Looking Honestly

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On March 29, 2012, Utah Valley University hosted a fascinating conference entitled Mormonism and the Internet. Perhaps the most interesting exchanges, for me, were those in session five of the conference, which was a panel discussion among John Dehlin, Scott Gordon, and Rosemary Avance. UVU has just posted this particular conference session online, and I just watched it again.

Rather early in the panel discussion, I asked a question of John Dehlin, as a follow-up to his presentation earlier in the day. You can hear my question beginning at about 13:05 into the video:

People often study the same facts or issues and come to vastly different conclusions—some have their faith strengthened, while others have their faith destroyed. To what do you attribute this difference in outcome, and why do you feel that the stories of those who have suffered a negative outcome should be privileged over those with a positive outcome?


This was John’s answer:

That’s a really hard question for me to answer. I’m one of the ones who have lost faith, and so my perspective is going to be really biased. What I can say is that to some degree disbelief appears to be a luxury.

We even saw this a little bit in our data—the more income you have, the more freedom you feel to question and to be honest with parents and siblings and children, etc. You can just imagine that if you are financially independent and you don’t have to worry about losing your job and you don’t have to worry about being written out of an inheritance, you might feel the freedom to inquire without reservation a little bit more than somebody who’s got a job that may be associated with the church, and who needs that inheritance, and who can’t afford to sever social ties that the church might benefit them from.

So, I also think that if we were to do sort of a multi-factorial analysis—what is the person’s spouse like, are they open-minded or are they kind of rigid and harsh and dogmatic? That might be a factor in whether someone’s really willing to look honestly at the data. What happens when they look honestly is a totally separate question, but I think there are factors in one’s environment that are going to make it more or less likely that they can actually look objectively at the data.

Other factors might include… Just imagine if you are making $30,000 a year, struggling to raise your kids, maybe you’re a single mom, and your ward is just this critical social support for you—and you enjoy it—your interests in actually looking at the data objectively are going to be very different. So, I think those are sort of the barriers to just being able to look at things objectively.

At first I thought that John was being evasive; he didn’t really answer my question which was how people can study the same data and come to differing conclusions. (There was actually a very good discussion relative to my question a few years ago on the FAIR blog.) What John did, however, was seem to answer a different question: What do you think are roadblocks to people actually “seeing the truth” about Mormonism?

Of course, that is not a question that I would have asked, as it presumes in its very asking that Mormonism is not what it claims to be and that if we can but remove the roadblocks to understanding, people will inevitably come to their own conclusions about the falsity of those claims. After all, John prefaced his response by recognizing his own bias as one who has lost faith.

It seems to me that a common ailment of those who lose their faith after study is that they look at those who maintain their faith after the same study as somehow dishonest and lacking objectivity. They see in others a lack of what they imagine in themselves—after all, they have only gone where the facts have led them, and to reach any other conclusion is prima facia evidence of a problem or defect in the other.

So I thought I would pose the question here that John raises in the middle of his answer; the one that he seems to obliquely answer by his own faith journey: What happens when a person looks honestly at the facts or issues of Mormonism? Does honesty demand that such questions inevitably lead to a loss of faith, or can one be honest and remain a member of the church?

39 thoughts on “Looking Honestly

  1. Mike Parker

    An important side note is that John Dehlin’s study — which he refers to when he speaks of “our data” — was not rigorously done. Instead of polling random former Mormons, he solicited responses from ex-Mormons who follow his podcast and run in the same circles with him. The bias here, from a polling standpoint, is enormous.

    in short, his data tell us nothing because his survey sample is homogeneous and voluntary.

  2. Call Me Don

    Allen asks what are (for me at least) easy questions:

    “What happens when a person looks honestly at the facts or issues of Mormonism? Does honesty demand that such questions inevitably lead to a loss of faith, or can one be honest and remain a member of the church?”

    My personal journey since I began investigating the Church has been that I could get questions answered when I asked them. Nobody has ever dithered or beaten around the bush, and the Church has in this way demonstrated an honesty about its past I never saw before coming on contact with Mormonism.

