked to the meeting house to see if their [sic] was a word of comfort for us that might relieve our overcharged feelings.” (Emphasis added.)

This once again pushes the revival to 1824, and subsequently the First Vision. Yet Joseph says that the revival (and First Vision) happened three years before Alvin died.

 

Likely Conclusion: If Joseph Smith really did have a First Vision, it must have happened at the earliest in 1824 and not 1820, making Joseph at least 18-years-old instead of 14.

My Personal Interpretation: When I read Joseph’s story in the Pearl of Great Price, I easily pick up on the sheer amount of detail. Joseph is very specific throughout his narrative, which makes me believe he had a clear recollection of the events during this time in his life. Without looking for verification elsewhere, the story by itself is very convincing to me, and obviously to many others of the Mormon faith.

A common “get to know you” game played among Mormons is one called “Two Truths and a Lie” where everyone in a circle takes turns telling three stories about their life, one of them not being true. Others in turn try and guess which one is the lie. I’ve never been good at lying, so this game is somewhat distressing for me. The strategy I’ve come up with is to actually tell three truths, but in one of the stories simply tweak a detail or two, ultimately making it a “lie” by definition.

Now, if I were Joseph Smith and wanted to increase my prophetic influence by stating I had seen God and Jesus Christ, even though I actually hadn’t ever seen them, I wouldn’t want to tell a completely made-up story. That’s too dangerous. I would use the strategy I use in the “Two Truths and a Lie” game, namely, modifying a true event until it fits with the lie I am trying to perpetrate. In this case, it appears Joseph decided to tell a story of real events from his life that occurred in 1824, not 1820. I don’t know why he felt it necessary to make the event seem like it happened when he was 14, but the facts indicate that he was at least 18. What’s distressing to me is that in 1823, when he was 17, he had already seen and spoken with the Angel Moroni about the gold plates. This would mean that if his Angel Moroni story is true, he must have had the First Vision after seeing Moroni. According to Joseph Smith, however, this isn’t so. Look at these two verses from “Joseph Smith – History” in the Pearl of Great Price:

Verse 29: In consequence of these things, I often felt condemned for my weakness and imperfections; when, on the evening of the above-mentioned twenty-first of September [in 1823], after I had retired to my bed for the night, I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God for forgiveness of all my sins and follies, and also for a manifestation to me, that I might know of my state and standing before him; for I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I previously had one.

Verse 30: While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor.

(Emphasis added.)

Verse 29 states that he was expecting a manifestation since he had already received one in his First Vision. This must mean that, according to him, the Angel Moroni appeared after he had had the First Vision. But when comparing the details of history with the details of his story (as described previously), this couldn’t be so.

There’s no wiggle room for dates in the Angel Moroni story either since he consistently stated that his first encounter with the angel was on September 21, 1823, and then it took four tries to get the plates each year on September 22, namely in 1824, 1825, 1826, and 1827, when he finally got them. He has specific stories for each one of these attempts to get the plates each of the four times. Consequently, Joseph would not budge on the September 21, 1823 date as the first encounter with Moroni since it would throw off the rest of his story of meeting him once every four years on the same day.

 

Well, his affirmation of that date really implicates him. I can’t make sense of this story without the admission that Joseph Smith is, for some reason or another, either lying outright, or seriously confusing the details of when he had his First Vision. I would like to hope that he is simply getting confused, but I can’t possibly see how Joseph could think he saw God and Jesus Christ at 14 which led to his prayer expecting a similar manifestation, resulting in seeing Moroni, when the historical details mean that if the First Vision happened, it must have been after he saw Moroni and when he was 18. Nothing makes sense, unless I consider the possibility that he lied.

Joseph lied about being persecuted for telling the vision to others

Joseph claims that he was heavily persecuted for telling others about his vision. Look at verses 22-23 from his personal history:

“I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects all united to persecute me.

It caused me serious reflection then, and often has since, how very strange it was that an obscure boy, of a little over fourteen years of age, and one, too, who was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by his daily labor, should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter persecution and reviling. But strange or not, so it was, and it was often the cause of great sorrow to myself.” (Emphasis added)

It’s interesting how clear he is trying to make it that he was heavily persecuting by “all the sects” and that they were “all united to persecute” him, yet this simply isn’t true at all. If his story were true, someone would have mentioned it in history – one of enemies, one of his friends, or one of his family members. No one ever mentioned it!

The first records we have of Joseph telling anyone about a vision is after he started claiming that the Angel Moroni appeared to him. Then and only then do we have records of persecution, and plenty of it. This is of course many years after 1820.

Think about that – he apparently sees God and Jesus Christ in a spectacular vision in 1820, lies in his history saying he told everyone about it, but actually doesn’t even tell his own family. Then he sees an angel 1823, and immediately he tells his family. Does this make any sense?

Problems with family members’ accounts

The fact that his own family had no idea about it is evidence enough that he never told anyone about this vision in the 1820s. His brother William and mother Lucy both have given personal accounts of what they understood the First Vision to be. We must seriously consider personal accounts from Joseph’s own family members since they obviously knew him very personally for many years. If anyone has the most first hand knowledge of what Joseph had told them concerning visions, they did.

Here’s his brother William’s account, taken from hisownautobiography:

“In 1822 and 1823, the people in our neighborhood were very much stirred up with regard to religious matters by the preaching of a Mr. [George] Lane, an elder of the Methodist Church…..The consequences [of this growing religious revival] was that my mother, my brothers Hyrum and Samuel, older than I, joined the Presbyterian Church.  Joseph, then being about seventeen years of age [1823], had become seriously inclined, although not ‘brought out’, as the phrase was, began to reflect and inquire, which of all these sects was right…..He continued in secret to call upon the Lord for a full manifestation of his will, the assurance that he was accepted of him, and that he might have an understanding of the path of obedience.

At length he determined to call upon the Lord until he should get a manifestation from him.  He accordingly went out into the woods and falling upon his knees called for a long time upon the Lord for knowledge.  While engaging in prayer a light appeared in the heavens, and descended until it rested upon the trees where he was.[…] An angel then appeared to him and conversed with him upon many things.  He told him that none of the sects were right; but that if he was faithful in keeping the commandments he should receive, the true way should be made known unto him; that his sins were forgiven, etc. […] The angel had also given him a sort account of the inhabitants who formerly resided upon this continent, a full history of whom he said was engraved on some plates which were hidden, and which the angel promised to show him[…].”

What would immediately draw the attention of anyone who is familiar with the Pearl of Great Price version of the account is that William’s account seems to be merging the First Vision with with the Angel Moroni story. He puts the religious revival in 1823, but specifically states that it was Reverend Lane that stirred his neighborhood in regards to religion and he didn’t visit Palmyra until 1824. William also describes how it was through Joseph’s desire to know the true Church which led him to pray and receive a visitation from “an angel”, who in turn tells him that no church was true, and then proceeds to tell him about the gold plates. God the Father and Jesus are not involved anywhere in the story.

And here’s his mother Lucy’s account, taken from herownautobiography:

“One evening we were sitting till quite late conversing upon the subject of the diversity of churches that had risen up in the world and the many thousand opinions in existence as to the truth contained in scripture. […] After we ceased conversation he [Joseph] went to bed and was pondering in his mind which of the churches were the true way but he had not laid there long till he saw a bright light enter the room where he lay.  He looked up and saw an angel of the Lord standing by him.  The angel spoke, I perceive that you are enquiring in your mind which is the true church.  There is not a true church on earth.”

Once again, like William’s account, Lucy’s account also merges the First Vision with the Angel Moroni story. Wanting to know which church to join is what led Joseph to pray, and have the angel appear to him in his bedroom to tell him no church was true.

Problems with accounts by early prophets and apostles

 

In complete agreement with Joseph’s family accounts above, all of the early church leaders also had no idea that Joseph had declared that God the Father and Jesus Christ had appeared to him. It seems that in the first 50 years since the First Vision was supposed to have happened, that whenever the church leaders referred to the First Vision, they were actually referring to the visit of the Angel Moroni and not the First Vision by God the Father and Jesus.

Look at the following accounts by early church leaders and notice how they are merging the First Vision and Angel Moroni story into one single account that it was the Angel Moroni that told Joseph to not join any religion, with no mention of God or Jesus at all:

Orson Hyde in 1854:

“Some one may say, ‘If this work of the last days be true, why did not the Saviour come himself to communicate this intelligence to the world?’ Because to the angels was committed the power of reaping the earth, and it was committed to none else.” (General Conference Address, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6, p.335) (Emphasis added.)

Brigham Young in 1855:

“The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven, in power and great glory, nor send His messengers panoplied with aught else than the truth of heaven, to communicate to the meek the lowly, the youth of humble origin, the sincere enquirer after the knowledge of God. But He did send His angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith Jun., who afterwards became a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day, for they were all wrong; that they were following the precepts of men instead of the Lord Jesus; that He had a work for him to perform, inasmuch as he should prove faithful before Him.” (Journal of Discourses 2:170-171) (Emphasis added.)

Wilford Woodruff in 1855:

“That same organization and Gospel that Christ died for, and the Apostles spilled their blood to vindicate, is again established in this generation. How did it come? By the ministering of an holy angel from God,… The angel taught Joseph Smith those principles which are necessary for the salvation of the world;… He told him the Gospel was not among men, and that there was not a true organization of His kingdom in the world.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol.2, pp.196-197) (Emphasis added.)

Heber C. Kimball in 1857:

“Do you suppose that God in person called upon Joseph Smith, our Prophet? God called upon him; but God did not come himself and call, but he sent Peter to do it. Do you not see? He sent Peter and sent Moroni to Joseph, and told him that he had got the plates.” (Journal of Discourses, vol.6, p.29) (Emphasis added.)

John Taylor in 1863:

“How did this state of things called Mormonism originate? We read that an angel came down and revealed himself to Joseph Smith and manifested unto him in vision the true position of the world in a religious point of view.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 10, p.127)

George A. Smith in 1863:

“When Joseph Smith was about fourteen or fifteen years old,…he went humbly before the Lord and inquired of Him, and the Lord answered his prayer, and revealed to Joseph, by the ministration of angels, the true condition of the religious world. When the holy angel appeared, Joseph inquired which of all these denominations was right and which he should join, and was told they were all wrong,…” (Journal of Discourses, Vol.12, pp.333-334) (Emphasis added.)

George A. Smith again in 1869:

“He sought the Lord by day and by night, and was enlightened by the vision of an holy angel. When this personage appeared to him, of his first inquiries was, ‘Which of the denominations of Christians in the vicinity was right?‘ ” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p.77-78 June 20, 1869)

At this point we are at 49 years after the date Joseph Smith pinned the First Vision, that is, 1820 and no church leaders seem to have any clue about it. Compare this with Joseph’s ownaccount, way back earlier in 1820, when he was telling everyone about the vision:

“So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.”

Since we have no newspapers, journals, official publications, testimonies from family members, church leaders, or anyone else that Joseph ever told his First Vision to anyone prior to at least 15 years after it supposedly happened, are we really to believe here that Joseph Smith told so many people that “this was common among all the sects—all united to persecute” him for saying he had seen a vision?  Joseph says, “they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying […] that I had seen a vision”. We have not a single record of this happening, and church leaders didn’t have a clue about it for more than the first 50 years of the history of the Church.

Problems with Joseph Smith’s own accounts

 

I was surprised and excited (at first) to learn that there were multiple first-hand accounts of the First Vision from Joseph Smith himself. The most popular version is, of course, the version we find in “Joseph Smith – History” which was written in 1838 and published in 1842. The first known account we have was actually written in 1832 by Joseph Smith’s own hand and it contains many similarities to his 1838 account. It also, unfortunately, contains some glaring contradictions:

Contradictions

1832 account detail

1838 account detail

On his knowledge of religious truth

Before having the vision, he states “[…] by searching the scriptures I found that mankind did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatised from the true and living faith and there was no society or denomination that [was] built upon the Gospel of Jesus Christas recorded in the New Testament” (Emphasis added and misspellings corrected.)In other words, he had already decided that all the churches were wrong before praying to have the vision. He discovered this from reading the scriptures. During the vision, he states “I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)” (Emphasis added.)In other words, he had no idea that all of the churches were wrong. He learned this from Jesus during the vision.

On who God is

“[…] my heart exclaimed all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotent and omnipresent power, a being who maketh laws and decreeeth and bindeth all things in their bounds who filleth Eternity”(Emphasis added and misspellings corrected.)In other words, God is an omnipresent power and fills eternity. (I explain why this is clear later on.) “When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. […] One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointingto the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Emphasis added.)In other words, God is man with a body of flesh and bones, and is physically separate from Jesus.

On who appeared to him in the vision

“[…] the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness and while in [the] attitude of calling upon the Lord <in the 16th year of my age> a pillar of light above the brightness of the sun at noon day came down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the Spirit of God and the [Lord] opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lordand he spake unto me saying Joseph [my son] thy sins are forgiven thee.” (Emphasis added and misspellings corrected.)In other words, Joseph sees Jesus in the vision, but does not see God the Father (or at least fails to mention it – quite a large detail to omit). “When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air.” (Emphasis added)In other words, Joseph sees both Jesus and God the Father as two separate and physical men.

There are actually several other small contradictions, but I rather choose to focus on these three.

On his knowledge of religious truth – To me, it’s unacceptable that in one version he would state that he already knows all religions are false before praying, while in the other version he is surprised to learn this from Jesus. This fundamentally changes his reasoning for praying. In the 1832 account, he talks about needing forgiveness for his sins, then on the grandeur of God, then simply mentions praying to obtain mercy as his reason to pray. In the 1838 account, he feels like the true church is somewhere on earth, but doesn’t know which one it is, so he prays to specifically ask which one to join. These are very different reasons for praying.

On who God is – It is very telling when Joseph Smith describes God as an omnipresent power (meaning he is present in all places), also describing him as filling all eternity (once again stating that he thinks God is present in all places)…

On who appeared to him in the vision – …and then within the vision he clearly leaves out God the Father in his description of who appeared to him. I know many Mormon apologists will state that he didn’t say that God wasn’t there, he just didn’t mention him. I don’t buy that. If God himself clearly appeared to Joseph, that is the most important detail in the whole story. If there was ever a detail in any story in the history of the world NOT to leave out, this is it!

In December 1834, Oliver Cowdery – with the help and approval of Joseph Smith – published anaccount of the Angel Moroni in the Messenger and Advocate. One part is interesting, as he is talking about why Joseph was praying in his bedroom that night:

“And it is only necessary for me to say, that while this excitement continued, he continued to call upon the Lord in secret for a full manifestation of divine approbation, and for, to him, the all important information, if a Supreme being did exist, to have an assurance that he was accepted of him.” (Emphasis added.)

So he sees God face to face in 1820, yet in 1823 he’s praying to know if God even exists?

Here’s a review of the evidence that he didn’t see God in that vision:

  • In 1832 when he writes the account out, he describes God as an omnipresent power that fills eternity.
  • He only mentions seeing Jesus in the vision.
  • He has Oliver Cowdery publish an account in 1834 stating that he prayed in 1823 to know if God even existed – a full 3 years after he had apparently already seen God face to face.
  • He didn’t even believe God was physically separate than Jesus Christ until around 1837 (discussed later), so it would make sense that in 1832, if he was making up the First Vision story, he wouldn’t describe God and Jesus Christ as both being there. (And if he had seen God in 1820, I don’t see why he was even confused about this at all.)

These details seriously give credence to the fact that God wasn’t there because Joseph didn’t believe him to have a physical body at this point in his life.

Joseph joins the Methodist Church, even though God commands him not to

If you recall, God specifically told Joseph not to join any Church. Here is the verse from Joseph’s history:

“…I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt”

Yet Joseph didjoin with the corrupt Churches, specifically the Methodist one, and was asked to leave:

Emma’s uncle, Nathaniel Lewis, preached as a lay minister of the local Methodist Episcopal church. His congregation met in the homes of the members for Sunday services. On Wednesdays a regular circuit preacher visited Harmony. In the spring or summer of 1828 Joseph asked the circuit rider if his name could be included on the class roll of the church. Joseph “presented himself in a very serious and humble manner,” and the minister obliged him.

When Emma’s cousin, Joseph Lewis, discovered Joseph’s name on the roll, he “thought it was a disgrace to the church to have a practicing necromancer” as a member. He took the matter up with a friend, and the following Sunday, when Joseph and Emma arrived for church, the two men steered Joseph aside and into the family shop. “They told him plainly that such character as he . . . could not be a member of the church unless he broke off his sins by repentance, made public confession, renounced his fraudulent and hypocritical practices, and gave some evidence that he intended to reform and conduct himself somewhat nearer like a christian than he had done. They gave him his choice to go before the class, and publicly ask to have his name stricken from the class book, or stand a disciplinary investigation.” Joseph refused to comply with the humiliating demands and withdrew from the class. His name, however, stayed on the roll for about six more months, either from oversight or because Emma’s brother-in-law, Michael Morse, who taught the class, did not know of the confrontation. When Joseph did not seek full membership, Morse finally dropped his name.”

God commanded Joseph to join none of the Churches of his day since they were an “abomination in his sight”. Yet Joseph defied a direct commandment God told him face to face to not do, and went ahead and did it. I guess God didn’t say it loud enough for Joseph to take him seriously.

Moroni or Nephi? A dream or a vision?

The following is alist of all the known accounts of people retelling the story of the Angel Moroni visit. Notice how often people are confused as to whether Joseph had a dream or a vision, or whether the angel was Nephi or Moroni.

When

Who said it

Source

Who appeared and how

1827 Willard Chase Addidavit of 1833 A spirit in a vision
1827 Rev. John. A Clark Account of Martin Harris published in 1842 An angel in a dream
1828-9 Cousin of Emma Smith A letter A ghost in a dream
1829 Joseph Smith Palmyra Freeman A spirit in a dream
1830 Peter Bauder Interview with Joseph Smith published in 1842 An angel
1830 Parley P. Pratt Letter from Amherst An angel in a dream
1832 A History of the Life of Joseph Smith An angel
1834-5 Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith Messenger and Advocate An angel
1835 Olivery Cowdery and Joseph Smith Messenger and Advocate An angel named Moroni
1835 Joseph Smith His journal An angel
1838 Joseph Smith Joseph Smith – History An angel named Nephi (altered after Joseph’s death to be Moroni)
1838 Joseph Smith Elder’s Journal An angel named Moroni
1842 Joseph Smith Times and Season An angel named Nephi
1842 Joseph Smith Wentworth Letter An angel
1842 Millenial Star An angel named Nephi
1842 Millenial Star (Editorial) An angel named Nephi
1842 Martin Harris Gleanings, p. 226 An angel in a dream
1844 Joseph Smith An account written by Joseph Smith An angel
1845 Lucy Mack Smith Biography An angel
1851 Joseph Smith Pearl of Great Price (1st Edition; handwritten copies) An angel named Nephi
1853 Lucy Mack Smith History of Joseph Smith An angel named Nephi
1859 Martin Harris Tiffany’s Monthly An angel

Let’s look at the results from these 24 accounts:

  • All 24 agree that an angel, spirit, or ghost appeared.
  • 4 say it happened in a dream
  • 6 say the angel’s name was Nephi
  • 2 say the angel’s name was Moroni

Why do so many people think it was only a dream? Why do so many people (including Joseph) think the angel’s name was Nephi?

Here are direct quotes from the different publications of the Pearl of Great Price:

1851 Version

CurrentVersion

Page 41: He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Nephi […]. Verse 32: He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni […].

Joseph Smith’s changing view of the Godhead

 If you ask any Mormon today in what form God is, the answer will undoubtedly come that he is in man’s image with a physical body of flesh and bones. This is definitely what the Church consistently teaches, and has taught ever since the beginnings of the Church back in the 1830s.

In my studies, I learned that this doctrine doesn’t go back quite as far as 1830, however. It seems to go only as far as about 1837 when it shifts into a monotheistic belief, nearly identical to the Trinity belief common in the Catholic church.

It’s bad enough that Joseph changes his doctrine on the Godhead. The biggest problem with this is that he changed his First Vision story as his personal beliefs about God changed. This strongly indicates that the First Vision was never even a true story to begin with. (I explain this in a later section.)

 

Pre-1837 view of the Godhead

Many members are familiar with the church publication “LecturesonFaith” which used to be in the scripture canon up until 1921. The lectures were presented by Joseph Smith, Jr. to a group of elders in a course known as the “School of the Prophets” in the early winter of 1834-35 in Kirtland, Ohio. It is a great example of Joseph Smith’s theological views in 1835.

Lecture Five is the most intriguing to me since it describes the nature of God. I recommend reading the fullaccount, but here are some key excerpts I would like to focus on:

“There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things […] –They are the Father and the Son: The Father being a personage of spirit, glory and power: possessing all perfection and fulness: The Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, made, or fashioned like unto man, or being in the form and likeness of man, or, rather, man was formed after his likeness, and in his image […] and is called the Son because of the flesh” (Emphasis added.)

Notice the part I italicized. Joseph Smith states that God is a personage of spirit, while Jesus is a personage of tabernacle, meaning he has a body.

Q. Was it by the Father and the son that all things were created and made, that were created and made?

A. It was. Col. 1: 15,16,17. Who is the image of the invisible God, the first born of every creature; for by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible […].