    I can say with full confidence that looking honesty at the “the facts or issues of Mormonism” has never damaged my faith. Rather, I have found when I dig deeper – rather than stopping just below the surface like so many who have left the faith do – that the truth of the matter is quite enlightening.

    One can most definitely be honest and stay LDS.

    Don

  3. Immovable11

    I, too, have pondered this question. But, before I can honestly try and provide an answer, I must tell you that at one time the “so-called” facts coupled with my logical mindset led me into inactivity. From that time forward, I held onto some very atheistic ideals, for I believed that the Church “let me down” and if it wasn’t true, then their wasn’t a God.

    In a nutshell; I had allowed logic, or what I thought was logic, to overpower my faith. As the Book of Mormon states, we are free to choose; and in a lot of cases, people doing the research on Church history or whatever it is, end up having to “choose” what they will live. It IS that simple. For me, in the studies that led me out of the Church for a while……I realized later, that i was unconsciously “looking” for something wrong with the Church (because life outside the Church seemed to be more “fun”). I had “problems” with why Joseph Smith joined the Masons, why he had 33 wives (and why he married women that were already married), I had problems with some of Brigham Young’s statements about blacks and blood atonement……because of these unanswered concerns I started to neglect reading my scriptures and praying regularly while I continued my research. This, I now understand, was the cause in my deteriorating faith. Just as Alma said that the seed of faith will grow within you as you practice it and dwell on it; so will a seed of doubt. Give a seed of doubt audience and it will grow. Now, when I was doing my initial research, I was unaware of any organizations such as fair–and I wasn’t getting any sort of answer that would calm my troubled, logical mindset. Allowing my doubts to overcome what I did believe; I left the Church.

    I ended up returning to Church using the same logical mindset that led me out of it. I decided that there HAD TO BE a God who created the universe, earth and myself. Once I had decided that to be true; I started my unbiased research on religion. Realizing that the only “logical” religion out there was the LDS Church- I decided to “prove” God and live the principles found therein. I found that ALL of the principles that can be found in the LDS Church, after applying all of them, are all true principles. I found that the logic tied with our knowledge of early Christianity, the Godhead…or anything else of theological, doctrinal dispute…was best answered by the LDS Church in the most logical fashion.

    Since doing logical, partnered with faith related research; and after divvying into what FAIR had to say regarding all of the anti-propaganda; I have had many questioned answered. The others, I guess I will wait to ask my Savior, himself. It is so-called “logic” that has people leaving the Church when they do deep research, BUT it is actually more logical when a person realizes that no matter how much research they do, they will never know the mind or will of God fully in this life. Do I understand, fully, why Joseph Smith was sealed to women already married? Not in my mortal mind, but I do understand that in the Eternal scheme of things, we all will eventually be sealed to each other…..when thinking of it with an eternal perspective, that makes sense to me. I believe keeping your faith when researching the hard facts of the Church, is found in maintaining an eternal perspective….and the HOPE that it is true. I have also found that when I seem to go “too deep” into research, I have to take a step back and return to the things I DO KNOW. That the BOM is of God, that there is, in fact, a God. And if their is a God, then He would have a Church….and then back to realizing that logically, the LDS Church makes the most sense and is the most Biblically sound.

    John’s comments rang true when it came to someone’s family, personal situations. If a person is afraid of losing family, friends, income for leaving the Church…..the same can be true for the other side of the spectrum. Fear, in this case, can be a healthy thing when coupled with faith and logic when doing research. For example; there are many things that anti-Mormons bring to the table that seem logical, factual and have a good argument for; but, LDS apologists seem to have equal rebuttles for anything anti’s throw at us. So who is right? That is where our choice to choose…..our decision to believe or not to believe comes into play. Sometimes the only deciding factor when facing the evidence presented by both sides, is faith. Now, this is where fear comes into play. Some of those who remain faithful may have the logical fear of, “well what if the detractors are right and this Church isn’t true…..if I keep on living it, at least when I die God will know I was still trying to live according to the way I thought He wanted”. To summarize this thought, I’d much rather choose to believe, get to Heaven and have all my unanswered questions that I had while in mortality finally revealed to me and end up saying “ohhhhhh, that’s why that happened”…..then to choose to disbelieve, get to Heaven and end up saying, “ohhhhhhhh no”.

    I have learned a few key things with my own experiences of inactivation/reactivation:
    1-If their is a God, then this would logically be His Church.
    2-Living the principles found in this Church will make anyone happy to their fullest potential.
    3-Outside the Church there is no other source for a more logical response to the questions of life that press each of our minds.
    -No one who has left the Church seems to have gone on too something better.
    -If the Church isn’t true, show me something better

    One last note: many people find fault with Joseph Smith because of so-called sketchy things in history related to him such as; polyandry, going behind Emma’s back with marrying other women, gold-digging, Masonery, etc…..people are more willing to scrutenize him for his imperfect nature then they are to scrutenize biblical prophets. Why is that? Is it because he is more recent, therefore, more real. The figures in the bible are more mythical so what they did isn’t as threatening or personal? Let’s say Joseph did go behind Emma’s back to fulfill the word of God, are people choosing to not accept the story of Abraham and Isaac? If people read they will find that Abraham lied to Sarah in regards to where he was taking Isaac. He sure didn’t tell her what he was going to do with him. Therefore, he “went behind her back” to fulfill the will of the Lord. Also, I’m pretty sure that if people found out that Abraham was going to take his son up a mountain to stab him to death, they would have locked him up and deemed him a lunatic. I don’t even know if I gave a viable answer. Just some thoughts. :)

  4. rsholley11

    “It seems to me that a common ailment of those who lose their faith after study is that they look at those who maintain their faith after the same study as somehow dishonest and lacking objectivity.”

    This statement is rich with irony. By describing those who have lost their faith as suffering from an “ailment” you do not seem to be displaying an over-abundance of objectivity yourself.

  5. rsholley11

    “Does honesty demand that such questions inevitably lead to a loss of faith, or can one be honest and remain a member of the church?” Yes, one can honestly remain a member of the church. And one can honestly leave. No need to demonize any person for following a path of integrity. While there are plenty of ex-Mormons who do not feel that staying in the church is an honest option, Mormon Stories makes no such claims. Mormon Stories affirms people’s right to follow their personal conscience and agrees that their will be people of integrity who stay and others who will leave. Are you willing to make the same concession that you are demanding of John and others? Are you willing to allow that honesty does not demand that people stay in the church, and that some people show their honesty by leaving? If you aren’t willing to make that concession than your argument seems hollow to me.

  6. Morris

    It seems obvious that honest people can and do remain members of the Church, even after extensive study of the “difficult” issues. By definition, faith is a belief in things that cannot be proven purely by reason.

    On the other hand, I’ve known people who purposely avoid studying Church history, or who avoid thinking about issues beyond those that might be presented in programmed lesson manuals in Church meetings. They would rather not learn about anything that might pose a challenge to their faith. I think people who take this approach are being less than honest with themselves.

  7. CarlC

    Mike Parker, you’re right that the study is statistically invalid for drawing larger conclusions about Latter-day Saints in general, and ex-Latter-day Saints specifically. However, when you say “his data tell us nothing,” that is simply not true.

    It tells you that there are thousands of people who are leaving the church for the reasons they state. We, as believing LDS and as disciples of Christ, have an obligation to leave the ninety and nine to go after the one, and to seek not our own. The survey data speaks to how we might do that, and misconceptions we might address in doing so as to why some people leave the church.

  8. Mike Parker

    CarlC: While we do learn some things about a small set of disaffected former Mormons, I would argue that we don’t learn as much as one would think. John Dehlin’s survey questions are worded to support a specific narrative, one that is often a post hoc justification for abandoning one’s faith.

    I would agree, though, that we Saints need to do a better job at retaining and reclaiming those who struggle with difficult questions.

  9. Allen Wyatt Post author

    Rsholley11: I did not describe all those who lose their faith as suffering from an “ailment,” as you say. I said it is common, which by definition means it is not all-encompassing.