Here he says that God is invisible. An apologist may state that this simply means that people don’t see him since he rarely manifests himself. Given Joseph’s other descriptions, I don’t think so. Here’s another example:

Q. Does [the Son] possess the fulness of the Father?

A. He does. Col. 1:19. 2:9. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell. For in him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. Eph. 1:23. Which is his (Christ’s) body, the fulness of him that fills all in all.

He once again is implying that Christ represents the Godhead in body form, implying that God the Father does not have a body.

To the reader who is confused as to where the Holy Ghost plays into this primitive Church belief of the Godhead, look at the answers to these three questions:

Q. How many personages are there in the Godhead?

A. Two: the Father and the Son. […]

Q. Do the Father and the Son possess the same mind?

A. They do. […]

Q. What is this mind?

A. The Holy Spirit. […]

In summary, this lesson teaches the reader that there are two personages in the Godhead, the Father and the Son. The Father is a personage of spirit, while the Son is a personage of tabernacle, meaning he has a body. The Father and Son share the same mind, which is the Holy Spirit. This is all very different from what Mormons are taught today.

In 1830, Joseph wrote a book called the “Vision of Moses”, which would later become the Book of Moses and be included in the Pearl of Great Price. The creation of the earth is outlined in detail as being performed by God. The phrase “I, God” is used in the book 35 times starting in chapter 2, about once every verse, and several more times in chapter 3 (the final chapter in the book). There is no evidence whatsoever of a plurality of Gods being involved in the creation.

Heresanotherexample of Joseph Smith having a monotheistic belief prior to 1837. As most members know, he modified certain verses in the Bible into what he would call his “Inspired Version” in 1833. One verse in the Bible seemed to indicate that the Father and the Son were separate. Joseph Smith actually modified the verse to more clearly show that the Father and the Son are one! Remember, he has supposedly already seen both of them clearly as two separate individuals. Look:

Luke 10:22 – King James Version

Luke 10:22 – Joseph Smith Translation

All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him. All things are delivered to me of my Father; and no man knoweth that the Son is the Father, and the Father is the Son, but him to whom the Son will reveal it.

Pay attention to what he changed. Originally it stated that only the Father and the Son fully understand each other. Joseph Smith changed it to mean that the Son is the Father and the Father is the Son, and only They understand how that works.

As already mentioned, in Joseph Smith’s 1832 account of the First Vision, he indicates that God doesn’t have a body. Here it is again for easy reference:

“[…] my heart exclaimed all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotent and omnipresent power, a being who maketh laws and decreeeth and bindeth all things in their bounds who filleth Eternity” (Emphasis added and misspellings corrected.)

Joseph Smith’s monotheistic view is also apparent throughout the Book of Mormon which was first published in 1830:

Monotheistic Verses in The Book of Mormon

Mosiah 15:1-3

And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people. And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son — The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and the Son.

Mosiah 16:15

Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father. Amen.

Alma 11:39

Now Zeezrom saith again unto him: Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father? And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth, and all things which in them are; he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last[.]

Ether 3:14

Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son.

Ether 4:12

[…H]e that will not believe me will not believe the Father who sent me. For behold, I am the Father, I am the light, and the life, and the truth of the world.

(There are actually many more monotheistic verses, but including them all would be repetitive.)

Curiously, there are only four verses which do indicate that the Father and the Son are separate beings. I discuss these in the next section.

Post-1837 view of the Godhead

For reasons that are difficult to know, Joseph Smith changedhismind on who the Godhead was some time around 1837. A great example of this are verses that he modified in the Book of Mormon from the original 1830 version to the 1840 version. Take a look:

Original 1830 Version

Revised 1840 Version*

1 Nephi 11:18

And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh. Source And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh. Source

1 Nephi 11:21

And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, even the Eternal Father! Source And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Source

1 Nephi 11:32

And I looked and beheld the Lamb of god, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Everlasting God, was judged of the world. Source And I looked and beheld the Lamb of god, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the Everlasting God, was judged of the world. Source

1 Nephi 13:40

These last records […] shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world. Source These last records […] shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world. Source

*These verses also match the current version found at scriptures.lds.org.

He modified these verses because in 1830, he didn’t believe that God and Jesus Christ were separate physical beings. When he changed his mind, he was so embarrassed at his previous beliefs that he decided to go back and modify the Book of Mormon to fit his new beliefs. The newedition was published in 1840.

Notice also how all of these verses are in First Nephi. Joseph Smith most likely intended to modify all the verses, but was never able to finish. (He lived a very exciting and busy life.)

In 1835, Joseph Smith began writing the Book of Abraham, which was published in the Times and Seasons in three installments on March 1, 15, and 16 in 1842. Chapters 4 and 5 describe the creation story as he had outlined in the Book of Moses in 1830. The Book of Abraham, however, consistently describes the creation being effected by Gods in the plural, while the Book of Moses consistently describes God in the singular. Look at the following chart that compares similar verses from the first ten verses Book of Moses from 1830 and the same parallel verses in Book of Abraham from 1842:

The Book of Moses (from 1830)

The Book of Abraham (from 1842)

2:2 […] my Spiritmoved upon the face of the water; for I am God. 4:2 […] and the Spirit of the Gods was brooding upon the face of the waters.
2:3 And I, God, said: Let there be light; and there was light. 4:3 And they (the Gods) said: Let there be light; and there was light.
2:4 And I, God, saw the light; and that light was good. And I, God, divided the light from the darkness. 4:4 And they (the Gods) comprehended the light, for it was bright; and they divided the light, or caused it to be divided, from the darkness.
2:5 And I, God, called the light Day; and the darkness, I called Night […]. 4:5 And the Gods called the light Day, and the darkness they called Night […].
2:6 And again, I, God, said: Let there be a firmament in the midst of the water, and it was so, even as I spake […]. 4:6 And the Gods also said: Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters […].
2:7-8 And I, God, made the firmament and divided the waters […a]nd I, God, called the firmament Heaven[.] 4:7-8 And the Gods ordered the expanse [..a]nd the Gods called the expanse, Heaven[.]
2:9 And I, God, said: Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and it was so; and I, God, said: Let there be dry land; and it was so. 4:9 And the Gods ordered, saying: Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the earth come up dry; and it was so as they ordered;
2:10 And I, God, called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters, called I the Sea; and I, God, saw that all things which I had made were good. 4:10 And the Gods pronounced the dry land, Earth; and the gathering together of the waters, pronounced they, GreatWaters; and the Gods saw that they were obeyed.

This goes on for much longer. I only include here the first ten parallel verses as to not bore you, but if you would like to compare the rest for yourself, it lines up perfectly like this for two chapters, the Book of Moses inferring one God and the Book of Abraham inferring multiple Gods for the same events.

Returning to the First Vision

Understanding now how Joseph Smith’s Godhead doctrine changed post-1837, we can now return to the topic of the First Vision. Let’s take a second look at the last two contradictions from the table outlined previously:

Contradictions

1832 account detail

1838 account detail

On who God is

“[…] my heart exclaimed all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotent and omnipresent power, a being who maketh laws and decreeeth and bindeth all things in their bounds who filleth Eternity”(Emphasis added and misspellings corrected.)In other words, God is an omnipresent power and fills eternity. “When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. […] One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointingto the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Emphasis added.)In other words, God is man with a body of flesh and bones, and is physically separate from Jesus.

On who appeared to him in the vision

“[…] the [Lord] opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lordand he spake unto me saying Joseph [my son] thy sins are forgiven thee.” (Emphasis added and misspellings corrected.)In other words, Joseph sees Jesus in the vision, but does not see God the Father (or at least fails to mention it – quite a large detail to omit). “When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air.” (Emphasis added)In other words, Joseph sees both Jesus and God the Father as two separate and physical men.

Remember, the 1832 account was written while he believed in the Trinity, namely, the Father and the Son are one. They would therefore not be separate physical beings under this doctrine, and Joseph Smith’s account portrays this clearly: only the Son appears because he represents the Godhead bodily while the Father fills eternity and is an “omnipresent power” (meaning present in all places at the same time). It agrees perfectly with his pre-1837 beliefs. The 1838 account was written when he believed that God the Father and the Son were separate physical beings. They would therefore both appear separately in that version of the vision, and that’s exactly what he describes.

Here are a couple of key points I would like to make at this point:

  1. 1.    If the First Vision is a true story, details cannot change as your personal beliefs change! Either God the Father was physically and visibly there, or he wasn’t. It doesn’t matter if in 1832 Joseph didn’t believe that God the Father was a separate being with flesh in bones. If God had appeared to him, Joseph would have had to have changed his mind on who God is. And he undoubtedly would have included such a key detail in describing the story. Unfortunately his story evolves as his personal beliefs evolve. True stories do not evolve.
  2. 2.    Also, if Joseph Smith really saw God and Jesus Christ as two separate physical beings, he shouldn’t have taught that there were one in the same up until 1837. He should have made it very clear in the Book of Mormon, Book of Moses, Lectures on Faith, the 1832 First Vision account, and his translation of the Bible (among many other sources not mentioned in this document) that they are separate beings. Having such a powerful experience should have inspired to always make it very clear to everyone that they were separate. Did he forget that he clearly saw them as two personages, as he so emphatically proclaimed in his 1838 account of the vision?

A chronology of Joseph Smith’s beliefs in the Godhead

1830 – Joseph publishes the Book of Mormon which consistently describes God the Father and Jesus Christ as the same being.

1830 – Joseph writes the Book of Moses and describes a single God creating the earth.

1833 – Joseph completes his translation of the Bible, changing verses to make it more clear to the reader that God the Father and Jesus Christ are one in the same.

1832 – Joseph writes a personal account of the First Vision, describing God as an omnipresent power that fills eternity, and Jesus as the only figure that appears to him in his vision.

1835 – Joseph gives his Lectures on Faith and describes God as an invisible personage of spirit, and Jesus as a personage of tabernacle who represents the body of the Godhead.

~1837 – Joseph changes his mind and decides that God and Jesus are separate physical beings. He starts “cleaning up” what he previously taught.

1838 – Joseph rewrites his First Vision to account for this change in belief and now includes God the Father in the vision as a separate Being than Jesus Christ. Note: This seriously calls into question whether or not the First Vision is even a true story at all.

1840 – Joseph publishes a new edition of the Book of Mormon adding “the Son of” to four verses to reflect his new belief that Jesus is separate than God the Father, while leaving many verses still indicating that there are one in the same. Note: This seriously calls into question whether or not the Book of Mormon really was translated by the power of God.

1842 – Joseph publishes the Book of Abraham and describes the creation story again (like he had in the Book of Moses), but this time describing the creation as being done by “the Gods” instead of “God”.

Joseph has created a lot of confusion on whether God and Jesus are one Being or two. The Church deals with this by saying that whenever the scriptures describe them as one, it merely means they are one in purpose. This covers all of their bases.

Joseph Smith made money by tricking people before he became a prophet

Before Joseph Smith became the prophet of Mormonism, his income came from tricking people. He would say that he knew where buried treasure was by looking in his seer stone, and gullible people would trust him. They would pay him money, he would look in the stone, and then he would tell them where they could dig to find buried treasure. No one ever found any buried treasure. Finally, for being such a public nuisance, in 1826 he was arrested for being a “disorderly person and an impostor” and was found guilty.

The first publication of the account was published by Abrahm W. Benton in Evangelical Magazine & Gospel Advocate in 1831. Hestates:

“For several years preceding the appearance of his [Book of Mormon], he was about the country in the character of a glass-looker: pretending, by means of a certain stone, or glass, which he put in a hat, to be able to discover lost goods, hidden treasures, mines of gold and silver, &c. Although he constantly failed in his pretensions, still he had his dupes who put implicit confidence in all his words. In this town, a wealthy farmer, named Josiah Stowell, together with others, spent large sums of money in digging for hidden money, which this Smith pretended he could see, and told them where to dig; but they never found their treasure.

“At length the public, becoming wearied with the base imposition which he was palming upon the credulity of the ignorant, for the purpose of sponging his living from their earnings, had him arrested as a disorderly person, tried and condemned before a court of Justice. But, considering his youth, (he being then a minor,) and thinking he might reform his conduct, he was designedly allowed to escape. This was four or five years ago. From this time he absented himself from this place, returning only privately, and holding clandestine intercourse with his credulous dupes, for two or three years.”

Although I am not including any more sources here for reasons of brevity, this 1826 trial absolutely happened and he was found guilty of tricking people, i.e. being an “impostor”. Remember, 1826 is only one year before he begins translating the golden plates, another “treasure” he found. Guess what stone he used to translate the Book of Mormon? The same stone he used to trick people into digging for hidden treasures that got him arrested. The same stone that never revealed any truth to him about anything.

Joseph Smith’s polygamy and polyandry

My whole life I’ve known that early leaders of the Church participated in polygamy. It was of course pretty odd for me, but I was trained to treat the whole situation. For some reason I was never aware that Joseph Smith had practiced polyandry as well. Look at thischart, which was compiled by an active member of the Church:

Wife

Marriage to Joseph Smith

Age

Living Husband at time of Marriage to Joseph Smith

Emma Hale Jan 1827 22
Fanny Alger 1833 16
Lucinda Morgan Harris 1838 37 George W. Harris
Louisa Beaman Apr 1841 26
Zina Huntington Jacobs Oct 1841 20 Henry Jacobs
Presendia Huntington Buell Dec 1841 31 Norman Buell
Agnes Coolbrith Jan 1842 33
Sylvia Sessions Lyon Feb 1842 23 Windsor Lyon
Mary Rollins Lightner Feb 1842 23 Adam Lightner
Patty Bartlett Sessions Mar 1842 47 David Sessions
Marinda Johnson Hyde Apr 1842 27 Orson Hyde
Elizabeth Davis Durfee Jun 1842 50 Jabez Durfee
Sarah Kingsley Cleveland Jun 1842 53 John Cleveland
Delcena Johnson Jul 1842 37
Eliza R. Snow Jun 1842 28
Sarah Ann Whitney Jul 1842 17
Martha McBride Knight Aug 1842 37
Ruth Vose Sayers Feb 1843 33 Edward Sayers
Flora Ann Woodworth Spring 1843 16
Emily Dow Partridge Mar 1843 19
Eliza Maria Partridge Mar 1843 22
Almera Johnson Apr 1843 30
Lucy Walker May 1843 17
Sarah Lawrence May 1843 17
Maria Lawrence May 1843 19
Helen Mar Kimball May 1843 14
Hanna Ells Mid 1843 29
Elvira Cowles Holmes Jun 1843 29 Jonathan Holmes
Rhoda Richards Jun 1843 58
Desdemona Fullmer Jul 1843 32
Olive Frost Mid 1843 27
Melissa Lott Sep 1843 19
Nancy Winchester 1843 14
Fanny Young Nov 1843 56

Some quick facts:

  • He had 34 total wives, only one of them being legal (his first with Emma)
  • 11 of them were already married at the time to other men
  • 10 of them were teenagers, 2 of them being only 14-years-old

Joseph seriously broke the law

Nearly all of Joseph’s wives married him while he was living in Nauvoo, Illinois. Polygamy was a violation of section 121 of Illinois State law, which provided a $500 fine and one year in prison for each wife. In Joseph Smith’s case, this would have amounted to over 30 years in prison and $15,000 in fines, which by today’s standards would have been over $300,000. Obviously he didn’t want to get caught. In light of this, here is the twelfth Article of Faith, written by Joseph Smith himself:

“We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” (Emphasis added.)

Joseph did not follow his own doctrine in this regard in breaking laws that would have put him in prison for 30 years. This makes him a hypocrite in its purest definition. And to avoid getting arrested, he had to swear all of his wives to secrecy, inspiring them to be heavily dishonest with their family and friends. Another article of faith, this time the thirteenth one:

“We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men […]” (Emphasis added.)

I feel terrible for the women that Joseph had to convince to lie for him in order to keep him out of prison.

Joseph married eleven women who at the time were married to other men

The word “polyandry” may be a new word to you. It’s like polygamy, except it’s when one woman has multiple husbands. Joseph Smith engaged in both polygamy and polyandry. Both have always been against the United States law; the difference is that while polygamy is a once heavily practiced but now unpracticed Mormon doctrine (but still scriptural), polyandry has never been doctrine and probably never will be. Since it’s not doctrine, yet involves extramarital sex, it ranks up there with the most serious of sins in the Church. Any general authority who understands Mormon doctrine would agree with this. They would in turn agree that anyone who practiced it should be excommunicated both now and since the beginnings of the Church.

Many of these general authorities are unaware that the founder of the LDS Church practiced polyandry with eleven different previously married couples. Let’s break the previous table down to just the polyandrous affairs:

Wife

Marriage to Joseph Smith

Age

Living husband at time of marriage

First husband knew about it?

Lucinda Morgan Harris 1838 37 George W. Harris Unknown
Zina Huntington Jacobs Oct 1841 20 Henry Jacobs Yes
Presendia Huntington Buell Dec 1841 31 Norman Buell Unknown
Sylvia Sessions Lyon Feb 1842 23 Windsor Lyon Unknown
Mary Rollins Lightner Feb 1842 23 Adam Lightner No
Patty Bartlett Sessions Mar 1842 47 David Sessions Unknown
Marinda Johnson Hyde Apr 1842 27 Orson Hyde Unknown
Elizabeth Davis Durfee Jun 1842 50 Jabez Durfee Unknown
Sarah Kingsley Cleveland Jun 1842 53 John Cleveland Unknown
Ruth Vose Sayers Feb 1843 33 Edward Sayers Unknown
Elvira Cowles Holmes Jun 1843 29 Jonathan Holmes Unknown

There are eleven of them, all historically supported and verifiable. Four of them the Church even (most likely reluctantly) included in Joseph Smith’s official FamilySearchrecord, namely, Zina, Prescendia, Sylvia, and Mary. Go ahead and use the Church’s own website to verify that these marriages to Joseph Smith occurred while they were still married if you need the proof. The Church is excluding the rest of the polyandrous marriages, for reasons I do not know.

I personally believe that even one polyandrous is completely unacceptable and excommunicable, four much worse, and eleven downright evil. Of course he was the president of the Church so he’s not going to excommunicate himself.

Joseph married ten teenage girls, which was not normal for his day

Joseph Smith married ten teenage girls while he was alive. Here is the original chart showing just the teenagers:

Wife

Date of Marriage to Joseph Smith

Age at Time of Marriage to Joseph Smith

Living Husband at Time of Marriage to Joseph Smith

Fanny Alger 1833 16
Sarah Ann Whitney Jul 1842 17
Flora Ann Woodworth Spring 1843 16
Emily Dow Partridge Mar 1843 19
Lucy Walker May 1843 17
Sarah Lawrence May 1843 17
Maria Lawrence May 1843 19
Helen Mar Kimball May 1843 14
Melissa Lott Sep 1843 19
Nancy Winchester 1843 14

When I learned that Joseph was marrying teenagers, my first gut reaction to defend him was “Well it was probably normal in that day to marry young.” I was disheartened to learn that that was notthecase. In the 1840s women married around age 21 to 22. Notice how none of his teenage wives had husbands at the time; this is because they were all too young for marriage and probably weren’t planning on doing it until many years later. Joseph Smith’s commandment from God to marry him coerced the young girls to go ahead with it.

What’s even more distressing was when I learned when menarche happened, meaning the time a woman has her first period and becomes fertile. While today that age is 12.8 years of age, back in the 1840s itwasaround 16.5. This means that by today’s standards, Joseph was marrying girls with the sexual maturity of around a 9-year-old.

Joseph consistently denied he was practicing polygamy while he was secretly doing it

The 1835 edition of the Doctrine Covenants includes a verse that was later taken out. This is what it reads on pg. 251:

“Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy; we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.”

This is doctrine written by Joseph Smith in 1835, apparently commanded by God. At the time of publication, Joseph Smith already had practiced polygamy with Fanny Alger as his second wife in 1832. He restated this scripture on October 1, 1842 in the TimesandSeasons. At the time, he had seventeen wives.

Joseph was very dishonest publicly about being a polygamist. He never once admitted it, and several times publicly denied he was doing it. I include some examples below.

In 1838, Smith participated in an interview that was included in the EldersJournal. One of the questions was, “Do you Mormons believe in having more wives than one?” The answer was

“No, not at the same time. But they believe that if their companion dies, they have the right to marry again.”

At the time of this interview, Joseph Smith had two wives, Emma Hale and Fanny Alger.

On February 1, 1844, Joseph and Hyrum Smith published the following in the TimesandSeasons calling for the excommunication of a man named Hiram Brown who had practice polygamy:

As we have lately been credibly informed, that an Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, by the name of Hiram Brown, has been preaching polygamy, and other false and corrupt doctrines, in the county of Lapeer, state of Michigan. This is to notify him and the Church in general that he has been cut off from the Church, for his iniquity; and he is further notified to appear at the Special Conference, on the 6th of April next to make answer to these charges.

JOSEPH SMITH

HYRUM SMITH

Presidents of said Church

(Emphaisis added.)

Joseph is excommunicating a man for practicing polygamy. Yet, at the time of making this statement, Joseph Smith had thirty-four wives. He is excommunicating a man for doing what Joseph has already done thirty-three times! This is hypocrisy.