    Also, nobody was demonized in my post. I’m curious what “concession” you think that I am “demanding of John and others.” I demand nothing; I simply asked a question in a public venue and examined how John answered. It is his answer that implies those who question will inevitably lose their faith. It is, by John’s own statement, the course of his path. I disagree with the implication that such a path is inevitable. That disagreement is not demonizing at all–it is simply disagreement.

  10. iamse7en

    This is a terrible sample, but I can’t help but notice that of my friends that lost their faith from reading and learning the same things my other friends who didn’t lose their faith, MOST were liberal/progressive leaning… In addition, I have one brother who lost his faith (he’s a liberal) and ALL of his friends that he made at BYU are all liberal too. They ALL left the Church. I can’t help but see this consistent thread. This is just my experience; I’m not making any generalities or extrapolations. For what it’s worth.

  11. Mike Parker

    iamse7en: Certainly there have been defections from people who politically lean to the left. The Church’s involvement in Prop 8 has only been one of the recent issues to trouble people who tend to be more liberal in their thinking.

    However, I’ve also seen people who are conservative politically struggle with their testimonies, generally because they tend to see things more “black and white” and don’t know how to effectively deal with ambiguities, which Church history — like all history — naturally involves.

  12. nzmagpie

    I was one who used to visit John’s site, but gave it up well over a year ago. It did nothing for me. I have no financial requirement that keeps me in the church, in fact I’m financially independent. I’ve studied Church history and this has led me to look at other aspects related to the faith journey, such as how the brain responds to input, both positive and negative with respect to spirituality. I like the current “science” that says that faith involves use of the right temporal lobe of the brain, the so-called God spot, at the expense of the logic centre of our brain. This involves less reliance on logic and more reliance on opening oneself up to the spiritual realm. This means we have a lot in common with other people of faith, as we share the same DNA that allows this. I still enjoy the battle of logic that goes with being a Church member, but my personal relationship with God is much richer when I have the faith of a child. I get zero inspiration when I’m in a dark place, but enjoy the knowledge that I occasionally receive, of things that matter when I exercise patience and faith.

  13. Allen Wyatt Post author

    I don’t want this to devolve into a discussion of (1) what good Mormon Stories does or doesn’t do or (2) what type of person John is or isn’t. I don’t think those issues are relevant to the original point: What happens when a person looks honestly at the facts or issues of Mormonism? Does honesty demand that such questions inevitably lead to a loss of faith, or can one be honest and remain a member of the church?

  14. rameumptom

    I think a lot of it depends on a few issues:

    1. What is the person’s viewpoint as he begins his “honest research”? Does the person begin with basic doubts, basic faith, or an open mind? Where you end up often depends on where you begin the journey.

    2. What kind of “research” are you doing? Are you focused only on anti-Mormon “evidence”? Are you focused on pro-Mormon evidences, etc?

    3. What is your level of expectation? Do you expect to see infallible prophets that are perfect in everything they do? Do you have preconceived notions of what you expect to find?

    4. Are you a black and white type judge of things? Or do you consider shades of gray?

    5. Are you only looking for physical evidence for/against? Or are you also using spiritual evidences as well?

    6. Are you looking both at specific issues and the whole? Or are you just looking at specific points, determine that a few are wrong, and so the whole thing is wrong?

    For me, personally, I see physical evidences for and against the Church’s claims. I cannot fully explain issues regarding Abraham papyri, for instance. There are gray areas regarding it and the KEP. But on the other hand, I cannot explain away 40+ correct/valid names in the BoM, including NHM. I cannot explain away the depth of doctrine, symbolism and analogy in the BoM. I cannot dismiss things discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls, that Joseph Smith taught a century before.

    And that’s a big issue to me regarding those who fall away. They dismiss too easily the evidences FOR the gospel. For those who attack the Book of Abraham, it is always regarding the papyri or KEP, and not on the text itself, which teaches ancient concepts unknown in Joseph Smith’s day.

    And so, for me, it comes down to the spiritual evidences. Each person will receive what they are ready and willing to accept. Doubters do not gain a testimony, but only have their doubt confirmed with nothing revealed.