On May 26, 1844, Joseph Smith madethefollowingstatement from the stand to the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo:

“…What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers.” (History of the Church, vol 6, p. 411)

At the time of making this statement, Joseph Smith had thirty-four wives.

Joseph was cruel and selfish when it came to polygamy

Joseph Smith was not well educated in writing, so he almost always had scribes write his ideas down for him. His most famous scribe was probably William Clayton.

Like Joseph, William Clayton was secretly practicing polygamy. He had already married two girls from the same family and now wanted to marry the third beautiful teenage sister named Lydia. William told Joseph Smith that he wanted to marry the young girl. Look at whathappened, according to William’s journal:

15 September 1843, Friday

Nauvoo 2

Friday 15th.

Prest.J[oseph] told me he had lately had a new item of law revealed to him in relation to myself. He said the Lord had revealed to him that a man could only take 2 of a family except by express revelation and as I had said I intended to take Lydia he made this known for my benefit. to have more than two in a family was apt to cause wrangles and trouble. He finally asked if I would not give L[ydia] to him I said I would so far as I had any thing to do in it. He requested me to talk to her.

Let’s break down what’s happening here. William wanted to marry Lydia, but Joseph wanted her instead. To stop William, Joseph used a revelation from the Lord that a man was only allowed to marry two sisters, but not three. (What a ridiculous revelation!) And after Joseph used this “revelation” to stop William, Joseph went ahead and tried to steal Lydia as a wife for himself instead! Not only that, but he had William go talk to her about it. William went to talk to her:

17 September 1843, Sunday

Nauvoo 2

Sunday 17. At home all day with M. I had some talk with Lydia. she seems to receive it kindly but says she has promised her mother not to marry while her mother lives & she thinks she wont

Lydia said no to Joseph’s request through William. Did this satisfy Joseph? No. He went to talk to her directly:

21 September 1843, Thursday

Nauvoo 2

Thursday 21. This A.M. he (Smith) came to talk with Lydia but she wont yet consent she wants to tarry with her sisters

Since Lydia wanted to “tarry with her sisters” who were married to William, this most likely means she wanted to marry William. But William couldn’t marry her anymore thanks to Joseph’s revelation. Since she didn’t want to marry Joseph, and was forbidden by God to marry William, here is what happened:

23 January 1846, Friday

Nauvoo 4

My sister in law Lydia is in the way of apostacy. She went to Burlington last year but previous to her going she agreed to be sealed to me for time and eternity. She refused to be sealed to Joseph.

While at Burlington she wrote pledging herself to her contract. When she came home she faultered [sic] and went out to fathers where she got entangled with my brother James and has resolved to marry him. She has lost her faith in the Church as is on the road to ruin, but so determined that no argument is of any use. The family feel sorry but cannot change her feelings. Her mother frets much about it.

So in the end, she married William’s brother James and later left the Church.

Analyzing Joseph’s character

There are certain aspects of Joseph’s character that we can draw from these stories.

If we assume that he actually was receiving real revelation from God to practice polygamy, we can draw the following conclusions:

  • Joseph Smith was dishonest – He made several statements that he wasn’t practicing polygamy when he actually was, and many times over. He also married other men’s wives, sometimes without telling their husbands beforehand.
  • Joseph Smith heavily broke the law – He practiced polygamy over 30 times in Nauvoo, Illinois when it was against the law at that time. The punishment called for one year prison time for each wife.
  • Joseph Smith disobeyed the commandments of his own religion – The original editions of the Doctrine & Covenants from 1835 and 1842 condemned polygamy as fornication, yet Joseph Smith practiced it with many different women. He also practiced polyandry, which had and has never at any point been Mormon doctrine. He also severely broke the law, which goes against his own Article of Faith, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”
  • Joseph Smith was a hypocrite – He heavily practiced polygamy behind closed doors, but when he would hear about a member practicing it only once, Joseph would have them excommunicated.

The above points are true whether or not God commanded Joseph to practice polygamy (as Joseph claimed). But if God didn’t command it, the following additional conclusions can be made:

  • Joseph Smith was an adulterer – He slept with other women beyond his first and only legal marriage to Emma.
  • Joseph Smith was a pedophile – He married 14-year-old girls who hadn’t had their first period and consequently had not completed puberty.
  • Joseph Smith was selfish – He made up revelations from God to stop men like William from marrying teenage girls he wanted to marry instead.
  • Joseph Smith used ecclesiastical extortion for sex – He promised many of the women a guaranteed spot in heaven for them and their families if they married him. (This is called a bribe.) To others he explained that an angel with a sword would destroy him if they didn’t marry him. (This is called a threat.) In either case, he is exploiting these women’s feelings to get them to appease his physical desires.

The following is a chart I created which outlines the reasons given by Joseph Smith’s wives as to why they decided to marry Joseph Smith while knowing that he was already married. I also mention any evidence that intimacy was involved. Most of the information here was taken from thissite:

Wife

Age

Reason for Marrying Joseph

Evidence of Intimacy

Emma Hale 22 She bore several of Joseph’s children.
Fanny Alger 16
Lucinda Morgan Harris 37
Louisa Beaman 26 John Bates Noble (who performed the ceremony) let them spend their wedding night in a bed at his house.
Zina Huntington Jacobs 20 Joseph told her an angel with a drawn sworn had threatened to take his life if she didn’t marry him.
Presendia Huntington Buell 31 She believed Joseph was a man of God and trusted him.
Agnes Coolbrith 33
Sylvia Sessions Lyon 23 On her deathbed, she told her daughter Philofreen that she was the daughter of Joseph Smith.
Mary Rollins Lightner 23 Joseph told her that she was the first woman God had told him to take as a plural wife. He also told her that an angel with a drawn sworn had threatened to take his life if she didn’t marry him.
Patty Bartlett Sessions 47
Marinda Johnson Hyde 27 She was told it was a revelation from God that Joseph should take care of her while her husband was away on a mission.
Elizabeth Davis Durfee 50
Sarah Kingsley Cleveland 53
Delcena Johnson 37
Eliza R. Snow 38 She believed it had been commanded by God.
Sarah Ann Whitney 17 She and her family were promised “immortality and eternal life” by Joseph if she would marry him.
Martha McBride Knight 37
Ruth Vose Sayers 33
Flora Ann Woodworth 16
Emily Dow Partridge 19 Joseph told her that God commanded him to take her as a wife. Emily stated that she “slept with” Joseph on several occasions and had “carnal intercourse” with him. Joseph’s property caretaker Benjamin Johnson also confirmed this, saying that he witnessed them occupy the same room and bed one night.
Eliza Maria Partridge 22 She believed Joseph was a man of God and trusted him.
Almera Johnson 30 Her brother and Joseph’s property caretaker Benjamin Johnson confirmed that Joseph occupied the same bed as his sister Almera in Macedonia, Illinois.
Lucy Walker 17 Joseph told her that God had commanded him to take her as a wife, and that if she refused “the gate [would] be closed forever against” her. She stated that she lived and cohabited with Joseph as a wife.
Sarah Lawrence 17
Maria Lawrence 19 She wanted to do the right thing, even if it was difficult for her to understand.
Helen Mar Kimball 14 Joseph promised her that if she married him, it would ensure a spot in heaven for both her, her family, and all her kindred. She also loved and trusted her father, who told her it was true doctrine.
Hanna Ells 29
Elvira Cowles Holmes 29
Rhoda Richards 58 She married him in accordance with celestial law and divine revelation.
Desdemona Fullmer 32
Olive Frost 27
Melissa Lott 19 She stated that she shared intimate moments with Joseph and was his wife “in very deed”.
Nancy Winchester 14
Fanny Young 56

The final point I would like to make is this: the only justification for Joseph being a threatening adulterous pedophile was his own personal unverifiable statements that God commanded it. Think about that.

And one final question to ask yourself: Would a prophet of God act like this?

Joseph Smith: the plagiarist

As I’ve researched the origins of the LDS Church, I have been impressed by the amount of plagiarism Joseph Smith is likely guilty of. Take a look at these.

Joseph plagiarized the Isaiah chapters from the Bible into the Book of Mormon

Most members are aware of the Isaiah chapters in the Book of Mormon and how they closely parallel the Isaiah chapters in the Bible. If you compare these chapters, on your own, you’ll discover that they aren’t just similar, they are virtually identical. For example, Isaiah 10 is only 5 words different than 2 Nephi 20. Isaiah 11 is only 3 words different than 2 Nephi 21. Isaiah 12 has only 1 word that is different than 2 Nephi 22.

Some might say that the reason they are so similar is because they were both translated from the same source, that is, Isaiah’s original writings. I have worked in the translation industry for 5 years now. I have a degree in Linguistics, and another in Portuguese. I know how translation works, trust me. If two people translate the same document into the same language, the translations’ concepts should be identical, but not the syntax and vocabulary. A great example of this is the DeadSeaScrolls. These are ancient scrolls dating from 150 BC to 70 AD and are original transcripts of many Bible books, including all of Isaiah. When we translate these scrolls today, do the words match the Kings James Bible translations so closely as to only vary by a few words per chapter? Not at all! Almost every last sentence is worded totally differently. But what matches, of course, are the concepts behind these words and sentences. The meaning is the same, even though the wording is almost always totally different. It is natural for two different translators to always produce different wording when translating the same document.

The Book of Mormon Isaiah chapters, on the other hand, are copied directly from the King James Version of the Bible, with small modifications made here and there by Joseph Smith to make it look like it’s a new translation. He might fool the naive, but not anyone who actually understands how translation works.

I actually did amuchlargerstudy comparing the Isaiah chapters in the Bible, Book of Mormon and Dead Sea Scrolls that you are free to look at if you wish to.

Joseph conspired with Sydney Rigdon to plagiarize the historical chapters from the Book of Mormon using a stolen manuscript by Solomon Spalding

(in process)

Joseph plagiarized the names of Moroni and the Hill Cumorah from the city Moroni, being the capital of the Comoros Islands

Being raised in a poor household, Joseph and his family frequently fantasized about finding buried treasure. Perhaps one of the most famous treasure hunters in history was William “Captain” Kidd, and Joseph had access to reading his stories. In one of his tales he visits the Comoros Islands in 1696 where he is said to have buried treasure. The capital of the Comoros Islands at that time was (and still is) the city of Moroni.

The theory is that Joseph Smith named the hill where he found treasure (the golden plates) after the islands where Captain Kidd buried treasure – the Comoros Islands. (No one called the hill Cumorah until Joseph started calling it that after he “found” the plates there.) The person who buried the treasure at Cumorah was named Moroni, and the capital of Comoros is Moroni. Do you see the parallel?

Some have disputed the difference in spelling between the “Comoros” Islands and the Hill “Cumorah”. Look at this 1808 map of Africa which shows the Comoros Islands spelled as “Camora”:

Now look at how “Cumorah” wasspelled in Mormon 6:2 from the original 1830 Book of Mormon:

And I, Mormon, wrote an epistle unto the king of the Lamanites, and desired of him that he would grant unto us that we might gather together our people unto the land of Camorah, by the hill which was called Camorah, and there we would give them battle.

The maps spelled it “Camora” and Joseph spelled it “Camorah”. Moroni buried treasure in Camorah and Moroni is a city in Camora. Joseph Smith loved buried treasure and these locales are right from the stories of one of the most famous treasure hiders. The parallels are striking.

Joseph plagiarized the temple ceremony from the Freemasonry ceremony

I realize that nearly all Mormons who have had their endowment hold what they experienced in the temple ceremony to be highly sacred. Out of respect for that, I won’t get into any specifics in this section.

What I will say is that Joseph Smith himself was a Freemason before he introduced the temple endowment ceremony. There are many Mormons who are also Freemasons and they concur – the rituals are largely identical (the signs, tokens, clothing, and symbols). Joseph Smith’s explanation for why they are so identical was that Freemasonry started in the days of Solomon and has become largely corrupt since then. All he did was maintain the parts that weren’t corrupt, and “restore” the parts that were, hence the similarities. [reference needed here!]

Unfortunately Joseph was dead wrong about the origins of Freemasonry. It wasn’t actually started in the days of Solomon, but rather inthe 16thcentury. It has no roots in Christianity at all, and is considered by many cult experts to be Satanic. Joseph Smith’s father was a Freemason, so he became one as well, assumed it was from Old Testament times, and incorporated it into his religion.

I never found the temple ceremony to be a gratifying experience. I always found it to be quite frightening (even before I knew it came from Freemasonry), and went through great efforts to avoid having to go with any frequency. I just could not see a loving rational Heavenly Father expecting his children to use weird clothing, special handshakes, and ritualistic chants as a prerequisite to heaven.

Joseph plagiarized different drawings from the Book of Abraham papyrus to fill in the lacunae and produce the facsimiles

This is discussed in detail in TheBookofAbraham section of this essay.

Joseph plagiarized his afterlife doctrine from the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg

(in process)

Joseph Smith’s new scriptures don’t coincide with each other

(in process; use thissource as groundwork)

Joseph Smith

The Bible

3rd Nephi

History 1:37 For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; for they that come shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. Malachi 4:1 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. 25:1 For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
History 1:38: Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. Malachi 4:5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord 25:5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord
History 1:39: And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming. Malachi 4:6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. 25:6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
JST Matthew 6:14 And suffer us not to be led into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. Matthew 6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. 13:12-13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
JST Matthew 6:22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single to the glory of God, thy whole body shall be full of light. Matthew 6:22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 13:22 The light of the body is the eye; if, therefore, thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
JST Matthew 6:25-27 And, again, I say unto you, go ye into the world, and care not for the world; for the world will hate you, and will persecute you, and will turn you out of their synagogues. Nevertheless, ye shall go forth from house to house, teaching the people; and I will go before you. And your heavenly Father will provide for you, whatsoever things ye need for food, what ye shall eat; and for raiment, what ye shall wear or put on. (Does not appear.) (Does not appear.)
JST Matthew 6:33 Wherefore, seek not the things of this world but seek ye first to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 13:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.

Modifying the 1830 Book of Mormon text

Listen to theseaccounts from witnesses of the Book of Mormon as to how it was translated.

David Whitmer said:

“I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.”

Martis Harris told his friend Edward Stevenson (a member of the Seventy at the time) how the translation worked. He said:

“Martin Harris related an incident that occurred during the time that he wrote that portion of the translation of the Book of Mormon which he was favored to write direct from the mouth of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He said that the Prophet possessed a seer stone, by which he was enabled to translate as well as from the Urim and Thummim, and for convenience he then used the seer stone, Martin explained the translation as follows: By aid of the seer stone, sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin and when finished he would say “Written,” and if correctly written that sentence would disappear and another appear in its place, but if not written correctly it remained until corrected, so that the translation was just as it was engraven on the plates, precisely in the language then used.”

 

The way the witnesses describe this makes it seem clear that the translation should really be perfect. As many members are aware, there are over 4,000 differences between the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon and the current edition. It was always described to me that these errors were simply grammatical and spelling errors at the fault of the scribes. If this were true, it would be simple to just fault the scribes as spelling words wrong. But among these 4,000 changes are some very peculiar changes that indicate the the translation wasn’t done by the power of God. I list them below.

 

Changes to the Godhead

As already described above, Joseph Smith changed four verses in the Book of Mormon once he changed his idea of the Godhead, going from a three-in-one Trinity God, to two physically separate Gods. Here is that table again for easy reference:

Original 1830 Version

Current Version

1 Nephi 11:18

And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh. Source And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh. Source

1 Nephi 11:21

And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, even the Eternal Father! Source And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Source

1 Nephi 11:32

And I looked and beheld the Lamb of god, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Everlasting God, was judged of the world. Source And I looked and beheld the Lamb of god, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the Everlasting God, was judged of the world. Source

1 Nephi 13:40

These last records […] shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world. Source These last records […] shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world. Source

I believe that as Joseph Smith was making these changes, he quickly became overwhelmed at the large amount of work it would take to consistently make these changes throughout the whole book. This is why all verses past 1 Nephi 13:40 indicate a monotheistic doctrine instead of polytheistic.

Changing Benjamin to Mosiah

King Benjamin dies in Mosiah 6:5:

“And king Benjamin lived three years and he died.”

In the original 1830 version of the Book of Mormon, however, he was accidentally referred to as alive 15 chapters after he had supposedly already died:

 

Original 1830 Version

Current Version

Mosiah 21:28

And now Limhi was again filled with joy, on learning from the mouth of Ammon that king Benjamin had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings; yea, and Ammon also did rejoice. And now Limhi was again filled with joy on learning from the mouth of Ammon that king Mosiah had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings; yea, and Ammon also did rejoice.

Ether 4:1

[…] and for this cause did king Benjamin keep them, that they should not come unto the world until after Christ shew himself unto his people. […] and for this cause did king Mosiah keep them, that they should not come unto the world until after Christ should show himself unto his people.

Mosiah 21:28 was changed to avoid a plot hole in the story. And since Ether 4:1 was referencing the same event from Mosiah 21:28, it was also changed.

Introducing Christ

The name “Christ” is not used in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, it being explained that an angel finally identified the name at a later point in the story in 2 Nephi 10:3:

“Wherefore, as I said unto you, it must needs be expedient that Christ—for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name—should come among the Jews […].”

In the original edition of the Book of Mormon, however, Nephi accidentally referred to the Savior as Jesus Christ in 1 Nephi 12:18, which didn’t fit with 2 Nephi 10:3 as being the way the Nephites learned his name, that is, as specified by an angel to Jacob many years later, and not to Nephi.

Consequently, “Jesus Christ” was changed to “the Messiah” to avoid the chronological fallacy:

Original 1830 Version

Current Version

1 Nephi 12:18

[…] yea, even the word of the justice of the Eternal God, and Jesus Christ, which is the Lamb of God […]. […] yea, even the word of the justice of the Eternal God, and the Messiah who is the Lamb of God […].

Incorrect pluralization of “seraph”

A seraph is a mythological creature, commonly thought to be a winged serpent. The plural form of “seraph” is “seraphim”. In one of the few grammatical errors in the Bible, Isaiah 6:2 accidentally double-pluralized “seraph” to read “seraphims”:

“Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.”

This mistake remains in the most current edition of the King James Version of the Bible, although it is, indeed, incorrect.

In the Book of Mormon, there are several Isaiah chapters which strongly parallel chapters in the King James Version of the Bible. 2 Nephi 16:2 parallels Isaiah 6:2 in its reference of “seraphim”. In the original 1830 version, however, “seraphim” is incorrectly pluralized just as it is in the same verse in the Bible. Thus in the current version of the Book of Mormon, it has been corrected:

Original 1830 Version

Current Version

2 Nephi 16:2

Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. Above it stood the seraphim; each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.

Although this seems like a trivial correction, it’s not. If God was really dictating a new translation to Joseph Smith of the original source of Isaiah written over 2,000 years before the King James translation, why would he improperly pluralize “seraph” to read “seraphims”, which coincidentally is an exact mistake in the exact same verse from the Bible? This indicates that the Isaiah chapters in the Book of Mormon were based on the Bible and not golden plates which had copied the translation from brass plates, as indicated by Nephi in the Book of Mormon.

Archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon

In the history of scholarly studies to find physical evidence that the characters in the Book of Mormon actually lived and the stories actually happened, no evidence has ever been found. Of course this is quite a heated topic, and Mormon apologists will readily state that they have found plenty of evidence. Not a single archaeologist outside of Mormonism (and many within) agree that there has ever been evidence found to support the veracity of the Book of Mormon.

Thomas Ferguson

Thomas Ferguson was a true-believing Mormon archaeologist who firmly believed that the Book of Mormon was true and wanted to prove it. He was so sure of it that he went to the prophet – David O. McKay at the time – and pleaded with him to give him a grant to be able to travel to South America and look for evidence that the Book of Mormon is true. McKay granted him $250,000 of tithing funds to do his research.

Ferguson spent the next 25 years of his life looking for evidence for the Book of Mormon. He never found any. His strong Mormon roots kept him from leaving the Church altogether, so he became one of those members who goes to sacrament meeting, sits in the back, and doesn’t believe anything he is taught. He tried to keep this a secret from his family, but we have letters he wrote to people where he revealed his disbelief:

“Perhaps you and I have been spoofed by Joseph Smith. Now that we have the inside dope–why not spoof a little back and stay aboard? Please consider this letter confidential–for obvious reasons. I want to stay aboard the good ship, Mormonism –for various reasons that I think valid. First, several of my dearly loved family members want desperately to believe and do believe it and they each need it. It does them far more good than harm. Belonging, with my eyes wide open is actually fun, less expensive than formerly, and no strain at all…. I never get up and bear testimony”

This is actually quite a long story that I have edited down too much. Please readthefullaccount so you can fully understand his position.

The Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution is one of the most (if not the most) prestigious research institute on archaeological research in the world. They frequently get letters from Mormons asking for evidence that the Book of Mormon stories are true. Here is the response they have been giving:

Information from the National Museum of Natural History Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. 20560

Statement Regarding the Book of Mormon

1. The Smithsonian Institution has never used the Book of Mormon in any way as a scientific guide. Smithsonian archaeologists see no direct connection between the archaeology of the New World and the subject matter of the book.