  15. manuelgerardomonasterio

    The answer to your question is an emphatic YES. It is impossible to look honestly to the facts that we know today and remain faithful to the Church.The only way to remain faithful is to live “blind to the facts”. It is not a question of having or not having Faith in that which is alien to senses and reasoning, That is precisely what Faith is all about.The problem is that the Church authorities have been lying and deceiving their members since day one.What Internet has brought is a much clear picture about this indisputable fact. “Lying for the Lord” has been the living motto of the Church. The absurdity of such proposition defies imagination.

  16. Allen Wyatt Post author

    Manuel,

    To what do you attribute those who don’t “live blind to the facts” and still remain faithful?

  17. Stephen Goodman

    Rameumptom made a very good point and I think the answer to the question is “there are no honest men”. In this context Honest seems to be taken to mean unbiased, and there are no unbiased people.
    When we “look at the facts” we choose, based on bias and a-priori assumptions, what facts to consider, what weight to accord them, which authorities to credit and which to discount, even where to search.
    I’ve read the accounts of ex-Mormons who claim to have made a completely unbiased study, then describe their love affair with the writings of Fawn Brodie, the Tanners, and eventually Ed Decker. I’ve also seen faithful church members say (and I say this often) I’m not interested in that site/that author. It’s nothing but anti-Mormon attacks.
    My conclusion is that it’s impossible to leave all bias at the door. The only hope an individual has of learning the truth is to rely on the spirit to enlighten our minds. For those already predisposed to spiritual things, this might be quite easy. For someone like me who is extremely secular and worldly it can take decades or even a lifetime. Sure is worth it, though.

  18. Allen Wyatt Post author

    Stephen, I like that: “There are no honest men,” and I think it may have some merit, particularly when examining historical issues.

    I suspect, though, that many would feel it is a virtue to remove all bias (however impossible that might be) and read all material–good, bad, and downright ugly. If we are unwilling to do that, then (some would say) we refuse to be objective. The only path, to them, is to read it all, prove we are objective, remove the bias, etc., etc.

    Problem is, I’ve known people who have done that. (Heck, I’ve read everything–and I do mean everything–about Mormonism that I can get my hands on.) After that process I remain faithful. Others I know, going through the same process, lose their faith.

    I haven’t made up my mind why that difference in outcome occurs. It irks me when people say that because I remain faithful I am somehow “dishonest.” (Scott Gordon, at the panel discussion referenced in my OP, indicated this irks him, as well.) People ASSUME my lack of honesty or my lack of objectivity because I don’t reach the same conclusions they do. They don’t inherently believe that honest people can come to divergent conclusions based on the same dataset.

    Curious, indeed.

  19. rameumptom

    Allen, so with Manuel’s statement, we see a generalized statement, perhaps a straw man. A claim that the Church “lies for the Lord”. Well, how does that match up to the facts?

    Do they lie all the time, part of the time, or little of the time?

    If they don’t lie all the time, then which parts are true? Are those true parts the important things that make the Church true or still false?

    For example, if he says the Book of Mormon claims are “lies”, then can he explain whether all are lies, or which parts are lies? Then can he prove those lies? What does he do with the truths, such as the ones I noted before? Is Nahom/NHM a lie?

    When several people were witness to a revelation or say the Book of Mormon, were they: all imagining it, all colluding in a hoax, or just stupid idiots? Why would the Three Witnesses leave the Church, but remain true to their witness of the Book of Mormon, if it were a lie? What did they gain from doing that?

    Clearly, his quick statement is a logical fallacy (or several). The reality is that the Church is led by imperfect men, some of whom may have lied at times, or may have been wrong about some of their beliefs. However, that does not make the whole thing false.

  20. rameumptom

    Allen, I agree that there is no unbiased man, though I would not go so far that there are no honest men.

    A person can be honest, and still wrong, simply because their data set is incomplete or invalid. The reality is, no one has a complete data set, except God. And even then, we have people that take the scriptures and nuance them, insisting God either hates homosexuals or loves them, hates Mormons or loves them, etc. Satan proves that with an entire data set, there will still be those who insist that their “honest” view of the facts is more honest than God’s!

    As Joseph Smith noted, we cannot settle things from a review of the Bible, nor by attending all the lectures out there.