2. The physical type of the American Indian is basically Mongoloid, being most closely related to that of the peoples of eastern, central, and northeastern Asia. Archaeological evidence indicates that the ancestors of the present Indians came into the New World — probably over a land bridge known to have existed in the Bering Strait region during the last Ice Age — in a continuing series of small migrations beginning from about 25,000 to 30,000 years ago.

3. Present evidence indicates that the first people to reach this continent from the East were the Norsemen who briefly visited the northeastern part of North America around A.D. 1000 and then settled in Greenland. There is nothing to show that they reached Mexico or Central America.

4. One of the main lines of evidence supporting the scientific finding that contacts with Old World civilizations, if indeed they occurred at all, were of very little significance for the development of American Indian civilizations, is the fact that none of the principal Old World domesticated food plants or animals (except the dog) occurred in the New World in pre-Columbian times. American Indians had no wheat, barley, oats, millet, rice, cattle, pigs, chickens, horses, donkeys, camels before 1492. (Camels and horses were in the Americas, along with the bison, mammoth, and mastodon, but all these animals became extinct around 10,000 B.C. at the time the early big game (sic) hunters spread across the Americas.)

5. Iron, steel, glass, and silk were not used in the New World before 1492 (except for occasional use of unsmelted meteoric iron). Native copper was used in various locations in pre-Columbian times, but true metallurgy was limited to southern Mexico and the Andean region, where its occurrence in late prehistoric times involved gold, silver, copper, and their alloys, but not iron.

6. There is a possibility that the spread of cultural traits across the Pacific to Mesoamerica and the northwestern coast of South America began several hundred years before the Christian era. However, any such inter-hemispheric contacts appear to have been the results of accidental voyages originating in eastern and southern Asia. It is by means certain that even if such contacts occurred; certainly there were no contacts with the ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, or other peoples of Western Asia and the Near East.

7. No reputable Egyptologist or other specialist on Old World archaeology, and no expert on New World prehistory, has discovered or confirmed any relationship between archaeological remains in Mexico and archaeological remains in Egypt.

8. Reports of findings of ancient Egyptian, Hebrew, and other Old World writings in the New World in pre-Columbian contexts have frequently appeared in newspapers, magazines, and sensational books. None of these claims has stood up to examination by reputable scholars. No inscriptions using Old World forms of writing have been shown to have occurred in any part of the Americas before 1492 except for a few Norse rune stones which have been found in Greenland.

Asian roots

Consider the following points:

  • If American Indians are supposed to be descendants of Israelites, why does theDNA show that they are actually of Asian descent? Also, why do Indians absolutely look Asian?
  • If millions of people in ancient America spoke Hebrew and ReformedEgyptian, why hasn’t any archaeologist ever found any evidence for it in North, Central, or South America? Also, why do linguists find the roots of Indian languages to come from Asian languages and not Hebrew or Reformed Egyptian?

No non-Mormon Archaeologists accept the Book of Mormon as history

In 1973, Michael Coe, one of the best known authorities on archaeology of the New World, wrote an article for Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. In this article he addressed the issue in a very forthright manner:

“Mormon archaeologists over the years have almost unanimously accepted the Book of Mormon as an accurate, historical account of the New World peoples…. Let me now state uncategorically that as far as I know there is not one professionally trained archaeologist, who is not a Mormon, who sees any scientific justification for believing the foregoing to be true, and I would like to state that there are quite a few Mormon archaeologists who join this group….

“The bare facts of the matter are that nothing, absolutely nothing, has even shown up in any New World excavation which would suggest to a dispassionate observer that the Book of Mormon, as claimed by Joseph Smith, is a historical document relating to the history of early migrants to our hemisphere.” (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer 1973, pp. 41, 42 & 46)

The Book of Abraham

The majority of members don’t know where the BookofAbraham (found in the Pearl of Great Price) comes from. Let me give a brief history (supported by Mormons and non-Mormons alike). From Wikipedia:

Several papyri and eleven mummies were discovered in Thebes by Antonio Lebolo between 1818 and 1822. Sometime between 1822 and his death on February 19, 1830, Lebolo arranged to have them sold. The mummies were shipped to New York, where they were purchased by Michael Chandler in 1833. Over the next two years Chandler toured the eastern United States, displaying and selling some of the mummies.

In July 1835, Chandler brought the remaining four mummies and associated papyri to Kirtland, Ohio, then home of the Latter-Day Saints. Although the Rosetta Stone had been discovered in 1799, the ability to read Egyptian wasn’t well developed until the 1850s. Chandler asked Joseph Smith to look at the scrolls and give some insight into what was written on them, due to Smith’s notoriety and claim to have translated the golden plates of the Book of Mormon. After examining the scrolls, Smith, Joseph Coe and Simeon Andrews purchased the four mummies and at least five papyrus documents for $2,400.

After Joseph died and Brigham Young went west with a large portion of the Saints, Emma Smith didn’t like Brigham so she chose to stay behind, and with her remained the papyri Joseph had said he translated to produce the Book of Abraham. She eventually sold them along with a certificate of authenticity to a museum in Chicago.

In 1871 was the Great Chicago Fire and the papyri were thought to have been lost. However, in 1966, the papyri were discovered in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. They had luckily survived the fire mostly in tact. They were given to the Church as a gift from the museum.

The question on everyone’s minds at this point was “Does Joseph Smith’s translation match?” No, it didn’t. The papyri were actually just Egyptian funerary texts dating to around 100 BC, some 2000 years after Abraham had already died. Abraham isn’t mentioned once in any of the papyri. Many Egyptologists have looked at the papyri, and theirtranslations are scholarly.

This is quite a heated topic among Mormon apologists, which I have spent a lot of time studying. They come up with lots of excuses why the papyri don’t talk about Abraham. I find all of their reasoning very weak.

Let’s take a closer look at parts of the papyri and how they don’t coincide at all with Joseph’s interpretation of them.

Facsimile 1

This is Facsimile 1, located at the front of the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. Joseph Smith described this scene as “The idolatrous priest of Elkenah attempting to offer up Abraham as a sacrifice,” meaning, the man with the knife is Elkenah and the man on the altar is Abraham.

But is that really what’s going on here?

Let’s look at the original. Here is a photograph:

There are a couple things a casual observer will instantly notice. First, there are some sections missing (which I will discuss later). Second, there are hieroglyphics on the papyrus that weren’t included in Joseph Smith’s publication.

Let’s take a look at what the hieroglyphics say.

The following translation is based on Dr. Robert K. Ritner’s (University of Chicago) translation published in the Journal of Near East Studies, September 2003, pp. 161-180. Missing sections are indicated with [brackets].

(I/1) [“Osiris, the god’s father], prophet of Amon-Re, King of the Gods, prophet of Min who slaughters his enemies, prophet of Khonsu, the [one who exercises] authority in Thebes, (I/2) [. . .] . . . Hor, the justified, son of the similarly titled overseer of secrets and purifier of the god, Osorwer, the justified, born by the [housewife and sistrum-player of ] (I/3) [Amon]-Re, Taikhibit, the justified! May your ba-spirit live among them, and may you be buried on the west [of Thebes].” (I/4) [“O Anubis(?),51 . . .] justification(?). (I/5) [May you give to him] a good and splendid burial on the west of Thebes as on the mountains of Ma[nu](?).” (Emphasis added.)

As I highlighted above, there’s a very important piece of information described in the Egyptian writing.

This isn’t the attempted sacrifice of Abraham, but rather the embalming of a man named Hor. Facsimile 1 has absolutely nothing to do with Abraham. One might ask, if this is merely an embalming of an already dead man, why is the priest holding a knife?

I now would like to discuss a point I addressed earlier: the missing sections.

Before the missing papyri were found, Egyptologists were always very confused with certain aspects of Facsimile 1.

  1. Problem 1: Human sacrifice was never practiced in Ancient Egypt, so it seemed very odd that an Egyptian vignette would feature such a display. The knife seemed completely out of place.
  2. Problem 2: The man with the man’s head (the “priest”) should almost certainly have a jackal head, since it was always Anubis, the Egyptian God of the Dead, who did the embalming.
  3. Problem 3: The bird up and to the right was almost certainly the soul of Osiris, which is the God of the Afterlife to Egyptians. He always has a human head and not a bird head.

Here are some examples of Egyptian art that show the scene the proper way:

Here are a couple more that show the soul of Osiris (the bird with the human head) as well:

This last one is particularly interesting. Look at the stripe on Anubis, and Joseph Smith’s “priest”:

Also notice that Anubis always has a black body. So does Joseph Smith’s priest all the way down to his feet except his head. The priest’s head looks very similar to the head of the man on the altar (which wasn’t missing on the original papyrus):

The left are the areas that Egyptologists questioned before the papyri were discovered; the right is the papyrus as it was found with the missing areas circled. It all makes sense now:

Here’s a reconstruction of what Egyptologists think they vignette actually looked like before the sections went missing:

Questions:

  1. If Joseph Smith could read hieroglyphics, why would he avoid reading the hieroglyphics that were clearly to the left and right of what he included as Facsimile 1? He would have quickly learned that this was scene depicting the embalming of Hor, not the sacrifice of Abraham.
  2. If Joseph Smith was a prophet (and just didn’t notice the hieroglyphics, let’s say), why didn’t God tell him that this was an embalming ceremony, and that the man should have a jackal head, and shouldn’t hold a knife, and the bird should have a human head?

Hypothesis: Joseph Smith did not properly interpret this vignette in any way, shape, or form. He assumed it was Abraham being sacrifice because it looked that way. He filled in the missing sections without any knowledge of what should actually have been there. He tricked us.

Facsimile 2

Facsimile 2 is actually a representation of a “hypocephalus”. Egyptians would put these under the head of mummies, like a pillow. Here are lots of real hypocephali as they are in abundance:

You’ll notice that I’ve circled certain sections. Go back and study what’s inside the red circle first. Four ram heads, right? Now go back and study what’s in the green circle. Two boats with a beetle in the bottom one. Now the blue circle. A lizard holding something.

Let’s look at Facsimile 2 again, with the same areas circled.

1. Red circle: No ram heads, now there’s a strange figure standing there instead.

2. Green circle: Just one boat, and in the boat is nothing we’ve seen before in any hypocephali. There’s no beetle.

3. Blue circle: The lizard now has what looks like a bird body. There’s also a strange stick figure below him with his hands in the air.

While Joseph Smith was translating the Book of Abraham, he kept a journal of sorts in what is now known as the Kirtland Egyptian Papers. In it, he included a rough copy of what would later become Facsimile 2:

Obvious to the reader are the missing sections. Although we don’t have the original hypocephalus Joseph Smith used to create Facsimile 2, this drawing leads us to believe that it was copied into the Kirtland Egyptian Papers and that the original hypocephalus had sections that were missing or hard to read.

Remember the parts in Facsimile 2 that were different than real hypocephali? Let’s compare those sections with the early representation in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers:

As in Facsimile 1, the strange sections match the missing sections from the original. Let’s focus on just one hypocephali along side Facsimile 2:

The only section that seems that he got slightly right is the one within the green circle. He has the boat correct, but nothing inside the boat (or that there should be two). Remember, the drawing of Facsimile 2 in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers in digital format only shows black and white, not faint lines that may have existed on the actual hypocephalus Joseph Smith had. We can speculate that there was a faint outline of a boat.

As far as where he got the actual drawing inside the boat, that much is very obvious to me. If we look elsewhere in the papyri discovered in 1966, we find the drawing he copied from:

And where he got the head in the red circle is also fairly obvious – from the section just above it:

Questions:

  1. If Joseph Smith was a prophet, why wasn’t he able to properly reproduce the missing sections?
  2. If he was being inspired by God to reproduce the missing sections, why did he copy from other sections to fill in the missing parts?

Hypothesis: Joseph Smith had never seen a hypocephalus before and so he didn’t know what was supposed to go there. He made those sections up.

Facsimile 3

Facsimile 3 is described by Joseph Smith as

“Abraham sitting upon Pharaoh’s throne, by the politeness of the king, with a crown upon his head, representing the Priesthood, as emblematical of the grand Presidency in Heaven; with the scepter of justice and judgment in his hand.”

Once again, this is not about Abraham at all, but is about Hor. And we don’t need the original to show this, since Joseph Smith included the hieroglyphics right in the Facsimile this time.

And that’s not all, there are plenty of other hieroglyphics in this one. What’s more is that Joseph specifies what the hieroglyphics mean. This is the only time (as far as I know) that Joseph Smith published something where he provided both the source and the translation.

Below I have circled the sections that Joseph Smith attempted to translate, with the translated parts color-coordinated in the “Explanation” section (which is included in the Book of Abraham). Make sure and match the colored words below with the circle of the same color in Facsimile 3:

Joseph’s Explanation

  1. Abraham sitting upon Pharaoh’s throne, by the politeness of the king, with a crown upon his head, representing the Priesthood, as emblematical of the grand Presidency in Heaven; with the scepter of justice and judgment in his hand.
  2. King Pharaoh, whose name is given in the characters above his head. [look in the red circle above]
  3. Signifies Abraham in Egypt as given also inFigure 10 ofFacsimileNo. 1.
  4. Prince of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, as written above the hand. [look in the green circle above]
  5. Shulem, one of the king’s principal waiters, as represented by the characters above his hand. [look in the blue circle above]
  6. Olimlah, a slave belonging to the prince.

Let’s look at what real Egyptologists have to say about Joseph Smith’s translations:

Joseph Smith’s Explanation

Explanation by Egyptologists (quotes are from Robert K. Ritner)

General Comment

Abraham is reasoning upon the principles of Astronomy, in the king’s court.

“Invocation (text at bottom line below the illustration): O gods of thenecropolis, gods of the caverns, gods of the south, north, west, and east grant salvation to the Osiris Hor, the justified, born by Taikhibit.”

 Fig. 1

Abraham sitting upon Pharaoh’s throne, by the politeness of the king, with a crown upon his head, representing the Priesthood, as emblematical of the grand Presidency in Heaven; with the scepter of justice and judgment in his hand.

“Label forOsiris (text to the right of figure 1 of facsimile 3): Recitation by Osiris, Foremost of the Westerners, Lord ofAbydos(?), the great god forever and ever(?).”

 Fig. 2

King Pharaoh, whose name is given in the characters above his head.

“Label forIsis (text to the right of figure 2 of facsimile 3): Isis the great, the god’s mother.”

Fig. 3

Signifies Abraham in Egypt as given also in Figure 10 of Facsimile No. 1.

“Altar, with the offering of the deceased, surrounded withlotusflowers, signifying the offering of the defunct.” –Theodule Deveria

Fig. 4

Prince of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, as written above the hand.

“Label forMaat (text to the left of figure 4 of facsimile 3): Maat, mistress of the gods.”

Fig. 5

Shulem, one of the king’s principal waiters, as represented by the characters above his hand.

“Label for Hor the deceased (text in front of figure 5 of facsimile 3): The Osiris Hor, justified forever.”

Fig. 6

Olimlah, a slave belonging to the prince.

“Label forAnubis (text in front of figure 6 of facsimile 3): Recitation by Anubis, who makes protection(?), foremost of the embalming booth,…”

As you can see, he didn’t get any of the translations right. He thought Isis (a woman) was King Pharoah, Maat (another woman) was the Prince of Pharaoh, and Anubis was a slave. Let’s focus on Anubis, since it was previously established that he should have a jackal head.

Keep in mind that we definitely know that this should be Anubis since it says it right above his head “Label for Anubis”. Why it doesn’t exactly look like Anubis we can only speculate since we don’t have the original.

In Joseph Smith’s day, as you know, they didn’t have copying machines. What we have for Facsimile 3 is a trace of what the actual papyrus had. Judging the problems with sections being missing or hard to read for Facsimile 1 and 2, we can speculate that the source for Facsimile 3 was similarly difficult to make out. Besides the fact that they are both black, the most interesting clue we can draw from this poor representation of Anubis is the spike on the his head in Joseph Smith’s attempt to draw him. This is most likely a remnant of Anubis’ pointy ears.

Questions:

  1. If Joseph Smith was a prophet, why wasn’t he able to accurately translate the hieroglyphics?
  2. If he was being inspired to fill in the missing sections, why didn’t he accurately portray Anubis?

Hypothesis: Joseph couldn’t read hieroglyphics at all, and had no idea what he was looking at.

Likely Conclusions

Joseph Smith saw the source for Facsimile 1. Anubis’ head and hands were torn away, so no one could tell if he was holding anything. Joseph remembered reading in the Bible that Abraham was almost sacrificed, so he speculated that this was a drawing of a priest trying to sacrifice Abraham. He filled in the missing sections putting a human head on Anubis and a knife in his hand.

After wrongly assuming that the source for Facsimile 1 was about Abraham, he went ahead and made similar assumptions for Facsimile 3, once again labeling the main character as Abraham. He couldn’t quite make out Anubis’ head in this one either, but he could tell the figure was black and had something on top of his head that looked like a spike. Confused by the spike but definitely seeing it, he included it in Facsimile 3 and said the figure was a slave (which I consider to be a short-sighted 19th-century interpretation that blacks are always slaves).

For Facsimile 2, there were more missing sections, including the main focus in the middle. He assumed a head should be there, and copied the head from another part of the vignette so it looked authentic. For the upper right missing section, he could faintly make out what looked like a boat, but couldn’t make out anything else. He found another drawing of a boat elsewhere in the papyrus, and copied that over.

Joseph then proudly put the original papyrus on display in Kirtland knowing that no one of his day could question his translation since no one could read Egyptian.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot more details involved here that I didn’t touch on simply to avoid making this essay any longer than it needs to be.

Facsimiles 1 and 3 are definitely about a man named Hor, not Abraham. There can be no question. It is written right there in hieroglyphics. The Egyptologist community is unanimous in their translation too. There’s no speculation in this regard, it’s about Hor, and Joseph said it was about Abraham. This completely calls into question his calling as a prophet. Prophets don’t act like they can read hieroglyphics when they really can’t. Prophets don’t fill in missing areas of Egyptian documents with made up drawings.

The most disturbing thought to draw from this whole essay is that if Joseph couldn’t read these hieroglyphics, what about the Reformed Egyptian on the golden plates? And if the Book of Mormon is made up, what is there to say about Joseph Smith’s calling as prophet? The First Vision? The entire truthfulness of the Church? This is all seriously thrown into jeopardy.

 

Brigham Young’s teachings

To be a good member of the Church, you must believe that Brigham Young was a prophet who was led by God. Many members acknowledge that he said many things that are now contrary to current doctrine, but believe that he was still a prophet who simply made some mistakes.

I’m going to list some quotes and stories about Brigham Young. Please decide for yourself if a man who was supposed to represent Jesus Christ in his calling would ever say or do these things.

Blood Atonement

Brigham Young heavily taught a doctrine that is not supported anymore by current Church doctrine, but Brigham sure made it clear that in his day, it was doctrine. It was called “Blood Atonement”. What Brigham Young believed was that there were certain sins that Christ’s Atonement did not cover, namely, adultery and murder. Since the Atonement didn’t cover these sins, if you committed one, the only way you could receive forgiveness for these sins was to atone for them yourself, i.e. you must die.

Although suicide was an acceptable way to atone for these sins, it was perfectly acceptable for someone else to take your life, as long as they knew for sure that you had committed adultery or murder.

Here is a directquote from Brigham Young where he supports this doctrine:

“There are sins that men commit for which they cannot receive forgiveness in this world, or in that which is to come, and if they had their eyes open to see their true condition, they would be perfectly willing to have their blood spilt upon the ground, that the smoke thereof might ascend to heaven as an offering for their sins, and the smoking incense would atone for their sins.”

Getting weird yet? It gets worse. Look at thisquote by Brigham Young where he describes what you should do if you came home and found your wife in bed with your brother:

“[If] you found your brother in bed with your wife, and put a javelin through both of them, you would be justified, and they would atone for their sins, and be received into the kingdom of God.”

Let me break this down, and correct me if I’m wrong. Brigham Young is stating here that if you came home and found your brother in bed with your wife, you are free to murder both of them so that they can receive forgiveness for their adultery and go to heaven. So basically, murder people so they go to heaven. He goes on:

“[U]nder such circumstances, I have no wife whom I love so well that I would not put a javelin through her heart, and I would do it with clean hands.”

This is how I interpret this quote. He is saying that if his wife cheated on him, he would murder her and it wouldn’t be wrong at all, i.e. “with clean hands”. He continues to explain how murder is love:

“Will you love that man or woman well enough to shed their blood? That is what Jesus Christ meant. […If your neighbor] needs help, help him; and if he wants salvation and it is necessary to spill his blood on the earth in order that he may be saved, spill it.”

To save your neighbor who has sinned, murder him out of love. Does this sound like a man who properly teaches what the Savior would teach?

Your first question might be, “Well did people actually do what Brigham Young said, that is, kill people who committed adultery or murder?” Here’s astory of such an occurrence:

Rosmos Anderson was a Danish man who had come to Utah…He had married a widow lady…and she had a daughter that was fully grown at the time of the reformation…

At one of the meetings during the reformation Anderson and his step-daughter confessed that they had committed adultery, believing when they did so that Brigham Young would allow them to marry when he learned the facts. Their confession being full, they were rebaptized and received into full membership. They were then placed under covenant that if they again committed adultery, Anderson should suffer death. Soon after this a charge was laid against Anderson before the Council, accusing him of adultery with his step-daughter…the Council voted that Anderson must die for violating his covenants. Klingensmith went to Anderson and notified him that the orders were that he must die by having his throat cut, so that the running of his blood would atone for his sins. Anderson, being a firm believer in the doctrines and teachings of the Mormon Church, made no objections, but asked for half a day to prepare for death. His request was granted. His wife was ordered to prepare a suit of clean clothing, in which to have her husband buried, and was informed that he was to be killed for his sins, she being directed to tell those who should enquire after her husband that he had gone to California.

Klingensmith, James Haslem, Daniel McFarland and John M. Higbee dug a grave in the field near Cedar City, and that night, about 12 o’clock, went to Anderson’s house and ordered him to make ready to obey the Council. Anderson got up, dressed himself, bid his family good-bye, and without a word of remonstrance accompanied those that he believed were carrying out the will of the “Almighty God.” They went to the place where the grave was prepared; Anderson knelt upon the side of the grave and prayed. Klingensmith and his company then cut Anderson’s throat from ear to ear and held him so that his blood ran into the grave. As soon as he was dead they dressed him in his clean clothes, threw him into the grave and buried him. They then carried his bloody clothing back to his family, and gave them to his wife to wash, when she was again instructed to say that her husband was in California …. The killing of Anderson was then considered a religious duty and a just act.

Wow. The things people will agree to when they believe their leader is led by God.

Interracial relations

Brigham Young made it quite clear throughout his life that black people were a cursed race, and if they ever mixed their seed with a white person, they must die. Look at thisquote by Brigham Young:

“Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.”

Brigham is stating here that the law of God is to instantly kill any black person who has sex with a white person. Death on the spot. Once again, did Mormons actually follow through with this doctrine and kill black people who slept with white people on the spot? Yes, theydid:

An example used by some to illustrate the alleged practice of blood atonement is the 1866 murder of the former-slave, Thomas Coleman (or Colburn), who was in good standing as a member of the LDS Church. As Mormon historian D. Michael Quinn has documented, Coleman was apparently secretly courting a white Mormon woman, contrary to both territorial law and Mormon teachings regarding people of African descent.

At one of their clandestine meetings behind the old Arsenal (on what is now Capitol Hill in Salt Lake) on December 11, Coleman was discovered by “friends” of the woman. The group of vigilantes hit Coleman with a large rock. Using his own bowie knife, his attackers slit his throat so deeply from ear to ear that he was nearly decapitated, as well as slicing open his right breast, in what some believe was a mimicry of penalties illustrated in the temple ritual. Not all of Coleman’s wounds correlated with the temple ritual, however, since he was also castrated. A pre-penciled placard was then pinned to his corpse stating “NOTICE TO ALL NIGGERS – TAKE WARNING – LEAVE WHITE WOMEN ALONE.” Even though it was the middle of winter, a grave was dug and Coleman’s body was buried. The body was disposed of in less than three hours after its discovery.

When Brigham Young heard about this murder, did he quickly relinquish what he had said earlier? Did he explain that he wasn’t serious about killing black people for this? No. He was completely silent and did nothing to redeem the situation. He approved of it by doing and saying nothing, and his silence showed that he wouldn’t mind if it happened again.

In fact, to further prove that he was totally okay with people being put to death for having sex with black people, he tried to make it a Utah state law! He said during the UtahTerritorylegislature in 1852:

“And if any man mingles his seed with the seed of Cane the ownly [sic] way he Could get rid of it or have salvation would be to Come forward & have his head Cut off & spill his Blood upon the ground.  It would also take the life of his Children.”

and also:

“In the priesthood I will tell you what it will do. Where the children of God to mingle there seed with the seed of Cain it would not only bring the curse of being deprived of the power of the priesthood upon themselves but they entail it upon their children after them, and they cannot get rid of it. If a man in an unguarded moment should commit such a transgression, if he would walk up and say cut off my head, and kill man woman and child it would do a great deal towards atoning for the sin. Would this be to curse them? no it would be a blessing to them.”

Notice how he is advocating not only killing the man (by cutting his head off, particularly), but also the woman and the child. Think of that, he is saying it’s okay to kill an innocent child simply because it was born from interracial relations! He is saying that if we come across a family – man, woman, and child – where the man and woman are of different races, and their child was born from their relations, we should kill the whole family! And it’s considered a righteous act, and we are helping them atone for their sins. Basically, “This whole family is so messed up, let’s just kill all of them, even the children. Don’t worry, we’re helping them.”

Listen to Brigham Young justify the murder:

“I put an end to the existence of the mortal tabernacle; but the life still remains. the body and the spirit is only seperated.”

Paraphrasing: “All I’m doing it taking their mortal lives. They still live on in the afterlife, so it’s okay.”

Thanks, Brigham, for making a great case as to why it’s okay to murder people, even little children. You proclaim yourself to be a representative of Jesus Christ, yet look whatJesuswoulddotoyou:

“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Brigham (like Joseph) was cruel and selfish when it came to polygamy

Brigham Young taught a doctrine of “preemptivewives“. This doctrine taught that any man in position of higher authority could take the wife of any other man below him in the Church. I’ll let Brigham explain this doctrine:

“The second way in which a wife can be separated from her husband while he continues to be faithful to his God and his priesthood, I have not revealed, except to a few persons in this Church; and a few have received it from Joseph the prophet – as well as myself. If a woman can find a man holding the keys of the priesthood with a higher power and authority than her husband, and he is disposed to take her, he can do so, otherwise she has to remain where she is.” (October 8, 1861, Salt Lake City Tabernacle)

Notice the part “and he is disposed to take her”. This “he” is referring to the man of higher priesthood, since he is the one taking. In other words, the man lower in the priesthood has no say in the matter. If someone higher than you in the priesthood wants your wife, you have to give her up.

Thirteen years later, he was still teaching this:

“It takes a higher power than a bill of divorce to take a woman away from a man who is a good man and honors his priesthood. It must be a man who possesses a higher power in the priesthood or else a woman is bound to her husband forever and ever.” (June 28, 1874, Brigham City, Utah, Bowery)

Did Brigham Young actually practice this doctrine? Yes. He decided that he wanted Henry Jacobs’ beautiful wife Zina. Brigham then exercised his priesthood authority to take the wife of any man lower than him in the priesthood (which was every man in the Church, since Brigham was the prophet). He not only took Zina from Henry, but ordered Henry to stand as witness to the wedding ceremony!

It gets worse. Brigham then sent the brokenhearted Henry on a mission to England. At the time he was so sick that he had to be carried in a blanket on his way to start his mission. Meantime, Brigham claimed ownership of Henry’s family and children. In April of 1850, Zina gave birth to Brigham Young’s daughter.

Henry still loved Zina very much even though he was no longer her husband by Brigham Young’s decree. Henry wrote her a touching letter expressing this love six years after her birth to Brigham’s son:

“Oh how happy I would be if I only could see you and the little children, bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh. I am unhappy, there is no peace for poor me, my pleasure is you, my comfort has vanished…Oh Zina, can I ever, will I ever get you again, answer the question please. Zina my mind never will change from worlds without ends, no never, the same affection is there and never can be moved. I do not murmur nor complain of the handlings of God no verily, no but I feel alone and no one to speak to, to call my own…I do not blame any person or persons, no – May the Lord our Father bless Brother Brigham and all pertains unto him forever. Tell him for me I have no feelings against him nor never had, all is right according to the law of the celestial kingdom of our God Joseph.”

If you recall, years earlier, Zina was also a secret wife of Joseph Smith whom he had married while she was still married to Henry. This poor man! Both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young both took turns with his wife, using priesthood authority as the excuse! And look at his letter, he remained faithful to the Church, even after so much emotional and sexual abuse by church leaders against his family.

A history of confused Church leaders

Here is a timeline I put together in an effort to show that Church leaders throughout history have often made untrue declarations, many times in God’s name:

1830 – Joseph Smith prophesies that Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery would successfully sell a copyright of the Book of Mormon while on a mission to Canada. They failed in their mission to sell the copyright. (Interesting to note: When they asked Joseph why they had failed, he replied “Some revelations are of God, some revelations are of men, and some revelations are of the devil.” He is admitting here that he is susceptible to receiving revelations from man or the devil and passing them off as prophecy! If Joseph Smith can’t even tell whether revelations are from God or not, why should we trust any of them?)

September 22-23, 1832 – Joseph Smith prophesies that a temple would be built in Missouri saying “For verify this generation shall not pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord” (D&C 84). The Saints were forced out of Missouri, and a temple was never built during the lifetime of Joseph Smith or anyone from his generation.

September 1832 – Joseph Smith prophesies of the destruction of New York City and Boston if they reject the gospel saying “the hour of their judgment is nigh”. He goes to the cities and is largely rejected. The cities to this day have not been destroyed.

April 23, 1834 – Joseph Smith prophesies that the United Order (where the Saints gave all they owned to the Church, who would then give back what they needed) would be “everlasting”, and “immutable and unchangeable” to benefit the church until Jesus comes. The United Order was soon abolished and the Church adopted a tithing system instead.

1835 – Joseph Smith prophesies that the Second Coming would happen by 1891, saying “it was the will of God that they should be ordained to the ministry and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, for the coming of the Lord, which was nigh — even fifty six years should wind up the scene.” The Second Coming never happened before 1891, and still hasn’t happened.

August 6, 1836 – Joseph Smith prophesies that the Lord has treasure in Salem, Massachusetts for the Saints, and that the Saints would inherit the city (D&C 111). No treasure was found there, and the city was never given to the Saints.

1838 – Joseph Smith prophesies “…thus saith the Lord: It is wisdom in my servant, David W. Patten, that he settle up all his business as soon as he possibly can, and make a disposition of his merchandise, that he may perform a mission unto me next spring, in company with others, even twelve including himself, to testify of my name and bear glad tidings unto all the world.” David Patten died soon after this prophecy and never served this mission.

September 1, 1842 – Joseph Smith prophesies “…for to this day has the God of my fathers delivered me out of them all, and will deliver me from henceforth; for behold, and lo, I shall triumph over all my enemies, for the Lord God hath spoken it.” Less than two years later, his enemies stormed Carthage Jail and murdered him.

April 6, 1843 – Joseph Smith prophesies that “There are those of the rising generation who shall not taste death till Christ comes.” Everyone from that generation has died and the Second Coming has not happened.

May 6, 1843 – Joseph Smith prophesies that “in the name of the Lord God of Israel, unless the United States redress the wrongs committed upon the Saints in the state of Missouri and punish the crimes committed by her officers that in a few years the government will be utterly overthrown and wasted”. He also prophesies “by virtue of the holy Priesthood vested in me, and in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that, if Congress will not hear our petition and grant us protection, they shall be broken up as a government, and God shall damn them, and there shall be nothing left of them — not even a grease spot.” The US government never redressed the wrongs committed in Missouri, and the government was never overthrown.

Winter, 1843 – While preaching in a grove next to the Nauvoo temple, Joseph Smith tells a group of Saints “I have often been asked who would succeed me as the prophet to the church. My son Joseph will be your next prophet.” Brigham Young became the next prophet, not Joseph Smith’s son. (Interesting to note: The Reorganized Church did in fact name Joseph’s son to be the next prophet. This means that the only way this prophecy could be true would be if Brigham Young’s defection is not correct and the real true Church is the Reorganized Church, known today as the CommunityofChrist.)

April, 1844 – Joseph Smith prophesies that his unborn child will be called David, and will be “church president and king over Israel”. David never became church president or king, and was admitted to an insane asylum for the last 27 years of his life.

April 6, 1845 – Brigham Young reminds everyone of God’s promise that “as the Lord lives we will build up Jackson County in this generation”. The Saints were forced out of Missouri, and a temple was never built during the lifetime of Brigham Young or anyone from his generation.

January 23, 1852 – Brigham Young instructs Utah Legislature to legalize slavery because “we must believe in slavery.” Slavery goes against everything taught in the Church today.

December 12, 1854 – Brigham Young prophesies “Cain and his posterity will remain cursed and not receive the priesthood until all other children of Adam have had this privilege.” He is referring to black people, who received the priesthood in 1978.

September 6, 1856 – Heber C. Kimball prophesies that “Brigham Young will become President of the United States.” Brigham Young never became US president.

August 20, 1859 – Brigham Young gives his opinion of slavery: “We consider it of divine institution, and not to be abolished until the curse pronounced on Ham shall have been removed from his descendants.” It was abolished by Abraham Lincoln in his Emancipation Proclamation, and is not supported by the current LDS Church.

October 6, 1863 – Brigham Young prophesies during general conference in reference to the Civil War: “Will the present struggle free the slaves? No.” The Civil War did in fact free the slaves. It resulted in the 13th Amendment, legally ending slavery in the United States in 1865.

May 5, 1870 – Orson Pratt reminds everyone of God’s revelation to Joseph Smith that “God promised in the year 1832 that we should, before the generation then living had passed away, return and build up the City of Zion in Jackson County.” The Saints were forced out of Missouri, and a temple was never built during the lifetime of Joseph Smith or anyone from his generation.

December 27, 1879 – Wilford Woodruff tells stake conference in Snowflake, Arizona, “There will be no United States in the year 1890.” The United States existed in 1890, as it still does today.

May 17, 1888 – At the dedication of the Manti Temple, Wilford Woodruff declares prophetically, “We are not going to stop the practice of plural marriage until the Coming of the Son of Man.” The Church stopped practicing polygamy in 1904.

Mar 2, 1904 – Before committee of U.S. Senate, Joseph F. Smith testifies: “I have never pretended to nor do I profess to have received revelations. I never said that I had a revelation except so far as God has shown me that so-called Mormonism is God’s divine truth, that is all.” The calling of an LDS prophet is to receive revelation directly from God to direct the people. To state that you don’t receive it is essentially stating that you’re not a prophet.

May 14,1961 – Joseph Fielding Smith announces to a stake conference in Honolulu: “We will never get a man into space. This earth is man’s sphere and it was never intended that he should get away from it.” He adds: “The moon is a superior planet to the earth and it was never intended that man should go there. You can write it down in your books that this will never happen.” In May 1962, he privately instructs that this view be taught to “the boys and girls in the Seminary System.” On 20 July 1969 US astronauts walk on moon. (Something funny: On September 14, 1971 Apollo 15 astronauts presented to President Joseph Fielding Smith a Utah state flag that had traveled with them to the moon.)

1969-1970 – Spencer W. Kimball publishes “The Miracle of Forgiveness” which condemns homosexuality as a “crime against nature” and encourages homosexual men to marry women in order to overcome their attractions. A year later, he published “New Horizons for Homosexuals” (later titled “A Letter to a Friend”) as an official Church pamphlet. It includes sections titled “It Is Curable” and “Multiply and Replenish” and encourages gay men to marry and father children as a sign of their efforts to overcome their homosexual tendencies. The Church today strongly discourages gays from getting married as a way to solve their homosexuality.

January 11,1983 – Gordon B. Hinckley pays document dealer Mark Hofmann $15,000 for an alleged Joseph Smith letter about his treasure digging activities. He has Hofmann agree not to mention the transaction to anyone else and then he sequesters the document in the First Presidency’s vault. Hinckley does not acknowledge its existence until Los Angeles Times is about to release story about the document. This document was a forgery by Mark Hofmann in an attempt to deceive the First Presidency. (Note: More details about this are discussed in the next section.)

Are Church leaders really inspired by God or are they actually just saying their opinions and saying it’s from God?

Mark Hofmann

I mentioned in the introduction how the Church doesn’t care if something is true or not, but instead focuses all of their energies on whether something is faith-promoting. A great example illustrating this point is the story of MarkHoffman.

One of the greatest forgers in history was Mark Hofmann, and his victims were the apostles and prophets of the LDS Church. Having left the Church, and wanting to embarrass it, Hofmann decided to create fake documents designed to look like they came from important moments in Mormon history. Church leaders spent tens of thousands in tithing purchasing the forgeries.

What made things more interesting were that these fake documents made the Church look bad. One of them was a forgery of Joseph Smith III’s partriarchal blessing, who was Joseph Smith Junior’s son. In it, he was identified as the next prophet of the Church instead of Brigham Young, which would, if it were real, make the Community of Christ (formerly RLDS Chuch) the real true Mormon sect instead of the LDS Church. Another forgery was a imitation of a document written by Joseph Smith describing his visit from the Angel Moroni, except instead of saying Moroni was an angel, the document had Joseph describing him as a white salamander.

In the end, authorities started to catch on to Hofmann’s scheme, and he ended up killing two people with bombs in an attempt to hide what he had been doing. He obviously wasn’t a very good person, but that’s not the point. The important thing to draw from this story is how the Church handled the situation.

  • Church leaders hide evidence showing their organization isn’t true – The Church isn’t interested in being forthright with their members about anything that makes the Church looks bad regardless if it’s true. When Hofmann showed these fake documents to Church leaders, they used tithing to purchase them, and then quickly hid them away. The problem was that Hofmann went to the media and told them what he had sold to the Church. Suddenly the Church was cornered and had to admit that they in fact had the documents. If Hofmann hadn’t have gone to the media, Church leaders would have had no interest in telling Church members about these documents. But what if the documents had solid proof that Joseph Smith was a prophet? Do you think the Church would have shied away from publishing them? Of course not.

 

  • Church leaders don’t have the Spirit of discernment – If the fact that the Church is interested in hiding important things that show Joseph Smith wasn’t a prophet is heart breaking enough, it gets worse. If Church leaders had the Spirit of discernment like they claim, why didn’t the Spirit tell Gordon B. Hinckley that Mark was a liar and a murderer? All Hinckley had to do when Hofmann walked into his office was to look at him, feel the Spirit that the man was evil, and say “Sorry, not interested” and send him on his way. Hinckley’s lack of spiritual discernment led to tens of thousands of dollars in tithing given to a liar buying fake documents that showed the Church was a hoax, untold media coverage putting the Church in a bad light, not to mention two murders! Yet, the Spirit was quiet.

Once Hofmann publicly divulged the letter with Joseph Smith describing the Angel Moroni as a salamander, everyone believed it, Mormons and non-Mormons alike. Everyone in the Church was talking about. Dallin H. Oaks decided to use “the Spirit” to decipher what Joseph meant by salamander. Look whathesaid to troubled members at a 1985 CES fireside in an attempt to explain the situation:

“One wonders why so many writers neglected to reveal to their readers that there is another meaning of ‘salamander,’ which may even have been the primary meaning. . . That meaning. . . is ‘a mythical being thought to be able to live in fire’. . . A being that is able to live in fire is a good approximation of the description Joseph Smith gave of the Angel Moroni. . . the use of the words ‘white salamander’ and ‘old spirit’ seem understandable.”

Notice how he starts off with a haughty comment about those who “neglected to reveal to their readers that there is another meaning of salamander”, as if anyone who questioned the salamander story was hiding this other “meaning” of a salamander being able to live in fire. This I have found is a common strategy for Church leaders when they question real history that makes the Church look bad – attack the character of those providing the history.

How embarrassing it must be for Oaks to have this quote on his permanent life record, using the Spirit to support a total lie that he completely believed through the Spirit.

The two great accommodations

Perhaps the two biggest doctrinal changes in the history of the Church are 1) The abandonment of polygamy and 2) the allowance for blacks to the receive the priesthood. Many members go through mental gymnastics trying to make sense of why these were ever considered doctrine since it’s strong evidence for sexism and racism.

Through lots of personal research, as a strong believing member I came to the following “conclusions” to justify these problems:

  • Polygamy is actually an eternal doctrine that isn’t practiced now but will be practiced either once it is no longer illegal, or in heaven. The reason it’s so important is because many more women will get into heaven than men. This means there will be a lot of unmarried women in heaven, so polygamy is necessary to make sure everyone is married.
  • Heavenly Father forbid blacks from getting the priesthood as a safety precaution for the Church. If He had allowed it, blacks would have been given leadership roles during an era were blacks were severely discriminated. It might have meant the end of the Church, just as it had ended in days of old from persecution.

Having come to these conclusions, I felt somewhat at peace. These conclusions I came to were based on filtered information given to me by the Church, however. Once I read the full account of the history of these doctrines, my perception changed dramatically. I realized that the reasons these doctrines were abandoned were not because God changed his mind, but rather the Church was under enormous pressure from the government.

The first great accommodation

In the drive for Utah statehood, Church leaders had decided that the time had come to enter the mainstream, to become respectable, and thus began the period known as the Great Accommodation. Topping the list of practices and teachings that the Church had to give up: polygamy.

Brigham Young maintained a polygamous household of 27 wives. While the rest of America considered the doctrine little more than prostitution, Young declared, “I live above the law, and so do this people.” He knew that polygamy was divinely ordained, and “no power on earth can suppress it, unless you crush and destroy the entire people. … A man that enters this Church ought to be able to die for its principles if necessary.”

Apostle Orson Pratt pitched the following argument in favor of the plural marriage doctrine:

“If the doctrine of polygamy, as revealed to the Latter-day Saints, is not true, I would not give a fig for all your other revelations that came through Joseph Smith the Prophet; I would renounce the whole of them. […]  The Lord has said, that those who reject this principle reject their salvation, they shall be damned, saith the Lord […].  I want to prophecy that all men and women who oppose the revelation which God has given in relation to polygamy will find themselves in darkness[,…] they will finally go down to hell and be damned if they do not repent.”