    In such instances that someone calls Mormons dishonest for believing (whether it is you, Scott, Daniel Peterson, or me) there is a subjective bias involved in the judgment. There is little objectivity involved to someone satisfied with what he already insists he knows.

    For me, I am with Socrates in knowing that I know nothing. But I do believe certain things that I’ve studied and learned, or has been revealed to me. Why? Because it makes sense to me, and logically led me to where I am from the place I began my search. Sadly, many have not begun their search from my beginning point, and so their logic path has led them elsewhere – to disbelief, and often to atheism (which is another story, when someone leaves LDS to be a traditional Christian, without “honestly” researching basic Christianity and realizing that it also must be dishonest and therefore a scam, as well).

  21. rsholley11

    “Does honesty demand that such questions inevitably lead to a loss of faith, or can one be honest and remain a member of the church?”

    No.

    Allen – will you answer the same converse to your question? “Does honesty ALLOW that such questions WILL IN SOME CASES lead to a loss of faith–can one be honest and CHOOSE NOT TO remain a member of the church?”

  22. rsholley11

    Sorry, the above should be “no” honesty makes no such demand, and “yes” one can be honest and remain a member of the church.

  23. Allen Wyatt Post author

    rsholley:

    Sure, I believe that. I believe that a person can examine evidence–the same evidence–and come to a different conclusion than I do. I believe that it is possible for honest people can examine the same information I do and conclude that the church is not true.

    I also believe that such people are mistaken, and I don’t mind if they believe I am mistaken.

  24. MormonYoYoMan

    It was only by honestly researching and TRYING to prove the church to be a fake – that I learned it was true. Oh, I found plenty of flaws, and I continue to. But I find plenty of flaws in just about anything, including myself.

    So, yes – I believe people can and do get different answers from the same data. Have even seen this happen in the most stringently isolated laboratories. But I do know that wrong conclusions can happen – in each instance. And I do think that there is an objective truth, not subjective.

  25. Immovable11

    I believe the eternal principle of “opposition in all things” is, for me, a big mystery. One that I don’t feel I will be grasping in this mortal existence. I pose the question, how did Lucifer become Satan? What forces in the “innocent” pre-existence enabled him to think differently then Jehovah and to make decisions contrary to the will of our Father in Heavens? When a third part of the hosts of Heaven CHOSE to follow Satan, were they not given all of the facts that we were? I think not. They were given all of the same information we all were when deciding who we had faith in as our Savior. I believe I’m speaking for all latter-day Saints, when I express how baffled I am that they could choose Satan (their brother) over Elohim (their Father AND Creator). This “pattern” of detractors or “dissenters” in the Book of Mormon is not a new one. When Nehor came about spreading false information about the doctrines of Christ and the Gospel, it is recorded that roughly HALF of the members of the Church followed him! Half! There was no “sketchy Church history” to make them leave……..it is simply the pattern of “opposition in all things”. Another interesting note about that passage in the Book of Mormon; after Nehor successfully “persuaded” half of the members of the Church to become dissenters, it goes on to explain that the dissenters “did persecute them (the faithful saints), and afflict them with all manner of words”……and it continues to go on describing how it affected the remaining Church… “and it was a cause of much affliction to the Church; yea, it was the cause of much trial with the Church……….now this was a great trial to those that did stand fast in the faith; nevertheless, they were steadfast and immovable…..and they bore with patience the persecution which was heaped upon them”.
    I only bring this up to show the direct correlation, or pattern. What we are experiencing today is not because of a sketchy start to the Restored Church, it isn’t about facts proving the Church is wrong…..it is about eternal truths that we cannot truly understand no matter how or what angle we try and dissect.
    Also, through modern revelation and the Book of Mormon, we are to understand that people who pass on who didn’t receive the Gospel of Christ while they were living on the earth will have the opportunity in the next life. It is my understanding that, unfortunately, there will STILL be some who will REJECT the gospel of Christ. This, my mortal mind, cannot comprehend…..but it is truth.