But then, Congress passed the EdmundsTuckerAct on February 18, 1887. This law dissolved the legal entity of the LDS Church, the Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All funds were confiscated and the church was forbidden to collect tithing. All property valued at over $50,000 became property of the United States federal government. In order to circumvent this section of the law, the church had sold ZCMI, the telegraph, the railroad, and all other businesses, factories, and cooperative enterprises to members of the church. This left only Temple Square in Salt Lake City for federal troops to seize. Mormons could not vote, serve on juries, or hold public office. The Act also shut down Mormon schools and disinherited children of plural marriages.

Subsequently, God appeared to President and Prophet Wilford Woodruff. Although Joseph Smith had proclaimed that “the only men who become gods, even the sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy,” and God had twice repeated to Woodruff that the doctrine of plural marriage was nonnegotiable, He had apparently changed His mind.

Woodruff publicly revoked this divine commandment by issuing the Manifesto of 1890 on September 24th of that year. This manifesto was just for public consumption; the Mormon Church itself had no serious plans to give up the practice. Clergymen continued to perform plural weddings, although the vows were now often read from behind a curtain. This official policy of “lying for the Lord” was designed to keep federal marshals from endangering Utah’s impending statehood. Eventually, in 1904, the Church gave in to outside pressure to make good on its word: excommunication became the official penalty for taking a second wife.

The second great accommodation

The Church’s policy of excluding blacks from the priesthood had stood against all attempts at reform during the civil rights movement. But then things happened to Brigham Young University’s basketball program in the 1970s. During a game at Colorado State University, a Molotov cocktail was tossed onto the court to protest the antiblack LDS tenets. A Stanford University official declared that if the BYU team ever wanted to play Stanford again, the Mormon Church would have to “reinterpret God’s word and establish doctrines compatible with Stanford’s policies.”

Shortly following this statement, Stanford indeed canceled all scheduled sports events with BYU, not just its basketball games. In fact, the Western Athletic Conference nearly disbanded over the furor. Additionally, anti-Mormons urged for boycotts of recordings of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the cancellation of vacations to Utah. The NAACP initiated several lawsuits against Mormon Boy Scout troops, charging that church policy was foisting racism on minority Scouts. Worst of all, the IRS suggested that the racial policies of the Mormon Church might justify a suspension of its tax-exempt status. Several professional consulting firms which the church had previously hired for other matters suggested to church leaders that they reconsider the status of blacks in the Mormon Church as part of a major overhaul of church policy.

Finally, on June 9, 1978, President Spencer W. Kimball announced to the Saints that he had received a new revelation which ended the ban on blacks in the priesthood. “That same revelation came to his counselors and to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the Temple, and then it was presented to all of the other General Authorities who approved it unanimously,” stated Kimball. This revelation is known to Mormons as The Second Great Accommodation.

The third great accommodation – coming soon

We are currently seeing the beginnings of what will undoubtedly be the Church’s third great accommodation: allowing homosexuals to be married. Just as before, the government will intervene and start to seize assets and revoke tax benefits. The Church will buckle and change the doctrine, stating it to be a revelation from Heavenly Father. Mark my words – gays will eventually hold hands over the altar in the temple. It’s only a matter of time.

The Church today

I realize that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were nothing like the prophets of today. The prophets of today don’t talk about seeing God and angels, they don’t have multiple wives and sleep with children, they don’t advocate murdering people out of love, and they don’t go around with a seer stone charging people money so they can lie to them about where treasure is, only to say it was “moved by the Devil” once the treasure isn’t found. If the prophets of today acted like this, I don’t think any sane person would consider them to be inspired by God.

But what’s important to remember is, the prophets of today didn’t start this religion. It’s the first prophets, i.e. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, who are responsible for the existence of this religion. If it wasn’t for them, (obviously) none of us would have been Mormon. Now, if Joseph and Brigham were wrong, then what can we say about the truthfulness of this whole religion? Does false doctrine of old become true as the reputation of the Church improves? Does the fact the the more recent prophets and apostles “cleaned up” the actions of the Church erase the fraudulent origins of the Church?

Many will argue that the Church is a great organization today, even if it might have an ugly past. Well, this isn’t some spiritual health club. This is supposed to be an organization run directly by God himself. If Joseph Smith made it all up, then the organization isn’t run by God at all, but rather just by old men who are making it up as they go. They may strongly believe they are being inspired, but if Joseph Smith made this all up, then they are making it up too.

The Church of today heavily edits the past in all of their publications so that all of the bad stuff I just described isn’t talked about anymore. We are encouraged to focus on the happy state of the Church today, and only remember the good stuff that Joseph and Brigham did. Let’s not focus on the negative they’ll say. Let’s focus on the faith-promoting stuff, because the other stuff will hurt your testimony. If you believe the other stuff, you’ll probably leave the Church, thinking it’s false.

Well, I’m sorry, but I don’t believe Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were prophets. I believe that they were bad people. Bad people who wanted power, and were willing to lie and take advantage of people to get it. And if they were liars, then I don’t think the First Vision happened. I don’t think the Book of Mormon is true. I cannot trust anything they ever taught. Which means, I can’t be Mormon, no matter how good the religion is today. I cannot support it, and I won’t.

How to get rid of the problems posed in this essay

Maybe after reading all of this, your head is spinning a little. Maybe you spent the entire time reading while concurrently trying to make justifications in your mind as to how the Church is still true, despite such a twisted history. I went through similar emotions as I found all of this out.

Let me tell you how easy it is to solve all of these problems. If you can simply come to the conclusion in your mind that the LDS Church is simply a man-made institution, all of these problems instantly disappear. If this is simply an organization started by normal people who weren’t actually led by God, then it makes sense that it would have all of these problems. Indeed, all of these problems are strong evidence that it really was just started by normal men.

Pretend you haven’t been converted yet

Take a moment and pretend that you are not a member of the Church yet. While remembering everything the Church has taught you, along with everything you have just learned, ask yourself: Do I trust in the teachings of Joseph Smith enough to dedicate myself to the religion he started?

How every religion sustains itself, true or not

I want to show you the system of how religion spreads all over the world for generations going back thousands of years. As a Mormon, this system was never revealed to me, but if you look at it, it starts to open your eyes as to what is really going on:

  1. Children are taught by their parents to believe in their same religion.
  2. These children start to believe in the religion before they develop critical thinking skills. They are strongly influenced to believe in it because their family and peers believe in it, but not because they fully believe in it themselves (yet).
  3. The more they are taught the concepts of the religion, the more they are convinced that it “must” be true. They see no other options. This is called “childhood indoctrination”.
  4. Once the children are older and start to develop critical thinking skills, they consider using them to verify the truthfulness of their religion. The religion teaches that this won’t work, however, because “There’s no evidence for any of this. There is only faith, which is believing without needing evidence. You don’t need evidence, only faith. And there is nothing wrong with this.”
  5. As faith keeps the children from analyzing anything, they continue to grow and believe, even the intelligent ones. They corroborate with their peers who also believe in the same thing, and they strengthen their testimony.
  6. As adults they have their own children. And as parents they do the exact same thing to their own children. (Return to step 1.)

Once again, this is not just the system for the LDS Church. This is how every religion in the world sustains itself for generations from parent to child, parent to child, over and over. This circle continues forever because what child wouldn’t believe his/her parents? Children believe in everything! If all of a child’s supporters teach him/her something – no matter if it’s true or not – there is no way for the believing child to escape indoctrination. He/she will believe it without a doubt. Children’s brains are shaped by the concepts that adults explain to them. And these concepts don’t have to be true or sensible. Children just believe. And once they believe it completely, they’ll hold onto it until they are adults, and then teach their own children. This system is incredibly effective.

In light of becoming aware of this system, I have decided that I think it’s very wrong to teach a child something is true when the only way you’ve “verified” it’s true is through how you personally feel about it. It’s in effect trapping them into believing a certain dogma. I think it’s a form of child abuse, and I won’t do this to my children. Instead of indoctrinating them into whatever my family’s religious traditions have been, I will teach them moral principles: to not lie, or steal, or cheat, or hurt others. I will indeed teach Jesus’ most important teaching: “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.” I think that this is the greatest principle ever taught. If everyone follows this teaching, the world will be happy.

Conclusion

I don’t really know what I will do with my life as far as religion goes. In the mean time, I am fully dedicated to living the most important aspects of life taught to me by Mormonism, that is, a life of total morality. Indeed I will follow the counsel of Jesus from the Bible to love one another. This means I’m not going to lie to people. I’m not going to hurt people. I’m not going to steal from people. I have full respect for my fellow man in everything that I do and say. I have every reason to have full respect for everyone I meet, even those that I strongly disagree with, since I know that we’re all in this confusing world together. We’re all doing our best to procure truth the best way we know how.

Being “sure” of things

If there’s anything I learned from this whole experience, it has been to never be completely sure about anything. I will now base my life trusting everything based on probabilities.

For example, is the world round? All of the evidence these days points to yes, most definitely. But can I really be sure? I’ve seen plenty of pictures. I’ve heard eye witness testimony of people who have looked down from a space shuttle who saw it was round. Many people have gotten in boats and sailed all the way around the world back to where they started. Therefore it seems incredibly probable that the world is round, so I choose to believe it.

But I’ve never been up in a space shuttle. I’ve never sailed around the world. Really, I have to trust that the experts who are telling me that the world is round are educated in their conclusions. And I do trust them, but not to a 100% surety.

Here another example: was there nodeath before the Fall of Adam (as taught by the Mormon Church)? All of the evidence these days indicates that thisisnttrueatall. Archaeologists have studied the history of life on Earth extensively and have concluded that life has been on earth for billions of years, and trillions of things have died. We have endless records of this. The evidence in staggering. Therefore it seems incredibly improbable that there was no death before the Fall as the Church teaches, so I choose not to believe it.

But I’ve never dug a hole to look for biological artifacts. I’m not an archaeologist. Really, I have to trust that the experts who are telling me that things have been dying for billions of years are right. And I do trust them, but not to a 100% surety.

My point is, since you can’t ever be totally sure about anything, you have to base your knowledge on what is probably true. That’s the best any of us can ever due. The Church, as I believe I’ve shown here, is almost definitely not true. Therefore, it isn’t a smart decision in my opinion to follow it. There are so many other things that are much more probably true. Many beautiful things all over the world. Pursue truth wherever the evidence points to where it may be. Don’t follow your feelings, for feelings lead people astray. Follow the evidence.

In the beginning of this paper, I provided alink to a document that gives 100 reasons why the world is not round. I can assure you the author doesn’t actually believe the world is flat; he is simply making a point. That point is, just because someone has an argument for something, it doesn’t mean it’s a good argument.

All we can do in this life is research the evidence, analyze how reliable we think it is, and live accordingly. In your personal research on whether you believe the Church is true, please keep this in mind. You’ll find plenty of arguments from intelligent people who believe in the Church. They’ll show you things that seem convincing. Just make sure and read everything that anyone gives you – Mormon and non-Mormon alike – with a watchful eye and a rational analysis of all the evidence you can get your hands on.

 

Contact me

I am completely open to discuss anything included in this paper. Feel free to email me. If you found errors, by all means, let me know so I can fix them.

Other stories

There are, of course, many others in my same situation who have some very inspirational stories they have shared. Here are a few links:

  • www.iamanexmormon.com – This is a post-Mormon response to the Church’s “…and I’m a Mormon” campaign that is currently running on television commercials and YouTube. If you decide to watch some of the videos, be sure and also read their written response under the video which is them describing why they left in much more detail. Be sure and also read the “OlderEntries“; there is a link to them at the bottom.
  • www.exmormonscholarstestify.org – This is a post-Mormon response to the Church’s website www.mormonscholarstestify.com. Once again, there are some great stories here by very intelligent people who left the Church. Click the “Testimonies” link at the top.
  • www.newordermormon.org – This is a site full of people who are doubting the Church, but still think it is beneficial to maintain membership.
  • www.postmormon.org – This is a good-natured and inspirational website for people who have left the Church. I find the people here to be very rational, loving, and level-headed. There’s a link near the top where people describe their exitstories.

A common belief among Mormons is that good comes to those who are righteous, and bad ultimately comes to those who are wicked. This belief applies as much to this life as to the life to come. It is one of those subjective ‘truths’ that a devout Mormon uses to reinforce their own good standing in God’s eyes and their beliefs regarding the plight of those who sin against God. It is a belief system in which I, myself, was indoctrinated as a Mormon youth. Never mind all those bad things that happen to good people. Such events are often over-looked or brushed away as trials sent by God to strengthen one’s faith and character. But, when bad things happen to one who is a known sinner, well… that’s testament of God’s wrath raining down what one deserves.

As you might guess, bad things are happening in the life of this particular ex-Mormon, and, yes, all of the devout Mormons in my life are quick to point out that I’m ‘just getting what I had coming’. With the perspective of nearly 3 years out of the church, I can plainly see where this line of thinking is coming from and it simultaneously saddens and amuses me. The source of amusement, I would think, to any outsider, would be obvious. The sadness stems from the fact that this type of piety really gets in the way of compassion, mainly compassion from those who mean the most to me.

The fact is that bad and good things just happen. They happen to everyone, regardless of religion, politics, race or gender. Sometimes our choices bring on good or bad; sometimes they don’t.

Another fact is that I am better equipped now to handle anything life throws me than at any other time in my life, especially when I was a Mormon. You see, as a Mormon, I was constantly in a state of interpreting life events as reflecting my own worthiness in the sight of God. I continually asked myself, “Is this a sign from God? Am I being punished? Does this mean I’m on the right track?”. Now, I realize, crap just happens. How we deal with it is what matters. How we deal with it defines our path in life and the character with which we define ourselves.

Regardless of events that transpire in my own life outside of my control, I believe that God loves me unconditionally. He loves me the same as my Mormon counterparts, and the same as all other living beings upon this planet. He shows no favoritism. Likewise, I have learned to love myself without limits, without conditions. I have been freed from my previous pious beliefs and can now love others without favoritism and without conditions. How better prepared could I be to encounter the obstacles of mortality? Despite the hardships that I am facing at this time, I know greater peace than at any other time in my life. Sure, I feel sad at times. I cry. I am human. But when the dust settles, I am secure in the love that engulfs me from the inside out. Nothing can touch that.

Nothing is more beautiful than unconditional love. Nothing is more beautiful than compassion. Conversely, nothing is more ugly than piety.

I came across an article, “The Art of Endings”, today by psychologist and bestselling author, Dr. Henry Cloud. The following are excerpts from the article:

“In both the personal and professional life, there are times when reality dictates that a person must stand up and ‘end’ something. Either it’s time has passed, it’s season is over, or worse, continuing it would be destructive in some way.”

“But too many times, with clear evidence staring them in the face, people find it difficult to pull the trigger. Why is that?

“The reasons are varied, but understandable, especially in light of developmental psychology, our understanding of trauma, and cognitive mapping. Some people’s developmental path has not equipped them to stand up and let go of something. For example, if they did not develop what psychologists refer to as secure attachment or emotional object constancy, the separation and loss that ending a relationship triggers for them is too much, so they avoid it. In addition, in their development they may not have been taught the skills to confront situations like these.

“Or, if they have had traumatic losses in life, another ending represents a replay of those, and they shy away or frantically try to mend whatever is wrong, way past reason. Or they have internal maps that tell them that ending something is ‘mean’ or will cause someone harm. In any case, fears dominate their functioning, and they find themselves unable to do a ‘necessary ending.'”

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/t…

I left cultic Mormonism in 1992, a VERY needful personal ending, considering that the LDS Church had, from early childhood to adulthood, systematically abused not only my naïveté and trust, but also my mind and emotional ‘soul’ with its myriad of fear-, guilt- and shame-inducing ‘true’ doctrines and teachings (i.e., religious nonsense). Tragically, it’s done the same with millions of people since 1830. Thankfully, in the past 17 years of the Internet 100’s of 1,000’s people have ended their membership in the patriarchal/abusive Mormon Church and gone on to create healthy and happy lives.

Perhaps more difficult, many individuals have been married to a TBM or had parents, siblings or friends who refused to look at the mountain of facts that prove that Mormonism is a fraud. Pulling away from or ending relationships with psychologically dysfunctional and emotionally immature people (who refuse to grow up) is another important part of life that we should not avoid.

Dr. Cloud’s article is worth reading, IMO.

An excellent post which I originally came across during my exit from the church. Helped me put Mormon culture, and its hold on me, into perspective. This article was the beginning of learning how to be my true, authentic self. That began with recognizing the mask and prying it off my face, and oh, the peace that followed!The Mormon Mask
By Bob McCue

For the great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances, as though they were realities and are often more influenced by the things that seem than by those that are.”—Machiavelli

Introduction

Joseph Campbell used a mask metaphor, which he borrowed from Yeats, to elucidate the often-difficult relationship between the individual and his social group. Campbell’s ideas helped me to understand a number of important things about my experience as a faithful Mormon, which lasted until my mid-40s. Much of what follows is summarized from an essay titled “Out of My Faith” that can be found at the website listed in the “About the Author” information accessed at the link above.

The Primary and Antithetical Masks

As we grow up in a society it puts a mask on us that Yeats called the “primary mask”. In some societies we are allowed to choose (to an extent at least) our primary mask. In other cases, such as within the Hindu caste system, there is little choice.

The primary mask is designed to teach us our role and so connect us to our group and make us useful within it. The primary mask is critical from society’s point of view. Without a workable set of such masks, chaos would reign. The primary mask also has some benefits for the individual as well since we all have to start somewhere.

As we mature, there comes a time when it is healthy for many of us to reshape our masks, and in some cases, cast them aside. Yeats calls this process the creation of the “antithetical” mask. The antithetical mask represents what wells up from within us. This is not necessarily the “real us” since it seems to be largely a product of our environment. But, it is fair to say that the antithetical mask shows much more of “us” and less of our social condition than does our primary mask.

The antithetical mask often enables our most creative, forceful contribution to life. Some people feel that this is the “best” we have within us, but since the antithetical mask is also heavily influence by our environment, and “best” is one of those terms that means different things to different folks, I do not hold this view. I do, however, regard the creation of the antithetical mask in most cases as an important and useful developmental step for both the individual in question and the social group of which she is part.

After our antithetical mask has been formed, we may identify wholly with it or we may continue to wear the primary mask to an extent, recognizing it as such, and revert to the antithetical mask as often as we can. Or, we may develop a range of masks and wear them each on occasion. How we do this, the extent to which we do it, etc. is determined by our individual characteristics and the nature of our group. For example, some scholars have observed that the more structured a society, the more chameleon-like behaviour is observed. That is, in authoritarian societies individuals tend to wear many different masks (See, for example, Richard Nisbett “The Geography of Thought”), each dictated by the different roles their society calls upon them to play from time to time (boss, subordinate, son, grandson, father, husband, friend, etc.) and are much less likely to experience the radical transformation from one state to another of which Yeats spoke to his largely Western audience.

The creation of the antithetical mask causes tension within the group. It makes others uncomfortable because it is not expected. And it threatens those who govern the group because it could weaken their authority. And after all, the primary mask was the group’s idea of what is “good”, “necessary”, etc. The usual response of those in authority, and many group members, when they find a primary mask in the process of being discarded is to fear that if such behaviour spreads, chaos will reign. In Mormon circles, for example, this view is expressed as a concern that those who leave Mormonism will fall into promiscuous sexual behaviour, drug addiction, etc.

Campbell talks about many who “fight through” this process, “for good or ill”. I perceived much of my experience in this regard to be a fight. However, I now understand that this is not as it must be. Once we place this most personal of evolutions in context, we can understand it as a necessary, healthy part of our development. And the tension it creates within our society, family etc. can itself be a healthy part of the developmental process for most involved in it.

The Formation of the Antithetical Mask
– An Important Font of Creativity

Youth is the time during which the primary mask is fashioned and placed on us. As we reach adulthood and become independent beings, we have the chance to create our own antithetical mask. The use of this mask – or playing the role we cast for ourselves as we form this mask – is what should power the most creative, wonderful and useful (as we define that term) part of our lives: middle age.

The exploratory, risk-taking orientation of the antithetical mask is what gives it creative force. This is one of the reasons for which so much scientific knowledge has accumulated in the West as compared to elsewhere. The formation of the antithetical mask causes people to reach beyond themselves and what their primary mask has taught them. As they venture into the “dark forest” – the primary, chaotic, motif of the Arthurian legends – to make their antithetical mask, they find much that they would not have otherwise encountered. The human instinct for pattern finding and figuring out whatever puzzles us then leads to the formation of new ideas, technologies, etc.

From the primordial brew into which one generation of Western man after another is thrown to make his antithetical mask, have come most of the ideas that now power our world. Such creativity is not as likely in a more static society where we are told what we are, and are subjected to a great deal of pressure not to step outside that prescribed state. This may explain much of the difference between the degree of creative power found in the modern East and West, as well as the relative dearth of Pulitzer and Nobel Prizes awarded to Mormons and members of other similarly conservative groups (See John and Kirsten Rector, “What is the Challenge for LDS Scholars and Artists”, Dialogue, Vol. 36, No. 2, Summer 2003).

Another way to think of the antithetical mask is as a metaphor for the use of the scientific method paradigm in our lives. It requires that we remain open to change and improvement for as long as possible. As Richard Feynman put it (See “What is Science?” in “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out – The Best Short Works of Richard Feynman” at page 188), the trick is to balance respect and disrespect for the past. We should be grateful for the knowledge our elders have passed down to us, but not permit ourselves to be unquestioningly bound by it. We continue to journey on the same road they travelled.

Individuation

The creation of the antithetical mask can also be thought of as a basic aspect of the individuation process. Current cultural trends in the democratic west, as shown for example by the University of Michigan’s World Value Survey, indicate that the movement toward early and more complete individuation is strengthening. This bodes well for individuals and creativity, and poorly for authoritarian institutions that tend to control their memberships.

This trend is fuelled by abundant, readily accessible information about other cultures. Interesting, in his classic novel with respect to the functioning of ideological society 1984, George Orwell indicated that restriction of information with respect to the reality of other cultures is essential to keeping the masses under control (See the later portions of chapter 9 in part 3; the relevant portions of the text can be accessed by searching the terms “the masses never revolt” and “he must be cut off” using the search function on this website; or see pages 216 and 221, 222 in the Penguin Books edition of 1984). As is the case with most trends, more individuation should be expected to bring an assortment of good and ill. I expect the balance in this regard to tip in favour of the good.

A rough measure of individuation within any group is the range of behaviours accepted by the group. Compare, for example, the range of behaviour in a typical Mormon congregation in Provo, and a typical group of a similar size in a Greenwich Village artists’ co-op. The control a particular group exercises over its individual members can be placed on a spectrum through an exercise of this nature. Conservative Hindu culture, for example, would be near the extreme of non-individuation. The permissive fringe of Western culture would at the other extreme.

More individuation is not necessarily good. In some cases it can result in chaos. Whether more individuation or more conformity is “good” should be assessed on a case-by-case basis and will depend on how “good” is defined.

Within the relatively individuation oriented Western culture, many sub-cultures exist. The so-called “conservative” religious groups would be toward the non-individuating end of Western culture, and proud of it. This is where we find Mormonism. As noted in greater detail below, Mormons have “standards” relative to family size, sexual roles, and a host of other things. For this reason, feminists, gays and a variety of others do not fit well into the Mormon system. However, when compared to the Fundamentalist Mormons (for example), the Old Older Amish, the Hutterites, and many other more hardcore cults, Mormons seem easy going in terms of how vigorously they apply the primary mask and resist its removal or alternation.

The Reassertion of the Primary Mask

As already noted, the creation of the antithetical mask is what drives change and allows as much of our selves as possible to engage the world around us. This requires a lot of energy. And the greater the difference between the antithetical mask and the demands society makes upon us, the harder this is. For example, it would have been much more difficult to be a homosexual activist in 1960 than it is now.

During periods of life when energy is scarce (such as during ill health or old age) the primary mask begins to reassert itself in some ways. This might be as subtle as a slowing of change or growth. Or it might be a reversion to the “old”, “safe” way of doing things.

One of the ironies of the cycle involved in the creation of generation after generation of antithetical masks is that some people who created wonderful masks of their own when young and then reach the stage of life at which energy is no longer available for that creative process, begin to resist the changes others attempt to make. That is, an antithetical mask on one person can harden into a new primary mask to be placed on others. And then the process commences anew.

Robert Sapolsky nicely illustrates the process by which the primary mask reasserts itself (See the essay titled “The Dissolution of Ego Boundaries and the Fit of My Father’s Shirt” at page 227 in “The Trouble with Testosterone and Other Essays on the Biology of the Human Predicament”). He is a respected biologist, teacher and author, as well as an avowed atheist who prides himself on the manner in which he trains young scientific minds at Stanford to don their antithetical masks as he once did his. But as the end of his career approaches, he notes:

I can still do without religion, but some ritual would be nice. [He then lists a number of his age induced mental and physical disabilities] It slowly dawns on me that my ego-bounded self is not such a hot deal anymore.

A tribal mindset cannot be retained; we cannot turn back. It can only come as an echo, a hint in our armoured individuated world that a bit of confusion as to ego boundaries can be an act of health, of homage and love, and can be a whisper of what it feels like to be swaddled in continuity.

So while Sapolsky feels the allure of his primary mask during life’s twilight as his energies decline, he resists it.

As we enter our latter stages of life, our passions do not burn as brightly. We prepare to fade into the night. If we have experienced the “second birth” that occurs as we create our antithetical masks, this physical decline can be experienced with a bemused detachment, and the fruits of being our new selves can continue to be enjoyed, although perhaps not much additional new fruit will be created. Campbell, using another metaphor borrowed from Yeats, refers to the second birth as a leaping from the moon to the sun at that point in the lunar cycle – mid-life – when they both appear at the same time on opposite horizons. This means that the individual has become a creative source within society instead of a reflector of societal values produced elsewhere. As Campbell puts it, light is more important than bulbs; power is more important than the vehicle it drives. Those who perceive themselves as essentially part of the power source are more tolerant of their vehicle’s gradual decay.

We Cannot See Our Own Masks

The nature of a mask is such that he who wears it cannot see it without the help of a friend, mirror or some other device. Hence, until we understand that we are wearing a mask, it is easy to be fooled into thinking that we are our role – the mask is us. This is largely because of the forces of fear and desire. The cognitive dissonance literature describes the many mental mechanisms by which fear and desire interfere with our ability to see things as they are (See “Religious Faith: Enlightening or Blinding?” at my website). For example, it has been shown that the more uncertain the data related to a decision is and the more important the decision, the more likely we are to believe that the right thing to do is whatever the group of which we are a part has decided on that point. Decisions concerning religious belief are classic examples of this. Hence, faithful Mormons will tend to believe the dominant voices in their group that urge them not to attempt to change, or even disturb, their primary masks.

This is one of life’s central ironies. In our most important decisions, our own judgement and that of those closest to us is often the weakest. That is why medical doctors are advised not to treat themselves or their own children. For the same reason, we are wise to rely upon outsiders to the extent we are able when making our most important and emotionally charged decisions. That does not mean allowing them to make our decisions for us, but rather using the perspective of others to get outside our own heads to the extent possible. And we should of course use others in this regard whose judgement we have reason to respect. That is one of the basic differences between democracy or representative government and other more centralized forms of government – in a democracy, the judgement of the one (the king, the dictator, the prophet) is not to be trusted no matter how honourable or capable she may appear. This practise is the result of humanity’s long experience with the corrupting influence of power on individuals and small groups of people who wield it. Orwell’s comments in this regard, in the general vicinity of the quotes provided above, are enlightening.

There is little in life that is more important than decisions related to how we will deal with the removal of our primary masks, and the formation of our antithetical masks. But practically speaking, who can be trusted to help us make such a decision? To be sure, those who want the primary masks to remain firmly attached will vilify all who would counsel their alternation or worse yet, removal. And those who love us most have the same objectivity problem we have.

It is my view that those best equipped to provide us with perspective in most respects are the scientists who study the relevant phenomena. They will help us to see how things work and how we can use them to accomplish our chosen objectives, but they should not be relied upon to answer questions of essential meaning – the “whys” of life. And generally speaking, they do not seek to tell us what to do so in any event.

For example, if I have decided that I wish to have a life that is as connected to reality as possible; that I wish to live with people who are honourable and loving and who invest significant energies in maintaining family relationships; then scientists are better equipped than anyone else to help me understand the principles on which I can bring such a world into existence, and can help me to identify other like-minded people who not only say that they want what I want, but who have a track record of behaving in a fashion that is consistent with their words. So often, with the best of intent, we say X and believe that we are doing X, when in fact we are blind to the objective reality of our behaviour – that we are in fact doing Y.

The Mormon Mask

So, where does Mormonism fit into this picture? It seems clear to me that Mormonism, with its collectivist, authoritarian social model, tends toward the Eastern end of the cultural spectrum as far as the mask metaphor is concerned. It may, or may not, be coincidental that many of Joseph Smith’s most innovative theological points have an Eastern flavour – man participating in God’s nature; Kabala concepts; reincarnation; etc.

The Mormon Concept of God

One of my favourite Mormon concepts relates to the nature of God. This is one of the key issues dividing Mormons and mainstream Christians that some BYU academics are trying hard to paper over at the moment.

The Mormon God is not omnipotent. He is subject to eternal law. Eternal law in this context plays the role of ultimate reality, or Brahman-like concepts, in many Eastern religions. The Mormon god is more like the underling gods of those theological systems in the sense that he is not all powerful but rather has mastered a system of rules that give him power. That is, his power is derivative from and subject to another system, not omnipotent. He is not the power source. If we use this concept metaphorically, it works well with Campbell and Yeats’ idea that we should ourselves become creative agents by mastering to the extent possible the rules of cause and effect to which we are subject. In this sense, man can become as God as Joseph Smith taught.

When we decide what we value, determine what we can do that is likely to bring what we value into being, and then do it, we are creating in the most real sense possible. And so we become as Smith’s god – creators in our own small sphere.

Joseph Smith did not, of course, define the concepts he spoke of in this regard as well as the Eastern theologies that have had many centuries of oral tradition to work the bugs out of their ideas with no one watching. Joseph had to spit it out and let it stand, because his ideas were often written down as he spoke them, which is I suspect about when many of them emerged from the “primordial soup” into which he threw himself when be became a religious leader.

Components of the Mormon Mask

As noted above, the East puts the primary mask on tighter and resists efforts to take it off more severely than does the West. If you are a Hindu Untouchable and do certain harmless but nonetheless “out of caste” things even today, your life will be endangered. Mormonism is not that bad, but it has far more behavioural standards than most Western religions. Here are a few that I can recall off the top of my head:

– The “Word of Wisdom” must be obeyed regardless of what current medical science has to say regarding its “wisdom” from a health point of view;

– Tithing and other onerous financial requirements must be complied with to hold a temple recommend and be considered a fully participating member of the community;

– Information that does not support the view of Mormonism promoted by the current leadership should be avoided;

– Adult members are expected to hold “callings” that are often so time consuming that they preclude most other social or community interaction and substantially limit family time;

           – Dress and grooming standards for both young people and older people are promoted that create a distinctive “Mormon” appearance;- Certain forms of vulgarity are permissible, and others are not; for example, R-rated movies are not approved regardless of artistic merit but “high”   art that involves nudity or violence is not specifically discouraged and is studied in university courses;

– Only one earring per ear is approved for women, and no body piercing or tattoos are approved;

– Seemingly endless group, family and personal rituals on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis are highly recommended; here are just a few: daily personal prayer at various times; daily personal scripture study; couples’ prayer; couples’ scripture study; family prayer at various times; family scripture study; weekly family home evening; weekly church meetings of various sorts; monthly home teaching; monthly visiting teaching; etc.;

– Permissible and impermissible sexual acts both outside of, and within, marriage are specified, one of my favourites being that garments must be put back on after intercourse before falling asleep;

– 19-year-old young men must serve a “voluntary” two-year “mission” or face social stigma within Mormon society;

– Men who postpone marriage past their early 20s are browbeaten; unmarried men of age 25 years or older are referred to as “menaces” to society;

– Couples who postpone child bearing are brow beaten;

– Mothers who work outside the home without a good excuse are brow beaten;

– Members who do not refer their friends to the missionaries are brow beaten;

– Retired members who do not volunteer for missionary service are browbeaten;

– Homosexuals are encouraged to do a variety of unadvisable things, such as marrying heterosexually to “overcome” their “problem”, undergoing various forms of invasive therapy to “cure” them and living “chaste” lives.

Campbell describes those who cannot distinguish between the human individual and the mask as “stiffs”. He provides as an example the big businessman who does not know how to take his mask off when he comes home and as a result has trouble relating to his family because the mask gets in the way. The performer who continues to perform for his family and closest friends has the same difficulty, as does the litigation lawyer whose intimate relationships are characterized by control struggles and conflict of other kinds.

We humans are perceptive, and react negatively to what we intuit (often unconsciously) to be a mask worn by a human being to whom we wish to intimately relate. Masks get in the way. But, those who have known nothing other than a life of masks will not see this unless they experience the terrifying-at-first life without masks.

Theological Superglue for Mormon Masks

Mormonism also attempts in a variety of ways to use a kind of superglue to hold the primary mask in place. For example, Mormonism attempts to monopolize energy in order to prevent it from being available for use in creation of the antithetical mask.

This explains the frequent use of the saying “Idle hands do the Devil’s work” within Mormonism and similar cultures. It also explains why young Mormon men (and some women) are sent on missions, and marriage is strongly encouraged soon after the missionaries return home, as is the starting a family as soon as possible. A young person saddled with the responsibility of marriage, family, getting an education etc. will feel the need for the community support structure Mormonism provides, and will not be as likely to have energy available to question his role in that society.

Mormon leaders do not sit around and plan these things. Social organizations that survive in the long term evolve effective means of keeping their people under control, and these means usually come to be regarded as “sacred” and hence beyond question. The Mormon practises described above are a few of the countless techniques that ideologies have evolved over the millennia of their existence that help to counteract all other forces that may dilute institutional power. How far a particular ideology can go in this regard is constrained by the nature of the broader society in which it is found, how much its members know about that society etc.

In my view, the social control mechanisms just described pale in terms of their ability to keep the primary mask in place when compared to the theology Mormons are taught from childhood up. Think of the idea of the pre-existence. Our “true” characters are formed there and only manifest themselves through obedience to Mormon authority. Our “natural” (that is Earthly) natures are God’s enemies (see Joseph Smith, “The Book of Mormon”, Mosiah 3:19), again indicating that when we incline toward taking off the primary mask, we are fighting our “true” selves. And what happens after death? Again, only those who have kept the primary mask on, and “endured to the end” (a revealing image if there ever was one) will live with God. In fact, the primary mask is made in God’s image, and the ultimate destiny and ambition of orthodox Mormons (and even many liberal Mormons) is to become just like Him – to be eternally unified with the primary mask.

Nowhere is the Mormon mask more evident than in Mormon marriage (See the essay titled “The Effect of Mormon Temple Ritual” at my website). There, the Mormon Church becomes a third and dominant party to the marriage itself. The spouses covenant to each other, and to the Mormon Church, that the Mormon mask will remain on. The mentality carefully engrained in this regard is likely responsible for the high divorce rate among Mormon couples where one chooses to take the primary mask off, and the other keeps it on. A master’s thesis in anthropology at a Canadian university found that rate to be 80% among a large sample of LDS returned missionaries in this regard. This study was conducted in the 1980s. I suspect that the percentage now is lower because of the increasing understanding within both Mormon and non-Mormon social groups that absolute obedience to Mormon standards is nonsensical.

Mormon Masks at Family Reunions

I thought of Mormon masks as I recently recalled a family reunion I attended some time ago. There were lots of good times, sharing of memories, catching up on what was going in different families. A high percentage of the conversation in this regard was either expressly or implicitly connected to the Mormon Church. The Church’s standards and expectations as to how life should be lived – its mask – guided both questions are answers. Here is some of what I recall in terms of questions asked and what they likely meant when the nature of the answers typically give is considered:

– How is Jimmy doing at school? (Means: Has Jimmy cleaned up his life and decided to go on a mission yet, and how is he otherwise doing?)

– So, what are you up to these days? (Means: What calling do you hold, and how is the career going?)

– How are Bobby and Ann (newlyweds) making out? (Means: Is Ann pregnant yet (they have been married for three years!); are they still “faithful”; and are Bobby’s studies/career headed in the “right” direction?)

And, to top things off, each evening at the family reunion featured an activity that allowed the patriarchs and matriarchs of the group to bear testimony to the truthfulness and importance of the Mormon way of life to younger family members, and to express their genuine love for those present. That expression of love, mingled with Mormon testimony, contains a powerful subtext – “If you do not believe and obey as we do, it will cause us great pain, and you don’t hurt the ones you love!”

What could have been a chance to get together and broaden our horizons by enjoying each other’s varied experience was hence turned into a group behaviour modification exercise designed to narrow the range of future experience. But this should not be surprising. The Mormon Apostle Boyd Packer, in a leadership-training seminar I attended by videoconference while I served as Bishop, taught us that each and every activity sponsored by a Mormon congregation should have as its objective to influence those who attend to make, and keep, Mormon covenants. This applied, he said, to everything from Cub Scout meetings through to High Priests parties. Have lots of fun, he said, but remember the point of getting together is to help people make and keep covenants, and the fun and everything else should be set up with that objective in mind.

Why should we expect men and women who have spent most of their lives getting together for the purpose of encouraging their Ward and Stake members to make and keep Mormon covenants to do any differently when they gather their extended families around them?

Mormon Masks Create Irony

I don’t think it is fair to suggest that Mormonism’s goal is a monochrome existence for all Mormons. In fact, the teachings of Mormon leaders often indicate the contrary. But many of them lived in a different time. Joseph Smith himself provides a textbook example of how to take off the primary mask and fashion an antithetical one. In this he does no more than follow the pattern of religious innovators. Then, Mormon leaders like Brigham Young took the torch from Smith and followed the pattern of religious consolidators and standardizers.

Mormonism’s main goal throughout most of its history has been to maintain an obedient people – to keep the herd together, and moving in the “right” direction as determined by the leaders from time to time. Without that, Mormonism as we know it would pass out of existence. And in its dogged pursuit of mechanisms to inculcate obedience, Mormonism during the past several decades has forced the primary mask on faithful Mormons more and more tightly. There is nothing uniquely Mormon in this. Mormonism merely reflects the pattern of countless other religious and social groups.

A review of this aspect of Mormon history discloses many ironies. For example, modern Mormonism has championed “traditional” family values, which given Mormonism’s polygamous history is fascinating in and of itself. When we look close at what it means to be an “ideal” Mormon family, we find a number of odd things related to the nature of the Mormon mask.

– Mom and Dad’s discretionary time is usually heavily committed to their “callings”. This means that they spend little time together. This is particularly difficult for Dad in many cases. So, the religion that advertises itself as creating a people that puts “Families First” and believes that “It’s about time” for family, has the effect holding many families apart. My wife and I rationalized that this was acceptable on the basis that we would eventually be together when we served missions in our retirement years (while separated from grandchildren etc., I note) and that we would be together after death because we had been faithful to our Mormon covenants.

– If Mom was in university, she usually did not finish her degree. Going to university was more about finding the right husband and preparing for motherhood than it was about getting an education that would be useful in a broader way.

– Mom usually does not work outside the home. This means that money is often tight or that Dad works very long hours.

– The number of children is usually large. This means that the time spent with each child, particularly in light of the other pressures on Mom and Dad’s time, is small. It also puts additional pressure on Mom and Dad’s relationship.

– And most ironic of all, in my view, expressions of love within Mormon families often occur in the context of testimony bearing or fathers’ blessings. See my take on this in “The Blessing Chair” on my website. Therefore, the Mormon Church determines the main parameters of and otherwise brokers the expression of love and other transmission of important emotions between family members. It then takes credit for the wonderful feelings that occur as a result of intimate expressions of this type, thus harnessing this powerful human force to keep the Mormon mask in place. This formula is seen in countless aspects of Mormon culture. It is, for example, the formula followed in Mormon testimony meetings all over the globe. The smallest children lisp, “I love my Mommy and Daddy, and I know the Church is true!” in that environment. And for all others, the testimony formula is dictated and it inextricably links the expression of love for family, and expression of certain belief in the basic tenets of Mormonism. The feelings for one are hence intertwined with feelings for the other.

What Happens When the Masks Come Off?

It has been said that the beauty of Mormonism is that in order to make it to the Celestial Kingdom, all one has to do is show up and do what one it told. And if you move from one city (or country) to another, no sweat! Just show up at the local Mormon ward and keep on doing what you were doing. It won’t change much; or at least shouldn’t. You will hardly miss a beat. Mormonism is a tribe with outposts in most parts of the world where a Westerner is likely to end up living. All you have to do is “plug and play”. And Mormons are trained to think that without the support of the Mormon system, life would be awful, and that they likely could not cope without the support Mormonism provides. Again, there is nothing uniquely Mormon in this. Most tightly knit social groups use this technique to keep the herd together.

So, the experience of taking off the Mormon mask is designed to be as terrifying as possible. Mormons who come to understand that they are at liberty to, and in fact perhaps should, take off their primary mask are often reluctant to do so. This is because Mormons are trained to rely so heavily upon others for approval that the prospect of doing things on the basis of self-approval only is daunting.

Concerns about divorce, loss of respect of parents and friends, loss of business or career opportunities, etc. play a role in this. And yet again, there is nothing unusual about Mormonism in this regard. Masks order society. Hence, life without masks is much less predictable than life with them. However, we soon get used to playing by a new set of rules and our fear of uncertainty abates. And after a while, the thought of being hemmed in by the myriad mask related rules makes our skin crawl.

I am reminded in this regard by a family from Japan I knew many years ago. They were transferred to Canada for a period of several years. When it came time return to Japan, the parents were reluctant, and the children refused to go. They had individuated to a point at which they did not think they could survive in Japan’s much more structured, mask oriented, society.