  26. Immovable11

    One last thing and I’ll quite talking. :)

    I find this temporal analogy fitting: Someone who has so much potential and many gifts and talents, but also has the weakness of alcoholism–tends to give up pursuing and bringing to further fruition all of the many awesome talents…while becoming consumed by his/her ONE weakness which he/she has allowed to consume his/her life.

    I believe the same can be said when comparing to “the facts”. There is more truth, wisdom, virtue and love found in the Church then there is not……but someone will lose sight of the many, many truths found in the Church and will/do focus all of their attention on the one discrepancy….allowing that discrepancy to overcome the truths that they know to be correct. To say that someone who the Lord trusts to execute His decisions and run His Church has to be infallible is not only unreasonable,it defies our purpose in being on this earth. The prophets (past and present) are not excluded from the “us” in reference to all of us are here to learn and to grow. During that growth process we are all susceptible to errors and mistakes. Biblical prophets made mistakes, Joseph Smith made them, Brigham Young made them and current leaders make them. If they were perfect, they would be translated.

  27. LiaLee

    Of course a person can “look honestly” at all the facts and remain faithful! As a matter of fact, I happen to be a young(ish) mother dealing with family stress, severe financial problems, and temporal insecurity, and yet I managed to summon the fortitude to learn about the warts in church history! I have been interested in apologetics for many years and the intellectual exercise of reading and learning about the church and its history has energized and entertained me through many a trying day. In every instance of troublesome information, I find that either the bothersome “fact” is not as bad as it appears (often quite the contrary), or that it is exactly the sort of stupid thing I’m likely to have done myself as a well-intentioned but flawed person.

    My honest looks have certainly given me a different attitude toward the Church and the gospel than some have; mostly, what I have learned is that the Lord must not be interested in having a “perfect church”, or many things would have been (and would be) different. But that is no surprise–He never said He was trying to create a perfect *church*; He is trying to create perfect *people*. And He tells us explicitly he does that by giving them weaknesses and letting them mess up. With that attitude in mind there’s nothing to hide from, even if you’re stressed and poor…

  28. manuelgerardomonasterio

    The strait-jacket to the faith comes from the Church authorized voice itsef, when it claims that “it is the the only true church of Jesus Christ”, the genuiune RestoredChurch of Jesus Christ upon earth.With such proclamation, one expects something more than what we are receiving from historical facts.What I mean for a fact? I will take only one example of plenty available: the Church own records (not some anti-Mormon web site) has Joseph Smith Jr. married to about 30(33?) different women, despite Smith’s own rebuttal of such facts. My main problem with the Chut}rch has been the obstinacy of putting first the possibility gaining more members leaving behind the true history. We can speak volumes about the horrific way that the Church have used to handle the plural marriage issue, the “facts” are that since Brigham Young o Joseph Fielding Smith most of the authoprities had plural wives…I canlive with that. Wich was definitely impossible to withstand for me was the way of lying about that that the Church used. Jesus Christ spoke of his “little flock”…I prefer to follow Him aspiring to quality instead of number.Therefore, I am out for good.

  29. Allen Wyatt Post author

    Manuel,

    Thanks for the testimony. (Only half-kidding. You’ve provided a few reasons why you lost your faith, which are presented in a fashion similar to how others talk about how they gained their faith.)

    On a more serious note, you’ve obviously given your beliefs serious consideration. I don’t want to argue why you may be right or may be wrong. What I’m interested in is how you account for others who have thoroughly investigated these things (like plural marriage) and yet remain faithful.

    How do you explain those others who come to different conclusions than you do?

  30. faithandhope

    I have been a personal witness many times in my life to those who “honestly” are searching for truth, one of those being my husband of 25 years. He was an avid fan of John Dehlin and fits in the category of those who view the rest of us who still retain our faith as less honest, blinded by our own bias, etc. I have watched him thru the years become more and more miserable and less and less “enlightened” as he set out to prove what the church was not. It is the glass half full or is it half empty problem. I agree with those who make the point that it is a choice. Believing is a choice and searching to learn what something IS is just as valid a search as learning what something isn’t. He eventually convinced himself that the church was the source of all his problems and misery and threw his lot in with another married woman with children to have an affair with. His misery only increased. It was when he was in a place of abject misery and unhappiness and was humble enough to listen, that he was able to be taught (by God) sweet truths that have become more delicious to the taste. Humility is an absolute essential in anyone’s search for truth, no matter what you are hoping to find. His search for “honest” truth led him in many ways to a false life hurting many people along the way. I know how many times the search was completely denying a large body of “evidence” and truth right before his eyes, and causing him to lose the potential to see great beauty right before his eyes.

  31. manuelgerardomonasterio

    Just for the record: I am far from consider “dishonest” those who remain faithful! I have some very good friends who are truly faithful and I do not consider the “dishonest”,though I have to add that not one of them is capable of even begin to discuss any historical fact that could jeopardize their faith, they just do not want to know anything about it.

  32. Mike Parker

    manuelgerardomonasteri: Although you may not personally know one, do you accept that a person could be aware of all the “historical facts” and still have faith and a conviction of the truth of the Restored Church?

    I, for one, would consider myself in that group. And I personally know quite a few others who do, too.

    If anything, my experience has been that those who have abandoned their faith are unwilling to discuss historical facts that would make them question their unbelief.

  33. Allen Wyatt Post author

    faithandhope:

    Thank you for sharing your experience; it must have been very painful to watch and go through.

    I agree with you that belief and disbelief are both choices.

  34. manuelgerardomonasterio

    Mike: I would be quite grateful if someone could show me some historical facts that question my unbelief.It must be understood that for many the way out of the Church has been quite an ordeal and an extremely painful process.

  35. Allen Wyatt Post author

    Manuel:

    I don’t think that this thread is the place to start getting into interpretation of historical facts and tossing them back and forth. (That would derail the thread quite quickly.)

    However, you still haven’t answered my question or Mike’s question: How do you account for those who really, truly, and fully have examined all the historical facts and still maintain their faith? Is it possible to do?

  36. manuelgerardomonasterio

    Allen and Mike: How a person could have “really,truly, and fully examined all the historical facts and still maintain their faith” is something absolutely beyond my grasp…And if “it is possible to do?” The question sounds just rhetorical, my perception is that you suppose that “it is possible”.Well, good for those that have found that it is possible, though I would be eager to confront which “historical facts” and from what sources they come.

  37. MormonYoYoMan

    It was only when I found that Joseph Smith had flaws and had committed various and sundry mistakes or sins, that I really got a testimony of him. Sorry, but I was never able to “get into” the idea of prophets and men of God being well nigh perfect. Oral Roberts, for instance, was displayed to us as perfect, especially those of us in northeast Oklahoma.
    Since I was one of those who had decided in my mind that “the Mormon Church lied and lies” no fact, no incident, and no argument (including the very idea that “holy people” would need to repent) would change my mind. Unless one has a significant emotional experience, one rarely – if ever – changes one’s mind about ANYthing. People will believe what they want to believe. I prefer to believe in happiness and not bitterness.

  38. Logophile

    manuelgerardomonasterio:

    You wrote,

    How a person could have “really,truly, and fully examined all the historical facts and still maintain their faith” is something absolutely beyond my grasp…

    It is not so difficult to understand: For Latter-day Saints, personal revelation tends to outweigh purported “historical facts.”

    That is perfectly reasonable. If we define a fact as something that is indisputably true, history offers us relatively few facts.

    No one would dispute that Joseph Smith, Jr., was born in Sharon, VT, on 23 December 1805, or that he died in Nauvoo, IL, on 27 June 1844. Those are historical facts. They are also trivial.

    Almost everything of importance that Joseph Smith did between his birth and death is open to interpretation. No one living today was present to witness the pivotal events of his life; historians must depend on documents left by Joseph Smith’s contemporaries. Unfortunately, even those close to Joseph Smith may not always agree on what actually happened.

    For example, did Joseph Smith see the Father and the Son in a grove of trees near his family’s home in New York?

    The question cannot be answered conclusively using the conventional methods of history. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a secular historian even addressing the question as stated.

    Ultimately, one must rely on revelation for determining the truth of Joseph Smith’s claims. (See Moroni 10:3-5.)

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