I have had similar conversations with people from Korea. One high school age girl I got to know was, during her first year in Canada, learning English, carrying a full load of high school courses, and getting straight A’s while as far I could tell still not communicating well in English. I asked her how she was enjoying Canada, and was told that it was wonderful. “So easy”, she said in broken English.

I was puzzled by this and enquired further. It turned out that in Korea the competition for a few university seats is so severe that this girl, starting in grade 7, had been going to special classes before and after school to “prep” for her university entrance exams. These prep classes ran six days a week. To make it to them, she had to be up at 5 am and habitually worked until after mid-night to get her work done. Sundays – her day of rest – was only a half day of school work. She thought her first year in Canada, with all of its linguistic and cultural adjustments, was a cakewalk by comparison to the only other life she knew. She could not imagine going back to Korea and putting back on the “student mask” that she had worn without much complaint for years and was prepared, until she came to Canada, to continue wearing. I now feel much the same with respect to my former Mormon mask. I simply cannot imagine how I could go back to living in the tiny space Mormonism allowed me.

I also note, in fairness to Mormonism, that the Mormon mask does not cripple as the worst of masks do. See, for example, the article linked above with regard to the “lost boys” who have been tossed out of Fundamentalist Mormon society during the last several years. I have read similar accounts of Old Amish and Hutterite young people have left their societies and found themselves singularly ill equipped to deal with the cultural mainstream of our society. Some primary masks have the effect of so limiting the worldview and coping skills of those who wear them that leaving their social group of origin is not a real option, and to remain in the social group the mask must be left in place, at least for appearances sake.

It is my view that that the Mormon mask cripples those who wear it by causing them to think in magical terms, be unusually naïve, be too respectful of anything that looks like authority, etc. This is reflected in statistics that place Utah at the top the heap in terms of personal bankruptcies, anti-depressant use, certain types of fraud, etc. However, Mormonism is nowhere near as crippling in this way as more extreme cults that use the same mind and behavioural control as does Mormonism, but in a much more intense form. Again I refer to Orwell’s masterpiece 1984 that can be accessed in full text at the link I provided above. He describes a society in which many things Mormonism does have been taken to their logical extreme, and the predicament of those who still have the essentially human inclination to fashion their antithetical masks. Mormonism does not do anything like that. Orwell’s writing in this regard (see “Animal Farm” as well) can be considered caricatures of the ideologies that use the mechanisms he described. Caricatures are often useful in this regard because they highlight the features of a society that are of interest in some particular respect, and explore how they work and where they may lead if left to their own devises. Hence, I would say that the study of Orwell discloses much about the mechanisms Mormonism uses to control people, and illustrates why this kind of thing should be nipped as near to the bud as possible.

Conclusion

The Mormon version of the primary mask is only one of many, but by Western standards it is very firmly applied. Mormon behaviour is shaped by this mask in a multitude of ways that are, of course, invisible to the average Mormon. It is both terrifying, and incredibly liberating, when a Mormon finds the courage to take off his mask and begin to create a new one. That experience has been the more difficult and joyful aspect of my life thus far.

(Names, Dates, Locations omitted to protect privacy)

** ******** 2011

Dear President ******

Firstly, please may I thank you for your amazing example and love. I feel your love and concern for me personally, and hold you in the highest regard as a friend and brother. I have never had reason to doubt your sincerity and compassion for others, and I love you and respect you for it.

It is with great pain and torment of mind and body that I am forced to write to you. I deeply and truly would rather not have to write this letter. But, honesty drives my motives.

I have come to believe over the last month that there are so many inconsistencies and problems with the historicity of the Book of Mormon, as well as the divinity of Joseph Smith’s calling as prophet, that I can no longer, in good faith, fulfill my calling as Bishop of ******* Ward.

When faith in the unseen is replaced with indisputable evidence to the contrary, faith becomes redundant and, in fact, becomes a pleasant, if fanciful, myth.

I have not come to this decision lightly.

You have known me since I was in my early twenties. All that time, including twelve years in Yorkshire, I have diligently served in the Church with my heart, might, mind and strength. I have dedicated myself to God’s service since I was a young boy, including serving a full-time proselyting mission for the Lord in *******.

Since moving back to ****** I have served the Lord with a passion. I love serving the members of the ******* Ward. And it cuts me to the very centre of my heart to have to ask for this release. But, to do otherwise would be dishonest, and hypocritical now that I have discovered the truth about the church.

It hurts me to even think the church I have sacrificed so much of my life for could be untrue. When I think of the time, physical & emotional effort, money and all the sacrifices I have made as a diligent member, I just can’t believe I am now thinking it was for a false premise.

I am resigning as bishop after much careful study, prayer and thought over a period of over one month. During that time I have desperately tried to find out that what I had recently discovered about the church was a malicious and fictitious lie. But the more I studied the more evidence of a cover-up I discovered.

My initial foray into the world of previously unknown truths about the church (unknown to me), was sparked by a genuine and sincere desire to understand why my brother can no longer believe.

My research has only involved studying church history and commentary, Mormon and Ex-Mormon Intellectual websites and not “evangelical Christian anti-Mormon lies.”

I didn’t realise for instance that Joseph Smith practised polygamy, and was married to 33 women, most under the age of 20, one as young as 14. That some of Joseph’s wives were already married to other men when he married them; a practice called polyandry. All of these facts can be confirmed by a simple look at the church’s own website, familysearch.org.

I didn’t know that all polygamous marriages were illegal in the USA. Yet we believe in “Obeying, honouring and sustaining the law. “

I have learnt an awful lot about the church which the General Authorities, though accepting as true, refuse to tell the general membership for fear of destroying faith!

There are many other issues, like; there are several accounts of the First Vision and Joseph Smith’s initial personal journal entry about the First Vision didn’t include seeing God the Father and Jesus Christ, but an angel. Then over the years the story got embellished till it changed to what we have today. Yet I was told it was the most momentous event to occur in this dispensation. Why didn’t Joseph initially record it correctly?  And there are so many other things that have just dissolved my faith to the point I can no longer bear a testimony of the truthfulness of this church or even God.

Can you imagine how I now feel? It’s like my whole world is crumbling around me. I no longer know what I believe, or who I can trust. I don’t even know who I am, it is a most frightening experience. At the moment it feels like a death in the family. My death!

My feelings have run the whole gamut of human emotions; from initial shock, to anger, despair, grief, sorrow, depression, fear, and concern about the future and relationships. I am very anxious about how my parents and other family members will accept my new beliefs. It changes everything! I no longer have a value system which is my own, I don’t even know how to think anymore. At one point I was fearful my marriage would fail, but luckily our relationship is stronger than that. We have decided to work our way through this together and now our love is even stronger.

All of this whilst still trying to function as bishop. I didn’t want to say anything to you because I wasn’t yet sure, in fact I was desperately hoping it was all a nightmare which I would soon wake up from and everything would be just as it was before. I would still prefer the church to be true, it would be so much easier. But my dedication to the truth compells me to be honest, no matter how painful.

For me it is more important to believe in an uncomfortable truth than a comforting fantasy.

I know that this will be impossible for you to comprehend, just as it was for me when I was a true believing Mormon. It’s just the nature of Mormon psychology, it doesn’t allow for uncertainty or questioning.

I am beginning to see prospects of a brighter future as my reluctant realisation changes to acceptance of the truth and a feeling of excitement to learn more truth.

I had previously believed I knew the truth as strongly as any latter-day saint. My faith was sure! It has been my sure faith which has always guided me in my life, but now that faith seems to pale into insignificance compared to the new feeling of light and knowledge I am receiving.

Some may say I have been conned by Satan, but it feels so good to be seeing things more clearly that I feel god is guiding me. The same type of feeling of “the spirit” that I had as bishop still guides me. My own feelings which are now enhanced with solid, reliable, testable scientific data. Faith can only be faith if the evidence of things not seen are actually true. When all indisputable evidence proves that they are not true, faith is dead.

The most important question every member needs to ask is: “If the church is not true would I want to know?” Only then can one be open-minded to truth.

Just to be clear, my resignation is not due to unresolved sin, or to being offended by someone. I have not just got tired of my calling as Bishop, or become over-stressed. In fact I feel, more than ever, a deep and abiding concern for those in the ******** Ward, who I love with all my heart, and wish you to know that had I not had a significant epiphany, which causes me to no longer believe in the restoration of the gospel and church to the earth, I would still yearn to serve God and his children.

I tell you this so you can understand the sincerity of my disbelief in the church.

Again, please let me reiterate that I have complete trust in you as a friend and brother.

I welcome a conversation with you at your convenience and would ask you to keep this in confidence till I tell my parents myself.

With gratitude for your kindness

*****

 
As I celebrate my 2 year anniversary of my resignation from the LDS church, I find myself increasingly in a place of peace with myself, the world around me and God. Looking back, I can see now how God prepared me for the transition that I went through 2 years ago. Being placed in a calling which I believed held great responsibility in my Stake was a catalyst not only for me to strengthen my own testimony, but to humble myself before God and to go to a deeper level of honesty within myself.

Before opening my mind to investigate my own shelved doubts and the church, I had spent many months in prayer, turning myself completely over to God. I placed myself completely in his hands and trusted him to deliver me into a closer relationship with Him. At the time, I fully expected my testimony of the LDS church to deepen, and it came as quite an unexpected surprise to uncover the errors of LDS theology. I had expected to come out of the process with greater commitment to obey all of God’s commandments (according to LDS theology). As was my spiritual progression up to that point, I fully expected this next step to take me into a deeper, more complex and more stringent understanding and adherence to the gospel.

What happened was quite the opposite. My position of humility and reaching out to God, instead took me to a place of simplicity: a place of communion with God. I came to understand the true meaning of Grace. I came to understand that salvation was simply a matter of releasing all that I’d been taught to cling to and to accept Christ’s unconditional gift of salvation.

More than anything, my journey has led me to a place of letting go. Fortunately, nearly at the same moment of my de-conversion from Mormonism, I was converted to a full understanding of God’s love for me. It was an amazing process which is still difficult for me to put into words. At that moment 2 years ago, I was filled with the love of God. It filled me up like an unquenchable fire. The most amazing thing is: it still burns just as brightly within me today as it did that day 2 years ago. I never dreamed that I could feel like this.

As time goes on, I feel increasingly disaffected from the world. I still see and feel what goes on around me, but my focus is so different now. I feel completely loved and accepted by God. Nothing can take that away from me. Bad stuff happens in the world. Relationships can cause us distress, but nothing compares to my perfect relationship with God. In this state, I no longer feel the need to judge myself or others. I finally understand what unconditional love is all about. I feel it from God. I feel it for myself and I feel it for others. It is a joyous freedom I never glimpsed as a Mormon. The fire that burns within me now drives me to reach out to others: to meet their reaching and help them as they investigate the church. I find great joy in this.

As a Mormon, I never really felt like I was enough. Never enough to be completely loved by God or anyone, for that matter. I think many Mormons struggle with feelings of inadequacy. Why? I believe that the more legalism that is involved in a religion, or rules and compliance expected of  followers, the more difficult it is to feel as if one has ‘arrived’. Salvation is always out of reach. One’s job is never complete. Even at death, as taught in Mormonism, we only enter into a new life of further work and earning of our salvation. Inherently, the culture instills a sense of futility and unworthiness. Reaching perfection is something often spoken of, but forever out of reach.

My views of institutionalized religion have evolved over the last 2 years. At first, I felt the need to ‘belong’ to another church. I searched high and low for a church where I felt comfortable and a church which was as basic a Christian church as I could find. I did find one, and I still attend occasionally. However, I no longer feel compelled to attend. As the remnants of Mormon belief have worked their way out of my system, I’ve come to focus less on my actions and more on my relationship with God. I believe it is good to assemble together with other believers. I enjoy it very much, but I do not feel that doing so is necessary for my salvation.

In a nutshell, I believe that relationship with God is a personal thing, not anything a religion can give you. I think that God’s truth is simple and the more man is involved (religion), the more complicated and distant from God’s purposes we tend to get. Mormonism was founded by a man, complicated by more men, and I believe, has taken its follows far from a relationship with God.

For the most part, I was raised in the LDS church. My parents were converted to Mormonism when I was about seven. At the time, they were Baptist, but not actively religious. From the beginning, my family was devout. Although I had a few, difficult questions arise over the years, I was mostly an active member until I resigned my membership in 2008.

My questions, when they arose, were never quite satisfied and over time, I learned, as most Mormons do, to ‘shelve’ my doubts and press forward. Although seemingly harmless in the moment, training one’s brain to limit doubts and questions is ultimately damaging and leads to a tunnel-vision approach to life. As a member, I felt increasingly dis-satisfied and conflicted, although at the time, I couldn’t really see the reasons why I felt this way. Now as an ex-Mormon, the reasons are all too clear. For the first time, I’m enjoying a life of un-limited questioning and learning. I do not suppress my own thoughts. I live authentically without limits on my thinking. I’ve never been more at peace.

My story is like many others:

Being raised an active Mormon, I began to attend seminary at age 14 (an hour-long class of intense study of Mormon history and doctrine that took place before school each day). I began to wonder about a few things as my study of the church deepened. The Word of Wisdom was a mystery to me. Why did we, as Mormons, only follow selected portions of it? Among other things, the scripture states to avoid hot drinks and meat, except in time of famine. How did that translate into avoiding Coke and Pepsi and not showing any restraint in eating meat? Hot cocoa was ok, but coffee was not. We were clearly not in time of famine, but we ate meat with nearly every meal.

I was confused. It was explained to me, at the time, that recent prophetic revelation had clarified this scripture to include all caffeinated drinks, but the explanations did not satisfy me. I knew plenty of active Mormons who drank Coke and I knew cocoa had caffeine in it. I also took notice that our Word of Wisdom, or health code, didn’t seem to make us any healthier than the general population. In fact, it seemed to me that obesity was more of a problem in the Mormons I knew than in any population I associated with outside the church.

As a teen, one of my very best friends was African-American. Always a missionary, I talked with her about my Mormon faith. She told me that Mormons were racist. Her reaction brought up, the otherwise unknown-to-me, subject of the lower status of African-Americans in the church and the ‘new revelation’ in 1978 by President Kimball which allowed Blacks to finally hold the priesthood. It also caused me to take a second look at racist remarks and attitudes throughout the Book of Mormon which relate the lightness of one’s skin to the level of righteousness of the individual. On this note, I was told at about age 17, by a Mormon relative, that they had noticed that my skin was getting darker and it must be due to my sinful nature. (I remember having the fleeting thought that sinning might be an easy way to get a tan.)

Another issue which became a thorn in my side at this time was polygamy. The whole idea simply offended my senses. No amount of explaining by my Dad or seminary teachers alleviated the deep-seated feeling in my gut that it was wrong and inspired of Man not of God. I knew without a doubt that I would never submit to the idea of sharing my future husband with another wife, and the thought of my Dad having more than one wife made my stomach turn. It wasn’t enough that the church did not currently practice polygamy, the knowledge that I was required to submit to the doctrine of polygamy was not acceptable to me. I knew, from what I was taught, that Polygamy could be reinstated by divine revelation at any time, and if not practiced in this life, would surely be practiced in the next life as the eternal order of marriage.

Another big issue for me as a teenager was not as clear-cut. It was more of a feeling based on deep doctrinal beliefs regarding God. I was taught as a Mormon, that unless one was baptized into the Mormon church and received the ordinances of the temple, including temple marriage, one could not go to the celestial kingdom, the kingdom of heaven where God dwells. This did not match my instinctual view of God, as a being having unconditional love for all people. How could the real God be so selective? What about all those people who never had a chance to hear about Mormonism? What about all those good people who just never had the chance to get married? What about people who marry in the temple, but whose spouses leave the church? The questions were numerous, and I did receive explanations, just not sufficient to quench the doubts completely.

 As I grew into adulthood, and received my own temple ordinances, my questions multiplied. I remember my first time attending the temple. Up to that point, it was the strangest experience of my life, and boy, were things getting more complicated. Not only did I need to keep my slate perfectly clean in order to be ‘temple worthy’ (including avoiding Coke, Coffee, and other dietary restrictions, submit to the idea of polygamy, avoid non-church approved literature, fulfill all my church callings, pay a full tithing, etc) but now I had to wear claustrophobic long underwear and memorize a long list of signs, tokens and phrases in order to get through the ‘veil’ into the presence of God. I was bleakly hopeful that the costumes we donned in the temple were nothing like what we’d be required to wear in Heaven. Surely God did not wear long underwear, a  fig leaf apron and a baker’s hat. The questions and doubts, now frantic and in avalanche proportion, were quelled by the grim warning that nothing regarding temple ordinances was to be discussed outside the temple, not even between married couples.

It was about this same time that I became aware of the blood atonement doctrine that some sins, such as, apostasy and murder, could only be pardoned by God by the shedding of the sinner’s own blood (death – like that pantomimed in the temple). This did not sit well with me. Wasn’t Christ’s suffering and death sufficient to cover all sin? I’d always assumed so from my previous learning in the church. It was explained at this time, when I brought up such issues with my LDS husband, that I was receiving the meat of LDS doctrine, whereas before, I’d only been given the milk.

Another chunk of meat: I became aware of the Adam/God doctrine, which teaches that Adam is God. This was another contradiction, or addition-as some would say, to the doctrine that I previously understood as fact. Although this doctrine is not openly discussed, and controversy surrounds the issue, even within the church, it was most definitely touted as doctrine by the Prophet Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and J.M. Grant.

On the subject of God: Basic Mormon doctrine states that “As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.” Like all Mormons, I was taught that God was once a man and that if we were righteous enough, we could become Gods, ourselves. Joseph Smith clearly taught that God was once a man like us and that we have potential to become Gods (see King Follet Sermon as one of many examples) Interestingly, Gordon Hinkley, recent president of the church, denies this doctrine repeatedly in interviews. (one example is in the San Fransisco Chronicle, April 13, 1997 edition, http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/1997/04/13/SC36289.DTL&type=printable, and another in Time magazine: http://www.lds-mormon.com/time.shtml)

By my late twenties, I’d had several doubts surface, but one message had also come through loud and clear: to question church doctrine, is to question God himself. In other words, shove down the doubts lest you erode your own faith and that of others, because we all know where that leads… to the unpardonable sin of apostasy.

The stage was set while I was serving in a stake calling. Serving in this position, which had great influence over the youth, was a catalyst for me to seriously examine what I believed. My discomfort representing doctrine with which I harbored doubt, caused me to humble myself and make a desperate plea to God for an understanding of the truth. I allowed myself to bring down doubts and questions from the dark recesses of my mind into the light. I fully expected to find answers to my questions which would, in turn, strengthen my testimony of the LDS church. Ironically, I did find truth, but the answers were not at all what I expected.

My investigation began with reading a book, An Insider’s View to Mormon Origins, written by a Mormon, a church education employee named Grant Palmer. Then followed several other books, including, Leaving the Saints, by Martha Beck, which had caused a bit of a stir among some of my LDS friends. After reading the book, I looked more into Hugh Nibley’s apologetic effort of the Book of Abraham, which was mentioned in Leaving the Saints. I came across a video on the Book of Abraham and a book, By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus, by Charles M. Larson. What I learned blew my mind. I then sought to explore Joseph Smith, himself, and read, Joseph Smith, No Man knows my History, by Fawn Brodie. I also came across objective DNA evidence regarding Joseph Smith and Book of Mormon claims (explored thoroughly in a book, Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church, written by former LDS Bishop and genetic biologist, Simon Southerton. I took time to read LDS apologist rebuttals on all of the subjects that I explored, and was disappointed by all.

I was as thorough and as objective as possible. I read everything that I could get my hands on while avoiding anything which seemed to be hateful in nature. What I learned, completely blew my mind. I quickly came to the conclusion that the LDS church was based on lies upon lies. The layers of deceit and cover-up were mind-boggling. The ‘limited thinking’ encouraged by the church began to make sense.

I decided to resign my membership in the church to maintain my own integrity and remove any implied support of  LDS deception.

My decision to resign was not an easy one. Despite the years of suppressed doubts and conflict this created in my soul, the LDS church is in itself a wonderful organization. It offered much in the way of structure in my life, and removing myself was not a decision that I made lightly. I knew that my resignation would bring on an alienation from most of what I knew in the way of family and social structure. I had not only myself to consider in this decision, but also my 3 children. I carefully weighed my decision and ultimately did what I considered to be the morally right thing to do, independent of what others thought or sacrifices involved.

I can clearly see now, the journey I’ve traveled and the compromises that I’ve made over the years in order to be a ‘good’ Mormon. I can also clearly see the hold that the Mormon church has on the minds of its people and understand the motivating reasons.

In the months that followed my resignation I felt like a load was lifted from my shoulders and mind. I experienced an awakening… a freedom that I’d never known. I felt a freedom of thought: a freedom to question, a freedom to think independently.

I also feel freed from the conditional love offered by the “Mormon God”. I now feel completely and unconditionally loved by God. His love is no longer something that feels just out-of-reach, something I have to constantly earn. I know I am loved completely just as I am, and I, in turn, love myself and others without condition. My initial joy since leaving the church has not faded in the least, and I now know a peace and joy in my daily life that I scarcely glimpsed as a Mormon.

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